Finding lost treasures

Do you know what I love?

Finding things I thought were lost forever.

Yesterday, tucked away in a dark dusty place, I found a set of books I could have sworn perished in a house fire six years ago.

I almost cried.

Set of Louisa May Alcott novels gifted to me in 1974
Set of Louisa May Alcott novels gifted to me by my Nana in 1974
My favorite
My favorite
A few other books I found.  Grimm's Fairy Tales was also a gift from my Nana.  The bottom book, Carmen of the Golden Coast, was passed down from my Nana to my mother to me.
I found a couple of other books as well. Grimm’s Fairy Tales was also a gift from my Nana. The bottom book, Carmen of the Golden Coast, was passed down from my Nana to my mother to me.
Inscription in Carmen of the Golden Coast
Inscription in Carmen of the Golden Coast

Things I learned this week (November 7 – November 13)

I learned this week…

…that snickerdoodles will be added to my holiday cookie line up this year.  I’ve made all sorts of cookies over the years – chocolate chip, pizzelles, peanut butter, spice cookies, etc. – but never snickerdoodles.  I made them for the first time this week.  I’m not really sure why I’ve excluded them in the past.  However, I will rectify this mistake as I delve into the my marathon of holiday baking in the coming weeks.  They were very tasty.

…that it is time to up the resistance on the elliptical to a solid 9.  I surpassed my best distance record this week.  I was able to cover 6.56 miles in one hour.  I think it’s safe to say that I’ve mastered the elliptical and am officially a convert.  I’m going to have to expand this thought into a blog entry.  I have a lot to say about it.

…that my little old kitty does not have lymphoma, after all.  Misdiagnosed.  She does have a slew of other health issues, but all of them manageable.  It’s always much easier to take a misdiagnosis when the error is in your favor.  Of course, this doesn’t alleviate the sting of the vet bills.  I’ve spent a fortune over the last month or two trying to find out what is wrong with my kitty and if it was time to make THE decision.

…that Shakespeare’s sonnets are much more entertaining than Petrarch’s sonnets.   Though, if I am to be completely honest, I probably only understand the meaning of one in three without prompting from dear Dr. W.  This sonnet, No. 130, I understood perfectly, however.  I’m sure you will, too.

An earlier version of Summer, 1563. Giuseppe Arcimboldo
My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun
Coral is far more red, than her lips red
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head
 
I have seen roses damasked, red and white
But no such roses see I in her cheeks
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks
 
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound
I grant I never saw a goddess go,
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground
And yet be heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.
 

…that inexplicably, I will experience a surge of excitement when I stumble across Pride & Prejudice on the Oxygen channel.  It matters not that I own it on blue ray and can watch it whenever my little heart desires.  It seems I am too powerless to change the channel, and too lazy to get up and pop in the DVD.  So, here I sit typing away at this blog, watching my favorite movie in low resolution, and suffering through endless commercials.

…that crazy gymnastics moms + vendor selling racks and racks of bedazzled leotards = calamity + a near homicidal me, squared.  You would really think that after four years of twice weekly practice at the same gym, surrounded by a lot of the same people, I would be more tolerant of these magpies.  I’m not.  I don’t think this is any fault of my own, but rather the fact that these woman have had their brains sucked out by some unknown force.  I am convinced that I am the only person in the entire place who is somehow immune to this mystery brain sucking foe.  I wonder if this is how Ripley from Aliens felt.

…that ineptocracy is a fun, new word.  I wish I could take credit for this one, but I learned it from my fellow WCer, Bill.   [Click here to for more from Bill].

…that I don’t know squat about what a biochemical lab looks like, or what it may contain.  This poses a problem for me because I am currently writing a scene for my novel, Retribution, that is set in a biochemical lab.  Guess I am going to have to consult my friends over at Wikipedia and Google images.  If anyone wants to share some expertise…

…that my husband should not be allowed to “clean” the coffee pot.  For a few years now, we have had a couple of those dispensing pots.  You know, you stick your cup underneath the spout, press it against the big button, and coffee magically pours into your cup.  Every time my husband “cleans” it, the stream diminishes.  Last year, he decided to “fix” this little problem by taking the pot apart.  Needless to say, I picked up a new one on my way home from work the next day.  Yesterday, my husband decided to deep “clean” the pot again.  I am now the proud owner of a new Kitchen Aid 14 cup coffee pot.  It is not the dispensing kind.  Lesson learned.

…and lastly, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by this adorable little piggy.  I have a soft spot in my heart for pigs.  I think they are freaking adorable and when all my kitties are gone, I’m going to get me one.  (Shhhh don’t tell Nolan.  He thinks we are getting a dog).  This little piglet has a story.  [Click here to read it].

Things I learned this week (October 30 – November 6)

I learned this week…

…that big white angel wings are a hot commodity during Halloween.  My daughter decided at the last possible minute that she wanted to go to trick-or-treating dressed as Max from James Patterson’s Maximum Ride series.  For those you who don’t know, Max is a girl who has been genetically engineered to have wings so that she can fly. Big wings.  Not little fairy wings.  Not rainbow-colored wings made of wire and mesh.  Big white, feathery wings. Needless to say, my daughter went trick-or-treating as a grim reaper.

…that Christmas comes earlier and earlier every year.  This just proves my point that the holiday is nothing more than an over-commercialized farce.  For one year, one measly year, I would like to get through Thanksgiving before I am inundated with nauseating Christmas cheer.

…that there are those in my house who don’t share my cynical view of the coming Christmas season.

…that Petrarch was a miserable sap.  Seriously, who writes that many sonnets about a woman who obviously wouldn’t give him the time of day? Did he not have any drinking buddies who could have staged an intervention and gotten the man laid?  Good grief.  I think I’d rather read Beowulf again than have to read one more sonnet about the virtues of some courtly maiden named Laura.

…that karma does exist and sometimes people do get what’s coming to them.  I was leaving my favorite Target store this week and I happened to see a man trying to get his shopping cart to stay where he parked it – in the handicap parking space next to his Expedition instead of in the cart corral.  I called him an ass hat under my breath and kept walking.  People like that piss me off because we all know that cart isn’t going to stay where he left it.  Nope, it’s going to get caught by the wind and end up smacking the passenger door of my car.  It is inevitable.  Sure enough, the wind caught that cart, but instead of carrying it in the direction of my car, it came to rest behind the ass hat’s SUV.  Just as he began to back out of his space.  BAM!  That my friends is karma at its finest.

…that Andy Rooney died.  I loved that grumpy old guy.

…that with a little prodding from the guys in my Western Civilization class, my professor will find a scene from The Holy Grail that adequately depicts any aspect of our current curriculum.  This week – the Black Death.

…that sometimes a little booze is necessary – even if you don’t take a sip.  The comfort that it is there in case of an emergency is priceless.

…that I have an inner clock that doesn’t recognize the end of daylight savings time.  I didn’t get an extra hour of sleep.  I can’t really complain, though.  I was able to accomplish a little more, a little earlier today than yesterday.  I was at the gym by 7 a.m.; home by 8 a.m.; was showered and had a good dent in a writing assignment by 9; and had myself psyched up for a trip to the grocery store by 9:30.  Of course, that’s when things went awry.  I didn’t actually make it to the store until noon.  But hey, what matters here is that my morning was spectacular.

…that my cats don’t recognize the end of daylight savings time, either.  This is a lot less tolerable and makes me want to take them all to the shelter.

…and last but not least this week’s awww moment is brought to you by…well I have no idea because this was an email forward from Nolan.  Too cute for school, indeed.

Things I learned this week (October 16 – October 22)

I learned this week…

…that Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Miller’s Tale is bawdy, raunchy, and not unlike a lot of off humor comedies in popular culture.  It’s not usually the kind of thing I find entertaining.  I mean, I think I am the only person on the planet who was offended by The Hangover.  Having said that, this particular sequence in The Miller’s Tale was so unexpected that I couldn’t help but laugh out loud – after I figured out what exactly Chaucer was referring to:

The night was pitch dark, coal-black all about.
Her rear end through the window she thrust out.
He got no better or worse, did Absolom,
Than to kiss her with his mouth on the bare bum
Before he had caught on, a smacking kiss.
 
He jumped back, thinking something was amiss.
A woman had no beard, he was well aware,
But what he felt was rough and had long hair.
 

The Canterbury Tales, The Miller’s Tale.  Geoffrey Chaucer.

O.M.G.

…that in-class group projects suck.  Not because I am so anti-social that I am loathed to interact with my classmates….huh?  Oh, shut up.

…that my daughter seems to be embroiled in a sort of love triangle – with brothers!  She has made friends with two brothers, one in 7th grade, the other in 5th. They live just around the corner from us and have become something of a fixture around the house.  I believe that she has a bit of a crush on the older boy, however, both boys appear to be quite smitten.  I see heartbreak, tears and a trip to Sonic for the consolatory M & M blast in our future.

…that I really hate chronic complainers.  So much so that I find that my favorite new past-time is complaining about their complaining.  The irony is not lost on me.  However, at this time, I am going to choose to ignore the hypocrisy and continue complaining about other people’s complaining.

…that it was time to decatify my house again.  It seems like I just did it, but the dust bunnies rolling out from beneath the couch told a different story.  I spent my Saturday moving furniture, vacuuming, dusting and polishing.  With five cats in the house, we will never be completely cat hair free but, at least for now, it is safe to sit in my favorite chair again.

…that I really hope the Libyans have a plan.

…that sometimes my sweet-natured daughter needs to be reminded that I am empress of my domain and this empire does not lean toward democracy.  Luckily, she usually only needs a small reminder and peace is quickly restored.

…that at first glance my Western Civ test study guide appeared harmless.  Boy, was I wrong.  We are closing in on ten pages and I’m not done yet.  I have a feeling this guide will be my constant companion until Thursday’s exam.  After that, I just might have a celebratory burning – and a swig of something potent.

…that my daughter is at the age where doctors begin to encourage the HPV vaccination.  At her annual well check this week, her doctor (who has treated her since she was born and knows me very well – deals with me very well) urged me to have it administered.  I declined.  I’ve done a lot of research on this – both for and against – for a series of papers last year.  I see both sides of the controversy, but do you know what my biggest issue is?  Rick Perry’s mandate.  I’m still pissed about that.  I will revisit the issue next year.  Maybe I will feel differently.

…and last but not least, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by three little piggie bums.

Steffen Schmidt / EPA

Okay, not really.  But this picture did make me snort ever so slightly.  Please, no bacon jokes.  I have a little soft spot in my heart for piggies.

…Our real awww moment is brought to you by this baby Bornean orangutan born last month at the L.A. Zoo.  A true picture of maternal love:

Tad Motoyami / L.A. Zoo via AP

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? 

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

My summer reading

There is a temperate zone in the mind, between luxurious indolence and exacting work; and it is to this region, just between laziness and labor, that summer reading belongs.  ~Henry Ward Beecher

I don’t get to read as much as I’d like.  Most of my days are filled to the brim with work, school, and family.  What little time is left over for me, I tend to devote more to the task of writing than to the enjoyment of simply reading a book.  A prioritizing failure on my part for everyone knows that to be a good writer, you must first be an accomplished reader.  I am lacking in this department of late.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, I have lots of books that I intend to read.  They are piled on my nightstand, the floor next to my nightstand, all over my desk and even in a box in my closet.  I am a compulsive book buyer.  I just can’t muster up the time to read them and even if I do crack the spine on one, fifty pages in I find myself wondering how this work of complete shit ever made it to an editor’s desk.  

This summer I vowed to break my reading dry spell.  Classes are over until the fall.  I have a couple of day off during the work week from now until then.  What better time?  I also have a trip coming up – the perfect opportunity to make a dent in my pile.  So last weekend I started thumbing through the stacks and I found that my book clutter was all in vain.  There was nothing worth reading in any of the piles.  How could this be?  Perhaps it is because a lot of the books lean toward the heavy side – definitely not fun summer reading material.  So, off to my favorite local bookseller I go, member discount card in hand. 

I went with the intention of buying a good old-fashioned, trashy romance or two.  I perused the shelves endlessly and could find nothing that was even remotely appealing.  I did discover, though, that when I wasn’t looking paranormal romances seem to have overtaken the genre.  I’d rather put an ice pick through my brain than read anything about vampires or werewolves or whatever else constitutes paranormal these days (to this category I must exclude Frolay because that story is just good fun – love you tons, Helen).  Feeling slightly depressed, I meandered over to a table of high school English required reading selections.  I shuffled through them, considered for a minute rereading a few of my favorite classics – Of Mice and Men, Animal Farm, Alas Babylon.  None of which are light, easy summer reading.  I considered an Agatha Christie mystery.  I’ve always loved the antics of super sleuth Hercule Poirot, but even that didn’t tickle my fancy.  I’d all but given up hope when a lone display caught my eye.  On a whim, I picked up the first book that my fingers touched.  That is when I discovered the brilliant intrigue of Daniel Silva.

Not exactly a bodice-ripping romance.  But then, who was I kidding?  I was never going to be satisfied with such fluff, especially in light of what I’m currently writing.  There wasn’t a lot of description of the content given, just a brief snippet beneath the author’s picture on the back cover but something about it felt right.  I bought it and the next in the series.  Like I said – compulsive book buyer.

What I found within the pages of The Kill Artist was absolutely spine tingling.  Silva is a brilliant writer.  He sucked me into the depths of a story as exciting and thrilling as it was heartbreaking and tender.  For the first time in a very long time, I read a story with unbridled anticipation, page after page, word after word, craving to know what would become of Israeli assassin, Gabriel Allon.  The nature in which Silva crafted this story, brought this quietly powerful, yet shockingly fragile character to life, left me breathless and wanting more. 

Up next The English Assassin.  I can’t wait.