Happy Birthday, Dad

Today would have been my father’s 60th birthday.

These are a few of the things that always remind me of him.

One of my dad’s favorite movies. We watched it nearly every weekend when we lived in Germany.

Happy Birthday, Dad.  I love you.

Best Friends

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Let the baking begin!

DSC01382Christmas is not my favorite time of year.  Don’t worry.  I’m not going to launch into a tirade about how commercially motivated our society has become, or goad anyone into a theology debate.  No, I made a promise to myself that I would leave my cynicism at the door.  I vowed to make an extra effort to avoid allowing my negativity to overshadow the holidays or bleed into my blog entries.

Not an easy promise to keep, especially after dipping my toes into the pool of Christmas shoppers down at the mall.  I barely escaped with my life.  I will refrain from recounting the whole grim tale.  Doing so would only set me down a path of no return and then I will have broken my vow to be, if not cheery, at least, civil.

Finding Christmas related activities or events that don’t leave me wanting to chug the nearest carton of laced eggnog is a pretty tall order, but not an impossibility.  After all, I have discovered that I like Christmas music.  Granted, the playlist is minimal, but I’m a firm believer that all good things should be moderated.

There is another thing that I like about Christmas.  It’s the perfect excuse to bake an exuberant amount of goodies.  Of course, I don’t want them in the house because sweets are counterproductive in the whole healthy living lifestyle thing I’ve got going on, but I’ve come up with a solution.  I’ve devised a way to make them essentially guilt-free.  I bake them, pack them in cute bags adorned with curly ribbon and a festive candy cane, and give them to all my friends, family, and coworkers. They seem to like the gesture and it always leaves me with the warm, gooey satisfaction of having put a smile on their faces.  If I were a humane person, I might feel a twinge of remorse for having sabotaged their holiday diet plan, but I’m not, and I don’t.

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I usually try to make a variety of treats including some old favorites, such as chocolate chip and peanut butter.  I also try to incorporate cookies with a little spice.  Some of my favorite cookies aren’t sweet at all.  This is the fault of my little Italian grandmother who used to let me help her make batch after batch of pizzelle cookies.  For those who have never experienced these anise-flavored Italian cookies, I’m truly sorry for they are wonderfully yummy.   My grandmother made the best – my mother runs a close second  – and she used to let me lick the bowl until my tongue went numb.  My mother never let me do that.  You know, that whole Salmonella thing and all.  I miss my grandma.

This year, I have brought back my chocolate ginger spice cookies that are rolled in raw sugar, giving them a nice crunchy texture on the outside which contrasts nicely to the soft, moist middle.  To complement this offering, I have added a Chai flavor inspired cookie.  This one is definitely one to be enjoyed with a tall glass of milk, and while the dense cookie itself is more spicy than sweet, the white chocolate coating drizzled with melted milk chocolate gives it a nice balance.  They are considerably more work than just the basic chocolate chip, but I think they are worth it.  If for no other reason than they are a nice change of pace.

DSC01351While I am a pretty decent baker, a confectioner I am not.  Over the years, I have tried my hand at a lot of different candies: peanut brittle, almond bark, peppermint almond bark.  None of them resulted in anything edible.  In spite of this, I do try to add a bit of fudge to every bag.  Of course, fudge can be as frustrating to make as peanut brittle, especially when one has no idea the difference between those very technical candy making terms: hard-crack stage and soft-crack stage.  However, I’ve found a no fuss recipe that takes all of 20 minutes from the second the sugar hits the sauce pan until I pop the finished product into the fridge to set up.  Everyone seems to like it, and I wouldn’t dream of leaving it out.

The past two years, due to circumstances beyond my control, life has made this task overwhelming.  I just didn’t have the time to bake enough goodies for everyone on my list.  This year is different.  My school semester is finished, there are no obligatory family functions looming that require an ounce of my attention, and I have a couple of days off a week until mid-January.  More importantly, because there are no outside pressures, I feel that I am going to enjoy this year’s baking marathon much more than I have in a good long while.  That makes me happy.  Perhaps even instills a smidgen of holiday cheer into my Scrooge-filled heart.  Anything is possible, right?  I mean, I voluntarily put up the Christmas tree on the 10th of the month.  Much sooner than usual, and with minimal grumbling.  Perhaps Christmas miracles do happen.

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Things I learned in the last two weeks

The threat of Christmas hung in the air, visible already in the fretful look of passersby as they readied themselves for the meaningless but necessary rites of false jovialities and ill-considered gifts. – Peter Dickinson

I couldn’t help myself.  Now that Thanksgiving is over, I must turn my attention to bashing the holiday I find the least appeal of them all.  This is only the beginning.  There are 28 shopping days left until Christmas.

I learned the last couple of weeks…

Source: http://fineartamerica.com/featured/hamlet-agnieszka-reichelt.html

…that group projects don’t suck after all.  Okay.  Perhaps that is being a bit overly optimistic.  Let’s try that again.  Group project, in general, suck.  However, there are rare occasions when you are grouped with a person who is a bigger overachiever than you are.  In Western Civilization last week, we were divided into four groups and instructed to develop an argument that was either for or against the Protestant Reformation and explain its impact on Western Europe.  The guy who sits in front of me is a devote Christian and….wait for it….an award winning debater.  SCORE!

…that I love Shakespeare’s Hamlet more this time around than I did last time.  I didn’t think it was possible.  But I always did love it when all the important characters die at the end of a story.  Is that weird?

…that hard drives will crash at the least convenient time possible.  It’s like they wait patiently, biding their time, for the most advantageous moment to strike.  Unaware of the treachery lurking, you spend the day writing and revising.  Just as the last word is written, the very last source properly cited, you make the fatal mistake of turning your back on the lecherous laptop – just for one brief moment – and BAM!  It’s all gone in the blink of any eye, never to be seen or heard from again.  Bastards.

…that my little old lady kitty, the one I thought was misdiagnosed, does indeed have a tumor.  The vet has offered to biopsy it for us.  I think I am going to decline.  We’ve spent a fortune the last few months with no real answers or solutions.  As sad as it makes me, I think it’s time to throw in the towel and allow nature to take its course.  She’s had sixteen good years of life and we are going to do our best to make sure the rest of her time with us is as comfortable as possible.

…that I should probably stop cursing my overly sensitive tire pressure sensor.  Turns out that my tire really was low, though not for the reason I thought.  My tire was fine.  My rim was not.  Apparently, somewhere in my travels, I hit a pothole lethal enough to crack my front driver’s side rim.  Rims for my car at the dealer aren’t cheap ($600 each), but the internet is wondrous place with many deals to be had.  My car is as good as new.  Well, almost.  I still have that door ding that irks me every time I see it, but that’s a rant for a different blog.

…that looking into the face of your child’s child is a strangely emotional thing, especially when the newborn baby girl strongly resembles her father.  It is even stranger and more emotional to see pride and love etched in your child’s face and he gazes at his own child.  Very surreal.

…that Black Friday is an atrocity that does nothing but feed on the greed and depravity that is overtaking our society.  Call me old-fashioned.  Call me a cynic.  I don’t care.  I remember when nothing – and I mean nothing – was open on Thanksgiving, people weren’t camped out in front of big box stores looking to snatch up flat screen TVs, Blu-Ray players, and laptops, and no one was “neutralizing” the crowd with pepper sprayed or getting trampled to death.  Yet another reason to ditch the holidays for a warm, sandy beach on an island far, far away.

…that – in keeping with my Scrooge-like attitude – nothing makes me want to throw the remote at my own flat screen TV like the intro credits to “It’s a Wonderful Life”.  I hate that movie.  Yeah, I said it.  I HATE THAT MOVIE!  If they are going to make me watch Christmas themed shows, the least they could do is make it “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”  The original.  Not that “update” Charlie Brown mess.

…that jacket shopping with my daughter is worse than shoe shopping.  This weekend brought a blast of cold air to our little neck of the woods.  The coldest of the season and thus, it was necessary to replace the winter jacket my daughter had long outgrown.  She is a sweet girl with an easy-going personality, but she has very clear likes and dislikes.  She likes jackets with zippers.  She does not like puffer jackets.  She likes a little faux fur.  She does not like jackets that make noise.  She likes jackets with hoods.  She does not like jackets that are too long.  It was a long, arduous process.  We finally found one that was deemed acceptable at Macy’s, a store that I really don’t like all that much and only went into because I desperately wanted out of the mall.

…that my daughter is moving out of the kid’s department and into the junior’s department.  Have you seen some of the things these teenagers wear?  Scary prospect, indeed.  Just for the record, bedazzling the bum of jeans, regardless of the targeted demographic, is a bad idea.  Very, very bad idea.

…that the onset of the holiday season brings a whole slew of new faces to the gym.  The day after Thanksgiving was crazy.  I was predictably annoyed by the newbies who hampered my workout process with their ignorance, but I was also secretly thrilled.  I find a lot of my character inspiration at the gym.  There’s just something so special about those people.

…that Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2 is grosser than the first.  I didn’t think they could top the “cheese touch”.  I was wrong.

…that I really liked the movie Fair Game.  It is Hollywood’s version of the Valerie Plame scandal.  I love spy thrillers and political conspiracies, so this one was right up my ally.  Of course, I am sure the story has been enhanced for the pleasure of the viewing public, but it was entertaining and gave food for thought on the far-reaching power of the White House.

…that since my last “Things I learned…” post I’ve sat and watched Pride & Prejudice on the Oxygen channel twice.  I’ve also watched Bourne Identity (my second favorite movie) twice – in the same day on Starz.  Don’t you judge me.

WARNING!  WARNING!

My pet peeve of the week is…

…that I can’t seem to get away from those radio commercials that swear that you can lose weight and keep it off simply by subscribing to their prepackaged “restaurant quality” meals.  No exercise or life style change required.  Is this company on crack?  Are people so desperate to avoid sweating that they buy into this crap?  Calorie in/calorie out people.  The weight may come off initially, but it will be back.  With vengeance.  Serious lifestyle change is required to obtain good health and certainly, if you want to keep it.  Believe me when I say it is easier, and less expensive, to just suck it up and get your ass moving.  [Okay, I shall step off the soapbox now.]

…and lastly, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by a very over-ambitious hamster with eyes bigger than his stomach…or mouth.

Get in my belly!

Where’s my wine?

The funny thing about Thanksgiving, or any huge meal, is that you spend 12 hours shopping for it and then chopping and cooking and braising and blanching.  Then it takes 20 minutes to eat it and everybody sort of sits around in a food coma, and then it takes four hours to clean it up.  ~Ted Allen

I have strong doubts that the first Thanksgiving even remotely resembled the “history” I was told in second grade.  But considering that (when it comes to holidays) mainstream America’s traditions tend to be over-eating, shopping, or getting drunk, I suppose it’s a miracle that the concept of giving thanks even surfaces at all.  ~Ellen Orleans

Well, here I am again – standing at the gate.  Behind me, the joys of Halloween call to me, mocking me; in front of me, the holidays loom like Grendel’s mother.

Whether I am prepared for it or not, Thanksgiving is upon us.  Time to give thanks for a year of blessings.  Time to cook and consume copious amounts of food that will have no positive effect on my waistline.  Time to endure the company of family members who would otherwise be avoided.

Contrary to how it sounds, I don’t necessarily dislike Thanksgiving, though I will admit to being slightly annoyed by it.  Sure, I understand the importance of such a holiday to our national history.  I get that it is supposed to act as the adhesive that brings families together for a day of reflection. (Isn’t it ironic that this day of thanks occurs just before millions of Americans turn into greedy monsters consumed with the materialistic need to get a deal on the next “it” thing.  Just saying.) However, I am a person who does my very best to side step stress and drama.  Not something that is possible this time of year.  I think we can all agree that Thanksgiving, and the weeks that follow, are synonymous with stress.

Each year I swear it will be different.  I vow that I will channel my inner Martha Stewart and reduce my stress level by planning ahead, allowing a few extra hands in the kitchen, and forgiving myself a few missteps.  After all, it really doesn’t matter if the stuffing is soggy or the pumpkin pie is a little too brown around the edges.  What matters is the family who has gathered around the dinner table and I have a wonderful family.

My intentions are good.

But…what is it that Robert Burns says…

Oh yes,”…the best laid schemes of mice and men…”

My intentions are good, but they are doomed to failure.

It happens every year.

The problem?  Poor planning.  Plain and simple.  Yeah, I know…I know.  Total contradiction to my personality as a whole.  As one who favors structure and rules, it is odd to think that I am completely incapable of adequately preparing for upcoming events, but it’s true.  It’s not because I am a grand procrastinator.  Okay, maybe I do suffer from a small case procrastinatoritis, but my issue lies mostly in my inability to deal with more than one dire issue at a time.

In my head, next to the filing cabinet that holds my phobias, is a desk.  A very messy desk, kinda like the one in my office.  Piled high upon this desk are files, each containing an upcoming event or a to do that I must accomplish within a certain perimeter.  It’s a pile that grows exponential with every passing month, each file more important than the last.  None of them forgiving enough to permit me to give the next one the attention it deserves until a deadline is standing before me with an unpleasant consequence aimed at my head.  It is the story of my life.

And the very reason I wake up one morning only to find that it is the day before Thanksgiving, my relatives are beating down the door, my cupboards are bare, and I have absolutely no idea what I am going to feed anyone.

To make matters worse, there is absolutely no wine to be found anywhere in my house.  Not one stinking drop.

This year was no different.

With two major papers and an oral presentation due the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, who can really blame me for forgetting to plan.  Add a hard drive crash to that and you will understand there was no room in my poor brain fried mind for thoughts of turkey and dressing and pumpkin pie.  By Wednesday of this week, I was hovering between the need for a reschedule and full on denial of what was coming down the pike.  Sadly, there is no rescheduling Thanksgiving.

I blame the liberal media.

What?  Is that going too far?

In the end, it all came together, just as it always does.  Yes, I was cranky.  Yes, the roasted carrots burned and looked a lot like orange-colored turds.  Yes, the turkey was a smidgen dry.  Yes, I burned the pumpkin pies so bad that I had to start over.  Yes, I almost forgot to make my family’s favorite dessert – high calorie banana pudding.  But the homemade stuffing turned out fantastic and the gravy was free of lumps.

And I finally found my wine.

As for what the next file on my mental desk demands of me…

…well, I don’t know.  I don’t care.  It’s my day off.  Ask me again on Monday.

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 23 – October 29)

This week I learned…

…that apparently my husband can either relate to or, more likely, commiserate with the characters of the new sitcom Whitney.  I’m not really sure how I feel about this because Whitney is nuts.  I’m a lot of things, not all of them flattering, but nuts is not one of them.

…that my obsession with the Real Housewives franchise is waning.  I guess all things, including guilty pleasures, must run their course.  I’m a little sad by this, but I’m sure it won’t be long before something equally trashy comes along and piques my interest.  I only have to look as far as the Bravo network.

…that nothing makes you appreciate a former co-worker like having to deal with some of her former crazy clients.  Boy, do I wish I could tell you all about it.  I can’t.  You know, that whole confidentiality thing.  Attorney’s are sticklers.  Who can blame them?  Getting sued sucks.  But trust me when I tell you – clients are CRAZY.  I miss you, Val.  Seriously.

…that failing to remember to do something and then have it negatively impact your child sucks. I forgot to refill my daughter’s lunch money card.  She didn’t complain – just texted a sad face.  Poor kid.  However, I tried make up for it by arriving to pick her up from school with a PB&J in hand.  She’s a good girl with a forgiving heart.  I earned a smile and an “I love you”.  I will try to do better.

…that I am having a serious case of writer’s ADD.  I’ve started five blog entries (unrelated to Man vs. Beast or Things I learned) and have lost interest in all of the subjects.  Perhaps, lost interest is not really the right way to describe what I’m feeling.  Maybe I am going through a period of self-doubt.  When I started this whole blogging thing, I swore to myself that I was going to write as an exercise and not care if anyone really read it. Now that I see people do read it, I am worried about writing uninteresting things.  No offense, but I think I need to go back to not giving a shit and just write for me.  I seemed to be more productive that way.  Of course, I love writing the Man vs. Beast and Things I learned blogs too.  Oh man.  I’m so…SQUIRREL…

…that the honey badger just don’t give a shit…

…that the Princess Bride is a wonderful movie.  Megan and I watched it for the first time over the weekend.  She was less enthusiastic about it and told me that it was stupid.  I’m going to venture to guess that this just wasn’t her thing.  Not that I’m surprised.  Next, I’m going to make her watch D.A.R.Y.L.  I think she will like that one better.

…that my Western Civilization professor is a Monty Python junkie.  As a means of helping us understand the role of knights in medieval Europe, he had us watch clips from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  I’ll be honest, I’ve never really understood the allure of this genre of comedy, but I love that he has a quirky sense of humor.  This alone will earn him a positive review from me on www.ratemyprofessor.com.

…that as a history major, the History Channel’s Ancient Aliens incites a vast array of emotions in me.  None of them favorable toward the show.  However, there is one thing about it that makes me giggle like a school girl.  Giorgio Tsoukalos and his ever-growing hair.

…last but not least, this week’s awww moment is brought you by my brother, Rob.   He was kind enough to pass along this adorable picture of a chimp giving its kitty a hug.  Enjoy.

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

Pumpkins and spice…

Well, good morning, Autumn.  I see Mother Nature has released you from your cage and allowed you to bless us with your presence.  Has she finally forgiven us for whatever transgressions we unknowingly committed against her?  Or has someone at last taken my advise and supplied her with an endless stream of chocolate?

I bet it was the chocolate.  That always fixes what ails me.  I suppose in the grand scheme of things, the reason for her reversal of favor doesn’t matter much, just that you have finally arrived.

And so here we find ourselves in mid-October, in the Lone Star State, with our first noticeable cold front of the season, sweeping down from the Rockies.  The air is cool, crisp and refreshing – the endless brutality of the scorching summer just a distant bad memory.  Everywhere you look, fall festivities are in full swing – haunted houses, pumpkin patches, the State Fair.  It is truly the best time of the year.

Now, I must admit that I’m not real big on the fair.  I understand the draw for people who like that sort of thing, but I don’t find it overly enjoyable.  It’s crowded, expensive and well – did I mention expensive?  The pumpkin patch, on the other hand, is something that I thoroughly enjoy.  The price is right, there’s always fresh kettle corn and who doesn’t dig a good old fashion hay ride? The homey, festive feel of these little tracts of land covered in endless rows of pumpkins, hay bales and corn husks never fail to fill me with the spirit of the season.

The year is filled with lots of holidays – Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, the New Year.  I don’t get excited about any of them.  My least favorite – Christmas.  I’ve been told that I am a bit of a Scrooge McDuck.  I’ll own it.  I would rather spend Christmas on a remote tropical island sipping fruity, frozen cocktails and watching dolphins frolic in the surf.

What?

Don’t you judge me.

I’m not the first person to think Christmas is a royal pain in the ass.  There I said it.  Christmas is painful – from the blood baths at the mall, to the marathon baking, to the cluttered tree trimming, to the infuriating debate over the origins of the holiday.  By New Year’s Day, the overwhelming pressure of it all turns me into a twitchy basket case, in desperate need of a very big glass of tequila.

In spite of my holiday loathing, I love Halloween.

In stark contrast, Halloween is carefree and simple.  It’s all about fantasy and fun.  Caramel apples and pumpkin spiced lattes. Jack-o-lanterns and spooky stories of headless horsemen.  Costumes and pillowcases full of sweet treats.   The best part – no one demands a damn thing from me.

What’s not to love about that?

Unfortunately, fall will give way to winter.  All too soon I will be consumed with hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, elbow deep in cookie dough and gift wrap.  I will curse the traffic, the shoppers, and anyone else who gets in my way and dream of a beach far, far away.  One with fruity, frozen drinks and frolicking dolphins.

For now, though, in the calm before the storm, I am going sit here in my favorite sweatshirt, sipping a warm pumpkin spice latte, and just relish in the feel of fall.

Things I learned this week (October 8 – October 15)

I learned this week…

…that looking for the perfect pumpkin is serious business in my house.  Last weekend we went to our favorite pumpkin patch.   In a dusty, weed filled field, we searched – row upon neatly constructed row.  There were big ones and small ones, fat ones and skinny ones.  Some that where lopsided, some with twisted and gnarled stems.  The search was exhausting, but finally we spied him – our perfect pumpkin.  His color lovely, his skin roughly textured.  He had character.  We quickly deemed him worthy of the noble position of front porch sentry.  He would guard our door faithfully when the hordes of trick-or-treaters come knocking.  And there he will stay – until he rots or is stolen and murdered by the evil neighborhood teenagers.

…that I still loath Beowulf with every fiber of my being.  While I can appreciate the artistry of the piece, a tale of a heroic warrior’s adventures of dragon slaying just isn’t my thing.  Giovanni Boccaccio, I’ve discovered, is my thing.  It has everything I love in a story – jealousy, betrayal, and murder with a slightly sick twist.  In The Decameron, Boccaccio tells us of a knight whose wife is in love with his best friend.  The knight plots the murder of his friend, cuts his heart out and then instructs his cook to make an elaborate dish out of it.  As his cheating wife cleans her plate and licks her lips, he says:

“What did you think of that, madam?”

“In good faith, my lord,”…”I liked it very much.”

“So help me God,”…”I do believe you did.  But I am not surprised to find that you liked it dead, because when it was alive you liked it better than anything else in the whole world.”

From “The Ninth Story of the Fourth Day” The Decameron, Giovanni Boccaccio.

Yes.  Sick and twisted.  Definitely my thing.

…that I have broken my pledge to avoid the State Fair of Texas at all costs, two years in a row.  Last year my BFF Amy talked me into going.  I was powerless to refuse the only thing she asked to do while she was visiting from Florida.  This year, my resolve was crumbled by the most beautiful pair of blue eyes.

…that (in reference to the above) the Fair is still overpriced and crowded with rude, obnoxious people.  However, I did eat a Fletcher’s corny dog and a fried pumpkin pie.  Both pretty darn good.  Still, I don’t understand why anyone would coat their corn dog with mustard, then walk around trying to eat it.  Totally disgusting.

…that the discovery of the private study rooms at my campus library was a wonderful thing.  Sure, I don’t get to people watch and play my beloved “What if?” game.  I am saddened by that, but it is a small price to pay in order to avoid inconsiderate, germ-invested young people.  Plus, lack of distractions leads to increased productivity. I was able to get an entire blog finished on Tuesday and about 1000 words written in Retribution on Thursday.  Not too shabby.

…that technology is not always my friend.  This is the second time I’ve written this particular blog entry.  Very frustrating, but I am trying to look on the bright side – at least I didn’t accidentally delete the 21,000+ words I have managed to eek out for Retribution thus far.

…that I don’t get this whole Occupy Wall Street thing.  I saw an interview with one protester here in Dallas who boasted of quitting her job at Neiman’s so that she could protest.  Really?  What kind of message does that send?   Look, I’m all for exercising one’s constitutional right to assemble.  I understand that the country is angry, and rightfully so, but these folks need to consolidate their message if they want anyone with any power to incite change to take them serious.  Right now, they look like a bunch of campers making a mess at the local city park.  I feel sorry for the park employees who will have to clean up their mess once they are finally evicted.

…and finally…this week’s awww moment is brought to you by a crazy little squirrel who looks a bit like Einstein to me – well, if Einstein were a Russian squirrel with hairy ears.

Maxim Shipenkov / EPA

Things I learned this week (October 1 – October 7)

I learned this week…

…that it sucks when my ankles swell up to a size they’ve not been since I gave birth to my youngest child some eleven years ago.  It also sucks that it took three days to get the swelling to go down.

…that my doctor will look at me like I have grown a second head when I come in with a written list of things I wish to discuss with her.  I’ve been saving them up for the last year – since my last appointment with her.  I think I may have overwhelmed her.  I really like her, but I miss my old doctor.  She understood me.

…that perhaps I should stop self-diagnosing and informing my doctor of what ails with me before she has a chance to offer her professional opinion.  I think she sends me out for diagnostics just to prove to me that she is the one with medical degree.

…that I still hate Beowulf with a passion and I am still unable to retain the story.  This caused me a great amount of angst and embarrassment this week when I bombed a surprise quiz on the piece.  When I say bombed, I mean I received credit for one correct answer out of five.

…that I really am disgusted with the cafe on my college campus and am dismayed to know that this campus is the only one in the district its lack of sufficiently nutritious lunch choices.  I am planning an extensive letter writing campaign to rectify the problem.  In case you miss my previous post on this subject, you can read more about my recent experience [here].

…that it is absolutely wonderful to see the beginning of October.  I am looking forward to spending a few hours at my favorite pumpkin patch this weekend and heralding in the start of the best season of the year.

…that I enjoy studying with the older gentleman who sits in front of me in my Western Civilization class.  He is a lot like me, in school for the sake of learning and no other reason.  However, the slacker who sits at the end of my row, in the same class, can bite me.  I would be more than willing to share my notes and study guide with him if he actually put forth an effort to show up to class.  Does this make me a bitch?  Perhaps.   However, in the last couple of years, I’ve become very familiar with the two types of students that darken the door of my classes.  You have your worker bees – like me – and the mouth breathers, as I affectionately like to call them.  They are the late arrivals, the nappers, the texters, the food munchers, the “my dog ate my homework” excuse slingers.  And that’s if they even bother showing up to class at all.  These are also the ones who dissolve into a full-blown panic attack on test day and want to borrow everyone elses notes and study guides so that they may have a snowball’s chance in hell of passing.  I am an unsympathetic person by nature.  I feel that your lot in life is determined by your own actions.  If you don’t put forth an effort to advance yourself, then you have no one to blame but yourself when everything goes terribly bad for you.  This makes me very unpopular.  I couldn’t care less.

…that my beautiful daughter is obsessed with something called Invader Zim.  I don’t know if I should be disturbed by this or not.  It seems to be a far cry from her former iCarly obsession.  Perhaps it will pass soon.

…that nothing ruins a workout more than having a woman get on the elliptical next you with foul-smelling breath.  Yesterday, I was minding my own business, getting my grove on to some 70s era disco music, when I smelled something horrifying.  I looked to my left, the direction I thought the odor was permeating.  Next to me was a woman who I regular see at the gym.  I’ve been stuck next to her on the elliptical before and it was a slightly unpleasant experience then, too.  Yesterday, however, she must have eaten a whole bushel of onions the night before because she reeked.  It was so nauseating, that I had to leave the area completely.  So, unfortunately, I did not get my cardio workout in, and instead had to pass the time on the weight machines.  I guess it all worked out.  Today, she was there before me and I was smart enough to opt for a machine at the opposite side of the gym.  The air quality was much improved.

…that it has been one of those weeks where I am academically overwhelmed and creatively uninspired.  Hopefully, next week will be better and the Man vs. Beast segment will be back in full swing.  I do have some great stuff bookmarked and my ever diligent brother has sent me a couple of things I missed.

…last but not least…this week’s awww moment is brought to you by Fran, a fifteen year old gorilla who resides at the Bronx Zoo in New York City, and her encounter with a duckling who wandered into her enclosure.

Tom Warren / Solent News & Photo Agency

Things I learned this week (September 24 – September 30)

I learned this week that…

…that it feels good to bump the elliptical resistance up to 9; bumping it up to 10 feels even better.  However, it should be noted that doing it too many days in a row leads to über sore thighs and hamstrings so it might be necessary to alternate resistance levels.  I will have reevaluate my workout routine accordingly. 

EliptiGo

…that my newfound affection for the elliptical sorta makes me feel guilty.  I see my beloved bike number 3 sitting across the room empty and looking forlorn, and it’s almost as if I’m cheating on it.  Maybe we need couples therapy.  Or perhaps I need an EliptiGo.     

…that thankfully it didn’t take long for my daughter to get the hang of the clarinet.  After nearly six weeks, the strangled goose has been replaced with a fairly pleasant, deep-throated sound and tunes that are clearly recognizable.  I’m sure the private lessons didn’t hurt the progression of this process.  Money well spent, indeed.

…that signing up for Sting’s fan club just to find out that pre-sale tickets were only available for a short window of time – an expired window of time – sucks.  Successfully navigating Ticketmaster and getting decent tickets on the day that Sting tickets go one sale to the general public, makes everything right in my world.  I think I even saw a rainbow the minute the sale went through.  Seriously.

…take home tests are just weird.  I sort of understand my professor’s reasoning behind it, but I still feel like I am somehow cheating.

The Debt

…that the movie The Debt is a spine tingling spy thriller that left me breathless.  I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a movie so much in quite some time.  I highly recommend it to anyone who likes this sort of thing. 

…that having aging animals is emotionally and financially draining.  Two to the vet this week.  One with good news; the other very bad news.  Our oldest cat has been referred to an animal oncologist for treatment for Lymphoma.  She’s very old and we have some seriously difficult decisions to make. 

…that my husband doesn’t get my writing.  Oh, he likes learning about the things I’ve learned during the week and enjoys the animal attack entries, but anything else – not so much.  I have tried to not allow this to influence what I write and my approach to this blog, but it does and it has.   I’d like to say that I don’t care what people think , after all, I dabble with this site solely for creative purposes and to exercise my writing muscle.  In truth, I do care.  Can you say crushing period of self-doubt? I think I am in need of some serious validation.  Hugs?  A pat on the head?  Anyone?  No? 

…that sometimes you just can’t wait for Wednesday to highlight man’s stupidity in dealing with Mother Nature’s most ferocious predator of the sea.  A 42-year-old British man lost a good portion of both legs when he decided he was smarter than shark spotters at a beach in Cape Town, South Africa.  Shark spotting is serious business in this part of the world.  They have individuals who are strategically situated and do nothing all day but watch for Great White sharks lurking just off the beaches.  On Wednesday, several were spotted in the water.  The appropriate action was taken – beaches were closed, warning flags hoisted.  This future Darwin Award winner disregarded all of it and went into the water anyway.  It didn’t end well.  You can read his story [here].  Take notice of the amateur video halfway down the page.  The camera will pan down and you can clearly see the monstrous shark in the shallow waters.  This man is very lucky to be alive.

…last but not least – this week’s awww moment is brought to you by Tango, a little ginger-haired Francios’ langurs monkey, born at the beginning of the month in London.   ***Thank you to my friend, Kelly, for bringing this gem to my attention.***

Zoological Society of London/PA Wire

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

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 (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.

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…

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.

Things I’ve learned this week…

My favorite political morning show ends every broadcast with a brief segment called “What We Learned Today”.  I love it.  I thought it would be fun to have a similar thing here on the blog every Friday.  Perhaps nothing of importance to anyone else, but things that have given me pause throughout the week.

_________________________

I learned this week….

Megan at 2 years

…that my sweet-natured ten-year old is quickly blossoming into a mouthy, teenaged nightmare.  They told me it would happen – I knew they were right, but to be smacked full on in the face by it was a little startling. 

…that telling folks that I will be a grandmother around the New Year didn’t cause me to spontaneously combust, though as the words left my lips, I did feel slightly itchy. 

…that watching a certain monumental legal event play out only reaffirmed that our justice system is far from perfect.  Flawed, even.  However, I’d rather live in a country where the burden of proof is on the prosecution – even if that means a murderer might walk free because their defense was able to plant the seeds of reasonable doubt.  Our system of justice, even with its flaws, is much better than the alternative.  I think folks need to take a step back and reflect on that.

that black-crested macaques have a sense of humor and a keen eye for photography.

…that no matter how much I want to, I still can’t watch the Space Shuttle blast off.  Every time I see it perched on the launch pad, I am taken back to that horrible day on January 28, 1986.

that hiking in Yellowstone is still on my list of no-can-dos.

(Getty Images)

What did you learn this week?