Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween You Maniacs!

(that's all I have to say about that)

oh yeah.


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Kosior First Annual Fall Fun Festival

This weekend, the General and I sponsored the First Annual Kosior Fall Fun Festival. It was been such a loooooooooooooooooooooooong summer, and now that the weather has finally cooled off, it actually feels like fall, and I wanted to celebrate. As it turned out, Judy, Joe, and Lucas were all free, so I invited them on down to the 'Burg for a fun autumn time.

The idea really came about with Joe, who sent me a link to a corn maze up north somewhere, asking me if I'd like to take a crack at it. I had been looking at the corn maze here in F'burg and wanted to do that, so I sent him another link and he agreed. When it worked out Judy didn't have to work, I invited her and Lucas along to come too.

Everyone arrived by train on Friday evening and were whisked off to my house for a big, healthy meal. I made chicken cutlets, cheesy orzo, green beans, and a salad. Judy provided a nice chocolate cake that looked like a pumpkin, plus Lucas provided Ben and Jerry's. We gave Lucas a grand tour of the house, since it was his first time here, and then I taught Joe how to sweat to the oldies, which I must admit, was kind of fun with a partner.

The next day, we all got up, I made a huge pancakes and bacon breakfast (I was determined no one was going home hungry) and Joe, Lucas, Judy and I headed out to the corn maze. It was freakin' awesome. They had three different paths through it, so we started with the easy level. Then we went into the medium level, but somehow when we finished, we came out on the hard level exit, and a bunch of farm dudes were standing around clapping for us that we had triumphantly defeated the corn maze. We were quite proud and accepted all applause with the glow of victors home from war.

We took a hayride out to the pumpkin fields and all of us got pumpkins to carve, which was pretty fun, and then we drank cider and ate kettle corn before heading back to the house. We were covered in mud. hehe

When we got home, Joe and I promptly passed out. I don't know what happened. I came to about 2 hours later. When I woke up, Joe was just waking up and Judy and Lucas were watching the Oregon Ducks football game. Joe and I looked up ghost walks for Fredericksburg and decided to attend the one put on by the Fred Preservation Society, out of UMW. I figured it'd been a while since we ate, so I started up the grill, Judy made homemade fries, I grilled hot dogs, and heated up lasagna for Joe and Lucas. I gave Joe a triple helping of lasagna and a chicken cutlet, and was very pleased to note that he ate it all--though he grumbled a bit at first. But let's face it: it's been a while since the boy had a decent meal.

After dinner, we went downtown to the ghost walk. The General wanted to stay home and watch the Red Sox pound the Rockies, and just as well, since the ghost walk was a bit of a bust.

The thing was all set up so that you would walk to different homes and businesses in town that were supposed to be haunted. At each stop, actors and actresses would pretend to be said ghosts. However, they didn't have enough male actors, so many prominent male figures in Fredericksburg were portrayed by women (including, most hilariously, James Monroe). The tours were backed up and we wound up skipping two stops, which sucked, but for $6, what can you do? Totally cornball, next year we're doing a real ghost tour.

We headed back across the river and went to Bottom Dollar to buy supplies for our campfire, which we had when we got home. I'm so glad I got that firepit earlier this year--we sparked that thing up good and used real firewood instead of a fire log. Once it was roaring, the General came out and we toasted smores. I tried to get a singalong started, but that didn't really pan out, so we just sat around, messed with the fire, burned things and laughed.

Sunday, Judy and I had to work on some book club stuff after breakfast (I made a magnificent applesauce caramel coffee cake) and then we all carved our pumpkins. There were 6 in all, one for each of us, plus a community pumpkin we dubbed the Picasso. The General was totally grossed out by pumpkin guts (he was gagging when he touched it, poor dear), so I wound up cleaning 3 pumpkins myself, but what the heck. The pumpkins came out AWESOME.

By then, it was about time to head north and bring everyone home. We listened to old time radio on the way back, and sparked Joe and Judy's pumpkins and listened in the dark to a couple of creepy stories on The Big Broadcast. We all went to bed early.

It was such a fun weekend of simple pleasures, things I haven't done in some time, like carving pumpkins and going on a hay ride. It was so nice to be surrounded by people I love and doing things together, I must say, my favorite part was the campfire, all of us out there, just being together and having fun.

There's a photo gallery at with pictures of the whole thing, except the ghost tour. Enjoy!

October Reading Round Up

I thought I might break 100 this month, but I think I'm still shy by a couple... I'll know by the end of this post. However, due to the fact that the first part of the month I read 2 books in a week, I've really turned on the gas the past 3 weeks. And I will definitely read 2 books in the next two months anyway.

(SPOILER ALERT: Some of these book reviews may contain spoilers. If you see a title that strikes your fancy, read with caution. I'll try not to reveal any cliffhanger endings.)

1. Father Knows Less (Or: Can I Cook My Sister?) by Wendell Jamieson. I had a little bit of a non-fiction urge this month as you will see, and this was the first in a string of non-fictions. Wendell Jamieson, an editor at the NY Times, decided that he would go on a quest to answer his son's and other kids' most baffling questions. But rather than look up the questions on the internet, he decided to talk to experts in the fields in which the questions fell. For instance, one kid asked why does a whip make that cracking sound? Wendell talked to a dominatrix.

The book was absolutely fascinating, and I learned so much from reading it. There were things I thought I knew, and my answers were either confirmed or denied (IE why the sky is blue), and there were things I'd never even wondered about and learned (ie why ships have round windows).

My favorite factoid learned had to do with Jupiter. So, dear reader, an informal quiz. What is Jupiter made out of??? Don't google it, just drop me a comment with the first answer that comes to mind. I'll post the answer later. :-)

Awesome book and it made learning fun. My next similar book will be Why Do Men Have Nipples?, which I picked up at a book sale.

2. The Girls by Lori Lansens. Lori Lansens's story of conjoined twins was this month's book club selection. Due to the fact that we met early, I can speak freely about the book.

Ruby and Rose are identical twin girls born conjoined at the head. Their birth mother flees from them after they are born, and they are taken in by the attending nurse, Lovey and her husband, Stash, a native Slovak. The girls grow up in a small Canadian border town, and as they learn that they are dying, they decide to write their autobiography. The story spans their growing up and their life together, as well as Lovey and Stash's lives together.

I really, really enjoyed this book, it was probably one of the top 10 I've read this year. My only minor quibble with the book was the sheer number of time the author wrote "we are conjoined". Every freakin' page. Judy and I would call each other and ask, "Hey, did you know these girls are conjoined?" It got to be a joke. Last night we were sitting in the car, and I said, "You know, I've been thinking a lot about it, and I've come to a serious conclusion after a lot of thought." Judy kind of tensed up, since a lot's been going on lately, and she said, "What?! What's up?" and I said, "I think they were conjoined." and we both got the giggles.

The other quibble I had with it was the girls' trip to Slovakia, which in my opinion was set up to be a huge, disastrous experience, and in fact, after I read it, I thought, "uh huh, and?" But there were other parts that made up for it. Great book, I really liked it.

3. You'll Never Nanny In This Town Again by Suzanne Hansen.

Suzanne Hansen spent a year working to care for the three children of Hollywood power player Michael Ovitz and his wife, Judy. Nearly 20 years later, she wrote her first book about the experience. In it, she writes of how the Ovitzes routinely neglected their children and mistreated their staff, as did their friends and neighbors in show biz.

Many people found a lot to criticize about this book, and I can say that I found a lot of Hansen's issues to come about on account of her own lack of experience. For instance, she'd never bothered to get a contract from the Ovitzes stating her working hours, overtime pay, or expected duties. She failed to stand up for herself and let the situation spiral out of control until it was intolerable. She then quit, and found a job working for Debra Winger, whom she found to be quite down-to-earth and friendly, but who didn't really need a nanny. Her third gig was as a nanny to Rhea Perlman and Danny Devito's kids, another great position. Although she enjoyed it, she realized she didn't want to be a nanny and left that job to become a nurse.

I have to be honest. I enjoyed the hell out of this book. Seeing inside a Hollywood home, albeit not that of a major star, but of a broker, was fascinating as hell. I don't know why she wrote this book, but I'm glad she did. I also enjoyed hearing about the down-to-earth stars like Sally Field and Bill Murray, who were kind and funny and nice to be around. It was like the best of both worlds. I wouldn't say run out and grab this, but if you're looking for a fun read and love celebrity, this may just be the book for you.

4. Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin.

I admit. The title got me. I'm a sucker for a clever title. And the book was worthy of the title.

Naomi is a typical popular teenage girl, dating the star of the school tennis team, inexplicably best friends with a yearbook nerd, and all around school royalty when she loses a bet to said yearbook nerd and has to go back to the school to get a camera they've left behind. Coming back down the stairs, she falls and hits her head, and awakes to discover she's forgotten absolutely everything about her life after 8th grade. When she returns to school and tries to go back to the Naomi everyone is used to, she discovers that the person she is isn't interested in the person she was.

I sped on through this book, and I really enjoyed it. There seems to be a trend of teen stories about popular teens who feel bad about being mean to the nerdy kids but who don't do anything about it, and this book was no exception. Naomi discovers that she doesn't very well like her boyfriend, and her girlfriends are a bunch of backstabbing weasels, but she still sits with them at lunch and endures their company instead of spending time with the two people she'd most like to spend time with: Will, the yearbook kid and James, the brooding artist who's new at school.

I won't spoil the ending, but suffice it to say it's somewhat of a surprise how it all comes out in the end, and Naomi is a better person for her bout with amnesia.

5. Running the Dogs by Thomas Cochran and Really Cheesy Facts About Famous Authors by Camille Smith Platt. I'm counting these two as one book, because frankly, neither one of them was very long, nor were they particularly taxing to read. I would feel like it was cheating if I counted them separately, since I read them both in under an hour's time.

Running the Dogs tells the story of Talmadge Cotton, a young boy in Louisiana whose family is snowed in just a day before Christmas in a freak snowstorm. Talmadge's father is stuck out of town, where he works on oil rigs (or something), and the family isn't sure Daddy will make it home. Talmadge's fondest desire is to "run the dogs" alone out in the woods without adult supervision, and this is what he's asked his father for as a Christmas gift. However, with only a couple of days to go, Talmadge lets the dogs run loose and they disappear, leaving him to worry for their safety as well as giving him his first taste of the real woods in the night time.

The book is a sweet little story for the holidays about the pangs of growing up, the disappointments, heartaches, and tribulations, as well as the joys and excitement of the holidays. The setting of Louisiana and the family's traditions as a family celebrating Christmas there are richly detailed in the traditions and foods the family prepares as it is ready to celebrate Christmas.

Really Cheesy Facts About Famous Authors is apparently one in a series of Really Cheesey Facts books and this particular entry discusses the foibles and follies of authors from Shakespeare to JK Rowling and back again. Which authors were in debt up to their eyeballs? Which were embarrassed by sexual escapades? Which had family embarrassments? Who was rejected and who was accepted by society, publishers, and others? It was a fun and interesting read, lots of little sidebars about the authors, informative and cute. I recommend it if you're a bibliophile.

6. The Virgin of Small Plains by Nancy Pickard. Michael and I got into this one and fell hard and fast for a great thriller of a story.

The focus of the tale is the small town of Small Plains, Kansas, where one night, tragedy strikes when an unknown girl is found naked and dead in a frozen cow pasture belonging to the town's sheriff. The same night, the son of one of the sheriff's best friends (who happens to be the town judge) disappears, sent away by his parents after the girl's death. Mitch leaves his devastated girlfriend, Abby, behind, and the unknown girl's murder is never solved.

Fast forward 20 years, and Mitch's mother dies. Mitch returns to town months later, for the first time since the death of the girl, now called The Virgin of Small Plains. Her grave is a magnet for miracle seekers and many miraculous healings are attributed to the young woman. Mitch's return opens many old wounds and new questions are brought to light. The mystery of the girl's has to be solved and Abby has to put her feelings for much to rest, one way or the other, to move on with her life. Mitch and Rex, his other best friend who discovered the girl's body, must also put the past behind them.

What a nail biter. It was a book I absolutely hated to have end. I put off the ending for as long as I could. I wanted certain things to happen, and by and large, they did, and I was surprised at the end as to how the whole mystery wound up, so I was even more satisfied. Great, great reading.

7. Goodbye Jumbo, Hello Cruel World by Louie Anderson. I had no idea Louie Anderson was still around, let alone that he wrote books! I found this one at the library book sale, and the jacket suggested that it was a book that had to do with Anderson's quest to discover a) why he was fat and b) how he could get healthy. Apparently his first book dealt with the abuse he suffered at the hands of his alcoholic father.

Well, lately I've been on a quest of sorts to figure out my life, how I got to where I am, why I look the way I do, what I am going to do about getting what I want out of life, and so on and so forth. I picked this up along with another book along a similar vein in the hopes that my quest will be furthered by them what went before.

Louie talks about his supposition that fat people are fat because they are hiding from the world. He tells a parallel story along the way of a baby elephant whose mother is killed and who is brought into the circus and is crowned the biggest elephant ever, and then becomes a freak, a sideshow act, all the while searching for the love of his lost mom.

I gave a lot of thought to this, and I'm not sure it necessarily applies to me. I don't know. I never felt like I didn't get a lot of love growing up. My parents both loved me, although admittedly I was a miserable cuss after hitting 6th grade and finally became human again some time in college. This was due in large part to the trials of adolescence and life being split into the cool kids and the nerds of which I was decidedly of the second stripe. I was the first kid with zits, the first kid with braces, shy, and "smart". So, am I fat because of all that and the fall out that came with it? Honestly, I don't know. I could be. I'm still working on it. But I've pretty much crossed my family off the list. I felt loved by my nuclear family, if misunderstood, and my immediate family was very loving towards me--my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, my cousins. I had some friends, few, but friends I cherished and still love today... And I was looking at my school yearbook the other day, and thinking how I was one of "the fat kids" and honestly? I think I looked OK. Yes, heavier than the other kids, but I think I looked OK. Everything was just so out of whack, and I've had poor body image my entire life. And now, I can't even tell you the last time I looked at myself, really looked at myself.

I'm thinking of starting a new, private blog to deal with these issues, possibly something password protected. I'm not a conventional journaler, so I think that blogging about these things could be valuable. But I don't want my private thoughts splashed everywhere either. So I'll keep you posted and any one who wants the URL/password with good reason can have it.

So, Louie gave me lots to think about, as you can see. I enjoyed reading about his journey, although I suspect mine will be different. Thanks, Louie, wherever you are!! (seriously, the last time I remember seeing Louie Anderson was on an episode of Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist--and if you're out there and you love me, the full DVD set of Dr. Katz is out on November 20th. Hint hint hint).

8. Circle of Quilters by Jennifer Chiaverini. She's back and better than ever. Honestly, I skipped the Elm Creek Quilters book before this one. It was a continuation of one of the Elm Creek back stories about the Underground Railroad, and try though I might, I just couldn't get into it. Suffice it to say, I greeted this one with trepidation.

Circle of Quilters revolves around the Elm Creek Quilts Camp's search for 2 new instructors to replace the two quilters who are leaving Elm Creek to pursue new directions in their lives. There are several highly qualified applicants, and each of them has a story to tell. The book dedicates a very long chapter to each and how they became involved in and fell in love with quilting, goes through to their interview, and then drops off into the next applicant's story. Eventually, when all the tales are told, the Elm Creek Quilters make up their minds and choose who the new instructors will be.

Much as I am loathe to admit it, I cried through about half of this damned book. Damn you, Jennifer Chiaverini!!!! And double damn you. heh Seriously, when she writes these current stories, I love them. I didn't put this down, and stayed up reading till almost 2 in the morning finishing it. I was particular touched by the story of Mitch, the male quilter, and his wife Elaine.

The next Elm Creek book is a throwback to Sylvia's childhood again, so I suspect I'll skip that one and move on to the next. We'll have to see. These are so much fun, though.

9. The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries by Marilyn Johnson.

Once upon a time, journalism profs duly instructed their greenhorn grads to seek out community papers and the obit pages as logical entrance points into the world of newspaper reporting. Working for cash-strapped local papers allowed novices to practice writing everything from hard news to lifestyle features. Obituaries, meanwhile, were a rung on the ladder of major publications, albeit the lowest. The musty, dusty obit pages also traditionally hosted aging reporters put out to pasture. Not any more, argues Marilyn Johnson in her unabashedly knock-kneed love letter to the obit pages, The Dead Beat. Today, august publications like The New York Times, England's Daily Telegraph, Independent, and The Economist, and Canada's Globe and Mail use exalted members of the fourth estate to turn out smart, hip tributes to widespread, almost cultish, acclaim. Why? Because, as Johnson persuasively demonstrates in her book, truth is almost always stranger than fiction and a well-written, deeply researched obit is not only a vital historical record but a damn fine read over coffee and toast. "God is my assignment editor," cracks Richard Pearson of the Washington Post and if that isn't more interesting than what's going on in your city council chambers, author Johnson and those working the so-called Dead Beat don't know what is.

I used to love reading the obituaries, but upon reading this book about obituaries and obituary writers, I think I was going at it all wrong. The book was a fascinating look at what goes into writing a good obituary, and honestly what goes into good writing at all. I was glad it was a relatively short book (272 pages), because after a while, for me, it started to wear a little bit thin, but it was so much fun reading the stories of the obituary writers and the subjects they covered. Overall a good read, but as I say, after a while, I got a little bored with it. I finished it out of sheer tenacity, plus someone wanted to borrow it and I wanted to finish it before lending it out.

10. Enough Dammit! A Cynic's Guide to Finally Getting what You Want Out of Lifeby Karen Salmansohn.

This is the sequel to a previous favorite read, How to Be Happy, Dammit!, which I read earlier this year. Enough Dammit again has lots of pretty graphics and 44 life lessons, but challenges you to quit sabotaging yourself and start getting what you want by doing what needs to be done to get to your goal.

The book tied in nicely with the Louie Anderson book, and with my general state of mind right now. I didn't want to hear the message of the book, which is basically that change is painful, but living the life you're living right now where you don't have what you want mentally, physically, and emotionally is also painful, and a little different pain will put you in a happier place. I recommended this one to several people I know need the message like I do, I hope they'll get it and read it. Unlike How to Be Happy, Dammit, I can see myself coming back to this one several times, to refresh my memory and re-learn the lessons. This was a lot harder to read, since I generally consider myself a happy person, but not necessarily motivated to change.

11. Lake Wobegon Summer 1956 by Garrison Keillor.

Believe it or not, this is the first Garrison Keillor book I've ever read.

Vacillating between poignant, endearing, outrageous and mocking, this thoroughly engaging, frequently hilarious bildungsroman is narrated by the libidinous, iconoclastic 14-year-old wannabe writer Gary. Recounting the trials and tribulations of coming of age under the smothering influence of the Sanctified Brethren, a religious sect preaching unrelenting hellfire and damnation during the summer of 1956 in the tiny backwater of Lake Wobegon, the somewhat nerdy hero has a sexual fixation on his slightly older cousin Kate, abhors his geeky goody-two-shoes older sister, is obsessed with pornographic sexual fantasies engendered from reading a purloined copy of the verboten magazine High School Orgies, and is preoccupied by such intellectual pursuits as classifying variations of the 10 known categories of flatulence. Given an Underwood typewriter as a bribe from his uncle to tattletale on Kate's romance with a ne'er-do-well local baseball hero, Gary turns to writing pornographic stories about his imagined adventures with Kate before he is serendipitously handed the job of substitute sportswriter for the local paper. Game after game, he is forced to observe Kate's budding romance, until the affair predictably culminates in the age-old biological consequence and the family spins into crisis mode while our hero suffers a broken heart.

This book was actually a tad on the racy side! Young Gary amuses himself with a book, High School Orgies, given to him by his friend Leonard. He spins himself additional fantasies around this book and his cousin Kate, as well as spending time hanging out with his hero, Jim Dandy, member of the Doo Dads singing sensation and announcer at the local ballfield. The book has lots of Lake Wobegon charm and I suspect I'll probably read more in the series, but I was a tad surprised by the constant mention of genitalia, considering I only was familiar with the NPR version of Keillor's famed little town. It was a fun read, though, and I finished it today. I look forward to some more of these stories and people.

12. Homefront by Doris Gwaltney. I actually read this book last month, and I couldn't find any mention of it in either the list I am keeping on the computer or on the blog. If I'm wrong, please let me know so I can adjust my stats accordingly!

Gwaltney's YA book tells the story of Margaret Ann Motley, who's been waiting her whole life for her sister, Elizabeth to move out so she can have her own bedroom. Unfortunately, just as Elizabeth leaves for college, their aunt and cousin move in and steal Margaret Ann's room out from under her. Courtney, Margaret Ann's cousin, has arrived in Virginia with her mother from England, fleeing World War II and its many disastrous implications for them living in such dangerous times. The battle between the two young women as they fight for position of alpha female in the household and at school with friends is funny, poignant, and bittersweet. Finally, when the US enters the war, and Margaret Ann's brother and Elizabeth's new husband both enlist, Margaret Ann and Courtney come to some understanding about each other and the many feelings they have as citizens of the world.

I really enjoy WWII era books for some reason and this book was no exception. I also liked that the book took place n a farm in Virginia, and not too far away from Fredericksburg. Living in urban sprawl, I like to read back to the simpler times when the Virginia I know wasn't even dreamed of and the Virginia the characters knew didn't exist.

So, that's it, twelve books on the month, added to 86 from the remainder of the year brings us to a total of 98, two short of the goal. I fully expect to have that complete if for no other reason than I'll have a couple book club reads to finish up this year and I want to read a few other books from the stack--perhaps on the trips to Atlanta and Florida.

The breakdown, as ever, is as follows:

The Excellent: Father Knows Less, The Girls, The Virgin of Small Plains, Enough Dammit!

The Great: Circle of Quilters, Homefront, Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac

The Good: You'll Never Nanny In This Town Again, Running the Dogs, Really Cheesy Facts about Famous Authors, Lake Wobegon Summer 1956, Goodbye Jumbo Hello Cruel World, The Dead Beat

Totals for September:

Books Read: 12
Pages Read: 3617

Totals for 2007:

Books Read: 98
Pages Read: 31,149

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Apparently I Do Not Exist
LogoThere are
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

Thanks, Melissa.

Friday, October 26, 2007

W Does San Diego

"Welcome to Hell, Mr. and Mrs. Patterson, I've reserved one of my loveliest suites for you right over here."

And then that jack-assed cackling rings in my ears.

Something about seeing W strolling in the charred ruins amongst people who most probably hate him harkens images of Satan. Go figure.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A Little Something Fun for the Glecks & the Rest of You


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Happy Birthday, Mom!

You're the greatest and I love you. I'm sorry I can't be there today. I miss you.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Oh, And If You're the Praying Type... uncle lives in San Diego. Please send some good thoughts his (and everyone else's) way.

My Husband is So Freakin' Cute

Every day, I love my husband just a little bit more.


Tonight, we're sitting around eating dinner, and somehow the topic came up that we never get what we want. Like whining like little kids, nothing serious, just joking around.

So the conversation concluded as follows:

Me: I never get what I want.

Mister: I know. You wanted a tall British guy and you got a short, white hunk instead.

That really, really tickles me.


The other day, I went to the Fredericksburg Library book sale and I got a couple books I thought might be interesting for him and me to read, since we just finished an AWESOME book the other day. I used to love reading Dean Koontz, so I brought home Dean Koontz's Velocity. I read the blurb for Michael, which reads:

A diabolic killer plays a harrowing game of cat and mouse with a reclusive bartender in Koontz's latest gripping suspense thriller. Billy Wiles, a 30-something bartender and former writer, is content with his solitary Napa County existence listening to "beer-based psychoanalysis" from tavern regulars; visiting his hospitalized, comatose fiancĂ©e, Barbara; and carving wood sculptures. But the simple life gets mighty complicated when he finds a note on his windshield with a deadly, time-sensitive ultimatum: he must choose between the death of a young schoolteacher or an elderly humanitarian in six hours. Reluctant local sheriff Lanny Olsen dismisses it as a joke until a comely teacher is found strangled and another threatening note appears—offering even less time for Billy to decide the fate of two more people.

So, I'm reading this, and already feeling a little creeped out and ready to get back into the Dean Koontz lexicon, when Michael says, "Why don't the cops just stake out the goddamned car?"

Effective, but maybe not the best literary device. Still, that simple observation has quelled my enthusiasm just a bit. ;-)

Ain't he cute, folks?

Crazy Janitor Man

It's been one crazy ass day.

I took a client to the eye doctor today. On the way home, she asked if I could stop with her to get a bite to eat. We decided to head to the Manassas Mall food court.

We no sooner walked in the mall when a crazy Chinese man starts screaming at us about his chicken. Because I was with a lady who is blind, I was trying to tell her all the different restaurants which are in the food court and this dude is screaming at me, trying to get me to take the chicken on a toothpick. Finally, after several minutes of this nonsense, I put up my index finger right in his face and yelled "CAN YOU GIVE ME A MINUTE!!!!!!" And he continued to tell "FREE SAMPLE! HERE! EAT HERE! FREE CHICKEN!!! HERE!"

Fortunately, at this point "Jane" decided she wanted Chik-Fil-A, so we walked right past this guy and his chicken, and I couldn't stop because Jane is quite elderly and frail and was leaning on my arm.

So, we get her some Chik-Fil-A and we're seated at a table eating our lunch, and a janitor comes over to the table and starts yelling at me. At first, I thought maybe I'd done something wrong, but I couldn't really understand what he was saying. (Seriously, I think I might be losing my hearing in my left ear--I can never understand anyone any more.) So I said, "What?"

Then he really starts to lose it. But very quietly losing it, just going off on me, and I still can't figure out what the hell he's saying, But I look on the floor, and I pick up the CFA bag I had put there to hold the garbage and I try to put it in the trash bag he's got in his hand.

At this point I thought his head was going to explode. I am listening really, really hard, and finally I just stand up and lean in towards him. I notice he is speaking a foreign language, and honestly, I can't say it was Spanish, I don't know what the hell it was. I didn't catch one single word. So I decide to stand up and try to really get up on him so I can finally hear what he's saying, since he won't speak up and I can't catch anything.

The weird thing? The minute I stood up and leaned towards him, he hightailed it out of there like I was going to shoot him.

So I sit back down and ask Jane if she knew what that was all about, and she had no clue either. It was so weird. I don't know if he was mad at me for the bag on the floor, if he was mad at me for sitting at that particular table, if he was mad at me for being uncooperative with the Chinese guy, or if he just didn't like the look of me, period. In any event, "just in case", I cleaned up the table real good before we left!

If I ever make a movie, you can bet Crazy Janitor Man will have a cameo.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Just Another Weekend in Paradise...

MY BROTHER IS HERE!!!!!!!! That's my most exciting news. I'll blog all the details after he goes home on Wednesday, but suffice it to say, every time I see him, I realize how much I love and miss him more.

It's pandemonium upstairs. The Red Sox have decided not to slip quietly into the night, and I was awoken an hour ago from the screams of "GRAND SLAM!!!! GRAND SLAM!!!! OH MY GOD!!!! GRAND SLAM!!!" I'm currently being serenaded with "EIGHT TO ONE!!! HAHAHAHAHAHA EIGHT TO ONE!!!" :-) I love New England sports fans. One in particular. The Onion had an awesome article about the Patriots in it that I'm sending my father-in-law.

Today was the library book sale, and Michael and I spoke to the boy scouts. An awesome day, made even better by the fact that my sister escaped Borders and the city to come visit. She hasn't been here since early August and it was so great to have her here, if only for 24 hours.

What a weekend!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Still Goin'...

Michael and I are still on the exercise trail after 4 weeks. I think it's become a habit. We're doing great. He's started really going to town on the treadmill and has cut his 1/2 mile time nearly in half. Doing aerobics with a tape doesn't afford me the possibility to do anything faster, but it's getting easier, and (dare I say it), sometimes I feel like I'm teetering on the edge of graceful.

Neither of us has noticed any big changes yet, but "the night is still young"... We're a good system for each other--we're really getting each other to do it if one or the other doesn't feel like it. This is the most successful I've been at exercising since college, so I'm really pleased. I've been doing so well that I've even started adding a morning walk on the weekends. I like being up early when it's quiet around the neighborhood.

So, we'll keep going and see where we are in another 4 weeks. Both of us are feeling good, though!


The archives seem kind of screwed up with this new layout. Some of the labels work and some of them don't. If I can't figure it out, I'll probably have to dump this new layout. Darn, and I really like it too!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Volunteering at NPR

Last February, I volunteered at NPR during their member drive. At work, we can take 8 hours off to do community service, so I did that. I had a great time--they really take the goals and run with them although the phones weren't ringing that much, since I volunteered on a Tuesday that week. They had quite a spread for the volunteers, which was nice as well.

I recently heard they'd be doing the member drive again and decided to sign up for two nights. My sister wanted to go along on Sunday and convinced Lucas to take a crack at it as well, so we all trouped down there on Sunday evening to volunteer during the Big Broadcast, NPR's old time radio show here in DC.

So, we're down there, and I must say, the food was not all that spectacular. But the phones started ringing like crazy the minute we went live. Our first goal was $5000, and we had that within about 20 minutes, so they upped the goal to $10,000 and wham! We had that by the end of the hour.

This campaign, they also kicked off an award for the volunteer with the best handwriting, and I won! :) I got a crown to wear for an hour, and a certificate signed by the volunteer coordinator and the host of one of the local shows, so that was pretty cool. Oh, and a CD of an old radio show from WWII. But I'm waiting till my sister's around to listen to it.

The night went by very quickly, and I was really excited to be there while we got almost $30,000 in pledges. I talked to a lot of really interesting people and it was a lot of fun.

I'm going back this Thursday, having picked Thursday thinking that there might be more calls towards the end of the week. Judy is disappointed they are full up on volunteers, so I suspect during the winter/spring campaign, she'll sign up for 2 days like I did. I'm glad she went with me. It was a fun way to spend time together doing something different.

Support your local NPR station! :-)

Friday, October 12, 2007

Ahhh, the Memories

Above is a vid from one of my favorite channels on YouTube, belonging to a couple of bunnies called Buns and ChouChou.

Watch it and then read this post...

So, I saw this little video this morning, sweet little bunny singing her heart out for Christmas (for which, incidentally, I am monumentally stoked this year), and it brought back a memory of my own, from middle or high school, I can't remember which. (This story has a happy ending, so please don't panic halfway.)

My sister had a friend, who shall remain nameless "just in case", who loved to sing, but sang terribly. It was a breathy kind of wheezy nasally whine, completely off key, in its own dimension with its own inflections and pronunciations. Seriously. You'll see what I mean. My memory of it is that something terrible can be beautiful in its awfulness, the sheer fact of its existence reminding you of why you appreciate even an OK singer next to it.

Still, she sang with a passion, and somehow my sister was always next to or around her when they would do little performances at school. For the school Christmas show that year, their class was singing "O Little Town of Bethlehem" and my sister was complaining loudly about how she was being torturously subjected to "Jane's" otherworldly intonations.

So, we were in the car one night, driving home from getting groceries in Gouverneur (about 40 minutes from home--yeah, and you think you've got it hard: that was the CLOSE grocery store!), and Judy was on about Jane and my dad had the idea that we should all sing like Jane. And he launches into "O Little Town of Bethlehem".

And just as he gets through with a particularly soulful "bethle-HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEM!!!!!!" (mimicking Jane's pronunciation), doesn't a damned deer leap into the road and onto the hood of our car? So of course, Dad hits the brakes, the deer goes skittering off the hood and is lying in a fairly undignified (for a deer) heap on the side of the road. Dad throws the car in reverse, we see the deer in the headlights, lying in a ditch, licking its leg and glaring at us.

Well, this is not good. The poor thing is hurt. So, instantly, the revelry of caroling over, my dad goes to a nearby farm to call the DEC officer to come out and humanly dispatch the poor thing. Meanwhile, my mom is in the car, "Now girls, don't upset your father, it's not his fault, these things happen, deer often get hit by cars, the warden will know what to do..."

And the minute my dad gets back in the car, before he has the chance to open his mouth and tell us what's going to happen next, my mom wails, "Oh George!" and about bursts into tears. My sister and I were dying not to burst out laughing.

So my dad says the DEC warden is on his way to kill the poor thing and there's nothing we can do, so we might as well not be around to watch the proceedings.

We drive the rest of the way home in contemplative silence. I was probably crying or praying for the deer, but whatever. We pull in the driveway and decide to survey the damage to the vehicle. None!!! Dodged a bullet there... There is a small line of fur along the hood of the van, but nothing dented, cracked, broken, nothing at all.

We start unloading the groceries and no sooner get inside when the phone rings. It's the DEC warden, calling to say he tracked the deer 3 miles into the woods and couldn't find it, so he's guessing it was just winded and is totally fine.

There was much rejoicing, and perhaps even another verse of "olittletownofbethle-HEM" to celebrate.

Why I am writing this, I don't know, other than seeing that video gave me such a nice memory to think of. I guess those are the times I miss most now that I'm a grown up with so much changed. Nice to have the memories inside, though!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

PSA Du Jour

For the past year, I've been mentoring two foster care youths who are in dire need of good adult role models as they are quickly aging out of a system that was unable to provide them with parents and good, stable homes.

The Orphan Foundation of America is desperately seeking others who would be interested in participating as mentors for foster youth in high school and college. They are particularly in need of men to serve as mentors to boys.

The whole thing is done on-line through a website, which they call vMentor.

From their website...

vMentoring encourages teens to stay in school and develop the skills and confidence necessary to lead productive lives. When young people connect with experienced adults who genuinely want them to succeed, they can translate practical advice and inspiration into constructive action.

OFA's vMentoring program is unique in that it enables busy professionals to volunteer on their own schedule. Through a secure internet portal, mentors communicate with their mentees at any time around the clock. The time requirement is typically an hour per week.

vMentors are professionals who come from all walks of life and are motivated to share their expertise and life experience. They must be 25 years old or older. Background check is required. Training is provided on foster-care issues through conference calls, and supported with online materials. A two-year commitment is requested.

I love being a mentor, and one of my mentees and I have recently passed our 1 year anniversary and have been sharing how nervous we were as we both started. She was afraid I'd be mean, I was afraid she'd think I was a dork. hehehe It's been an amazing part of my life for the past year.

So if you are interested, please visit today and contact them about becoming a mentor. Say I sent you :-)

Reconnecting with the 'burg

So, lately I've been tired. The whole 10 days with the General being in Omaha and Waikiki, I was running up and back to Northern Virginia. Granted, when he's home, I feel bad if I leave him and spend time elsewhere, so I was trying to catch up with a bunch of people I have badly neglected, but still! I put 1000 miles on my car in one week, went through 5 tanks of gas, it was that bad. Book signings, seeing friends, picking people up, dropping people off, sight seeing, working, hauling furniture, you name it, I was doing it.

By the end of those 10 days, I'm not on speaking terms with someone, I haven't seen my sister since October 1 (highly unusual), and I've put less than 100 miles on my car in the ensuing 10 days.

So, I was sitting at work and got to thinking. I didn't move to Fredericksburg to live here and do everything elsewhere. It's probably time I started investing myself in this town instead of sleeping here and treating it like my tourist destination.

I need to find a balance. And I need to find some way of making my life here work. Because, honestly, apart from my house, I'm not happy here. I have no friends here (because I haven't worked at it), I don't do anything except come home, eat dinner, exercise, read, go to bed, start all over again.

I tried participating in a few group activities, but I'm not a crowds person. I tend to get very quiet, and it's hard when everyone already knows each other. Everyone is warm and inviting, but then they get busy with each other and you're still sort of sitting alone, your quiet self, not saying or doing much.

So, I started thinking about what made the most sense. What did I enjoy doing. And what does the General enjoy doing. And what could I do myself and what could we do together. Because, honestly, he doesn't know anyone here either. And we're both kind of sad about that 2 years later. I know people get kind of funny about the disability issue, but surely there's someone out there who wouldn't care if they just tried. Which is why I love Mike Williams, and damn him for moving to Atlanta anyway!

So, I signed up to join Friends of the Library and to volunteer at the library. I used to do that in Centreville and made one friend there with whom I am still in touch today. We've also committed ourselves to attending the ham radio club meetings and breakfasts. And that's paid off, we met two people last week, and we're going to volunteer with the Boy Scouts in a couple of weeks. The library called last night, and doesn't it figure, they wanted me to start volunteering the day of the Boy Scout thing, which I can't do, but they said they'd definitely be in touch anyway. I've made plans to meet up with the NaNoWriMo people here in town, who I enjoy and are cerebral types like me, while still being fun.

So I'm hopeful that things will turn around. I'd really like to have some friends here in town and have some things to do. We'll see what happens. But I'm going to try.


Yup, I've done it now...

I have signed up, re-activated my account, logged into the forums, talked to my peeps in the 'burg, and we're all jazzed, ready to write. National Novel Writing Month. Sorry, honey, you're about to become a writing widower again... I promise, it's only once a year... :-)

I don't even know what the hell I'm going to write this year. The story I wrote last year had been rattling around in my head for 15 years. This year, I plan to write its sequel/prequel, whatever, the second in the series. After a year of thinking about the last book, I've decided this would make a pretty good series of young adult books, so that's what I'm aiming for.

Last year's book is still titleless, there's a whole file on my computer marked "put this in somewhere!" of things I moved around when I re-wrote the whole beginning of the novel, stuff I really liked but felt it needed to be moved or included elsewhere, but I don't know where...

So, my goal is to get that squared away, a title selected, and Maggie put to rest as I work on Frankie's story. Yikes.

I honestly cannot believe I'm doing this again.

Monday, October 08, 2007


I am bowing out of RIP II, without reading a single book. Sadly, I just don't have time :-( Maybe next year.

NaNoWriMo is upcoming, and I'm starting to research my next book (anyone know anything about blacksmithing?) and I'm trying to get through an amazing but lengthy book club book, the General and I are getting through an amazing but lengthy book, and sadly, it's just not in the stars.

So, with that, I return you to your regular programming.

A Tale of 4 Cell Phones

Taking a page from Tal Gleck's infinitely more readable blog (seriously, he could write a history of every pencil he's ever used in his entire life and I'd find it riveting), and leaning heavily on the fact that I'm about to get yet another new cell phone, I've been ruminating on my cell phone history this morning, and decided to put theoretical pen to paper. Lucky reader!

I remember when the first family member got a car phone--my dad's sister. It was the old model with the big thing you had to lug around and plug in. Everyone thought she was crazy.

In 2000, after I moved back to Boston, the General's company got him a cell phone, so he gave me his old Verizon phone. Dubbed "The Brick", this sucker was about 2 inches thick, and looked about like my current cordless phone in the house did. Eventually the antenna holder thingy cracked, and quite honestly, I never used the thing. We paid for it throughout Michael's unemployment until the contract was up, then shut it off, and I swore I'd never use one again... (Famous last words, right?)

Then we moved to DC. And I had a huge territory to cover, and we thought it would be a good idea to get a phone so I could use it if I got lost or stuck somewhere.

So I looked at my options, and my sister wanted in, so we looked at the family plans out there, and decided on Cingular.

My bad. Cingular sucks singularly well.

I would be driving down I-66 right past Fair Lakes Shopping Center, and the reception would go out. My sister always knew where I was driving based on where I was heading and when the phone cut out. Reporting it to Cingular resulted in "We don't show any reception issues in your area." DUH! I live in the Nation's Capitol! I shouldn't be having these problems!

So, we moved to Fredericksburg. And I started talking with people here who had Cingular. And they were experiencing the same problems. Weird outages while driving I95. Crappy customer service. Basically, Cingular sucks.

So, my contract ended with a bang, as my sister went way over our allotted minutes, and I called Cingular to cancel the phones after the bill was paid. Of course, they don't want to hear that you are cancelling, so when I explained to them that we were getting zillions of dropped calls and it wasn't making any sense to keep the phones, they decided the problem was the phones and offered me new phones which would solve the problem. We would have 30 days to accept them and then the service would be renewed for another 2 years.

So, I figured, "Ok, maybe it's really better." It is to laugh. Within 20 days, I was telling my sister to start CellPhoneAHolics Anonymous, the phones were going back. So I called Cingular, told them to expect the phones, was told "make sure you send them with delivery confirmation" and sent the phones back.

Lo and behold, I get a bill for $350 for cancelling my contract too soon. I send them the delivery receipt and sheepishly, Cingular asks for approximately $8, which I sent just to be rid of them. Then I get a check from them for ONE PENNY because I overpaid them by a cent. I threw it in the garbage.

So, doesn't it figure, within about 2 weeks of not having a phone (which I must say, made my life a hell of a lot quieter and simpler), I needed a cell phone 3 times. So, as Judy's birthday was upcoming, I decided I would buy us both pre-paid wireless phones, and we went off to WalMart and bought Virgin Mobile pre-paid phones.

I have to say, I've had pretty good luck with them. Granted, I'm basically paying them not to use any minutes--I use about half of my minutes per month--but they've never once dropped a call on me, the rate is nice and cheap (combined, Judy and I are paying less than we paid for Cingular and we've got twice the minutes), and I'm happy with the little flip phone.

Enter Mom.

My mom is changing all her contact information now that she has a) moved and b) dropped about 250 pounds of dead weight in the form of her ex. So, she wanted to switch cell phone providers, and asked if Judy and I would like to get a family plan again.

Intriguing, but I explained that I was not paying more than $35 per month, which is what I am currently paying with Virgin. Mom said not a problem, Verizon had a nice little family plan where the 3 of us could share 400 minutes and it'd be nice and cheap. Well, 400 is the exact number of minutes Judy and I were sharing when Judy ran up a nearly $800 phone bill (to be fair, where she was working at the time didn't have a phone for her and she had to use the phone for work purposes--they were supposed to reimburse her for it, but I don't know if that ever happened or not. Still, it was not all personal calls, but a good part of it was.)

So I said, "No way."

Mom was persistent. She went to the Verizon store the other day, since as a state employee down yonder she gets a discount. She came up with a plan that will cost each of us about $35, and we'll have 700 minutes each, for a total of 2100 minutes.

She has threatened my sister with death and dismemberment if she goes over her 700 minutes.

I like this arrangement for a couple of reasons.

Number one, I get a new Razor camera phone. And while I don't give two damns about using the phone, I like the idea of a cool gadget.

Secondly, The General is on Verizon, my mom will be on Verizon, and my sister, so basically free calling all the way around.

Thirdly, Mom arranged an ass-kickin' deal.

What don't I like about it?

I have to learn and program another phone.

I think I was born with a stupid gene when it comes to cell phones. It takes me forever to figure out how to program speed dial, and then I can't remember who I've put on which number. The good thing about my current phone is that I can push a number (say 5) and the memory associated with that number pops up without dialing it. My Cingular phone didn't do that. Or at least, I don't think it did. Who knows? So typically, I will hold down the button I *think* I want to dial, it'll start dialing someone else's number, and I have to hurry up and hang up or whatever. My brain isn't wired for memory.

So, I am hopeful that this is my final cell plan, my final cell phone for a while, and that it all works out well. Otherwise, UNCLE!!!

Saturday, October 06, 2007


Not anything worth blogging about in single posts, but a lot of little crap going on...

You know how you always hear parents complaining about how their kids were doing an online search for something innocent and they come up with a porn site? I always sort of thought that might have been a slight exagerration... Until the other day when I did a Google search on chicken pox and the site I clicked on literally made my eyes water. I was frozen--I wanted to get rid of it, but I was so shocked by what I was seeing I couldn't move. Ewww. Gross.

Two friendships blew up in my face last week. One is salvageable, one is not. One I care about, the other I quit caring about a while ago. Fortunately they coincide nicely with the one that is salvageable and the one that is not.

I don't feel like doing anything. I start things, and then I come up with reasons I don't want to continue doing them. Like reading. Michael and I are reading an awesome book right now, but I have no desire to sit down and read it out loud. I don't want to read it quietly, either. I have yard work to do to finish up from removing the fence. But I have a hundred excuses why not. I need to do so much, but I just don't feel like it. So it's not getting done and I sit here hating myself for wasting the long weekend.

I guess that's about all. I'm still exercising, so that's a plus. Otherwise, I just want to sit on the couch and watch TV. Blah.

Friday, October 05, 2007

A Fun One I Stole from Melissa!

You're The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy!

by Douglas Adams

Considered by many to be one of the funniest people around, you are
quite an entertainer. You've also traveled to the far reaches of what you deem possible,
often confused and unsure of yourself. Life continues to jostle you around like a marble,
but it's shown you so much of the world that you don't care. Wacky adventures continue to
lie ahead. Your favorite number is 42.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Pushing Daisies

Did anyone watch last night? What did you think?

I think it's probably way too good for network television, but finally! A new show I like!

I turned off the Cavemen after 15 minutes, it sucked so bad.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Book Lovers Trivia Time!

Which author did I stand in line 90 minutes to meet and get a 10 second audience with, including the below picture? Put your guess in the comments. (Book club girls don't count--I told you all at the Monday meeting! :-D) I'll post the answer on Sunday.

And yes, I think I look DAMNED cute in my pink hat!