Friday, April 27, 2012

Random Musings Friday: ATL or Bust

As you read this, I am actually headed to the Atlanta airport to pick up the illustrious Shana of @Fumbling Towards Normalcy and Random Musings fame. It's true...she will land in the Peach state at the Buttcrack of Dawn (to me, anyway). And then we shall dine like queens and take in a few of Atlanta's historical sites before I whisk her away to men in flight suits and the occasional sonic boom. She requested a low-key, laid-back weekend in the deep south. I'll try my best, but we're all kind of hopped up on sweet tea and grits around here, so it could get a little crazy.

First...a little random for this gorgeous Champagne Friday:

I'm assuming there's a link-up for Shana's Random Musings today...but she may also not quite get around to it since I'm sure she was super busy on Thursday packing and then she flew out of NYC during the witching hour.

1. John Tesh told me about chin implants this week. More specifically, Chimplants. Apparently, they are supposed to give you a more pronounced chin and jawline and have become increasingly popular with the over 40 crowd, since that's when all of that chin skin sort of starts to droop and run together into the neck. But all I can think about is, "Won't everyone with Chimplants kind of look like American Dad?"


However, after a quick images search on Google, I discovered that no, that is not the case and the results are so remarkable that I'm adding them to my wish list...right behind "remove the road map that is forming behind and around my knees."

2. Last night, I discovered that after Neal pats out hamburger patties, he doesn't use soap when he washes his hands. He just sort of runs them under water and then dries them off on a dish towel. As soon as I witnessed this process, I sent him directly back to the sink to try again, this time with suds. Also, I used a pair of tongs to toss the dish towel into the washing machine and placed the tongs in the dishwasher. His theory? It's totally's not chicken, after all. Mine? That's raw meat, which requires a combination of hot water, soap, and drying off on a paper towel. I'm going to need y'all to weigh in on this because there's a chance he's just lazy...but there's an equal chance that I'm being OCD. What's your vote?

3. What's a Random Musings Friday without a sweet pic of the girls? One morning this week, when the outside temp dipped unreasonably low for a Georgia spring day, I found them radiating body heat and proving that they would never make it in the non climate-controlled outdoors.

4. And on a more serious note, many of you read Brooke @ Building a Kingston Castle. This week, in honor of National Infertility Awareness Week, she has effectively "come out" about her and her husband's struggle with infertility over the past year. She is being very honest about the chances her doctors have given her that treatment would work (slim) and she's learning how to live childFREE, as opposed to childLESS. I give her so much credit for the work she's doing, both in raising awareness for infertility, as well as sharing her own pain and sadness.

When you reach our age (early to mid-30's), it seems like Facebook is literally bursting with pregnancy announcements, women complaining about their pregnancies, baby announcements, women complaining about their babies, and everything in between. I get that pregnancy and having a baby is a life-changing experience. I understand that many people find Facebook to be an outlet for whatever crosses their minds at any given moment. I also understand that when you have either lost a child or are having an extremely difficult time conceiving a child, that this constant barrage of updates gets old and irritating. I hid a lot of people's updates between 2008 and 2011. But Brooke is using Facebook in the same way that I prefer to use it: as an information outlet and source. She is posting information from infertility sites...facts about infertility, what not to say to a couple who is either going through treatments or have chosen a childFREE life, and just how to be more sensitive, in general. Every 1 in 8 couples is surviving infertility. You probably find yourself in a room with 7 other women on a daily basis. That means, you know someone...even if you don't know that you know someone. Your words make a difference. Please check out Brooke's blog and say a prayer for the women whose only want in this world is what you hold everyday, often without even thinking about it.

5. Lastly, I'll leave you with this picture from the last time Shana came south. Less alcohol this time, as it's not Halloween weekend and we aren't in Savannah, but I'm sure there will be interesting photos anyway.

Cheers and Happy Champagne Friday!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Need Laughter? Have Video

I am the first to admit that I thoroughly enjoy the DirectTV commercials. I don't love them after the eleventy billionth viewing, but the first couple of times they do illicit a hardy-har-har from me. So it was with great delight that I found a spoof featuring a U of L fan on Facebook today. Come find me at From the Sidelines to view the 30-second commercial and get your daily dose of GO BIG BLUE.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Preparations for a Houseguest

It's the ShanAlly Chronicles, Part IV, starting in Atlanta in T-43 hours. WHEEEEEEEEEEEE!

Off to buy wine and clean the man pee from the front of the guest toilet.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Random Musings Friday I've longed for thee this week. I'm not sure why, but this has been an odd week, full of unexpected events. And y'know I don't do well with "unexpected." So, it's time for a little champagne, a lot of back porch time, and perhaps a game or 2 of bocce ball. But first...linking up with my own week's random...

1. All of my little towns have made the news recently. Lexington was voted the "Most E-Literate" city in America after someone sat down and figured out that their citizens own the most e-readers and download/buy the most e-books. My apologies to Joseph Beth, Barnes & Noble, and The Morris Bookshop. I hope this translates to Lexington being the most educated someday and not just the most well-read in the area of zombies, vampires and Shades of Grey trash.

Also, Shaquille O'Neil stopped in for a pizza at the Mellow Mushroom in Warner Robins a few weeks back. Random. And Shaun T. held an Insanity class at the Aviation Museum last Sunday, which is about 2 miles from the house. Double random. Had we known about this second one, I would have been strapping Neal's 5-toe shoes on him and pushing him out the door with a bottle of water and towel faster than you can say "burpees."

2. So Shana has me listening to freaking John Tesh when I run my lunchtime errands. His voice is like the sound of my food processor pulvarizing brick screws, but his information is usually very interesting. A few days ago, he found a study that proved that women who wore a little make-up to work (as opposed to au natural, which is my typical routine), are thought of as more competant and reliable. A dash of foundation, swipe of mascara and a dab of lipstick. Tammy Faye Bakker make-up translates to "flighty" and "irresponsible." I guess I should try a little harder. Although the only people who see me are commissary clerks, the cashiers at Hobby Lobby, and post office employees. And they probably see me as flighty and irresponsible anyway.

3.  Every now and then, our gas station on base will offer a free candy bar with 8 gallons of gas. Normally, I'm driving the Pathfinder and this is no problem. I get my 4720117356294 gallons of gas and my free candy bar and I'm on my way. But this week I've been driving the Prius. No candy bars for me. I'm so ready to give this crunchy granola car back to Neal so I can once again hit the highway with free chocolate.

4. I'm happy to report that there have been no more sightings of disrespectful children on bikes or squirrels mounting the bird feeder in our yard. As far as that goes, it's been a pretty quiet week. Now, "family" members popping up out of the blue and heavy, black rain clouds? That has been a-plenty.

5. Neal has been at an Army conference all week and as I dropped him off in Atlanta on Monday, I had the same thought I always do as I pull away from the airport...I'm going to get so much done this week! And yet...the laundry is still not put away, the kitchen floor is still dirty, the bills are still stacked on the shredder, and I've been meaning to wash the sap off the car. This lead to a life-altering "ah-ha" moment for me yesterday.

Basically, I am still busy, but cross less items off my eternal to-do list when he's gone because I'm picking up his slack. And because the Army has raised him right and he is Captain Helpful around the house, there is a lot of slack to pick up. This explains why I never got around to planting an herb garden or learning a foreign language, or crocheting an afghan while he was deployed. I was too busy keeping the cars maintained, the kitchen clean, food in the fridge, and the litter box emptied. If we go through another deployment, I will be much more realistic about my goals for the year. Like, survive the year.

I hope the weekend treats you well and the sun is shining somewhere in the country because it sure as hell ain't here. Don't forget to hug the Earth on Sunday and pop over to Daisy & Elm for some upcycled Earth Day jewelry and National Infertility Awareness Week jewelry, both of which will go on sale on Sunday afternoon.


This is how Mama Virgo arrived at our house last weekend, with an already-chilled bottle of white wine in the car. Very convenient as the wine I bought hadn't had time to properly cool. But really, when you wonder why I am the way I am, just remember that my mother drove 8 hours down I-75 with her post-drive drink chilling in the trunk. 1/2 prepared Girl Scout, 1/2 borderline alcoholic. The end.

Have some random? Grab the button and link up with Shana to share your week!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: A Stroll Through Paris

It's such a gloomy, rainy day so far...the kind that feels like 7 PM all day long and the steady drizzle just never really lets up. I thought I would take a stroll through Giverny, where Monet lived and painted his famous water lilies. Care to go?


Monday, April 16, 2012

What I'm Reading: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

It all began with this photo and a high school Chemistry teacher mentioning once to Rebecca Skloot's class about the first immortal cells grown in culture...Hela cells. Hela...the first 2 letters represent the first name and the last 2 letters represent the last name. For years, she was known only as Hela, then as Helen Lane (as a newspaper columnist incorrectly reported), then eventually as Henrietta Lacks. But the genius in Skloot's book is not only her coverage of Henrietta's 31 short years on this earth, but also the racial component of how her cells were obtained and the ethical dilemma surrounding the use of cells for scientific purposes such as cloning. 

Skloot does a magnificent job of giving a brief history of Henrietta and the Lacks clan (for they truly are a clan since Henrietta had 5 children before she passed away of cervical cancer at the age of 31). Interwoven with the story of the Lacks Family is a narrative about the racial divide in the 1950's, as well as scientific progress regarding the growth of cells for research. Henrietta, her husband, and 4 children had settled in a tobacco farming community in southern Virginia when she first noticed spotting in her underwear and felt a lump at her cervix. She went on to have one more child before having the lump tested. For the black and uninsured communities in the 1950's, the only place to go was Johns Hopkins University. She made an appointment at the "colored ward" to have tests run. The result was a diagnosis of cervical cancer and a treatment of radiation. Not only did Henrietta have skin color and limited scientific advancement going against her, she also (come to find out) had "super" multiplying cells. Henrietta only lived 8 more months, despite aggressive treatment. 

Since I am neither black nor was I alive during segregation, reading (and learning) about the treatment of the black community by the medical professionals was both revealing and revolting. They often received sub-par care and had to travel great distances just to get that. Also, there are some stories of Johns Hopkins' physicians kidnapping black citizens right off the streets of Baltimore so they could be used for experiments. When one of the Lacks men recounted this rumor to Skloot, she dismissed it, but later found some evidence that apparently supports his claim. So, in discovering that Henrietta's physician scooped some of her tissue from her tumor to be used for research without telling, much less asking for permission from, her family, no one was particularly surprised.

And thus, the Hela cells were born. The scientific community had been trying to grow cells outside the body, in petri dishes, for years. But eventually, the cells would cease to multiply and die. Even a scientist who proclaimed to have accomplished the feat of growing cells would later reveal that his original batch had died off and what he was sending out were replacement cells. So, when Henrietta's slice of tumor was cut up and incubated, resulting in cells that doubled in number everyday, it sent everyone into a frenzy. A massive and industrial "growing" facility was set up at Tuskegee Institute (which gave black scientists the chance to research, grow, and participate in such a scientific revolution), and once the shipping method was perfected, they were shipped all over the world for about $200 per vial. 

Henrietta's cells have been to space (to see if human tissue could survive zero gravity), used in AIDS research, helped create a polio vaccine, were used to develop the HPV vaccine, used to study the effects of radiation and toxic substances, used to study gene-mapping, given rise to the study of virology, used to determine the genetic link for Down's Syndrome and helped create the process of amniocentesis, helped develop a process for IVF, established a way to identify blood type and used in many, many, many more ways. The great irony is that scientists have become filthy rich off of both the distribution of Henrietta's unusually hardy cells and the scientific advancements for which they've paved the way, and yet...Henrietta's 4 children are still medically uninsured. They can barely afford the pills and shots that their aging bodies require. When they first began to realize the importance of their mothers' cells to science, they told their story expecting something in return. What they got was used, abused, and lied to. Enter Rebecca Skloot. 

Skloot should be praised for her patience, sympathy, understanding, and persistence while trying to get the story from the Lacks children. They held her at arm's length for over a year before they finally agreed to meet, one-by-one, to share their recollections of their mother and their experiences with the scientists and reporters (which often ended badly and with the Lacks children left holding the shortest straw). Henrietta's only surviving daughter, Deborah, (her youngest had passed away at a "colored" mental hospital, where it was discovered later that patients were used regularly as test subjects for inhumane experiments) made Skloot work for her story, over and over again. She had regular panic attacks about Skloot's research and demanded to know who she was working for and how much she was getting paid for the story (Skloot financed everything on personal credit cards until the book was published). She had come-aparts and rashes of hives and refused to ride in a car with Skloot for fear of being abducted. But in the end, Skloot wrote her story and the world is a better place for it. 

What I have failed to do is even touch on the depth and breadth of this story and all of the characters in it, but I would prefer you start reading the book, rather than continue to read this post. The 4 surviving Lacks children are fascinating and completely relatable. At the end of the day, all they wanted was to know their mother (especially Deborah, who was just an infant when her mother died) and to have the scientific use of their mother's cells explained in a way that wasn't scary or alien. Skloot has managed to do both, while providing us with an easy-to-understand background on cell growth and use in research, and contemplating the moral implications of continued cell research for the purpose of genetics and cloning. 

I would recommend this book to every doctor, nurse, midwife, lab tech, EMT, biologist, chemist and medically-minded individual who has 5 days to read a captivating true story. But I would also recommend it to anyone who would like to learn more about a woman and her incredible, indestructible cells, which have affected every single one of us in some way. I think about the fact that I am not crippled by polio and how my nieces may never contract HPV and how I can tell a doctor exactly what my blood type is and I give a fist bump to Henrietta chillaxin' in Heaven. She is the reason for all of this. How can we not want to read about her, even if it's just to honor her contribution to our world? 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Small Business Saturday - Leather Feather

Suzy Stepmom is an avid reader. That makes sense, though, considering she's a retired Librarian. She doesn't just read books, she devours them. After my trip to the library, I would return with 1...maybe 2...books that I knew I could finish before the allotted 2 weeks had expired. Her bag? Filled to the brim and she can finish every single one of them...usually with time to spare. It's impressive. But also makes gift-buying for her difficult because what she loves is books, but I never know which ones she's read. So that leaves gift cards to Barnes & Noble or Joseph Beth for every. single. occasion. Snooze-fest. Where's the fun in that? And thus began my search for book-related gifts on Etsy.

What I settled on was this hand-tooled leather feather from Leather and Copper on Etsy. Although it's pictured as a bookmark, I'm sure it would be beautiful in any number of uses...from home decor to shadow boxes. But I, of course, purchased it with a certain book-lover in mind.

This beautiful and delicate feather is hand-cut, carved, stamped, dyed, and crafted by the owner of Leather and Copper, Chelsea. The natural coloring on the front and dyed saddle tan on the back and sides provides an interesting contrast in colors and gives depth to the piece. It's sealed with Super Sheen leather coat to protect it against dirt and the elements (and, of course, gives it a super shiny sheen). Best of all? The entire package smelled of leather when I opened it. I sat with my nose stuck in the box for a solid 2 minutes until I was high on leather.

The feather has a bit of thickness to it, although not much. It is not, however, perfectly flat. So, I wouldn't recommend sticking it in a book and leaving it for months and months, as this may result in a bit of a feather "shadow" on the pages. But for someone who burns through books like I burn through chocolate chip cookies, I think it's perfect. And what a delightful way to find your place when you return to the written adventures that await you!

The Bottom Line:
Etsy store: Leather and Copper
Owner: Chelsea
Feedback: 25 with 100% positive
Open since: May 30, 2010
Price: $25.00 + $3.00 for shipping
Shipping: Arrived about a week after ordering
Rating: Awesome

Friday, April 13, 2012

Random Musings Friday

Linking up today with Shana to share the week's random. Have some random of your own? Grab the button and pop over to Shana's to share!

1. I can't believe I don't have any pictures from the bird feeder that Neal "squirrel-proofed" when we first moved here. It involved cardboard from a pizza box and lots of duct tape. But squirrels are smart little suckers and they figured out a way to leap on and actually use the suspended platform to climb to the birdseed. Neal = 0, squirrels = 1. After they drained the feeder in about 12 hours and Neal was preparing to leave for Iraq, there was no time to refill it and develop a new plan. So the birds went without for over a year.

Last weekend, we were at Lowe's when he saw an actual "squirrel-guard" (I can't believe such a thing exists, but I also can't believe a squirrel can vault its way onto a pole that's about as thick as a Sharpie marker. We've learned that Georgia is rich in critters that God intended to live forever: squirrels and roaches). He put the squirrel guard on and sat back at his desk, with his feet propped up, looking out the back windows, and waited. No squirrels. Neal = 1, squirrels = 1.

When I came home on Wednesday afternoon after running errands, I found 2 squirrels hanging from the bottom of the feeder with one more perched on top. Neal = 1, squirrels = 2. I took a picture so Neal would know I was not making this shiz up. He stood, leaning against the back door, until he saw one make a running start, then squirrel-vault onto the bush and propel from the bush onto the feeder. His hand pounded against the glass door and he yelled, "Those sons of bitches!"

That night, he moved the entire feeder to the middle of the back yard. The only way to get up is to shimmy the pole and then climb over the squirrel guard. The birds now have the feeder to themselves again. Neal = 2, squirrels = 2. Although, I think Neal considers this a victory.

If you can read this and not think of Drum with his BB gun, shooting into the trees on the day of Shelby's wedding, then you're probably not my people.

2. We have new neighbors. That happens on an Air Force base. Turn-over rate is high and even in our more settled area of base, people are constantly moving in and moving out. The neighbors that just moved in is a family of 8. They are replacing a family of 8. Except...we never saw them. In fact, the only way we knew they were a family of 8 is because the license plate on their stretch Lincoln said "the 8 of us." But I guess that could be 2 parents, 2 kids, 2 dogs, and a couple of aunts or something. We never saw these kids out playing or riding bikes.

The new family? Is everywhere. The kids are constantly out riding bikes, walking their 2 rat-terriers (and letting them leave little rat-terrier poop on the golf course...FORE! and watch your step), playing in the yard, and I swear they are multiplying. We live on a circle and it's not that big. Every time I turn around, there's at least 2 or 3. That's fine. I believe in kids playing outside. Indoor free time is what's wrong with kids today. BUT when Neal and I go for walks at night, we'll be less than 6' from them and say hello and they just stare at us. I don't think it's a Stranger Danger thing, I think they're just rude. I mean, I'm wearing a big, floppy hat and Neal is wearing this hat:

Really??? Do we look like we drive a big white van and keep candy with us at all times? You can't say hello back? And yet, you know what they WILL do? Ride their bikes through our yard. So, I'm creating a new rule: if you can't say hello, you sure as hell can't ride your bikes through our yard. You aren't on the farm.

3. As you may have heard, UK won a little thing called the NCAA National Championship a couple of weeks ago. The team is now touring the state with Coach Cal and the trophy. At each stop, they meet the fans, take pictures, kiss some hands and shake some babies...and sometimes they get a key to the city. Like they did in Pikeville. Pikeville...home to Hillbilly Days. I'm not making this up. So, they presented their key with the below plaque. I cry for the children of Pikeville. And for the entire English Department down there.

I wish I knew who to credit with this photo but it was floating around on Facebook. If it's (not its) yours, please email me so I can make it right.

4. The award for best Facebook status update to celebrate Friday the 13th today goes to Kelly, who asked if anyone wanted to come to her parent's cabin on the lake tonight. She invited her friend, Jason, too. Well-played, Kelly.

5. And finally, Mama Virgo and Anna Banana arrive in about 5 hours. The porch is clean, the wine has been purchased, and there's 7-layer dip to make. I will try very hard to post a Small Business Saturday tomorrow, but it could land on Monday...depending on if Cracker Barrel calls our names in the morning. Hellooooo cheese grits.

Happy Champagne Friday! And don't go to anyone's cabin on the lake tonight. I've seen how that ends. It's a bloody mess. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

You CAN Teach an Old Dog New Tricks

What I learned from John Tesh yesterday...

Find me at From the Sidelines today. I talk of Selection Wednesday.

Monday, April 9, 2012

What I'm Reading: The Bluegrass Conspiracy

It took me moving out of Kentucky before I ever got around to reading this book. And actually, I had completely forgotten about it, although it was a hot topic for many years after it was published. To put it quite bluntly, this is a book that only a Kentuckian, who has grown up in the central Kentucky area would love. As one reviewer said, "This is a great story told by a horrible writer. If you can get past the boring parts, it's a really good read." And I couldn't have said it better myself.

From the late 70's to early 80's, the Lexington Police Department was, apparently, notoriously corrupt. I say apparently because I was born in the late 70's and if it didn't involve My Little Ponies or Rainbow Brite, I was not cognizant of it. I certainly wasn't keeping tabs on John Y. Brown Jr, who would later become governor, or Anita Madden, who has since entered my radar due to her outrageously grand Derby parties. Also, we bought a townhome that is located a chunk of land which used to be her farm.

The initial jumping-off point for the book is the suspected murder of Melanie Flynn, the sister of Cincinnati Reds infielder, Doug Flynn. Supposedly, she knew too much about the goings-on of Lexington drug dealers and found herself drowned in a cave close to Hall's on the River. Except, they never found her body. I remember Doug Flynn from elementary school. He was an avid D.A.R.E. spokesman and came to my school a couple of times to speak on behalf of the program run by the Frankfort Police Department. I also remember the adults being more impressed by his presence than we were. Cincinnati Reds who? Despite the involvement of a psychic, who believed her body was at the bottom of Herrington Lake (a lovely weekend watering hole where I've always wanted to own a lakehouse), nothing has ever turned up on Melanie and she is still considered missing, although most likely murdered.

If it can be believed, 2 men ran the largest drug and gun-running ring in North America out of a house in south Lexington. Denton alludes to the idea that the entire thing started when Andrew Thornton II and Bradley Bryant sold the drugs that were recovered during drug busts made by the Lexington Police Department. And most people who were around during that era agree that the LPD was corrupt from the inside, out. So, "The Company," as Thornton and Bryant took to calling their organization was born and, over the course of a couple of years, grew to massive proportions. At one point, it included a cartel in Columbia and a casino in Las Vegas. Multiple associates were hired to fly drug-laden planes from Kentucky to Georgia to Florida to Columbia, and back. Planes were constantly bought and sold to keep authorities off of their trail. And somehow, at one point, Bryant got mixed up with the mob.

Throw into this mix a man named John Y. Brown, who knew a man named Harland Sanders...Colonel Sanders, to be exact. Colonel Sanders owned a tiny mom-n'-pop restaurant and had been busy perfecting his fried chicken recipe, complete with all of those herbs and spices.  Colonel Sanders soon started his search for a business partner to help him expand his new venture, Kentucky Fried Chicken. What he got was John Y. Brown Jr. who ended up buying him out. So Brown, the new Chicken Man, was expanding his chicken empire with Colonel Sanders' face, and feeding his gambling addiction at the tables in Vegas. Brown halted his gambling long enough to declare his intentions to run for governor in 1979, with his wife, a former Miss America, Phyllis George. Although he wasn't particularly politically-inclined, he had been surrounded by politics his whole life. One of his buddies was Dan Chandler, the son of another former Kentucky governor, "Happy" Chandler. One of our current U.S. Congressmen serving Kentucky is Ben Chandler, nephew of Dan. Dan also ran with the drug and gambling crowd, according to Denton, and was along the periphery of "The Company," although not  a lot is said about him.

And then we have Anita Madden, who is so intimately tied to the Lexington horsey set that she is basically as famous as our thoroughbreds. She owned Hamburg Place, a 2000-acre farm that had produced 5 Kentucky Derby winners and 5 Belmont Stakes winners, including the first triple-crown winner, Sir Barton. In 1995, she sold the farm and they broke ground on what is now known in Lexington as Hamburg. It's a developed (or over-developed) area of south Lexington that is home to all big-box stores, approximately 20 restaurants, numerous banks and gas stations, several subdivisions (one of which offers homes beginning in the $500,000's and looks directly at Lowe's), an elementary school, and a main thoroughfare through it all called...of course...Sir Barton Way. The streets are all named after her Derby and Belmont Stakes winners and there is a small horse graveyard along Sir Barton, between Lowe's and Wal-mart where they're all buried.

But before she sold Hamburg Place and went, for the most part, underground, she was infamous for her Derby Eve Gala hosted every year. The rich, the famous, the well-connected all attended. Authors and movie stars and musicians and the politically elite all mixed and mingled to a new theme each year. According to Wikipedia, the theme one year was Rapture of the Deep, which included mermaids, mermen, and a figure of an octopus surrounded by a dry ice fog. Attendees were mistaken for Greek gods and goddesses as they floated about in togas and the Trojan War was reenacted under the gaze of a 16' statue of Zeus clutching a neon thunderbolt. Madden was also known for donning a line of gauzy and transparent dresses from Las Vegas designer, Suzy Cream Cheese. Suzy seemed to be sort of tangled in the Vegas web of sin that included Chandler, Thornton, Bryant, and Brown.

If it's beginning to feel like you're reading a gossip magazine, it may be because the entangled lives of these individuals reads like one. Add 1 drug and gun-running ring + a corrupt DEA officer + the murder of 2 judges + 1 detective who is trying to bring justice to the whole gang = what could be a really riveting novel. Instead, it's heavy on facts and too much detail about passing characters. It is RIDDLED with grammatical errors and misinformation that would have been caught by any half-decent editor. In the last 100 pages or so, she calls one character by 3 names, all spelled slightly different. They weren't aliases, it was just a typo. And as someone who loves to read, it's hard to forgive all of the grammatical errors that occur with regularity throughout the book.

Within the pages of Denton's novel is a really fascinating story about the key players of "The Company" and how they were intertwined with many Kentucky political leaders. And the story raises so many questions like, "Was Drew Thornton murdered or was he really that stupid?" (don't worry, he dies within the first 10 pages of the book. I haven't given anything away) and "What do the other LPD officers who worked those years have to say about their force?" It's a fairly one-sided account from the justice-seeking detective, Ralph Ross, although told through Denton's fingertips.

As I was Googling the book to find an image to use, I came across the CrimLaw blog. The author had written a review of the book and received several comments, some from family members of people mentioned in the book. Few had anything good to say about Denton's book or Denton herself. She's been called a liar and the book has been called a work of fiction. She is accused of only telling half the story and not interviewing enough people. But then she says in her afterward that she wrote a book that did not want to be written and one that made her quite unpopular. Who knows what the full story is? It's hard to know what's a lie or a half-truth if you haven't seen it with your own eyes. Undertaking this story and selling it under the genre of non-fiction was risky and I'm not so sure it paid off.

I would recommend this book for anyone who loves Kentucky history or has grown up in the central Kentucky area and would be interested in reading about many of the names we grew up hearing in our homes. However, be prepared to skim some of the more detail-rich, background story sections which don't add to the plot at all. Unfortunately, I don't know that it would be of much interest to anyone outside of Kentucky. There are far too many well-written true crime thrillers to fall into besides this one if you don't have the Kentucky connection.

What are you reading? I'm looking for my next great late-night novel...

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Small Business Saturday - What Every Christmas Tree Needs

As I mentioned last Saturday, creating an all-handmade Christmas for Neal was...challenging. His Amazon wish list included an extra computer monitor (his desk already looks like a flight tower at JFK), 5-toe shoes (I guess I could have gotten him some crocheted ones), and a BOSU ball. None of these were available on Etsy. Handmade Christmas taught me 2 things: you can't always get what you want and sometimes you get what you need (or what your wife falls in love with on an artist's Etsy site).

I found Rikki Little on the Saturday before Christmas by using Etsy's "Shop Local" feature. I put in the zip code for Lexington and waited to see what goodies popped up. Immediately, I fell in love with this:

From the thumbnail picture, I thought it was a Marine Christmas ornament and my first thought was, "If she makes them for Marines, I bet she can make one for the Army, too! Hooah!" But when I clicked on the thumbnail, I understood that it wasn't made with ACU fabric, but actually a very lovely tan and black fabric with a subtle pattern. I emailed her anyway. 

Through a series of messages (all of which were returned within 24 hours or less), we had a working design of a truly custom piece. A week later, she sent me these photos:

When I originally requested that she use the ACU pattern, I asked her if I needed to send an old uniform for her to use. She said that she wanted to check around first. Although ACU fabric is, apparently, available in craft stores (and frequently purchased to make those adorable ACU purses and diaper bags that abound on Etsy), she used the uniform jacket of a friend who had just returned from Afghanistan. He donated his uniform so that we could have this Christmas ornament to hang every November. It's a tiny detail that made a huge difference. 

This quilted ornament is extremely sturdy and the fabric is wrapped and bound tightly. I am not at all worried about storing it or moving it every time we are stationed somewhere new. And when you move every 3 years, you need sturdy stuff. I'm already thinking about next Christmas and doing something with a flag pattern. Rikki is easy to work with, very accommodating, and her prices are absolutely reasonable. There's a chance that before it's all said and done, we will end up with an entire collection of her quilted ornaments.

The Bottom Line:
Etsy Shop: The Lighter Side
Owner: Rikki Little
Feedback: 11 with 100% positive
Open since: January 25, 2010
Price: $15.00 plus $3.50 shipping
Shipping: Arrived in GA from KY within 4 days of her finishing the piece
Rating: Awesome

Friday, April 6, 2012

Random Musings Friday

It's FRRIIIIIIIIIIIDAY! My whole week, which is regulated by Neal walking out the door promptly at 7:45, firing up the motorcycle and driving away (a trigger that moves me to get out of bed and make my way carefully towards the coffee maker), has been a little off. They shut the water in the Reserves off on Tuesday and the electricity off on Thursday so he's been home at all kinds of odd hours. Tuesday felt like Friday and then yesterday felt like Saturday and the whole thing feels like The Jerk on loop.

Today, I'm linking up with Shana for Random Musings Friday because I have quite a few. And don't forget to check back tomorrow for Small Business Saturday, where I'll be singing the praises of an Etsy designer who created a Christmas ornament out of a recently redeployed Soldier's uniform for me.

1. Instagram finally released a Droid app this week. This was especially exciting for me because I follow tons of people on Twitter who are always tweeting Instagram photos and tweeting back and forth to each other things like "Oh I want to follow you! What's your screen name?" and "It's JennyFromTheBlock! What's yours! Can't wait to see your pictures! Isn't this the greatest ever? Instagram for the win!" And here I sat with my Droid which, when it comes to fancying it all up with filters and filtered filters, was about as useful as a doorstop. But I cling to non iPhone technology because I can burn through a cell phone battery in about 6 hours, depending on how much I have to stand in line that day. I love the idea of just switching a fully charged battery out for a dead opposed to plugging it in every time I'm in the car driving to the next errand.

Anyway, Amanda tweeted a story she found that said, "When Instagram was released on the Droid, it went from being a gated community to section 8 housing"...inferring that Droid owners are second-class citizens and something as elite as the Instagram app did not belong in the hands of peons. When I relayed this nugget of ridiculousness to Neal last night, this is what he had to say:

Well, everyone makes apps for the iPhone because everyone has one. If the Apple technology wasn't EVERYWHERE, there wouldn't be so many apps for it. And since everyone has something Apple, doesn't that make Apple the section 8 housing? There is way more section 8 than gated communities. Actually, the Droid is the gated community. 

Every now and then, he makes absolute sense.

2. Neal asked me to pick up his uniform from the alterations shop in the BX (Base Exchange) yesterday and then drop everything off at the dry cleaners. Between those two places, there was not a fluent English-speaking person around. It's fine, but I could tell they were all getting frustrated with me because I was having a hard time understanding the questions they were asking. I asked Neal about it when I got home. It went like this:

Me: Why are there no Americans working in the BX?

Neal: Because all of these young guys get stationed in Korea and they come home with wives, who need jobs.

Me: I can't understand them. And I can see them getting frustrated. Like the woman at the dry cleaners. She kept saying, "last four...last four?" And I kept asking, "last four WHAT?"

Neal: (giggling) Last four digits of your social.

Me: Yeah I figured that out eventually but she isn't getting that. And I told her so. She told me to make something up.

Neal: Well, that's how we do it in the Army. Last 4 digits.

Uh-huh. That might be the case, but she was not getting the last 4 digits of my social. Although, I am happy to spill the rest of my life onto the Internet on about 8 different social media sites. Because that's how I roll...swathed in irony.

3. When tornado season started, Neal bought us a NOAA weather radio, which sits right next to the microwave in the kitchen. He wanted to make sure I could hear it any time it went off so I went to various spots in our house and shut the door and he gave it a test. The good news: I can hear it all over the house, even with the doors shut. The bad news: it is ear-piercingly loud when you're in the kitchen.

Yesterday, it went off because we had a strong line of thunderstorms sweep in from Alabama. Every time it goes off, I feel like I'm in an episode of Deadliest Catch...because those guys kept their NOAA radios running 24-7. Also, if you are in the market for a NOAA radio, this is the one to get. In addition to your normal tornado, hurricane, severe weather, and tsunami alerts, it will also sound off if there's a disease outbreak, a volcano eruption, anything from space hurtling towards earth, an earthquake, rising water conditions, and everything else just short of announcing the arrival of aliens in your general vicinity. It's awesome.

4. Speaking of Instagram, I'm quietly doing the April Photo-a-Day project and here are the first 3 from the month:
Taken to show off the new wire "A" I ordered from an Etsy artist. I personally don't have the talent or patience for working with wire for hours on end. And I thought $5 was a steal! 

Poppy admires the purple piggies, which are specifically for Shana, who insisted that I break out of the pink/red toenail paint rut and embrace something random. And this is what I ended up with. 

Minus the credit card offers, billing statements from the townhouse, and coupons from Firestone, this is pretty indicative of what the mail coming into our house looks like. Hooah, I want one foot massager and this sterling silver picture frame with our wedding date engraved on the bottom.

I hope you have a joyous and family-filled Easter/Passover weekend. It will be quiet around here as we prepare for a visit from Mama Virgo and Anna Banana next weekend. But I see your deviled eggs and I raise you a Honeybaked ham with sweet potato pie.

Bunny hop on over and link up with Shana to share your own Random Musings from this week!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

GR8NESS! Last call...

I couldn't help it. I begged and pleaded for Kelly to relinquish her normal posting day to me so that I could fly the flag of blue and white one last time before the door is officially shut on the 2011-2012 basketball season. C'mon over and get a little learnin' about the UK starting 5 and see why I think Ashley Judd may be making a play of her own for freshman Terrence Jones. Come see me at From the Sidelines!

Monday, April 2, 2012

What I'm Reading: The Paris Wife

I was initially intrigued by this book for 2 reasons: 1) I developed a rather unnatural attachment to Paris while we were there and what I longed for most in a novel was a descriptive narration of the cafes and Parisian life in those cafes, tucked along the same streets where we had walked 6 months earlier and 2) I had just finished A Moveable Feast by Hemingway and felt like it was time to get Hadley's perspective on their marriage. 

I originally purchased A Moveable Feast about an hour after seeing City of Angels in the movie theater. So, yes...I've been toting an unread copy around with me for awhile. Hemingway's account of living in Paris with Hadley and their infant son Bumby is depicted as the events that interrupt his writing, drinking, and carousing in cafes and abroad. He goes into great detail about his friendships with Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and the Fitzgeralds, stopping occasionally to talk about how obnoxious Ford Maddox Ford was or how impulsive, thoughtless, and...well...crazy Scott and Zelda turned out to be. But he reflects very little on his marriage to Hadley and their lives as a family in 1920's Paris. He mentions that she was his first and only true love and that he certainly didn't deserve her. And after reading Hadley's version, that certainly seems to be the case. 

Hadley met Hemingway at a party in Chicago and he essentially whisked her away from all she knew to start a life in Paris. And I can easily imagine how intoxicating that would have been. At first. He was, according to many, charming, attractive, and ambitious. It's the holy trinity when you're a girl in your early 20's. I know...I've been there. And, at first, she embraced his writing and their lives among the expatriates. It didn't take long for the shine to wear off and for Hemingway to grow bored, always chasing the next unattainable. 

It is certainly difficult, at times, to keep reading simply because Hadley is so devoted to Hemingway that it evolves into desperation. She didn't exactly forgive his affairs, but she didn't press him on it for a very long time. She continued as the dutiful wife and mother, supporting his writing as best she could. Hemingway was absolutely correct; he did not deserve her. 

I guess what I found most troubling about this book is that I can absolutely envision Hadley's circumstances happening to any woman. She and Hemingway became good friends with 2 women, one of which was named Pauline. As Hemingway feverishly hammered out The Sun Also Rises, the 3 or 4 of them attended the running of the bulls and would sometimes travel on to Austria for a holiday of skiing together. Hadley considered Pauline a friend, someone who would never become involved with her husband. And yet...hoes be homewrecking. 

Haven't we all had that one friend who was just a little prettier than us...a little more glamorous...whose stories captured our husband's interest just a little too fully...and whose name was uttered around the house just a little too often? And it wasn't always a foregone conclusion that she understood: this man is off limits. He's mine. Get your own. These women are great fun in a crowd, when the wine is flowing and there are other men besides yours to distract her. But our sixth spidey senses tell us to not leave her alone with the Mr. He may be Captain Fantastic, but he is not above letting her rip that cape right off with her teeth.

Perhaps it sounds like I'm speaking from experience. And I am. But not with anyone who truly mattered. But when you're in the moment, you accept a lot that would otherwise be allowing your husband's lover to climb into bed with the two of you. How Hadley kept from stabbing her in the eye with the closest pointy object is beyond me. I only hope that she found true and everlasting love with her second husband and that, over time, her binding ties to Hemingway were severed completely and irrevocably.

I would recommend this book if you enjoy history about Paris in the 1920's, the expatriates, or the Hemingways in general. Also, if you are looking for a deeper insight into their marriage and what it was like to live in that era and don't mind a slow-moving novel. Hadley does, in the end, divorce Hemingway and go on to redeem herself as a strong woman who is capable of putting herself first again. And so if you like a good redemption story, this might be the one for you. But it's not a page-turner, there's no mystery, and it certainly doesn't inspire one to go out and be great. It's just the history of 2 people's lives during a unique era.