Things I learned this week (September 17 – September 23)

I learned this week…

…that the first day of fall is the perfect way to end the week.  It doesn’t matter that there will be no earth shattering kaboom, no fireworks, or fanfare.  The revelation that summer is finally officially over is enough to make it all worth it.

…that when facing a big project for school, with just days to go until its due date, all I want to do is write a scene for my novel.  However, when I have no homework deadlines pending and can write said scene at my leisure, all I want to do is clean toilets.  I suppose I am well versed in the art of avoidance and procrastination.

…that my public speaking anxiety is slowly improving.   This time, I wasn’t plagued with uncontrollable shaking, only pit sweating.  Even that was manageable.  I feel like I am making progress.  Maybe by the time my next one comes along in November, I will be able to forego the extra deodorant.  Yeah…I’m not that hopeful.

…that I am still amazed how good I feel when I don’t let anything interfere with my daily workouts.  I am also amazed that I have taken so well to the elliptical after years of loathing it.  I guess the change just came at the right time.  I have worked my way up to level 8 resistance and I think beginning on Saturday, I’m going to give 9 a go.  Oh, and in addition to feeling revived, both physically and mentally, I have lost that 5 lbs I gained when the semester started and my groove was all screwed up.  That makes it all the more sweeter, I think.

…that four semesters of math + $2,500 on tuition, books and supplies = priceless.  I can sit down with Megan and confidently help her with her PAP math homework.  This week – factoring.  I am a factoring pro!

…that rushing to get a blog posted without thoroughly inspecting it for typos will lead to utter humiliation.  Well, I guess that’s an exaggeration.  It was funny, but my perfectionist troll was not amused.

…that Ovid had an odd sense of humor.  I like it. 

that Hollywood is at it again.  This time the movie to be rebooted – Scarface.  Yes, I understand that the 1983 Pacino film was technically a reboot of a much earlier film, but does that make it okay.  No.  Not okay at all.  This drives me completely batshit crazy. 

…that I don’t like the new Facebook changes.  Clutter is one of the many things in life that makes me twitchy.  I love you all, really I do, but I don’t give a rat’s ass whose status you are commenting on, or what video link you like.  Seriously.  I’m sure you don’t want to see what I’m trolling around doing either.   It certainly isn’t mind blowing or earth shattering.  I suppose we will all get used to it, though.  We are all slaves to social media and will conform accordingly, else risk complete alienation.

…that I was so self-absorbed this week that I failed to learn all that.  There’s always next week.

…this week’s awww moment is brought to you by a funny little snow leopard.  He is a new arrival at the Albuquerque, NM zoo.  I think the verdict is still out on whether he is down with the new crib.

Morgan Petroski / Albuquerque Journal
Morgan Petroski / Albuquerque Journal

Man vs. Beast Part III

Well, here I sit in my college library screwing with this silly blog when I should be reading Metamorphoses by Ovid or catching up on my Western Civilization chapters on Ancient Rome.  I am, however, thoroughly addicted to perusing the internet, searching for gruesome animal attacks and proof that the human race is under siege.  Do you think there is something wrong with me?

Don’t answer that.  I don’t want your opinion.

So, here is what the animals have been up to:

In Santa Ana, California, a man in a wheelchair had to be rescued after he disturbed a very large hive of bees.  Estimates indicate that the hive contained some 60,000 bees!  That’s a lot of regurgitated bee spit (aka honey). The man, who fell out of his wheelchair in the attack, was said to have been stung at least 60 times.  The attack was so ferocious, it took three bystanders several tries before they were able to rescue the man.  They too, were stung numerous times and had to treated at local hospitals for symptoms.  You can read more about this story [here].

You might think bee attacks are rare.  You’d be wrong.

In Bisbee, Arizona, a 1,000 pound hog (that’s a lot of bacon) and an 800 pound pregnant sow were attacked continuously over a two-hour period by swarming Africanized bees.  Their horrified owner helplessly witnessed the carnage and, unsuccessfully, tried ward off the attack.  In the end, poor Franklin the hog died.  The sow, went into a coma and lost her litter.  No word on if she met a similar fate in the end.

In northern Arizona, a man remains hospitalized when he too was attacked by a swarm of aggressive Africanized bees.   He was stung over 1,000 times.  I am actually very shocked that this man lived.

On the Idaho-Montana border, a hunter was killed by a grizzly bear after he shot and wounded it.   The bear was eventually killed, though he didn’t go down without giving as good as he got.  To all the idiotic adventurous hunters out there, I say:  this is what happens when we don’t follow the rules.  Grizzly bears are illegal to hunt.  They are an endangered species.   If you can’t tell the difference between a black bear and a grizzly, you don’t need to be hunting them.  Karma will turn around and bite you in the ass every time.  You can read this is story in greater detail [here].  My husband believes these hunters should have employed [this] hillbilly’s way of dealing with large predators.  I mean, what animal doesn’t respond to a firm “Git, git!” and a big stick.  He also informed me that these guys did not arm themselves with the proper ammo.  Apparently, everyone knows, or should know, that if you’re going to go traipsing around bear country, .454 Casull rounds are a must have.  Good to know.

Don't be fooled...

In the Sea of Japan, off the coast of Russia, two individuals were attacked – on separate occasions – by what is believed to be the same Great White shark.  One man lost both arm from the elbows down; the other suffered a leg injury.  I think perhaps a geography class is in my near future because when I read this, I thought to myself: “Russia? Shark attacks? No way”.  Way.  You can read more about these attacks [here].

And last, but not least, Southern California is dealing with an infestation of the Asian Tiger Mosquito.  A nasty little bug that attacks during the day and carries all kinds of equally nasty viruses. 

As you can see, the animals have now enlisted the aid of the insects in their quest for world domination.  Not only must we worry about physical attacks, but also biological attacks.  The tide is turning.  I am beginning to feel a little concerned.  We may need to start considering our counter-attack options.

**Disclaimer:  As always, I don’t wish to trivialize the loss of a loved one under any circumstances.  Any loss of life is tragic.

Things I Learned This Week (September 10 – September 16)

I learned this week:

…that my daughter has kicked “Georgie” to the curb.  She took exception to his giving out her phone number without her permission.  “I gave him two chances, Mom.  He’s not getting a third.”  Good girl.  Of course, it came out during casual dinner conversation that his offenses were far greater than just mishandling her private telephone number.  He was two timing her with a 13-year-old.  “I saw them together, Mom.”  Little bastard.  Good riddance.

…that I am getting the hang of this whole elliptical thing.  45 minutes/4.8 miles total.  Lots of calories burned.  I love it when I burn calories and sweat – a lot.  I think my loyalties are waning.

Suzy Allman for the New York Times

…that speaking of loyalties – I have been a Roger Federer fan for years.  Seriously, since he burst onto the scene and became a nagging thorn in Pete Sampras’ side.  However, during the last couple of tennis seasons, I’ve watched while my champion has slowly lost his mojo.  I am disturbed by this because, if he is on his way out, who will be worth of my unwavering devotion?  Nadal?  Egads, no.  There is just something about him that makes me want to box his ears and tell him to stop digging his undies out of his butt crack before every serve.  It’s so….ew.  I didn’t get to watch much of the US Open this year, but I did catch the semis and of course, both the men’s and women’s finals.  I watched the men’s final – well, in two parts.  I was glued to the first two sets, but was forced to drag myself away from it to take Megan to gymnastics.  When I returned an hour or so later, they were still battling it out.  It was a fierce game  – almost as exciting as the 2009 Federer/Roddick  epic Wimbledon final.  Almost.  In the end, Djorkovic dominated Nadal.  I think I may have found my new champion.

…that I was right about Mother Nature’s vindictive side.  Just when we thought we were making a clean break into fall, she zapped us with a few more days of scorching temperature.  I think we’ve been properly chastised, don’t you?  I mean, who are we to think that we are anything more than mere pawns on the board of whatever sick game she is playing?   Let’s hope that the 107* record high on Tuesday was her last little jab at us.  I think it’s time for her to move on and torture someone else for a while.  Perhaps our neighbors to the far north?  I think they are due for a little snow right about now.

…that two people died as the result of a fire on board a cruise ship off the coast of Norway.  First, let me say:  What the heck is going on in Norway?  They seem to be in the headlines a lot lately, and not in a good way.  Second:  This is one of those “I told you so” moments.  I have come a long way in conquering my fear of boats, but I have steadfastly maintained that nothing – and I mean nothing – would ever possess me to step one foot on board a cruise ship.  Ever.  Not even in the pursuit of personal growth.  I have to draw the line in the sand somewhere.  If you would like to read more about this story, you can do so [here].

Justin Lane/Pool via EPA

…that even after ten years and numerous remembrance ceremonies, the footage of 9/11 still breaks my heart and makes me cry.  In a very unpatriotic move, I didn’t watch anything but tennis this past weekend.  I just couldn’t do it.  I feel selfish. 

…that the Iliad was not as difficult or as boring as I remember.   Who knew?  Oedipus Rex is wonderfully tragic and chock full of irony.  I love irony. 

…that caterpillars possess a gene that makes them vulnerable to a certain virus.  What makes this interesting enough for the old Friday blog, you ask?  This virus takes over of the caterpillar’s brain and turns it into a freaking zombie!  Under the control of this virus, the caterpillar climbs to the top branches of a tree, where it is then liquified.  As the oozy remains of the caterpillar rain down from the tree tops, the virus is spread, thereby ensuring its longevity.  Ingenius…but what I want to know is, if it is this evolved now, how long before it mutates and we find ourselves with a real life zombie crisis on our hands?  Quick!  Somebody send me the rules for surviving a zombie attack.  You can read about these caterpillars [here].

…that there are people out there who think Do-it-Yourself botox is a good deal.  And a good idea.  Okay, I can’t even wax my upper lip without taking off my chunks of skin and breaking out in a nasty rash.  Why would anyone attempt to paralyze the muscles of their face with an injectable toxin all by themselves.  Is this stupidity at work or the desperation of a society dying to be what the media and Hollywood have defined as youthful and beautiful.

…and this weeks awww moment:

Anatoly Strakhov/Caters News Agency

Tell me, how on earth could any mother walk away from that face? 

Man vs. Beast Part II

Well, it’s Wednesday.  I wasn’t very optimistic about getting enough material to post a second “Man vs. Beast” blog entry.  I was wrong.  Granted there have not been that many attacks since last week, and I was forced to broaden my search, but I do think I found some interesting ones.  Ones that give credence to the notion that the animals of the world are coming together, in some sort of organized uprising.  Their motives are still unclear to me, for I know not what they hope to accomplish. 

I guess time will tell.

Here’s what I found: 

In Tulla, County Clare, Ireland, a farmer was attacked by an otter.  Yes, you heard me right.  An otter.  You know, those furry little river rat looking things we see at the zoo.  In a small Irish village, a farmer filling his vehicle with diesel spotted the creature struggling to remove a “crisp bag” from its head.  Being the good Samaritan that his mother raised him to be, he came to the animal’s rescue only to be bitten for his trouble.  In addition, the ungrateful otter took his bad attitude out on the poor man’s truck.  And if that weren’t enough, once the farmer was able to release the “fanged fish-gobbler” onto the shores of a nearby river, it had to be rescued, yet again, because it nearly drown from exhaustion.  I was unable repost all of the photographs as they are copyright protected, so please take a minute, and click [here] to view the calamity for yourself.  It is well worth it.  I got quite the laugh out of it.  On an a side note, “fanged fish-gobbler” is now my new favorite animal description.

In Lincoln County, Wisconsin, a man out hunting with his buddies shot and wounded a bear.  The bear then attacked the man, injuring him.  Of course, the bear lost in the end when he was hunted down and killed by the man’s buddies, in what can only be described as a revenge killing.   Again, I’m no bear advocate, but I think this is a clear-cut case of what’s good for the goose…

A kite-surfer (yeah, I don’t know the heck this is) in Papua, New Guinea was attacked by a tiger shark on Sunday.  While wave-running (again…no idea), the man was bitten and knocked off his board by the shark.  This was a strategic attack on the part of the shark, for the man states that it catapulted out of the water and aimed right for his leg.  When I read this story, I couldn’t help but think of that video they play over and over again on America’s Funniest Home Videos – the one where the toddler is just walking along, minding  his own business, and along comes a frisky kitty who launches himself at the boy, knocking him to the ground (looked – could not find it for the life of me).  I wonder in this case, if the shark had ill intentions or if this was simply a case of “I have an uncontrollable urge…”.  You can read more about this story [here].

I may not be a bear advocate, but I am a big cat lover.  Of course, I’m not going to go around camping where they make their home.  That would be stupid, but I do enjoy looking at them and have a healthy respect for their prowess.  Sadly, in a case of guilt by association, on Vancouver Island, two cougars were killed when they were spotted near popular campgrounds.  These killings were in response to an attack on an 18 month old boy by a different cougar at a different campground.  This one sorta pisses me off and I have nothing real snarky to say about it.  If you would like to read more about this one, you can do so [here].

At the El Paso Zoo, a Malaysian tiger on loan from the San Diego Zoo, killed her mate over the weekend in an apparent love triangle gone bad.   To quote Chicago’s Velma Kelly and the other ladies of murderess’ row, “he had it coming”.  The male showered an older female with attention.  This, in any relationship – man or beast, is not to be borne.  She did what any self-respecting female would have done in her position.  She took him by the neck and squeezed until he was dead. 

“Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, No hell a fury like a woman scorned.”  William Congreve, The Mourning Bride

 

Photograph by Michael Nichols

      

Fall Fever

No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace
As I have seen in one autumnal face.   ~John Donne

Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree.   ~ Emily Bronte

After such a brutal summer here in North Texas, and really, most of the country, we’ve been granted a slight reprieve.  I am sure it will be short-lived. Mother Nature is a fickle bitch.  She would never let us glide into fall without throwing an obstacle or two in our path.  Something to let us know how unworthy of her time we are.  Or perhaps it is her way of keeping us humble and appreciative of her gifts, however scarce they may be.  Whatever, the case, the taste of cooler temperatures have left us – at least me – craving more.   I refer to this insatiable yearning as Fall Fever. 

If I had to pick a season to be my favorite, it would be fall.  There is something about the air, the smells, the sights, that fill me up with all sorts of things.  Things I couldn’t begin to explain.  I feel my most creative during this time, almost like I’ve been reborn.  A strange notion, I know, given that most everything is in a downward cycle.  Trees are going dormant, annuals are shedding the last of their colorful blooms, birds are flocking to warmer shores.  Soon the first arctic blast will come barreling across the plains, rush in uninvited, and leave the landscape barren.  But until then, I am ready for the magic of autumn. 

I’m not a holiday person. 

Show of hands. Who’s shocked by this?  I didn’t think so. 

My distain for Christmas has earned me the title of Scrooge by many a brave person.  I’ll own that.  It doesn’t bother me, in the least.  I think Christmas is an over-commercialized holiday, shoved down our throats under the guise of being something holy.  I could go into a whole history lesson here, but I will refrain.  It will only piss you off and make me feel like I’m beating my head against a brick wall.  Who needs that?  Certainly, not me. 

Fall is different.  Fall is all about Halloween and the harvest.  It’s a time of fun and frolic.  Apples, pumpkins, and spice.  Ghouls and goblins.  There is no pressure, just good clean fun.  Soon front yard haunted houses will take shape and pumpkin patches will begin to pop up, here and there.  For some, the State Fair is the event which ushers in the season.  I don’t go to the fair, if I can help it.  It’s one of those things on my list that I’ve done, didn’t enjoy, and will try to avoid at all costs.     

However, I do enjoy a good pumpkin patch with all the fixings.  To me, those are the reason for the season.  On October 1st every year, along FM 1171, the Flower Mound Pumpkin Patch opens its gates and allows us onto their quaint and festive property.  There is kettle corn, face painting, a maze, a huge haystack, a hay ride and pumpkins – as far as the eye can see  – lots and lots of pumpkins.  Big ones, small ones, and every size in between.  I love it.  Pumpkins make me smile.  Indeed, a  gourd near and dear to my heart.

Cody, Cory, and Megan

I’ve spent many lazy Sunday afternoons at this particular pumpkin patch.  Usually with Megan and the nephews in tow.  We always have a blast.  The price is always right and they never fail to pick me out the best pumpkins in the place.  

My nephews won’t be here this year, but I plan to spend at least one Sunday in October there.  Hopefully, on a crisp day, with just enough breeze that I have to wear a sweater.   Megan and I will traipse through the dry grass and scan the rows of pumpkins, looking for just the right ones.  Pumpkin choosing is serious business.  After all, they are to sit in sentry at the front entrance .  Devotedly keeping watch as the ghouls and goblins darken my door, in search of candy and treats.  They have an important job, indeed.

A thankless job, however, for as November dawns, they will be forgotten – left to rot on the front porch.  Or worse yet, become a victim of the pumpkin kidnappers and murder in the streets. 

Ahhh…fall.  It is the most wonderful time of the year.

The one red leaf, the last of its clan,
That dances as often as dance it can,
Hanging so light, and hanging so high,
On the topmost twig that looks up at the sky.
~Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Things I learned this week (September 3- September 9)

Mother Nature

I learned this week:

…that someone was kind enough to satisfy Mother Nature’s chocolate craving.  Why else would we suddenly be allowed to enjoy some fall-like weather?  Surely, it wasn’t because she felt sorry for us.

…that after living three months or more in an oven, it’s funny what we consider fall-like temperatures.  When I was a kid living in Germany, fall was decidedly cooler, more refreshing, and the landscape was as colorful as an impressionist’s canvas.  I miss that place more than ever, during this time of year.

…that I really am not a fan of young people.  Their parents should be held legally liable for unleashing their inconsiderate, rude asses on the rest of society.  I find it astounding, and frankly, down right disturbing, that they are our nation’s future.  I’m telling you, we are so screwed.  Screwed.

…that sometimes I have trouble acclimating.  I’ve always thought I was the queen of adaptability.  Perhaps it is my advancing age and a certain resistance to change that comes with that.  This semester brought a lot of changes.  Megan is now in middle school.  She goes to school later in the morning and gets out later in the afternoon.  I’ve had to alter my work schedule to accommodate this change.  In addition, my own school schedule was made around her schedule.  When I did all this initial planning, I failed to allot myself sufficient time for lunch and a daily workout at the gym.  For the last three weeks, I’ve struggled with finding a balance.  As a result, I’ve allowed myself to eat fast food, on the run, for lunch and to skip the gym altogether.  I will tell you, it’s not been a pretty couple of weeks.  I find exercise to be an essential part of maintaining good mental health and boosting my immune system.  Not working out has made me feel disjointed, grumpy, rundown and fat.  Not a good combination for me or the people who must endure my general pissiness on a daily basis. This week, I was determined to get into the groove.  I brown bagged my lunch with healthy but filling foods, found a better parking spot that allows me to avoid the 2:15 pm mass exodus from campus, and am at the gym, changed and ready for 45 minutes of a good, old-fashioned calorie burning sweat-fest by 2:35 pm.  I have found my rhythm and it feels good.

…that my daughter is growing up and there is nothing I can do to stop it.  This week, a certain little boy has finally discovered where we live.  At 4:45 pm everyday, we are now treated to a very loud knock at the door.  When I open it, there stands little – let’s call him Georgie to protect his identity.  “Is Megan home?”  “She’s doing homework.  She can’t have visitors until she’s done.” “Okay, I’ll just wait right here until she’s done.”  Um…okay.

…that, in relation to the above, my daughter was asked by three boys to the sixth grade dance.  Three!  Seriously?  Nolan is going to have a stroke.

…that even though I’ve never really been a Rolling Stones or a Maroon 5 fan, I love the song “Move Like Jagger”.  It defies reason, but that song makes me wanna shake my money-maker.  You can get your own groove on [here].

…that nothing gets people’s attention like putting the word “porn” in the title of your blog entry.  Wonder how many readers were disappointed that it was actually pictures of books and not real porn?  If you don’t know what I’m talking about and would like to check it out for your self you can do so [here].

…that it is possible to be mauled by a polar bear and walk away, albeit minus your pants.  Just ask the poor woman who was attacked by one in the middle of town, in northern Russia.  Conveniently, someone had their handy-dandy cellphone at the ready and caught the whole thing on tape.  Good thing someone else had the presence of mind to put down their electronic recording device and come to the woman’s aid.  You can see the video of the attack [here].

…that some people are brilliant storytellers.  Unfortunately, their fabricated tales are not the kind you find between the pages of a book, lack entertainment value, and do irrevocable damage.

…that there are three C’s in life:  choice, chance, and change.  You must make the choice to take the chance, if you want anything in life to change.  This little piece of brilliance was stolen from my good friend Cyril.  I have a lot to say about this.  Maybe I will ponder it and write something on it in the future. 

…and last but not least…our weekly awwww moment:

L'Hoest's Monkey

Stay tuned for another exciting episode next week.  Same time.  Same channel.

Man vs. Beast

I’m not big on wildlife.  That’s not say that I don’t appreciate the importance of nature.  I do.  I even marvel in the majesty of it.  I just don’t want to be out in it for too long.  I have a deep fear of being devoured by the predators that roam freely upon this vast planet of ours and as such, choose to avoid activities that put me on a collision course with these animals.

Being the sick, demented person that I am, I find myself drawn to news stories about the lesser intelligent ones those among us that fall victim to these predators.  I don’t wish to diminish the significance of their deaths.  Any loss of life, no matter the circumstance, is tragic and I have great sympathy for their loved ones.  However, I will readily admit that these kinds of stories give me a feeling of vindication, a sort of “I told you so”, aimed at all those who made fun of me for my irrationality.

Every Friday for the last couple of months, I’ve posted a little blog entry about the things I learned in the preceding days.  I reflect on this and that, things that happen to me, an inspirational quote or two, news stories that make me laugh or shock me, etc.  One of the recurring themes that has emerged with these entries has been the frequency of animal attacks on humans.

Nature kills.

A lot.

Seriously.

At the suggestion of my fellow WC-er, Kelly, I am going to do a little experiment.  I am going to attempt to construct a blog every Wednesday devoted entirely to animal attacks and sightings that make the news.  Just a few, don’t want to overload the senses and it might very well be a short-lived thing.

Here are a few that I’ve come across or have been provided in recent days:

  • Knut Haavard Solberg / Varingen - Scanpix via Reuters

    On September 4th, in Bunker Bay, Australia, near a surfing spot called the Boneyard (really?), a 21-year-old man was bitten in half while bodyboarding.  The suspect?  A Great White.  It is, after all, Australia.  No one saw the attack or the alleged attacker, but the presence of copious amounts of blood in the water was a sure indicator that something was amiss.  You can read this truly gruesome story [here].

  • On September 5th, outside of Oslo, Norway, an uphill race competitor was attacked and injured by a moose.  As you can see from the picture, the moose seems quite irritated.  I guess he had enough of those silly uphill racers trespassing through his territory.  Can’t say that I blame him.
  • Last week, a 90-year-old woman out for a stroll was viciously attacked by an alligator in Copeland, Florida.  She lost her leg but thankfully, she survived.  You can read her story [here]. I really have nothing snarky to say about this one.  This woman wasn’t doing anything stupid – just found herself in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with a hungry alligator on the hunt.  Could happen to the best of us.  Well, except me, of course.  You will never find me meandering by a drainage ditch in Florida.
  • On September 2nd, in Birmingham, England, a woman awoke to find a fox standing on her chest, clawing at her face.  It appears fox attacks are becoming a big problem in the UK.  Who knew?   You can read this woman’s harrowing story [here].
  • In late August, a woman in Freeport, Maine rolled her jeep several times and then struck a tree.  Her reason for the crash?  A spider.  It apparently appeared in front of her face, out of the blue, while she was driving.  In her attempt to swat it away, she lost control of her vehicle.  Now, I know this is not really an animal attack, but it made me laugh – and think of my friend Bobbi’s husband, Gabe, who squeals like a girl whenever he sees a spider.

And last, but not least:

  • In Sweden, an elk had to be rescued after becoming entangled in a tree.  It appears the wayward elk went on a fermented apple bender and in his attempt to indulge further, got himself good and stuck.   Sweden is a socialist country, perhaps they have state funded elk rehab.  He obviously needs an intervention.  You can read more about this [here].
Drunken Swedish Elk

See?  I told you so.   Mother Nature is a nasty bitch and so are her minions.  I think they are mobilizing for something.  Something big.  Perhaps a full on assault against the human race.   A campaign to take back their land.  I think it is only the beginning.  The worst is yet to come.

***Special thanks to everyone who sent me animal attack articles.

My Very Own Stash of Bookshelf Porn

I found this mess to be quite pleasing to the eye. Shocking.

I never really understood the term “bookshelf porn”.  Sure, I get the concept.   Orgasmic state of euphoria induced by photographs of artfully (and not so artfully) arranged rows of shelves crammed full of books of all shapes and sizes.  I love books – love looking at pictures of books on shelves, but sadly, I’ve never had such an experience.  I guess that makes me a bookshelf porn virgin?

I guess so.

Until now.

I should probably preface the loss of my bookshelf porn virginity by putting it into some sort of context.  Last week, I had an interesting conversation with my World Literature professor while waiting for yet another library tour to begin.  I am a seasoned library veteran, so I don’t really know why I can’t just sign off on some legal document that says “I get how to use the databases, reference desk, and online book reserve.  Really – I got this” and dedicate that hour and fifteen minutes of my life to something a little more meaningful, but, alas, it is not to be borne.

Dr. W. is an interesting woman – I’ve taken a class or two with her in the past.  She’s older, compact, with a quick wit that would do my writing group proud.  I usually try to avoid making small talk with my professors.  I find it awkward for both of us.  I’m not good at it and frankly, neither are they.   Dr. W. is different.  She sits with her students, engages them in frivolous conversation that tends to lead to more in-depth and often times, humorous discussions.  I enjoy her very much and as such, she has become a frequent pawn in my “what if” game – without her explicit knowledge, of course, I value my A.  I’ve decided she would make a great super secret spy, long retired  – a mentor for a younger generation of super secret spies, teaching them the ways of the world with sage advice laced with sharp sarcasm.  Think Hetty Lange meets Yoda.

Hm.  What was I talking about?  Oh yes…

It was in the midst of one of these such conversations – in the library while waiting for the coma inducing tour to begin – that she revealed to me her favorite book reseller.  Her enthusiasm and description of the place piqued my curiosity, and when I awoke from my coma, I did a quick Google search. The bookstore she was referring to is called Recycled Books in Denton, Texas.  They are located on the square. in what used to be an old opera house, across from the historical Denton County Courthouse.  She told me, “You can’t miss it.  It’s painted a lovely shade of lavender.”

Indeed.

Recycled Books

Yesterday morning, on a whim, my husband, daughter, and I piled into the truck and took a little jaunt north.  My husband, always one to make up his navigational plan as he goes along, took us on a pleasant journey through many of the small towns that lie between the house and our final destination, foregoing the more direct route via the interstate.   It’s nice to be reminded that we are just a stone’s throw away from rural America.  It would have been a prettier drive had all the vegetation not been dead and turning to dust, but we can’t have everything now, can we?

Dr. W. was right, of course, you can’t miss it – and we didn’t.  Though, to be honest, I was expecting a more vibrant color, but the building’s exterior was indeed an interesting shade of lavender with slightly darker trim.   She tells me the color was retaliation for the city’s heavy-handedness regarding the condition of the building’s previous paint job.  The owner seems to be a rebel of sorts.  I can respect that.

Upon entering the store, I had what I can only describe as a religious experience.   I don’t have many of those, so I can’t be completely sure, but there was definitely something going on for a light shone down from the heavens and angels began to sing.  When the roar in my head receded, my senses kicked in and I noticed the smell.  My fellow WC-er Bill loves to remind us that it is the smell of molding and musty paper – he is a chemist – but I don’t care.  I love the smell of molding books.  It is an aroma that brings me peace and fills my cold heart with comforting warmth.

This place is not your typical Half Price Books and it’s certainly no Barnes and Noble – it is a mess.  The carpet is filthy, the shelves are crudely made, the walls are covered with posters, drawings and other hodge-podge turned yellow with age, the books were utter chaos.  Or so it seemed.  It is true, there were books everywhere – stuffed in every nook and cranny, slipping onto the floor at every turn.  But it was a kind of organized chaos.  There was a method to the madness, I could see that.  This hint of organization was likely the only reason my anti-clutter troll didn’t jump ship and flee.

The place itself was cavernous, 17,000 square feet in all.  I began to slowly make my way from room to room, the battered floor protesting with my every step.  It seemed never-ending.  Upstairs and downstairs, row upon row, room after room there were books everywhere; and just when I thought I’d reached the end of the line, around the corner there would be something new.  With so much to choose from, so many things to look at, it was hard to really get a feel for what real treasures the place holds.  I am determined to try – no matter how many visits it takes.

This, of course, brings me back to bookshelf porn.  I’m not one to take a lot of pictures.  I usually forget to take any at all – I almost forgot to document the Coliseum in Rome.  My bad.  I was too busy taking it all in.  But something about this place inspired me.  I wanted to capture it so that I could take it with me, and hang on to it.  I wanted to be able revisit and relive this feeling of ecstasy the shelves gave to me over and over again.

I took a page from the Book of Bill, whipped out my cell phone and started shooting.

Now, I have my own little stash of bookshelf porn.  Wanna see?

Things I learned this week (August 29 – September 2)

Hello, September.

I thought you’d never get here. 

That means there are only 21 days left until the official start of fall and 114 days until Christmas.  Tick-tock.  Better start working on that list and checking it twice.

Since last Friday, we’ve been allotted a few passing showers – though temperatures have not been any less scorching.  However, in the midst of one random rain shower on Tuesday morning, I believe I smelled a hint of fall.  Or maybe it was just this cold Megan was kind enough to share.  Hard to tell.

This week I learned:

…that I sadly, I jumped the gun last week when I reported there were no new bear attacks.  It seems that on Friday, they found the body of a hiker killed by a grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park.  This makes two for them this year.  You can read more about this attack (here).  I think something hinky is going on with this nation’s bear population.  Perhaps they are plotting a hostile take over.

…that reading page after page of text regarding dawning civilizations (the Egyptians, Phoenicians, Arameans, Philistines, Hebrews, Assyrian, Persians…) right before bed will give you very bizarre dreams.   I also learned in regard to these readings, that the hours I spent glued to A & E’s Mysteries of the Bible and the History Channel’s Engineering an Empire were not in vain, contrary to what my family said.

…that sometimes you just have to say enough is enough.  No matter how much it hurts.

…that hearing my beautiful, sweet-natured eleven year old daughter announce that something, “just sucks, mom” and that she just didn’t “give a crap” will leave me speechless and floundering for a response.  (It should be noted that this was her way of voicing her frustration over something that happened at school and not in response to something I said or did to her.  There would have been a decidedly different outcome if that had been the case.  I don’t do sass.)

…that Dick Cheney still reminds me of the Penguin.

The Penguin/Dick Cheney

…that Mother Nature seems to be having a bad case of PMS.  Tornados, fires, floods, endless scorching temperatures, hurricanes.  I think somebody needs a hug and a big box of chocolates – the really good expensive ones and not that milk chocolate crap.

…that I miss the music of my youth; the music of my parents’ youth.  You know, music that had a soul.  By and large, popular music today sucks – no soul.  Sure it’s catchy – gets stuck in your head – but it has no relevance and therefore, no staying power.  I say this now because I watched today’s biggest artists “perform” their over played, auto-tuned bullshit on the VMAs this weekend.  I’ve come to the conclusion that humanity, as we know it, is doomed.  I blame the hip-hop.  Seriously.

…that the local weather folks have pulled the old switcheroo on us again this week.  When we began the week, we were to be in the 90s by Thursday with a good chance of rain by the weekend.  Now, it looks like we will have to wait until next week for relief from the temperatures and can kiss the promised chance of rain goodbye.  I think the weather folks are spin doctors and liars.  Just like our politicians.

…that sometimes bears get what is coming to them.  You can read about this heroic Alaskan hairdresser who saved her dog by punching a bear in the snout (here).  She is my hero.

…that in all the excitement of the last couple of weeks, I forgot that my favorite sporting event began on Monday.  I’ve missed the first week of competition at the U.S. Open.  I hear Robin Soderling has dropped out.  Maybe Rafael Nadal will retire, as well.  I’d like to see my boyfriend favorite player, Roger Federer, win again.

…that I am suddenly hungry for some pumpkin pie.

…that there is a Mrs. Smith’s pumpkin pie left over from last Thanksgiving still in my freezer.  Wonder if it’s any good?  Hm.

…that I just can’t resist clicking on the headline “Raccoon Found in Naked Man’s Car Near NASCAR Track”.  I understand that it takes all kinds of people to make this little world of ours go ’round, but come on.  Shouldn’t there be some sort of law against this kind of stupid.  Anti-reproduction clause, at the very least?

…last but not least – our week-ending awwww moment:

Caucasian Leopard cubs (AP Photo/dadp/Uwe Meinhold)

Until next time…

This day in history: August 30

August 30th.

An ordinary day, like any other in the down swing of summer – still deeply submerged in the oppressive Texas heat, but the promise of fall lurks on the distant horizon.  For our family, this is a particularly special day in our history.  Eleven years ago today, we welcomed into our lives a beautiful baby girl.  In classic Megan fashion, she made the process neither easy nor quick; but when she finally made her grand entrance at 4:45 p.m. weighing in at 9 lbs. 15.6 oz and measuring nearly 22 inches long, we knew we had been given a most precious gift.

Megan Leanne Isaacs 8/30

It is very hard to believe that it has been eleven years since we first heard the sound of her cry, smelled her wonderous baby scent and were looked upon by her now famous stink eye, but here we are.  I may be bias, but I believe she’s grown into quite the young lady.

Megan 2011

Of course, this day is not ours alone.  I have two friends who were also blessed with the birth of their children on this day.  To them, I wish a very Happy Birthday.

It is also a rather eventful day in history.  On this day in history:

  • Melbourne, Australia was founded.
  • The city of Houston, Texas was founded.
  • The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway opened.
  • Thurgood Marshall was confirmed to the Supreme Court of the United States.
  • The Space Shuttle Discovery made its maiden Voyage.
  • Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, was born in London.
  • Nancy Wake, Allied spy during WW II, was born in New Zealand.
  • Warren Buffett, American gazillionaire, was born.
  • Charles Bronson, American actor, died.
  • Max Factor, Sr., Polish-born, American cosmetic manufacturer, died.
  • Indian Larry, American stuntman, died.

*disclaimer:  all of the above information is courtesy of my friends over at Wikipedia because as you know, I am a lazy writer at times.  Don’t judge me.

Things I learned this week (August 22 – 26)

So, here we are again – another week successfully muddled through, with virtually no collateral damage.  That makes for a good week, in my book. 

For those of you that pay attention to these things, there are only 27 days left until the official beginning of the fall season and only 120 shopping days left until Christmas. 

I’m looking forward to the beginning of fall, myself.  Though, I don’t know why.  I live in Texas.  Mother Nature tends to forget about us down here in the Lone Star State when she is handing out seasonal weather.  I’m starting to think that she doesn’t care for us all that much.  Or maybe we are being punished for something.

Rick Perry, perhaps? 

Just saying.

I learned this week…

Megan the Wise

…that my daughter is wise beyond her years.  She sat down at the dinner table and out of blue said, “So many years gone by so fast, huh?”  She’s had a lot of these little zingers lately.  I’m not sure how she became so mature or if it is even a good thing, but her frankness warms my heart.  I am so blessed to have her in my life.

…that even at my age, and with more than a few semesters under my belt now, I still get butterflies on the first day of school.

…that an educational institute’s library is still one of my top five places to people watch.  The eclectic group of individuals who choose to begin their quest for higher education at a Community College make for great character inspiration, as do the facility that are determined to teach them.  I spent two days this week taking it all in and playing my favorite “what if” game.  Perhaps I will share some of the things I witnessed with you in my next blog entry.

…that even though I am not a proponent of war, I am thrilled to see Gaddafi’s regime come crashing down.  Those of you old enough to remember Lockerbie, Scotland will surely share my view.  [If you would like to read more about the bombing of Pan Am flight 103, you can do so (here), as well as (here).] Now, the question is:  Will the liberated Lybians embrace this opportunity for a new beginning, free from oppression, or will they squander it away, allowing an even bigger evil to rear its ugly head.  I guess time will tell.

Jeff Mitchell/Getty Images

that I found this little tidbit regarding the founder of IKEA very interesting.  For those of you who don’t know, I loathe the Swedish furniture maker with the strength of a thousand suns.  I have no real problem with their products, per se.  I will readily admit that my favorite writing chair is from IKEA – though my choice of decor tends to lean more toward traditional than modern.  My biggest problem with the store is in its design and layout.  I don’t appreciate being herded like little lab rats through a never-ending maze while enduring the endless stupidity and rudeness of those packed like sardines around me.  I want to get in, get what I need, and leave.  An impossibility in IKEA.  Oh, and don’t get me started on the floor.  I have never left that store without an ache that runs from my right knee down to my right big toe.  Never.

…that I was mistaken in my belief, or perhaps hope is a more adequate word, that the middle school parents would have a better grasp of pick up and drop off rules.  Their children may have matured over the summer, but sadly, they have not.  Yesterday, I saw a white Chrysler 300 (with pimpin’ rims) parked backwards – complete with illuminated reverse lights – in the moving (in the opposite direction) carpool lane.

…that the weather folks on the nightly news are just screwing with us.  We might have fallen for the arbitrary 98 or 99 degree high temperature prediction stuck in at the end of the ten-day forecast, the first few half-dozen times, but now it’s just cruel to dangle such utter nonsense – complete meteorological fabrications – in front of our noses.  Haven’t we suffered enough?

10 day forecast courtesy of http://www.weather.com

…that adaptation is born out of necessity.  A couple of weeks ago I came back from vacation to find that most of the stationary bikes at my gym, including my beloved #3, were gone.  “Out for repair”, the pimply boy behind the counter told me.  I was forced to get my cardio workout on the elliptical.  I am surprised to report that I don’t hate it.  I’ve figured out how not to fall off and how to adjust it to fit my short, stubby stride.  As always, I judge the success of a workout by the amount of sweat dripping from my body and the level of numbness I feel in my legs when I’m finished.  The elliptical delivered on both.  This does not mean that it will replace the spinner as my workout apparatus of choice – I am a biker, through and through.  *HA!  I made a joke there.  See?*

…that though I searched high and low, I was unable to find any new reports of bear attacks.  However, I did come across another Great White shark attack.  This time off the coast of South Africa.  I don’t wish to belittle such a tragedy with insensitivity, but I must conclude that this surfer was either demented or had never watched the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week.  Every episode I’ve ever seen features dumbasses shark enthusiasts in boats off the coast of South Africa surrounded by large numbers of these predatory fish.  You can read this surfer’s story (here).

…that insects can elicit the occasional awwww moment:

Miroslaw Swietek/liveScience

Okay.  Perhaps that was being a tad too generous, but you have to admit that the above photograph had you leaning in a little closer to your computer screen, musing, “What is that?”

My work here is done.

Journey of Self-discovery: Conquering my fear of boats

Boats scare the shit out of me.

I apologize if such language may seem unnecessary to you, but it is an apt description of the paralyzing fear I experience just before crossing a gangplank.  As I’ve said before in a blog entry on my irrational phobias, it has less to do with the physical vessel and everything to do with its function.  Boats “float” in bodies of water;  bodies of water –  and the things that live in them – are deadly.  I don’t do deadly.

As a general rule, I avoid boat travel like the plague.  As was the case four years ago, when I was traveling with my family in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.  I took one look at the ferry to Cozumel, turned around and walked away.  I was not going to get on that boat.  Period.  End of discussion.

Playa del Carmen, Mexico 2008

In recent years, however, I have come to the conclusion that I cannot live my life in absolutes.  Inflexibility stunts personal growth, and frankly, makes for a very boring life.  When it comes right down to it, who aspires to have a boring life?  No one, that’s who.  We all want to look back on the past with some measure of accomplishment – that we didn’t squander a lifetime away doing nothing but shaking in our boots, scared of our own shadow.  It took me a long time to figure that out.

Bearing this new discovery in mind, I jumped at the chance to meet up with one of my oldest friends in New York City in September 2009.  Okay.  Perhaps “jumped at” is a bit of an overstatement.  There were many things about that trip that caused the little anxiety troll inside my head to scream out in panic.  The trip would coincide with the anniversary of 9/11 and would entail leaving Megan behind for more than a day or two.  I am not a spiritual person but I am prone to superstition.  For me, the whole set up seemed to tempt fate.  Seriously bad mojo in the making; and I just knew that if I went, I was doomed to perish.  But this time I didn’t listen to my nagging fear monster.  I spit in the eye of fate and went with my husband to New York City, had a fabulous time, and even rode the ferry to Liberty and Ellis Islands – in a rainstorm with choppy seas; on September 11th.

Ferry to Liberty and Ellis Island, New York 2009

And survived.

Take that bad mojo.

(Good thing I didn’t learn about this until I was home safe and sound.)

In January, my husband and I celebrated our fifteenth wedding anniversary.  A milestone, to be sure, in this day and age of rampant divorce.  Our special day falls very close to Christmas, so it is not unusual for us to forego gifts, opting instead for a simple dinner out alone.  This year, however, given the significance of the anniversary, we decided to take the honeymoon we weren’t able to afford when we first married.  We looked at a lot of places and agreed that Cabo San Lucas, Mexico was where we wanted to spend five days playing the part of newlyweds.

Cabo is a beautiful place, romantic and serene – almost magical.  Perhaps it was this bit of magic that possessed me to agree to go on a whale watching expedition.  The conditions were perfect for sighting one or two and, for us, it was something new – uncharted.  That was what this trip was all about, after all.  Trying something new.  We booked it.

Then I saw the boat.

Inflatable raft would be a more adequate description.

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico 2011

To say I was scared to death would be an understatement and to be honest, most of the two and a half hour boat ride is one big blur.  I spent a good deal of the time clinging to the side rope, praying to a God I haven’t spoken to in years, and trying not think about how very deep the guide said the water was beneath our feet – or what may be lurking there.  The point at which the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean is rough, dark and cold.  Terrifying – made even worse by the boat’s Captain who at the barest hint of a “blow” on the horizon was off like a shot, bearing down on the unsuspecting whales at speeds that where not conducive to safe boating under any conditions.  I was seriously reconsidering the status of my own sanity at this point.  I wanted the hell off this “boat” in the worst way.

Then I saw my first whale.

They are a sight to behold.  Like nothing I’ve ever seen.  I almost forgot where I was – almost.  Whales move quickly, so you only have a minute – sometimes mere seconds, to take in the their majestic beauty.  The experience left me in total awe.   As did the incredible sunset.

Sunset - Cabo San Lucas, Mexico 2011

When I stepped off the boat at the end of the tour, I was relieved. I really had my doubts that I would make it back to shore in one piece.  I was also overwhelmed with the sense of accomplishment I felt at facing down my fear.  Don’t get me wrong, I was still scared shitless, but I hadn’t allowed it to control me.

Will I ever do that again?

Absolutely not.  But now I can say that I did it once and that’s enough for me.

“Nobody puts Baby in the corner.”

A few blog entries back, I made my feelings known about what seems to be the popular new past time in Hollywood – remaking and rebooting everything under the sun.  I thought for sure they’d hit rock bottom with the remake of Footloose (and it’s beloved soundtrack).

I was wrong.

Recently, it has been announced that the powers that be in Tinseltown have decided to continue their blasphemous campaign by daring to take on the 1987 classic Dirty Dancing.

And here I thought they learned their lesson with the colossal flop, Dirty Dancing – Havana Nights.

Again – I was wrong.

For those of you who were not a frizzy haired, big toothed, homely teenaged girl with a unibrow in 1987, you may be asking yourself why on earth would anyone get their panties in a bunch over this nonsense.  It’s just a movie.  A stupid movie at that.

Maybe it is a stupid movie by today’s standards, but in the context of the time and to the targeted audience, it was pure brilliance.  In 1987, I was a frizzy haired, big toothed, homely fifteen year old girl (with a unibrow that defied imagination).  I knew little of the world outside my safe and secure life on a military installation.  The school year before, I’d moved from Germany and was lucky enough to have fallen in with an amazing group of kids just like me.  All of us Air Force brats plopped down in the middle of nowhere Texas and left to fend for ourselves among the native population.  To say that we suffered from culture shock would be a gross understatement.  We were awkward, quirky and marched quite happily to the beat of our own drum.  That year, and the following year, the group of us – five in all – spent a lot of time hanging out around our housing development, the SAFB library, the BX food court (don’t ask) and torturing our collective families by invading their peace – and their refrigerators.  Bobbi’s mom had the best snackage by far, and that’s usually where we landed when we wanted to stay up all night and watch movies.

"Dirty Dancing" 1987

We had our list of usual suspects:  The Outsiders, Top Gun, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Can’t Buy Me Love, St. Elmo’s Fire, The Breakfast Club, Back to the Future, Howard the Duck, Flashdance, Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles…the list was endless.  But our go-to movie, the flick everyone could agree on time after time was Dirty Dancing.  What was it about this film that captivated us?

We could relate to it – at least on some level.

Here was this girl who was not so unlike ourselves – a little homely, a little awkward, striving to live up to her family’s expectation – the good girl; the apple of her father’s eye.  She thinks she has it all figured out until in walks the over-confident, sizzling hot bad boy with a leather jacket slung carelessly over one shoulder.

Swoon.

She would never be the same.

And neither would we.

As we sat noshing on junk food in the dead of night, we were spellbound not only by the raw sexuality of this film (as is depicted in this scene), but also by the emotional journey these two characters took us on.  It was a roller coaster ride.  Scene after scene, we watched as this ordinary girl and trouble filled young man waged a war within themselves, struggling against their blossoming feelings and the confines of their prospective situations.  It was a journey that saw them lay their souls bare, tested their budding trust in one another, and finally brought them together in a spectacular over the top dance sequence.

All set to a soundtrack that rivaled even that of my beloved American Graffiti.

What is there not to love about this movie?

How on earth could anyone think that the onscreen magic of Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze could ever be recreated?

Why must Hollywood make a mockery out of every coming of age film from my formative years?

Can they not just leave well enough alone?

Things I learned this week (August 8-12)

Well, we’ve made it through another week.  That means we are one step closer to the end of this nightmare summer and the beginning of a refreshing fall, full of new and exciting possibilities – and lower temperatures.  But before we get too caught up in fantasizing about day time highs under the century mark, let’s take a minute to explore the useful, and not so useful, things I’ve learned this week.

This week I learned…

…that sometimes you just need a Red Bull.  Even if that Red Bull is inside Madonna’s refrigerator.

…that moving heavy boxes from a high perch to the floor can cause a hip flexor injury.  Who knew?  Though, I shouldn’t be surprised.  I did get golfer’s elbow from falling off a ladder while painting my bathroom last year.  An aging body is a strange thing.

…that I can mark camping in Norway off my bucket list.  You are either going to have to take my word for it or Google it yourself because the photo is just too gruesome to link.  (note: reference campers, polar bear, and Norway)

Dirty Dancing circa 1987

…that nothing in Hollywood is sacred.  I think I am going to have to devote another blog entry to this abomination.

…that for $32 you can get an ice cream sundae that smells (and I guess tastes) just like Justin Bieber.  So, I tried to think of something witty to say in response to this, but…yea…I got nothing.  I’m sure a few of my fellow WCers will do their part to fill the void.  In fact, I look forward to it.

…that reading your account statements from Fidelity Investments can be a lot like watching a Vegas magic act.  One minutes it there; the next, it’s gone.  My advise:  save yourself the ulcer and don’t even bother opening the statements until this storm passes.  If it ever passes.

…that the Stasi were not a fashion forward bunch as noted in the photo below.  For some reason, the first thing that popped into my head were scenes from the 1982 Clint Eastwood movie Firefox.

Reuters

…that after enduring 40 straight days of 100+ degree temperature, nothing is more beautiful than watching heavy clouds and an outflow boundary roll into the area.  No rain but that 84 degrees was mighty nice while it lasted.  Alas, it’s back to reality.  There are, after all, several weeks of summer yet to come.

…that just when my schedule is about to change and make it very difficult for me to write as often as I’d like, I find myself more inspired in my novel than ever.  I’ve had all summer – two whole days a week – to dedicate to full on, balls to the wall writing and all I’ve done (for the most part) is write these silly little blog entries.

…that in spite of the foregoing, I feel that I’ve grown both as a writer and a human being because of these silly little blog entries.  Putting my thoughts out there, for better or worse, has given me confidence.

…that the reappearance of the high school cheer moms at the gym means the gymnastic moms won’t be far behind.  There goes my peace and quiet.

…that every week should end with an “awwww” moment:

"Hold still! You've got a little schumtz on your face." Ilya Naymushin/Reuters

Awwww.

Prepare to be annoyed

I have a pet peeve.

Okay, two.

Oh, alright – stop rolling your eyes.  I have an infinite number of pet peeves.  Sue me.  I never claimed to be Susie Freaking Sunshine.

In spite of my vast list of grievances, I have tried to make a concerted effort to be more laid back about things.  Especially those that I have no power to control or change.  Sorta a dumbed down Zen thing, if you will.  Still, I am who I am and there are some petty trivialities that, no matter how much I try, continue to drive me absolutely batshit crazy.

When I originally started this blog entry a few weeks ago, it was in response to a near meltdown I had at my favorite Target Store; however, in the interim and after a much-needed cooling off period, I have decided to treat you to a list of my top three pet peeves and how I’ve learned to suck it up and deal.  My way of proving that I’m learning to let things roll off my back.

Again – I could do without the eye rolling.

3.   I hate the smell of ketchup.  I hate the sound of people eating in the close quarters of the movie theater.  Put these two things together and I have instant sensory overload.  Drowning out the din of a hundred or so munching moviegoers is easy – large popcorn, extra mystery butter substance.  Perhaps not ideal for the waistline but it gets the job done.  Getting away from the nauseating stench of ketchup is a little harder.  To add an additional element of difficulty to the situation, the offending food swimming in that nasty condiment is usually in the hands of a child.

I’ve always wondered why perfectly rational mothers do this.   Am I the only who thinks giving children messy finger foods to eat in a darkened theater is a bad idea?  I mean, really, why tempt fate?  Inevitably, that ketchup slickened hot dog is going to make the jump into hyperspace.  Out of the bun it goes, down the front of said child’s shirt, bouncing once off the knee and eventually coming to rest just out of reach beneath the my seat.  The mother will shriek in shock and scold the faultless child who will in turn begin to cry.

The old me would have had a stroke.  The new me scopes out the theater ahead of time and plans accordingly.  In the event of an ambush, I have found that very strong, minty gum helps mask any offending and foul odors thrown my way.  Problem solved.

2.  Parking lot etiquette is a thing that seems to have gotten lost in translation somewhere over time.  The very minute the operator of a motor vehicle enters the domain of a private parking lot, seemingly untouchable by the local law, something strange happens.  All the rules of the road taught in Driver’s Education are forgotten and it becomes a game of survival of the fittest – or who’s car is bigger.  Apparently the bigger you are, the fewer rules you are required to follow.  Unfortunately for me, I have a small sports sedan which is very low on the food chain.  It matters not that it is an awesome shade of red.  Oh no.  I think the red has an overcoating of invisi-shield because I am virtually undetectable in the parking lot.

I cannot begin to count the number of times I have been toodling along, minding my own business when I am suddenly on a collision course with a huge SUV driving straight at me, across the designated parking spaces at a high rate of speed.  My life flashes before my eyes until I find my voice – and my horn.  It always amazes me that they look shocked to see me there.  Of course, shocked gives way to indignation and I have often found myself on the receiving end of a notso nice hand gesture.  It probably doesn’t help that they likely read lips.  I can be reactionary in these situations and I have a very colorful vocabulary thanks to a mother who taught me the best unladylike words the English language has to offer.

In my defense – they started it.

Hm.  Now that I’ve sat here and thought this particular pet peeve through, I don’t believe I have made any progress in tempering my rage where these incidents are concerned.  I guess I will have to file this one under “Work in Progress”.

1.  Oddly enough, my biggest pet peeve is another parking lot faux pas.  As I’ve said in a previous blog – I like rules.  They bring order to chaos.  I don’t do chaos.  It makes me itchy.  So it shouldn’t surprise you that nothing pisses me off more than the sight of a rogue shopping cart careening wildly across the parking lot only to be abruptly stopped by the side of a very unlucky car.  Often times, it is my poor abused car that is the victim of such blatant disregard for the unwritten rules of buggy return.  Take cart, fill cart, pay for goods that fill cart, take goods to car in said cart, empty cart, RETURN CART TO HANDY-DANDY CART RETURN CORRAL.  Easy- peasy.

You’d think.  But sadly, no.

Is it laziness that prevents people from putting in a little effort to do what is right?  Or the deep-seated sense of entitlement that has gripped our country in the last few decades?  I don’t know.  Though I tend to lean toward a combination of both factors.  It certainly can’t be denied that there are those among us who believe the rules don’t apply to them.  That they are somehow above it all because…well…because they are them.

But in an effort to be more understanding toward those who seem to have missed out on the common courtesy chromosome, I have learned to accept….

…oh hell, who am I kidding?

All I want to do is take that shopping cart and ram it into the lazy asshat’s car – over and over and over and over…

Guess we will mark this one as “Work in Progress”, too.

Seems I have room for improvement.

Things I learned this week (August 1 – August 5)

What day is it?

It’s Friday.  You know what that means.  Yep, time for me to bestow upon you the new bits of knowledge I acquired this week.  Think you can handle the excitement?  I think you can.  Let’s go!

"Nympheas" Claude Monet circa 1920-1926

I learned this week…

…that my skin isn’t nearly as thick as I thought.  Or maybe it’s just that I’ve had enough of the cyber-anonymity induced nastiness that seems to have inflicted everyone with a keyboard and an internet connection.  I think it’s time to bring back basic human civility.

…that I should never make the mistake of illegally parking in the capital city of Lithuania.

…that Utah governor and presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman plays piano (he used to play keyboards in a band called Wizard back in the day), likes Cherry Garcia ice cream, and is a fan of the Grateful Dead.  I think the good people of Utah have been holding out on us.

…that the idea of Texas Governor Rick Perry becoming a contender for the top office makes me want to vomit and move to Europe.  I was okay with him as long as he stayed in Austin, hidden from view, but to unleash him on the entire country…well, we might as well just lie down in the street and await the coming apocalypse.  Doesn’t make sense, does it?  I can’t explain it myself.

…that I am to be the grandmother of a bouncing baby girl.

…that I seriously regret complaining about the frigid temperatures and ice we were plagued with just six short months ago.  I sincerely apologize to my Karma and beg forgiveness – and relief from the suffocating heat.

Ten day forecast. - ugh.

…that not writing every day doesn’t make me any less of a writer.  Distractions are a good thing.  In moderation, of course.

Central Park Zoo peacock

that sometimes you just need to get the hell out of dodge.

…that “The cliché “start your novel with action” has a flaw—and it’s a major one: What good is the action if it isn’t grounded in context that’s important to the story or draws you to the main character? It’s much, much better to start your story with tension, like a character conflict or a character who’s not getting what he wants. This gives the reader a reason to feel connected.”  – Brian Klem, Writer’s Digest

…that MTV turned thirty this week.  In its inception, MTV was innovative and just plain cool.  It certainly shaped my exposure to popular music.  Now, thirty years later, is it still as ground breaking?  Well, you will just have to wait for my upcoming blog to find out my thoughts on this.  And I have lots of thoughts on this subject.  Shocking, right?

…that nothing beats my homemade sauce after eating out for a week

….that I am captivated by this face and the sage intelligence I see lurking behind his eyes.  I wonder what is he thinking?  What has he seen in his lifetime behind bars?  If he could talk, what would he tell us about ourselves?

Issouf Sanogo/AFP - Getty Images

Things I learned while on vacation

So, I’ve been away from the blog for a few days.  Maybe you’ve notice; maybe you didn’t.  If not, I’m crushed.  I thought you loved me and hung on my every word.

No?  Your unwavering devotion is all in my head?

Hmmm.

My little vacation was a six-day trip to Key West via Orlando, Tampa and Miami with my girlfriends.  It was wonderful and exhausting all at the same time.  I guess that’s how you know the vacation was a roaring success – you need a vacation from the vacation when you get  home.  That’s how I feel today.   I’m beat.

In the spirit of my new regular Friday entries (Things I Learned This Week), I’ve decided to share with you some of the things I learned during my stay in the great state of Florida (no sarcasm intended.  I was born there and have a great affection for the state and its quirky inhabitants).

Things I learned while on vacation in Florida with my girls…

…that World of Beer is a fun little pub with waitresses that will go above and beyond to find a beer in their massive collection that will satisfy even the pickiest of non-beer drinkers.  Kudos to them!

…that Miami International Airport was designed by the same crazy monkeys that designed Orlando International Airport – only on crack.  Can you say cluster-fuck?

…that at the Mall of America in Miami you can get your hooker shoes, hoochie-mama dress and a shot of penicillin all under the same roof.  One stop shopping at its finest.  (Stole this little bit of genius from my BFF, Amy).

…that the Olive Garden’s unlimited soup, salad, and bread sticks is always a good idea.

…that true to form, Amy nearly killed us all with her driving.  To be fair, it was only once this trip.  Of course, it was on a bridge over shark infested waters, going 90 mph – about 35 mph OVER the posted speed limit.  Her consistency is admirable.  She never fails to disappoint.  Love that girl!

…that there are 42 bridges between mainland Florida and Key West.  No I didn’t count them.  The very informative trolley driver was kind enough to share that bit of useless trivia along with an unending supply of not so witty conch jokes.

…that there is in fact no beach in or around Mallory Square.

…that actually reading the map and literature provided by trolley booking lady instead of stuffing them into my bag would have alleviated any such confusion.  Note to self…

…that misjudging your trolley stop will result in an extensive tour of the island – the opposite side of the island from your intended destination.  However, this little jaunt did afford some very nice views and quite a bit more useless trivia to be stowed away for later use.

…that Willy T’s on Duval does indeed make a superior mojito.  Yum-o.

…that the Hemingway House cats actually do have more toes than nature intended.  Freaky.

…that I have “itty-bitty titties”.  Or so the drag queen at Aqua so kindly pointed out.

…that it is useless to wage a battle against curly, frizzy hair in a climate with oppressive humidity.  It is a fight you can’t win.  Embrace the frizz.

Wing and Wieners –  funny.  Misreading it as Wigs and Wieners – priceless.  Thank you, Shelley.

Key West, Florida

Things I learned this week (July 25 – 29)

It’s Friday! You know what that means.  Time to find out what I learned this week.

I learned this week…

…that Alaska has now been promoted to my list of no-can-dos.

…that while I am saddened at the loss of a musical talent who had yet to reach her full potential, I can’t say that I am particularly surprised.  Addiction kills and some people, unfortunately, are past the point of no return.

…that my love for politics has waned.  For years I’ve been a liberal leaning Dem, but recently I have grown increasingly disgusted with both parties and their self-serving agendas.  When I was researching Ronald Reagan this past spring, I stumbled upon this gem:  “Governments tend not to solve problems, only rearrange them”.  Absolutely true, and while they are rearranging our monumental problems, they are running our country straight into the ground.  Our founding fathers would hang their heads in shame at the behavior of our so-called leaders – on both sides of the aisle.  So much for American exceptionalism.

Another pissing contest

…that “A vision without a plan is just a dream. A plan without a vision is just drudgery. But a vision with a plan can change the world.”  Proverb.

…that no matter how much I try or how much I am looking forward to a vacation, I still dread it.

…that fields of blooming sunflowers make me smile.  No easy feat.

…that the icy tentacles of winter would be a welcome sight, even if for just one day.

…the Orlando International Airport was designed by a bunch of crazy monkeys.

Journey of Self-discovery: Conquering Math

You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition.  What you’ll discover will be wonderful.  What you’ll discover is yourself.  ~Alan Alda

If you don’t get lost, there’s a chance you may never be found.  ~Author Unknown

In recent years, I’ve gone through a lot of personal changes.  Some good, some bad – all of them learning experiences.  I guess you could say I’ve been on a quest to find myself.  Sounds a bit cliché but, I suspect, not uncommon for people like me – staring at the business end of forty.

I think my journey really began with the passing of my dad.  Unexpected death of a loved one has a way of putting things into perspective.  It makes you reevaluate your life, take stock in what you’re doing and what you want to be doing.  The harsh reality that this sort of thing could happen in my family with such cruel swiftness was eye-opening  – like someone doused me in ice water.  I began to take stock of my life.

What I found was that while I was happy, I wasn’t fulfilled.  Something was missing in my life.  I also quickly realized that the fault was entirely my own.  I’d created this bubble around myself – my comfort zone.  I didn’t wander out of this zone for any reason, for anyone.   But in creating this buffer between me and the outside world, I stunted my ability to grow.

Herein lies my problem.  I needed a challenge in my life – something outside my comfort zone.  I thought about changing jobs, maybe going to work for a bigger firm but I decided wouldn’t solve anything.  Bigger isn’t always better and it wouldn’t really be that much of a change to go somewhere else, doing the exact same work.  That would sort of defeat the purpose.  I struggled with this dilemma for a while, got good and pissy about it, made everyone’s life hell until out of the blue, I was struck by an odd notion.  I wanted to go back to school.  Alrighty then.

The prospect of entering a classroom after all these years was a bit overwhelming but I was convinced that it was exactly what I wanted to do.  Not because I wanted a new job – I liked my job – but because I wanted to expand my horizons, take on a new challenge that was more than just a one time deal, and learn.  I set about this with the same ardency that I do anything I am truly determined to accomplish.  The first thing I learned – I was going to have to take a placement test.  That little bit of news sent chills of fear down my back.  Well, only one part of the exam really scared the shit out of me.  The math portion.   I hate math and math hates me.  Years ago we mutually agreed to steer clear of one another.  It was better that way – for both our sakes.

I almost walked away from the idea at that point but once I accepted that I was going to have to conquer my fear and loathing of math, the rest was pretty much smooth sailing. Of course, determination to achieve something doesn’t mean you will get there on the first try.  Failure helps you succeed, right?  I bombed the math portion of that test and was relegated down to remedial math – not the lowest level, but pretty darn close.  It was humbling but I sucked it up and soon found that math, at least lower level math, wasn’t all that scary.  I had to study, do my homework and faithfully go to class but passing was within my reach.  And I did pass. Every single one of those remedial math classes – with an A.

Then came the true test.  College Algebra.  Pshaw, you say?  Piece of cake?  For some, yes.  For me, it was probably the scariest, most intimidating thing I’ve done in a very long time.  But after three semesters of back to back math classes, I knew I was as ready as I’d ever be for this challenge.  It was no easy task.  I spent hours and hours doing homework, pestering the tutors in the Math Lab, and studying.  Repetition, I discovered, is the key to mastering math at any level.  I didn’t get an A in College Algebra.  I knew after the first exam that it was going to be an uphill battle but I did manage to pull out a B.  Which in any other class would have sent me into a complete meltdown because I get A’s.  The higher the A the better.  I am a firm believer in the idea that every point counts.  I would never be satisfied with a 90 just because it’s all the same on a transcript.  I want every point possible.  But this was College Algebra and to finish with a B was absolutely the greatest feeling in the world.  Which is saying a lot because I was also awarded a Scholar Award in History for the same semester.  A great honor, one which I am extraordinarily proud, but I am even prouder that I made it through four successful semesters of math.

I am no longer afraid of math.  I know and understand what it takes to not just get by, but to do well in the subject.  That’s not to say that I’m going to change my major and suddenly embrace Mathematics.  If I have a say in it, I will never step foot in a math class again.  But the sense of accomplishment that I feel knowing that I swallowed my fear, looked straight into the eyes of the dragon and sliced it’s head right off is priceless to me.

Things I learned this week (July 18 – 22)

It’s Friday!  You know what that means, right?  It’s time to examine the things I learned this week.

This week I learned…

Head Baboon

…that I dont’ want to be the baboon in charge.  Playing second fiddle to the big cheese is better for your health.  All the benefits – none of the stress.

…that Jennifer Lopez should chalk this whole marriage thing up to experience and never, ever do it again.  It’s quite obviously not working for her.

…that I don’t have to go far if I wish to have a long life expectancy.  Of course, I’m pretty sure I’d much rather live somewhere else in my golden years.  A beach house in the Caribbean, a villa in Rome, or Börsborn, Germany.

…that New York is making good on a promise – never forget.

500 year old tree - Borsborn, Germany

…that pissing contests like these benefit no one – least of all the children who, I might remind these two governmental entities, are the future of our country.

…that I prefer my daughter’s summer gymnastics schedule.  I don’t know where all the obnoxious, nitwit stage moms have gone for the summer but I hope they stay there.  I can actually write in peace. 

…that sometimes I should keep things to myself.

…that having short, stubby legs might not be such a bad thing after all.

…that I still don’t understand what “ranch casual” is really supposed to entail.  Now they’ve thrown “summer ranch casual” at me.  I am equally perplexed by this concept.  Guess I’m going shopping.  Again.  This time, however, I draw the line at cowboy boots.  Not happening.

…that the pre-dawn landing of the space shuttle Atlantis was a beautiful and emotional thing.  The end of a wonderous era.  I’m glad I watched.

Pierre Duchame/Reuters
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