Monday, March 31, 2008


I will be taking a lengthy break from blogging and from life in general as I try to figure out why God hates me so much.

I may be back. If I am, it will be as a wiser person, a person who expects a whole lot less from life and people in general.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Give 'Em a Brake

I am not happy, never happy, always sad when I see a dead animal on the side of the road. It really breaks my heart to see a raccoon, a rabbit, a deer, or other animal and know it had its life cut short by some asshole motorist who was probably speeding, didn't notice until it was too late that something was in the road, and killed it. I'm not anthropomorphising these animals and crying that its mom and dad don't know whatever happened to it and they're having a little raccoon search party in the woods looking for Rocky, but it makes me sad. I really love animals and especially in this area and with my job driving, I see so many dead animals every day. I mean, it doesn't take but a second to slow down and let a squirrel cross the street-they're pretty speedy--and deer and rabbits are quite fast as well. Slower animals like raccoons still don't take THAT long and you can always swing into another lane if you really don't have three seconds to spare.

But what really got me was that yesterday I was driving home along Route 17, a major road in this area to be sure, and saw a dead beagle on the side of the road. This is not some animal from the woods, this was someone's beloved pet. Now, we can get into a debate about the owner not chaining their pooch up, but we don't really know that either. The dog could have gotten loose. And when that person got home yesterday, they'd be confronted by the sight of their pet dead on the highway.

And this is not the first time. Over the course of the past year, I've seen half a dozen dogs and cats on the side of the road. Common courtesy would suggest that the killer at least stop and try to find the family and inform them of what they'd done, but apparently like many other things, this practice has flown straight out the window. Better to leave the body on the side of the road and get on with your life.

People really suck sometimes, and I suppose that's why I like animals better on occasion. Seeing these dead critters makes me feel really sad. If anyone else out there feels the same, slow down for a second and let the animals pass. And if you are really serious, the Humane Society will send you a FREE bumper sticker for your car. Visit by clicking HERE for yours today.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Changes and Craziness

I am reading a book in which one of the two main characters gets a phone call after having had a baby, and when she learns it's her best friend on the phone, she exclaims in relief, "Thank God it's someone who doesn't need anything from me."

My life has taken on a life of its own, literally. Monday night, after an insane weekend and just the general craziness of being the one taking the General to the vanpool daily, I threw a nice little temper tantrum at 10 o'clock at night. I was not happy at not having literally any free time since the previous Thursday.

Life is crazy and I'm not in a good place when I have to get up at 5am. We had company all weekend, I sat in the dentist's office with the General for 3 hours on Friday, plus it was Easter AND I decided it was the perfect time to go to Ikea and get some much needed furniture to purchase and put together.

On top of all this, the back up hard drive on the General's computer seems to have a screw loose, and we're still trying to finish up the stupid inacessbile acquisitions class that he has to take for work. This essentially involves the two of us sitting around listening to what, to me anyway, is the most boring material on the planet and me clicking the "next" button. And we've been at it for approximately 15 hours.

So I was running up and down up and down the stairs on Monday, trying to help with the computer in between trying to watch Dancing With the Stars, which I still missed half of. Now that Runway is over and Lost is off the air until April, my TV watching is back at its regular low, but I do like DWTS. I even have the game for our Wii. Unfortunately, fate, the PC, and my husband had other plans.

So, I threw an all holy hissy fit, which got me exactly nowhere, because last night I was back clicking "next" for two hours.

This weekend Lucas and the StanClan came over and they helped move around the furniture in the General's office. Today is the first day I've let TomTom in here and he came roaring in expecting to go behind "his chair" and came to a screeching halt. I've got one pissed off bunny on my hands, folks. He wants his stuff back exactly the way he wants it and this is not going to fly with him.

Throwing new people into the mix, I am finding it ever more difficult to cook meals everyone likes (on top of one carnivore and one vegetarian, I've now got someone who won't eat chicken--the one meat the vegetarian considered eating for my sanity), learning I'm going to have to find ways of entertaining children in my child-free house besides "Watch TV, read a book, play the Wii, or visit the rabbit", getting the house clean, keeping up with reading and just having some time to relax. But everyone has been so good to us that I can hardly complain. Lucas didn't utter a single word of complaint when I made him haul boxes from Ikea and spend Easter morning building my new TV cabinet. The StanClan spent hours working on the computer and moving furniture and fixing the General's radio set up. Melissa brought us a lovely dessert for Easter so I didn't have to, and Joe had another dessert waiting for us when we arrived at Casa Cherepon-Galletta-Szabo Sunday evening.

Still, I need time to myself--damn that introvert! I really thrive on peace and quiet, and on those times to myself when I can just sit quietly, not have noise coming in, no TV, no radio, no phone ringing off the hook. Nothing. And I'm so lucky to have a husband who understands that I need that time, and that I haven't had any, and I want some.

So this weekend the cherry blossoms will be out and I will be out with them. It's the one thing I want to do and last year I remember it as such a peaceful time--me, my iPod, and my camera, walking the Tidal Basin. That's the plan for this year, and hopefully I'll get some more great shots and find some time to reconnect with myself. I'll probably ditch the iPod to enjoy the sounds of people around me enjoying the beautiful flowers and the fine weather (God willing), and enjoy one of the best reasons to live in DC.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Happy (Belated) Easter

Thursday, March 20, 2008

TomTom, The Easter TV Star

Recently a friend turned me onto using Yahoo Live! I thought it would be a fun chance to connect with family, but that has not worked out to be the case. I bought a cheapie webcam recently and hooked it up. It's so cheap I have to focus it myself and there's no audio, but chatting is fine anyway.

Last night I was sitting around chatting with a bunch of people on Live and I thought it would be fun to bribe TomTom to come on the screen. I fixed up a plastic tray of his favorite veggies and stuck them on the floor. I put the cam down there and turned it on and waited. And waited. And waited. He was not the least bit interested in being cooperative. It was like he KNEW I was waiting for him to be on the camera.

So I went in his room and his reflexes were not so good last night, and I was able to grab him. I put him down in front of the camera and the food.

Yeah right. He took off back to his room. I gave him a few minutes and we tried again. Yeah. Probably not.

I gave him even longer and then I grabbed him again. This time when I put him down in the office, he decided he'd show me, he hid behind the football chair. And stayed there for about 20 minutes. Then all of a sudden, I see him inching out. I didn't move. He saunters over (if bunnies can saunter, that's exactly what he did last night!) to the tray of food and sniffs at it. He looks at the camera, he looks at me, and then just as nice as you please, he lays flat out on the floor and proceeds to ponder the situation. Well, you don't have to guess everyone was eating that up.

And he stuck around on camera for about 20 minutes. After a few minutes of allowing us to admire him in his best "do ya think I'm sexy?" bunny pose, he ate a carrot and then took a bath, all captured on camera. It was great. I wish I had thought to actually record it, but c'est la vie.

He looks way better on camera than I do, so he'll be everyone's Easter treat this week. If you use Live, let me know! :-) It's fun and easy, even if you don't have a webcam.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Still Around!

I haven't posted in a few days, which I know makes the Dumpling nervous, so I'm just checking in to say "Hello!" and yes, I am still around.

We've been busy doing a lot of things that aren't really newsworth--spending time with friends, shopping, playing the Wii, and getting our taxes done (so it's official, we'll get our checks for $600--and like most Americans, I suspect, we'll be putting the money not towards the economy but towards paying down student loan debt). The tax situation was less painful than trying to find a Wii for Jacalyn and her two boys. I think I covered every square inch of Central Park on Friday with them, and finally they got a Wii at midnight Saturday/Sunday in Massaponax.

I also got a copy of Photoshop and started a Flickr account for my pictures. I don't know how the heck to set up a slideshow here, and I already ran out of space for March, so I'm debating if I want to actually pay for it or if I want to just hang in till April.

I also completed some "artwork" on the living room wall--those rub on transfer quotation wall art thingies. It says "We do not remember days, we remember moments" and I'm going to put a bunch of my pictures around it. The submission requirements for the club include having your pictures matted, so I figured I might as well go ahead and frame them and stick them on the wall. So far, they've come out great, but I'm not quite ready to put them on the wall yet. Plus, the wall art is beautiful, and I'm still debating just leaving that wall alone. We'll have to see!

That's all from here.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Pictures, Pictures

Tuesday night was also a nervewracking evening for me. Not only was it the night before my dentist appointment, but it was the night I was attending the Fredericksburg Photography Club and for the first time submitting photographs of mine to be critiqued by a professional photographer.

To say I was nervous was an understatement. I had attended one previous critique at the club and the guy was kind of a jerk about the whole thing. The highest score he gave anyone was a 6 and most people got a 3 or a 4. By the end of his time there, people were actually quietly laughing because they knew they were going to get raked over the coals for no good reason.

So I went in and paid my dues to join for the year and signed in my photographs. My stomach clenched up and I headed for the bathroom. I returned, forced myself to be calm, and sat it out.

The theme for the night was "depth of field" and our images would be scored 1 through 10 on whatever criteria the judge selected. The judge for the night, well I didn't exactly catch his name but I know his first name was Tim. He's been a professional photographer for 30 years and has worked for Xerox and other imaging companies. Unlike the previous guy, he did not judge us on subject matter. He was judging based on color, composition, how it fit the theme, and so forth. The judge did not know who the photographers were until after he gave the critique.

Of course my damn pictures were at the bottom of the pile, so I had to sit around for nearly 2 hours before they got to the first of my 3 pictures, even though the pictures had been mixed around some.

The guy who did the critique was very fair and knowledgeable. Not only did he give what he liked about each picture, but he also talked about how you could improve it at the moment you take the picture, or how you could manipulate it during processing.

The first of my pictures he came to was one I titled Washington and the Cherry Trees.

As you can see, I took it down at the Tidal Basin during the Cherry Blossom festival on a very cloudy day.

His critique: He called this an interesting picture showing extreme depth of field. He wondered if the color had been manipulated because at first glance it appears black and white but as you get closer you realize it is in color. He said the monument was a bit dead center. Typically this would not be desirable but it works in this picture, although I could move it up some. He suggested that if it were to be entered into the show, it should be cropped a bit to get rid of the specks on the top and that playing with it on photoshop to make it black and white would be interesting. He also said that without the water providing the bridge between the front and back of the picture it would not work as well.

He gave the picture a score of 8 out of 10.

After the critique is done, they ask if the photographer has any comments. I was giddy. I got an 8!!! So I said, "No, not really, this is the first time I've done anything like this and I'm so nervous I think I'm going to throw up!" Well, everyone had a good laugh about that and then I settled down and told him that I had not manipulated the color or anything at all like that. I told him that I'd just been pointing and clicking and that whatever comes, comes and I print it. He found that interesting.

(I am really looking forward to cherry blossom time--it's coming up in just a couple of weeks and my camera finger is already itchy. Jacalyn's lending me one of her old cameras to go shooting with so I can get the feel of a real camera and not a little point and click, which I have to say, each of these images was shot on a different point and click and I think they all came out amazingly well, so I have nothing against my point and click cameras! But I would like to try working with something a bit higher up too.)

The next image I put up for critique I left untitled.

This is a jetty or piling I found while taking an early morning walk along the Long Island Sound when I went to a conference in NY about 2 years ago. It was a very foggy morning and about 7:00am. A group of us attendees would walk about a mile down to the beach and I shot pictures while everyone else wandered around.

Tim called this picture "very interesting." He said the white post in the front anchored the image and really stood out to him. The landscape gives a lot of depth and he really liked that the lighting was shifting from dark to light. He suggested that the bottom of the image could be toned down a bit so it wasn't so harsh.

He scored it a 7.

The final image I submitted was entitled Washed Up.

I took this picture while visiting my mom in Florida. I wanted to get a picture of it because I thought it was a real neat looking man-o-war, but as I was standing over it, I was thinking "This is a really stupid angle to get a jellyfish at." So I knelt down and put the camera in the sand and clicked the button. Voila.

Tim said it shows depth of field extremely well. He wondered what it was, so when I told him, he knew it was me who had taken the picture. But he remained fair, I will give him that. He wished the horizon would have been straighter and that I had lowered the image a bit, but that he said he was sure that I was already as low as I could go and probably couldn't tell if it was straight or not. He said the exposure was a little bit dark and if I could add a little fill flash it would have been a good idea. He asked if I knew what he was talking about and I said, "Not a clue!" So he very patiently explained everything, which was great.

He scored this one a 7.

Then he asked me how long I'd been shooting and I said about 5 years of just point and click. He said my images have a lot of potential and I obviously have a very good eye. He suggested I learn techniques for getting at the small details in the pictures and start learning to use something like Photoshop to tweak what I miss while shooting (on Jacalyn's suggestion I downloaded Picasa last night and straighted out the horizon on Washed Up, but I posted the original here, not the corrected image). He said if I work at it, he thinks I have the potential to be really good.

So, wow! I think it went very, very well for my first time and I was definitely encouraged to continue. I thought I might be kind of good, but I wasn't really sure and it was nice to have some encouragement from people who know what they're doing.

The next critique is of "blossoms" in 2 months time. Next month will be an educational program on how to shoot candid photography. I am looking forward to learning that in particular. We can also bring one picture we've taken of a candid moment. So I'll be scouring around looking for one. Tim will be presenting and looking at our images.

So, in one week I've survived a critique and a dentist. I may well be unstoppable. SuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuperSuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuue!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Trip to the Dentist

Well, it's over. Thank you, God, it is over. I survived Dentist Day. Fortunately, my Sugar Bear took the entire day off so I could have a little moral support.

We arrived right at 8:00 on the dot as instructed and sat around till almost 9:00. I was starting to feel ill. My teeth were chattering by the time Lorenzo the hygienist came out to get me. He asked how I was and I told him, "Well, as good as I can be, considering I'm here." He laughed and asked if I was nervous about the dentist, and I said that was the understatement of the year.

We chatted a bit and he sent in another woman to take some X-rays. She said she would do "the hard part" first to get it over with.

Boys howdy, was she ever serious about the hard part. The films literally cut into the bottom of my mouth, and on top of the wait and still not meeting the dentist, I totally lost it. I just started bawling my eyes out. She felt terrible and very sweetly dabbed at my tears with little squares of gauze. But she was insistent on these f***ing X-rays. So after what seemed like hours, we finally got the "hard part" done. Honestly, I have had my teeth x-rayed before, but never, ever have I had this kind of trouble in my life. I was in serious pain from the films cutting into my mouth and I was gagging on the films when they were trying to do my back teeth. I told the tech that I was done, and they moved on to other films, which were smaller and easier to handle. My mouth is actually still in pain where it has been either cut or bruised, I can't really tell. I was almost sobbing, I was in such distress, so they sent in a second person to try and calm me down and then the first guy, Lorenzo, came back to try and cheer me up a bit. He took my coat to make me "more comfortable", but frankly, it wasn't much help because I started shaking from the cold.

Honestly, it was humiliating. I could not pull myself together. They explained that the dentist was just reviewing the films and would be in very shortly, and techs and hygienists kept coming in and out trying to help me calm down. They handed me tissues and talked to me, but finally, I just gave up and let it out, so they left me alone. I tried taking deep breaths, distracting myself, all of it, but it was no good. I think I was tired (I didn't sleep well at all last night) and I just needed to let out the fear. By the time the dentist arrived, I was a mess.

Fortunately, the dentist had the most calming manner about her. I have never had a woman dentist before, but I really liked her a lot. She asked me why I was crying, if it was because of the pain or something else, and I told her a little of both, that I was just very nervous and very anxious. She said that it was important to her that I feel comfortable with her as much as anything else, so we chatted a bit and then she explained that she'd be looking at my teeth and saying some numbers and such to her hygienist and then we'd talk about what needed to be done.

She did her exam, and then they gave me a hand mirror and she showed me some parts of my teeth that needed a little reworking--mostly very old fillings that need to be replaced. My tooth that I thought I chipped was fine (go f***ing figure!) and doesn't require any intervention. She made sure I was OK to leave and then helped me up out of the chair and out to where a receptionist was waiting. They gave me a full written estimate of the work I would need, what they expect that the insurance will pay and what I will have to pay out of pocket. I'm not happy about that part, because I think it's bogus to have to pay anything considering how much we pay for dental in the first place PLUS I never paid more than a co-pay with our dentist in Boston (how I miss Delta Dental--what awesome coverage that was), but at least I know what we are facing, and I'm can plan for it. They also allow you to select which work you want to have done at what time so you can afford it, which I really like.

All in all, I'm glad I went. I am most definitely glad it is over. I look forward to a good night's sleep tonight and I'm glad I met the dentist and I liked her so well.

Thanks to all who emailed, IM'ed or called with moral support last night and this morning. It meant the world to me.

Monday, March 10, 2008

I've Just Done Something I Never Do

I saw a video clip that so moved me, I immediately found the organization's website and made a donation. Won't you consider doing the same?

I wept as I watched this. I literally wept. It sucks that this is what we have been reduced to.

What's Going On

Sorry to have left everyone in the lurch, but of course, Blogger was uncooperative on Friday and we had company all weekend, and I just got home.

Here's what happened:

Last Thursday evening, I was getting ready to go to bed and I was flossing my teeth. Flossing's good for your teeth, right? Wrong. I flossed between my two bottom front teeth and one of my teeth chipped. I couldn't believe it.

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I have an EXTREME phobia of the dentist. We had an amazing dentist in Boston, but then the feds didn't offer dental until recently, so we weren't able to go. So we wound up not going and then Michael went recently to some guy in Fredericksburg that I just got a bad vibe from, so I avoided it.

Well, there's no avoiding it now. My freakin' tooth chipped!

So I'm freaking out and I made Michael handle the calls to find the dentist. He's found a dentist in Stafford recommended by a friend. I spoke to them Friday morning, and they told me I have nothing to worry about--there was no pain, no bleeding, and no sharp edges, so they made an appointment for me for Wednesday. Which means I've had days to sit and stew about my impending dental appointment.

I know that in 48 hours it'll all be over, or at least the initial visit will be over, but I'm scared out of my mind, and it's just crazy. I know I have friends out there who feel my pain. Just pray I keep my sanity. Fortunately, the appointment is at 8am, so I don't have to sit around all day worrying. Fingers crossed it'll be painless and these people will be good and understanding.

Friday, March 07, 2008

I Don't Normally Do This

...but I have a situation brewing here that is FREAKING ME OUT. Nothing life threatening, everyone's fine, but if you could say a little prayer for me or send good vibes my way or whatever it is you do today, I would appreciate it. Details to follow as I know more.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


Yes, Virginia, there is a Savannah, and our trip finally came off without a hitch.

Friday dawned bright and clear, and I was up and out of bed by 6. I was very excited to get moving, but I also had to pay a visit to DMV, and dealing with any sort of bureaucracy strikes fear in my heart akin only to a visit to the doctor or dentist. The registration on the car was due and the General and I needed to finally change our addresses on our ID's/licenses and voter registrations to become official residents of Stafford County.

It went very smoothly. We went early enough that we were 3rd in line when they opened and we were able to conduct all transactions very smoothly. The doors opened at 8am and we were on our way, munching on breakfast and hitting I95 by 8:40. Awesome.

I hadn't planned to stop much except for lunch and gas, but the J*R store was advertising that they had a discount book section, so I made a little stop in North Carolina to see what they had. I was moderately disappointed--I'd been to the place before and known what it was about, but frankly, they probably should not have touted themselves as a discount book warehouse. I still did pretty well, I got 3 books on CD, unabridged, plus a paperback for $23. Awesome. We got some gas and moved on.

The General and I started gabbing and it turned out he'd never been to South of the Border. Well, heck, you've got to go at least once! So we stopped in for lunch. This was even more disappointing than J*R. The place has really gone downhill since I was there as a kid, and I was so disappointed. Still, the General got to experience it and eat some hot dogs, so we were happy.

Back on the road, I was racing the GPS. It informed me when we left in the morning that we'd arrive in Georgia somewhere in the neighborhood of 5:30, and with our 2 stops it was pretty much still looking that way. Still, I love racing the thing and proving it wrong, so happily, we arrived at the appointed meeting place at 5:05 and I called the Glecks to let them know we were going to wait for them in the coffee shop. I had the world's best drink there, it was a frozen hot chocolate, but it wasn't watery or nasty, it was flat out delicious. I'm seriously debating how I can make the drive again just for that drink.

So, we sat and read the local newspaper's crime beat, which was HILARIOUS. I'll post some gems later. And then the Glecks arrived. Magic. We met the Glecks. WOO HOO! :-) So we loaded up the cars and headed to dinner to meet up with Annette who'd been driving around waiting for us all to arrive. We had dinner and went back to the Gleck Family Compound to settle in, get to know each other better, and finally collapse.

I know I'm on vacation when I sleep past 7am, and I slept till 9:30. That was awesome. I was so happy pappy dappy. I felt so good. We had plans for the day to take the Old Savannah Trolley Tour, and got the unlimited on/off pass and were on our way. I was so excited to see Savannah, and what a treat, Talmadge and Sera had plans for us to dine at an English pub for lunch. Oh yeah!

The tour was great--we saw some really cool stuff, like the park where Tom Hanks sat as Forrest Gump and waited for the bus to see Jenny, the first women's hospital, a creepy hospital where they used to do autopsies on the sly, beautiful homes, and of course, the Juliette Low house where the founder of the Girl Scouts lived.

We took a very nice tour there and I did a little shopping in the gift shop--nothing major, a couple of patches, a pin, and a Christmas ornament.

Then we walked a bit and Sera, The General and I hit a chocolate shop. Mmmmmm! Then we walked up to where Paula Deen's restaurant was and I took pictures so I could prove to the Dumpling I had at least seen the place. We hopped back on the trolley and saw the rest of the town from the comfort of our little car, and it was so beautiful out--sunny and in the 70's. Gorgeous. It was so, so nice to be outside and see the sun, what a boost to the old spirit suffering the mid-winter-blah's.

After all the busy-ness of sightseeing, it was time for some much needed refreshment, and so we headed to Johnny Harris's, a gorgeous restaurant straight out of the 30's. Unfortunately, Annette was not feeling so well, so the rest of us ate and then we headed home so she could get some rest. Fortunately, after a few, she was feeling better and we were able to sit up late gabbing, until I almost fell asleep and decided bedtime was the better option.

Sunday, I slept in again, and dozed off and on all morning till about 10:00, when I got up and showered. We went to Zaxby's for lunch, which was a great chicken place that the General was swooning over. Then we went back to the house to watch a movie, swap CD's and relax till it was time to leave for supper at a local place, Carey Hillards. Again, delicious food, and fortunately Annette was feeling so much better, that we were happy together before Team Kosior headed for the hills.

After supper, we said our sad goodbyes and invited everyone for GleckFest Part Deux in Fredericksburg sometime, which I fervently hope will happen. The General and I crossed the border and picked up my dad's fireworks at the FIREWORKS SUPERMARKET, where a lady took pity on the General and gave us free "fish" fireworks, which of course, kicks ass.

We drove to beautiful Dunn, NC, where we got a room for the night, and then in the morning, got the world's worst breakfast at the world's worst BK. Seriously, we hauled it down 95 dumping our drinks out the window and wound up drinking Mountain Dew. Yeah, great breakfast drink. However, Talmadge has turned the General on to the possibility of the "Fountain Mountain Dew" as the General calls it, the "Fountain Dew" as Talmadge calls it, and there's no turning back.

We got home before 11:30, despite the GPS's insistence that we would not get home till 12:10 (hehehe). We opened up all the windows, checked on the great hulking beast that was once our bunny (he was fed very well by two boys in our absence and was none too pleased to see us!), ordered some pizza, and I was able to take a shower and a nap before leaving for my book club.

It was a great trip, just long enough to get to know each other and be sure that we didn't hate each other, not so long we got sick of each other. I'll close with a couple of more pictures from our journeys out and about. THANK YOU, GLECKFESTERS! :-) See you again soon!