Thursday, March 31, 2011

I Need to Change My Attitude.....

....about Thursday night's Zumba class.

I just heard a clamor that sounded a lot like the Hallelujah Chorus, and I couldn't make out all the words, but it sounded like, "You need to change your attitude about A LOT OF THINGS!!" You may all go sit in the corner now.

I've written before about how the instructor in Thursday night's class isn't as perky, fun, animated, lively, cute, fun, rhythmic, young, fun, or energetic as the instructor on Tuesday night. Besides that, I am convinced she is extremely musically challenged.

I will have just gotten in the groove of a new move (hee hee - I made a rhyme) when I look up and she has changed direction or inserted a new move or simply stopped in the MIDDLE of a freakin' 4-beat measure. IT DRIVES ME CRAZY!

I realize there are worse problems in the world, but tonight is my night to complain about this one. My blog, my rules, my complaints.

I try to be in the front of the Zumba class, because I have to see the instructor's feet. Besides, I got moved to the front of the room so many times when I was in school, I just naturally gravitate there anyway. Because I'm in the front, I'm certain this sweet lady can see me scowling and rolling my eyes. I'm not trying to be mean to her, but I get so frustrated!

Tonight I had to stop (well, not stop, since it would look ridiculous to stop in the middle of a song, especially being in the front and all) and ask myself the purpose of being there. Am I perfecting a routine for Broadway? Trying out for the Rockettes? Learning a dance so I can be like the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders?

No, no, and a resounding hell no.

I'm there to work out, work up a sweat, and have fun. If I can get past my own attitude, I'll be three for three.

I should be like this lady to my right tonight. (Tee hee - I did it again.) She was moving to the music, but her moves were nothing like ours. I don't mean she couldn't do it - she was choosing to do her own thing. It was like she was working hard to choreograph a new dance to every song. But she was clearly having a good time, and I didn't see HER scowling. She doesn't let it bother HER when the instructor changes moves in the middle of a measure; she's too busy doing her own moves anyway. (Although the first time I noticed her, I had the fleeting thought that she was having a seizure, and I was debating whether to try to help her or move to the other side of the room so I wouldn't get in the way.)

I don't want to stop going to Zumba on Thursdays, so I'm going to have to work on my attitude.

Great. Like THAT hasn't been a 50-year old work-in-progress.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Easter Dates and My Birthday and Other Meaningless Stuff.....

I have always been fascinated by dates (numbers in general, but mostly dates -- and zip codes). My birthday is April 7th, and when I was young it seemed that Easter Sunday always fell NEAR my birthday but never ON it. When my birthday finally coincided with Easter, I was 24 years old and had a 10-month-old baby, so it wasn't nearly as big a deal as I had thought. The next time was 1996, and all I could think about was how close the Olympics were going to be and thinking I might be able to attend some of the events (I didn't).

I should have partied harder on both those occasions, because Easter will never again fall on my birthday.

Well, unless I live to be 114 and 119. And while I guess that's entirely possible, it's also possible that my definition of partying will have changed significantly.

Look at the chart below (you'll have to click on the picture to make it bigger) and see how strange the distribution of Easter dates is. I am aware of how Easter is defined, but I would still expect SOME kind of pattern over a 250-year span.

Poor April 8th gets the shaft even more - it only gets Easter Sunday 5 times in that 250-year span. And how about March 24th? Really, why bother? It gets one and March 23rd gets TWO? What's up with that? Yet April 10th and April 17th get a whopping eleven Easters each, the hogs. Even April Fools' Day gets 10 Easters, and don't you know some parents with a penchant for practical jokes could have a FIELD DAY with April Fools' Day occurring the same day as the Easter Bunny's annual visit?

I have lost count of the number of students I've taught over the years, but let's just say (conservatively) that I have taught an average of 100 students per year, over a 26-year span. Out of 2600 (approximately) students, how many do you think I've had who shared my birthday?


And they were at the same school in the same year.

It's puzzles like these that get me on the elliptical every morning. I want to live long enough to solve them.

Remember me mentioning Midlife Swimmer in last night's post? She mentioned in her post today that her birthday is next week, so I left a comment asking her what day. I thought to myself, "What are the odds?"

Apparently they are pretty good. Midlife Swimmer and I have the same birthday, though I'd be willing to guess her big 5-0 is significantly more than 8 days away.

I apologize for any stress I may have caused with this mind-boggling post. You may now stop banging your head against the wall. It won't help anyway.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

#6 - Eat a New Type of Food......

I was hesitant at first to consider this food different enough to be worthy of marking off one of my 50 Things to Do. Then I remembered.......

My blog. My rules.

When I put #6 on my list of 50 Things to Do, I had in mind some exotic restaurant or a recipe from a far-off land that I would be courageous enough to try. I thought as a last-ditch effort, I could try sushi for the first time in my life. I had an image of me holding my nose with one hand, chopsticks with the other, as I tried to make myself chew (you do chew it, don't you?) and swallow a bite of sushi.

That won't be necessary (still not impossible, however), thanks to one of my blogging pals, Midlife Swimmer. This is an incredible woman who has lost 153 pounds. That's right, 153. She is in the water all the time, either teaching swimming lessons, training, or competing. I figure she knows a thing or two (or a thousand) about eating healthy, and she frequently writes about the foods she packs to take when she's at the pool all day.

She mentioned Greek yogurt a few times, and to be honest I didn't know if that was a brand or a type. When Hubby and I were in the grocery store last weekend, I saw some Greek yogurt on sale (it still wasn't cheap, but I bought it anyway) just to try it.

I'm not a HUGE yogurt fan, but I do go through spells of eating it. This latest spell was brought about by a visit to Cracker Barrel for breakfast, if you can believe that. I really wanted the French toast with warm maple syrup and some hashbrown casserole and fried apples and biscuits and gravy and all that jazz, but I didn't want to sabotage my diet completely on one breakfast outing. Therefore I chose fresh fruit with yogurt and granola, and it was DELICIOUS. On my next trip to the grocery store, they had granola on sale, buy-one-get-one-free, so I thought that was a sign. I tried it with fruit and yogurt, and I tried just the yogurt and granola together. All were very good, and I consider it a healthy breakfast, as long as I don't get carried away with the granola.

This week I tried the granola and fruit with the Greek yogurt. Forgive me if I'm the last person on the planet to try Greek yogurt, but it was a pleasant surprise. It tastes a little stronger, for lack of a better word, than typical grocery store yogurt, and its consistency is thicker. I bought vanilla flavor, which isn't at all overpowering, yet the yogurt taste that dominates isn't yucky at all. (I've NEVER been a fan of plain yogurt. Blech.) It does have a few more calories than the grocery store brand, probably because the container is slightly larger than the ones I typically buy. I think those are probably "good" calories, though, and I'm not going to quibble over the calories in nonfat yogurt. It also has twice the protein of regular yogurt, and I'm guessing that's a good thing too.

I may try sushi (or something else exotic) before the year is out, but I may not. If I don't, eating Greek yogurt will just have to satisfy #6.

Monday, March 28, 2011

10 Reasons This Monday Could Have Been a Lot Worse.....

#10 - It finally stopped raining. For a day or two. Now the weather people can stop talking about our rainfall deficit. For a day or two.

#9 - I only had three students in my first period class, and ONE in my fifth period. Seriously....they're paying me for this?

#8 - Meatloaf and mashed potatoes for dinner. Ultimate comfort food.

#7 - Hubby's physical revealed none of the catastrophic things he expected.

#6 - My mother's knee replacement surgery apparently went well. And the hospital is apparently still standing. (She didn't want me to come.)

#5 - In the mail today I received a new $9 bicycle mount for my $400 GPS.I love Amazon. I just realized the other day that the little snap thingie that keeps the expensive gadget from flying off the handlebars was broken.

#4 - I received an email notification that one of my 50 Things to Do will now be possible. Damn, now that means I HAVE to do it. But you have to wait about three months for further information.

#3 - I don't have to worry about grading online assignments anymore. (I haven't mentioned THAT one in a while.)

#2 - One of our students who dropped off the face of the earth last semester came in this afternoon to see if he could come back and finish. (He can.) He said he didn't want to be a loser his WHOLE life.

#1 - Shhhh...... I don't want to jinx it, but the pain in my neck/back is gone. (As I read the other day, and I can't remember who said it, "I'm not superstitious.....I'm just a little stitious.") I'm still going to the chiropractor tomorrow.

Have a wonderful week!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Sentry by Robert Crais......

It's unusual that I read a whole book in two days, but it's been that sort of two days.

The Sentry by Robert Crais is more Hubby's type of book than mine. We have both read a lot of books by Crais (I can't figure out how to make his name possessive), and even Hubby agrees this isn't one of the best. The ending was strange, and it's unclear if Crais meant to leave the door open for a sequel or if he ran out of steam and just stopped writing.

Crais uses many of the same characters in his novel, and somehow I don't find that as annoying as I think I should. He doesn't wallop readers over the head with them, but he manages to make us think characters from previous books are old friends of ours.

It's one of those crime-mystery-shoot-em-up type stories, with Joe Pike as the main character and his good buddy Elvis Cole (Elvis? really?) making his usual appearance when things get tight. There are things about both those guys that I have a hard time accepting. Joe Pike, the former cop, military mercenary, is a vegetarian? He does yoga to wind down? Okayyyyyyyyyy.........

I'll stop being snarky, since no one forced me to read the book. It was a decent way to spend two rainy, colder than average days, but I'm glad I didn't spend any money on it.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Burned (Bummed?) Out.......

I've been feeling a little burned out about blogging lately. Or maybe I'm just bummed out in general. Looking back at the past few years, I think I get this way around this time of year. It's not yet Spring Break, and it feels like it will neverrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr get here. I get frustrated at school because it always feels like we are spinning our wheels, and the Warrior Princess isn't there anymore to keep me grounded. And entertain me. And give me a place to escape to when I want to get out of my classroom.

A couple of years ago, I couldn't even get motivated to do any cycling in April or May, and it was around this time of year that I decided I couldn't do BRAG. I did do part of it, but it wasn't the same as doing the whole week, and 2009 turned out to be my lowest cycling year since I started keeping up with it.

Maybe it's the weather. We've had a tiny cool spell, and we had rain and thunderstorms all afternoon. Hubby couldn't play golf; I couldn't go ride my bike. It's not like we sat around and groused at each other. We went out for breakfast, bought groceries together (I love having someone help me carry them in the house), went to the home improvement store with the big orange sign and picked out a few thousand dollars worth of stuff we want/need but left empty-handed, grilled steaks for dinner rather than go out to eat, sat around and read. He even tolerated my playing Mario on the Wii a couple of times. I did laundry, washed the sheets on our bed, and Hubby even helped me make it up. Without me asking him to. I worked out on the elliptical, since I couldn't ride today.

It could be that I'm still in a lot of pain in my upper back/neck, and it's frustrating that nothing seems to help. I've put ice on it to lessen the inflammation, I've used that heat stuff you rub on, and it still hurts. It hurts worst when I'm lying down in bed or reclining in my recliner. Guess what I like to do best when I'm stuck at home on a rainy day? I just can't get comfortable.

I could be bummed (still) because I gained a pound last week. I did everything right (seriously, did that one little piece of cake I had at the tailgate last Saturday really sabotage all my other efforts?), worked out every day, twice a day most days, and three times on Wednesday, and I GAINED a pound? The intelligent part of my brain realizes that's part of the process and there are bound to be ups and downs. The emotional part of my brain still thinks it's unfair and wants to be angry at someone.

On a positive note (because I insist that there be one), I'm still working on my knitting. I even have a little contest in mind to give away my creation(s) when I finish. Just as soon as I learn how to change colors.

Sorry for the blah-te-dahs. I hope to be fresher tomorrow night. I'm supposed to run another 5K tomorrow afternoon (weather permitting - I ain't THAT dedicated), and I have a time to shoot for. Maybe that will make me feel better.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry......

Troy Chance (don't you just LOVE that name - especially for a girl?) is a young woman on a ferry on Lake Champlain, headed for Burlington, Vermont. I think it's ironic that the last two books I have read were set in or near Burlington. That has almost nothing to do with this post.

As the ferry traveling in the opposite direction gets near the one she's on, Troy sees something tossed overboard. The something appears to have a face, so without hesitation (or much of one, anyway), Troy dives into the water and swims to the spot where she saw the object hit the water. Miraculously, she finds it, hauls it to the surface, and "it" is a young boy. She drags a sweatshirt off him, swims approximately a mile to shore (I think), and makes her way to her car, fully expecting to see flashing lights of police cars and other emergency personnel at the ferry landing. But there is no one. She calls police departments on both sides of the lake, but no one has reported a young boy missing. She realizes at some point that the sweatshirt she pulled off the boy had the arms knotted tightly around the boy, proving that his fall from the ferry was no accident.

Not knowing what else to do, Troy takes the young boy home, feeds him and gets him into some dry clothes. He says very little, and when he does speak, it's in French.

I fell in love with this little boy just as Troy did, and not JUST because his name was Paul. I admired Troy not only for taking a huge risk with a young boy, but also because she knew how to completely disassemble a bicycle and put it back together. Suddenly I'm not so proud of myself for changing a flat tire, even if it WAS on the back.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable read with interesting twists and turns. I appreciated the fact that Troy's efforts to find Paul's parents and find out what happened to him didn't always work out the way she planned them. She was an amateur, and she admitted her weaknesses even as she did her best to find clues. I was in awe of some of the ideas she came up with, but they weren't so outlandish that I found myself saying, "There's no way any normal person would have come up with that."

I recommend this book, and I hope Sara Henry has more where this one came from.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

#50 - Go to the Chiropractor.........

I didn't intend to do this particular item on my 50 Things to Do list quite this soon. The pain in my neck/back has grown so intense, though, that I was forced to go. In fact, Hubby got so concerned when we were walking yesterday (I doubled over in pain and started crying, right there on the hiking trail in the park) that when we got home, HE called the chiropractor to see if he could see me. Usually I'm the one who makes HIS appointments/phone calls.

My neck/upper back started hurting Sunday night, and I thought it was just a crick from sleeping wrong. But it grew worse and worse, and it hurt the most when I was sitting in my recliner or LYING DOWN. How much sense does THAT make? It didn't hurt to do Zumba, and it didn't bother me at school (thank goodness for that). But I couldn't get comfortable at night. It appeared to worsen on Monday night and last night, both of which were days on which I rode my bicycle home. Great. Another activity I love that's going to cause me discomfort. Wasn't being allergic to the pool enough?

I left school this morning during testing, since many of our kids were taking the test. The chiropractor said I was indeed very tight in a couple of spots, and he made a few adjustments. He asked me several times how I had done it, and he said there must have been some initiating incident.

I felt silly telling him this, but the ONLY thing I could think of was on Saturday night, when I realized I had left my BIG, EXPENSIVE CAMERA at the arena in Birmingham, I was driving and I snapped my head around to look in the back seat. I wasn't aware of any pain at that point, but I was pretty much unaware of ANYTHING other than getting my camera back.

I'm going back a couple of days next week, and he has given me some exercises to do in the meantime. I guess that means I have homework. It feels much better right now, and I'm planning to bike home tomorrow afternoon. We'll see if it has the same effect as it did Monday and yesterday. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it won't.

I don't have enough drugs for this.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Another Post about (Cycling) Motivation........

A while back I wrote a post about motivation, specifically as it relates to my cycling. I talked about the website(s) I use to track my cycling miles, the charts and graphs and calendars and how competitive I am. But only with myself. Because I've given up on EVER catching up to Rozmo's mileage.

Goals are one of my main motivators. Almost every year since I started using an online cycling log, I have set a yearly goal. I haven't made it yet. The closest I ever came was in 2006, when my goal was to ride 2000 miles in that year. On December 31st, I had 1998. I'm not kidding. Of course it was cold, dreary, foggy, rainy, and miserable that day, but I was going to go out and ride my bike the mile up to the middle school and back. Hubby convinced me I was crazy, so I didn't do it. When he mentioned how disappointed he would be if I got hit by a car and killed the day before his birthday, I relented and accepted the failure of not meeting my goal for that year.

Wait.... Shouldn't he have been disappointed on ANY DAY if I got hit by a car and killed?

I think my problem in the past has been that I set a goal for the year, but I never broke it down into manageable parts. Hence situations like last year, when I got really, really serious about meeting my cycling goal only after I bought a new bicycle. In October. And we had the coldest December since the Bubonic Plague. It wasn't even close; I missed it by 181.8 miles.

This year I have approached the goal-setting a little differently. I have a goal of riding 2500 miles this year (since I failed at riding 2010 miles last year, naturally I UPPED the ante), and I have broken the goal down into monthly goals. That's another one of my motivators: I wanted to ride more each month than the same month last year. As you can see from the graph below, I have managed that so far. My goal for March is 150 miles, so I still have a ways to go, but the green bar is already above the one for last year.

My goal for both January and February was 100 miles. I try to be realistic in setting wintertime goals. I rode 116 miles in January and 148 in February (and that was in only 3 rides, strangely enough). 
June and October are going to be pretty hard to beat compared to last year. I have BRAG in June, but I am also doing Paddle Georgia that month, which will take out a whole week of riding. I'm guessing it's hard to paddle a kayak and ride a bike at the same time. It's probably been done before, but I'll not be trying it. 

November may be a challenge too, if I don't do the North Florida tour again. And I won't do the North Florida tour again if temperatures are in the 40's like they were last year. 

I'm perplexed by May and August of last year. Those are prime cycling months, and I did almost no riding. I guess August can be explained because A) it's hot as Hades; and B) school started back. But May? That's right before BRAG, and I should have been training. I guess that was one of those years I decided training was not required. 

As you can tell by looking at the chart, 2009 was an off year for me as far as cycling went. I just wasn't feeling it. I rode ZERO miles in either April, May, or September, and I didn't ride after November. What's up with THAT?

Having these little monthly goals has helped me stay focused. I realize the cycling police will NOT come get me if I don't meet my goal(s), but I also realize that every minute I'm on the bike is contributing to my overall better health. And I'd like to live long enough to enjoy Spring Break, let alone retirement.

I have penciled in my calendar (the paper one, remember?) the potential riding days for this month. March has been a little tougher than usual because for some reason I don't have any organized rides scheduled this month. So I put a notation on each of the days I thought I would have Hubby take me and my bike to school. I almost didn't take the bike today, but then I told myself we are coming to the end of the month, and if I start skipping days, I'll wind up trying to ride 75 miles next Thursday night in the dark. Not really - I only have 42 more to go.

If only I could make myself approach housework so methodically. Hmmmmmm.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Random Tuesday Thoughts......

I post random thoughts when I don't have enough fodder for a complete blog topic, but I have these tidbits swirling around in my head. Full disclosure here.

  • I like my Tuesday Zumba class much better than my Thursday one. The instructor on Tuesday (and Friday, but I don't typically go to that one) is full of spunk, and she is so animated. She has great musicality, and it looks like she's just having fun up there. I'm always surprised when we do the cool down, because I can't believe the hour is over already. 
  • The Thursday instructor is relatively new, so maybe she will come around. Or maybe I will give her a break and stop comparing her to the Tuesday night gal. One thing that irks me is her lack of musicality. At first I thought she didn't have a sense of rhythm, but that's not it. She doesn't change the moves with the musical phrasing. She'll start doing a new move in the middle of a 4-count measure of music, and it drives me crazy. Worse, sometimes she starts doing a new move on the off-beat. The stubborn side of me wants to do it the RIGHT way and stay on the beat. The proud part of me does it her way so it doesn't look like I'm the only one in the room doing it wrong.
  • I was very proud of myself Sunday night for getting my cycling things ready for Hubby to take me to school on Monday. I packed my clothes and even put air in the tires. Then the air went out of my own personal sails, because when I was taking the pump off the tire, I pulled the valve stem out. Naturally it was on the BACK tire, which is a b**ch to change because of the chain ring and all that mechanical stuff whose names I don't know. I was determined, though, so I proceeded to change the tire. In the dark. With only a little help from Hubby. I was very proud of myself, until he dropped me off at school on Monday morning and I saw where the tire was bulging because I hadn't seated it properly in the rim. I couldn't ride with it that way. The only solution was to let some (a lot) of the air out, pop the tire back in, and hope that was enough air to ride home on. It was tough pedaling, and I did NOT throw in the extra 4.5 mile loop I usually do. But I made it, and I learned a lesson. Or two.
  • Gus has been "fixed," but apparently he doesn't know it. He has a ritual (usually reserved for the rare occasions when we have company, so he can embarrass us fully) in which he picks up one of his stuffed animals and shakes it violently. He'll toss it a few times, pick it up and shake it, toss it again. This is apparently foreplay. Because after a few rounds of tossing and shaking, he begins to hump the toy. He looks like a miniature kangaroo when he does this, standing up on his hind legs with the toy clasped between his front paws, and afterward he has a body part hanging out that we don't normally see. He appears to be very proud of it - typical male. In this state, he is paralyzed. He can't walk, he can't move, he just stands there and pants in the afterglow. I could offer him a treat, some cheese, a walk in the park, or a free shot at the cat, and there isn't a thing he could do about it.
  • I have a catch or a crick in my neck/upper back that is driving me crazy. It hurts worst when I'm sitting in my recliner. I was going to use it as an excuse not to go to Zumba tonight, but then I remembered it was Tuesday, the night I like. I figured I could sit here and hurt, or I could go to Zumba and hurt, but at least in Zumba I would be burning some calories. It still hurts, but it's better than it was. I would give my pinkie finger for some pain pills. Of course, if I gave my pinkie finger, I would NEED some pain pills. I seriously think the crick/catch was caused by playing Mario on the Wii. Don't tell Hubby.
  • I wore capris to school today for the first time without checking to see if they are still in style. I also completely ignored the fact that my legs are A) paler than ghosts; and B) hairy. I wore sandals and DID remember to put my toe ring back on. 
  • One of my students came into my room today and stared open-mouthed at my desk. I had my desktop computer running the program our students use, my iPad open to a spreadsheet I had been working on, my personal laptop open in a desperate attempt to restore it to some semblance of operation, and my iPhone nearby. She said, "Do you really need ALL those electronics?" She has no idea.
  • Our students have been taking state-mandated graduation tests all week. I had to administer one section on Monday. Toward the end, one of the students raised his hand and summoned me to his seat. He whispered, "Can I smash that wasp? 'Cause I'm allergic to them." I resisted the urge to tell him that was the stupidest damn remark I'd heard so far that day. The wasp had been on the window the entire testing period and was not in danger of going near him. If he'd been concentrating on his test, he would never have seen it, because it was BEHIND him. Another girl looked completely bored and had only answered half the questions. But she spent a great deal of time examining her hair for split ends. 
  • Technology amazes and fascinates me. I'm still in awe of the fact that my iPad and my Kindle "talk" to each other. Each one knows where I left off in a book. (I read on the iPad downstairs; the Kindle stays by my bed.) I get a message that says, "On your Kindle, you were at location ______ at _______ PM on _______." Sunday night, my Kindle knew that my iPad had been in the Central Time Zone. I'm pretty sure it was jealous, until I explained that it was only Alabama.
Have a good rest of the week, and thanks for stopping by! I appreciate you more than you know.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian........

****Spoiler Alert - You might want to skip this "review" if you intend to read this book.****

This isn't so much a review as it is my own personal reactions, some of which are still laced with confusion about whether or not I liked the book.

The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian (how DO you pronounce that?) is about a young woman named Laurel who works at a homeless shelter, assisting the homeless get into places of their own and matching them with services when she can. When one of her clients dies, Laurel's supervisor finds in his possession a large collection of photographs, presumably taken by the homeless man (Bobbie), and they are not only excellent quality photographs, some of them are of famous people from a variety of eras.

Bobbie has moments of lucidity when he's properly medicated, but it is often difficult to distinguish his true past from his imagined one, even when he DOES offer details. 

Each chapter begins with notes from a psychiatrist's journal, detailing the patient's behavior and noting medications and the frequency of psychotic episodes. That will become important later. 

Laurel becomes obsessed with the photographs. Her supervisor had intended that perhaps they could have a formal show of Bobbie's work, with the idea that the proceeds would help the shelter tremendously. Laurel recognizes some of the places in the photographs, though, and this is where the details become fuzzy for me.

Laurel had been attacked while mountain biking seven years prior to the book's beginning, and one of the pictures is of a girl on a mountain bike in a location that appears to be the same general place where she was attacked. 

She recognizes a country club in some of the pictures, a place where she used to swim when she was a girl. And here is where the book began to insult my intelligence. She recognizes it because it was a part of Jay Gatsby's estate. You know, as in The Great. She begins to think that the young girl with Bobbie in some of the pictures is Pamela, the daughter of Tom and Daisy Buchanan, and later she concludes that Bobbie is the result of the infamous affair between Daisy and Jay Gatsby. She becomes more than obsessed (is there a word for that - consumed?) with the idea and sets out to learn the truth, wanting more than anything to prove herself to her friends, her boss, and her boyfriend. 

Laurel puts the pieces together and discovers that the girl on the mountain bike IS she, that the picture was taken because Bobbie was in the area that day to visit his son, one of the evil men who attacked her on that dirt road.

Confused much? Bear with me. 

I was insulted and annoyed that the author would take such liberties with the characters from another famous novel. Even Alexandra Ripley acknowledged that she was taking liberties when she wrote a sequel to Gone with the Wind. I got all riled up and decided I hated the book and was disgusted with the author who didn't have any more creativity than to steal someone else's characters and make up new stories about them.

Until the end.

Because the patient notes that had been scattered through the book weren't about the deceased Bobbie after all. (You probably figured that out a heck of a lot quicker than I did.) They were about Laurel herself, detailing her obsession with the novel and her relentless quest to "prove" the connections among the characters and between them and her.

Now I realize I need to go back and read the book again, this time armed with my new knowledge and a slightly different perspective. But I probably won't.

I'm over my little snit about the author's presumptive tendencies, and I apologize to Mr. I-can't-pronounce-his-last-name for making disparaging remarks about his work. That said, however, I still have a few (completely legitimate) complaints about the book.

  • Laurel is attacked while she is mountain biking, and the description of her attack is very vivid. The author apparently knows something about cycling, because he talks about her shoes being clipped into her pedals. But she remains clipped in even while the men are lifting, dragging, and running over her, and I think that is going too far. I wear those shoes, and while I have had difficulty getting my feet clipped out in time when I have to stop suddenly, they almost always come unclipped of their own accord when I fall over. I guess it's possible that she could remain attached to her bicycle throughout a violent attack, but I had a hard time swallowing it.
  • Laurel is dating a much older man (all her boyfriends are much older after the attack), and he has two daughters. At the end of the book it becomes apparent that she invented the daughters. Huh? I'm not sure why. It is suggested that the two girls represented Laurel's relationship with her own sister, but why did they have to be made up? Couldn't a divorced older man have had two daughters? Or did she make him up too? 
  • I am not a prude, but I think that unless the details of a bedroom scene are vital to moving the plot along, they aren't necessary. I get that Laurel was attacked. It was mentioned over and over. I don't feel the need to know that she never let a man be on top of her during sex. Moreover, I understand the general concept of sex. I don't need for the author to describe just what she's sliding up and down ON. (My apologies to the tenderer readers of this blog. Go wash your eyes out.)
  • Similarly, I don't need the detail that Laurel's boyfriend doesn't wear deodorant. He wears some kind of powder instead, and she adores the smell of it. So? 
  • Laurel's last name isn't even mentioned until near the end of the book. If we've gone that long without it, just forget it. (It's Estabrook, in case you're interested.) 
  • There's a roommate who cares too much, and a possible love interest who has a crush on Laurel but pretends not to. He is also a cyclist - when he's not busy studying for his medical school courses. From what I've read of medical students, he had WAY too much free time on his hands to do things like go paintballing and cycling.
  • Speaking of paintballing (is that a verb?), Laurel's roommate, a youth minister at a church, organized an outing for her youth group to go play paintball (is that any better?), and Laurel was supposed to help her chaperon. Naturally Laurel forgot because she was deep in her obsession with the photographs, so the roommate (whose name escapes me) and the possible love interest (Whit?) go with the young people. The agony they describe of their battered and bruised bodies the next day rang false with me. Come on! You people are YOUNG! I just don't believe they would be as bad off as the descriptions. 
  • Speaking of the youth minister, she has a potty mouth. I realize youth ministers might not be paragons of virtue (had to work THAT phrase in somehow), but it seemed to me it would be hard to turn on her youth-minister persona and clean up her language when she had to. It would be like being a teacher and not cursing when you are at...... Never mind.
The book WAS a page-turner (or a page-clicker, since I read it on my Kindle), and it was interspersed with actual photographs taken by a real, live, once-homeless man who left the photographs behind, prompting the author to wonder why someone of such obvious talent would wind up in a homeless shelter. 

It's not one I would recommend to everyone I know so we could talk about it. But if you HAVE read it and WANT to discuss it, I'll be more than happy to do so.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

It Really Is a Small World......

One more thing about the SEC Championship meet yesterday, and then I'll put it to rest for another year. Notice that I did NOT say I won't ramble on and on about the Regional Championships in two weeks, or nationals (oh please oh please oh please oh please) two weeks after that.

I had three tickets to the SEC's, one each for Katydid, Frogger Blogger, and me. Frogger mentioned she might have to take her granddaughter, so I ordered another one. Then Frogger said she couldn't go at all, which left me with two extra tickets. This event isn't typically sold out, so I didn't want to take the chance of selling them the day of the competition. I advertised on a national college gymnastics discussion board that I had two extras and wanted to sell them. I wasn't looking to make a profit; I just didn't want them to go to waste.

Within 27 minutes I had a reply from someone in Atlanta who wanted to buy the tickets. We exchanged addresses, he mailed me a check, and I mailed him the tickets. When he showed up at the meet, he was with a guy I presumed was his boyfriend/partner. Forgive me for making assumptions, but two guys together at a women's college gymnastics meet? I'm not judging, just stating.

They introduced themselves, we both acted a little sheepish about being on that stupid message board in the first place, though we didn't actually come out and say it. (The message board is full of people more interested knowledgeable involved obsessed than I.) The guy with him looked familiar, then he said he grew up in the town where I live.

He was a student when I taught at one of our local high schools, back when we only HAD one. Fuzzy details started coming to me as we talked. I said, "You were in the band."


"You were the drum major."

He seemed surprised that I knew that. He was the drum major when Sweet Girl was in the band either 9th or 10th grade.

I guess it's not a HUGE coincidence, since we DO live in Georgia and we were there to see the GEORGIA gymnastics team. But still..... Out of all the people on that message board, all the people who would drive three and a half hours to see the SEC's, for one of them to have a local connection..... Weird.

Tune in tomorrow for a (sort of) book review about a book recommended by one of my blogger pals. Have a wonderful week.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Whew........Close Call.......

And I'm not even talking about the SEC Gymnastics Championships. We came in 3rd again this year, but we aren't terribly disappointed. We had a good, solid meet with only one fall, and our girls placed in every event. One of ours won the all-around, a senior who has been rock solid all year, and I coolant be prouder of her. We didn't win, but neither did Florida, and that feels like a victory in itself.

No, the close call came AFTER the meet. Katydid and I were in the car, trying to navigate the streets of Birmingham in search of something to eat, when I realized it might be a moot point. Because I had left my camera bag in the arena, underneath my seat. Not only did it have my precious digital Canon EOS Rebel in it, but also my driver's license and every credit card I have.

To make a long story short, we went back, it wasn't under the seat where I had been, but it had been turned in and everything was retrieved. Whew. I don't know when I've felt so stupid. My faith in the good people of Alabama has been restored. Now I'm even happier that they won the meet.

Friday, March 18, 2011

I Just RIDE.........

Early this week, a student asked what I had done over the weekend, and I told her I rode my bicycle 53 miles. She was a little (no, a lot) incredulous, and she wanted to know where I had ridden.

Being the technical, detail-driven person I am, I pulled up the map of my ride and showed it to her on the computer.

She asked, "What do you DO all that time? Listen to music?"

I looked at her blankly for a moment, trying to decide what a non-smart-ass response could be. Then I realized SHE wasn't trying to be a smart-ass, so I said, "I just ride. Look at the scenery. Think."

It was her turn to look at me blankly. She had absolutely no concept of what I was talking about.

Is that one of the indicators of what is wrong with this generation?

Do ALL of them think they have to be entertained each and every minute? They have to be DOING something, and doing it for the pure enjoyment of it is beyond their sensibilities?

(I hate rhetorical questions, by the way, but I couldn't think of another way to express my thoughts on this without sounding preachy.)

Let me try it this way.

I fear that we are raising a generation of kids who expect to be entertained. They want to be passive, to have their needs met (whatever those needs ARE) without any act of engagement on their part.

I realize the dangers of generalizing, and I realize it's not all kids I'm talking about. My blog, my generalizations.

It worries me that so many of the students with whom I have daily contact have no hobbies, no interests, nothing to occupy their minds and hands in their free time. If we press them to say what they like to do, we usually get responses like, "hang out with my friends" or "talk on the phone" or "shop." I liked doing all those things when I was a teenager too (except for the shopping part, because we  never had extra money), but I had interests as well. I read, I climbed trees (I guess that's not much better than hanging out with my friends), I crocheted from a very early age.

Her puzzlement inspired me to write a poem about cycling, and I jotted it down quickly this morning. It's off-the-cuff and not very literary, and it's not good enough for me to cross #17 off my list yet.

I'm not good at putting titles on poems yet either. I'll work on that after I figure out how to write poetry.

I pedal.
I breathe. I wave. I smile.
I think, I plan, I meditate.
I contemplate. I appreciate. I navigate.
I watch, I turn, I soar, I climb, I steer, I creep, I fly.
I wonder. I ponder.
I thrive.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A St. Patrick's Day Long, Long Ago........

I could have sworn I wrote a blog topic about this story, but I did a search for it, and it didn't come up. So I'll just forge on ahead, and if you've heard it before, please forgive me.

My grandmother moved to Savannah after my grandfather died. They had lived there before, and I have an aunt and cousins who have stayed in the area. When I was about 15 years old, my mother and I went to visit her sister (and the cousin closest to my own age) around St. Patrick's Day. I don't know if the trip was planned for St. Patrick's Day on purpose or if that's just when we wound up going. It would be a lot like winding up in New Orleans for Mardi Gras by accident. Or deciding you just have to see Times Square, and you forget to look at the calendar and don't realize it's New Year's Eve.

We watched the parade, and my cousin and I went out with some of her friends that night. There may or may not have been beverages drunk for which we were not of legal age. Probably not, but I believe in full disclosure even if the details are fuzzy.

We were walking down River Street, where a bunch of 15-year-olds had NO business being on or around St. Patrick's Day in Savannah. There was a very drunk sailor literally hanging onto a lamppost as I approached. He slurred, "You've got beautiful eyes...." (I can do this much better in person than typing. I'm just saying.)

That's just hard proof that he was officially drunk, since my eyes are the color of dead grass and are nothing to write home about, let alone beautiful. 

I did as I had been taught and kept my eyes forward and pretended I didn't hear anything. I walked past without acknowledging the sailor's presence.

So when I was about 10 feet away from him, he yelled at the top of his lungs, "BUT YOU'VE GOT A BIG ASS!"

Mortified much? You betcha.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Crazy Dream #12..........

Yeah, I know I just posted about a crazy dream a few days ago. My cray-cray seems to come in waves. But I promise this one is a short one. And does not involve foreign travel, so don't worry if your passport is not up-to-date.

I dreamed I went to the emergency room with a broken collarbone. Oddly enough, I don't remember being in any pain.

What I was worried about, though, was whether or not to tell the hospital personnel that my collarbone was broken because my OWN DAUGHTER had hit me with a baseball bat.

(She doesn't even own a baseball bat, to my knowledge.)

In the end, they didn't even ask.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My Calendar Obsession.....

Even in this digital age, I find myself clinging to my paper calendar. Don't get me wrong....I have an electronic calendar. Two of them, in fact. And it was a happy day when I learned how to sync them. My school calendar on Outlook syncs with my Google calendar, and I get an email first thing every morning (at 4:37 AM to be exact) that lets me know of any events upcoming for that day. If you haven't tried Google's calendar feature yet, YOU SHOULD. You can choose what holidays to display, and you can choose professional and college teams whose schedules you would like to appear on your digital calendar. You can go overboard with that, as I'm SURE you wouldn't have predicted I would do. By the time I had it notify me of games played by the  Atlanta Falcons, Detroit Lions, Atlanta Braves, Gwinnett Braves, and the Georgia Bulldogs, I had no idea whose birthday was when, because my calendar was chock full of sports schedules.
The older I get, the more I rely on such things. I have people's birthdays on my calendar. A couple of days BEFORE their birthdays, I get reminders to mail their cards. It's a tragic thing.

Because I am a teacher, I have bought academic year calendars for the past few decades. I have bought many different styles, and some years I have gone the cheap route and just used the ones that our local bank provided to every teacher in the district. That was before said bank had officers who invested people's money not very wisely, and now the bank goes by a different name. 

This one is my favorite, though. You can't tell it, but it has a hard back, so the cover doesn't curl or tear even with repeated misuse and abuse. In the back are lots of blank pages for notes (I rarely use them, and if I do use them I forget to look back there for whatever I took notes on), and TWO clear pockets that I use as a portable filing cabinet. In it are random items such as a mystery letter I found in my step-father's possessions, this year's school calendar (because it's ultra-important to know when the holidays are), NEXT year's school calendar (even more important, to note my last day of teaching EVER), a cool poem from New Yorker Magazine, a random 6-digit code or confirmation or combination, a couple of pay stubs.

When I get a brand-new calendar, the first thing I do is go through and write everyone's birthday in. I always hesitate when I get to mine. Do I write my own birthday in my calendar, knowing I don't really need to remind myself of it? Or do I leave it blank and pretend it bothers me, when it really doesn't? 

The next thing I do, because I get my calendar in July right before school starts, is write (in red) the dates of UGA football games. As soon as the gymnastics schedule comes out, I write those in (also in red, of course).

Other things are sometimes color-coded, sometimes not. I write in approaching deadlines, and as you can see if you click on the picture above, sometimes I write a deadline on a sticky note and put it on the appropriate date. No, I'm not sure why either. It seemed the right thing to do at that particular time.

At this time of year, my calendar pages start filling up with bicycle rides. It's impossible to do all of them, but I pencil them in anyway, then I check with Katydid and Rozmo to see which ones they can do. I write in Hubby's golf trips even if I'm not going with him, and I also keep track of his doctor's appointments. 

My calendar is usually open on my desk, but I'm finding here lately that it's usually turned to the NEXT month, not the current one. I'm a planner by nature, so I am always looking ahead and seeing how events line up (or don't) in my calendar. It's why I email Katydid and Frogger Blogger and irritate the crap out of them asking them questions about events that are MONTHS away.

I think my paper calendar is sort of a security blanket. I take it with me to meetings, even if I know there is nothing to schedule, because it makes me feel better. And if it's a boring meeting, I can always doodle on the blank pages in the back. Maybe that's why they are there.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Blood Pressure Challenge......

I've been on medication to control my blood pressure since 2004. It started with an allergic reaction to chlorine, when I broke out all over, my eyes swelled shut, and I had blisters on my eyelids. I was concerned about looking like walking circus freak show; my doctor was worried about my blood pressure.

"Have you LOOKED at me, lady? Don't you think I have a REASON for my blood pressure to be up?"

I tracked it for a couple of weeks, then they put me on medication, and I have dutifully taken it for the last five years. Once when she was out on maternity leave (AGAIN!), one of her partners (whom I really can't stand and can't understand why Hubby is so fond of him) INCREASED my medication because he didn't like the reading they got on that particular day.

In the past couple of weeks I have had a few dizzy spells. (Hubby would say "What else is new?") Nothing major, not to the point of fainting, just feeling light-headed and slightly off-balance. Correction....more off-balance than usual.

When I had my blood pressure taken at the "Y" for my Team Lean competition, it was 96/64 or something. I chalked that up to the fact that Hubby and I had JUST finished walking in the park. (I like to go exercise right before I weigh, just in case.....) Then when I went to give blood two weeks ago, my blood pressure was 116/60-something. I said something along the lines of, "Well, the pills work."

But then it occurred to me that my blood pressure was running LOW all of a sudden. It was time to get my (blasted) medications refilled, so I asked my doctor about cutting back and perhaps eventually getting off them. She was a little condescending, dubious at best, and questioned my reasoning. I explained I had lost about 25 pounds (she wasn't as impressed as I wanted her to be) and increased my exercise. She was still not moved, but she RELUCTANTLY split my combination blood pressure medicine into two prescriptions. She said if my blood pressure consistently stays under 120/80, I can drop ONE of the medications.

She is probably blissfully unaware of how seriously I take a challenge.

It. Is. On.

Another thing the doc said - "We don't like to change medications based on a single reading."


Just since Friday I have taken my blood pressure numerous times, at all different times of day, before and after exercise, before and after eating, before and after my laptop has pissed me off AGAIN.

Here's what I've had so far:

(That one was about an hour and a half ago, and I've been feeling fairly light-headed.)

I'm not one to play around with my medications, and I'm going to take both pills faithfully for another week or so. If these low numbers continue, though, I'm going to drop one of them as she said I could.

And THEN we'll have an entirely new challenge. I would love to add #51 to my 50 Things to Do list - Get off blood pressure medication.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

#47 - Ride Local Roads I've Not Ridden Before....

I'm not sure exactly what I was thinking when I put this item on my 50 Things to Do list. I was probably thinking I was running out of ideas and wasn't quite to 50 yet.

I'll pretend to be a much deeper thinker than that, though, and say I was thinking I meant to get out of my comfort zone. Ride not only routes I hadn't ridden before (or created on the computer beforehand), but take off on roads I wasn't familiar with and see where I ended up.

My favorite kind of bicycle riding has become those rides when I leave with no particular route in mind, not even a definite destination. When Hubby is playing golf, I always have the option of ending up at the golf course. Or I can ride back home, but for some reason it's more satisfying when I don't have to. Not to mention it knocks about 5-7 miles off the end of the ride, depending on which direction I'm coming from.

I wound up riding in four different counties today. I was going to shoot for a fifth one, but I ran out of steam. I had ridden 35 miles when I realized I wasn't even headed back in the direction of home. I rode on several (many?) roads I had never been on before, on bicycle or in a car. I crossed a major four-lane thoroughfare SIX times. When I got close to the golf course, I texted Hubby to see what time he thought he would finish. I was at the point of deciding whether to ride to the golf course or continue on home. When he said it would be another hour, I decided to go straight home. I didn't have an hour of waiting in me, and I certainly didn't have another hour of riding.

There is a point on one of my usual routes where it's only a mile to my house, but getting there requires being on a busy, hilly two-lane road on which drivers go WAY too fast. I usually cross that road and swing around by the landfill (joy, joy), which adds about five miles and five hills to the end of a ride. Today I sat and debated. To the right it was a mile home, and one hill. Going straight would mean those other five miles and all those hills. I said, "Screw it, I'll take my chances," and I turned right for the direct route.

The road is busy, but there's a nice wide shoulder outside the white line. The wide shoulder is both a good thing and a bad thing. It gives me a little more room between me and the cars, but it means most drivers don't feel it necessary to slow down AT ALL. The speed limit on that part of the road is 55 mph, so riding a bicycle on it can be a hair-raising experience. I decided I would chance the hair-raising for only a mile, and it turned out to be an okay thing to do. Well obviously, since if it had proven an unwise thing to do, I would more than likely not be writing this blog post.

Here is the map for anyone who is interested.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

I'm Not Complaining, Really.....

This is going to sound like a complaint, or like I'm HOPING someone will say, "Oh, shut up already!"

But I promise that's not the case.

While my weight loss hasn't been as FAST (immediate? please?) as I would like, it has been steady for the most part. In our Team Lean competition, I have lost 7 pounds in 7 weeks. While I would like to lose TWO pounds per week, I realize that with almost-50-year-old metabolism, that ain't gonna happen. Apparently.

I've lost around 22 pounds since the school year began, and I'm just now entering that phase where clothes that used to be really tight are becoming too loose to wear. That includes some of my favorite slacks.

Like most women, I have a range of sizes in my closet. I would go through phases where I refused to buy anything larger than a certain size, even if I could only breathe in short bursts throughout the day and I had a red welt around my "waist" at the end of the day. Then I would go through a period of, "Oh hell, I'm never going to be any thinner, who am I kidding?" and buy the next size up. And sometimes THOSE got too tight, and I blamed it on the clothing manufacturers. Because it clearly had nothing to do with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

I've worn a couple of pairs of slacks from the larger size this past week, and they are getting to the point of looking ludicrous on me. They aren't belted, so I just have to hope that I don't sneeze or cough while standing up, or that the school doesn't catch on fire, because any sudden movement might mean my slacks are suddenly pooled around my ankles.

I know, I know. Terrible problem to have.

But some of these are my FAVORITES. (I'm guessing they are my favorites because I finally bought the right size and they were the ones that didn't make me almost hyperventilate.) One of them is a pair of Ralph Lauren slacks with flared legs that I can wear with almost anything. They are my go-to slacks of choice for funerals and classroom observations. Those two things have a lot in common when it comes to how I feel about them. Another is a pair of black-and-white slacks that I can pair with a black tank and sweater set if I'm feeling more serious, or a white blouse if I've A) ironed it; and B) not brought a salad with Catalina dressing for lunch that day.

I realize I can have them altered, but I'm wondering at what point I should have them done. Now? I'm still about 20 pounds away from my goal weight (although the BMI charts say I will STILL be overweight). If I wait until then to get my favorites altered, what do I wear in the meantime? I don't want to go out and buy ALL new clothes, especially when I will only need my "teacher" clothes for another year. (Have I just told on myself? Does anyone else out there wear something for four or five years, particularly when you've paid $80 for it? Hello? Tap...tap.... **Crickets**)

I guess, since we're about to change seasons and wardrobes, that this problem is something I really don't have to worry about for a few months. Once warm weather arrives I wear mostly capris and knee-length shorts to school anyway, so the slacks will go in the back of the closet until fall. Which doesn't really begin here until November.

It's just like me to devote an entire blog post to something I don't have to worry about for another eight months. At least it takes my mind off this afternoon's gymnastics meet, senior day for our two seniors. (Sniff, sniff)

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Blog Post That's Sure to Get Me in Trouble.....

It occurred to me tonight, after reading Pioneer Woman's blog entry for today, that there is one thing I don't blog about nearly enough. Some nights I struggle to find a topic, and I have a ton of fodder just sitting up in my brain waiting to be used.

It's all about my Sweet Girl.

Pioneer Woman has FOUR children, and she sometimes devotes an entire blog post to one of them, and I rarely write about the ONE child I have and how proud I am of her.

I stumbled onto this epiphany while she and I were texting back and forth a little while ago. She had just landed in Las Vegas, en route to San Diego to see her cousin. (Only MY child would be headed for the West Coast on the same day a tsunami hits..... I take that back. I'd be willing to bet there are LOTS of folks' children headed to the West Coast on airplanes even as we speak.)

Most of us try to raise our children to be independent, and it is a very sharp double-edged sword. We want them to be independent and able to think for themselves, but when they wander off at a water-based theme park and you find them ONLY after a park attendant has purchased a popsicle, you have to wonder if they might carry the independence thing just a wee bit too far. Or when a child is, oh let's just say, hypothetically speaking, around the age of nine, and he or SHE wanders away from three adults in the train station in MUNICH, absolutely comfortable in her ability to walk around by herself in a country where she doesn't speak the language.

Naturally her independence caused us to butt heads over the years (still does on some occasions), but I'm so proud of what she's done and who she's become. She has served in the Navy for 8 years, been to a gazillion places, bought a home and lived completely on her own, and she is very comfortable hopping on a plane and flying across the country all alone to visit her closest cousin. I used to teach with a young woman who had NEVER spent the night alone. NEVER. She went straight from her parents' home to her husband's, and when he had to travel out of town on business, she always had one of her students or former students come spend the night at her house so she wouldn't have to be alone. I tell every young lady I get the chance to say it to, "You need to live completely by yourself at least once in your life."

She has never been afraid of the water. NEVER. Perhaps she was destined to be a part of the Navy, even if she is in aviation. She would have been perfectly happy without the water wings.

I have no idea why she climbed into this laundry basket, but she was playing when she did it. She jumped in it and giggled wildly, but then she fell asleep. She had started sucking her thumb when she was four months old. I remember thinking how cute it was. And I didn't have to keep up with a pacifier! When she was ten YEARS old, however, it wasn't quite as cute anymore. I think she finally stopped sucking her thumb when she started going to sleepovers. Notice the painted fingernails that contrast nicely with the rather large gash on her forehead. It's a wonder I didn't go to jail for child abuse; she was always scratched up/cut up/bruised. Oh, and once we had to take a snake away from her. She cried.

I had a large (16" by 20") framed print of this picture, and I lost custody of it in my divorce. I have grieved over the loss of that picture way more than the end of the marriage. Even more than my books. And I'm sure my ex's new wife didn't keep the portrait around either. They probably threw it out. Butt heads.

She will be leaving the Navy in June, and not of her own choosing. She missed the minimum score on her promotion exam by half a point. HALF A POINT. It was her last try, so she will be processed out right after her eighth anniversary. Here they've got a person who WANTS to serve, is GOOD at her job (but perhaps stinks at taking tests), and is an EXCELLENT aviation mechanic, and they are forcing her out. Perhaps the powers-that-be haven't heard of North Korea. Or Libya. They may be needing a few extra good helicopter mechanics. She isn't sure what she's going to do yet, but I have no doubt that she will land on her feet, and she will be good at whatever she finds to do.

She held down a job from the time she was fifteen years old. She played in the band when she was in high school, and I never had to worry about where she was. She was either at school, at cheerleading practice, at band practice, at work, or she was in transit between two of those. She never smoked, she didn't drink (even after she joined the Navy, when some of her shipmates got busted for underage drinking, she asked me, "Don't they understand it's against the LAW?"), she didn't do drugs, she didn't wear outlandish clothes or hairstyles or do things to her body that would make me embarrassed to be seen in public with her, and she didn't make me a grandmother before my time. I don't give a damn if she NEVER passes another test; I'm proud to call her mine.

She and the cousin she has gone to visit are only six months apart in age, and we were just tacky enough to dress them alike when they were young. People would often ask if they were twins, and we loved to see their jaws fall open when we replied, "No, they're six months apart."

She is grown up and on her own, but she still calls me almost daily, and we send lots of text messages. She calls for advice, which she never takes (ha ha ha ha ha ha, Sweet Girl), but it makes me feel useful that she asks anyway. One of these days I'll learn to tell her the OPPOSITE of what I really think, and maybe then she will follow some of my words of wisdom. It warms my heart for her to text and/or call me on every leg of her journey. It's times like these that I really appreciate cell phones.

It hasn't always been sunshine and roses between us, of course. We still have our little spats even now. I will always have a scar on my heart from where she broke it in October of 2007, and that is what I'm using to justify putting this picture in my blog. PLEASE click on the picture to get the full effect.

I love you, my precious girl. Safe travels to you, and give your cousin a hug from me.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Crazy Dream #11........

Night before last, I had one of those crazy dreams that make me wonder, "How in the world can my brain make that stuff UP?"

I dreamed I went to visit Sweet Girl in Florida. Only we took a little side trip, a weekend jaunt to ....... France. Because clearly a trans-Atlantic voyage is a good thing to do over a weekend.

We were riding this little tram thingie, and it pulled into a station along the border. The border of WHAT I'm not sure, but we had to wait there for a while. In the tram station (because it wasn't a TRAIN, it was a TRAM), there was a gift shop. And it had a swimming pool.

We went for a swim in the pool, and there was a chair floating in the pool. It was a chair sort of like this one:

But the cushion was one of those loose ones. When I jumped in the pool, the cushion flew out of the chair, into the window of the gift shop, where it proceeded to do a great deal of damage.

This was no ordinary souvenir shop. It had a lot of expensive, high-end knick-knacks, but its specialty was .....

That's right, crystal door knobs. A whole store full of them.

Don't laugh. Have you DONE a Google search for images of crystal door knobs lately? Go ahead.... I'll wait here.

Naturally I proceeded to fill up a basket with a lot of souvenirs (oddly enough, I wasn't wet from my little swim), but mostly a nice selection of crystal door knobs. But I couldn't get any of the hoity-toity cashiers to wait on me. They were all painfully thin, wore black slacks, and had major attitudes. But they spoke perfect English. Probably Southern English, but that detail escapes my memory.

I was about to go into a snit and put all the doorknobs and other knick-knacks back on the shelves, when FINALLY one of the snooty girls deigned to wait on me. She rang up all my purchases, but before she gave me the total, she said, "Now about the chair cushion.... What happened?"

I proceeded to tell her the story about the cushion flying through the window, and she nodded sympathetically, but she said, "Well, come on in the office and see if you can contact someone at your insurance agency."

I tried to explain to her that it was 8:00 PM on a Sunday night back in the States, and there was no way I could get anyone from the insurance company on the phone. It was too late to deny any responsibility for the flying swimming pool cushion, so I was at a loss as to what to do. Did anyone else catch on to the fact that if it was mid-afternoon in France, it was more likely 8:00 AM in the States? I'm backward even in my dreams.

And then I woke up. I don't know if they arrested me for the damage to the store (none of which was visible as I shopped for doorknobs), or more importantly, how much all the doorknobs cost.

You may now return to your lives filled with normalcy. None lurking here.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

#35 - Go to a UGA Baseball Game......

I would have bet my next paycheck that tonight's item for the 50 Things to Do list would NOT happen. It rained here today ... all day ... buckets and buckets and buckets and buckets of rain. I called the stadium to make sure the game was still on for tonight, and I was almost disappointed that it was. It's just a tad cold, and I could easily have piled up in the recliner and played Mario. I had planned a completely different blog topic for tonight, and I almost went ahead and wrote it at school today because I was just that sure that the game tonight wouldn't happen.

The 50 Things to Do police might question whether tonight even counts for my list. It was a UGA baseball game against Alabama, but it doesn't count as a conference game, and it wasn't played at the UGA field. That was one of the reasons we went to this particular game - it was played at Coolray Field, home of the Gwinnett Braves, the AAA farm club for Atlanta. The stadium is only three years old, and it is a beautiful field. It is actually closer for us to drive there than to go all the way to campus in the other direction. We still plan to go to a game at Foley Field, where UGA home games are played, but it will have to be warmer. And probably not on a school night.

Dawgs led 4-0 after the first inning and 6-0 after three. Then I jinxed them by asking if there's a run rule in college ball, and Bama scored three quick runs. We left because it was either raining lightly or misting heavily, and it was still 6-3 when we got home. I'm listening to the last inning (I hope) on the computer even as I type this.

I think there were just as many Bama fans - if not more - than Dawg fans. What's up with THAT? I am pretty sure all the students weren't in their dorms studying, and it isn't THAT far to drive.

Here are a few pictures to document the fact that we were indeed there. Hello, chins! And you'll just have to wait until tomorrow night to read about another one of my bizarre dreams.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Dear Mom......

Dear Mom:

You might wonder how I'm typing this message on YOUR blog, since I don't have opposable thumbs and all. Ever since you taught me to dance for cheese, though, I've been learning other tricks while you weren't looking. I figure there's a filet mignon in there somewhere, if I can just find the right trick.

This blog post isn't about tricks, though. It's about disappointment. Make that disappointmentS. Plural.

Almost every day you and Dad get me all excited about going to the park. You make this huge production about changing into your tennis shoes, while I stand there with one of my front paws in the air, wondering if this is one of those times I'll get to go. You deliberately drag out your motions, taking your own sweet time, finally wandering downstairs in the direction of the shelf where you keep my leash.

I see you reach for it, and I almost can't contain my excitement, wondering where this adventure will take us. Will I get to meet some new playmates? Will there be cheese? Filet mignon? A cat I can chase?

Then, being the mistress of torture that you are, you make me SIT and BE STILL while you put my collar on. Do you realize just how difficult this is? I'm about to pee on myself, Libby is already barking her glee from the backyard, and I have to SIT? and BE STILL?

Finally, after a drive of almost a mile and half, we get to the park. Oh, the beautiful lake. How I love to swim in it. I chase Libby down the path, looking for whatever fun we came for.

And all we do is walk. And walk. And walk. Sometimes I use my superior directional capabilities and try to lead you back to the car, sure you and Dad have made a mistake in this little outing. But no, you continue to walk AWAY from the car, and I have no choice but to go along, because you two are sure to get lost on your own.

And we walk.

And walk.

And walk.

By the time you FINALLY make your pitiful way back to our vehicle, my little legs are just about worn out, my tongue is lolling, and all I want is a sip of Dad's beer. Add that to my growing list of disappointments.

Then there's the basement. When you head toward the basement door, I get so excited that I lose traction on the hardwood floors (add THOSE to the list too, by the way) and my feet slip out from under me, which apparently is a source of great entertainment for you and dad. I get all worked up because I think maybe, just maybe, you're headed to open that great big door, the one that makes all the noise, and I can grab the rope and hang on for dear life while you take me on a mini-roller coaster ride up in the air.

But no.

More often than not, you're going to put clothes in the washer. Or the dryer. Or take them out. Or search futilely for something that should be in the toolbox but isn't.

And now you have this machine down there. It doesn't do anything useful that I can determine. It makes no noise, it produces no food, and I can't even lie down in your lap while you're on it.

I should have known that all that cheese would come with a big old long string attached.

It's tough being a dog.



Monday, March 7, 2011

My New Torture Machine......

My new elliptical arrived today. I have yet to do more than 22 seconds on it, but it appears to work beautifully. The old one developed a grinding noise that grew progressively worse, and then when we moved it to take it to be repaired (we thought), we found a pile of very fine rubber shavings underneath it. We talked to a couple of salespeople who told us what we had was basically crap, and it would be less expensive to buy a new one than to repair the old one. Nice sales pitch.


Anyway, the new machine arrived today, and Hubby insisted we put it in the basement. Apparently he doesn't like the way it looks to have an elliptical machine in the living room. All manner of other CRAP can sit in the living room, but not the elliptical. Whatever. So there goes watching television while I work out.

That's not a huge problem, because I can watch movies on my iPad or my portable DVD player. I just have to watch SOMETHING while I'm on it, though, because otherwise those minutes tick..... off..... very..... slowly.........

Before my old elliptical bit the dust, I had developed an excellent routine of getting on the thing EVERY SINGLE MORNING and working out for 30 minutes. I'm going to try to get back into that routine, and then Hubby and I will continue to walk some afternoons.

I want to ride my bike home from school a couple of days a week too, and I plan to continue going to zumba class, at least on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

That could make Tuesday and Thursday pretty crazy, though. I could potentially work out on the elliptical for 30 minutes, ride my bike home from school (because those are Hubby's two golf days when he plays early, so it's convenient for him to drop me at school), then go to zumba at 6:30.Three different forms of exercise on those two days of the week alone.

Combine that with the weekend bicycle rides that will start in just a few weeks, plus the occasional weekend 5K runs that I would like to do.

Why don't I look like Twiggy?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Some Observations from Last Week......

Here are just a few observations from last week. Not to be confused with musings or random thoughts.

  • If it pours down rain on a Friday and half the school population chooses not to come to school, it will NOT be the half you WISH would stay home. (I know I've said it before right here on this blog, but it has been proven yet again.)
  • If they ask you which arm is better for them to take blood out of, you have a 50% chance of getting it right. Why can't you?
  • If the perky little college student conducting a tour apologizes for the country music playing in the workout room, it's probably futile to explain to her who Fleetwood Mac is.
  • If you have Hubby drop you and your bicycle off at school with the idea of riding the bike home, it's a good idea to pack cycling PANTS along with the jersey and sports bra and sandals.
  • If a college gymnast (NOT one of ours) falls on the first tumbling pass of her floor routine and has to be carried off the floor, they will reward her with a score of .05. Come on, people, that's just WRONG. A zero would be better than a .05.
  • If your foot hurts to walk on it, odds are it isn't going to feel any better for you to RUN on it.
  • If you drive two hours to see your great-nephew and take your camera in with you, it would make a lot more sense if you actually TOOK some pictures.
  • If you only make sugar-free pudding so you can put Cool-Whip on top of it, why don't you just eat Cool-Whip by itself?
  • If you use a fool-proof automatic bread machine, you can still have an abysmal bread failure.
  • An abysmal bread failure is still okay if you dip it in olive oil and spices and wash it down with a glass of wine.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Summer Camp for Grown-Ups.......

I would like to propose a summer camp for grown-ups. I don't want to RUN it, I want to GO to it. I want it to have some of the same features of the summer camp I went to as a child, but I'd like to see some improvements also.

    Three meals a day, cooked by someone else, with the resulting clean-up also done by someone else.

    Someone else to come in and clean the cabins.

    Several bars strategically placed throughout the camp.

    Air conditioning in the cabins.

    Private bathrooms.

    Hammocks strung between shade trees.

    A huge pool for swimming, and a pool with a current that would run around the perimeter of the whole camp, so campers could just float.

    A hot tub. Preferably near one of the bars.

    Soothing music.

    Massages upon request, no appointment needed, as many times a day as you want.

    A section of beach with chaise lounges just for reading.

    An arts and crafts center, where I MIGHT learn to knit.

    Individual Nintendo Wii centers for each individual camper. Never mind about waiting my turn.

    Nintendo Wii coaches to get us through the tough levels.

    Poker tables with a never-ending supply of chips. That we could cash in for real money at the end of the week.

    Personal hairdressers, make-up artists, manicurists/pedicurists, and wardrobe experts.

    No bugs or snakes or sunburn.

    King-sized beds in the cabins.

    Maybe with the right sponsors we can get this idea to catch on.

    Friday, March 4, 2011

    Friday Night Blog Fog......

    Sometimes during the day at school, when I have a few moments of down time, I go ahead and plan my blog post in my head for that night. Sometimes I even write it while I'm still at school and schedule it to post that evening. Shhhhhhh........

    I typically have more than my fair share of down time on Fridays, since some of our students apparently think we are on a four-day schedule and they just don't show up on Fridays. Some of these are the very same ones who will beg for extra time to work at the end of the semester. Remind me to post a picture of my "you've got to be KIDDING me" face.

    Tonight, though, I got nothing.

    No words of wisdom, no witty exchanges with students, no humorous text messages, no emails from co-workers.

    On the other hand, I don't have anything to complain about, any physical ailments, anyone to be angry at, impending deadlines, or major frustrations.

    So I guess it must have been a pretty good week.

    Thursday, March 3, 2011

    Some Assembly Required - Sense of Humor Not Included......

    I will have to apologize in advance to my buddy Maggie and her man-friend ITSam. I am sure that ITSam is the exception to the rule I will expound upon within the confines of this blog post.

    Is it a requirement that technology types have no sense of humor? Computer geeks have no funny bone? Network nerds have no tickle box?

    A couple of weeks ago, I got some strange message of death on my school computer, something about the LDUEAHN (or some other random selection of capital letters) not being found. Our secretary emailed the technician assigned to our school, because a computer-based school should NOT have an I.T. guy on the premises at all times, no sirree.

    When he showed up on the premises a day or three later, he immediately unplugged the tower and said he would need to take it with him. I said something along the lines of, "Can't you just bring me another one?" I explained that it wouldn't read a flash drive, I had to walk ALL the way around my desk and plug one in the back of the unit, and the CD drive wouldn't open anymore.

    He looked at me in all seriousness and said, "I don't just have a stash of these to give away." He didn't crack a smile.

    Because my unit had been making grinding noises that sounded like a Cessna 182 that would NEVER get off the ground, I said to him, "It sounded so bad I was afraid it was going to take off a couple of times." He replied that there was no way it was going to take off, not with a message like the one I had received.

    Well duh.

    He unplugged the flash drive I had left in the back and left it on my desk.

    A week or two later (or it may have been the next day), he brought my unit back.

    He explained that the problem was that there had been a flash drive plugged into the back of the unit when I turned it on. It was trying to boot from the flash drive instead of the thingamajig it usually boots from.

    HE unplugged the flash drive. Shouldn't he have thought of that? I actually had the fleeting thought myself, based upon back in the old days when I would leave a floppy disk (remember those?) in the drive and the computer would try to boot from that. Because it said something was MISSING, though, I didn't give it a whole lot of thought. Besides, if HE didn't think of it, I wasn't going to mention it.

    He did replace the CD drive, though, and I think I was supposed to give him a trophy or something for it.

    Then he explained about the computer not reading the flash drive in the front of the computer.

    Have you ever bought a new computer (camera, video recorder, GPS unit, iPad, iPhone, dozen eggs, scented candle, Snuggie, African Violet, baseball cap, jar of dry roasted peanuts) and found one of these in the box?

    I had seen them before, and when he mentioned it, I found one in my desk drawer. I had no idea what it was.

    Apparently not all flash drives are created equal. The ones that my computer wouldn't read are apparently "inferior" (read: cheap) and the little silver piece that plugs into the computer isn't as long as the "superior" (read: expensive) ones.

    This little cord fixes that. You plug your cheapie flash drive into one end, and the other end is the appropriate length for plugging into a USB port.


    That would explain why I was unable to scan on a flash drive from my printer/scanner/copier/fax machine, in spite of the fact that it clearly had a USB drive.

    You learn something new every day.

    I wish technology would slow down just a tad, just long enough for the I.T. guys to go to humor school.

    Wednesday, March 2, 2011

    Crock Pot Candy.......

    I don't normally post recipes on my blog, because APPARENTLY SOMEONE HAS CORNERED THE MARKET ON THAT. However, I mentioned in my Seven Deadly Sins Meme post that one of my guilty pleasures is crock pot candy. Kelly was intrigued and asked me about it in a comment, and I promised her I would post the recipe. To be honest, I haven't made it recently, mainly BECAUSE it is a guilty pleasure.

    This recipe was included in my bank statement one month several years ago, and I thought it sounded A) easy; and B) chocolaty. Two points for each of those characteristics. I usually make it around the holidays and give little individual packages to friends and co-workers. Unless I'm feeling particularly Bah-humbuggy, in which case I make a batch of it and PRETEND to give it to friends and family but instead climb into the crock pot and swim around in it.

    Crock Pot Candy

    1 jar (16-oz.) dry roasted peanuts, unsalted
    1 jar (16-oz.) dry roasted peanuts, salted
    1 pkg. (12-oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chips
    1 bar (4-oz.) German chocolate, broken into pieces
    3 lbs. (or 2 planks) white bark, broken into pieces

    Put ingredients into a 4 or 5 quart crock pot in order listed. Cover and cook 3 hours on low. DO NOT REMOVE LID. Turn off and cool slightly. Mix thoroughly and drop by teaspoonfuls onto waxed paper. Let cool thoroughly. Approximately 170 pieces. (Yeah, right). 

    I made a batch of this and sent it to Sweet Girl when she was on one of her Persian Gulf cruises. It was also a big hit at our family reunion. I've had the idea to make a large container of it and auction it off one year, but I haven't followed through with the thought.

    I've wanted to try some variations, too, but I haven't gotten around to THAT either. I would like to try it with almonds instead of peanuts and add coconut. (Can you say Crock Pot Almond Joy?) Or maybe peanut butter added to the mix. Would that be too much peanutty goodness? Or maybe pecans and caramel.

    Why don't some of YOU try one of these variations and send me a sample get back to me with the results? It could be fun.