Photo of the day

This photo is one out of the archives.  Taken in D.C. during a summer trip, I was always drawn to it, but a little disappointed in the quality.

So, I futzed around with it.

I’m not sure it is any better, but I still like it.

IMG_3285

Lions, tigers, and bears…

Okay, maybe not.

But I did run into a spotted leopard, a funny looking bear, and a cheeky koi while on vacation recently.

IMG_1934

IMG_1994

IMG_2075

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.

IMG_7885

Independence Day

As I said in yesterday’s blog post, I recently had the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. with my family.  It was an amazing trip that left me filled with a sense of patriotism and pride.  I thought today, our nation’s celebrated day of independence, was a fitting time to post of few of my photographs.

Friendship Arch, ChinatownIMG_3254

A view of the Capitol taken as I crossed the streetIMG_3285

The Washington MonumentIMG_3398

The World War II MemorialIMG_3465

A funny fish water feature at the base of a statue.IMG_3575

The Jefferson Memorial IMG_3647

A woman working in the lab at the Smithsonian’s Natural History MuseumIMG_3794

The Capital dome.IMG_4024

The front steps of the Capitol.IMG_4179

The Capitol dome and the Stars and StripesIMG_4226

The Lincoln MemorialIMG_4363

Big crowdsIMG_4415

Lincoln’s statue.IMG_4450

Arlington National CemeteryIMG_4619

The changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  This picture is flawed but I was struck by the expression on this young Marine’s face.IMG_4626

Changing of the guard.IMG_4638

The Eternal Flame.IMG_4608

Things I learned on vacation…

…and beyond.

You might have noticed that, with the exception of a few photographs, I’ve been largely absent from the blog in recent weeks.

Or then again, maybe you haven’t. 

That’s okay.  Sometimes, I don’t even notice when I’m missing. 

June turned out to be busier than I anticipated.  I had an impromptu week-long visit from two of my nephews, participated in Camp NaNoWriMo, turned forty, traveled to our nation’s capital on vacation with the family, and had an unexpected sharp increase in caseload at the office.  This inability to adequately judge my level of anticipated activity seems to be a recurring theme in my life.  You would think by now I’d have worked out the kinks.

As you can imagine, all of this activity came with a laundry list of new things learned.  Over the last month, I learned…

…that no matter how you try to spin it, turning forty sucks.  And, please, spare me the “forty is the new thirty” bullshit.  Turning thirty sent me into a depression so deep it took four years to recover.

…that my nephews think that I may not be completely human.  Here’s how that conversation went:

Nephew #1:  Aunt Peggy, don’t you ever get tired of typing (I was working on my NaNoWriMo word count).

Me:   No.

Nephew #2 (in a hushed voice):   Aunt Peggy is a cyborg.

This revelation was followed by a fit of giggles.   Of course, in response, I gave them my best stink eye.  I have a reputation to uphold, after all.  This earned me a fresh round of giggles.  It seems my stink eye needs an upgrade.  I’ll have to work on that.

…that as humans, we have been conditioned to stand in line, to patiently wait our turn. It is ingrained in our psyche even as we whine and cry and complain about it.  If you have ever had the opportunity to visit Washington, D.C. or any tourist hot spot, for that matter, you know that a great deal of time is spent standing in line.  There are lines for transportation, lines for security, lines for admittance, lines for viewing.  It is the way the world works, and something that we’ve come to accept as the natural order of our day-to-day lives.  It brings us comfort, gives us a sense of organization, and takes the thought process out of our hands.

At the National Archives, they like to mix it up a bit.    Sure, they shuffle you in like herds of cattle.  Force you through a line for the metal detector, another to search your bag, then corral you into a long snake-like line at the base of the steps into “the vault.”   However, once you cross the threshold into the room that holds our nation’s most revered documents, the rules of the game suddenly shift.   You will be instructed to go against your intrinsic nature.  Lines are not permitted.  You must move freely about the room and view the displays at your leisure.  Such a radical departure from the norm will cause you to cast a panicked look at the person standing behind you.  They will appear as shell-shocked as you feel.  No lines?  Crazy talk.  That’s simply not the way these things are supposed to work.  Of course, in reality such instructions are futile.  Humans behave invariably in the manner in which they are most accustom.  On my visit to the National Archives, that’s exactly what the masses did – they filed into the room, walked directly to the exhibit at the far left, and worked steadily to the right, in a nice neat single file line.  Myself included.

No line?

That’s the most barbaric thing I’ve ever heard.

…that in large metropolitan areas where public transportation is consistently utilized, there are rules of etiquette that must be followed when riding the escalators that lead to and from the underground metro system.  Stand to the right, or get your ass run over.  Lesson learned.

…that my family doesn’t understand or share my love for history.  This week I learned that some of the Dead Sea scroll fragments, along with other artifacts from the time period, are on exhibit just up the road in Ft. Worth.   So thrilling!  After a little digging, I discovered that in addition to the exhibit, there will be a series of lectures offered on varying subjects related to the scrolls and their impact on the history of Judaism and beyond.   I enthusiastically shared this news with my husband, my mother, my best friend, and my daughter.  All of them metaphorically patted me on the head and said “you have fun with that.”  I guess that means I shouldn’t buy them a ticket.

…that taking 5 days off in the middle of Camp NaNoWriMo is detrimental to the success of the project.  I did manage to rack up 30,000 words in the first 20 days.  That’s pretty darn good for me so I’m going to take a page out of the Book of Sheen and declare myself a winner.

…that the path that hugs the Tidal Basin and offers up a view of the Jefferson Memorial across the water, looks better in my head than it does in person. I will now have to adapt a scene I’ve already written to accommodate the lack of suitable spots for a clandestine meeting.  Bummer.

…that my daughter thinks my detailed character profiles complete with photographs are “cute.”   I’m not really sure, but I think she is mocking me.

…that last, but not least, this week’s (month’s) awww moment is brought to you by a duck I encountered while visiting the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C.  I had the distinct impression that he was a waterfowl on a mission.  His waddle was very determined.

IMG_3693

Things I learned this week…and last week…

…that the need for a vacation from the vacation is a sign that said vacation was a smashing success.   I just wish the vacation recovery stage came with a pitcher of margaritas and a laundry fairy.

…that I much prefer the beginning of daylight savings time to the end.   You might think that this is just another one of my many irrationalities, but my reasoning, for once, is actually quite sound.  I have an internal clock.   I’m sure you have one, too.  I call mine the Beast.  He’s a snarky little bastard who lacks the ability to adequately adapt to changes in time.  While everyone else is hailing the extra hour of sleep they get in the fall, I am wide awake, staring at the bedside clock, cursing the Beast – and my husband who is happily snoring his way through dreamland oblivious to my plight.  In the spring, when the clocks leap forward an hour, the Beast and I again find a sort of harmony.  He lets me sleep until 4 a.m. and I stop trying to goad my phobia troll into pushing him down the stairs.

…that People Magazine, MSNBC, and Entertainment Weekly all tell me that the film remake/reboot – whatever – of the late 80s television show 21 Jumpstreet doesn’t suck.  Bite me.   What happened in the 80s should stay in the 80s.  Hollywood needs to stop re-imagining the films and television shows that shaped my adolescence.

…that Sea World San Antonio will require all potential patrons to navigate three distinct lines before they are deemed worthy of entrance to the park.  This sort of reminds me of the three challenges Indiana Jones faced in Petra during his quest for the Holy Grail.

…that there is nothing more relaxing than sitting on a bench, beneath a towering old live oak, and watching squirrels frolic through its branches.

IMG_1172

…that the animals are coming out to play again.  And by play I mean take over the world and relegate the surviving population to a small cornfield in Iowa – a fate worse than death, I assure you.  In the last two weeks, there have been four shark attacks along Florida’s Atlantic coast.   Luckily, all of the victims survived; however, when considering the close proximity of the attacks, one can’t help but wonder if this is part of a larger recon mission aimed at testing our east coast defenses.

…that sharks aren’t the only animals taking a bite out of the human race this week.  In Orlando, a woman out walking her dog this morning, was bitten on the rump by a bear.  Yes.  Bitten on her butt.  By a bear.  Clearly, Florida is a hotbed of animal revolutionary activity.  I am making a mental note to avoid the state for the foreseeable future.  You can read more of her story [here].

…that you know its time for a complete scene rewrite when your writing group asks if your featured character is a transvestite (he is not) and then proceeds to giggle themselves senseless at a string of sexual innuendos you failed to notice during the writing process.  I love my writing group.  They are the best friend who tells you all those things you don’t  really want to hear, but for your own good, must:  “Yes, your ass looks fat in those skinny jeans.”

…last but not least, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by this little guy who was a great source of entertainment for me while I sat in a San Antonio park this past weekend, enjoying the beauty of life.

IMG_1241

A Year in Review

cabo

Poof!  Another year gone, just like that – in a flash – never to be heard from again.  It seems the closer I get to 40, the faster this ride goes.  I don’t really like fast rides, they make me nauseous.  It’s why I’ve lived in the Dallas area for some 12 years and have never stepped foot on the grounds of Six Flags Over Texas.

But that is a blog for another day, isn’t it?  Perhaps I will try to conquer my fear of amusement park rides by making a trip over to Arlington in 2012.

Yeah, right.

Anyway, with 2011 coming to a close, and a new year looming on the horizon, I thought it would be fun to take a look back and reflect upon what I’ve learned this year.

This year I learned…

…that Cabo San Lucas, Mexico is beautiful and romantic.  The ideal place to celebrate 15 amazing years of marriage, with the love of my life.  The “two shots of tequila + 5 beers for $5.00” specials made it all the better.  At least, I think so…I don’t remember much after…wait…we went to Mexico, right?

…that whale watching in the Pacific Ocean is surreal and terrifying.  I’m glad I stood up to my fear of water/boats and went on the excursion.  I can mark it off my bucket list with a big fat black Sharpie (with a notation in the margin that reads: never, ever try this again).

…that sometimes it is necessary to stubbornly take a stand, even if it means alienation from family you love.  Things tend to work themselves out in the end.  And, well, if they don’t then, so be it.

…that marking the four-year anniversary of my father’s death was just as painful as year three.

…that the weatherman on my local NBC channel either has a sick sense of humor, or his degree in meteorology is just an honorary one. The snow event captured below was only supposed to be a light dusting.    As in, not going to stick, or cause any trouble on the roads.  We ended up with a foot total. Epic. Fail.  Why is this a problem, you ask?  It’s only snow.  Well, down here in Texas, measurable snowfall is a sign of the coming apocalypse.  I didn’t leave my house until it melted.  It’s just better that way.

2011_0204_02 (2)

…that with three or four inches of ice coating everything (in a separate, unrelated winter weather event – another epic weatherman fail), including the street, I can survive an entire week without leaving my house.  On day two, I did attempt to check the mail.  My mailbox is across the street.  I made it to the middle of the road, fell on my ass, promptly got up, dusted off my pride and went back into the house.  There was nothing I needed in that mailbox, I was sure of it. Well, except for those two Netflix movies, but I made my husband go get those for me.  Have I mentioned that he is the most awesomest dude ever?

…that even at my age, a little recognition and validation can put a spring in my step.  In April, I received a scholar award from my favorite professor, in my favorite subject (history).  It might not mean much outside the confines of my campus and academic world, but it certainly went a long way to helping me feel like I wasn’t wasting my time.  Though I’m sure my family would tell you that my ego was so inflated from this unprecedented honor, that they had to keep reminding me that I did not, in fact, win a Pulitzer.

…that just when I thought I was getting the hang of this aging nonsense, I get the call informing me that I could expect to be a grandmother by the end of the year.  Let the months of denial begin!

…that even though I swore I had absolutely no interest in the British Royal wedding; that I scoffed at the crazy people who were planning to get up in the middle of the night to catch every tantalizing second of it, I couldn’t help but be mesmerized.  No, I didn’t get up in the middle of the night.  That would be ridiculous.  I got up at my normal time, switched on the television, and there it was.  I couldn’t get away from it, and I happened to catch it at the precise moment that she entered the church.  I watched every stinking minute of it and was nearly late for work.  Damn you, England!

…that I’ve lived in the Dallas area for a long time and this was the first year we have braved Scarborough Faire in Waxahachie.  I’m ashamed at our stuffiness.  So much fun.  Maybe next year we will dress up.  Don’t tell Nolan.  It’ll be my surprise.

…that turning 39 this year wasn’t all that bad.  Of course, a gift of diamonds goes a long way in making the aging process bearable.  Oh, and an a Happy Birthday wake up call and an afternoon visit from my nephews didn’t hurt, either.

…that a girls only trip to Key West is quite the adventure.  I learned a lot, made some new friends, discovered mojitos, and the wonders of drag queens.  If you’re interested, you can read more about my adventures [here].

…that cursing Mother Nature for bitch slapping us this winter only resulted in several summertime bitch slaps.  I think I might even classify it as a beating.  I’ve been through hot, dry, miserable summers before, but this year was by far, the worst.  Wish I had known this little bit of trivia in February.  I might have been a little nicer to that fickle whore.

…that middle school parents are all bugger eating morons who wouldn’t understand a rule if it slapped them upside the head and introduced itself.

…that having my granddaughter born on Thanksgiving Day was certainly a surprise.  She was a few weeks early.  I will be completely honest, I was emotionally unprepared.  Mostly, because I am a realist and don’t look at the ooey gooey side of things.  I see the cold hard fact that becoming a parent in your early twenties, is tough stuff.  I became a parent at the tender age of 18.  I know of what I speak.  However, after much thought and reflection, I was able to remove myself from that side of the equation.  Grandparents, after all, are meant to be the fun ones – it is not our job to dwell on the struggles of first time parenthood. Instead, as reward for the years we spent rearing our irrational and, at times, ungrateful children, we are allowed to bask in the splendor of a child we can spoil, fill with excessive sugar products, and send home to torture their parents.  Acceptance grows out of denial.  But be warned, call me Granny and I will gut you like a pig.  My willingness to accept such a position only goes so far.

…that I don’t completely hate the holiday season.  I discovered that I like Christmas music, baking cookies, and long walks on sandy beaches sipping fruity drinks with little umbrellas…oh wait…that last one was just my holiday happy place.  My bad.

2011_1001_01

…that saying goodbye to a kitty I’ve had for 16 years is one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in a very long time.  We will miss you and your sweet, quirkiness, Pistachio.

…that my daughter becomes more and more like me every day.  In some ways I think this is a good thing – I am independent, dedicated, and emotionally tough.  Good traits.  On the other hand, I am sarcastic, snarky, and bitchy.   Not traits one strives to pass along to their children.

The other day, my daughter and I were standing in line at the Gap, in front us were a mother with a young girl.  When they reached the counter, the woman at the counter said to the child:

“Oh, I love your Hello Kitty shirt!  Do you know what my name is?”

The woman moves her sweater and shows the girl her name tag.  Her name was Kitty.  My daughter rolled her eyes and, in a voice laced with sarcasm, said:

“Oh Jeez!  That’s what I want to do when I grow up.  Name my daughter Kitty.  Wonder if her last name is Cat.”

Of course, being the responsible parent that I am, I admonished her for saying such a thing – after I was able to stopping myself from laughing hysterically.

All in all, I think 2011 was a pretty good year for the Isaacs family.  I’ve had worse.  Much, much worse.  I have high hopes for 2012.  It is the year I will finish my novel.

Seriously.

Stop laughing.

Screw you.

Happy New Year!