Things I learned this week

“We must have a pie.  Stress cannot exist in the presence of pie.” – David Mamet

…that sometimes it takes the intervention of a professor to get the attention of a wayward group of young people.  As I wrote in my last post, I’ve been having a bit of trouble getting my project group to focus, take the assignment serious, and produce an A worthy presentation.  This week I’d had enough.  I called in the big guns and arranged (along with another student) for an early morning heart to heart, or as my husband likes to say, “a coming to Jesus meeting.”  Hopefully, they have seen the light and by the weekend, I will be in possession of a well-written, cohesive presentation.

Think good thoughts for me, please.  I have a feeling I am going to need them.

…that there is a band from Norway called Katzenjammer and they make me want to dance a jig in a pirate’s den – dressed like a tavern wench.  What?

Thank you to cresting with words for posting a great blog about them and giving me something new to add to my playlist.  Check them out.

…that Selena Gomez appears to have dumped Justin Beiber.

Do you hear that? That’s the sound of millions of tweens all over the world, heaving a collective sigh of relief.

…that for the first time in years, I will have an empty house during the week of Thanksgiving.   It was hard for me to make the decision to opt out, but it had to be done.  I’m not going to bemoan my overburdened semester again.  I’m sure you all are totally over my incessant whining.  Hell, I’m tired of listening to it myself.    However, it doesn’t change the fact that I simply do not have time for Thanksgiving and all that goes along with it.  It breaks my heart, because the best part of the holiday for me is spending a week my nephews. They’ve been a fixture in my house every Thanksgiving since…well…forever.

I guess I shall have to be content to think of them as I sit at my desk, hammering away at my African-American history paper, eating cold pumpkin pie, and listening to the deafening sound of an empty house.  It’s just not Thanksgiving without hearing:

Them:  “Aunt Peggy, Cory won’t let Megan and I have a turn!”

Me:  “I don’t want to hear it.  Figure it out.”

Them:  “Aunt Peggy, Cody won’t agree to the movie Megan and I want to watch!”

Me:  “You know the rules.  No unanimous decision – no movie.  Work it out.”

Them: “Aunt Peggy, Justin just farted on us!”

Me:  “Justin, stop farting.”

Them: “Aunt Peggy, what are you going to make for breakfast?  Uncle Nolan told us to ask for biscuits and gravy.”

Me:  “Tell Uncle Nolan to come ask me himself.”

Them: “Aunt Peggy, can we have chicken tacos for dinner?”

Me:  “Really?  Don’t you think we should worry about that after breakfast?  Maybe even after lunch?  Certainly not before I’ve had coffee.”

Them: “Aunt Peggy, you’re our favorite.  Will you make us banana pudding?  Not the diet kind. The kind that tastes good.”

Me (feeling all warm and gooey inside):  “Of course.  Just for you.”

<sigh>

I’m going to miss those boys this year.

…that I am finally going to sell the bedroom set in my spare bedroom and make myself a proper office.   Why haven’t I utilized this unused space before, you ask?  I have absolutely no idea.  Now, who wants to buy a 5 piece twin bedroom set in near stellar condition?

Anyone? Please? My unfinished novels are begging you…

…that for the first time since September 25th, I had the itch (and the courage) to take a peek at my WIP, Retribution.  I’ll be honest, I have had no real desire to delve into it.  The problems run deep, and at the moment, I don’t have the time, nor the energy to sit and sift through the rubble to find the usable stories that lies buried there.   In spite of this, I couldn’t help but read through the first chapter.  I needed reacquainted myself with my beloved Anna.  She hasn’t changed.  She is just as I left her – a staunch realist, who holds no illusions about the harsh world in which she lives.  She understands all too well the battle between good and evil is one fought in the shadows, on the edge of civility, with an armory stocked with less than honorable tactics.  To survive, and to ensure the survival of the free world, one must let go of any idealistic notions of morality.  Sometimes it is necessary to do the unthinkable, the reprehensible – all in the name of the greater good.  Of course, these things come with a price.  They always do.

I want to sit and do nothing but write today.  Unfortunately, I have obligations that take me in several different directions and none of them involve a computer or a notebook.  Poor Anna.  Destined to ignored for another week…at least.

…that the Christmas shopping season has begun.  I’m sure it will come as no surprise to all of you, but I am annoyed by this.  I like to take things as they come – one at a time, and in chronological order.  Just once, I’d like to get through Halloween and Thanksgiving without being reminded that Christmas is looming in the wintery fog, ready to pounce.  I know it’s there.  I can see it’s beady little eyes glowing in the dark.  It is quite unnecessary to throw decorated trees and twinkling lights in my path, or blister my ears with tired carols and annoying jingles.  There will be plenty of time for that after the turkey and pumpkin pie have been properly devoured and digested.  And, really, there is no need to worry dear retailer giants, I’m not going to forget the real meaning of the modern season.  Cold hard cash.  I have every intention of spending plenty of my money down at the local mall.  But not until after December 1st.  So stop bugging me.

…and last, but not least, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by this beautiful little girl who is celebrating her first birthday this week.

Alright, everyone all together now –  awwwww….

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Things I learned this week

“A spy, like a writer, lives outside the mainstream population. He steals his experience through bribes and reconstructs it.” 

John le Carre

I’m on a bit of an early Cold War era spy kick right now.  Two reason for this:  I am writing a paper for my African-American history class that explores the Cold War’s influence on the civil rights movement; and I recently picked up a couple of John le Carre novels at my local second-hand bookseller.

I don’t have the luxury of a lot of free time this semester.  I spend most of my days immersed in a bubbling vat filled with school, work, and family obligations.  However, I have been able to sneak in a few minutes here and there – mostly in the carpool line – to delve into the 1963 classic The Spy who Came in from the Cold and the dark world of aging British spy, Alex Leamus.  It’s not a book packed with action.  Indeed, most of the story plays out within Leamus’ head as he struggles to find moral justification for his life’s work.  I find his introspection fascinating.  John le Carre is a master of his craft, and I am more than a little jealous of the intricate and thrilling story he weaves – without blowing anything up.  Amazing.

Alright, so now that I’ve bored you to tears with my spontaneous book review, let’s get down to business.  I’ve learned a lot this week.  Some good; some not so much; all of it meaningful to my journey of self-discovery.

I learned this week:

that I missed having the BFF around.   This week she and I were able to meet in the middle of the day, on a whim, for a little coffee and girl talk.  It’s been years since we’ve lived close enough to do that.  It was a fabulous way to spend a Thursday afternoon.

(rant of the week)

…that sometimes I expect too much from of my higher education experience – and my professors expect too little from their students.   As I’ve said before, I am in the midst of the group project hell.  In general, I struggle with these sort of things because a) I am a control freak; b) anything less than perfection is failure; and c) I am an introvert who finds prolonged interaction with people I don’t know (or necessarily like) exhausting.  It is no different with this project, though I do generally like the members of the group.

This assignment is two part:  written paper and oral presentation.  Everyone has an individual part to play, but success is contingent upon cohesion.  Bearing this in mind, I took my portion of the paper to my professor for help with an unusual citation.  I would hate to get it wrong and the group grade suffer for my incompetence.

He took it from me, read the first line, looked up at me over his reading glasses and said:  “Are these your own words?”

I said:  “What?  Of  course, they are my own words.  Why on earth would you ask me that?”

I glanced down at my paper because, by this time I couldn’t remember what I had written to illicit such a reaction.  It was a simple opening statement, short and to the point.  No fuss, no muss.  No ten dollar words.  Nothing complicated or provocative.  As you might imagine, I went through a medley of emotions:  shock, indignation, anger.  He backtracked then, but the damage was done.  I walked away from the conversation feeling irritated, more than a little offended, and wondering why I was voluntarily subjecting myself to such nonsense.

Over the next few days, the group began to email me their portions of the paper for editing.  My professor’s cynical attitude solidified before my eyes.  It turns out that decent writing in these sort of survey courses is not necessarily the norm.  Needless to say, I was flabbergasted by the lack of quality, and dare I say, effort, I found in their work.  While I understand everyone has different writing skills and styles, I had expected by this stage in the game, they would have gained the ability to produce a passably intelligent product – with complete coherent sentences.  You know, with a noun, a verb, and the occasional adverb or two thrown in for good measure.

I was wrong.  Lesson learned.

…that my dog’s most prized possession is his raw hide chewy thing, and it is imperative that it be kept stashed in a secret spot until it is time to finish it off.   As a novice dog mom, I am perplexed by canine behavior.  Cats are easy and predictable.  They expect to be fed, acknowledged upon demand, and left alone to nap wherever they choose.  Dogs are different.  Mine reminds me of a mischievous toddler – left to his own devices, mayhem ensues.

While in the backyard this week, I  watched Rocco dig feverishly in a remote corner.  I went to investigate.  He was burying his chewy thing.  I’m not sure why he thinks such a drastic thing is necessary, but there was an air of desperation in his actions.  I suppose he could be worried about a cat uprising.  He is, after all, the only dog in a houseful of felines.  He would be stupid not to feel a little paranoia.  I’m sure even as I type this they are plotting something diabolical.  Hmmm…it seems I understand Rocco a little better than I thought.

…that Skyfall is the best damn Bond movie I’ve ever seen.  And I’ve seen them all.  Multiple times.  In the beginning, I wasn’t thrilled with the choice of Daniel Craig for the part.  When they announced it, I was peeved.  He didn’t fit.  He wasn’t right.  I swore I wouldn’t see Casino Royale.  I was convinced it would be complete shit.  Then  I saw it.  I was speechless.  Bond had evolved.  He was grittier, rougher around the edges.  There was a vulnerability emulating from him, giving him a new level of humanity and mortality.  Despite all of my efforts to the contrary, I liked the film- I liked Daniel Craig as Bond.  I went into Skyfall with high expectations.  I wasn’t disappointed.  Don’t worry, I’m not going to bore you with another review.  If you like this sort of thing, go see it for yourself.  Tell me what you think.

…that my daughter has suddenly decided that jeans with rhinestones on the back pockets is not so repulsive after all.  I’m not real sure what to make of this sudden shift, but rest assured there is a boy involved.

that last, but not least, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by a ladybug I stumbled across in the garden.  He was an uncooperative subject who dodged my best efforts to shoot him from his more photogenic side.  It was almost as if he was mooning me.  Surely not.

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Things I learned this week…um…last month

“Ideologies have no heart of their own. They’re the whores and angels of our striving selves.”  – John le Carre

I’ve fallen off of the WordPress wagon again.

My tumble was (and still is) completely unavoidable and entirely of my own doing. You see, in my single-minded desire to realize my academic endgame, I constructed a semester devoid of that frivolous little thing called free-time. I don’t even have time to do the things I need to do.   I guess it’s true what they say about hindsight.  I’m sure I will find the humor in my predicament – eventually.  Perhaps when I have more time.

I learned this week (last month)…

…that the best part of fall has passed me by with nary a whisper.  Sure, I went to the state fair with my family and friends.  Sure, I ate a fried Samoa – it was yummy.  Sure, I hated the crowd and swore I would never go again.  But, that’s all I did to pay homage to my favorite of all seasons.  I didn’t schlep down to the local pumpkin patch with a horde of children in tow.  I didn’t spend hours meandering through rows of fat gourds looking for just the right one to guard my door against the ghouls and goblins of Halloween.  I haven’t taken the time to find where I stashed my fall decorations.  I haven’t bothered to darken the door of my favorite coffee shop in search of a full-fat, sugar-laced pumpkin spice latte.  There simply hasn’t been any time to do all of these things I love, and now the holiday season stands looming on the horizon, bearing down on me with an intensity that takes my breath away.   Perhaps this year would be a good time to make good on my threat to spend the hustle and bustle of Christmas and the New Year on a remote Caribbean beach sipping frozen margaritas and listening to Jimmy Buffett’s greatest hits.

…that dogs are weird.  I am a cat person, and have been for as long as I can remember.  My husband is a dog person.  He’s an accommodating man who loves me, and therefore has suffered a houseful of cats for some 17 years.  This week, we adopted a cute little dog from a local animal shelter.   We are still in the learning stages, trying to figure out how to be dog people.  I must say, our new addition to the family is a strange fellow who loves to roll around in the grass, steal acorns from under the oak tree in the backyard, and bury his gross chewy things between the couch cushions.   I do think I may love our sweet Rocco, though I do find my preoccupation with his bodily functions rather disturbing…and disgusting.

…that it is possible to earn an A on a Geology exam.  Could I actually pull an A for the semester in this class?  The hopeless dreamer in me says: Yes!  You can accomplish anything you set your sights on.  The nagging realist says:  Don’t be stupid (as he cuffs the hopeless dreamer in the head and slinks off to outline yet another mind numbing textbook chapter).

…that Ben Affleck’s Argo was everything it was supposed to be and much more.  I was born in the early seventies and the Iran Hostage Crisis was my first exposure to the ugliness that lived just beyond my safe haven.  Of course, at the tender age of 8, I was incapable of appreciating the magnitude of the situation; that this deplorable action was a calculated reaction to a foreign policy put in place decades prior.  Argo lays out the politics of the time, the road that led the Iranians down the path of revolution, and the role the American government played in the rise of the decidedly anti-Western sentiment that had enveloped the region.  There is an element of humor to this film that I was initially put off by given the seriousness of the subject matter, but as the story unfolded, and the tension began to build, it seemed to bring a much needed balance.   My only complaints:  the unnecessary cleaning up and “happy ending” of main character Tony Mendez’s personal life – completely irrelevant to the story at large, and Affleck’s homage to President Jimmy Carter that followed the closing credits.  While I understand old Ben’s undeniable biases, I felt that it was a little like a rewriting of history and an attempt to polish Carter’s tarnished presidency.  Of course, this opinion is largely brought about by my own biases, so my suggestion:  see it for yourself and drawn your own conclusions.  Next on my list of must see movies – Bond.  James Bond.

(Cue theme music now)

…and last, but not least, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by Rocco, the newest member of the Isaacs’ family.  He is as sweet as he is adorable.  We are very lucky to have found him.

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