Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Live Blogging the Trip (first leg)

It's been a rough night.

Leaving for the airport is never easy when you are leaving loved ones, even if you are headed toward more loved ones. Leaving "Boo Boo" (DJ) hurt so bad that it knocked all the breath right out of me. I was doing a decent job of holding it together until he had a meltdown in the driveway.

Not  DJ
But I'm just saying

OH! Damnit, that kid broke my heart.

I won't go into how badly I cried off all my makeup once I made it past saying goodbye to my niece and nephew who brought me to the airport. It took both of them, yes: one to drive and onee to keep me from leaping out of the car and running back to Boo Boo.

Not me
But I'm just saying
Now a word about the American Airline phone app my niece had me download beforehand: This was a mixed experience. Trying to use the app to view my flights was tricky (and never actually worked), but once I did get it to show my "mobile boarding pass," things got good. For one thing, it was nice not to have to worry about keeping track of another piece of paper (even though I had a moment of wondering where that piece of paper was). The best part? Using the mobile pass to sail right through the TSA checkpoint.

Let me stop and tell you the worst part (for me) of going through airport security (I mean, other than the possibility of having to throw out makeup, lotions and potions that go over the allowed amount). For me, the very worst part is the shoe drop. Taking off my shoes around people who don't know me, love me, and won't run screaming from the callus on my right heel... Well, this is stressful.

Not only did I not have to take my shoes off but, because I am too lazy and absent-minded to carry and keep track of more than my backpack as a carry-on, I didn't have to submit to any kind of hassle. I just waltzed right through that scanner and went on my way. Nice. Saved me so much time.

Not my feet
But I'm just saying
With all the time I did save, I was able to get started early on my phobic fantasies of wings falling off the plane midair.

Another good part of the mobile boarding pass is that it's easy to keep track of. Also, it updates with gate changes and such. Super cool. Just super.

The flight was (thank my God in heaven!) uneventful. The worst thing I can say about actually flying that first leg is that the attendants were forgettable. I think I saw one of them crack a smile before she realized she had broken the rules by doing so... Also, I have to say that the airplane was one of the dirtiest I've been on. Dingy, grimy and raggedy seatbacks and dust that just seem to float in the air and stick in my throat.

I had a window seat so I got to cry some more as I watched Alaska disappear from sight. The ladies sitting on row with me were cool and I was embarrassed when they remarked that the plane seemed like one from the early 20th century. ~sigh~ They were a couple of either best best best friends or lovers. They are on their way from a visit to Alaska to a visit to New York. They had Polish (I think) accents and they were very funny when we all noticed the food prices on the on-board menu. There was a decent looking picture of an expensive pastrami sandwich. For what it cost, I'd do better to fly out and have lunch with Guy Fieri. (What is with me and all the Guy references lately?)

At any rate, I've had bad experiences with the way real food actually looks like no matter how good the photos are. For the price of airline food, I'm not letting my wallet take any chances.

Not the airline food.
But I'm just saying
The food was out of the question so I opted for a cup of coffee. I needed something to counteract the crying, wine and Valium. Too bad the coffee was only a poor imitation of anything that should legally being labeled and sold as coffee. It was brown, I'll say that much. Mostly, it was a lukewarm tea-like concoction. And I am insulting tea by even making the comparison. Like I said, it was brown.

I had a moment of panic when we started making the descent into DFW. There was some floaty-tippy-rocky kind of movement that lasted long enough to make that awful coffee bounce around in my gut. I calmed down long enough to say a lot of prayers and compose dramatic goodbye letters in my head to my family. Then we just landed.

Right now, I am in the Admiral's Club, drinking real coffee and using up all the wi-fi I can to play Farmville 2. (I knew Facebook would come in handy somehow, someday.)

Seven and half more hours to kill. I'll blog the next leg of the flight when it comes around...


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Punch Drunk and Pack Crazy

While I'm doing these sillier posts in lieu of my usual reviews, I have been trying to to come up with ideas the best way I can. This is tough to do when I'm dealing with any kind of stress. Life in general is tough when I'm dealing with any kind of stress.

Last night, I couldn't sleep so I sat up thinking of alternate titles for past (and possibly future) posts:

  • "I Fought the Door & the Door Won" (for the time I got drunk on Mother's Day)
  • "I Can't Fly. I Can't Fly Without You" (for my fear of flying & in tribute to Nilsson)
  • "Fear Is a Many Splendored Thing" (for any of my posts on phobias)
  • "Midnight Calling" (for anyone who has ever drunk-dialed the ex-whoever)
  • "It Only Hurts When I Laugh" (for anyone whose ever had the giggles & a full bladder at the same time)
I don't even know if some of those are actual song titles, but... 

This is the way my brain works when it's tired or stressed (or, as is the case lately, both). I was sort of this strange before sarc, but I'm all the way weird now. I explain it (my tired brain, I mean) to people this way: I'm not stupid any more than a diabetic is drunk. It just seems that way sometimes.

I'm sure that one of the family cats thought I was diabetic or stupid when I had a full conversation with him about life and death and the little things in between. He might have thought I was crazy, but I'll love that cat forever because he sat there and listened to me. I'm not so fond of his sister, the haughty snoot. She gave me that uppity cat glare, licked her paw and strolled off as if to indicate she had better things to do. 
"Go away, crazy lady."

"I said, go AWAY!"


I finished the conversation with the cat, but I still couldn't sleep. So I decided to paw (heh heh) through my suitcases again to lighten the load. I picked out one more t-shirt that I know I can live without and a pair of pajamas I haven't been able to wear for two years without looking like a sausage roll. Hopefully, that's going to be enough to avoid excess baggage.

By the way, I'm going to weigh my cases tonight. I'll use the bathroom scale, weigh myself, then weigh myself holding each suitcase. It's not perfect, but it's the best I can do without dragging my luggage to Home Depot and claim that I am just there to test an industrial scale before I purchase one. As if I could afford anything more expensive than a penny candy after mailing off all those Flat Rate boxes...

So, yeah, I'm a little bit punch drunk and pack crazy right now. I might not be able to post anymore after this until I get to the Lower 48 and get somewhat settled. Hope you don't miss my crazy ramblings too much. (That's a lie. I want you all to miss me. Miss me lots!)


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Alcohol Is NOT My Friend

Because I am bad at consuming alcohol I was entertained by Rachel Page's project of captioning these products. As the article says, that's brilliant. And true.

I quit drinking on a (socially) regular basis after being married to (and abused by) an alcoholic. Before all that, I was never a big drinker anyway, but I will never forget my last liquor-fueled wipe out. It happened during a Mother's Day celebration.

The whole plan for that special day was put together by my brothers and their friends. I was included because, even though I'm not a "bio-mom", I put in some time as the working "dad" figure of a couple of my nieces. I take no full credit for the raising of kids and, after that Mother's Day, I take no credit for being able to handle more than my three-drink limit. One, if we are talking Long Island Iced Tea. Or maybe not even a full one of those!

For that Mother's Day, the guys rented a Hummer limo for me, two of my sisters-in-law and about four other women. My sister was lucky enough to miss my antics because she was home sick. I should have missed my antics.

We all started our day with an early wine and champagne type breakfast. That right there should have been our first sign. No one should have liquor for breakfast unless they are filming a porn movie or about to fly on an airplane.

I have to mention that this all took place in and around Phoenix Arizona. Arizona is warm in December. In May, the temps run about the same as those of Hell's play-cousin. I think we hit 150 degrees that day, but I'm told it was more like 115. Same thing.

So, I'm eating nothing for breakfast unless you count the pulp in my mimosa. At damn near 50 years old, I found myself buckling to the peer pressure of being around a bunch of wealthier, prettier women than I. Apparently, despite their glamour, they each had at least one wooden leg I wasn't told about. These gals were tossing back liquor like they were taking shots of Fresca. I stuck to one mimosa and a small hit of moscato. And started sweating like I was in full menopause mode.

The limo arrived so we went outside to take a group photo. I'm glad we took the pic because that's the last time I looked presentable for the occasion. After three minutes in that heat, my hair had transformed to a sort of processed nappy look that all the "sistahs" out there will understand. My one good (and expensive) outfit - that I'd worn to fit in with the Housewives of Phoenix - would have been soaked through with my hormonal sweating. Thank goodness for that blazing "dry heat" I'd heard so much about, right?

Here's something else that amazed me about those Arizona ladies: they don't sweat. Their makeup doesn't run and their hair doesn't look like they just rode a slip and slide through the desert. I couldn't get into the car fast enough. The other ladies probably thought I was just really impressed with my first ride in such a gigantic limo, but I was only crawling around like Ethel Mertz and Lucy because I was trying to find the controls for the air-conditioner.

Forgive me if I don't get the sequence of our ride correct, but I know that we drove from my brother's house in Gilbert to wherever the mall is in Scottsdale. I think we might have ridden through other areas, but someone gave me a wine glass and someone else kept re-filling it. At some point, one of my sister-in-law handed me a Visa gift card and explained that the guys had given each of us one so that we could play a game called "Best Gift".

I was already pretty lit up on all that morning liquor, but I understood the basics of the game. We were going to go into the mall and buy things that would make a cute Mother's Day gift. We'd get back together in an hour and vote on who chose the best gift. The winner would get another Visa gift card.

Okay. Sounded good to me. Of course, tipsy as I was, anything sounded good to me. Curling up on that beautiful leather seat and taking a snooze sounded best to me, but, hey.

I'm all about life lessons. Live and learn, right?

When I stepped outside the cool air of the car and into the heat that is high noon in Scottsdale, I learned that heat maximizes the effects of alcohol. I learned that it's tricky to walk in high heels and a tight skirt when you are drunk, hot and just really, really want to lay down and go to sleep. I also learned that those rich heffas I was spending my Mother's Day with could put down liquor like a rock band on tour.

The other ladies checked their hair and makeup and stepped out of the limo looking red-carpet ready. I stepped out looking like I was ready for rebab. I was drunker than I'd been on my wedding night. When the heat hit me, I was instantly more drunk.

I have no idea how I made it through the shopping part of the game. One of the other ladies paired up with me so we could pool our gift cards. We agreed that we'd split winnings if we won. I was so incredibly wasted that I would've agreed to stripping down right there at the mall and doing a pole dance for the other shoppers.

I don't exactly recall what my shopping partner and I bought, but I do recall that we finished before everyone else. I recall that we decided to wait for the others by having a drink at this little outside bar. I recall that with clarity that is reserved for all of our deepest, darkest moments. That's because, drunk as I already was, I let my companion order a drink for me. She ordered something called a 'Saki Bomber'.

Right there is when I slipped from merely sloppy drunk to wasted to the point of all-hell-is-going-to-break-loose-. And no one saw it coming. (Don't blame me, I couldn't see my twenty fingers in front of my face.)

Have you ever experienced a Saki Bomber? No? Well, it's when you take mug of ice-cold beer and drop in a thimble of that Devil's brew called rice wine. You drop the glass of Saki right into the beer. Yeah. Then you slam the mug hard on the table - you know, to announce to everyone that you are an drunken idiot who is about to be even more drunk and more of an idiot. And you chug all that liquor right down, like the good and obedient girl who is trying to fit in with all the cool kids.
Said the spider to the fly
Except I was too old to be a 'girl' and too old to worry about fitting in!!!

Let me stop and add in a couple of details:

  • Our limo driver happened to be a tall, blonde-and-blue guy called Jimmy Hendrix. No lie (or so he said), that was his real name. Nice guy. Gorgeous guy. Or at least I think he was gorgeous. With that much liquor in my system, everyone and everything was gorgeous.
  • The mall wasn't the main stop of our day. We still had lunch planned at some restaurant. Which one? I can't remember. Doesn't matter anyway because... Well, you'll see.
Okay. So I'm two Saki Bombers in when the rest of our party shows up to head back to the limo. My shopping/drinking partner maybe realizes at this point that I'm no match for her and the other ladies when our car pulls around and I have trouble standing up. Taking off my shoes made standing up easier but did nothing for the walking part. Jimmy Hendrix comes to the rescue. He picks me up and carries me to the car. Like something out of "The Officer and the Gentleman," except no one watching is clapping and hooting. They are just staring. 

Here is where I have trouble remembering what followed. I know I made it to the limo. I know that Jimmy was a very prepared driver because he had barf bags on hand. I remember that we made it to the restaraunt. I even made it inside. I don't know how I made it inside, but I made it to the bar where we all sat to wait for our table. 

Let's stop again for a moment and ask some questions:
  • Question: Did no one in my party realize exactly how drunk I was?
  • Answer: Apparently not because someone ordered me a glass of wine.
  • Question: How did I end up outside, sitting on the curb with my shoes lost and my dress hiked up around my upper thigh?
  • Answer: I don't know but that sun was a bitch.
  • Question: How did I make my way into the ladies room.
  • Answer: Again, I don't know, but I do know that those wall tiles were so nice and cool that I wanted to make love to them.
So, I'm in the bathroom. I make it into a stall okay, but can't make my way back out without fighting with the door. I must have beat the crap out of that door because it took both my sisters-in-law to get me off of it. 

While my sisters-in-law helped break up the fight I was having with myself, another member of our party wondered if they shouldn't call an ambulance. All the ladies were having a panic attack because they just knew that my brothers were going to kill them for letting me get so messy drunk. 

I don't remember who was brave enough to do it, but someone called one of my brothers. I know they did because I remember him coming right into the ladies room, picking me up and tossing me over his shoulder like a sack of drunken potatoes. He carried me out to his car and drove me home.

I was drunk for two days. I'm not kidding. I was so drunk that, when I was able to crawl to the kitchen in the middle of the night for water, I learned another lesson: water re-activates drunkeness. I spent the rest of the night on the kitchen floor.

This was the worst bout of drunkenness I've ever experienced. And, guess what? I was supposed to start my new job at my brother's office that Monday. Didn't make it to work. Barely made it off the kitchen floor and back to bed. 

When I started my job on Tuesday, I walked in to an office full of people giving me a little welcoming standing ovation. How very embarrassing.

I lied when I said that was the last time I was really drunk. There were a couple more times. Once when I had my friend pull over at two in the morning so that I could get on my knees in the snow and throw up in a grocery store parking lot. Another time when I literally slid into a Village Inn to order an after-the-club breakfast and just fell asleep at the table while my companions made excuses for me. 

One thing I can say is that I have never driven drunk. After the third drink, I can't even walk drunk. So, yeah: Alcohol is not my friend so I quit hanging out with it. The most I'll do now is invite it in for one quick glass with dinner. No goodnight kiss and no sleepovers. (Except when I have to fly. Alcohol is my best friend then.)


Saturday, August 09, 2014

The Fear of... Everything

Because I'm going to be out of blogging space for a while, I thought I better rack up a couple posts to fill up the dead air. (?) I don't even know what that means! Hahaha!

Here's the thing, in addition to my other phobias, I have a fear of flying. Or rather, I have a fear of being in the air encased in a cylinder of metal going faster than I can drive. I'm not sure why I am afraid of flying. It might have to do with the fact flying out of Alaska involves flying over water. Lots of water. Alaska is surrounded by water: oceans, seas, bays, gulfs and straits. Water, water, everywhere.

The problem: I can't swim. I don't even know about floating.

Another fact, even if I could swim, the water is so cold, I'd shiver myself to death before I could take a stroke. Or another stranded passenger would probably drown me for all my onboard hysteria. That's because not only am I afraid of flying, I'm kind of a pain in the ass passenger. If I'm not drunk, sedated or encased in a strait jacket, I tend to freak out fellow flyers.

If you don't believe me about what a wuss I am when it comes to being on an airplane, I have a true story for you:

When I got married and was moving to England, my husband, mother-in-law and I had non-smoking seats in the middle of one of those big airliners. This plane was huge. It had two stories. We were on the lower deck (?), in the middle row of a 7 across seating arrangement. It looked similar to this:
Please let everyone be skinny!
Here's a link with "all you need to know" about one of these newer versions of the plane. I don't know how heavy the plane itself was but, back then (in the early 80's), I'm glad I didn't know that paint adds 650kg to the weight those airliners. That's over 1400 pounds. At least back then, my body only added 95 pounds to all that mass hanging in the air!

Anyway, I had packed my cigarettes into my checked baggage. My husband and MIL weren't smokers. I had no Valium because I was such a rookie. I was leaving my family and going very far away from them for the first time without a return ticket.

I was young and in love. Life felt very adventurous. For about the first twenty minutes airborne. After that, I started crying and couldn't stop. My husband was British so, well, you know. He and his mother were all stiff upper lip and probably mortified that I was starting to make a scene. The flight attendants were all British, of course. I know they were mortified and probably thinking "Twenty minutes down and 17 hours to go. Oy."

I want my Mama!!!

My husband probably starting planning either divorce or murder right then.

At first, my MIL was patient, but I could tell I was starting to freak her out. Even though she was probably praying for a quickie divorce for her son, she did a lot of "There, there, it's going to be fine". Then she began to signal the attendants with her eyes like a hostage trying to signal strangers for help. One of them came over with a really stiff drink. That didn't help. Now I was just a little wasted and crying now.

After about an hour, I saw a couple of the attendants discreetly approaching other passengers to have whispered conversations. I assumed they were talking about me. Of course they were talking about me. That made me cry harder. I thought of being so far from home with a bunch of unfeeling people and their cold, unsalted food. I started plotting my husband's death. Then something wonderful happened. Or it seemed wonderful at the time.

A flight attendant came to me carrying another free drink and a the smallest pack of cigarettes I'd ever seen.

Apparently, even though we were in a non-smoking section, the other passengers had signed a petition and agreed not to kill me if the attendants could get me liquored and nicotine-d up enough to maybe shut up and pass out.

They wished for me to be like this
I wished for this
It worked out for everyone. After a good smoke and four servings of, I don't know - brandy or something that was both sweet and potent- I sniffled my way into a slumber that lasted (I kid you not) my companions woke me to deplane at Heathrow. The longest walk of my life was the one off that plane and past attendants who somehow managed to look sincere as they thanked me for flying British Airways. The Brits are so dang nice, even under the worst circumstances.

Good thing I don't have to do a lot of air travel, right? I'm better at it now. I've learned that a Valium or a drink about half an hour before boarding keeps the worst of my panic under control. Also, I'm not as afraid of dying as I used to be. I won't mind being dead and going to Heaven, but the getting dead part still worries me a bit.
She's not afraid to fly.
Then there's...

I am very pleased to say that for this upcoming trip to Iowa, I did find a solution for the extra-long layover I have to endure. I spoke with the nicest airline rep ever (thank you, Erin Moore of American Airlines in Miami! You rock.) I learned that I can get a really affordable one day pass to lounge in the Admirals Club. As I mentioned to family members, I just have to make sure to find the right outfit comfortable enough to fly in without looking like a scrub when I get to the lounge. I'm thinking black jeans, black top and a my nice boots. Done. Nothing I can do about the wobbly knees except to medicate with liquor.

Again, a big shout out to American for having the Day Passes and for hiring excellent agents like Erin. It's always the reps that make an biggest impression for the company. I have high hopes for the Admirals Club. I've been in Delta's Crown Room and that was nice.

Okay. Now that you know about one of my experiences with flying, I will leave you to shake your head in wonder at how I manage life without a personal handler.


Friday, August 08, 2014

When Truth Hurts

You know how you know what you know but wish you didn't because all that knowing can sometimes be painful?

I know, right?

If you care a great deal about anyone - a child, a lover, or a very dear friend - this right here is one of those sometimes painful truths:


See what I mean?

I have a flaw (yes, only one!): I always think I am right about everything. Ev-ver-ry thing. Especially when I am being critical of someone else's behavior. Or choices. Or logic. 

When The Girls (you know, those 2 kids my sister, mom and I raised in our little village of family) were young, I hated to watch them make mistakes. I didn't want them to find out the hard way what it meant to choose a bad "friend", walk away from a good friend, or crush on the worst guy ever. As their auntie and one of their protectors, I wanted to talk them out of doing things that I knew they'd end up regretting. 

Here's another painful truth my mother always preached: Sometimes you have to bang your own head against that brick wall of life to learn a lesson.

I still attend classes
I've learned from (most of) my mistakes. The girls learned. We all do. Well, we do if we at least admit we are human enough to make mistakes.

What I can't deny, I'll try to ignore
What I love is when people dim their mistakes and flaws by shining a light on someone else's. I know some folks like that. They are the ones who sit on their molehill to laugh at someone else's mountain. I'm just waiting for the day when they need to borrow my shovel to dig themselves out of their fantasy that they are better than the rest of us. Even if I'm still busy using the shovel for myself, they will learn to see themselves a little clearer when that light is turned back on them. I know this from my own experiences.

I just realize I have another flaw (that's two!): I tend to ramble when I try to blog on the fly! (I'm supposed to be doing a trial run of packing to see how much will fit in my suitcases. I only have one more weekend to finish everything...)

Well, that's today's post. Hope you enjoyed it.


Food and Choices

Finally, I've lost enough weight that I feel comfortable again in my clothes. I'm wearing pants that fit a little closer and tops that aren't made to hide things. My clothing choices really marked my journey from the prednisone poundage to the return to a more normal size for me. I didn't realize this until recently when I was tossing old clothes.

The first clothing milestone was when I went from wearing loose pants to prevent chafing to some that were less loose but didn't hug any curves. My tops went from extremely baggy sweater-types to still-baggy but not as thick. I think it was when I was able to see the slimming effects of leotards that I begin to feel like I was making real progress. Before then, any slimming products would just roll up and bunch at the waist and make me feel my blood pressure rise.

My happiest moment was when I was able to wear t-shirts again without feeling like a stuffed sausage. It's so nice now to put on clothes and feel comfortable. No matter what I wore at my heaviest, I always felt like I was bound and bandaged too tight by any fabric.

Now that I am at this point and aiming for my ideal weight, I can focus more on maintaining an intake of good food and nutrition (instead of fighting cravings and feeling guilty when I caved).
Looks sooo good. Except in a pair of jeans...
A lot of my friends and family have commented on my progress. If it helps anyone else, here are some things I've learned on this weight loss journey:

  • As adults, we don't have to eat by set rules. Traditional breakfast, lunch, and dinner is just that: traditional. I can have a salad for breakfast if that's what I want (and I often do).
  • Canned food is underrated. I love smoked oysters, kippers, and clams. Sardines with crackers and olives is a favorite snack. (I have a best friend who likes to eat her fruit with hot sauce & spicy dips.)
  • A meal does not have to have the traditional layout of a meat, vegetable and starch. Sometimes, I just have a piece of well-seasoned chicken or fish - or pork chop. I love a good chop.
  • I've learned to eat outside my comfort zone. I've tried (and love) lamb. I'm learning to use more seasonings. (Love basil. Not crazy about cilantro.) I'm trying different kinds of breads and cheeses and sauces. Salt is not my go-to seasoning now that I'm finding other flavors.
  • When I enjoy cooking a meal, I enjoy eating it. Instead of frying or baking everything, I'm learning new ways to prepare food. Who knew (I didn't) that there are 7 "basic" methods of cooking and even a list of 15 methods? If you want to go wild, you can try many, many more. The other day, I watched Guy Fieri cook some skewered meat between two cast iron skillets, one skillet place on top of the other. Neat.
  • Fast food is not going to go away. If I want a burger or fries or tacos from someplace with a neon sign, I have it. I don't want any of that as much as I once did. I think my system has self-detoxed!
  • It helps to learn what other (healthy) people are eating. Right now, I'm really interested in Mediterranean food, but it's interesting to search out what's known about the health of other cultures. I'm reading articles about the 10 "healthiest" and such.
  • I think that any regional/cultural food can be healthy with some adjustments.
  • Instead of eating (or not eating) to look good, I'm eating to live good.
Try it with hot sauce

My little brother and his wife have inspired me with their garden. I'm going to taste my way right through their yard when I see them! They were telling me about the fresh and "old-fashioned" taste of the veggies they've grown. (Hid your green beans, you guys. I'm on my way! LOL)

I want a garden. NOW!
As far as the suggestions, that's just me and my take on it, but everyone is different. You have to do what is "do-able" for you and your lifestyle and health needs. By the way, even if you are "skinny", you still need to eat well for your health. I have a very thin male friend who had a bypass in his mid-40's. Looked as good in a hospital gown as he did in his jeans...


Thursday, August 07, 2014

A Mind Scrubbing

After binging on mindless television shows, I decided to do a mind scrub last night and try reading. Thankfully, I haven't seen any readily available books centered on reality TV.

Because I have dreams of being a published (and paid) author some day, I really hate myself for having to find freebie reads. But there are plenty out there. I use Amazon's Cloud Reader and the Kindle app (you can get a free one here) for my phone. When I can't buy or borrow books, I will go over and do a search for freebie reads on whatever subject I'm fixated on at the moment.

Kindle. Because this looks so uncomfortable.
The thing is, I download (and actually buy) lots of books. I love books. The problem here is that I don't always make time for reading. Because I felt bad about this, I did a quick search and found that I'm not the only one who isn't reading. The only thing I can say in my favor is that at least I don't lie about what I do or do not read.

Scrolling through this "List of 13 Books Nobody's Read", I was nodding like an uneducated maniac, thinking, "Haven't read that one, or that one, or... Nope haven't read that one either..." (Maybe I should sorta kinda be ashamed that I had never heard before of "Infinite Jest" by David Foster Wallace. Sadder still, I barely got through the first paragraph of the Wiki article about the book.)

I want to redeem myself so I'm looking at this list of 10 underrated books. Unfortunately, I stopped scrolling after the fifth book. I don't really even like the summary descriptions. Apparently, lots of people are starting certain books without bothering to finish them. Much the way I did with that list.

Best feeling ever
When the girls were young, they almost hated that I had a rule about learning. I required them to do a certain amount of reading every week. I made them watch the news and write me a little one-page report. In her adult life, one of them still refuses to read anything other than People or Us. She does read her Bible though (#shesays). The other one has never been without a book in her hand since the day she picked up her first one.
Take away the electronics. That's how.
Or an HOUR won't hurt
The problem with my slack reading habits of late just might not be all about me. Maybe publishers should stop being so picky and start getting some readable work out there on the market. I'm sorry but I will probably never pick up a copy of Stephen Hawking's  "A Brief History of Time" for any other reason than displaying it on my bookshelf. Or maybe not even then because I doubt I could find a good copy for free. Mr. Hawking is a physicist. If I ever met him, in order to have sparkling conversation, we'd probably have to trade gossip about the "Real Housewives". I imagine that people way more intelligent that I are intimidated by his book. Next time someone tries to act superior with me, I'm going to ask if they've read past the table of contents. I'll have to carry around some cheat notes just so I can make them prove it.

Another reason: books don't talk back.
What kinds of books would I like to see more (or less) of? You know I have a list, right?

  • Anything by Stephen King. I don't even care about the stories, I just like so much the way he tells them. I think I have only ever hated a few of his books, but I was ready to lose a friend over the theft of my hardback "Under the Dome". (She's still on friendship probation, by the way.)
  • More regional American fiction. I've lived in various places here in the U.S. and want to see more about the times, lives and pasts of other people as seen through their eyes. I want to know what they eat, how they talk with each other, and what they think of people from other parts of the world.
  • More historical and AA fiction like "The Color Purple" and less about whorish men and women and their fall from church to the streets. (Not that there is anything wrong with the latter, but that 'genre' has turned boilerplate-ish and tiresome. And I never learn anything from it except how disgusted I am with negative stereotypes. The rest of the world should know more about racial groups other than what they see on BET and MTV.)
  • More stories from fellow citizens of this great melting pot of a nation of ours. I want to know about their families: the mamas and daddies, the grands, aunties and uncles, and all the cousins - play and real. Because I feel like there is such a gulf between the Japanese American and African American peoples, I'd really like to see more fiction that might explain that divide.
  • Mysteries, thrillers and chillers. Not sexy-dirty-nasty mysteries. Not celebration-of-the-amoral type thrillers. And I'm so very tired of even hearing about vampires, zombies and all that weird crap. Ann Rice did an amazing job with "Interview" and everyone else has taken the genre down in the gutter. Where are all the modern Sherlocks, Marples and Poirots?
  • Though I like some spice, I don't get into mainstream porn. I prefer porn of the type couples order online in secret or slink into the local corner XXX store for. Why dress it up so that people can feel okay about walking around with it in their purse to read on the commute? It's porn. If you are into it, own it - in all it's nasty-but-occasionally-fun-way-to-spice-up-your-dried-out-relationship glory. Whatever.
  • For Dummies books that don't come with that blazing yellow cover. Take a note from the porn marketers and dress up (or down) the covers better. I always feel like I'm advertising what a, well, dummy, I am when I reach for a tutorial. Not everyone in the library needs to know that I need help with my most basic math skills. Talk about wanting to hide something under a plain brown wrapper!
  • I want more books that I can't wait to tell someone else about. I remember that after I first read "Catcher in the Rye" as a fourteen year old, I spent hours trying to explain it to my best friend. That had to be one of the first books I owned outside my Bible. I actually loaned it to that girl. (Unlike my thieving friend, this one returned my book.) 
Please sir...
Most of all, I'd like to see more books that aren't written as though the author was only thinking about the kind of movie it could be turned into.

Write the book
or write the screenplay
To be honest, there are lots of these books already out there. I just wish I heard about them the way I hear about A Brief History or however many shades of grey there are.

There. #Rantoftheday is done.


Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Those Dang Housewives

I must hurry up and get out of town. If I don't get back to living my normal life (hold on a sec while I stop laughing hysterically), I'm going to be brain-drained from watching too much TV. I'm Dateline-d, Forensic File-d and Cupcake-Wars-ed out! TV is becoming a cancer on what's left of my intelligence.

Now, I know you guys are probably getting bored with my rants about television, but I have nothing much else to post about until I can get hold of some more products to review. In the meantime, let's talk about the "Real Housewives" again. Atlanta, O.C., New York - the location doesn't matter. All those gals are really just the same bunch. The only way you can tell them apart is by their kids, husbands and dialects.

And. sometimes, fake house and fake man
 you have got to follow

If you watch any 3 of the shows (and I just mentioned the only ones I watch), you'll notice that there are only 6 or 7 basic types of characters cast:

  • Ringleader Bi*ch The gal who is the queen of bi*ches and is proud of it. In her mind, she is not a b-word, she is just a strong, take-no-prisoners kind of woman. Only, in her dictionary, 'strong' means cruel, selfish and backstabbing. The best thing about her is that she usually makes the show work. I mean, even a crew of circus clowns needs a leader.
  • Main Sidekick This is the best 'fr-enemy' of the Ringleader. The start out as besties but, as the show progresses and the Sidekick gets a little taste of attention, she starts staging a coup. Sometimes, this takes a while. The Sidekick will play the part of schoolyard flunky for the longest time until she accidentally shows some guts and pisses off the Ringleader. When this happens, Sidekick either gets booted off the show (after being set up by Ringleader), or she forms her own clique and we start hearing a lot about #TeamSidekick vs #TeamRingleader.
  • Nice(r) Girl This is usually the first one to exit the show. She thought she could bring a little class and normalcy to the craziness. She's always wrong. For one thing, 'normal' doesn't get ratings. For another thing, 'normal' people are what the rest of the cast use the same way a boxer uses his mouth guard: spits it right out when it gets all bloody and used up. (By the way, if Nice Girl learns to be ruthless, she can extend her stay or even get a spin-off. Sometimes. Usually, Nice Girl tries but just can't stomach the game. Good for her!)
  • Troubled Trouble She has real life issues for which she needs to get real life help. This lady has no business being involved in anything except for rehab or serious therapy. She might be one of the reasons a lagging "Housewives" show picks up more viewers but, in the reality that matters, she just needs help. Once her problems start spinning out of scripted control, everyone should feel ashamed for feeding the demise of her soul by televising (or watching) her instead of wishing for her well-being. Thankfully, this character generally gets booted. It's only fun to watch this kind of tragedy until it truly becomes tragic.
  • Queen Freak The one who is down for anything, with anyone, at any time. She is coyly proud of how trashy she is. You can't take her to any of the nice trips, restaurants or shopping venues without her sucking the class factor down to zero. She will talk about all the sex she is or is not having, no matter who is present to overhear. This character will, after a season or two on the show, come out as having a traumatic childhood or other past damage. She will either grow into a better behaving cast member, or she will make the viewers become weary of her. If she gets booed off the show, she will join the other Housewives of the Past. Speaking of...
  • Past Housewives These ladies (and whatever man is connected with them), usually go on to be more (or less) successful with their own spinoff show. Successful ones become even more irritating (because what is more irritating than a no-talent talent?). Less successful (or forgotten) ones do a lot of tweeting, Facebook-ing and Instagram-ing so that current 'Wives will badmouth them (thus keeping them peripherally relevant to an extent).
  • New Girl Ah... This poor woman here. She comes on either fully loaded for bi*ch or believing that you can sell your soul for fame and still remain above the mess. If she's armed to the teeth and can fight her way through the rites of initiation, she can move into the spot of whoever has been recently kicked off. Personally, I love when the New Girl goes in for the Ringleader. The whole trying to stay clean while rolling in the mud with the meangirls... Well, that never works out, does it? The best New Girl can hope for is that she survives and gets her own "team" of fans.
Yeah. There's a formula to these shows. And we all love it (shame on us!). What I don't understand is how people who (I guess) believe in gender and racial respect will sell it off for some comped vacations and a shot at people knowing just how dysfunctional your personal life is.

I'm trying to be soooo ashamed right now
Last time I watched a "Housewife" show, the trending battle was over spilled secrets. Apparently one wife confided in another wife about marital problems. The confidante blabbed to a third wife. Third wife blabbed to, I don't know, other wives. ~sigh~ (Flashbacks of school days, anyone?) I was almost caught up in choosing sides with the betrayed wife until I realized - wait a minute! You told your marital "secret" on TV. How freaking confidential did you expect that to be? What's really sad is, the logistics of the situation didn't matter. The ensuing drama was great, um, entertainment.

Funny thing. "Housewives" shows don't really seem to promote the idea of a healthy marriage. I'm just saying.

So I (and other criticizing viewers) are just as bad as these TV 'ladies'. We're not bulls in the fight, but we are out here, cheering on the bloodshed. 
Sadly true...

Shame on us all! 


Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Sorrow, Not Regret

Talking to a (temporarily) depressed friend the other day, I could hear in her voice that the root of her mood came from thinking of all the regrets she has. Looking back on only the sorrows of life can bring anybody down. I've done it many times, and I'm sure most people have.

One thing about trying to talk a friend out of a low mood is that your words of advice often will shine back and light up your own situation. That's what happened for me. I didn't notice it until late last night when I was having one of those pity parties myself.

This was a pity party of one, brought on by having too much left to do in preparation for Iowa and letting myself get worked up into a state of post-midnight anxiety. If my family had been awake, I would have been distracted by the chaos that is our usual mode of being together under one roof. But it was late, I was tired and too wired to sleep, and I'm pretty sure that the smoked fish I had for a snack was acting as a organic hallucinogen.

I went from thinking of what to pack into the two suitcases I'm taking with me to wondering if I shouldn't add a third suitcase to wondering about the meaning of all life and afterlife. I actually got up and went outside for a while to stand in the rain and have a conversation with God (who was probably musing at how often we silly humans think for some reason that we have to be looking at something - the sky, tall trees, birds - to talk to Him). While I was outside, it started to rain and, as a result, I went back to the bedroom with not only a full-fledged case of self-inflicted anxiety but nappy hair and damp clothes.

Regrets are rude guests, always coming for a visit at the wrong time and when you are not in a mood to entertain them. They are really only good for one thing: reminding you that you have to be compassionate enough to have them over for company.

except maybe for that really bad high school haircut

Anyway, I said my prayers and lay down to try to sleep. Of course, once I started to relax, I started remembering everything I'd said to my friend. I hadn't said much (for me), but the basic piece of advice I gave her is probably something I retained from what my mother taught me:

Instead of only thinking of what you would undo if you could, try realizing that all choices can have good and bad consequences.

Yes, I could have remained with that first person who loved me. We could have spent all these years celebrating milestones and accomplishments as a couple. On the other hand, we might have separated anyway. We might have done more damage to each other had we stayed together any longer.

I could have taken a different job, or lived in different places, or done so many other things differently in my life.

But I didn't. And you know what? That's okay. It has to be. And it will be.

Like I told my friend, there is no need regretting yesterday because there are no refunds. We can't go back and change anything, but we can live as a person who is changed for the better by the regrets we have.

When I went to sleep, I felt better. When I woke up, I certainly felt better. What I hope to remember from here on out is that I will always have some sorrow, but I'm never going to give time to past regrets.

Sing it, Ella!

Monday, August 04, 2014

Q & A (food)

Damn you, Pinterest! I've changed my eating habits and I could do without all the food porn and recipes, thank you very much!

No, no I couldn't. I'd rather spend an hour looking at food and beverages on Pinterest than spend five minutes actually packing 1000 calories onto my (now slimmer) butt. Matter of fact, when I get bored, I now just look at photos of food instead of looking at (and chowing down on) real food. Hey. It works for me.
Doesn't even have to be gourmet food
This is a CAKE, btw

And this one is cake. Cake!

Baby, I'm amazed...

Because I have both a lot of curiosity and a lack of focus, I can spend hours learning about things I probably once knew and just forgot. (Huh?) Yesterday, I had a monster headache, so I spent a couple of hours lying in bed and looking at Pinterest food pics and checking out all kinds of random info about food. I had some questions and, as you know, Google has answers. The questions and answers? Here we go:

1. What exactly is haggis?
Answer: "Haggis is a savoury pudding containing sheep's pluck (heart, liver and lungs); minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally encased in the animal's stomach and simmered for approximately three hours. Most modern commercial haggis is prepared in a sausage casing rather than an actual stomach." Thanks Wikipedia.

2. Okay then, why is haggis? Again from Wikipedia: "As the 2001 English edition of the Larousse Gastronomique puts it, "Although its description is not immediately appealing, haggis has an excellent nutty texture and delicious savoury flavour"


Not "chitterlings"
Haggis is a Scottish thing. Well, I'm from Texas, so this sounds no more icky than frog's legs, bull's balls, pig intestines or pig's feet. It just sort of sounds like all of that mixed together. So... ick.

James McAvoy.  A hot Scot.
For him, I'd eat haggis, chitlins, pickled pig toes...

3. How come Canadian bacon doesn't look like American bacon?
Answer: Because Americans don't own the idea of bacon. Duh.

I love Canadian bacon. I love bacon, period. But I appreciate that The Kitchn so easily cleared up my confusion about the difference. Basically, American Bacon: Pork Belly. Canadian Bacon: Pork Loin. So there.

I'd eat lots of any kind of bacon for James McAvoy. Just saying.

4. Why is it so hard to replicate the recipes I see on Pinterest? I mean, I can't sew (hell, I can barely thread a needle without having bandaids on hand), so I don't expect to be a seamstress. I can cook. I'm not a fancy cook, but I can throw it down well enough in the kitchen - so why can't I ever get my food to look like the ones I see online?

I mean, I'd never try to make something as pretty as this (although it doesn't look that hard)...

...because I know that even the "fail" pic on the bottom would put mine to shame.

But I actually did try something similar to this because, well, why not? I mean, what could really go so wrong?

Yeah. It went about that wrong, and I burned my fingers because my brain went for a stroll and I tried grabbing the hot cup handle... ~sigh~ 

Answer: because...
A dirty, dirty liar!
By the way, if you are feeling superior to the rest of us, go ahead and try your own hand where we have failed. When you blow up your microwave, you can at least go over here and have a good laugh.

Oh well.

I'm not giving up on gardening just because I once killed a plant that could Death Valley, and I'm not giving up on trying out some more Pinterest finds like these:

Now, if and when I fail, I might have to hit up GoFundMe to pay for my physical and/or mental therapy, but... we'll see. We will see.


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