Monday, January 31, 2011

Monday Musings......

Also known as "random thoughts."

The word "musings" makes it sound more erudite. But don't let it fool you.

Our neighbor across the street still has electric Christmas candles in her bedroom windows. They are behind the blinds, and I'm sure like us they never open those blinds because they face the street. So she may be blissfully unaware that her Christmas candles are still burning. And they're orange to boot. The fact that they are still burning would bother me even if they WEREN'T orange, but they are, so that makes it so much worse. She's not the kind of neighbor I can go up to when she's out in the yard smoking her nasty cigarettes and say, laughingly of course, "Hey Judy! Christmas was over a month ago! Enough with the orange candles!" I don't think Judy even knows my name. She and her husband have lived in their house just a little longer than Hubby has lived here (around 38 years), but we aren't exactly friendly with them. It's not that we're UNfriendly. It's just that I've tried to have a conversation with both of them, and it's an exercise in futility. I can't follow their train(s) of thought, especially when they go off on so many different tracks at one time. Judy's husband, John, thought we had a new dog because Gus got a haircut. See what I mean?

I was looking through a cookbook today and saw a recipe for fish tacos. That's a concept I haven't been able to wrap my head around. I like fish, and I like tacos, but I cannot imagine them together. I'm sure the recipe is delicious, but I don't think I can bring myself to try it. It's sort of like beer and chocolate. I like both of those, but not together. Strawberries and chili. Lasagna and watermelon. Ice cream and corn chips. Swiss cheese and popsicles. Wine and pop-tarts. Green beans and cinnamon rolls. Asparagus and potato chips. Pasta and maple syrup. Honey and stir-fried rice. I'm sure you get the idea.

Every month or so, some phantom person (I've never seen him) drops off a collection of books and other things in our copy room. We have a week or two to look them over, and we can order whatever we want from the collection. We leave our checks in the envelope, he drops off our purchases, and someone in the front office sends an email that our books are there. It's such a nice surprise, because I usually forget what I've ordered. It's like Christmas all over again. He has other things besides books: a huge bouncing glitter ball (I now have an $8 toy in my cabinet at school that I won't let the kids play with), stuffed animals that sing/dance/make noise (almost bought one but restrained myself), craft kits with a bajillion pieces (bought one of those bad boys and sent it to my great niece, tee hee), beautiful handmade greeting cards (that are almost too pretty to send, which might explain why I now have 3 boxes of them). Hubby commented a couple of times on the fact that every time the book dude comes, I buy a cookbook. My lack of interest in the cooking department has been well documented here. Yet I continue to buy cookbooks. And mark recipes that sound like something I might like. I can only imagine what Hubby's comment will be when he discovers that today's book dude purchases include a package of specialty cleaning cloths.

I checked my bank balance over the weekend to make sure I wasn't close to being overdrawn. January is such a loooooooooooooooooooooooooong month for teachers. We got paid on December 17th and not again until today. I realize it's the same money and it should last all month, but that's not the way it works. And $2.90 isn't really THAT close to being overdrawn, is it? (Note to self: It helps to write EVERYTHING down when you use your debit card like it's a bus pass.) I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my deposit had gone into the bank on Saturday, fully two days before payday. I was even more pleasantly surprised when I checked the bank balance this morning and my monthly check had been deposited AGAIN. I haven't seen that much money in my checking account since ..... well, ever. I knew it was too good to be true, so I didn't get overjoyed about my windfall or book a cruise to Europe or anything. Still, I checked several times throughout the day, and every time I saw the money was still there, I sort of "heh heh heh"ed under my breath. I just checked a few moments ago, and sure enough, it's gone. They say you can't miss what you never had. But they're wrong. So very painfully wrong.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

What a Difference a Week Makes......

This is the kind of post that has the potential to make those of you who live in colder climes to hate me. Or at least hate my words. Today was one of those weird weather days in the South that tend to make us forget all the crappy days we've had.

Last Sunday when I rode my bike, I had to wear a long-sleeved t-shirt, a jersey, a jacket, a neck warmer, ear warmers, fleece-lined tights, full-fingered gloves, my Wigwam socks (the warmest socks I have ever owned, hands down....make that feet down), and what Katydid calls our "boat" cycling shoes.

Today I was able to wear a short-sleeved jersey, no t-shirt underneath, no jacket, fingerless gloves, knickers (not the kind they wear in England), thin socks, and my Keen cycling shoes. Temperatures today were in the 70's with a light wind. It was more like an annoying wind at times, but I'm certainly not going to complain. I needed to ride 10.41 miles today to meet my January goal; I wound up riding 27. I was never far from home, but I kept doing little loopy-loops.

It's hard to believe that three weeks ago today we had 7 inches of snow on the ground. In fact, I saw a couple piles of it STILL on the ground, piled up beside the road in shady patches that won't see the sun until sometime mid-May.

I don't know about other Southerners, but on days like this I try to cram as much in as I can. Because you never know when it's going to dip down into the 20's again. Our weather is supposed to deteriorate this week, getting colder every day and rain at least three days this week. When I was riding my bike, I saw a bunch of folks out on their motorcycles, so I thought to myself, "I'll go home and get the Harley out for the first time in months." Before that, though, I thought I would load up the kayak and take it to the park for some paddling around the lake.

None of that actually happened, though. When I rode past the back part of the park, I remembered that the lake is only about half full. There's enough to kayak, but not in a lot of areas of the lake. Then when I got home and put the bike up, I remembered there is a broken elliptical parked behind my Harley, and I can't move it by myself.


I was forced to fold a load of laundry and play the Wii. Still not a total waste of a perfectly beautiful day.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

#18 - Run/Walk in a 5K/10K/Half Marathon......

Guess which one I started with?

I did my very first 5K ever this morning. It was miserably cold at the beginning (and standing around at the end waiting for the awards ceremony), but it wasn't too bad once we got going. I wasn't last, even though my time wasn't great (46:09). We walked a lot of the time, but I ran a lot more than I THOUGHT I could. I might have been able to run more if I hadn't been so busy talking.

That's me with my friend Sara, her sister Rachel, and Rachel's boyfriend Darren. Oh, and all my chins. Darren finished third in his age group with a time of 19:50. Butthead. I told him, "That's not a time, that was a YEAR. And it was a year way before I was even born!" Being the friend she is, Sara allowed me to cross the finish line in front of her. And she was smart enough to note our finish times on the big digital clock we ran under, because I was too ignorant to realize I was suppose to make note of it.

Sara and I are planning another 5K next month. I'm not likely to become a "runner," but I had a blast today. And as long as exercise is fun, that's a bonus! (That's probably the endorphins speaking. Some OTHER -phins will be speaking tomorrow morning, since I followed the 5K with a 29-mile bike ride.)

Because I'm a numbers weirdo, our bib numbers are bothering me. I'm wondering if they were assigned alphabetically. That would make way more sense than registration order, because Rachel and Sara didn't even know the other one had signed up for the race. It would be just too ironic if they still wound up with consecutive numbers. This is the kind of thing that keeps me awake at night.

Friday, January 28, 2011


If you've come to this post expecting a deeply thought-out treatise (don't you love that word? I had to look it up to make sure I was using it correctly) about political freedom, religious freedom, freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, or a particular women's product, you've come to the wrong place.

I'm not that deep tonight. I've bored Hubby to tears with this topic, so you're next on my list. I can't promise I won't post about it again this time next Friday, which is when I wax most poetic (nauseous?) about this topic.

I knew when I gave up my part-time online teaching job that it would free up some of my time. It takes time not only to grade assignments, but also to set up the courses, check the links, work ahead of the students so I can anticipate things that might give them trouble, and make sure all the quizzes and discussion topics are embedded correctly. Then there's the time spent calling parents about failing students, taking calls from confused students, and documenting attempts to contact absent students. Assignments were due at 5:00 PM on Fridays, and I always tried to get everything graded by then. Guess when the majority of students wanted to turn their work in? Right at 5:00. Or maybe just a few minutes after, to see just how serious we really were about the deadline. I would invariably get the dropbox empty of assignments, only to turn around and have 5 more things in there within 30 minutes.

Being caught up in the online world was a nebulous concept. Some students wanted to call at 4:45 on Friday afternoon to let me know they didn't know how to do a particular assignment. Some PARENTS wanted to call at 4:45 on Friday afternoon to let me know THEY didn't know how to do a particular assignment.

I think you get the picture. When I decided to give the job up, I knew it would free up some of my time. (Yes, I realize I already said that.) What I didn't realize was that it would free up so much of my MIND.

The feeling of freedom now that I don't have that job anymore is enormous. ENORMOUS. I can't even begin to describe it.

The closest thing I can think of is the feeling I experienced the first Sunday morning after I submitted the final copy of my dissertation. Sunday mornings were heavy writing days, since Hubby had to work and I had the house to myself. I wrote furiously on Sunday mornings, trying to earn some personal free time in the afternoons.

That's how I've been feeling almost every day since I stopped teaching online. I come home every afternoon and don't have to get on the computer immediately. I don't have to dread the sound of my cell phone ringing (I had a distinctive ringtone assigned to my online students and their parents so I knew whether or not to answer the phone if it didn't happen to be convenient). I don't have to bargain with myself about how much Wii time or quilting time I can have before I have to do schoolwork. I don't have this little voice whispering in my ear, "You should check to see if any work has been turned in or if you have any emails regarding student problems."

I can go to a gymnastics meet and not wonder when I'm going to make up the time I've been goofing off and not grading work. I can surf the internet without feeling that I'm neglecting my work. I can even take a nap and not worry that when I get back on the computer, I will be overwhelmed with work. I can take a weekend bicycling trip without having to jump on the internet as soon as I jump off the bike. I can take a cruise without paying two hundred dollars for using the internet OR having over a hundred assignments in the dropbox when I get back.

I'm free to do what I want to. Mostly.

I feel as though I've been given a huge gift EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

The online work wasn't hard, and every time they come calling, I find myself thinking, "Sure, I can do that. It's not like I have to follow a schedule or anything."

I'm going to bookmark this post and make myself reread it if they call me to teach online again. No amount of money is worth giving up this incredible stressless feeling of freedom.

Your job is to remind me too.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

She Has Every Right to Be Bitter.....

This blog post is about something that has both touched my heart and disturbed me greatly. I'm afraid I won't even be able to articulate my feelings about it. I tried to explain the situation to Hubby this afternoon when we were walking in the park, but I got too emotional. And I couldn't even come up with the right words to explain how I felt.

I got a message today via that social networking site of which I am a miserable failure of a member. I don't get on there for days (weeks?) at a time, during which time I miss important events in the lives of everyone of whom I am a "friend." When my sister asked whose couch my own daughter fell asleep on last weekend, I had no idea what she was talking about. Miserable failure, I tell you.

The girl from whom I got the message is someone I graduated from high school with. (Yes, I realize that is grammatically incorrect, ending a sentence with a preposition, but that would be the third "whom" in a row, and even I have to draw the line somewhere.) Because she sent it out to so many people, and she said it would later be posted, I feel okay about putting it here. I think it would even be okay for me to be talking about it. It's kind of long, so forgive me, but I didn't feel competent enough to paraphrase it.

If you're receiving this email, then please know it's because I consider you more than a fb friend. I can't think of any more important message than the one I'm about to deliver. Although I HATE generic 'chain' types of emails, this is far from that, I promise. Please just hang with me and read on, and you'll understand. I'm going to make this a fb post soon, and NEED your support - hence, this heads-up email.

Most of you know that my father died November 12, 2010, and that we were not on good terms. In 2004 he made it clear that he had legally disowned me - totally written me out of his will - and, even with a few tries at reconciliation once he got sick, nothing ever happened and I'm slowly making my own peace with it. He claimed to disown me because of the fact that I have chosen to live differently than many - - I have chosen to follow my heart, and it was unacceptable to him.

Well, when the will was probated you can imagine my shock that I WAS mentioned in it, first in fact. Rather than leave me out altogether, he left me the sum of $5 - - obviously meant to be more hurtful than just leaving me out altogether. He then equally divided everything else between Gwen, my siblings, and Gwen's son. The fact that he left this life with such bitterness really makes me sad, and I am so determined to not allow resentment to grow, fester, and dictate my life. There is so much to live for, and I want to enjoy it ALL! I have people like YOU in my life - - my family of choice, and want to always be mindful of my blessings  not losses and pain.

Although I couldn't do much with $5 (not to mention the fact that it feels like poison money), I've decided to do something and hope that you'll join me. I have established an account at the Human Rights Campaign in my father's name. My $5 along with yours can go a long way in making a difference for many. It's a way to turn ugliness into something beautiful, which is what I constantly tell my students we are put on this Earth for . . . to make a positive difference in the lives of others. Please consider making a donation of any amount - - honestly, I feel you're all part of my healing process. The information for donating is as follows…

I love you all - for many reasons, but especially for allowing me to be honest with this and to share my pain. Something beautiful is going to come out of something so ugly, and that makes my heart sing.

I went to school with this girl from third grade all the way through graduation. Our senior class probably remains the silliest on record from our high school even to this date, and Lisa was right in there with the rest of us. I remember her coming to class after lunch one day with her broken flip-flop and singing Jimmy Buffett's song about "I blew out my flip-flop."'d have to be there. I told you we were silly.

I lost touch with Lisa over the years, but I knew she had become a teacher. In fact, she was chosen as the county-wide teacher of the year for one of the very large metro-Atlanta area counties a few years ago. I think that's saying something.

Lisa's mother was diagnosed with cancer when we were in high school. She fought a long, hard battle, but ultimately there was nothing they could do. Lisa and I were both in a pageant/talent contest our senior year, and it was held in November. Lisa made it to the finalists, and she had to answer one of those impromptu questions posed by the judges. Her question? Chosen at random, this is what they asked, "As the Thanksgiving season approaches, what do you have to be thankful for?" Her mother was dying, and THAT'S the question she got? I burst into tears right there on stage. (And before we got out of the building, my mother admonished me for crying, saying people were going to think I was crying because I didn't win. Because clearly I'm that shallow. But I digress.)

I don't remember what Lisa's response was because I was crying and it was more than 30 years ago. But I'm sure it was poetic and elegant (as poetic and elegant as any 17- or 18-year-old in a high school pageant). She didn't win the pageant either, but she won my undying respect and admiration for not crumbling in front of everyone in the audience. Or answering, as I would have been tempted to say, "Hey ass-wipe, is that the best question you could come up with for me in these circumstances?"

I don't understand how a parent can disown a child. Especially not based on her lifestyle. I knew Lisa's father, and I actually liked him. He had a beautiful singing voice; I remember him singing at our church once as a guest vocalist. I wasn't aware he had died, but I don't know if he still lived in this area. What went through his mind when he decided he wanted no further contact with his eldest child? What about her siblings - did they share their father's opinion, or were they caught in the middle?

And while my heart breaks for Lisa, I am absolutely in awe of her resolve. She has every right to be bitter, and I suppose she IS, but she has taken something horribly negative and turned it into a positive. It's the ultimate "screw you" to her father, even though he is dead. And she probably doesn't even mean for it to be that - that's my own take on it, applying what would be my own bitterness to her situation.

I fully intend to make a donation. It isn't JUST because my siblings and I were left out of our father's will in favor of a wife who wasn't even living with him when he died. It's mostly because it's the best way I can think of to let Lisa know just how much I admire her for her actions. I didn't publish the information here out of respect for Lisa's privacy, but if anyone else would like to do so, just leave me a comment and I'll get in touch with you with the information. Lisa is a special person, and if she can maintain her sunny, cheerful disposition in the face of what must be one of the most painful things she has ever experienced, she's a better person than I am.

But I'm pretty sure she already was.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Educated Doesn't Necessarily Mean Smart......

I was all psyched up to go to water aerobics again today. I thoroughly enjoyed it last Wednesday, and after only four more days and a 23-mile bicycle ride, my calves finally quit screaming. I emailed my friend yesterday sort of apologizing for not swimming on Monday, but she said there was some problem with the pool pump and it was closed anyway.

Today I dressed in my swimsuit and put sweatpants and a sweatshirt on top of it. I packed two towels, a bottle of water, and my iPhone, and I put on flip flops. I didn't want to be the nerd walking around the pool in tennis shoes again this week.

I KNEW in the back of my mind there was a possibility that the pool was still out of commission. The SMART thing to do would have been to pack ADDITIONAL work-out clothes, like sneakers and yoga pants. Or even shorts.

But no. I didn't do the smart thing. There I was at the "Y" in a swimsuit with no pool. Lots of classes and machines, but no proper attire.

So I came home and played Mario Brothers on the Wii. At least my thumbs got a workout. And I guarantee my heart rate was elevated.

Duh me.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

#11 - Take a Yoga Class......

I've been to many exercise classes in my life, but I had never been to a yoga class. There was a tiny part of my brain (and it is already tiny itself) that didn't consider yoga exercise. I determine the quality of an exercise class by A) how much I sweat; and B) how hard my heart pounds.

I went to yoga last night at the urging of one of my co-workers. She is also a teammate in "Team Lean" (with a third woman, we are The H-Team, which can stand for "healthy" or "hormonal," whichever one fits at the time), our community's version of The Big Loser. Each registrant paid to join the challenge, with weekly weigh-ins and monetary prizes at the end based on percentage of pounds lost of the entire team, not total number of pounds. If you miss a weigh-in you have to pay $5, and you have to pay $1 for every pound gained at a weigh-in. If you miss three consecutive weigh-ins or four total over the course of the program (it's 12 weeks long), you are disqualified. I joined this program a few years ago and wound up dropping out, disappointing myself and my team members.

I was undecided about last night's exercise options. I wanted to give the new line dance instructor a chance, there was a step-aerobics class I wanted to attend, and there was a spin class. I decided on the line dance class, followed by yoga.

So I gave her a chance. Even after learning last week that I did not like her teaching style in the hip-hop dance class, I thought she might be different in line dancing. Not only did she do some of the same songs we did but with ENTIRELY DIFFERENT DANCES, when we tried to put the CORRECT steps to the songs, she informed us that "that's not the way they do it in the clubs."

Do I look like I go clubbing?

I know it isn't fair to compare a new instructor to the old one, but this girl has zero line dancing experience. What little instructing she did last night, she did with a piece of paper in her hand. And apparently she couldn't read her own writing, because she had to keep stopping to figure out what the hell to do. So I gave her a chance. I won't have the line dancing dilemma on Monday nights anymore.

Now yoga, that was a different thing altogether.

I couldn't do some of the moves and stretches all the way, but I figure it was at least a start. For example, I cannot stand with my feet apart and put my head on the floor. I'm not sure why ANYONE would want to do that, but our instructor was totally capable of it. She put us through quite a workout, and I was dripping with sweat by the time we finished. She played very calm, soothing music, and although I didn't always understand the terms she used for the different positions, I was able at least to approximate them. I was motivated a little bit by the fact that there was a MAN in our class, and damned if I was going to let him outdo me.

I stretched muscles I didn't even know I had. Driving home afterward, my legs were trembling. It was a good thing I don't drive a stick shift anymore, because I'm not sure I could have operated the clutch. I had a glass of wine when I got home (don't yoga and wine just go together?), but that was okay because it turned out that was my dinner. Well, that and a piece of homemade bread. I slept like a log, but I went to sleep dreading the idea of dragging my sore muscles out of bed this morning.

Surprisingly, I wasn't sore. At least not as sore as I thought I would be. I have a little bit of soreness in my muscles, but it's a GOOD sore, not a painful one, if that makes any sense. It seemed a terrific stress reliever, and I would like to think it's the reason I slept so well, not the glass of wine when I got home. We'll find out next week, since I don't plan to buy any more wine for the duration of Team Lean.

The yoga class I am most interested in (and able to take based on my schedule and capability) is only once a week, and I'm planning to go back next week. And not just for the five minutes at the end where she turns off the lights and we lie there in the dark with the soft music playing. I did NOT go to sleep.

I was afraid I would snore.

Monday, January 24, 2011

And for Dessert I Had THESE Words.......

Yesterday I argued with myself long and hard about whether or not to ride my bike. It was the first decent weather day we've had in three weeks, and I was eager to get back on the bike. Still cold, but not raining/snowing/sleeting/freezing rain, so that's an improvement already. I went outside and tested the temperature, and it was okay.

I made all kinds of excuses NOT to ride. It isn't that riding is hard; it's just that I have a hard time motivating myself to DO it.

I had made some bread in the bread machine, and it had another hour. Oh darn, I have to wait for it to get finished.

Then I had to eat some of it.

Then I had to fold some clothes.

Then I had to play Super Mario Brothers on the Wii. (I FINALLY got through World 2. Stop laughing at me.)

Then I noticed that the sun was shining brightly.

"That's it," I said, "I'm going to ride."

I got the bike ready, got dressed, filled up my water bottles, prepared the GPS.

And that was the last time I saw the sun.

But I still rode. I did a total of 23 miles, and it felt good. That's not at all what this post is about.

I was on the road near my school when I saw a group of cyclists at the end of a road off to my left. (That's a kick-ass road they had just come up. I avoid it like the plague when I'm on my bike.) They were at a stop sign, talking and drinking water. As I sailed past, I yelled to them, "Looks like I'm winning!"

Oh Bragger.

Right after the words were out of my mouth, I realized my error. After they turned on the road I was on, they would get to the stop sign at my school. And because my school is on a very busy highway, the only logical direction for any cyclists worth their salt to go in would be straight. The direction I was going.

Sure enough, before I got to the end of that road, I heard "On your left!" And they went breezing past me and out of sight, not even working hard. Will I EVER learn to keep my mouth shut?

On the plus side, I never saw them again. They were probably home watching the Packers-Bears game before I ever got to the golf course.

On another plus side, Hubby was just getting in his truck when I pedaled up THAT DAMN HILL to the golf course. I had texted him to let him know I was on the way, but for the first time in the history of mankind (or since the last time he did it), he left his cell phone at home.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Mmmm.... Mmmm.... Those Words are TASTY......

This post is mainly in response to an email question from Maggie, one of my most devoted readers outside my family. Because family members are REQUIRED to be devoted readers, but Maggie just is. Maggie emailed me and asked about this past Friday night's gymnastics meet, so I'm here to report the results. If you don't give a darn about college gymnastics (or if you've already heard me wax ad nauseum effusive about this particular topic), feel free to stop reading now. The short version is we won our first SEC competition, by a pretty good margin (1.675 is huge in college gymnastics), and we will likely move up to 3rd in the national rankings. Second if we can convince Stanford to score below 195.7 in their meet, which is going on even as we speak. Not that I sit around and figure those things out, mind you.

The long version requires some history. And those of you who know me well also know how badly I hate to be wrong. I'm here to eat my words. Publicly.

When I first started going to gymnastics, I took Hubby to a meet. Now I only take him if I have NO ONE else to take, because he makes fun of ALL the gymnasts (ours included), doesn't want to wait around for the awards presentation if he already knows who won, and there's the whole flask thing. (See yesterday's post for explanation of the flask thing.)

In one of the first meets he went to, he saw a sometime golfing acquaintance of his. They were both surprised, saying simultaneously, "Dude....what are YOU doing here?" Hubby's buddy was there to watch his niece perform before the meet. She was doing gymnastics at a local gym, and they often provide the pre-meet entertainment.

A couple of months later Hubby ran into his buddy, who told him his niece was going to be a Gym Dog. EVERY girl from 4 to 14 who takes gymnastics in this area wants to be a Gym Dog when she grows up. So I said (because I'm SO knowledgeable about these things), "Yeah right. Sure she is."

Then  a few months later I see that the girl has been offered a scholarship and has given a verbal commitment to UGA. So I said (because I'm SO knowledgeable about these things), "Good political move on his part. Give a scholarship to a local girl, keep in good with the area gyms [the one where this girl trained is owned by a former Gym Dog]."

Then I read an article about the girl in the local paper that said she had not only signed with UGA, she was going to finish high school in December and go ahead and join the UGA team in January as an early enrollee. It's fairly common with high school football players, and you sometimes hear of it with gymnastics. I would think gymnastics would be tougher, since they have to start immediately, and football players have spring training to acclimate themselves to college and don't actually compete until eight months later. But whatever. So when I read that in the paper, I said (because I'm SO knowledgeable about these things), "Well, she'll be a mat puller this year and break into the line-up [maybe] next season."

She finished high school on December 17th and joined the UGA team on December 18th for the Sneak Peek. Because of NCAA regulations, she wasn't able to train with the team all fall. She stepped right in and took her spot. 

She started her very first meet, and she hasn't looked back. She was in on vault in her first home meet, and she ran down that runway and nailed her vault to the mat, scoring a 9.925. Did not move those feet on landing. Wow.

She might have had a letdown after that meet, but not this girl. On Friday night, when we had one of our best girls on floor and bars out with an injury, and an all-arounder out with illness, Lindsey had to enter the all-around for the first time.

She only set new career highs in every. single. event.

9.95 on vault
9.925 on uneven bars
9.85 on balance beam
9.825 on floor exercise

She tied the highest score IN. THE. COUNTRY. in the all around this year.

She's a freshman. Perhaps even a sub-freshman, since she SHOULD still be in high school.

I am eating my words, but I don't mind at all. She is, apparently, the real deal. And I am apparently SO NOT knowledgeable about these things.

If you care, you can watch videos of her vault, uneven bars, and balance beam performances below. Not sure what happened to her floor routine video, but she does part of it to "Love Shack" by the B-52's. (Another local connection.) Gotta love it.

Uneven Bars:

Balance Beam:


By the way, I have to give a shout-out to our commentator, the inimitable Kevin Copp. He is in his second season - that's right, SECOND - calling UGA gymnastics meets, and he is so incredibly knowledgeable. Still biased, but knowledgeable. I kind of like the bias personally.


I'm kinda full from eating my words.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

#33 - Go to a UGA Basketball Game....

I'm not sure this is exactly the FIRST time in my LIFE I've been to a UGA basketball game. I'm pretty sure I went to a few when I was in college, because A) it was cheap (or free) for students; and B) the guy I dated in college went to as many basketball games as he could, because his father was sure to be there and he could ask him for money.

I must have bought the very last two tickets for this game, because this is the view from our seats:

See all those empty seats over there, just behind the "G", at about midcourt? Yeah, those would be approximately where my gymnastics seats are. Why couldn't we have sat THERE?

I love college ball, mostly because I love watching the students. If we had been closer (or if I had taken my super-dooper-zoom-lens camera), I would have taken a picture of the guy in a Rocky-style bathroom and boxing gloves. They played the theme from Rocky and he danced/boxed his way around the entire arena and up to the topmost level. I'm guessing he's a regular.

Then there was the guy who I hope is NOT a member of the UGA swim team. He was wearing a star-spangled Speedo and a swim cap. And he was REALLY into the cheers. He was a little scary, but he was undoubtedly entertaining.

I have no idea who the people are in the picture below. I just thought the little girl was precious (and she sneezed twice right before I took this picture). I would have asked her mom to step out of the picture, but I didn't want her to think I was some weird baby-snatcher stalker weirdo. Just the weirdo part was enough. 

Below is proof that Hubby and I were indeed there in person (and I took ALL of my chins with me) and I didn't just steal these pictures off the internet somewhere. He appears to be there under duress, but I assure you he was happy to be there. He even said he would like to go back to another game. In the middle of the week. What's up with THAT?

I felt obligated to take a picture of the cheerleaders and Dance Dawgs, since they spent a lot more time on the court than the actual basketball players did. I swear, the official time-outs in a televised basketball game make it take approximately fifty percent longer than it should.

Below is a shot of the student section with the pep band in the background. (Do they still call it a pep band?) At gymnastics meets all we get is canned music. What's up with THAT?

I realize it's not a quality photo, but it's the best I could do with my "idiot" camera. If I had taken the big camera case in with me, Hubby would have expected me to conceal a flask in it. For some reason he equates a secret flask with ALL sporting events. Including gymnastics. 

Oh, and we won the game. We beat Mississippi State (the pseudo-Bulldogs) 86-64.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Not #51........

Last night I did something else I had never done before, and I had it in my mind that I would make it #51 on my list. I also had the (fleeting) thought that I could cheat and substitute it at the end for something I didn't quite accomplish. But that wouldn't be right, and some of you might notice that it wasn't there originally. And there would go my credibility.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

Both of those became moot, however, when I didn't REALLY complete the activity.

For the first time in my life, I went to a ....
hip-hop dance class.

It is a new class offered at the "Y", so I thought "why not?"

There are approximately 49 years and 9 months' worth of reasons why the hell not.

Apparently I can hip, and I can hop, but I cannot hip-hop.

I just don't HAVE those moves. On top of that, my calves were already sore as heck from water aerobics the night, and today I was almost officially crippled.

The instructor was a cute young thing with a killer body and moves that Beyonce wishes she had. I tried not to hate her for that fact alone.

But the fact was that she didn't really TEACH. She showed, then she expected us to do every single one of the moves with the music. I found myself wanting to pitch a fit (like my mother would). I'm sure I had that same glare and grimace on my face, with my lips set in a thin line. God how I hate that look.

I made it about halfway through the class, and then when we took a water break, I just picked up my things and left. I had to go sign up for "Team Lean" anyway (more on that in a later post), and that process took another half hour, so it's just as well that I didn't wait until the end of class. 

It hurt my pride that I couldn't do the steps. I took a "cardio dance" class a couple of years ago, with a different instructor, and I didn't have any trouble then. The dances were similar (we did "Soulja Boy"), so I'm blaming it on the instructor. Just a little. I did get a workout, and at least I learned some useful information - I don't have to reserve Thursdays from 5:00 to 6:00. At least not for hip-hop class.

The REALLY bad news is that she is the same instructor who has taken over the line dance class that I loved so much. I will give her ONE chance at that, but if I feel stupid and small (and not in a good way) when I leave that class, I will find other forms of exercise.

I'm okay with physical pain, but life is too short for me to subject myself to hurt feelings. From teeny tiny girls who wear a size zero.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tough Choice to Make......

I know I'm going to get part of this story wrong, but I'll get the gist of it right.

Sweet Girl called me at 5:20 this morning on her way to work. She said she turned onto a road not far from her condo and a woman was standing in the middle of the road flagging her down. Sweet Girl stopped and rolled down her window a little, and the woman said something about needing her to stay with her because of her husband. She had a phone in her hand - not a cell phone, a house phone - but no visible injuries. The woman said she had called 911, but she needed someone to stay with her.

But then it got weird. She said something vague like "I'm protected up to this line" and she said something with the word "Satanic" in it. Sweet, trusting Sweet Girl didn't believe the woman, and she started to drive away. The woman begged her not to leave, but Sweet Girl (wisely) drove away anyway. She looked in her rear view window as she pulled back onto the road, and the woman wasn't in the road anymore.

Sweet Girl felt guilty about leaving the woman, but I assured her that she had absolutely done the right thing. If it had been me, I wouldn't have allowed the woman to flag me down in the first place, not if I were alone in the dark as Sweet Girl was. Sweet Girl was worried, and she asked me, "What if I was wrong?"

I would hate for something to happen to that woman, but I think that's a chance Sweet Girl had to take. I have thought about it all day long, and just like a worrywart mother, I have pictured all the bad ways this COULD have turned out. You hear so many horror stories about gangs setting people up like that, or couples working together to trick someone into stopping so they can rob him or her.

I hate the fact that society has declined to the point that we sometimes can't take the risk of helping others. The woman MIGHT have had a real problem, but I don't see that a young woman like Sweet Girl could have done her a lot of good, especially if it were a domestic dispute. If the woman had truly called 911, then help should have been on the way. I told Sweet Girl it probably wouldn't have been a bad idea for her to call 911 and report the incident anyway, but she was hesitant to do it after she was away from the scene.

This almost makes me physically ill. I admire Sweet Girl for living on her own 350 miles from "home," but things like this are a mother's nightmare.

Mean people suck.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

#13 - Take a Water Aerobics Class......

Since our line dancing teacher quit working at the "Y", I've been paying $55 per month for the pleasure of driving past the building every now and then. When I was still going to line dancing, however, one Monday I ran into a woman I knew from one of the schools where I taught. She was the secretary for the band when Sweet Girl started high school, so she and I spent many Friday nights in the stands at football games. When I saw her at the "Y" she was going into the new indoor pool area for water aerobics.

I've always enjoyed swimming or anything that takes place in or near the water, so I told her I would love to come to that class one night. It was at the same time as line dancing, though, so I never did. Then I put it on my 50 Things to Do list, so I knew I had to follow through.

As a safety net to keep from backing out, I emailed my friend today and asked if she still went to water aerobics. Once I mentioned it, of course, I was obligated, especially after she threatened me. Just kidding. But she's perfectly capable of threatening me for not showing up. And following through on those threats.

My first problem was finding the pool. You would think a swimming pool would be fairly easy to locate, even to a directionally challenged person such as myself. There were no signs, no clanging noises of diving boards springing (there are none), not even any screaming children to follow. I finally saw a woman carrying a towel, so I pleaded with her to show me the way to the pool. I had to go through the locker room, turn a corner, go through another door, then around another corner, and finally there was a pool.

The next problem came when I had to reverse the whole process. After class I went into a changing room when I really needed a toilet, then I had to pretend that I had simply changed my mind about taking a shower when I mistakenly walked into that area. Aren't they required to post "Exit" signs? Or how about "This way to your car, dumbass" signs? I never did find the potty, and I nearly wet myself by the time I got home.

The class itself was a lot of fun. I tend to gauge my exercise level by how much I sweat, and of course that's impossible in water aerobics. My heart rate did get up to the expected levels, so I figured I was doing something right. The true test, however, will be tomorrow when I try to get out of bed. My calves are already sore, even with all the walking and cycling I do. (Well not so much lately, which may be part of the problem.) I never knew we could use so many muscles just jumping around in the pool.  It was an excellent workout, even if it was a little hard to hear the instructor. One high school swim team was practicing when we started, and the other one came in to take their place about halfway through.

I'm going to try to post photos of most of my 50 Things. This isn't one of them, for obvious reasons. At least they should be obvious.

I will definitely go back to water aerobics again. I'm going to have to plan a little better for dinner on those nights, though. I don't think Hubby would like to have canned beef stew and a grilled cheese every time I go exercise.

Now I just have to close my eyes, cross my fingers, and hope and pray the pool didn't have too much chlorine in it. If I wake up tomorrow with blisters on my eyelids to go with my sore muscles, I may have to rethink water aerobics.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Reader's Digest Version.....

My latest copy of the Reader's Digest came today, along with a reminder of why from time to time I allow my subscription to lapse. Don't get me wrong - I love the magazine. What annoys me is that almost as soon as you subscribe, they start sending messages that say "Act now!" "Renew your subscription!" "Two years for $5!" These messages tend to make me nervous, thinking my subscription is about to expire. And it's hard to find the expiration date buried in all the code they print on the address labels. When I did find it this afternoon, I realized that no panic was necessary, since my subscription is good through August of 2012. Yet they want me to "Renew now!" for two more years. Hell, I could be DEAD in three and a half more years, and THEN who would read the Reader's Digest?

We had the Reader's Digest in our home all my life, I guess. I remember our mother sitting and reading it (on the rare occasions she sat down and allowed herself some relaxation), and she would just HOWL with laughter. She would try to read one of the jokes or stories to us, but she couldn't speak for laughing so hard. There was this one joke that I STILL remember because Mom never could tell it. She would be doubled over with laughter, and she never got it out. I think I was grown by the time I heard the end of that joke, and somebody else had to tell it to me. I guess it lost something in translation, because I didn't quite see that it was THAT hilarious. (Sisters, it's the one about the guy falling in the grave, in case you don't know which one I'm talking about.) What I do remember is the tears that would stream down Mom's face and her gasping for breath.

Mom was peculiar about her Reader's Digest too. No one was supposed to read it before she did. I don't know if she thought we would take all the funny out of the stories and jokes or if we would read the print off the page. Nevertheless, the rule was you didn't open her magazine before she got it. So naturally that was what we (or at least I) wanted most to do. That was back in the days when it came in a brown paper wrapper (not like Playboy, smaller than that). It was an easy enough thing to do to slip the wrapper off the magazine, but for some reason it was a BITCH to get it back on. How did they design it that way? I would take the wrapper off very carefully, but I'm damned if I could ever get it back on. Even if I did, she could tell. Somehow she knew someone had tampered with her Reader's Digest.

Believe it or not, I clearly remember one of the first stories I read in RD. We still lived in the trailer park, so I had to be younger than ten. There was a story about a family whose members all became ill except the baby. They were listless and exhibiting symptoms that resembled the flu. But the baby didn't get it. They finally determined that everyone in the family (except the baby) was drinking orange juice from a clay (?) pitcher, and the orange juice was leaching lead out of the pitcher. The family was basically dying from lead poisoning. (An ironic twist would be if they had thought they DID have the flu and in turn drank more orange juice, but I don't remember that being in the story and I don't want to be accused of making it up. Or being insensitive for thinking that would be just a little bit funny.) I remember after reading that story I grieved for the family, concerned that everyone would be all right. I also became wary of every pitcher I came in contact with, and orange juice itself was not above suspicion.

I used to dream of having a story published in RD. I thought that would indicate I had really arrived as a writer. I was too ignorant to realize that many of the stories I read in that magazine had already been published elsewhere. I also didn't realize for many years that the Reader's Digest Condensed Books that I loved to get every couple of months were abridged. So sue me that I was a kid and didn't realize what CONDENSED meant. I used to wish I could have a "Drama in Real Life" occur in my own life and have something happen from which I could rescue my family (or a friend or a perfect stranger, I wasn't picky) and be the hero. Heroine. Whatever.

We made fun of Mom all the time for sitting with her RD and cackling. Because that was what it was, cackling. It did no good to ask her what was so funny, because A) she couldn't tell us; and B) it wouldn't be that funny to us.

Hubby has learned not to ask me what I'm cackling about when I'm reading the Reader's Digest.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Shantaram: A Novel by Gregory David Roberts.......

Something that annoys me is when I can't remember what made me want to read a particular book. I don't know if this book was mentioned in someone's blog, if I read something about it online, or if I just stumbled across it by accident. I know that I downloaded it onto my Kindle on December 13th, and I know it was NOT one of the gazillion free ones I picked. But something made me think I wanted to read it. If it was your blog on which I read a mention of this book, I would like to thank you. The book was published in 2003, so forgive me for being a little slow on the take. I don't know WHERE I was when this book came out.

This book affected me profoundly. I didn't do a good job of highlighting passages, because I read most of it on the iPad, and it's not quite as friendly about the highlighting business as the Kindle is. The upside of reading it on the iPad was that I could just double-touch a word to have it defined for me, and there were NUMEROUS instances of that. It's not that the author tried to hit you over the head with his awesome vocabulary, he simply used words in a rich and powerful way. There were many passages that made me put the book down a minute and go, "Wow."  I wish I could remember more of them, but one in particular stood out in my memory. The character was talking about prison and the legal system in general:

"We can compel men not to be bad. But we cannot compel them to be good."

For some reason that quote just spoke to me. It makes me think we have it all wrong in education. We should be finding ways to compel young people to be good. Then we wouldn't have to spend so much time compelling them not to be bad. 

The main character arrives in Bombay with a false passport in the name of Lindsay Ford. He has escaped from prison in Australia in broad daylight and is, naturally, on the run. He stays in Bombay and falls in love with the city, taking the name of Linbaba. What better place to hide, than a city of a gazillion people? He hires a local guide to teach him about the city and its customs, and Lin becomes well known to both the lowly and the mighty. He learns the local language(s) and eventually becomes involved with powerful men who control the city's organized crime activities. He forges relationships easily and adapts to his surroundings with ease.

After I finished the book, I wanted to know more about it and the author. (I don't like to know about a book's background BEFORE I read it. That's why I rarely read book reviews.) I was amazed to learn that the book is based on events from the author's own life. Gregory David Roberts did escape from prison in  Australia in broad daylight. He started writing Shantaram in prison, and guards destroyed the manuscript....twice. He wound up on Bombay, intending for it to be a stopover, but he wound up staying for ten years. He says many of the events of the book are fictional, but the overall concept is based on his own experience.

I wasn't surprised to find that the book was scheduled to be made into a movie. Originally Russell Crowe was slated to play the main character's role (and I would pick him for no other reason than he shares my birthday), but then Johnny Depp expressed love for the book, and the author agreed that Depp was a better fit because of his being "clued into India." There were several delays of production due to what I figure were personality conflicts, personnel changes in studios, weather (monsoon season in India), and differences of opinion. The last entry I could find said the project had been shelved, and I'm trying not to mourn that.

I got a little bogged down in the political discussions, but they were necessary for understanding the book's context. That is the only complaint I have about the book. It is rich with details about the culture and the people of India. I wish I could find a word better than "rich" to describe it. Roberts' description is detailed without being oppressive, and his command of the English language left me breathless. Hubby came into the room one night last week to ask/tell me something, and I responded the best I could with tears streaming down my face. The book is just profoundly charged with emotion, and I was sad to see it come to an end.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Homemade Pretzels......

I was thrilled to find my bread machine last week, and I immediately made a loaf of warm, delicious bread. Personally I think the bread is a letdown after the aroma, but that's the nature of the beast. The crust on my bread was a little too crumbly, and it was hard to slice. So I gave up and just tore off huge chunks. You're my friends so I can admit that.

The recipe book that came with the bread machine has other stuff besides bread, and I'm hoping to try several of them. When I saw the recipe for pretzels, I knew I wanted to try those.

You know the kind .... yeasty, warm, salt-covered, chewy deliciousness that you can buy at a sporting event, or heck even for a day at the mall if you're so inclined.

My pretzels weren't pretty, as you can see by the picture below. Hubby looked up a video on YouTube and tried to show me how to tie them properly, but for some reason I was insulted by his offer of help. So I just looped them any old way I wanted to.

Next time I need to roll the strips out smaller and, yes, perhaps I need to practice tying some so they don't look like globs of pretzel dough. I used sea salt on them, which was perfect, but for my personal taste I need to use more next time.

Hubby doesn't like them, so I had all the pretzels to myself. I would like to pretend that this was the only pan of them and that I exercised some restraint. Both would be a lie, however. I ate so many pretzels that I skipped dinner. Or perhaps that WAS dinner. Wonder why I'm so thirsty now?

Now I need to find a recipe for some of that delicious, gooey cheese they serve with these bad boys.

(I haven't given up on my weight loss attempt. I just took a little tiny break from it today. Back on track after tomorrow!)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Streak is Over........

Tonight was our first home gymnastics meet, and the first loss at home since 2005. I'm not disappointed, though. Our score went up, and oddly enough we will probably go up in the national rankings. Gymnastics is a weird sport in that wins and losses don't really count. It's the score that matters. Heck, the other team doesn't even have to BE there. You could just perform in front of the judges and email each other the scores.

The home team in a dual meet always ends on floor exercise, typically the highest scoring event. Visitors end on the high-pressure beam. And we had them on the ropes going into the final rotation. But floor turned out to be our nemesis tonight. No real major mistakes, but a lot of little ones.

We only lost by a tenth of a point, and we lost to the #3 team who also upset the defending national champs last weekend. We don't have to hang our heads, and neither should our girls. It's a long way to April.

Now it's time for the Falcons to kick off. My blood pressure is taking a beating tonight.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Not a Good Choice for a Speech Topic.....

When I was in college I took a public speaking course, and it's probably a good thing I did. I was terrified every time I had to get up in front of my classmates (about 20-25 people, as I recall), but the more I did it the more I got used to it. The terror, I mean. We had to do a different "type" speech each week. I don't remember what the specific types were, but I remember our teacher almost did back flips when someone FINALLY used hand gestures in a speech. (It's all too easy to get white-knuckled grasping the sides of the podium.)

The week we had to do our persuasive speeches, I was in the middle of a break-up with a guy I had been dating for almost a year. I've written about him before; he's the one who Googled me and then told me we shouldn't be communicating because his wife wouldn't like it. He sang in the Men's Glee Club; I sang in the Women's Glee Club. He was Jewish; I wasn't. His mother hated me; I couldn't figure out why. (Duh - Have you no idea about the whole Jewish mom thing? I didn't at that time.)

I was feeling bitter and sad and depressed and angry and all the things that go along with a break-up that was initiated because his MOTHER said for him to.

Being the genius that I am, I decided to do my persuasive speech on the topic of not dating people from other religions. Yeah sure, I can be objective about THAT.

I don't have the slightest idea of what my teacher looked like. But I remember that I started off my speech with a sentence that said something along the lines of, "I don't have to tell you how bad the divorce rate is in our country....." or something equally erudite.

I made it through my speech, but just barely, without becoming emotional. My instructor sat in the back of the classroom so he could watch us just like the rest of the class. He gave me some immediate feedback about my speech, and I remember that he chided me for saying "I don't have to tell you" and then telling it anyway. Makes perfect sense.

But I couldn't turn around and look at him. Tears had welled up in my eyes, and I just kept staring down at my desk. He must have been smart enough to figure out what was going on, because he didn't press the issue. I was embarrassed, and I'm sure the rest of the class was embarrassed FOR me. Or they were thinking, "Man, I'm glad that's not me."

Note to self: Next time you have to give a persuasive speech, don't choose a topic that's so personally painful.

What was I thinking?

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Normally the title of this blog post would be "random thoughts." If I were drinking a beer, I would have titled this post "random thoughts." I'm drinking a glass of wine, however, and that demands a much more sophisticated word like "vignettes."

I'm not much of a wine drinker, but I do own a corkscrew. I think that is an important distinction. Lawanda the Warrior Princess gave me a bottle of muscadine wine for Christmas, along with a ...... I'm not sure what you call it .... a stopper? A thingie that you put into the bottle of wine on the off chance you don't polish off the whole bottle because it's so good? Yeah, that. It has the first initial of my last name on it, and it's the same as the first initial of LWP's last name, so it will always remind me of her for both reasons. I realize I could have saved the wine for a special occasion, but I deemed the college football bowl season special enough. And after the way MY team played in THEIR bowl game, polishing off the whole bottle was not only called for, it was darn near necessary.

On one of his several-times-weekly trips to the package store a stone's throw from our house, he bought me a couple bottles of replacement wine. (I don't think it had the effect he was going for, but whatever.) I didn't have the heart to tell him I gave up beer because of the calories, and I didn't need to replace them with wine. And I couldn't hurt his feelings by not drinking HIS gift, not after the way I scarfed up devoured delicately sipped that of the Warrior Princess.  Tonight I decided to open the bottle produced by a local winery. I thought I would give Hubby the rare chance to be useful debonair, so I asked him to open it for me. I was busy loading the dishwasher and stepping around him as he leaned against the counter watching me load the dishwasher.

He peered at the bottle for a moment. "How do you get this foil thing off?"

Sigh. I found the little hickie thing and peeled the foil off.

To his credit, he did know how to work the corkscrew. He opened the bottle expertly, set it down beside the dirty dishes, and walked out of the kitchen to sit down at his computer.

Sigh. Wouldn't the next NATURAL step have been to, oh I don't know, POUR ME A GLASS?

Hubby's granddaughter, known on this blog as the Sullen Teenager, although she is turning out to be much less sullen now that she is nearing the age of reason, is sixteen years old. She is driving now, which blows my mind in no small way. She's not your typical boy-crazy teenager (thank you heaven above for bringing TWO such level-headed girls into my life), but she has had three boyfriends .................. named Colby. (Although one of them was spelled with a "K," but you get my drift.)

Have I mentioned (lately) that we live in a small town? As in we only have two high schools, one of which is relatively new. And Sullen Teenager has managed to have three boyfriends with the same name. Not Jason or Anthony or Michael or David or Joshua or Gregory or Jonathan or Justin or even Seth.


Colby? Seriously? We HAVE three of those in our county?

One of her family members has accused Sullen Teenager of auditioning boyfriends based on name alone.

Justin? Loser.
Jonathan? Forget it.
Michael? Give him a fake number.
Colby? What time are you picking me up?

I don't know if it's because I'm tired of it or because it's such a rare occurrence, but the last few times I've been outside, I've been a little surprised to see that the ice and snow are STILL on the ground after five days. On a logical level I realize it hasn't gotten above the freezing mark, and I know all about the physics required for ice and snow to melt, but I'm just a little taken aback that I STILL can't walk from my front steps to my car without peril. Usually when we have snows in the South, even those of several inches, they are gone within a day or two. The roads are still treacherous. Those that are well-traveled are in pretty good shape, but even on those it's easy to become over-confident. You can be driving along just fine, and all of a sudden there's just a solid sheet of ice. And you just hold your breath and hope the driver in front of you doesn't decide to put on brakes.

Our psycho new superintendent sent out an email yesterday afternoon regarding school today. I may have mentioned it in yesterday's post. She basically said we had three choices: get to school by 11:00, take a personal day, or take a day without pay. (Students had the day off because it wasn't safe for school buses to run.) Apparently some folks in the district were rubbed a little bit the wrong way by that, so a softer, gentler email followed in which she urged all of us to consider our personal safety first and foremost before deciding to come to school. Oh, and we would be able to make the time up if we weren't able to make it, instead of being docked for it.

I debated whether or not to go, but was unaware of the softer, gentler email. I have personal days, and I have comp time from last summer, but I like to save those for important things. Like bike rides. So I had Hubby drive me to school at 11:00 and told him to pick me up at 3:00, unless I called him before that. The member of our staff most like to make the rest of us actually work couldn't come in, and the one who lives the furthest away from reality didn't come either. Because we are such a small staff, there's not a lot we can do with only three of us. That's my justification for these being the activities I completed while at school today:

  • I caught up on the four days of newspapers that were finally delivered this morning.
  • I watched videos of last Saturday night's gymnastics meet. Again.
  • I worked on my quilt.
  • I texted Katydid and the Warrior Princess.
  • I went to Matt's room and interrupted whatever he was pretending to do.
  • I went to Lynn's room and interrupted her work on her prospectus. 
At 2:00, when I was about to LOSE MY MIND, I texted Hubby and told him to come get me.

Fairly early in the afternoon, the superintendent sent out a new email, saying pretty much the same thing about tomorrow as today. Students will not have school for the fifth day in a row, but teachers are to report at 11:00 and stay until 3:30. (Did she even look at the calendar? Who in the world is left at school at 3:30 on a Friday afternoon EVER?)

I went to my principal and said I could do my work from home, and she agreed. I can monitor the handful of students who have taken the opportunity to work from home this week. I can work on an online course that we have set up using a career website. The owners of the career website have changed their site, and our course now needs to be tweaked a little to match the site's changes.

It's silly for us to sit at school with no students. It's not like the traditional high school, where we could take a rare opportunity to collaborate and plan together. We do that all the time. Our most important work is WITH STUDENTS, and if they aren't there, we are just spinning our wheels.

I will probably go tomorrow, but you can bet your next paycheck I won't still be there at 3:30. I may even take Gus with me and let him play (ha ha ha ha ha ha ha) with Pebbles, the poodle that belongs to one of the teachers on the other side of our building.

An 11:00-2:00 workday. Now there's something I can sink my teeth into.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I Don't Even Have Cabin Fever......

Today was our third day out of school, and Hubby is the only one going stir crazy. You know, the one who is retired and who is able to sit around for many days in a row when he's not golfing? Yeah, he's the one who wants to get out of the house.

Me? I have puh-lenty to do. Read, quilt, eat, play video games, read, quilt, eat, play video games, repeat. Oh, with an occasional nap thrown in.

We did venture out to the Wally World today, though, and I had a pretty dumb reason for going.

I found my bread machine.

When Hubby was diagnosed with diabetes in 2002 (can it really be that long ago?), we thought the world as we knew it had changed forever. And to some extent, of course, it did. We made drastic changes in our eating/cooking habits, and we gave away our deep fryer and, to my great dismay, my bread maker. Or so I thought.

Apparently I simply put it away in a safe place in the basement, in a cabinet that is rarely opened. It is full of things I plan to put in the yard sale I fully intend to have this year.

I didn't want to venture out today, but Hubby did, and I didn't think I could ask him to pick up the missing ingredients so I could make bread. I had everything except bread flour, powdered instant milk, and dry active yeast. Those are pretty vital to making bread. So I reluctantly accompanied him on the treacherous 3-mile trek to WW. It took two scary tries to get out of our subdivision because the road from our neighborhood onto the main road has a stop sign at the top of a hill. It would have been fine if a car hadn't been coming from the left. If we could have just kept going, we would have been okay. But Hubby had to stop, and there was no way to gain traction again. We had to back (slide?) all the way back down the hill, find a patch of relatively dry pavement, and try again.

Once we were on the more traveled roads, it was fine. But getting out of the subdivision is not going to get any better, since temperatures tonight are supposed to be in the teens and not climb over 32 all day tomorrow. What little HAS melted will undoubtedly freeze tonight, and tomorrow I get to attempt that climb out of the subdivision on my own. Unless I can talk Hubby into taking me to school. I don't feel confident enough in my driving abilities to navigate ice.

Our students are out again tomorrow, but we have been asked to report at 11:00 if we are able. We are to use our best judgment, but if we don't report we either have to take a personal day (out of the precious three we get all year) or take the day without pay. It makes absolutely no sense to me at all why they are so determined to have teachers there on a day with no students. I mean I understand it on one level, but on another it's just ridiculous.

I guess it's not a bad way to end the week, though. We will be able to wear jeans tomorrow, and even if the students are able to come on Friday, Monday is a holiday.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a loaf of freshly made (I know it was in a machine, but by golly I MADE it) bread to polish off.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

#20 - Become Debt-Free......

To be honest, out of the 50 Things on my list, this is the one I LEAST wanted to write about. For one thing, it was destined to happen early this year, so it felt kind of like cheating to be on the list. But it's something I've never been able to say before, so I left it there.

The other reason I didn't want to put it on the list is that it feels a lot like I'm bragging. Believe me, that is not my intention. In fact, I can't take any credit for it at all.

Hubby's upbringing was far from idyllic. They typically lived on land owned by someone else, and his father made his living working for the land owner. His father also did some work in a chicken factory, and his mother worked in a couple of sewing factories. Wages were worse than pitiful, and they raised two kids, Hubby and his sister, on those salaries.

It would be easy for someone raised in those circumstances to become one of the "sorry" members of society, but Hubby was determined not to do so. He had an amazing work ethic from the age of 16. He bought his own car, and the first time his father bought a vehicle on credit, HUBBY had to co-sign the loan.

Not long after we started seeing each other, Hubby mentioned that he had NEVER made a house payment late. I was incredibly impressed by that. I had just been married to someone whose philosophy of bill paying was that he was not obligated to pay anyone who already had more money than he did. Guess who lost his house in the past year? (With my name still on the mortgage, but that's a whole different story.)

I'm not sure if Hubby molded me into his philosophy of owing money, or if I just adopted it on my own. But when we got married, I became determined not to let debt overwhelm me as it had done in the past. Having a cooperative partner was a significant step up to start with. When we financed cars, we paid more than the required monthly payments so they would be paid off sooner. (The exception is my latest car, because we got 0% financing.) We pay off credit card balances every month, with very few exceptions.

When we decide to take a trip, we plan very far in advance and pay for the trip up front. Our travel agent, Judy (bless her soul), takes care of everything, and she has my credit card number on file. I give her an amount to charge to the card every month, something we can handle and that I know will pay for the trip before it happens, and she takes care of it. It may seem silly, but to us it makes traveling much more enjoyable to know that we aren't going to have a huge credit card bill to pay when we get home. Except for the bar bill on cruises, but we budget for that too. Even when it includes things like $300 pedicures

Our house was paid for shortly before I even came on the scene, so I can't claim any responsibility for that. In fact, if it were up to me, we probably WOULD have a mortgage. I would so love to have a new house (the list of things I wish were different in this early-70's house is quite long), but I'm practical enough (when nagged by Hubby) to realize that it isn't worth the trade-off. I'm not willing to work beyond the year I am eligible to retire, and paying a mortgage in retirement is too scary even for me. So we continue to make improvements on the house, and I make do without the things I wish I could have. Like closets, a real garage, a real laundry room that isn't in the basement, and a downstairs bathroom.

That's not to say I'm giving up on winning the lottery, though.

Our last major purchase was the RV a little over a year ago. We made a pretty significant down payment, and then my mother gave me a hefty check for my birthday last year. It was very generous of her, and we put every single dime of that check on the RV loan. So we managed to make the last payment just about a week and a half ago. Again, I have to give Hubby all the credit for that. If it had been up to me, we would have bought a brand-new RV instead of a used one, and it would have been bigger. (Full disclosure here. I'm sounding like a greedy b**ch, even to myself.) And it was tempting to take the check from my mother and buy some other toys. But by then the prospect of having no debt was so near I could almost taste it, so I let good sense (provided by Hubby mostly) prevail.

That's not to say we are wealthy by any means. We still have the usual monthly bills, and some of them don't represent good sense at all. For example, I pay for the pleasure of having internet to three different companies: our home internet, the internet on our iPhones, and the connect card I needed for remote access when I was teaching online. I may need to whittle some of those things down too, after I retire.

So there. I've written about the first of my 50 Things, something I feel a little uncomfortable talking about. It's something I never dreamed I would achieve in my lifetime, not because it was impossible but because it's our very culture. And now that we have no debt, I can start working on #31.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Snow Day(s)......

I was a little -- no, a LOT -- suspicious of the weather forecast when we went to bed last night. They had started talking about snow so early and so frequently that I guess I was afraid it wouldn't pan out. Don't get me wrong - I don't hate my job, but ANY free day out of school is a bonus.

I woke up this morning and had the feeling that when I looked out the window there would be NOTHING on the ground. Our school district had already canceled school as of last night, so I don't know what I was worried about. I needn't have worried - there was a solid sheet of white stuff on the ground.

The picture above is of our front steps. It's hard to see where one step ends and the next one begins. I did what I could with a regular shovel to get most of it off before it could freeze again. I could easily have added #51 to my list: Shovel snow. This Southern girl surely didn't expect she would ever have to do THAT.

Gus is slightly perplexed by it all. He can't figure out why he has to JUMP to get from one step to the next. And why the ground keeps caving out from under him when he walks.

Hubby has been diligent about feeding the birds. We have two bird feeders, and he also scattered seed under the tree.

This is the view from the end of our road looking up toward the entrance to the subdivision. Our neighbor tried to drive up the hill not long after I took this picture. She couldn't make it, so she backed all the way back to her house. I have no idea where she thought she had to go; she works at one of the local high schools, so I KNOW she didn't have to go to work.

Above is my mother-in-law's house. We went to make sure she had everything she needed and that her house was warm enough. Boy was it. We didn't stay long; it was almost suffocating in there. She has gas heat, so even if we lose electricity, she should be fine.

Hubby and Gus, accompanied by Lucy and Enzo, the dogs that roam the neighborhood freely. They would really like to play with Gus, especially Lucy, but Gus does not play well with others.

Lucy and Enzo. I don't know if that's really his name. It might be Endzone, which I think would be infinitely cuter. But I think the little girl who lives at his house said his name was a character from something. Any ideas?

The magnolia tree in mother-in-law's back yard.

Snow on the back railing of mother-in-law's house. Hubby said it was six inches of snow.

This is the main road just outside our subdivision. There had been a few cars up and down the road by the time we walked up there, but not many. The slush was already starting to freeze into a solid sheet.

Needless to say, we aren't having school again tomorrow. Yay! And I'm not too confident about Wednesday either, since temperatures aren't supposed to get above freezing tomorrow. No way this stuff is going to melt, and with so many rural roads in our county, driving will still be treacherous.

Shucks. I guess I'll just have to read, play the Wii, work on my quilt, and drink hot apple cider.

I'm kind of liking this rehearsal for retirement!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

My 50 Things....

As most of you know, I decided to come up with a list of 50 new things I would like to do this calendar year, the year I will turn 50. It would be better if I had started it last year on April 8th, to conclude on my 50th birthday, but I didn't think of it in time.

I suppose I'm ready to publish my list. Like any piece of writing, I can find flaws in it and wish I could make it "perfect," but I'm not going to drag it out any longer.

This isn't really what I think of as a "bucket list," because that is a list of things to be accomplished before one dies. If this were my bucket list, it would have some additional things on it, like seeing the Grand Canyon and visiting Alaska and Australia. I fully intend to do those things too, but probably not this year. Unless I win the lottery, in which case I may have an entirely new list:

  1. Hire a gardener.
  2. Hire a butler.
  3. Hire a maid.
  4. Hire a chauffeur.

Back to reality. Where was I? Oh yeah.....

Some of the things on my list feel kind of lame to me. Some of them were things I already knew would (probably) happen this year, but they are still things I've never done before, so I kept them on the list.

As I said to my friend Maggie in an email, it's my blog. And I'm grown. I can do whatever I want to. At least on my blog.

Some of the things on my list are outside my comfort zone, but I'm leaving them there. I NEED to step outside my comfort zone. Maybe. Perhaps.

Tomorrow I will put the 50 Things list in my sidebar, and I will strike through them as I complete them. I figure I need to do one a week, which makes me a little anxious, particularly for the less comfortable ones. I'll write about each one as I mark it off the list, which means I only have six blog topics to come up with each week.

I may edit the list as I go, or I may add to it. It's possible that I won't achieve all 50 of them this year, and I'm going to make myself be okay with that.

Thank you to those who submitted suggestions for my 50 Things list. If I didn't include something you suggested, please don't be insulted. Either I've already done it, it was too time-consuming, or it was simply something I wasn't interested in doing. My blog, I'm grown.

The 50 Things are in no particular order, and I don't plan to complete them in any particular order. Hey, I'm not THAT obsessive-compulsive.

1.       Take a pottery lesson
2.       Take a photography class
3.       Take a hot air balloon ride
4.       Visit a national park
5.       Study a new foreign language
6.       Eat a new type of food
7.       Meet a blogger in person
8.       Get a massage
9.       Learn more about how to play the hammered dulcimer
10.   Take a formal art class
11.   Take a yoga class
12.   Take a spinning class
13.   Take a water aerobics class
14.   Knit something
15.   Attend play at local theater
16.   Take a kayak trip
17.   Write some poetry
18.   Run/walk in a 5K/10K/half marathon
19.   Run/walk the Peachtree Road Race
20.   Become debt-free
21.   Take golf lessons/play a round of golf
22.   Read 5 novels from the all-time list (I think it was published by Time magazine)
23.   Perform random acts of kindness
24.   Volunteer at a hospital/hospice/nursing home/homeless shelter
25.   Try vegetarianism for 7 days
26.   Take ballroom dancing lessons
27.   Visit the High Museum in Atlanta
28.   Have a yard sale
29.   Ride a unicycle
30.   Take a trapeze class at Canopy Studio
31.   Have $______ in savings
32.   Take pictures of places I’ve lived
33.   Go to a UGA basketball game
34.   Go to a UGA women’s basketball game
35.   Go to a UGA baseball game
36.   Go to a hockey game (Gwinnett Gladiators)
37.   Go to the Tipsy Canvas
38.   Ride my bike 2500 miles
39.   Hike part of the Appalachian Trail
40.   Attend gymnastics Regional Championships
41.   Make something in filet crochet
42.   Join Friends of Yargo
43.   Be “overweight” on the Wii instead of “obese”
44.   Ride bike in at least one of the counties in Georgia where I've not yet ridden
45.   Write a book
46.   Buy and experiment with Photoshop
47.   Ride local roads I’ve not ridden before
48.   Ride the double-century to Anniston and back
49.   Write a will
50.   Go to the chiropractor

Some of these are things I would LOVE for someone to do with me, so if you see something that catches your interest (and you are either local or willing to come here), please come join me. Insanity, just like misery, loves company.

It should be a fun challenge. I'll let you know how it goes.
Whether you want me to or not.