Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Anticipatory Grief

I have a co-worker who I am immensely fond of. I respect her integrity, enjoy her sense of humor, and feel supported by her as we work together on team projects. In a workplace that is rampant with neurotic politics, she is one of the precious few I can trust absolutely, and never feel I have to "watch my back" around. Working with Megan makes the job infinitely better. We talk about all kinds of stuff and have developed a rich friendship that makes both of our work lives way better than they would be in the absence of that bond.

However, sometime in the next six months or so, Megan will be leaving the college. She and her husband have been wanting to start a family for some time now. They have been married a couple years and are ready to invite a new spirit into their lives. A couple months ago she got the news there is a bun in the oven. For her sake, I could not be more pleased. Megan will be a terrific mother, and I know this is a life path that means a great deal to her.

For my sake, I am mortified. I can't even imagine going to work there every day without her there to help carry the load. From a practical standpoint, she will be VERY difficult to replace. Trying to run the projects we are mutually involved in with out her very capable contribution will be a grim task. Beyond that, I will deeply miss my pal.

We work out together every day at lunch time and laugh at each other's jokes. In the summer time we take walks up to the pond behind the ag building to check out the fish and talk about stuff we'd never say in the building where others might hear. We have a common faith, and both teach in the children's organization or our respective congregations. So we often share insights gleaned from working with the kids or funny stories about the crazy stuff they sometimes say or do.

Even if we get a very capable replacement for Megan in terms of the job role, having her gone is going to leave a huge hole in my heart. While I do adore her in many ways, we are not connected socially. We live in different counties and are at very different points in our lives. We have a work friendship. That is rich and wonderful, but it really doesn't carry over outside of that. When she leaves the job, I'm pretty sure she will be lost to me.

Oh sure, we'll sort of keep in touch through e-mail and may occasionally give each other a call. But I've moved on myself too many times to have any illusions that we will maintain anything even remotely close to what we have now.

So my heart is grieving for her loss, even though she is still there for now.
I'm trying to take each day as a gift, to stay focused on appreciating all I can about her now - and to pick her brain about all she knows about the work projects that will be left dangling in her absence.

But mostly I am in mourning that my friend will soon be going away.

Work is going to be a much bleaker environment without my pal.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

More than you want to know

I came across the following Meme over at Jaquandor's blog...

I'm not so full of myself to think anyone actually cares, but it looked amusing so I thought I'd take a crack at these questions just to see what sort of answers I'd come up with for myself:

1) Do you have a crush on somebody?

I Googled the word "Crush" and found all sorts of nonsense, along with a few actually somewhat insightful pieces about. I kind of liked THIS ONE for kids.

I DO well remember crushes of the past and how confusing, deliciously exciting, scary, and embarrassing they could be.

But it has been many years since I've been in that emotional state. I do not have a "crush" at this point. Instead, I have wild, passionate, intense, very serious intimate love. These days my life is blessed with knock me to the ground, weak in the knees, steal away my breath sort of love. Love that will last even if he gets old and sick and I have to change his depends. Love that has carried us through the loss of a child, the loss of a job, the loss of our illusions about many things. I am wild crazy mad in love with this man of mine and it makes every day worth living. He's my world. What more can I say?

2) Do you hate more than 3 people?

I feel moments of contempt for ugly choices people make. But I believe I can honestly say I don't actually hate anyone.

3) How many houses have you lived in?

More than I have fingers and toes. Maybe more than my fingers and toes and yours too. I've moved a lot.

4) Favorite candy bar?

I'm not a big candy bar eater. I like pie. In the face or in the belly, either way it's a nice treat. When I want sweet nibbles I usually go for caramel rice cakes.
Sort of like eating sugared Styrofoam.

(There's no question 5! Anybody want to suggest a Question 5?)

6) Have you ever tripped someone?

Not on purpose. However, I did take cross country skiing for my PE credit in college. I totally collided with another skier, causing a trip to the third power. Trip cubed for sure. She needed knee surgery after. It was ugly.

7) Least favorite school subject?


8) How many pairs of shoes do you own?

Imelda who??? I'll never tell.

9) Do you own a Britney Spears CD?

No, no and HELL NO!

10) Have you ever thrown up in public?

HMMM How honest do I want to get here? I've been clean, sober and striving to follow the path of Christ for about 27 yrs. But back in the day I was known to partake in all manner of mind altering substances for recreational purposes. I vividly recall a night of peyote puking with friends out in my brother's okra patch back when I was young and foolish.

Sometime I may have to blog about my beloved's horrid puke escapade the time he got food poisoning in Boston. It's actually a sort of cool story once you get past the vomit.

11) Name one thing that is always on your mind:

Uh - this one is private.

12) Favorite genre of music?

No single genre. I change tastes with my mood - listening to anything from Rachmaninoff , Billy Holiday, Cat Stevens , Uriah Heep or my husband singing me old Elvis Presley songs in the bathtub. I also really dig Orthodox choirs.

I almost never willingly listen to country and I just don't get opera.

13) What's your sign?

I think the zodiac is silly. My star sign is Libra - but my LIFE sign would probably say something like "work in progress"

14) What time were you born?

Don't know, don't care.

15) Do you like beer?

Yech. There were many vices that were a challenge to give up. This was not one. I still remember pouring half a beer into a potted plant at my first alcohol party because I thought it tasted awful. When I got older I experimented with different brands. Never did acquire a taste for the stuff. Now straight tequila - that was another story.... But nothing of that nature in many, many moons.

16) Have you ever made a prank phone call?

No, but I've received a few.

18) Are you sarcastic?

At times.

19) What are your favorite colors?

I don't much care for orange or yellow but can appreciate just about everything else. My favorite colors in nature are the bright scarlet of sugar maple trees in the fall or the intense green of new leaves on trees. I like the bruised look of the sky right before it rains. I love the many shades of sunset - even when they turn yellow and orange. Thank you God for all the colors.

20) How many watches do you own?
I know I must still have two or three in various drawers of the house somewhere, but I have not actually worn one in months.

21) Summer or winter?

This is too vague. For what? Some stuff summer, some stuff winter. I like living in a place with diverse seasons. I try to appreciate them all, but like most folks have been known to whine some about the extremes on either end.

22) Is anyone in love with you?

Yes, my husband is IN LOVE with me. Yet if you take the "in" away from the question and just start considering who loves me in some fashion or another...I'm still pretty lucky. I feel loved by my siblings, friends, cousins, sons, grandkids, church family....It's a good feeling to know I matter to others. Then of course there's the most significant love of all - I know that I am a child of God and I am loved by Him in a way that is incomprehensible, unconditional, and absolute, even when I least deserve it. That's pretty powerful.

23) Favorite color to wear?

Whatever's clean. Not a huge priority to me. I definitely don't look good in yellow. It makes me look nauseas. I like blue. It goes with my eyes.

24) Pepsi or Sprite?

Actually I'd rather drink root beer or caffeine free Diet Dr. Pepper. But mostly I drink water.

25) What color is your cell phone?

STUPID question, but it's black.

26) Where is your second home?


27) Have you ever slapped someone?

Yes, and I STILL feel bad about it. When my 32 year old son was about 11 or 12 we had an encounter that culminated in me slapping him for using a word I found most incredibly offensive. It was NOT the right response, but just a visceral reaction to hearing that word come out of my child's mouth. I felt dreadful immediately and never did it again.

28) Have you ever had a cavity?

Several. I probably put the family dentist's kids through college.

29) How many lamps are in your bedroom?

Who thinks these things up? Some are really SOOOO pointless.

Three. One on each night stand and then a floor lamp over by the chair where my hubby sits to play the guitar and read his scriptures every night before bed.

30) How many video games do you own?

None. Won't have 'em in the house.

31) What was your first pet?

Don't know about FIRST but probably the most interesting were three squirrel monkeys: Penny, Chico and Jacko.

32) Ever had braces?

Nope, but probably should have. My parents didn't have money, so I was lucky to get all them cavities filled. When my folks used to take the 5 of us to the dentist for back to back appointments we always went in according to birth order. As the middle kid, I always went in third. When my oldest brother would come out and my next brother would go in, brother #1 would spend the whole time I was waiting my turn saying things like "now, I don't want to scare you, but there is going to be a lot of blood and it might hurt so bad you wet your pants. But it is important you don't scream cause that would scare the little kids. So be sure you stay quiet, ok?" Yeah, he was a master of psychological torture....Very cool guy NOW, but then? Marquis de Sade had nothing on my big brother Wayne. No wonder I used to be so phobic of dentists!

33) Do looks matter?

Absolutely, and I make no apology for it. I'm not so shallow as to think that they are the MOST important feature, but they do matter.

34) Do you use chapstick?

Nope, Not chopsicks either.

35) Name 3 teachers from high school:

Suffice it to say that high school was not my finest hour. I bailed out at 16 and went back later for a GED. I have my GED hanging in my office next to my masters degree. Frankly, I'm prouder of the GED.

36) American Eagle or Abercrombie?

Are you kidding? I live in a podunk town with no stores. I'm thrilled if I can drive the 30 miles to the closest JC Penny's or Sears.

37) Are you too forgiving?

Is that possible? At times I'm too gullible. But I don't think we can forgive too much.

38) How many children do you want?

I have two sons who are my biological children, plus three living and one deceased step kids, and eight grandkids.
That's probably plenty. Sometimes I get sad I did not give birth to one more. But it is what it is.

39) Do you own something from Hot Topic?

I don't even know what Hot Topic is. (And no, I didn't just forget to delete Kelly's answer to this. I don't know what it is either).

40) Favorite breakfast meal:

Does cold pizza count? What I eat in the morning varies - depends on how much time I have. Usually I grab a banana and a bagel and call that good. I do like French toast, especially if it as been coated in crunchy granola and the milk/egg batter has a little vanilla and cinnamon put in it. Yum Yum! I like going out for breakfast on lazy weekend mornings. I usually get the typical eggs/bacon/hashbrowns with a biscuit. Love good biscuits!

41) Do you own a gun?

I have an awesome high power squirt gun. My husband has several hunting rifles, so there are guns in the house but I'm not really into them.

42) Ever thought you were in love?

Refer back to question #1

43) When was the last time you cried?

Last Thursday.

44) What did you do 3 nights ago?

Went geocaching with my husband on Saturday in the afternoon then grabbed burgers and fries on the way home. Cheap date, lots of fun.

45) Olive Garden?

Hey, anything I don't have to cook is good with me!

46) Have you ever called your teacher mommy?

This is a way stupid question. No. But then, I rarely called my mother "mommy" either.

47) Have you ever been in a castle?

Yes - in Victoria, BC. It was cool.

48) Nicknames?

Belladonna Piranha

49) Do you know anyone named Bertha?

I have an aunt named Bertha. She goes by Bert.

50) Ever been to Kentucky?

Yep. Explored some cool caves at a place called "Raccoon Mountain".
Also went through it on my way to Nashville one time.

The only states I have not been in are Maine and all those tiny ones clustered up there in New England.

51) Do you own something from Banana Republic?

Nope. Remember, small town NO STORES.

52) Are you thinking about somebody right now?

Do the characters of a book count? I just finished reading the book "Animal Farm" this evening so I am still pondering over it.

53) Ever called somebody Boo?

Only Boo Radley in "To Kill a Mockingbird"

54) Do you smoke?

Not anymore. Gave that up with all those other nasty vices.

55) Do you own a diamond ring?

Yes - my wedding band has three diamonds in it.

56) Are you happy with your life right now?

Most days yes. Some days no. There are of course some specific things about it I might wish were different...But generally I'm pretty grateful for the whole gambit of experiences I get dealt - even the stinky ones as they often turn out to be my greatest teachers.

57) Do you dye your hair?


58) Does anyone have a crush on you?

I seriously doubt it!

59) Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts?

I don't drink coffee... But I do love Walla Walla Roastery for other things.

60) What were you doing in May of 1994?

You've got to be kidding me. I had a hard time with the question about what I was doing three nights ago!

62) McDonald's or Wendy's?

Taco Bell (But Wendy's if I had to really limit myself to the other two)

63) Do you like yourself?

Today, yes.

64) Are you closer to your mother or father?

Neither. I was raised by wolves. Both of my biological parents are deceased, but even when they were alive we were not close.

65) Favorite physical feature of the preferred sex?

beard. ( I have a SERIOUS beard fetish....After years of being clean shaven, my husband let his whiskers grow during the last deer hunt. I liked it so much I mailed his fancy expensive razor to our son in Michigan so my beloved would keep the beard.)

66) Are you afraid of the dark?

depends who I get to share it with.

67) Have you ever eaten paste?

No, but when was a really little kid I used to eat my boogers. Sorry, I know that was disgusting, but this quiz is asking some rather odd things so I just thought I'd mention it.

68) Do you own a webcam?

I have one at work but do not own (or want) one of my own.

69) Have you ever stripped?

Every time I take a shower

70) Ever broke a bone?

In my foot. I was hanging up Venetian blinds after washing them and stepped off the bed. Now I just let the darn things get dirty - it's not worth it.

71) Are you religious?

I prefer to think of me as a spiritual person rather than a religious person.
I am actively involved in my church - but my "religious life" has a lot more to do with quiet, private introspection, sorting out of values, and striving to walk my talk.

72) Do you chat on AIM often?

The only AIM I know of is a toothpaste. Oh, my husband says there is also an herbicide called AIM. Other than that I am clueless.

73) Pringles or Lays?

Whatever is handy. Really, I'm not that fussy.

74) Have you ever broken someone's heart?

I've disappointed people plenty, most of all myself.

75) Rugrats or Doug?

Don' know anything about either. If it's TV, I don't watch it much.

76) Full House or The Brady Bunch?

See above

77) Do you like your high school guidance counselor?

My brief time in high school was a nightmare. I didn't like anybody or anything, least of all myself.

78) Has anyone ever called you fat?

A few years ago I was asked if I were pregnant when I wasn't. OUCH.

79) Do you have a birth mark?

Yes - a brown spot on the inside of my left thigh. When I was little I used to think it looked like an ape head. Actually, I have not even noticed it for a long long time. I wonder if it's still there.

80) Do you own a car?

2005 Ford Fiesta

81) Can you cook?

I am blessed with a husband who cooks, so I only VERY RARELY have to do this.
But I can make up a mean pan of chili rejenos when I am in the mood.

84) Money or love?

I've always heard it's just as easy to love a rich man as a poor one.

85) Do you have any scars?

Many, all over my heart. And a few on my body, but none that are all that interesting. Well, maybe the one on my mangled finger from the time I got my hand caught in a cotton gin.

86) What do you want more than anything right now?

For my kids to be happy, productive, healthy men with moral integrity.

87) Do you enjoy scary movies?

Absolutely not. I've had too many REAL scary experiences to enjoy the feeling for entertainment sake.

88) Relationships or one night stands?

25 years of monogamy and going strong.

90) Do you enjoy greasy food?

More than I should, apparently. See question #78

91) Have you seen all the Rocky movies?

I don't think I've ever seen ANY of them all the way through. Just bits and pieces while channel surfing.

92) Do you own a box of crayons?

Yep. The 64 pack. AND the big fat ones. Somewhere around here I think I still have the fluorescent ones. Crayons rock!

93) Who was the last person that said they loved you?

My handsome bearded husband.

94) Who was the last person that made you cry?

my own fear, although it may have been triggered by someone else's remark.

95) Who was the last person that made you laugh?

The question asks for a PERSON so I guess it doesn't count that I just laughed at my Basset Hound's snoring.

I've laughed several times today...It has been a good day. Don't really keep score of when and why. I just take it where I can get it.

97) Who was the last person that called you?

My cousin Gay.

And that's the quiz -- except for the mysterious missing Questions Numbers 5, 17, 61, 82, 83, and 96 that seem to be missing for some reason. Maybe someone cut those out because they didn't like or approve of them? Personally, if that were the case I think they should have cut out a few more. This is a pretty silly quiz!

But for what it is worth - there it is. Now I'm off to bed!

Monday, January 22, 2007

What's in this stuff?

In the writing class I am currently taking, the assignments are to read various essays each week and then to write an analysis of the arguments presented. I am NOT to get involved in whether I agree or disagree with the arguments themselves. Instead, I merely assess the tactics that were used to present them, then state whether or not they were effective and why.

That’s all well and good. I genuinely do see how assessing arguments this way helps hone my critical thinking and will in all likelihood make me more mindful of the sorts of devises I use in my own writing. But what about the ISSUES that are raised about these topics? Where do I go to sort out my thoughts, opinions and feelings about them?

You guessed it…in the paraphrased words of the Big Bad Wolf to Little Red Riding Hood, “why, all the better to blog you with, my dear!”

The one I am currently working on is Biotech Agriculture and the Ethics of Food Production. There are a collection of short essays taking various sides on the question of whether or not genetically engineered food is safe for human consumption, along with the ethical debate over whether or not such foods should be required to be labeled at such so that consumers can make informed choices about what they are eating.

So I raise the question….if you are drinking Soy milk that was made from “Roundup-Ready” soybeans, would you care? Basically “Roundup Ready” means the soybean seeds were tinkered with so that farmers could spray the herbicide roundup on the field to kill all the nasty weeds without hurting the soybeans. That makes it much easier for them to manage problems of all the invasive plants that creep into fields without hurting the cash crop.

Is this important to you?

Now, just to be perfectly clear...I have NO idea whether or not the makers of SILK soymilk or any other brand use transgenic soybeans or not. The brand I buy says "Organic" so my guess would be those do not. My concern is - once the soybeans are harvested, how does one know if they are "natural" or "transgenic"? I'm still learning about the regulations involved. Should soybean growers (or other food producers) have to disclose EVERYTHING that was ever sprayed on their crops? Should they have to disclose certain classes of things only? What about crops that are NOT directly sprayed, but are planted right next door to ones that are? Do I need to worry about drift issues and groundwater?

When I buy produce in a grocery store I don't always pay attention to where my fruit and veggies come from. However, I have noted that there are increasing numbers of crops being imported here from other countries, some of which have far less regulation that we do about what sorts of chemicals can or cannot be used.

In light of the recent California freeze, chances are a lot of the citrus and strawberries we see in shops later on will be coming from South America or Australia rather than here. Should we expect there to be a label telling us if there has been any genetic development in the seed of a plant? (Currently there is none).

How important is this to you?

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Dead Kitty

I originally wrote this as a comment on Jaquandor's blog, but decided to post it here as well.

This evening on our way home from a trip into town we ran over a cat. It dashed out in the road immediately in front of us. My husband hit the brakes and tried to avoid it. But then - BUMP - CRUNCH. No doubt about it. Kitty was toast. I felt sad, even though there really wasn’t much else we could do.

We were out on a quiet, rural road away from any residential area, so there’s no telling if it was somebody’s pet or just one of the many feral cats that abound in this area. Should it matter? Do I feel worse for the CAT that we actually killed or for the PERSON who may be missing it tonight? I admit, I can't help but wonder if it may have come from one of the distant farm houses where some child may be weeping over the loss of her beloved Fluffy. Or, even if it were a stray…it may have had babies holed up in some culvert, that are now left mewing and hungry this cold, dark night.

I can't quite shake the creepiness that the THUD of impact gave me. I find myself wondering …should we have stopped? We didn’t. We kept on driving home. What if it didn’t die right away? What if it suffered? I shudder to think on that too much.

I find myself curious about my own emotional response to the event. How long or how deeply does it make sense to mourn for a cat that jumped out into a country road at twilight? It would feel totally heartless to me to just shrug my shoulders and say “stupid cat!” Yet on the other hand…how much sorrow does the snuffing out of this feline life merit? What does feeling bad or not feeling bad mean? If I just forget about it does that make me a cold, heartless bitch? If I keep lingering over my sorrow and remorse am I being a sensitive, caring person or a fool?

The other thing I’ve noticed is that for all my genuine regret over the incident, my sadness if considerably less than if it had been a dog we’d hit instead. I like dogs better than cats. I think cats are ok, but I don’t have one nor do I want one. I would be heartsick had we hit a dog. I am just sorta sad we hit a cat. I’m neither comfortable nor uncomfortable with that distinction. I just notice it.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Hyde and Hare

I just finished reading "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" by Robert Louis Stevenson. Old "Mr Coffee" sure had some powerful word images.

(My siblings and I used to spend many hours playing the card game "authors" when I was growing up. We made up names for the different writers pictured on the cards - probably to help out the younger kids who could not read. Stevenson was "Mr. Coffee", Nathaniel Hawthorne was "Goldilocks", Sir Walter Scott was "Lurch" (From the Adams family)...but I digress.)

I've been long exposed to the general story line of Jekyll and Hyde, but this was the first time I took it all in from start to finish from the original source.

My first encounter with the story line came when I was but a wee mite, watching old bugs bunny cartoon. The episode of Hyde and Hare was quite an amazing production. This was back before cartoons primary function was to sell merchandise. Back in the 50's they were filled with amazing music and often were take offs on serious literature.

I find it interesting that the characters of Jekyll and Hyde have become so incorporated into our culture...even though many people don't know for sure which was the "good" respectable person and which one the depraved monster.

I suppose we all have a bit of facination with the idea that both good and evil reside in each of us, and cannot help but wonder which part of our nature is most likely to rule in the quiet dark when no one is looking.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Who would you Morph With?

My oldest brother is a computer whiz, and has mastered the art of "Morphing" digital images. This means starting with two still images he creates an animation that slowly turns one picture into the other picture. For instance, he has a blind friend that he created a morph of that changes Ryan into his Guide Dog. It's really amazing to watch.

However, he has also come up with another interesting use of the technology. He has a photo of himself that he has tinkered with so that it is 75% him and 25% Mel Gibson. You really can't tell he's doctored the image at's still at the stage that it is very much recognizably HIM, yet somehow a bit more - powerful? Hard to identify exactly what is different. But there is a definite Mel factor going on that makes my brother looking much hotter in this particular picture than he does in real life. Hey, he's a GREAT guy, but no movie star!

So who would YOU morph with to "spice up" your own physical features? I know this is shallow and silly, what I find interesting about the question is to discern what other people find attractive.

Absolutely there is more to being comfortable in one's own skin, smiling sincerely, and the light-in-the-eyes that comes from spiritual peace that exudes a sense of beauty than full lips or high cheekbones.

Still... how we define what features are attractive is intriguing just the same.

I'd love to look like Reba McEntire.

That doesn't mean I am going to despise myself for being who I am.

Who would you morph your image with - to still be you but maybe add a thing or two?

Monday, January 15, 2007

My Beloved Gets Buff

My husband has set some goals to improve his overall health over the next few months by eating more rabbit food and starting a regular exercise program. This was prompted by noting how much air he rapidly sucked down when he was scuba diving in Egypt this past November. We have tentatively planned a trip to Hawaii for this fall, and he wants to be in better shape for going diving there in order to prolong his down time. Besides, he'll just plain feel better if he gets more consistent cardiovascular workouts and drops a few pounds.

So, in support of this goal, today we bought an Image 8.25 Elliptical machine. The promo material says: The smooth, elliptical motion of the Image 8.25 Elliptical trainer provides an effective fat-burning workout while eliminating the harmful impact on your ankles, knees and hips. Silent magnetic resistance allows you to adjust your workout intensity without interrupting your workout. With ten intensity levels, grip pulse sensors and a large LCD display.

What it DOESN'T tell you is that you take it home in a box full of itty bitty pieces which have to be assembled and some of the directions are about as discernible as the ancient hieroglyphics we saw in Egyptian burial tombs.

It took him a couple hours of trial and error, puzzling over diagrams, swearing, sweating, and much teeth grinding...but my beloved prevailed. He managed to interpret all that Insert tab A into Slot B jargon, combine it with his innate Bob-the-Builder handiness, and come away with one fully assembled soothly operating machine with no parts left over. What a deal! I hope he likes it, cause there is NO WAY we'd ever get it back into the box to return it if he changed his mind.

Choosing Colors

I'm hoping to get my bedroom painted sometime in the next couple months. However, I'm having a tough time selecting a color. Right now the ceiling and top half of the walls are sort of a buttery yellow and the bottom half of the walls are a bluish-purple, with the two colors separated by a wallpaper border of flowers and ribbons incorporating both colors against a white background. There is white carpet and white battenburg lace valances over the windows. The whole thing is MUCH too Martha Stewart looking for my tastes. So I'm ready to pick something new. However, after looking at dozens of paint chips I'm baffled about what to try next.

The fact that the room is 18 x 20 with 14' vaulted ceilings makes painting the place a bit of a challenge...but also makes it that much more important to me. That's A LOT of yellow right now and I just don't care for it.

It's amazing how much color can influence mood. I read once about a jail that painted all their cells a certain shade of pink because it was supposed to be "calming".

I definitely don't want pink.

I'm looking at several shades of beige, sage green, and about 47 different colors of white. I'm thinking I want very neutral background and then may do a bold mural all across the one high wall and part of the ceiling.

Or I may do some sort of sponge-paint or feather-paint to give the walls a textured look. Dunno...

But this yellow definitely has go to go.

If it were just up to me I'd probably paint one wall a very BOLD color and then some quieter color to complement on the rest of the room. But hubby dearest isn't crazy about that idea. Last time I tried somethng BOLD I slected "Library Red" for the office nook under our stairs. My beloved decided after it was done that it looked like a murder scene - the color conjured up images of dried blood for him every time he went there, so he painted over it with some neutral beige. Based on that experience, I probably won't want to go with anything quite so dramatic this time. But I definitely want some WAKE UP AND SEE ME color in there somewhere.

What sort of colors do you like?

Baby Bear Eggs

Both my husband and I have the day off from work today in honor of MLK, so we've enjoyed a slow, relaxed morning together and then drove the six miles to the next town to have breakfast at the Adams cafe. It's places like this that make me appreciate living out here in the middle of rural nowhere land. The waitress was friendly without being intrusive, The atmosphere of the place charming without being cliche. I was served what can only be called "baby bear eggs"...not too hard, not too soft, but JUST RIGHT! Goldilocks would have loved 'em. The fresh biscuit was to die for yummy. The hot chocolate to wash it all down completely hit the spot. The only bad part of breakfast there was that afterwards I was much too full to even consider sampling either the fresh home-baked coconut cream pie or the blackberry cobbler they were offering. I guess we'll have to go back another time to check out the pie.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Books on Tape

I just finished listening to "Pegasus Descending" by James Lee Burke, read by my all time favorite recorded books reader, Will Patton. I honestly don't know which I enjoy more, Burke's impecible writing or Patton's fantastic vocal performance.

I've read or listened to so many of Burke's novels I feel like I understand Dave Robicheaux fairly well. He's a complex man. I even like his violent prone side-kick, Cleat Pursell (even though he does sometimes have a potty mouth).

I've been so impressed by Will Patton's reading that I had my local library do a search of all the books on tape in their collection that were read by Patton. I think I could be entertained by hearing that man read the telephone book.

I've been giving some thought to the way I process books diffently when I listen to them rather than when I read them myself. I have read some books later after having first heard them on tape, or visa versa. The experience is clearly different, although I am at a loss as to really explain how.

Generally speaking I will avoid books read by the author. There are some great writers out there who can craft a superb tale but have no style at all when it comes to reading aloud. There are some exceptions...but a bad reader can destroy a good book. I usually prefer male readers...although I have heard a few read by women that I very much enjoyed (such as the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich. I will never in all my life forget the classic dog humping scene in one of those husband and I both got to laughing so hard while we were listening to it on a road trip over Bluett Pass we almost went off the road!)

I will never give up on the delicious experience of curling up in a cozy chair with a good book...but the chance to make use of car time to get lost in some stories is something I appreciate as well.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Dog Turd Analogy

I do not watch any Rated “R” movies in theaters. I will, on occasion, watch the edited version on TV. However, lately it seems the networks are cutting out less and less, so my tolerance for those films is wearing thin as well.

I recognize that the movie rating system is rather arbitrary – some GREAT flicks are rated R and some truly dreadful films with lots of borderline material is rated PG-13. So I can’t entirely rely on the rating system. But it is a starting point for me to at least screen out those films that are pretty sure to have profanity, violence, or sex scenes.

I am less offended by most sex scenes than I am by the blatant violence that abounds in so many films. Still, what ever happened to the good old days when people would look longingly into one another’s eyes and then have the camera cut away to the crashing waves or a fireplace? I assure you, I have a very vivid imagination. I can figure out what happens next. I really don’t need to see people get naked and jump on each other. Watching other people get it on just isn’t all that entertaining for me.

I really dislike the violence. So many movies are going for the gore factor - not just needing to show you that someone was killed, but making sure they maximize the shock factor with as much blood and twitching as possible. YUCK! Those who routinely watch that sort of thing get to the point of being pretty desensitized to it all - crash scenes and shootouts every few minutes until the audience becomes numb to it all, leading to an ever increasing effort on the part of film makers to create scenes more titillating. No thanks. Not for me.

What offends me the most is the profanity. I HATE listening to cheap, coarse talk. I’ve heard people say: “Oh, it’s a really good movie. There’s this one part where they use some bad language, but other than that everything is really good.”

I equate that to the Dog Turd Analogy. If you went to a fancy banquet, where there was a beautiful table set with fine china and crystal, piled high with the most exquisite foods you ever did see – yet there was one tiny dog turd on the side of your plate, would you continue to eat from it? Could you just scoot the turd out of your way and ignore it while you savored the rest of the meal? I don’t know about you, but I could not. I would consider the whole dinner contaminated.

Or how about if someone offered you a glass of fine wine that you saw someone place just three or four drops of urine or blood into. You probably wouldn’t even taste it. Would you still drink the wine? I would not. (Ok, maybe that one is cheating since I don’t drink alcohol of any kind ….but you get my meaning.)

I find profanity offensive. I have been known to resort to it on occasion, (like when I hit my thumb with a hammer) but for the most part it’s not part of my every day speech.

What I find interesting is the degree to which I have tolerated it in some of the books I’ve read. In print I seem more willing to just bleep it out with the occasional foul mouth character comes along. If the stuff continues to crop up I have been known to put a book down. Bad language is what keeps me from reading any more of Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta novels. Cornwell writes some great stuff, but there is that one foul mouthed cop that keeps turning up and his language is beyond what I am willing to bear.

I find it frustrating that I have no indicator for books like I do for movies. I hate it when I get 2/3 of the way through a novel and am engrossed in the plot, attached to the characters, only to get smacked in the face by several pages in a row sprinkled with curse words. (Such as the one I recently finished, "The Book of Fate.")

Why do writers find it necessary to use that kind of language? I've heard some people use the argument "it's realistic!" Yeah, well so are hangnails, tax audits and diarrhea and I don't much want to read about those either.

Vulgar words are all a bunch of poop in my book.

There are so many more eloquent ways to express thoughts and events.

Oh - and for those of you who were totally grossed out by the picture of a pile of poop up top of this's actually FOSSILIZED POOP, Cenozoic coprolite, reputedly from a carnivorous mammal. The organic matter in fossil poop has been completely replaced by minerals, and has no odor.

Still not something I want on my plate at a banquet, no matter what sort of stone it has become.

Facing My Fears

One of the perks of working for a community college is that I get free tution. After considering all the different things our winter schedule had to offer, this term I enrolled in two online classes: Intermediate Algebra and College Composition.

I do not "need" either of these courses for any program or credential. I have in fact completed comparable classes many moons ago when I did my undergrad degree. However, I want to learn what these classes have to offer, so I'm jumping in full blast with both feet. I am both nervous and excited about taking this challenge on.

I've NEVER been strong in math. Beyond that, having not used Algebra much for the past 20 years I've forgotten most of what I ever had learned. This Algebra class is a chance for me to face down my years-long math anxiety once and for all. I'm hoping that if I really apply myself this time, with the intent to truly master the concepts rather than merely jumping through hoops of college requirements, I can build a strength in place of the weakness I now have.

As for the college comp class ---I'm thinking it will help me polish my writing, my critical thinking and give me some practice in taking criticism with grace. At least that's what I hope to accomlish. I'm taking it from the toughest teacher on campus - a real gem of a guy who I like and respect, but someone I know has a well earned reputation of being a sadist with a red pen. He is a ruthless editor of student work and has incredibly high expectations. We'll see how it goes.

Then, last but not least, I've started swimming in the college pool a few days a week on my lunch hours. Most of my early life I was TERRIFIED of water. I experienced a couple nasty near drownings as a kid and never entirely let go of the fear those episodes triggered. I finally got over the worst of the panic as an adult and did learn to swim enough to get by, though not well. When my husband took up scuba diving I tried taking lessons twice so I could go with him on his adventures as his dive buddy...Not a chance! No matter how hard I tried, I just didn't have enough confidance in the water and having on all the equipment made me totally claustrophobic.

I've avoided water for the most part, with occassional forays that were never entirely comfortable. Now I am ready to try again. I'm doing pool time to give my body some much needed exercise and to get more comfortable just being in the water. I won't ever be a great swimmer. With practice, however, I can get stronger at it than I am and hopefully conquer that lingering anxiety.

Next term I'm planning to look for some "fun" classes, like maybe ceramics or yoga. But this time around I deliberately want to face my fears and give myself a chance to develop in these areas.

We'll see how it goes...

Monday, January 08, 2007

Did you change your mind??

I've been giving some thought lately to what makes people change their mind.

What makes us hold firm to some convictions/ beliefs/ opinions/ preferences and allow others to be more tentative or malleable?

Whether it be religious conversion, relationship splits or a dramatic shift in political views, I'm always curious when someone I know makes a distinct turnaround in what they believe or how they behave.

As an educator I often wonder about the degree to which new information does or does not influence my students' world views.

Then, bringing it closer to home I ask myself what part of my own values, beliefs, ideas I insist on as CORE TRUTHS for my life and which are merely a product of what I've learned/experienced so far but open to possible shifts in the future? What do I want to hold on firmly to no matter what? What am I willing to keep more open about? How do I decide?

There is so much talk of "situational ethics", of right and wrong being relative. What do I believe is RIGHT or WRONG no matter what? Where do those beliefs come from? In what ways do those beliefs serve me and in what ways may they limit me?

When it comes to an individual's "personality", what aspects of how they experience and express themselves do I expect to remain constant and what parts are continually evolving?

When making plans or promises or commitments, how far do the circumstances have to shift before is feels acceptable to break them?

Yeah...these are the things I think of at night when my brain goes round and round...

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Elegant Sentences

I've decided that I am going to begin keeping tabs on what I read. I am an eclectic reader, often having three or more books going on at the same time. I have them in different rooms of the house, with another one on CD in my car. What I pick up to peruse depends on what mood I am in and what else I have going on at the time.

There are books for bedtime, books for bathtime, books for thinking big thoughts. There are stories that make me laugh, make me weep, make me rage and those that turn me shy. I love a well turned out sentence and am absolutely enchanted when a writer (whether of non-fiction or novel) can truly transport me into a different time and place.

I've read so many books they all sort of run together in my head and I begin to forget them. So I'll keep a running list of what I currently have going over in my "Books I'm Reading Now" side bar, and then move them down to the "Books I've Read" for the ones I finish all the way.

Yeah, sometimes I get part way through and just lose interest... (as I did recently with Jane Smiley's novel "Moo". I made it half way through the book and realized I didn't like ANY of the characters, didn't like the setting and was alternately bored or annoyed with the whole thing. I finally pitched it in favor of some thriller mystery about an extreme skier caught up in a world of bad stuff that my husband had been reading..."Fall Line" by Mark T. Sullivan. It was a whole lot more fun.) Other times I get way busy and there are long gaps between when I start and when I actually make it to the last page.

Every now and then I'll find one that I absolutely CANNOT put down, and on one occasion was known to call in sick to a job just so I could lie in bed reading the last delicious pages of a book I was enthralled with, yet oddly enough cannot even remember right now. (it was a long time ago... I remember the bed, the blankets, the choice, just not the book. Strange.)

The other side benefit I hope to get by keeping a record of what I read is that it will push me to be more deliberate in my choices of reading material. Sometime I go in spurts, as in when I read almost nothing but science fiction for three solid years. I still very much enjoy Sci Fi, but a steady diet feels woefully unbalanced to me. So I want to be sure I mix and match - reading some fiction, some nonfiction, some fluff, some weightier stuff...

I'm quite open to recommendations. Have you read any good books lately? What would you suggest?


I have a few different scattered postings about my trip to Egypt in November 2006.
Most were on this blog, but I'd left a few on my earlier blog effort, Apprentice Human. I decided I wanted to gather those over here as well so I could keep all my Egypt stuff together in one spot. It was such an amazing adventure, I don't ever want to forget.

Back in the USA
Choosing the Sacred
The Miracle of Manna

Monday, January 01, 2007


Places I wander

Black Owl
Byzantium's Shores
Lords of the Manner
Upstream and Down
Violins and Starships
Alice's photography

My Orthodox Friends
Bigger Than a Breadbox (Mimi)
Close to Home (Molly Sabourin)
In the Process of Weeding Out(Papa Herman)
It's Later Than You Think (Mr. H)

Food Blogs
Good Eats and Life
Mommy, What's For Dinner?
Yahoo Recipies

Writing Resources
Errant Epiphanies
Internet Writing Workshop
American Night Writers Association (ANWA)

Kat Tracks
Days In Our Lives - Ty & Dina
Bennett Family - Ryan & Tanya
Bennett Family - Nick & Brittany
Kelly Bennett Photography
Pill Family - "All About Us"
Remembering Fred

Destruction Elf

I've been talking to a few different people about when they plan to take down their Christmas decorations. Some put so much effort into putting up lights they choose to leave them up all year rather than re-do it. Is that being efficient or tacky?

We didn't do house/yard lights this year. For that matter, I didn't decorate the outside at all, although I have in years past. This year my take-down process has been fairly simple and all in the coziness of being inside.

As a general rule, I almost always take down all our Christmas decorations - whether simple or elaborate, right after Christmas is done. Like the very next day. On a couple years I started packing it away by 10 PM on Dec 25! This is so much a part of my usual tradition that when it was all still up on Dec 26 my husband was astonished, and said to me: "who are you and what have you done with my wife?"

This year my plan was to leave it up till Jan 7, the Orthodox celebration of Nativity. But I just couldn't do it. The tree came down on the 27th and today I will put away all the nativity sets (I have A LOT - and put out 15 of them this year) along with angels, holly, wreaths and other decorations.

Although I do look forward to this sacred season, and for the most part enjoy it, for a variety of reasons I'm always eager to put Christmas behind me.

Ya know how some people make big bucks decorating places for Christmas? I could be the destruction elf. I love taking it all down. I'd be happy to undecorate OTHER people's trees as well as my own, and after having moved 28 times I'm a very skilled packer. HMMM... Maybe a new sideline?

Books Read or Listened to in 2007

What Should I Do With My Life by Po Bronson
Life on the Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers
Black Holes and Baby Universes by Steven Hawking
A Thousand Splendid Sunsby Khaled Hosseini
The Dry Divide by Ralph Moody
A Random Act by Cindi Broddus
Nothing to Regret by Tristi Pinkston
The Hammer of God by Arthur C. Clarke
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
An Arsonist's Guide to Writers Homes in New England by Brock Clarke
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Man's Search For Meaning by Victor Frankl
High Five by Janet Evanovich
The Innocent Man by John Grisham
Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community and War by Nathaniel Philbrick
River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey by Candice Millard
City of Bones by Michael Connelly
Overcoming Life's Dissappointments by Harold Kushner
Pompeii by Robert Harris
Eye Contact by Kerri McGovern
Full Moon Rising by Keri Arthur
Three Weeks With My Brother by Nicholas and Micah Sparks
Letters To My Daughters by Mary Matalin
The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman
A Guide to Getting It: Passion & Purpose (multiple authors)
A Guide to Getting It: Creative Intelligence (multiple authors)
The Broker by John Grisham
Isolation Ward by Joshua Spanogle
Strange Piece of Paradise by Terri Jentz
The Puzzle Bark Tree by Stephanie Gertler
Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
The Rebels of Ireland by Edward Rutherford
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Sula by Toni Morrison
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Fourth Dawn by Bodie & Brock Thoene
1984 by George Orwell
Frankenstein by Mary Shelly
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
The Book of Fate by Brad Meltzer
Pegasus Descending by James Lee Burke
Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Lando by Louis L'Amour
Jewel by Bret Lott
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
The Promised King by Kelly Sedinger

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