An Alton Apprentice (or two)



“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.” ~Groucho Marx

Yesterday evening I found myself in my bedroom reading a book. The boys had been engaged in some sort of card game on their bedroom floor and it was nice to have the house quiet without the sounds of the television or a stereo. In fact, I must have been rather engrossed in my reading as it took me a little bit to notice that the little people (my children) had removed themselves from their card game and migrated into the living room where the television was on and they were both very, very quiet. You have to understand that my boys are never quiet – even when staring at the tube.

I stopped reading and attempted to tune my ears into the television noise to see if I could determine what they were watching. Even in the cartoon world, there are shows of which I do not approve and I wanted to insure that my crazy guys were not watching one of those shows. I listened. I listened harder. Cartoon? No, they were not watching a cartoon. Disney Channel? Nope! The sounds of pre-teen shows like ‘Hannah Montana’ or ‘Drake & Josh’ are incredibly distinct (rather irritating actually) and they definitely were not engrossed in one of those programs.

At this point I began to be slightly concerned. Normally they keep the television at such a volume that even the neighbors know what they are watching, so the fact that I couldn’t hear clearly enough was an indication to me that they may have tuned into something that was not appropriate for their ages. Big K is twelve. Little K is seven. How wrong I was!

As curiosity got the best of me and my hearing continued to fail me in distinguishing the program, I finally called out with the obvious question: “Guys! What are you watching?” Pause. Longer pause … but I haven’t heard the channels change. Eventually Big K responds. ‘Good Eats,’ he says.


What? I find myself propelled of my bed and abandoning my book to go and see for myself. Indeed, they are! Not only are my children tuned into the Food Network and there is no bickering which means they AGREED (miracle unto itself) on what to watch. One on the floor … one on the couch … they sit staring as Alton Brown takes them through the finer points of spices with an episode of his show ‘Good Eats’ called “Spice Capades.” Now, I do watch Food Network on a pretty regular basis and every weekend the boys and I enjoy watching ‘Iron Chef America’ (one of their favorite shows which, incidentally, is hosted by Alton Brown), but to find them watching a cooking show, in fact – the most EDUCATIONAL show on Food Network left me with a pretty cool feeling. My kids … are awesome! Of course, then the questions began:

“Mom! Do we use kosher salt?”
Yes, yes we do.

“Are any of our ground spices more than 6 months old?”

I suddenly find myself ashamed that some of my spices are older than that and in being truthful to my children I also receive a reprimand on how “Alton says” we can’t keep them that long because they lose the essence of their flavoring power.

“Wow! Mom, you didn’t tell me curry was a mix of a bunch of other stuff!”

Boys, it’s called a blend. It hadn’t crossed my mind to give my children that much information regarding the items in the spice cabinet. Apparently, I need to rethink that logic.

It is time for me to let the little one start helping more in the kitchen and I might just let Big K cook dinner from time to time (supervised, of course) just to see what he concocts.

I wonder if Alton Brown needs an apprentice … or two. They already have the lingo down. Little K asks me if I am making something “golden brown and delicious” every time I step into the kitchen.

“I kept thinking, ‘Somebody has to make a food show that is actually educational and entertaining at the same time … a show that got down to the ‘why things happen.’ Plus, I hated my job – I didn’t think it was very worthwhile.” ~Alton Brown

Internet Oddities



Despite the fact that I have a Yahoo! email account, I do not actually spend a lot of time on said site. I usually go straight to my mail and ignore the fact that Yahoo! has another whole level to its programming. When searching the internet I, and the rest of the sane world, turn to Google for my “find it as fast as you can” inquiries. Imagine my surprise when, in an office day full of time ticking boredom, I found myself on the Yahoo! main page simply looking around. While there I discovered this wonderful little box in the bottom right hand corner titled “Today’s Top Searches.” Interesting, very interesting.

As of 1530 on the afternoon of November 28, 2007 the following inquiries have been the most sought after items through the Yahoo! search engine. Of course, I have to put in my two cents on each item because I am totally in awe as to the hodge-podge nature of the things people deem worthy of a search. Forgive me. I amuse easily.

“The Internet has no such organization - files are made available at random locations. To search through this chaos, we need smart tools, programs that find resources for us.” ~Clifford Stoll

1) Sean Taylor
Who? He was an NFL (National Football League … American football) player for the Washington Redskins who was murdered this week. Sports and murder seem to be two favorite topics in the United States, so I sort of understand how this search reached the number one spot. At least I did not have to Google this one myself in order to figure out who he was … I already knew. Whew!

2) Hayden Panattiere
Is the Heroes regenerating cheerleader really that interesting? Yes, I watch Heroes. Yes, I am a total geek.

3) Amy Winehouse
Is she in the news again? What did she do this time and why is it that inspired and interesting musicians always wind up complete drug addicts?

4) America’s Next Top Model
Oh please! Little girls in this country have a hard enough time with self image without this show continuing to stay on the air season after season. Did it air last night? Why was it number four in the search list? I know not why and I am too lazy and disgruntled to actually go hunting for the reason.

5) The Dark Knight
Finally! This is a topic I can get behind. Why is it on the list? I am pretty confident it has something to do with the teaser trailer premiering in movie theaters across the country over the holiday weekend. I know this because I saw it and almost hyperventilated with excitement even though it is nothing but voiceovers and a shattering of the Batman emblem. I think I just reestablished my geekdom, didn’t I?

6) Holiday Movie Guide
Wow! I have no words. This is actually a logical thing to put in a search engine. You have to weed through the holiday movie crap somehow.

7) Ingrid Marie Rivera
Who? No, seriously … who? Fine, I will go Google it. OK – I’m back and she is a sabotaged beauty queen. The words ‘beauty queen’ immediately establishes why I have no idea who this individual is and if there is sabotage going on at pageants than I am bound to get some sort of giggle out of it although pepper spray is a wee bit harsh.

8) Randy Rhoads
Quiet Riot guitarist Randy Rhoads passed away this week. Sad … true, but is it worthy of landing in the top ten searches? I have my doubts. This is a bizarre world.

9) Casserole Recipes
There are WAY too many housewives using the internet today. Please, I beg you not to throw all the ingredients in your pantry and refrigerator into one big dish and bake it all together. There has to be something better for dinner that that!

10) Tamiflu
What??? Here I go to Google again … and I have discovered it is a pill used to treat the flu or flu-like symptoms. Interesting as I may need this drug considering I boycott the flu shot every year because the one time I got one it gave me a full blown case of the flu. What’s the point? However, like “holiday movie guide” I can not laugh at individuals choosing to search for a drug. It’s always a good thing to check up on a pill before swallowing it simply because the doctor told you to do so.

Well, this has been your recap of the ten most searched items on Yahoo! today. Am I completely insane for already wondering what the rest of the week might bring? I might be crazy, but I bet you are thinking about checking on the list tomorrow too … just to see what pops up!

“Internet is so big, so powerful and pointless that for some people it is a complete substitute for life.” ~Andrew Brown

It has. It is. It will.





Murphy’s Law: If anything can go wrong, it will.

Needless to say, after the last three days, I find myself in a most foul disposition. All is going wrong. All … and when you are a single mother on a tight income and it is a month until Christmas the timing could not possibly be worse.

“The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to get at or repair.” ~Douglas Adams

Exhibit A: Home Computer
Dilemma: No longer capable of turning on, let alone actually booting up.
Reaction: Currently in denial and rely on work computer for all PC related tasks. At least more reading is getting done.

Exhibit B: Vehicle #1
Dilemma: Refuses to start. Stupid van worked over the weekend. Battery is not dead as vehicle attempts to start but something in overworked and tired engine is not getting the message.
Reaction: With 250,000 miles and 11 years of abuse … what more can I expect? As I traded non-family oriented vehicle with parents to get said van … am attempting to still be grateful.

Exhibit C: Vehicle #2
Dilemma: Small Nissan pickup truck not suited for family use … borrowed from parents in case Vehicle #1 blew up (which, apparently, it has). On way home from work last evening truck developed uncontrollable “shimmy” for which a trip to mechanic was obligatory and oil change was needed anyway. Two hours and $50 later: oil is changed and all tires are balanced. “Shimmy” obliterated.
Reaction: Bloody Hell! Am already tired of cramming self and two children into cab of tiny truck, yet need to be thankful have some sort of working transportation … for now.

Exhibit D: Health
Dilemma: Random “episodes” currently requiring blood work and doctor appointments yet undiagnosed at this time. Physician must tread carefully medicinally to not interfere with bi-polar pills which keep self sane.
Reaction: Am in pain. Hurry up already.

Exhibit E: Weight
Dilemma: No where near goal weight - can not seem to lose another pound. Plateau hell. Stress.
Reaction: Going it alone at home no longer adequate. Need gym membership, which costs a number of dead presidents, to help launch self off weight loss plateau. Must avoid all mirrors as it seems ass can grow larger even while losing pounds.

Exhibit F: Christmas Shopping
Dilemma: Have previously written about said issue in blog titled “Pa rum pum pum pum.”
Reaction: Exhibits A-D exacerbating current problem. Typically use PC to get gift ideas. Vehicle needed for travel to areas of despised shopping as live only Wal-Mart containing town. Health required to have energy needed to navigate mobs of rude holiday shoppers.

“When things go wrong, you'll find they usually go on getting worse for some time; but when things once start going right they often go on getting better and better.” ~C.S. Lewis

Overall, I am currently in denial about all dilemmas as thinking about them too much increasing stress levels ten-fold. I must live life as best as I can and randomly burst into "Findin
g Nemo" mantra: "Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What do we do? We just keep swimming ..."

The Murphy Philosophy: Smile … tomorrow will be worse.


Pa rum pum pum pum




I don’t know about the rest of the world, but there are radio stations here in the United States that … at the stroke of midnight Thanksgiving day … begin playing non-stop Christmas music until midnight on Christmas night or New Years Eve. I would think this would be a resounding reminder to musicians & the entertainment industry as a whole not to release a new single in the month of December, but I digress. As one of those individuals who will put on a holiday related album in July I adore the music of the season and being unable to find a radio station without ‘Jingle Bells’ is not normally a huge nuisance for me. This year, however, things are different. Tis year the ‘Little Drummer Boy’ might as well be doing the “pa rum pum pum pum” on my skull along with the rest of the Christmas tunes as an ongoing reminder that I am NOT prepared for the morning of December 25th.

“I can understand people simply fleeing the mountainous effort Christmas has become... but there are always a few saving graces and finally they make up for all the bother and distress.” ~May Sarton

By now I have usually done a fair amount of the shopping necessary to appease my children on Christmas morning. At the time of this publication ... I have purchased nothing. Nothing! Obviously I won’t be up for nomination on any “Mother of the Year” award lists for 2007. It’s not that I have not wanted to shop for my children (although I do detest shopping), my excuse is much simpler: I don’t know what to get them! Well, maybe it isn’t that simple. There are other factors involved and I will now list them for you regardless of whether you care or not:

1) I am unsure about the perfect gifts this year. The boys have made lists, but those letters to the man at the North Pole are inevitably filled with the frivolous requests such as movies and video games. By now I have typically had a resounding epiphany about the greatest gift for each child that can not be found on a list. I am listening, but there have been no clanging cymbals … except that which I hear in the never-ending holiday music.

“Christmas is not as much about opening our presents as opening our hearts.” ~Janice Maeditere

2) This year I do not want to feel as though I am in competition with their father but somehow those feelings are creeping in. It is stupid. I confess. Yet, it is there.

“He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree” ~Roy L. Smith

3) I have a wee bit of a complex about the fact that I COMPLETELY outdid myself in 2006 and I just don’t think anything I do will “measure up” this year. Odd that it isn’t about money at all, but it is about meaning. Example: Last year one of the gifts given to Big K (my oldest child who is currently obsessed with the solar system) was a star. I went to the International Star Registry and named a star after him … “The Orb of Coinneach." Slam dunk! Two points! The gift brought tears to his eyes and more excitement that morning than the iPod “Santa” had so graciously dropped off.

“Christmas is for children. But it is for grown-ups too. Even if it is a headache, a chore, and nightmare, it is a period of necessary defrosting of chill and hide-bound hearts.” ~Lenora Mattingly Weber

Now what? Well, I still have to decide what to get them. I still have to go shopping. I still have to listen to all ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ as they remind me how pitifully prepared I am this year … like the “pa rum pum pum pum” on my cranium wasn’t causing me enough of a headache.

‘And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,Stood puzzling and puzzling: "How could it be so?It came without ribbons! It came without tags!"It came without packages, boxes or bags!"And he puzzled three hours, `till his puzzler was sore.Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!"Maybe Christmas," he thought," doesn't come from a store."Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!"’
~Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Bloody Effing Hell




Yes, that was my initial reaction to the following article that I read this morning:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20071126/lf_nm/kenya_sextourism_dc.

I am currently racking my appalled mind for profanity free words to express how I feel about the women mentioned in this article and yet all I can come up with is, “Are you out of your effing minds?”

“Earth has its boundaries, but human stupidity is limitless.” ~Gustave Flaubert

If you have not taken the time to click on the link above and follow it to the full story, I am having issues with the fact that older white (presumably European and American) women are traveling to Kenya with the express purpose of “picking up” younger Kenyan men.

Call me a prude. I am bloody well pissed off so I don't care right now.

I grew up in Kenya … and yes, I am white. Personally, I don’t think that matters. These women guilty of preying upon young Kenyan men while on holiday could be purple or green for all I care. It isn’t about race. It’s about wealth.

“As covetousness is the root of all evil, so poverty is, I believe, the worst of all snares.” ~Daniel Defoe, Moll Flanders

My first concern should be an obvious one: AIDS. Let us put aside all other health implications and focus on the fact that “25 of the 34 million people infected with AIDS worldwide live in Africa (http://www.kaippg.org).” The AIDS epidemic on the African continent has taken a prominent place in all media outlets worldwide. You can not escape knowing what is going on there. How could you honestly make the choice to go to Africa for sex? If you are going to be promiscuous and threaten your own life … why not do it on your own home court instead of making an already growing problem worse?

“It is bad enough that people are dying of AIDS, but no one should die of ignorance.” ~Elizabeth Taylor

Secondly … these women need to take a long hard look at the type of lifestyle they are creating. As long as they continue to flaunt their wealth by picking up a Kenyan man and supporting him financially by purchasing clothing and food and allowing him to live in their hotel room with them than they are exacerbating a growing problem regarding work ethic. Why bother going out and getting a job to support yourself when you can just pimp yourself out? I am positive the same phenomenon is happening in the reverse. There have been too many stunning Kenyan women to cross my path without me knowing that they, too, are being preyed upon by visiting tourists.

I would love to see some statistics on how this issue is affecting the AIDS rate in developed countries as well as how the Kenyan economy is being altered with the rise of an entire generation willing to sell themselves as opposed to taking advantage of the growing educational and employment opportunities in the country.

“To get rich never risk your health.” ~Richard Baker

Fact: Kenya needs tourism. Financially, the country would not survive without it. What Kenya does not need is an entire demographic of westerners waltzing into their country and glamorizing those individuals who choose to prostitute themselves.

“I believe all suffering is caused by ignorance. People inflict pain on others in the selfish pursuit of their happiness or satisfaction. Yet true happiness comes from a sense of peace and contentment” ~Dalai Lama

“For we pay a price for everything we get or take in this world; and although ambitions are well worth having, they are not to be cheaply won, but exact their dues of work and self-denial, anxiety and discouragement.” ~Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Confession of a Hopeless Film Romantic




"A lady's imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony, in a moment." ~Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Alright. I admit it. I’m a hopeless romantic. I’m not sure how or when it happened, but it did. Could it be that my recent divorce and foray into my thirties has somehow heightened my sense of romance? Perhaps. I have always been an avid reader and firmly believe that Pride and Prejudice (as cliché as that is) by Jane Austen is the perfect book. I do so want my own Mr. Darcy. However, my inner tomboy often balks at my romantic tendencies and my new obsession with all things romantic has her screaming at me on a regular basis.

My renewed interest into matters of the heart is accented most recently in my current film choices. For those who do not know me as well as others: I am an avid moviegoer. Yet, shamelessly I can not count how many times I have, late at night after my children are sleeping peacefully, watched the following films over and over and over again in the last six months:

Pride and Prejudice (1995)
Colin Firth, in my mind, will always be Mr. Darcy. Don’t argue. You will not win.

Phantom of the Opera (2004)
‘All I Ask Of You’ is still my love song of choice though I highly doubt I will find a man willing or able to sing it to me and you most definitely do not want to hear me attempt the female half of that particular duet.

Hope Floats (1998)
What girl doesn’t think back to that one boy from some memorable period of her life? Why wouldn’t you, post divorce, want to be pursued and loved by an amazing man who loves you as you are … faults and all?

Ever After (1998)
Cinderella. Hot prince portrayed by Scotsman Dougray Scott. I rest my case.

Bend It Like Beckham (2002)
Love story + football. My tomboy quits yelling at me when I watch this one.

Love Actually (2003)
Comprised of eight amazing storylines, this movie is the pinnacle. Not to mention, it is an English film and I enjoy their filmmaking greatly.

There are many others that I would watch repeatedly if I had them on DVD. 'Casablanca' is one that comes to mind. And yet, I feel slight redemption because there are movies that are considered quintessential “chick flicks” that make me cringe and I will go to great lengths to never be forced to watch any of them ever again. Here are just a few:

Steel Magnolias (1989)
I have no words. Wait! Yes, I do: bad … southern … accents.

Beaches (1988)
I would rather endure some form of torture.

Pretty Woman (1990)
Great! Let’s teach all our daughters that it is acceptable to runaway to Hollywood and become “ladies of the night” because some rich dude will eventually come your way and rescue you. Yeah! That movie took fairy tales to an all-time low.

Thelma & Louise (1991)
This movie improved remarkably when they drove off a cliff. Oh, wait – that left only the credits. Not even Brad Pitt’s amazing ass can fix this film or make it worth watching. Screw girl power.

Gone With The Wind (1939)
Go ahead. Riot. Write me hate mail. I don’t care. While you do that – I’m going to go watch ‘Die Hard.’

The Notebook (2004)
I swear I am the only female on the planet who never wants to see this movie again. Yes, it is romantic but once was enough. My ex-husband bought the DVD for me (when we were still married). I gave it away. That tells you how well he really knew me, doesn’t it?

So, here I am: single and hopelessly romantic. At least I am not burying myself in every romantic piece of crap film on the planet. Confession over. I am now going to go read Pride and Prejudice for the fourth time this year.


Cheers!

"Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion's starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there - fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge - they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaking suspision love actually is all around." ~Love Actually (2003)

Someday My Prince Will Come - Maybe




I don't often reference an entire article, but I stumbled across this particular gem on MSBNC this morning and I find it truly enchanting and witty and wonderfully sarcastic. Although, I can't help wonder, "Where is my prince?" My personal favorite has always been Prince Eric from "The Little Mermaid" and he does have fabulous biceps for an animated character. Enjoy!

"There are no perfect men, only perfect intentions." ~Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Film (1991)

How well do we really know movie princes?
There’s more to them than maiden rescuing — we hope


COMMENTARY
By Mary Beth Ellis
MSNBC contributor

We’re in an era of fractured fairy tales, and Disney’s “Enchanted,” slated for a Nov. 21 release, bypasses the coyness and dumps a fairy-tale maiden (Amy Adams) into modern-day Manhattan. Her prince (James Marden) and evil stepmother (played by Susan Sarandon), with only slight makeup, follow her there.


Most movie princes function in our fairy tales as supporting characters, the quarterback-handsome dude with the nice crib, someone for the main female character to fall in love at. He’s the crystal carriage enabler rather than his own fully drawn character.

Quick, what do you think Prince Charming’s thoughts on endangered species protection are? That is correct: We have absolutely no idea. They are ciphers in epaulets, completely overshawdowed by the billowing gowns and puffy sleeves of their leading ladies.

Gentlemen! You are more than mere gatherers of glass slippers! As Disney tweaks its own brand, let us delve further into these attainable-only-by-magic royals. There’s got to be more to them than high cheekbones.

Prince Philip
Source:
“Sleeping Beauty”
Who he is: Prince of somewhere French
Female competition: Briar Rose (Sleeping Beauty’s stripper name)
Strengths: Father has excellent liquor cabinet; ability to dance while suspended mid-air; miraculous kisser; literal dragon-slayer; does not mind heavy nappers
Weaknesses: Hair does not move

Prince Eric
Source: “The Little Mermaid”
Who he is: Prince of wherever he lives
Female competition: Ariel, Ursula the Sea Witch (when in 36-24-36 form)
Strengths: Unlike most princes, boasts a fleet of one big boat and one rowboat; excellent biceps; castle by the sea; does not mind lapses in conversation
Weaknesses: Kind of an idiot; needs a haircut

Prince Char
Source:
“Ella Enchanted”
Who he is: Ruler of Lamia
Female competition: Ella, every single person in his kingdom with estrogen
Strengths: Good social conscience; is three-dimensional as opposed to inked
Weaknesses: Easily manipulated by transparently evil people; will likely have groupie issues for the duration of his hotness

Moses
Source: “The Ten Commandments”
Female competition: Sephora and her sisters, Princess Nefertiri
Who he is: Prince of Egypt, leader of slaves out of Egypt
Strengths: Speaks directly to God; can command dinner out of nowhere; and, while the Bible tells us he stammered, when on camera sounded an awful lot like Charlton Heston
Weaknesses: Refuses to ask for directions; will stir up huge amounts of frogs and lice if angered

Ramses
Source: “The Ten Commandments”
Female competition: No one really, but he sure does love himself
Who he is: Prince of Egypt, later Pharaoh
Strengths: Outstanding abs; expert cape twirler; can pull off ensembles featuring enormous bird necklaces
Weaknesses: Owned by Moses; tends to drown horses; kind of a jerk

Prince Charming
Source: “Cinderella”
Female competition: Cinderella
Who he is: Prince of somewhere French
Strengths: Has wicked sweet castle; total romantic
Weaknesses: Tends to overdelegate to servants; will probably age to be really short and really bald

The artist currently known as Prince
Source:
Open to debate
Female competition: Everyone he romances in “P Control”
Who he is: Singer/songwriter/performer, star of “Purple Rain”
Strengths: Excellent guitar solos
Weaknesses: Enjoys wearing crushed velvet entirely too much

Prince Charles
Source: Great Britain, “The Queen”
Female competition: Camilla Parker-Bowles
Who he is: Prince of Wales, heir to the throne of England
Strengths: Actually and currently exists; owns huge tracts of land; low standards of attractiveness; may act as a gateway prince to his sons, Prince William and Prince Harry
Weaknesses: Most likely over the whole marriage thing

That one prince from “Snow White”
Source: “Snow White”
Female competition: Snow White
Who he is: Prince of dwarf-containing lands
Strengths: Awesome pipes; also, wherever here’s prince of, it’s got diamond mines, so dude’s got bank
Weaknesses: Too much rouge

Prince Humperdink
Source:
“The Princess Bride”
Female competition: Princess Buttercup
Who he is: Ruler of Florin
Strengths: Owns a pony
Weaknesses: Enjoys killing people; great big liar; enormous wimp

Hamlet
Source: “Hamlet”
Female competition: Ophelia; Gertrude, his mother
Who he is: Prince of Denmark
Strengths: Deep thinker, not afraid to mock subpar drama
Weaknesses: Kinda wishy-washy; female competition is his mother

Prince John
Source: “Robin Hood”
Female competition: None, perhaps because the women in his kingdom have two brain cells to rub together
Who he is: A prince in England
Strengths: Just waiting for the right woman to turn him around
Weaknesses: Into heavy taxes; serious little-brother inferiority complex

Prince Akeem
Source: “Coming to America”
Female competition: Lisa; women willing to hop up and down while barking
Who he is: Prince of Zumunda
Strengths: Has James Earl Jones for a father
Weaknesses: When schlepping for a minimum-wage job, does not have the wherewithal to work at an actual McDonald’s

So clearly, there are so much more to these princes than merely the ability to lift various women out of poverty, dwarf-enforced labor or a really monster nap. They rode horses. They had feelings. They… made out with their mothers.

Perhaps we were better off not knowing them so well.

Mary Beth Ellis, author of
“Drink to the Lasses” is a freelance writer in the Washington, D.C. area, from whence she runs BlondeChampagne.com. Her prince is an air traffic controller who drives a Ford Focus, and that is OK with her.

© 2007 MSNBC Interactive
URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21821451/

Professional Gluttony




“Seeing these guys go at a 20-pound turkey is like poetry.” ~George Shea, Chairman of the International Federation of Competitive Eating, on the eve of a nationally televised turkey-eating competition.

I will NEVER consider watching someone shoving cooked poultry through their teeth as poetry. George Shea is a sick, sick man.

My comprehension of food eating contests is low. Simply put, I don’t get it. Who cares if there is money involved? The whole concept to me is absolutely nauseating. That being said, I was astounded to discover there is actually an International Federation of Competitive Eating (
http://www.ifoce.com) that hosts competitions and encourages such asinine behavior.

“The glutton is much more than an animal and much less than a man.” ~Honore de Balzac

Apparently, the “Turkey Bowl” aired Thanksgiving night on television. I have not looked close enough to see what channel, but why the hell would anyone in their right mind actually want to watch such a thing? Why is American culture so caught up in ‘real life’ that we are willing to watch some poor empty soul overdose on tryptophan on national television? That is just sick. For the record … I aim this at every Memorial Day hot dog eating contest and every Independence Day pie contest and every other “let me stuff my body so full of random food” contest that is held on this planet at any given moment.

Check out the website I listed above. There is a “records” section long enough to make me vomit while scanning over it. Let me share a few with you:

Vienna Sausages – Sonya Thomas – 8.31 lbs. in 10 minutes
Beef Tongue – Dominic Cardo – 3 lbs. 3 oz. in 12 minutes
Butter – Don Lerman – 7 quarter-pound sticks in 5 minutes
Chili – Richard LeFebre – 1 ½ gallons in 10 minutes
Crawfish – Chris Hendrix – 331 crawfish in 12 minutes
Ice Cream – Cookie Jarvis – 1 gallon, 9 oz in 12 minutes

I’m done. I thought I would list more and make a point on how the 103 hamburgers ingested by Joey Chestnut this past October could have been put to better use in feeding the hungry and homeless that are living on the American streets. Then again, who wants to eat beef tongue or butter? Not only is it astounding the amount of food that is wasted in these events … and it is wasted … it is even more amazing the types of cuisine that are selected for competition.

“I have come to the conclusion that mankind consume twice too much food.” ~Sydney Smith

Think about it. This Joey person ate 103 hamburgers. That does not count the number of hamburgers that were ingested by his competitors, or the amount of food that was consumed as each one of these competitors practiced for said event. It is truly disgusting.

American gluttony at it’s finest, that is what this entire scenario represents. It sickens me.

“You’re beginning to believe that the tube is the reality and your own lives are unreal. You do whatever the tube tells you. You dress like the tube, you eat like the tube, you raise your children like the tube, you even think like the tube. This is mass madness. You people are the real thing, we are the illusion.” ~Network, Film (1976)

Go Home & Cook For Your Family!!!


I made it fairly plain how I feel about Thanksgiving in my post ‘Can We Just Skip It?’ and yet I find myself completely disgruntled this holiday as I glance around the lodge at the wall-to-wall people who have arrived to sample our Thanksgiving buffet.

“Thanksgiving is a typically American holiday… The lavish meal is a symbol of the fact that abundant consumption is the result and reward of production.” ~Ayn Rand

Obviously all of these random people have managed to take time off work. They don’t want to be at work on a holiday. They don’t want any of their family members to be at work on a holiday. There are mobs of people mingling about laughing and talking and reuniting without giving second thought to the individuals who are currently making their stay here
as pleasant as possible. Do they feel guilty for causing a large number of working class people to miss Thanksgiving with their own families? Nope. That is a pretty obvious fact or they would not be here.

“O, how full of briers is this working-day world!” ~ William Shakespeare, As You Like It

Can these people who have invaded my workplace not cook for themselves? It is funny because, while I am not fond of the holiday, last year at my mom and dad’s place I ended up preparing the bulk of the traditional holiday meal. While prepping the turkey bright and early that morning my mother glanced at me inquisitively and ventured forth with a question, “Where did you learn how to do that? I know I didn’t teach you how to do that.” She’s right. She didn’t. I looked up with a smile and simply replied, “Food Network, mom! Food Network!” I spoke in jest, but it is amazing what you can learn from that wonderful cable network. All of these strangers have no excuse. They need to all go home and stress over Thanksgiving dinner like everyone else does.

“Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.” ~Harriet Van Horne

To those individuals, like me, who find themselves alone this holiday … “I forgive you and understand your need to not sit at home alone.” This would be my reason for working, but I had the choice. Many employees here were required to work the holiday.

“There is nothing like employment, active indispensable employment, for relieving sorrow.” ~Jane Austen, Mansfield Park

To all of those persons who choose to go out for Thanksgiving and force someone else to work on your behalf I say, “Have some consideration! Go home and cook for your family!!”

Hollywood, Leave It Alone!!!




“A warrior will sooner die than live a life of shame.” ~Beowulf, Lines 2890-2891

In honor of the new film version of Beowulf releasing today, I thought I would share a few words about how I feel regarding movie making and this amazing epic … three words to be exact: “LEAVE IT ALONE!” I know. I have yet to view the new film, so how can I be this judgmental? Experience. Hollywood has a long history of failed attempts to produce a version of Beowulf that would be to my standards. I happen to love the story of Beowulf. Yes, there is a copy on my bookshelf that is not included within an old school textbook. On top of that, I have seen a number of cinematic portrayals of the story and they suck. Every single one … sucks.

For those of you who may not know (and shame on you if you don’t), Beowulf is a seventh-century poem that follows a great warrior from youth to old man and recounts his heroics in facing the monsters Grendel, Grendel’s mother and the dragon. That, my friends, is the short and sweet version.

Come with me as I take you on a quick peak of some of the more recent film additions of this great poem. Remember – I said quick; I am not going to sit here and write a full page review of each film. If you want to know more about each one then go ask an English professor or Google them or put them on your Netflix queue. Whatever!

Animated Epics: Beowulf (1998) with Joseph Fiennes voicing Beowulf
You would think that an animated version might get it right, but with sketchy animation and a focus on the fight sequences the true “feel” of the poem is lost. The story is told too quickly and I honestly just didn’t like it.

Beowulf (1999) with Christopher Lambert as Beowulf
Oh please! Techno music … in an epic? What were you people thinking? This movie is just plain bad and there is nothing in the world that can save it. Enough said. Should you watch it? Maybe. If you have 2 robot friends and you are sitting in an empty theater giving it the good old MST3K treatment then feel free to watch away. It is just way too easy to mock.

Beowulf and Grendel (2005) with Gerard Butler (drool) as Beowulf
What do I say? This film is not bad, but it’s not good either. Gerard Butler is fantastic. I would not expect any less of him. The scenery and the soundtrack are fantastic as well, but overall a lot of liberties were taken with the story line and I just can not wrap my mind around it enough to really give it two thumbs up. I had high hopes that this would be the one that got it right. It did not. Sorry Gerard.

The 13th Warrior (1999) with Antonio Banderas
Is it possible that a movie based on a book (Eeaters of the Dead) which was based rather loosely off of the original script of Beowulf can be the best adaptation of said poem to date? Yes, yes it is. Don’t chastise me. I know it does not follow the story of Beowulf word for word, but it just makes for a better cinematic experience than the rest. Other Beowulf purists will probably disagree with me, but I don’t particularly care.

There you go. Will the movie version that is released today be able to stand on its own merit and become the most accurately accepted adaptation? Can Hollywood successfully portray a fallible hero? I fear that the splendid real life animation will overshadow the story, but hopefully it will not. There is also the question of 2-D or 3-D … which version will you choose to see? Me? I’m going with 2-D because I am less apt to be overly critical that way. We will see.

“Fate goes ever as fate must.” ~Beowulf, Line 455

75°F and All is Well




I step from my office and glance at the crystal blue lake where the sun winks at me from the shimmering surface. November? Is it? Are you sure Thanksgiving is this week? It does not feel as late fall/early winter is supposed to feel.

Ask me if I am concerned?

Nope!

I hate cold weather. You would think that leaving the warm equator behind 15 years ago and moving farther up in the northern hemisphere that my body might have started some sort of adaptation for the colder winter months. It has not.

“A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.” ~Carl Reiner

I am quite sure that I make for an amusing sight when the weather does get beyond crisp and the mercury drops below 50°F. When others wear a sweater to warm themselves … I am already sporting a jacket. When the public ventures forth with jackets … you will find me in a winter coat and gloves. The absurd amount of layers I wear when everyone else begins to wear winter wear is astounding. I always look out of place.

“Winter, a bad guest, sitteth with me at home; blue are my hands with his friendly handshaking.” ~Friedrich Nietzsche

I need sunshine. I need warmth. I need the planet to feel like it is alive! I need August! Every winter I threaten to pack up and move to Phoenix, AZ or San Diego, CA in order to escape as much winter weather as possible … but not today.

It may be late November, but today it is 75°F and all is well.

“There is no month in the whole year in which nature wears a more beautiful appearance than in the month of August. Spring has many beauties, and May is a fresh and blooming month, but the charms of this time of year are enhanced by their contrast with the winter season. August has no such advantage. It comes when we remember nothing but clear skies, green fields, and sweet-smelling flowers--when the recollection of snow, and ice, and bleak winds, has faded from our minds as completely as they have disappeared from the earth--and yet what a pleasant time it is! Orchards and cornfields ring with the hum of labour; trees bend beneath the thick clusters of rich fruit which bow their branches to the ground; and the corn, piled in graceful sheaves, or waving in every light breath that sweeps above it, as if it wooed the sickle, tinges the landscape with a golden hue.” ~Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers

Can We Just Skip It?



"Thanksgiving Day comes, by statute, once a year; to the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart o gratitude will allow." ~Edward Sandford Martin

I hate turkey. It's true. Well, maybe 'hate' is too strong a word, but turkey is not my favorite food by any stretch of the imagination which is why the annual celebration of Thanksgiving is the one day of the year I find myself as close as I will ever get to becoming a vegetarian. I have to admit, two years ago I had my first taste of a deep fried turkey. I will probably never eat roasted or smoked turkey again. I know I haven't since. What's sad about my dislike of the gobbler is that it would make my weight loss goals infinitely easier if I were to consume turkey as my protein each day instead of, well, the red meat that I love.

Can't we just skip Thanksgiving?

Turkey meat aside, I think it's ludicrous that we have a holiday intended to remind us to be thankful. Only in America. Everyone in this country needs to be shipped to a 3rd world country for just 48 hours and bear witness to the sick, poor, and homeless who COUNT THEIR MEAGER BLESSINGS EVERY DAY. Don't you have more than they do? Be thankful! Do you have your health? Be thankful. Do you live in a country where your freedom is respected? Be thankful.

Not only do we all need to be more thankful . . . we need to be thankful every single day.

"Let us be thankful for fools. But for them the rest of us could not succeed." ~Mark Twain

As for the turkey, well, give it a reprieve similar to that of the Annual Presidential Turkey Pardon (another stupid tradition) or, if said bird has already been introduced to the butcher, give it away to someone who needs it more than you. "Why?" You ask. I shouldn't have to tell you. Maybe, just maybe, that person needs something for which to give thanks.

And so - here are a few things for which I give thanks each day. Why is it we all feel the necessity to make this list each and every November?

"The worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful and has nobody to thank." ~Dante Gabriel Rossetti

♥My children (I have the greatest kids on the planet and I tell them how fantastic they are every day . . . so they may not be incredibly modest.)
♥My parents who are simply amazing .
♥My friends - of which there are many, many, many more than I had thought and I am beginning to rediscover them . . . as well as the power bond of friendship.
♥Faith, Hope & Love
♥My job and a most incredible boss (I am bored, but I am thankful!)
♥My 45lb. weight loss (to date)
♥Coffee (nectar of the gods)
♥Music in all of its glorious stages of evolution
♥The Written Word (Books . . . people! Books!)

So . . . be thankful, appreciative, beholden, content, grateful, indebted, much obliged, satisfied, at ease, serene and happy. Tell someone! Share!

"Gratitude is our most direct line to God and the angels. If we take the time, no matter how crazy and troubled we feel, we can find something to be thankful for." ~Terry Lynn Taylor

Reprinted & revised from the original post composed one year ago, this particular rant of mine always invokes strong reactions from those who read it. My response? Get over it!


PC Dependency




"Computing is not about computers any more. It is about living." ~Nicholas Negroponte

What is a monetarily challenged compulsive writer to do when the home computer takes its last breath and begs to be taken to the PC cemetery?

The obvious solution is to take up paper and pen and do it the old-fashioned way, right? Well, what you don’t realize is that I already do that too. I have notebooks full of my scribbling and musings … lots and lots of writing penned by hand.

"One writes to make a home for oneself, on paper, in time and in others' minds." ~Alfred Kazin

Composing via computer allows me a certain freedom that I don’t experience with hand-written script. When I am typing, I find that I do not have time to stop and edit because I type at such a speed that I can truly allow the stream of consciousness to flow from my mind and onto the screen with minimal interruption. Yes, I do read back through what I have written and make small edits here and there, but when I’m writing longhand I stop myself practically every sentence and there is just no finishing anything while going at that pace.

I need my computer. I want my computer. I’m getting just a wee bit twitchy at not having it around. Well, it’s still there … sitting on my 'drafting table converted to desk' mocking me in its current non-functioning state and my brotherly unit in Kansas City who is trained in PC repair and programming and the like doesn’t seem able to help me nurse said unit back to health from such a distance. “Reboot,” I’m told. Bull-crap! Do you know how many times I have rebooted already? I’m not that stupid! I don’t even have the ‘Blue Screen of Death’ because I can’t even get that far in the boot up process … at least that would give me a reference point. Thanks, dear brother, for not even attempting to guess what may be wrong. You were a lot of help.

"Windows NT Crashed.
I am the Blue Screen of Death.
No one hears your screams."

~Peter Rothman (1998)


For now, I have the stupid thing turned off. Several months ago it had a temper tantrum of similar proportions and I cut the power and left it for a week. Magically, it repaired itself. I can only hope the same thing will occur now. I am not; I repeat “not” crossing my fingers. Such luck does not follow me about waiting to dispense its goodness.

Anyone willing to donate funds in order to help save me from this technological nightmare – please, let me know. Until then, let us all sing praises that I have a computer in my office.

“Computers make it easier to do a lot of things, but most of the things they make it easier to do don’t need to be done.” ~Andy Rooney


Heartsick



“Where we love is home,
Home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.”

~Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.


Channel Surfing. It isn’t an activity I take up on any kind of a semi-regular basis. As a single working mother I have little time to sit and aimlessly flip through television channels full of nothingness. Not to mention, technology has seen fit to help me out and, courtesy of my DVR, I rarely watch live TV as I record everything and jump through commercial advertisements substantially dropping my actual viewing time. Alas, for some unknown reason I found myself surfing through the void this weekend where I inadvertently stumbled across ‘Life is Wild’ – a television show that caught my attention long enough for me to linger and then brought feelings of agonizing heartsickness as I continued to watch.

It has been thirteen long years since I have had the joy of setting foot on the African continent where I was raised. I am heartsick. Oh, I will occasionally watch something on ‘The Travel Channel’ or ‘The Discovery Channel’ that makes me feel a little homesick as well. However, I have usually planned to watch a show and know that I am mentally stable enough at that time to deal with a little reminiscence. I was not primed for stumbling across this television show of an American family living in South Africa where the children attended an international school. Granted, I grew up in Kenya and I went to a missionary affiliated boarding school … but the similarities were enough to bring on a severe sickness of the heart.

My heart is still in Africa. It always has been and I assume that it will always remain there. If I had the opportunity I would there now. My children know. They love Africa and they have yet to visit. They brag to their friends and their teachers about my upbringing and the “cool stuff” we have around the apartment.

Maybe someday I will be able to share my Africa with them.

Until then, I might have them watch this silly little show that has only small parallels to my own childhood.



I am an African
Not because I was born there
But because my heart beats with Africa’s
I am an African
Not because my skin is black
But because my mind is engaged by Africa
I am an African
Not because I live on its soil
But because my soul is at home in Africa

When Africa weeps for her children
My cheeks are stained with tears
When Africa honors her elders
My head is bowed in respect
When Africa mourns for her victims
My hands are joined in prayer
When Africa celebrates her triumphs
My feet are alive with dancing

I am an African
For her blue skies take my breath away
And my hope for the future is bright
I am an African
For her people greet me as family
And teach me the meaning of community
I am an African
For her wildness quenches my spirit
And brings me closer to the source of life

When the music of Africa beats in the wind
My blood pulses to its rhythm
And I become the essence of sound
When the colours of Africa dazzle in the sun
My senses drink in its rainbow
And I become the palette of nature
When the stories of Africa echo round the fire
My feet walk in its pathways
And I become the footprints of history

I am an African
Because she is the cradle of our birth
And nurtures an ancient wisdom
I am an African
Because she lives in the world’s shadow
And bursts with a radiant luminosity
I am an African
Because she is the land of tomorrow
And I recognise her gifts as sacred

~Wayne Visser (2005)


I Stand Amazed




"I think I should have no other mortal wants, if I could always have plenty of music. It seems to infuse strength into my limbs, and ideas into my brain. Life seems to go on without effort, when I am filled with music." ~George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss

I’ve always had music in my house. It was not something that I experienced while growing up (Trust me, you don’t want to hear either my mother or father sing.), except in church, but I love music so I have made sure my children were exposed to all types of music from a young age. My oldest child (Big K) in particular has been musically inclined since about the age of three. In regard to what he has naturally inherited … I can claim no part. I play the piano and quite poorly at that. My ex-husband, on the other hand, has passed down to my child a decent tenor voice.

“Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.” ~Ratatouille, Film (2007)

A month ago my child attended the all-region junior high choir tryouts for the southwest portion of the state (Arkansas). He called from tryouts to inform me that he had made 4th chair tenor. Of course, I was proud but having never been involved in choir I did not fully comprehend what my child was telling me … until tonight.

“Every man's work, whether it be literature or music or pictures or architecture or anything else, is always a portrait of himself . . .” ~Samuel Butler, The Way of All Flesh

I attended Big K's all-region choir performance tonight and must confess that my child has amazed me yet again. He didn’t just make 4th chair tenor. He made 4th chair 1ST TENOR! In my musical ignorance, I had not realized there was a difference. There were 165 7th and 8th graders in the all-region choir and my child was the ONLY BOY from his junior high to even make the choir … let alone creeping that close to first chair.

I know I’m bragging. It is my prerogative … parental pride. I am astounded at the gift God has given my child and how I was completely unaware of how gifted he is in comparison to others his age. I stand amazed.

You might, from your appearance, be the wife of Lucifer ...




“A compliment is a gift, not to be thrown away carelessly, unless you want to hurt the giver.” ~Eleanor Hamilton

You know you have looked like total crap for an entire work week (well, 4 day work week - courtesy of Veterans Day) when you walk in the office at 0800 on Friday morning and everyone you greet says, “Wow! You look great today!”

Huh?

“Thank you!”

I guess.

Why is it people never hesitate to mention when look absolutely fabulous? And yet, no one has the gumption to look at you and exclaim, “You look like crap!”

Honestly? I didn’t think I looked so bad Tuesday through Thursday. Yes, I wore my hair up all three days. Bloody Hell! If your hair was at this stage you would wear it up a lot too. I decided to grow it back out and now I don’t know what to do with these blonde tresses. It’s not as though I appeared at work on Tuesday wearing torn sweatpants. I didn’t show up on Wednesday without a stitch of make-up. Thursday – I did shower. I promise.

“When you cannot get a compliment any other way, pay yourself one.” ~Mark Twain

Let me think! Other than the hair, each day ….

Did I wear business casual clothing that fit? CHECK!
Was I wearing makeup? CHECK, CHECK!
Did I wear appropriate footwear? CHECK, CHECK, CHECK!
Are my nails done? CHECK, CHECK, CHECK, CHECK!
Smiling? CHECK, CHECK, CHECK, CHECK, CHECK!

I’m out of categories. What more do you want from me?

“She behaves as if she was beautiful. Most American women do. It is the secret of their charm.” ~Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

I am not a vain individual. I honestly don’t walk into the office every single day of my boring office existence expecting to be complimented, but having every immediate coworker say it on the same day and within a matter of minutes does tend to raise the awareness level from green (happy in my own existence) to red (wondering how bad I must have looked the rest of the week).

I must have looked like hell.

“You might, from your appearance, be the wife of Lucifer...” ~Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Balls In My Face




“Most of us have trouble juggling. The woman who says she doesn't is someone whom I admire but have never met.” ~Barbara Walters

Juggling. Multitasking. Call it what you will. I am a master. I have so many balls up in the air simultaneously that it is almost too difficult to see where to put one foot in front of the other. Still, I’m managing to stay balanced. I realize that I should probably consolidate, but if I do that they become too painfully heavy to keep elevated and I can not afford to lose my balance.


“I'm happy when I'm juggling, but I feel like I've gone from, like, 3 balls to 10 bowling balls. But, that's a good problem. I don't really have a complaint about that.” ~Kirstie Alley (Author note: I’d be complaining. Keep reading for my perspective to juggling bowling balls.)

Most people are carrying around a few balls: work, home, etc. I can’t do that. Those labels are too broad and they often change. Each regular or ‘normal’ ball that I used to juggle seems to have given birth to babies based on my obsession with giving individual items their due attention. Baby balls. Whew! Just like any infant … baby balls are demanding.

Home has given birth to: My kids (Big K & Little K), Money, Car, Bills, Chores, etc. The fun part about this area of life is that each one of the baby balls has giving birth to multiple grandbaby balls. Fun times!

Work bears forth multiple versions of itself at any given moment along with all the variables: Money, Boss, Coworkers, Insurance, Clients, etc. Work can also change to Career, but right now it is just Work. (Unfortunately, I also have coworkers who feel it necessary to bring their personal lives into the workplace on a daily basis and often throw … no, force their own balls right in my face. Bloody Hell! I’m already juggling my own issues. Take your ball back!)

The Friend ball is in a perpetual state of delivery and might as well just keep its legs thrown up in the stirrups. Friendships are high maintenance especially when, like me, you don’t have an “inner circle” but spend time constantly fostering friendships new and old. It’s never-ending. Oh! Let’s not forget that this year Friends gave birth to Reunion. I’m still not sure who was juggling that ball when I reached out and snatched it away. I don’t know why I took it for myself because it is damn heavy. I must have dropped my sanity ball and grabbed something else as a replacement. Whoever had it to begin with must be pretty relieved.

“I've got all of these little balls up in the air. And if somebody else caught one for me, I'd drop them all.” ~One Fine Day, Film (1996)

Right now, believe it or not, I am doing a fabulous job at keeping them all up in the air because they are all of a manageable size. Yes, there seem to be hundreds of them, but I’d rather juggle a hundred baby balls than a few bowling balls. If I consolidate all of the Home balls into one then it does, indeed, become a regulation size sixteen pound bowling ball …. as would Work and Friends and Health and every other mother ball that I have with me all the time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a pretty stout girl and can carry a lot of weight around, but I don’t want to juggle bowling balls.

Do I need help? Nope! Right now I’m good. Thanks. If I let go of one or if someone reaches out and takes just one little ball … I’ll drop each and every one of them. Not only will I drop them, but I will step on all the balls that have hit the ground and I’m sure the visual image would rival that of a hippopotamus on roller-skates. Right now, I can not afford to be off balance – let alone fall.

“Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls. The balls are called work, family, health, friends and integrity. And you’re keeping them in the air. But one day you finally come to the understanding that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls- family, health, friends and integrity- are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered. And once you truly understand the lessons of the five balls, you have the beginnings of balance in your life.” ~James Patterson, Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas


Good Box Springs Make Good Neighbors



“This is the best kind of voyeurism, hearing joy from your neighbors.” ~Chuck Sigars

I have new neighbors. They moved in above me over the weekend though I have yet to set eyes on them. I do not know how many live there. I do not know what they look like or how old they are. I do not know their ethnicity or what car(s) they drive. I am not a snob. I promise. I simply have not managed to be outside simultaneously with them in order to introduce myself. The neighbor to my right has been unable to make contact either, so I am not feeling too bad. I am not, however, completely ignorant and have managed to discover a thing or two about them.

1. Someone up there walks from one room to the next as deftly as a stampeding elephant. I can always tell you what room is occupied by that particular individual.

2. They (whoever ‘they’ may be) have an astoundingly healthy sex life. They also have a box spring bed complete with headboard.

Yes, my fellow current or previous apartment dwellers, you know what I mean. The individuals who have moved in upstairs need to replace their overworked box spring mattress and move their bed (remember the headboard) a good foot away from the wall in order to eliminate the squeak, whack, squeak, whack rhythm that takes place every time they engage in the horizontal mambo … and, trust me, it happens often enough: 2am, 9am, 5pm, 10pm, 12am. Whenever! At this point they are averaging twice a day – or so I think. Remember, I’m out of my apartment for at least 9 hours every day.

“The only people who make love all the time are liars.” ~Gigi, Film (1958)

Please don’t get me wrong. I applaud them. I do. I can only assume that they are a married (or cohabitating) couple and, having been married before, I know how difficult it can be to … shall we say … make the time, but I do have one big problem.

What about the kids?

I’m not referring to the children this couple may already have (I haven’t heard the patter of little feet up there.) or will inevitably conceive as long as they keep up this marathon pace, I am talking about MY kids. I have two boys. Boys! Big K is twelve. Little K is seven.

My oldest child (excuse me, pre-teen) is not stupid. In fact he is quite brilliant. I have chosen to not address the issue with him because I’m pretty sure he knows exactly what is going on up there.

The youngest? Thank goodness he still has no reason to doubt the explanations given to him. Simply put: he believes mommy. Do you know what I told him? (Come on … you know you do!) Little K was in my room engrossed in the written word of his chapter book when the squeaking began to commence upstairs at a most inopportune mid-afternoon moment. He looked at the ceiling. He looked at me. He looked back at the ceiling. He looked back at me. I casually spit out the first thing that came to mind. “See? This is why I don’t let you jump on my bed!” Little K looked at the ceiling again, shrugged, and went back to the book he was reading. Yes! Crisis averted!

“Does it really matter what these affectionate people do – so long as they don’t do it in the streets and frighten the horses!” ~Mrs. Patrick Campbell

Oddly enough, I – the brutally honest one – have decided that when I do meet my new neighbors I might just congratulate them. Then again, I might not. There is no need for me to make them feel uncomfortable. Not to mention, as a semi-prudish divorcee plagued with my own frustrations, who am I to put a damper on such a vibrant part of their relationship? Who knows? I might suggest that good box springs make good neighbors or I might simply leave a note and a can of WD-40 on the front porch. What a welcome that would be!

“It is a folly to punish your neighbor by fire when you live next door.” ~Publilius Syrus

Gap of the Ages




“Somewhere around twenty-five, bizarre becomes immature.” ~Singles, Film (1992)

One of the interesting dynamics of living in this small college town is that I have developed a number of friendships with individuals in their early to mid-twenties. We find each other at work, at church or even in the same apartment complex. Oddly enough, I get along great with many of them and we laugh about topics that define the gap in our ages as they are typically rather superficial. Here are a few examples:

*I remember listening to music on records and eight-tracks before buying my first cassette tape (Skid Row’s self-titled album). They think CDs are antiquated.

*I know what the acronym “U.S.S.R.” represents and realize that Germany was not always one country. Pitifully, many of them do not grasp either one of these concepts.

*Jessica Simpson is NOT Daisy Duke.

*MTV (music television) used to actually play music videos. Go figure. If ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’ what the heck killed videos on MTV?

*Walkie Talkies were the coolest. They grew up with their own cell phones.

*I had ‘Miami Vice.’ They had ‘NYPD Blue’ which briefly starred Mark-Paul Gosselaar. I remember him in junior high and high school in ‘Saved by the Bell.’ I’m so old.

* ‘Star Search’ was the hottest talent competition around while I was growing up. Now? ‘American Idol’ reigns supreme.

(This is fun!)
*Roller Skates vs. Roller Blades.
*Atari & Intellivision vs. Nintendo & Playstation.
*Blackboards vs. Whiteboards (No more dusting the erasers!).
*Sticky Notes vs. Email.*Johnny Carson vs. Jay Leno.
*VHS vs. DVD
Enough said!

The point is that these are usually the frivolous differences between our ages that allow for much amusement. However, there comes a time when the time warp of various life experiences rips open a gaping chasm. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. Let me share with you a recent example.

“Obsession is a young man’s game.” ~The Prestige, Film (2006)

I have a friend that recently ended a relationship and is obsessed with discovering as much negative 'during the relationship' information about the significant other as humanly possible. I am sure they are playing the blame game on who was responsible for the breakup. Well, I’m thirty-three. Once you end a relationship … it’s ended. Walk away. At this point, nothing that happened during that time period is going to change things. My friend tried explaining to me the great lengths reached in order to expose the guilt of the other individual. The more my friend talked the wider the gaping chasm between us became. I just didn’t get it. Why bother? What good can you possibly gain from digging up dirt on someone you once claimed to love? I finally looked at my friend and simply stated, “This is the difference between 33 and 25.” I explained my position. I hoped to make my friend realize that it wasn’t doing anyone any good and that letting it go would make their life so much simpler. My friend’s answer, “But, I want to know!”

Chasm. Big gaping maturity chasm.

Maybe this is why God keeps putting these younger acquaintances in my life … as much as I dislike living in this town. Hopefully they can glean something from my life experiences as we continue to get to know one another.

“When you are older you will know that life is a long lesson in humility.” ~James M. Barrie, The Little Minister

“A baby has brains, but it doesn’t know much. Experience is the only thing that brings knowledge, and the longer you are on Earth the more experience you are sure to get.” ~L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

“Sometimes what seems like surrender isn’t surrender at all. It’s about what is going on in our hearts. About seeing clearly the way life is and accepting it and being true to it, whatever the pain, because the pain of not being true to it is far, far greater.” ~The Horse Whisperer, Film (2002)




Originally written: November 6, 2007

Being Banausic



Time marches on. Stupid phrase. True, but stupid. Whoever coined it should be shot for their inherent aptitude for blatantly stating the obvious. Regardless, time does proceed in continuous forward motion. What we do with that time is up to us. Attitudes toward time are often cyclical as we maneuver through the ups and downs that accompany our existence. One moment we live life to the fullest. The next instant we simply exist. Where are you right now?

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” ~J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Existing. That’s what I’m doing … just in case you were wondering. I have plans and goals that, I hope, will eventually allow me to live the life I believe I should be living. In the meantime: I exist. I live in a town that I hate. It is way too small and I am suffocating. Trust me; it is hard to feel the fullness of life in Arka-do-nothing, Arkansas. I work in a job that is completely utilitarian. It serves one purpose for me at this moment and that is simply the fact that it provides a salary and benefits. I love the hospitality industry, but I am accustomed to something a little more glamorous and with a much larger salary. Unfortunately, I left that career behind in another state. I know you are asking, “Why?” but the answer to that is an incredibly long story that you really don’t want to hear right now. I can not allow myself to dwell on that decision or my current existence would drop into a state of depression and regret. I can’t have that right now.

“Oh! Do not attack me with your watch! A watch is always too fast or too slow. I cannot be dictated to by a watch.” ~Jane Austen, Mansfield Park

I exist … for now. I am trapped. There are a number of reasons and most of those have dead presidents printed on them. My life is rather boring and practical at the moment. I do the same things day after day. Everything is routine. I bide my time waiting and thinking and planning on how I can move forward and truly begin to live again instead of simply existing.

“Time and tide will wait for no man, saith the adage. But all men have to wait for time and tide.” ~Charles Dickens, Martin Chuzzlewit

“My life is spent in one long effort to escape from the commonplaces of existence.” ~Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Red-Headed League

Originally written: October 25, 2007

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