Monday, December 31, 2007

A New Year

Reflections on a new year... some of the things I've been thinking about lately.

TH and I were chatting yesterday about how fast time flies. We can't believe 2007 is on its way out the door!

I was talking with my sister-in-law about how tired I was of grieving. There have been 6 losses in the last 6 years, in my life. Grieving is a mixed bag. It feels unbearable when you're in the midst of it. If you let it, it softens you. If you let it, it hardens and embitters you. It messes with my brain and changes how I think, literally and metaphorically. And yet, loss is inevitable and part of life. I know my experiences all add to my character. (But isn't there an easier way??)

I'll be starting work as a Deacon at my church this year. It's a three-year commitment. I dreamed about it last night, and feel completely unequipped for this ministry.

My second "grandchild" will be born this spring. (TH is 12 years older than I am, and his kids are young adults, so this really isn't as weird as it may sound.) I don't feel like a grandmother, yet a part of me yearns for the generational connection.

I'll be facing some challenges at work this spring - I know of one already that will seem like a repeat of last spring. Fun.

Settling into our home continues. There are still plenty of projects to keep us busy! I'm learning to live with incompletion.

All in all, I believe I am moving from a season of winter into a season of spring, in my life. New growth, new beginnings. I feel hopeful and anticipatory. I hope the ashes of loss will fertilize the soil that has laid fallow, making the way for some beautiful new sprouts. What is the season of your life? What will the new year bring you?

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Book Review: Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer

I'm not really sure what inspired me to read this one. I am not the outdoorsy type (though I can be, with encouragement), I don't have anything in common with the protagonist, and I have no plans to see the movie (a requirement in my world: if there is a book first, read it before you see the movie). But, I do think Jon Krakauer is an excellent writer. I enjoyed Under the Banner of Heaven. The way that Krakauer gets into a subject and explores it from multiple perspectives, including his own personal experience/worldview, really draws me in as a reader.

Anyway. Into the Wild is a story about Christopher McCandless, a young man who walked off into the wild in Alaska and died there. How did this happen? He was very bright, came from a good family, had every privilege. He was also very idealistic, which, when combined with the passions of youth (remember those?), can form a churning and dangerous mass of intensity. In many ways he was naive and ignorant. I like how Krakauer felt a connection with and identified personally with Chris.
I was fascinated by Chris' travels and adventures across America. I was even - strangely enough - envious. Part of me has enough wanderlust to wish I had the guts to live on my wits, footloose and seemingly fancy-free, like Chris. Riding the rails, hitching around, camping out, coming and going as you please, living your interpretation of your ideals - very seductive concepts. But, I would never live this way, could never live this way (being a woman makes some things impossible, no matter how much I would like to think there is equality). I wished, briefly, that I could have these experiences too. Except for the part about dying alone in the wilds of Alaska. So maybe I'm not that different from Chris after all.
Living vicariously through a book? That's good writing.
p.s. In retrospect, another similar book I enjoyed was Through the Great Canadian Wilderness, a Reader's Digest version of Magnetic North by David Halsey. Same idea, but much more succesful expedition.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Scratch another from the honey-do list!


And after:

Not bad for a morning's work!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Boxing Day

The day after Christmas is Boxing Day, which has several meanings to different folks (see some here). For me, it's about REST.
How much better does it get? A day off work, new books, a comfy couch, and a pot of chocolate. I'm in heaven.
Happy Boxing Day!

Monday, December 24, 2007

God With Us

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." -- Isaiah 9:6

"A voice of one calling: 'In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken." -- Isaiah 40:3-5

"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good tidings of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord." -- Luke 2:8-11

" 'For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.' " John 3:16

" 'A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.' " -- John 13:34

May the anticipation and the changes, the glory of the Lord, new life and light, and the love and peace of Jesus Christ be with you, at Christmas and in the New Year. Love one another.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Dreams fulfilled

Last night, we hosted my work Holiday party. This is a dream fulfilled for me. I love having people over, and although I'm not a Martha Stewart- type (not that there's anything wrong with that), I've always wanted a home that could host a gathering.

Among the highlights of last night:
- Undercooked bean soup (told you I'm not Martha!)
- Wonderful aromas from hot cider, cinnamon candles, and the real pine tree
- Lots of yummy potluck food
- The aforementioned candles catching a napkin on fire, causing smoke alarms on all three floors to go off simultaneously.
- Gift exchange, where at least three people brought movie/video store gift cards. Do we all work together and think alike, or what?!

Good times!

May your holiday gatherings be as festive, fun, and full as ours have been!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Monday, December 10, 2007

Bake Night, "use whatcha got" Edition

One box of Trader Joe's Vanilla Cake mix. One easy-breezy recipe for brown-sugar frosting (brown sugar, milk, butter, and vanilla). One very happy baker. Oh. My. God. So good!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Book Review: Atonement, by Ian McEwan

Just in time for the movie! My coworker and friend Carrie loaned me the book. Excellent! A little slow at first, as Mr. McEwan really works the descriptions of people and places. His writing is lush. But it soon captures you.
The story evolves from a misunderstood event witnessed by Briony, a young woman with a vivid imagination (and a rather dull life, if you ask me - siblings out of the house, mother incapacitated by migraines, and father off in London). Briony is on the cusp of womanhood, yet sees the world through naive, girlish eyes.
Naturally the story is about atonement - what we do to and for ourselves and others, to make things right. Some atonements are positive, some punishing. But to me this book is also about how easy it is to make assumptions and snap judgments. [Why have I been focusing on this lately - first in reading Blink, now here? Hmmmm.] But unlike Blink, in Atonement we see that we can't always trust our own first impressions. I related so strongly to the bright, imaginative Briony. She sees only what she can understand. Isn't this how we all view life? Through our own experiences, our own filters. That's part of what fascinates me about people - learning about their "filters." And that's also good writing.
If you read it, let me know what you think the atonement ended up being.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Celebration of a life: Shirley Ann, January 4, 1937 - November 28, 2007

Sharp tongue. Soft heart. "Whatcha doin'?" Avid reader. Creative sewer. Loved her coffee, but none of that fancy stuff for her - just give her some Folgers, black. Adventurous spirit. Married her high school sweetheart, happily together for 52 years! Family link. Mother, grandmother, great-grandmother. Sassy chick!

"Recently a young mother asked for advice. What, she wanted to know, was she to do with a 7-year-old who was obstreperous, outspoken, and inconveniently willful? 'Keep her,' I replied.... The suffragettes refused to be polite in demanding what they wanted or grateful for getting what they deserved. Works for me." -- Anna Quindlen

What do I do with a mother-in-law who is obstreperous, outspoken, and inconveniently willful? KEEP HER. I'll miss you, "Mom."

Saturday, December 1, 2007

I'm really tired of people I love dying.

We lost TH's mom this week. We're both walking zombies. I'll do a celebration of her life post when I have more oomph in me. She was a feisty woman and we'll surely miss her. (For anyone keeping track, yes, this is two huge losses in the last four months. And yes, we do feel life has metaphorically kicked us in a metaphorical tender spot. Ouch.)

Friday, November 23, 2007

True crime is so 5 minutes ago.

Creepy. Sad, and creepy. If you feel you must read true crime, this is a good one; Capote can spin webs of words like no one else. It's good writing, but for me? I'm done with the genre.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am thankful for:

1) The faith which sustains me; a God who is powerful and merciful, intimate and otherworldly.
2) My husband: my life partner, best friend, emotional rock, confidante, lover, biggest cheerleader, fellow traveler, and personal jester. He's the best.
3) My family. My stepdaughters and their blossoming families. My big brother, my sister-in-law (who is more sister than in-law), my nieces, my parents, my aunts and uncles, my cousins, and those who have gone before. I'm grateful for what each has given and taught me.
4) My job. I. Love. My. Job.
4a) My coworkers. The neatest, coolest group of dedicated, caring, knowledgable, fun folks.
4b) My boss. She is the best boss I've ever had.
5) My house. Sigh.
6) My cat. Lovey-boy.
7) My friends. Near or far, I am surrounded by people who appreciate me for who I am.

"In this world of sin and sorrow, there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican." -- Henry Louis Mencken **

** With all due respect to my Republican friends and family!! hee, hee

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

HOW much??

Um, reality smacked us in the face today when we opened our latest utility bill. Our energy bills have increased 10x since we bought our house. We pay two now - gas and electric. I guess we never realized before how much the apartment paid for us (hot water, washer and dryer). I guess we can write some of it off as paying for two places during 10/1-10/15, but really...we were both a little shocked. I promptly went around adjusting thermostats and turning lights out. Time to buckle down. Plus it's winter, which costs more in general - more lights on longer, more hot water for showers, more heat. What are your favorite tips for keeping your energy bill low?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Monday Night = Bake Night

I hereby proclaim Monday Nights to be Bake Nights. To take (ahem) a page from her book, I'm copycatting Kelli and Emily in blogging about good food. I love baking, but I never seemed to get around to it ever since grad school. Well, grad school is long over, and it's getting on towards winter, and dark cold nights lend themselves to warm kitchens. Plus, we have a lovely new kitchen and oven to use!! So no more excuses. Time to try all those recipes I've torn out of magazines for years.

Tonight's inaugural recipe: Double Banana Pound Cake, from Cooking Light magazine (several issues ago). I had the overripe bananas on hand, and wanted to do something other than banana bread. This sounded good. The double-banana part is because the recipe calls for mashed bananas AND banana liqueur. Being short of the liqueur, I chose to use rum instead. I'm pretty sure this is a valid substitution; we'll see. If you want the recipe, let me know!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Balance and Book report

I'm taking a break today. We had our Open House yesterday, with lots of guests. It was fun and I'm glad we could open our doors to friends and family. But - I'm exhausted from trying to get the house together in time. So today is a day to balance back out. Rest, relax, listen to some music, do nothing, oh yes - and blog. Luckily tomorrow is also a holiday for me, so I'm looking forward to more of the same.

Book Report: The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak.

I can't answer the question, "How is it?" in the way I might for a Janet Evanovich (FUN!) or a Jane Austen (CLASSIC!) or a Margaret Atwood (FANTASTIC!) or a Malcolm Gladwell (FASCINATING!). First of all, the context of the book - Nazi Germany - does not lend itself to saying the book is "good." And the Narrator is definitely unique; however, not someone I care to know personally at this point in my life.
Still. Still, this book is immensely interesting, powerful, and yes, GOOD. It is the beauty in tragedy, the sweetness in bittersweet, the good feeling that comes on the heel of pain when you gently press a bruise. It's a glance at how people constantly reach deep down into themselves to their core, be it kind or cruel or indifferent or grieving - that when the shit comes down, people act like their core selves, whatever that self may be. And it's about people who live in grey times (where things are really not as black and white as hindsight makes them seem), where the legally or morally right action might mean infinite loss and the legally or morally wrong action means gain. In my opinion, this book is just as important to read as "Diary of Anne Frank." My only quibble is with its classification as a young-adult book. I think many adults may miss out, if they think of it in this context.

If you read it, please share your thoughts. This is one author I'll be following, even though I'm long past "young adult."

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

How to Comment

For all of you who have been trying to figure this out. (All two of you.)

1. Click on the "[#] Comments" at the bottom of the post.
2. Write your comment in the box.
3. Choose which option best fits you: Google Blogger/Other/Anonymous. Click on the circle next to the one you choose.
3a. If you do not have a blog site with google, choose "Other."
3b. If you choose "Other" and you don't have a website, that's OK. Just put your name, and leave website blank.
4. Click on the "Publish" button.

Et voila!!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Book Review

The Blind Assassin, by Margaret Atwood.

I can't figure out if Margaret Atwood is a genius or seriously twisted. Her books are always amazing in complexity, in gorgeous language, and in sheer story. She had me at The Handmaid's Tale. It's interesting, because she's not really sci-fi, yet her works often involve some type of fantastic or futuristic references. She's literature, for sure. I love when people or things are tough to categorize!! Which this book certainly was. I'm having a difficult time trying to capture it for you.
OK, well, basically it's the story of two sisters, growing up in Port Ticonderoga. One of them is narrating the story, the other figures heavily in the direction of the plot. One is solid, the other ephemeral. Both are bound by society, expectations, family, and history-as-its-happening (i.e. the Depression). There's also a story within the story about, as you might guess, a blind assassin (this is the sci-fi-ish part). The rest you'll have to discover for yourself. All I can say is, about halfway through the book, my whole perceptions of what was what in this book, totally shifted. And that's good writing!!

Next book for review: The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. I'm still working on it, but it's a doozy. In a good way.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Happy Halloween!

Reasons why this Halloween totally rocked:
1. We had about 15 trick-or-treaters. This may not sound like much, but it's more than we had at our apartment. In the whole 10 years we lived there.

2. We got to use our fog machine.

3. We got to wear our pirate costumes TWICE - to a party, and to work.


Monday, October 29, 2007


For all of you, my loyal readers (shout-out to Emily and Kelli, and sometimes Dad), finally I am uploading some pics of the new place! Enjoy.

Welcome, friends and visitors!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Taking a break from unpacking...

I'm so sorry to have neglected my audience (the few, the proud) the past few days. This moving thing is pretty time-consuming.

But in other news, it's gloriously Autumn! Thanks to some early cold snaps, the leaves are gold, red, copper, and green. The air is cooler, damper. The dusty grassy summer smell is gone, replaced with a soft earthy smell. The sky in the morning is a melting terrine of blue, lavender, pink, and yellow. The sky at dusk is rich blues, from palest watery blue to lush dark navy. I wish my knitting friends could knit me a scarf of the sunset, with stars poking through its loops and cables. I love this time of year.

I wanted to show some pictures of the new place, but I've misplaced my cable that attaches to the camera. Never fear, I WILL find it. Meanwhile, enjoy this lovely autumn view from the Internet.
What does the world look like where you are, in Autumn?

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Home sweet home.

Can I just say, we love our new house?? We've spent the past couple of nights here, and are digging it. Oh, except for the cat. He's spending all his time under the comforter on our bed. We love our east-facing bedroom window, from which we awoke with the sunrise over the mountains, this morning. Gorgeous. We love our carpet. We love our shower. We love our kitchen. We love doing laundry in our VERY OWN washer and dryer!!

But the work continues as we unpack, sort, and - yes, still - move items from the old place to the new. Today I moved our clothes. Although I am a bit of a clothes-horse, I really didn't think I had that many items of clothing. I was wrong. So wrong. So now that all the clothes are here, I need to go and organize our closet. Ah, home sweet home.

I'll try to get some pictures up soon. (I found my camera, so that's if I can find my cd's, I'll have music to unpack to.)

Sunday, September 30, 2007

I'm not getting any younger...

After a marathon day of painting, I'm very aware that a thirtysomething body is not the same as a twentysomething body. Ow. Good thing we hired movers.

However, the paint colors are gorgeous. Pictures to follow, when I can find my camera again.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

It's only fair - Reasons we will miss our apartment.

It seemed the equitable thing to do, despite a breakdown in the water heater, meaning no hot water on a day during the first cold "snap" of the year. But anyway. Here's what we'll miss:

1) All the mature trees outside our windows. It's so nice to see green - I feel like I live in a treehouse.
2) The swimming pool.
3) The weight room.
4) Friendly neighbors.
5) Being able to call management when the drains are clogged, filters need changing, etc.
6) The green common area with barbecues and picnic tables.
7) Ummmm....

Well, we gave it our best shot!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Reasons we will not miss our apartment.

In no particular order, here are the things we will not miss about apartment life.
1) It's old. Things keep breaking down or not working. Yes, I realize this could happen in a new home, too, but...there's been 30 years of home-building technology since our apartments were built. That's gotta count for something.
2) Doing laundry in the laundry room.
3) Cheap carpet.
4) Sharing walls with the breezeway, and hearing everyone walk or run by.
5) Parking garage.
6) Slow elevator (see also #1).
7) Doing laundry in the laundry room.
8) Revelers who decide to party on Thursday at 3 am.
9) Smokers whose cigarette smoke wafts in regularly, every day, at half hour increments. We've identified at least 3 different smokers by their scents.
10) A crappy oven.
11) Popcorn ceiling.
12) Shower doors and the yucky stuff that grows in the door runners.
13) Metal mini-blinds.
14) The lack of trick-or-treaters. Although the complex has lots of families, no one goes trick-or-treating. It's very sad.
15) Kids who pee in the pool.
16a) Paying rent.
16b) Rent increases every year.
17) Doing laundry in the laundry room.
18) One toilet.
19) Hearing our neighbors. Um, enough said.
20) Dealing with apartment management.

And did we mention doing laundry in the laundry room??

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Now we can never stop working.

It's official - we signed our lives away on Tuesday. We finished our mortgage paperwork and loan documents. And then Wednesday, the interest rates drop. Figures.

But, our place is beautiful!! We went over there last weekend and the carpet is in. It's so soft and clean...not like our current worn apartment stuff. One week till escrow closes and we get our keys! I feel alternately excited and sick. Meanwhile, we keep packing. Still throwing out a bunch of stuff, recycling old papers, and putting stuff in the freecycle pile. I'm so sick of sorting, and packing.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Celebrating a Life: Harriet May, April 25, 1921 - September 12, 2007

Fiery personality. Amazing gardener. Fiercely loyal to family. Bright. Party girl. Athlete. Great legs! Loved a good wine and a good meal. World traveler. Thoughtful debater of issues. Raised four kids. Loved 6 grandkids and 4 great-grandkids, plus 2 step-grandkids. Married 60 years - now reunited with her husband. A Phenomenal Woman!!

Phenomenal Woman
by Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.
Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can't see.
I say,
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.
Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.
Thank you for showing me how to be phenomenal, Grandma. I love you.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Stuff and Nonsense

Is it just me or does stuff beget more stuff?? TH and I are cleaning out closets and cupboards, sorting, packing, tossing, in preparation to move. I am amazed at how much STUFF we have. Where does it all come from? How does it breed so quickly? I always thought we were pretty good at moving stuff out - to Goodwill, to the used bookstore, to friends and family. But it seems for every two boxes we fill, we have one more to get rid of. Thank God for Freecycle!! No matter what you have, someone will want it...
Meanwhile, I found some awesome curtains for the new place at Cost Plus. (No more metal miniblinds...NO MORE METAL MINIBLINDS...) And I think we've narrowed down the painters we'll be hiring...stay tuned for more house news.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Thanks, Dad!!

My Dad sent me this. Love it. Some items are admittedly from the male perspective - but as I happen to appreciate males, I can appreciate their perspective.

21 Big Lessons from Little Kids
Little gems you may have forgotten.
By the Editors of Men's Health
1. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Even when there's not a prize in the bottom of the box.

2. Sometimes it's best to be completely blunt with people, as you used to be with relatives who wanted you to do something embarrassing or tedious for a shiny quarter.

3. Asking questions is how you figure things out. Lots and lots of questions.

4. An older, wiser Gordie Lachance says in Stand By Me, "I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12." Lachance is right. The trick is to try to be the friend you were when you were 12: fun-loving and loyal, with no strings attached.

5. Playing is work. Approach your downtime with all the seriousness of a 5-year-old with a secret treasure map.

6. Real guys don't dip their toes in the water. They jump right in.

7. Girls have cooties. Well, the ones you meet in certain bars do, anyway.

8. You hated it when a grown-up told you, "We'll see." It's still unacceptable. Don't say it yourself.

9. The only way to know how something works is to completely disassemble it. (This is still good advice when tackling a complex problem. Your plasma TV? Not so much).

10. There's a reason they don't give credit cards to 8-year-olds. You're supposed to save up money before you buy a new toy.

11. Your body was designed for throwing baseballs, shooting hoops, and jumping off diving boards and stuff. In the secret language of children, the word "fitness" doesn't exist. It's called "having fun."

12. Your world can be half-real and half-imaginary.

13. Homework blows. Bring work home with you and it'll ruin your night. And your marriage. And your family. And your life.

14. Too much of anything will give you a tummy ache. Like, say, bourbon.

15. If there's even the slightest doubt, hit the potty before you leave.

16. The coolest adults were the ones who took the time to listen to you. You still want to grow up to be a cool adult, right?

17. Treasure Island, Dracula: The best books are consumed after dark with a flashlight.

18. Use adrenaline as your drug of choice. You don't need beer, pot, or cigarettes to have a good time.

19. Kissing a girl on the cheek is a big deal. Kissing her lips is an even bigger deal. Seeing her naked for the first time is a major, life-altering event.

20. Going after a target in the urinal makes the time whiz by.

21. Seeing a thunderstorm roll in is better than watching HDTV. And rain isn't something to curse, but to enjoy. Hurry up, before it clears.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

They seek him here...

I just finished The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness Orczy. I was madly reading this morning before I left for work. I couldn't wait all day to find out what happens in the last 10 pages!! TH and I love the story, especially the musical version. Aha - bet you didn't know it was a Broadway show, eh? But yes, mon ami! (See picture. Note the awesome Terrence Mann as Chauvelin. Unfortunately we didn't get to see him, but he's on the soundtrack. Yay!) Besides the musical, I have also watched the Anthony Andrews and Jane Seymour version (lovely), and an A&E version, with Richard E. Grant (thank God for PBS and A&E, or TV would truly suck). You can get either version on netflix.

Anywho. Swashbuckling adventure with a hint of romance? Count me in. However, one caveat - seeing as how the original was written in 1905, beware of some slightly stilted language (to our modern ears), a relatively slow start to the plot, and some racist and sexist attitudes. But, sink me, I'm forever charmed by Marguerite, intrigued by Sir Percy, and reviled by Chauvelin. A book that makes you feel you know the characters is some good writing.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Let the chaos commence

We're officially in escrow for our new home. Yay! It's been about 15 months since we started the whole process, and we're so excited to be getting closer to move-in. The only bummer is now we have to really start packing...and sorting...and purging...and living with boxes in every room. Joy.

Any tips for making a smooth transition? I'll take all the help I can get. Oh, and if anyone's free to help paint, let me know!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Around here we have our fair share of robins, jays, crows, and misc. small brown birds. I even saw a little group of quail earlier this summer - our state bird! But this week I've seen two amazing birds that I don't usually see. First, I saw a hawk! I caught sight of its wingspan as it landed in a tree near where I work. Wow! And today I saw this lovely - a blue heron. I've never seen a blue one before - only white ones. It was amazing - a slurry of slate blue, gliding a few feet above the river. It was so exciting.
Some cultures believe that birds are messengers, or bringers of signs. One source says hawks are messengers that appear when we need to pay attention to our surroundings. About herons, it says their grace, agility and presence reflect balance in life.
Hmmm. Do you believe animals and nature provide messages for humans? Are the messages from the Creator? Or does nature just reflect random creativity and continuity, and animals are just part of the landscape?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Book Report

This weekend I finished *Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. Great read if you enjoy psychology and cognition. Gladwell discusses how we make snap judgments, and what was refreshing to me was how the book showed that snap decisions are a valid way to think. There is a lot going on in our sub-conscious that, if we were to stop and think about, would cause our brains to overload. So, our brains tuck knowledge and information away, till we find ourselves needing quick access. Fascinating stuff. Here are some interesting quotes/concepts (all from Gladwell, M.: Blink [2005]. Back Bay Books.):

1. pg. 52. "we need to respect the fact that it is possible to know without knowing why we know and accept that - sometimes - we're better off that way."
2. pg. 71. "...people are ignorant of the things that affect their actions, yet they rarely feel ignorant. We need to accept our ignorance and say 'I don't know' more often." This one had me thinking for days. So many times I'm afraid to look ignorant or stupid if I say 'I don't know,' yet I think I've probably been most comfortable with myself when I admit ignorance - because then I've opened my brain to learning.
3. pg. 208. "We think of the face as the residue of emotion...[but] the process works in the opposite direction as well. Emotion can also start on the face." What this means is that if we want to change our emotions, we can do so by changing our facial expressions. Wow! This is something to try next time I get frustrated at work - let's see if I can alter my thoughts by changing my expressions. I'll let you know how it goes.

Go get this book. Good stuff.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

How NOT to Provide Customer Service, Lessons 1-100

TH and I were eating at a casual restaurant today for lunch, enjoying ourselves, when suddenly, a child begins a tantrum, to the accompaniment of a loud banging sound. Ten minutes later (I'm not kidding), the kid is still screaming and banging around, the parents have done NOTHING, and my food is curdling in my stomach. So I go to see what the restaurant is going to do. I figure, restaurants are hospitality industries, right? So the comfort and enjoyment of their guests is important to them, right? I wouldn't go so far as to say the customer is always right, but apparently they are if their kid is tantruming, because no one was willing to do anything. Check it out.

The first employee I approach (must have been 15 years old), I ask very politely, "Is there anything that can be done about the child who's throwing a fit? It's affecting our enjoyment of our meal." She says "I don't think we can do anything." Silence. Ohh--kayy. I ask to speak to the manager. She gets her supervisor, who was about 18 years old. He says "We can't really ask them to leave." Oh really? I ask, "Don't you have the right to refuse service to anyone?" He shrugs. I say, "So what you're telling me is that even though one person is ruining the restaurant environment for everyone else, there's nothing you can do about it?!" He says, "Yeah." I'm like, ooooooh - UH-UH. Meanwhile the tantrum has still been going on - so it's not like they couldn't hear what I was talking about - for a total of 15 minutes of straight meltdown (I gotta hand it to the kid for sheer endurance - wow). So I ask him if I can speak to his boss. He says, OK. He comes back with a business card, "He must have stepped out for a minute, but you can call him." You betcha.

A few minutes later, after the kid mercifully shuts up (still at no direction from his parents, who we had been observing), the manager starts walking around the restaurant. He's dressed in denim shorts and a T-shirt that says STUD and doesn't even identify the restaurant. He's asking everyone, "how you doin?" Well, fine, I love screaming with my onion rings, thanks...So when he gets to our table, I speak up. (Oh crap - I'm turning into my mother.) I very calmly mention that our lunch was disrupted by the tantrum, and how when I discussed this with his staff, I was told there was nothing to be done. I explained that this whole scenario bothered me on two levels: 1), what if the child were in danger, and making a ruckus? Would the restaurant say "nope, sorry, nothing we can do." And, 2) as a patron, it did not make me feel respected when the staff told me they couldn't help out. I then suggested that the manager (who turns out to be the owner) train the staff on different responses, so they can respond to complaints and disturbances appropriately. He totally blew me off.

He says, "Well ma'am, this is a kid-friendly restaurant, and so we expect there to be a certain amount of noise. If a child is in danger, we're limited by laws but would probably call the police. Otherwise, we can't do anything." I pointed out that the child was quite obviously not having good clean kid-friendly fun. He said, "I only just stepped out for five minutes, and I don't hear anything now. I'm a parent, and my kids have had tantrums in restaurants, you just do the best you can. In the thirty years I've worked in restaurants, I've never asked anyone to leave, and I never will." Wow. This guy's a winner. I reiterated that our meal was ruined, as were many other diners'. I asked him the same question as I asked his lackey - "so, you're going to sacrifice the comfort and experience of the whole restaurant because you don't want to step in to correct one person?" He said that's the way it was, and said he was sorry but there was nothing else he could tell me. No offer to pay for lunch, no apology for the negative experience. No placating, no nuthin'. I was so angry at this point I was shaking, but I managed to say, "I completely disagree with how you've handled this." We got up and left.

Now, I don't need someone to kiss my tushie, but in my opinion, this is how NOT to provide customer service. TH, after having worked in restaurant management himself, was also appalled - and he is tough to ruffle. When did kids' tantrums become normal behavior? When did people stop enforcing appropriate restaurant behavior for the common comfort of their patrons? My god, I feel like I stepped into bizarro world.

ps. Don't go to Fuddrucker's on Sunrise Ave in Citrus Heights. Ever. I'm telling everyone. And I'm toying with calling HQ on his ass.
pps. It occurs to me that I've been ranting a lot on my blog lately, so I will try to bring back some love tomorrow. I've got a great book I want to share with you.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Work Pet Peeves

It drives me crazy when people at work say phrases like, "It's Friday Eve" or, "Wednesday - Hump Day." (Didn't Jerry Seinfeld do a routine about this??) As if life revolves around the weekend! I suppose for these sad people it does, but luckily I love my job, I love going to work, and I enjoy the weekdays as well as the weekends. Live in the now, people!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Gender Roles

I was talking to a coworker today about one of my most favorite-est topics, gender roles. We were comparing how we were raised, and how our genders affected assignment of household chores. For instance, she was raised with the idea that doing laundry is a woman's job, and so girls should do the laundry for the family to train them for motherhood. I was raised with the idea that laundry is a life skill that both boys and girls needed to learn to do. We both took a moment of silence to imagine each other's lives. Interestingly, she is younger than me by a good 10 years.

I naturally feel most comfortable with how I was raised, but sometimes I wonder...what would it be like to have very structured ideas about what each gender "does?" Is there comfort in that? Is there confusion when all people can be all things? I guess this issue will keep coming up as long as there are still arenas in which women and men are not equally represented (hello, US Presidency and politics in general).

It's interesting to hear what people say on this topic (hint hint). Also, I think that culture plays a huge role in how gender roles are defined. And generation, and religion, and on and on... So I guess another question is, is it possible to separate the concept of gender role identity from that of culture and generation and family environment, or are these strings of identity eternally intertwined?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Your TSA: keeping you safe from petite, white 34-year-old women with apple butter

TH and I went to Indianapolis a couple of weekends ago for our daughter's (technically my step-daughter's) wedding. It was a sweet wedding and we are happy to welcome her new hubby to the family. We got to enjoy brunch at the Cracker Barrel, a fine down-home establishment with yummy big breakfasts (eggs! ham! grits! biscuits! apple butter!). I loved their apple butter so much, I decided to buy some - since, like all fine down-home establishments, the Cracker Barrel has a country store where you can purchase all kinds of goodies.
Flash forward to the next day, when I try to take said apple butter home. TH and I only packed one bag between us, and it was carry-on. We mosey through security at 5:00 am and get stopped at the x-ray. The TSA guy opens up our bag and starts going through everything. He pulls out the jar of apple butter (sealed, mind you), and says, "You can't take this." I argue that the bottle is obviously unopened, and not really a liquid. Like the fine down-home government employee he is, he doesn't budge. Kindly, he states that it's not allowed. Miffed, I tell him I hope he enjoys my apple butter since I won't be able to. Hmph.
So there you are folks. The friendly skies are safe, once again.

ps. I really don't have a problem with enhanced security, but come on. Apple butter for cryin' out loud!!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Sabra is Awesome

The finale for "So You Think You Can Dance" was last night, and my girl Sabra won! I'm so happy for her!! She has been consistently one of my favorites; it's so amazing that she's only been dancing four years. And, I loved Wade Robeson's "Foxes" dance. I thought it was wonderful, so imaginative and evocative, and poignant...the judges did not share my feelings on this. Still, there was some amazing dancing this season. And I like this show so much better than "Idol," as the judges actually give helpful critiques and comments, and don't spend a lot of time bickering. Also it seems the dancers are more talented at dancing than the singers on Idol are at singing.

Now what am I gonna watch??

ps. Pasha, you're still my favorite guy. [Swoon.]

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


As if I didn't already love to shop, I just found another great website, That sound you hear is TH (the hubby) which I say, sweetie-pie, don't make me tell them about you and your games..."Fear the Gamer!!"

Anyway, how cute is this sweater? And how good would it look with a black pencil skirt, crisp white dress shirt, and the dark red suede shoes that I already own? Mm-hmm. BTW, I wanted to show you-all the equally cute fleece coat I just recently acquired from, but it is no longer on their website. I can only assume that I must be more of a trendsetter than I thought. Yeah. Me and hundreds of other women.

Monday, August 13, 2007


I am fascinated. It blows my mind how we can estimate the age of something so old...a 1.5 million year old skull?? How can we possibly measure this kind of time? What was life like on Earth that long ago? How different was the land, the air, the sky? How did people interact with each other - were they self-centered or community-oriented? Did they have any concept of issues like "gender roles," "mental illness," "politics," or "spirituality?" What was language like?

I'm interested in bones, too. It's so amazing to me that scientists can tell so many things just from bones or fragments of bones. I think the area of forensic anthropology is riveting. [Sigh.] There's just not enough time in my day to study all the things I want to. Is anyone in the market to hire a professional student? I would apply for that job.

Meanwhile, if anyone out there has read any good books on these subjects, please let me know.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

I'm a nerd. I admit it.

It's that time of year again...time for school supplies!! I love school supplies - paper, notebooks, pencils, pens, folders, scissors, glue sticks, binders, backpacks. Love them all. Loved getting ready for school, putting binders together, labelling notebooks, loading up my backpack, the whole enchilada. In my life, one of the great tragedies of being a grown-up is that I'm done with school, ergo no more back-to-school shopping trips. I miss school.

Yep, I'm a nerd. Any other nerds out there??

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Bloom where you're planted

In the middle of the river levy, this dauntless plant is thriving. I love how it's not bowing to the peer pressure of the surrounding dried-up late summer grass.

There's a lot I need to learn from this plant.