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!

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 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

Nutrition + College = Huh?

Nutritional health is something very near and dear to my heart.  As anyone who knows me can attest, I am very particular about what I deem worthy of ingestion.  I can give you a ballpark estimate of the caloric content of just about anything – within reason, of course.   I wasn’t always this way.  I used to feast unabashedly on anything and everything that caught my fancy.  Of course, one cannot overindulged for any length of time without suffering devastating consequences.  It’s that whole cause and effect thing.  It will bite you in the ass every time.  It certainly bit me in the ass.  Hard.  At my heaviest, I tipped the scales at 170 lbs. That may not seem like much to some, but put that much weight on my frame and, well, let’s just agree that it wasn’t necessarily my most attractive moment.  I’ve talked about my awakening before and the journey to meet my weight loss goals.  It wasn’t easy.  It took discipline, committment, lots of exercise, and constant calorie counting.  This may sound burdensome, but after a while the counting became second nature and part of my everyday life.  A true lifestyle change.  My new normal.

Losing the weight, however, was just one step in the journey.  The moment of truth would come in maintaining it.  It is something I am still doing and will until I take my last breath.  Hopefully, I’ve staved off the end by a few years with my due diligence.  Or maybe it will all be in vain.  There is always the possibility that I will get hit by a bus crossing the street, but the way I choose to look at it is like this:  I will not have to worry about looking fat on the medical examiner’s table when he’s cutting open my chest in search of which blunt force trauma did me in.  I say that alone is worth the sacrifice.

This bit of rambling nonsense brings to me to what prodded me into writing this blog entry instead of working on the next Man vs. Beast offering that my husband would rather be reading right now.  I am on the campus of a community college twice a week.  I come early in order to enjoy a bit of quiet time and finish up any straggling assignments I may have or work on some of my other writing endeavors.  Unfortunately, all this exertion of brain power makes me hungry.  Sometimes, I have the forethought to stick a couple of things in my bag to nosh on, as I run out the door in the mornings.  Sometimes I don’t.  Today was one of the days I didn’t.  By midmorning my stomach was gnawing at my spine, and I was forced to wander over to the poor excuse for a dining establishment this campus offers.

My husband would say that my disdain for this place is my elitist personality rearing its ugly head.  That I am spoiled and am expecting far too much.  I would say that I pay good money (cash, paid in full at the beginning of each semester) to attend this school, the least they could do is offer me a decent place to eat with some healthy, nutritional food choices.

How bad could it be, you ask?

Well, I’ll tell you.

My first semester on campus during the lunch time hour was last fall.  I naively went in search of a turkey sandwich.  I like my turkey sandwich – and every other sandwich, for that matter – simple.  Meat, wheat bread, a little lettuce, a tomato or two.  No condiments, no added fuss.  Easy peasy.  I gave my order to the unpleasant lady manning the counter and was horrified by what happened next.  She plopped some mystery meat down on a greasy griddle, slathered two pieces of white bread with an equally mystifying oil substance, and then promptly slapped them down on the griddle next to the meat.  This was the conversation that followed:

“What are you doing?”  I asked.

“You ordered a turkey sandwich.  This is a turkey sandwich,” she said giving me a look I can only describe as demonic.

“No it isn’t.  I just want a plain turkey sandwich.”

“Huh?”

“You know, a sandwich.  I don’t want anything grilled.”

“We don’t have that today.”

What?

It turns out that this very nasty woman was right.  There was no plain Jane turkey sandwich on wheat anywhere in that place.  Every sandwich listed on the “menu” is prepared in this fashion.  That’s when I took a good look around and realized that anything that could be remotely considered healthy was relegated to a tiny area next to the cash register.  The pickings were slim.  Yoplait yogurt – not the fat-free kind (insert eye roll here) –  a pre-packaged container of a handful of grapes, a few slices of apple and a couple of crackers, those little single serving cereal things, and some unidentifiable muffins.   Though muffins cannot really be considered healthy once you factor in their overall calorie and sugar content.

I left and vowed to never return.

The problem with making vows like that is that you often have to break them out of necessity or desperation.  Desperation lead me back into that diner from dietary hell today.  I perused the “menu” tacked just outside the door and decided that I would sacrifice some carbs and allow myself the pleasure of a bagel.  I took my place in line behind a young man who ordered a hot dog.  Not my first choice for breakfast fare, but you have to remember that these are young people who have yet to grow any common sense.   I have faith he will learn the error in his way one day.  As I stood waiting my turn, I watched the gentleman manning the counter pull a hot dog out of a refrigerated unit, slice it down the middle, opening it up butterfly style, and plop it face down on the greasy griddle.  He reached into a bread bag, pulled out a bun, slathered the inside with mystery oil, and slapped it down next to the hot dog.

Deja vu.

Seriously?

“Can I help you?”

I realize that this question is directed at me.

“I’d like a bagel, please.”

He gives me the look.

Uh oh.

He turns to consult with his co-worker.  After a few seconds of whispering, they both turn to me and inform me that they are out of bagels.

“An English muffin?”  I saw that on the menu, too.  No better or worse for my waistline.  The substitution was acceptable.

They shake their heads in unison.

Are you kidding me?

“I don’t want anything then, ” I said in a voice that was probably a lot bitchier than it should have been, but really.  Out of bagels AND English muffins, but the guy in front of me can get his fill of fried hot dogs?

Out of pure desperation, I settled on a cranberry muffin and a full fat yogurt.  More calories than I wanted to ingestion for breakfast, but I suppose that was my penance for not leaving the house fully prepared for the day.

Credit: Liz Hafalia/The Chronicle

I cannot help but wonder why, in this day and age of increased awareness in health and wellness, that this diner, or campus for that matter, would choose to provide sub-par food that lacks any significant nutritional value.  I understand that this is a public education establishment and there has been quite a lot of fiscal belt-tightening needed to keep up the level of services provided to the growing student body.  I also understand that a good number of my fellow students are young people who largely have no idea that the candy bar and soda they are consuming for breakfast every morning will cause them catastrophic health problems down the road.  Health problems that you and I and every other taxpayer in America will end up footing the bill for in higher insurance premiums.

Youthful ignorance is a wonderous thing.

However, these young people who throw dietary caution to the wind do not make up the whole of the student body.  There are plenty of people like me.  People who understand that they are what they eat, and who want a healthy alternative to a fried hot dog and greasy grilled sandwiches and fries.  I’m not saying that they have to get rid of this junk food.  I would certainly never want to deprive anyone of their sodium and fat fix, but why should this be the only thing available.  Why can I not get a salad?  A plain turkey on wheat?  A fat-free yogurt cup.  I’m not even asking for the healthier Greek yogurt.  Yoplait is sufficient.  I will even pay a premium price for these choices.  As would a large number of my fellow students, I’m sure, if they were given the choice.

I understand that with healthy food choices, the mantra “If you build it, they will come”, does not always apply.  There are many who are satisfied filling their bodies with junk.  However, I’d like to think that with the obesity epidemic that is plaguing our country today and the health issues contributed to such, that more and more people are increasingly conscience of what they ingest and are seeking healthier alternatives.  I believe this school’s dining facility is operating way behind the curve and has a lot of catching up to do.

So I’ve identified the problem.  What to do about it?  Simply bitching about the lack of choices will not bring about change.  I think a protest is in order.  A picket line?  Crudely made signs spelling out our grievances?  A sit in?  Perhaps we can chain ourselves to the legs of the pool table that sits right outside of the little cafe.

That all sounds very reasonable to me.  But then again, as I sit here in the library and scan the room, I see my fellow students drinking Big Gulps, chomping on chips, and snarfing candy bars.  Perhaps I am wrong.  Perhaps no one in this school wants to eat a salad but me.

Perhaps my husband is right and I am indeed an elitist snob who expects for too much from society as a whole.

I hate it when he’s right.

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 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.