Sunday, December 24, 2006

Dreaming of a white Christmas

Wrapping up gifts, trudging over snowbanks to bring neighbors cookies, playing Christmas CDs, making banana bread ... and now it has started to snow -- big, fat, magical flakes. The kind you always dream of for a perfect white Christmas.
Yes, we still have feet (yes, feet!) of snow all over the city but Mother Nature decided to overdeliver for Christmas 2006. Tucked away in our warm house with all our furry ones, we're settling down for a long winter's night.
There's a certain magic to Christmas Eve -- best summed up from a scene out of my favorite TV show, Northern Exposure.
"It's an old legend, that on Christmas Eve at midnight, all the animals fall on their knees and speak -- praising the new born Jesus.

(pausing to reflect)

Back in the winter of '68, my Dad was doing a short term for D and D. Mom was -- I'm not sure where Mom was. Anyway, I was home alone on Christmas Eve and I stayed up late to see if my dog, Buster, would talk. He did -- at least I think he did. I don't remember Buster's exact words, but that's not important. What matters is that a seven-year-old boy experienced his own personal epiphany.

My point? It's that Christmas reveals itself to each of us in a personal way -- be it secular or sacred. Whatever Christmas is -- and it's many things to many people -- we all own a piece of it. Kinda like Santa's bag, inside there's gift for everyone.
My Christmas wish for you tonight -- may your dog talk"
So echoing that sentiment, may you have a Merry Christmas, may your dog talk and may your cat only bite the Christmas tree bulbs when the power is off.

Friday, December 22, 2006

... and world peace

The Event
WHO? All Men and Women, you and everyone you know.
WHERE? Everywhere in the world, but especially in countries with weapons of mass destruction.
WHEN? Winter Solstice Day - Friday, December 22nd, at the time of your choosing, in the place of your choosing and with as much privacy as you choose.
WHY? To effect positive change in the energy field of the Earth through input of the largest possible surge of human energy a Synchronized Global Orgasm. There are two more US fleets heading for the Persian Gulf with anti-submarine equipment that can only be for use against Iran, so the time to change Earth’s energy is NOW!

... a whole different approach to whirled peas ... I mean world peace. Peace man!


My younger sister went to my grandma's several weeks ago and Gram was sitting with her travel agent. "Guess what," she told A., "I'm taking the kids to Mexico for Christmas." Nice. The kids are her two daughters, but not my dad, who is also a kid, plus my cousin. Nuttin' for the rest of us. She abandoned us for Thanksgiving too. Beginning to wonder if she's just mad at all of us for some reason.

Anyway ends up their flight was supposed to be out of Denver to Mexico yesterday morning.


Thursday, December 21, 2006

BIG Bon Hiver

Let it snow, Let it snow, Let it ... okay... you can stop now!! The first day of Winter arrived with 36 inches of snow at my house. It started yesterday morning and the storm just stopped and churned over the front range. The hubby had to go into work yesterday morning but smartly took the bus. He arrived back home about 1:30pm, just before the highway was shut down due to stuck semis, too many stuck cars and too much snow. The neighbor brought out his ATV with snowplow and helped Mark get back into the driveway. The first moose photo is 5pm Weds Dec. 20 and the second is 9am Thurs Dec. 21.
We just signed up for digital cable so have plenty to do until we can get back out of the house!
Definitely a white Christmas -- this isn't going to melt anytime soon.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

It's your B-woof-day!

On December 6, Princess Flounder turned nine years old. I've been her human for all but the first seven weeks of her life. She's a purebred black Labrador Retriever with white toes (her yellow lab grandparents) and now a white muzzle in her older age. Favorite pasttimes include chasing squirrels, disemboweling tennis balls, napping and riding in the car. She and I have done the Furry Scurry, an annual charity walk for the Denver Dumb Friends League, almost every year since 1997. She's 100 lbs thanks to her 120 lb father (her mother, Princess, was a dainty 60 lbs). She grumbles and snorts and tends to get us up before the sun. She can also clear a room with her "vapors". But she is the best black lab in the world and we love every moment with her.
Happy b-woof-day Flounder- Pounder!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Kauai – No Kai Oi

The hubby and I snuck off for a week in Kauai the end of September. It was our first time to the most northern inhabited island in the Hawaiian island chain. Kauai is the oldest of the island, which makes it geographically the most interesting. It most looks like an island in the south Pacific.

We stayed at the Outrigger Kiahuna Plantation in sunny Poipu on the south side of the island. We did a package deal through United Vacations that includes air, car and 7 nights lodging. Normally we find package deals are the best (although the last two times we've gotten gipped on the car – basically you have to turn it in at the same time of day you picked it up or they charge you a “day rate” that is almost as much as what we normally pay for a week!). The Outrigger was nice. However the first "package" room we stayed in was right on the end of the property by a busy road (that also was under construction). So you want to be sure you book a higher level that “Garden View” when you book there. We were able to switch after two nights to a much quieter condo that was away from the road.

The property is all condos – which we love because of the room and the kitchen (not that we always cook but it’s nice to have the space). It has gorgeous gardens including a massive orchid garden. It's also right on the Kiahuna beach. It's a nice swimming beach (most of the time, read more about that below). It's also across the street from several restaurants and shops – including our favorite Hawaiian eatery Roy’s and my favorite jeweler Na Hoku.

One of the first days we jumped into the water off our beach to find a salt water washing machine. The remnants of an Asian typhoon were causing some crazier than normal waves. Luckily around a point there was a protected reef next to the property and with a shaved ice shop near by. Bonus!

The gorgeous landscape of this island makes a helicopter ride mandatory. Helicopters and I don't really jive but an hour ride was doable and misery was overridden by the sights. My photos were odd as I didn't want to move my head to shoot out the side window, so I just shot without looking. We took Air Kauai's tour around the island.

Kauai includes the Waimea Canyon, a multicolored rift on the north west side of the island, the Na Pali cliffs just beyond the canyon, and Mt. Wai’ale’ale, the second wettest place on the Earth. Many movies have been filmed on the island – including Jurassic Park.

Our main goal was rest and relaxation, but we also spent time exploring the island. I love the "revealed" books and hauled around The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook: Kauai Revealed (Ultimate Kauai Guidebook).

Because of that book, we found a lot of spots we wouldn’t have normally found —like the glass beach. It’s a beach in an industrial area in front of a couple of large fuel tanks. It's the site of a former dump. The beach is covered with glass that has been sanded down by the water into multicolored stones. The dump has been slowly reclaimed by the sea and has developed some interesting cliffs —a mixture of lava stone and rusted car parts. Strange how trash can look interesting and how nature can make it better. Just above the beach is a red dirt 60-year-old Chinese cemetery (there’s a weird irony of a cemetery and a dump sharing ground).

There’s also a place nicknamed Kaboom Mountain – due to a military stash of ammo stuffed through out caves in a cliff. You get the picture.

Just recently caught up with an old coworker who was lucky enough to live in Kauai for six months this past year. I think that would be fantastic. One week is just not enough!

Some favorite photos are posted on my Flickr page. My favorite is of Kalalau Valley - the one at the top of this post. The colors are incredible. It was even better beyond the camera.

Now off to dream of the next trip …

Monday, November 06, 2006

Lying was the worse sin

The first commandment should be “think before you act.” It amazes me how many times, a prominent person is caught in something they shouldn’t have been doing. The latest to fall is the Rev. Ted Haggard, who after days of denying the rumors, admitted first he did buy Meth and then that he committed "sexual immorality."

Obviously he should never have considered doing these things in the first place, given the “moral requirements" of his position in the church, and the words he was preaching. But we are all human and we all make mistakes (the drugs and the cheating, not the fact that it was a gay relationship).

The most grievous error was that he denied the charges. He lied. One could argue that he was trying to protect his family or his church congregation. But in the end, he was really only looking out for himself.

My bookclub recently discussed religion and schools. One general consensus was that while it wasn't necessary to push the Christian religion in school (or any one religion), it was important to teach the underlying values and morals. This teaching seems to be missing in everyday life, no matter what you believe.

This further complicates the Haggard case, as he was a high-ranking person in his church. His job is guidance and teaching. He is supposed to be a role model. By lying about what he did, he showed that it is more important to save your own butt, rather than be honest.

I have to question why he was in his church position in the first place. Clearly, Haggard was not living the life he would should. Did he decide to hide his real self merely for power?

It also makes one wonder about these mega churches -- more and more I read about corruption and other very non-Christian activities. It’s all about the power, not the word.

Now we can only hope that this shows people not to lie and cheat. Forgiveness is a big thing. But so is learning from the mistakes of others.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

When honesty is stupid

I've been remodeling around the house, currently focusing on moving my office from a dark, cramped room to a larger, sunnier room. Along the way, I bought a computer cart from Target on sale. A couple of weeks ago, I decided I wouldn't need the cart in the new space. I hunted down the receipt and took it back along with some other items to return.

Ends up the receipt expired about two weeks ago (about the time I decided I didn't need it). The item is still in stock but with an expired receipt, it's the same as no receipt. So the only thing they could do is to let me exchange it for an item the same price or higher. It had to be one item and out of the same department.

So I hunted through domestics to find an item I needed/wanted that was $32 or more. I came upon an entry way shoe bench for $39.99. So here's the stupid part. They considered my exchange "no receipt" but I pointed out that I had purchased the cart on sale for $32. The original price was $39.99. So I paid the difference between the sale price for the cart and the new price for the bench. Had I kept my honest but stupid mouth shut, it would have been a straight across exchange.

Sigh. So for that honesty, Karma, please keep me in mind!!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

and now, here's Duke Gary Winston!

My second newest nephew arrived on September 9. I wrote in a previous blog that my youngest sister lost her dog, Gunner, to cancer in August. She and her husband were looking for another German Shorthair but this time a younger pup. She had been scouring and found a 5 month old at the Denver Municipal Animal Shelter. Since they live in Albuquerque, she emailed me Friday afternoon to go check him out. I wrote back, "you realize I won't leave the shelter without him, are you ready for a puppy?" She said, check him out and call me.

So Saturday morning, September 9, we drove down to the shelter. I made Mark walk in first and find the dog from the tags on the front of the cages then I walked in with my eyes shielded so I wouldn't look at anyone else. Shelters are good to help adopt out pups but I hate them at the same time. I want to take everyone home.

A volunteer came over to ask if we’d like to take him into the bonding room, and we did. I called Sara on the phone as the pup licked me from head to toe. He is a gorgeous chocolate brown with the white and black spots on his underside. His disposition was fantastic – a lot of energy but normal for a pup. He was about half the size he'll be as an adult. I knew immediately he was my new nephew. Over the phone, Aaron asked if he looked like a "Gary," I replied "no, he looks like a Winston."

We went back to the front desk to make arrangements only to find out he had to be fixed first before he could be released to us. This was a minor issue - I really wanted to get him out of the shelter and at the same time, that weekend was more convenient for Sara and Aaron to get him. As I discussed it on the phone with Sara, a volunteer mentioned that because he had a cough I detected earlier, he might be able to be released without being neutered first.

The woman at the front desk was the biggest … well you add your choice of words there. She was not willing to bend at all. So we asked to chat with the vet. She snapped that he wasn’t in until later that afternoon. Fine, we said, we'll call. She threatened that if someone else looked at the pup and wanted him, then we'd lose him. I said, nope we're taking him no matter what and put down the $35 adoption fee with a receipt.

Drove back home and waited until 2:30. Getting through to the shelter is a challenge since it goes through the city of Denver system. Several times no one answered, I was put on hold and then disconnected -- only to find out the vet wasn't in yet. Finally after being very persistent (I am sure Ms. You Know What was responsible for disconnecting me several times), I was able to chat with the vet. He had examined the pup and decided that the pup should be immediately removed from the shelter and told us he would release him to us that day.

So we called Sara and Aaron, who were waiting by the phone to jump in their car (as they could not wait to get him, plus wanted to go up to see new baby Ezra). We jumped in our car and headed back down to the shelter.

We walked in the door, and Ms. YKW looked at us and started yelling at the other girl, “did he tell you anything? He didn’t tell me anything” and buzzed the vet. Her feathers were very ruffled that we had succeeded in doing what we wanted and not what she wanted. The vet came up and handed her a sheet of paper, "here's the release notes." She snapped back, "I don't type." The other girl quietly took the form. We signed it stating that we would have him fixed by October 9, slipped a harness on him and took him out the door.

He was hesitant at first to get in the car —probably since the last trip brought him to the awful shelter. We didn’t know what happened to him before.–The Denver Municipal Shelter doesn't get details like the Dumb Friends League, unless he bit someone. All they could tell us was that his previous owner gave him up. We knew from his demeanor that he had not been abused but for whatever reason, the previous owner couldn't keep him. Maybe he required too much space and lived in an apartment. Maybe he was too much of a puppy. Maybe the owner had to move.

He slept with his head on my lap most of the way home – he had been given drugs for the kennel cough which made him drowsy. Once home, he was very excited to see everything. We kept him gated in the kitchen and the girls in the living room because of the cough -- even though they're vaccinated, I wasn't sure what kind of cough it was. He was curious about everything and was really funny when Toby the cat came up to greet him -- apparently the first time he'd met a cat. He is smart and learned the stairs quickly -- something he should teach his cousin Sarah-Dog, who after six years in my house is still very afraid of the stairs.

We had him for about 7 hours before Sara and Aaron arrived from Albuquerque. We fell in love with him and were tempted to turn out all the lights and pretend we weren't home. But I know Sara and Aaron are dog people like me and had a big hole in their hearts to fill. Their other pup Mollie (an English Pointer) was lonely and missing her buddy. When they arrived they were still wondering what to call him. It took a few days for them to decide on a name so I called him Duke Gary Winston a combo of the ideas. They decided on Duke. His cough was gone in a couple of days and a week later, he was “tutored.” (Thank you Gary Larson.)
Duke, you will live a spoiled long life!

Welcome to the world Ezra!

In September, I got two new nephews in my life. The first is 5 lb, 2 oz Ezra Paul who arrived a little early but very healthy on September 6. He’s a very mellow and happy baby. My sister had gone in to the hospital the night before with the feeling that something wasn't quite right. They checked things out, found nothing too out of the ordinary but the doc decided to keep her overnight on a monitor. The next morning, she went into labor and an hour into it, they performed an emergency cesarean. Every time Trina had a contraction, Ezra's heartbeat would drop. Ends up the poor little guy had a short umbilical cord. He would have been in trouble had she gone into labor at home. Chalk one up for mother's intuition!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Bon Hiver!

The first snow is falling in my neck of the woods.

Oh! The snow, the beautiful snow,
Filling the sky and the earth below,
Over the housetops, over the street,
Over the heads of people you meet.
Skimming along,

Beautiful snow! It can do no wrong;
Flying to kiss a fair lady's cheek,
Clinging to lips in frolicksome freak;
Beautiful snow from heaven above,
Pure as an angel, gentle as love!

Oh, the snow, the beautiful snow,
How the flakes gather and laugh as they go
Whirling about in maddening fun:
Hurrying by.

It lights on the face and it sparkles the eye;
And the dogs with a bark and a bound
Snap at the crystals as they eddy around;
The town is alive, and its heart is aglow,
To welcome the coming of beautiful snow.
(-possibly J.W. Watson)

Monday, October 16, 2006

Pacific Northwest Dreaming

The end of July I did a whirlwind tour of Western Washington state. It’s an annual event for me to visit my W-Dad in Olympia and then meet up with fellow mooseheads in Roslyn. This year I added a couple of other stops.

I arrived at Sea-Tac for some record high temperatures (100+). They even had the highest overnight low temperature while I was there. This is a part of the country not used to high temperatures like that, and needless to say, most are without air-conditioning. My nephew, Nigel was already at my W-Dad's house. He kept trying to put the "air-conditioning" on, which was simple the furnace fan to draw in the cool night air. Only he was trying it during the day while the temps were high.

The first weekend, we went to the Lacey flea market where my Dad’s wife sells potpourri (grown in their yards) and potted plants, and then on to the Lakefair booths. I bought a beautiful necklace and earrings set from a Seattle glass artist. To beat the heat, we took the pups to frolic in Kennedy Creek.

As it finally started to cool down in Olympia, we headed to the north central part of the state to the Bavarian town of Leavenworth. It's a interesting town, even the local McDonalds and Safeway market buildings follow the Bavarian architecture style. All the shops on the main drag are full of flavored taffy, souvenirs, and cuckoo clocks. They all have speakers pumping out Oompah music as you go. The first afternoon we arrived, we wandered among the shops (although the weather was still more than 100 degrees F). So after a little while, headed back to the condo resort for the pool.

The following day, my Dad drove me about an hour south to Roslyn, WA where I met up with my "moose buddies" (fellow Northern Exposure fans). We had a blast as always hanging out at the Brick, seeing Pirates of the Caribbean in the old movie theatre (which used to be a morgue in the coal mining days), to visiting filming sites from the show. "what a time we had ... Splashed through bogs, ate like hogs, slept like logs." I stayed in my favorite B&B, the Huckleberry House Inn in Roslyn.

After the moosefest weekend, a couple of friends and I headed for the Emerald City of Seattle for a whirlwind tour. Since I did the same whirlwind through Seattle last October, I was tour guide. We dropped off our other buddies and the car at Sea-Tac airport and took the Grayline into the city. Our rooms for the night were at the historic Roosevelt Hotel, within walking distance of several things and a nice view from my room of the bay. After we checked in, we were off to Pioneer Square for the Underground Tour. There were a lot more people there in the summer than in the Fall but it was still a lot of fun. The tour guides have a lot of fun with it. After the history of Seattle, we headed for lunch to the same little Mediterranean Mix place I ate at last October. Hey – it was good!

With our bellies filled, we went on a mission to a specific shoe store Jennifer wanted to see. Along the way, we stopped into a native Pacific Northwest gallery filled with many neat things. Unfortunately we arrived at the address of Ped Shoes to find it had closed for good at 6pm the day before! Argh! But we continued on our way to the Pike Place Market for some cinnamon almonds and to watch the end of the day with the fish-tossers. As the shops closed down, we headed down the many, many steps to the waterfront so Jennifer could see the creepy things at Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe, as well as go pirate-wild at Pirates Plunder.

Jennifer was starting to load up with bags and even with Marie and I helping out, decided to take a taxi to the Seattle Center and the needle. This ended up being a good idea since my other option was to walk six blocks up hill to the monorail and unbeknownst to me at the time, the monorail was still closed after a crash last Fall.

We went up the Seattle needle, rested our feet, chatted and watched the sun go down over the city. We caught a taxi back down to the Roosevelt and had a late, late dinner at the hotel restaurant.

The next day, I didn’t have a flight until 8pm but Marie and Jennifer’s were early. Marie was really early and was up before us. I decided to ride in with Jennifer and see about standby on an earlier flight. Jennifer was going through Denver on her way to Boston. I ended up getting on her flight. She wasn't able to get her seat until checking in that day. As we sat there waiting, she complained that she was shoved in the back -- row 34. I looked at her ticket, we were on United and she had a economy plus. I was in row 36 -- an exit row. What the ... what kind of plane has economy plus that far back and an exit at row 36. Ended up we were on a 777 overwater -- normally reserved for Seattle - Tokyo flights. It was brand new and the biggest plane I've flown on so far.

After that whirlwind trip, I was ready for a nap!

Catching up

I've got several over due blogs to post. I'll pop them up as soon as I can.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Hazardous materials

I mailed a book the other day. The usual dialog with the postal clerk involves the question whether the package contains liquids or hazardous materials. Well, definitely no on the liquids. It's a book (which was mentioned since I was sending it media mail). The fluid ink has long dried on the pages. Hazardous. Well, that one could be argued. Maybe the book (a computer software manual) could cause boredom. That might be hazardous. Or perhaps it has bad information. That too might be hazardous. It could cause paper cuts or even a bruise if it was lobbed at someone's head (it's a big book).

Book as hazardous materials. Will further ponder this dilemma.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

what he really REALLY said...

Computer analysis proved Neil Armstrong actually said this:
"One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind .... %@#&! what did I just step in??"

Monday, August 28, 2006

Somewhere between Kraft Macaroni Cheese and Cheetos

I really wanted to paint something in my house orange. Over the weekend, I decided on the walk-in closet off my new studio office. The color is Behr's "Orange Spice" but reminds me of the cheese packets that come with Kraft Macaroni or perhaps Cheetos. Painting it burnt my retnas and gave me the munchies.

Dogs on a couch

It's a good thing I work by myself. I might drive my coworkers nuts. My latest fun has been taking the film title "Snakes on a Plane" and changing the nouns. Dogs on a Couch. (snicker). Cats in a Hamper. (snicker snicker). Eggs in a Pan. (I crack myself up).

This isn't the first time this has happened to me. Some fellow mooseheads and I used to do this to a song. It's an infectious little tune from a Northern Exposure episode called "Toy Cows in Africa" by Chance. So we were replacing the lyrics with random things. Spare Rolls of Toliet Paper, Spare Rolls.

It's like an earworm -- a little song that gets stuck in your head. Try it. It's fun. Computers on a Desk. Squirrels on a Fence.

Bats in the Belfry.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

In celebration of a short but happy dog life

This past weekend one of my nephews (a two-legged one) tried to come into the world a little too early. Labor was stopped, his mom was pumped with steroids to get his little lungs to be fully cooked, and she was prescribed rest for about another week. So far he’s behaving himself and staying put.

At the same time, another nephew (a four-legged one) left this world for the great doggie Beyond. Gunner was a big, goofy German Shorthair that my youngest sister adopted from the breed rescue. He had been returned twice (once by a prominent, well-known business man/politician in Colorado whom we don't like, mainly because he returned a rescued dog). It may have been because Gunner was not a hunting dog, even though that was he was bred to do. He was a big, loveable couch potato except when it came walks.

Gunner came to my sister and her husband defective. He had tumors. They found this out after he was adopted, but follow the same philosophy that I subscribe: you adopt a four-legged for life. They gave him lots of love and vet treatments. He won out over the tumors then and has had a happy and spoiled three years. But recently a tumor came back -- this time on his liver. It cut off his stomach and he was unable to eat. There was nothing that could be done, and they had to make the heart-wrenching decision to end his pain and suffering and let him go.

Mollie, his English Pointer sister, loved to tease him, but also loved to snuggle with him. The family bought a new home last Fall. The first winter proved the older house was colder than the rental they had before. Gunner made do by sleeping in front of one of the large floor vents in the dining room. Mollie, wanting that same primo spot would pretend to see something of great interest out the large front window. Eventually Gunner would lumber over to see what the fuss was about. Then speedy Mollie would steal his heated spot.

Gunner had a rough life his first several years, but my sister, her husband and Mollie gave him the best three years in the end. They adopted him "as is" and gave him the best life possible. Three years with them was not enough but in return, he gave them lots of stubborn, goofy, happy dogness. We will all miss him dearly.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Snakes vs. Chapstick

The new film, Snakes on a Plane (a good example of “name it exactly what it is”) shows what happens when a cargo of live snakes breaks loose and they slither havoc all over the plane. Seems pretty far-fetched but given recent events since 2001, you have to wonder. Maybe snakes wouldn’t be so bad.

First it was the frightful “Eyelash Curlers on a Plane,” immediately following September 11th. Okay. There was a long list of items you could no longer bring aboard, but eyelash curlers really stuck out to me. Granted I’ve pinched an eyelid or two with those torture contraptions but trying to attack someone else -- how do you get them to stand still long enough?

Now it’s the ultimate terror, “Chapstick on a Plane.” Okay. Again, I do understand why and I understand the immediate response. But all I can think about is a flight without my chapstick and my water bottle. I have a touch of Monk (and a sensitive tummy). I can’t do the shared water bottle thing -- especially if the rumors are true that some airlines just refill that bottle from the airplane tap. My tummy is grumbling and my lips are chapping just thinking about this. Dude, I need my chapstick.

It will always be something. I think that terrorists’ ultimate goal is to slowly drive us insane. Maybe kill us with chapped lips. Only then can we be converted from our evil ways.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Aren’t we all just a little famous?

Fellow blogger and friend, Nichelle, posted her brushes with fame and asked for readers’ stories. I have thought about the many brief encounters I’ve had with “famous” people.

The earliest I can remember is meeting Walt Morey in the fifth grade. He wrote a book called “Kavik the Wolf Dog” which was high on my list then. He signed my book.

In junior high, the band Three Dog Night came to my school to tell us not to do drugs and did a concert. I got to interview them for the school newspaper. (A sidenote, the only drug issue at my junior high was chewing tobacco). This moment begun my dream of writing for Rolling Stone.

In high school, I was in a dance company and quite often a famous dance troupe came to town. I got to do a lot of master classes with the Royal Canadian, the American Ballet, and many others. Definitely showed me I had a much better chance of writing for Rolling Stone than prancing on my toes. But it was fun.

At graduation, my aunt and a family friend took me to Chicago. While there we tailed Oprah Winfrey through the stock exchange. We took in a show at the Second City where a young comedian named Mike Myers was a hoot singing a lawnmower revolution. I got to meet him after the show. About six months or so later saw him on SNL for the first time.

When I hit college, my love of music and the Rolling Stone goal led me to the program council to work security at the campus concerts. I was personally flipped off by John Lydon, one of the other members of PiL tried to get up my skirt. I hung out with That Petrol Emotion and their opening band at a bar on the Hill in a raging blizzard. I denied Flea’s request for a blow job (apparently the reason some women go back stage??). I was roped into pretending I was the lead singer’s fiance of a band whose name escapes me. (Ah, the golden years). I had a pleasant conversation with the B-52s. In my 4+ years of college concerts, I met dozens of popular musicians (and got autographs) from Butthole Surfers to Pete Townsend.

(If you haven’t figured it by now, that Rolling Stone gig never happened. No worries. Life changes constantly.)

Working concerts taught me how to try to meet bands at other concerts. Once I took my then 11-year-old sister Annie to her favorite singer’s show – Randy Newman. After the show, I talked our way backstage and had a long conversation with the singer. Along the way he offered me a job to be a PR assistant. "Does that require moving to LA?" I asked. Of course it did, and I politely declined. I wouldn't have been able to breath there.

I took another sister to a Howard Jones concert and talked our way back stage there. After a fantastic show, it was wonderful to meet one of my favorite singers. I animatedly talked with him about his Macintosh computer used on stage. My sister stood there with her mouth hanging open. Later she told me I was a geek. I mentioned that yes, but I had a long conversation beyond “can you sign this, please?” Other times it was pure luck, accidentally walking in on a meet and greet of my current favorite, the Barenaked Ladies last December (except Kevin). I got a couple of sentences exchanged and had them all sign my BNL santa hat.

In the past 10 years I have been a fan(atic) of the tv show Northern Exposure. Since 1997, I’ve attended a fan festival in Roslyn, Washington. I've gotten to meet at length several of the show's stars. One of the most intresting contacts: I've had many pitchers of beer with Barry Corbin, and listened to many stories in his Texas drawl. Many other of the stars, guest stars and extras have come to the fest.

The past four years, my husband has worked for a local culinary festival group. I’ve been able to meet up with many celebrity and up-and-coming chefs. It’s a hoot to hang out with someone, have some drinks, really get to know them, buy their cookbook, then see them on the Food Network or Travel Channel.

But probably the best encounter I ever had was two minutes with author Maya Angelou (after four hours of standing in line). An incredible writier and speaker, Maya exudes class and positive energy. I was the second to the last person she would sign. I got to touch her hand, feel her energy and thank her for everything she does. That one rules out all the others.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Get your girl on?

Okay... so let me get this straight. If I buy and drive a Hummer, people won't cut in front of me on the slide? Ah, if it were only so easy.

Seriously, do I run over the mean bitch's mini van with the Hummer? Or is it just a Hummer aura that I wear about me? Perhaps Hummer pheramones that frighten people from even consider crossing me path. [oooh, smell that, she's got a hummer. Step lightly!]

I think the only good thing about owning a Hummer is that my car would finally be visible. I don't know how a red Saturn with daytime running lights can be invisible but it is. A hummer would make people think twice about cutting me off in traffic.

In the meantime, I guess I'll just let people cut in front of me at the slide. The funds I save in gas money and car payments I'll take with me to Hawaii ... Twice.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Pencils, pens and highlighters … oh my!

It all started with an innocent trip to Office Depot for one item – a package of printer-ready postcard paper. But I walked in the door to one of my favorite times of the year: Back to School! Yes, it is still July, which is technically the middle of the summer but in the increased pace of the retail world calendar ... it's Back to School time.

I started to rove amongst the displays of colorful notebooks, pens, locker shelves – hey, where were those when I had a locker. I had to build my own (and I feel it’s made me a better person). My heart starts to beat faster at all the cool new things. The smell of new pens and Elmer’s Glue makes me giddy.

Oh look, Sharpie has a collection of cool highlighters (need them for my “old fashioned time sheets”). I must have them. Oh look, cool new mechanical pencils, and a small scissors with a cover (perfect for card class). And a softsided Mead pencil case you can open, fold over and make stand up like a can (another thing perfect for card class to haul my gluesticks and scissors).

I started to hyperventilate. Luckily I was roaming the aisles sans basket. I do less damage at checkout when I can only carry so much. I made it out of the store with some fun new things and nothing frivolous... no, really, everything purchased has a job to do in my hectic life.

I went on with my errands that were fairly uneventful until I hit the SuperTarget…. Oh boy! Oh boy! Oh boy!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

From Rico to Chico (part 2)

After leaving the Telluride Bluegrass Festival on Sunday night, we arrived at the Best Western in Montrose at 1 am Monday. It was a really nice place and would have liked to spend more time there – at least a full night!

The sun and 6 am came a bit too quickly. My hubby took me to the Montrose airport so I could catch the first of three flights to get me to my next destination – Chico, California. I was running late and was reprimanded by the counter person/gate person. Montrose has one gate (I think), maybe two? I buzzed through the mini-security and then onto the mini-plane (an Embraer Brasilia EMB-120 turboprop). My carry-on bag had to go underneath and my laptop barely fit under the seat in front of me.

Our bathroom apparently was out of commission (not a problem since the flight was only about an hour), but there was the wafting odor of pee through out the mini-cabin. The view outside the window was fantastic -- well the opposite window from me. My shade was jammed shut. Our flight attendant, Jessica, was a fiery redhead with a fierce scowl. She sat in the front of the plane and glared the entire flight. If there were to be snacks and drinks, that was just too bad. We were on our own.

The flight was quick but the landing at DIA made my heart skip a few beats. Denver’s almost-to-Kansas airport location provides some interesting wind currents in a larger plane. We made it safely on to the ground at the mini-terminal arm branched off of the B terminal. It was a short wait and then on to plane number 2 – this time a large, roomy Airbus to San Francisco.

Another short wait and then on to plane number 3, another Brasilia Turboprop. This time I had the single seat and my laptop almost didn’t fit under the seat. I really had to wedge it under there. The seat I was supposed to be in was the first one and my laptop did not fit into the overhead compartment so I took the next one back and made a new friend with the woman who's seat I swapped with. She was headed to the same workshop I was, as was half the plane.

This time my window shade worked and after flying out of the clouds of San Francisco, I watched the rolling fields and patchworks of Northern California pass below me. Less than an hour later, we landed in Chico. I realized that I really didn’t know where I was on a map (but looked it up later). A short taxi ride to the Hotel Diamond and I was at my home away from home for the week.

I was in Chico for a business workshop/certificate in my field at the university. Chico is a small college town. My hotel was about two blocks from campus. The first afternoon I decided to walk around the town and get the lay of the land, and also to get my legs unfolded from all those plane rides. It was stifling hot but there were plenty of shady spots to walk about – especially on campus.

I ran into my friend Hannah from the plane and we chatted a bit. She mentioned a natural food store several blocks away. We continued on separate paths only to run into each other at the store awhile later. I stocked up on studying munchies, and picked up a refreshing looking juice. Later I discovered that you really should read the label in health food stores. This one had some odd ingredient in it that made it taste like feet with a slight bit of mango on top.

I crashed early that night after walking about in the heat, the three plane rides, lack of sleep and the fun weekend before.

The workshop was interesting but not so much to include it here in the blog. I passed the ceritficate test with 100% (whew! “self-paced” online classes in my book seems to be “wait to the last minute”). I also met and heard many great folks in the business.

One great thing in Chico was the Pita Pit. You pick a pita sandwich and add all the fixings (like a Subway). It was so good, I had it two nights in a row and would have done a third had I not talked Hannah into dinner at the Tres Hombres. One great thing about Hannah is she thought I was in my late 20s.

I also caught my first Bookcrossing book at a local coffee shop, Has Beans. Unfortunately it really wasn’t something I wanted to read (and that the original reader had repurposed into a vegan cookbook). None the less, but I’ll have fun passing it on, maybe into Boulder or the freebox in Telluride when I head back there for another event in August.

The bad thing about Chico is that it was an oven the whole time I was there – above 100 degrees F. Uhg. I was very happy to arrive home back to cooler weather in Colorado.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

From Rico to Chico (part 1)

Summer brings a schedule full of things, including travel and concerts. A couple of weeks ago, we loaded up the car and headed for the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. Telluride is about an eight-hour drive from Denver. It’s a really pretty one that goes through many different landscapes. You have the front range and the Rocky Mountain views of Vail, and Glenwood Springs, which morphs into the desert like landscape of Grand Junction. Driving south on highway 50 brings you to the Alps-like San Juan mountains of the Dallas Divide and the peaks around Telluride.

We stayed with friends just outside of Telluride in the old mining town of Rico. With a summer population of about 500 and a winter population of 200, it is a small town where everyone knows everyone else and dogs run free. It’s a lot like Cicely, Alaska – complete with it’s own cast of characters. We had lunch at the Enterprise Bar & Grill on the main street and were treated to tastings of the bar owner's new supply of really hot! sauces. That evening as the sun when down, so did the temperature -- a welcome relief from the 100+ days in Denver the previous week. We spent the evening at friends of our friends with a bonfire, good food, beer and good chatting.

Sunday morning, after a good meal of bagels and fixin’s, we caravaned into Telluride for the Bluegrass Festival. Telluride is an awesome place for a show. The scenery is incredible. Plus the people watching is pretty interesting. We staked out a spot and set up our day camping gear, chairs and all and were soon joined by other friends.

Telluride is at 8750 feet in altitude, but many of the concert-goers were much higher than that. If you ever wonder what happened to the Deadheads when the Grateful Dead stopped touring, just look in the Town Park camping. Lots of dreadlocks, tie-die, really dirty feet and a lack of soap. Ah, the life of the nomad. I itch just thinking of it.

During the day, we took a break from the high-altitude sun (too much can make me grouchy) and took the pups of the group with us up the gondola. Sheena was thrilled to join the ride. Sya would have preferred staying on ground level and tried to burrow herself in the humans’ laps. It’s a palm-sweaty view for me, especially when there’s a strong cross breeze. At the top of the hill (approximately 10,000 feet) we had a fantastic, although steep view. Our friends informed us this was one of the ski runs. Wow, definitely a Warren Miller kind of run -- straight down.

In spite of the days’ heat in the ozone-deprived sun, the night can cool down quickly. As the sun rounded the mountains, folks started to add layers. Out came the fleece, the wool socks, gloves and more.

The headliner of the Sunday show was my favorite band, the Barenaked Ladies. Most people would not think of them as Bluegrass but they have a very folksy feel to their music. They did a mostly acoustic set with the banjos, accordian, and more. They also played many songs from their new album coming out on September. With their usual offbeat humor, they commented on the "dirty" dancing (of the nomad folks I mentioned before), the ride into the Telluride airport (a tricky one, and the nation's highest airport), and various other "Only in Telluride" quips.
After the show, we bade hasty goodbyes and booked it out of town an hour and a half north to Montrose, where I had an 8 am flight Monday morning.

That story in part 2!

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Could be pilot error?

Computers have made our lives easier but sometimes I wonder if it is making humans more stupid. There seems to be a human element of just plain common sense in a lot of computer generated work these days.

My aunt, the one who just lost her husband has been mired down with paperwork. It’s the little things that stick out. She just received a letter addressed to her, mailed to her current address (not forwarded) from the Social Security Administration. It stated that they were unable to mail her social security check because they didn’t have a current address for her.

My husband and I just refinanced. My previous mortgage was in my former married name and my ex-husband’s name. When I realized I was getting a check back for the remaining escrow amount, I asked how I could get the check to just me and in my current name. Simple, Chase replied. Just send a letter and a copy of the divorce agreement. So I sent a letter, a copy of the divorce agreement, the Quit Claim deed and a couple of other supporting documents.

Yesterday I received the check made out to my ex-husband and my former married name.

Today I received two letters from Chase, my former mortgage company. The first stated that they had received my letter and would forward it to the appropriate department. The second said that they had received my letter but needed the approproate documentation – a copy of the divorce settlement (which of course was stapled to the letter).

Earlier this week I received a water bill from the city. I pay a budget billing program that pulls the same amount out each month (until month 12 where it reconciles the difference) and also have auto pay - where it withdraws from my bank automatically. The bill was past due and appeared to have been so for two months. So I called. This person did have common sense and explained to me their new computer system had a few bugs. One of those bugs was that it was now pulling $25 a month rather than $31, even though my water usage had increased in 2005 from 2004. The computer should have calculated a larger amount based on the actual usage. The other problem is that it randomly decided not to pull auto pays each month. Thankfully this was understood about the new system and that it would all work out in the end. Nothing was my fault, she assured me, and my water would not be suddenly turned off.

I had a similar thing happen with the new Dell laptop lease I have. For some reason, I had a past due of $2.64 and no payment had been pulled for April. Ends up what happened was that I had received notice that my autopay wouldn’t start for 30 days, so I wrote a check for the March amount. The autopay pulled two days later. Since the $2.64 was a monthly tax imposed by the state, the computer had to show it in the month of April - even though I had paid it twice in March. After a 20 minute phone call, I was told not to worry, it would catch up with the May payment. I understand it need to show up monthy but why the heck didn't it just give me a credit for the extra $2.64 for April instead of a past due.

Don’t worry Hal, I don’t blame computers. They only do what stupid humans tell them to do. But I think we are seriously becoming dumb and dumber by the minute. The more we rely on computers to calculate/automate/distribute based on what we tell them to do, the less common sense we have as a race. I can see why the cylons took over the twelve colonies.

As the old saying goes, seriously people, pull your head out of your …

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Saying goodbye when you have the chance

Is knowing someone is going to die better than having someone die suddenly? When you know someone is going to die, you have your chance to say goodbye and to meet with them one last time. When someone dies suddenly, you may have regrets about not being able to say goodbye.

My mother’s older brother died this morning of cancer. He went into hospice in January -- the doctor giving him two weeks. I knew he had cancer a year ago, when right around my wedding they moved from Arizona to Salem, Oregon to be near one of their sons and grandchildren.

My mother went to visit him in March. She encouraged me to do the same but when I found a flight about 10 days out, she thought maybe not. Who knew if it would be in time. So I didn’t go. Life got in the way. She gave me their phone number. For whatever stupid reason, I didn’t call. I have stupid phones and most of the time I can’t hear on them. It was a dumb excuse and one I now regret because it is too late.

It’s been more than 20 years since I have seen my uncle Bob and his wife. I think the last time was when I was in high school. They came through town in their RV which I thought was the coolest thing on the planet. When I first met my uncle and his wife, I think they lived next door to my grandparents on Long Island, NY. I say "I think" because I was really young. My mom is the baby of three kids and there's about 13 years between her and her brother. She was kind of a surprise (but a good one in my opinion).

In 1977, my grandparents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary and we went back to New York to celebrate. There also was a trip to New York in 1981 after my sister Annie was born. I think it was this second trip, that my uncle and aunt had moved from the house to a houseboat on the Hudson. I have pictures of us tooling around in a rowboat. I was small then and thought the houseboat was really cool. Now it might be a little small – but then it was really cool. My uncle also took us to where he worked in one of the tallest building in the United States – one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center. We got to go to the top and I still have pictures from my little Kodak 126 of the Statue of Liberty and lots of clouds.

He retired not long after that and they traded the houseboat for a camper van and begun traveling around the country. Around the time I got into the book “Blue Highways” by William Least Heat Moon from a reading contest at school. I always thought of my uncle in Least Heat Moon’s stories. Later they traded up to the nice RV with a bit more room and indoor plumbing. It had two TVs and two VCRs, which was pretty cool in the mid-80s.

At one point, they got into an accident. I don’t remember what happened exactly but it seems my aunt had a lot of neck and back injuries. Around then, they decided to stop traveling and settled down in Arizona into a house on the ground without any wheels.

The amount of times I met my uncle Bob I can count on one hand. It was more the distance between New York and Colorado than anything. Email made it a little better the past couple of years. But the times I did meet him were good and fun.

He was a really wonderful man and I am sorry I didn’t know him as well as I should have. He has two sons I really don’t know at all, as well as a handful of grandkids. I got into geneology awhile back and got everyone’s names and birthdates but I don’t know them.

So this morning after my mom called, the first thing on my mind is that I never called him. Why? I don't know. Distance, time, my own crazy life in the way. None are good excuses. It’s my own fault. I didn’t get that chance to say goodbye and I knew his death was near. Perhaps in mind, I thought that he would just surprise everyone and stick around for awhile.

So here’s to my Uncle Bob, a great man. I’ll miss you.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

You’re unfinanceable ?! -- music in advertising

When did catchy ad jingles change to popular songs rewritten into maybe not-so-intended ways. Did Madness really see a coffee commercial when they first penned “Our House”? Naked Eyes must really love Foley’s version of “Always There to Remind Me.”

Some songs work really well for ads. Sheryl Crow’s “Everyday is A Winding Road” is used in a car commercial. Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction" would be great for an ED drug (Cialis, Viagra), although not actually used in a commercial right now. Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill” tune is used by Cingular (not sure if that is a perfect fit but I like the song). MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This” works well for the germ-infested daycare center ad for Lysol.

Maybe it’s the lure of extra money. When Bob Dylan showed up in a Victoria’s Secret commercial, many were surprised and some said it was the end of the world. Dylan had sold out. In 1987, when Nike used the Beatles song “Revolution” (rights then owned by Michael Jackson), Paul McCartney complained that the song was about a revolution, “not bloody tennis shoes.” Yet more recently in 2005, he appeared in an Fidelity Investments ad, along with his Wing’s song “Band on the Run.”

Sometimes money isn’t much of a lure and personal values rule out. Hummer had a hard time buying rights to songs for their commercials – even from small indie bands who couldn’t fathom supporting the very un-ecological gas-guzzler.

Many songs used in commercials have helped more obscure up-and-coming, indie bands hit the limelight. Apple’s I-Pod campaign has introduced Gorillaz, Jet, Rinôçérôse and others to a wider audience. Toyota got me hooked on Fisher ("It's a Beautiful Life").

I don’t mind the use of songs but in the original format, not with the lyrics rewritten. But it's almost laziness on the part of advertisers -- a lack of creativity -- that few use original written lyrics to catchy jingles. They don't even need words. Vonage’s “Whoo Hoo” tune is pretty catchy and memorable. So is United Airlines’ grandiose classical theme song.

But really, the local car commercial that has butchered EMF’s “Unbelievable" into "You're unfinanceable". Argh! It hurts my ears. It’s unbelievable! It's not even a word.

[Note: in my googling (research) found a lot of interesting things on AdTunes – another bookmarked site helping me avoid work.]

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

urban bastardization of otherwise harmless words

Okay - seems that the treat "dilly bar" I referred to in a previous post no longer only refers to an ice cream treat. Incidentally an ice cream treat that is not available through the ice cream man (and this is the actual, original ice cream-only treat I refer to) but through Dairy Queen.

Sometimes you say something and someone giggles. You wonder why. This started when I began teaching courses at a local college. Even though I think I am not a day over 21, these kids that I was teaching apparently were still in Junior High School, masquarading as college students.

The assignment was to come up with a name for their group projects. I was trying to teach brainstorming and that no idea was a bad one as it could lead to more good ones. The project was a collection of many different subjects into one publication. One of the group members offered "Tossed Salad." Seems harmless and not too bad for a collection of different things thrown together.

Then there was the snickering. One older, non-traditional student informed me she would not be a part of such filth (although she couldn’t define the filth, but knew that the snickering boys were up to something). So I googled it. Lovely.

So that’s great that there's slang and urban terms for whatever floats your boat. But maybe when a very unhip, thirty-something klutz utters or writes something, perhaps it would be wise to assume they mean the original meaning. Just a suggestion.

If you ever want to know, here's a helpful reference. I looked up “steamy beef hand” and thankfully no one has stolen that one yet.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Steamy Beef Hand

You ever wonder where some band names come from. I think this could be a good one. It started as I prepared one of my fabulous dinners (okay – took the ingredients out of the ziploc freezer bag and followed the directions from Dinner by the Dozen) —beef and broccoli. As I was browning my hamburger in a large pot the steam was bouncing off my stirring hand. I walked into the other room where the dogs became very interested in that hand.

mmmmm, steamy beef hand, I said aloud.

And a new band name was born. Now where did I put my drumsticks...

Friday, March 24, 2006


Wow - just barely past 55 degrees out there and the ice cream man is out... (on a Friday at 1pm - although I think it is Spring Break for the neigborhood kids). There's still a patch of snow in the yard but summer must be just around the corner...

Not sure about him - it's a cute truck but things aren't the same today as they were when I was a kid.

Really want a [edited] bomb pop now...

The Klutz's Guide to Neighborhood Watch

The other morning my neighbor from across the street rang the doorbell. It was about 10 am and since it wasn't yet noon, I was still in my pjs and a sweatshirt (one of the perks of working from home office). I opened the door expecting him to hand me a package as the UPS guy is always delivering my stuff to him across the street.

Al: Are you okay?
Me: I'm fine, how are you?
[Al looks a bit confused.]

Al: Well I thought I'd just check on you since you were banging on the window...
[Now I look confused... scanning back through my previous 10 minutes...]

I realize that I had been banging on the window trying to get the squirrel out of the bird feeder. The squirrel completely ignored me, didn't even flinch. Al, across the street, who I was completely unaware of standing by his mailbox , heard me. I explain this to Al, who chuckles and moves on with his day.

I'm pretty sure the neighbors already think I am nuts ... but nice that they're keeping an eye on me none the less!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Birthdays, life, death and random thoughts in between

"...The important thing is not to be bitter over life's disappointments. Learn to let go of the past. And recognize that everyday won't be sunny. And when you find yourself in the darkness of despair, remember ... it's only in the black of night you can see the stars. And those stars lead you back home. So don't be afraid to make mistakes, to stumble, fall. Because most of the time, the greatest rewards will come from doing the things that scare you the most. Maybe you'll get everything you wished for. Maybe you'll get more than you ever could have imagined. Who knows where life will take you. The road is long and in the end, the journey is the destination." - Coach Whitey Durham (Barry Corbin) in One Tree Hill

I quietly turned 36 the other day. I didn’t mean for it to be quiet – I’d much prefer fanfare and celebration. But it seems you pass “a certain age” and birthdays get lost in the rigamarole of everyday.

With the passing of each birthday, thoughts turn to life. Am I where I wanted to be at this age? Where is it that I wanted to be? What is the meaning of life? 42 ... well, in this case, 36. It seems around my birthday, I am more aware of the fact life changes so much. Just when you think you might be in a pattern or a rut, if you step back, you'll feel the wind on your face as the world spins around you.

My grandmother is 77 – a fact that she brings up a lot lately. Perhaps it is a way to justify the whirlwind of changes she has just made. She moved from her house of 20-plus years into a stylish new place. It’s not assisted living, or a retirement building. It’s actually a pretty coo loft. But it is about one-quarter the size of her house – much more manageable for a 77 year old, albeit a fairly healthy one. She also sold the family cabin, as you may have read in previous posts. She's made these changes sort of as a way of getting her affairs together. Not that she is going anywhere. But she is 77, she will remind you this if you mention anything.

As I was contemplating the “when” of having a child, not the if, I suddenly was gripped with a fear that I might not be around for grandchildren. Then I realized that it is foolish to think that way. You really can't plan for anything in life. It doesn't work out that way. I am definitely a planner. My husband is a fly-by-the-seat-of-the pants-er. He’s been calling me type A lately. He’s right. He’s a B. So we complement each other by sometimes meeting in between. So I end up putting in place the financials, the schedules, the what-ifs, and he provides the why-nots, the let’s-gos, and the better-now-than-laters. Sometimes we flip when I suggest we run off to Paris next weekend and he reminds me we have to pay taxes.

Back to life’s changes. My mother’s brother is in the late stages of prostate cancer. He is in Salem, Oregon. I haven’t seen him in 20 years but have kept in touch on and off by email. I’d like to visit him but am having trouble getting the where-with-all to do so. True the cheaper fares are two weeks out. But life is so busy. There's a loan closing, a book club meeting, work, class to teach, taxes to do, dogs to board. All that can be rescheduled and taken care of pretty easily. I’m afraid to book a trip and end up being too late, but at the same time, afraid not to give it a chance.

On the other end of the spectrum, my sister is bringing new life into the world – due in September. For most people this is a joyous event and something I hope to do myself in the near future. But my sister wears blinders. She really flies-by-the-seat-of-her-pants. She’s a good person but just not a planner like her older sister. Her son has just turned 15. He’s a good kid but medicated and has a host of disorders defined by letters. This is mostly genetic. My sister herself is bipolar.

Her choice to get pregnant was that it was finally time, and she was in a good financial place. But she chose not to notice that she is just barely financially stable and that she really can’t stand her husband, who has a host of things going on himself. In order to get pregnant, she went off the medication to treat her disease. Then through a series of unfortunate events, lost her job.

I will admit this has affected my choices to become pregnant. Since there’s so much going on there, it’s hard for me to do the same and be happy about it, or for the rest of the family to be happy about it. I’ve always been my sister’s keeper. As I love her dearly, at the same time I am tired. It’s also very hard on the rest of the family – three other sisters and our parents. My mom is a worrier and has the blood pressure to prove it. One other sister has been going through her own changes in life – most recently health issues. Thankfully it turned out not to be Leukemia, as was a possibility, but instead good old-fashioned mono. She mirrors her big sister in work hours – too many of them!

The last thing about my birthday is that each March brings a reminder of an old friend’s birthday – exactly two weeks before mine. His mother and mine were good friends before we were around. There are pictures of us as babies, toddlers and young kids. I moved to a different town in third grade and didn't see him as often after that. His mom still came to Bridge night but he typically stayed at home. When I was 17, he took his own life. I had a great deal of teen angst and often wondered if I could just give up. I could never have gone through it. In reality, I just needed a good vacation. I often wonder what happened for him to be at a point in his life to do this. There was speculation of many things: that a former teacher of his was accused of molesting students and he might have been involved. Or possibly he had received a lower grade than expected (I believe he had a 4.0 GPA and was already accepted to School of Mines as a high school junior). Or that he simply had a shortcircuit in his body chemestry. There were no other indications, no signs.

Several years later, his mother succumbed to cancer that slowly took over her whole body. She was a wonderful person. No one deserves to lose a child this way and then lose her own life to such a horrid disease, but she deserved it the least. I think of her daughter and her husband left behind. I don't think my mother is in touch anymore but I hope that their lives are really good to them now.

The quote at the beginning of this post struck a chord with all these thoughts swirling around in my head. It’s a WB show about teen angst but the script writer has it spot on. And it doesn’t hurt hearing it spoken in the deep Texas voice of one of my favorite actors.

Life is a journey. You might as well eat cheetos in the car, take lots of pictures along the way, and maybe have a birthday party or two at McDonalds.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

It's March 18 - do you know where your snow shovel is?

It's that time of year and we're about due for a biggie. The setup is right - rain due to start this afternoon, turning to snow overnight. Okay mother nature - what's the plan?

Friday, March 10, 2006

Tuft-butt season

In many parts of the country, the Groundhog may signal the coming of Spring. Here, it’s big tufts of white and brown fur everywhere. Yup, it’s tuft-butt season when our brown dog/German Shepherd mix Sarah-dog blows her coat. She has gorgeous fur - a marble of red, brown, white, tan. The birds love it too, lining the nest with her brushing piles from the yard. The cats are not so fond of it —especially when I give them little dog hair wigs. Now there's a picture for "Stuff on my cat." BA HA HA HA! [Yes, they will smother me in my sleep...]

Thursday, March 09, 2006

George Clooney and dreams

And now, on a lighter note... (I do have several blogs started but not finished - damn work ... damn taxes ... damn life).

I need to start writing down my dreams. This morning I dreamed I was watching a movie at someone's house and George Clooney slipped some drugs into my drink or food. It was speed but in the dream I was a slug. I decided I needed to walk it off and Jason Alexander was there. He was helping me and saying that was really uncool of George.


I sometimes try to figure out where this comes from and if there is a message. In the past I have had dreams that are foretelling things to come. Years ago I dreamt my biological Dad had died but all I got was a phone call and wasn't able to find out where he was, only that I needed to come deal with it. In the real world, the next day he called me to tell me he was getting married (to a very nice woman and they've been married ten years). I also had a very vivid apocalyptic dream on Sept. 9, 2001.

Anyway, back to George Clooney, whom I sure is a very nice guy. The drugs are probably because I have new glasses and am getting used to them (prescription changed slightly, not to mention that they actually sit in the right place on my face, which I am not used to). They do make me a little dizzy. Mr. Clooney was on the Oscars the other night. Jason Alexander was in a movie I watched over the weekend. Still don't know what it all means but it's funny to see how the brain works.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

This is how a heart breaks

Have you ever felt so incredibly sad - like someone punched you in the gut? You fight to breath normally. The skin around your eyes stings from salt in your tears. This is my Saturday -- a beautiful, warm sunny blue-sky Colorado day. The hubbie and I went to the cabin to clear out the things we left for future visits. I took some pictures to remember everything about the place.

And I cried. A lot.

I recall crying like this only a couple of times in my life. Once it was at my Grandpa's funeral. I feel like he has died again. My heart races, my breath squeezed out of me. I have to say goodbye to this place and it's so incredibly hard.

On my final way out the door, I grab a wooden sign with the family name on it. There's four of these - one inside, one hanging outside by the driveway, and two at the dirt road intersections leading up to the place. This is the one I can bear to remove. Taking one of the others down is too painful. I will save this sign for the day when we can get our own place like this.

The air is crisp. The sun warm on my wet cheeks. The stiff breeze musically wind through the pine trees.

This is how a heart breaks.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

It's gone

There are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. I think I’ll save some time and hit them all at once.

The family cabin is gone. Grandma rushed ahead and put it up for sale, even after the hubbie and I offered to take it over. It was gone in a day for more than what she asked for and definitely more than what we could have afforded. She’s never seemed to me to be someone so concerned about money and certainly didn’t need to be.

We are upset that we weren’t part of the discussion. I know I am not alone in this. My parents weren’t even in on the decision. My dad’s name is on the trust. He had to sign papers for the sale against his choice. This was supposed to be for all of us.

I know I am an incredibly sentimental person. This was one of the last places where my grandpa was still around. My grandparents bought the place in 1993. He died from cancer in 1995. The time in between, he spent hours rebuilding the place, making it a year-round family retreat. My grandpa’s spirit is there.

Now it’s sold.

Maybe it was better I didn’t know this when we were there before Valentine’s Day. I would have just been sad and not enjoyed the serenity, the peacefulness. There are things we have to pick up that we left there for our future visits. I will probably run up this weekend just to get it done with. The longer I wait, the harder it will be.

Acceptance is the light at the end of the tunnel. But in the meantime, I have four tough steps to get through.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

You say Turin, I say Torino

I had Olympic aspirations. I was the roller skate queen of Arapahoe drive. Decked out in torn knee jeans and giant fuzzy bell pom-poms, I faithly hit my blacktop driveway whenever it was clear of snow. I skated my heart out to Abba's "The Winner Takes It All" or Neil Diamond's "America". I got my inspiration from ice skaters. Hey, I can do that triple twirl, toe-picking sowcow (not likely spelled that way and having nothing to do with farm animals). I flung myself into the air believing I was achieving that exact step. Nevermind my toe pick was actually a bright red stopper and my blades were actually wheels.

I was going for the gold.

Unfortunately, roller skating never became an Olympic sport. Eventually the white roller skates wore out. The fluffy pompoms disappeared. Abba and Neil Diamond were replaced with New Wave. Time on the blacktop turned into time somewhere else.

As I tune into the 2006 Winter Olympics, I watch the ice skaters and know somewhere inside the roller queen skates on.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Wobbly bits

I think that phrase may have come from “Bridget Jones Diary.” It’s been wobbling around in my head lately. For almost a year, I've been obsessed with my wobbly bits – more so then the usual. In March 2006, I was diagnosed with high-blood pressure, pre-diabetes, and poly-cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). I weighed in at my all time high of 235 pounds. I had joint pain and fatigue. I was winded walking across the campus where I teach. I don't know how it happened but gradually since college I had been moving less and eating not too bad, but not too good either. Coupled with the PCOS, which causes the weight gain, blood pressure, and blood sugar issues, I was losing the battle of the bulge.

Tired of feeling tired, I knew I needed to do something. I walked into a nearby commercial diet center and said, "what do I have to do to get started." The answer: a really, really strict diet, and a good chunk of money. In fact, it’s a paid version of an eating disorder. Okay, maybe that’s too harsh. But the program has a single sheet of paper listing what I can eat and when. No fruit after 6pm. Beef, cottage cheese and canned tuna can only be eaten every other day (a day between each item). I picked the program because it was advertised that is allows "real food." Yes, it does. But it's a very short list of real food. In addition, you buy "nutritional supplements" to fill in the gaps of the very short list. That’s where a lot of the program cost lies.

The program also doesn’t include exercise. It’s okay -- but they warn you it might slow your weight loss. (??!) This is true as muscle weighs more than fat. However, my goal wasn’t to just drop 90 pounds, it was also to be in better shape over all. So I also signed up with a personal trainer class at the rec center that is three blocks from my house.

At the time I started the diet program, I also started taking Metformin (a diabetes medicine) to treat the PCOS. The idea was to get to four pills a day, which was supposed to completely reverse the condition. My body really argued about the meds. I think much of my initial weight loss was more from the side effects of the meds, then the diet itself. I also went through Costco-sized bottles of pepto-bismol. I never could get past two pills in a day and finally ditched them mid-September. Some of the other treatments for the disease include diet and exercise. So I decided to stick to that route.

I lost about 50 lbs so far but hit that weight in October. Since then I have fluctuated a couple of pounds up and down but have really stayed in one place. This has been particularly frustrating. The diet center's answer is to take more of their pill supplements. Right now I take a multi-vitamin but draw the line at all the other stuff. I have similar reactions to supplements as I do to the Metformin.

One of the good things about this plan is that it is balanced. It doesn’t throw out entire food groups. I argue some are pretty limited but it has protein/starch/fruit/veggies. But I’ve also grown tired of the limited, bleak list of food and occasionally have added a few things in here and there. I know this has slowed down the weight loss but this is real life. I have learned about portions and calories. In fact, most of my “cheats” are things most people wouldn’t consider being a diet cheat. Carrots, for example, aren't allowed. Neither are bananas. Yes, these things will be "allowed" back when I hit the maintenance phase. But they have too much sugar for now. I also eat an occasional Hershey's kiss. Like I said, this is real life.

I’ve also recognized that stress plays a big part in your weight. A very busy life leads to food on the run and cooking what is easy. For me, that was refrigerated tortellini pasta. But I would eat the whole box myself with butter. Granted that was dinner after a day of maybe eggs and one other item. I wasn’t eating enough and what I was eating was storing itself and contributing to my insulin issues. It was comfort food - calming in the storm. I’ve learned that I can eat this stuff – but in balance and in portions. There's also other ways of calming stress.

Slowing down and eating away from the computer or TV has also helped. I have a hard time sitting and eating without doing something else. But watching a netflix blockbuster, I could eat a whole Chipotle burrito without noticing and then wonder why I felt like I was going to burst. Luckliy, I’ve discovered another obsession of mine (Sudoku) is something that slows me down. It works my brain and lets me eat slower. When you eat slower, you recognize when you are full. It also helps you enjoy the food more. Sometimes just a couple of bites of something you love can satisfy you just as much as eating the whole thing.

Cravings have been strange though. Last summer I craved Cheetos (the crunchy kind). This isn’t something I normally ate but I was obsessed with “cheatos”. If someone had a bag of them, I was a goner. Now I really crave one of those cheesy bites pizzas. They say cravings mean that you are missing something needed in your diet. I don’t think I am missing pepperoni but perhaps the calcium in the cheese. My diet doesn’t allow much dairy – 4 oz milk a day and 5 oz cottage cheese three times a week.

I work at home which has been both good and bad for the diet. It’s been good because I am not tempted by donuts/bagels/birthday cake and other goodies brought in by coworkers. I can make my meals fresh. The bad is that the kitchen is just down the hall from my office. I have to be sure not to have anything bad on hand.

Working at home, I keep the TV on the Travel Channel or HGTV. I see a lot of weight loss commercials. The common theme is “find the real you.” The real yous of all these folks are size sixes. I started at a size 20/22 and thought that 16 sounded pretty good. I wanted to be a size that I could walk into any store I liked and find something that fit. I wanted to fit into a "Large" so I could pick up cheap deals at Costco. I am now a size 14 ... petite. Ends up the round butt kept normal length pants and skirts higher off the ground. It's funny being considered petite but still being about 30-40 pounds of where I should be on the charts.

So while I am frustrated I’ve not lost the 90 pounds originally planned by the diet center, I have to look at the fact that I have lost 50 pounds. My blood pressure and blood sugar are back to a healthy normal. I can run around, even at 14,000 feet, and be able to breath, without my heart beating out of my chest. I can find things that fit on the clearance rack at Target and on the tables at Costco, as well as all my favorite stores.

I still have some wobbly bits. I started Jazzercise classes again (after a six year hiatus following my traumatic divorce). I would like to smooth out some of those bits (like my “belly butt” that appears with lower waist pants) but have decided that curves are pretty cool. I didn't lose the boobs, although now they’re a little lower without my belly holding them up.

I will continue the program as planned. At the same time, I will try to lighten up on myself. It's not a failure since I've accomplished all the goals but the actual number on the scale. And that’s a pretty cool thing.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Bridge over troubled water

Found this while randomly surfing blogs:

The number one song when I was born was Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water." (Okay ... water ... I am a pisces. Does this has some deeper meaning??)

When I turned 18, it was Rick Astley "Never Gonna Give You Up."

Somehow I always thought my life's theme song would be the theme from Fame.

The groundhog and the power of two

Man, that groundhog wasn’t kidding. Every February 2, when the little rodent sees his shadow, I think Duh! There are six more weeks of winter no matter how you look at it. Spring starts on March 20, 2006, at precisely 1:26 P.M. EST. That’s six weeks from February 2.

In my neck of the woods, this time of year is when the snow really starts to fall. The mountains have been walloped this year with tons of snow but down here in the front range, not so much. Our winter has been mostly wind. Lots and lots of wind. And some more wind. Did I mention the wind?

Saturday we had snow and some record low cold. It's -2 as I get ready for my 10:30 Jazzercise class. On goes my athletic socks, yoga pants and tank top. Then a warm up shirt that has long sleeves with thumb holes in the end. I top that off with a pair of sweat pants and wool socks. I add a fleece jacket. When it gets this cold, you start wearing two of everything: two gloves, two coats, two pants ... two nostrils frozen together.

When I am all bundled up to go, I feel like the “Christmas Story” kid. I also know why Minnesotans say “Uff Da.” It’s the sound you inadvertently make when you try to move around in this cold weather body armor.

Later as I am bundled into my cozy little house, I watch the cats lick the ice on the insides of the windows. I wonder if their tongues will get stuck to the metal. It’s “two” dang cold. Yet I know in a couple of months, it will be too dang hot.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Fun with Kennel Cough, plastic splinters, and large quantities of dish soap

I should just give up. I will never have a normal, easy life. Whenever I take some time off, something happens (usually some kind of damage to my house while I am away). We took a quiet weekend away for the two of us. Sarah-dog and Flounder went to Camp Bow Wow. When I made the reservations a couple of weeks ago, they told me their Bordatella vaccine was due and that we should probably get it beforehand since they had some kennel cough going around.

So the pups headed to vet two weeks ago for their shot.

Well, it ends up getting a Bordatella shot is a little like a flu shot. It’s going to protect the pups but not 100%. Apparently this is a more aggressive strain at CBW. Both girls are coughing and snorting. Sarah-dog thinks she needs to go outside every time she coughs and then seconds later scratches to come back in. It's made for a not-so-productive work day.

So to vet we go. I’ve now got some $60 worth of antibiotics (which are the plain old nasty tasting capsule not a nice, easy to administer beef flavored pill) and another $80 for the vet to see the pups and tell me they likely have kennel cough. I talked them out of the $140 worth of “cough suppressant” instead picking up a $7 bottle of Robitussin DM (which is okay for the pups). (I like the vet that we see but I’m beginning to think it’s awfully pricey.) Except I forgot to get a syringe (like for babies). The pups aren’t going to drink the Robitussin out of the little cup. I picked up a baby medicine syringe. What expressions on their puppy faces when I shoot a teaspoon of Robitussin down their throats. Getting the antibiotic pills into Sarah is pretty easy – she’s pretty docile. Flounder, who normally will eat anything that flies in the air, is clamping her mouth shut and tried to bite my head off. Not a happy camper. I tried rolling the pill in bread.–First one went in. Then as I gave her the second, the first one flew back out of her mouth. %#&^#%!! The blasted pills are so big, they're hard to hide inside something.

The good news is that now they’ve gotten this, they should be more immune to it in the future.

But a warning to those of you out there that board or take your dogs to the dog park or doggie daycare, the shot doesn’t make them immune right away (and doesn’t make them 100% immune). And when the doggie daycare tells you that they're having some kennel cough problems, heed that as a warning and you should probably make other arrangements. At least be sure they are updated on their vaccine – apparently the nasal version kicks in quicker than the shot (which I didn’t know before). The shot can take a couple of weeks. The nasal mist – a couple of days.

So my big babies will now have to endure some quiet time to get over their doggie colds. And I get to play traffic cop everytime they go outside to keep them from kissing their boyfriends Drake and Moby.

Not sure my week could go much worse but the day also included fun with a dozen plastic splinters in my hand (from a plastic rope holding my hanging chair), and fun with a Costco-sized bottle of dishsoap that has a mysterious leak and left about an inch deep sludge of soap in my cabinet. It’s soap, so should be easy to rinse off, Right? Well, not in large quantities. There were so many bubbles that later when I went to bed, there were bubbles coming out of the downstairs toilet. Yeah, shades of Amityville Horror —but am thinking it’s more of the minor day-to-day terror of everyday life.

Monday, February 13, 2006

The art of doing nothing

The hubbie and I took off early on Friday for the mountains. My grandma owns a cabin in Estes Park, near the south entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. It's an 800 sq.foot two bedroom, 1.5 bath cozy hideaway with a wrap around porch and spectacular views.

My grandparents bought the place in 1993. It was a summer cabin built around the 1920s. My grandpa, a talented woodworker, and many members of the family stripped the inside and rebuilt it to be a year-round place. There's a lot of hard work there. It’s more special because it was my grandpa's last major project before he died of cancer in 1995.

This was our second annual Valentine’s Day weekend at the cabin. We brought books, movies (and a newer VCR and DVD player to upgrade what was there) and Suduku puzzles. We spent almost the entire Saturday in PJs, taking a late day bath (in the clawfoot tub) to go out to dinner at the nearby Dunraven Inn.

The cabin is a place we’d love to bring our children – even grandchildren. It’s a peaceful place that I would love to go to every weekend. Why we haven’t gone more often ... well, we can’t bring the dogs since other folks are allergic, and while Camp Bow Wow isn’t over the top expensive, it still is an extra cost to send them to doggie camp for the weekend.

Then there is the everyday beat of a fast-paced life. Weekends around here aren’t really days off. I vowed for new year’s resolutions that I would not work weekends. Surprisingly that has stuck so far (much to the dismay of my project managers). Well, at least the not working on freelance work on the weekends. Instead, I've been doing many projects, visited my sister in Albuquerque (and helped paint her kitchen), and have been helping my grandma go through years and years of stuff as she moves from her 4000 sq foot home to a two-bedroom condo (a really cool condo but considerably smaller than the big old house).

The cabin is a place that we can catch our breath. There’s a telescope to check out local wildlife (really animals, not the neighbors) or the night’s sky. You can sit inside the big picture windows when it’s cold and just stare at the beautiful mountains in front of you. When it is warmer, you can sit outside on the wraparound porch. You can sleep for 11 hours or be up at the crack of dawn, sipping fresh brewed coffee and watching a flock of crows. You can smell the clean, crisp mountain air.

The art of doing nothing.

Now it is Monday and I am home and relaxed but only for a moment. Ends up our mountain haven, the special place my grandpa put so much work into, is going to be put up for sale in April. My grandma says she's too old (she's not) and no one else seems to find the time to go there. It's a beautiful place and too expensive for her to keep up.

The breath I caught over the weekend has been whisked away. The art of doing nothing has become the need to do something. I am angry at my family for letting this happen. I’m not angry at my grandma but angry at my parents, my aunts for not seeing this place for what it is. In the past couple of years, I couldn’t get up there because there were always folks there. I can understand and I don’t think she should be expected to cover the place herself. That's where the rest of us should be helping.

So now I am torn. There’s no way we can afford her asking price. I am considering seeing if she'll let us take over the maintenance and perhaps buy the place from her over the long term. We could conceivably go up there several times a month. She doesn't need the money - that is, she isn't desperate for it as her house will sell soon.

She won’t put it up for sale until April. Maybe that will give us time to come up with an offer or perhaps win the lottery.

Is it practical? I am a terribly sentimental person. Can it be done? Maybe.

Maybe I just need to accept it and go on. But I don’t think I can do that. But do I have a choice?