Saturday, December 30, 2006

2006 in multimedia

One of my favorite things about my Entertainment Weekly subscription is the Stephen King article found on the back page twice a month. In homage to his year end lists, here is my top 10 in multimedia, in no particular order.

1. Gilmore Girls - still continues to be one of the best tv shows ever. It is a sin that Lauren Graham has not even been nominated for an Emmy - and just the continued disrespect for the WB and now the CW. It has great characters (I really wish Lorelai were real and we could hang out together), humor, interesting stories, growth, a fantastic cast. I could go on and on. And yes - I am very glad Lorelai married Chris.

2. An Inconvenient Truth - I've been ticked at Al Gore for years for the shotty campaign he ran for pres, but he helped win me back with this movie. He's dealing with issues vital to our survival on this planet, and in an entertaining way (even my 12 year old was able to sit and enjoy it).

3. Taking the Long Way by the Dixie Chicks - easily their best CD to date.

4. These Streets by Paolo Nutini - a young Scotsman with a CD I can't hear enough. James Blunt should watch his back.

5. The History of Love by Nicole Krauss - a book recommended by the Asheville book group - I probably would not have picked it up otherwise. The story is unique with characters I don't think I will forget for many years.

6. Beyonce's and Carrie Underwood's Cheatin' Songs - Irreplaceable by Miss B and Before You Cheat by Miss U are two very different, but very great songs about the same thing - how to treat a man who cheats on you. Just be sure to shove the truck to the left with the baseball bat.

7. Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series - I discovered this series this summer, right before the latest one was published. The last couple are not quite up to par with the earlier ones, but still a highly entertaining series perfect for the beach.

8. The Office - When NBC announced they were stealing yet another BBC series, I was understandably quite concerned. Yet, they have transformed a series I liked into one I that I absolutely love. The American version has even funnier characters, and with a sweetness that makes me pull for each one of them. Can't wait to see more.

9. Casino Royale - Sean Connery, you will always have a special place, but I am officially over lamenting the years since you left.

Well, I only have 9 in my list and there just is no 10. I haven't seen as many movies or read as many books as I have in years past (or watched as much tv). So to round out the list - here is my biggest disappointment of the year - easily XMen 3. Brett Ratner will forever be on my hit list for taking an incredible series and really blowing it. The movie just stunk. The only thing that saved it was the fantastic cast and the history of the first two movies. Brett - shame on you, and learn to tell a story with a little more character development, less fright about women's power, and a little (or a lot) less violence that does not progress the story. Stop dating models or celebutants and start shadowing Spielburg or Soderberg.

All in all, a good year. I'm sure other great movies, books, tv shows and cds came out - and I missed them. Hopefully I catch up in latter years.

Friday, December 22, 2006


Princess was Mary in the Children's Nativity this past Sunday. She's sitting beside the donkey (if you're not sure what the little boy's costume represents). Each year, the children grades 5 and younger dress up and are the Nativity scene while the Christmas story is told. My favorite part was when it was said that Mary gave birth, and Princess unceremoniously grabbed the baby doll from under her wrap and plopped the baby into the manger. He was left with his left arm sticking straight up for the rest of the scene. When I asked Princess about it later, she responded, "It's just plastic - it wasn't a real baby."

Thursday, December 21, 2006

7th ring of hell

I must first say that I should not have been in the situation I found myself yesterday. This meeting in Fort Worth did not have to be scheduled a week before Christmas. It could have been last week, two weeks ago, or some other time. I didn't schedule it. And I know it could have been much worse - I could have been traveling with kids.

Yes, I found myself in the 7th ring of hell at DallasFortWorth airport yesterday. I had a direct flight to Greensboro at 1:20. Weather was fine there and in Gboro, but my flight was delayed and had gate changes 5 or 6 times until about 4:30. And then they announced the flight was cancelled due to mechanical difficulties. It's a little regional jet with about 36 seats, but when those of us on the cancelled flight arrived at the gate where rescheduling was taking place - there were about 100 people in line in front of us and two flight attendants working the desk. 20 minutes went by and about 5 people were helped. I began to wonder if I could get home that night - certainly there were enough flights going somewhere, but if it took 2 hours to get my flight rebooked...

Then an attendant told us we could exit and go to the main desk to rebook. (which of course meant going back through security, but hey, if it sped things up by an hour or two...) About 15 of us took off. I walked 12 minutes as fast as I could (and I had already walked rather quickly for some of those gate changes). If I walk at that pace, I can make a mile in 15 minutes. So, I found myself at the main desk out front. She said she would book me on the 8pm flight to Gboro - the following night! I explained (hopefully calmly) that I wished to get home that night and would take any flight which would connect me to Gboro. She found a flight to Philly that left in an hour. I was tired and not enjoying the prospect of being stranded without my bag in either Dallas or Philly. I made my way rather quickly to the gate, only to find out that flight had been delayed so long that I would not make the connection to Gboro. (Did I mention that most of the monitors in DFW were not working properly, so that we were always having to ask attendants for correct info?)

So there I stand, thinking, I'll be stranded in Philly. Then I happen to overhear someone mention a flight that was leaving in 5 mins for Philly at a gate in that same terminal, but at the other end. I took off. I got there about 2 minutes before they closed the door, and they did have 2 empty seats.

Once in Philly, I had just enough time to get to the new gate, get a fizzy diet coke (which was dinner - they don't even give pretzels on American anymore), call hubby, and then get on the little connector to Gboro.

My luggage did arrive in Gboro this morning on one of the full flights directly from DFW. Thank heavens for that.

Just pure luck, good ears, and fast feet got me home last night. Thank heavens. And I sure hope all those people not in good health and traveling with kids get where they need to be.

Monday, December 18, 2006

One bad ride in a van

I'm in Fort Worth for a meeting. It's the usual exhausting stuff. My day ended in a series of misadventures on the ride back to the hotel. Several of us were riding in mini-van. I graciously offered to sit in the very back. There were two bucket seats in front of me. They are the kind that have to be folded up for someone to get in my seat. As the very kind man in front of me tried to fasten his seat back to the floor, he banged my knees with the seat - three times.

The ride back continued to be eventful - the driver drove rather fast and furiously. I was slung from side to side, trying not to hit my bruised knees. And then we hit a bump, and my head hit the ceiling rather hard. I thought there was a dent on the ceiling when I got out.

And then when the ride was finally over - and I was on my way to get some Advil, I was having some difficulty getting over the folded down bucket seat. The back of my jeans caught on the sliding door, and then riiiiiippppp. Hole just under my pocket showing my behind.

Yet again, I can say that at least I have given people around me a good laugh.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

How I Spent My Time Preparing for the Holidays

When I became a mom (almost 13 years ago), I began doing many things I never envisioned. About 11 years ago, I started buying gingerbread house kits so our family could make those special Christmas memories. About 7 years ago, I started making the houses from scratch (making the patterns, baking the gingerbread and icing, etc.). I was always so proud of my from scratch houses.

We all know what comes after pride - one really big fall. And that's what happened to this year's house after a good chunk of my Saturday (and the kids' day as well) was spent.

Inspite of the proof in these pics, this wasn't the worst thing to happen to one of my homemade houses. The second year I made one, and before I could take a picture, our cat was checking out the house (curious) and knocked it off its high-up perch. Seven hot glue sticks and lots of cover-up icing later, it was back in place on a shorter and much wider table. The next day we left the Golden Retriever inside because it was so cold. When we entered the house, it reeked. Apparently, eating an entire gingerbread house (except for a few specks of candy and icing) as well as the glue did not sit well on her stomach. We ended up throwing away Sonny Boy's rug.

So - it could have been worse yesterday. At least my kids had a good laugh. Unfortunately, they won't remember all the beautiful houses - but they sure will remember this one.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Cameron Crazy...

There are some perks occasionally with my job. A recent one was when the UNCG men's basketball team played Duke - at Cameron Indoor Stadium. I had not been in that building since 1992 (which was a very good year to be there) when I was in grad school at Duke. My family and I were able to get tickets - and even though we absolutely cheered for UNCG, you can tell where our hearts were.

This one is just for you, Restless.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A Quiz where I like the answer - Which X-Men are you?

You Are Storm

Exotic and powerful, Storm descended from a line of African priestesses.
Emotions can effect your powers, but you are generally serene.

Powers: controlling weather, creating winds that lift you into flight, generating lightning

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

What I really want for Christmas...

This is what I really want for Christmas - the I Robot Vacuum. I recognize that it's a sad state of affairs that all I really want is a vacuum. I also realize that life must be pretty dull if having a clean house is what most excites me. Yet, in defense of my increasing dullness, I must say that this thing does the vacuuming for you! I wouldn't have to lug the heavy thing out of a closet, fight with it to get it to the needy spot, and then drag it back and forth so much that my right arm hurts too much to serve more than 3 games of tennis. I also wouldn't have to needle, cajole, or harass other members of my family to do the vacuuming.

I'm not getting one of these things - I got to go see Carlos Moya in the flesh at Flushing Meadow (which really is a better present than the I Robot) - but I can at least have some wistful thoughts while in the midst of holiday shopping.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A thought for a busy time...

Our minds are like crows. They pick up everything that glitters, no matter how uncomfortable our nests get with all that metal in them.

-Thomas Merton

Monday, November 27, 2006

Paolo Nutini

While in Scotland, the Argyll Hotel usually had CDs softly playing in the background. There was one I kept hearing, and I liked it more everytime I heard it. Paolo Nutini's These Streets was the CD. He is a young Scotsman (inspite of the Italian name) who is a singer/songwriter. I found the CD while journeying through Oban, and I have absolutely driven Sonny Boy bonkers by playing it so much. (Hey, I suffered not only through Hilary Duff CDs constantly being played - I even took him to see her in concert!)

Check out Paolo - he's really great. Hope some big time music person in the States finds him soon.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Prestige

Well, what does Thanksgiving mean in our world today? It could mean pumpkin pies (made with Splenda to fool my brother), cranberry relish, giving thanks. It could mean shopping, shopping, and more shopping. Or it could mean the best movies of the year are finally coming out and it's time to hit the theatres again.

I chose the final option yesterday. It's rare that I don't see a Hugh Jackman movie, so The Prestige certainly fit the bill. It also stars other quite gifted actors - Christian Bale (I still tear up everytime I remember The Empire of the Sun), Michael Caine and Scarlett Johannson. It is set around 1900 in London. Two young magicians become rivals to the fullest over a terrible accident. Jackman portrays Angiers, the dashing showman. Bale is Borden, the lowerclass magicial genius. It is a story of how they hope to best the other, or really, to destroy the other. The movie is well-plotted, with twists and turns and all sorts of interesting facets in the story. It was a relief to see a movie that is not so dreadfully predictable. Some things were predictable, but just when we think we figured something out - something else would happen to turn things around.

The acting was superb. David Bowie even makes an appearance as a mad genius (appropriately so - and did I really think he was that hot in 1985? Lunar, did we really? Well, at least it was better than when I was soooo in LUV with scrawny Shaun Cassidy in 1980.)

Yet, something was lacking in the movie for me. It was certainly a good movie and I would recommend seeing it. As I have been thinking over it, I wondered if my inability to see this as a really great movie was my old standby criticism - a redemptive quality. Obsession does not often allow room for redemption. But that lack of redemption didn't bother me in Brokeback Mountain (still the best movie I have seen in years). I think what was lacking was an identification with the characters. They were fascinating and even sympathetic at times, especially Angiers. Yet, as the movie came to its conclusion and the final face-off with these two magicians, I was unsure for whom I should pull. Angiers seemed obvious, and his words on why he was a magician were powerful - but the words did not match the actions. Actions do speak louder than words.

It was a well done and well crafted movie. Yet, more time was spent trying to make this a clever movie than making this one where the audience was truly invested with the characters. I think that was the flaw - the reason I wasn't sure what I wanted to happen in the movie. My grade - B

Friday, November 17, 2006

Like a Sheep

Here are some of the countless sheep who populate the island of Iona. I heard a rather interesting story about how the backsides became marked, but as this is family oriented blog, I won't go into said theory or its possible veracity.

The sheep were everywhere - many more sheep than people. And they were hysterical. They NEVER stopped eating. Everywhere we went, there they were - moving those lips.

I am lacking a picture of my favorite sheep. She was of the average variety. She was in one of those lush fields, totally collapsed on her side. From her hooves to her ear, every part of her body was fully relaxed on the grass. I thought she was asleep. Then I saw her lips moving - still eating. I've felt like that on occasion - can't move anything at all but my mouth to put food in it. I'm sure I'll feel that way next Thursday.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Cool 13th century nuns

The religious community on Iona has focused around the Celtic religious community founded by Columba in the late 500s. The Abbey (see Thursday's post for a picture) was built in the 13th century on the site of the original Columban community. As Roman Christianity was spreading to the further reaches of Western Europe (and continuing to usurp Celtic Christianity), the Columban community became a Benedictine monastery.

It was not uncommon for a women's religious community to exist near a monastery. In 1200, the Nunnery construction on Iona was begun. It is the most intact ruins of a nunnery in Scotland. Whereas the Abbey was repaired and reconstructed in the late 19th century, the Nunnery has been left in ruins (although quite beautiful ruins). Very little is known about the Nunnery, and very little was written in any of the Iona books I read. However, while perusing the wonderfully written guest book at the Argyll Hotel, it was mentioned that the Nunnery has a She-la-na-gig (a pagan fertility goddess, or vagina dentata/"vagina with teeth") on its prominent South wall.

A pagan fertility goddess on a prominent wall of a Nunnery built in 1200? We do know that a woman named Beathag was the first abbess. We'll never know why the She-la-na-gig is there, and practically no one who writes about Iona seems to care about this, but I can only imagine that Beathag and the nuns must have been women who honored other women and God's gift in Creation.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Iona, Scotland continued

Iona is a tiny island in the Inner Hebrides (1 1/2 miles by 3 1/2 miles). It is one of the more beautiful places have ever been. The waters are blue (like the Carribean), the sand is white, the grass is unbelievably green, and the rocky terrain is lots of fun and provides some really good exercise (hopefully to counteract that great food from the Argyll Hotel). People have lived on the island since ancient times, and a religious community has been there since the late 500s. Here are some more pics of the Island.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Long Hair is Cool, pt. 2

I am interrupting my pictures and recollections of my recent trip to Scotland for an update on Sonny Boy. The avid reader might remember a post not too long ago about Sonny Boy's quest for long, beautiful hair (and not to be a nerd). His school pictures just came back, as you can see. At least he had combed his hair. It is a shame that his best feature (those big, beautiful blue eyes) were hidden behind the veil of very straight hair. But at least his hair was clean.

Sonny Boy has had a hair cut since, but this picture will be around for many, many years to come.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

More from Scotland

I'll have a number of ongoing posts about my pilgrimage to Iona (in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland), but here is the beginning. I thought I would start with food. As I anticipated the trip, I actually wasn't too thrilled about Scottish food - the only thing that stood out in my mind was Haggis. Yes, that is a picture of me taking a bite of Haggis - reminded me of those little tins of potted meat which I have avoided like the plague over these past 20 years (and then when Hubby bought some last year for a camping trip - I threw them out - inspite of what I might say sometimes, I do love him and want him to be around for many years :)

The other two pics are of our residence on Iona - the Argyll Hotel - and our group of pilgrims in the dining room (after we have yet again stuffed ourselves silly - please note the mostly full plate of wonderful apple and berry crumble in front of me - I really did try my best for 20 minutes to eat more). The Argyll is absolutely wonderful. The staff is welcoming and extremely helpful. It is warm and cozy and quiet, and the food is absolutely worldclass. One doesn't normally think of gaining weight on a pilgrimage, but it was a real challenge for each one of us not to explode from the incredible food. I think my favorite entree was the Vegan Haggis (yes, that is correct) and my favorite dessert was lemon cheesecake. If you ever travel to Iona, the Argyll is the place to stay.

More to come...

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Things I learned from my trip to Scotland...

1. Being allowed to take 1 tube of lipstick on board an airplane gets me real excited.
2. Sheep really are stupid.
3. Sheep NEVER stop eating.
4. Climbing straight over steep, rocky paths when one is dressed like the younger son in A Christmas Story is not easy.
5. It really doesn't hurt to fall face forward in heather.
6. It's hard to distinguish between sheep dookie and mud. (and it's nice to travel with a friend who knows the proper way to spell "dookie.")
7. Towel warmers are a gift from the gods. (unless you bend over at the wrong time)
8. Whiskey really is the best way to take off a cold chill.
9. 13th century nuns rocked!
10. Just when you think you miss your 12 year old son, a mischevious spirit (who must be a 12 year old boy) will do all sorts of funny things to your room (hide books, move rocks, change the alarm clock, wet the inside pages of a book, and even keep lifting the toilet seat over and over).
11. Scottish footballers are gifted at running to catch an 8:30am flight while holding a pint - all without spilling one drop.
12. A ferry ride in the pitch dark over very rough waters is more fun than any roller coaster.
13. It's a pleasure to have a full-body collision in the rain with a travelling, long-haired, scruffy bearded Scotsman who is carrying a guitar.
14. We thought we were in heaven in the Inner Hebrides, especially with the gourmet food - but then realized that God wouldn't let us gain weight in heaven.
15. There exists a man who can say "vagina dentata" (Latin for vagina with teeth) without blushing or stuttering.
16. Vagina dentata can be sung to the lively Disney tune "Hakumamatata" from The Lion King. (Check upcoming posts for more on the She-la-na-gig pagan fertility goddess, aka vagina dentata, and what it has to do with ancient Nunnery ruins.)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Leaving Town

In the morning, I am headed to the GSO airport for a Pilgrimage to Iona, Scotland. It is an ancient and fascinating place. I'll be gone 12 days - so no posts during that time. Check out the website while I'm gone, and I'll have lots of things to post when I return.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Weird Al does it yet again...

For months, Sonny Boy has been singing "Ridin' Dirty" by Chamilionaire. It's actually about racial profiling and has a decent message, even though it makes me a little bonkers. Leave it to Weird Al Yankovic to do one of his best parodies yet.

Check it out -

Thursday, October 12, 2006

US Open

Walker and I hanging out in Arthur Ashe Stadium, praying the rain will go away...

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

I decided a couple weeks ago to put down the Janet Evanovich books (good though they are) and pick up The History of Love at the recommendation of the Asheville book group (where I still consider myself a member, even though I live 3 hours away).

The story centers around two individuals in NYC - an elderly man, Leo Gursky, who is a Holocaust survivor and is limping through what may be the last days of his life; and Alma, a young teenager who is searching for her identity in the aftermath of losing her beloved father at a young age. The search for life and meaning by both Leo and Alma occurs through a little known book, The History of Love, and the mystery that surrounds it. Krauss writes beautifully, and the glimpses we see of the History of Love manuscript make me want to read that as well (if only it existed).

The first two pages left me depressed, and then I realized Krauss had the gift of combining the hysterical with the poignant and the overwhelming. Leo's desire not to die unnoticed leads him to create scenes whenever he goes out - I could easily imagine him purchasing and then intentionally spilling coffee (in dramatic fashion) so that he would be remembered. Alma's desire to distance herself from her mother and a religion obsessed younger brother also left me laughing many times. Krauss took what could have been simply another search for meaning, and filled it with true life moments that made it real.

The book is wonderfully written. It is heart-wrenching, heart-warming, funny, sad, endearing, and ultimately fulfilling. My grade - definitely A.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Women & Daydreams

Heard this on the radio recently - This is the list (in order) of what women most often daydream -
1. winning the lottery
2. relaxing on the beach
3. having a clean house
4. thoughts of a hot doc on tv

I've never daydreamed about #1, but as to the others...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Long Hair is Cool

Have people noticed that young guys are wearing their hair longer these days? Well, 12 year old Sonny Boy sure has. The hair on his neck just about reaches his collar these days. And his bangs are almost down to the tip of his nose. I always enjoy seeing him watch tv - he tips his head way back so he can look underneath his bangs.

I don't care what his hair looks like. I want to reserve my battles for other more important subjects (like actually doing his homework).

On Monday, a couple of his teachers (there are 4 total) asked him to do something with his hair. They wanted to be able to see his eyes during class. (He does kinda look like one of those dogs in the Alps who has bangs that cover the eyes and carries beer around their necks.) The teachers asked him to wear a cap, push his hair to the side or wear some kind of clip. I offered him one of Princess' hair barrettes, but he didn't want that for some reason!

Yesterday, I drove him to school and we did the usual good morning prayer. I say a sentence, and then he repeats after me. At one point I prayed, "Please God, help Sonny Boy do something with his hair so that he won't irritate his teachers." He didn't repeat exactly as I had spoken. Instead, it was "God, help me keep my hair EXACTLY like I want it."

The teachers gave him a bandana yesterday. He wore it as a joke for one period and then removed it. At lunch, one of the teachers asked where his bandana was. "I took it off and I'm not wearing it." She apparently walked on at that point.

I asked Sonny Boy what his plan was. I suggested just flicking it to the side (have I also said he reminds me of Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber?) He said it has to go straight down or else he will look like a dork, geek, nerd, etc. He said when it gets long enough to tuck behind his ears, he will (and we have a ways to go before that).

Not my battle - but entertaining from the sidelines nonetheless...

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Get Ready for Christmas

Yes, it's not even October yet - but it's time to start thinking about getting ready for Christmas. We all know that if we prepare early, we spend less money and have more time to do those homey things that make Christmas special. Christmas tends to get very expensive and hectic - so hopefully we can find some ways to avoid that.

Alternatives for Simple Living was begun in the early 1970s as a way to help people get back to the real meaning of Christmas and get away from the mass commercialization of the holiday. We all know how much worse things have gotten in the last 30 years. Check out Alternative's website - it has lots of great ideas and resources of how to prepare our lives so that we can truly enjoy the time we have together in December.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Ban Skinny Models?

The internet has been filled today with an interesting news story from Spain. It seems that the Madrid Fashion Show is coming up soon, and organizers have banned models who do not have a BMI of 18 or more. This has caused a furor in the industry, but praise from groups trying to fight eating disorders.

Most people know by now that models are far more thin than they were just 10 or 20 years ago. Hollywood stars even (who are not runway models) are on average a size 0 or 2. I remember when Jane Kracowski (of Ally McBeal fame) was called a "big girl" because she wore a size 6. Andie McDowell (who I have seen in person and is truly tall, thin and beautiful) has stated a number of times that she could never be a model these days (and she started off in modeling) because she would be too big.

People in the fashion industry believe they are not to blame for the rapid increase in eating disorders. They say it's because of the moms at home who are always dieting. But why are these moms always dieting?

When Restless Mama and I were on our way to NY for the USOpen, I picked up a More magazine. The trip was in celebration of our 40th birthdays, and More is targeted at women over 40. (seemed appropriate) Throughout the magazine were pictures of impossibly gorgeous women of various ages over 40. I realized it was only making me feel bad about not being as gorgeous or thin as someone 20 years older than I (even though they may have personal chefs, much more disposable income, personal trainers, etc.). So - I put down the magazine. If I need to compare myself - much better to do it with the tired, overworked, and financially strapped moms I see at my job or at my kids' school!

We can't blame just one area for the pervasive and growing issue of eating disorders. Our society as a whole has created this environment where women are starving themselves and thus killing themselves. It's created a world where women can barely put food in their mouth without some sort of guilt. It's created a world where much of my job with college students is referring young women to counseling for eating disorders, and trying intentionally to model healthy diet and lifestyle. It's created a world where my 5th grade son talked about a girl in his class who would sit at lunch eat day, say she was fat (when she was not),cry and say, "I just can't eat!"

I don't put all the blame on the fashion industry - but it is part of the entirety of the problem. Bravo, Madrid.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Rocker Quiz - What Kind of Rocker are You?

You Are a Glam Rocker!

You put the "show" in rock show with your larger than life self.
No doubt, you are all about making good music...
But what really gets you going is having an over the top show.
Glitter, costumes, and wild hair are your thing - with some rock thrown in!

In remembrance of 9/11

Oh, only for so short a while you have loaned us to each other,because we take form in your act of drawing us,and we take life in your painting us,and we breathe in your singing us.But only for so short a while have you loaned us to each other.Because even a drawing cut in obsidian fades,and the green feathers, the crown feathers,of the Quetzal bird lose their color,and even the sounds of the waterfall die out in the dry season.So, we too, because only for a short while have you loaned us to each other.
--Aztec Indian Prayer

Friday, September 08, 2006

First Dates

Just so you know, I was given permission to share this information on the world wide web -

Quite recently, I was asked by a certain 12 year old boy when I went on my first date. "Depends what you mean. Do you mean like a date in a car with a guy or do you mean going with somebody, having a boyfriend?" "Well, either." So I provided information as best I could remember. I also said that being able to drive a car was a good indication of when someone could go on an actual date.

Said young boy grinned and spoke up, "I asked someone out last week."

"You did what? How did this happen?"

"Mindy (name changed to protect the innocent) and I were at lunch and just talking. And then I said, you wanna go out with me sometime? She said - ooohhh, FRIENDS!" He kept grinning and thankfully didn't seem crushed by the rejection.

"So what did you think about that?"

"I think she likes me. She kept flirting with me at the retreat." I then went on to ask how two 12 year olds would go on a date (if they went), how they would get there, where they would go, and who would pay. Those apparently were inconsequential details. I then asked what his best friend said when he told him about the rejection. He grinned and responded, "He said that must suck for you."

I think this is the most entertainment certain young man has provided since he was in kindergarten.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Things I learned at the US Open

This past weekend I was able to fulfill a dream I have had for many years - I was able to attend the US Open. Restless Mama and I have been planning this for a while. I have never been to a professional tennis tournament. Restless and I were able to see the day session on Friday (then got rained out Fri night and all day Saturday), and then the day session on Sunday. So - here are some things I learned during my weekend.

1. First impressions can be changed - Andre Agassi and all his image stuff really got on my nerves in the 80s; but for some time I have really admired him, his work ethic, his philanthropy, his love for his family and friends, his wisdom, and his graciousness. Just being on the grounds during his last match was an honor.

2. There are some great older women out there - Restless and I really enjoyed the Carlos Moya match (and not just for his great forehand). A woman beside me (probably in her 50s) spoke of how hot he was during a changeover - I of course agreed - and then she commented on some other similarly blessed men on the tour. Not much later, I heard a woman in her 70s make similar remarks.

3. A mother can never impress her 12 year old son - "Did you see Agassi?" "Well, no I didn't have tickets for the big stadium that day." "What about Federer or Roddick?" "Well, no - but I did see Nadal." "Huh" - as he dismissed me.

4. There are lots of friendly people in NY - I felt like I was part of one big family at the Open - everyone was talking to strangers, sharing lots of info, being kind and patient (even on a record setting attendance day). The Billie Jean King National Tennis Center was a really nice, friendly place to be.

5. Doing one's homework pays off - I have obsessively watched tennis on tv for years. I always read my Tennis magazine, and I scour the web for tennis news. My first day ever on the grounds was Friday - and I found myself giving directions to various people (I had the grounds map memorized), finding toilet paper in the bathroom for people in empty stalls, and explaining some of the various seating arrangements. I felt like Rory Gilmore the day she first visited Yale.

Pictures will be forthcoming!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Bulk Mail...Duuuuuhhhhhh!

I've had the pleasure of doing a variety of things with my job. This summer I had the opportunity to reapply our organization for a non profit bulk mail permit. I collected the requested materials and submitted them at the appropriate center. The manager had some questions about our aka in our organization name - but I was confident things would be fine.

While I patiently awaited the renewal of our permit, I had to get a bulk mailing out. I was told this could be done while I was waiting from NY for the renewal, and after the renewal I would receive a reimbursement for extra cost. No problem.

I scoured the usps website to make sure I did this correctly. I wanted to have the letters all sorted properly. After two full work days of getting the mailing ready to take to the bulk mail center (and breaking some kind of child labor law where my 8 year old was concerned - but she is a really good folder and really good at putting on stickers), I proceeded to the mail center. The very nice lady called NY to check on my permit. The paperwork was nowhere to be found - so we faxed a copy to them again. I could still do a mailing. I had actually sorted too thoroughly and had to correct that. And then I had to put non-adhesive stamps on 310 newsletters. And then we had to figure out more paperwork and have me write a check (no debit or credit cards at that center). After 2 hours, I was able to leave and confident the mailing would be sent out that day.

I finally received confirmation from NY that the permit was reinstated. I had another mailing to do this week. With some help, I only wasted one work day. I then gathered everything together to head to the bulk mail center. I was only there 1 hour this time (cut my time in half!). We are still working on the paperwork for reimbursement from the last mailing, still need to get a rubber stamp with the permit number, and still need to make sure I can fill out the paper work correctly. The patient man was very helpful, but I know he thought I was an idiot. I had to use a calculator to multiply exactly the number of pieces for one zip code by a certain decimal a few times. Then I was supposed to subtract 11.01 from 23.56 - I continued to use the calculator and heard some snickers from the helpful postal worker.

I wanted (but did not) to say, "I am really not an idiot. I actually have a masters from a very good school. Granted, one where lacrosse players should never be allowed to have parties - but where I got a good education. I handle all my family finances. I have sat on boards and organizations. I really do have common sense. And you have to understand I have been putting in 70 hour weeks the past month - it's the nature of my job right now."

So when my hour was up, I left with a big weight off my shoulders (at least for the next two months). I also left wondering when I had encountered something that made me feel like such an idiot. Now, if I didn't have an accountant come April, there might be competition.

Thank goodness for the government which keeps us humble.

Monday, August 28, 2006

The IRS gets it right

Yes, you read the title correctly. I know there are a number of us who would think that statement could rarely be true - but an instance occurred last week which encouraged me to write this post.

It has been a tradition for some time that celebrities at the Oscars receive gift bags. In recent years, the bags have become multi-million dollar bonuses - the latest gadgets, vacations, jewelry, and even diamond studded underwear (really). Like any of these wealthy people need these things? As if they could not afford 225,000 of these items if they wanted? I realize that companies want to have a celebrity photographed using one of the said items since people tend to want to buy articles used by celebrities. (However, I have a hard time imagining wearing a size 0 jewel embellished thong.) I've been even more disgusted to hear celebrities talk about how they really look forward to all the free goodies.

Thank goodness there have always been some people with sense - like George Clooney - who would promptly give the bag to charity (to be used, to be auctioned for the money, whatever).

And now the IRS has finally caught on to the free bonuses - they announced last week the gift bags would be taxed. I hope most of the people impacted have enough sense not to be upset by this - and maybe even more will give the bags directly to be auctioned for charity. Better yet, maybe the companies will stop the practice and use those funds for charitable donations themselves.

Sunday, August 20, 2006


Here is a meme from Edgy Mama. I can't resist anything to do with books.

One book that changed your life?
The Once and Future King by T.H. White - it helped shape my personal philosophy in a major way

One book that you read more than once?
Quite a few would fit this category, but the hands-down winner is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I must be somewhere in the 30s.

One book you would want on a desert island?
The Bible - it has so much variety (mystery, love, betrayal, poetry, friendship, humor, mysticism, etc.) that it would keep me busy for a while; plus, there is the added bonus of the hope it could provide when stranded on a desert island

One book that made you laugh?
Lamb: The Gospel according to Biff, Jesus' Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore

One book that made you cry?
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling; I cried in the movie too when poor Cedric met his untimely death

One book you wish you had written?
A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L'Engle

One book you wish had never been written?
The Left Behind series

One book you are currently reading?
Twelve Sharp: A Stephanie Plum Novel by Janet Evanovich (and yes, I have read all 12 Plum novels in the last 3 and 1/2 weeks)

One book you keep meaning to read?
After Virtue by Alistair McIntyre (one of those theology books I read for professional enlightenment)

Friday, August 18, 2006

Say What?

When I was about 3 or 4 years old, we would be visited by my aunt and uncle and 5 older cousins about once or twice a year. I was wise enough to hide my toys before they came - I knew older kids brought destruction with them. I also knew the visits (while I loved my extended family and looked forward to seeing them) would bring nonsense sayings as well. The most beloved was, "Hooey on Amy." Hooey on Amy? What was that supposed to mean? And why say it to a 3 or 4 year old? Yes, it annoyed me - to the point that I threatened to call the army and have them arrest my uncle.

Some talents - like a talent for nonsense sayings - never cease. Witness the latest saying from 12 year old Sonny Boy, having just returned from a visit with said great uncle. "What in the ham fat is that?" If I've heard it once today, I've heard it a million times.

Of course, Sonny Boy has spent the last few months finding various ways to say, "I've got some beans in my pocket, yo-de-a, yo-de-a," so I should thank my uncle for the change.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Dear Mr. Squirrel and family

Dear Mr. Squirrel and family,
I hope you are enjoying your summer. I am glad you have survived my kittie huntress. I'm sure you've seen the bunnies and birds she has terrorized and left for me as a present in front of our door. I am unsure if she likes squirrels or not. Perhaps you and your family are just too fast for her. Nonetheless, I am happy for you that she has left you alone.
I know you have noticed something new in the yard this year. Princess and I have a long standing tradition. Each summer, we plant giant sunflowers - and lots of them. My great-grandmother always used to have giant sunflowers in her garden. Sunflowers are my favorite flower. (Hubby, please take note.) Princess and I love to plant the seeds, water the seedlings and then gently plant them in the ground. It's fun to guess how long it will take before they are taller than she, and then how much longer before I'm in their shadow. One thing about our new house that we like is that the soil is great for growing giant sunflowers. They have grown like never before.
Yet, we noticed something unusual lately. The giant sunflowers are starting to droop - some even to the point of breaking. I didn't understand. How could that be happening? And then I saw you and your family. I had no idea squirrels could climb up a giant sunflower, all the way to the top, and then bend it over dramatically, while you eat the sunflower seeds. It looks like quite a feat. Of course, now most of our beautiful flowers are bent to the ground.
I have just one thing to tell you Mr. Squirrel. If you and your buddies keep this up, I will help the huntress kittie hunt you down and leave your body parts on my front porch where she always leaves her best prizes.
My best wishes for you and your family and friends for the rest of the summer and fall.


Sunday, August 13, 2006

Blogging 4 Books entry

Here is my entry for this month's B4B.

Summer of 1979 - I find myself gazing at the mountains, hardly aware of the breeze, as my book drops onto the porch swing. "Wow... That Jane Austen is really something. She must have known someone like Mr. Darcy. When I start dating, that's the kind of man I want." I subsequently read everything by Austen while my friends think I'm a weird egghead.

Summer of 1983 - I'm at Nerd Camp with nerds from all over North Carolina. I encounter a quite tall, lanky, dark-haired young man - no one's idea of a nerd. Mr. Darcy as a 16 year old? It's luuuvvvvv. When camp ends, I console myself with the fictional version once again. My friends tell me I should think more about Jon Bon Jovi and forget the made up guy in the funny clothes.

Summer of 1988 - I'm in love. He's a little short to be Darcy and a little too talkative and gets along with far too many people and doesn't have any money - BUT, Darcy is fiction anyway. I spend the next 18 years with days, and sometimes weeks, banging my head against the wall and muttering, "Austen knew. Austen knew."

Summer of 1996 - I'm in love. BBC knows Austen. Colin Firth is SOOO Darcy. Wonder if he's married and wonder how Hubby's cholestoral is doing.

Summer of 2005 - Phone rings. I'm reading P & P again (38th reading?) while watching the BBC miniseries (21st viewing?). I ignore the phone, but Hubby hands it to me. "It's Beth. She wants to talk to you."

"Hey Amy! We sure miss you up here, but I bet you like your new home. Andy says it's great. Are you enjoying it?"

"Uhhh - yeah," as I scan the room. It's too dark to see much but the tv and a few words on my page.

"You aren't fantasizing about Darcy again are you? You have a wonderful husband, two healthy and smart kids, lots of friends, a great new job and home. Step into reality."

"I just need a little fix!"

"Turn off the tv and go take a walk with your kids."


"Okay - tomorrow. But then the book and the dvd do not come back out until the first snow day. Right?"

"Right....." I mumble some more words, hang up, yell at the kids to hush so I can see Darcy direct his intense stare at Elizabeth, and sigh with contentment. Better than chocolate even.

Monday, July 31, 2006

late night phone calls

I'm getting old - I admit it. When the phone rings after 10pm, I immediately think of my Granny or some other really terrible possible situation. We just returned from vacation yesterday afternoon (week at Edisto Island). I'm usually keyed up after returning and trying to unpack and get the house back in order. So - I'm watching "While you were sleeping" at 11:18 (comfort movie). I knew it was 11:18, because when the phone rings, the caller id comes up on the tv screen. My heart skips a beat, and then I see the cell phone number and name of the 13 year old girl from Charlotte who has been calling my baby boy the past 5 weeks. Hubby answers the phone while I'm whispering loudly, "You tell that girl that he is asleep and she should be too and not to call so late!!" He does tell her that Sonny Boy is asleep, and then nicely says "That's okay."

When he hung up, I responded, "That's okay?! It's not okay! Girls can't be calling my son at 11:18 at night and think it's okay! Either her parents don't know that she is using her cell phone like this, or they don't care. You should tell her not to call so late!!"

Then I proceeded to tell him how I have suspected for years that I would be the "tough" parent when interested parties came to visit our children. They'll think the daddy is so sweet and cute, and that mom sure is tough and wouldn't want to cross her.

Why do I always have to be the meanie?

Monday, July 17, 2006

Fun and Games with Bubba

Sunday is a really good day. It's the day of rest - a day to worship - a day to relax and enjoy good family time. Yesterday started off pleasantly enough. Kids and I went to church (Hubby was at a cousin's husband's funeral.) We arrived home. 95 degrees it was, and I thought kiddies and I might enjoy the free ice cream and music at the church block party. I thought I might have an opportunity to get to know some more people - people with whom I have things in common.

Well, kiddies wanted to go to Wet'nWild waterpark - where we purchased a family super saver pass last December. (It was less expensive than joining any pool in the area.) WW is not my favorite place, but at least it doesn't really matter how much skin hangs out from my bathing suit - no one would really notice. If it's not a tiny two piece and accentuated with numerous tattoos and piercings, it's just not very noticeable.

Kiddies and I arrive and decided to take up a chair in "pirate cove," where I can lounge, read my historical fiction novel and easily watch Princess swim while Sonny Boy seeks thrills on the more exuberant rides. But pirate cove was packed. Rock 92 banners were everywhere. Very large men in odd swim outfits abounded. It was, I came to discover, the Bubba Olympics. (Check out their website for lots more info.) Apparently, one must weigh at least 250 pounds, and consider himself "country" to enter - and also have a non-existent threshold of embarrassment. We could not avoid seeing a few of the events - the moon pie swim, the cannonball, and the water ballet.

So instead of conversing pleasantly with sophisticated people, and eating ice cream - I was thinking of my brother, seeing much more of people than I wished, and trying to list the brighter side of being a Southerner.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Fun Way to Spend an Evening

First, take a 95 degree, humid day. Add a one hour drive at 5pm, with a fruit salad, sleepy daughter, and lots of traffic. Drive way out in the boonies on a dirt road to a very large, wooded camp. Arrive at 6pm to immediately go through the covered dish line while all the Boy Scouts wait (somewhat patiently) for the visiting families to get a plate first. Wait (somewhat patiently) for Hubby to set up camp chair so that you can juggle paper plate and drink on lap - while encouraging sleepy daughter to eat something more than just watermelon. Too hot to eat - but that never really stopped me before.

Dinner is over - wondering where the heck the bathroom is - but can only see the tents set up on wooden bases (smelly little places). Ask Sonny Boy for a tour - apparently there is one hour to wait before "Campfire." (What the heck will we be doing there and why are families supposed to come?)

Sonny Boy shows his smelly tent - which only houses his clothes and food - especially care packages from aunties and grandparents. Has so much sugar could open his own canteen. Say a quick prayer that he's brushing his teeth at least once a day. We see his tiny hammock - where he's sleeping at night. He's only had to knock two ticks off this week so far. Wish he would shave his head.

Continue tour. Take trail and realize almost 300 scouts from all over the place. Arrive at central buildings - thank heavens - decent bathroom at Cafeteria. Sonny Boy wants to show the lake - only 10 minute walk. After 20 minutes walking, hearing more and more thunder and walking towards the dark clouds - we turn back to campsite. "Just about 5 minutes!" End up walking fast as we can for almost 20 minutes on tiny trail. Sore body from 3 hours of tennis day before - wonder how bad it will be next morning (it's bad).

Get back to camp - storm's ready to hit. Closing campfire will be at Cafeteria. Walk different way there - but hit by storm first - soaked through and through and very glad not wearing a white tshirt. Chaos at Cafeteria. Staff yelling for everyone to cram into building and get off porch (15 minutes after storm has started moving away - wondering what the fire code is and if that outweighs risk of standing on porch.) Closing ceremony starts in building - wonder why they have to have families there - why don't they do this on Friday night with just the scouts? Then the "serious" part begins where they beg for quiet - some of the lilly white boys pretending to be in touch with their inner Native American and dressed appropriately so. Wonder if anyone in building has more native blood in them than Sonny Boy - who is a whopping 1/32 Cherokee.

Finally over. Still raining. One hour drive back still soaked to bone. Arrive home 10pm - immediately shower, get Princess dried off and then answer phone from Hubby (who was scheduled to stay these last two days). Large tree had fallen and blocked the road; one tent collapsed, tornado warnings the whole time.

Thank goodness Jon Stewart came on tv soon after to salvage the evening.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Pirates of the Caribbean - Dead Man's Chest

My family and I have been anxiously awaiting the new Pirates movie. We own the first installment (have watched it a number of times) and headed out to an early showing on Friday. (So yes, we have contributed to the record $132 million it's taken in this weekend.) My viewing experience wasn't premium. We were at an older theater, since it saved us about $10 (even with matinee prices) - thus my head was looking straight up at the screen the whole time. And Sonny Boy kept nudging my arm saying, "I'm starving!! Can I PLEASE have some popcorn?" "No! You ate just before you came! Hush and let me watch the movie!"

Yet, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. About 10 minutes into the movie, I thought - "This is like The Empire Strikes Back!" Empire is my favorite of the original Star Wars trilogy (I just pretend the prequels never happened). I sat in the theater Friday thinking about three main characters who thought they knew their situation in the world suddenly being thrust into new circumstances - new worlds. Their plans had gone awry - and in these new worlds, they discovered parts on themselves they didn't realize were there - for good and for bad. Conflict ensues, loyalties are tested, and we are left hoping the good will win out, but also knowing that no one is all good or all bad.

I have always loved swashbucklers. Maureen O'Hara is my favorite actress of all time - especially when she was aboard a pirate ship. Once again, Pirates had creative, interesting and exciting action sequences. The best action took place this time, not on board, but on land. There were nods to the original - but the action was not contrived or repetitive. I liked the twists and turns in the original movie, and appreciated the continued twists and turns.

I have heard complaints about a complex plot. I did have to think about the plot (esp. with Sonny Boy begging for popcorn), but thinking about a plot and figuring out the twists and turns is part of the joy I find in a good movie. The plot was not too complex or difficult - but interesting and thought-provoking. I figured out fairly easily what was happening as the movie progressed (even though I must confess to having no clue how the gambling game worked on board The Flying Dutchman). I do also wish there had been just a touch more humor (and I know that's hard to do when part of the time is spent with Davy Jones).

The acting was great as usual. Johnny Depp has no peer, and I found Jack Davenport's role especially intriguing. Bloom and Knightly were quite good as well, but I was wishing for a little more meat in Bloom's role (Knightly had plenty with which to deal).

Overall, the storyline was interesting, the acting was very good, the action scenes were engaging and exciting, and it was a fun ride. The ending is incomplete - we know that the 3rd movie is half done already - and I will probably go the day it opens again. These characters have new worlds to explore - both within and without. My grade - B+

P.S. - Stay until the credits are over :) You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

We're a nation of eaters - not athletes

Anyone who reads this blog on occasion realizes the great and undying love I have for my favorite sport - tennis. I am in the midst of one of the best two week periods of the year - the Championships at Wimbledon. After spending the morning suffering through the 100 degree weather at the downtown 4th Festival, I was able to hole up in the air conditioning with ESPN2 and the women's Quarters. Anyone who halfway follows tennis realizes there is not one American (male or female) left in the singles' events. This is huge news. I think I heard one of the commentators say the last time it happened was 1922, and no Americans entered Wimbledon that year. American dominance of this great international sport is over - and with very little hope that a young American is on the rise to be a top 5 player.

This news just after the US's predictable early exit in the men's World Cup.

And what is the byline on ESPN2 today? That same crazy guy from Japan (for the 6th year running) has won the world hotdog eating contest (53 3/4 this year). Who came in 2nd with 52 dogs? An American! Yeah!!!

We suck at sports - but we sure know how to eat.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Cars - the movie

A couple weeks ago, I took Sonny Boy and Princess to the latest animated "family" movie - Cars. I had read some favorable reviews, so I was hoping and praying this would not be another Spongebob Squarepants movie (definitely one of the worst I have ever seen). I was fortunate that Cars was far superior.

Now part of me felt like I should see this movie just because I am from North Carolina. I have never actually seen a NASCAR race, but I know I can name more race car drivers (and even recognize their faces) than I can pro football players. It's just osmosis in this part of the world. I was delighted that several of the actual NASCAR drivers (including the King himself, Richard Petty) voiced characters. Cars is about actual cars - the primary character being a snazzy red racecar, Lightning McQueen. He's all about the glory, the babes, the money, and the sponsorships. On this way to the destination of fame and fortune, Lightning gets waylayed in a sleepy Route 66 town. (There's even a nice little side story about commercialization and major highways missing the local beauty.) The story itself is by no means original - I sometimes had flashbacks to Doc Hollywood. Yet, the way the story is told is quite creative and original and engaging.

These were cars - but I felt like I knew each one. When Lightning left the sleepy town, I was so sad. I didn't want to leave this town and the people in it. I wanted to go back and stay there. (I probably watched way too much Northern Exposure years ago.) I'm sure you can predict the ending - but as with the story itself - it's not the destination that counts; it's the journey.

The journey is just a lot of fun. The characters are interesting. The dialogue is snappy and heartfelt without being cheesy. The voices were well chosen. Even the soundtrack is impressive (Sheryl Crow, John Mayer, James Taylor, Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts). This really is a feel good movie that all ages can enjoy - and I will happily see a sequel when it comes (as I'm sure it will). My grade - A-

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

fashions from the edge

Do you remember the day that you set foot on your new college campus? When you were there to register and be "oriented" with all the other new students? Do you remember how you kept trying to ditch your parents, and kept praying that your mom wouldn't cry too loudly?

But most importantly, do you remember what you wore?

I bet most young women do. I wore a pair of predominantly blue and green madras shorts, a white Izod, and white canvas Tretorns (sans socks, of course). I carefully planned my ensemble - I was making a first impression after all.

One of the joys of working on campus is seeing all the assorted fashions. It's been particularly interesting of late when new students are coming in for their first two days of "Orientation." I know most of these young women carefully selected their clothing to reveal the kind of person they are to others. Some of my favorite choices in the recent weeks of orientation days -

*cut-up, layered tank tops with a very short red plaid skirt, black tights, and combat boots
*very low rise ripped jeans with a tiny white tshirt
*low rise, slim fit madras shorts (just a different take on mine from 20 years ago) and tiny Izod shirt
*long, flowing gypsy skirts with tiny tank to reveal belly button ring
*tshirt proclamations like, "All I needed to know I learned in kindergarten," "I do all my own stunts," "I'm the only hell my mama ever raised"
*tiny white tshirt with very low rise blue jean skirt that has ripped edge (I know that's how they come these days) that is precisely 1 and 1/2 inches below one's bottom)

Just some of my favorites. I could do another article on what some of the moms are wearing. Sonny Boy was with me one day and was impressed by a dad who wore day-glo orange Nike bball shoes (and had to tell the dad how impressed he was).

All interesting sites and impressions...

Friday, June 23, 2006

Wimbledon - get rid of the old guys!

Being such a tennis lover, I once again anxiously await the first ball hit of a Grand Slam this Monday morning - The Chamionships at Wimbledon. Of the four Slams (US Open, Australian, and French), many consider Wimbledon the most prestigious. Yet, in one very important circumstance - it seriously lags behind.

Wimbledon is the last of the Grand Slams not to offer equal prize money to men's and women's champions (read article). Their reasons? Men don't normally play doubles like the women do (and don't earn as much money there), and then men play 3 out of 5 sets while women play 2 out of 3. Since when do these old guys not realize that different does not mean one is better? Hubby normally mows the lawn, and I normally do the laundry - they're different, but does that mean one of us should get paid more? And just look at ratings - in recent years, it's the women who are watched more than the men. As much as I want to see Roger Federer win everything in sight, thank goodness for Rafael Nadal who adds some spark to what has become a rather predictable men's game. The women have a whole host of exciting players who could win anything.

Women in Britain earn 17% less than men working comparable jobs. About 80% of Brits want Wimbledon to offer equal prize money. It's 2006 and time for the old guys to go! 80% of the population realizes the year and what's going on in the rest of the tennis world - time to get some of those people in charge of things!

My daughter is different from my son. But I love them both equally and pray that will be treated equally in the world. I pray my daughter will not be forced to earn less one day because she is different from a man. Thank goodness for the differences in the world - it's one of the things that makes this an interesting planet.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Summer Solstice

Yesterday was important for two reasons - June 21 is the anniversary of Princess' baptism (something we always remember as a family), and it was Summer Solstice. Princess and I were driving around yesterday, trying to stay in the air conditioning of the car, when I noticed a sign for a Summer Solstice celebration at the Arboretum. We happen to live about half a mile from the back entrance, so I thought it would be a great way to celebrate.

I felt like I was back in Asheville. People were dressed alternatively and appropriately for the day (I did feel a little out of place in the pink Ralph Lauren shorts and matching pink stripe top, and Princess was wearing a tennis skirt since she just came from her tennis lesson at Parks and Rec - but we weren't the only preppies walking around!) Everything was free, and there were lots of great things for the kids - flowers and hair accoutrements, body glitter, face painting. Drums were played at various spots, with accompanying dancers, fire dancers, and the best hoola-hooping I have ever seen. Mosquito nets were under a number of trees, with free massage or healing touch offered.

We did run into a couple people we know - one family from school and one family from church. I saw the mayor there as well (not that he would have any idea who I was). I thought he was smart to be there - there must have been 2500 people walking around on the late summer's eve.

I have been in disbelief since last November when one local journalist called Greensboro a granola town. It's still most certainly not, but it's good to know there is more diversity than one sees on the surface.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The New Pele

In the next few weeks, if you head into your favorite Mexican restaurant, the service may not be as good as usual. The Men's World Cup will be in full force, and the world (apart from pockets of the USA) will be watching. The SuperBowl is nothing compared to this event. The Christian Science Monitor ran an article about this dynamic recently.

The Monitor talks about this great national divide - how our country alone does not have the love of soccer (football, for the rest of the world). It asks where the next Pele is - and then recounts the history of male soccer players and teams.

Where has that reporter been? It was years ago the US Women's team played (for the second time) in the World Cup Final against China and won an exciting match. Mia Hamm was proclaimed the new Pele (by no one other than Pele himself). If you see a soccer player on tv in ads (and you do), it's Mia. All of our kids are playing soccer, and can name various US female players. Ask for a man - and Brit David Beckham is the only one they can remember.

The revolution has come. The new Pele is here. But she's a woman. Too bad too many men can't see past Title IX.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Dame Margaret Kerr Series

The woman to the right is good - I mean really, really good. Candace Robb

A number of years ago I fell in love with Ellis Peter's Brother Cadfael series. I had never been a big mystery reader, but she combined mystery with medieval history and interesting characters - and I was hooked. With her passing, the series of course is complete. I kept spending time in the small North Asheville library, looking for something else in that genre. I unfortunately tried a few very poor imitators (please, please - ignore the Dame Fresise series for your own health).

Then I stumbled across The Apothecary Rose - the first in the Owen Archer series. I still think that initial book is the best in the series. It follows a 14th century Welsh archer who becomes a spy. I felt like I lived during those times, and wished I knew Owen and Lucie and Magda. Old cities came alive from the page. The mysteries were intriguing. I ached with the characters, and felt their joy and pain.

Robb then started a new series (and she is supposedly not done with Owen, thank goodness). I found the first book in the Dame Margaret Kerr series a few years ago on a close-out table at Barnes and Noble - A Trust Betrayed. A 19 year old woman from Perth, Scotland in the 13th century - seemingly abandanoned by her husband during the time of war with England - goes to Edinburgh in hopes of finding him and discovering who has murdered his cousin. I finished the book and was hooked. I kept checking the website and bookstores, waiting for the next in the series. I finally clued in recently - even though the next two are not published in the States (yet) - Amazon can get anything. I had them airmailed from England.

The Fire in the Flint and A Cruel Courtship are great. Robb is doing her best writing ever. I can barely take in the details of the page because I am dying to find out what will happen next. Scotland of yesteryear comes alive so incredibly. The characters are so real. The history of that time finally makes some sense. I have no idea when the next book in the series will come out. In this series Robb is dealing with some new issues - the ancient Scottish belief in the Sight - women who have vision or foretelling. She presents the spiritual dimension with the practical quite well. The stories are compelling and rich.

Candace Robb is good - really, really good. Take your mouse and head straight to her website (link in first line of this entry) and then head straight to Amazon. Then let me know what you think!

Monday, May 29, 2006


I borrowed this idea from Edgy Mama - a list of inspirations (in no particular order)

Mom, Papa, my kids, tennis, Jane Austen, most anything British or Australian, Shania Twain, reggae music, Candace Robb, Lorelai Gilmore, Jesus, dark chocolate covered almonds, Jelly Bellies, meditteranean blue, forest green, Carolina Blue sky, Appalachian mountains, Green Day, Brother Cadfael, Ashley, Sydney Bristow, stars-sun-moon, Mexican food, Sangria, friends, Dixie Chicks, the ocean, adoption stories, having a clean house, sporty 5 speeds, impressionism, pretty little bound journals, bath salts, sunflowers, tulips, and travel

Sunday, May 28, 2006

taking the bad with the good

Things that have gone wrong in recent days -
*shuttles to and from airport to remote midwestern campus being delayed and broken down
*being stuck first evening in hallway basement for 1 1/2 hours due to tornado warning with smelly, travel worn people, some of whom wanted to start having a big praise God worship service
*starting the trip with a hurt back
*making it worse with bad fall, which also sprained left ankle and really bruised and scraped right knee
*supposed to have private room, and when mix up ensues - being verbally assaulted by stranger who was my roommate for 20 minutes
*staying in the worst dorm rooms ever
*having one large shower room with four shower heads and divided by moldy shower curtains
*not having flip flops to prevent athlete's foot
*wearing my contacts in the shower and seeing the overhead vent which has not been cleaned since 1954
*only having the very short hours of the dining hall for food sustenance - coffee shop on campus is closed for the summer (even with over 250 guests at a conference - most of whom are addicted-to-caffeine college students)
*having tiny frozen mixed vegetables (you know - the peas, square carrots, corn and an occasional lima bean) at every single meal but breakfast
*having "scalloped" potatoes - sliced and cooked potatoes with cheez whiz over them
*having the meat selection of a corn dog or chicken nuggets (none of us are 8 years old)
*not having any store of any kind whatsoever within walking distance
*the complete unavailabity of Diet Coke - Pepsi must own the whole area

But alas, I did find some people with transportation, and yesterday afternoon was able to get to the theater (the one in town) to see Hugh Jackman in X3. Makes up for all the bad...

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

who's your daddy?

I'm heading to a national college student conference this weekend. I'll be teaching a workshop on "Finding God in Pop Culture." It is my belief that God is everywhere, and we can especially find God in the pervasive culture which surrounds us.

So yesterday I was finding out more about movies (and I love movies anyway). The Cannes film festival has been in the news, and I was pleased to hear that Brad Pitt (starring in one of the movie premieres there) sent a letter stating that he would not be there, because he and Angelina were expecting the new addition to their family any day now. Now, the circumstances of those two getting together were terribly fishy (and I really don't want to know the details) and I don't condone starting a relationship with another person when you are still married. Yet, I find it commendable that Brad is putting his family first. Quite a change from another A-list movie star who has obnoxiously proclaimed how much he loves his partner and how excited he was about his baby - so much so that he was traveling around the world doing promo for MI-3 days before baby Suri came and then was in Germany when she was 4 days old, doing more promo. Actions speak louder than words, buddy. If my Hubby took off like that when baby was 4 days old - the locks would have been changed when he returned home.

So even in the midst of movie stars and craziness, there is a message about priorities and family. Easy to see God at work there.

Friday, May 19, 2006

kids don't make you happy?

I was listening to an interview on the radio this morning - some Harvard psychologist who has written a new book about happiness. He talked about the misconception about children making someone happy. Research shows that happiness plummets when children are born. It starts to rise again as the kids get older, and then plummets again when adolescence comes. Once the empty nest arrives, happiness gets back to pre-kid levels. My friend Katalina said something about this a few weeks ago, and I thought it was odd when she said it. Aren't my kids the best thing in my life?

But today - it made more sense. Monday and Tuesday I was anxiously awaiting Sonny Boy leaving for his week-long spring trip on Thursday morning. Most of our conversations for days had consisted of him loudly singing, "I GOT SOME BEANS IN MY POCKET! YO-DE-A, YO-DE-A. I'M A G. I'M A G!"

But then as soon as the boy hugged and kissed me good-bye Thursday morning, I missed him and can only think fondly of how happy he makes me.

Ah, the human paradox...

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

can't hide from mother nature

Since becoming pregnant with Sonny Boy close to 12 years ago - I have tried to feed my family as best I can. I try to be economical, and also to provide the best nutrition. My kids have tried many foods that most adults either have never tried or do not wish to try. Soy, tofu, all sorts of veggie meats, exotic fruits and vegetables and grains - these are staples in our household. I even enjoy watching TLC's new show, Honey we're killing the kids, because it makes me feel good about trying to provide my family with good food and a healthy lifestyle. (don't we love to compare ourselves to others and feel smug about how great we think we are ?)

Now I am not a food nazi - I let them have treats here and there. They will occasionally have a soft drink or a chocolate chip pancake or a sucker. (I know I am a hypocrite - if anyone takes away my daily Diet Coke - it's death. But I did give up all soft drinks the whole time I was pregnant and nursing!)

Now Hubby is getting older - 51 at last count. He's in great shape (particularly for his age), but it's important to watch what he eats. One thing I stay away oftentimes (due to expense and high sugar content and lack of nutrition) are those breakfast cereals. I always keep homemade granola, and if we buy some cereals, I try to go to a health food store or get the less sugary ones. I could care about breakfast foods - but those sugary, kids cereals don't need to be in our house.

Sunday morning (for Mother's Day), Hubby wanted to make breakfast. I would have been happy to make a usual yogurt or half an English muffin - but since he wanted to do it, I told him french toast. He said we were out of syrup (I always make syrup and apparently it had been all used up without my knowledge). Hubby went to the store to buy syrup that morning. Later that day, I was looking in the pantry and I noticed that one of the empty plastic cereal containers now had cereal in it (beside the homemade granola container). I looked. It was full. I opened the top of the container and immediately knew - Frosted Flakes. I looked in the kitchen recycling bin - fairly full - and no Frosted Flakes box.

He knew I wouldn't like it. Not only had the man snuck them into the house, he had immediately taken the box to the outside recycling bin - hoping not to be caught.

When I confronted him with this info, he only grinned. Good thing he has someone to watch out for him.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

I'm a good mom

Well, the Mercedes SUV is back with its rightful owner. It sure was fun driving it - but now I am back to either the '95 Windstar or (my preference and the car which has my name listed as owner) the '91 Nissan Sentra. I love driving my little 5 speed, even though its outward appearance is really starting to look rather sad. The paint job is chipping, and we are getting a new underliner soon. And we are missing one hubcap. But it's a good car.

I have two bumper stickers (which I have had for some time). One says, "God bless the people of every nation." I got this one soon after 9/11. The other sticker says , "God is not a Republican or a Democrat." Got that one during the last Presidential election. Oh - I do have a small sticker on the window that says "Duke Divinity School."

This morning Sonny Boy and I were tooling around in the Nissan - buying some new skater boy shoes and checking out the locally owned skate shop (interesting place, I assure you - reminds me of some of the shops in downtown Asheville). After our purchase, the owner of the skate shop gave Sonny Boy some free stickers - like he needs more. One was a bumper sticker that proudly proclaimed, "I'd rather be Skateboarding!"

I let him add it to the bumper stickers on my beloved Nissan. Happy Mother's Day to me.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

dependence - not a bad thing

For 11 and 1/2 years, I had the luxury of having my parents live close to us (17 miles away, to be exact). Dad was retired and Mom retired during that period. The free time was crucial - because their main jobs became Child Care Provider for Grandchildren. For years, I wondered how all my friends were able to pull it together without free grandparent care and assistance any time they needed it. Some paid babysitters fairly often, but many also had friends who helped out. Inspite of frequent Free Grandparent Care, there were times we still needed help and I relied on wonderful friends. But those times weren't too often, and we were able to reciprocate.

So now we are out of the Free Grandparent Care zone. Two and a half hours is a little much for things like, "Can you pick up the kids today?" or "Hubby and I want to go see a movie tonight" or "He's driving me crazy! Please take him off my hands for a couple days!" I am obtaining insight into how many people in our very mobile society pull it all together. Since moving here, we very quickly started depending on others to help out. When I had my surgery last fall, thank goodness we had friends who kept the kids for a couple nights. (Mom and Dad were coming down, but Dad ended up in the hospital with far more serious issues than plantar fasciattis.) Thank goodness for carpooling. Thank goodness for friends who gladly switch off childcare - because who can afford to pay babysitters all the time? And thank goodness for people who will help out at the last minute, because Hubby forgot to look at the calendar and didn't know he would be gone while I had a Board meeting.

And we are now in our second week of the '95 Windstar being in the shop - new transmission (yea). Flexible as my job is, we can't always do without a car for Hubby. Last week, some friends loaned us their extra car - a really nice double-cab Ford 150. This week, Hubby is tooling around in a Mercedes SUV. (And we didn't even ask to borrow either one of these cars - our friends just volunteered.) It kinda freaks me out to see a nice car in our driveway. The van certainly looks better than my '91 Nissan. (And I'm not even thinking about gas mileage - Hubby's not driving very much.)

Southerners seem to always be dependent upon the kindness of strangers (pardon the split infinitive, but blame Tennessee for that). Thank goodness we can especially be dependent upon the kindness of friends - no matter how new they are.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

memory, pt. 2

We all know that memory is a funny thing. My brother and I are just two and a half years apart, but some of our childhood memories are worlds apart. Mine and Hubby's memories (like him not remembering I had asked him to dust the living room) can also vary greatly, even with just a day's span of time. And my Granny's memory is really fading. Everything in the brain is jumbled around. She continues to have difficulty remembering me, even though we have always been very close. Yet, she remembers my children clearly. Odd.

I heard on NPR this morning a piece about a woman named AJ. She has a memory that scientists say is very unique - no one else is known to be like AJ. She is about my age, and everyday for the past 25 years is like a recording of them. One can ask her a specific date (like April 2, 1984) and she will tell you everything exactly as it was. Time has not muddied any of her memories. Each and every day, every date, every aspect of those previous days is as clear as her present day. Amazing.

The reporter asked her about what it was like. Was it a gift or not? I immediately thought I wouldn't like it - anytime my heart had been crushed (or when I crushed another's heart) would be as clear and present to me as this moment. How could time heal all wounds, if I didn't have time to dull the pain? Yet, AJ said it was a gift to be able to remember her childhood so clearly. I thought that perhaps it would be a gift to remember my Papa more clearly - that's all getting pretty fuzzy - and to remember more of the things that Granny can't remember anymore. Appreciating the good can certainly balance the not so good.

Here's to appreciating pleasant memories...

Monday, April 17, 2006

official preppy handbook meet surfer boy

As soon as I picked up Sonny Boy from school on Thursday (Friday was a holiday), he started complaining about how hot it was and how he really needed some more shorts. Finding shorts is not easy for my picky 12 year old. Shorts have to come to the knee - one inch above and they are WAY too short and WAY too girly. And since Sonny Boy is still on the lean side, shorts that are long enough are often too big around his skinny waist. There are also only 2 approved shopping places - Old Navy and Target. And even then - clothes do not always meet approval.

Friday morning and we are off to Old Navy. "Mom, I want some of those shorts that are like shirts. You know, like those shirts that button down." I said I had no earthly what he was talking about. I was also a little stunned that he was moving away from athletic shorts. Sonny Boy started wandering around ON and finally found a cotton, plaid, button down shirt - "Like this, Mom!" "Honey, I'm not sure Old Navy has shorts like that in your size." We looked, and sure enough we finally found some cotton, madras plaid shorts (which thankfully came down to his knees). I was having mega-flashback to my favorite book from high school, The Official Preppy Handbook. I stood in the middle of ON, gazing off in the distance and fondly remembering all my favorite pairs of old walking shorts, worn with an Izod polo shirt and either my canvas Tretorns or tassle loafers (no socks, of course). Oh - those were the days.

Really hard to believe Sonny Boy wanted to wear the same kind of shorts I once did.

Sonny Boy then announced, "Mom, I need a couple new shirts." "No you don't - you only wear tshirts and you have so many you can't even shut the dresser drawer." "But Mom, but they all have sleeves and I need a shirt like this." (as he held up a bright orange muscle shirt) I had another flashback to all the rednecks at my mountain high school - wearing awful muscle shirts trying to impress the girls with any amount of biceps they might have. I shook my head hard to erase the image as I tried not to gag. (with a spoon...)

"No - you don't need new shirts and I'm not buying any." "But Moooommmmm - I really want a shirt without sleeves!" I decided what the heck - he could go home and cut the sleeves off two of his old tshirts.

We had not been home long that day when he was wearing his new plaid shorts, accompanied by a gray tshirt filled with colorful surfboards - and no sleeves. I'm pretty proud of myself for not laughing in front of him.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Amy Tan

One good thing about moving to Greensboro has been the high quality speakers who come through this town for various lecture series. I was very fortunate last night to drive 10 minutes to Guilford College. They are completing a 3 year focus on Asian Studies, as well as the current 1 year focus on Spirituality. (Guilford is a Quaker school - and a very good one at that.)

The Opposite of Fate: An Evening with Amy Tan was the billing. I have been a big Amy Tan fan since The Joy Luck Club first came out. I have become even more enamored with her after Hubby and I decided to adopt a baby from China. I enjoy her writing immensely, and especially appreciate the understanding she provides as a Chinese American.

Ms. Tan was far better than I imagined. She was quite entertaining, engaging, personable, funny, and poignant. (And I must say she was wearing an incredibly beautiful asymetrical purple wrap skirt with a rich purple sweater and throw - I spent too much time wondering where she bought such an incredible outfit.) The Opposite of Fate is essentially the story of her life and how it influenced her writing. Her father was a Baptist minister who earned his living as an electrical engineer. He died while she was a young teen, in the same year her older brother also died (both of brain tumors). Her mother, quite an interesting character, continued to be a major influence in her life, as witnessed in her writing. In both her own life and in her writing, she has mixed the realities of life (and sometimes the very difficult ones) with humor and compassion.

One of my favorite stories came from an explanation she offered about the line "strength of the wind" in The Joy Luck Club. She ran across Cliff Notes of her book (much to her surprise) and was interested how much symbolism they placed into this phrase. She explained that it came from a Chinese phrase which literally means, "Loud farts don't smell, but the silent ones are deadly." It certainly provides some insight into the term, "breaking wind." (Sure hope my family of origin appreciates this story.)

I was also interested in the writers' band with which she has been involved for a number of years. They perform only for charity - literacy programs to be exact. Fellow band members include Stephen King (are you reading, Edgy Mama?), Dave Barry, Barbara Kingsolver and others.

The evening ended by a question about her "muse." I had noticed when she first came to the podium that she had a large purse with her. I thought - "Couldn't someone have taken that for her?" She placed the purse behind the podium. Upon being questioned about her "muse," Ms. Tan said she brought her muse in case she needed inspiration. She then opened the large purse, and a tiny and very cute little terrier trotted around the stage, to applause from the full theater. She sure seems like a fun person.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


Back in Asheville for a couple days to visit. It's good to be back in a town where my average, everyday wear looks downright sophisticated and stylish compared to much of the hippie population. Haven't felt so good about my appearance in months!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

what should women read?

I ran across an interesting excerpt recently about women reading novels. It is from James' Fordyce's Sermons to Young Women, first published in England in 1766. It reads,

"...there seem to be very few, in the style of Novel, that you can read with safety, and yet fewer that you can read with advantage. - What shall we say of certain books, which we are assured (for we have not read them) are in their nature so shameful, in their tendency so pestiferous, and contain such rank treason against the royalty of Virtue, such horrible violation of all decorum, that she who can bear to peruse them must in her soul be a prostitute, let her reputation in life be what it will. But can it be true - say, ye chaste stars, that with innumerable eyes inspect the midnight behaviour of mortals - can it be true, that any young woman, pretending to decency, should endure for a moment to look on this infernal brood of futility and lewdness?"

A little different from any sermon I've ever given. I'd probably only put Ann Coulter books in this category - can you, dear readers, think of any others?