10 or so things about me

A while ago I was tagged on facebook to fill out a 16-factoid about-me.  I filed it under 'to do' and then the holidays happened and I spent a week in a car and my brain melted.  But now, it is back to business.  

1. In the US, there are 2 main kinds of knitting styles - where you work the yarn with your left, and with your right.  I started out working with the right - which is MUCH more common - but I switched, and now I can knit much faster.

2. My now-husband and I knew each other for years before we really ever had our own friendship.  He was dating the girl who stole my first boyfriend, and it took me a while to get past that.

3. When I decided to purchase a pet, I wanted either an Italian greyhound or a papillon.  I picked papillon because that breeder was located about half an hour closer than the Iggy's.  That's how I ended up with Eli.

4. One of my papillon owner friends thinks that Eli is not a purebred papillon, that he is part chihuahua.  I think she might be right, and for some reason this bothers me a whole heck of a lot, even though being a mix might be better than his health.

5. I recently filed a lawsuit against, and reached a settlement with, my alma mater's most hated rival school.

6. My credit rating is near 800.

7. I have been to 30+ countries, and not as many states.

8. I've watched the ball drop in NYC on tv every year for as long as I can remember - except for one.  A couple of years ago, I accidentally watched the Meatwad drop, on Cartoon Network.  I thought it was a joke and almost cried when I realized it was the real thing.

9. I received my first kiss shortly after midnight on 01-01-00.  I wish I knew what that said in binary.  (also: Brian is a much better kisser.  And I think that guy is getting married soon,so  congrats to him!)

10. When I was young - second grade - I broke both of my arms within 2 weeks of each other, in the exact same spot, a couple of inches below the shoulder.  The first break was never detected - they thought it was a sprain.  It wasn't until I broke the second one that I had x-rays done and we learned that they had both been broken.  I almost DIDN'T get the x-rays, because my shoulders were both 'funny-looking' in the same ways, because the breaks were identical.  As a result of all this fun, both of my arms are rotated away from my body about 60 degrees.  This poses a physical challenge occasionally.

11. I steal things in White Elephant games.  Always.

12. The hair on the nose side of my left eyebrow grows straight up.  On my right, it grows outward like normal.

13. Brian and I were married less than a year after we started dating.  

14. When I was younger, my left foot was almost a half size smaller than my right.  They've evened out mostly, but the right side is still bigger.

15. I prefer analog to digital in almost all media.

16. I am a direct descendent of Sir Walter Raleigh's half-brother, Sir Humphrey Gilbert.


fun with the new fisheye

So one of the swell gifts my husband gave me this Christmas was a fisheye lens (makes things round) with a detachable micro filter (makes small things very big).  These are some of the early results - straight off the card, just goofing around.


Merry Christmas

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

Luke 2:11-14



I remember very few things from high school.  High school wasn't an especially great time for me, and I've tried to retain only the best stuff.  You know, stories about the crazy English teacher who had a cleft palate and who danced around the room singing a poem about necrophilia. And the creepy chemistry teacher who once got mugged in New York or some other big city (this was Charlotte, y'all) and he offered the guys his wallet, his watch, and everything else if they would just let him keep his UNC class ring (can't blame him!! Go Heels!!).  And the Spanish teacher who made us do all kinds of skits and plays.   And the history teacher who played the Stones and the Spoonfuls and other glories of the 60s during our tests....we never did figure out his political affiliation - we all just suspected that it is not exactly mainstream.  I was in IB, which meant that I had approx. 18 classmates for most of high school, and I'm sure every single one of them could figure out the folks I've named.

There are some lesser-known or lesser-remembered things, though.  Like, for example, my high school boyfriend, who kissed like a fish.  And the creepy guy who was a friend-of-a-friend who hovered behind me making threatening sexual comments while I was walking down the hall (he was expelled shortly thereafter, because he was smart enough to do this to a couple of girls, and within earshot of a male teacher).   And the girl who died in a car wreck at the end of senior year, resulting in the implosion of the first real network of friends that I'd been able to develop in my four years there.  Having a meltdown in the middle of Calc II at the whisper of "Sarah Lawrence" when no one else in the room even knew her was not my shining moment.  Oh, or the time freshman year when I turned in my 6-page SINGLE spaced paper.  In my defense, nowhere in the directions did it say 'double spaced' and I had not been in the public school system long enough to assume double spacing in a writing assignment.

One of my fondest memories from high school was our 9th grade English teacher, Mrs. Hagler.  She called us all her cherubs and she was the sweetest thing.   That 6-page paper?  Yup, first major writing assignment for her.  One of the things she taught us was that there are 2 kinds of students - those who know what to do with a door, and those who don't.  What I mean is this:  she was giving us an open-ended assignment.  And then she explained that some of us could take it and run.  She could say to these students, "there's a door," and they would know exactly what to do.  There were others of us, though, who would hear the words "there's a door," and would be stumped.  We would need instruction.  

I am firmly implanted in the camp of the latter, in case you were wondering.

One of the other things Mrs. Hagler gave me was the Desiderata.  I'd never seen or heard of it before, but she had it on a giant poster in her classroom and I read it all the time.  At one point, I had it memorized, just because I'd read it so much.  I was reminded of the Desiderata not long ago, so I thought I would share it with all of you.  

Merry Christmas.


Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let not this blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams; it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

--- Max Ehrmann, 1927-


Manic Monday #147

If you were at a friend’s house for a holiday dinner and you found a dead cockroach in your salad, what would you do?

Cry.  Probably wail, in fact.  Then run to the kitchen, or some other room, wait for the hostess to dig me out of the corner I was cowering in, and then try to get the words out without having a stroke, all the while feeling extremely guilty that I couldn't just keep it to myself.

If you could put anyone you know on Prozac, who would you choose?

Not sure about this one.  Maybe my brother's dog.

How do you feel about public displays of affection?

Holding hands is ok....otherwise, get a room!  Unless it's your freaking wedding day, nobody wants to see you making out.


Christmas at our place

I thought I'd share a few pictures of the way I've been able to 'do up' the place.  We're on a tight budget, as usual, so there isn't anything fancy going on, but it does feel like Christmas, none-the-less.  At least, it does in one room...

We don't have a fireplace or a mantle, but we do have book shelves!  One got the stockings - don't ask me why we have 5 stockings for 2 people and a dog.  We got the NOEL blocks last year on a post-holiday clearance.

Behind the E is an old-fashioned Hershey's candy jar.  I don't know if it itself is an antique, though.  It came from my grandpa's house, in Hershey, PA - I think he gave it to me because he was tired of looking at it.

Next door to the stocking bookcase is the rest of the Christmas stuff that most people put on doors or on top of their mantles or somewhere else.  For us, these include Christmas cards, a tree topper that doesn't top very well but is still awesome, my "Dr. Seuss" Christmas tree hailing back to my single-gal post-grad days that I did up with neon pink disco balls, and our new Advent calendar.  Next year we hope to add an Advent wreath.

We are North Carolina people, which means we are Real Tree people.  There is a family-operated garden/lawn shop in our neighborhood that sells North Carolina fraser firs every year.  We splurged on a real tree as broke newlyweds last year, and this year we returned, less broke but just as enthusiastic.

These are some of our favorite ornaments.  I got the idea for the 'zooming' toaster photo from this blog.  It felt good to do something new for a change, and get to know the camera a little bit better.


christmas "break"

There is a lot going around in the blogs I frequent about having a simple, scaled-back holiday.  This is a notion that I love, and must do because we don't have much funding for anything blown out, but I think I'm still missing out on something - the part where relaxation happens.  The time when you sit back as a family and enjoy each others' company.

When you come from a divorced home, and your parents have lives in separate places, navigating the holidays can be somewhat tricky.  When I was on my own, it was pretty easy - Christmas at one place, Thanksgiving somewhere else.  I as based in NC so most of my holidays were spent there.  Sometimes I'd go to PA for Thanksgiving or Christmas.  But it was relatively easy and there wasn't a ton of trouble in the planning.

Now I've got 2 more families, and another set of feelings, to consider.  Brian's parents live a couple of hours south of my mom.  And then there's the whole, 'oh yeah I'm married now, I guess we need some time together' thing.  Two more families.  And I am all about making "Brian+Me" have top billing - to the extent that it's possible, anyway.

Back when we were in school, Christmas break (or winter break, for the more PC of us) was a real break.  No school, no tests, no papers, no work - just a couple of weeks of nothing to do except attempt to live with our parents while avoiding as much conflict as possible.  Some folks would sit around and mope, some would reconnect with all the home-town friends, some would go places.

I spent my first two winters after school working AT a school, so for as long as the university was shut down, me no worky.  It was awesome.  It was like 'easing' into being a real-life grown up, in a way.  Some of my friends were in grad school, others worked for places that gave them a couple of days off, but they did have to report to work sometime between Christmas day and New Years Eve.  Pretty standard stuff.

Last year, my third post-school Christmas, I was unemployed, so I had like 6 weeks off for winter break.  Not so relaxing, because I spent the whole time being anxious about money and finding work and whatnot, but having the down-time was good because Brian wasn't in school either, and we didn't take a honeymoon until later. ___

This year, I'm working at a Christian nonprofit, and we are off from Dec. 24 through Jan. 1 (with the possibility of having Jan. 2 off, giving us another whole weekend).  Also a score of a deal, but here's my thing:

this year, the nice break will not end up being a break for me at all.  Or at least not much.  Because we have 3 families to visit, and they are spread across the Eastern seaboard, and we have about 6 days to see them all.

Granted, Christmas in Hershey PA will be pretty special, and I'll see relatives I haven't seen in a long time, and Brian will get to meet some cousins and whatnot who he hasn't met yet, which is also cool, and my little brother will get to hang out with his new brother-in-law who, by the way, is WAY cooler than me in a 13 year old boy's eyes, and whatnot.  But I am feeling bogged down by the sheer amount of travel and activity we are cramming into these days.  Big Christmas Eve party with the whole family in PA, 4 hours north.  Christmas dinner with another family in Chapel Hill NC, 7 hours south.  The next day, my brother goes to South Africa for a while.  The day after that, we are going to a wedding in Davidson, NC (2 more hours south), and the day after THAT, Brian is preaching in Charlotte (another hour south), and then the day after that, we are driving the 6 hours back home so that I can collapse and have barely enough time to recover before reporting back to the office. 

I keep getting a pit in my stomach, though.  Christmas isn't supposed to be some manic driving-spree that keeps you away from your own home so that you can traverse the interstates and get all your bases covered.  Family is supposed to be enjoyed all year round, and we do try to see each of our families as often as possible, so why is there so much pressure at this particular time of year to make an appearance?  Pinning everything on one holiday is too much pressure - especially on the newlyweds who are still figuring this thing out.


Manic Monday #146

Have you ever returned an item to a store for a refund after having used it?

Not unless it was defunct....

You are going out for the evening. If your partner objects to what you are wearing, would you change your clothing?

Probably - I'm not too attached to what I wear, most days, so if he doesn't like it, then it's no biggie for me to go change.  I won't change if I like what I wear, though.

What item that you don’t currently possess would you most like to have in your home?

Wall-to-wall built-in book shelves.  For sure, most definitely.

Although a little less of everything and a little bit more of some good old-fashioned order would be nice... :)


Booking Through Thursday

Questions from the booking through thursday website:

1. Do you get to read as much as you WANT to read?

(I’m guessing #1 is an easy question for everyone?)

This is kind of a weird question for me.  I get almost as much time as I'd like to read.  Which isn't a whole lot.  My desire for reading right now has gone way down, because i just don't have the energy to devote.  I wish I wanted to read more, and feel the tension between reading enough and not reading enough, but I just don't right now.  Sad day!  I think I'm storing it up for our holiday travel coming up. Maybe I should ask Santa for some reading mojo, just in case.

2. If you had (magically) more time to read–what would you read? Something educational? Classic? Comfort Reading? Escapism?

I'd like to read a novel.  Anything too educational is also too heady.  


flaky white stuff

I think of three things when I hear the phrase 'flaky white stuff,' and in the following order:

1. Snow.  Incidentally, it snowed here on Saturday and that made me extremely happy.  Now will somebody please tell me what to do with this 70+ degree weather?

2. That deodorant commercial (Right Guard?) with some NBA star (Charles Barkley?) poking around some ruins (Pyramids of Egypt?) and talking about how important it is to him that his deodorant go on clear so that he can get it on with the hot explorer chick in the crypt. In this commercial, he bellows enthusiastically about this product leaving 'NO flaky white stuff.'

Incidentally, ever since that commercial, I have been obsessed with noticing people's underarms and their FWS status.

3. Dandruff. This is related to #1.

When I was younger, I had a really bad scalp. Actually, I had really bad everything. Hair, earwax, scalp, teeth, you name it. I had a bridge of freckles across my nose, tho, so it was all good. But my mom spent hours trying to improve all my issues, or at least contain them. Loads of goopy q-tips to solve the ear problems (this was back before q-tips were bad) and countless hours sitting on the floor with a fine-tooth comb trying to dig up all the crap off my scalp. Seriously. No seven-year-old wants to sit still for that long. I hated those times, and they were frequent. Mom would try to ameliorate the situation by showing me some of the giant clumps, but it didn't really help.

At some point, I grew up. Or at least I grew out of the bad scalp and hair issues. (The ears are under control too, by the way. No comment on the teeth thing, it's been shamefully long since I've been to a dentist.) I haven't thought about flaky scalps in years.

Until recently.

When the weather turned cold, I noticed all the moisture was sucked out of my face and hands pretty much immediately. Hand lotion came back in the primetime spotlight. This is the first year, though, that I've had a super-itchy scalp. I was sitting at work the other day and my whole head was itchy, itchy, itchy. And there's no easy way to scratch your head when you're on the phone with church ladies taking down notes about the church hierarchy without them knowing. Even on the phone, they know.

In one particularly agonizing moment, my hairline went crazy. And that's when I noticed.

Heavy, thick showers of flaky white stuff, falling right before my eyes.

I flew to the bathroom to check out the damage, and sure enough, my whole head was covered in specks of dead skin. I wanted to barf. I still kinda do.

It looks like the dry skin fairies hit me extra hard this year. I have a few tricks up my sleeve to keep the dandruff at bay, but there's not a whole lot I can do about the sense of dread I feel every time I think about my problem. My mind takes me straight back to the house I grew up in, with me sitting on the floor watching tv sideways, my mom scraping my scalp until I couldn't take it any longer.

Do you have any childhood experiences that still affect your feelings about something today, even though those situations are far removed from today's reality?


Manic Monday

What is the most expensive meal you've ever eaten?

Probably something at The Melting Pot!  That place is pricey!  But sooooooo yummy.

What is the fastest speed you've ever traveled in a car?

Around 90, that I know of.  I wasn't driving.  I didn't like it.

What is the highest building you've ever been to the top floor of?

The Space Needle in Seattle.  Yeah, I'm that cool.  Actually, come to think of it, THAT might have been the most expensive meal I ate...in the restaurant I mean.  I didn't eat the Space Needle.  Clearly.

You can play along here!


Tis the season for a jolly weekend recount!

An armadillo with a santa hat.  A pickle.  A gold leaf.  Six blue glass birds.  A glittery Waterford Santa.  Four gold bells and 2 silver bells.  A light blue miniature disco ball.  A firey Superman emblem.  Six rudolph-character jingle bells.  Gold stars.  White snowflakes.  A toaster.  The Star Ship Enterprise.  Six glass-blown dogs.  Lots of blue, white, silver and navy balls.

I love our Christmas tree!

We started decorating this weekend.  I have been somewhat lacking in the "Christmas Spirit" this year, what with being bogged down with worries and pains and no functioning bathtub and all.  So it was high time!  I managed to be done with work at precisely 5pm, so I could scuttle off with Brian to our favorite lawn-and-garden-shop-turned-Christmas-tree-lot before they closed at 5:30.  They're our favorites because they're close to us, they're a local family-operated business, they are SUPER friendly, and perhaps most importantly, they sell our beloved North Carolina fraser firs.  We picked up a real looker and set it up to stand naked in the house until this afternoon when I would have time to decorate.  Friday night ended up nice and quiet, just like we needed.

Saturday morning came and I had to go to work on some stuff.  A couple of nice high school volunteers came and rocked out a Cans for Habitat project with me, which was awesome.  Cans for Habitat benefits the local Habitat for Humanity affiliate here in Richmond.  They collect your empty aluminum cans and recycle them to raise funds.  Learn more here.  After all that finished up, I had to work on a bunch of stuff at the office.  After being there for a couple of hours, I got the inspiration to cut my hair, as it's been about 8 months since my last hair cut, I didn't (and still don't) have a functioning shower, and Saturday night was Calvin Ball so I wanted to have a fighting chance at looking decent in the hair department.

Calvin Ball was great.  I was expecting it to be another semi-lame seminary event where I got to sit on the outskirts and feel excluded, but it was actually a lot of fun.  Folks were in good, cheery, happy moods, and the DJ was more than half decent.  We had a great time.  And I had yet another chance to wear my bangin' cocktail dress.

Sunday was low-key.  We visited a small church not to far from here - we may end up teaching the youth sunday school class.  It was their Christmas Cantata, and everyone was so nice.  Then we came home and the tub got caulked, which means it will be in working order tomorrow.  Our friend Jessica came over to snag some books and hang out.  I got Christmas down from the attic and started distributing it across the house.  I didn't put up all our ornaments on the tree - I didn't feel the need to go all out this year.  And is it weird that we've only been married a year but we already have a few 'clutter' ornaments - ones that we don't like or want?  And what do you do with these?  Any opinions?


I got the blues

Do you ever go through periods of time where you find yourself avoiding any activity that requires you to admit to the terrible reality that has become your daily life?  Well, that's me, right now.  You may have noted a distinct lack of 'what's going on with me' posts in the past while.  This is because there is a giant elephant in the room that I don't think I could avoid in any kind of real discourse regarding my current daily life.

What do you do when there is something going on in your life that taints everything else?  My 'thing' is shifting the scales.  Things that normally would make me happy seem small in light of the great big UNhappy thing.  Even though some things - a lot of things, actually - are going well, motivation to muscle through the yuck and move on is severely lacking.  

As a result, my immediate circumstances are going downhill.  I'm behind on the laundry, the shopping, cleaning the dishes (from when we manage to cook), and I'm sleeping less, fighting off (and succumbing to) a long-term cold, dealing with an unhappy digestive system with a shifting appetite, not drinking enough water, and (surprise) gaining weight.  My knitting has dropped off, I'm tired of reading light, mindless stuff but anything of substance feels overbearing, I've dropped the ball on tracking the family finances (thank God for online billpay).  The car is a mess, not to mention somewhat duct-taped together.  The dog is neurotic from all the boxes and whatnot all over the house.  My to-do lists at home and at work are getting longer, never shorter, almost to the point of being overwhelming.

I am stuck in a big fat hairy RUT, and it sucks, and there's not much I can do about it right now, and that sucks too.  I feel like an underdog, but without an awesome quarterback or a slingshot or anything else useful like a deadline.  

I don't know why I keep finding my way into a bog.  I'm so worn.  I'm so ready to be content and get out from under the dark cloud that won't seem to turn me loose.  I have so much to enjoy around me - so much to be thankful for and to revel in, every day, and I know I'm missing out on all of it.  This makes me crazy. The end of my wits is nigh.

What do YOU do to rescue yourself from an awful rut?  Or, what do you do to avoid getting into ruts in the first place?

booking through thursday

From the Booking Through Thursday website:

1. Do you have a favorite author?

My favorite author is probably Anne Lamott.  She's one of the few authors who have inspired me to read their entire body of work.

2. Have you read everything he or she has written?

Not yet, still working on that.  I've read maybe half?  Maybe a little less than half...

3. Did you LIKE everything?

NO.  I HATED Plan B.  I thought it was obnoxious and whiney and self-important, if I do say so myself.  But that's part of why I love Anne Lamott - she can get away with it.

4. How about a least favorite author?

I don't think I have a least favorite - I don't really avoid anybody's work because I didn't like a previous one.  I think a lot of those political books are not so much up my alley, though, and I don't have any interest in reading them.

5. An author you wanted to like, but didn’t?

William P. Young.  I recently read The Shack, and as much as I wanted to like it, I didn't.  At all.  I didn't think it was ready to be printed - it needed more work.  The dialogue was really disappointing.  In my opinion, anyway.


I'm kinda gloating in this post.

Check it, peeps.  Feels like I'm back in high school!

Plus, at the Chevron down the street, the one that offers a 5 cent discount when you pay cash, had the same price, which means that if you paid cash there, it'd be $1.44.  FOR A WHOLE GALLON!

Manic Monday #144

It's "Cyber Monday" today, the ceremonial kick-off of the holiday online shopping season in the United States. Do you do much online shopping, holiday or otherwise?

I don't do much shopping at all.  I do a little bit of online shopping - I used to do a LOT more.  I've cut way back on all fronts, though.  Nothing against it.

Are you a Mac or a PC user? Why?

After a few good PC years in college, I made the switch back to Mac.  I couldn't have been happier.  I've always been a mac user at heart - mostly because my mom was Apple Computers Employee #715, back in the early 80s.  I sometimes wonder what computer I'd be using now, if this hadn't been the case.  I have a first generation MacBook that I love - but I do covet every new model.

What website do you spend more time on than you care to admit?

The Bold and the Beautiful online videos. I've watched on and off since I was in HS.  At first it was a mother-daughter thing, and now....maybe I shouldn't post about it.  


what a long, strange trip it's been

Here's to first anniversaries.  Drafty windows, Carolina, hateful clocks, yummy squozens, an ornery dog, semi-working furnaces, surprise road trips, hard knocks, bright smiles, and maybe a little too much pizza.

Wedded bliss does exist.  I'm glad I found it with you.


microbes, et. al.

I don't know about you, but I have been in love with Giant Microbes for years.  One year I selected a microbe to add to the stockings for each of my family members.  I currently own Stomach Ache, to no great surprise of anyone who knows me at all.

Each comes with a card that shows a photo of the actual microbe in action, and a description of the history/significance of the ailment.

When I first discovered these, there were maybe 10 or 12 microbes.  It's been awesome seeing the collection grow.  It's also fun to see what kinds of personalities some of them get.  Most are regular, like good old Black Mold there.  Some are hilarious, though.  Mono, aka The Kissing Disease, for example, has big beautiful eyes with eyelashes.  Mad Cow is white with black splotches.  Chicken Pox looks kinda like a rooster.  And they manage to make the really funny ones still look like the actual microbe.

The petri dishes are awesome, too.  They're a little dish of three mini-microbes.  

And now...there is even more exciting news from Giant Microbes.  

GIGANTIC MICROBES!  Can you believe it?  

This is amazing.  I want all of them.  One of EVERYTHING, please!  Seriously, though, these things are pretty affordable and are generally awesome, especially if you want to make someone laugh.

What a great way to be passive-aggressive, too.


Thanksfulness => Faithfulness

I have a whole lot to be thankful for this year.  

The economy is tough, yes, and that's no way to start off married life, but we actually are more stable this year than last year, financially.  Even though it's pretty tough and there are some days that I just want to go home, I am really thankful for a job that gives me fulfilling work and allows me to make a difference in real lives, every day.  It's easy to lose sight of the importance of that.

I'm thankful that Brian and I survived our first year of marriage.  I know he was the right choice for me - even on the bad days, I am sure of it.

I'm thankful that I have a family who will take care of some of our basic needs when necessary - offering cars, doggie care, and even ESPN.

I'm thankful to live in a country where we can elect officials - and then be free to hate on them, when necessary.  Granted, I don't think it's become socially acceptable to hate on our president-elect publicly yet, but I'm thankful that that day will come too.

I'm VERY thankful to have a car that is paid off and is working.  It's reliable, which means I don't have to worry about breakdowns when I'm on the road.  It means we can travel to Chapel Hill tonight, to Concord tomorrow, and to Asheville the day after, without worry.

I'm thankful that God still teaches me about how to trust him.  I've been careful about not overspending this year, and I've been comfortable with that idea for the most part - it's in my nature to want to do big, special gifts.  But right when I began to fret about 'all those' expenses combined with the gas to get us from Richmond to Hershey to Concord and back, some unexpected events converged to get us over the hump, with some to spare.  Things like a $500 honorarium, lots of birthday money for Brian, a couple of monetary anniversary gifts, and a prize drawing for $100 at amazon.  God has always been faithful to me, and he has provided once again.


more duggars

A little while ago, there was another buzz from America's most famous large family, the Duggars.  Two buzzes, actually.  

One is that Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar - mom and dad - are expecting baby #18 - a girl.  The other is that Joshua Duggar, baby #1, got married.  Their new daughter-in-law looks like a sweetie, and is of course pretty conservative, judging from their wedding photos.

I don't like to comment on the Duggars and their lifestyle.  The way I see it, if they want to have 18 kids, and they are able to support their family while doing so (they live DEBT FREE) and their kids aren't menaces to society, then more power to them.  They aren't pushy with their faith (I've never seen or heard them addressing other people - just themselves and their own convictions), they live responsible lifestyles (did you see the part where they live debt free?), and they're raising productive members of society.  You can learn more about them here.

Some people question the real parenting that they could be doing - with that many kids, how do any of them get quality time - but I don't think that's an issue.  Their kids are good kids, so they're doing something right.  They're well-dressed, well-fed, they study every day and each one plays an instrument.  Home schooling is not a choice that everyone would make, but again...it's working for them.  Who am I to judge?

I like this family, a lot.  I wouldn't make a lot of the same choices they do, but they strike me as good, salt-of-the earth people.  They aren't wasteful, they don't try to push their views on other people, they don't condemn folks who don't agree with them - they just disagree.

I think that if more folks took a page from their book, the world might be a little bit better of a place.  

But maybe with birth control allowed.


manic monday #143

Do you ever talk to yourself out loud? What do you talk about? 

Yes, I talk to myself out loud a lot, usually when I'm under some kind of duress but without the threatening kind of pressure - you know, when the soft deadline is coming up and all of a sudden the computer is wonky, or the Tony Booth said something on the radio that makes me laugh and then I mention how ridiculous it is that I'm laughing at the radio.  I'm almost always talking about the immediate circumstance or situation, and I'm generally yelling at page design software.

What stresses you out? 

A lot of things stress me out - I tend to be overly anxious.  For a long time, it was (a distinct lack of) money and the trouble I had finding gainful employment.  Right now my big concern is the same as many - financial stability for the next year or so.  I work for a nonprofit, so job security is not assumed, and Brian is in school right now and we don't know what his prospects will be next fall when he's job-hunting.  You know, the usual. 

What are your secret talents?

I asked Brian what he thought my secret talent is.  His immediate response was that I don't stick my elbows out when I do my gun pose when I'm pretending I'm Scully.

Yeah, I don't know where that came from either.

But I should note that he also said 'baking things of glory.'  He also calls me the Coupon Queen.  I'm glad he appreciates my frugal sensibilities, though maybe his estimations may be a bit high :)

Also, apparently I make phones repeat themselves.


booking through thursday

This is an old BTT I found in my drafts list...oops :)  No other BTT from this week...which is actually last week...

What, if any, memorable or special book have you ever gotten as a present? Birthday or otherwise. What made it so notable? The person who gave it? The book itself? The “gift aura?”

I'm going to cheat, and talk about the memory book my Grandovie gave me. It's not exactly a 'book' book - more like a bound, published scrapbook kind of thing.

She made this book for me when I was very young.  It has all kinds of information in it - things about her family, her interests as a girl, her relationship with my grandfather and their young married life, and then later on about her life when she was my grandmother.  There are photos and stories in there that I wouldn't know otherwise - she died when I was 8 and my grandfather had died when I was 6, so this memory book is my main insight to the history of that side of the family.

This is, by far, one of my top 3 most valuable possessions.

(The other two are my elephant box from thailand and my 2005 national championship poster.)


puppy butt

Eli makes this face at me regularly.  I interpret it as something along the lines of "Oh, are you speaking again?  I'll just glare at you until you have the good sense to stop."


how do you argue with an ignorant person determined to remain ignorant?

A while back, I attempted to reason with somebody who had acted unreasonably, as it seemed to me. This took place in the blogosphere and (as far as I know) is still documented, though I'm not interested in airing dirty laundry by sharing links.

The background.

I'd been reading this woman's blog because I thought she was interesting. I came across it via RVABlogs, which by the way is awesome. I subscribed to the feed because I thought there were things I could learn from her. We're in different life stages, we're from different parts of the country, we have different cultural backgrounds, and our opinions didn't always line up. Opportunities for insight, humor, and growth, I figured. Plus I'm just curious - my favorite blogs are those 'life' blogs. So I stuck the feed in my Google Reader and went along my merry way.

The story.

Months later, I felt moved to speak up. She'd put up a post with two parts - one part was a complaint against how many people make all kinds of wrong assumptions about her. It was during election season - assumptions about, and complaints are due. Part 2 is what got me. She'd posted the text of an email 'joke' that's been passed around for years. It perpetuates all kinds of extremely negative stereotypes associated with red states (I've also seen North vs. South) and uses a lot of 'facts' and statistics that look pretty dubious to me, though I never investigated them. I never once thought the joke was funny, and I found it particularly UNfunny when posted as part 2 to a rant against people who make false assumptions.
Am I the only one who sees the irony?
So, never one to bypass a chance to call out a double standard, I labored over a response that I felt was respectful (everyone deserves respect), nonpartisan (I specifically didn't want to be labeled a conservative, because I'm NOT), and provocative (because what's the point of de-lurking if what you say isn't compelling?). I went over my argument with my husband and he seemed to agree that it was logical. I also gave my handle, correct email, and link to MY website because I had no interest in hiding behind 'anonymous.'

The response.

She, however, was not impressed. She responded with a pissed off flaming reply, which did a pretty good job of cementing her ignorance.
She assumed I was 'a conservative' and addressed me as such (imagine that! someone making assumptions!). She said that the 'joke' is funny because it's 'true' but then again it's 'ok' because "not all Republicans like NASCAR." Perhaps my favorite part of the retort went something along the lines of 'if you actually read my blog like you say you do, than you'd know that I'm my own worst critic so the last thing I need is someone else challenging me.'
I'd like to point out that there is a difference between a challenge and a criticism. I'd also like to point out that no one on this good earth can afford to ignore those who challenge a set mode of thinking. NO ONE. You'll never grow as a person if you only consider viewpoints identical to your own. You'll become stunted as a human being. Ignorant, naive, and foolish may also apply.
Oh, and then she told me to eff off, in not so many words. Funny thing about liberals (not an assumption, she makes it clear) is that their 'openness' and 'acceptance' only applies people who agree with them.

The conclusion.

I don't know what I was thinking. OF COURSE anyone who would propagate that crap would come up with the response she did. I was an idiot for saying something and hoping it would bring some balance. Fiercely ignorant people abound in all quadrants of life, and trying to bring reason and rationale is almost always a waste of time.
I prefer ignorant conservatives because they'll tell you up front that they don't accept a lot of things. They aren't any less frustrating, but at least what you see is what you get. The double standards aren't as rampant as they are with ignorant liberals. And conservatives tend to be less belligerent and less prone to whining and hyperventilation (excluding the fundamentalist/evangelical crowds).


Remember the Veterans

Take a moment today to offer some gratitude to all those who have risked life and limb to defend the freedoms we enjoy today.


road trips

There's something so motivating about a road trip, for me.  I'm not sure why - I think it's that I get to sit and do nothing but think of what awaits me at home.  We spent the weekend in Chapel Hill for homecoming.  It's a nice drive, 2 or 2.5 hours.  I took the time to finish up a project for my swap buddy in Sweden.  Just Brian and me, some knitting, highways full of color-changing leaves, and Dar Williams.  That's the sweet spot.

What's your sweet spot?



beards - check the link for an awesome cartoon on today's topic.

One of the major changes we recently underwent at Chez Ducklings is directly involved with my husband's facial hair. Never one to look the same for too long, he's been experimenting with full bears and full heads of hair in the past couple of years.

When we first started dating early last year, he had a lot of hair on his head. It was between 4 and 6 inches long, thick and kinked, and he didn't use conditioner. That's a lot of hair to try to manage without conditioner.

About a month after we started dating, he shaved the sides and left the middle long - a mohawk. He bleached it and dyed it light blue. THIS is how he met my family - and how I met his, incidentally.

In April he shaved it all off and went bald for the summer. He buzzed it really short again in the fall, a couple of months before the wedding. After that, he started with the beard.

He kept a full but trimmed beard for a while, and then shaved it off a few months ago when it got hot. he also went bald again.

I'm not sure when it happened, but somewhere toward the end of summer, he decided to stop shaving all together and let everything grow until the end of October. He had 'needs a haircut' length hair, and the beard was going on 2 inches long. He could even hold things in it - pencils, mostly. It was hilarious, and awesome, and maybe a little bit out of control.

Last Friday, it all went away. GONE. It's quite a change. The top of his head was a little stubbly by Friday night, prickly by Saturday, and certified scratchy by Sunday. His hair grows pretty quickly. In a couple more days, it will be soft like fur - my favorite.


Simple Mom Goes Gadgety

If you've read this blog much at all, you know that I'm not a mom, but that I am working to downsize and simplify.

One of my new favorite blogs is the SimpleMom blog.  She's got a lot of insight and reading her blog is like a daily dose of Occam's Razor.  Nice.

Anyway, she's running a contest right now for a SAWEET printer.  Seriously, I want this printer.  I have an epson printer right now and it's pretty jazzy, but THIS one has WIFI.  And it duplexes.  Score.  

I was so excited this morning that I just had to share.  Check out the contest here!


books and God

For my response to last week's Booking Through Thursday, I wrote about the different relationships I have with books. And something struck me.

In a way, my relationship with books 'takes a page' from my relationship with God. You probably don't know much about my relationship with God, and I can only sum it up by saying it's multi-faceted. If it could be objectified or illustrated in some way, I think books would do a great job. Let me explain.

One facet of my relationship with God is that long-standing deep loyalty, showing lots of wear and tear. He's been with me through some major ups and downs. I've relied on his steady hand and turned to him again and again to find something comforting and safe and familiar.

Sometimes God is a reference or a teacher. His opinions and writings (the Bible and words from other believers) help guide and shape my world view. When I don't know how to answer a question, I check the scriptures and various interpretations to see what's there.

And then there's the awe/respect thing. I recently had a conversation with my mom about the type of church services I prefer. My family gets the most from 'charismatic' services, where it's more than just a contemporary setting (aka chairs and a band rather than pews and a choir) and extends into a more adoration-oriented worship style. Me, I prefer a service that has more of the traditional, austere feel. I like the deliberately guided service and the old hymns. I like to approach Sunday mornings as a time of commitment and devotion and learning, not necessarily fun and entertainment and energy.

My bible collection demonstrates all of this pretty well. I have an illustrated Precious Moments bible that I've had since very early childhood. It's pretty old by now, but I've carted it off everywhere and I still like to look at the pictures. I also have a 'working bible' - the one my private school gave me in the 5th grade, and I've done all my studying and reflecting in this bible. The cover is falling apart and has been taped back on once or twice, and there are lots of marks and notes inside. I also have a 'beautiful' bible - it's leather-bound with my name embossed on the cover. I keep this one at the office in a special cover. There are a few others floating around - an NRSV edition my brother and I bought together, a small 'backpack' bible that I keep in the glove box of my car, a Spanish/English parallel bible, and a really pretty tapestry-covered one that my brother gave me for Christmas a few years ago. Between my husband, who is in seminary, and my own history as a Christian, we have at least a whole shelf of them - or would, if they were all in the same location.

In what ways do your relationships with books mirror other relationships in your life?


voting conundrum

Part of why I've been mostly apathetic politically is that I can never find myself supporting anybody completely, so I don't know why I would vote for someone whose platform I didn't really like. at the same time, I know it's a right and a privilege to vote, and a duty of citizenship here. Patriotism compels me to engage, ideology holds me back.

Voting AGAINST the other guy. Agreeing that I shouldn't complain about who is elected when I didn't even bother to vote. Wanting the sticker - as a social marker of some sort. Recognizing the value my peers put in being politically active, and wanting to be one of the cool kids who vote. These are not great reasons to be voting, in my opinion, but they have at one time or other been the motivating force behind my casting a ballot.  I don't think I'll ever be well-educated citizen, because I don't think I could possibly grasp all of the ins and outs of what it takes to guide our country properly.  Even the EXPERTS don't really know.  So how could I possibly become adequately educated?

Perfectionism isn't limited to things you make or do.  Maya Angelou has been quoted as saying that 'we do the best we can with what we know, and when we know better, we do better.'  Is this approach good enough when it comes to politics?  Today is decision day, and I still don't know.

Click here for further reading on the topic.


I talk about knitting in this one.

This blog contains a lot about my daily life and how I like to wade through it. One of the things that I do the most, though, is rarely featured here - other than on my sidebars. It's my knitting.

Did you even know I'm a knitter? Well, I am. And I have been for a couple of years now.

I'm a little bit slow, and not as prolific as a lot of knitters, but I do love it. I miss knitting if a day goes by when I don't pick up the needles.

One of the things about me is that I am a 'monogamous knitter' - which means I only like to have one project going at a time. The vast majority of knitters, however, are polygamous. They've got a PILE of things in various stages of completion - we call these works in progress, or WIPs. But not me. I move through it slowly, so only like to have one thing clamoring for my attention at any given moment.

Unless it really is a HUGE thing, or a really really complicated thing, in which case I will sometimes take on smaller, more portable, more TV-watching appropriate projects. You can't really take a giant afghan on an air plane or to a doctor's office without getting all kinds of funny looks, after all.

There are all kinds of other ways to categorize knitters, too. There are different ways of holding the yarn when you're using it, for example. There are those who like the yarn to come from the outside of the ball and others like it to come from the inside. Some folks group up by the types of fibers they like (or refuse) to use. And then there are product knitters vs. process knitters - people who like to knit for the knitting, and people who like to knit for the stuff it gets them.

I do not know if I am a product knitter or a process knitter. I really love the process, it's true. But it's hard for me to knit something just for the sake of knitting it. I am NOT one of those knitters who has a stack of lovely knitted things that will make a perfect gift for somebody someday. I have to know the intended purpose of the item before I make it, or else I won't get motivated to make it.

I'm not as prolific as I'd like to be, because I don't have a lot of spare time, and what little spare time I do have gets carved up between responsibilities (like laundry) and other fun stuff (like reading and watching Clean House). I've cranked out a few pretty cool things so far, though. I'm wearing some fingerless gloves I made over Memorial Day weekend, for example. I take a mesh knitted bag to the market and grocery stores. I just finished a beautiful shawl that will be so nice to wear when spring comes back around. I keep my chapstick and other little doodads in a felted bowl on my dresser. And as soon as it gets to be scarf weather, I'll be wearing this super cool chevron scarf that I worked on this summer.

Knitting is probably the only thing in my life that is pure contentment and satisfaction. It fulfills me more than anything else. I wish I could knit full-time, and maybe someday I'll be able to. It might actually be a passion of mine - but I don't think I've ever really had a passion so I have trouble identifying something as one.

I don't know why I've neglected to display this side of my real life on the blog. My goal is to change this, starting this week.  So get ready for some fiber, the old-fashioned way!


Booking Through Thursday

Are you a spine breaker? Or a dog-earer? Do you expect to keep your books in pristine condition even after you have read them? Does watching other readers bend the cover all the way round make you flinch or squeal in pain?

My husband cringes when he sees some of my books. His mother and his grandmother were both librarians, so he feels a deep respect for books. Books are to be cared for, not torn or dog-eared or marked up.

I too have a deep respect for books, but mine is based more on a perception of relationship. Books are awesome - they are such awesome things. They carry our thought, our history, our traditions, even our subversion. They are important.

There are some books that I treasure, because they have been with me for a long time. One of these books is my tattered copy of To Kill a Mockingbird. I got it in the 8th grade, and it has been marked up, written on, taped back together, bent backward at the spine, highlighted, dog-eared to kingdom come, you name it. It's been loved. I have a nitty-gritty, you-are-my-lifeblood relationship with this book. We have been through the ringer together, and the more worn it gets, the deeper our relationship has gone.

Another book I treasure is The Christmas Cat. This is a Christmas storybook that I've had for as long as I can remember. I think my Grandovie gave it to me, but I'm not sure. I actually have two copies of this book because I thought I'd lost the original and I found an old library copy for sale. I treasure this book by keeping it very safe and in very good condition. I expect this book to show some wear because it has been through several moves, and it's old, and it is in fact displayed and read at least once a year.

Some books, I will dog-ear. These are the 'reference' books - idea books, clutter control books, self-help books, whatnot. I'll fold down the very tip corner on a page that relates to me or speaks to me. These guys are the workers. They're meant to be used, and their value is in their information.  I don't necessarily LIKE the look of dog-ears, but I very much don't like the look of flags sticking out all over the place. One of these days I may get diligent and make a brief 'index' to post-it in the front cover. Any kids out there who need a service project?

And then there are those books that are revered.  I have a beautiful set of leather-bound autobiographies of Christian people and specific works I really admire - Corrie ten Boom, Brother Andrew, CS Lewis's Screwtape Letters, etc. They're beautiful. I've read them all once - because books are meant to be read. But a number of these, I wanted to keep re-reading. So I bought cheap paperbacks. These are some of my most favorite books, and they are beautiful, so I want them to stay beautiful, but I also want to read them without hesitation. Hence the duplicate.

In general, I appreciate the aesthetics of books. I try to take care not to bend the covers of paperbacks. It's really annoying to me if a book doesn't lie flat. I try not to let pages or groups of pages get bent - again with the flat. But I'm not offended if a particular book looks worn. Books are meant to be read, loved, and invested in. You can't invest in something by sticking it on a shelf and looking at it.


another way my husband and i are the same

I typed that headline mostly to make Brian shudder.  We are crazy about each other, but we aren't really 'the same' in very many ways.

Today, though, I joined his ranks.  He underwent psychological evaluations last year as part of his masters program.  I underwent psychological evaluations yesterday to figure out what, if anything, I can do to help my brain.

I really like the shrink.  He was recommend by my doctor and he's really easy to talk to - something like Jeff Bridges' inflections meet Edward Hermann's manner of speech combined with a benevolent older professor with a bow tie and funny socks.

I can't decide whether it'll be nice good or bad to know the ins and outs of my crazy.  Part of why I put off the eval for more than a year is because of insurance, but I might also be a little nervous to find out just how permanent the damage is.  You know how there's someone older in your life - a parent maybe - who sometimes refers to his/her youth with 'when I was your age, I could remember anything, and now I don't even know where my feet are'?  Yeah, that's me, now.  And I'm 25.  

I get the results back in a couple of weeks.


my love/hate relationship with jason mraz

I have been in love with Jason Mraz's music since the first time I heard him do an in-studio gig with Matt and Ramona. Wuv, twu wuv. Once I figured out his name (and how to spell it) I scoped his website and the merch store. He had two CDs for sale. One was a live recording for $12 (Live at Java Joe's) and the other was a studio recording of something or other (Waiting for My Rocket to Come, I think) for $15. Being the poor college student I was, I picked up the Java Joe's CD.

BEST CHOICE I EVER MADE, short of marrying my husband. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this CD, and incidentally I am shattered that I can't find it anymore. He is so talented, and you don't really get a good feel for what his music is really like if you're stuck listening to a studio track. This CD is just him and his hand-drummer. I am not a good reviewer at all, so I will leave my ravings at this: AWESOME.

The drawback is, I got spoiled. I don't really like most of his radio releases because I know how much better they would be, live. They're basic and crude and have so much potential but ultimately are a let-down.

I have been yearning to see him in concert, in a small or smallish venue, for a long time now. We're talking years. Like 6 years. That's kind of a long time. And the reason I've been waiting so long is that he has never come to my town. He's come near my town, but never close enough to be attainable for my tight budget and need for not driving back home at 3am. Resignation and despair.

NOW. Shift gears a little bit.

All the cool kids know about Pandora by now. If you're not cool yet and you want to be, the transformation is simple: check out www.pandora.com and enlightenment will come to you. On my pandora, I have a particular station that plays several of the songs on Jason's latest record, We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things.

I definitely want to get this one, to bring my Jason Mraz CD Library to a total of 2 albums. I can already tell that I will love it. It's just a matter of time.

Enter my dilemma, with some dallying at the beginning.

We are having a whirlwind Thanksgiving. The plan is to leave town Wednesday evening to overnight with my family. Get up early and finish driving to Brian's homestead. Friday or Saturday, drive west to Asheville to hang out with (and in my case, meet) two of Brian's cousins - and oh yeah, attend the farewell concert of Brian's favorite folk singer, in his (the singer's) home venue, which is something Brian's wanted to do for more than a decade, he says. And then eventually we will end up back in Richmond sometime Sunday, to collapse and return to work.

Did you catch that? We are in an entirely different state on the day before and the day after Thanksgiving. To see family. Many hours away. For a holiday.

If you're smart, you know where this is going.

Jason Mraz is going to be in RICHMOND at the NATIONAL on the day before AND the day after Thanksgiving. In case you aren't paying attention, I live in Richmond. He's coming straight to my town. Not DC, not Charlottesville, not Virginia Beach. Richmond. (Well, maybe he's going to those places too. I don't know.)

I have waited for SIX YEARS for this day (these days) to come, and now that they are on the books, I won't be able to make it. I won't be able to go!! To a concert I've waited 6 years to come to fruition!!!

I love you, Jason Mraz, and yet I hate you, so so much, right now. You have toyed with my heart and I am growing weary. I have been loyal and supportive, defending you to nay-sayers and expounding on your virtues, but I don't know if I can last another 6 years.



If I have done my research correctly, then my conclusion that this, ladies and gentleman, is a pheasant, and more specifically, a hybrid of a Golden Pheasant and a Lady Amherst's Pheasant, is correct.

If I have done my research correctly, then my conclusion that this hybrid is not found in the wild in the US is also correct.

So could somebody please tell me why this guy was in our back yard this evening?

I am not kidding.

My question is this. What would YOU do with an exotic pheasant hybrid on your premisis?

when hearing voices goes bad

So, yesterday I had a work meeting in the middle of a day, at a location 2 or 3 blocks from my house.  So, I decided to eat lunch at home after the meeting.  And a part of my lunch, I decided, should a hard-boiled egg.  

There are some weeks that feature a hard-boiled egg every day for lunch - these are the weeks where I have my stuff together on Sunday afternoon - and no matter how hard the weeks go, my hard-boiled egg makes life a little more bearable.

With this realization in mind, I decided to boil up 5 eggs, for lunch every day this week.  So I set everything on the stove and started cleaning up the dishes from last night (because, as you could guess, my stuff was not together on Sunday).

I was shifting some things around on the counter (lots of dishes, y'all.  It's embarrassing.) when I heard a funny noise, coming from the pot.  I got closer.  It sounded like cheeping.  I AM NOT KIDDING.  I turned the radio down, lifted the lid, and saw 5 eggs being boiled.  There were tiny streams of bubbles coming out from each one.  The cheeping was definitely coming from these eggs.

I told myself I was crazy, set the lid back on the pot, and turned the radio back up.  

About 20 seconds later, the cheeping sound was louder, and the pot was rattling around. WHOA.  I lifted the lid again and noted that the water wasn't boiling hard enough to cause rattling.  I looked at all the eggs closely to see if there was any commotion....nothing.  I decided that there was water on the burner and that it had started boiling and escaping, which caused the rattling.  (I have one of those glass stove tops.)

I turned the radio up really loud and left the kitchen.  I'll be sure to let you all know if I get any sad, disturbing surprises in my lunch. 

In other news, Eli apparently likes to eat egg shells.  Who knew?


chinese crested

I had a dream last night that I went to the mall, and there was some kind of doggie event going on.  I met a Chinese crested.  

In case you don't know the breed, I should inform you that they don't have much hair.  

I almost got a Chinese crested back when I was looking for the pet that ultimately became Eli.  I was down to cresteds, Italian greyhounds, and papillons as my breeds of choice.  Turns out I couldn't find a breeder that had the hairless cresteds, and I was afraid that an Iggy would be too fragile for my rough-housing family dogs, so papillon it was.  

Most days, I'm pretty happy with the choice.  And Brian would probably agree that of the three breeds, the papillon is the least 'heinous-looking' - suffice it to say that he and I have VERY different tastes in small dogs (ie, he doesn't have a taste for them at all).  We'll be adding a larger breed to our family as soon as finances and commitments permit.

This is the only real 'experience' I've had with a CC tho, other than watching dog shows.  Weird that it came three years late.


Booking Through Thursday

Name a favorite literary couple and tell me why they are a favorite. If you cannot choose just one, that is ok too.  Name as many as you like - sometimes narrowing down a list can be extremely difficult and painful.  Or maybe that's just me.

I had a surprisingly hard time thinking of any literary couple I particularly like.  And then I remembered - Mike and Rebecca from the Monk Upstairs.  She is busy busy busy; he was a monk for 20 years.  There are elements of Mike and Rebecca both that remind me of me, and also elements of both that remind me of Brian, so they make a really interesting read.  And I love the ways you see them compromise and stretch to support each other.  I think they really do make each other better people.

Monk Upstairs is actually a sequel (to the Monk Downstairs) and I haven't read the first book yet - in which they become the couple.  They were already well-established by the time I met them.  I imagine it will be fun to see their history play out!


I would like you all to meet our pumpkin.  We picked him up at the Lakeside United Methodist bazaar last Saturday.  They had some GREAT pumpkins - all shapes, sizes, and various stages of smoothness and otherwise.  We were charmed by this guy's knobs and bobbles all over.  I'd never seen one myself, actually, and it was instant attraction.  We haven't discussed whether or not to put him under the knife.  It would require careful planning, but I know Brian has the skills and vision to make something fantastic, should we choose to interfere with nature.  

He is lounging on our front porch in all his warty glory while we debate his fate.

Eli's not sure what to make of his new friend.


booking through thursday

The Setup, from the Booking through Thursday website:

Okay–here was an interesting article by Christopher Schoppa in the Washington Post.

Avid readers know all too well how easy it is to acquire books — it’s the letting go that’s the difficult part. … During the past 20 years, in which books have played a significant role in both my personal and professional lives, I’ve certainly had my fair share of them (and some might say several others’ shares) in my library. Many were read and saved for posterity, others eventually, but still reluctantly, sent back out into the world.

But there is also a category of titles that I’ve clung to for years, as they survived numerous purges, frequent library donations and countless changes of residence. I’ve yet to read them, but am absolutely certain I will. And should. When, I’m not sure, as I’m constantly distracted by the recent, just published and soon to be published works.

So, the question is his: “What tomes are waiting patiently on your shelves?

The answer:

SO MANY. There are so many books I have kept around because I am just waiting for the day for the right mood to strike, the right amount of free time, and optimal interplanetary alignment to cause me to pick up "that book" and get it read.

I appear to have made the commitment to read more books this year, as evidenced by my have-read list (look over to the left), which is already tremendously longer this year than it's been in a long time. The majority of these are books that had sat on my shelves, through two moves, just waiting to be read. Some are books from the library that I'd been meaning to read for years (the Narnia books, Friday Night Knitting Club, Kitchen Privileges). Only three of these books are new acquisitions (Wild at Heart, Sushi for Beginners, and Balzac) through PaperBackSwap. Peace, Evensong, Monk and North Haven are required reading for the class I'm taking. All the rest are mine and had been mine for quite some time.

You should probably know that I cull my books at least once a month. I've also stopped requesting books on PBS unless I really need or really want them - no more 'hey that sounds good' requests. My ultimate goal is to have my collection whittled down to just the essentials - the most loved, most useful, and most sentimental books.  And I'm proud to say that the out-going stream is a little swifter than the in-coming one.  I'm also making good friends with the neighborhood library branch.  In the meantime, I've got shelves and stacks and piles to get through.

Right now most of my reading is for my Theology in Literature class. It's a great class and I love the reading list, but I do have a moderate amount of baseline frustration that I'm not making any "progress" (and in fact, I'm ADDING to the list of tomes I ultimately want to read). But with that said, a sampling of the titles up to bat once I finish the class include:

First Things First, by Stephen Covey

The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron

Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller

As usual, we'll see what book ends up screaming the loudest when I'm browsing for a new read.


bragging rights

I would just like to say that I am so proud of my husband.  He's really been through the ringer the past few months, and the past week especially.  A bomb went off in his face Thursday that would have sent most people to the loony bin, and he's been able to find more silver lining than gloom.

I won't go into details because I am so pissed off at TIIC that I'm seeing red, but I am very impressed with the way that he has dealt with this unpleasant situation.  He's been upbeat, motivated, reasonable, and anything but 'disrespectable' in trying to figure out a solution. After having all weekend to ponder his next steps, he had about 4 hours to wield a machete through some Grade-A Presbyterian order (aka bureaucracy) and I'm encouraged to see that the administration supported him the whole way.  I couldn't be happier to be his wife.

There are a few more things to tend to before everything is back on track, but I know he will come out on top.  I am sure of it.

I'm so proud of you.


eli the menace

You may or may not be aware of the tiny dog living in our house.  He is 3 years old, his name is Eli, and he likes to wear sweaters when it's cold, which can be loosely defined as 'October through April.'

One of the rooms in our house is the study - aka the Man Cave, but the Brian version.  No big screen TV, no recliner.  Just a mission-style desk, some coke paraphernalia, and all kinds of electronic gadgets.  (And mountains of books, papers, etc.)  Eli also has a crate and a doggie bed in the study, so the boys spend a lot of time back there.  

Brian discovered a wad of tissue that Eli has torn up and left all over the floor.  He came out to where I was, and told me his latest theory on the dog.

"I think that because I leave a mess in the office, Eli thinks he should make a mess in there too."

I told Brian that flylady says our children are always watching.


weekendular bliss

As is usually the case for us, October has been somewhat heinous, so we decided to take some serious solace in this past weekend.  We carved out 2 commitment-free days and vowed to make the best of them - a 'staycation' of sorts.  And it's been glorious.

Yesterday we puttered around town doing random stuff we wanted/needed to do.  Unfortch we made it to the (Lakeside) farmers market a little late and the honeycrisp apples were all gone, but we got some good ones anyway.  We also picked up a very pimply awesome pumpkin from Lakeside UMC.  We hit one of the new 5 Below shops and the Trader Joe's at Short Pump (note:  that place is MAYHEM at lunchtime on a Saturday) and came home with some nice treats and candy for the kids.  We also went out to Virginia Center Commons, which is another huge shopping complex.  I picked up some Vampire teeth at the creepy halloween shop.  We got some donuts from a little league baseball team.  I spent an old gift card at Michael's for some yarn for a project I've been wanting to do for a while.  We poked around the Barnes and Noble trying to find things to drop another gift card on, and came up with a $6 copy of Hamlet with glosses on the opposite pages of the text.  

We came home, caught the UNC/UVA game (go Heels!) and I stamped around the kitchen in disappointment over the OT loss while Brian did a few more errands.  I made Steak Diane for dinner - neither of us had had it before and it was great!  And so easy!  And because we hadn't run the dishwasher yet, we ate on china.  When's the last time YOU ate on china?

Today has been another slooooow day so far.  We cuddled for a long time, watched a couple movies, and the next few hours will be for 'work' - school for Brian, baking for me.  

There's not much I wouldn't give to have one more day.  It's been great to slow down.


education vs. intelligence

As spurred by a recent conversation with a friend, I have been musing the difference between education and intelligence.

There seems to be a general acceptance of the idea, at least in the circles I frequent, that there is a big difference between the two. The main thread of the argument is that anyone can read and learn - become educated, that is to say. But not everyone can take their own knowledge base and analyze it, apply it to theories and circumstances, or essentially 'do' something with it.

Education can expose a person to all sorts of new ideas and perspectives, but that's all just input. Intelligence is where education is measured. It's the output mechanism. And you can be very intelligent without having much education.

I, myself, have always struggled to flex my intelligence. The education part has always been easy for me - I love learning, taking in new knowledge, making connections, cross-training, and whatnot. I was labeled the 'smart kid' for a while, because I could spit back any fact I'd come across in the previous several years. I could figure things out pretty well, too - including the 'mechanisms' behind standardized tests, so I generally aced them. I loved, and aced, algebra, because it was all about figuring out which rules applied to which strategy.

It was always the 'analytical' assignments that tripped me up - the abstract thinking (geometry) and those proofs you had to do in philosophy.  You can't approach these the same way you would a formulaic problem in algebra or all the nuances in a poem.  (Incidentally, I do much better with poetry when I can see it.)  And abstract art?  I could stare at it all day and say how it makes ME feel and even enjoy the experience, but figuring out the artist's intention is maybe not the easiest part for me.

How about you?  Does your education inform your intelligence, or is it the other way around?  What are your thoughts?


my wish list (UPDATED)

(Note: my friends and family sometimes request updates to this list.  I swear I'm not reposting because I'm gift-crazy!)

One of my tricks for when I'm feeling the pinch a little to much and I develop a major spending crave is to make a list of all the things I'd spend money on, if I had it. One of these days I might post it as a wish list, for no other reason than to engage my penchant for sharing too much information.

Of course, this is all in addition to being able to blow $30 or $40 every couple weeks on dates with my husband.

And now, the wish list, in no particular order, that needs no introduction but got one anyway:

1. a yarn swift and a ball winder

2. yarn. ANY yarn. especially bamboo yarn, or artyarns beaded silk, or some noro or especially some koigu painter's palatte premium merino (kpppm) gloriousness

3. either of the mason dixon knitting books, or a book with Aran or Celtic patterns
(10/16/08 - thanks for the other books, ma!)

4. a big cutting mat for sewing (16x20 or larger)

5. a t-square

6. a good honing steel

7.  a good paring knife

8. a cast-iron skillet

9. a big 'regular' skillet with a cover

10. a fountain pen, maybe pelikan brand


11. a bread (and dough) machine

will you be my pen-pal?

When I was little, my best friend moved to Pennsylvania.  Our parents were pretty tight, so our families kept in touch.  And being young girls, we decided to be pen-pals for a while.  We had the whole thing - secret codes, doodles, sparkles, whatever.  I kept all my letters for a while, but they got lost in a move somewhere along the way.  I still miss them.

When I went to Europe after graduating from high school, I met a guy (tall, dark, handsome, super cute, German, named Colin.  Swoon.)  Colin and I exchanged addresses and actually did a pretty good job of staying in touch for about a year.  And then as we both got more absorbed in our own college lives, things dropped off.  I know I have those notes somewhere, but I haven't seen any of them in about 5 years.  Sometimes I think about trying to write him again if I ever found that address, just to see what happens.

I think I'd like to try that whole foreign pen-pal thing again.  It seems like a very cool, mysterious and still child-like thing to do.  How often does someone you know bust out a story about his or her pen-pal in Iceland or Ireland or Tel Aviv or Brisbane?  We all know 'real mail' is super cool.  But real mail from another country?  Majorly super cool.

I think if I had a pen-pal, I would want that person to be from a completely different world than mine.  Outside the US would be awesome.  There's not a whole lot cooler, in my mind, than a hand-written letter with funny-looking postage, postcards from a small town I might not ever see, photos of a foreign back yard with who-knows-what in the distance, pressed flowers and ribbons and bookmarks.  I also romanticize local maps - the non-touristy kind.  And by 'romanticize' I mean 'I want them and I will frame them if you send them to me.'

In my mind, the pen-pal notion feels something akin to blogging, to an audience of one person, and much more slowly.  With a twinge of nostalgia.  And memories of Laura, and Colin, and all the little things I wish I could share with a stranger.

So with all that, I ask: will you be my pen-pal?  (and if you are from outside the US, will you pretty please be my pen-pal?)


love you, richmond

I moved to this great city from a great North Carolina town. I knew I would be happy here, but mostly because I planned to get married.  I knew that Richmond would be charming, and would be a fine setting for some of the best years of my life.  I also knew I wouldn't be here very long.

My first real visit was to Carytown right before Christmas; the next time I came up, I hung out in an old seminary hidden away in Ginter Park.  I didn't have much money, but I was certainly charmed.

When I moved up, I tried really hard not to fall in love.  I tried to keep the city at arm's length.  I couldn't afford to do otherwise.  Do you know how heartbreaking it is to live in a great town and not be able to afford to see a lot of the best parts?  I tried ignorance.  And ignorance was only mildly blissful, because deep down, I knew what I was missing.

My first job with the temp agency was at Old City Hall.  I was awestruck - I worked in a castle!  Overlooking Capitol Square!  I got to hang out with some serious history, every day.  I could poke around the financial district with the lunch carts and the dignified architecture.  Revelry!  I was there when the mayor had that insane meltdown with the school system, too.

I moved into a great neighborhood on Northside.  I got married, and my husband moved in.  The rent is more than we should be trying to pay, but the giant yard and the low (basically zero) crime and daily little pleasures that this part of town bring make it worth the pinch.

I kept my head in the sand as long as I could.  But somewhere along the way, Richmond snuck into my heart.  I love this city.  I love the Main Street Station and Capitol Square.  I love the farmers markets and the way the Sauer factory smells.  I love the quirky VCU students and the fact that it took me a year to figure out the difference between Richmond and Henrico.  I love that the White House of the Confederacy is jammed in the same area as a huge university/hospital and an interstate.  I love the canal and the annoying cobble stone streets.  I love all the art/design companies in converted warehouses and the quiet atmospheric restaurants and breweries and book shops.  I love the huge support for the local nonprofit network.  I love the way the city clings to history and the way it invests in local politics.

I love Richmond.  I don't know how it happened, but I am 100% in love with this town I call home, and I wish I could stay here a long, long time.