Monday, December 31, 2007

For my nurse working sis tonight on New Year's Eve...

One of the best party songs of all time. Go on, girl...just because you have to work tonight doesn't mean you can't shake it for a few minutes...

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Christmas, Cutting Boards, Floods, and Blood

So, another Christmas has come and gone. 2008 is upon me. Tonight I sit in my beautiful office, surrounded by shrapnel...bits and pieces from the rest of the house strewn about, listening to the sounds of what appears to be an industrial-sized wind tunnel. In actuality, it's about 8 industrial-sized fans dispersed in the house, along with two huge dehumidifiers. I don't even want to know what my power bill will be next month.

A feeder pipe in our upstairs bath busted on Christmas Eve morning, about two hours before fiance's family was to arrive and I was to play domestic parter. About 25 towels and a wet/dry vac later, we got the verdict from the insurance company - resistance is futile...our four-month old house would undergo a massive dry, dehumidify, and rebuilding of walls, floors, and a ceiling. Merry Christmas.

In the midst of the screaming over the stadium fans blowing in the house (which will be here a total of five days, mind you), I got up this morning to let my 6-month old pup out, bent over to get something in the dark and wham! I got nailed in the chin by an excited Great Dane. I bit my lip, and when I finally woke up and looked in the mirror, it was as if I had eaten the head off a dove a'la Ozzy Osbourne. I wasn't sure if I knocked out a tooth...I was glad I didn't - my teeth are the only attribute that seems to not age as much as the rest of me these days. My teeth remained intact, but I do have a huge, red and painful lower lip now. Fiance' offered to drive me to the ER if the bleeding didn't stop and I may need a stitch or two. Then, he got me ice and started calling me "Rocky." I passed on the ER thing. I figured I'd look like a whiney little girl if I did that. So, I sucked it up, waited for the blood to subside, went back to bed with an ice pack on my face, and looked for the silver lining - maybe I'd wake up with Angelina Jolie lips.

Yeah...not so much. Yo Adrian.

With all the hoopla, this has still been one of the best holidays I've had in a few years. I can't even remember the last three, to be honest, but exactly four years ago, I spent Christmas alone in a Waffle House. And, although I may bring that subject up every year in my blog for the rest of my existence, I don't do it for any other reason but to remind myself of how far I've come. Four years ago, I had 50 bucks and a lawn chair to my name. Not to mention a mountain of debt. Sure, the debt still looms, but it's not nearly as bad. And the lawn chair has been replaced by a beautiful home in the country, surrounded by horses, Danes, a boxer, two soon-to-be-stepkids, and a fiance. The weirdest coincidence? I paid off my couch today in full. Huh.

As for Christmas loot, I wasn't really into it this year. I get a little more "bah humbug" every year, I think. I mean, I don't know why we all just don't give each other a check for like $250 and call it a day. Yeah, I know it's not Christmas-politically-correct, but the holiday gets so stupidly stressful from gift giving, in my opinion. Way too much pressure for a chick who can't wrap a decent gift to save her life.

Despite my bah humbug stance, those in my inner circle are still big believers in the capitalist spirit of Christmas. And, that's cool. Whatever gets you feeling happy. And, because of all the generosity in that inner circle, I got a lot of cool stuff that did make me smile. A Nano, my Coco Chanel, a new handheld video camera that's smaller than my phone, a pretty bracelet, a really neat frame with an Emerson quote from my sister, and even a crock pot and an espresso maker. I've become the breve latte queen. Fiance' and I even gave each other a Wii, fully aware of what we bought ourselves, but wrapped it anyway and stuck it under the tree. I rock at tennis, by the way.

But, when all was said and done, and when asked what my favorite gift was by fiance', it wasn't one of his, and it wasn't even the Nano (although the Nano was the single thing I asked for under Christmas-list-duress, and it's glued to me constantly now). My favorite gift was a piece of wood, formed into a cutting board by a 14-year old. Now, let's just reiterate...I don't cook. I don't cut things or do anything really domestic-like in the kitchen, really. Once in a while you'll see me chopping celery or something, but as a general rule, I clean my kitchen and say, "wow...what a pretty kitchen." That's about it. Needless to say, I don't ask for things like a Rachel Ray fondue set like my sister does. I'd much rather have the Nano or the Chanel.

However, the soon-to-be stepson made me the most beautiful cutting board from a single piece of ash wood. One of those thick kinds with a handle and a rectangular groove that you see in Williams Sonoma for 90 bucks, only this one has a slight flaw at the left corner that stepson-kid called his "signature." He made it with his own hands in woodshop, and he told me it took him about 5 days. Considering the fact that keeping his attention for 5 minutes is a monumental feat, this was sort of a big deal. What was a school woodshop project for him is a truly touching gesture for me. I realize that he could've done nothing. Or made it for someone else, for that matter. I'm just the stepmom-to-be, I subject him to 80s music in the car a lot, and I talk too much. But he chose to take the time to make something for me. I guess this is why those horribly-fingerpainted pictures show up on fridges in homes with kids. I was honored by his sheer brilliance. And, I'm not even his parent, so go figure.

So, there you go. My Christmas blog entry. It's come and gone, for sure, just in time to make room for my favorite holiday of the year - New Years. Two days and counting...

Cut me, Mick.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Forever Fighting the Foo

Today, I bought tickets to see the Foo Fighters in Nashvegas in late January. I've always wanted to see them; I say always, but really, I've wanted to see them for about five years. Every time they toured, they either didn't tour in my city or a life event got in my way.

Finally. I get to see the Foos.

Their newest CD, "Echoes, Silence, Patience, and Grace" came out a bit ago, and while track number one kicks basic Foo ass, my favorite thus far is Track 10. No typical "Dave screaming" on this one, the lyrics are great, and it just spoke to me upon first hearing it.

No video yet, but here are the words to Track 10 - Statues.

You and I were two old and tortured souls
Repaired by a love of broken things
In a life, just some bodies growing old
No fear of the end, of anything

We're just ordinary people, you and me
Time will turn us into statues, eventually

We got by, though we never needed much
A sliver of hope, no diamond rings
We got high, it was heaven it was hell
Flying over them, with broken wings

We're just ordinary people, you and me

Time will turn us into statues, eventually
Oh, just two ordinary people, you and me
Time will turn us into statues, eventually

Our bones forever in stone
Monuments of life
To dust, as everything must
We fade away in time, oh

We're just ordinary people, you and me
Time will turn us into statues, eventually
Oh, just two ordinary people, you and me
Oh, time will turn us into statues, eventually

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Giving Thanks...better late than never.

Today, I received an actual request from one of my two readers for more material. It’s been about a month since I’ve purged my brain here, and I know I'm due.

Let's first get a mental picture of my day today, which will give you an idea of how weirdly chaotic my life has been over the last month. Today, I wrote about a 62-year-old man's gangrenous colon while eating Reese's pieces. (Number 42 on my "to-do-before-I-die" list...check). I ate lunch with a friend of mine at work, who happens to be the wife of a doctor, very Catholic, and that sort of perfect suburbanite that you see in Good Housekeeping magazine. She only works part-time to be social, really, and most days, her perfectly arranged books about Mother Theresa and Nelson Mandela on her cube shelves beg me to move them out of order - just to see if her hair will mess up as a result. Today, though, she spoke about a Euchre party she attended last night that was complete with cocktails and transvestites, transgenders, and transsexuals, and went on to discuss what the difference of the three are and how "its" boobs were absolutely stunning(number 67...check). Additionally, it was my first day in four days to actually be at work, as I've been working the last few out of my home office, while simultaneously taking care of fiance' after major spinal surgery. Today, I came home to a healthy man with an unhealthy mental perspective on how well he really is after having his neck sliced and vertebrae messed with by a neurosurgeon on Monday. I had him nicely drugged and numb for the three days I was around. And on day four, sans me and my constant flow of the happy juice, the "oh, I'm fine...where are my car keys?" turned quickly into "wow, I don't feel so good...I may puke" after peeling the nasty, three-day-old bandage from his neck. The actual hair that he does have left was shaved even further, thanks to Salon Neurosurgeon. I managed to be Miss Nursey Jane, cleaning the bandaged area like a champ and doing it all in 4-inch stiletto boots while keeping the wound dry and intact. Maybe I did go into the wrong profession, after all.

Following my forced medical internship, I then had to deliver a phone to a teenage boy. The soon-to-be-stepson needed a new phone desperately, as his old one died. And, we can't have him not talking to the four girls that happen to be in love with him since I took him to get his hair cut like Brad Pitt's. Because I'm the only one of the two parental units that lives at his Dad's house that can drive a car this week, I was appointed to assist in the handoff. And because his mother wants me to die a slow, painful, and more than likely embarrassing public-stoning-type death, I had to make the delivery in the driveway. Despite my faith for one day being like Rod Stewart's family of ex-wives and kids that spend Christmas together harmoniously, I realize that his mother is not likely to invite me to tea in this lifetime. Well, maybe if it was laced with cyanide, perhaps. So, I sit in the driveway, like a teenage phone-crack dealer and do the handoff. And, now I'm finally home, checking email, and realizing that this is so very, very normal for me. It's as if I was born to live in such chaos. Normalcy is the weird and the uncomfortable, it seems. The craziness is my life, in all its dysfunctional glory.

To add to the normalcy of my day, I received one of those "you have 7 new members in your Classmates community" emails from, and like an idiot, I clicked on it, only to learn that one, about 68 people have clicked to see what I'm doing these days, and two, my ex-husband and his Lawyer McStepfordhippie new wife delivered a baby girl in October. Now before you go thinking that I'm upset about his new spawn, I somehow feel as though my eggs are just balls of dust, and I'm hormonal or something, I do have a great epiphany to share here. So bear with me. Where he once had nothing, he now has vomited pictures of he and his new spawn and his wife kissing - much like the Tipper and Al Gore-type political, non-tongue like stuff - all over the site. A picture of their perfect Catholic wedding after the perfect annullment, despite my perfectly riddled-with-expletives-and-tales-of-penchants-for-Asian-porn rants to the archdiocese. The right amount of money can squelch a rant. I'm curious as to how much it cost to shut me up, though. If only Marie Claire paid that much for a lifestyle article. I always wondered what priest has that rant in his possession now, and where my picture is hanging with the caption of, "DON'T EVER LET THIS CRAZY BITCH INTO THE HALLOWED WALLS OF OUR CHURCH AGAIN." You'd think I'd be freaked out a little by the new baby thing. I was with the man for 13 years, after all, but when I looked at the pictures, I just felt, well, relieved. And, weirdly, I feel as though he's so much better off without me. I just wasn't right for the guy. Period. I was too pensive. I analyzed too much. I didn't have a lobotomy.

My initial reaction wasn't what someone would think it would be. I could actually smell the prison walls I once lived in, and the subsequent "mommy and me" group outings I would have to endure in suburbia if I had not escaped years ago. I was reminded of that feeling of having no control over my life. Honestly, there are days when I wonder what in the hell fiance is doing with ME. And then he'll look at me and tell me I'm beautiful and exclaim his wonder that I'm even standing 10 feet away from him. It's funny how love works that way, I guess. When it's the real, take-out-the-trash-together type of love, with all its weirdness and dyfunction, its a no-holds-barred kind of life. If you're smart and really look at things at face value, you shake your head in amazement that this person thinks you're gorgeous when you wake up in the morning with dragon breath and medusa hair...

I wasn't sad. I wasn't upset. I wasn't even a bit jealous of the whole baby thing, even if I have been experiencing periodic baby twangs every so often. I just felt grateful for the man who grabbed my hand the night before, looked deep into my eyes and said probably the most sincere "thank you, babe" for taking care of him this week. I felt grateful for the teenage kid that joked with me in the car, laughed at something I said and said, simply, "thank you" for the phone I brought him. I felt grateful for the teenage girl who said, "if I could afford the gas, I'd come live with you and's more fun at your place." (That really was a compliment, by the way). I felt grateful for the big, clumsy Great Dane and dangerously wagging boxer that knocked me over when I walked in the door today.

My Dad sent me that Dalai Lama good-karma email that seems to go around about every six months. I always forward it, because, well, it's the Lama, and he's my mofo. One of my favorite quotes in it is something like "not getting what you want may be exactly what you need." I don't have the house in the suburbs. I don't have a picture-perfect relationship and a Tipper and Al Gore-like presentation to my life. I don't have my perfect job, and I don't have it all figured out. Hell, I barely understand myself, let alone the male species or the teenage one, to boot. My life is so beautifully flawed at this point, and it's exactly where I know I'm supposed to be. I closed a door, another one opened, and the view is vast now. It just smells good.

And all it took was a stupid spam mail to remind me of that.

Because it came and went without a posting, I must sign off with my better-late-than-never tradition of providing my "What I'm Thankful For This Year" list. I've already stated some, but here are some additions on the tip of my brain, just to keep the love flowing...:

*Fresh Midwestern snow and not being able to determine where my driveway ends and the road begins.
*Friends that tell me, on a bad hair day no less, that I remind them of Ingrid Bergman. She was way cool, and that is way complimentary.
*A 5-month old puppy that eats 7 cups of food a day, and won’t cap out until he’s over a year old. I won't even talk about his poo.
*A 60” television during the SEC championships, even if the Vols choked like a high school team.
*An April honeymoon, to be preceded by an April par-tay, which will be preceded by an April wedding.
*Past students who write me to let me know that they are now attending grad school because of my encouragement to "keep on writing and reading..."
*A subscription to both Bitch magazine and Vogue - and especially when they arrive on the same day.
*Café breves. Full fat, please.
*My little Mazda hatchback that averages 26 mpg.
*Shunning turkey on Thanksgiving and starting my new “All Chicken Livers and Mashed Potatoes All Day” new tradition
*Channel 59 on XM – because the best metal is LED. Oh yes.
*Learning that I really am nurturing and somewhat maternal and surprising my significant other with that (as well as myself)...
*Matt Damon FINALLY making sexiest man of the year. It's about time, people. Ben WHO?
*Horses in my backyard that I don’t have to take care of (thanks, country neighbors).
*A brand new copy of Abbey Road – because my old one was just too worn out - and especially tracks 14, 15, and 16 (...and in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make...).
*Having a fiancé progressive enough to not be freaked out if I choose to hyphenate my name (OK, he questioned that just a TAD), hire a female minister, and deem good acoustics, cheap vodka, and my choice of turquoise or red dress color as some major priorities for our day.
*Rawhide. Bags of it. I suppose it's like pacifiers for a tired canine mother.
*Youtube. It's just good brain candy.
*Deadlines met, and the notion of NO overtime over Christmas. Fingers crossed.

Long enough, reader number 2?


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Humor is the best medicine.

This week has sucked. I mean, there's really no sugar-coating it. First of all, I had no hot water on Monday. Then, one of my dogs got worms on Tuesday. I're saying, "One of your dogs? Don't you know which one?" Well, poop is poop. I am a good and dutiful canine mommy, but I don't differentiate between poop. So, they both got the "bug bomb" from the vet. On Wednesday, I realized that selling my SUV was the only answer to fiscal ruin. I got another car, because gas prices are so insanely ridiculous. It's not half as plush as my mac-daddy SUV, but my cute little Mazda 3 hatchback is smaller and sportier. The fringe benefit to going greener? It's just way more me. So, there's one silver lining.

So, back to the week from hell. It's one of those that you just want to end and go away. I don't have many of those, but this week has been one of them. As I write this, I'm drinking a nice, stiff vodka tonic that fiance made for me. He only does that on special occasions, when he knows I need one. Sometimes there's just not enough vodka tonics.

My friend Scott died yesterday. He was a work-friend-acquaintance. A really nice guy. He got me my present job, actually. And, I love my present job. He was 35, a loving husband, a father of four. The youngest of which is 1. His grandmother outlived him. It breaks my heart. It makes me look at mortality and the absolute unfairness of who gets to die young and who gets to live to be 105. If there's one thing that's always continued to perplex me, it's the fact that good people die young. Mean-spirited people who walk around with scowls on their faces usually live to be 105. There's no rhyme, reason, or sense. So, I won't even try to make any.

The funeral is tomorrow, and I shall go pay my respects. Tonight, I'll raise my glass and know he's in a better place, surrounded by people he's loved and lost himself. I have to believe this, right? Otherwise, what the hell are we here for, really?

In the meantime, I need to laugh. And, who better than Ms. Kahn to cheer me up? I was thinking about what I believe are the funniest movies of all time. And, History of the World part 1 is one of the top five, for sure. Madeline was yet another one taken too young, but she left some pretty funny stuff in her wake.

I'll sign off with a Mel Brooks scene that will never cease to make me pee my pants laughing:

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

How cool is that....

So, I've figured out a way to put streaming video and slideshows into my blog. Watch out, faithful audience of 2. I am now officially in the year 2000.

Trying to be techie...

Monday, November 05, 2007

When one door closes, a window opens.

I've been writing tonight. I've vowed to participate in the "National Novel Writing Month" competition. It's just a competition with yourself, really, but it inspires those like me - those without the big book deal, cajones, and backbone to sit their ass down and really write something of substance - to just write. They tell you to write crap, really. Just write what's in your head and clean it up later. Write 50,000 words. Well, so far, I have a TON of crap. Some inspired from other things I've written at other times. And, I have a little over 5 or 6 thousand words so far. An ocean's swim away from 50K, but I promised myself to write 25,000 before the end of November, and I'll consider myself a winner in my own right. That's more than what I've ever collected on paper in one place before.

While I was perusing scribbles here and there on old hard drives, I found my graduate school essay for Loyola University in Chicago. I wrote it a few years ago, and I didn't get accepted, I don't think. Honestly, I don't remember. Maybe because I blocked it out. I'm not sure. I'm sharing my essay, because, well, I liked it, damnit. And, this is my blog and if you don't like it, go check out Britney Spears' blog. Democracy rules.

Statement of Purpose
Loyola University Chicago

When I was 19 years old – in undergraduate school - full of hope and cocky naivete, I bought a copy of John Braine’s Writing a Novel. I loved the written word and wanted to express myself artistically. I knew that art, literature, and a creative voice were things that were unconsciously permanent within me, and I believed that I could write a novel. I opened the book and read the first paragraph, which basically stated that anyone under the age of 30 should just put the book down. Period. Put it down, and don’t pick it back up until after turning 30, it commanded.

At first, I was offended and completely defiant. But, while I would have never admitted to it at the time, Mr. Braine was absolutely right. I had nothing worth writing about. I had not lived yet. At least not enough for a novel’s worth or that would be of any interest to anyone other than my immediate family – who would ultimately be forced to read it.

It has been fourteen years since I first read that paragraph. And, I interpreted it as a direct order to taste life. So, I put the book down and in the years since, I finished my undergraduate degree, worked in the corporate world as a professional technical and scientific writer and editor, and obtained my Master of Science degree in Communications. Time marched on, and I put my love of the arts on a shelf, adopting a fallacy that art, literature, and music were destined to be mere hobbies of mine in the grand scheme of things. After all, I had chosen the cookie-cutter way of life. The American dream. I married, settled down in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, and surrounded myself with material things, people, and ideas that seemed correct on a nice, shiny, cosmetic level.

But, something was missing. Many things were missing, and in 2003, my life and its peripherals began to change course. Much like Edna Pontellier in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, I experienced a new awareness of myself and my true, innermost desires. And, like Chopin herself, I got my second wind in my early 30s, starting over with a new beginning. I was divorced, sans children, void of many material things, and I was starting a new journey in my more authentic life. I’ve always identified with Chopin and her writing method - one of fresh sincerity. Hers is a raw, seemingly-unedited voice. This is something I aspire to always be - fresh and sincere – on paper and in life. And, much like the controversy surrounding The Awakening, I took quite a bit of heat from naysayers in my own world when I decided to swim upstream and follow my bliss. Just as the book was regarded an “unhealthy introspection” by many literary critics, my own life critics were frightened of my new self-assurance and ability to make decisions based on what I truly wanted, rather than solely on the status quo engrained as ‘normal’ throughout my life. Many thought I was just downright nuts.

I’ve since moved to the Midwest, and I’ve recently dabbled in teaching at the university level. Even with the seemingly bland subjects of Technical and Business Writing, I’ve come alive as a teacher. I love working with the students, and I feel like I belong in the classroom. Plain and simple. When you love something, it’s hard to ignore it no matter how much you try. I love teaching, and I love the written word. And, this love coincides with the love I have for music.

I was barely five years old when my mother propped me up in front of the television, turned it on the Public Broadcasting System, and left me to watch Marvin Hamlisch being interviewed for his movie soundtrack of The Sting. I don’t remember much of what he talked about – something about the ragtime music and its roots during something called the Great Depression. What I really remember was the music and the vision etched in my mind of Robert Redford, dressed in a tweed vest and hat, sitting at a table full of gamblers in a loud, smoky saloon. The Entertainer, possibly the most popular piece on the movie’s soundtrack, was playing in the background. The piece told a story for me of sorts, and it still invokes feelings of happiness and youth and the smell of hamburger meat my mother was cooking in the kitchen on that particular day. The song played over and over in my head. I walked over to the piano, sat down on the bench - my legs too short to touch the floor - and began to pretend I could play it. I eventually figured out the right hand’s first couple of stanzas and played them by ear. My mother, spatula in hand, entered the room and became my captive audience. The next day, I was signed up for piano lessons with a neighborhood teacher. My love of music – and the lifetime of images and stories with which it provided me – began on that day. Notes, cadences, and chords became a second language for me when I was a child. Whether in the form of notes or words, I fell in love with stories on a page. It was my calming ritual. My often-times escape. My inclination for music never resulted in a degree from Juilliard, as I chose the path of words on a page instead. My undergraduate degree was in Composition, but I held my love of music in a safe place.

Mr. Braine was right about waiting until one is 30 to have a sense of reflection. Things are different for me now. Literature that seemed two-dimensional to me in my younger days now takes on an animated, more three-dimensional feel. When I read a piece of literature now, I absorb it like a sponge. The prose just feels different. Perhaps it is because I am vividly aware of my surroundings; I no longer take art or life for granted. My newly appreciative view of literature and the world is insatiable, and I want to share that enthusiasm with others. This is precisely why I want to teach literature at the university level.

More specifically, I want to study lyrics, poetry, and the similarities between music and literature. I want to study the poetry of lyrics and the musicality of poetry. The two are interchangeable, in my mind, and they both have had a distinct impact on my life.

I want to study writers like Willa Cather – who began her career writing about actual pioneers and ended it by writing about spiritual pioneers, reflecting a new, anti-materialistic view of life. Writers like Ezra Pound, who struggled between the conventions of old poetry and new poetry. I can relate to this dichotomy, understanding and appreciating the old, but with eyes wide open to new, uncharted territory – both in life and art. Writers like Ann Sexton, who believed the “imagination and the unconscious are one and the same” and that poetry “should be a shock to the senses, and it should also hurt.” While not quite as emotionally tormented as Sexton, I do identify with her indescribable angst, her anger, her raw emotion, and most of all, her voice of pure, blunt honesty. Writers like Flannery O’Connor, who had a sharp and witty sense of humor that was woven throughout her work. Even when struck with illness, she refused to indulge in self-pity, always had a hopeful and humorous view of life, and seemed to soak up people and their conversations, always aware of the details in life. The things that really matter. She projected her wicked sense of humor in her dark comedies and had the last laugh with her critics. I can truly relate.

I would like to obtain a second Master's degree - this time, an English, then then continue on to pursue my doctoral degree in English, teach at the university level, and share the enthusiasm for the art that lives within me. This is my purpose. I will take it both seriously and address it passionately. Being accepted to the program in English at Loyola University would be the exclamation point of a very colorful, lyrical sentence, and the beginning of a new chapter – one a lifetime in the making.

I never did make it in. And, this makes me think of Kurt Vonnegut and his dropping out of Butler University, because the powers of academe basically told him he was no good. Don't get me wrong -I'm not comparing myself to Mr. Vonnegut (God rest his soul). I mean, the man was brilliant, and I'm just a shlep who loves words. But, I am saying that I can relate. I've been told "you can't" a lot in life. And, as a writer, you hear "can't" and "don't" even more than the regular person. It's sort of the writing way. Everyone is an editor when they didn't take the time to bleed and sweat over what was actually written. Everyone's a damn critic.

Looking at this essay made me realize that I'm exactly where I need to be. I'm writing blurbs of disconnected prose, hoping to someday mold it into a marginal novel. I'm teaching 20-something, barely-C students how to write coherent sentences. And you know what? It's all good.

Eat your heart out, Loyola.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Femininity, Mortality, and Domesticity

It's a typical Friday night. Friday nights are usually stay-in nights, mainly because I'm old and tired after the workweek. But also because I teach on Saturday mornings. This week, it was a student who reminded me that, well, not everyone thinks like I do. (Shocker.)

One of my female students, presumably around 20 to 22 years old, hasn't shown up to class in three weeks. On top of that, she hasn't turned in an assignment for that long. This irritates me. I mean, in my book, you better damn well have been hit by a truck.

So, she emails me, and I'm expecting that something horrible has happened...or that she just dropped my class without letting me know. Much to my surprise, she relays this story about how her presumably "wonderful boyfriend" cheated on her - for a second time this year. The first time, it tore her apart, leaving her unable to finish the semester. She took him back, and when he did it again, she feels even more vulnerable and hurt. Boo. Friggin. Hoo.

Huh. Where do I start with this one?

I had to take a step back, draw a deep breath, and not respond immediately to the email, mainly for fear of being fired. I mean, what I really wanted to say was, "Are you f*cking KIDDING me? Go read some Camille Paglia, then douse your brain with some Bitch magazine articles that will just solidify the fact that you'll never make as much as a man - no matter HOW hard you work - because women like YOU exist and keep other intelligent women from ever making real strides forward. THEN, last but certainly not least, dump that worthless MORON of a so-called boyfriend. Yesterday. You idiot.

I didn't say that. I really, really wanted to, but I didn't.

Instead, I was the ultimate professional. That "take the high road" chick that my grandma would be proud of (all the while agreeing with the former paragraph about what an idiot she is.) The ultimate professional with a little twist, of course. I told her that I could not make exceptions assignment or grade-wise, and that if she couldn't keep up with my class, then I could only help her so much. If she can't handle the work load, then she should just drop to avoid failing. I refuse to give special treatment to students - especially when they don't try. Then, I addressed her personally. I told her that she's an intelligent young woman, full of potential. She should never, EVER shape her own successes around that of a man. It's beneath her, and it will prevent her from ever being the woman she is meant to be. All that pseudo rah rah "I am woman, hear me roar" stuff. You know.

She wrote me back within the hour, and instead of being irritated that I am probably going to fail her miserably, she thanked me for my words and for taking the time to actually impart some personal wisdom (um, alright). I think she meant it. I think I struck a nerve. And, for that, maybe this crappy semester will have some semblance of a redeeming glint of hope.

To top off the week, I found out a few days ago that one of my friends is dying of liver cancer. He's 35 years old, and I saw him a mere 6 weeks ago. He was fine and healthy and smiling. He was talking about starting a new job, excited about the newness of it all. So, when I heard the news, it completely freaked me out. The mortality of it. He has four kids, for chrissake, one of whom is only a year old. In the blink of an eye, the doctors told him he had just months to live - maybe 4 to 6, at the most. At any moment, that could be me.

It's like Russian roulette. You just never know. I told myself to keep stepping outside the box...keep asking questions. Keep being true to myself, and keep LIVING. Tonight, I made a casserole. That's stepping WAY outside the box. Tomorrow, I'll write a chapter of a budding novel. And, the next day? The sky's the limit.

Carpe diem and all that crap.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

An Ode to Forrest, Endodontics, and the Dalai Lama

A lot of firsts and milestones this past week.

Last night, I went for my first outside run at the new house. I've had my treadmill going, and while it's nice and all, I've learned that there's nothing like running outside among the long stretches of farmland. There was one point in my run where I found myself feeling as though I was in the movie Forrest Gump. The scenes where he's running through the Midwest...I swear, I was there. I even made a new friend...a huge Bull Mastiff who actually followed me for part of the journey.

This morning, I had my very first root canal. I'd rather have five pap smears consecutively than to have a root canal, but I went in and took it like a trooper, getting beat up on and then charged $500 for it. Um, thanks.

The best of all this past week - a very memorable personal milestone. Last Friday, I went to Purdue University for the day to see the Dalai Lama speak. After riding the shuttle bus from the intramural field and getting through a ridiculous amount of security, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I mean, the guy is referred to as “His Holiness.” You can’t help but expect him to be a little full of himself, as his very title means “Ocean of Wisdom.” But I was pleasantly surprised. In fact, I was shocked at his absolute normalcy, really. He’s small and unassuming and extremely real. He’s the antithesis of preachy, doesn’t have an ounce of self-righteousness, and says a simple “I don’t know” to questioning such as “How do you think we should end the war in Iraq?” Brilliant.

When the President of the University (who I also happen to love – she’s the University’s first female President, an astrophysicist, and new personal role model – introduced the Dalai Lama, I got a little verklempt. I mean, how often do you get to see and hear a Nobel Peace Prize-winning (and deserving) spiritual leader and icon speak? Especially in the cornfield. His brother is a professor at IU in Bloomington (where the Tibetan Cultural Center was founded and continues to flourish, so we as a state luck out, in that respect. I knew this going in, but I didn’t really feel it until he walked on stage. Holy shit...there’s the Dalai Lama. It was a goosebump moment, without a doubt.

Even though I was surrounded by 2000 other people in an auditorium, I felt as though he was sitting in a fluffy chair across from me in someone’s living room and chatting with just me. That’s a gift, I believe. I think that the true greatness of him is his down-to-earth normalcy. That ability to be so “every man” while simultaneously being one of the most influential people in the world. Within the first five minutes of his talk, he asked the audience to excuse him while he took his shoes off and sat Indian-style on the chair. Then, he commented on how bright the lights were and took out a visor that matched his robe. He put it on like a baseball cap and kept right on talking.

The talk was titled “Cultivating Happiness” and it was all about how we, as a whole people, should practice more compassion. It also focused a lot on how individual happiness is just that - up to the individual. A life lesson I tend to learn again and again and try not to lose focus of. Just giving a crap about other human beings – trying to be NICE in a world full of shmucky materialistic fake crap – it matters. Being truthful, living authentically, not being something that you’re not. As completely hippie as it sounds, these things really do matter. They make or break a person’s happiness, and that happiness transcends.

He took questions from the crowd, giving his point of view on things from feminism to his favorite color (which happens to be green, by the way). On the topic of feminism, he said that he believed more women should be in power, as we are generally the more compassionate and therefore, more balanced, leaders. Bitch Magazine would've loved that one.

Someone asked him who he feels are the most memorable and friendly world leaders that he’s met to date. At a ripe 72 years of age, he’s seen a lot in his life. Two that he mentioned surprised me. One was Mao Tse Tung. He met him when he was only 21 years old, and this was around the time that he was exiled from China. Conceivably, this guy was his arch enemy, but he commented only on how “sincere” he thought he was behind closed doors. He added that he and Mao could’ve been great friends. And, beyond that, he didn’t say anything negative about him.

The second one that surprised me was his relationship with the present President Bush. He said, simply, “I love that guy.” And, in a room full of academe (a.k.a liberals), there were a few seconds of "I'm not sure what to do with that" silence. He went on to say that a lot of leaders he’s met in his life kept him at arm’s reach, seemingly insincere in their dealings with him. It’s almost as if many people think he’s capable of some special voodoo powers or something (which he also nipped in the bud early in his talk by laughing at the notion that he had “special powers” and those people who say they do – he usually doesn’t believe them). But, George W. was friendly from the get-go, and the Dalai Lama commented that even if he doesn’t necessarily agree with every political move he makes, he and George are good friends, and he’s always loved his sincerity.

He spoke quietly for a little under two hours, and as I left the auditorium, I knew that I had attended something once-in-a-lifetime cool.

It beat the hell out of my root canal.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Caffeine, Art, and Unmistakable Signs...

They say that you should pursue art that "speaks" to you. To really get your money's worth, you have to have some sort of connection to it. Otherwise, you might as well just buy something at Bed, Bath and Beyond to sling on your walls.

Today, during my weekly pre-class coffee stop, there was a featured artist on the walls of my favorite caffeinated watering hole. I believe it's the artist’s first exhibit, and one of her paintings spoke to me immediately. It’s not that I gushed over it as much as it just called out to me and said, simply, “look at me…NOW.” The painting is called, Leaving it all Behind. The artist's name is Madame Aradia. She has an interesting style; it’s kind of Tim Burton’esque, but it has that same willowy type figure that I seem to be drawn to (see my links at Bella Pilar). She’s not a girlie girl, I would guess, but more of an “I dye my hair black and listen to Evanescence” type chick. Either way, I like her stuff. It’s cool.

While I'd like to say that I'm a 100% practical, Virgoan, mainstream chick, I'm a big believer in signs, destiny, fate, and all that crap. I can't help it. It's just a part of who I am. A straight-laced Banana Republic tweed skirt wearing closet hippie. Without the patchouli smell, of course.

I think that signs show up in everyone's daily life - sometimes they're smacks upside the head - but most of us inadvertently ignore them. We hear things, see things, smell things, and feel more than we allow our brains to actually acknowledge on a daily basis, I'm convinced. I know that about 99.5% of the psychics I've visited (after a few glasses of vodka while out with the girls) were completely full of shit, but I do believe that we all have some sort of spirit guides that try to tell us things along our way. I guess some would perceive this as intuition. Others view it as common sense. The "you really shouldn't be doing this" voice in your head when you're jumping head first into something you know is going to be truly bad for you, but you throw caution to the wind anyway. That common sense intuition – and the tiny deviations in our path each day – have to be something other-worldly, giving us a bit of guidance in this crap shoot we call living.

Yesterday, when I saw the painting, I thought, “Huh...must be one of those moments.”

And then, as if the painting wasn't enough for one day, a business card was lying right next to it. And, there was only one. It wasn’t a normal business card, but rather a card with a simple website on it – it was for the National Novel Writing Month website. A seemingly simple idea – write 50,000 words (or 175 pages) in a month. Go ahead, the contest prompts...put out quantity over quality, and see what happens, along with a gazillion other aspriring writers. The prize? Jack squat, unless you think some notoriety among other writers is a prize.

I just started training for a yet unnamed half marathon last week, getting up in the morning and running my obligatory 20-30 minutes to get my body somewhat back in shape. November is one of the busiest months I foresee in a long time. Yet, I’m still wondering...what if. What if I actually can spit out 175 pages of low quality stuff, only to have it morph later on into a work of true art? What if?

The picture – it said, “If you spend your life looking back, then soon you will become but a ghost of the past, living in the future.” The business card? It said, “Write for you, just shut up, do it, and don’t regret.”

Four weeks and 175 pages? With three simultaneous jobs already? I don’t know about that...but the sign was duly noted.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Sibling Loyalty and the SWAT Team

My sister posted a comment, and I believe she may have paid someone else to post another one. This is loyalty, people. The kind of raw, inexplicable sibling thing that is clearly unconscious. Siblings do that stuff. They tell you you're a dumbass in one breath, and then they kick someone's ass if that said someone is overheard calling you that same dumbass. I can make fun of my sister as much as I damn well please, but if someone else makes fun of her, I may land myself in jail. It's like some unwritten code. Bylaws of a sort.

When we were little, there was this kid named Timmy that lived in our neighborhood in Pittsburgh. Every childhood has a memory of the smelly kid, and Timmy was that kid. Well, I was about 5, I guess...around that age. And, I was sort of like a gerbil on crack, I've been told. I was probably chasing a bug or something when I walked in front of Timmy swinging a bat - that just happened to smack me in the head. It was one of those solid, aluminum-steel looking things. And, honestly, I don't even know if it was Timmy who was behind the great cranial homerun...I just remember him above all the other boys, as he was, well, really friggin smelly.

I went down with a thud. Out. Gone. And, to a sister that was only 3.5 years older than me, I'm sure I appeared dead. Killed by the smelly kid. So, my sister brutalized him, as I recall. Kids ran to get my Dad to tell him that I was dead, I'm sure, and my sister just wailed on Timmy. This is the story I remember, at least, and I like my version of it. My seemingly dead five-year old body just laying there in the makeshift baseball field, lifeless. And, my sister...beating the shit out of the smelly kid to revenge me.

It's what flashbacks in movies are made of, really.

Turns out I wasn't dead. I know you're shocked, but the big noggin went OUT...not IN. My Dad told me that as a parent, if your kid is hit in the head, you always look to see if a big goose-egg appears. If there's a bump, you're golden. If it caves in, you're screwed. I had the goose-egg. And, Timmy was beat up by a girl. It was a good day in steel town.

That's loyalty. It's the stuff that supercedes even parental love. It's when you get in a huge fight, proclaim your hatred for your sibling, then ask them to go to Target with you 2 minutes later.

So, thanks for the support, sis. I know you'll be first in line when I end up at Borders someday, doing a book-signing for three people. You'll be one of the three. And, I know you'll buy a bushel.

On the subject of loyalty and unwritten codes, we met our new neighbors last weekend. They haven't built their house yet, but they still manage to enjoy their acreage in the form of a big bonfire, complete with beer and friends. I had met the male counterpart before the bonfire and never suspected what he did for a living. He was painfully quiet. Of course, I am not, so he did a lot of listening. I thought, "maybe he's a school guidance counselor."

It wasn't until I was drinking beer and talking about how I had planned on ending the lives of skunks that I realized I was talking to the county's SWAT team. One even pulled his gun out and told me that I could use it to kill the skunk. (He was joking. I think.) Four or five of them....all drinking beer just steps from my property. At first, I retracted quickly, wondering if my record had followed me to Indiana. Then I remembered that it doesn't work that way.

They really are a tight-knit group of guys (and cop wives). They all seem to watch out for each other and have that really cool sense of camaraderie. Sort of like siblings, but without the parental baggage.

First, raccoons, and now, the SWAT team. I've learned to live among what I never dreamed I would have as neighbors. And, I didn't even snort like a pig and scream "I SMELL BACON!!!!"

Maybe I AM maturing.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Monday, September 10, 2007

Buddhist hunter

I think it's human nature to want to find the answer to the age-old question: what's the meaning of life? Why are we here? Well, in my quest, I've dabbled in several different denominations of religions. While not religious, per se, I've always considered myself spiritual. So, when I found out that the Dalai Lama is coming to Indiana to speak at Purdue University next month, I just had to buy a ticket. That's right...the Lama had tickets for sale online. Kind of like seeing the Foo Fighters. Very OM rock and roll.

So, I bought myself one ticket about a month ago. I figured no one would want to come with me, and I thought it'd be nice to go through security without extra people weighing me down. They say no cameras, personal items, etc., but I still yearn to bring a lighter and scream FREEBIRD!

Fast forward to this past week.

It began with flames. I mean, literal flames. I should’ve known the week would be crazy when on the Tuesday after Labor Day, I set a bagel on fire in my office cafeteria. I know. I’m a regular Betty friggin Crocker. Here I was, innocently waiting for my bagel in the conveyer-belt toaster thingy, when I smell something burning. I look around, thinking it couldn’t possibly be me. I mean, it HAD to be some other dumbass who can't use a toaster. Well, lo and behold, there was my breakfast, half bagel - half fireball, caught in the conveyer toaster. I immediately went into action, smacking it furiously with big steel tongs, people peering over their morning coffees and danishes, watching the crazy girl beat the fire-bagel to death. I’m sure I was the source of much laughter that morning, which is the least I can do for humankind on the first day back from a long Labor Day weekend.

The violence against the bagel was warranted. I can't afford to pay for an office building, and I saw the ruins of it flash before my eyes as I beat it into submission.

That's how my week started. With a fire bagel. Despite the omen, I've settled into country living. I really do love it, even if the next occurrence of the week happened to be the great skunk incident of 2007. This literally left a bad taste in my mouth (and my sinuses and my carpet...). Adjustments aside, I’ve fallen in love with the deafening silence out here in the country, the extreme darkness at night, and the fact that I can now see stars I believe I’ve never seen before in my life. Cities tend to mask them, I've learned. Yesterday, I saw my first RUNNING deer. Two young ones ran across my property at full speed in all their glory. I almost peed myself with glee. Just beautiful.

It’s been 5 days since the great skunk attack, and Tessie still smells a bit funky, even after seven washings with a lethal combination of chemicals. The skunk changed me. I mean, it literally flipped a switch in me. I must preamble this newfound change with the fact that for about a year in my pre-adult phase, I had a bumper sticker on my car that read, “Liberate Laboratory Animals.” And, now I work at a pharmaceutical company. Yeah. There's a trend here...bear with me.

In my past, I've been vehemently opposed to guns. I fear them, so I've historically been anti-gun girl. If I lived in my apartment or in a suburban neighborhood, I would never have one, as you're 350 times more likely to kill someone or be killed, and I don't think I could live with that. Especially if I was dead. I am not one to go out and hunt things for fun, either. I know people who do this, and I'm the first to speak up and tell them that it's about as pointless as watching Nascar or golf, really.

Well, there are critters out here in the country. My perspective has changed just a tad because of my environment. The critters I encounter are not the Snow White-type critters who will come hither and flock to me in a friendly manner when I outstretch my arms. After I spent almost eight hours of one day cleaning my skunked dog, my house, and my person, I realized something profoundly life-altering:

I want to kill some f*cking skunks.

I know, it goes against everything I aspire to be. A calm, together, Buddhist-like being. Free of anger and revengeful feelings and hatred. A centered, wise, and loving capitalist. A smiling beacon of goodness.

I don't intend to apologize for my newfound feelings of skunk hatred. If you have ever had skunk smell on your hands for four days after scrubbing furiously about 25 times a day, you’d understand why.

Deer, I love. Bunnies - they are divine little creatures who are welcome to eat my plants anytime. Gophers and moles and even mice and rats, I’ll deal with. Honestly. I’ll protect them at all costs. And snakes? The fiance caught one today in our window well, in fact, and he so lovingly set it free in the woods. But skunks and raccoons might as well refer to me as Chuck Norris now. They're the gang members of the wilderness. They're the little Al Capones. And, they've screwed with the wrong city-turned-country girl. This bunny has fangs.

Skunks and raccoons add nothing to the ecological hierarchy that some non-spraying, non-stinky creature can’t fulfill. And, when all is said and done, it could’ve really hurt Tess. Or, even more evil, it could've hurt the baby, Zeke. Since the incident, I’ve seen that little skunk walking around on my property at 5 in the afternoon. Skunks are nocturnal, I’ve learned. So, something’s obviously wrong with this one.

I believe the fiancé was slightly floored when I asked if I needed a license to buy a rifle with a scope at Wal-Mart. Me, the girl in her Banana Republic ensemble (they used to have very sporty clothes, mind you) and her heels, touting a rifle and on a one-woman crusade to kick skunk ass.

What would Buddha do? He'd let the skunk live and let live in its natural state, spray my dog a few more times, and he'd love that skunk with open arms. Alrighty then. I can't bring myself to do that. Not this week, anyway.

So, instead of looking to a deity, I'll do what I like to do in a lot of life situations where I'm at a crossroads - morally, spiritually, or whatever. I'll ask myself, "what would Grandma do?"...then, I'll look at the picture on my desk of my paternal Grandma, a vision of elegance and beauty and matching accessories, and I'll ponder for a second, channeling her wisdom.

I know what she'd do. She'd put on her matching gloves, pill box hat, and heels, and she'd go kill that little f*cker with a scope and a silencer, so as not to disturb the sweet little deer.

Wal-Mart, here I come.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Welcome to the country.

I sent this to some of my closest friends about an hour ago, and I figured I'd post it here rather than have to re-tell it. What a day.

I'm sending this to let you know that no matter how crappy you think your day is, at least you didn't have mine. So, thank God, Buddha, Oprah, or whoever for such a wonderful day you're having. :-)

Let me preamble this tiny novella by telling you that I had the worst migraine of my life last night. So, I take both Imitrex AND Ambien to knock my ass out. The work was done. I was out by 9 pm, and I woke up at 5:15 with a slight migraine hangover, let my two gorgeous dogs out, and was so proud when Mr. Zeke pooped and peed like a champion. Tess, on the other hand, goes around the corner of the house where it's dark. I trust her and all, but I just can't see her. She's not one to run off, so I call her, and right as I say her name, I hear a "scuffle." She yelps a little, comes running back to me, and her eyes are all blinky and she's sort of blowing her nose. As she runs inside the back door, I realize that she's been sprayed by a skunk. No lie. If you've never experienced true skunk spray, I cannot even begin to explain it without using a description so vivid, you may actually get sick.

At this point, she is in the brand, spanking-new house. Eau de skunk ass is everywhere. She runs back to the bedroom, I'm starting to freak, my fiance is just waking, and I throw her in the tub without thinking. I'm a city idiot at this point, not realizing that I should've never let her in the house.

Long story short, it's 2:00 pm as I write this. I had to "work at home" today, and I just sat down at my computer about an hour ago. You know what I've been doing? CLEANING. I had to wash Tess about 7 times. No lie. Not with soap, mind you, but with a GALLON of vinegar, a trough of baking soda (family size), four whole bottles of hydrogen peroxide (this is all very lethal if ingested and doesn't do well in eyes), and I had to douche her friggin face. I've never bought douche, just so you know. I was raised to actually use soap and all. So, here I was at my wonderful little local grocery store this morning, hair sticking up, jammie pants on, buying three things of Massengil, a gallon of vinegar, hydrogen peroxide and baking soda. (Hi! I'm the new girl in town!) The dude behind the register looked at me like I had filmed some sort of nasty video last night. I think he even winked.

Welcome to the country.

Monday, September 03, 2007

My view

A new, improved, deep breath.

So, here it is. September 2nd. Labor Day weekend has been just that - a weekend of sheer manual labor. The hard work has finally paid off. I felt it a little bit on day two of the moving and unpacking, but as I sit here in my gorgeous office, peering out of my glass double doors at Tess sleeping on her bed and a new pup a few feet away from her, I know that the life I had just a short week ago is now a memory.

We have an all-glass shower, and while you're in there, you can look into the mirror directly across from it that reflects a high window. I looked into it today and noticed the reflection. It was the landscape of a cornfield with a stereotypical Indiana red barn. Not to be dramatic, but it took my breath away. It was then that I realized how much I love it here. And how all of the shit I've been through has led me to this place. I would've appreciated this house, this landscape, and the people that surround me now, even if I hadn't experienced hardship. But I appreciate so much more because I have jumped through some serious hoops of fire along the journey. Life is funny that way.

As if the house wasn't enough, I got a surprise birthday present from the fiance'. A Great Dane pup named Zeke. He'll get his own entry, so stay tuned.

For now, though, I'm exhausted. My muscles ache from moving, the pup kept me up half the night, and I need a pedicure. I have some serious wombat toes. But I just took the first deep breath I've taken in a year, I think. And that, without a doubt, trumps the weariness.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Mourning Jane

I'm embarrassed to admit this, but Jane magazine died about a month ago. That's right, my favorite "women between 18 and 34" magazine just up and died without my knowledge for an entire month. I should know about this tragic death, as I still glance at every so often in my build-a-house-get-engaged-and-still-manage-to-have-two-jobs frenzy. However, I missed it completely.

Until today when I stopped by my mailbox on the way to the house site, and lo and behold, there's a little postcard in there from Jane magazine. It says, "Jane will no longer be published. We are sending you editions of Allure magazine in its place until the end of your subscription."

It's as if someone punched me in the stomach, and then offered me a hot dog. My mom once said that hot dogs are really just "lips, tits, and assholes." Allure is like a hot dog. Sure, it's good for a quick fix if you're hungry enough. But it's not like it provides sustaining nutritional value. Allure is no substitute for Jane, people.

You see, Jane was the brain child of Jane Pratt, the ex-editor of Sassy. And while I didn't really read a lot of Sassy as a young lass, I was familiar with it and knew it was different from your run-of-the-mill, "how to lose 10 pounds in 10 days" chick magazine. Don't get me wrong, I like Vogue, but Jane had more edge, and it gave me just a sliver of hope in the form of publishing for this Paris-Lindsay-Britney generation. Instead of a makeover, it presented readers with a monthly makeUNDER every issue. Pamela Anderson had her own column, and it was fabulous. Bimbo meets editor.

There are those that are slinging mud about it. I suppose that's they're business, as they're in the business. I just read the thing, and I'll miss getting it in my mailbox, so screw the naysayers.

Then there's the symbolism of it. The timing is sort of apropos, I guess. I'm turning a year older. I'm no longer in the 18-34 bracket. I was out of it last year, actually, but I guess it's time to move on and start reading Redbook or Oprah.

I think I just vomited in my mouth. Seriously.

Or maybe I'll just start reading more Plath and buy old copies of Sassy on Ebay.

Farewell, Jane. And farewell 18-34. I'll miss ya.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Seeing the finish line...

Craziness. Insanity. Chaos. That’s the best way to describe my life these past few months, especially in the last few weeks. Closing is on the 30th, moving is Labor Day weekend, and the house of my dreams will be mine in less than two short weeks.

Time has flown since we broke ground back in March. Well, sort of. The days fly, but the closing and the reality of it still seems like it’s a million miles away. After working at the house last night, I was driving home thinking about the things that have literally gotten me through this stressful time. And, in my I’m-too-busy-to-write mode, I shall put forth my concise list instead to convey those things that have literally carried me.

So, what’s kept me going until I get into the house of my dreams, get married, and start my new life in my new digs?

- First and foremost, the huge Kohler soaking tub, taunting me every day since framing was completed. It beckons….calls my name like a welcome ghost. I’ve already planned my first lavender bath to be an hour long, involving enough pruniness to make my skin look like an 80-year old woman’s. It’s a symbol of peace, stability, and relaxation. Something I feel I’ve earned in my life, and I can’t wait to grab hold of with both hands.

- Looking in my driver’s side rear-view mirror every evening on the way back to our dinky apartment and seeing Tess’ jowls flapping in the wind as she shoves her head out the window to smell the passing cows. She’s the best damn dog ever. My little shadow. When she closes her eyes and shoves her snout up into the air like she’s in a canine trance, I just smile and remember that I, too, must stop to smell the cow shit once in while.

- My power-bright-red office. I can’t wait to write everything my brain can dump from that fabulous, all-mine office.

- My fiance’s utter exhaustion. I know, it sounds bitchy, but it’s quite the opposite. This man is the antithesis of my ex-husband, who believed that work consisted of playing video games in his underwear as I held down two jobs to pay the mortgage. Fiance’ man is just that: a real man. He’s a Midwestern workhorse; your typical “I worked in the cornfields in high school” kind of guys. He’s never once spoke a negative word about working. The man can fix the electrical system on an F-16 without batting an eye, for chrissake, so his idea of a nice Saturday consists of doing something with his hands, involving way too much sweat equity (I’d rather be organizing an underwear drawer, reading a book on a hammock, or getting a pedicure). So, when he becomes exhausted, you know that real work has been accomplished. He’s been literally working his ass off, and he had a back with a crack to begin with. This alone is an inspiration. I’ve got a good one this time.

- Brussel sprouts. Yes, those little green vegetables. I just have to throw them in as being little inspirations in themselves. My cafeteria at work serves brussel sprouts nearly every day. I’ve always been obsessed with them. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I love everything miniature, and brussel sprouts are really just miniaturized heads of cabbage. Let’s face it; they are a divine creation packed with vitamins and minerals, and they make me smile. It’s always been the little things, you know, and if asked how I’ve managed to work some 15-hour days, I’d have to say that it’s the sprouts, really. My version of Popeye fuel.

- My 3-acre front yard and my 4-acre back yard. Me...a city girl on 7 friggin acres to do with what I please. It just doesn’t get any more glorious than that.

- The thought of driving my new, red Arctic Cat ATV out on the property. Perhaps pulling a teenager or two on an inner tube in the snow. With my stiletto boots on, of course.

- And, lastly, but perhaps most potent - thoughts of my old life in the ‘burbs. I mean, when a substandard vendor does something like, I don’t know, relieves his bowels in my house when there were no toilets (yes, this has happened – don’t get me started), the day can be somewhat disillusioning, to say the least. In fact, some of these guys that call themselves upright humans (as opposed to chimpanzees) are absolute morons. I’ve witnessed Darwin’s theory in action, although I’m amazed some of these guys have managed to stay alive this long to receive a paycheck. Anywho, even with the irritation here and there, and even with the thought that I may never want to do this house-building thing again, I’m truly grateful. I look back at my old life and it pales in comparison to the fresh air and non-claustrophobic digs we’ve created here in the cornfields. It’s breathtaking, and while I’d have to be on some heavy drugs or in a jacket-that-ties-in-the-back to do it again, it’s one of the best accomplishments of my life thus far.

Building a house has been a lot like running a marathon. It starts out fun…at the beginning phase, the thought of it seems so exciting, brimming with hope and expectations of yourself and the journey. You make it through the beginning, smiling and still buzzing from the cheers at the start line. And then you hit mile 18 and want to start stabbing people, including yourself. At mile 24, you’re beyond exhausted, weary, and spent. And, all you can think about is how great it’ll be to finish, how fantastic that cheeseburger is going to taste, and how appealing a big bed full of pillows is going to feel in a mere two miles. My two miles are the equivalent of my two weeks, and I can feel that lavender bath now...

I don’t run marathons anymore. I do halves, but marathons are out of the question with my aging body and my equally wise mind due to life experience. I did it once, so I’ve got nothing to prove. I suppose the same thing goes for this house. I’m hoping it’s the last house I’ll ever build, not only because it’s been a royal pain in the butt, but more so because it truly feels like home. And that’s more rewarding than any finish line I could ever cross.

Friday, June 08, 2007

"Difficult times have helped me to understand better than before how infinitely rich and beautiful life is in every way, and that so many things that one goes worrying about are of no importance whatsoever."
– Isak Denison

Monday, June 04, 2007

It's June. Batter up.

It’s June. I can’t believe it’s already halfway through 2007. What a whirlwind this year has been so far. Have I accomplished my to-do-in-2007 list yet? Hell no. But I will, or at least make up for some of my procrastination. Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans, after all, but I work well under pressure.

This weekend was packed with activity. For SO’s birthday on Friday night, we caravanned down to Comedy Sportz in Indianapolis. It’s a cool, improvisational comedy place that has “teams” of comedy “athletes” and treats its show as a sporting event. Way fun. I highly recommend it.

Saturday was the long-awaited Gwen Stefani concert. As expected, Gwen was completely flawless and pitch-perfect in every way. My partner in crime, “Leroy”, and I relentlessly scanned the Jumbotron to find a zit on her face. Something to make her less flawless. But we did so in vain, and Gwen remains one of the top five female heroes in my life. A chick from Anaheim, working her butt off first in a ska-reggae-type man’s world, and then using those pipes to get her to mega stardom and fashion icon status. Add the hot husband, Gavin Rossdale, and baby Kingston, and we really love to hate her fabulousness, all while hoping to be half as hella-cool in our daily lives of deadlines, cornfields, and reality.

Opening up for Gwen was Akon, who I believe is marginal at best, and opening up for him was an act called Lady Sovereign. New to me (but around for a while, I’ve learned), Lady Sovereign appears to be about 12 years old, is very British and white, and sings a funky kind of gangsta-type, Eminem-like rap. Something I wouldn’t normally listen to, and while quite surprising to see a teenage-looking girl scream “f*ck you” with two middle fingers up in the air before singing, she kind of grew on me. Even Leroy turned to me at one point and said, “I’m kind of embarrassed to admit this, but I like it.”

Come to find out, she’s a 21-year old woman that looks disturbingly LIKE a 12-year old girl. And, she’s been quoted as being influenced by her mother’s Salt N Pepa albums. This just proves that I’m officially old. She did pay homage to the Sex Pistols when she sang, “Pretty Vacant,” but it was this particular track that I feel compelled to share:

The F-bomb showed its fabulous head a lot during this song, but we were able to sing along after about 2 stanzas. Not melodically intellectual at all. But riddled with expletives? Yes. Entertaining and catchy? Double yes. She may very well be the new “chav” face of the feminist movement. All I know is that her music is a heck of a lot of fun to dance to, so that’s all I have to say about that.

I’m still building a house, and I’m still looking for that perfect job. The one that will catapult me to communications success and accolades. So far, no match. As with anything else in my life, I’ll keep swinging the proverbial bat until I get a home run. Because that’s what it’s all about, right?

Batter up.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Jake Ryan Myth

In one of the opening school scenes of Sixteen Candles, Samantha is completing a sex test. Of course, the word “Confidential” is spelled wrong and I notice this every time I watch it (editorial geek alert). I’ve seen this movie a lot. Too much, I think. It’s one of those movies that I can watch over and over again without getting sick of it. It came out when I was 14, and at 35, I can still recite it verbatim start to finish. In fact, I remain covetous of the outfit Sam has on at the school dance – the pink skirt ensemble that looks as though it’s been torn to shreds. Stereotypically 80s, but I swear to God, I’d wear it to work tomorrow if given an exact replica. Recently, I found myself wondering if I’ve been emotionally screwed up by John Hughes. It was like a mini-epiphany. I mean, I believe Mr. Hughes could be responsible for single-handedly scarring me for life, and although I'm no longer litigious in my old age, I may very well have a class action lawsuit to pin on his ass. Seriously. Hear me out.

I can name at least three other women I know – just off the top of my head – that have had a vision in their mind of the perfect man. And, if any other women read this blog entry, they too will agree that John Hughes is an evil man for giving us that said perfect man.

He gave us Jake Ryan.

Jake Ryan (I'm smiling, too, ladies) is the perfect guy, and as a woman in my 30s, he was introduced to me right before I started dating, so I’ve technically been searching for him unconsciously my whole life. I think I suffered more than most, as 14 is a crucial formative and emotionally developmental period in a girl’s life. John Hughes took my childhood innocence and ripped it to shreds with the likes of Jake Ryan. That dark-haired, blue-eyed, ridiculously polite, painfully gorgeous guy who had his own Porsche in high school, yet drips with modesty over his lot in life. For starters, he's gorgeous. And then, add to that the fact that he's the coolest guy in the school, in town, and quite possibly, on the planet. He’s calm and secure and emotionally stable. He can dress himself. He can mingle with the cool people and in the same night, enable a geek. He’s that guy that, when faced with your grandparents answering the phone, asks to “converse with you briefly” and is secure enough with his manhood at age 17 to tell his jock friends that he’s “interested in more than a party” when it comes to relationships. And, most importantly, he’s going out with the blonde senior with the great rack, but he REALLY wants to hang out with you, because you’re the cute, witty, smart one, and let’s face it...the REAL catch that’s just never been snapped up. Jake Ryan is the only boy wise enough to see how incredible you really are. Like I said, the perfect guy.

And Mr. Hughes fed this bullshit to us.

Twenty years after being introduced to Jake Ryan, I’ve been through several boys, five real relationships (well, at least I consider the majority of them somewhat real), one marriage thrown in the mix, and the enlightenting, educational, and entertaining various dates scattered here and there that are not really worth mentioning. In fact, my sister and I went to have wings and beer a few weeks ago, and I remembered I went on a date to that particular restaurant once a few years back. But, neither one of us could remember his name to save our lives. Case in point: this guy was clearly NOT Jake Ryan.

I think, in some strange underlying way, I’ve had my expectations unmet on several occasions due only to the pedestal erected solely by John Hughes. A ridiculously exaggerated pedestal. Jake Ryan was, and still remains, the holy grail of men. If a 30-something woman says otherwise, she's a lying sack of dog crap. Young, impressionable pubescent girls, now wandering through the relationship jungle in their 30s, believed that this man truly existed somewhere in the world. Little did we know that he would end up an urban legend. He just doesn’t exist, but we went (and some of us still go) through years of thinking he does, only to learn in the last year of our starter marriage that Jake Ryan is as real as Freddie Kruger. This pivotal moment usually comes when the cobwebs in our eyes clear and we see – I mean, REALLY see for the first time - that spouse lying on the couch in his boxers, scratching his butt, unemployed and dipping daily into his quickly draining trust fund, playing Nintendo, fresh with Cheetos residue on his white, pit-stained t-shirt. The a-ha moment, if you will. Jake was a figment of our romantic, idealistic imagination. And, Mr. Hughes is a dirty, rotten jerk for giving us this relationship version of Santa Claus.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not upset that men aren’t perfect. I actually love that they aren’t. I have never stopped loving the species, even though I've been through some of the worst of the worst. Most of them before S.O. have betrayed me, lied to me, and or mistreated me in some way, yet I find men endearing in many more ways than I lead on. I’ve always looked for the best in them, which was part of my problem, actually. I know now that love is what you make it. Relationships take work. I've learned that if they come so without any effort whatsoever - complete with roses and sunshine up your butt, then you’re probably in a one-sided relationship. Or you may be a stalker and just haven’t been served restraining papers yet.

As an older and more experienced woman, I love the honesty that I see in the man I love. It’s this realness that shows me glimpses of what Jake would be had he not been so damn two-dimensional. The little nuances like leaving little whiskers in the sink, or nodding his head while you chatter on about the day, using that "I'm interested, hon" look, all the while knowing that he tuned you out after 45 seconds. You learn to appreciate the head nodding, really - it's like a sweet gesture in the grand scheme of things. It’s the little things, like when he kisses the dog on the head when he doesn’t think you’re looking. Or when he makes you dinner after a long, crappy day - without prompting. I try to recognize and love the everyday crap, the snoring, the occasional fashion faux pas, and the fact that he doesn’t drive a Porsche. These are all reminders that he’s real...reminders that he’s NOT Jake Ryan. And after what I've seen, this is a good thing. It’s the end to a figment of my imagination. Just as believing in Santa Claus is a little creepy at age 35, Jake Ryan is something I should’ve stopped believing in at least at age 18. If only my sister would’ve told me the truth at a young age like she told me about the nonexistence of Santa. I can't even think about the money that could've been saved on divorce lawyers.

I still believe I could have a class action suit against Mr. Hughes. It may be worth seeking, too, because I’ve spent a ton on therapy and could use that money back for some killer Christian Louboutin python stilettos. Or better yet, that shredded pink outfit Samantha wore to the dance that’s probably on Ebay right this second...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Ode to Vonnegut.

Joe, a young man from Pittsburgh, came up to me with one request: "Please tell me it will be okay."

"Welcome to Earth, young man," I said. "It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. At the outside, Joe, you've got about a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of: Goddamn it, Joe, you've got to be kind!"

I woke up early this morning with a touch of a migraine, getting up around 5’ish to take my Imitrex and fall back into bed. It must've been an omen or some sort of sympathy pain, because I awoke an hour or so later to S.O. touching my arm softly and saying, “Hey babe, Vonnegut died last night.” At least S.O. was the one to tell me gently, and I preferred that much more than being told by Matt Lauer or something. I’m just not a Matt Lauer kind of girl...

I know I never met the man, but just like countless other of his fans, I felt like I knew him enough to know that I liked him. That’s the mark of a gifted artist – to make you feel as if you can identify with him in some way. And, I did. Just as Marvin Hamlisch and "The Entertainer" made me want to play the piano at age five, Kurt Vonnegut made me want to be a better writer. He made me more honest and unapologetic.

With his passing, it was as if I lost my favorite great uncle today. He was 84, so he lived a great and very meaningful life, but it still sucked to see him go - for all the selfish reasons we have when someone dies. He was supposed to be here in Indianapolis, speaking at Butler University, on April 27th. In fact, they’ve made 2007 here in his home city “the year of Vonnegut,” which is pretty apropos. I will never do his work justice in a blog, but I can at least pay homage the best way I know how and tip my proverbial hat. He was a visionary, and he will always be in my “top five writers of all time” list.

...what made being alive almost worthwhile for me, besides music, was all the saints I met, who could be anywhere. By saints, I meant people who behaved decently in a strikingly indecent society.

Perhaps my favorite thing about his writing style – and the way I presumed he lived his life – was his raw honesty of how he viewed the world and who he was. No bullshit, no pretense, and no apologies. A writing style that I could only hope to emulate. A way of living I hope to emulate, really.

So, I’m wearing my “READ VONNEGUT” shirt today. And, if I had a beer in my hand right now, I’d hold it up for a toast and say,

"No matter how bad things get, the music will still be wonderful."

Amen, Mr. Vonnegut.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Spirit Guides, Jobsites, and Basements, Oh My!

Today (or yesterday, I think) was Easter. It was a very calm day, full of errands and day-to-day stuff. Life stuff. The stuff that happens when you're busy making other plans. Today, I was planning and just getting by, really. Allowing life to go by. Tonight, it's time to catch up and unload a bit so I can actually sleep. It's past midnight, and I'm still up. Partly because I'm a chronic insomniac, but also because I have a lot going on and the old noggin' needs clearing. And my poor blog has been like a neglected child - I'm trying to feed it to ease my own mind and to avoid the mental equivalent of Child and Family Services.

This weekend, I met my hippie-chick friend "T" on the other side of town for some tea and conversation in her favorite New Age store. When I arrived, she informed me that she'd signed me up to do a "reading" with her favorite psychic, Dave. Dave is an Indian man who channels your so-called spirit guides and tells you what they're saying to him. It's interesting. He asked me my name, my date of birth, then he closed his eyes and spewed for exactly 15 minutes (he had a timer to make sure we didn't go over). I wasn't expecting much - I try not to when in those situations, as I know most of them are clearly full of shit. I look at those experiences as entertainment. And, I try to think things in my mind to see if they can read it. It's a fun game. Things like, "Damn, I'm hungry" and "Did I remember to mail that bill?" and "God, my ass itches right now...I need to scratch it"...just wondering if they'll pick up on it. So far, no psychic has ever said, "Just scratch your ass already, OK?"

Dave told me that my primary spirit guide was an older woman - more than likely a grandmother that had passed. She'd be in her 90s if alive today. She's spunky and strong-willed...very liberal in her thinking. A somewhat mythological - yet very real - figure in my head. This could only be one person, and I wasn't shocked to know it was her if I indeed have a spirit guide. My paternal grandmother, of course. He brought up the regular things like job changes and marriage(s) and potential offspring. He talked about how my aura is overtly passionate and fiery. "Glowing and almost overpowering when (I) walked in the room," he said. I thought that was cool - to have an obnoxiously vibrant aura. But, above the predictions for me "having many, many more changes over the next six months and I'll be happy no matter what path I choose in life" I thought it was ultra-cool that he said my Dad's mom was my main spirit guide. I mean, some people pray to God. Well, I talk to my Grandma a lot, truth be told, so maybe I'm not so crazy after all. At least Dave gave me hope that I'm not...worth the 10 bucks, for sure.

I suppose it was sort of apropos for me to see a psychic dude this weekend. After all, so many changes have been occuring in my life, and it's exciting as hell. I'll start with the job front. I'm looking again...jobsites never left my side, to be honest, as the nomadic part of me never will. I've accepted this wholeheartedly, and I am proud of the fact that I'm adaptable on most days. I work in a volatile small business. Totally up my alley and a great match for my need for excitement on a regular basis. But with the everyday "rush" comes a lack of security. I love the people I work with. And, I'm part of what's considered "senior staff"....this doesn't really make me important or able to sling around some big title. I could care less about that. Rather, it makes me just that more accountable and part of both the big picture and the details. I'm in the trenches - helping to build a business. I'm also a vague figurehead. It's challenging, and I like that. But, like a lot of other small companies, it's a simultaneous crap shoot. The proverbial ship looks like it may sink, so the rats are starting to scatter. And, I know I must develop a Plan B as a result. I'm used to doing this. Hell, I'm the chick who delights in that delicious ambiguity. No big deal, but yet another change on the horizon (I'm sure) nonetheless...another reason for that chronic (yet sometimes welcome) insomnia.

Our home is on its way. It's as if a year and a half of "maybes" have come to fruition. Excavation has been completed, and we now have a big hole that will be our basement in the near future. The basement is pretty big. S.O. and I walked around in it the other day, and you could even hear an echo. It's the foundation of something new. It felt good.

In dream interpretation, basements symbolize the past. Past loves, past lives, the need to sort things out before starting anew. I've had a lot of opportunities to do just this. Several things I will replay in my head as long as I'm breathing, I believe. "Why did I do it that way?" What could I have done differently to avoid that situation? Did I really want to avoid that situation? Why did I allow that person to treat me like that? Why in the hell couldn't I see the truth - the forest through the trees - earlier? Why in the hell did I actually think that outfit looked cool?" Those types of things. What's left lurking in my subconscious? A lot, just like everyone else. But this time...this particular's just different. It's as if the house - that basement - is dirt in my hand. A tangible foundation that I can finally see, smell, and touch. It's not just in my mind. It's my reality.

In so many words, Dave said that my Grandma was telling me to "just live, and don't worry so much about past mistakes or future ones. Just live."

To some, it's a hole in the ground. To me, it's yet another fresh start to do it right. To live as rich as the soil I hold in my hand.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Age and the Manah Manah Song

I'm sore today. I mean, REALLY sore. My back hurts like a mofo, and my right arm and shoulder are throbbing. I realized this morning that while I can run a half marathon without any huge problems, I can't spend an hour at a driving range without showing my age.

Yesterday, I took the 13-year old to the driving range, attempting to do some sort of maternal'esque duty while S.O. was buying a new car for his teenage daughter. I think maternal'esque may be even too kind, really, as I allowed him to have a venti Starbucks frappe as a pre-dinner snack. As he filled up on it, I realized that this is probably why I have not yet given birth and mothered any children of my own. I'd more than likely feed them ice cream for dinner. I fully admit this.

We ventured to the golf club, and I held my own. I even managed to smack-talk back when smack-talked to. I mean, I don't think he was expecting me to be able to whack it 200 yards, but I still can, despite my own reservations. It's been a while, but I proved to myself that I still got it. It just hurts a hell of a lot more the next day.

I woke up this morning in excruciating pain and soreness, which reminded me that I am indeed getting up there in age whether I like it or not. Additionally, I had to work. And, even on top of that, it was 80 degrees here in the cornfield today. The first 80-degree day in God knows how long. I can't even remember. Needless to say, I was a little bummed that I couldn't enjoy it fully. So, I tried to be positive and remember what made me laugh as a kid. I laughed a lot as a kid. Mainly because I was really a goofy-ass kid.

While perusing You Tube for old Muppet Show bits and 70's and 80's sitcom theme songs, I came across this fabulous clip from Sesame Street. It's the "Manah Manah" song - perhaps the best Sesame Street skit of all time. It made me laugh then, and it almost made me pee my pants today (no, I'm not old enough to even think about being incontinent yet, so shut it):

Watch it all the way through without cracking some semblance of a smile. I dare you. If you can, then I don't even want to know you. need help.

Pass the Ben-Gay.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Getting in touch with my inner Gwen.

I was watching one of those cheesy entertainment shows the other night and avoided changing it mainly because Gwen Stefani was on. If I could be anyone in the entertainment business for the day, it would be her. When asked about a reunion with No Doubt, she said that they were probably going to get back together after her current tour. I'll be first in line for tickets.

For all the die-hard No Doubt fans, this is a pretty cool "evolution" video:

And of course, one of my many recent life mantra songs:

It's Thursday. Let's all get in touch with our inner Gwen...

Friday, March 16, 2007

Happy Green Beer Day.

It's St. Patty's Day here in Indy. Well, it's actually tomorrow, but today is the big parade here in town. The bagpipes are warming up, and the loudspeakers are already going. My office is in the center of downtown, on the eighth floor of an old building on a very pivotal street for the annual St. Patty's Day parade. The green and white beer tent is right outside my window, and I'm sure my coworkers and I will walk downstairs and partake a bit at lunch. It's one of the perks of working downtown. History and festive events galore. It's cold and windy out there, but that won't keep us from watching and enjoying it from our view from the top.

I was once married to an Irish dude, and one of the fond memories I have of the institution was the great shepherd's pie he made. I also gained a true love for Guinness during those years. Partly to drown him out, but also because I just like the stuff. It's good for you, you know. I suppose a lot of that could be because of the fact that I, myself, am a quarter Irish, so I have a penchant for good beer running through my veins. I'm a strawberry blonde, green-eyed chick with pretty pale skin. Let's just say I'd fit in at a bar in Dublin if I kept my mouth shut. My Dad's side of the family was raised across the street from the almighty Notre Dame, so that was crammed down my throat a lot as a kid. And, even though I'll root for Tennessee every time they play the Irish, I'll always have a soft spot for the tailgates in South Bend. It's a family thing, after all.

In the spirit of the fact that it's both Friday and the day before St. Patty's Day, I'll have my obligatory green beer and try to keep it light today. No major things to spew. No worries. Nothing but cheer and some Cranberries lyrics to top off my entry. Here's one of my favorite songs from Ms. Dolores O'Riordan and the Cranberries.

Top of the afternoon to ya.

oh my life is changing everyday
In every possible way
And oh my dreams
It's never quite as it seems
Never quite as it seems

I know i felt like this before
But now i'm feeling it even more
Because it came from you
Then i open up and see
The person falling here is me
A different way to be

I want more,
impossible to ignore
Impossible to ignore
And they'll come true
Impossible not to do
Impossible not to do

And now i tell you openly
You have my heart so don't hurt me
You're what i couldn't find
A totally amazing mind
So understanding and so kind
You're everything to me

Oh my life is changing everyday
In every possible way
And oh my dreams
It's never quite as it seems
'cause you're a dream to me
Dream to me

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Tess tasting freedom...

"If we don't change, we don't grow. If we don't grow, we are not really living. Growth demands a temporary surrender of security."
~Gail Sheehy

From Chivalry to Jong-il to Generation Me...

It’s been a while since I’ve written. Same excuses, different day. In fact, I have another deadline today. And, I’m working on getting permits for my new home. In light of these facts, my time crunch, but my yearning to spew the many things floating around in my head, I shall do this blog in another list format. Life is about learning, after all, and I’ve learned a lot in the past few weeks. What have I learned? Well, here’s my list:

Chivalry is not quite dead yet.
I learned this when I had a meeting with a man, about 60’ish, who my company was wooing for a position in New Orleans to assist in rebuilding the city with the Corps of Engineers. He was your typical, old-school, flat-top sporting man's man. Complete with Marlboro-stained teeth and vocal chords to go with the flat top. I resisted my urge to complain about the temperature in my cushy little office; after all, this guy probably crawled inside a dead cow once or twice to stay warm while in the fields of 'Nam. He had a handshake that only a Marine should have. Our meeting included him, myself, and two of my male coworkers. I was the first to greet him. And, when I entered the room, he stood up at attention, shook my hand, called me ma’am (keep in mind that I’m about half his age – O.K., almost), and then showed me singlehandedly that chivalry isn’t dead. He waited. The man would not sit until I was seated. Totally old school. I have to admit…I loved it. In fact, I'm contemplating going on a one-woman campaign to bring that shit back. S.O.’s 13-year old son has started to occasionally open a door for me here and there, so maybe there’s hope yet…one male at a time.

The Amish aren’t taxed.
Maybe my head has been in a hole. I don’t know. But, I just learned that the Amish don’t pay ANY taxes. Maybe sales tax - that hasn't been confirmed yet - but I'm still irritated. This came up in a conversation at work yesterday where one of my coworkers was comparing them to a non-profit organization. Here’s my take on that. April 15th is approaching, I’m taking it up the proverbial ass again in many respects, I’ve never gotten a break on taxes, I work my tush off, and I don’t think they should be exempt just because they have different religious beliefs than I do. No one should be exempt from taxes in this country. OK, maybe just the Native Americans, but that’s it. Amish kids go to public schools until the 8th grade, they shop in our stores, and I’ve even seen them using cell phones. Nice scam, people. Now how can I get in on this action? I refuse to wear the bonnet, but if it keeps me from getting screwed every April 15th, I need to know how I can get a slice of that homemade-from-scratch-but-not-from-electricity pie.

If you’re a skanky ex-stripper that sleeps around shamelessly, peddles diet drugs, and then perishes due to your reckless lifestyle, you are worthy of Presidential funeral coverage.
Welcome to America. Someone pinch me, because I’m in slight disbelief. I know Anna Nicole has passed away and we should have respect for the dead, but come on. Honestly. I can't stop shaking my head.

"Generation ME."
I read this article the other day about how kids nowadays are complete narcissists. The current generation of teens and 20-somethings are called “Generation Me”. I’ve seen it first hand, actually. Now, I know teenagers are by nature somewhat self-centered, but the article’s argument was that this generation is the worst ever. They have been told that they are “special and can have anything” from birth. And this has proven both dangerous and unhealthy. Now we have a bunch of spoiled brats walking around expecting life to hand them everything on a platter encased in bling. It’s an epidemic. It’s nauseating. It makes me either want to not have a kid at all or it presents a true challenge to me to make any kid I ever do have more sensitive to others. I've actually heard a kid say, "If you can't buy nice things for your kids, then you shouldn't have them." Another head-shaker. Our media doesn’t help, either. The other day, I overheard S.O.’s 13-year old watching a show on MTV called My Super Sweet 16. These girls are getting Range Rovers for their birthdays, acting like they’re celebrities. It wasn’t a joke. This is the new generation. Mark my words - basements all over the country are going to be filled with disgruntled “Generation Me” kids in the next 5-10 years because the real world - with its credit card bills (you mean I have to PAY for the stuff I charge?) and that dirty word "work" was just too much to bear. All those child psychologists who invented “you are special no matter what” and “time out” should be shot. Bring back spankings and the fear of your parent's smackdown if you don't shut up and behave, I say. It worked for my generation. Thanks, Mom and Dad.

Kim Jong-il. Satan’s new bitch.
This dude scares me. I’ll admit it. Not his stature or his little smirk I want to smack off his nasty little beady-eyed face. But the evil that sums up who he is. The dude is evil personified, and I suppose it’s scary for anyone that has half a heart to see this guy in action. I watched a documentary on the National Geographic channel about North Korea a week ago, and cameras showed just a portion of what goes on over there. A very passive and secluded country, Jong-il keeps what he does there under wraps. People there are prisoners, plain and simple. Half are starving, most never receive medical care, and none will ever know what freedom is as the country stands right now. It’s a place of brainwashing and concentration camps. The only religion – the only faith these people have – is the religion that is Kim Jong-il. I just can’t believe this crap still occurs in the year 2007. We've been overly concerned about the Middle East, but we really need to pay a bit more attention to this freak. I’ve been saying that for a while now, but that documentary solidified it for me. He’s Hitler all over again – but worse.

Size 00.
I was on the other day, perusing the new spring and summer fashions, and lo and behold, there’s a new friggin’ size. As if being a size 0 just wasn’t thin enough, there is now a DOUBLE size zero. A 00. Yep. Something more for all those wannabe anorexics to aspire to. How many celery sticks do I have to forfeit now to get into a size 00? I really WANT to look like a heroin addicted 9-year old boy. Pleease? Wow. Pass the size 4 skirt and the pudding, please. Real boys like curves, ladies...