Lessons learned: 2018

The holidays have never been my favorite time of the year. I could go on and on about the decorations, the expectations, the obligations, the assholes at the mall…but I won’t.

Oddly, I don’t feel quite so scrooge-like this year. Maybe it’s all the wine. I’ve consumed more than my fair share over the past week. Pretty sure my liver is completely pickled at this point. I have switched to lemon water in an effort to flush the system and reset. I even hefted my ass to the gym on Christmas Day. Never hurts to get a jump start on those pesky new year’s resolutions.

I won’t go so far as to say that I am feeling festive. That’s a stretch even in the most optimistic of times, but as I sit here in my pjs staring at the rapidly disintegrating evergreen wreath over my mantel, I am reflective.

While 2017 was a year straight out of Dante’s Inferno, 2018 wasn’t too bad. Here are a few things I learned this year:

Doctors inevitably insist that it takes six weeks to recovery from surgery. Any surgery. Big or small. Doesn’t matter. I’ve mentioned before that I had a bout with a little cancer. Breast cancer. Lost a boob. Had a little radiation. Got a new boob. Five surgeries in all. Every time – six weeks. No more. No less. Of course, I am who I am, and therefore the proverbial thorn in my doctor’s side. I do believe my medical chart comes with a black box warning indicating my penchant for noncompliance. I’m not programmed to sit around doing nothing when I could be doing something. During the last visit with my doctor, two weeks after my final surgery, I asked when I could return to the tennis court. He crossed his legs, leaned back in his chair and gave his nurse a bit of side eye. He knew what was coming.

“Four more weeks,” he said.

“No,” I said giving him my best resting bitch face. “Too long.”

My doctor is a kind man; intelligent; a respected leader in his specialty field. I’ve been his patient for two years. In that moment, he looked resigned, beaten down. He let out a long breath.

“When are you thinking?”

“Today.”

“Today?”

“Yes. This afternoon.”

He scrubbed a hand over his face and began to go through a long list of reasons why I should limit my activity for the remaining four weeks of my six week recovery. It’s a list I can recite from memory.

“Are you telling me no?” I asked, cutting him off mid-sentence. I can be blunt to the point of rudeness. It’s part of my charm.

“No, I would never tell you no, but…”

“Good. When’s my next follow up?”

“Three months.”

“Very good.”

By sundown, I was on the tennis court drilling with my team and I haven’t looked back. Fuck your six week rule.

“One does not get in shape playing tennis; one must get in shape to play tennis.” These words of wisdom were bestowed upon me just last week by my tennis coach. I love my coach. He’s an older gentleman, north of seventy with the patience of a saint and a brutal honesty that never lets me get too full of myself. As I’ve said, I have had five surgeries over the last 2 years and it goes without saying that it has taken a toll on my overall fitness. For every week off the court, I feel that I take two steps backwards in my progress towards becoming a better player.

I’ve never been a marathon runner….or a 5k runner…or a runner at all. In fact, I really hate running. Seriously. Hate it. A glaring contradiction for a tennis player who is looking to improve and win matches. My coach knows and understands this about me. He’s also not afraid to tell me I need to get my shit together. Last week, as he sat next to me on a bench while I tried to catch my breath, he gave me an assignment. He told me to run. Not just run. Run fast. Sprint. As fast as I can for a quarter length of track. Then rest. Then run as fast as I can again – repeating this pattern over and over and over.

I started on Christmas Day. I hated it and thought bad things about my coach the whole time. But he’s right. He’s always right. I want to win matches. I want to win and so I must run. I don’t have to like it, I just have to do it.

It’s okay to be selfish with my time. I think this is a plight shared by mothers and wives alike. We give so much of ourselves to those in our charge that we forget to save time for ourselves. And should we be blessed with a bit of alone time, we are plagued by guilt. Always – the guilt.  My daughter graduated six months ago and my life as a band mom came to an abrupt end.  I suddenly found myself in possession of a rare commodity – time.  Precious time.  Me time.  Time to do what I wanted, when I wanted and with whomever I wanted.  

At first, it’s a little overwhelming.  You aren’t quite sure what do with it, this golden egg that has dropped into your lap, seemingly out of thin air.  You look around to see if anyone sees what you see; to see if anyone steps into reclaim it.  When no one comes, you take it in your hand, wrap your fingers around it and hold it close to your breast.  

“Mine.”

The word lingers on your lips, a mere whisper at first, as soft and sweet as a baby’s breath.  

“Mine,” you say again.  

The word comes louder this time, with gusto.  Your confidence builds.  You scramble to your feet, still clutching the golden egg tight against your chest.  With the sound of your heart pounding in your ears, you take one last look around, just to be sure no one is watching.   Then slither off into the shadows, to the place where your secrets are kept. With a gentle hand, born out of the fear that the egg will dissolve into dust right before your very eyes, you tuck it away.  Nestling it safely among all the things you treasure most in life.  All the while, repeating a single word. 

“Mine…mine…mine…”     


Things I’ve learned: Summer/Fall Edition

“And the yellow sunflower by the brook, in autumn beauty stood.”
― William Cullen Bryant

I always go into summer with three basic goals:

1.)  to write a lot;

2.)  to read a lot – preferably while lounging by the pool under a hot Texas sun, sipping a frosty margarita; and

3.)  to spend some quality time in nature – just me, my camera, and a blank Moleskine.

I always go into fall wondering what the hell happened to my summer.

It’s an eternal struggle.  The “best-laid plans” and all that jazz.  The truth is: summer is never as free-flowing and easy-going as I like to believe.  It is hectic and frenzied, a precarious balancing act dictated by obligation and commitment – life, love, band camp. Of course, that doesn’t mean it is a fruitless endeavor.  Quite the opposite. My summer was filled with moments of unscripted relevance, and it is within these fragments where true clarity is discovered. Here are a few things I learned over the summer…and into the fall:

1.  Sometimes the hype is right.  I’m not one to blindly follow the crowd.  I think it’s fair to say I spend a majority of my time in perpetual lag  – always trailing a few steps behind the cool kids. I attribute this to two things:  a.) an abundance of ignorance, and b.) an unwillingness to trust in the judgment of others.  One doesn’t have to look much further than E.L. James, comic book hero movie reboots, and selfies to understand the latter.  I hold firm in my belief that popularity rarely equates to anything worth a damn.

While this line of reasoning is beneficial in sidestepping steaming piles of mindless nonsense, it also tends to isolate me from the more noteworthy components of popular culture.  The Showtime series Homeland is one such element.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I should note that I make a concerted effort to avoid original programming distributed by pay-cable networks – HBO, Showtime, et al.  This has less to do with the quality of the works produced and more to do with my prudish nature.  I find the nudity and explicit sex depicted in these shows gratuitous and unnecessary.  There is an adage:  just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.  I mean, really, explain to me how opening a scene with a main character receiving sloppy fellatio from a handful of naked courtesans contributes to the art of storytelling.  It is beyond my capacity for comprehension.

But…I digress.

homelandHomeland is the American version of an Israeli series called Hatufim.  It’s a spy drama – well-written, well-acted, and character driven.  All things that put it right up my alley. The only problem – it’s put out by Showtime, i.e. lots of gratuitous sex with little to no intrinsic value to the overall plot.  And so, despite the critical buzz, the media hype, the constant nagging from my inner circle, I ignored Homeland – for four seasons.

What changed?

Boredom (and maybe a little wine) on a soggy weekend in early June.  I binged for two days straight.  On the show, not the wine.

Turns out, all that hype was right.  Homeland is fantastic.  Claire Danes is wonderful (a total nut, but great).  Mandy Patinkin is brilliant.  Mr. Wickham plays an assassin.  An assassin!  How awesome is that?

rupert friendThe lesson here:  Mr. Wickham makes a great assassin…oh wait…it is really easy to fast forward through all that icky parts to get to the good stuff.  Who knew?

Everyone, but me.

2.  Nothing beats a birthday at the beach.  Birthdays depress me.  I know, so cliché, but it’s the truth.  I spend half the day contemplating the reality of my own morality, and the rest stuffing my face with cake to mask the pain.  Of course, then I feel guilty and spend the next two weeks at the gym trying to undo the damage.

This year, I took a different approach.  I went to the beach.

IMG_7716We spent the week in one our favorite places, just exploring.  There were sunset cruises and wildlife eco tours; a bit of shopping, a little sunbathing, a lot of food and wine.  On the morning of my 43rd birthday, I took a solitary walk along an empty beach as the sun came up, had a photo shoot with a cooperative Great Blue Heron, and ate my weight in mussels.

It was the best birthday ever.

From now on, all my birthdays will be celebrated at the beach.

3.  Starbucks has desecrated the sanctity of Christmas.  If I can’t have snowflakes and sledding dogs with my overpriced, calorie-laden latte then it is all for naught.  We might as well just cancel Christmas.

4.  Letting go and moving on.  I once wrote a blog about the ten things I learned in my thirties.  One of the most important lessons:  nurturing healthy relationship, and eliminating the bad.  Easy advice to give, tough advice to follow.  This is especially true when you fail to recognize the signs of a shifting landscape.  No partnership is perfect, of course – be it familial, marriage, or friendship.  We are only human, and thus inherently flawed.  Yet, if we take care and are vigilant, we are able to forge meaningful and beneficial bonds.

In every relationship, there is a certain degree of compromise and acceptance – the old give and take.  My husband snores like a freight train, but he takes out the trash.  It’s a trade-off.  We make it work.  It is along a similar vein that I measure all the relationships in my life – give and take.  Is it mutual?  Is it proportional?  Is it fulfilling?  Often these are easy questions to answer.  But sometimes I am blindsided by the realization that what was once mutually satisfying, is no longer viable.

For the last year, I’ve struggled with such a revelation.  In hindsight, the writing has been on the wall for a long time.  I blame complacency.  I am a creature of habit, and will sometimes go out of my way to avoid confrontation in order to sidestep the unpleasantness of change.

My epiphany came with an incident last Christmas that to most may seem trivial – a homemade gift given in love without so much as a thank you.  Yes, I know.  Trivial.  In the spirit of the season, gifts should be given without the expectation of reciprocation.  But the lack of acknowledgment hurt my feelings – deeply.  I’m not sure why it affected me in this manner.  I’m not prone to such sensitivity.  Yet, it did.  I suppose it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.  One more thing added to a growing list of irritating and hurtful trespasses.  It changed my whole view and shined a light on something that I had long denied.  The friendship was dead.

And so, I have spent the better part of the year coming to terms with that reality.  It’s been difficult.  There is a certain amount of grief that comes with it.  And resentment.  But I have come to accept the fact that the friendship, in its original state, is gone. It is through this acceptance that I have found peace.  I suppose that is all we can hope for in life – peace.

5.  Awww moment of the week:  This is the part of my blog that I reserve for a picture of something adorable.  In light of recent events, I’d like to take a moment to pay my respects to the victims of the Paris terror attacks.

paris peace

Things I’ve learned

It’s been a while since my last real blog post.  Even longer since my last “things I learned” post.  I wondered at that.

But only for a nanosecond.

Let’s get to it.  What have I learned?

I learned:

1.  I’ve missed yoga.  Three years ago I took a yoga class to fulfill a college credit requirement.  I registered for the beginning class even though I had previous experience and was probably more transitional intermediate than beginner. I did so out of fear.

A costly miscalculation on my part.  As it happened, the instructor was the Antichrist and seemed woefully unaware the course was entitled “Yoga for Beginners.”   Think wine-soaked ballerina with severe Adult Attention Deficient Disorder.  Who teaches a yoga class set to swinging show tunes?…and sings along…and twirls…oh, so much twirling…She taught the class from her own private padded bubble, offered no modifications, and failed to understand the core principles of yoga.

I have many personality flaws.  Chief on the list:  Type A.   I’m an overachiever. That is especially true if there is something I value at stake.  At the time, it was my GPA.  I wanted an A and it is not in my nature to quit once I’ve committed.

Oh, the clarity of hindsight.

Three years later, I am still suffering the repercussions of that earned A.  My diagnosis: persistent grade 2 hip flexor strain with severe pain and limited ROM. Could be worse. Could be better.  But I’m making progress with the help of some wonderful physical therapists.  Last week, at their badgering urging, I started to practice yoga again.

I’m not going to lie.  The first few dozen sun salutations were rough.  But, at the same time, it was an incredible feeling.  Of course, I needed an extra day of physical therapy to recover, but they assure me it will get easier.  I’m going to choose to believe they are right.

Namaste.

2.  The X-Files is returning to television.  I’m conflicted.  I always loved the X-Files.  It was great television.  But reboots, remakes, and sequels annoy me.  A few years ago, I wrote about it. On the one hand, I am curious to see Mulder, Scully, Skinner, and Cancer Man reunited.  They were fascinating characters.  On the other hand, I think it is often better to remember something beloved in its original, unblemished state.  I probably won’t watch.

Of course, for all of my righteous indignation, I am a total hypocrite.  There are two films looming on the horizon – one slated for release later this year, the other next year. Jason Bourne and James Bond.  Both are sequels/remakes/reboots.  Both make me giddy with excitement.

I thought about arguing the merits of these franchises and how they differ from all the unoriginal rubbish out there.  But I don’t need to explain myself to you. Instead, I offer you a peek at the new Bond.

Savor it.

3.  I don’t like cherries.  I’m forty-two.  I’ve spent most of my life believing that I don’t eat cherries because I am allergic to them. Turns out – not true.  I just don’t like them.

Strange.

4.  Spring in Texas:  Bluebonnets and bees.  What else is there to say?

IMG_2578

5.  Miles Davis makes the perfect background for writing.  As a general rule, I don’t listen to music when I write.  It’s distracting.  I do much better with everyday white noise. Well…unless, it’s “screaming toddler Tuesday” or “”where’s the damn coffee in this place’ octogenarian Thursday” at my favorite coffee shop.  The latter is always a special treat.  There’s nothing quite so entertaining as a group of filter-free, half-deaf senior citizens out for their weekly breakfast social.

Last week, I discovered Miles Davis.  I’ve never been much of a jazz fan.  I much prefer old-school soul, sixties R&B, anything touched by the hands of the almighty Sting, and Florence and the Machine.  Jazz always seemed like too much work to fully appreciate. Does that make sense?   Probably not.  Sorry.

Anyway, I was researching Jazz artists/albums in reference to a character development I am doing for my current WIP and happened upon Sketches of Spain, a Miles Davis work conducted by Gil Evans (fun fact:  Gil Evans and Sting recorded a live album, Last Session, in 1987).  I liked the title; the cover art was warm and inviting.  I took a listen.

It was spellbinding; yet, subtle and unobtrusive.

I bought it.

This week on “screaming toddler Tuesday”, I plugged in my headphones, turned up Sketches of Spain, set it to repeat, and just wrote.

Fantastic.

Here.  Have a listen for yourself.

Things I’ve learned – Camp NaNoWriMo edition

“A murderer is less loathsome to us than a spy. The murderer may have acted on a sudden mad impulse; he may be penitent and amend; but a spy is always a spy, night and day, in bed, at [the] table, as he walks abroad; his vileness pervades every moment of his life.”

– Honore de Balzac

A multitasking overachiever, I am not.  If I am writing, I’m not blogging.  If I’m blogging, I’m not writing.  And if I have an exam coming up – well then, all bets are off.

Lately, I’ve been writing – a lot.  Well, a lot for me.  I am a slow, methodical writer who sometimes gets caught up in mechanics.  I’ve been known to spend an afternoon contemplating a word, a phrase, a sentence, a paragraph only to delete it completely for lack of relevancy.  Such is my process, for better or worse.

Right now, I am participating in this month’s Camp NaNoWriMo challenge.   The thing that attracted me to it was the adjustable word count.  The traditional 50K word requirement is a bit more than I can reasonably handle given my “life load” and meandering writing style.  So, I picked a number I felt comfortable with, and away I went.

Now, as we approach the finish line, I am feeling confident, almost accomplished.  If projections are correct, and I don’t fall into some hidden sinkhole between now and Tuesday, I will reach my goal with time to spare.

Of course, as with everything in my life, I look at this endeavor as a learning experience – and I’ve certainly learned plenty over the last month.

I learned…

…that somewhere in the midst of three incomplete drafts and six outline revisions, Retribution lost its…well…retribution.  Let me explain.  All characters need motivation.  Anna’s driving force has always been the primordial need to avenge, to repay in kind the wrongs leveled upon her by men of unmitigated evil.  It is that encompassing compulsion that keeps her from walking naked into the ocean and setting her shattered soul adrift.

At first, I didn’t notice the omission.  I ticked off word after word, paragraph after paragraph, scene after scene without giving it a second thought.  Just a happy little writing clam – not a care in the world.   Then, at the 15K word mark, it hit me square in the forehead.  Do you know that feeling?  It was like someone gave me a good knock on the noggin and said, “Hey, stupid.  Where did Anna’s retribution go?”

Um…hmm.

Shit.

…that I have an appointment with outline number 7 – on May 1st.

…that utilizing the “comments” feature in MS Word helps stem my crippling need to edit as I write.  I am learning to mark it and move on.  I’ve also learned that if I print the scene along with the comments, my writing group will critique my notes, too.  Very helpful. Unless the notes are filled with nonsensical ramblings and make me seem slightly schizophrenic.  Then they are just embarrassing.

…that no one in my house is interested in me until I sit down to write.  The moment my laptop opens, I become the most needed person on the planet.  And the grumpiest.   My family thinks writing makes me crabby.  Sigh.

…that changing the name of Anna’s brother makes him so much more likable to me.  This go around, I don’t seem to have the overwhelming urge to kill him off sooner rather than later.  I might not even kill him at all now.  Can someone explain that to me?

…that if Ben doesn’t die, then someone else must.  Who shall it be?  Leo, Cooper, Elliot, Kyla?

I know who, but I’m not telling.

…that wine and writing do not mix.  Seriously.

“Friends don’t let friends write drunk.”

Write on fellow campers.  Write on.

Things I learned this week (month)

I learned this week (and last…and maybe even the week before that):

…that there is an old saying in Bohemia (Czechoslovakia):

“When a Czech owns a goat…his neighbor does not yearn for a goat of his own; he wants the neighbor’s goat to die.”

I’m currently reading former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s Prague Winter: A Story of Remembrance 1937-1948In the first few chapters, she chronicles a good bit of Czech history, delves into Czech culture, and explores their predilection for a humanitarian driven lifestyle.  It seems to me, though, their giving nature has its limitations – especially when it comes to coveted livestock.

…that I am grateful that 1) I no longer have small children; 2) that my daughter is a gentle, well-behaved soul; and 3) that I am blessed with a husband who usually understands stating the obvious is not always the correct course of action in a tense situation.

Strange sounding, I know.  Let me explain.

We recently returned from a short spring break trip to San Antonio.  It’s a fun city in the heart of Texas, with a good variety of attractions that can appeal to a whole range of interests – be it the arts, family fun, or just boozing it up down on the River Walk.  Of course, no visit is complete without the obligatory trip to Sea World.  Personally, I’m not the amusement park type.  I would much rather spend my vacation time sipping on a frozen fruity cocktail on a warm sunny beach, or capturing the beauty of a botanical garden with my camera, or exploring a historical landmark  and trying to figure out how to work it into my current WIP.  Sadly, when it comes to family time, one must learn to embrace the art of compromise.  So, off to Sea World we go.  We were joined by thousands of our not so closest friends – some with big obnoxious kids, some with small obnoxious kids, some with no kids – just plain obnoxious personalities.   As an eternal observer, and because amusement parks are all about standing in endless lines where I must endure the invasion of my personal space, I took the opportunity to learn from those around me.  The most valuable lesson of the day:

  • Giving a three-year old a king-size bag of M&Ms at ten in the morning will result in a series of successive events;
    • increased hyperactivity (child);
    • stern reprimands (mom);
    • whining (child);
    • decrease in patience and energy level (mom);
    • rapid crash, additional whining with pitch elevation (child);
    • bribes of more candy capped by threats of harsh discipline (mom);
    • meltdown of cataclysmic proportions complete with screaming, thrashing, and tears – tone now ear-splitting (child);
    • demands for support from father figure who had wandered off to avoid the impending explosion (mom);
    • Poorly timed parental criticism, “You shouldn’t have given him that candy.” (dad);
    • hate filled glares followed by expletives then stony silence (mom);

Of course, silence isn’t always golden.  As I stood in line, I could see the wheel in her mind turning as her eyes bored a hole through his skull.  Scheming; plotting; planning.  How could she do it?  When should she do it?  Could she get away with it?  Did she have a plausible defense?  How hard could life in prison really be?

that the Catholic Church has a new leader.  I don’t really like to talk about religion on the blog.  It can be a polarizing subject that sometimes brings out the worst in people.  I believe religion is a personal endeavor and should be spared societal judgment.  Unfortunately, not everyone sees things my way.  I was raised in the Church, though I haven’t practiced in many years.  I don’t feel Church doctrine correlates with my worldview, and by and large, I lack the traditional spirituality that comes with unconditional faith.  I’m more of a good Karma/bad Karma kind of person with a healthy dose of superstition thrown in for good measure. You know that whole “spit in the wind…” thing.  However, I find the entire process of electing a new pope utterly fascinating.  I love the ritual of it; the politics of it; the clandestine nature of it.  It’s the stuff of novels – add a little murder and mayhem and you’ve got yourself a bestseller.  Oh, wait.  Daniel Silva and Dan Brown already did that.

Damn them.

…that historical geology is a science of many faces.  This week it is masquerading as biology.  My head is filled with biological classifications – kingdom, phylum, class, family, genus, specie.  I’ve done this sort of thing before – in high school biology.  I did alright, and I liked it well enough.  But somehow classifying animals I knew and understood seemed so much easier.  These fossils are a pain in my ass.  They all look the same; their names all end in –ite or -pod.  Half of them look like clams but are not related to the clam in any way.  I find that suspect.  Also, if it looks like sponge, acts like a sponge, then it is not a sponge.  Seriously?

Dr. M:  It is very easy to see the difference between this trilobite from the Cambrian and this one from the Ordovician.  See the eyes; the shape of the back-end?

Me:  No.  No, I do not.  I see a brown lumpy bit of rock.

Dr. M:  Oh, you found the coprolite.

Ew.

…that my daughter does not appreciate unsolicited conversation with strangers anymore than I do.  This weekend we went to see (hear) the Plano Symphony.  While we were waiting for the performance to begin, the woman sitting next to my daughter began to engage her in a bit of small talk.   Megan listened politely to the woman, answered her questions guardedly, and cast a few glares in my direction.  At the end of the night, while waiting for our car, my daughter commented on her experience:

Megan:  Mom, that lady made me feel socially awkward.

Me:  Get used to it.  Happens to me all the damn time.

Megan:  Great.

***side note:  If you live in the Dallas area, and have the opportunity to check out the Plano Symphony – do it.  They are fabulous.

…that after reading five Daniel Silva (Gabriel Allon series) novels since the beginning of the year, I have come to the conclusion that I do not like Gabriel’s wife, Chiara.  There are many things I admire about Silva’s writing – his penchant for strong memorable characters; his knack for brevity; his enviable grasp of show vs. tell.  However, I am baffled by Chiara’s evolution from Gabriel’s leather clad, motorcycle riding guardian angel to nagging fishwife who has forgotten the complexity of her husband’s chosen profession – a profession she shares.  I know it’s pretty drastic of me, but I keep hoping Silva will do the humane thing and kill her off.  At least it would shut her up and Gabriel could go about the business of saving the world in peace.

…and last, but not least, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by this spotted leopard we stumbled upon at the San Antonio Zoo.  I have posted a different shot of him, but I think this one is my favorite.  He appears to be looking right at me.  Such a beautiful animal.

IMG_1936

Things I learned this week

 

“As life goes on it becomes tiring to keep up the character you invented for yourself, and so you relapse into individuality and become more like yourself everyday.”

– Agatha Christie

I learned this week…

…that it appears I correctly self-diagnosed my nagging stomach ailment.  My new doctor confirmed it.  Of course, I allowed him to think he was giving me new information.  I have learned my lesson there – doctors don’t like it when you tell them how to do their job.  I’m not really sure why.  Anyway, I am now dealing with strict tiered dietary changes.  Up first – no more dairy.  I’m not big on the whole milk thing, so at first I thought it was no big deal.  Then I saw the list of forbidden foods.  I have to give up my hazelnut coffee cream, any and all chocolate, and my sugar-free chewing gum.  

Me:  Wait what?  My non-dairy coffee creamer has milk in it!  Are you kidding me?

Nurse:  No, Mrs. Isaacs.  We don’t kid about these things.  However, most people find soy an acceptable alternative. 

SOY!

It smells like dirty feet. 

Not acceptable.

<grumble grumble>

…that, in keeping with the medical theme, pneumonia can sneak up on you when you least expect it.  My house has been passing around a nasty little respiratory virus for a few weeks now.  Up until last week, I had successfully avoided being slimed.  As often happens, my luck ran out.  This week I gave in and went to see my regular doctor for the sinus infection I knew was brewing.  Turns out – sinus infection + pneumonia.  Didn’t see that coming.

…that I received a damn fine grade on my first historical geology exam.  A half a point off a perfect score.  Take that scary geology with your thinly disguised chemistry, biology, and math.

…that sometimes an individual’s real story is much more interesting than the one I make up for them in my head.  For five years, I have spent two nights a week sitting in an old converted grocery store watching my daughter’s gymnastic practice.  I am well-known to the staff and the regular parents.  The smart ones leave me in peace; everyone else soon learns that I am not a stellar conversationalist.

There is an elderly woman who frequents the gym.  She is tall, European – maybe German given her accent, and carries herself with an air of sophistication.  I have never spoken more than a few trivial words to her in all these years, but I have long speculated about her story – it is what I do.  In my head, she is a warm, kindhearted grandmother, who bakes cookies for the children, tends a small container herb garden on the patio of her retirement community apartment, and enjoys peach Schnapps under the bathing glow of summer moonlight.

This week she sat next to me on the low slung module couch that borders the parents’ corral and talked for one solid hour.  I learned:

  1. She is Swiss;
  2. When she was young, she was a chunky chocoholic and her mother sent her to a brutish masseuse in hopes to combat her growing cellulite problem.
  3. Her late husband was some sort of high level Lufthansa executive.
  4. She is now a legal resident of Montreal, Canada.
  5. As such, is only allowed to enter and stay in the U.S. in 6 week intervals.  “Such nonsense,” she said with a dismissive wave.
  6. She flies a lot via stand-by.
  7. She believes this makes her an easy target for security.
  8. One time she was frisked because the TSA agent asked her if she had a gun in her carry-on bag and she replied:  “No.  I like to keep my gun on me at all times.”  She concedes this was not the smartest thing she’s ever done, and is convinced she is now on “the list.”
  9. As revenge for No. 8, she likes to pack her bras and undies in the very top layer of her suitcase.  She derives a sadistic pleasure in seeing the agents handle her intimates when they search her bags.
  10. This past fall, while attending a Lufthansa gala in Washington, D.C. she broke her hip – I’m still not sure I understand how that happened.  Instead of going to the nearest hospital, she got in a car with her friend and proceeded to make the 12 hour drive back to Canada in order to receive “proper” medical attention.  (I didn’t think it wise to mention that she was 5 months post-op – right hip replacement – and still walked with a cane.)
  11. She is pissed that as a woman in her seventies, she must now pay $60 per year for medical coverage.  “Highway robbery,” she declared.
  12. She wears all of her good jewelry at once because she fears it will be stolen.  When I pointed out that she is setting herself up to be mugged, she dismissed me with a brush of her hand and proceeded to tell me about the time she visited India.  The time when she thought her newly blessed Hindu talisman had been stolen by the hotel staff.  As it turned out, she told me, it was just the gods playing a trick on her because she had been careless with her things.  Now she is very careful.

Indeed.

There is much character gold to be mined here.  I hope she sits next to me again real soon.

…that the headline “Genesis Death Sandwich” is a real eye catcher.  I couldn’t help myself.  I had to click and read.  I’m still processing:

In the case of Genesis, the slices of white bread are themes of life, and the slimy cold cuts in between are mentions of death.

…that here is another bit of eye-catching nonsense I found tucked in a Salon op-ed entitled “Conservatives Declare War on College“, highlighting the right’s push for cheaper, online higher education in lieu of the more expensive traditional lecture-based programs:

[Daphne] Koller believes that with the right grading “rubric” students can grade each other’s papers even on issues of critical reasoning and grammar, thus solving seemingly daunting logistics problems.

God help us all.

…that Skyfall is even better the second time around.

***Spoiler Alert*** If you have been living under a rock, or are just a slacker who hasn’t found the time to empty your DVR of the amassing Downton Abbey episodes, please avert your eyes now.

…that I may be the only person on the planet who thinks Matthew Crawley had to die.   There was just no other way.

…and, last but not least, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by Chihuly.  I sure do miss that exhibit.

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Things I learned this week

“Proof brevity does not protect against dullness.” 

– Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes in regard to Twitter.

I learned this week…

…that I don’t have to worry about those pesky little logarithms, after all.  My Historical Geology professor announced this gem during our last lab session.  It seems he’s not a big fan of the evil math, either.  He just might take over the top spot on my favorite professor list.

…that there is a new spy thriller on FX called The Americans, and I’m not too sure I care for it.  Don’t get me wrong, the concept intrigues me: Soviet KGB operatives posing as Americans during the early days of the Reagan administration, stealing intelligence.  Sounds right up my alley, right?  It is – for the most part.

So what’s the problem, you ask?

Keri Russell.

Yes, I know.  I should let my aversion to Felicity go; after all, it was the show that launched Jennifer Garner into Alias stardom.  Okay, perhaps that’s a bit of an exaggeration.  But still, I don’t like Keri Russell (as an actress – I’m sure she’s a lovely person), and her character, Elizabeth Jennings, seems even less appealing.  She is cold and detached with a glint of something homicidal in her eye.  Perhaps this is the writers’ intention.  Maybe I’m not supposed to relate to her, to sympathize with her, to like her.  If that is the case then they are doing a superb job.

Bravo.

…that for the first time in a long time, I found the Grammys enjoyable.  Usually, it’s a tortured affair, one that leaves me feeling old and out of touch, yet strangely fixated.  It’s like witnessing a horrible train wreck – the pitchy performances, the excessive bleeping of lyrics too inappropriate for primetime, the painful acceptance speeches by artists scarcely worthy of the name.  I want to look away, but I just can’t.  Most years, I am doomed to disappointment and will spend a solid week bemoaning the sad state of music and vowing to do something more productive with that three and a half hour block of time.

This year was different.  This year there were (by and large) real musicians on stage, playing real instruments, and producing real music.  I enjoyed most of the performances and tributes – Mumford and Sons, The Black Keys, fun., Jack White, Dr. John, Carrie Underwood and her hypnotic dress, Ed Sheeran, Sting, Sting, and Sting.

What?  He wasn’t alone on stage?

Funny.  I didn’t notice.

In all seriousness, I felt renewed hope.  Maybe music has turned a corner; maybe the manufactured, auto-tuned sludge we’ve been subjected to for two decades will finally give way to the return of the vocally and musically talented singer/songwriter.

Maybe?  Please?

The only dark spot on the night – besides Elton John and Taylor Swift – was the Florence Welch snub.  I may hold that against Kelly Clarkson for a very long time.  I’m a grudge holder, you know.

On a side note:  Ratings for the 2013 Grammy Awards were down, and critics panned it for its somber feel.  Mature…somber.  Whatever.  Click here to read one of the more scathing reviews.

…that listening to an audio book in the carpool line will cause me to do something I rarely do – nap.  It’s problematic for a few of reasons:  1) I’ve never gotten around to tinting my windows; 2) the telltale head bob that accompanies vertical napping is embarrassing; 3) inevitably I will have to rewind (can you rewind an MP3?) the audio book because I end up missing vital chunks of the story.   Yesterday, I missed the whole part about Chiara being kidnapped from the villa in Italy.  I woke up in the middle of a shit storm and had no idea what the hell was going on.

I panicked a little.

…that ginger tea is the elixir of the gods.  For the last year or two, I’ve suffered from a stomach quirk and steadily over the months, my tolerance for many of foods has waned.  I am a notorious self-diagnoser, so I tossed around the idea of a gluten allergy, a fructose intolerance, a faulty gall bladder.  I cut a lot out of my diet.  Sometimes it helps; sometimes it doesn’t.  After a recent upswing in symptoms, I took to the internet for advice – because if it’s on the internet, it has to be true – and discovered ginger tea.  It takes a bit of getting used to, but I have to say it has helped a lot.

<covers ears to block out BFF’s (licensed RN) screams that I need to stop with the internet diagnosing and see a professional>

I did finally make an appointment for next week with a specialist.  But I already know what he’s going to tell me.  I looked it up on the internet.

…that I am not irrational.  Okay, yes I am, but not when it comes to cruises.  My friends go on cruises – they love them.  They tell me I should go, too.  I would love it, they say.  “You forget you’re even on a boat.  It’s so much fun.  Go.  Try something new.”  I have no desire for the obvious reasons:  big ship; inflatable “life” boats; tiny windowless cells staterooms; crushes of people breathing my air; lack of wide open sandy beaches; and the Norwalk virus.

Here are few more reasons:  no power; no ventilation; no working toilets; Soviet era bread lines for a daily hot dog rationing.  Read more here.

No, thank you.  I’d rather risk getting my head loped off by the drug cartels in Mexico.

…and last, but not least, this week’s photo is a macro I took in November, at the Dallas Arboretum.  It’s always a nice surprise stumbling across these shots and I am a sucker for water droplets.

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Things I learned this week

“The wisest are the most annoyed at the loss of time.”

            – Dante Alighieri

This week I learned:

…that there were a few notable anniversaries:

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  • My favorite novel Pride & Prejudice was first published 200 years ago (January 27, 1813).  I usually wait until the lazy days of summer to pull it out and give it another read, but this year I think I might delve into it a little earlier.
  • We are the World turned 28 this week.  The recording of this song and the release of the video was a profound moment in my teenage years.  In all honesty, I’m not real sure I completely understood their cause at the time, but the collaboration of all of my favorite musical talents on one record nearly blew my mind.
  • This week, 27 years ago, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded during lift off.  I watched the launch live on television, alongside millions of other school children.  I remember the level of excitement surrounding this launch.  We all understood that we were watching history in the making.  Then, it all went horribly wrong.  I will never forget that day, what I saw, what I felt.   Recently, I had the opportunity to visit the Johnson Space Center in Houston with my daughter’s middle school Robotics class.   One of the films we watched highlighted NASA’s missions throughout the years – the triumphant and the tragedy.  I probably should have been expecting it, but when the video of Challenger’s last seconds filled the screen it took my breath away.

…that the girl who sits next to me in Historical Geology has adult ADHD.  I suspect she is unmedicated because surely if she were, I wouldn’t spend the first half of class trying to figure out a way to make her shut up and sit still without getting arrested for a felony.

…that I don’t have the personality for Twitter.  I find the task of coming up with witty pieces of brilliance in under 140 characters on a daily basis undoable.   I also don’t have the patience or the attention span to sit and scroll through all of those endless posts and reposts, and reposts of reposts.  I don’t even find it an efficient source of news.  There is one thing, though, that I do get a kick out of – followers.  One of my favorite games is the “what if” game.  I do it in the grocery store, at the gym, in traffic – everywhere.  I find I can do it with Twitter followers, as well.   And so, with every new follower notice, I take a minute to try to come up with their story.  After that, I make a bet with myself to see how long it takes them to realize I’m not any fun and unfollow me.  It never takes too long.

…that – in keeping with the Twitter thread – people actually have apps to keep track of who unfollows their twitter account.  Really?  If I took the time to worry about all the people who decided they didn’t like me over the years, I’d never get a damn thing done.

…and last, but not least, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by two sweet girls who make my heart smile.

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Things I learned during the holidays – and an award

“Some people see the glass half full. Others see it half empty. I see a glass that’s twice as big as it needs to be.”

– George Carlin

I learned during the holidays…

…that snow on Christmas is nice.

Lingering snow the day after, is not.

I’m not a winter person.  If given a choice, I’d pick 105 degree summer heat over frozen precipitation any day of the week.  Unfortunately, the weather Gods don’t always take my preference into account when doling out snow days.   Such was the case on Christmas day.  It hit early in the afternoon, just as we were sitting down to lunch.  The flakes were big and fluffy, and set a pretty scene.  A bit of Christmas magic.  That’s never a bad thing.  However, I’m a big believer in the power of moderation.  A quick burst of snow, followed by a rapid melt is ideal.  That way by the time I have to get out – because it’s all about me – the white stuff is gone.  It’s not that I’m incapable of driving on it – I lived in Iowa one winter in the early 90s.  You learn to adapt or you don’t leave the house for 6 months.  No, I’m more concerned with the other guy’s driving ability.  Unfortunately, mother nature was not in a giving mood and the temperature the next day did not rise above freezing.  I left my house prepared to be overwhelmed by stupidity.  I was not disappointed.  Ten minutes into my commute some jackass in a super sized SUV swerved in front of me and slammed on his brakes just as we were about to pass over an ice-covered bridge.

These are the moments in life when I wish I had a real Bond car.

…that after whipping up nearly 25 dozen cookies, 50 mini pumpkin pies, and 6 batches of fudge I am so over baking.  Totally.  I may never bake again.  Ever.

On a bright note, I only gained back 3 of the 10 lbs I lost during the semester sampling all those baked goodies.

that Kim Kardashian has a little Kanye West cooking in the oven.  O.M.G.  Like, that is, like, so cool, you guys.

Oy.

I am always struck by the level of relevancy given to the K clan by mainstream media.  Call me a killjoy, but I think there are more important things going on in the world than what’s going on their collective uteri.

…that my daughter does not share my taste in Christmas music.  Most of my favorite songs were recorded during the early days of rock & roll, and it only makes sense that the holiday tunes I gravitate toward come from that era.  Number one on my list is Darlene Love’s Christmas (Baby, please come home).  I like to crank it up and sing it proud – from the gut, as loud as I can.

My daughter is not impressed.

Me:  The snows comin’ doowwwnnn/Christmaaasss/I’m watchin’ it faaallll/Christmaaasss/Lots of people aroooooounndd…

Megan:  Ew, Mom.  What are you singing?

Me:  Darlene Love.  Don’t you just love it?

Megan:  Um, no.

Me:  How can you not like Darlene Love.  She’s the queen of Christmas.

Megan:  No, she’s not.  Rock & roll Christmas music is so lame.  The classics are so much better.

Me:  This is the classics, baby.

Megan: <shrug>  Whatever.

Brat.

…that I’m getting too old to stay up drinking until midnight on New Year’s Eve – and that’s okay.  I was in bed by 10:30 pm, up at 4:30 am on New Year’s Day, and at the gym by 7:30.  A fabulous way to begin the year, I think.  Much better than sporting a hangover all day.

…that I’ve been nominated for a blogger awards – well three actually, but I’m only going to address one today.

I love blogger awards.  They make me smile.  It’s an ego thing.

This one comes from jmmcdowell, an archaeologist turned novelist – I think that may be the coolest thing ever.  She was gracious enough to pass along the Booker Award to me as a new follower of her blog.   Thank you, jmmcdowell!   Go check out  some of her excerpts from Buried Deeds.

The Booker Award dictates that I list five of my favorite books.  I was nominated for this award once before, but never came back to it.  I must say, there are so many books I love it is really hard to pick just five.

Here goes:

1. Pride & Prejudice – Jane Austen.  I first read this novel in the ninth grade.  It was required, and I hated it.  I thought it was as tedious as Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter (which I also hated – and still do). When I was in my twenties, I picked it up again, and fell head over heels in love.  Since then, I’ve read it at least once a year.  My paperback copy is worn and faded, the pages dog-eared and water-logged from too many lazy summer days by the pool lost in Regency England.  Pride & Prejudice is a truly timeless love story whose colorful characters are as familiar to me as my own family.  And it is one of the few stories I love with a happy ending because there can be no other conclusion for Lizzy and Darcy.  I feel all warm and gooey just thinking about it.

2. The Spy Who Came in From the Cold – John le Carre.  This is a new addition to my favorites list.  I only finished it a few weeks ago.  There are so many things that appeal to me in this book.  1. It’s a spy thriller; 2. It’s set during the early years of the Cold War when the wall was new and Khrushchev ruled the Soviets with an iron fist of oppression. 3. It is a tale of conflicting ideologies, and a race to outsmart a perceived enemy; 4. It has a complex main character – Alec Leamus – who struggles with his own morality and humanity while doing what he thinks is best for Queen and country; and 5.  There is no happy ending – because a man like Leamus can know no peace.  Brilliant.

3. Alas, Babylon – Pat Frank – This classic was also required reading in the ninth grade.  But unlike Pride & Prejudice, I was sucked in by the story and the characters from the opening scene to the telling last lines:

“We won it. We really clobbered ’em!” Hart’s eyes lowered and his arms drooped.

He said, “Not that it really matters.”

The engine started and Randy turned away to face the thousand-year night.”

– Alas, Babylon

I’ve always been fascinated by the Cold War and what life might have been like had that conflict turned hot.  Alas, Babylon is a fascinating study of the human condition and explores the what ifs of life after a nuclear apocalypse.  The raw devastation of this story scared the hell out of me when I was 14.  I love that.

4.  Little Women – Louisa May Alcott.  In 1974, my Nana gave me the entire Alcott series.  Of course, I was only two and didn’t appreciate the gift – and wouldn’t until around the sixth grade.  I’ve read them all, but Little Women is my favorite.  I loved Meg’s quiet resiliency, Jo’s wild spirit, Beth’s gentle heart, and Amy – well…I’m not sure I ever really liked Amy, spoiled brat that she was.  I cried when Beth died; fumed when Jo chose the Professor over Laurie even though it was for her own good; and rejoiced at the lives the March sisters carved out for themselves during such trying times.  I lost most of that series of books, including Little Women, in the house fire six years ago.  My heart still aches.

5. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck.  I love this novel.  I really do.  This was another required reading from early high school – sophomore year.  How do you describe Of Mice and Men?  Heartbreaking, disturbing, eye-opening.  Ultimately, it is a story of friendship and the deep love that comes with it.  No, there is no happy ending in this one either.  Yes, I like it that way.

Now to pay it forward.  I’m going to choose to pass this award onto a few writerly blogs I enjoy.  Of course, there is no obligation for any of my chosen recipients to participate.

Erin Elizabeth Long

Hot Pink Underwear

Be Not Afraid

4amWriter

that I have no awww moment of the week.  It’s been cold, maybe next week.

Things I learned this week

“What fun is it being cool if you can’t wear a sombrero.”

– Bill Watterson

Indeed.

I learned this week:

…that it is possible to earn an A in Geology.

Who knew? Not me.

Let’s see if I can do it again next semester.  I am feeling so froggy about it that I have registered for Historical Geology.

Take that scary science.

…that having a home office does not guarantee peace and quiet.  The night before my two most challenging finals, I retreated to my new sanctuary for a little study time.  I’m not sure when it happened or even how it happened, but an hour in I looked up at the sound of an awful ruckus and realized my space had been invaded by two cats, a dog, and a kid.  Really?  I had more solitude in the living room.

…that dropping my dog off at the groomers (until two months ago, I’d only owned cats) was a little like leaving a toddler at daycare for the first time.  There was lots of whining and crying and forlorn looks that said:  “Why, mommy-lady?  Why are you so cruel?  I’m really sorry I ate your slipper.  Really.  I am.  Don’t. Leave. Me.” Of course, as soon as I left the building, Kevin the groomer dude became Rocco’s new best friend and I was completely forgotten.

…that I still don’t get the allure of twitter.  I used to have an account a couple years ago – for about a week.  I didn’t understand the point, so I deleted it.  This week I am trying my hand at it again.  All of my writer friends are doing it.  I feel left out.

29 tweets and 23 followers later.

Um…yeah.   Still don’t get it.

I think it’s just beyond my capability.  All those cryptic codes and hash tags.  It makes no sense.  Plus, it seems like an awful lot of work to maintain.  I can’t even get myself together enough to blog regularly let alone come up with something witty and interesting to tweet several times a day – in less than 140 characters.

…that I am too old and snarky to spend 11 hours riding on a bus to and from Houston with a bunch of sugared-up middle schoolers without the benefit of coffee…or booze.

…that just when I thought human depravity had reached its peak, I am yet again proved wrong.  I cannot begin to fathom the level of grief felt by the families of those killed in the Sandy Hook shooting.  My heart aches for everyone involved.

I usually don’t like to delve too deep into political (or religious) ideologies on this blog.  I find that in this digital age where every Tom, Dick, and Harry has an opinion, a keyboard, and the luxury of anonymity such discussions deteriorate into hate filled tirades not intended to find resolution, but rather to shock and offend.

Having said that, I would like to have my say:

I believe in the Constitution. I believe in the Supreme Court’s authority to interpret the intended spirit of the Second Amendment.  I believe in an individual’s right to protect his/her person and property.  I do not, however, believe civilians have a need for military grade assault weapons or magazines that hold dozens of rounds.  I do not believe a ban on such weaponry would seriously impinge upon a citizen’s constitutional rights, and I think it’s passed time for rational dialogue on how we prevent the recurrence of such senselessness.  Of course, then there is the issue of the perpetrators themselves – the ones who yielded these weapons.  I do not have hard statistics, but I think a blind man could see that a good number of these shooters are plagued by some form of mental illness.  This is a problem.

How do we fix this?  I honestly do not have the answer to that question.  What I do know is this:  This will happen again unless we can set aside our egos and self-promoting ideologies and move toward a real solution through meaningful conversation and compromise.

…that I don’t have an awww moment of the week, so I will leave you with a photograph I took recently of the Day of the Dead bride and groom figurines I brought back from my last trip to Mexico.  I bought them to commemorate the 15 years my husband and I had been married (at the time).  We are now two weeks shy of our 17th anniversary.  I just love these little guys.  They make me smile.

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Things I learned this week

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

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

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

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

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

…that Selena Gomez appears to have dumped Justin Beiber.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me:  “Justin, stop farting.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

<sigh>

I’m going to miss those boys this year.

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

Anyone? Please? My unfinished novels are begging you…

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

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

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

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

Alright, everyone all together now –  awwwww….

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Things I learned this week

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

John le Carre

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

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

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

I learned this week:

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

(rant of the week)

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was wrong.  Lesson learned.

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

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

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

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

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

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Things I learned this week…um…last month

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

I’ve fallen off of the WordPress wagon again.

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

I learned this week (last month)…

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

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

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

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

(Cue theme music now)

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

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Things I learned this week

Learn we may be with another man’s learning:  we can only be wise with wisdom of our own. – Michele de Montaigne

I learned this week…

…that a simple thing like a hair color touch up and a trim is enough to ease the sting of a trying week.  It won’t make up for the B (very low B) I earned on that Geology exam, and it won’t erase the craptastic essay exam (worse heap of horse manure I’ve ever produced) in my African-American History class, but at least I will feel pretty as I go forward into the aftermath.  I can weather anything life throws at me, as long as I have perfectly coiffed hair.

…that Andy Williams has died at the age of 84.  He is best known as the crooner of the classic Moon River, but to me, he will always be the voice of Christmas.  I’m not a big fan of Christmas – never have been.  It’s nothing personal, I’m not a holiday advocate, in general.  You can read more about that here and here.   My mother, however, loves the holidays and one of her prized possessions was an Andy Williams Christmas album (circa 1963) – on vinyl, of course.  From December 1st until December 26th, that record played ad nauseum.  It took a little time, but it grew on me.  I don’t listen to it very often anymore, but sometimes, when the moon is full and the stars are aligned just so, I add it to my playlist and dream of sugar plums, sleigh bells, and snow covered hills.  RIP Andy Williams.

…that football, at the middle and high school level, is serious business in my neck of the woods.  As a Texan, however transplanted, I should understand this, accept this, and even relish in the glory of the Friday night lights.  I, however, do not.  I’m not a fan of the game and, under normal circumstances, would never entertain the thought of spending my evenings sitting on a cold, hard metal bleacher, in the chilly night air, watching kids try to plow over one another in their quest to get an oblong ball from one end of the field to the other.   It’s really sort of barbaric, if you ask me.  And boring.  This year, however, I have a middle school age daughter in the band.  The band plays at the football games.  Ergo, I am spending a good deal of time sitting on a cold, hard metal bleacher watching a game I do not like.  Of course, if you know me, you know that I’m not really paying much attention to the action on field.  Instead, I prefer to watch the parents sitting around me.  I am treated to an extra special dose of crazy at these things because not only do I get to watch the football dads freak out over an erroneous off side’s call (I’m not even sure what that is), I get to observe my favorite exotic beast, the Cheer Mom, in her natural habitat.   That right there, makes it all worth it.

***Side note:  My daughter’s middle school band rocks!

that Alias has arrived on streaming Netflix.   Score.

…that after years of boycott, I am going to put aside my grudge against Ben Affleck and see his new movie.   Yes, I know this goes against my longstanding vow to loathe him for all eternity.  However, in the infinite wisdom that comes with age, I have found it is unrealistic to stringently adhere to such limiting assertions.  Sometimes, for reasons beyond my control, I must adapt and evolve, especially when it is most self-serving.  I love a good spy thriller – one that is smart, well-written, and keeps me on the edge of my seat from the opening frame until the closing credit.  By all accounts, his new film, Argo, will do just that.  I have thought it over most carefully and have come to the conclusion that I would not forgive myself if I were to allow this work to pass me by simply for the sake of a grudge – a very worthy grudge, but one I readily admit falls slightly to the right of juvenile.   Of course, this does not mean that I am going to abandon my feelings.  I will allow Mr. Affleck to wow me with his directorial (and acting) genius and then it’s back to business as usual.  My rationality and goodwill only go so far.

…that I have to participate in a group project/presentation for a political science class I am taking this semester.  At first, I was pissed off about this.  It seems to be a growing trend among professors, even though it really is not representative of workplace reality.  At least, not in my workplace.  I can’t tell you the last time I had to work in conjunction with a colleague on a project.  I am largely a solitary worker, responsible for my own successes and failures.   I like it that way.  It keeps me from committing acts that might be construed as felonies under the current rule of law.  Having said that…this week my group had its first meeting.  They’re an interesting lot – young and energetic, full of misinformed ideology and false hope.   I sit and watch them through the eyes of the cynic I have grown to be, wondering how they will make it out in the wilds of the real world.  This week, however, I realized that all of my fears were unfounded after one member of our six-man team failed to make an appearance at our little get together.  Group participation is key to our success and as such, any weak link will be detrimental to our overall grade.  My fellow classmates took it upon themselves to nip a potential problem in the bud, and informed our absentee member that if she didn’t produce her part of the project by the next meeting, she was out.  Period.  No excuses.  End of discussion.  Please pack you knives and go.

Alright, then.  I think they are going to be just fine.  And perhaps this group project will not complete suck, after all.

…that school is putting a damper on my creative endeavors.   I apologize for the neglect this blog has suffered since the beginning of September.  I fear it will not get better until December when I can finally put this hellish semester behind me.  The lesson to be learned here – Geology is an evil best endured solo without the added distraction and pressure of…well…everything else.

…and last, but not least, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by Underdog and the Chick-fila cow sharing an intimate moment during a recent football game.  Heartwarming, isn’t it?

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Things I learned this week

“Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.”  – Winston Churchill

I learned this week…

…that I am not destined for a career in field geology.   For the last few weeks, I’ve spent a great deal of time staring at dozens of rocks and minerals of all shapes and sizes.   Some are colorful, some are not.  Some have texture, some do not.   Some have cleavage, some do not.  Some look like flaky sheets of tissue paper, most do not.   Some are lithified, some are not.  Some have foliation, most do not.  During my exhaustive hours of observation, I’ve come to one very troubling conclusion: Minerals look like rocks, rocks look like minerals, and the probability that I will correctly identify any of them on a test is pretty low.

…that the Back to the Future trilogy, even in digitally re-mastered Blu-Ray, has not withstood the test of time.  The 1980s was the decade that set our imagination on fire.  It was a period of pioneering advancement in cinematography that raised the bar for cutting edge special effects and gave us the likes of E.T., Aliens, The Terminator, The Empire Strikes Back, Tron, Howard the Duck (what?  you know you watched it), and yes, Back to the Future 1-3 .  Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, technology has continued to advance exponentially and what were once thought to be works of shear genius are now nothing more than six or seven hours of mind-numbing product placements, cheesy pop-culture references, and a flying skateboard that will not die.

…that people are strange.   I know.  This is no great revelation, but it is something that has become more obvious to me in the last few weeks.  I am a creature of habit. I value consistency.  It gives me comfort, adds a measure of equilibrium to life’s imbalances, and, above all, allows me some semblance of control – however imagined.  As such,  every morning on my way to class, I stop for breakfast at the same coffee shop.  Without fail, I order a toasted whole wheat bagel with light cream cheese and a medium coffee – heavy on skim, light on sugar.   Usually, I keep to myself.  I may be an early riser, but I am far from a traditional morning person.  I try my best to avoid interaction with people until it is absolutely necessary.  However, sometimes all of my efforts prove in vain.  This week I was ambushed, set upon while I innocently fixed my coffee, by a weird little man in a bright yellow polo.

He stood shoulder to shoulder with me as he added milk to his large coffee and said:

“I worked until 5 this morning.”

<eye roll>

Me:  “Oh?”

Him:  “Yes, and do you know what I read while I was on a conference call.”

<sigh>

Me: “Um…hmm.”

Him: “That in a few years we will all have cars that drive themselves.”

<weirdo alarm has been activated; move calmly, yet swiftly, to the nearest exit>

Me:  (As I reached for a lid and a useless cup sleeve) “Good to know.”

I’m going to have to find value in variety.

…that I’ve been nominated for a couple of blogger awards.  I know it’s probably a bit self-serving of me, but I do love a good blogger award.  Why, you ask?  Justification? Validation? Narcissism?  All of the above.  It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Who doesn’t like that?

The two awards, The Booker Award and One Lovely Blog Award, were both given to me by Wordsurfer over at Cresting the Words.  I sincerely thank you, Wordsurfer, for the honors.   Go check out her blogs Cresting the Words and Cresting the Sounds.  One deals primary with writing and such; the other music.  Good stuff. You won’t regret it.

As is usually the case, these awards come with rules and guidelines.  The Booker Award dictates that I must share my top five favorite books of all-time.  I’m going to ponder this one a bit and get back with you.  The One Lovely Blogger Award asks that I reveal 7 things about myself.  Here goes:

  1. I am an excellent Canasta player.  I will kick your ass.  Fear me.
  2. The smell of Ketchup makes me want to vomit.
  3. Alias is my all-time favorite television show.  I blame Ben Affleck for it’s demise after only 5 seasons.  I will never forgive him for that.  Ever.
  4. I will choose a spy thriller (movie or novel) over a chick-flick (or lit) every time with one exclusive exception – Pride & Prejudice.  There is just not enough Lizzy and Darcy in the world.
  5. I don’t eat most sauces, condiments, or dressings.
  6. Fall is my favorite season.
  7. I love beets.

Now to pay it forward.  The rules say I need to pick 15.  I never follow this rule.  I like a more manage number, and today I feel three is more my speed.

Kim the FanGirl:  She loves Florence + the Machine just as much as I do and writes about it (among many other things, of course).  She is a beautiful writer with a flare of description that will leave you breathless.  Check her out.

Julie at Word Flows:  I’ve given her a couple of these blogger awards but she remains on my short list.  She’s a great writer with the enviable ability to amass an impressive word count in a remarkable short span of time.  Check her out and follow her whirlwind journey.

Leanne Cole:  She is a photographer from down under.  I enjoy her work very much. Go check her out.

That’s all for now.  I reserve the right to revisit this issue at a later date.

…that last, but not least, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by my mother’s cat, Domino.  She’s a beautiful cat with a bi-polar personality.  I had to be quite sneaky in order to get this shot.  I’m sure such a deed will not go unpunished.  Even now, she is likely plotting my demise – something slow and painful.

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Things I learned this week…and last

“Once you can accept the universe as matter expanding into nothing that is something, wearing stripes with plaid comes easy.”

– Albert Einstein

This week I learned…

…that sometimes I do stupid things.  I know, hard to believe, but true nonetheless.  This week, I beamed myself in the head with my own car door.  I blame the rain – and my vain desire to protect my freshly straightened hair from falling victim to the frizz factor.  What’s the lesson to be learned here?  Making a mad dash from the house to the car through a steady drizzle with my head down doesn’t help me avoid getting wet, it just means I will inaccurately judge the angle of the opening door.  Ouch.

that you will never catch me driving along a rural Norwegian road at midnight.  It seems in doing so, one runs the risk of literally running into a moose – and a bear.  Crazy, I know. However, one unlucky motorist in Norway did just that.  I haven’t written a Man vs.. Beast blog in several months, but I can’t help to think that this incident lends credence to my long standing assertion that the animals are conspiring to take over the world.  Obviously, the moose and the bear were intent on a carjacking.  The question is:  Why?  Perhaps an errand for the Great Whites lurking just off the New England coast?  It bears consideration.  (See what I did there?)

…that the Dead Sea Scroll exhibit at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is fabulous.  As one who is enthralled with history, especially biblical history, this exhibit gives incredible insight.  It was definitely worth schlepping an hour or so west, through rush hour traffic, white-knuckle construction zones, and torrential rain.   As I said in a previous blog, my family was wholly uninterested in tagging along.  That’s alright, I bear them no ill will.   I recognized the glazed over look they got in their eyes whenever I mentioned going.   It’s the same look I get when my husband mentions that Dream Theater is in town.   I shudder at the very thought…

…that my daughter is turning into a cynic.  This week, while we were camped out on the living room floor watching the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, a commercial for a popular adjustable mattress aired.  It boasted that 93% of users saw improved sleep.  Out of the blue, my daughter says:  “Sucks for that other 7%.”  Indeed, it does.

…that the war on women continues.  I don’t like to infuse politics into my blog.  I firmly believe political ideology is something that should never be thrust upon the unwilling.  I think doing so polarizes the nation, and breeds hostility and hate.  I believe the same can be said for religion.  I usually make a point to avoid the discussion of both.  Having said that, I’d like to take this opportunity to address something that I find troubling:  The far right’s preoccupation with the mysterious inner workings of the female reproductive system.  I’m not really sure where they received their general knowledge of anatomy, but I’d like to reassure the male establishment that my girly parts (and those of every other woman in America) do not have mystical superpowers bent on world domination.  While I agree, that might be kinda cool, and would perhaps lessen the sting of the dreaded “monthly inconvenience”, it is, in fact, not possible for a vagina to take down nations.

I think it’s time to focus on a more imminent threat to the country’s well being – a broken economy.

On a similar note:  If you’d like to have a good laugh,and have an appreciation for the ridiculous, check out the Borowitz Report over at The New Yorker.  Maybe not for everyone, but I sure do get a good giggle out of it every now and then.

…that classes begin again next week.  As always, I’m filled with a host of emotions: excitement, trepidation, annoyance.  I am taking a freshman level science course this semester.  I’m not thrilled.  Science is one of those things that I could do without.  I understand the relevance, even appreciate its need in molding our young people into individuals who can competitively carry our country into the future.  I get that.  I just don’t want to sit through a three hour lab with said young people.  Does that make me old?

…that a See’s Candies has opened up inside my local mall.  This is bad.  Very, very bad.  But it’s so very, very good.

…that I’ve been nominated for the “Addictive Blogger Award” by Katy Brandes.  I always get a big kick out of these awards.  It’s the narcissist in me, I’m sure, but it’s always nice to receive a bit of acknowledgement from one’s peers.  Thank you, Katy.   It is greatly appreciated and puts a big smile on my face.  And, I’ll admit, found me standing in front of my bathroom mirror channeling Sally Field:  “You like me!  You really, really like me!”

Just kidding.  About the Sally Field part – not about the the appreciation part.  I do sincerely love that you may be addicted to my blog.

As always, these things must be paid forward.  The list of blogs I find addictive is endless, but in the interest of brevity, here are the first five that come to mind:

Cosy Travels of a Viking and his Kitten – a chronicle of European travel highlighted by some truly beautiful photographs.

The Writer’s Advice – lots of writing advice with a sarcastic edge I enjoy.

Word Flows –  lots of writing inspiration.  One of my favs.

Mike Osborn Photo – some great photographs from across the pond.

The Sugarlump – love those cats!

…and last, but not least, this week’s awww moment.  I was going to bring you a fabulous photograph of the Monarch butterfly I saw this week at a local nature preserve.  Unfortunately, I never got a clear shot because my lovely daughter photo-bombed me.  So, in retaliation, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by my mischievous daughter.  Enjoy.

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Things I learned this week

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”

― Charles M. Schulz

I learned this week…

…that, at the ripe age of 40, I’ve finally taught myself to swim.  I have kept this under wraps for a while.  I didn’t tell anyone what I was doing – not my friends; not my family.  I’m sure they are going to be shocked because they’ve put up with my number one phobia for a very long time:  drowning.  It’s kept me from doing a lot of fun stuff over the years.  However,  I am thrilled to announce that this week, I did the front crawl from one end of the pool to the other – without stopping.    And I did it a dozen times.  All by myself.  With my daughter cheering me on.  Of course, being a 40 year old unaccustomed to the physical exertion of swimming, I nearly collapsed and drowned.

…that my daughter is an evolving enigma.  She has quirks and habits that I’ve come to accept, even rely upon, as evidence that she is an independent spirit.  Take for instance her hair.  She is cursed blessed with thick honey blonde tresses that frizz curl wildly around her beautiful face.  She hates every strand, and insists that she not be seen without it firmly secured in a slick-backed pony tail.   This is non-negotiable.  If, by chance, there is an instance of variance from the norm, there will be long sighs, nasty glares, and even tears.  This week she rocked my world.  Out of the blue, she announced, as she pulled the band from her hair and let it flow freely down her back, that in a year or two she just might start wearing it down.  The truly remarkable thing, and what threw me into a state of shock, was that we were at our neighborhood pool.  In public.  Surrounded by dozens of strangers.  Who have now seen her with her hair down.

…that the next installment in the Jason Bourne saga (sans Jason Bourne) has been unleashed on the nation.  In the past, I have railed against Hollywood’s dirty habit of unnecessarily rebooting and remaking movies in order to capitalize on the viewing public’s need for familiarity at the box office. I won’t rehash my feelings – you can read them for yourself, if you are so inclined.   I have to admit, I don’t understand the need for another Bourne film, especially one without its namesake.   When I first heard rumor of it, I thought it ridiculous.  I swore I wouldn’t see it, but curiosity got the better of me.  I saw it.  I hated.  As I write this, I am watching a the original Bourne trilogy in hopes that it will wash away the stench of The Bourne Legacy.

For some additional reviews of the movie, check out:

Om Malik

Movie Talkies

Sweep the Legs

IMG_2213…that a girl in China was found to have spider living in her ear – for a week.  A lot of things creep me out.  Spiders, oddly enough, are not one of them.  However, upon reading this article (and viewing the pictures), I was struck by a sense of familiarity.  Then it hit me – that spider’s brother took up residence in my car two months ago!  It may be time to dig out the old bug bomb.  I now have serious case of the heebee-jeebees.

…that I can check “staying up late(ish) to watch a meteor shower” off my list of things I must do before I die.  I stayed up.  I sat in a lawn chair in my driveway, stared up at the sky, and – got nothing.  I didn’t see anything, but low flying airplanes.  Well, there was that one thing, with the flashing lights and erratic flight pattern.  I told myself it was a weather balloon – because they’re always weather balloons, right?  By and large, though, I was bored out of my freaking mind.  I bow down to my geeky science loving friends who have the discipline for such things.  I, obviously, do not.

…that while working on my WIP this week, I discovered that Anna’ brother is a lot more trouble than he’s worth.  Luckily my writing group was more than willing to come to my rescue.  If you write and don’t have a writing group – get one.  You won’t regret it.  Unless your group sucks.  Then you might regret it.  So choose wisely.  I did.

…this week’s awww moment is brought to you by these water droplets clinging to a spider’s web.  I know, there really isn’t anything warm and fuzzy about it.  So what.  I like it and it’s my blog.  Enjoy.

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Things I learned this week

“Lost a planet Master Obi-Wan has.  How embarrassing.”  – Yoda

I learned this week…

that Snoop Dogg has changed his name to Snoop Lion.  I’m so relieved.  I don’t know about you, but I was beginning to question the longevity of his career if he should continue on with such a moniker.

…that I should never be trusted to do two things:  dress myself or pick out eye glasses.   I think it’s a pretty well-known fact that if given a choice between a pair of respectable black slacks and a pair with obnoxious stripes, I will pick the stripes every single time – and wear them with a printed top.  I am a fashion failure.  I get it.  I embrace it.  A few years ago I got glasses.  I went down to my local optical mart, tried on a few dozen frames, ignored the annoying optician’s suggestions, and took home a set of glasses that would never leave their handy-dandy carry case.  I hated them.  This week, out of necessity – my eyes have decided to act their age – I went to get a new pair.  I opted to go back to my optometrist’s office because it was convenient – and I get a discount.   I chose a few frames, and asked the peppy little optician for advice.  She took one look at what I had chosen, said no, no, no, and promptly made me start the process over.  As it turns out, my taste in glasses is just as flawed as my taste in trousers.  I am now the proud owner of a pair of glasses that I like – and wear.  Yay for pushy, obnoxious optician lady who is immune to my stink eye and biting sarcasm.

…that I have the best writing group on the planet.  This week our meeting turned into an impromptu photo shoot when one of our members came dressed up in an anime costume.

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There’s a special place in my heart for this girl.

…that I won something.  I never win things, but this week I found out that I won a copy of Tania L. Ramos’ new book Be Still.  She is an independently published author who still maintains her day job as a registered nurse.  I admire her tenacity and dedication to her craft.  I can’t wait to read her book.  Go check her out her blog.  Oh, and while you’re at it, check out Nerdy Book Reviews. Some good stuff over there, too.

…that dress shopping with my daughter is going to be a test of my resolve.  She is entering 7th grade band and unlike last year when the required concert uniform consisted of a black embossed polo and khaki pants, this year she will have to wear a black dress.  Yes, my friends, a dress.  My daughter doesn’t wear dresses…or anything that might be construed as girly.  She is a jeans and t-shirt kinda gal.  If she ever feels the need to spice it up, she might go so far as to slap on a button up shirt and a pair of low top Converse sneakers.  But that’s where she draws the line.  We hit a few stores this week in search of this black band dress.  We didn’t find one, but I was rewarded for my efforts with lots of heavy sighs and eyes rolls.  Can’t wait to tell her that she won’t be able to wear her sneakers with the dress we’ve yet to find.  That ought to go over well.  The last time I got her in a pair of dress shoes was the last time she wore a dress – her brother’s wedding.  She cried over the dress, and exchanged the shoes for a pair of bright blue Crocs as soon as the ceremony was over.

…that IKEA on a Saturday is torture.  Two visits to IKEA on the same Saturday is a special kind of Hell that is beyond adequate description.

…this week’s awww moment isn’t an awww moment at all.  It’s just one of my Chihuly exhibit photos.  The reflection of the glass gives the appearance of paint bleeding through the water.  I think it’s kinda cool.

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Things I learned this week

“Knowledge is power.” – Sir Francis Bacon

…or was it Kim Kardashian who said that?

I learned this week…

…that Kristen Stewart cheated on Robert Pattinson, sending a shockwave of despair through the fanatical world of Twilight fans everywhere, shattering dreams of a sparkling vampire happily ever after.  I don’t think my faith in monogamy will ever be restored.

…that water yuppies do exist.  I know, right?  I was just as surprised as you, but my research doesn’t lie.  Until this week, it was a term that was wholly unfamiliar to me.  I stumbled across it while researching houseboats in Amsterdam – a perfect place to hide someone who doesn’t want to be found, by the way.  It’s one of those words that just struck my fancy.  I’m dying to use it in the course of a casual conversation.  I haven’t figured out how I’m going to manage that yet.  When I do, I’ll let you know how it goes.

…that pumpkin patches are rarer than diamonds.  Or, so says my daughter to her friend while enthralled in a game of online Minecraft.   This is good information.

…that an orthodontist visit + a hormonal preteen entering 7thgrade + talks of a full set of braces = E.P.I.C. meltdown.  Take heed people.

…that the Cheer Moms at my daughter’s gym may have finally sacrificed their coach to the almighty Cheer God.   Their perky ponytails, color coordinated tees, and snarky, narcissistic chatter as been oddly absent from practice in recent weeks.  Now who am I going to sit and judge while I should be writing?

…that Jen Garner has made a warm and fuzzy Disney flick.  Excuse me while I bang my head on my desk.

(Pause)

Now that I’ve given myself a headache, I think I’ll go console my broken heart with an Aliasmarathon and a bag of Oreo’s.

that Donald J. Sobol died on July 11, 2012.  I’m not really sure how I missed this, but I did.  He is most noted for penning the Encyclopedia Brown seriesof kid’s books about a boy detective in high top sneakers.  I loved those books when I was young…um…younger.  RIP Mr. Sobol.

…that this week’s awww moment is brought to you by one of the bunnies I stumbled across during a recent early morning walk in the park.  I don’t believe he’s the criminal who has destroyed my flower beds, but I took his picture anyway.  You know, just in case I need to identify him in a line up.

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Things I learned this week

“There is no monopoly on common sense, on either side of the political fence.”

– Russians.  Sting, 1985.

I learned this week…

…that the gender of certain species of tortoise is determined by incubation temperature.  Who knew?  Becomingcliche did, that’s who.  Check out her blog for some more fun facts from the reptile house.

…on this day in history, Ronald Reagan said:

“Americans are brothers not because we share the same past and the same ancestry, but because we share the same ideals and the same hopes for the future.”

I think in recent years, we have lost sight of this unifying concept of American brotherhood.  If the current political climate is any indication, I don’t think we are destined to rediscover it any time soon, either.

…that procrastination is an art form that must be nurtured and practiced if one is to become sufficiently proficient.  This weekend I was supposed to write a paper on the socialization process of Palestinian children growing up in the war-torn region of Gaza, specifically Rafah.  Instead, I decided to do a little cleaning – or clearing, if you will.  I completely cleared off my DVR.  Wasted an entire day doing it, too.

…that the film Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy is a brilliant and spellbinding Cold War era political thriller.  If you like this sort of thing, which I do, I recommend that carve out a little time to see this one.  You will not be sorry.  It is based on the 1974 novel of the same name by John le Carre.  I will admit that I have not read the novel, and I understand that doing so will give clarity to certain aspects of the movie, however, I didn’t feel that this hindered my overall understanding of the plot.  Check it out.  Or don’t.  Whatever.

Check out bookfilmblog’s review for a better understanding of the film.

…that there was an entire season (to present) of Once Upon a Time episodes piled up in my DVR queue.   I don’t like clutter, therefore, it was necessary (from a mental health standpoint) for me to rectify this situation.  I spent all of this past Sunday watching nothing but episode upon episode of this ABC show.  I initially set the timer for my daughter.  No, really.  I had no intention of giving this show that time of day.  It was about fairy tales and princesses and crap.  I don’t do princesses.  I do murder and intrigue.  My preconceived notions are rarely wrong (stop laughing), but I’ve got to say that this show sucked me in.  Sure, it has a sort of odd dual storyline that takes a bit of getting used to, but it is surprisingly well written and totally unexpected.   I love a show that leaves me gaping at the television in stunned silence.  Example:  Red Riding Hood (in the fairy tale world) is not a victim of the big bad wolf, she IS the wolf – who just ate her own lover.

Whoa.

…that one goes through stages similar to those of grief when coming to terms with failure.  I have moved into the acceptance phase.

I’ve accepted that my novel is crap.

Stay tuned for my Sunday updates (yes, I promise to be better about posting them) as I start the writing process all over again.  I think this time will be better.  It has to be better, right?  Right?  Hello?

***Warning – Pet Peeve of the Week***

…that I am a stickler for personal space.   Johnny Castle once said:

“This is my dance space. This is your dance space. I don’t go into yours, you don’t go into mine.”

That Johnny Castle was a smart guy.  Cute, too.

I digress.

I was patiently waiting for the cute little girl at Target to ring up my purchases the other day.   Beep, beep, beep.  As I waited, a woman, not much older than me, pushed her buggy into line behind me, unloaded her groceries, and then came to stand next to me.  Right next to me.  I mean, so close that our elbows brushed.  It was all I could to keep myself from having one of those impulsive ticks.  You know, the one where your fist balls up all by itself and clocks the person standing next to you.

…and finally, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by this little…um…rodent.  Hamster?  Kangaroo mouse?  I don’t really know what it is, but it sure is cute.  I also do not have the original source, and I sort of think it may have been manipulated, but I don’t care about all that nonsense.  It’s cute.  It made me smile.  That’s all that matters.