Thursday, April 30, 2009

My Sincerest Apologies to the Queen

The Internet is an all powerful tool, be careful how you use it! Princess Natasha also reads your blog. And while she is very excited about her new book, her birthday is not for another week! Happy Early Birthday Princess Natasha!
The Queen
PS A shout out for author Lauren Willig (of NYC actually) and her awesome series The Secret History of the Pink Carnation.

And a note from the blogger:
You know it's not a good sign when you have an email from one of your besties and in HUGE capital letters it says "I AM GOING TO BEAT YOU" hope that it's a forward but your gut says that you have done something pretty stinkin' awful. So, to Queen Elizabeth: I am really, really sorry. I shall keep my pie hole shut on government secrets from this day forward. And to Princess Natasha: Thank you for reading my blog (I, er..uh..didn't know) and Happy EARLY birthday. To the rest of my readership: I have no idea who you are out there and promise to, from this day forward, never reveal the true identities of the subjects of my posts (except for Neal because he's used to it by now) or the secrets which you confide in me (until you tell me it's safe). I would love to say that I had a "blonde moment" but as I am no longer in any way blonde, we'll just say it's a lesson learned. My apologies to the royalty.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Just a couple reasons why the Internet is so darn cool

Let me preface this by saying that I am just old enough to remember the Encyclopedia Britannica shelved behind our front door at my house on Bluegrass and using it frequently for research "papers" (I mean, I'm not sure a 3rd grader writes a real-honest-to-goodness paper, but a report, I guess). I also remember my dad reading the encyclopedia from cover to cover, which was my first clue that he may have a little trouble relating to me on all of the boy drama in my life - it had nothing to do with the War of 1812. The internet is doing things that poor Britannica never had a prayer of accomplishing. But mostly, it has made it much easier to contact those who, at one time, seemed unreachable. I can think of 3 distinct examples just in the past month or so.
1) A friend of mine in Chicago (let's call her Queen Elizabeth) wanted to buy her friend (let's call her Princess Natasha) a book by a Chicago author for her birthday. She also wanted this author to autograph the book. So, because Princess Natasha's birthday was before the book signing, Queen Elizabeth emailed the author and asked for a signed copy of the book in exchange for a check. Not only did this customer-service-oriented author send a signed copy of the book ASAP, she also waived all fees. Britannica could have never pulled that off.

2) While watching the Today Show a few weeks ago, I caught an interview that Meredith did with 2 new authors of the best Some-Men-Suck book ever. (Yes, I said opposed to all...but some really do). Liz Dubelman and Barbara Davilman have written a book called What Was I Thinking?: 58 Bad Boyfriend Stories. Having experienced one or two bad boyfriends myself, I tracked down their website. There are many more than 58 stories on the site and suddenly I felt so much better about being dumped the week before Prom. If you're a girl or a gay guy, you should totally check it out. If you're a straight guy, forget it; women don't do those sorts of insensitive things and you would never appreciate it (OK, maybe we do but certainly not unprevoked). So, I emailed Liz Dubelman and told her what literary geniuses they were. And she emailed me back!! Right, that might seem small and insignificant compared to getting an email from Nelson Mandela...but still...that would have never resulted from a stack of books on the shelf. And footnote: you can purchase their book on Amazon RIGHT NOW..for only $13. Isn't that cheaper than the cost of your sanity and seeing a psychiatrist for the next 15 years?

3) Lastly, but perhaps most cool (for me, anyway) is the email I received from Robert Matt yesterday. There is a very good chance that you have never heard of Robert Matt before...partly because he's out of the UK or Germany, I can't figure out which one..and partly because he's been writing with the group, Future Tribe. But if you have an intervention-type CNN addiction, then you have probably seen the Korean Air commercial with a cool, jazzy, almost sexual-sounding song in the background. The first time I saw the commercial I had NO idea what they were advertising. But for me, the combination of the song and ad are so hypnotic that it never gets old (unlike the McDonald's Filet-O-Fish ad which no longer makes me giggle uncontrollably but instead makes me want to throw the toaster at the TV). So, I googled "song from Korean Air Commercial" which lead to the song's title, Breathing the Blue, which lead to finding Robert Matt's website and his personal email. I emailed Mr. Matt after an exhaustive search online, on iTunes, and on Microsoft Zune to ask him where I could download the song...emphasizing that I really wanted a reputable site where he would get paid for it. Yesterday, he emailed back to say that he had run short on time for airing the commercial and had only completed 60 seconds of Breathing the Blue but he was now inspired to finish ASAP and would let me know where to find it when it was finished. In the meantime, would I please enjoy the attached 60 second download that he had completed? Wow. That's awesome. It's downloaded to the Blackberry now because just the first 10 seconds will bring me off the ledge and I'm currently checking out his work on iTunes under Future Tribe. His album is titled Yulara and is very new age-y and smooth jazz-y, but I HIGHLY recommend it.

No, I did not send emails to Gwenyth Paltrow or the King of Spain, but then they haven't done anything that interests me lately. What is interesting is how this big, round world has, with the help of the internet, gotten a whole lot smaller.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What the sun does to winterized human flesh and worms

I just have to say that last weekend's weather was fan-freakin-tastic!! If you don't live in the Central KY area, well sorry for your loss but honestly we have waited a long time to wear bikinis and play in the sprinklers (and you would not believe how sexy Neal is in a bikini!) The last you heard from me I was off to jet-set about town in my recently washed, shiny, red convertible. Now, as I slather on aloe and pop a couple of Tylenol, I wonder if I will ever outgrow my addiction to the first hot day of spring. Literally, I cannot do exercises at the gym because they require me to lift my extra crispy arm above my head. And as Carrie was scrubbing hair dye off of my neck last night, I had to remind her that she could find little pieces of fresh flesh on her washcloth. Although I am a tiny bit of a sun goddess, I do not intentionally fry myself to the color of cooked lobster. Well, I don't anymore. I would like to think that when I hit 30, I unconsciously began taking a multi-vitamin, smearing SPF 110 on my skin, and eating lots of leafy greens. But when you are given a beautiful day with a slight southeasterly breeze and a pitcher of margaritas, there is bound to be an accident. I am now that girl you always see in Wal-Mart - the one with a really painful wife-beater burn...2 nice wide stripes of white and the rest is GO-CARDS-red. The good news is that the 85 degree temps and cloudless skies happened on a weekend so there are a lot of us lifting boxes gingerly, moaning when someone pats us on the shoulder, and drinking entirely too much water.

Oddly, unseasonably warm temperatures are difficult for the worms, too. When we got up yesterday morning, there seemed to have been an overnight mass-suicide of worms on our driveway and sidewalks. I mean, it looked like that all up and down the street, but ours was definitely the Jim Jones of the neighborhood. I know that I have a tendency to exaggerate, but when I say there must be 100 dead worms on our concrete spaces, that is pretty darn close to the truth. Neal says it's because we have fertile land. I think it's because worms totally gross me out (yes, fishing with me is a sheer pleasure) and this is some sort of cruel karmic joke. The worms are so bad that they are now getting stuck to the bottom of our shoes and being tracked inside. So, in addition to instituting a Japanese-style-take-your-shoes-off-at-the-front-door rule, we have added "push-broom" to the Sam's Club list. And as much as my CSI-lovin' self wants to figure out how and why they got there, most of me just wants them gone. So, I nominate Neal to dispose of worm carcasses; I am in too much pain to clean. And somehow that is not at all my fault.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

WOO-HOO Kentuckians!! We made it! It's going to be 86 degrees today. This is a distant memory. I'm off to run errands in my convertible, sans top, of course. If you read my blog, I would love to hear how you spent this perfect weekend!! More on my weekend tomorrow. For now, there is some Vitamin D to be had. Ciao, darlings!

Friday, April 24, 2009

It may not be Good Friday, but you can still do good works

If you've read any snippet of my blog, you probably already know that I'm becoming increasingly involved with Military Missions. It started with dragging Neal to a care package assembly and now Beth has created LexShout. Because I am a narcissistic person (at least according to CNN - I have a Twitter account, a Facebook page, and a blog. It's all about ME, ME, ME!!) I must mention that LexShout was inspired by a gift that I created for Neal. One of the greatest things about the Internet is that it spawned fantastic photo websites like Snapfish, KodakGallery, and Shutterfly. When I met Neal in London (and during Mom's consequential heart failure over me flying to another country to meet a strange man), we went to the Madam Taussaud's Wax Museum. Lo and behold, there was a wax figure of Saddam Hussein. Neal thought it was the ideal opportunity to lean over and pick his nose. I, of course, snapped that picture. Then, exploiting the power of Kodak Gallery, I put that picture on a deck of playing cards. Afraid to send the entire deck to him in Saddam's war-torn country, I sent only the Joker (because it's completely appropriate if you know Neal) hidden inside Angels and Demons. This time around, Snapfish and I created a coffee mug with pictures of all of our Kentucky adventures (a drunken and losing day at Keeneland, our backyard in Spring - before I accidentally killed the fir tree, our tour of Woodford Reserve, the hike at Xalapa Farm, etc) with a quote that said "Kentucky just isn't the same without you." And BAM! LexShout was born. I am a recently discovered genius. Well, perhaps that's a bit much but sometimes I do inspire greatness in others.

So, tomorrow (if you're reading this on Friday, TODAY if you're a big slacker and don't check my blog everyday, and you're too late if it's Sunday) we are meeting at 5 "iconic" locations in Lexington to snap photos and make videos for our troops. All you have to do is show up. Extra super-special brownie points if you make a poster. If you're interested, here are the times and locations:

10:00 am Red Mile (on Red Mile Rd, off of Broadway or Versailles Rd. depending on which way you're coming)
11:00 am Applebee's Park (where the Lex Legends play. Off of Broadway.)
12:00 pm Thoroughbred Park (downtown where the cool iron horsies are)
1:00 pm Memorial Coliseum (if you've ever sat through the hell of a UK graduation, this location is burned into your memory)
2:00 pm Keeneland (this would be the end of the perfect plan if Keeneland wasn't closing today. That would have put us there right around the 2nd race. But alas, sometimes perfection is unattainable. However you're welcome to stay and bet amongst each other while the rest of your party races through the parking lot).

I will most likely hit all 5. Neal has a yard to mow, TV cable to run, a picture frame to paint, furniture to move, and a refrigerator to clean. So, he may only attend the first 4. I, of course, will expect all of that to be completed when I get home at 3.

Your other opportunity for greatness is with The Glass Slipper Project. I saw this on the Today Show yesterday and it literally brought me to tears while I was still waking up. That is impressive. It is a boutique in Chicago that accepts gently used prom, formal and bridesmaid dresses and then turns around and offers them for free to area high school students who can't afford to shop at Vera Wang. Hmm..that's most of Chicago. Actually, Macy's is over-budget for these beautiful and deserving young women. But please don't donate the formal dress that your Delta Sig boyfriend projectile vomited on after too many Jagerbombs. Nor do these ladies want your puffy-sleeved, butt-bowed bridesmaid dress from 1989. But obviously everyone who reads my blog is intelligent and therefore has only purchased timeless dresses (unless you fell victim to Bridezilla - which is not ANY of my bridesmaids!!). So, please consider them when you're spring cleaning this month. I mean, if you're anything like me, when I tried on my bridesmaid dress from my sister's wedding, it didn't actually zip all the way (and by that I mean I couldn't even get it zipped up enough to hold on its own. I would be forced to hold my arms tightly to my sides all night to keep it from hitting the floor while I was doing the Macarena). In addition to dresses of every color, fabric and size, The Glass Slipper Project also provides jewelry, shoes, and make-up. Every princess wants to go to the ball. This is your chance to help them get there in style. If you're interested in this organization, you can visit them at Sorry you can't click on the link...I'm still working on that.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Zen and the Art of Mustang Maintenance

In the past 2 weeks we have gotten to know the men of S&S Tire, Brannon Crossing. S&S is situated behind our house in a way that it's close to drive to but really too far to walk. So, when we brought it in for new tires (apparently, one is not encouraged to drive 80,000 miles on the same tires. It makes one vulnerable to very bad accidents at very high speeds), they found that it also needed a new tire rod, front brakes and rotors. Thinking I was only getting 4 new tires, I only had a paperback and the men of S&S Tire to keep me company. We discussed the finals of the NCAA, why it was snowing in April, and where to shop for the best deal on bath towels. At the end of it all, my credit card was panting heavily and we were all a little closer (although not quite close enough for me to ask the manager why he didn't have any eyebrows).

Last night as I was headed back to the house via the liquor store (but only for wine, it had not yet been a tequila kind of week), Neal called to say that he heard a "rubbing noise" whenever he applied the brakes. Pretending I was my father, I asked all sorts of seemingly pertinent questions; "does it get louder when you apply them?", "Does the car shake when you apply the brakes?", "Are any of the gauges moving?" "Are you still driving with both feet?" (And actually, Neal does drive with both feet which is the number one reason why he will not be allowed to teach our children how to drive. Plus he is a last-minute-braker). With every question, he just got more irritated so I directed him to just drive straight to S&S Tire. Twenty minutes later he called to say they were keeping the car and can I come get him. From the end of the street, I could hear my credit card moaning in the kitchen.

What's the damage? New rear calipers and brakes. So, now if one of us rear-ends someone it really is because he (or maybe she, but probably not) was not focused on the task at hand. Colonel Ketchup should be stopping on a DIME. But the bigger issue here is our decision to keep the car, which we made when we spent a sickening amount of money to put a new roof on last spring (FYI: it's a convertible. It's not like a llama camped out on it all night and we've been driving around with some sort of strange roof dent). And that brings me around to the first time I tried to read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I still have my copy and the cover is bent or torn on every edge. Ironically, I've only made it to chapter 5. Something about the incessant talk of motorcycle parts and how that all relates to Buddha just bores me to tears. But the main idea is that most people belong to one of two schools of thought: 1) Every time something breaks, you buy a new one or pay someone an exhorbant amount of money to fix it or 2) you become all zen-and-one-with-the-nature-of-the-cycle-of-life by enjoying the moments (or hours or DAYS) you must spend keeping things running smoothly. At least, I think that's the premise of the book. The last attempt I made at reading it was in college, when I was supposed to studying for a Chemistry exam.

ANYWAY...because we continue to have the "To sell or not to sell..that IS the question" discussion, I think we will have to decide if we can continue to be zen about our monthly S&S Tire visits and the associated $120/hour labor rate or if it is finally time to part ways with the Colonel. After all, pretty much everything is cranky at the age of 13. It's usually not until the age of 25 or 30 that everything mellows back out. And that my friends, is a very long time from now. (If you're playing the John McCain game at home: DRINK!)

And in honor of not junking my car and springing for an Escalade: HAPPY EARTH DAY. Plant a tree or hug a llama.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

and because I am still technology-challenged at times...

If you are reading this blog and know how to make a link that I type appear as a hyperlink that can be clicked on, please inform. I am clueless (hush, Neal)...

This is NOT your therapist's couch

One of the best things about my job is that it's directly across the parking lot from a Panera (and of course that I get to work with wonderful people, and help people in pain, and work for the betterment of the common good, blah, blah, blah). So, sometimes when it's slow, I will head over in search of a cappucino and an open plug. The open plug is actually much harder to find than one would think. Ideally, I would camp out in my own studio and just harness the powers of wireless networking to tap into Panera's signal. But as if there was an invisible, electric doggy fence around the cafe, there is no borrowing of Panera's internet access. It's a cool trick and I'm glad that it hasn't caught on in other places - like Kelly's neighbors in Palatine or the people who live across the street from my Dad. Otherwise, there could be several hours, or God forbid days, without internet access and I think that could have devastating effects. With the attitude that I was going to Panera to do real, honest-to-goodness work and not just design my next diamond ring on, I was sure there would be a place to plug in (this is really only important because the battery life on my laptop has been reduced to 1/287th of a minute). No plug. But there was a lovely little table in the to the door...with gusts of 187 mph every time someone entered...which was approximately every 20 seconds (Panera beats Starbucks because you can get espresso AND a bear claw). So, I settled in, made some notes, watched people enter and exit AT&T and wondered how many of them could afford a massage and then the cell phone of the lady sitting next to me started to ring. Or more accurately, it began a mini rock concert. I guess she didn't want the entire cafe to hear her Nokia belt out "Mmm Bopp" so she picked it up quickly. And then it began. Now...I don't intentionally set out to eavesdrop on people but I had no real work to do because Panera apparently couldn't afford for the electrician to stick around an extra day. So, there I sat with two eyes on my Muscular System Manual and two ears on her. I didn't hear all of it...mostly because it was said within a sob..but it included "He has just given up on me", "Sometimes it's good and sometimes it's not", "I don't want to go that route, but I'm not sure I have a choice", "How did this happen?" and "I'm just not sure I can try anymore." Obviously the lady is waist-deep in some sort of man-drama (but really, aren't we all at one point or another). But I am just not sure that this is the conversation that needs to be had in an alcove full of laptop junkies who are within an arm's reach of the soda pop dispenser. Besides, everyone knows that tears are just salty enough to completely ruin the taste of a perfectly good latte. I feel for her...I really, really do. However, would it have been too much to ask for her to take her conversation (and her plugged-in laptop) outside?

And if you are not amused by my little story, check out which is a continuous post of conversations that are overhead by others. I keep meaning to add my own little posting:
Overhead outside of the Nicholasville Road Target
Lady 1: Oh and we went to that party last night.
Lady 2: How was it?
Lady 1: Very nice. Well, everyone knows about that barn and what a perfect place it is for parties.
Right...I'm pretty sure the folks in NYC don't party in barns. Only in Kentucky, folks.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Staying Afloat in the Melting Pot

"The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places."
-Ernest Hemingway

When I hear a quote more than once in a week, I begin to think that it's a sign. Although this is most likely not true as I consider many other events to be "signs" as well: when a light turns red, it's a sign that I'm supposed to read CNN on my blackberry; when dinner burns, it's a sign that we're supposed to go to Olive Garden; when I couldn't find a parking space on campus, it was a sign that I wasn't supposed to be in class. I will admit, I could be abusing the theory of a "sign". But it's so much more esoteric than saying I find a way to justify everything. Anyway, having heard this quote by Hemingway twice in the past week, I took it as a sign that I was supposed to sit down and write about it. And it just so happens that it coincides with the 10th anniversary of the Columbine tragedy (although I really wish they would find a different word for the re-occurring date of a horrific event. "Anniversary" makes me think cake and a brass band...not speechless grief and departure) and it also coincides with me finishing Little Bee: A Novel, a book about Nigerian refugees seeking asylum in the United Kingdom.

So, let's begin with the book and end with reality because then I will have to close my laptop and get in the shower. Little Bee: A Novel was listed in the Kindle's top 20 New and Noteworthy books. When I read the review, it simply said "we cannot tell you about this book, but just know that you will be completely and pleasantly surprised." OK, I was hooked. I downloaded the free sample. When a book begins with the main character describing how much better her life would have been had she been born a British pound, you better believe I will be paying the full 10 U.S. dollars for the whole book. The chapters inspire with imagery like
"It was the month of May and there was warm sunshine dripping through the holes between the clouds, like the sky was a broken blue bowl and a child was trying to keep honey in it." I mean, how do you not fall under the spell of a book like that? The main character, Udo, who takes the name Little Bee when she escapes Nigeria during the oil wars and sneaks into the cargo hold of a ship bound for Britain, is intelligent, persistent, motivated, and sometimes obnoxiously optimistic. She is discovered on the ship and is immediately turned over to immigration upon arrival at the dock. For the next 2 years, she is held in a detention center outside of London. I know that after this glowing and mysteriously fragmented review, you will rush right out to buy the book, so I shall not ruin it for you. But let me just say that it may start to challenge the way you view immigrants. Having survived the detention center and learning the Queen's English, Little Bee finds herself face-to-face with a person of authority in London. She is questioning why she can't just mix in with all of the other nationalities that seem at home on London's streets and the man says "because you are a drain on resources. You don't belong here." Isn't that what we say everyday? As I write this, CNN is reviewing their in-depth interview with Janet Napolitano from yesterday's "State of the Union with John King." She is discussing border patrol and even tags it with the clever remark, "we want order at the border." Yes, everything sounds much more poetic when it rhymes. People seeking asylum in the United Kingdom are no different than people seeking asylum in the United States. Drug cartels aside, those who swim oceans just to set a foot on our sandy beaches must be doing so for a reason. They believe that there is a better life here. We have a really tall woman in a toga standing in a harbor that says so. And yet, our actions speak so much more loudly than our plaques. Acceptance, understanding, patience...these are all just words in the Queen's English - the refugees learn them but they are foreign to us.

And acceptance, tolerance, understanding - all words that may have saved had there been actions behind them. Columbine was a tragedy. As a Kentucky native, I know it was not the first; victims of the Paducah shooting still suffer. And as an American, I know it will not be the last. But we are a nation of many nationalities. The majority is the minority and will become more so in the future. Regardless of party, race, gender, and religious beliefs, we must remember that we are actually more alike than we are different. We can try to separate into "us" and "them", but yes even the gunmen are, in many ways, like their victims. What's most hearbreaking is that they never realized it. Here's a thought and a prayer for all those who have suffered at the hands of others. Your legacy is a call to action. It is our duty to respond.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Party Like it's 1776

Yesterday, at Applebee's Park was Bluegrass Tax Liberation Day. Ideally, it would be a non-partisan event where people on both sides protest how their tax dollars are being spent in Washington. But with a program of purely Republican speakers, of course it turned into much more. It was kind of like the Tax Tea Party held 3 days earlier, but minus rain and plus 15 degrees. So, EVERYONE was there. Including me. But let me just say that I was there volunteering with Military Missions. If you are interested in Military Missions, check 'em out here: We are non-partisan except that the military tends to lean right, but we just preach troop support. Sometimes though, you are judged by the company that you keep and this is just a few of the photos from the company that I kept yesterday. I will walk you through them.

Photo 1: This was a game created by Fayette Co. Young Republicans...and a piece of genius, I may add. I have no idea where they pulled this toilet but I would like to think that it came from a prison. You threw bean bags that strongly resembled "money bags" from 3 lines, increasing in distance. If you made all 3, your name went into a bucket. The first name to be drawn won a baseball signed by Jim Bunning. I played the game because A) I thought I would never win and B) I thought that if I did win it would be hysterical since I've been enlightened on how Neal feels about Bunning. I got this education on the way to Hilton Head for the Strong Bonds retreat. Bunning had just done something so petty and ridiculous that it landed him on the front page of the NY Times. Well, as fate would have it... I won. How's THAT for Karma?

Photo 3: (Yes I intentionally skipped photo 2 for now. Give me a sec). This van belonged to a lady that presumably lives in Lexington although I won't swear to it. She is a BIG smoker and in fact smoked the ENTIRE 4 hours I was there. Literally. Every time I looked at her, she was smoking. Her platform is that smoking is beneficial for one's health and that by not smoking, or heaven forbid, giving up smoking one is much more susceptible to a wide range of diseases, including Alzheimer's. Right...

Photo 2: Apparently smoking has turned her brain to charcoal dust. I'm pretty sure this is NOT how you spell the name of our governor...

Photo 4: The smashing of a GM car. My personal favorite is the caption on the back: I lean left. What GM vehicle DOESN'T have a little lean to it? I mean, really..

Photo 5: And last but certainly not least is the ole "flag on a pitchfork". Guess he got to come in because it wasn't considered a "concealed weapon" but I'm pretty sure if he had tripped over a toddler and come crashing down, it would have turned real ugly, real fast.

Among other things, I saw a sign indicating the "IRS Rape Crisis Center", several Uncle Sam's, and earrings made of tea bags. If nothing else, a crappy economy will unleash some wicked creativity within a pitchfork-wielding crowd.

Miracle on Meadowcrest

Or perhaps more accurately...Miracle over the Phone....My dad and I have seen battle. We are so similar that often it has resulted in months of silence and a strained relationship. But in the past several years, just like ice in Greenland, tension has thawed. Partly because I married a man who is eerily similar to Dad, partly because I have a CNN addiction and can now have intelligent conversations about foreign policy and partly because I no longer view Dad as someone to be feared, but instead someone who doles out extremely helpful advice (although sometimes accompanied by moments where he forgets I'm 30 and flashes back to when I'm 13). Last summer though, it all got a little heated. August 2008 was a complex time, full of presidential debates and sticky topics. On top of sweltering from 95 degree temperatures and 95 percent humidity, we were boiling on the inside, too. Romney or McCain? Obama or Hilary? On this, Dad and I are nothing alike. He fancies himself a fiscal conservative, I lean Democratic simply because I think the government should be involved in some areas, except when it comes to who marries whom and if you do or do not have a baby. I blame part of that on just being a woman. But oversight and aid to small business should all be provided by those folks in Washington. So, imagine the phone conversations that took place in September and October. Fortunately, we were both AT&T customers. That took a little of the sting out. The first Thursday in November came and went and we all know the result. I did a little dance of happy, happy, joy, joy and Dad sulked and announced the begin of Reign of Socialism and sympathy for our kids who were going to be in debt until their kids have kids. We decided we would talk about motorcycles and computers for the next 4 years. Then this morning, I called Dad to tell him a story about how I accidentally won a baseball signed by Jim Bunning - that post is coming as soon as I get the pictures off of the camera, probably when Fareed Zakaria finishes his interview with Karzai. Dad laughed and then said "well, I have to say, Obama did the right thing taking out those terrorists holding the shipping captain." HUH? I was caught so off-guard that I had no response. Nothing witty, nothing clever, not even an "I told you so!" Of course, should the big O decide to write another check to AIG or start playing bridge with the Taliban, he will recant all statements. But for now, this is a small miracle. Dad liked something that a Democrat did. I will light a sparkler in celebration as soon as it stops raining.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Upside to the Downturn

The economy is in the crapper. Food is expensive, vacations are outrageous and job lay-offs are through the roof. It's not good news. But as one reporter pointed out on CNN this morning, it is forcing a return to family values, in a sort of way. No one can afford to eat out, so we're cooking at home. No one can afford a vacation, so we're playing Wii with the kids and going to the park. Home is the new mall. I can see this happening at our little cottage on Meadowcrest, too. Ever since taking a MASSIVE paycut to strike it out on my own, I've had the ever-present thought that because my paycheck has dwindled, I must make cut back on the "luxuries." Less dinners out, less time at the movies, less shopping...WHOA let's not get too crazy. I still allow myself the occasional cute sweater or pretty little play things, but generally they have to be sporting a big, red Clearance sticker. So, in celebration of all the wonderful things I now do because I can't afford to peruse Garden Ridge everyday, here (like a true Virgo), is a LIST. Feel free to add your own. I would love to know how the rest of the world is coping in their own stylish and fantastic way:

1. I am FINALLY teaching myself Excel data analysis and Italian. Not at the same time and preferably not one after the other unless a nap is written into the agenda, as well. But I'm finally putting the Rosetta Stone to good use.

2. We have learned how to make our own beef jerky. We can dry other things as well - but this was the most interesting. Who says you have to spend $4.00/package on the Mingua Brothers??

3. Everyday is a new recipe. I obviously have the time to pick painstakingly through book after book, website after website to find the right recipe where we already have all of the ingredients. It's just one of the perks to only working like 5 hours/week.

4. Plants are actually growing and thriving because they get daily attention. They get talked to, stroked, massaged, and oh yeah, watered.

5. I think Poppy may have lost 1/2 of a 1/2 of a pound this week. We play "catch-the-laser-pin-dot" every morning. This takes a little while because there has to be rest time built in to the routine.

6. Suddenly doing things like sewing curtains or embroidering a tie doesn't seem so daunting because I have many hours to figure it out.

7. I have learned a great deal about the stock market from watching CNN ad nauseum and having long, meandering conversations with my stock broker.

8. Neal gets to have clean clothes, a made bed, and a dusted house pretty much every day of the week.

9. There is never a "new message" in my inbox for more than about 20 minutes. Definitely not new messages in there for more than a day.

10. I get to blog about how I fill my days, what I think the world is coming to, and I get to post comments on other peoples' blogs.

Basically, "gourmet" is not so daunting to me anymore and everything is really, really clean and organized. That is the upside to this downturn. Now I must find a recipe for chocolate hazelnut biscotti...

Monday, April 13, 2009

Take 2

Yeah, that last one didn't look any bigger. So, here's take just occurred to me that my blog layout is VERY similar to Larry King's set design. How intriguing...

It's about time!!

First of all..I'm trying to figure out how to increase the font size on the blog. Maybe it's 31 creeping up on me...maybe it's all those years of sitting too close to the TV (but really you had to sit that close - there was no remote control!) but when I flip through the entries, there is a lot of squinting going on now.

And secondly, and most importantly to me and Neal but probably not anyone else, we have a new insurance agent!!! Hip-hip-hooray!! Allow me to explain...Neal's had the same Farm Bureau insurance agent for...well, for as long as I've known him. I left Joel in Bourbon County to transfer everything over to FB when we got married. I had no idea that Neal's insurance agent was missing a few cards in the deck. My first dealing with him was when I swung by his office to make a few changes on our policy. He wanted to talk all about Neal's time in Iraq. That's fine - people are usually politely interested and then we move on. Not Mr. Stuck-on-Topic Man. So, we talked about that for about 45 minutes. Then, as I got my things to leave, he started trying to sell me on some sort of side business that he was doing outside of insurance. To be polite, I took the card and the brochure and the pamphlet and made a mad dash for the door. Then, last fall when the Great Wind of 2008 swept through, I was pretty sure we had lost some shingles off of the roof. Neal, being 1/2 a world away and dealing with all sorts of little bugger problems like IEDs and idiot colonels, said "just call the insurance guy and have him come over and check it out." I tried not to sigh TOO audibly. So, I called and he agreed to swing by on his way home. He showed up about 2 hours late, walked around the house a couple of times and proclaimed "I think it's fine. I don't see anything!" Then he tried to sell me on yet a different side business than the last one. To be polite, I took the brochure and the card and the DVD (yes, sometimes I think the polite thing is more pain than it's worth) and promised to take a look at it. Two days later, the little bastard called from a number I didn't recognize and because I was expecting a call, I answered. He was asking if I had had time to look through the information. I made some lame-o excuse and hung up.

OK, then Neal gets home at the first of February at the end of February, a direct mail postcard arrives at our house - with our names and address. It was from our insurance agent, but a totally different business than insurance and not in any way connected to the first 2. I really thought Neal was in danger of losing his cool. There was some ranting about unethical and possibly illegal and then the card was left out to remind him to write a letter to Farm Bureau. Neal told me last week that we have a new insurance agent. I have no idea if my husband had anything to do with it, but because I pretty much operate under the assumption that Neal is a super-hero, I think it was all him. At any rate, I can now get back to the business of doing insurancy things, like getting my engagement ring covered, without being bombarded by a proposal to buy seaside land in Arizona. Hip-hip-hooray!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Because there's always tomorrow

Today is Easter. That makes yesterday the day before Easter and last night was run-like-Hell-to-Walmart-and-elbow-your-way-to-plastic-pastel-colored-eggs-and-crappy-candy Eve. I wasn't going to do it to myself. But sometime around 8:30, after dinner and before Neal commandeered the kitchen for apple pie baking, I decided "how bad could it be??" I can totally do this, was my thinking. I was going for, yes, plastic eggs and crappy candy, but I also deemed last night to be the perfect evening for ripping out all of last year's container plants and starting all over. This had nothing to do with the fact that my family was expected for an Easter BBQ...except that everyone in my family gets pretty green things to grow. I get to spend discretionary income on new plants EVERY year. Although, I did just put it together that an Annual ONLY lasts one year and that "Annual" does not mean that it will return annually. But how nice would that be?? So, with that little nugget of knowledge tucked into my brain now, I can't help but think I will be victorious this year with my Perenials. Anyway, I knew as soon as I walked into Wal-Mart at 9:15 on Easter Eve, that I had made a dire mistake. It was a sea of people - not like The Mall on Obama's Inauguration, but almost worse than Christmas eve eve. This is all compounded by the fact that I was in a hurry. While Neal was home earning his baking badge, I had to find flowers, find new pots (because every year I make some lame attempt at decorative terra cotta painting and give up about 5 minutes in), and trek into the Belly of the Beast for plastic eggs and candy. Not such a horrible task, except there was still planting to be done and it was quickly approaching 10 pm.

I survived Wal-Mart. I've seen things that I can never talk about. I've seen grown adults fight over pink bunnies and kids actually picking out their own Easter basket (this will continue to confuse me for many years, I think). But the moral of the story is, sometimes it's not always best to put off to tomorrow what could be done today - or last week. Neal captured this sentiment on camera last night. I'm posting this now, of my own volition because I don't want it revealed when I run for office someday. This is what happens when you put off something that requires daylight. And for all of those who accuse me of not backing up my husband by posting "Neal-isms", I have 2 things to say:
1) Boo-yah. He doesn't back me up either. This picture would eventually land itself on some website somewhere. And..
2) I mentioned last night that we should at least make some effort to go to some sort of church service on Easter morning, even though we'll be cooking for a crowd. He said "we could always go to the "daylight service". Hmm... daylight service? "You mean sunrise service?" Then he just walked away.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Serving Tea on the Crazy Train

Because it has consumed me for the past couple of years, I just have to get something off of my chest. Why is it that I attract crazy, and by that I mean "clinically crazy" employers and business owners? I will not be so harsh as to name them; partly because someday somebody may read this and partly because there have been so many that I don't know where to start. I do take some responsibility for the multitude because my employment history fills many pages. I started when I was 17 and have successfully changed jobs almost every year since then. It was quite eye-opening when I had to complete an FBI application for my Military Affairs job. They let you list as many jobs as you could remember. They also let you lists as many residences as you could remember and that was also a stunningly high number. I think I may have been two short of classifying as a legitimate gypsy. So, my nomad lifestyle has lead me to the land of crazy, but now I can't find the Narnia portal to get the hell out. Here is the top 10 things I have learned about the managers, supervisors, and business owners in my past (if you are one of those things and are currently reading this, it may or may not be about you. Which forces me to list an 11th bullet: Paranoia).

1. All of them have a bi-polar personality - the smart ones go ahead and name the other side and refer to it often so underlings are not so shocked when it appears.

2. As humble as they may be, they still want to hear "yes ma'am or yes sir" on a daily basis.

3. A large checking account does not = excellent business owner.

4. Sometimes it becomes glaringly obvious that universities only require 1-2 business classes for any non-business related major.

5. What is considered "acceptable behavior" becomes more gray the higher you climb on that corporate ladder.

6. If you want to succeed, you will have no opinion, no voice, and certainly no political stance on anything.

7. Often people think that they because they reach X amt of years, they have outgrown the "it's all about me" mentality. I'm here to tell you that is not true. Tunnel vision exists all over the place.

8. The people who own businesses were considered "big idea" people in high school. We put them on Prom committees and elected them to club offices. The difference now is that they don't have faculty leaning over them and saying "you can't do that in 2 weeks. It would take 2 years."

9. There are many, many organizations out there who have shepherd-less sheep.

10. This is not true for all managers, supervisors or business owners, but this is how it is in crazy land.

I'm giving it another shot. I would like to get off the train, walk down the sidewalk, and step back through the double-sided mirror onto the terra firma of Logic and Reasoning. I'll let you know how that works out.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

What a little guilt can get ya

Yesterday, 1 April, was not only Practical Joke Day (which I don't get because everyone knows it's coming) but it was also the 4th anniversary of meeting Neal in the Heathrow Airport in London, England. If you don't have the full story on that, I'll buy you a pitcher of margaritas and spin you a story...but for those of you who know - yay for anniversaries! Um, or so I thought. Neal is sort of like a girl - and by that I mean, he remembers ALL of the special occasions. He remembers the first time we met, our first kiss (which is only because it was shortly after the first event), the day he proposed, etc. And while we don't celebrate all of those things, he has never ceased to commemorate 1 April and 22 September. Even from a desert in the middle of the armpit of the Universe, he still managed to send something from Red Envelope for our first meeting. I still have every card and a couple of fozen roses to prove it. Yesterday was a bad day for him. It started too early (6:15 am at the gym with a sleepy grumpy wife on the elliptical next to him), continued all day and ended with dinner at iChing with a friend and a showing of "Ghostbusters" on the big screen. I greeted him at dinner with a cute Fresh Ink card and a luggage tag that says "Steal my luggage, do my laundry" to A) celebrate our first trip together and B) give him something that sounds like something he would totally say. He smiled, kissed me and then we had eggrolls. Fast forward to last night when we were laying in bed and I was STILL waiting for my anniversary gift. "So, nothing? REALLY?" I asked. To which he said, "I didn't have time." Oh. If you are a man reading this right now, file THAT into your little rolodex of things never to say. I'm not sure what ensued - I think I blacked out. But this morning, I had a dozen flowers with my coffee. Still no card and they weren't roses...something one step up from carnations, I think. So, I will be borrowing the credit card and shopping for some jewelry next week. And as much as he wants to complain, he who sets the precedent is doomed to follow it.