Monday, December 22, 2008

UPDATED: Guideposts

Today we received our January issue of Guideposts, as well as 10 copies as part of "the publishing deal." I'll update with the link when the on-line copy is available. Whoohooo! I'm officially published!

Glory, Alleluia!

UPDATED with link to on-line copy of the article.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Getting the Spirit

Last night as part of Family Night we toured the neighborhood to admire our neighbors lights and decorating skills...and to have fun occasionally lambasting their taste. Some houses were very high class and tastefully decorated. Some were a hodgepodge of thoughts and emotions. We saw yards that combined the peanuts gang, multiple Santas and nativity scenes. Since we're not decorating our yard this year (we're leaving town on the 23rd and won't be back until January), I'm not sure if I should completely refrain from judgment or let loose and publish some of the hilarity. OK, I've decided on restraint.

I wasn't going to go there at all, however, my sister posted pictures of her home's decorated interior and asked that we imagine we're hearing "Christmas Wrapping" by the Waitresses. Why imagine it when you can embed it?

This is so much better than anything we had going down in our neighborhood.
Merry Christmas!!!

After all of that....

I completed on-line Defensive Driving 2 1/2 weeks ago to address a ticket I got 3 months ago. I was proud that I took the course in time to avoid having to pay to expedite the certificate of completion. I had that in hand 2 weeks ago. And yet...I still waited until the last possible day to go to the courthouse to turn in the paperwork. {sigh}

Well, it makes for a nice excuse to leave work early today.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dreams

Like snippets of conversation overheard in passing. Incomplete. Not real. Yet to be fulfilled. Not fully understood because key elements are missing. Nothing to indicate whether my imagination can successfully complete the picture. Nothing to stop me from trying.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Short Story Contest

Today I submitted a short story to the Austin Chronicle's 2008 Short Story Contest.

'nough said.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

I love Austin, TX!!!

When I was young, dumb and 18 (redundant?) I spent almost a year traveling with the circus (The Circus - Ringling Brothers & Barnum & Bailey). I was in Austin, newly employed at the local Arena as an usher, when I pulled up my tent stakes and hit the road with The Greatest Show on Earth. I lost count of how many cities we visited, Dallas, Tulsa, Wichita Falls, Kansas City, Detroit, Cleveland, Birmingham, Pensicola...with major stops in Boston and Miami. I caught the flavor of the midwest and the eastern states. In the end, I decided Austin was home. Shortly after my return to Austin, I met my wonderful husband and settled down for a life filled with as much fun, adventure and drama as any 3-ring circus could have offered.

One of the things I love about this town, my town, my home of choice...is the live music scene. From the first time I came here in '82 when I was 17 years old, I have been enamored with the local musicians. Sure, back in my really youthful youth I got to hear Joe Ely, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, and other names you may or may not recognize ... enjoyed through slightly illegal entry into Dallas clubs. I got to see the Who and be deafened by ZZ Top in the Dallas music scene. But Austin venues hold a charm not to be outdone. Mostly they are open air and free. Zilker Park is most notable for its free concerts - and I've enjoyed many. When we lived in Lago Vista (just west of Austin), the town of less than 5,000 had 4 (yes, FOUR) live music venues.

Why am I reminiscing? Today, hubby and I dropped in on the Wheatsville Arts Festival. It was truly a blast to the past. Not because the music was retro, but because all of the people who were hanging out at the free concerts 20-something years ago where there. Not that we recognized anyone...it was just that we were all of an era. Austin's gay/lesbian community were well represented. Austin's artistic left were also out in force. Dreadlocks and tie-dye (we bought some of the latter, as well as some home-spun glass art), long skirts and sandals, long hair for men and women, all on folks my age (40+) or older. Very little in the way of piercing and tats.

I'm not sure if there was a memo or what's going on with the UT collegiates. Today's happening was at a park just north of campus. Where were all of the 20-somethings? Has Austin moved on? Have we (hubby and I)? Are we a dying breed? Maybe we just need to get out more.

In the end, I guess I don't need to be hip or cool - I just like knowing that there is good music available for free at Art Festivals. I love Austin, Texas!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Defensive Driving, Part II

I'm back at it. I'm not sure how they have calculated the time required to read each page of text, or if the intent is to motivate me to pay for the

Tired of reading? Listen to the entire course with our audio read-along feature.

This is now being offered at a discounted rate. It was ~$10 for the upgrade. I'm either reading faster or the time allowed per word of text has shifted. The challenge with clicking away from the training and letting my mind wander is that there is also a time limit on how long I can be away.

Something that has added a tremendous amount of entertainment is playing "slug bug" during the videos. My son happened to stop by yesterday for this video (mute the video and put on your favorite tune):

We both caught the slug bug so the game was on!
video
Today, I got to enjoy this video:
video
How many slug bugs can you spot? (My son and I do not agree on all of the models. He says 1 or 2, I say 3 or 4) Once I started playing, I couldn't stop. It's kept me vastly entertained. There's a clip with the same aqua-colored sb appearing over and over again - very exciting stuff!

If I learned nothing else, I know that we drivers are not checking our tire pressure often enough. This was mentioned repeatedly, and I'm definitely guilty. Check your tire pressure, people! It's free! It only takes a minute of your time! There is no argument that your vehicle will be safer if your tires are properly inflated.

Before anyone thinks I'm being unduly harsh, I should make clear - this is the BEST DD course I have EVER taken. Ever. I'm a woman who knows her Defensive Driving. www.idrivesafely.com. I strongly recommend it...should you find yourself with a ticket requiring dismissal, or a desire to lower your insurance, or nothing better to do for a couple of evenings or a Saturday.

I, myself, promise to behave on the road in such a way as to avoid this eye-tick inducing exercise. I'm on my last set of lessons (page 3 of 7). I'm confident I can make it through to the end. But it's bedtime, and I am seriously just wishing it were done.

I've saved up lots of fodder for a future recap, but for tonight, I'm hitting publish before I complete the course because honestly, once I successfully complete the final exam (because eventually, I know that this will come to an end) I'm running off to bed. Or stumbling off to bed.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Surviving Defensive Driving

I'm convinced that this is less about educating drivers and more about deterring us ADHD-always-in-a-hurry folks (speed again and we'll make you sit through another round of Defensive Driving!). The people who need to hear this are the slow-pokes who get in the left lane (aka "the fast lane"). There's a statement about "slow down and pull off to the right" when traveling on a 2-lane blacktop and you're plagued by someone on your tale. On a recent trip to Bryan, the speed limit on the 2-lane blacktop was 70 mph. Understandably, a lot of the locals are comfortable doing a lot less than 70. Others were comfortable doing more than 70. I was happy to do 70, but unhappy when trapped behind yokels driving for miles at 55.

Tired of reading? Listen to the entire course with our audio read-along feature.

If you've never taken the on-line course, I can assure you the greatest challenge is the timer. I'm a fast reader so much of the course is focused on counting down 5....4....3....2....1 waiting for the timer to hit 0 so I can click to the next page. I should be embarrassed to admit how many times I've taken Defensive driving. My first time was in an elementary school 20 years ago, taught by a DPS trouper. It's not coincidence that one "took" better than the rest and many years passed before I found myself again in the classroom. I've done the comedy club routine - which was painful. Comedian-wanna-be's teaching unfunny material. I've actually tried this one in various mediums. Then I tried the DD/Dinner specials - which always seemed to be hosted in the local greasy spoons. I've done on-line DD several times. You may be noticing that DD has not cured me of my speeding ways.

It's not that I don't know how to drive safely, defensively, slowly.... I seriously think the gentlemen in blue who patrol the road between here and my old residence in Lago Vista have missed me. I haven't gotten a speeding ticket in the years since I moved away until.... I took my Mustang out for a spin one Sunday morning, trying to juggle church services. My wonderful husband was giving witness to his prison ministry at our old church and my wonderful son was running the projector at our new church. I told hubby I'd be there at the 8 am and 10:30 am services, and I told son I'd get him to the 10:30 am service and at some point during the 8 am service I discovered the 10:30 am service began at 10! So, I was hustling to get home sooner rather than later in order to get our son to church and myself back to church...you get the picture?

Tired of reading? Listen to the entire course with our audio read-along feature.

I've tried deferred adjudication, and it's not a bad way to go. I can't remember now why I didn't opt for that... oh yeah! it takes longer to process at the court. You have to meet with the DA. I was gearing up for my trip to Asia when I got the ticket, and I'd just returned when I went to the courthouse. I sure didn't anticipate the job change. Now I'm just trying to grind through the mandatory 6 hours of timed spurts of attention. If I let my attention wander too far, I'll time out and have to backtrack. At least the quiz questions for this particular on-line training have been all common-sense and not "are you paying attention?" I hated the last one where they asked things like "what color shirt was the driver wearing?"

One new twist with the course I'm taking now is that they offered (and I accepted) to acquire the copy of my driving record. It seems like they're charging 2.5X the rate I'd pay if I could be bothered to find the office and make the request in person - and it is well worth the cost!

I just read the section on aggressive driving. I don't consider myself aggressive...maybe assertive. Mostly in a hurry. Not hateful. I don't flip the bird, I don't honk, I don't call names (much). But, my goal is that someday people won't flip the bird at me or call me names. That would be good. Of all of the bad behavior listed, texting my sister with slug bug sightings and driving too fast are my primary faults. Text messaging is a new one on the list of road challenges. I don't remember that even being mentioned the last time I took DD.
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
Google yielded plenty of data that confirms this is a bad practice.

Tired of reading? Listen to the entire course with our audio read-along feature.

Did I mention that the particular flavor of on-line DD that I've pursued offers a $10 upgrade to the illiterate? I'm amused that I could simply blog and let the course run as background noise.

Part I is over. I'll pick up where I left off tomorrow.

Peace,

Friday, November 28, 2008

Getting my game on

As if training for a marathon I began a daily regimen of blogging. How can I be a writer if I don't write, right? The daily grind is not for the faint-hearted. You'd better be writing because you love writing. If you're escaping the real-world, the blog-world isn't different enough. Sometimes it's lonely here, sometimes I misunderstand others, and sometimes I'm misunderstood. I've found some lovely people I admire tremendously. I've seen good blogging and I've seen bad blogging. I'm still learning, growing, maturing.

As part of my training, I've invested in additional research. I noticed that a few of the folks I adore have been critiqued by Ask And Ye Shall Receive. Today I spent some time reviewing the reviews and studying what does or doesn't work. The FAQ page was especially helpful. Also, there's a review that provides tips, but the tips are buried in the midst of a ripping critique. The comments that follow (including lots of witty repartee by the ring of reviewers) are a study in psyche.

The kicker is the "How to Blog" post by Tony Pierce (a FAQ referral). The post is from June '04 and I guess it's so good they haven't thought to confirm that it follows its own recommended guidelines. This advice may be questionable as the advisor disregards his own advice. Too circular?

Examples:
"10. use spellcheck unless youre completely totally keeping it real." (look up "youre". Blogger doesn't catch it with spellcheck, but that doesn't make it right. Apostrophe's appear to be optional in Tony's post. And "similarilly" somehow escaped his spellchecker as well).
"25. dont use your real name" (blog credited to Tony Pierce)
And a final comment: "if you're going to ripoff/mimic/be inspired by one blogger make it raymi, shes perfect." Raymi disregards most of the sage advice given by Tony and the ring of rippin' reviewers. Most of the panned blogs were lambasted for punctuation, grammer, and/or other bastardization of the English language. Maybe the point is that you can make up for some sins by being stellar in content. Tony is (or was) the LA Times Blogs editor, so his suggestions should not be dismissed too quickly.

All in all I found some very useful suggestions and hopefully I can self-correct by learning from others. Eventually I will submit one or both of my blogs for the brutally honest feedback I can expect (and would accept no less).

Peace,

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Buried deep within my memory

I was 16 and it was the summer of '81. I was working two jobs: mornings at one pool giving "water babies" swim lessons and afternoons/evenings at another pool as a lifeguard. The neighborhoods I worked in were middle- to upper-middle class. I spent all day, almost every day, in a Speedo style swim suit. I ate a can of tuna-in-water, a tomato and air-popped popcorn every day. That was it. I took up jogging. Living in a swimsuit is a great motivator for weight loss. By mid-summer I was tanned and thin and looking good. At least by Glamour standards. But what did I know? I was 16.

One evening, late in the summer, the pool where I lifeguarded had an after-hours party for the staff. There was an 18 year old boy there - a guest of another lifeguard. We hit it off and spent most of the evening chatting and flirting. I was very flattered to be getting that kind of attention. I definitely wasn't used to it. I remember thinking "He's so cute! And of all the girls here, he's interested in me!"

Looking back, I can't remember the details, but for some reason we both went to my house after the party. I parked in the driveway behind the house and he parked on the street in front of our neighbor's house. I passed through the house and told my parents I was going to his car to look at his car stereo. They asked questions, but I blew them off as only a 16YO can. It seems like it must have been around 11pm.

We sat in his car for a while chatting. Eventually we kissed. Then, he wanted more. But I didn't. We wrestled for a while and he taught me several submission techniques that would have made any bully proud. I thought I was strong. I was someone who did her own thing. I was a leader not a follower. Every time I tried to get out of the car he hurt me. Eventually I did what he wanted. And he let me go. Actually...he walked me to the door and kissed me. I was sick to my stomach. I had his stink on me and I wanted to shower for a week. I wanted to be left alone for a year. My head was reeling. I hadn't had a drop to drink but I might as well have. I was numb.

When I went inside (was it 1am? 2am?), my parents and older sister were waiting. Why was my sister allowed to wait up and be a part of that scene? I believe if she hadn't been there I might have told my parents but she was, and I didn't. They grounded me and I went to my room. It was a while before the story came out.

Ultimately, I count my blessings. I am lucky. Others are far less fortunate than I.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Better Things - The Kinks




Here's wishing you the bluest sky,
And hoping something better comes tomorrow.
Hoping all the verses rhyme,
And the very best of choruses to
Follow all the doubt and sadness.
I know that better things are on the way.

Here's hoping all the days ahead
Won't be as bitter as the ones behind you.
Be an optimist instead,
And somehow happiness will find you.
Forget what happened yesterday,
I know that better things are on the way.

It's really good to see you rocking out
And having fun,
Living like you just begun.
Accept your life and what it brings.
I hope tomorrow you'll find better things.
I know tomorrow you'll find better things.

Here's wishing you the bluest sky,
And hoping something better comes tomorrow.
Hoping all the verses rhyme,
And the very best of choruses to
Follow all the doubt and sadness.
I know that better things are on the way.

I know you've got a lot of good things happening up ahead.
The past is gone it's all been said.
So here's to what the future brings,
I know tomorrow you'll find better things.
I know tomorrow you'll find better things.
I hope tomorrow you'll find better things.

Photos by 14-yr-old "T". It brought on a moment of retro.

And because it made me laugh and cry:


This song transcends generations. This is not "T", but it's the best I could find on YouTube.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Word of Warning

During my list trip to Malaysia I went for a long walk on a Sunday afternoon. This sign gave me pause. It seemed like a safe-enough neighborhood, but I guess you never know.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Why I want my camera with me at all times

I've mentioned missed opportunities, so I won't elaborate other than to say...I missed another one because I didn't have my camera with me. Hubby and I went to Academy and after we got out of the car he did a double-take at the truck next to us.
"What?"
"I guess this guy's been hunting."

So I sneak a peak and sure enough... In the bed of this pickup-truck is the head of a deer. Or more accurately, the head of a buck. Unless does have antlers. I'm not expert, and the "telling" parts were not in evidence. The head jutted out of an empty (well, mostly empty) bag of potting soil.

And, as I mentioned, I had no camera with me. I thought about buying a disposable camera, but the guy was gone when we got back out to our car, so that's a moot point.

In the absence of an actual photo, I thought I'd share the following tale:

"A lady told of a man driving down the interstate with a dog hanging on to the tailgate for dear life. She said if he hadn't been going so fast in the other direction she would have tried to stop him. A few weeks later her son saw this truck at the Bass Pro Shop! It's a taxidermist! THIS IS REALLY IN DAPHNE ALABAMA !"



I can't speak to the voracity of the story but a picture's worth 1,000 words, wouldn't you say?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Outrageously Expensive Sunglasses

Before I begin, I should mention a few things that are relevant:

1) I am cheap. I do not easily part with hard-earned money.

2) I am even more reluctant to spend money on myself. I come from generations of female martyrs.

3) An expensive luxury item???? For myself???? Are you insane???

Introducing:

Replacing:

If these are looking like Walgreen's clip-ons over a pair of specs, then the sparkle isn't masking reality.

The new shades (GUCCI for cryin' out loud!) were purchased in the morning on the day I was told of my lay-off/transition to a new job. And what I love is that my reaction (when I was told), for just a flicker, was "at least I'll be looking stylish in my new shades". Whoo-wah for me! Every now and then, we just gotta shake it and know we're worth it.



This pair of sunglasses cost more than what I'd spent on all prior shades combined. Because I'm an engineer, I'm frugal, and I'm practical: it is worth mentioning that they are great! They fit close to my face so I'm squint-free. The tint is light enough that I can wear them inside without looking like I need a white cane. They fit well-enough that I can wear them like a head-band when I'm shopping (I've lost 2 pairs of Rx shades in stores!! Stolen within minutes of realizing they were no longer tucked in my collar). Ok. Nuff about shades.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Revenge of the belled cat


Al has made clear his opinion of the new bell. He is not a fan. I have explained to him "I am not the one! I did not choose this path! I was okay with trapping your wild a@@ inside for the winter." However, in fairness to my loving hubby, who is currently tearing out and rebuilding our pond and therefore traipsing in and out of the house, trapping the wild a@@ inside is no small feat. And since he has to also deal with the "prizes" which Al brings in, I defer to his judgment on the best recourse for The Killer Cat.


Meanwhile, I am getting the teenager looks from Al. Malevolent, baleful "I hate you" stares, as if this is somehow my doing. And this morning....this morning he artfully jingled and jangled at every turn for about 30 minutes until I finally, finally rolled out of bed and greeted the day.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Because I'm a geek

My sister's most recent post included the amazon.com image shown below:




This post is entirely based on my itch to determine whether you can click to look inside. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The cat has been belled

Æsop. (Sixth century B.C.) Fables.The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Belling the Cat

LONG ago, the mice had a general council to consider what measures they could take to outwit their common enemy, the Cat. Some said this, and some said that; but at last a young mouse got up and said he had a proposal to make, which he thought would meet the case. “You will all agree,” said he, “that our chief danger consists in the sly and treacherous manner in which the enemy approaches us. Now, if we could receive some signal of her approach, we could easily escape from her. I venture, therefore, to propose that a small bell be procured, and attached by a ribbon round the neck of the Cat. By this means we should always know when she was about, and could easily retire while she was in the neighbourhood.”

This proposal met with general applause, until an old mouse got up and said: “That is all very well, but who is to bell the Cat?” The mice looked at one another and nobody spoke. Then the old mouse said:

“IT IS EASY TO PROPOSE IMPOSSIBLE REMEDIES.”





If you find a way to bell the cat and a little bell doesn't do the job, get a bigger bell. The critters who visit our yard have an advocate in my loving hubby. Alabaster has been belled. We'll see if this cuts down on the "offerings".



Peace,

Monday, November 10, 2008

Another Alabaster story: the tale of the critter

If you read my last post, you might be left wondering if the killer cat knows no bounds. I've wondered about it myself. I can tell you that there are limits to the critters he will tackle. Here's the story:

Last Monday I was up early, ready to start my new job. When, during the course of my usual routine, I went to let Al out....I discovered chaos in our sunroom. A 7 ft plant was knocked over, among other obvious disarray. The room stank. There was poop everywhere! Silly as it seems now, I was eyeing the cat wondering what had possessed him.
What is not obvious is how skittish Al was acting. And he was very much interested in something under the fallen plant. I'm not at my most alert at this early hour so it took me several cups of coffee and trips to the sun room to study the situation and conclude that whatever had done all of this damage was still in the sun room. Apparently something was in the room when I locked up before bed Sunday night.
I started to investigate using my super spy equipment - putting the camera on the floor to take pictures under the furniture, etc. to look in hard-to-reach spaces without actually having to put my face in the line of attack in case the critter freaked when we saw each other.
Finally I found him! The raccoon had snuggled himself into the space between the screen and the sunroom wall. By now, my loving hubby was up and I brought him into the action. He got one of our live traps (the one that has an entrance AND an exit - I've always wondered about that) and a broom and proceeded to shoo the 'coon out from behind the screen and into the trap.
The raccoon got it half right. He went into the trap and out the other side, ran across the room and disappeared into the catfood bin (the one with the poop on top) that happened to be empty.
And here's the raccoon stupefied by the series of events that led to this predicament. No matter how bad a day you're having, it probably won't include getting trapped in a catfood bin. I have an entire other set of photos of hubby's efforts to get the 'coon out of the catfood bin and into the other live trap (that doesn't have an exit), but I missed the funniest one of him holding the catfood bin upside down over the trap with the raccoon hanging on for dear life. I was laughing too hard. In the end, he hauled off the critter in the bin (handed off to animal control).

Some of you may want to yell at me for having such a lovely back yard that hosts so many critters, and expecting them to know to stay out of my sunroom. The rules are clearly posted in the yard, and all guests are expected to comply. Everyone is welcome to come and visit, but don't run around knocking over plants and pooping everywhere!

Oh- and the critter under the fallen plant, the one that Al kept pestering me about? It turned out to be an itty-bitty lizard.

Peace,

Saturday, November 08, 2008

One Photo Op I'm glad to have missed

In case you haven't met him, this is Alabaster.

Alabaster, aka Al, has many nicknames. I often refer to him as my lapdog because of his tendency to follow me around and to want to sit on my lap, no matter what. The latest addition to his aliases is "The Killer Cat". As in "What are we going to do about the killer cat?" This was the greeting from my husband yesterday morning. My husband was greeted by the photo op I'm glad to have missed. Apparently after I let Al out for his morning constitutional he caught a rabbit. Well, he is a cat. Last weekend, the inevitable happened. Even though I had told Al I didn't ever, ever, ever want him to harm a cardinal, he brought one into the house. We released the young female (I think she was one of the siblings I've been keeping an eye on) with a damaged wing and thigh/leg. At this point, her whereabouts and state-of-being are unknown.

Later that day, I went out to journal. I needed some time to mourn and ponder. I've been watching this family of cardinals all summer. I've noted parallels in the drama of child-rearing. Not to say my kids are birds, but sometimes they are a bit flighty. When I went out to my quiet area in the far back part of the yard, I found Al lurking, patiently waiting....

I don't know exactly how long I was out there, but I got up several times and took pictures, wandered in and out and around...and through it all Al lurked. "I could stay here forever."

Yesterday morning was the 2nd time in a week my husband removed wildlife from our front living room. I didn't get a picture of the cardinal because the drama played out very quickly ("Honey, I think Al's caught something!" Then a quick capture/release.) I don't think my husband's as attached to the birds as I am. The bunny, though...that's another story. Plus, he indicated it had been a massacre. I know there were little tufts of bunny fur in evidence.

And no...there won't be pictures posted. Is it too late to make Al an indoor cat?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

I wish I could take a picture

There have been many times (since I've begun to post regularly) that I've thought "I wish I could take a picture of that." When we were in PA, there was a street sign that said "High DUI Crash Area". That would have made for a fun post.

The Houston airport provided a plethora of photo-ops....all missed opportunities. I'm not a paparazzo. It's awkward to blatantly take pictures of oddballs people that I might consider post-worthy. Especially if I'm in the company of my "What are you doing?" loving-hubby.

Mostly I am not quite quick enough, or I don't have my camera with me. At the moment, I'm distracting myself in a meeting. Here I am in my new role (which is really my old role, new company), representing my new company, with about 30 folks from my old company, most of whom are head-down in their notebook computers or nodding off, reviewing action items and assigning owners. I just set myself up in Facebook so I can IM my team members. The first pleasant surprise was that my cousin was listed as one of the thousands of folks I might be interested in contacting! I'm not sure if that was just an amazing coincidence or if Facebook is magical. Divine intervention? I wish I'd could have taken a picture of my own reaction. And that, my friends, is a first.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Free to good home


I suppose it is a perfectly fine mug. It is well insulated. Under normal, non-traveling-in-the-car conditions, it is probably an outstanding mug. Only slightly likely to tip over because of the narrow base. The base is not actually narrow enough to fit into a cup holder in your car. The base tapers so if you're stupid unfortunate enough to try to drive with the mug between your legs, should you shift gears or otherwise put the squeeze on the mug, it will pop up. Which *might* lead to a lap full of hot tea. Very hot tea.
NOTE: There is a handy-dandy feature that allows you the perception of closing the lid, cutting off the flow of hot tea. This is for looks only. In practice, the hot tea will freely flow, independent of the position of the lid.
OK, I have to confess - after I took the pictures I threw the mug away.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Mrs. G, where are you?

Mr. G is moonlighting (apparently).

It seems I've heard mention that Mr. G is quite the gourmand when it comes to things Italian. I don't remember the details, but that's what came to mind when I saw Mr. G's Pizzeria.

I took these pictures while killing a few hours in Bryan, Texas.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Pass It On

On my parenting blog, I've been touching on the "Pass It On" theme, and I have more to say...but it will have to wait. I'm harvesting zinnia seeds and I want to know if there are any takers out there. This a hardy flock that defies negligence. Although by all accounts they should only grow 3 feet tall, this seems to only apply to seeds planted in the shade. In full sun - we're getting 7+ foot tall plants/flowers.

If you are interested at all, please let me know. You can e-mail me with your snail-mailing address and a) I promise I will not stalk you b) I promise I will not share with telemarketers and c) I promise to send you an envelope filled with zinnia seeds. These will be provided at no cost to you! No gimmick - I really love flowers and have enjoyed hosting the butterflies, and would love to share.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Reading, Writing and Arithmetic

On Reading: Although I regret being harsh in my criticism of Cryptonomicon, I don't regret putting the book down. The irony that I was "let go" "laid off" "terminated" affected by a "Reduction In Force" the day I posted "I am not a quitter" is not lost on me. I've known for a while that my employer would have to give me the boot as I was too stubborn or lazy to quit and go through the job hunt. I didn't expect my ex-employer to be so good as to "transition" me to my next job. So...here I am. Since I put down Crypto, I read Compulsion, by Kellerman. I'm about to start Left Behind by LeHaye/Jenkins. I suspect that with the job transition, I will be blessed with more time to read and to write.

On Writing: I was humbled by the extensive rewrite of my story for Guideposts. The key takeaways for future submissions are to include dialogue and to be artful in the telling. My submission was a linear chronology of events. I definitely need to exercise my dialogue muscles. I will continue my discipline of daily posts. Perhaps I can find more opportunities to slip dialogue into my blog. More importantly, I believe in new beginnings and clearly I'm in a time of change and renewal. Monday I'll be relocating my cube to a lab (one floor up). I'm still not clear on the details or scope of my assignment. I do know that it will be a while before the new gig hits the level of "demanding" that typified the old gig. Seems like it's time to do more than blog.


On Arithmetic: If I write a page a day, 7 days a week, in 52 weeks I should have a 364 page novel. Or maybe 52 short stories. I have ideas for both. I have the support of my family. I have access to the tools I need. It's just a matter of math. And discipline. And commitment. And determination.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

It just goes to show....you never know

In the last week I had many conversations with folks that in hindsight all orbited around the same theme. And in hindsight all contributed to my "readiness" for a conversation that took place Monday. I postponed the posting of this information for many reasons, and I can't really do it justice even now (for different reasons).

There are many ways to break the news that you've lost your job... Here's what I got Monday.

"You have been selected to lead a team which we've identified for a special project. This team will be piloting a new business model. This new model is critical for our ongoing success. In this model, you are no longer an employee of our company. Starting Friday, should you accept this assignment, you will be an employee of our supplier."

This situation was communicated to me first (on Monday), ahead of the other ~30 affected employees, solely because I was leaving on vacation Tuesday. I met with my old boss, then my new boss and then a rep from Human Resources. They referred to me as their "dry run." Part of the exercise involved my telling them each they were doing a good job delivering the message.

Then I told my husband, my son, my parents, my sisters.... Then I left on vacation.

The announcement came out today. There were "emergency meetings" and messages rolled. My phone has been ringing, buzzing with text messages. When I logged into work, instant messages popped up. It's nice to know so many people are worried about me. I'm fine, really. I'm joining a growing organization, leaving one that's shrinking.

In accepting this new role, I see that it is critical for my new team to embrace this opportunity. Really it is an opportunity because so many people have been let go - "Step off the platform, into space" vs. "Step off the platform onto the waiting train." The new team is made up of top performers. The company is banking on our success. Both companies are.

From my perspective, my faith has been rewarded. I don't know what my future holds, but I trust that I have a future.

Monday, October 27, 2008

I am not a quitter

Just as Marty McFly could predictably be incited by accusations that he was a chicken, the voice in my head that whispers "quitter" brings out my stubborn streak. I quit smoking in 2004 and I'm proud of that. I quit drinking Diet Coke in 2006 and I'm proud of that. I tried to quit delivering my youngest mid-way through the process, but the OB/GYN insisted I finish. My 23-year marriage is as much a product of stubbornness as a testament of steadfast love (probably more so). I am not a quitter.

In 1983 I dropped out of UT. Then went back in '84. Later in '84 I dropped out again and ended up traveling with Ringling Brothers (& Barnum & Bailey). Quitting that gig was harder than dropping out of school. In '89 I went back to UT and finished my degree in Mechanical Engineering. I've had 2 employers in the last 20 years. I quit my last job only because "down-sizing" was inevitable and I was a Mechanical/Electrical Engineer in a chemical company (limited opportunities). My survival instincts overrode my "I am not a quitter" instincts.

Why am I boring you with my life history today? Cryptonomicon. My Dad loaned me this 1130 page paperback with an endearing note of recommendation. I took the book with me to China in March. I never got past page 3. I picked it up again a few weeks ago and have been grinding through it. I've tracked progress as "percent complete". I decided to wait until I was at least 10% complete before passing judgment. By then I seemed to be on a roll so I kept reading. I am now on page 148 (13%) and I am at my limit. I am not a book critic, but I'll capture a bit of the brick wall....

The scene is WWII London. A cryptographer is describing the nature of the British. "There is no in between with these people.... None of them have cars but when they do they are three-ton hand-built beasts. The concept of stamping out a whole lot of cars is unthinkable - there are certain procedures that have to be followed, Mr. Ford, such as the hand-brazing of radiators, the traditional whittling of the tyres from solid blocks of cahoutchouc."

I have a stack of other books to read. My MIL loaned me the entire Left Behind series (about 4 years ago) and I really want to start plowing through those. I've been left behind by Harry Potter (I think I have 2 left to read). And I've promised our youngest I'll read Twilight before the movie comes out in December. So, why do I feel guilty about putting down a book that hurts my teeth leaves me so motivated to try my hand a novel-writing?

One lesson I take from Crypto is that this book was a New York Times bestseller. Out of fairness to the author, Crypto is not in my preferred genre. When I read my favorite authors I tend to feel intimidated. "I can never write this well." This book has inspired challenged me. "I can do better." Can I? Will I? What will be the impetus?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Not fasting

We stopped for french fries at 4:30 (or 5) and so ended the fast. Then home to sleep off the "twilight". Endoscopy revealed nothing significant. No clear explanation for the chronic sore throat. Mild hiatal hernia, mild acid reflux. We knew this going into yesterday's procedure.

"More tests!" say they. "Nay!" say I. "Continue taking the twice daily PPI," (which I was taking once a day and they told me I could quit taking a few weeks ago) say they. "Hmmm...." say I.

The good news is - there is nothing grossly out of whack. No polyps, no holes in the walls, nothing funky growing in there.

So what if? What if this mysterious pain in my throat really is God's way of saying "Shut up and write"? Do I need a picture of the billboard that is posted in my heart? When I look within, that's the message I'm getting. "Stop talking and write."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fasting

What is it about fasting? My first thoughts this morning - "I have to fast. Clear liquids only. Is coffee a clear liquid? It is if I drink enough water." Because my endoscopy is scheduled for the afternoon, I was free to drink clear liquids up until 8am. I drank 1 cup of coffee and 4 bottles of water. And a couple of swigs of pickle juice. Don't ask about the pickle juice. Now I'm just .... fasting. It's hard to do anything when all I can think is "I'm hungry. I'm thirsty. Are we there yet?" I have yogurt ready and waiting for when I get home. Okay, now I'm trying not to think about yogurt.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Once upon a fish tank

Once upon a time there was a fish tank that lived in the corner of a lovely "front room" in a home in Texas. That fish tank was home to many happy fishies. Over time, there were fewer and fewer happy fishies. Not because the fishies were unhappy, mind you, but because the fishies were "opting out" of life in the tank.

After the chief cook and bottle washer (Correction: I don't cook or wash bottles, but I do earn the bacon and feed the fish) spent 2.5 weeks in Malaysia/Singapore, there was only one fish remaining - a tough and savage Bali shark. He may look innocent enough, but he was a true killer, known for eating everything that was added to the tank whether it was a free minnow from the pond or a $2.99 tetra. Although the tank slowly decended into a state of neglect (as noted by the hardwater drips in evidence behind the shark), things came to a head last week when the hood finally lit its last. The dim, flickering light gave up its ghost and would light no more.

Finally, finally, finally it was time for a change. We took the shark to the fish store and traded him in for a bunch of little, lively tetras.

(Ignore any signs of tank neglect. I think I mentioned the sordid history leading up to this point.)

When we went to the fish store, I only had one criteria - "passive". I want fish that don't pick each other to death! I was told that Tetras "school" but you can tell by the picture that it's remedial school. I'm hoping that with time they get their act together. And, we (of course) replaced the dead hood (integrated lighting) so we can see what the little guys are up to.

Oh! I have so enjoyed the "new" tank. It is filled with lights and action! It is fun to feed them. The minnows that were destined to end their lives as shark food now think they are tetras. It is a joyful celebration to witness. But! No community tank is complete without guppies! So ... we went to the local pet store and bought some guppies.
And oh my! I forgot what horny little buggers the guppies are. Poor little females are being pestered to death. Not picking, pricking! It is truly something to behold. Makes me feel kinda frisky. Nevermind the algae growing in the tank. I have better things to think about!


Oh, honey!!! Where are you?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I. Am. Not. A. Frog.

Today, I wandered into the far back corner of our yard to dispose of some coffee grounds and egg shells (I'm a conscientious consumer - I compost). When I got to the compost bins, I found...a frog. A big frog. What I didn't realize at the time was that this frog had the power of the Jedi. You see, he was hiding behind a blad of grass. A blade of dead grass, that is. But because of his Jedi powers, he was invisible to predators, such as the killer lapdog, Alabaster (our cat).




It should be noted that Alabaster routinely captures birds, snakes, frogs, lizards, mice, butterflies, dragonflies and small airplanes. Nothing escapes him. But today he was thwarted. He was completely oblivious to the frog. He was in full lapdog mode, following me around, never far from my ankles.

He stood with me during all of the photo shoot and when I tried to back up to capture a picture of him not seeing the frog, he stuck with me. I had to stretch out my right arm and aim back to get this picture.

Now, just in case you think I'm unfair, or harsh in my judgment (admittedly, it's hard to spot the huge frog behind the blade of dead grass)...when I finally pulled the lid off of the compost bin the frog flinched, lost focus and took a hop. Alabaster was onto him immediately. "Aha! What's this?!? A frog!!!"

(I have tried repeatedly to load the picture of Alabaster "nose on frog", but it keeps loading sideways!)

The frog, however, immediately invoked his Jedi powers and Al was left to wonder "Where did he go????"




Apparently the frog can't maintain The Force while hopping because Al noticed him again for his disappearing act. In this last image, Al has just looked up from sniffing where the frog was to see the frog disappearing behind the can. We'll call this...the one that got away.

Monday, October 13, 2008

On blogging, a writer's angst

In Stephen King's On Writing, he tells aspiring writers (such as myself) that you cannot be a writer if you are not a reader - particularly of the genre in which you aspire to write.

Meanwhile, I am about to be published in an inspirational magazine (Guideposts) which I read regularly. "Being published" is a HUGE affirmation. It's almost as cool as getting Comments. During the "being published" process, the very supportive editor who is working with me suggested that I blog on parenting (this is a passion for me - parenting, not blogging). So, I started blogging in earnest. (My sister had already encouraged the blogging, and I'd started blogging again here and posting photos on this site. "In earnest" mostly means this site.).

In order to be an effective blogger, I also became a blog reader. Unfortunately, I have an addictive nature and I can't seem to control myself. In part, it's the nature of the blogs to suck you in, through links & comments connecting you to other bloggers.

With some addictions, such as smoking or drinking, participation is binary: you are either engaged in your bad habit or you are not. I used to joke that I quit smoking 20-30 times a day, every time I snuffed a cigarette. I'd mastered breaking the habit when I quit lighting up. I quit lighting cigarettes (and smoking them) on June 10, 2004. Similarly, recovering alcoholics can tell you how long they have been sober. Other addictions are much harder to control.

Blog-control is like dieting. You can't be binary. You have to eat, right? I'm no good at counting calories, and I sometimes find myself in the kitchen mindlessly grazing. My computer has become my kitchen. I sit down to write something, but find myself grazing on the posts of others. My mind is so full of ideas and streams of consciousness that I'm drowning in the noise of it all. I keep stuffing myself on what I'm reading, then I don't have the time or energy to exercise my own thoughts.

I'm now trying portion control. I've bookmarked about 30 blog sites the way I might flag a new recipe or dish I want to try. Just because one bite of that cheesecake was delicious heavenly drool-inducing the stuff dreams are made of, doesn't mean I have to eat the whole thing. From the list of the 30, I hope to build a ~short blog-roll of favorites that I shall dine on regularly because they inspire me.

And, just as I have committed to work-out with Richard 5 times a week, I must find some tangible commitment to the mental work-out of writing. Does blogging count?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

I am sockless

My socks are completely knocked off. I took a few hundred photos today (now "yesterday" since I'm re-posting), while swimming through the zinnias in my backyard. Butterflies, bees, spiders.... all loving the garden.

I'd been keeping an eye out for the Monarch's. I knew they were passing through, but I hadn't seen any for a few days. I wasn't sure if I'd missed 'em.


Here's the view from the office where I do my morning workout. From here - I took a closer look and I saw them! I grabbed my camera and ran outside.


I had to move in to get a really good perspective.














Finally, I was able to get some awesome close-ups. For an overview, check out my other blog: amothersangst.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Perspective


The lighting isn't very good, but I'm hoping you can see the egg timer. I mentioned to my loving husband that the time spent blogging was tending to get away from me. So....introducing the egg timer. I'm grateful. No offense to the blogging world, but I need to be working on some other endeavors. Ironically, I'm "over" my self-imposed time limit for tonight, but I had to share!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

A trip to the doctor

I'm sad that I'm back in the cycle of trying to figure out what's wrong with me. Just sticking to the physical....not even touching on the rest of it. :P

Today I went to the Gastroenterologist. The build up to here is (quick run-down):

4/30 - went to my General Practitioner because my throat had been hurting for a few months. Hurts to swallow. Can't sing. Can't talk (that's a killer!) or at least limited capacity. Indication was "Acid Reflux". He sent me to an ENT.
5/1 - went to ENT. He ran optical scope down my throat for a look-see. He diagnosed "Acid Reflux" and unrelated "severely deviated septum" (because apparently only one nostril was open for the scope). Since he's an ENT, he volunteered to correct my septum. I started taking Zegerid for the acid reflux, and scheduled the surgery to correct my septum.
5/16 - Septoplasty. I don't regret the Septoplasty because I quit being a mouth-breather after the surgery. I had been waking up in the middle of the night with a screaming sore throat. Now, I breathe through my nose again.
9/18 - my last follow-up with ENT. OK, great...but my throat still hurts.
9/24 - barium swallow at Radiology.
9/26 - diagnosis "Hiatal Hernia".
10/7 - meet with GI guy (aka Gastroenterologist). Afterwards, I ask to see my folder. I discover ENT reported that I was complaining of heartburn???? and that the radiology report was ~inconclusive. I have had zero heartburn (and have said so repeatedly). 6 months after going to the doctor, I'm no closer to understanding why my throat hurts. all. of. the. time.

Today's visit to the GI office was a reminder of all painful aspects of dealing with the medical community. Because I'd been to a different arm of the practice 6 YEARS AGO!!! they had old info on file. Of course I'd given them all of my latest info when I made the new appointment... new address, new insurance, etc. But today, they told my insurance had been terminated (yes, a few years ago my employer quit offering the other company and so I had to change) and the office had NOT gotten the report from the ENT (had I realized the report was only going to be the "I didn't listen to my patient" report from my last visit I wouldn't have bothered).

My loving husband and I spent almost 2 hours at the GI office, with a total of ~5 minutes with the GI physician. We have an endoscopy scheduled for 10/21 ... wait let me tell you that story.

We were sent to schedule the endoscopy and we were asked which facility, A or B? A, we said, it's more convenient. OK, next available appointment is 11/26 (Wednesday before Thanksgiving). I commented on the proximity to the holiday and they told me not to worry - I'd have to fast on Wednesday, but should be OK for Thursday. I've heard from other sources my throat might be sore for a day or so after the procedure). I asked about appointments at facility B.... As I mentioned, we have an appointment for 10/21. 2 weeks from today vs. 6 weeks. Silly to think I might want a diagnosis sooner, or even to think my throat might stop hurting a whole month earlier! Why on earth should they even consider this???!!!! Oy-vay! But goodness, they were quick to offer excuses explanations for why they were out of control regarding appointments. "None of the charts are right!" "We have two doctors today!"

It was enough to make a girl think life is better with a chronic sore throat.

Perspective: We have friends with cancer, bone disease, Down's....I have a stupid chronic sore throat. I am sorry to complain and to abuse this forum for a ranting vent. Consider it sympathy in that in the last 8 years I have had 2 biopsies, 3 major surgeries and I'm familiar to the point of contempt for the medical practice. I've had good experiences (my new OB/GYN, my GP) to balance situations like today. I hold out hope that the diagnosis will be something that is easy to correct.

Lesson: We are each responsible for managing our (and our children's) medical course. Keep track of the history, medications, etc. I hate to say it, but - don't trust the doctors to know what's best for you (or your child). Most of the doctors are not listening to what you're saying - they're hearing what is coming through their filter of pre-conceived expectations. Keep it in prayer.

My GP is awesome because he really listens. I was appalled to see the ENT documented "she reported heartburn" when I've repeatedly said "no heartburn". It just shows me he thinks I should be having heartburn.

My prayers go out to everyone who is engaged in the process of medical diagnosis.

Peace,

Monday, October 06, 2008

This is what I'm talking about!

I don't think my pictures do it justice, but I gotta tell you...I love my yard! The zinnias are blooming in full force and it's hard for me to walk by without stopping and admiring. I wanted to take a photo of a butterfly, thinking of "Flutter" who has touched my heart. No butterflies, though. Maybe it is too late in the day.



This is so much different than what I do for a living. It is so different from the clanging and banging of thoughts in my head. It is nothing but peace and beauty. Nothing for me to do but stop and admire. And thank the good Lord for blessing me. No matter what, I know that I have received blessings in abundance.



I read somewhere that zinnias grow to ~3 feet tall. Thankfully no one told my zinnias! The tallest are at least 7 feet tall. Doesn't it figure they'd be overachievers?