Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas Come and Gone

Well, Christmas is over and I can hardly believe it! Never have I ever been so busy. My usual favored Christmas activities didn't get done as I barely managed to keep my head above water, and I'm not entirely sure how I feel about that!

We were not expecting guests until the 22nd, so imagine our surprise when people started arriving on the 19th! Judy, Lucas, and Dottie arrived on Friday evening and this somewhat spurred us to action that perhaps we should get a Christmas tree. Saturday morning, the General and I got up and went down to the Roxbury Garden Center in Old Town F'burg and bought a tree there. It was/is much fresher than our usual Home Depot trees, but not as big. Still, I loved it and the people who work there were so, so nice to us and helped us bag it and mount it to the roof of the car.

Saturday evening my mom arrived, and by Monday my dad was here. Tuesday, the General and I had medical appointments--I went to the doctor at 8:45am and then we both went to the dentist at 2:45pm. You all know how much I hate going to the dentist anyway, so I decided I would just go ahead and get all the work done at once. And we decided to get the General's crown done as well, since they were having a special $200 off and we couldn't pass that off for his teeth!

Ok, so lo and behold with one thing and another--and some possibly worrisome news on my end (my x-rays show that I have an "abnormality" growing on my jaw and I have to go and consult with an oral surgeon)--we didn't get out of the dentist's office till nearly 6pm. Tuesday was the last day most people were working before Christmas, and traffic was akin to one of Dante's 7 levels of hell. My father didn't beleive me about sticking it out and waiting for the HOV lanes and thought he could do better in the main lines, which was a HUGE mistake. Finally when we hit Woodbridge, he decided to try Route 1, which I also knew was a mistake--traffic PLUS traffic lights! However, his blood sugars were dropping and making him dangerously unpleasant to be around and so at least on Route 1 we could stop at Thomas's and pick up pizzas for the crew when we got home. I called my mom to let her know we'd be home as soon as we could, and that was that. We stopped in at Thomas's, picked up some pies and calzones, and hit the road.

Unfortunately, as we were hungry, we bit into the calzones and the General's temporary crown broke in half and fell out of his mouth. Well, there was no way the dentist was open, so we were left with a dilemma on our hands of what to do next. There was no way to get back up north, and no way we were going to go back up there only to get back in the line of traffic. We decided to go home. I took over driving, and headed west instead of south, cut through the PW Forest on Rte. 619, hit route 1 below Quantico, followed Rte. 1 to Eskimo Hill in Stafford, shot off there and took 2 back roads to our house. We got home at 9:30pm. Judy and Lucas and Joe had just gotten back themselves from Dottie's doctor's appointment.

We sat and ate pizza and debated what to do about the tooth. I called the dentist and left a message that we'd like to come up first thing in the morning. Then as we got to talking, Judy suggested that since I'd left our car at her house, why didn't she drive us up north, we could stay over at her house, and then go to the dentist first thing and come home in the morning? So that's what we did. It was dead quiet up there, we got our car back, and hit the dentist's office at 7:30am. They didn't open till 8:00, but we got in at 7:45 and the General was the first person they saw. Fortunately for us, one of their office managers/receptionists lives in Woodbridge and felt our pain.

So now it is Christmas Eve, and as yet, I have not baked a single cookie. Good for WW, but not so good for me--baking cookies makes Christmas 'Christmas' for me. So we haul it home, I don't let the General eat any breakfast, and I get home, and Judy is baking cookies, my parents are out shopping, Lucas is on the Wii and Joe is hanging out. The phone is ringing like crazy with my mom calling to ask various questions, and the General goes upstairs. Well, as it turns out, Judy and Lucas had slept in our room the previous night and there was some stuff around the room. Judy ran up to move it out of the way and the General said something about his phone charger being unplugged. This sent Judy into a screaming burst of tears and she literally ran down the stairs, slamming doors, screaming and sobbing. In an attempt to make peace, I went down to see what the matter was, but she couldn't even talk, so I went back upstairs to demand some answers from the General, who thought Judy was laughing. So I took him by the hand and shoved him in the room with Judy to work out their differences. The cookies were burning, so Joe and I attempted to take care of that.

My parents got home, and my dad decided to take Lucas and head to Richmond to meet up with his girlfriend's family (my dad's girlfriend, not Lucas's). So they left and Judy and the General had rejoined us by now, and we all had lunch and then Joe and I headed to the store to get dinner--as Christmas Eve dinner is now traditionally my job, and I love doing it. We decided to make crab and shrimp stuffed mushrooms and Joe's famous linguine with shrimp. I was in charge of the mushrooms, so I got that stuff, and Joe got everything else. We also got some cheese and crackers for a little pre-dinner yumminess to go with the mushrooms, which the general was not going to touch.

My dad and Lucas got back around 3:30 and Joe and I started cooking. We ate and unfortunately, the General's crown fell out again. Fortunately, it didn't break this time, but I was so aggravated, and so was he. We had some "fix it" crown glue, so I put it on there and he put it back in. It seemed to hold OK, but I called the dentist and from their recording gleaned that they would not re-open until Saturday. I left a message that we'd be back up on Saturday, but I was inwardly fuming about having to go back to NoVa again. My sister, sensing imminent meltdown on my part, volunteered to take the General, and I agreed that would be a good thing.

By 10, I think most of us were in bed. Christmas came and went in a blur. We opened up our presents and had a nice breakfast. My dad and I went to Mass, my once yearly tip of the hat to Jesus. I hate the church down here--the masses are so overblown and all that singing drives me crazy. Just say what you want to say and shut up. Well, they announced who the priest was going to be and the old guy behind us said, "Oh God" and groaned, which filled me with dread, and rightly so. This dude wound up giving us a history lesson on the early history of the church, persecution of the Christians, and the heresy of the Aryans. He stopped in the midst of the prayers and didn't seem able to start back up again. Finally my dad leaned over and said, "Do you think he forgot the words?" which led me to giggle uncontrollably.

We got home and Mom was doing battle with dinner, so I helped out where I could. Dad and Judy were watching TV, everyone was just kind of hanging around. We took some pictures, as the General and i got everyone bathrobes for Christmas, but for once everyone was too hot, so they didn't stay on very long. The above photo was with the robes, below is without (obviously).

We had a nice meal, and then the General and I dug in and decided to fix my mom's computer, as she was leaving the next day and had had a major crash the day before. A lot of the files had been encrypted, so we had to figure out how to hack into the files from XP home, and I did so. Man did I feel like Queen for a Day when I got those files up and running :-) We backed everything up on a flash drive and restored it all to the hard drive, so everything was fine.

Meanwhile, my mom and sister were getting into it downstairs, having one hell of a screaming match complete with several creative curse words thrown in. The rest of us just stayed out of the way and everything was resolved.

Friday, my mom left around 10:30. The General and I had finished up with her computer that morning and I helped her pack up. She and little Sidney Pup were headed back to the warmer climes of Florida. My dad was buying me a new digital camera for Christmas, and I noted that the one I wanted was on sale at Ritz Camera, so he decided we should go and grab it. So we did. We took Judy with us, and I got the camera I wanted--a Panasonic TZ4 (thanks, Brian, for the info!)--and not only, but I also go it with 18 free camera classes, a warranty, free photos, and a free photo book, all for less than what it should have cost retail. What a sale!

Then the three of us hit Carlos O'Kelly's for lunch. And man, did we eat! It was the kind of meal you get only once in a blue moon, but it feels so good when it's hapening. I literally ate nothing else all day--just that meal. We had nachos and fried ice cream, enchiladas, queso, chips and salsa, and sopapillas. No doubt it used up my full points allotment for the day. We got home around 4 and Lucas and Joe were leaving--Joe to go home and Lucas to bring a load of stuff up to their place to get it out of our house--Dottie got tons of presents for Christmas--clothes, formula, diapers, toys, etc.

By 6:30, my dad and I were getting antsy. We had our annual trek to Richmond to the Ginter Gardens light show planned and we were hoping Lucas would get back in time to take care of Dottie so Judy could go. That didn't wind up happening, so close to 7, my dad and I headed out. The gardens were gorgeous and I got to play around with my new camera some. Most fun, Dad and I climbed into an igloo made of blue lights and we immediately looked like Violet Beauregard from Willy Wonka.

On the way home, we stopped at the nearby BK. Last year we stopped there, and some jerk had parked so close to us that we couldn't get into the car and we wound up dumping my Sprite all over their car door for revenge. This year, we decided to hit the drive through and the guy manning the drive through talked like he had marbles in his mouth. We literally couldn't understand a word this guy was saying. And the more he talked, the worse it got and he seemed to be yelling at me for something. Finally, my dad busted out laughing, and I started laughing and we could barely get the order out. As it was, I cancelled getting my apple fries. I just couldn't repeat myself again. We are curious what the BK will have in store next year.

Saturday, we were all busy again. I went to Weight Watchers in the morning and Judy took the General back to the dentist. As it turns out, the General has something called a Class 3 bite, which makes temporary crowns all but impossible. (When the General bites, he bites hard!) Two different dentists were there to work on him. They wound up using permanent glue to attach that bad boy and we are now on day 3 without anything making a move. So we are hopeful. Dad and I went to the dump in the morning and then hit the Linens N Things going out of business sale. We spent $23 and wound up with a pile of stuff. I don't even know if all of it works or not, but I was excited to get it. On the way home, we went to the post office and he asked me about how much it would cost him to send Judy and I to tea. I made a guess, and when we got home, I called over to the new tea shop in F'burg, but they were closed, so we didn't get to go there. Instead, we went to Tea Thyme. We made that tea last for 2+ hours. It was a lot of fun. There was a group of women there, all with their little girls and we started dreaming of bringing our own daughters some day to tea after Christmas. We finished up and hit the Tea Thyme gift shop and then decided to go back to Linens N Things in case there was anything left worth having. There was not. We went to Borders and Old Navy and Catherine's as well. I got my new hat (thanks to all for the fun comments on it--I LOVE this hat!) Then we watched The Muppet's Christmas Carol, which was fun, and some Faerie Tale Theater, which is now out on DVD. I used to love it when we were little, so I got it for Dottie for Christmas, but I think her mother and aunt will be more interested in it than she will be. I set up a little photo shoot with Dottie in the afternoon to try the baby setting on the new camera. Now that she's a month old, she's not as pliable to my will--she has very definite opinions about posing for pictures. She also had definite opinions about wardrobe, but Old Navy had a little top and frilly skirt on sale that I couldn't pass up and I wanted her to wear it for her pictures, so I was determined she'd wear them. Finally, she acquiesced, but she screamed for a few minutes just to let me know she wasn't happy. The pictures came out great though, don't you think? (of course there are more on my flicker at

Then it was my dad's turn for a meltdown. He was making us meatloaf for dinner, and couldn't find anything. It turned out we were out of bread crumbs, which I did not know, and then he came upstairs yelling about us not having potatoes. (I was in the middle of my photo shoot and was kind of busy) I went downstairs to get him some potatoes and he was standing there with a bag of potatoes in his hand. I said, "What are those?" "Well, there are only five, how can I make french fries out of 5 potatoes?" They were 5 HUGE potatoes. I said, "Well, I'm not going to eat any, so don't worry about it. I'll make potato pancakes out of the leftover mashed potatoes."

So he was not happy about that but finally agreed. He also couldn't find a CD. I guess he was pretty pissed because he was still steaming about it yesterday morning and the General told him to settle down and that with 5 extra people in the house using stuff and moving it, I couldn't possibly be expected to know where everything is.

Sunday morning my dad left, and Judy and Lucas hung out till 10 (!) last night. We got the house kind of picked up and I helped them pack some. Judy and I went to Old Town and she took the pictures of me in my new hat. I'm finally starting to like the way I look in pictures, which is a huge step forward. And it feels good, too. I also took a picture of a mega-cool mailbox I saw while we were driving around. That was the excitement to be had in the burg on a Sunday afternoon.

It was clear Lucas was ready to roll after supper, which Judy bought and prepared for us as a "thank you" for our hospitality. Hilariously, she forgot to buy french fries for the General and asked me what to do, when I spotted the potato bag atop the fridge and discovered that my dad had only used 3 of the 5 potatoes. So she made fries from those.

Once they left, I spent about 20 minutes picking up a few things in the house, sweeping up dog food and crumbs, tossing the burned cookies into the trash, putting away papers and gifts, and making a "deal with it Monday" pile on the kitchen table.

So that was our Christmas. Of course, our Three Kings dinner is on January 10th, so I am leaving everything as is, decorations wise and furniture wise, till then. I think because we got a much smaller tree this year, we might even be able to leave the tree up, which is exciting. Last year we had to take it down.

Today, the General and I will be making another dump run (our 5th run in 2 weeks). We plan to meet up with Jacalyn and Doug and the boys for pizza and will go up to Alexandria for New Year's Eve, as they are supposed to have the best fireworks around. The General is going back to work on 1/2 for a day, so I'll get a day to myself at the end of this week, but honestly, we've just enjoyed today and last night immensely. It's been weird though too, and almost too quiet. It was a good holiday, just way too busy. I'm not sure what we'll do next year--I want to be able to enjoy my December more and do things like baking and decorating with a bit more joy in my heart. With doctor's appointments, book signings, old jobs ending and new jobs starting, the stomach flu, The General getting sick, people in and out, new babies, etc. it was a crazy month. Thank God for online shopping--honestly I don't know how I'd have gotten my shopping done without it!

Hope everyone else had similarly great holidays. I'm going back upstairs to snuggle with my honey. :-)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Jon Krakauer

I am not so much of a non-fiction reader, I admit. In general, when I am reading, I am practicing my own form of escapism, and consequently, I have very little interest in reading about real life. Unfortunately, where it comes to audiobooks, occasionally they are cheaper if you purchase non-fiction. And as I drive a TON for work, it is a challenge to keep up with audio, even from my local library, which sadly has more cassettes than CD's, and I do not have a cassette player in my car.

Before Lauren gave me her copy of The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir, I was desperately seeking cheap audio books to read on my travels around Virginia. I stumbled upon Jon Krakauer on two separate occasions, and as his books fit the "under $20 and unabridged" criteria, I purchased them. I got Under the Banner of Heaven first and followed it up with Into the Wild.

Heaven was a great read and very interesting, but I want to talk more about Into the Wild. I first became aware of the story a year or so ago when the book was turned into a movie. From the previews, I thought it was more of an adventure type of movie, in terms of dude goes to Alaska, hunts bear, and decides he loves the great outdoors. However, in browsing the shelves at Borders, I came upon the audiobook version and found the description to be completely different than my expectations.

This did not mean, however, that I actually wanted to read the book. The book is the true story of the doomed Chris McCandless, a Northern Virginia boy who gives away his trust fund and strikes out into the west in search of life away from the privileged upbringing of his youth. His ultimate destination is Alaska, where he wants to live off the land for a few months and be "in the wild".

I think I picked up and put down the CD's for this particular book 4 or 5 times. It was a similar situation with Heaven. But there literally was just not anything else on the shelves that I could quickly purchase and read. (Those $14.95 books are generally abridged--buyer beware!) So I gave in and decided to read about this kid.

I am not going to lie. I have not one clue about what this kid was attempting to accomplish on his quest. I somewhat understand what he was looking for--I went through a period of my life where I was trying to figure out who I really was and where I was actually going, and I suspect that's kind of what he was working on as he got away from all who knew him and just got to be himself. And there are many days I understand the appeal of getting away from the phone, the computer, the television, the creature comforts and just getting back to a quiet existence. I think this is probably why I love going to the beach so much--we never pack computers, we turn off cell phones, we just go and let it be.

But we always have a contingency plan. There is a phone available, God forbid there's an emergency. We have maps. At the very least, if this kid had just brought a map with him, he would have been able to rescue himself. Many people apparently point to such things as lack of map and inability to cure game as evidence of his stupidity. I think it's merely evidence of his rash youth. I don't think young males consider much of their own mortality, and I'm sure he was pretty well convinced everything would be just fine--he'd eat some moose, hike around Alaska, and have a heck of a tale to tell his grandchildren someday.

I've done some reading up on Chris since finishing the book and the one quote that has stuck with me was someone wrote about him, "Chris may have f***ed up, but he f***ed up brilliantly." I don't know that I even necessarily believe that--I'm not sure I understand what starving to death lonely and scared in the middle of a little used trail proved even unto himself, but his story certainly does continue to fascinate a good 16 years after his death.

What really made Wild and Heaven for me, however, was Krakauer's storytelling. While I had no interest in the subject of Chris McCandless's life and little understanding of his mission, as I have detailed, I scarcely wanted to turn off the CD's. I would get so disappointed when I'd reach a client's house and would have to go in. I ate lunch in the car so I could listen some more. The writing is just that good. Under the Banner of Heaven is about the Fundamentalist LDS church (remember those whacko polygamists in Texas? Yeah, them), and while I had more of an interest in that subject, I'm not big on history, and Krakauer delved deeply into the history of the church and the fundamentalists, framing it in the context of two crimes that occurred at the hands of FLDS men--one the murder of a young woman and her infant daughter, the other the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart. However, Krakauer even made what could have been dry historical fact riveting.

He has written a couple of other books, and I have to say that even if the subject matter doesn't appeal to me, I will probably read them if I can get my hands on them. It makes a nice change from my usual reading fare and leads me to think I can enjoy a little non-fiction now and again, even about things I don't really think I'd be interested in. My "to be read shelf" is heavily fiction--approximately 250 books--while the non fiction side is about 75 books. Maybe I'll work a touch more dilligently to clear some of them off.

(NB: Anyone local who cares to borrow either audiobook, let me know! I'm happy to share)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Time To Vote!

No, not for that... It's time to help out my friend and yours, Amy of Seraphim's Wittle World.

Please go to and vote for her gingerbread house, Forever Autumn. It's at the end--you will have to do a lot of clicking past a bunch of, frankly, substandard gingerbread houses to get to it, but it's worth it :-)

You can vote as many times as you like, so let's get her that gift card!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas and Other Matters

I haven't been feeling all that Christmasy this year, for reasons most of you can imagine. But we've been working hard this weekend at getting a bit more into the spirit. I spent Friday afternoon shopping like crazy and with just one or two little exceptions, I got it done. I got tons of great bargains off probably slashed the bills in half for what I thought I'd pay for certain items and I know the recipients will be pleased with what they get. I also know my brother-in-law will love what my dad is getting, as when I told Lucas about it, he started writhing with joy and anticipation. So at least I've hit on one winner for sure.

Do you have tough people to shop for? I sure do! MY MOTHER! (I know you're reading this, Mom, and I want you to know you are the toughest person on my list this year!) Ask my mom what she wants for Christmas. Go ahead. I dare you. Dimes to donuts, she'll tell you, "stamps". She will also tell you this for her birthday, Mother's Day, Flag Day, and Easter. Stamps don't cut it with me. The laugh's on her, however. I came up with a few little things and yesterday had a stroke of absolute genius, so fortunately I know what she's getting now, and it's brilliant.

My husband is also a challenge. I was going to get him a nice surprise of satellite radio this year. I went to Best Buy to find out about getting it. Why is it that those little geeks at Best Buy treat women shopping alone like gum on their shoe? I hate that! This little twerp was so condescending about what I'd need and spent all of 15 seconds with me before turning to the guy behind me and talking his ear off with a completely different tone of voice and body language and everything. This is the second bad experience I've had at Best Buy in the past couple months. So I'm not going in there unless I know what I need and I don't need to ask questions about it. Jerks. So now I'm stumped on a gift for the Mister. I know one thing he wants, but I need to find him a surprise too!

Yesterday, we spent the day at our friends Paul and Kris's home in Springfield. Each year, their church puts on a big shindig. It's a lovely concert for Christmas with a huge choir and orchestra, the pastor says a few words, and there are a few dramatic interpretations (although they save that largely for Easter). I don't know why, but whenever I go to big productions like that I get all weepy, and yesterday was no exception. I handled it, you know, but frankly it's getting embarrassing. I'm becoming one of those weepy women.

Afterwards we went back to their house for a big lasagna dinner. Paul is a fantastic cook, and we really enjoyed ourselves being loved up on by the dogs and cats, meeting their nephew and his wife, as well as catching up with a friend of theirs that we see at every Christmas and Easter show. Driving home, we both agreed that now it feels like the holidays. The show really kicked it off for us both.

Then we returned home to our cold, dark little house. We didn't do Christmas lights this year. I'm a bit sad about it, but a) my sister is the one who always goes up on the ladder, and she's in no fit state to do so this year, and b) I'm not so sure I want to pay the electric bill for it this year. We don't have up a tree yet, and that's going to have to wait till next weekend. Pretty much all that's up are the two nativity sets. One was my grandfather's and one is one that my dad gave me a few years ago.

I got a defective advent calendar this year! There was no little box for 12 or 13, and one of the boxes didn't have a number on it! Freakin' German paper engineering!

Today will be grocery shopping and enjoying the last few days of peace and quiet before the storm arrives. Everyone is arriving on the weekend and next Monday. Tuesday I have 2 medical appointments--the doctor in the morning and the dentist in the afternoon, but I've commanded my dad to take me to the dentist as I'm having both sides of my mouth done, because I just want to get it over and done with. However, I don't especially like going, the General is getting his crown replaced, and I just don't want to have to drive. I'm going to let Mom cook for everyone :-) Or something. (Surprise, Mom!)

This week at work will be pretty laid back. I have very few appointments to handle as most people don't want to see you this week. My busy day will be on Friday--I actually have 3 people pencilled in. And I have 2 on Wednesday. Tuesday and Thursday I'm still trying to work people in so I don't have to go to Fairfax. I have one a piece then. Monday is our big office party and staff meeting day. Apparently we're going out to eat, Kris informed me, and I have to ready myself for the gift exchange. I drew a hard pick this year, so I'm going with the infamous baked goods gift. I also have to make Kris some scones today--she won my baked goods auction item for the Combined Virginia Campaign at work.

And we have to go to the dump and the grocery store. So today will be quite busy. Fortunately there are some very good football games on today, so I can enjoy the sounds of the General hollering his head off while I bake up goodies for other people to eat. They warn us in Weight Watchers about "food pushers"--people who are constantly trying to get you to eat a little of this and a bite of that, or a bunch of something else. I have become the ultimate food pusher. I don't want to give up baking, but I'm not eating much of that stuff any more, so I send it work with Michael, I let him eat it, I take it to my office or to book club. Anything to have it out of the house. I still have about a dozen scones left (should have given out more at book club!), so they're becoming part of my gift for the gift swap. Hope she likes 'em!

Michael is loving the new job and I am loving the new him! He has so much more energy from getting an extra hour and a half of sleep that I fear I may not be able to keep up with him a whole lot longer. He rolls out of bed ready to take on the world, and comes home with a grin on his face. He keeps saying, "I made a good decision, Susan." And I believe he has. I think he likes the Marines way of doing things. You say, "Joe, I want a cup of coffee" and two seconds later, you have a cup of coffee. There's no taking it to the committee, discussing for days the various coffee additives, and what you might have meant. There's just coffee. That certainly appeals to his no-nonsense side.

As for me, we have two exciting new retail businesses opening here soon and I am strongly considering trying to get myself hired at either one. We are getting a Barnes & Noble here, and I'd love to work there doing something other than stocking and selling. I'll have to check their job listings to see if maybe they need an event planner or something like that. The other is Wegman's, which is opening in June. I really would like to open a decent bakery here in town, and I really don't know the first thing about it. So I thought if I could get myself hired on at the Wegman's bakery, which is a real bakery, not a fakery like the grocery store, then I could learn tons about what goes into it and would probably wind up forgetting all about the dreams of working there. I asked the General, "Would you still love me if I quit my good job and went to work at a grocery store?" and he said, "I'd still love you even if you were just bagging groceries at the grocery store." Awww. What a guy.

So that's the news from here. I hear him in the shower, so I'm going to get myself dressed and ready to roll for the day's tasks. Hope everyone's having a fun weekend!

Friday, December 12, 2008

My Giggle For the Day

This morning, bright and early at 7:30, the General had an appointment with the podiatrist to have his final check up on the ingrown toenail he had removed.

We were the first appointment of the day, but the doctor was a tad late and the General was feeling his oats by the time the guy arrived. Fortunately, the doctor is kind of a ham himself, so it didn't really matter when the doctor arrived apologizing for his tardiness and The General said, "It's about time! The Marine Corps is waiting for me!" But he said it with a laugh, and no harm done. (Though I think this job may have gone to his head just a bit.)

Anyway, he and the doctor were talking and they were discussing that in ten years, the General might expect that he'd have to have his toenail done again, because...

Are you ready for this?

...The General's feet are showing SIGNS OF AGING!

My husband is getting to be an old man!


The doctor said the only cure for it was to quit having birthdays.

Oh man, The General showing signs of aging is just cracking me up!

What a way to start a Friday. I'm going to go buy his Christmas present today so he will be cheered up.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas, Slowly But Surely

Well, tis the season, and slowly but surely, the General and I are getting it done. Last weekend we got out the decorations that we put up around the house and set up the nativity sets, hung the stockings, and put other little things around. We don't put up a tree till late, but I just heard on the radio that a local place has fresh cut Christmas trees, so I think we may skip our annual Home Depot trip and try there this year. Our tree last year was beautiful, but it was so dry it left a trail of needles on the floor when we brought it in.

Last night we sat down in two separate stretches and did up all our Christmas cards. This is in stark contrast to the last two years when I said, "Ok, we're not doing them, the heck with it." But I guess maybe more people feel that way this year, since we've only gotten two cards so far ourselves. Or else people just decided not to send us any!

I've been butt-kicking busy at work and have so many to-do's at home, I don't know if I'm coming or going. Today, if I do nothing else, I absolutely HAVE to get to the post office, so as soon as the General leaves for work, in about 30 minutes, I'll get dressed and get that done.

We still haven't done any Christmas shopping, although this year I expect it will be much lighter than usual given the economy. I had grand plans of sending lots of people flowers to show my appreciation for their support this year, but that has gone out the window in light of the current times. So please know, everyone, that if you were around for me this year in any capacity, I'd have sent you flowers if I could. I'll just send you all my love and a big cyber-hug instead. Small consolation, I know.

My book club had its little holiday gift swap on Monday. The girls all chipped in and got me the new WW Momentum cookbook, which I've been reading over voraciously and can't wait to try! (Thanks, ladies, again! Book club makes Mondays tolerable :-D) My gift swap buddy also got me a Women and Reading appointment calendar from the MFA in Boston. I have plans for this little calendar already.

This weekend will be spent shopping and wrapping gifts, so we can get that done, and my WW strategy for dealing with cookies and goodies is to A) cut way back on what we usually do and b) bake them the weekend of the 19th so that when my family all arrives on the 22nd, they can eat them, and I won't. We'll see if that works. I'm hopeful!

I've gotten 3 new holiday CD's this year and they've definitely gotten their playing time. As previously mentioned, I picked up the Straight No Chaser CD back in November and was THRILLED to be able to play it finally the day after Thanksgiving. It's in my car, and I'm really enjoying it whenever I'm out and about. The General also generously got me Faith Hill's Christmas CD, which is not as country as one might imagine. She has a gorgeous singing voice and the CD is very, very good. As is Kristin Chenowith's CD. I love her on Pushing Daisies, and the CD showcases her trademark wit and spunk.

So, slowly but surely, we're getting it done. Christmas is coming and no help for it. Hope everyone else's holiday plans are going well and no one is feeling the stress.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Wolf Trap, And a Note To Myself

Yesterday was the annual Wolf Trap Holiday Sing-a-Long. I have gone for the past 4 years, and it is a holiday tradition I have come to love and enjoy. Because you are sitting outside, it is important to bundle up, as it is cold here in December, and one doesn't want to freeze one's heiny off.

We drove up yesterday, making a quick swing through Quantico to find out where the HR office is, and then picked Melissa up at our favorite pizza place in Woodbridge, where she was leaving her car. As I was driving north, I noticed the car was kind of rocking and swerving a little bit, so I was thinking I needed some air in the tires or something, despite the fact that they are brand spankin' new.

I flipped on the local news station to get a traffic and weather report so we could plan how we were going to drive to Vienna. And there was a high wind advisory. The wind was blowing 45-50MPH, which is why the car was rocking. It was also approximately 35 degrees outside, before the wind chill set in.

But we are brave, intrepid, loyal citizens of this event. Last year, it was in the 40's and pouring, and we were damn cold. So we felt we could brave the wind and the cold this year. Heck, it wasn't damp too!

No matter where he goes, the honeys follow

Aren't we cute?

Well, about halfway through the sing-a-long, I turned to The General and Melissa and said, "Let's blow this popsicle stand." It was freakin' cold. People were leaving by the dozens. Even on stage, you could tell that they were cutting the program short. As we turned to walk back up the hill to our car, the seats and lawn were empty, which is particularly unusual. It was just that cold. My nose was running, my eyes were watering, my hands hurt through my thinsulate gloves, and my toes were numb despite the fact that I actually wore real socks and real shoes. I had on three layers of clothing on top, and Melissa came loaded for bear with about 6 layers on and she was still cold. The only thing keeping us remotely warm was The General (who we strategically sat between us), and even he confessed that he was getting cold.

Don't they look cold?

I was a bit sad that we weren't able to stick it out--I love the candlelight processional, but frankly, for strolling around in the dark with a candle and singing Christmas carols, I can do that at home. (Might get funny looks from the neighbors, but who cares about them anyway?)

So we went and ate Thomas's pizza. Let's get our priorities straight here--there's freezing our butts off and then there's food. If you are ever in New York, and you want real New York style pizza, go to Thomas's. They have, bar none, the best pizza I've eaten outside the city. They are 1972 Daniel Stuart Square. I'm a New Yorker and inclined to be snotty about pizza, which is my God given right, and this place just knocks my socks off.

And somehow, the General and I found the strength to come home and do our full workouts as well, which REALLY helped us get warmed up. I had to, I ate 3 pieces of pizza. He didn't have to, but he did anyway, like a good sport.

So sadly, we left early for the first time, breaking new ground in an old tradition. I'll be back up there next December for the sing-along, and I hope to heck that I won't have to leave early then. I've crafted a note to myself about how to prepare:

Dear Self:

If you are dumb enough to go to Wolf Trap again in the midst of a howling maelstrom of wind and cold, and I think you and I both know that you are, here is a rudimentary list of things to bring with you so that you can survive the entire show:

* Many, many more layers of clothing--remember, as you lose weight, you are no longer as well insulated as you used to be. Save some of your big clothes and layer them on top of your smaller clothes. You will thank me for this later.

* Blankets. 2 per person. One for putting on the chairs before you each sit and one for huddling under. You might want to upgrade to 3 so that you can wrap one around your legs. Or consider the down comforter so you can snuggle up with your honey under there and conspire. Just remember, it's a family show ;-)

* Get yourself a good thermos, a great big one, and fill it with hot cocoa. I can't believe you were such a dumbass this year and spent $9.00 on three little cups of tepid water that were billed as cocoa. Invest in a decent thermos, cook up some awesome cocoa, and bring it. You and your guests will thank me.

* Turn your little cooler into a warmer and stock it with warm appetizers. Nothing major, maybe a warm dip like artichoke dip, and some pigs in blankets or stuffed mushroms. Make it warm, whatever it is, and just enough to keep you going until you hit next year's dinner spot.

* You will need to invest in ear muffs or one of those headband thingies. You should also purchase heat packs for your gloves and feet.

Ok, if you follow these simple suggestions, you should be smarter than you were in 2008 and a lot more comfortable.

Your Sensible Self

Saturday, December 06, 2008

And Thus Has It Happened Again

Well, my friends, for the second year in a row, I have completed 100 books. As of this writing, I have closed the cover on #102. The full list is (and in no particular order other than the order Good Reads decided to stack them in):

1. A Man Named Dave by David Pelzer
2. Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer
3. The Shipping News by Annie Proulx
4. Stuff White People Like by Christian Lander
5. Mike's Election Guide by Michael Moore
6. The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold
7. About Alice by Calvin Trillin
8. The End of the Alphabet by C.S. Richardson
9. The Winding Ways Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini
10. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Schaffer
11. Trans-Sister Radio by Chris Bohjalian
12. Hat on the Hall Table by Jean Davis
13. Stormy Weather by Carl Hiaasen
14. Beyond Charles and Diana: An Anglophile's Guide to Naming Your Baby by Linda Rosenkrantz
15. Devil in the Details by Jennifer Traig
16. Persian Girls by Nahid Rachlin
17. Fearless Fourteen by Janet Evanovich
18. Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother by Jana Wolff
19. R is for Ricochet by Sue Grafton
20. The Broker by John Grisham
21. Playing for Pizza by John Grisham
22. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
23. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
24. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
25. Come Back by Claire and Mia Fontaine
26. Take It Back by James Carville and Paul Begala
27. Blackbird House by Alice Hoffman
28. The Book of Fred by Abby Bardi
29. The Year of Secret Assignments by Jacalyn Moriarty
30. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
31. The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost
32. How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less by Nicholas Boothman
33. If I am Missing or Dead by Jeanne Latus
34. The Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger
35. Home to Harmony by Philip Gulley
36. TTYL by Lauren Myracle
37. Footnote Washington by Bryson Rash
38. The Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell by Loraine Despres
39. Don't Kiss Them Good-bye by Alison DuBois
40. Tell Me Lies by Jennifer Crusie
41. Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie
42. Secrets of My Suburban Life by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
43. The Last Summer (Of You and Me) by Ann Brashares
44. The Summerhouse by Jude Deveraux
45. Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey
46. I'm Proud Of You by Tim Madigan
47. Flirting With Pete by Barbara Delinsky
48. Roses are Red by James Patterson
49. The Pull of the Moon by Elizabeth Berg
50. What We Keep by Elizabeth Berg
51. Mortified by David Nadelberg
52. Mortified II: Love Is a Battlefield by David Nadelberg
53. A Very Brady Guide to Life by Jennifer Briggs
54. The Other Woman by Jane Green
55. The Mystery of Mr. Nice by Bruce Hale
56. Please Stop Laughing At Me by Jodee Blanco
57. Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography by Lemony Snicket
58. Knitting Under the Influence by Claire LaZebnick
59. Ghost Girl by Tori Hayden
60. Uglies by Scott Westerfield
61. Name All the Animals by Alison Smith
62. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
63. Body Surfing by Anita Shreve
64. Queen of the Oddballs by Hillary Carlip
65. Daredevil by Brian Michael Bendis
66. Plum Lucky by Janet Evanovich
67. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
68. Eye Contact by Cammie McGovern
69. Good Grief by Lolly Winston
70. Lucy Crocker 2.0 by Caroline Preston
71. My Goodness: A Cynic's Short-Lived Search for Sainthood by Joe Queenan
72. Bobbie Faye's Very (Very, very, very) Bad Day by Toni McGee Causey
73. The Year My Life Went Down the Loo by Katie Maxwell
74. Back When We Were Grown Ups by Ann Tyler
75. How to Make Your Man Behave in 21 Days or Less Using the Secrets of Professional Dog Trainers by Karen Salmansohn
76. The 7 Lively Sins by Karen Salmansohn
77. Honeymoon With My Brother by Franz Wisner
78. Jesusland by Julia Scheeres
79. The Prophet by Khalil Gibran
80. Smashed: Story of A Drunken Girlhood by Karen Zailckas
81. Songs Without Words by Ann Packer
82. The Rest of Her Life by Laura Moriarty
83. Miss American Pie by Margaret Sartor
84. Dishwasher by Pete Jordan
85. Bitsy's Bait & BBQ by Pamela Morsi
86. Better Off by Eric Brende
87. 84, Charing Cross by Helene Hanff
88. Ten Big Ones by Janet Evanovich
89. High Five by Janet Evanovich
90. Eleven on Top by Janet Evanovich
91. The Circle of Simplicity by Cecile Andrews
92. Four to Score by Janet Evanovich
93. One for the Money by Janet Evanovich
94. Two for the Dough by Janet Evanovich
95. Twelve Sharp by Janet Evanovich
96. To the Nines by Janet Evanovich
97. Three to Get Deadly by Janet Evanovich
98. Seven Up by Janet Evanovich
99. Plum Lovin' by Janet Evanovich
100. Oh My Stars by Lorna Landvik
101. Lean Mean Thirteen by Janet Evanovich
102. The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

It's been another fun and eclectic reading year. Obviously, I revisited a lot of old favorite books and authors (Janet Evanovich, Philip Gulley, Elizabeth Berg, Bet Me, and Last Days of Summer), but in going back over the list, I was happy to see so many new choices. If you could see my "to be read" shelf, you would know I have "miles to go before I sleep" reading-wise--something to the tune of 300 books waiting to have their spines opened and pages thumbed through.

I tackled some books this year that I had always held up as pieces of literature that were somehow beyond me. These included A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Bell Jar, In Cold Blood, and On the Road. I loved, loved, loved Brooklyn and Bell Jar, tolerated Blood and hated On The Road. I'm not sure what it was about each of these books that made me think they'd be impossible, but I suppose hearing names like Plath and Capote and Kerouac, you get it in your mind that maybe you're not cut out for this reading stuff. I was happily surprised to be proven wrong.

Some new favorites emerged as well. I was delightfully surprised to discover how much I truly loved reading Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. Stuff White People Like made me laugh out loud. J. Maarten Troost and The Sex Lives of Cannibals likewise--I nearly had to pull off the road to regain my composure. And I've of course already blogged my love for Guernsey and The End of the Alphabet. Nahid Rachlin's memoir of growing up in Iran brought tears to my eyes, and speaking with the other by phone caused them to overflow. Beyond Charles and Diana helped Michael and I pick a name for our daughter, should we get a girl. Jennifer Traig made me realize I'm not so alone in the world with some of the crazy things, albeit on a far more limited scale, that I do.

And new villains emerged. I trudged through Annie Proulx's The Shipping News till I thought it was either me or the book--we weren't both coming out of this ordeal alive. Likewise Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love. Holy crap, what a boring book (Sorry, Sarah and Lesley! Note to Lesley: I'll be sending your copy back to you shortly!). Tori Hayden made me want to rip her book into a thousand million billion little shreds and burn it.

Some books, I honestly can't remember reading at all. Jane Green's The Other Woman must not have been so great, but I rated it four stars, so I must have liked it at the time.

I read many memoirs and non-fiction, and a good number of young adult books this year. Notable among the memoirs besides Nachlin was the Mortified series, which had me laughing until I screamed. I tried reading the 4-H cotton judge's entries to my husband, but every time I tried to say "F*** cotton", I just totally lost it. Read it, you'll see what I mean. Young adult fiction has come a long way and some of the books are absolutely fantastic. I especially enjoyed The Year of Secret Assignments by Jacalyn Moriarty.

People have been asking me how the heck I have so much time to read so much. The General and I were discussing this this evening, as I told him I'd done the calculations and had reached 100+ this weekend even before we start our holiday reading. The answer we came up with was pretty simple: I don't watch TV. I watch 2 shows per week, and they're both on on Wednesdays. The rest of the time, my evening way of unwinding is to read. I love my computer, and I love my Wii, but as The General will tell you, more often than not, when playing games on the Wii, I wind up yelling at the games I'm trying to beat, and I don't find it very relaxing--I have to be in the proper frame of mind. Of course, we do our work outs every night around 7:00, but once that's over, what is there to do when you don't really like TV? Or much noise for that matter? Cracking open a book can introduce you to a million different characters and take you to a million different places around the world and beyond. It's much more active and engaging than tv, which don't get me wrong, I love in its own way (Top Chef? Project Runway? Pushing Daisies? Lost? anyone? Hell yeah!). And after last year, when I thought that this year there was no way I would read that many books, I started reading with the intention to read just 50, and when I got there, I thought, "Well now what the heck am I supposed to do with myself?" I really don't know what I'd be doing if I wasn't reading. So for what it's worth, that's the "how" to the how I do it.

I plan to read 4 or 5 more books this month, putting my total to somewhere around 110 hopefully. I like to read Christmas stories this time of year, and have several waiting on me, so I'll be starting them soon. Of course, the holidays are busy, so I don't know how much I'll get done, but I'll definitely be reading The Handmaid and the Carpenter by Elizabeth Berg, The Christmas Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini, and Where Angels Go by Debbie Macomber. If there's time, I'll try to squeeze in David Baldacci's The Christmas Train and revisit The Christmas Scrapbook and Christmas in Harmony, both by Philip Gulley. I'm quite confident I'll get to the Gulley books, as they are quite short, about 100 pages or less each.

So happy reading, and I'll start counting again come January to see what 2009 brings. Hopefully we'll have a little one arriving and I won't have time to read, but just in case, it's a nice distraction while waiting, and waiting, and waiting. :-)

Friday, December 05, 2008

December 5

December 5, as most of you probably know, will always have special significance in the Kosior household. It was the day our comfy little lives drastically changed when in 2002, a mere 8 months after our wedding, Michael was canned from the place we not-so-affectionately call Shititas. For more of the gory details, you can read last year's entry--I tend to repeat myself a lot. :-)

This year, the date takes on added significance, as today is Michael's last day at his current agency and on Monday he starts his new job with the Marines. The first thing we both thought of when he got his start date was, "Oh man, your last day is December 5th!"

Yesterday his friends and colleagues held a good-bye luncheon for him at Uno's in Alexandria. And it was an altogether different kind of send off. No taxi cab home and a cold shoulder from there on out. This time was a group of his friends and colleagues gathering to celebrate his successes and wish him well.

The General had asked me to videotape the proceedings, which I did. It was a challenge to keep the camera rolling, as after a while, I was actually crying, I was so moved. Most especially moving was Michael's friend Joe. Joe is totally deaf, but after he moved to a cube near Michael's, the two struck up a friendship by Joe typing into Michael's computer, JAWS reading out the text and Michael typing back, so Joe could read it. So yesterday, Joe got up to say a few words and he said, "One thing I like most about Mike is that he is great at making lemonade. What I mean by that is that whenever I would have a really bad day, and life was handing me a pile of lemons, I would go and see Mike and he would make everything better and then everything turned into lemonade."

I was also impressed to learn from one of the big higher ups that before Michael started on a project, the fail rate was 99% and after he started working on the project, the fail rate dropped to 12%, which is incredible.

Another friend got up and said, "You all may not know this, but Mike is a closet hip hop fan. He will out of the blue send me an email with a bunch of old school lyrics and that really makes my day."

And his direct supervisor said that she has kept every one of his emails and will be enjoying them for a long time to come.

There was a movie out some time ago that had Cuba Gooding Jr. in it as a mentally retarded man who became a manager of the school football team. His aunt or mother or somebody stepped in to the situation and sat down with the coach and said, "I don't want my boy to become the team mascot."

I really identified with that statement. I never wanted Michael to be "The Official Blind Guy of the Federal Government". This is a common fear among spouses and parents of people with disabilities. After yesterday, however, my fears were totally assuaged. Those folks all love my husband for all he is and has done and respect him for the work and expertise he contributed to the agency, and that really warmed my heart.

As a going away present, they got him an official Patriots jersey with a #1 on it and the back was personalized as "The Chief". Now, c'mon people, you know he's eating that up with two spoons. He put it right on at the table. I turned to his buddy Ken and said, "You know he's not taking that off, right?" Ken said, "He's going to sleep with it on." I said, "Sleep? He's going to shower with it on!"

[Note: when I had him pose so I could take a picture of the back of the shirt, I said, "Honey, show me your muscles" and that was the pose he struck. You can add that as item #87 of the things I love about my husband--when he strikes a pose.]

Ken is a fellow New Englander and he and Michael are always going at each other, all in good fun of course. One of the more hilarious moments came when Ken said, "Hey, Mike! I hope you're driving home today! Your wife is here drinking beers and I'm sitting on her lap." And Michael said, "Yeah, right, if she were that drunk, she'd be calling me 'unreliable'!" (referring of course to how unpleasant I get when I drink.)

It was just such a wonderful experience. I had such a nice time and I know he will remember it forever. And we have the videotape for anything we forget.

What's a party without some honeys?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

An Evening with Stella

Last night was the fulfillment of a quest that I had at times even forgotten about: meeting Michael Ian Black.

I seem to have a curse with television shows. I find these wonderful shows that no one watches and they get cancelled. My heart is currently grieving for Pushing Daisies, an amazing show which ABC has just decided not to order any additional episodes of. Prior to that, I endured the premature loss of Joan of Arcadia, which CBS killed in favor of a Jennifer Love Hewitt vehicle about someone talking to ghosts. I watch so little TV that when I finally find a show I love, I fall hook, line, and sinker and take it personally when the networks cancel it. Fox is hardly immune--for they demolished the absolutely brilliant Arrested Development. The only show I have loved that's managed to stay on is Lost. But I digress. Back to the original show of my adulthood that died an early death, and NBC's entry into the "Shows Susan Loved That Got Cancelled Early" Hall of Fame...

Seven or eight years ago, my show was Ed. Starring Tom Cavanagh, the show revolved around Ed Stevens (played by Tom Cavanagh), a big city attorney who upon discovering his wife is cheating on him returns to his tiny hometown of Stuckeyville to open a law office inside a bowling alley, the aptly named Stuckeybowl. He finds out that the love of his high school life, Carol (played by Julie Bowen), is still living in Stuckeyville and teaching there. Ed moves in with his best friend Mike (Josh Randall) and Mike's wife Nancy (Jana Marie Hupp), and the cast was nicely rounded out by Carol's best friend Molly played with plucky perfection by the incomparable Lesley Boone, by high school nerd wannabe Warren Cheswick (in a role that launched Justin Long's career), and the bowling alley employees, headed by Phil Stubbs, expertly and hilarious played by Michael Ian Black.

I loved Ed. Fiercely, devotedly. Anyone reading my old, and now long gone, blog at that time knows that Ed was how I spent my free time. I worked on the Virtual Stuckeyville site during much of Ed's run on TV. The show initially made enough of a splash that the cast and creators gave a panel discussion at New York City's Museum of Television and Radio, and being as Boston isn't that far from New York, I gathered up my sister and off we went. The panel discussion was great, and afterwards, we had the chance to meet the cast, with the exceptions being Justin Long and Michael Ian Black.

The Virtual Stuckeyville team had been sent free Stuckeybowl bowling shirts, and I brought mine with me that fine night and asked each cast member and the creators to please autograph my shirt, which they did with grace and enthusiasm. It was a night that makes me feel all warm and happy just to remember it.

Soon thereafter, the film Wet, Hot American Summer (WHAS)was coming out, and was opening in Newport RI. Michael Ian Black was a key cast member in the movie, and I had no idea of what the film was to be about, but rumors were swirling that MIB would show up at the filming. So again, I called my sister, who was living in Newport, and we stood in line at the film, and nothing. Nada. No MIB. Michael Showalter, one of the writers, was there, I THINK, or possibly David Wain, the director, but no MIB. So disappointment reigned in my sad little heart.

Anyway, after 3 seasons, Ed was cancelled. Actually, compared to Joan of Arcadia, which had 2 seasons and Pushing Daisies, which has had 2 half seasons, I got lucky with Ed, and by then, it had probably either jumped the shark or was perilously close to doing so.

During one of the moves, the frame I had used to mount my Stuckeybowl shirt broke, and the shirt was folded and put away amidst a bunch of other memorabilia I had collected from on a variety of interests.

But a few weeks ago, Facebook started popping up advertisements for Stella, a live show starring Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter, and David Wain coming to the 6th and I Synagogue. And I started thinking, "third time's a charm". Ok, granted, I had no idea what the heck Stella was or what to expect, but I figured that if I could meet MIB and get him to sign my shirt, life would be good.

Last night I went into DC for the show. Joe took me to a nice dinner and then I got on line at 6th and I. Fifth in line, I might add. So when I got in, shivering from the cold, 35 minutes later, you can bet I was in the front row. AWESOME! YES! :-)

I was seated next to Addie, a young man who was there with his girlfriend. He asked why I was attending the show and who I was a fan of, so I explained the Ed thing and the shirt. It turns out, he was a screaming Ed fan too, and he was blown away by the shirt. He took pictures of it, and when I let him hold it, I thought he'd die of happiness. So I asked him if he knew what Stella was about, and he said not really, but that the three of them were in WHAS together and it was kind of a 3 man stand up comedy act. So that was what I was expecting, and that was indeed what we got.

What was a little strange was sitting in a house of worship while a string of curse words and dirty jokes were emitted for 2 hours. It was hilarious, I won't lie, but it seemed kind of weird in the setting we were in. Still, I enjoyed the hell out of it.

They announced that they were going to go downstairs to screen WHAS for anyone who wanted to stay, and while I had no intention of sitting through the movie again, I did figure that if MIB was down there, I was going too! As it turned out, a line had been organized, and all three sat at a table to do a signing.

Well, being cheap, I didn't have a DVD or T-shirt to have autographed by all 3 of them, so I had them all sign the ticket stub. Fortunately for me, MIB was last on the line, so I pulled out my shirt and said, "You are the only regular cast member of Ed I've never met, and I wondered if you wouldn't mind signing my Stuckeybowl shirt?" So he looked up at me and said, "Sure!" and flashed a grin and then unfolded the shirt. And then, I think, he was impressed, since even the creators of Ed had signed it. He said, "Wow, you HAVE met everyone!" Since the line was long, I was unable to pose for a picture with him, but he did sign the shirt and and wrote "Phil" underneath his name, which was cool. :-)

And then it was all over. I was done and walked away.

But man, was it cool--I got to meet him and talk to him and get my shirt signed, and that's ultimately what really mattered.

My P.O.S. camera didn't do well with the lights, so I only got a couple of good pictures while they were on stage, and with the crowds and the rush, I didn't have much time to squeeze off a good picture in the social hall, but above are the two good pictures I got. It was a lot of fun and a nice way to spend an evening solo :-)

Two Sweet Short Reads

December is here, and while I am close to having read 100 books, I'm not there yet! YIKES! But fortunately, I only have 1 more to go to hit the 100 mark, so I should be there by the end of this week, as I am very nearly FINALLY at the end of The Shipping News, this month's book club selection.

But this past couple of weeks, I had the pleasure of enjoying two very short but extremely endearing books about the joys of marriage and loving the one you're with. Call me a sentimental ole softy, which yes, I am these days, but these two books really hit my soft spot.

The first book is C.S. Richardson's The End of the Alphabet. Ambrose Zephyr is a contented man, living in a house full of books in London with his wife, Zappora Ashkenazi, when he is diagnosed by his doctors as having a rare and incurable disease and given 30 days to finish living his life. Ambrose makes a list of places from A to Z that he wants to visit before he dies. As Ambrose and "Zipper" travel the world from Amsterdam on, Ambrose ponders over his life and how this end is made more bearable by the life he and Zipper shared, while Zipper tries to keep Ambrose's spirits up and figure out how she will live without her husband.

The book was not in the least what I expected. At a mere 119 pages, the book completely captures the desperation one must feel in having a mere month to live, and the feelings of the person who knows and loves him best. This is accomplished remarkably, particularly considering that Richardson must convey the places that Zipper and Ambrose travel, as well as the coming day in which they will be separated by death. The book is not cloying, laden with heavy speeches about love and how they feel for each other. It is far gentler and quieter than that. I read the book two weeks ago, and in just sitting here thinking about it and writing this paltry review, tears are streaming down my cheeks.

Get this book (it's a Target Bookmarked book right now) and read it with someone you love. In fact, I just sent the General an email that said, "Come downstairs so I can give you a hug and tell you I love you." When a book inspires you to do that, you know you have a gem on your hands.

The second book is Calvin Trillin's About Alice. Calvin Trillin was/is a big time New York City writer, and fell in love with the beautiful Alice in December 1963. After meeting at a party, their romance blossomed and they were happily married until 2001, when Alice succumbed to cancer. He wrote About Alice five years after her death and the back cover shows him with a beaming and beautiful young Alice after their wedding in London.

Through the years, Alice appeared in many of her husband's articles and books as the voice of reason and also fun. As a friend put it in a letter written to Calvin after Alice's death, she managed to "navigate the tricky waters between living a life you could be proud of and still delighting in the many things there are to take pleasure in."

Through this small book, which clocks in at 78 pages in hardcover, Alice's spirit shines through in the stories about her with her children, with her friends, and with her husband. The book is a lovely testament to a woman that, while most of us never knew her, I think we all would have loved.

Included in the book flap notes were the words of the dedication he wrote for the first book he published after she passed: "I wrote this for Alice. Actually, I wrote everything for Alice."

As a reader, it is certainly gratifying to have a sneak peek into the life of an author and to read such love for a woman he surely cherished.

Note: Calvin Trillin will be at the Folger Library in February. I will probably attend, if anyone else would care to go.

So for just short of 200 pages, you can immerse yourself in two wonderful books about the love we share with the people who know us best. If forced to choose, I would say I liked The End of the Alphabet a bit better, mainly because it was more of a universal story than About Alice. However, what a slim margin of victory between the two!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Photography Fun With My Niece

More at my account at

Fortunately she slept through most of it and was very well behaved. I bought the hat and shoes and just got carried away shooting pictures. Then we watched the last 2 Lord of the Rings movies together. It was a fun way to spend an afternoon.