October 31, 2009

Just perfect.

Today was just one of those days that reminds me why fall is my favorite season.
  • Crisp air with just a hint of the smell of burning leaves (WHY does that smell so good??)
  • Gorgeous leaves and fall colors everywhere
  • Zero humidity and a nice, light breeze in my face
  • Beautiful sunshine that somehow looks completely different from summer sunshine
  • Adorable trick-or-treaters shyly coming to my door, mumbling "thank you" only after prompting from their mothers
  • Cozy snuggling on the couch with my dogs

Plus an extra hour of sleep this weekend. :)

Life is good.

October 30, 2009

Pupdate: LOOK AT ME

I love my dogs.

They're laidback, they're sweet, they love to cuddle, they have the CUTEST FACES.

One of the things I love most about them?

When they're feeling playful and no one's playing with them, they amuse themselves. Thusly:


Bubba will roll around on his back for 15 minutes, then stop and stare at you like this UNTIL YOU LOOK AT HIM. You MUST look at him. He needs to be seen.



He's a ham. Just like his mama.

October 29, 2009

Who gets geeky for old books? I do! I do!

We've recently been talking about expanding our home gym (we currently have an elliptical, a bike, a heavy bag and some weights, but apparently that isn't quite doing the job), so we've been thinking about a rowing machine.

(OK, *I've* been thinking about a rowing machine. T. thinks it's unnecessary. He's probably right. But I think I would like it.)

So I was looking through our local ad paper (it's called The Shopper; it's adorable), reading through the auction listings for last weekend, and I saw that one estate sale was advertising used exercise equipment, including a weight bench, a back inverter (?!) and...drum roll...a rower! Yes! This meant:
  1. I'd get to go to an auction, something I haven't done since I was little, and I'd get to have a nice fall day outside on a Saturday.
  2. I could potentially get some exercise equipment for super cheap. (I have mentioned my cheapness before, yes?)
  3. I could scope out other cool stuff (or, as T. calls it, "crap we don't need that will just end up cluttering up our house").

Woohoo!

So I bribed my neighbor into accompanying me, and we made the 90-minute (!!) trip Saturday to the auction site. Where...it was raining. And freezing. But there was a concession stand with hot chocolate and an Amish family selling pastries, so it was all good.

We started scoping out the goods. This was a HUGE sale, with everything from farm equipment to Oriental rugs, furniture, hardware, tools, a popcorn machine and nacho machine (!), housewares -- you name it. It took us an hour just to make the rounds.

By far the coolest thing (in my opinion) was the entire garage full of old books and magazines. I LOVE old books -- I have a few that I've acquired over the years from the 1800s and early 1900s -- and I was COMPLETELY smitten. I could barely bring myself to leave to go check out the rest of the sale. In one room, they had:

  • STACKS of Life magazines from the 20s, 30s and 40s, all in amazing condition (with lots of stuff about WWII)
  • A box of Playboy magazines from the 60s (I know, I know, but it was still really cool)
  • A couple of copies of the New Testament from the 1800s/early 1900s
  • A passport with a Nazi symbol on the front
  • An entire table full of WWII documents, many of which were written in German
  • And a GIANT book that, while it was hard to make out, appeared to have the words "National Intelligence" written on the front.

Um. Wow.

WOW.

We could tell from the crowd that there were some serious collectors in our midst, and we heard people saying that there were going to be a lot of phone-in bidders, so we didn't fool ourselves into thinking we'd actually be able to get any of that stuff with our limited budgets. But still: To be standing in a room with that much written history was, for a nerd like me, amazingly cool.

We reluctantly left, meandered down to a huge pile of household goods and started pawing through a couple of boxes. Mostly junk (as is typical for these types of auctions). But I spotted something that looked like a scrapbook in the bottom of one box, and I pulled it out to take a peek.

The owner had taken the time to compile a scrapbook of portraits of many of the key figures in WWII, pictures of the planes being used, etc., plus an article proclaiming the end of the war and talking about Hitler's downfall. Digging down deeper, I saw the box also contained a couple of really old magazines (early 1900s) that apparently hadn't made it to the garage with the others. I got really excited and immediately piled a bunch of junk on top of the magazines, hoping no one else would notice it...

Except this woman (who was, incidentally, dressed like a lumberjack). When it came time to bid on that box -- MY box, as I was now thinking of it -- she was ALL over it. I told myself there was no way I was bidding more than $40 (I know, it isn't that much, but hey -- times are tough). Miraculously, apparently that was her limit, too, and...I got it! Bwahaha! Eat THAT, lumberjackess!

(I also bought some other crap, including a box of junk for $3, and I did end up getting the rowing machine for the bargain price of $7. Heehee.)

When I got home to examine the full contents of MY box, here's what I ended up with:

  • A bag of super old needlepoint and knitting stuff (I do knit, so I thought this was kind of cool)
  • A box full of about 40 antique ladies handkerchiefs (some of them were REALLY cute)
  • An old yearbook from 1929
  • A tiny book of MacMillan stories from the early 1900s
  • The scrapbook of WWII pictures and articles (which also included a WWII ration card and some other ration coin-type thingies)
  • About 10 sheets of three-cent stamps from the WWII era (tucked inside the scrapbook)
  • A Ladies Home Journal from 1919 and a bunch of other magazines from the 1920s
  • A huge stack of newspaper clippings from WWI and WWII, showing battle positions, talking about the wars, etc.

All in all, I'm pretty psyched -- the antique book nerd in me is over the moon about the books and magazines, and I think I may be able to sell the stamps and the hankies. It was definitely worth $40, in any case.

Now I kind of wish I'd stuck around to bid on the Nazi passport...

October 27, 2009

Laid up + I don't have any ham to go with that

I sprained my ankle this weekend.

Thus, I've been spending most of my time hobbling from place to place (still have my crutches from my last sprained ankle a few years ago -- woohoo!) and trying to figure out how to sit on the couch when I always, always tuck my left leg under me when I sit down (my right ankle is the gimpy one, so I can't put weight on it).

(Seriously -- I stand there for at least two minutes trying to mentally visualize how to sit down without putting any weight on my right foot. I'm weird.)

The swelling has gone down (it's a pretty mild sprain), so I should be able to walk again by tomorrow, I'm hoping. And just when I'm getting the hang of climbing into bed right-leg-first! (Yes, this also takes me a couple of minutes to figure out in my head. I have more physical "routine" than I realized.)

On a completely unrelated note, as I was hobbling to the bathroom at my office (and passing through the kitchenette on the way there), I noticed someone brought in a "treat" to share and decided to leave it in the kitchenette, the better to share it with our entire floor. People tend to do this with leftover birthday cake, cookies, brownies, etc.

Today's offering? A package of whole wheat hoagie buns.

As you can imagine, there haven't been many takers.

October 25, 2009

Adventures in DIY

So I'm minorly obsessed with doing things myself. I just find it enormously satisfying if I can make or do something myself instead of paying someone or buying something to do it for me.

Oh, and I'm really cheap. Did I mention that?

A few weeks ago, my husband and I were talking about something he'd read re: all the harmful chemicals in toothpaste. This isn't exactly breaking news; it does say right on the tube to call Poison Control if you ingest more than a pea-sized amount (ever notice they squirt on, like, five times that amount in toothpaste commercials? Eek.).

But it made me start thinking: Surely someone's figured out a way to make something at home that will do the job just as well. Maybe it won't taste the same as Crest, or have those fun Aquafresh stripes, but at least work just as well? Yes?

So I hopped on Ye Olde Inter-web, and...wow. Not only are people doing this, a LOT of people are doing this. And there are gajillions of different "recipes" out there.

So, about a week ago, I tried it.

Per one of the recipes I found, I combined equal parts baking soda and hydrogen peroxide with a little water, and mixed it up into a paste. Easy.

Then the recipes said to mix in a flavoring of your choice. I scoured my cupboards and decided to try vanilla and peppermint extract (I wisely left the balsamic vinegar alone), and mixed up separate batches of each.

Then, I sample-brushed.

OK, vanilla? NOT good. The only way I can describe it is the evil, nasty cousin of a cookie. It was terrible. NOT recommended.

The mint? Not bad! It certainly wasn't as minty as, say, Colgate or Crest. And, somewhat disappointingly, there wasn't the fun toothpaste foam you typically get while you're brushing your teeth. But? My teeth felt REALLY clean. And making toothpaste like this vs. buying it at $3-4 a pop SPEAKS to the inner cheapie in me.

The only problems for my maiden voyage:
  1. The hydrogen peroxide left sort of a chemical-y aftertaste.
  2. Storage. I mixed up this batch in a tiny bowl, and it dried out overnight. If I was going to make it this way, I'd have to mix up a tiny single serving every time I brushed.

So, lessons learned:

  1. I'm bagging the hydrogen peroxide next time and just going with baking soda and some sort of minty extract (peppermint worked great, and I'm thinking of trying wintergreen, too).
  2. I bought a couple of tiny Gladware-type containers in which to store the next batch; they should keep the paste from drying up.
  3. I'm definitely going to do this again! It's super cheap and better for me, too.

(I also make my own exfoliant, but I'll write about that some other time.)

As a tie-in, my friend and family member 65 Roses for Marcia recently had a GREAT post, talking about all kinds of great home cleaning products you can make yourself, including homemade laundry detergent (which I've always wanted, but have been too chicken, to try). If you're interested in this type of thing, check it out.

Any ideas for my next project? Anything you make at home that most people usually buy from a store? Please share. :)

October 23, 2009

Reasons #46 and #47 why I hate birds



BIRDS ARE EVIL.
(Apologies to anyone who has a pet bird. But they freak me out and they seem to mean us nothing but harm. Beady eyes, talons... Eek.)

Schooled

Last night, we invited our four-year-old neighbor and his parents to see the pumpkins I’d carved. He actually gave me the small one out of their garden (he’s a wee bit smitten with me), so I thought it’d be fun for him to see what I’d done with it.

Here’s our conversation:

Me: Thanks for coming down to see me, C!

Four-year-old C: What’s wrong with you?

Me: …um, what?

C: What’s wrong with you?

Me:

C: WHY did we have to come visit you? What’s wrong with you?

Me: …oh. Well, nothing’s wrong with me. I just thought you might like to see how I carved the pumpkin you gave me. See? It’s all lit up, and—

C: Wanna watch me jump off your porch?

Me: Um. Sure.

So much for trying to share my joy with children. :)

October 22, 2009

Writing update

I had a fairly productive writing week this week. After another Sunday afternoon Panera writing session, I had half of another story written. Progress! :)

This is the last of the five stories in my first "series," and I'll be so excited to get them done! Well, done-ish. They still need a lot of review and revision, and I still need to try to trim them up a bit, but overall I'm trying to feel happy about where I am and what I've accomplished so far.

As I wrote to a friend of mine last week, I've been experiencing a little bit of a block when it comes to these stories. I'm realizing that I really don't know that much about writing children's books. It's a COMPLETELY different style of writing than I'm used to, and just because I'm trained/experienced in several other types of writing doesn't mean I can automatically do this, too.

It's also really, really easy to get distracted by all the other things I'm doing and want to do. But I really want to see this through, so I'm going to stick with it. I think it might be time to revisit and reset my timeline, set some new goals and get cracking on them.

Oh, also: I just had a thought the other day (while I was driving, of course; I get all my best ideas while I'm driving) for another series of children's books. Since (as previously mentioned) I know practically nothing about children's books, it makes sense that all my ideas are in that vein, right? Oy.

October 21, 2009

Sigh.

I spent five hours this weekend carving these pumpkins. I'm rather pleased with how they turned out. (I didn't even use a pattern!)

In this photo, you can see where I tried (only somewhat successfully) to carve the word "Boo!"


Sigh. I wish I was still on vacation.

Boo.

October 20, 2009

I cannot be the only one.


Am I the only one who still loves ramen noodles and/or Maruchan Instant Lunch?? I refuse to believe it’s just me.


I’m 10 years out of college (wow…that’ll make you feel old), and I still find excuses to pick these up at the grocery store. I mean, seriously – they’re 25 cents apiece.


And they’re just so tasty.


I love truly great food as much as the next gal (a juicy steak, crisp salad, savory chicken, etc.), but I can’t help but be seduced by ramen’s comforting, warm, salty embrace.


What’s 1,200 mg of sodium between friends?

October 19, 2009

It's times like these...

...when I'm so glad my own wedding is OVER.

I absolutely love being married. Love it. We just celebrated our 7th anniversary, and T. and I could not be happier.

But the actual wedding... Don't get me wrong -- it was LOVELY. It was a great day, no drama to speak of, quick and beautiful, all our family and friends, great food... Nothing to complain about.

It's the planning.

We had a relatively simple wedding, which worked well for us. We each had a few things we felt strongly about, so we compromised on those things, and T. pretty much deferred to me on everything else. My mom and I arranged for the flowers and the food, we each took care of our own attire, and the reception was at the church, so there was very little to do in terms of logistics.

And even that was exhausting.

Yesterday, as I often do on Sundays during football season, I fled my house (and my darling aforementioned husband) to spend the afternoon writing at Panera. I love everything about this: The bagel I eat before I start writing, the peace/companionship-at-a-distance that comes with working in a public place, the cozy atmosphere at Panera. It's just lovely.

This time, the table next to me was occupied (for the entire four-hour duration of my stay) by a 20-something girl and two older women. When I first arrived, I thought they were teachers planning a lesson, since they had folders upon folders upon binders upon papers strewn across three tables and were in heated debate about something.

Then I caught a glimpse of the title on one of the binders: "The Complete Wedding."

For the next three hours, I listened as this poor girl (and what turned out to be her mother and her fiance's mother) battled through a whole host of issues: Should they have the wedding outside? Well, but the groom wants to be outside. Should they have little umbrellas for the drinks? What drinks should they offer? Should there be drinking? Who would be upset if there's no drinking?

Friends, it was EXHAUSTING. By the end of it, the two mothers actually had to give the bride a pep talk because she was so overwraught by the whole thing, she was starting to break down. (I think one quote was, "If he calls off the wedding because you chose chicken instead of steak, then he doesn't deserve you.") And I'm pretty sure I heard them say the wedding is in May, so the poor thing has seven more months of this!

No judgements from me, because our wedding was stressful enough, and I know it's really, really easy to get bogged down in pleasing everyone else. But when did weddings become so far removed from the actual PURPOSE of the day and more about this huge brouhaha?

You know, I say that, and I could say everyone should elope and get married in a quiet ceremony with only immediate family in attendance, but if I had it to do over again -- I wouldn't change a thing. :)

I probably should have told that to the frazzled bride-to-be next to me. Huh. Maybe I'll see her next Sunday. I have a feeling she's in for a loooong seven months.

October 18, 2009

It's been fun, but...

For the past two weeks, I've been on vacation.

We didn't go anywhere or have any real agenda -- just stayed home, got some things done around the house and otherwise relaxed -- so I've had a LOT of free time to catch up on things I've been wanting to do.

Like this blog.

Tomorrow, I go back to work. (Boo.) And (I'm sure much to the chagrin of my LEGIONS of followers -- ha) it's doubtful that I'll be able to update this blog every single day.

(I'll wait while you try to stop crying.)

Anyway... This is more about me lamenting my return to work than anything else. For those of you who've actually started reading my blog (and, hopefully, are enjoying it, if only to laugh at me), thank you and I promise not to let it languish for more than a few days at most.

October 17, 2009

Why?

I'm sitting here with the TV muted while I work on some writing, and Jerry Springer just came on (no, I was not watching it on purpose -- stop looking at me like that!).

Some thoughts:

1. This show is still on? Really?

2. Seriously, who is watching this crap in 2009?

3. Why? Oh, why?

4. According to the onscreen text, this show is about sisters sleeping with each other's husbands or boyfriends or something like that. One sister was onstage talking to Jerry about, presumably, the cheating (again, it's on mute -- I'm unwilling to listen to this even though I'm writing about it) to give him a little bit of background, I guess?

Then they brought out the other sister, and both sisters of course started fighting and waving their heads and fingers around (I'm sure some snapping took place). And then they both...took off their shoes.

This seemed to indicate that some sort of serious throwdown was about to commence, and I assume that the shoe removal was either meant to give them added agility (so as not to trip in their five-inch heels) or to provide them with an extra weapon (again: five-inch heels). However, both women just waggled their heads around from separate corners, no fighting ever occurred and they ended up just...walking around barefoot for no apparent reason.

I don't mind telling you, I feel a bit let down.

(As a postscript: In the time it took me to write this, Jerry has ended (I assume the sisterly rivalry resolved itself) and now Maury Povich is holding a contest called "Maury's Most Talented Little Person." I just saw "Lil' Gaga" and a wee Michael Jackson impersonator who, for some reason, was humping Maury's leg. (I refuse to un-mute this to find out more details.) It's a whole other world of TV during the day, isn't it?)

October 16, 2009

Know someone with Alzheimer's? Read this book.


(I don't know that I'll make a habit of talking about books that I'm reading, but this one really struck me, so I hope you'll indulge me...)

I read a fair number of novels, and lately I've been on a light chick-lit kick. Shopaholic, Queen of Babble, etc. Very enjoyable, even well-written, but not something that hits hard and will stay with you for a long time. Sometimes you just need mental...candy, you know?

But after awhile, in the same way you can't actually LIVE off of candy, I need something more substantial, more mentally...nutritious. (OK, I promise to stop with this metaphor now.)

I read a blurb about Still Alice in a little free, monthly newsletter my library keeps by all the checkout desks. It sounded interesting, so I stuck it on my to-read list and picked it up at our library, along with several other books, without giving it a lot of thought. At that point, I could only vaguely recall what the book was about, and I put off reading it, actually, until I'd read all the other books I'd checked out.

Friends, I am so glad I read this book.

From the time I was very little, my mother worked as an RN in nursing/retirement homes. I'd often accompany her there for short periods of time, and I got to know a number of her patients, many of whom had Alzheimer's or experienced some form of dementia. It was heartbreaking to hear 80-year-old women crying for their mothers, as though they were small children themselves, or to see a 75-year-old man become angry at his grandchildren because he had no idea who they were.

But there were also moments when those patients were sweet and loving, if still not entirely lucid. Many of them were kind and sweet to my five-year-old self, enjoying (for some reason) my incessant singing or inane little-girl babbling. And I enjoyed them, too, although I'm sure I didn't realize why they usually didn't recognize me, or sometimes would cry or get angry with the staff.

This book is an amazing portrait of someone with early-onset Alzheimer's ("Alice" is only 50), and it chronicles her entire decline into dementia. It begins with typical forgetfulness, which Alice attributes (as most of us would) to getting older, being too busy, feeling stressed or, in her case, starting menopause. But after she forgets how to get home one day (on a route she runs almost every day), she knows something much bigger is going on.

The author has a Ph.D. in neuroscience, and I'm sure it would've been easy for her to make this a clinical, medicalese-filled account of Alzheimer's that would be informative but leave the reader feeling cheated of any kind of connection to her main character. But Lisa Genova does a wonderful job of blending the science with the pathos.

And telling the story from the point of view of the patient descending into dementia (rather than from the caregiver's point of view, watching their loved one slip away) was, I think, absolutely inspired -- and the key to why this novel had such an impact on me. You're with Alice the entire time, as her symptoms get worse, her control weakens and her life as she knew it completely slips away. You feel her frustration, fear, anger and false hope. You want the diagnosis to be wrong, even though you know the premise of the book from the outset.

My own grandmother was in the early stages of Alzheimer's when she passed away several years ago. Her symptoms hadn't progressed to the point where Still Alice leaves off (one of the tragedies of early-onset Alzheimer's is that the patient can live for 20 years or more with full-on dementia), although she had started to forget things and become easily confused. But she still recognized us, and I'm so thankful we (particularly my mother) didn't have to deal with the pain of seeing a blank stare from someone who had been such a vibrant, happy presence in our lives.

The biggest tragedy for those who suffer from Alzheimer's, I think, is that they're at times written off by their family members. Because they're no longer able to care for themselves, they're taken to nursing homes, and because they often can't recognize their loved ones, some family members seldom visit them at all, figuring, "What's the point?" Or, simply, "I can't bear to see him/her like this."

This book completely altered my view of the Alzheimer's patient. It was heartbreaking, depressing at times, and ultimately frustrating to experience this process with "Alice." But it was also fascinating, inspiring and amazing.

If you know anyone with Alzheimer's, particularly a family member, I strongly, strongly encourage you to read this book. If you do, please tell me what you think -- I'm very curious to hear others' thoughts.

October 15, 2009

Photo of the Week: Bored Contortionist Edition


OK, first and foremost, I don't even know how you get into a position like this. I have no idea what parts of your body need to be double-jointed to do this. Your hips? Your head? Your spine? This position defies all logic and reason.

Secondly, where is this child? It looks as though someone tossed a tablecloth onto a brick wall in an abandoned alley and decided this was the ideal locale for some contortion work. Surely a cushy mat would be a better surface for this type of thing?

But what gets me the most about this picture is the child's face. She doesn't seem happy about what she's doing, but neither does she seem as though she's being forced to do this at gunpoint. She looks utterly bored with the entire affair. Almost as though she came home from school, exhausted from a long day of learning the multiplication tables, flopped down (on a...brick wall) and this just happened to be the position she landed in.

She could watch TV, eat dinner, finish her homework and then fall asleep in this position. She doesn't care. "My butt is resting comfortably on the back of my head. Yawn."

More power to you, bored contortionist in a back alley. Just because you can do something unusual doesn't mean you have to get excited about it. Let the rest of us ooh and ahh over your ability to sit on your own head. You just take a nap.

October 14, 2009

Pupdate: I...they... There are no words.



This photo isn't posed. We literally rounded a corner earlier this week and found our dogs laying in the middle of the floor like this.

If you're having a hard time figuring out what's going on here (as we did when we first came upon this shameful display), that's Bubba's head, and it looks like it's resting comfortably right on Murray's patoot.

We're assuming Bubba was probably nipping at Murray's ankles, trying to entice him to play, and Murray (having none of it, as he is a grumpy old man sometimes) likely rolled over, trapping Bubba's head between his legs.

It's without a doubt the least dignified resting position I've ever seen.

After we'd snapped the picture (because something this bizarre must of course be documented), I believe we asked the dogs if they were planning a commitment ceremony sometime in the near future, or if they would perhaps like to extricate themselves from one another and resume playing with their toys.

If I recall correctly, they gave us the dog version of an eyeroll and promptly fell asleep.

It's a good thing they're cute.

October 13, 2009

Writing update

So I'm realizing something as I'm writing these children's books of mine:

I know absolutely nothing about writing for children.

I've been a newspaper reporter and editor, I've written marketing materials and internet content and, over the years, written short stories, essays and the beginning of several novels. This is a completely different animal.

I've mentioned that I'm struggling with the reader's age range. I've gotten feedback that my first drafts are too long, probably even for K-2. So this weekend, I tried paring down one of the stories into a shorter, more palatable version that might be considered appropriate for 3- to 5-year-olds. And...I have no idea if it worked and I've improved it, or if it's just...shorter.

When I started this process, I was SO excited and SO motivated. Writing these stories using the characters my father made up when I was a kid was something I'd wanted to do for so long, and I was so pumped to actually DO it.

The excitement carried me through the first couple of stories, when I was just thinking about the stories themselves and enjoying the process of writing, period. When I started thinking more about marketability...the excitement started to wane a bit. (This is, I'm sure, partially due to the fact that I have a relatively short attention span for a 32-year-old.)

As a result of this waning, it's been harder and harder to motivate myself to keep working on the remaining stories (I've finished four; I want to finish at least one more in the next month). I feel like I've lost sight of why I wanted to do this in the first place. NOT to become a famous children's author (although, let's face it: that'd be pretty cool, too), but to preserve the memory of these stories and characters I adored as a child. To give my dad a tangible reminder of one of our fondest shared memories. And to make sure my niece and my future kids will have a piece of those memories, too.

In other words, it's time to re-focus. The marketing and refining and editing and obsessing will come later. Right now, I need to remember why I'm doing this. And then just do it.

October 12, 2009

I am a giant schmuck.

I don't know how this happened, but at some point, I became an emotional disaster.

I don't freak out when something upsets me, or lose all ability to function when something goes wrong. I'm actually quite good in a crisis.

It's when things are good that I fall apart.

Again, I'm not really sure when or how this happened. I wasn't always this way. In fact, I have a very clear memory of being 10 or so years old, talking about sad things with my friend, P. (Sad things when you're 10 being, of course, something like your cat dying, or your fifth grade teacher yelling at you for talking.) We would say something sad, make a frowny face, look at each other and then burst out laughing.

(Now that I think about it...that's kind of messed up. Nowadays a psychologist would probably tell our parents we were sociopaths destined for some kind of destructive effect on society.)

Someone giving me praise for something I'd done? Like Christmas morning for an attention hound like myself. It's pretty much what I lived for my entire childhood.

Someone else getting rewarded for doing something well? Either made me bitter (did I mention I wanted all the attention? Because I did. CONSTANTLY) or didn't affect me in any way at all. Mary Lou Retton won the gold medal in the '88 Olympics? Good for her! Next. Our family business is doing so well, we're making it into a chain? Um, cool. What's in it for me?

(I did mention I was a self-absorbed (and possibly sociopathic, apparently) little kid, right? Just so we're clear.)

I'm assuming it has to do with me simply getting older, being more mature (most of the time, anyway) and learning to appreciate other people and their accomplishments. But at this point in my life, it takes very little to make me start blubbering.

A 15-year-old sings in front of the American Idol judges, and she's truly humbled when they tell her she's amazing? Sniff. A football player attributes his success to his father, who is attending today's service in a wheelchair. Can someone please get me some Kleenex? My honorary niece smiles in her sleep? Can't see her, because of the tears pouring out of my eyes right now. My actual niece snuggles into the blanket I made for her before she was born? Please ignore these GASPING SOBS, I'll be fine in a minute.

I realize these are all somewhat legitimate reasons for getting emotional, and there are likely many others who join me in getting misty during these types of moments.

That's why I'm embarrassed to tell you that I also get teary when:
  1. The final person is chosen on one of those "of Love" shows VH1 is responsible for foisting on us. "They just want to find love!" *Sniff* (Does it matter that I already know the new lovebirds will last for a maximum of three months after the fact, and more than likely are just doing this for publicity anyway, and those shows are totally fake? No. It does not.)
  2. The 10-year-old boy holds the door for his mother and then me as we exit Panera. "What a little gentleman!" *Tear*
  3. My dog sits in the middle of the living room floor, looking perfectly happy and content. "He's such a good boy!" *Sniff, tear*
  4. My boss says, "S, you're doing such a great job! I'm just so proud of you, and we'd like to promote you." "Oh, thank you..." *Trying to remain professional while desperately searching for a tissue because both my mascara and my nose are running and no, it's NOT ALLERGIES*
Someone has a crisis? I'm alert, focused and ready to help fix the problem. Death in the family? I'm very sad, but able to quietly reflect and hold it together.

"S, you're great and we really like what you're doing."

"YOU LIKE ME! YOU REALLY LIKE ME!! Boooohooooooo!!"

Wow. Maybe I am a sociopath.

October 11, 2009

MM's Circle Game: Cookie Traditions

Jumping in on Metacognitive Musing's circle game...

Our family tried the traditional "annual Christmas cookie extravaganza" for a few years. It kind of fizzled out. Not least because my mother and I tend to get antsy if we spend too much time in a hot kitchen.

And there's less chance of something catching on fire if we aren't in there to begin with.

The only real "tradition" I can think of is the WAY my mother makes her chocolate chip cookies. Thin. Crispy. Slightly browned. Not doughy AT ALL. Perfect whether dunked in coffee (her; ew) or eaten straight from the cookie sheet (me, while burning my fingers and cursing under my breath so my grandma doesn't hear me).

SO GOOD.

This is the ONLY way to make chocolate chip cookies in my family. Much to the chagrin of my husband, who prefers his barely baked and extremely doughy, to the point where he eats them with a FORK. No, really. With a fork.

As for the other types of cookies (snickerdoodles, peanut butter, fruit-and-nut varieties or, heaven forbid, oatmeal raisin ), to them I say: BAH. Cookie fakers.

Give me thin, crispy chocolate chip cookies, or I'll be over in that corner, wrestling with my Aunt Doris for the pan of brownies.

October 9, 2009

Oh, Facebook. I'm sorry.

So it appears I acted too hastily in chiding you for trapping me in a no-way-out circle of advertising nonsense, Facebook.

Turns out, it was my fault.

Apparently I fat-fingered your URL, typed in www.facebok.com and ended up in that vortex of crap as a result of my own ineptitude. In my defense, the phishers responsible for that nifty little trick went to great lengths to fool the user, mimicking your background and referencing you specifically in their title bar and elsewhere on the page.

I should have known you wouldn't betray me that way.

Would it make you feel better if I adopted the cows and sheep my brother is always sending me, or spent some time in "Yoville," whatever the hell that is?

(Thanks to the anonymous poster who alerted me to my mistake. Oopsie. That'll teach me to rant first and check my typing skills later.)

Photo of the Week: Clown Edition


I think very little needs to be said about this photo, except: Is it any wonder there are so many of us with a lifelong, debilitating fear of clowns?

Not to mention a lifetime of asking ourselves, "Why did my mother abandon me with this minion of evil and cheerfully snap a picture to capture the moment for posterity?"

October 8, 2009

Thanks a lot, Facebook.

Listen up, Facebook.

I put off joining you forever. The truth is, I don't have a lot of free time, and frankly, there are just some people I'd rather not reconnect with. The thought of you just didn't appeal to me on several levels.

But my friends kept telling me to give you a chance. Co-workers were aghast that I hadn't joined you yet. Everyone kept saying you were a great networking tool, that I could be as involved with you as I wanted to be, that you wouldn't take over my life. At some point, it seemed like I was the only person left on Earth who wasn't a member of your little club. When my friends' parents started joining, I knew I just had to suck it up and join you.

And listen, it's been great. My friends didn't lie: You're surprisingly addictive, it's nice to keep in touch with my friends and family through you, and you don't take that much time. In fact, you're quicker than checking e-mail.

So you can understand why I felt somewhat betrayed when, upon typing in your URL today, you routed me to an advertisement and tried to con me into giving my e-mail address to a bunch of random companies, the better for them to spam me into oblivion. And not only did you take me to the ad instead of your promised logon page, you didn't give me a way out. You trapped me in a random URL called "quizready.com" or something like that, and when I tried to close the page, did you take me to the logon screen I expected?

No. No, you did not.

First, you yelled at me for trying to close the page. Then, instead of letting me FINALLY log on, you closed my browser, I suspect, out of pure spite.

This isn't cool, Facebook. I deserve and expect better treatment, and I won't stand for it. I know you rely on advertising dollars. But this just seems heavy-handed and, frankly, beneath you.

I'm disappointed. I'll let it slide this time, but I don't expect it to happen again. Now go to your room, think about what you've done and don't even think about posting something nasty on my Wall, because I'll know it was you, and I am at my wit's end with you, missy.

October 7, 2009

Oh, come on. It's fun.

Taking my cue from "Two Pretzels" and doing the "list of questions" thing. I encourage you to do the same -- these are fun. :)

1. Who was your first prom date? Like Two Pretzels, my Christian high school had a "banquet," not a prom. My first Banquet date was my friend Paul; we went with two other friends and had a great time, despite the lack of dancing...

2. Do you still talk to your first love? I consider my husband my first real love, so yes!

3. What was your first alcoholic drink? Believe it or not, I didn't drink at ALL until college. I'm sure it was something like Sex on the Beach, or a mixture of Zima and green-apple-flavored Pucker, or something goofy like that.

4. What was your first job? My parents leveraged their built-in kid labor early on in the family business. :) I was an unofficial pharmacy tech and register-minder starting at the age of...probably...10? Something like that.

5. What was your first car? A 1989 Dodge Daytona. It was red, and the headlights flipped up and down. It was probably super fly back in the mid-80s, but in 1993 (before the 80s became ironically cool), it was just kind of embarrassing.

6. Who was the first person to text you today? My neighbor, to tell me when she'd be here to work out in our basement.

7. Who was the first person you thought of this morning? My husband, snoozing next to me. :)

8. Who was your first grade teacher? Miss Yoder. I adored her. I was an early reader, and she developed a special curriculum for me so I wouldn't be limited by the regular curriculum. She also had parakeets that she named "Abey" and "Seedy" ("A-B" and "C-D"). Aw.

9. Where do you go on your first flight in a plane? Hmm...most likely San Diego, CA, to visit my grandparents, when I was tiny.

10. Who was your first best friend and do you still talk? Pam. She and I were BFFs all the way through high school and into college, too. I still consider her mother my second mom. We see each other occasionally when we both visit our moms for Mother's Day. :)

11. Where was your first sleepover? Probably Pam's house, and I'm sure we probably stayed up all night. It was some sort of badge of honor to stay up all night in elementary school. I can't imagine going without sleep now. Kids are nuts. :)

12. Who was the first person you talked to today? My neighbor, Kim. I'm pretty sure I said, "This woman is nuts" about the exercise program we were following.

13. Whose wedding were you in for the first time? Hm. I think my friend Tara from back home. We had to wear giant frou-frou coral/orange dresses with HUGE butt bows. I later wore it for Halloween (I was an 80s prom queen). Sorry, Tara.

14. What was the first thing you did this morning? Discipline my dogs. They got into the trash can in our bedroom and scattered pieces of Kleenex and cough drop wrappers all over the floor. UGH.

15. What was the first concert you went to? There were many Christian concerts... Probably Amy Grant? I know the first non-Christian concert I attended was Richard Marx (yeeeaaaaahhhhh!!), and my friend and I were very confused by the strange-smelling smoke coming from the group of college students in front of us. Apparently we were very sheltered, and Richard Marx fans knew how to have a good time. :)

16. First tattoo? Two dolphins swimming in a circle, nose to tail. It came out looking like two platypuses (I always thought this was "platypi," but apparently that's incorrect), so I had to get it redone. When I did, I also added a heart in the middle of the dolphins, for some inexplicable reason. I don't love it, but I was 19 and just wanted a tattoo that didn't include a monster of some kind or a naked woman. It could be a lot worse.

17. First piercing? My ears, at 12. My friend (Pam, again) and I BEGGED our parents for weeks and they finally relented. At the time the family business offered ear piercing (not sure why that was green-lit), so my father had an ear-piercing gun. My mom numbed our ears with ice cubes, then my dad did the piercing on the front porch. I remember feeling very grown up. I was a nerd.

18. First foreign country you went to? Canada. I went to Toronto and Niagara several times, but I'm thinking the first time was on our senior class trip in high school.

19. First movie you remember seeing? Wow, this is a tough one. Probably Bambi? One of the Disney flicks, for sure.

20. What state (province) did you first live in? Lived in Ohio all my life.

21. Who was your first roommate? Jill Miller, in college.

22. When was your first detention? I think 8th grade, for mouthing off to our teacher. She took what I said the wrong way, and I still feel like I didn't deserve the detention. Hmph.

23. When was your first kiss? 8th grade. I don't remember his name, but I know he was an older boy, and it was at my grandma's house.

24. What is the one thing you would learn, given the chance? There are SO many things! A foreign language, sign language, to make my own clothes, to play the fiddle (not the violin; the fiddle is more fun), to do a backflip. To understand people who paint themselves for sporting events.

25. Who will be the next person to post this? No idea, but I hope I'm not the last.

October 6, 2009

Catching up...

Just returned from Virginia visiting the husband's family, so I'm getting caught up on EVERYTHING, including this blog.

More to come... :)
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