Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Allergic To The Outdoors

Awe Spring, or in this case, Mid Winter; sixty degree days, toasty bright sunshine, perky robins plucky worms from the soggy soil. It's a good time of the year. My favorite actually, right up until every living green thing starts blooming and exploding into the atmosphere and reducing those iconic messengers of spring into harbingers of allergic doom.

That happened last Wednesday for me.

I scavenged through my bathroom cabinet with blood shot eyes and a drippy nose desperately searching for my allergy medications. And yes it takes more than one.

I never had allergies when I was growing up. I spent many a summer day on, near or driving a hay truck, drinking sodas and hanging with the guys. I skipped blithely through FIELDS of fescue to shoot frogs at the the pond or throw rocks and climb trees. No problem.

Then I went off to college in Columbia and everything went haywire. I'm not sure if the trigger was just a change of location, or the stress of school or if it was inevitable, but that first year at Mizzou I developed hay fever and had an allergic reaction to penicillin my first semester. Sometimes a change does not do you good.

My eyes became coated with sandpaper and my nose was drippy or stuffed or both when I wasn't sneezing. It was miserable. That was twenty five years ago. At this point, I have suffered from allergies longer than I had not.

Each year I pray that this will turn around in my favor. We eat lots of local (as in from our own backyard) honey to hedge against allergies, and I hope against hope that my allergies will disappear as mysteriously as they developed. This will not be that year.

Most years I take my Claritin or Zyrtec and Flonase from March 1 to October 31. This year I got to start two weeks early. Yay. (insert dripping sarcasm here)

Unfortunately for Grace, she seems to have inherited some of my same allergies. Bryon isn't allergic to anything. Not even poison ivy unless he just purposely bathes in the stuff. Even then it's not like my sensitivity to it. I have to go to Urgent Care for a shot and steroids for even thinking about it. I'm starting to itch just writing about it.

While non-allergic people look outside and see ample sunshine and possibility, I look out there and see pollen. While the evening weather pollen count is easily ignored by the non-allergics, the rest of us cringe. Woe to those who's over-the-counter remedies fail. And they will. The only real remedy is to stay indoors with the air conditioning on and to change your filters twice as often as recommended. 

This is how we develop into writers and gamers and nerds.

It all starts with allergies.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

We Bought A Pool

No it's not as exciting as buying a zoo, but there should be less poop to scoop.

Bryon and Grace have been campaigning for a pool for the past three years. I just didn't see the value in it really. A pool is expensive. It's a lot of work. It takes up a lot of real estate in the yard. I have fair skin. I'm fat. You get the picture.

Still, they campaigned on. Nana chimed in too. Nana has promised to visit and stay much more in the summer time if we have a pool. Uh huh, we'll see.

Finally, I caved in and got on board the pool train. There were two deciding factors that tipped the scale for me. For one, we got back enough on our tax refund to pay for most of it. Secondly, eight out of the ten times Bryon tried to take Grace to the Marshfield city pool last summer, they were closed. That pool administration is a mess. If there aren't a minimum number of swimmer at the pool (I'm thinking that number is ten), they close down.

If it clouds up and even looks rainy, they close down. If it's a Saturday of a full moon, they close down. Several times, we even thought to call ahead and make sure the pool was in fact open, drove there geared up and dressed up to swim only to find they had just closed down due to some random event. It was infuriating.

That's why we decided to buy a pool of our own.

We have friends with pools but they live too far away to play on a regular basis. One of the goals we hope to achieve with our little farmy oasis here in the Big Cedars is to make our home a landing spot for Grace and her friends as the years go by. If she is here, we know what's going on.

A pool will be a kid magnet.

Of course with that come the stresses of WATCHING all of those kids and keeping them from drowning. I'm just going to have to invest in a lot of noodles and life vests.

The actual pool has yet to arrive but will soon and then the installation will commence. We are not looking forward to the installation. I might have mentioned my problem with following directions. Luckily, Bryon is very good at following directions. There is a lot of prep ground work (literally) that has to happen before the first steel panel goes up and months before the first splash is made, but this summer will be spent enjoying our staycation in the Big Cedars.

More good news: only two big cedars will have to be sacrificed for the pool.

Life is good.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Focus Grasshopper

So here's the problem on this unbelievably nice Sunday afternoon at the end of February, there are about 16 things I would like and need to do, but I can't seem to focus on any of them. I have a rare three or four hour block of time free to use in these endeavors, yet I can't seem to get my heart into any of them even though I want them all accomplished.

First off in an effort at full disclosure, Grace is at Nana's this weekend and will be back in mere hours. Bryon and I slept in late, skipped church and went to Freda's for breakfast. This killed half the day. I'm more than okay with that part but now I am plagued with "the weekend is nearly over, here are all the things I still want to do, but am not going to get done" blues.

If time is the enemy of ambition; focus is the enemy of success.

Before you suggest I Google ADD medications, I'm fairly confident that is not the problem. The problem is I am always looking and planning ahead to the next thing. Once I'm in the "get shit done" mode, more and more things appear that need to be added to that list.

For example, as I was walking to my writing cave upstairs to work at banging out this inspired post,  I realized the upstairs carpets really needed vacuuming.  Then as I walked by the bar, I noticed several things sitting on the cabinet that needed put away. The game table needed cleaned off. The couch blankets needed folded. I forgot to spot spray the soda stain in my writing cave where Grace dribbled pop. My desk is untidy. The upstairs windows really need cleaned. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Living in the moment is not something I am usually capable of achieving. You'll get no Zen here. For that, check out Leo over at Zen Habits. What I am capable of, when the wheels finally start turning, is knocking out some epic tasks.

Here is the random list of wants and needs swimming around in the list in my head:

  1. Clean the rabbit cage
  2. Scoop the dog poop our of the yard. 
  3. Wash the clothes
  4. Fold the clothes
  5. Clean Grace's room before she gets back home
  6. Work on my novel edits
  7. Work on writing all this week's posts ahead of time and scheduling them
  8. Cruise the internet for blog post ideas
  9. Clean all of the floors
  10. Clean out the chicken house
  11. Do a yard sweep for bones, trash and various other dog flotsam and jetsam
  12. Sweep the chicken poop off the porch
  13. Clean all the misc. accumulated household stuff of the kitchen bar
  14. Catch up on reading my magazines
  15. Read something, period
  16. Catch up on Facebook

You can probably figure out which are the wants and which are the needs. Ironically, I notice many of them have a common theme of either cleaning or poop or the cleaning of poop. That's a little disturbing.

Several more of them require alone time and quiet to accomplish. Those are the ones I am trying to focus on now before the Grace maelstrom arrives back home. After that, all bets are off.

We've tried to get Grace on chore schedule of her own in an effort to both instill a work ethic and knock a few things off that revolving list. We also bribe her with the promise of cold hard cash. Unfortunately, as I figured, that lasted about one week. The second week I hounded and nagged her until she finished one thing on the list (hanging up and putting away all of her clothes). Of course, she didn't get paid that week. She didn't care. She still has no feel for the value of work or a strong enough desire to work toward a long term goal to achieve it. And I don't have the patience to enforce it.

Sure I know I should be trying harder to instill that but seriously, it's just easier to do it myself than wait and struggle and cajole her. I'm pretty sure that's a universal parenting dilemma. Right? Right?

So what have I accomplished in this first hour of free time? I have managed to complete one seventh of one task on my list and add six more to the list.

If I were getting paid for these chores or in this case, for just being me, this would be job security.

As it is, I'm continually plotting for a way to retire TODAY but at the same income level so I can work on my revolving to do list. Whoever came up with the five day work week and two days off plan was an idiot. Probably a business owner. When I'm Queen, it will be the other way around.

The saying goes, "Shit Happens". Trust me, it doesn't just happen. You have to make it happen.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Top 10 Things I've Learned From Dog Obedience Training

Week five of dog training. Two weeks left.

Honestly, it has been a pain. The weekly commitment is excruciating, especially since I hate doing things during the week nights. I know, I know I'm getting old. I'd just like to come home and relax (cue hysterical laughter here because that rarely actually happens either).

I have learned and clarified a few things these past few weeks about myself and my dog.

Here ya go:

10. Even if you pay for it, you can not force people or animals to respect your authority. I still have no idea how to command that. 

9. My dog will do virtually any trick for a hot dog. I would do virtually any trick for Thin Mints.

8. It is rarely a good idea to wear a fanny pack around your waist. At obedience school, it's the only way to both protect your hot dog ammunition and ensure your dog's rapt attention.

7. A doggie seat belt is only somewhat effective. It does indeed keep your pet out of the front seat, but not from pinging around the back seat.

6. My dog, like my kid has her own opinions and a strong will. Possibly stronger than mine.

5. Dog training instructors take things very seriously. Most of the classes I've felt like I landed in the middle of a Saturday Night Live skit. I may be the only one who sees the humor, but I have entertained myself. 

4.  I can only remember the names of the bad dogs and not the good ones. I have no idea who the owners are.

3. Two of the tricks Belle has learned are to spin around and to roll over. I see no practical application for either trick, but I was inordinately proud that she could do them.

2. The three main training goals I wanted to accomplish (no jumping, come when I call and no more chewing on me) continue to elude us. Luckily, we also have a shock collar. That will be plan B.

1. Even though she may never be Best In Show or win an agility competition, Belle is still a part of our family now, til death do us part and at six months we all love her despite her occasional naughtiness.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Diamonds Are Not This Girl's Best Friend

Okay, I'm probably in the minority here, but diamonds do not turn me on at all. Really, expensive jewelry in general has no appeal to me. Sure diamonds are shiny and sparkly, but I just do not believe in their value. Who decided that the diamond is the most valuable stone?

I understand they are rare, difficult to find and take a master craftsman to turn into a tiny little jewels to bedazzle my finger or ears.  Still, I can't distinguish a real diamond from a fake so it would basically be wasted on me.

I have only every owned one diamond.

Back in the day, before we graduated from college Bryon and I got engaged. One night he came to the mall where I was working in the juniors department of Famous Barr and during my break, he gave me the choice between a nice leather jacket from the mall or a diamond ring. I'll admit it, I was young and didn't yet know of my disregard for diamonds. I chose the diamond. I knew that when I wore it everyone would know I was engaged.

In that case, the symbolism was worth more than the $125 it cost. That $125 was a lot of money for a college student with a part time job. I wore it proudly.

We waited until we graduated from college and then got married in 1990. Our entire wedding cost $500 and included my $80 dress from J.C. Penny, our $40 each gold wedding bands and the keg of beer for the reception afterwards. This summer will be our 22nd anniversary, so I'm think overall that was a pretty good investment.

So where is that little diamond ring now? I think it's in my dresser drawer. I haven't worn it in years. And my gold wedding band, I eventually exchanged for a $10 silver one I bought at the Ozark Empire Fair many years ago.

This week they unearthed an apparently huge and rare pink diamond in Australia. They think it will be worth $1.07 million. In 2010 a big pink diamond sold for $46 million. Now, for someone to pay $46 million for a jewel, no matter how pretty, a whole lot of people have to buy into the myth of its worth.

Luckily for Bryon, he knows not to waste money on expensive jewelry for me. Now, give me some cool computer or electronics and it's a whole different ballgame.

I am fairly sure an iPad could be my new best friend.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Reading About Writing

This has been a crazy reading year for me. Mostly because I haven't read one book so far. I've read a lot of stuff: blogs, magazines, pieces and parts of several books. But I haven't completed one novel. My book shelves are overflowing with books that I am dying to read. Alas, there is just not enough time to do it all.

Bryon used to tease me that I'd never get through all the books I have accumulated. I told him it was okay, it only secured my life expectancy. I have my whole life. I just can't die until I run out of books. I constantly hedge that plan by adding to the pile.

Not reading has caused me some stress. I not only feel like I want to read, but I need to read. Reading is a stress reliever for me. Since I can only do one thing at a time, like all the rest of you, I am giving myself permission not to read fiction for now.

I have made it less than a third of the way through my edits of Reap 'Em & Weep, and I want that sucker firmed up and ready to roll before the June 23, 2012 ORA Conference so I can pitch it to the agents who will be there. It's scary thinking of sending it out into the world. I vacillate between thinking it's crap and thinking it's gold. It's likely somewhere in the middle of that. Besides, it's not like it's the last and only thing I can ever write. It's just that it's the first thing I've ever written.

I can't tell you how many author bios and blogs I've read pointing out that their first published novel was actually their third novel, or fifth or {shudder} more. In my head, I know this to be true. But none of us would ever play the lottery if we really believed there was absolutely no chance of winning right? Writing this novel is much the same I think. Probably about the same odds too.

Just writing this blog every day takes up a lot of the time I could be using to read. I'm not complaining. I think both are equally important. Each post is like a little mini writing exercise for me. This process is making my writing muscles stronger. (I heard that snigger, you just found another typo didn't you?)

The solution came to me Monday as I got to spend a few stolen hours upstairs in the writing cave. I  decided I'm going to concentrate on reading about writing. I have a lot of books on writing as you can see on my shelf above. I've completed a few of them, read little bits and pieces of several more, and barely cracked the spine of most of them. I figure there is enough there for a Niangua style MFA* program. Think the Iowa Writers' Workshop goes redneck.

Now that I've actually completed something, I'm finding these books make a lot more sense to me. They seem more applicable. We can prepare forever for a challenge or a job but getting down and doing the thing is really the education. In my entire college career, the only useful and memorable piece of advice I learned was from my English professor, Carter Cramer. Dr. Cramer told me to "Beg, borrow and steal everything I could" in preparation for teaching.

Boy, oh boy was he right.

But that was an expensive lesson. Let's hope this one yields more fruit.

*Master of Fine Arts

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Library Girl

Grace really likes picking out her own library books. We go to the Webster County Library regularly. I used to pick out her books for her. Now, she has her own opinion on everything, including books.

She's on a thick book kick. She really wants to read fat books. Chapter books. The fatter the better. I know she can't read all the words in them but I dig that she wants to try. She likes the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books and systematically moves her book mark forward in the book marking her page.

I was curious how much she actually could read so I had her try to read a page from one of the fat books she has on her book case at home. She got stumped pretty quickly but she plowed on. She told me she only reads the words she knows.

That seemed like a pretty good plan.

Every time she develops a new interest, she wants a ton of books about it. I'm pretty sure I know where that trait came from (points two thumbs to self). I'm notorious for that. As habits go, it's a pretty good one I think.

I remember reading books way above my level from my own school library. I wanted something challenging. Once I made my way through all the myths of the world series, I discovered non-fiction. It would be fun to have a reading list from that time, but I'm sure those catalog cards are long destroyed. No you can have your list kept electronically online at most libraries.

It think that's awesome.

And if Grace only reads the words she knows, she'll be in good company. Admit it, we had no idea how to pronounce most of the words and/or names in any of the Harry Potter books, and we still got the gist of it.

Read on.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Redbox Anxiety

I rented my first ever Redbox movie this weekend.

I don't know why those little red kiosks inspire so much anxiety in me but they do. The idea is ingenious, but I am very intimidated by them. I have no idea how they work or how they hold all of those movies or how I can possibly drop my movie off at ANY Redbox kiosk and not upset the balance of the movie going universe.

It's boggling.

Since Bryon had to work all weekend, I thought it would be a good time to give it a try. I picked the Kum & Go kiosk. There was already a family renting a movie when we arrived. I got in line in the cold with Grace in tow. We waited impatiently while I tried to see exactly what they were doing. Normally, I'm pretty good with computers and finding my way around them (e.g. just keep punching keys or clicking until something happens).

The family finally retrieved their movies and moved along. We were up. I slid my card prematurely and screwed up the whole works. I waited for it to reset. Grace had already picked out a Wii game and a movie she wanted from the display. I went about trying to find them on the touch screen while holding up the little window shade and trying to read with a glare blinding me.

The movie was not available but the Wii game was. I picked out another movie, Real Steel and proceeded to the check out. The game cost $2 a day and the movie was $1.20. What a bargain! Real Steel is on our DirecTV right now, but it is $4.99 to rent so I was pretty excited. Grace always wants to buy new Wii games but most of them are too difficult for her or just lame. This was a good opportunity to try before we buy.

I am always on the lookout for a bargain so this process appeals to me. The anxiety boost for me is the pressure to then WATCH the movie and RETURN it immediately so I don't get charged again. When there were actually brick and mortar rental stores, you got to keep  the movie for five days. There wasn't so much pressure to watch it immediately. What if something comes up? What if I suddenly develop bronchitis on the way home and don't feel like watching my movie. What if I'm just not in the mood. Now that I HAVE the movie in my hot little hand, I don't even WANT to watch it.

It's really only a bargain if I get it for $1.20. Of course if I pay less than the $4.99 it costs on DirecTV, I am still saving money but $1.20! That's a deal!


As I'm struggling with the whole procurement process and having the above conversation in my head, another family gets in queue behind us.  As if that's not enough pressure, Grace pipes up, "Nana is a lot faster at this."

Really? Your sixty five year old grandma is faster than me? Well, it's on like Donkey Kong.

I put some brainpower into it and finally get the mission completed and we scurry away with our treasure. As I pull out of the parking lot, I am more than a little paranoid that maybe my card didn't clear out before the next group rented their movies. For all I know, we could be paying for the entire city of Marshfield's movie rentals as I type.

I'll bet Nana didn't think of that.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Helpful Gene

I can't help but be helpful.

Or nosy and overbearing, depending on your perspective. From my perspective, I am helpful.

Helpful = Right

Case in point: Friday afternoon at Barnes & Noble, I overheard a lady talking to her husband. They were one table over from mine.

Lady: We need to get involved in a CSA.
Husband: A what?
Lady: A CSA.
Husband: What the hell is a CSA?
Lady: Well, uh, it's ... just a minute ... it's in this book ...

Lady struggles to find what CSA stands for.

Me: Community Supported Agriculture
Lady: Yeah! That!

See, that was helpful. I did manage to just shut up after that and not pummel her with my plethora of information on CSA's and the the fact that a friend of mine is actually starting one and in the process of signing folks up for it right now! It was excruciating to shut up. If she had given me any indication that she would like to mine me for more information, I would have vomited CSA all over her.

It's a curse really.

As you can tell on this blog, I'm prone to the occasional (okay daily) over-share.  I can't just stop with the Reader's Digest version either. The problem is that most of the time even while I'm spewing forth all of this sage advice, I am realizing I'm making absolutely no sense and randomly flinging facts and info at people.

It's even worse when I see a need somewhere that I could fill if only I were so inclined. For example, a couple of people have asked me about blogging, and how to do it. It's easy. You can set up a free blog in minutes. It's the kind of thing that I think lots of folks would be interested in starting.

Here is another example of my helpful gene on overload. Just the other day as I was trolling Facebook, I came across this Webster County Library post:

I couldn't let it go without a comment ... and a plug for the blog. Then I got to thinking, I bet those Adult Journalers would really dig learning how to blog online. I could call the library and set up a time for a class and get them all signed up and on board the blogging train. Then I thought, Am I insane? I don't have time to do the things I need and want to do right now. 

I didn't call the library. But I still think it would be a good idea. This happens dozens of time a week. I offer unsolicited advice or dispense information (immediately helpful if not appreciated) and think of spectacularly good ideas that would be supremely helpful to others. Then I get home and do the laundry, fix dinner, watch my DVR'd shows and the inspiration to help others evaporates. Poof!

It brings to mind the quote, "God helps those who help themselves". Which I was pretty sure was a Bible quote, but apparently is not. (See helpful link to the Wikipedia page for your reading pleasure) Still, I think it's helpful, if not a little selfish.

My dilemma is this; if I CAN help, MUST I help? Because I've often got a good dose of Catholic guilt about such things which is ironic because I'm a Methodist.  Some things are just universal I suppose.  Maybe I just need a better personal filter so I don't have to feel guilty about not acting on every good idea. I wonder if you can get one of those on Amazon?

Now that would be helpful.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Girl Scout Cookies: Thin Mint Ecstasy

Oh thank God it's time for Girl Scout cookies again. I'm not even going to tell you how many boxes I buy each year, but I would suspect it's above average.

Those Thin Mints are like cookie crack. I'm hopelessly hooked on them.

One year I brought home several boxes and tried to eat just three or four cookies at a time. I asked Bryon if it would be bad if I just ate the entire sleeve. He said, "You're going to eat them eventually anyway, right?"

Why yes. Yes, I am. I like that logic.

I ate the entire sleeve. Yesterday, I may or may not have eaten an entire box. I'm telling you, it's a good thing they aren't available year round. It's also a good thing Grace is not a Girl Scout. If I had cases of those things at my disposal. Well, let's just say things would not end well for anyone.

I ate 1,280 calories worth of Thin Mint cookies yesterday. I only walked 5,526 steps which burned 220 calories. I'd have to walk 5X that (the equivalent of a half marathon) to burn those cookie calories off. Dear God. Why? Why did you make them so delicious?

Do I regret it? Yes. And No. All I can say is I'm glad I never liked smoking, drugs or alcohol as much as those Thin Mint cookies. I might have ended up as a poster child on one of those flyers you see at the courthouse for why you shouldn't do meth.

I know I should just say no, but ... I probably won't.

Especially since I have four more boxes coming from my dealer at church next week.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

We Need A Hero

Bonnie, Bonnie, Bonnie ... where have all the heroes gone?

Where have all the good men gone
and where are all the gods?
Where's the streetwise Hercules to fight the rising odds?
Isn't there a white knight upon a fiery steed?

Bonnie Tyler, I Need A Hero

This week the news has been full of Jeremy Lin. What a cool kid. He seems like just the sort of kid you hope your own kids can look up to and admire. A real hero. He's clean cut, educated, athletic and religious. What's not to like? He is the All-American kid.

 But then we have thought lots of other people were good role models too, and look how they turned out. Think Lindsay Lohan, Tiger Woods and Bill Clinton. People will disappoint us. We are all human. I have a few skeletons in my own closet, I hope never come out. Just another reason I won't be running for public office anytime soon. That and a complete political apathy.

It's easy to think that it's the media that drives the ascension and fall our heroes but none of us is infallible. Luckily for most of us, our biggest screw ups won't likely end up on the front page of the newspaper or across a CNN ticker. Thank God.

Even biblical heroes had their failings. Sure David struck down Goliath, but then he became a king and took another man's wife. I'm sure lots of little kids looked up to him when he killed that giant with a rock. Maybe not so much when they grew up and found out he was an adulterer.

That's the bitch of free will. We exercise it. Often. We act on our impulses both good and bad and then clean up the wreckage. Me included. Maybe that's why when a kid like Jeremy Lin comes along, he just seems a little too good to be true. You know that even now, some reporter is digging to besmirch his squeaky clean image.

Maybe we should all take a page out of the bible and not even cast that stone.

Maybe for a little while anyway, we can just enjoy having a hero.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

On Being Regular

There's something to be said about being regular.

Don't worry, I'm not about to launch into an Activia commercial. I'm talking about being a regular, which also strangely enough makes you feel sort of good inside.

Most of the time, I would just as soon be anonymous in my eating and shopping. I like to just go about my day and not necessarily see people I know. Strangers become a part of the scenery and background noise. Most of the day, I am content to just stay inside my head and listen to the internal chatter. Trust me, it's plenty noisy and entertaining in there.

One time in particular that I most wished to be anonymous was when I was teaching school at Fair Play. The closest Walmart was in Bolivar so that was the shopping mecca for everyone who didn't want to travel to Springfield. I used to have this really funny t-shirt of a cartoon dog humping a fire hydrant. It said, "Safe Sex" on it. I found it hilarious. I wore it often.

One day I wore it to Walmart. That day, I saw three different student parents. I strategically crossed my arms over the tag line and humping dog. No one said anything, but if I could have slipped into invisibility from embarrassment, I would have.  Sometimes, it's best if you are anonymous. Or if you at least turn your inappropriately funny shirt inside out.

There are a couple of places I visit often enough that I have become a 'regular'.

One is Hebrews in Springfield. Hebrews is the coolest most laid back of coffee houses. Local art gallery offerings bedazzle the wall, cool Indie music croons from the sound system, and I see lots of other familiar faces when I am there. Like Norm at Cheers, they know my name. If only I could remember theirs.

The other place where my entire family has become regulars over the years is Freda's Uptown Cafe in Marshfield. You can find one of us there (mostly Grandpa) nearly any given day of the week. Grandpa has become such a regular they call him Hoppy because he hops from table to table visiting and socializing most weekday mornings.

When he missed several days this past couple of weeks for sickness, Freda was trying to find out where he lived so she could take him is senior breakfast order of biscuits and gravy. Bryon represents the Medley clan a day or so during the week as well since he's been working three twelve hour days. I like to go every Saturday and Sunday.

We are so regular at Freda's that we exchanged Christmas cards. Grace's still hangs behind the register even now, halfway through February.

One of my teenage Facebook friends posted in his status that one of his life goals is to become a regular somewhere. There are many definite benefits and really only a one disadvantages to being a regular.

1. You can NOT read a book. People will greet you, engage you, quiz you and if you are alone ... join you, because obviously you do not WANT to be alone. Otherwise you would not have come to the restaurant. That's crazy talk.

1. The waitress' know what you want and orders for you. Every time. They are correct.
2. You get to see the same other regulars who have now, over the course of many years, become your real and actual friends. You don't see them usually outside of the restaurant. It's a special club.
3. The owner gives your kid special holiday gifts.
4. The owner hangs your father-in-law's art on her walls.
5. People buy that art.
6. You are pretty sure your seven going-on-sixteen year old daughter has a secure part-time job prospect hinging solely upon getting a drivers license at some point.
7. A famous person occasionally stops by to schmooze with the locals.
8. You can catch up on all of the town happenings on the bulletin board in the breezeway. It's better than the local paper.
9. Cream cheese stuffed strawberry French toast.
10. Breakfast all day no matter how late you sleep in.

Are you regular?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Online Alzheimer's

All characters appearing in this work are not fictitious. 
Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is no coincidence. 

Sometimes I feel like I have online Alzheimer's. These days between Facebook and blogging, tweeting and meeting people in real life, I forget who I've told what. Just another reason I make a terrible liar. I never know who has read my blog and who hasn't. So I'm pretty sure I'm repeating myself more times than not.

I suppose my friends think I've morphed into one of those annoying long married spouses who just keep retelling the same dozen glory days stories over and over. If they were good the first six dozen times around, they are good enough to retell again.

Stop me if you've heard this one:

Phone rings. Conversation with my Mom progresses. 

Mom: Brenda {her sister} called me to ask if I had seen the article in the paper about the symptoms of Alzheimer's.
Me: Yeah, was that in Bolivar paper?
Mom: Yes, I read through them. I had all of them except two!
Me: Which two?
Mom: I don't remember.

See, it's hereditary. I have become my mother.

That's not a bad thing. I'm just saying: Apple ... Tree.

I've mentioned before that I'm not a good oral storyteller. I need the time and luxury of seeing and then massaging the words until they make the most sense. When I try to tell a story out loud, it basically comes out like something closer to a seven year old's knock knock joke. All the elements might be there, but they get them jumbled up and in they end make no sense. The punch line is ruined.

One thing I do know is that I can't keep anything inside. Especially if it's funny to me. So if you do something ridiculous or funny in my presence, you have a good chance of making the blog. Especially now that we are halfway through month two. Today was especially tough to come up with something as you can probably tell by this struggling post. Today would be your rock.

Also, just so we are clear, by being my friend or family you are agreeing by proxy to an implied contract that all actions, words or odd quirks you may have, can and will be exploited as blog fodder. 

You have been warned.

Thanks Mom ;)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

This Is Not An Emergency. This Is Only A Test.


I saw this sign the other day during my travels and it got me to thinking.

I am very interested in preparedness. I like the idea of being ready for what may come. I like collecting things, organizing them and planning ahead for 'just in case'. A friend once told me we were the most self-sustaining people he knew. If that's true, then we are all in trouble because for all the planning ahead and preparing for the worst that we do here in the Big Cedars, it's still not nearly enough.

The ice storm of 2007 was proof enough of that. Twelve days without electricity was brutal for me.

We prepare for the worst in all sorts of ways. We buy insurance. We save money. We plant gardens. We raise animals. We go to church. All of these things we do in an effort to hedge against the worst-case scenarios. That's probably why I like the Worst-Case Scenario books so much. It's good to know exactly how to survive a falling elevator, jump from a building into a dumpster or stop a runaway passenger train if need be.

The chances of those things happening are low for sure. I don't spend a lot of time dwelling on them. I do often think about what I would do if the world went to hell, and I was in Rolla or Osage Beach when it happened. I figure that's how it will go. Then I'll have to make my way home and fight off the angry hordes of zombies.

The good news is, there's a manual for that too. The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Paranormal. I was a little disappointed that there wasn't an app for it. There were two Worst Case Scenerio apps but one was for work. The best way to avoid those scenarios is to stay out of the office.

At least if I'm in Rolla when it happens, I know where NOT to start my trek to safety. Right here, at the "Incident By-Pass Route" because we all know that following the advice of the government or in this case MoDot in the event of a catastrophic emergency will solve all of our problems.

Rule Number One in the event of a zombie apocalypse is this:

Do not follow the "Incident By-Pass Route". They may be the Government, but they are NOT here to help.

Pageview Record! Bonus Post

 Wow! Yesterday was a big day for pageviews AND the blog broke the 10,000 pageview mark! Woo Hoo! There were 1,065 of you in the past 30 days. That's amazing to me. Thanks for reading. I hope you like it.

One of my loyal readers pointed out recently, that this year I'll have to post 366 posts because it's Leap Year. Eeek! That's a lot of posts my friends. Watching the pageviews grow is inspiring though, so like the Little Engine That Could, I'll keep puffing along.

If you haven't subscribed by email, it's an easy way to get new posts each day in your inbox. You won't get any other mail from me, just the posts. Sign up in the box at the top right of this page. You'll get a confirmation email to verify you want to receive the posts. Reply to it, and you are all set!

Share my link on Facebook or with your friends if you think they might like knowing what's going on in the Big Cedars.

Thanks for reading :)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Some Assembly Required

Bryon's drift boat project is taking shape. Bryon, Matt and Steve got it partially put together over the weekend.

I can never envision what most projects will look like completed. I need to see pictures. Without pictures to use for reference, bad things happen. Like, you might paint your entire kitchen trim hot pink because it seemed like a good idea, and that hot pink looked like a nice mauve on the paint chip. You might have had some indications early on in the painting that it was not looking so good, but you just kept going thinking it would dry differently or look better when it was ALL painted. It does not. Not that I've done that, just saying it's a possibility when you don't have big picture vision.

To complete a project like this takes lots of attention to detail, lots of patience and the ability to follow directions. Very complicated directions. I used to think I was good at following directions. I preached and preached it to my students. I gathered up lots of job applications from all around town and made them fill them out to perfection. I created other little direction following tasks from recipes to more complicated projects in an effort to reinforce how important following direction is in a person's daily life.

For all of that preaching, I have discovered that I actually hate following directions. Much like editing, no matter how many times I read over those directions, I usually miss something vital. I try reading through for the overall feel and plan of the project. I gather my materials. I start with step one, but then, inevitably somewhere I go awry. The best laid plans and all that.

Most of the time it's not unrecoverable. Sometimes it is. I spent about three hours putting together this bookcase by myself. The directions were perfect. Each piece was carefully labeled. The hardware was impeccably labeled and separated by step. Seriously, it was the best I had ever seen. Still, I finished with a key piece on the top and back of the case and another on the front bottom facing trim that were backward. I also managed to drill holes into them both trying to make them fit.

I took the thing back apart and then covered up my mistakes with a black Sharpie. You probably couldn't even tell now. My brain is just not analytical that way. I want to skip a head. Get into the middle of the action. See some progress. I can't watch the pot boil; I just want to eat the stew.

I think that's a pretty good lesson to learn about yourself and life in general. Sometimes things work out okay. Sometimes they don't. Either way, you can usually salvage something good and workable from the experience. That's just life I guess.

Some assembly required.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day Treats: Bonus Post

Saturday night Bryon took Grace and I out to Flame in Springfield for Valentine's Day. He received a $50 gift card from his work for successfully completing their accreditation. They also gave him a nice letter for his personnel file and a writeup in the Mercy InTouch newsletter. Things sure have changed since this time last February for him. Next week is his one year anniversary.

In celebration of Valentine's Day and his recognition, we all got dressed up and headed to town. The Shockley's came along as well. Bryon likes to take Grace on dates from time to time somewhere fancy. Flame is pretty fancy. I thought she would be the only kid there, but we did see a couple of others.

She insisted I wear a dress. One of my self-proclaimed missions in life is to never wear another pair of panty hose as long as I live. Wearing a dress in twelve degree weather demanded some sort of leg coverings. Since I didn't think long underwear would pass the Grace test, I had to go buy some because I don't even own a pair anymore.

I stuffed myself into my thigh high stockings instead of the dreaded panty hose. I spent the rest of the evening praying they stayed up and didn't roll down my chubby thighs and pool around my ankles. I also wore my Spanx. You know, the spandex shapers that squish your round shape into a flat shape. Okay, flatter shape. This stomach hasn't seen flat in a long time. It was a lot of work but it was worth it.

We had a very nice pre-Valentines dinner, and Grace had DQ ice cream for dessert.

There wasn't room in my Spanx for ice cream.

Snow Day

Ah, a snow day. Somehow they aren't nearly as appealing as they used to be.

When I was a kid, absolutely I wanted a snow day. What could be better? Then as a teacher, I prayed even harder for a snow day. Now, as a parent, snow days are a hassle.

I get sick days and vacation days and now I have work at home days. We do not get snow days. If it even spits snow, Niangua closes. When I taught at Fair Play, we very rarely had snow days. We had lots of farm kids, from farm families with farm 4x4 trucks. The rest of the kids lived in town, less than a block or two from the school. Of course that was 22 years ago when I think folks were a little tougher.

Grace loves snow days. She proclaimed first thing this morning that she was staying in her pajamas all day. No problem. Just let me work, and you can wear whatever you want. She also gets to eat almost anything she wants and watch almost anything she wants on the three or four cartoon channels we have. She loves Dr. Pol and Larry the Cable Guy's Only in America.

She knows how to read enough now and work the remote that she can pick out what she wants from the DVR. THAT is a nice advancement. Everyone is always saying, "Oh they grow so fast, don't you miss when they were little?" Uh no. She can get in and out of the car herself, wipe her own behind, bathe herself (most of the time) and work the remote. I think that's great!

School cancelled this morning at 5:22 am. I didn't sleep well all night waiting for that call and the call that my blood drive at another area HS would be cancelled for the same snow day reason. Did you ever wonder why snow days are never on the weekend? Seriously, think of the last weekend snow day you had. I can't think of even one.

Bryon is a much better snow day parent. He takes her sledding behind the four wheeler, they build snowmen and throw snowballs. I wait for them to come back in and make hot cocoa. I might drink some while they are gone just to make sure it's not poison. Tomorrow Bryon will be home, and I'll go into the office.

Today Grace has eaten God only knows what downstairs, watched about eight hours of television and made so much of a commotion down there I had to go investigate twice. She's made the trip up and down the stairs to and from my office at least two dozen times. I've let the dog into the house, gotten frustrated with her and put her back into the kennel outside four times. I've actually accomplished very, very little. It's frustrating

And people wonder why I don't home school. Can you say "Insane?"

Monday, February 13, 2012

Cat House

You were expecting something else weren't you. Seriously, this is the little cat house I made for Violet on the back deck.

It's been so cold the past few nights, and I have no idea where she sleeps. I wanted to try to give her a little warmer and hopefully safer spot. This is temporary but I stuffed an old fleece blanket into it and covered the sides with an old rug.

She crawled right into it and snuggled up. She absolutely HAS to see what we are doing in the house and if I close the blinds, she jumps up on the window sill and hangs from the screen trying to see. Bryon will not tolerate that, so I just have to leave the blinds open until we go to bed.

When I go out to feed or pet her she wraps her paws around my leg and tries to get me to stay and play. She's pretty sweet. I really hope she doesn't get eaten by a coyote.

This morning when I went out to feed her, she had left me a gift by the back door. A mole. She can dig up as many of those suckers as she wants. I was appreciative. I picked it up and put it into the trash. I don't know why, but a mole is not nearly as repulsive as a mouse. As I was carrying it to the trash can by it's tiny tail, I was noticing how much it looked like a mouse. Yet, no repulsion. Curious.

Hunt on Violet. Hunt on.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Do Not Disturb

Grace made this sign to hang on her door.

You'll see she corrected her spelling with her special editing marks. She X'd out the wrong letter and added a caret to insert the correct letter instead of just starting over. I would have had to start over.  I guess she felt the point was still conveyed.

She told me when the sign was out, that she wanted privacy. Hmmmm, don't we all. I told her when my bathroom door is closed, even part way, that means I want privacy. Maybe I need a sign because I still can't manage to go to the bathroom without being interrupted.

Of course a sign still wouldn't keep the dog out.

Now that she likes to close her door, I understand a little more what a magnet a closed door is. What is she DOING in there? For one thing, she's listening to Justin Bieber and dancing. I know this because I disturbed her and caught her in the act. It was pretty funny.

She's just lucky she doesn't have an irritating little brother. My brother Mike is three and a half years younger than me, and he used to drive me nuts. I would close my door and lock it. He'd get the ice pick out of the kitchen and pop my lock open. Then he'd just sit Indian style outside the door on the floor and stare at me. He just wanted to see what I was doing.

I wasn't doing anything. But I wanted to do it ALONE. I started barring the door by shoving my chair up under the doorknob. In the bathroom, I'd open the cabinet drawer in front of the door so he couldn't open it. Sometimes he'd shove his hands under my door just to irritate me. I stomped on them so then he'd run and tell on me. That cycle was pretty much on repeat at our house.

Today Grace actually spent some of her time in her room cleaning up because Bryon made a chore deal with her. She has to clean her bathroom sink, clean her desk, pick up her clothes, vacuum the floors & scoop the dog poop out of the kennel daily. If she does all of that each week she gets $5.

She has to do it by bedtime Sunday night. This was the first week. I predict it will be completed minutes before bedtime nearly every Sunday night.

Now that is disturbing.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Ay, There's The Rub

I didn't get my first massage until I was thirty. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Massages are wonderful. I'd get one a week if I could afford it. When I win the lottery one day, and I will, that's the first thing I'm signing up for.

What I would really like is for the therapist to come to my home. Sure, they tell you to lie there and relax for a while after it's all over. Really, though, they want you up and out asap. If you dozed off and tried to take a two hour nap like you really wanedt to, they'd rip those tiny but toasty blankets off your naked body in a heart beat.

I have one girlfriend who refuses to have a massage because she has nakedness issues. I do not have nakedness issues. I figure they have seen lots fatter, cellulitier and hairier bodies than mine. If not, well, they are getting paid.

I like everything about the experience of having a massage. I like the smells of eucalyptus and tea tree oils. I like the soft clean feel of the sheets on the massage table and the comforting weight of the massage blankets. I like the dim light and the new agey music that you never can find anywhere else. If someone would put a massage table in the middle of a book store, that would just about be Nirvana.

After having dozens of massages myself, I finally talked Bryon into having one several years ago. We had them at the same time but in different rooms. There was a guy therapist and a girl therapist. He was torn as to which to choose. Ultimately, he chose the dude. He enjoyed it, but I think it sort of creeped him out a bit. Not me. I swing both ways when it comes to massage therapists. I'm unbiased, unbigoted and rearing to go.

Having a massage from a trained therapist is just so wonderful. First of all, you can rub and rub your own hands and feet and it will NEVER feel that good. When my girl hits this one spot near the pad of my thumb, it almost brings me to tears of ecstasy. TMI? Probably, but you get the idea.

Another massage mystery is exactly why when you touch your own extremely ticklish and sensitive feet, it doesn't tickle at all. When the therapist lays hands on those puppies, I have to resist the urge to pull them back and kick her in the face. I certainly wouldn't be welcomed back if that ever happened despite my generous tipping.

I used to get one hour massages but the entire time I was lying there getting scrubbed and rubbed, I'd be thinking, "It's almost over. It's almost over. It's almost over." Now I get hour and a half massages. I don't worry about when it's going to be over. I'm fortunate to have a very reasonable massage therapist within a twenty minute drive of my house. In fact, she had a special before Christmas, and I bought four one and a half our massages for $50 each. Those same massages would have been around $90-$120 in Springfield or (shudder) Eureka Springs.

One thing about massage therapists is they can sense a knot before you even know you have one. They are like dogs and fear. Let them know they've hit tender spot, and they'll bore a hole through that sucker.  The trick is to go all floppy and let them think you like it when they try to separate your muscles from the bone. Of course the second they are on to the next spot, your body immediately regrets any grousing your weak mind was doing and begs for her to go back to that spot. Meanwhile, the other side is jealous of what's going on, and you can't wait for her to make the circuit.

Another trick to procuring the absolute best massage is to speak up. If the pressure is too light or too hard, you have a voice. Use it. They don't read minds.

You could pick out the freshly massaged from a lineup no problem. They are the ones with the fluffed out, slightly shiny hair and that sleepy eyed, smirk on their faces. There are only a few things that are that relaxing and satisfying.

I'd suggest only actually paying for one of them.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Join The Club

It's always a nice feeling to fit in. It's good when you can find a group of people that are like you. It's good when you can find your tribe and say, "These are my people". Sometimes you have to kiss a lot of frogs before that happens.

For instance, let's just say you are an odd sort of fellow. And you are walking around and thinking, this is not my beautiful house. This is not my beautiful wife. Where is my tribe? Suddenly as you are pondering this predicament, you run into another fellow who is also seeming a bit off. A bit odd even. Realization slaps you in the forehead, and you invite him to the pub for a pint.

As you are getting to know each other over pints, you notice another fellow is listening to your conversation. He's getting to know you both as well through his eaves dropping. You figure, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em and invite him on over because, well, he seems a bit odd as also. The more the merrier. The next thing you know you three are meeting several times a week at this same little pub for pints and chats. You odd three.

One of you suggests you should start a club. Well, you practically already are a club. Why not make it official! Ah, but what to name this new club, filled with odd fellows. One bold chap finally suggests the obvious and blurts out, "What about the Odd Fellows?"

The other two stare at you as if you've suddenly spurted a new and totally additional head directly to the left of your current head. They are silent. They blink. Their pints grows warm. Then, as if they have been hit with a cosmic epiphany, they both clap you on the back and congratulate you for your ingenious insight. Of course you should call the club the Odd Fellows Club. After all, you are a group of odd fellows.

You settle on the Independent Order of Odd Fellows because you are beholden to no one.

Later, you decide this little club of yours would be a lot better with one thing ... girls. You call the girls Rebekahs. It's easier that way, because really, who can remember their names anyway. They have breasts. That's all that really matters.

And that my friend is how the IOOF came to be. The end.

Okay, so that is totally not what the brochure said I found online. But it seems pretty likely considering the name. I've driven by one sign in Salem dozens of times and did stop to take a picture. The sign above was in Columbia and actually had NEON. Much cooler. I finally took the time to look them up.

Their mission is this: "Visit the sick, relieve the distress, bury the dead and educate the orphans."

Maybe they weren't just a bunch of 17th century nerds looking to get lucky.

Then again...

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Sit Ubu, Sit! Good Dog.

Tonight began week three of obedience training with Belle. The first week was just for the humans. We did not get treats. It was a little disappointing. Last week was the first week with Belle. It was a crazy week, and I wasn't feeling especially patient after having to drive home midweek during a stressful four days of blood drives in Rolla. We muddled through.

My first obstacle was how I was going to keep Belle from pinging around the inside of my car like a furry pinball. I stopped by the pet store and found a seat belt harness for her. Of course I bought the wrong size. It was way too big. The next day, I went back and bought the medium but kept the large because she's just going to keep growing.

Just getting the harness on her was a lesson in perseverance. She hated it and tried to chew the thing off. I finally got her into the car and buckled in, and we were off with my fanny pack full of tiny cut up hot dog bits. I made it to Marshfield, and she was out of the harness and free to roam about the cabin.

I pulled over in the funeral home parking lot under the big lights and proceeded to restrain her again. That's when I realized I had missed buckling a vital piece of the harness across her back. Snapped in, but neither of us all that happy, we were off again. I spent the rest of the car ride to and from praying she didn't chew a hole in my leather seats.

The next stressful thing was the meet and greet with all of the other dogs. I don't know how much Belle weighs right now, but she's big. You can see how she's laid out across my back seat. She takes up most of the couch now, and we have to raise her head up and scoot her over to sit down ourselves. I can hold her on the leash but barely. If she's motivated, it's a struggle.

She was very motivated to meet and greet.

The first night was a whole lot of wanting to sniff other dogs. Mercifully, she didn't pee or growl or snap at anyone or any other dogs so all and all it was at least a social success. Neither of us got banned. The instructors showed us the behaviors we were to work on by demonstrating their already trained dogs. One dog was a real pro. The other dog was supposedly just recently trained.

The instructor was demonstrating down (lay down) and suggested we all try it. I suggested there was no way Belle would do it. She took the challenge and called Belle up to the front of the class. She huffed and puffed and struggled with Belle for ten minutes trying to get her to go down. Every other dog in the class did it. Not Belle.

It was both a little satisfying that even she couldn't achieve it with Belle and also supremely frustrating. She suggested perhaps Belle just needed a calmer setting. Uh, sure, that will work.

I left not feeling too confident in ever getting her do the down. Honestly, I just want her to quit jumping and chewing on me aggressively, and I want her to come when I call her. Every time. I'm not expecting her to start bringing me beverages from the fridge or vacuuming the house. I don't think I'm asking too much.

Belle is pretty solid on the sit and does come to the whistle now almost every time. But she's still got some really bad behaviors we need to overcome. It's difficult not to compare her to Briar (our old black lab who lived to twelve) and Daisy (our yellow lab who also lived to twelve). Briar was the most stubborn dog I have ever known. He would not come to me outside if I called for him, and he didn't want to. Bryon had whistle trained him from a very young age though and that was my saving grace with him. He was bomb proof on the whistle because he didn't know who was blowing it. You could see the disappointment on his face when he rounded the corner and saw he'd been tricked by me into coming.

Daisy was a saint. She was just about the perfect dog. She was bomb proof. Together they made great pets and got along so well. It was really difficult when they passed, even though they passed three years apart. I can't tell you how many times I think that Belle is just Briar reincarnated as a bitch. Be careful what you wish for.

I didn't get to work with Belle too much this week but Sunday I found a good spot between the chair and the wall and worked on the down command with her. By golly, she finally got it. Now she'll do it every time ... as long as I have a hotdog. No hotdog and forget about it. Still, it felt good to show off her awesome trick tonight at the training class. She was a rock star.

This week we are working on doing the tricks without treats.

Neither of us is going to like that.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Conversation Hearts

With Valentine's Day just around the corner, I think I have candy on the brain. Today, I was thinking about those little conversation hearts. In elementary school, conversation hearts were the Magic 8 Ball of candy, dispensing secretly coded messages of love or disdain.

Remember getting those little valentines stuffed into your homemade boxes, with a little conversation heart tucked inside. You had to give one to every kid even though you really only wanted to give them to your friends. So when it came time to choose from the various messages, it got downright overwhelming.

The truth was, yes I really DID want to give the Kiss Me heart to Rick Lowry, but if I did THAT then he might show it to someone and make fun of me. Better give him the Be Good heart instead. The So Fine should definitely go to Alex Rios, but if I give Alex that one, then who should I give the Love Me? I have THREE of the Love Me hearts. It never hurts to hedge your bets by playing all three hearts. That way it might not look so obvious that I suffered in my decision making.

Be Kind, Do Good and Chill Out are all safe bets for those kids you don't really like, but couldn't leave out. Or you can give those to the girls. Sweet Talk, For You and Yes Dear are also nicely ambiguous for either sex. Marry Me definitely sends the wrong message unless you are at least twenty five and cheesy enough to use the old candy heart proposal cliche' on Valentine's Day.

The Blanks were Necco's way of allowing you to include candy for the stinky kid without sending a mixed message. I'll bet all of his hearts were blank. That's sort of sad really. He was probably reading his tarot candy messages equally as closely as the rest of us. Blank just says, I didn't think enough of you to even bother sending a message.

I don't know if anyone else was really analyzing the meaning behind every valentine that was received along with the enclosed candy heart, but I sure was. I remember getting a Be Mine from Greg Goetzinger and pondering it for days later, looking for signs that he wanted to be my boyfriend in the fourth grade.

I didn't end up procuring any lasting relationships from those candies despite the massive amount of forethought and consideration I put into each and every one. I'm just glad we don't have to give our coworkers Valentine's Day treats. If we did, we'd have to come up with a whole new set of sayings to relay our passive aggressive feelings.

In case you are wondering, I do have a few in mind...

You're Lame
Stop Talking
Kick Me
Bite Me
You Stink
Go Home
Weird Hair

Any wise elementary school kid would think carefully before sending the wrong message. I suppose coworkers should too and that is why none of these are in my box of conversation hearts this year.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Valentine's Day Candy Box

First off Russell Stover, I just want to say "You suck". The way you tempt us chocolate lovers with those tiny box hearts of chocolate pieces each Valentine's Day is a worst than misleading ... it's a lie. Here is the problem, those little boxes are totally comprised of your leftovers. Don't try to deny it.

I won the box above as a prize Saturday night. I would never have actually paid for that box, because I've been fooled before ... a few times. The worst pieces are the coconut ones. I'm sorry but no amount of chocolate is going to make a glob of coconut goo taste better to me. I can usually sniff those out through their chocolate casing and avoid them.

Saturday night in the car on the way home, I busted into the box. I fumbled around in the dark trying to discern the tastiest piece by feel. I finally fished out a piece and sniffed it. Confident it was coconut free, I munched it in half. You guessed it, coconut. I all but spewed it over my dashboard. I rolled down the window and tossed the chewed and unchewed bits out.

You can see in the box above, I didn't take a chance on the other pieces. I smooshed them all to reveal their gooey innards. Really, RS, I only need the raspberry and the mint. And that creamy white goo that looks like mint, but isn't ... just leave that out. Same with the fake chocolate goo covered in good chocolate. That's the equivalent of putting lipstick on a pig. Just don't.

You can occasionally throw in an orange. I don't hate the orange. And those knock off Butterfinger bits are tolerable. The caramels are basically the dental industry's secret plot to cheat insurance companies by making sure your last few metal fillings get pulled out and replaced as soon into the new insurance year as possible. Leave those out too.

In fact, just don't make ANY boxes with chocolates in them if you are going to be too cheap to include a map. Without a map, it's like negotiating a field of chocolate landmines.

No one likes landmines.

Monday, February 6, 2012

If You Were Confused ...

by the partial Valentine's Day Candy Box post, well, so was I. Somehow Blogger ate all but that first line. I'll try to recreate that particular piece of literary genius and re-post for tomorrow. Sorry about that! See what I get for working ahead!

Stay tuned.

Reading & Talking About Writing

Saturday was a great day for writing even though I actually wrote very little. I got to spend the entire day with writers at the Ozarks Romance Author's meeting who were talking about writing. Then later in the evening, I got to party with Sleuth's Inc. writers to celebrate our combined successes for JANO.

JANO was the local version of NANO (basically write a novel of 50,000 words in a month). There were several "winners". Winners were those who achieved the 50,000 word goal. One winner was a twelve year old boy. I think that is awesome. I hope Grace gets interested in participating at some point.

The meetings are very inspiring, and give me just enough of a push to keep me motivated. I haven't done any work on my novel this past few weeks since finishing it on MLK day. I have been letting it percolate. Today is the day. I am finally sitting down to start working on the editing. It's a pretty daunting job, but not as daunting as starting from scatch. At least I HAVE something to edit. You can't ever publish a blank page.

I've had my sights set on Harlequin Nocturne and still do but ORA has a conference in Springfield this June. Two agents will be there. They both buy paranormal romance and represent some very reputable authors in the genre. One agency even represents several Harlequin authors. That means, I have until June to get my shit together, polished and smelling like a rose.

I can do this.

Let the editing commence.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Here There Be Slow Dragons

If you have ever wondered where the internet ends, it's three and a half miles outside of Niangua.

Our house is in the Niangua suburbs, and we are exactly three and a half miles from two switch stations. Apparently, three and a half miles is the absolute limit of speedy internet.

When you live in the country, 'speedy' is a loosely defined term. We haven't lived within range of pizza delivery or fast internet in twenty two years. Of course twenty two years ago, Al Gore hadn't even invented the internet yet. It was still a crazy regulated pipe dream, not the indispensable tool of work and entertainment it is now.

My first computer was purchased in 1990, and it was a Magnavox with 1 mg of ram. It would only run Windows in safe mode. To upgrade my ram to the next level would have cost $400. I made do with my glorified word processor.

At the school where I taught, I had a Mac SE. It was already a discontinued model by time I got it. Again, a glorified word processor and dial-up wasn't even on my radar yet. I can only imagine how much easier teaching would be with the easy and immediate access to information of all kinds. Still doesn't raise it up the list of things I want to do again.

After I quit teaching, we moved to Highlandville and joined the online world with smoking fast internet speeds hovering around 28k. We paid for 56k. It was painful, but thankfully I didn't really know much better yet. Next came Niangua, still the edge of the technological universe. We didn't have even have access to dial-up without paying for unlimited long distance first because everything in the world, EXCEPT Niangua, was long distance.

We settled on satellite internet which cost $500 to install and $89 a month for the privilege of 1.5 mbps. We never saw a speed faster than 350k despite lots of dish jiggling by so called professionals.

When DSL finally made it to our little corner, we happily cancelled the satellite for the promise of 1.5 mbps once again. Alas it is not meant to be. We are lucky to ever see 700 kbps and usually more like 350-500 kbps. You can't stream a YouTube video or Netflix on that my friend.

There are lots and lots of great benefits to living in the country but speedy internet is not one of them.

Here there be slow internet.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Primary Voting

Next week is the primary vote for Missouri. Honestly, I don't think I'll bother. Apparently, it doesn't even really count, and I don't feel passionate about any of the candidates including our current President. In President Obama's defense, he, like most new presidents, inherited the leftovers of the previous administration.

You know what it's like to step into the shoes of the guy who got fired. His files are a mess; his office is a mess. He left lots of loose ends and twisted paperclips and weird pills in the desk drawer that you hope are antacids. That and you are expected to work miracles. You're either the hero or the zero.

In 2008, I was probably the most interested I've ever been in politics. I listened to hours of Fox News Radio and tried hard to be a Republican. Until then, I had voted for a democrat in every election.For Clinton twice. Granted, I had no real horse in any of those races or even much knowledge of politics. My vote was really based on personality. I suppose folks have voted for people for worse reasons.

I always thought the Republican Party was for old people - like our parents - who cared about things like taxes. I also thought the Democratic Party was for the underdog, the little guy. I liked that.
Now I know there is a lot more to consider. Now I'm a parent too. Now I care about taxes. I guess that is part of the reason I felt compelled to vote Republican. It seemed like the grown up thing to do.

I even  went to a Sarah Palin rally. Boy, am I glad that she didn't get elected. She drives me crazy now. She seems to have become a caricature, and she has some really annoying habits - like speaking to reporters.

This year I can't get excited about Newt or Romney or any of them. So I'm thinking about sitting out and not voting at all. If I don't vote, it will be the first time since I was eligible to vote that I don't take advantage of it. I just don't see the point in placing a vote for someone I don't believe in. I don't even dislike any of them enough to vote against them.

As for political affiliations, I think I'll just stick to being an independent. That way I can vote for the best man. Or maybe someday, the best woman. Grace asked me recently why there wasn't ever a girl president. Good question. Maybe she'll finally get to vote for one someday.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Raising A Redneck

This week was Spirit Week at Niangua. Friday is Homecoming and Grace and Bryon are going to attend. Monday was Duct Tape Accessory Day. Bryon and I debated who would be the most adept at helping Grace with making some duct tape accessories.

Bryon argued it fell under the category of crafts so I should be in charge of it. I argued it fell under the category of manly tools since the main ingredient was duct tape. Besides, he's a much bigger and more accomplished redneck than I am. I'm only a redneck by proximity.

Since I was busy making sugar cookies to sustain the family sweet tooth in preparation for my week in Rolla at the Missouri S&T blood drive. He gave in. Reluctantly.

 Of course he did a great job and created a cool belt, a ring, a bracelet and a hair bow for her to wear. She wanted some sort of crazy arm and leg getup that neither of us could understand. She didn't get that.

The next day, she wore them all to school. There was a contest in her class and Brooke beat her. We asked Grace what Brooke had that made her win. She told us Brooke had ear rings AND crazy arm and let things. Yeah, just like she wanted us to make. Dang that Brooke's parents! We know who we have to beat now.

Next year, it's so on like Donkey Kong.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Picky Eater

I used to be a much pickier eater than I am now. There were a few things that I would eat regularly, and I didn't much stray from that. Not quite to the degree of Anderson Cooper, but not that far away either. When I was little my mom would pack my lunch for me because I wouldn't eat most of the things offered for school lunches. French fries, yes. Fruit cocktail, any vegetable or mystery meat, no. Even pizza was iffy because let's be realistic; school cafeteria pizza sucks.

Even now just recalling the smell of that elementary cafeteria makes me sort of nauseous,. It was a curious combination of yeasty rolls and soured milk. Oh yeah, don't get me started on the milk. Today, I like nothing better than an icy, icy cold glass of milk in a frosty mug which I keep in the freezer for just such an occasion. Of course that glass of milk has to be accompanied by three of four chocolate chip cookies. Just the thought of drinking that lukewarm school milk ... not good.

I was the envy of my lunch table because my Holly Hobby lunch box was full of hot Franco-American Spaghettio's or Raviolis (never Chef Boyardee)  in a thermos, potato chips and a Little Debbie cake or brownie or some other sweet goodness. I NEVER traded my lunch. Not even a part of it, because let's face it, those other losers were screwed.

I also never got to leave first as a result of cleaning my tray. If you had a clean tray (ie ate all of your lunch) you got to leave early.  I really don't remember now why that was so coveted, but because I brought my lunch, I was never in the game. Home lunches didn't count for a clean tray. Of course you were going to eat all of your home lunch; it was delicious.

Only two times in my elementary career did I get to leave early for having a clean tray. Once was when a teacher basically forced me to try a prune from my crappy school lunch tray. She wanted me to eat them all. No. Way. She was lucky I didn't blow prune chunks all over her nice sweater vest. I aet the thing, begrudginly and by ate I mean swallowed it whole and gagged down a swig of warm white milk.

She let me go early after that and never again asked me to 'try' something on my plate. If you want to ruin a kid on prunes, that's the way to do it. Grace asks me to buy them for her. Of course they don't come out of a tin can all slimy and disgusting like those cafeteria prunes did.

The other time I got to leave with the clean plate crowd was when I cheated. I had witnessed enough upper elementary kids master the clean plate game by stuffing any offending morsels into their empty milk cartons. Teachers didn't check milk cartons. Of course like all things in life there was a price. You had to drink ALL of your lukewarm milk to be able to do it. Drinking that milk was only slightly better than sitting at the table alone, waiting to leave. I only did it once. Mostly because I hated the milk AND I was afraid I'd get busted. I had a healthy fear of elementary teachers and going to The Principal's Office.

Somehow, I managed to live through the daily lunch time horrors and make it to high school where no one cared what I ate. I thought I might never escape those school cafeterias. I stupidly signed on to teach for three years after college.  Those cafeteria ladies thought I was insane because I daily asked for any green food offering to be eliminated from my tray. I also didn't like salads so my lunch offerings were greatly limited.

Now, many, many, many years later I have branched out, and I like lots of food I would have never imagined my grown up self to be eating. Some foods my elementary self would have puked up in the cafeteria but I now eat include: avocados, spring mix salads, chilli with beans in it, creamed spinach, tomatoes,dried figs and yes I would even eat a prune. But not one out of a can. That would be wrong.

Poor Bryon, if he hadn't known how to cook and grill when we first got married he would have starved. My diet consisted of frozen Totino's pizzas, still SpaghettiO's and Raviolis, brownies and turkey TV dinners. I also really liked Hardee's big chocolate chip cookies back in the day.

Mercifully Bryon still cooks sometimes. He likes to cook fancy stuff. Which works out great, because it turns out I like to eat fancy stuff.

As long as it doesn't include room temperature milk, I'll try a bite of anything,


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

January Update

Hello February, we are on to bigger and better things. Last month, I decided to concentrate on two things: walking and writing. I signed up for the JANO (write a novel of 50,000 words in a month) challenge and bought a pedometer to measure how many steps I took each day for a month.

It was a month of counting words and steps.

Here's how it broke down:

I walked 109,442 steps which equals 44.9 miles in 21 days. (I didn't get my pedometer until after the month had begun.) Twenty eight of those miles were intentional in the name of exercise. I know I can do better than that. I didn't break the 10,000 steps (five mile) goal any day last month, so that's my next milestone to achieve. I have a great gravel road nearby where I can walk exactly four miles up and down hills. It takes me a couple of hours so with the short daylight, it's strictly a weekend event right now. I just have to make myself do it much more often.

I would have to walk our trail loop seven times to achieve that. I'm pretty sure I'd be dizzy by then.

As for the writing, well that was also close, but I didn't quite meet my goal.

I knew I wouldn't meet the 50,000 words towards a novel goal because I only need 18,000 or so to finish my novel. Mission accomplished on that front. My blog posts don't actually count towards the official JANO count but they count toward the MEDLEY count so including this post, my total is 37,462 words. I am fairly certain that is the most I have ever written in a month. This post makes the 32 post in a row in my 365 day challenge. Also a record.

Are you going to get a lame post featuring a photo of my dog soon with only a caption? My Magic 8 Ball says "Outlook Good". Remember that whole diamond and rock thing.

Still, overall it's been a dang good month.

I am not going to pick two new goals for February. I like these two. I plan to just keep doing more of the same. Of course, the very definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I think that isn't necessarily true if you are just trying to do better. We'll see.

Bring it February.