2019: Week 8 assessment

55 days into 2019 and I’m already playing fast and loose with the goals I set for myself in January. The first to bite the dust – running. Damn, I hate running. No matter how I frame it or what bullshit lie I try to feed myself, I can’t get past the fact that running just plain sucks. On a positive, my overall fitness is improving. I had my first match of the season last weekend. A three set win. So in a sense, I feel vindicated in my failure. My coach will likely take umbrage with that statement and threaten to make me run laps in retaliation.

I’ve also had a hard time balancing work, tennis, domestic obligations and writing. A strange dichotomy when you consider the fact that I have fewer commitments this year than last. I suppose it’s more a matter of priorities. A common theme in my life. Writing always gets shuffled to the bottom of the to-do pile. For the sake of my writing, it may be necessary to delegate all of the cooking and cleaning to the other able bodies living in my house. It will be a sacrifice, but one I’m willing to make. For my writing.

And if we are tallying up all things I have failed at thus far, I should be forthcoming and admit that I still haven’t pulled the trigger and joined that writing group yet, either. I’ve thought about it. I really have. Even had a couple conversations about it. Fear is at play here. Nothing more; nothing less. I’m not ready to share with strangers. I’ll get there.

So, we know what I haven’t accomplished in the first two months of 2019. Let’s talk about something I have – contact lenses.

Aging is cruel. I used to have better than 20/20 vision. Then I hit my forties and it all went to shit. Over the last few years, I’ve gone from just needing glasses to drive at night, to needing them to drive in general, to needing them to read small print, to needing them read any print at all. I’ve even had to start wearing them to play tennis.

And that, my friends, is where I drew a red line the sand. I had a long heart to heart with my eye doctor and it was decided that contacts were just the thing to solve all my problems. Monovision for everyday and recreational distance only for tennis. Of course, that’s the easy part. Learning to put those little fuckers in and take them out is a whole other ballgame.

On the day of the exam, my doctor’s nurse – (are they called nurses at the optometrist’s office??) – helped me find the right lenses then “trained” me in putting them in and taking them out on my own. I use that word loosely because it was nothing more than a meeting of the most basic criteria. Get one out and put it back in without going blind. Two minutes from beginning to end, while she stood over my shoulder.

I left their office in the monovisions – one for distance/one for reading. A little weird but nothing dramatic. I headed home feeling confident in my life choices.

Such confidence was grossly misguided.

It was a Thursday. Thursdays are a tennis day for me – a lesson followed by team drills. Playing tennis in monovision lenses is not recommended. Especially for those like me who lack grace and natural coordination. I got halfway home before it dawned on me that I would have to make the switch before I hit the court. Okay. No big deal. I’ve just been trained. Right?

Wrong.

It took twenty minutes of digging around in my left eye (I only need to change the left) with no success before I got frustrated and cut off all my beautiful salon pampered fingernails. By this time, my eye looked liked I had taken 40 grit sandpaper to it. It took me another ten minutes to finally get the damn thing out. I had started to believe that I would never get it out, and that I had made the worse mistake of my life because I was obviously not smart enough to wear contacts. After a dozen or so failed attempts and string of my favorite four letter words, I was finally able to get a contact back in my eye.

Needless to say I was late for tennis. When I finally stumbled my way onto the court, I was a right hot mess and looked like I was just coming off a four day bender. If it hadn’t been so wonderful to play unburdened by glasses, I may have returned them and filed the whole experience under “never fucking again.”

It’s been a little over a week. I can finally get them in and out with little fuss. I don’t look like I’ve been up for three days straight drinking vodka right out of the bottle anymore. That’s a step forward. I will even go out on a limb and say that I like them. They are liberating in many ways, even with the added routine.

So what have we learned 55 days into 2019?

  • Running still sucks
  • I need to hire a cook and a maid
  • Contact lenses – worth the price of admission

On graduation, moving on, and NaNoWriMo

<tap, tap, tap>

Is this thing on?  Are you still out there?

Yeah.  It’s been a while.

Okay, six months.  But really, who’s counting?

Look, I’m not going to insult your intelligence by throwing out some half-baked excuse. The truth is: I haven’t been in the mood to blog.  I offer no apology.  It is what it is.

On graduation…

So, as some of you may recall (or not…it has been a long time), I’ve been busy doing that whole college thing.  It dominated my life for a couple of years, but in May, I finished one leg of that journey.  I have to say, I was a little unimpressed with the whole graduation thing.  It was anti-climatic and…well…boring.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of my accomplishment, but there is this sort of fizzling deflation to it all.  I spent a long time entrenched in projects and presentations, lectures and exams.  I endured the humiliation of “yoga for a grade”, suffered the frustration of group work, and survived a brief foray into historical geology. All of it accomplished without breaking a bone or committing a single felony.  Of course, in the spirit of full disclosure, I did spend two months in physical therapy for a blown hip-flexor after the whole yoga fiasco.  But thus far, I have succeeded in resisting the urge to run the instructor over with my car – hence the felony-free status.

Namaste, bitches.

I suppose it’s my own fault really (the graduation thing – not the yoga thing).  In my single-minded pursuit of that little piece of paper, I allowed myself to develop unreasonable expectations for what it inferred.  I elevated its celebratory value to an unattainable height, and summarily, set myself up for devastating disappointment.

The lesson learned here:  next time I will skip the commencement and opt for something a little more exciting like watching the Bourne trilogy on Blu-ray in my pajamas and mortarboard, eating take-out, and drinking a bottle of Costco’s finest store brand Cabernet.

Moving on…

My post-graduation summer was low-key – just how I like it.  I read a few books, dabbled in a bit of writing, staked out my favorite table at the local bagel shop.  I took it easy – a well-deserved break.  By contrast, fall has been a whirlwind.  My daughter is a high school freshman in the marching band.  That’s a blog for another day, but let me just say one thing on the subject: EGADS.  Fortunately, this Saturday marks the end of competitive marching season.

It’s also the beginning of NaNoWriMo.  Participant-2014-Twitter-Profile

A coincidence?

I think not.

I have participated in two Camp NaNo events – you now the one with the adjustable word count?  But I’ve never had the time come November to commit to NaNoWriMo.

Until now.

I’m excited for the new challenge, but a little intimidated.  My writing style – the physical act of writing – is slow and tedious.  I like to ponder an idea; try it on; strut it out in front of the mirror – really get a feel for it before I buy into it.  Definitely not an efficient way to write fiction and needless to say, my current word count reflects such.  That will have to change, of course.  Otherwise, I will be doomed to failure.  I think I’m up for it, though.  I’ve started a new project, fallen down the research rabbit hole, dusted off the old Scrivener, and fleshed out a workable plot – albeit rough.

I’m ready for this.

Bring it, NaNoWriMo.

Write on.

The best-laid schemes…

I have spent the last few days ridding my house of nauseating Christmas cheer.  The holidays are all fun and games in the outset, but there comes a point where the scale is tipped, and all those decorations begin to call to mind a tinsel and glitter infused bordello – or at least, what I imagine such an establishment might resemble.  I’m not one to suffer clutter for long, so the purge was swift and exact.

Of course, now that the tree is gone, the nephews departed, and the NYE champagne hangover nursed, there is a question of what comes next.

I try to avoid New Year’s resolutions.   Rash promises made in the heat of a self-loathing pity party aren’t normally destined for fulfillment.  In my 41 years, I have only realized one true resolution – a weight loss of 50 lbs some seven years ago. I did keep it off, so maybe that should count double.  Hmm…I digress.  As I sit here on this cold January morning, sipping coffee and listening to Norah Jones shoot the moon, I have the itch to plot a path forward.

So, I asked myself this question:  What do I want to accomplish in 2014?

I had to make a list.

  • Write 2000 words per day, everyday.
  • Finish Retribution rewrite #7 (or is it #8 now?!?) by spring break.
  • Publish one kick ass blog entry per day.
  • Submit a scene per week to the writing group for feedback – or a good laugh.
  • Graduate.
  • Conquer fitness boot camp and run a 5 K.
  • Read two non-academic books per month.
  • Learn to kayak.
  • Take kick ass photographs from moving kayak without drowning.
  • Learn to speak Italian.
  • Attend the U.S. Open – it’ll be Federer’s come back season, I can feel it.
  • Complete an outline for Summer of ’87.
  • Complete a draft for Summer of ’87, and win NaNoWriMo doing it.
  • Survive the holidays without committing a felony.

Too ambitious?  Yeah.  Who am I kidding?  Federer isn’t going to stage a come back this season…or anything other season, for that matter.

As for the rest…well, as much as I’d like to say it’s doable, it’s obviously not.  I have a life – work, family, school, outside obligations, nagging phobias.  After a healthy dose of reality and little soul-searching, here is a more reasonable list:

  • Write four days per week.
  • Publish 3 blogs per week.
  • Post a daily “photo of the day” on the blog.
  • Complete a working draft of Retribution by summer.
  • Graduate.
  • Submit a scene per week to the writing group for feedback – or a good laugh.
  • Read one non-academic book per month.
  • Get within five feet of a kayak; take a kick ass photo of said kayak; post it on the blog.
  • Attend the U.S. Open; cheer for Djorkovic.
  • Consider validity of YA/coming of age concept novel Summer of ’87; participate in NaNoWriMo.
  • Survive the holidays without committing a felony.

A decent compromise, I think; and one that has potential.  It helps that for the first time since last spring, I am feeling creative and inspired – and open to interaction.  The latter is always difficult for me, especially in this particular forum.  I’m going to work on that.

Alright.  Let’s get ‘er done.

Write on.

A Year in review…and photos, too

So, here we are again.  One chapter in the book of life ending, another beginning.  I always look forward to a new year.  Part of it is the unmitigated relief of having made it through the holidays without committing a felony; but also, there’s an unspoken promise of recommencement.  The aura of renewal and the endless possibilities of what may come, beckon me like a moth to a flame.

It’s all illusion, of course.  Logic dictates that there is no real difference between the end of one year, and the beginning of the next; no earth shattering kaboom; no sparkling fairy awaiting the stroke of midnight to sprinkle a handful of pixie dust on our heads, magically erasing twelve months of poor choices and lost opportunities.  It’s just another day, like any other.

But to hope is to be human.  A new year ushers in a sense of liberation and emancipation, and gives us permission to let go of our past and embrace the future.  This is a concept I readily espouse.  Although, I find that in order to completely move forward, I must first reflect.

It was a productive year, albeit exhausting.  What did I do, you ask?  Well, I’ll tell you.

This year I:

  • continued my foray into the mysterious world of geology, tried my hand at a little field work, and discovered I should leave it to the professionals.
  • participated in April’s Camp NaNoWriMo and won, exceeding my 25K word goal by nearly 5K.  Of course, I haven’t let a single word written during that month to see the light of day.  I shuddered at the very thought.
  • embraced a dairy-free diet.  My stomach and I get along much better these days.
  • spent the long Memorial weekend with the BFF and her family, exploring South Padre Island.  There’s nothing quite so relaxing as a beautiful beach, good company, and jug of margaritas.
  • discovered – and conquered – statistics.  Did you know that sometimes in statistics, p’s and q’s wear hats?  Crazy, yet oddly adorable.
  • learned that I’m too old to frolic on New Orleans’ Bourbon Street.  It’s a task best left to the degenerate youth.  I did, however, have a wonderful time celebrating the BFF’s milestone birthday in the city she loves.
  • took a step toward tackling my fear of being eaten by a bear while camping.  No, I didn’t go camping in bear infested woods.  That’s just stupid.  I did go hiking for the first time, though.  And loved it.  Maybe next time I will forego the hotel in town and stay in a cabin by the lake.  Yeah, right.

While my writing was somewhat sporadic after Camp NaNoWriMo, I did take quite a few photos.  In the spirit of the coming year, and in an effort to toast 2013, here are a few.

Enjoy.

IMG_1936

IMG_2138 IMG_2200IMG_2578 IMG_2283 IMG_4790 IMG_4795 IMG_5060 IMG_5137 IMG_5144 IMG_5236 IMG_5319 IMG_5329 IMG_5338 IMG_5926 IMG_5939Happy New Year.

Finding rhythm

Time management and multitasking are two virtues I was not blessed to possess.  I often struggle with attaining a harmonious balance between work, family, school, writing, and all those nagging little commitments generally associated with everyday life.  To the frustration of my inner circle, I must take things as they come, one at a time – chronologically. Experience has taught me that if I don’t adhere to this rule of thumb, I will devolve into:  a)  anger-laced irrationality; or b) total despondency – or what I like to call, the “fuck it” syndrome. Couple the latter with my inclination toward introversion and it is safe to say some things aren’t afforded the attention they deserve, or would otherwise receive under less stressful circumstances.

My focus the last six months has been school.  I’m almost finished and what I thought would be an easy semester, turned into an avalanche of homework that took more time than anticipated, and certainly more than appreciated.  Add to the mix, my daughter’s fall band and robotics schedule, and well – something had to give.   That something – this blog.  And my novel. Both became victims of the aforementioned “F.I.” syndrome.

Now in the aftermath of the semester that seemed to never end, I find myself with a bit of free time on my hands.  That’s not to say there aren’t new commitments and challenges eager to step in to fill the void left by my schoolwork.  There are cookies to be baked, cards to be addressed, gifts to be bought, malls to be conquered, and good cheer to be spread.

Blah, blah, blah.

I have to be honest here.  I’m not a big fan of Christmas.  The season’s inflated commerciality and disingenuous propaganda give me heartburn, and I resent the additional obligations and expectations to varying degrees.   After several hectic months, the last thing I want to do is be bogged down by holiday sludge.   What I want to do is get back into the rhythm of writing.  Whether it’s this blog, or my WIP, or something new – it doesn’t matter.  I just want to sit in front of my computer and get lost in the glow of the written word.

My words.

So, I am faced with a bit of a dilemma.  Bake cookies and address stacks of Christmas cards or write?  Do what’s expected or what I want?

I say fuck it.

Today, I write.

Nobody reads Christmas cards anyway.  As for all those cookies I don’t plan to bake now – I’m sure my friends and family will understand.  And if they don’t – I have a long memory and will adjust my cookie recipient list accordingly.  

Write on.

Ten things I learned last week

“To be or not to be is not a question of compromise. Either you be or you don’t be.”
― Golda Meir

1.         I learned it takes three full days to recover from falling off the no-dairy wagon.  Per doctor’s orders, I have been dairy-free for seven months.  At first it seemed an impossible lifestyle change, but it’s really not so bad.  Though, I will admit pizza with cheese is so much better than pizza without.  Anyway, it was all going so smoothly.  I had adapted well, and for the most part, have had very little in the way of dairy cravings.  That is until I stepped foot in an ice cream shop with no non-dairy choices.  Then, in the blink of an eye, seven months of dairy sobriety came to a gut wrenching end.  In all honesty, I really didn’t think it would make much difference.  I mean, how much damage could one scoop of chunky chocolate peanut butter ice cream do?

A lot.

Lesson learned.

2.         I learned that my morning bagel obsession might be even more hazardous to my health than the dairy.  No, not because those chewy rounds of mouth-watering goodness are packed with carbs and calories, but because I’m wholly incapable of handling a serrated knife without jeopardizing a finger or two.   Last week I required a trip to my local urgent care clinic after my attempt to slice open a bagel for toasting turned bloody.  Let’s just say my thumb didn’t appreciate the near filleting.

3.         I learned that just off the Alabama coast, beneath the sparkling waters of the Gulf of Mexico, is a prehistoric forest dating to the Pleistocene.

How cool is that?

A very small part of me wishes I could scuba dive.  Of course, the rest of me – the part grounded in reality – knows and understand it will be a cold day in hell before that would ever happen.

4.         I learned that I don’t understand people who make a big show of announcing their impending departure from social media then never seem to go anywhere.  What’s that about?

5.         I learned that – speaking of social media – I really hate memes.  And cliché status updates.  And grumpy, negative people who complain all the time.

What are you looking at?

6.         I learned that I have a sudden itch to write a Snowden-esque character into my WIP.  I just can’t help myself.  These stories draw me like a moth to a flame.

And on a side note:  I learned that people are shocked to find out our government is spying on us.

To this I say:  duh.

I’m flabbergasted by such naivety.  I’ve been expecting the dudes in black to show up at my door for years to investigate the content of my Google searches.

7.         I learned that catching up on the backlog of blog posts in my WordPress reader is exhausting.  I love you all.  I love reading what you have to say, and viewing your beautiful photographs, but seriously, you people need to let me catch my breath.  It’s summer.  Take a break.  Go to the pool.  Drink a fruity drink.   Give me a week.  One week.   Then we can get back to business.

What do you mean it’s not all about me?

Source:  www.guardian.co.uk/BBC/Artists Studio/Steffan Hill

8.         I learned that Gillian Anderson is starring in a television show for the BBC called The Fall.  It might come as a surprise to some, but back in the day I was a huge fan of the X-Files.  Anderson’s Scully has always been one of my favorite television characters, second only to Jen Garner’s Sydney Bristow. 

I stumbled upon The Fall quite by accident while looking for something else on Netflix.  My interest was piqued when I saw Anderson’s name listed in the cast, and I couldn’t help but add it to my queue.  I spent Saturday night glued to the scant 5 episodes in the series.  The Fall is about a female cop brought in to hunt down a serial killer.  Sounds mundane and ordinary, doesn’t it?  It’s anything but.  It is dark and brutal and raw.  The acting is fabulous, the writing superb, and the pacing will leave you tingling with anticipation.  I loved every minute of it. 

Check out this review:  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/tv-and-radio-reviews/10111545/The-Fall-BBC-Two-review.html

9.         I learned that a man in Brazil was killed when a cow fell through the roof of his house.  I’m perplexed by the logistics of such a thing.  Is it me or does this stink of a conspiracy involving the Chick-fil-a cow?

Check it out for yourself:  http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/07/15/19479766-reports-cow-crashes-through-roof-kills-sleeping-brazilian?lite

10.       I learned that the Twinkie is back.  I never understood the American fascination with this particular snack.  The yellow cake tastes like cardboard, the filling leaves an oily aftertaste, and the ingredient list requires a chemistry degree to understand.  I could go into a rant about the state of obesity in our country and the role processed junk food plays, but somehow I don’t think anyone is listening.

11.  This week’s awww moment is brought to you by a little garden spider who took up residence on my patio for a day or a two.

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Summer reading

I usually spend the first few weeks of summer wrapped in the warm familiarity of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.  It’s an annual tradition born out of my desire to escape the drudgery of months entrenched in academic reading, and in an effort to recharge my wilted brain with something frivolous.  What could be more frivolous than hanging out poolside, the scent of chlorinated water and sunscreen wafting through the air, a margarita in one hand and a tattered copy of Pride & Prejudice in the other?

Not much, right? 

The prospect of frolicking through Georgian England with the Bennett clan should make me feel all warm and gooey inside.  Yet, this year, it doesn’t appeal to me at all.  It seems my rebellious self is protesting our journey down that well-worn literary path and is intent on lobbying for something new.  I suppose it’s to be expected.  Eventually, even the staunchest chocolate lovers crave a little lemon meringue. 

Of course, this leads to a troubling dilemma: 

What am I going to read poolside this summer?

I toiled with the answer to this question for quite some time.  My reading list usually consists of a gentle mix of historical non-fiction, contemporary (and/or Cold War era) spy novels, and familiar classics.  Occasionally, I will throw in a current commercial bestseller or a traditional whodunit to keep things interesting.   

Of late, I have spent a great deal of time enveloped within worlds created by a few of my favorite authors:  Daniel Silva, John le Carre, and Agatha Christie.  And to be completely honest, I’m a little burned out.  Sure, Silva has a new Allon novel dropping next week, and I pre-ordered a signed copy months ago, but I doubt I will dive into this latest installment anytime soon.

After barely surviving Dan Brown’s Inferno, and given my disinterest in Pride & Prejudice, I was beginning to fear that summer would come and go, leaving me wanting.  Then on a recent lazy Saturday, the answer to my reading dilemma came to me in a burst of unfettered brilliance.  It was one of those scorching days, too hot to venture outdoors before sunset.  My daughter and I were doing what we usually do to beat the heat – watching a Netflix marathon, camped out on the couch, noshing junk food.  

Our poison of choice – Sherlock Holmes. 

We started with the BBC’s Sherlock, meandered through CBS’s alternative take, and ended with Guy Ritchie’s quirky blockbusters.  As I watched, I was struck by the complexity of these two characters (Holmes and Watson) portrayed in vastly different settings and time periods, yet seemingly interchangeable.  I wondered what Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would have thought of our modern take on his iconic hero and sidekick; how would they stack up to their literary counterparts;  would I even like Conan Doyle’s Holmes and Watson after growing accustomed to the contemporary screen – big and small – versions?

I decided to find out.

Summer reading dilemma solved.

“Excellent!”…

“Elementary.”

Embarrassment of Riches TBR: June Check-In

At the beginning of the year, I decided to participate in the Embarrassment of Riches reading challenge hosted by author Patricia Burroughs.   The goal of the challenge is to make a dent in that stack of books I have intended to read, but never got around to picking up.

Given the size of the pile I have amassed, I aim to get through 24 of them before the end of the year – a silver level accomplishment.

So what have I read this month?

The Unlikely Spy – Daniel Silva:  As I said in last month’s TBR blog entry, this is Silva’s first novel and a bit of a departure from his later work.  Set during WWII and based loosely on actual events, Unlikely chronicles a German spy’s mission to obtain intelligence regarding the anticipated Allied invasion of France (D-Day), and British efforts to thwart such an effort by leaking false information through a network of double agents.  It’s a complex story with a great many players told from numerous perspectives.  So many, in fact, it becomes very difficult to differentiate between the characters and their motivations.  The female antagonist – aka the German spy – was the most interesting character in the entire novel.  She was strong, resilient, and sympathetic.  Her motivations were clear, and even though she did kill a few innocent Brits when her back was to the wall, I found myself rooting for her success.  Then Silva killed her.  In the most blasé fashion, as if it were an afterthought, he eliminated her and moved on without a backward glance.  The story went to shit for me after that, and was topped off by an ending that was a real blow to my intelligence as a reader.  I hate that.

Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie:  I have read my fair share of Agatha Christie over the years.  My favorite, and one of my top five favorite books of all time, is Murder in Mesopotamia.  So, it’s a little shocking that Murder on the Orient Express, arguably Christie’s most notable effort, remained steadfast on my TBR list.  Until now.  As always, the queen of murder weaves a riveting story complete with an impossible crime, an eclectic cast of characters (though they have more in common than one might think), and an improbable conclusion.  And she makes it work.  Brilliantly.

Inferno – Dan BrownInferno is by far the worst book I’ve read since…well…the Lost Symbol.   It started out promising.  I like a novel that drops the reader right into the action and Brown certainly accomplished that, but once you get past the initial  flash and bang, the story becomes heavy on tell and light show.  I know what you’re thinking:  It’s a Dan Brown novel – telling is part of the equation.  I get that, but in this case it’s boring, poorly written, and redundant.  How many times does Brown recount – frame by frame, word for word – the contents of the mysterious video sent by the bad guy to the unknowing accomplice?  Four.  It’s almost as if he has no faith in the reader’s intelligence.  That pisses me off.  Do you know what else pisses me off?  Making the reader (me) believe one thing then revealing it was all an orchestrated illusion thereby voiding the entire beginning of the story – the only interesting part of the entire book.

On a side note:  Dan Brown could do with a stint in adverb rehab; and it should be a crime to use the word ubiquitous and the phrase “sea of humanity” more than once per novel.

Just a thought.

Another note:  Inferno is a new publication and doesn’t count toward my goal in this challenge.  Bummer.  Such suckage should count for something.

Progress toward goal:  11 of 24. 

What’s next?

A Study in Scarlet – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

What’s on your TBR list?

Things I learned…recently

It’s been a while since I have taken the time to sit down and write one of these blog posts.  It’s not that I haven’t learned anything, it’s just that I have a case of the lazies.

It happens.

So, what have I learned?

I learned…

…that field geology is not my thing.

This past semester I took a historical geology class to fulfill a science requirement.  It was an interesting class, challenging and time-consuming.  I learned a lot and that’s always a good thing.  The course was geared toward geology majors, and I was a little apprehensive about that at first, but my fear proved unfounded.

I rocked that class.

<see what I did there>

However, one of the things my professor required for course completion was a bit of field work.  He believes that he cannot allow his students to walk away from historical geology without at least one day in the field – mud covered rock hammer in one hand, chunk of fossil-filled platy limestone in the other.

Okay.  No big deal.  I can do that.  Dig around in the dirt for an afternoon, maybe find a fossil or two, identify an unconformity or a fault, take a strike-dip measurement.  Not my favorite things, but whatever.

I did a little research on the site where we were to do our field work.  It’s a place on the North Sulphur River known to contain Cretaceous period fossils.  According to a few maps, the site boasts a park of sorts with an outbuilding and concrete stairs leading down the steep river embankment.  Okay, no big deal.  I can do that.

The day of the excursion was rainy, a chance of severe weather loomed, but we went anyway.  We are geologist, a little thing like a tornado watch isn’t going to scare us – or so our professor told us.  The site was in the backwoods of nowhere, down an overgrown two lane farm to market road – and not where we thought it was.  There was no outbuilding, and there were no stairs, but there was a trail – or so our professor told us.

Now, I have to tell you, my professor is an older man – late sixties, almost seventy, but he is the most energetic person I’ve ever met.  If Indiana Jones were a geologist, he would be my professor.  He is also a dirty rotten liar.  There was no trail, only a runoff path that spilled down a sixty degree drop through overgrown brush and misshapen trees into the river bed thirty feet below.

Sixty degree drop; thirty feet below. 

Oh.  Did I mention it was raining?  Yeah, so the ground had turned to slick as snot clay mud.   You know that stuff, right?  It might as well have been a sheet of ice.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I am not an outdoorsy person, and the whole scenario was so far out of my comfort zone, I felt like I might drown in my own anxiety.  That nagging voice of reason in my head was doing his best Lost in Space impression, “Danger, Will Robinson.  Danger.”  But I ignored him.  After all, I have expanded my horizons in recent years, ventured into uncharted territory, overcome a few of my more benign phobias.  I could do it.  

Right?

Right.  So, I took a deep breath, sat down on my butt and did the crab crawl –  inch by inch, down into that fucking river bed.   I spent two hours trudging through mud so thick it stuck the bottom of my shoes (I grew two inches) and caked the hem of my jeans.   I foraged for fossils, took a strike-dip measurement, almost dropped my compass into a mud puddle, and suffered the indignity of a really bad hair day.

Then I clawed my way back out, up thirty feet (at a staggering sixty degree incline) inch by fucking agonizing inch.

Success!

And it only took three weeks for all the cuts and bruises to heal.  Bonus.

The experience ranks right up there with whale watching from an inflatable raft in the middle of the churning Pacific.  I’m proud of myself for doing it, but I will never, ever do it again.  Ever.

…that one of my new favorite things to do is sit in a bookstore coffee shop with my daughter sipping a cold frappy, nibbling a calorie heavy treat, and reading a good book.

…that sometimes blog spam is amusing.  I normally don’t pay much attention to it – just hit the delete button and move on.  But today I found this attached to one of my reading challenge entries:

Thats just because youre still mad at him for winning the starting RF job over your man-crush last April.

It’s like I’m in a fight with someone and I didn’t even know it.  Such drama.

…that the 10 hour drive to South Padre Island is so much more fun than the 11 hour drive home.

…that we have entered that point in tennis season where I am again forced to question my long-standing Federer allegiance.  I can forgive a loss at the Australian Open to Murray, but a loss on clay to Tsonga in the quarterfinals?  I’m at the breaking point…seriously.  If Federer doesn’t step up on the grass in London, I’m out.  I mean it.  For real this time.

that there is a Great White shark lurking just off the coast of Cape Cod.    Note to self:  no beach excursions during future trips north to visit my Boston peeps.

…that there is an Atlantic Green sea turtle named Allison at Sea Turtle, Inc. on South Padre Island with a prosthetic flipper (think boat rudder, only for a turtle) to help her swim.  Go read about her – and all of the good work this amazing organization does – (here).

…that I will take a Stats class over Art Appreciation any day of the week.   I had two objectives going into this summer – knock out a couple of required courses I have put off because I know they will suck and get a tan.  Well, it’s only a few weeks in and I’ve already failed.  No, my tan looks great, but I seem to have hit a hurdle with that other thing.  It turns out I’d rather jab a stick into my eye than sit through 10 weeks of art appreciation, and its endless string of mindless “art” projects and presentations.  I couldn’t drop it fast enough.  Of course, now I have to take an extra class in the fall to make up for it, but I think art history will suit me much better.  I sure hope so.  On a side note, Stats is going to work out just fine.  Who’d have thought?

…and last but not least, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by my sweet daughter and her band awards.  I’m not proud or anything…

Blog? What blog?

Oh!  This blog.

Worry not, my faithful followers.  I haven’t been eaten by a bear or abducted by aliens or fallen down a deep bug infested hole in the middle of a secluded rain forest.

<shudder>

I’ve been busy.  You know, doing stuff.

What stuff?

I’m glad you asked.

The month of May marks the end of my semester and usually goes one of two ways:  1) I am overcome with creativity and spend endless hours either at the keyboard writing like a madwoman or viewing the world through a camera lens snapping photographs of every unfortunate bug and blossom to cross my path; or 2) I am overwhelmed by life, say screw it all, and overdose on trash television.

Sadly, it’s been the latter kind of month, and consequently, my brain is in full-on decomp after watching an endless stream of Ancient Aliens, Married to Medicine (an all-time low for me), and the Real Housewives of Orange County.

I blame science.  Specifically, historical geology.

I spent four months immersed in millions/billions of years of earth history- from its origins to the revelation of geologic time to the theories of evolution and plate tectonics.  I studied orogenies (the process of mountain building – get your mind out of the gutter), sedimentary deposition environments, bio – and litho – facies, faulting and folding, and learned to age date and correlate rock formations.  I can identify a whole slew of fossils based on a laundry list of characteristics.  If you ask nicely, I can even give you their kingdom, genus, species and period of existence.

While this is all fascinating stuff, it is not conducive to cultivating creativity – neither is “reality” television.   I spent the first 2/3 of May stuck in “left-brain” mode.  I couldn’t see the beauty of a rolling field of wildflowers.  I only saw an eroded anticline left over from a Mississippian period thrust event. I wondered if it was faulted; if the adjoining basin was filled with terrestrial material; if there was evidence of a transgressive or regressive marine environment; what fossils might be present.

Disturbing, I know.

To combat this troubling trend, I tried to drown my inner geologist with anything and everything offered up by the Bravo network.  It worked for a while.  Of course, there comes a point when one realizes that consuming junk might be satisfying in the interim, but it lacks sustainability and, in the long-term,  is detrimental – sorta like Oreos.

So, what does one do when faced with a situation such as this?

Go to the nearest art museum; attend a historical lecture; read some frivolous fiction; take a trip to the beach.

Kick that “right-brain” bitch out of bed and tell her to get her shit together.

I did.  I feel much better now.

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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Valentine’s Day: A lesson learned

I have never been one to put too much stock in Valentine’s Day – even when I was young and possessed a more romantic sensibility.  As an uncompromising cynic, I find the commerciality of it all ridiculous, and can’t help but feel a pang of sympathy for the men in our society who must live up to expectations they are structurally incapable of fulfilling.  It is as unfair a system as any I have ever seen.

To add to my derisiveness, my father passed away on Valentine’s Day, six years ago.  Any tolerance I may have had for the frivolity of the so-called holiday quickly evaporated and was replaced with the heaviness of grief.  It is no longer a day of light-hearted romantic celebration, but rather a day of quiet remembrance and reflection.

Still, I’m not completely heartless.  I usually pick up a few little trinkets, a box of chocolates, and an obligatory card or two.  This year, Valentine’s Day was a busy one.  An early morning vet appointment, last-minute cramming for a test, the test, a three-hour lab session, and finally, gymnastics practice.  I forgot all about buying gifts for the family until I overheard two classmates discussing their evening plans.

No worries.  On my way home, I stopped at a local grocery store – the one who likes to think of themselves as the neighborhood florist.  Of course, I was not alone in my procrastination, and the place was a sea of people – mostly men trying to live up to their love’s expectations.  I must say it is a funny thing to watch grown men pick through buckets of roses trying to find the nicest, yet cheapest flowers for the one’s they love.  I overheard one guy bragging to his buddy that he scored a bunch of lilies for nine bucks.  I wanted to tell him they were not appropriate – unless, of course, he was going to a funeral.  I refrained.  Some lessons are best learned firsthand.

I was quite pleased with my own purchases, especially given the late hour.  My daughter is one of simple tastes.  She prefers chocolates above all else and really likes it when I buy her a candy bar bouquet.  My mother likes Ghirardelli chocolates – done.  My husband likes chocolate covered cherries, and I almost bought him two boxes.  Then I spied a heart-shaped box of Italian truffles.  I chose those instead.  I thought he would appreciate the change.

He did not.

It seems Italian truffles are full of two things he hates most in life – almonds and hazelnuts.

IMG_1305He was even kind enough to circle them on the ingredients panel so that I could see my mistake firsthand.

Lesson learned.

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

I learned this week:

…that Historical Geology is not going to be a cake walk.

From the course material:

“The study of sedimentary rocks can involve many scientific disciplines.  Considerable knowledge of mathematics, biology, and physics is required to fully understand the mechanics and processes associated with weathering, transportation, lithification, the preservation of life forms, and the postdepositional alteration and changes that may occur.”

My horror at seeing the words “mathematics, biology, physics, and required” strung together in a cohesive sentence was only compounded by my professor’s declaration that Historical Geology is not for the “faint of heart.”  And, just when I thought for sure it couldn’t get any worse, I spied logarithms in lab assignment number two.

Excuse me while I vomit.

It seems college algebra has risen from its darkened mire to torment me once again.

Of course, maybe it won’t be so bad.  The first thing I thought after I typed the word “mire”:  low energy environment; muddy sediment with fine clay particles; decaying animal and plant matter; peat; bituminous coal.

…that I have been paying out-of-state tuition for the last several semesters even though I live in the state, and haven’t moved since my house burned down in 2006 – which was prior to my enrollment.   It took two full hours to convince them I haven’t been commuting in from some faraway place every semester – you know, to take advantage of their renowned education opportunities.

I’m not sure this is the spirit of efficiency Max Weber had in mind when he penned the six characteristics of bureaucracies.

…that Roger Federer has made it into the semi-finals of the Australian Open.  This is usually the point where he lets me down and has his ass handed to him by Rafe Nadal.  But maybe there is a ray of hope this year.  Federer’s chief rival is out with a knee injury.  Could this ensure victory for my favorite aging Swiss tennis pro?

I think.  Maybe.  Yes.

Wait?  What’s that?

Novak Djokovic defeated David Ferrer today to move into the finals at the Open?

Damn it.

Update:  Federer lost his semi-finals round to Andy Murray. 

<facepalm> 

Update 2:  Djokovic defeated Murray for the title.  I’m okay with that. 

…that Beyonce Knowles – aka Mrs. Jay Z – likely lip-synced the national anthem during President Barak Obama’s inauguration.  Big freaking whoop.  I don’t mean to beat a dead horse here, but do I need to remind the media that there are more important things happening in the country and around the world?  Don’t make me list them again.  I’ll do it, you know.

…that I have been nominated for a couple more blogging awards.  I am getting behind in my acknowledgements.  Let’s see if I can fix that.

From jazzytower over at thoughtsandentanglements, I received a nomination for the Beautiful Blogger Award.

versatile-blogger-300x300From Kevin at nittygrittydirtman, I received a nomination for the Liebster Award.

From Kitty over at kittyb78, I received a nomination for the Versatile Blogger Award and the Very Inspiring Blogger Award.

If you guys keep this up, I’m going to get a very big ego and begin to channel my inner Sally Field again.  You know how messy that got last time.

(please, don’t stop)

Thanks to Jazzy, Kevin, and Kitty.  Go check out their blogs.  I’m sure you will enjoy them as much as I do.

Okay, as always these things come with rules and regulations.  I’m going to try to combine them to save space and time.  First, here are some interesting – or not – facts about me:

  1. I am a hardcore grudge holder.  I’m still mad at the snot-nosed brat who broke the personalized license plate my dad gave me for my bike when I was ten.  Her name is Melissa, and she is the devil.
  2. Last summer, I taught myself how to swim.  I’m not going to be competing in the next Olympics, but I can get myself from one end of the pool to the other without drowning.
  3. I still prefer traditional print material to digital, though not because I think physical books are somehow superior.  I just can’t seem to remember to charge my eReader.
  4. As an introvert, I find a lot of social interaction exhausting and awkward.   I’m learning to adapt, though there are times when I wish I had a t-shirt that read:  “Do this introvert a favor and shut the hell up.”  Too much?  I’ll have to work on that.
  5. I am addicted to the History Channel – H2, not the one that plays hours of Pawn Stars and Top Gear, the other one that plays marathons of Ancient Aliens.  A girl has to have standards, right?
  6. When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a Marine Biologist – until my dad told me I would have to board a boat, sail out onto the ocean, and dive into the water.  You know, with all those scary things that live underwater.  Yikes.
  7. I love picture frames.  The only issue – I tend to forget to have photos printed to put in them.  So, all around my house you will find frames displaying generic photos of people I don’t know.  I’m looking at one right now on a shelf in my office.  I should fix that.
  8. I like to cook, but I hate cooking dinner.

Okay.  That’s all I’ve got.  I’m not all that interesting.

Now some questions from Kevin:

  1. What is your favorite time of day and why?  My favorite time of day is first thing in the morning, just as the sun in coming up over the horizon.  I love the stillness that comes with dawn.  For me, there is nothing more peaceful. 
  2. How and when did you first discover your passion, whatever that passion is?  I first discovered my love for writing in the third grade when I penned a short story based on the Aesop’s Fairytale the Tortoise and the Hare.  I wrote it as a class assignment, and it wasn’t received well, but the process really did foment my passion for the written word.
  3. Hopefully, you’re familiar with The Breakfast Club for this question.  When you were in high school, in which social group did you best fit?  I suppose I was a social misfit, though likely not in the true sense portrayed in the movie.  I was always introverted, unpopular, and walked to the beat of my own drum. 
  4. Where do you write your posts and why did you choose that place?  I write anywhere I can find a quiet corner: at school in the common areas between classes, gymnastics practice, the bagel shop, the coffee shop, the library, the carpool lane.  Just about anywhere and everywhere.
  5. What always makes you laugh and why?  This is going to sound cliché, but my daughter makes me laugh.  She is probably the funniest person I know.  Sarcastic, witty, insightful, cynical, silly – she’s the whole package.  I look at her sometimes and wonder how I got so lucky.
  6. If you could appear on a televised talent show, what would your talent be?  Oh, geez.  I can wiggle my ears.  What kind of show do you go on to highlight that talent? 
  7. Which flower reminds you of happiness?  Big fat yellow sunflowers, bluebonnets, and poppies.
  8. What is your favorite book and why?  Pride & Prejudice.  What’s not to love? 
  9. It is important to eat your vegetables, but which vegetable to you always resist/avoid eating?  I honestly cannot think of a veggie I will not eat.  Fruit on the other hand – I hate apricots and mangos.
  10. What’s your favorite thing to do on a rainy day? I love to curl up in my favorite chair, with a cup of tea, and read something frivolous.
  11. Who is one celebrity, past or present, you would like to meet – what would you ask that person?  Jennifer Garner.   I’d love to ask her why she keeps making all of those pathetic Rom-Coms.  Put us all out of our misery and bring back Sydney Bristow. 

Passing these along is tough.  Not because I don’t know anyone deserving, but because I know a lot of people who are.  I’m going to stew on this for a while.

…this week’s awww moment of the week is brought to you by a girl and her dog.

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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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Water droplets

I’ve been busy.  This semester is shaping up to be brutal.  I blame the science. 

Today, I spent a great deal of time trying to differentiate between unconformity, disconformity, angular unconformity, and nonconformity as they pertain to the calculation of geologic time.

I know, right.

I suffered a complete brain short.

So, I went outside.

Do you know what I found?

Water droplets. 

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Enjoy. 

I did.