Saturday, December 3, 2011

arm-twisting and birthday wishing

A certain cousin, scholar, theologian, and #1 blog fan who turns a year older today has been nagging me to write about his birthday for a year.  And besides the fact that I don't love doing the expected, it takes away the specialness of writing about him out of the overflow of love and friendship I have for him if he's asking for it.  But I think we can all safely acknowledge that this little blog o'mine will have breathed its last by this time next year--it's been sputtering out its dying gasps for months now--so if I don't write about CST1BF today, it won't happen . . . and imagine the sort of tragedy that would occur if I never acknowledged my five favorite things about my #1 fan . . .

So today, under duress, I present the birthday blog of CST1BF.  As I've been preparing it's come to my notice that many of the things I like most about Mac are traits that I also possess, so it may turn out in the process that I talk about myself more often than normal--but you're long since accustomed to me talking about myself too much--and that's something Mac would do too if he were writing this, so it seems too fitting to edit out.

So in some sort of order, here are the five best things about CST1BF:

5.  He loves lists and favorites.  A conversation with Mac often includes discussions about best books or movies or characters or super heroes or foods, and I love (usually) to evaluate what I like and why and attempt to rank them.  It's one of the reason I do five favorites on birthdays, and probably the reason that Mac is so anxious for me to quantify my regard for him through this list.  It's something we have in common that can spark lengthy conversations and healthy debate, and it's also a great way to get to know someone or learn more about them. For all that Mac claims that he'd rather talk than listen, these top five list conversations that he orchestrates end up being a brilliant way to get other people to engage in conversation, and I'd say at least part of the time, he's paying attention and learning about other people--and not just waiting for his next turn to talk.

4.  The other day Shane lost a set of keys in the watch pocket of his jeans--lost them so completely that he retraced his steps to two previous locations to search for them before I made him empty his pockets completely to find the missing keys.  When that happened, I called it a MacMac, who as I've mentioned tends to be a bit scattered, a trait she passed down to her son and to a certain blogging niece.  Mac is disorganized, a bit careless, sometimes clumsy, and often seems physically like this barely controlled whirlwind, and most people reading the past few sentences are wondering where the nice favorite thing part is . . . but that's it.  I love that he's kind of a mess because I'm a mess too.  The fact that he still manages to function in most ways like a normal human despite these tendencies that we share gives me hope and makes me feel more normal when I'm wondering why simple tasks become so complicated in my hands.  Misery loves company, so I'm glad I've got Mac to understand and sympathize when I'm at my MacMac-iest, and I hope that I can do the same for him.

3.  In the past year, I've many more occasions than normal to hear Mac teach, so I've been reminded often how good he is at what he does.  I'm ashamed to say that it's still sometimes surprising that my younger, former punk-kid cousin has serious theological chops, but he's great, often intellectually stimulating, challenging and still accessible.  For someone like me who's been churched all her life--including four years of college-level Bible classes, it can sometimes seem like I'm hearing the same sermons and ideas over and over--and even when Mac's presenting something that I've heard before, his style has a way of engaging me anyway.  That's a big deal to me, and I love him for it.  And it makes me prouder than just about anything else he does.

2.  Mac is hilarious (did you really expect me not to mention humor?), and not just because we are a lot alike.  We do have similar senses of humor, but he is definitely more into shock value and skating the edge (or barreling over it) of inappropriate humor, and thanks to the previously mentioned clumsiness, he's a boundless source of physical comedy as well.  He makes me laugh, and there's nothing wrong with that.

1.  When I write these things it eventually always comes around to love . . . and my Mac tribute is no exception.  Mac has a big, soft heart, and he shows it in how he treats his family and his friends and his students.  He loves and values and cherishes.  He spends time and gives great hugs and doesn't forget to say the words to express that love. And for all that and more, I love him right back.

Happy birthday, buddy.  I hope I did you justice.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

harry potter haiku #8

Just when you thought your dreams of a haiku-less existence were finally coming true:

Some dragon smuggling
(Hagrid's a bad influence)
leads to detentions

I solemnly swear that this is the last Hagrid-bashing I'll do for a while.

Forbidden forest
something's killing unicorns
centaur saves Harry

Stay tuned because sometime in the next year I'll finish the first book and move on to Chamber.

Monday, October 17, 2011

gcabh round 2: arkansas burger company

When last we met the intrepid burger explorers, they were replete with their first burger hunt success at Frostop.  On the heels of that delicious and entertaining experience, the next locale on our burger adventure was going to have to bring it. On the recommendations of many, many people we know, our adventurers braved the wilds of midtown to face the Arkansas Burger Company. Could it live up to the hype?

The experience:  Once again the three natives in the hunt were late, and our bearded scout (CST#1BF) had to face the unknown alone, drinking tea and making what I can only assume was a very intimate connection with our waitress.  All I know is that by the latecomers arrived, she was throwing around the terms of endearment like there was no tomorrow--and no wedding ring on his hand.  Apparently she loved him so much that she her endearments could not be contained, and the rest of us got the "sweetie, baby, honey, sugar-puddin', love muffin, angel face" treatment too.

We ordered our burgers and criticized Shane while we waited for them to arrive.  Actually CST1BF was the only one criticizing him.  I was probably criticizing Jess because that's what I do for fun.  And then the moment of truth.  The burgers arrived.  I made the ravenous beasts pose for pictures before they fell upon their food with abandon.

Hey, is that a pickle spear?  Score.

Modeling food and sleepy faces.
Jess went with the onion rings.
We'd had our food for less than a minute by this point.  
The scattered remains of our carnage.

The results:
From CST#1BF:  The more I think about it, the more that I think the hamburger at ABC was better than the Frostop burger.  The meat had some kind of spice in it that was fantastic.  I didn't really notice it until I got to the end of my burger and was mostly eating bun and meat without toppings to overpower the flavor, but Jess was right when she said, "This meat is good."  The fries were also very good, though I was completely underwhelmed by Jess's onion rings.  I liked the variety of burgers available, but Frostop still had more options, but ABC had a pickle spear.  
The atmosphere and experience at frostop was better, but ABC was great too.  I'm glad that they're on different sides of LR so that I can have an excuse to eat both in the future.

9/10  A great burger.  

From Jess:  (Oh, that's right.  We lost Jess at ABC--it was her final stop on Burger Tour 2011.  She will have no say.  We'll miss you, burger-eating friend.  Sorry you weren't up for the challenge.)

From Shane:  lots of chewing--but no commitments on burger ranking yet.

Ellen's opinion:  I think the fries were on par with Frostop, but the ABC burger was definitely better.  I had a bacon cheeseburger in both places, and while both were delightful, the ABC meat was superior, and I had cheddar cheese which is a personal favorite.  I'll give it a 9/10.

Clearly, I'm very behind on my burger-blogging.  We've been to two more places since ABC.  Eventually, you'll hear about them, imaginary readers.  In the meantime, approach Arkansas Burger Company with caution.  The food is definitely worth it, but the deliciousness is apparently capable of swallowing up your dining companions.  I miss Jess.

Friday, October 14, 2011

i am overcome by my harry potter obsession at inexplicable times

Last night I was minding my own business on Pinterest.  Okay, that's a lie.  The whole point of Pinterest is that you're minding everyone else's business--but mostly people want their Pinterest business minded, so it's not a bad thing to do.  And someone pinned some piece of HP information that drew me to an their entire board of Potter deliciousness.  And then I lost an hour of my life.

Then I got to thinking about Wordle and how I've never made a beautiful wordle thing, and how my office would never be complete until I had a Harry Potter themed Wordle gracing its walls.  So I worked on it and worked on it and worked some more (and lost hours more of my life), and I think if I can get it to print the way that I want, I'll have something spectacular to show for it eventually.  Here's what it's going to look like maybe unless I change it again.

  Wordle: harry potter
(I hope that doesn't publish as tiny as it looks in this composing screen.  Sorry if it is.)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

gcabh round 1: frostop

The experience:
I was running late.  I nearly always am these days, but I thought I'd still be able to beat CST1BF to the restaurant.  Our destination was quite near home, so my plan was to swing by the house, change clothes, and pick up Jess.  Work had other plans.  Mac was at the place before I ever left work, so I called and made Jess meet me there.

When I finally arrived, it seemed like CST1BF might have been waiting longer than twenty minutes I thought had elapsed.  He was like Norm from Cheers.  Everyone in the place was involved in his conversation.  It turns out that the owner of Frostop also owns the rug store next door, the very same rug store where Mac will tell you he didn't buy a rug four times.  Apparently not buying a rug from this dude is a bonding experience.

We stood at the counter contemplating orders and were loud and chatty and obnoxious.  Those people. But CST1BF had obviously talked us up because Jess and I (and later Shane) were greeted with the same warm, effusive manner that had embraced CST1BF.  We have not established a lot of elaborate rules for our hunt, but it turns out, one must actually order a burger to participate, so I put off trying the gyro for another day.  They serve a giant pounder called the Big Daddy, but I stuck with the single, adding bacon and cheese.  Given a choice, I almost always choose bacon.  CST1BF also added mushrooms, Jess had a regular cheeseburger, and Shane ordered the double.  There was a tot option that I took over the fries because fries are unreliable but tots are always as expected.  It turned out once the orders arrived that their fries were really excellent, so I'm sorry I didn't take a chance on them.  I'll know for next time.

My three companions also went for the root beer, served in a frosty mug, naturally.  As a staunch root beer hater, I abstained.  They do have lovely crushed ice at this place, for the ice enthusiasts among my imaginary readers.
It seemed like our burgers arrived speedily and did not disappoint.
If that ridiculous face isn't a ringing endorsement, I don't know what is.

Here are the official comments from our panel of judges:
From CST1BF (who takes this hunt seriously):
1. Size - even the single was a sizable burger
2. Options - mushrooms, fried egg, and other unusual options were available along with more traditional toppings.
3. Wasn't too dry or dense and wasn't too greasy.
4. Sides - fries were good, and I liked the tots option

1. I'm a mustard connoisseur, and I wish that I'd had the option of dijon or spicy brown mustard.  There was a little too much mustard on my burger which got in the way of some of the other tastes.
2. No pickle spear.  I think that a pickle spear is a great side item with a burger, and I was sad not to get one.

Overall score: 8.5/10  A very good burger

On the whole, I was very impressed.  I liked the eccentric atmosphere (americana decor and home-made baklava in the same place).  I liked the friendliness of the staff.  Mr. Joe is a super nice fella even if his trinitarian theology leaves something to be desired."

From Shane:  
"This is a tasty burger"--an initial response that sparked a string of Pulp Fiction quotes from the guy at the next table.  (A word of caution about the linked clip:  there's some shooting and dropping of the f-bomb if you watch the whole thing.)
When I tried to pin Shane down on a rating out of 10 (which is our agreed-upon standard), he couldn't commit.  I suspect that three to four weeks after our hunt has ended, Shane will be prepared to rank all burgers in order, but I doubt I get a single number out of him until then.

From Jess:  
8/10 with no additional comments.  Her plate cleaning shall speak for itself.

The final word from your fearless blogger:
Great fries, great ice, lovely dining experience.  I was the first to vocalize the excess mustard, but aside from that, the burger was a triumph.  As I once famously said in reference to Chris Hemsworth, "there is nothing wrong with that."  I'll give the burger itself an 8/10 also.

Stay tuned for our next riveting adventure in Burgerland, appearing sometime before next Wednesday.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

the great central arkansas burger hunt

CST#1BF doesn't get to hang out with me as much as he'd like, so this fall he's manufactured a handy excuse to drive to the Rock weekly to teach our Wednesday night class at PV just so he can see me.  I know it sounds desperate, but my appeal is just that strong.

Since we're going to be hanging out every week, he's created a little adventure for us to undertake:  to find the best burger in the greater Little Rock area.  We've got at least five eateries on our list so far, and for all you Central Arkies out there, this is your chance to be part of something so much bigger than yourselves:  you can post your suggestions for good burger spots in the comments here, and we may try to add your suggestions to our quest.

We actually sampled our first contestant last night, but I'm still tabulating the results, so I don't want to tell you about it yet.  I guess you'll have to tune in later.  I will post the official verdict no later than Tuesday night and also maybe announce the location of our second stop on the Burgertown Express.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

things about which i'm not blogging (a list)

  • stress-induced eyebrow twitching--it's like hiccups for your eye
  • graduate school--doing homework is just as unpleasant as I remembered, but I might be secretly good at this whole library school business
  • at least three interesting and blog-worthy recent craft projects
  • my internet-crush on Pinterest which led to the aforementioned recent craftiness
  • staving off illness through sheer force of will--because I certainly haven't been taking good enough care of myself to have had only the tiniest brush with that cold
  • Harry Potter haikus--the most recent addition to my "things I wish I hadn't quit" blogging list
  • work insanity (because if I let myself start, I'll never stop)
  • 6 a.m. womens' bible study at PV--because I love Jesus enough to iron my clothes at night and wake up before dawn
  • getting to see my moma all the time (or every two weeks) and it still not being enough
  • manufactured drama that might have made you laugh
and a brief list of things about which I shall blog (or die trying):
  • a Holy Grail-style quest to find the best burger in Central Arkansas starring many of your favorite blog characters (and CST#1BF)

Monday, August 29, 2011

the rob-bob has a birthday

I think I mentioned last year around this time, that it's a busy birthday time in my family.  My sister-in-law's birthday (which thus far remains unblogged--maybe next year, Susan) was last weekend.  Yesterday we shared in the glory of Shane's birthday, today we celebrate my cousin Robyn (although we actually had her parties on Saturday and Sunday, today's her actual birthday), and on Thursday my moma and MacMac turn another year older.  Thursday would also have been my Gramps's eighty-sixth birthday.  We do a lot of celebrating at this time of year.  Shane and Robyn's birthdays especially get smashed up around here, but thanks to my commitment to quality journalism, I will not be smashing up my favorite things about them, giving them each their very own, high coveted post here at the opinions.  You're welcome.

Robyn is almost a year and a half older than me, but for as long as I can remember, that age difference has been completely insignificant (at least until I began to get some enjoyment from reminding her of her comparatively advanced age).  We're both in the younger half of the grandkids and one of the natural pairs that seem to have materialized among us due to similarities in age and temperament.  As kids we were usually not mature enough to play with the big girls, not willing to get beat up on enough to play with the big boys, and older and bossy enough to bend the little boys to our bidding.  In my memory, it was a fairly perfect arrangement for us.  As we've all aged, the big girls have come to accept us, the big boys stopped hitting, and the little boys are huge--but still bossable from time to time, and Robyn and I are still a natural pair, now more due to thirty years' experience being cousin-friends.
(in her natural habitat)

So to celebrate what is perhaps my longest-standing friendship, here are my five favorite things about Rob-Bob:

5.  She keeps getting better with age.  Probably most people do, but there aren't all that many people who I've watched do so across the span of their lives.  Robyn is one that I have.  I loved her and was her friend when she was younger and more selfish and more competitive and more rigid, and if she hadn't changed in those areas for the past twenty years, it wouldn't matter to me, so the fact that she keeps getting better and better is just a bonus.  But it's also an often-inspiring lesson as I see her give generously and selflessly of her time and attention, as I see her devote herself to taking care of those she loves, as I see her heart grow.  Robyn's always had a lot of strong opinions and ideas and words, and as she's become her grown-up self, she is the person I think of first when I think about people who live up to their talk.  It's the thing that makes me want to be Robyn when I grow up.

4. Robyn loves our babies.  From the time that the oldest great-grandchild was born thirteen years ago, she's been devoted to cuddling and playing and cherishing the little people in our family.  And now that many of them are not-so-little anymore, she's still focused on knowing and loving and caring for them. If you quizzed her on the likes and dislikes and basic facts of their lives, she would ace it because she listens and cares about what they're saying to her.  She has such a heart for our kids and the other kiddos she encounters in her life, and it's why they all love Rob-Bob. (And it's why nearly every picture of her I have also has a kid or two in it.)

3. Robyn speaks my language.  It has been noted by people who encounter the two of us together that we can a bit difficult to understand.  Part of that is the speed with which we communicate, a portion is the fact that we use a fair amount of obscure quotations from movies, books, and our shared history, but there's also a dash of the fact that we don't necessarily have to finish sentences or thoughts.  Our family has its own short-hand of stories and oft-repeated phrases, and I have the same with most of my friends.  Robyn is in that lucky overlapping category that she has both, which means that anything I might say to her (or she to me) is soaked in deeper meaning and memory and usually a healthy amount of hilarity.  It makes for rich communication that is completely effortless, and it's awesome.

2. She makes me laugh. Have I ever mentioned the value I place on humor, imaginary readers?  It's kind of a big deal with me.  And Robyn and I have been laughing at the same things for the past thirty years.  She can remember everything that's ever been funny in our lives together and brings out those references at just the right moment.  Her storytelling rhythm is designed to maximize my laughter (and since she has a story for everything, there are lots of laughing opportunities).  Last year when I included her (and CST#1F) as my second favorite things about MacMac, she commented that I would have to not be so serious if I ever wrote about her.  We do funny.  It's our default setting, and though I can't think of any humorous references to make here to actually fulfill her wish, I hope I'm adequately communicating the fact that Robyn and laughter and me are so tied up together.  She may not know everything (there was a muffin, after all), but she knows just how to make me fall apart laughing.
(On her wedding day--and no, she didn't get married in flannel.)

1. I'm actually a little nervous that she's going to be unhappy that I didn't end on the funny thing, but I've got one more absolute favorite that's going to take the top spot.  The adjective fierce could probably be applied to a few aspects of Robyn's personality.  She's intense in several ways, but when I try to think of a defining characteristic, it is her fierce loyalty that comes to mind.  She cherishes her friends and family, enveloping them in protectiveness and support and love.  She makes time for people and knows the value of intentionally spending time them.  She will take your side against outsiders, maybe even when you're wrong.  She loves with all her heart and manages to show it in all the nicest ways.  She's the best kind of friend and way better than I deserve.

Happy Birthday, Robyn!  So glad you're mine.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

to my blogging brother

Shane warned me months ago that I needed to get an early start on this post, as it would be a lengthy hunt to find five likable things about him.  To prove him wrong, I'm typing this sentence at twenty minutes past midnight on his actual birthday.  I would have started an hour ago, but I read his most recent blog post, giggled until I could stop, and then traveled backwards through his archives reading comments on recent posts that I had missed along the way.  I'm sometimes a terrible listener, and there are few conversational pairings that I can tolerate long-term, but the Mac and Shane duo, as long as they're staying away from too much comic book talk, is one of my favorites.  Reading their interactions at Today I was Pompous is generally something to be savored, hence the lost hour of my night.

So today is Shane's birthday.  Despite what you may have heard or observed about my higher maturity level, he's older than me--by a significant five and a half years.  He's also the last of the sibs to get the five favorite birthday treatment.  This should in no way reflect on my opinion of or affection for him.  Last year his birthday got swallowed up in library renovations.  This year, I'm not letting my tiny problems stand in the way of his birthday tribute (the way that I've let them stand in the way of responsible journalism for the past two weeks).

And so I present my five favorite things about one of my favorite brothers:

5. Shane is perhaps the most disciplined person I know.  He's got rules about everything, and although many are of the quirky and arbitrary variety, all combined they end up making him a better person:  kinder, smarter, more well-rounded, and for me, charmingly (but not boringly) predictable.  I love that there are reasons behind all the things he does, and that he follows a plan.  His rules make him consistent, which is a balm to my own erratic temperament.  And his self-discipline gives me hope that we share enough genes that I might one day get my act together as much as he has.

4. I don't remember this about little-boy Shane, but apparently he was incredibly stingy in that stealthy way at which he excels.  I have no reason to doubt this, but I can also emphatically declare that he has outgrown that trait.  His generosity is a fountain, a trait (among many others) that he shares with my moma.  I think part of Shane's generosity springs from the same place as hers:  fierce love, protectiveness, an overwhelming amount of patience.  But Shane is also perhaps the most contented soul I know, and it seems to me that he's taught himself contentment.  He gives of himself, his means, and his time in countless selfless ways, without any expectation of repayment or acknowledgment.  Last year when he won the $100,000, he gave away at least half of it.  It boggles the mind, but it shouldn't because he was just as generous before he became a hundred thousandaire.

3. Although I typically like to downplay this trait (lest he think he can compete with me comedically), Shane is funny.  Perhaps I've mentioned sometime previously that humor is a highly valued characteristic in my estimation.  Lucky for both of us, he makes me laugh.  Our senses of humor are immensely compatible, to the degree that we probably annoy those around us with how hilarious we find each other--and ourselves.  Lately, Shane's been killing it, humor-wise, in his blogging.  Seriously, if you're not reading him, imaginary readers, you should be.  The only time he's funnier is when he's dissolved helplessly into giggles.  It's a hoot.

2.  Lest anyone think I have an unrealistic view of his many positive attributes, let me tell you about my favorite annoying thing about Shane.  He's crazy-ridiculously stubborn.  I don't want to keep using superlatives, but he's seriously the bull-headed champion in a family of unyielding individuals.  I like his stubbornness for a couple of reasons.  I think it helps manifest a few of those good traits I've already mentioned, like his discipline and generosity, and I think a certain amount of steadfastness is admirable. But his stubbornness can also be super-annoying and inconvenient and counter-productive, especially when it butts up against my own inflexible tendencies--and I still like it because it helps to remind me just how far from perfect Shane is.

1.  Ultimately, Shane is an even-tempered version of me.  We're just enough alike that we laugh at the same things, enjoy a lot of the same entertainments, and want to talk about the same topics, but we're not so alike that there's no surprise or debate or disagreement.  It's a complimentary sort of relationship, the thing that makes us friends and not just siblings.  Part of it is all that shared history and probably some shared genetic tendencies, and part of it is simple geography.  We live in the same town, go to the same church, and see each other at least three times a week.  Shane is my closest and best connection with family.  He's my home when I'm not at home.  He is my safety net, and I would have driven myself crazy and fallen apart and run back to Kentucky to live upstairs at my moma's a hundred times over in the past seven years if he wasn't here being my rock.

Shane's good people, and he deserves to have the very best birthday ever.  And to help him celebrate, I'm going to force his indecisive soul into making a decision about where to eat supper.  It's my favorite form of birthday torture.  You're welcome, bro.

Monday, August 8, 2011

39 days

Forty days is a biblically significant amount of time. Thirty-nine days is nothing special.  At the time of this typing, I am somewhere between thirty-nine and forty days away from the opening of the Main Library's Teen Center.  Today I feel so overwhelmed by it, it might as well be a flood or a fast or some other horrendous-sounding f word. (No, not that f word, people.)

When I get busy at work, I like to make lists.  It wastes time I could be spending getting actual work accomplished, but then when I do get around to the work, I get to mark things off.  There is nothing satisfying in this life like marking things off a list.  It's triple satisfying in Sharpie.  When I make my Teen-Center-opening lists, they are deceptively simple.  The word interviews, for instance.  Just ten little letters comprising one brief list-item that represents at least fourteen separate meetings with fourteen qualified individuals.  When my list says "pack up desk," it can't completely convey the labor-intensive misery of going through all the accumulated junk that is drawn by some unforeseen yet powerful force to my little north-facing cube, but I am determined to rid myself of the unnecessary when I make the move.

I can't even bring myself to put "say goodbye to the Michael Jackson mime" on my list because I'm not sure I've got the strength to face it.  As much as I'm looking forward to a certain office upstairs, I know there's nothing out that south-facing window that can compare to the glory of my splash of river-view, the bustle of the River Market, and good ol' Michael Jackson mime.  I think I'll miss you most of all, Scarecrow.

There have been some truly awesome moments in my list-making.  Like the email I got just after I crossed off "select gaming equipment needed" telling me that my budget was nearly double what I'd spent so far.  I must admit we're going to have a ridiculously nice gaming set-up.

And even when the list additions have been tedious and exhausting and downright daunting, I'd be lying if I didn't admit that the fact that they're all so much mine is heady stuff.  My decisions, my preferences, my opinions that carry weight, my mistakes to make.  I can't take all the credit, and you should all regularly remind my gigantic ego to dial it back, but the being-in-charge-ness is pretty dang exciting.  Exciting and overwhelming and filling-up my life enough that I finally had to break down and really blog about work, something I declared long ago would be a sign of the end times.

Oh, well.  It's been nice knowing you.  Hoping for rainbows at the end of my forty days.

Friday, July 29, 2011

it was the best of times. it was the worst of times.

First, I have to admit that I have a degree in English, and I've never read A Tale of Two Cities.  It's shameful, I know, but it's the truth.

Second, I got on a hot little blogging streak (for me anyway) there for a little bit, and I know all you precious fans of the blog were giddy with anticipation at my opinionated renaissance, and then I went and abandoned you again.  Sorry.  Life (and death unfortunately) intervened as it is wont to do.

Third, I have to say that I have the best real-life friends and family in the world who have covered me up with love and kind thoughts and prayers in the passing of my sweet Grams last week.  Many of those friends are readers here, so thanks again for all that you have done and are doing for me.

Fourth, in the midst of a grief-filled week or so, I got some really good news on other fronts including a bit of a promotion and pay increase at work and acceptance into graduate school.  I'm not exactly excited about library school itself, but I'm excited about what it represents, namely getting a piece of paper that will mean that I'm worth more money and qualified to boss more people and do less work.  The promotion-y thing has so far been really interesting and time-consuming, and it's sort of just the thing I needed to get me out of my work rut.

Fifth, although the occasion for our gathering was solemn, I had the most spectacular time with my family over the past week or so.  We talked and laughed and ate and remembered and cried and hugged and didn't take each other for granted.  One of the best moments was when the eight grandkids--four cousins, three siblings, and me--gathered at Grams's house to pick out a memento or two to take home and treasure.  It could have been morbid or mean, full of selfishness or jealousy, but it was perfect.  We relived little pieces of our childhoods together and cared about each other's feelings more than our own and came away with just the perfect things to remind us.

Sixth, my moma has had a hard time lately, and you know that doesn't sit well with me.  She was diagnosed on Wednesday with a hiatal hernia, which is actually kind of good news as she finally has a medical explanation for how badly she's been feeling.  Thursday morning she was going work for the first time in over a week, and she fell coming off our back steps.  She has distal fibula fractures in both legs.  One's quite a bit worse than the other, and she's banged and bruised and beat up besides.  Bless her poor old heart.  I'm going to have to head back to my old Kentucky home tonight to see about her.  For those keeping score, yes--I have been back in Arkansas for less than 48 hours.

I wanted to end on a happier one, but I ran out of thoughts.  Shocking, I know.  Still, it's nice to be back to a blogging normal, even if I'm not up to my usual standard of excellence.  Thanks for coming, imaginary readers.  I miss you when we're apart.

Monday, July 18, 2011

words, words, words

I've been surprised in my life to discover that not everyone thinks about words in the same ways that I do.  Whenever I mention liking or not liking the sounds of certain words, I'm often met with blank stares or occasionally surprise that I have opinions about words.  But it seems obvious to me that all words are not created equal.  There are tons of words I enjoy for their meaning or connotation, words that I admire because they do their jobs as words.  That's not what I'm talking about.  Usually when I say I love or hate a word, it's based solely on how that word sounds when spoken aloud (or occasionally how it looks written).  These are the thoughts I have.

A brief list of words I don't love:
  • moist (say it out loud . . . you're disgusted too, right?)
  • yummy (anyone over the age of two who uses this word should be severely punished)
  • hubby (it's not even a word but try telling my facebook friends that)
  • pulsate (useful on a blender but no fun to hear or say)
  • guitar (I'll admit that when I was a kid, I had a very hard time pronouncing guitar, and I guess I'm still holding a grudge against it--and sometimes I have to concentrate very much to say it correctly even now.)
Some words I love to hear:
  • staunchly
  • acclimate
  • rotund
  • brusque
  • paranoia
Neither of these lists are meant to be exhaustive.  Just a taste.  What about you imaginary readers?  Do you have opinions about words?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

harry potter haiku #7

Faithful readers will recall that I enthusiastically started a series of haiku honoring Harry Potter which I abandoned with a decided lack of enthusiasm when life got to be so life-ish.  I left off when I was still using Sorcerer's Stone as my inspiration, so that's where we are again.

Loose lips sink ships and
Hagrid's always flapping his.
Dude can't keep secrets.

After one tongue-slip,
the gang searches for Flamel
Library fails them.

Let me interrupt the poetry to mention that although Hermione's all a magical genius and stuff, she clearly lacks good research skills.  And I don't just mean the Flamel debacle in book 1.  As my blogging brother pointed out a while back: How in the world could she not have found out about either gillyweed or the bubblehead charm  as underwater breathing options in Goblet?  Are we to believe that the book the fake Moody gave Neville was the only book that mentions gillyweed?  And in Order the bubblehead charm is so well-known and easy to perform that students use it to avoid dungbombs in the corridors, so are we really to expect that it's not in any of the spell books that she reads trying to help Harry?  I love Hermione, but maybe they should have been nicer to Madame Pince.  I guarantee she could have steered them in the right direction.  Librarians are good people.  

Hagrid blabs again
selling out Dumbledore for
an illegal egg.

A baby dragon
that's born in a wooden house
nothing but trouble

Four in a row!  You're on the edge of your seat now, aren't you?  But I'll save the rest for another time.

*****Plagiarizing blogger's note:  I've updated the Hermione as a researcher rant to give proper credit to Shane for his inspiration.  I couldn't handle the pressure of you people thinking that I was smart enough to have figured that out.*****

Saturday, July 16, 2011

last chance to make me a millionaire

Last month I got a notice from amazon that they were breaking up with me.  Seems the Wal-Mart State has made a new online tax law, and amazon is dumping all of its Arkie associates as a result.  I'm disappointed, but the world won't end.  I'm not going to starve or anything from the loss of that income.  I've made a couple hundred dollars from them (well, really from the imaginary readers who followed links from this site and bought stuff from amazon) in the past year, and I'd be lying if that wasn't nice (especially the $130 I got all at once for the December referrals).  Gosh, isn't it tacky to talk about money?  Sorry.

I really am thankful to those of you who've indulged my little money-making scheme for the past year or so.  You're nice people, and as a result, I know you'll want to do me one last favor:

My last day as an amazon associate is next Saturday the 23rd, so if you're planning a major purchase in the near future, why not get it done this week, so I can rake in one last fat check?

And if you're not planning on a major purchase in the near future, maybe you'll want to buy me something as a consolation gesture for my impending lack of completely unearned and undeserved income.  Might I suggest:




or even

Even if you're not generous enough to reward me for doing nothing, you can follow those links to get to amazon and get your own junk, and I'll settle for my measly 4-15%.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

confessions of a pioneer woman fan

If you don't care about the Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond, famous blogger and fortunate recipient of an open letter from me, I can assure you, you're not going to care about this post.  Sorry.

One day last week someone at work mentioned with no small amount of horror the existence of Pioneer Woman-bashing websites.  I was instantly curious.  What particularly did people think sucked about her?  Though I count myself as a fan especially of her earlier posts where she did more writing and storytelling and fewer of her trademark bits, I could definitely see that she could be a person who inspired annoyance and criticism.  A little googling (wouldn't you think that the spell-checker in Google Chrome would recognize googling as a word?) led me to The Pioneer Woman Sux which led me to some other sites (Rechelle UnpluggedPie Near WomanMarlboro Woman), and I became fascinated with the anti-Ree movement that I discovered.

I don't want to over-generalize the views of these folks, but by and large, they are people who have a problem with the false image she's projecting.  She's made her following by "keepin' it real," but according to her detractors, she's not.  Her ordinary family ranch is one of the largest in Oklahoma, and they were millionaires long before her books became national best-sellers, which doesn't necessarily jibe with the down-home, regular girl persona (although anyone looking at her cooking posts can tell from her cookware and dishes that her disposable income isn't exactly in the "regular" range).  Another fact that lends to the perceived lack of authenticity is the cleaning up of her site--posts that have disappeared, wording that has been prettied up from the original posts as she's grown in popularity, negative comments from readers that disappear or never get published at all. There are many who also have quite a bit to say about her writing style, the nutritional value (or lack therof) of her recipes, and all those basset hound photos, but I think these smaller quibbles wouldn't have created the heated backlash that has spawned these sites if not for the more duplicitous feel of the image she's projecting versus the facts of her life.

My research may have started from simple curiosity, but the more I read the more sense all these folks made, and I must admit that I'm much less comfortable now about Ree as my homegirl.  In truth, I feel foolish for having bought into her story.  And perhaps that foolish feeling is well-deserved.  Of course, people don't achieve overwhelming success as she has without seeking out some of that recognition.  Of course, there's a marketing/branding agenda.  I guess I never noticed because I didn't care . . . and I kind of still don't.  I can still like most of the things I've liked about her even if she's fake--probably.

With the intense following that PW has, the sites I've mentioned naturally get at least some criticism from Ree's loyal fans.  A few comments I read wondered why if people were so unhappy with her, they continued to read her site or give it attention, and admittedly, I initially wondered this myself.  No one's forcing them to read her posts or acknowledge her in any way, so why go there and read the stuff and get worked up enough to create entire sites pointing out her flaws?

But the truth is I completely understand why because I am often that person.  I do that.  There are times and people and situations in my life where I'm so incensed/offended/horrified by some falseness or deceit or pretension or brazen rule-breaking that I've been unable ignore it or forgive it or move past it.  Even when it doesn't directly affect me, these sorts of traits fly in the face of my sense of honesty and justice, and while I've never created websites to right any wrongs or vent my frustrations, it makes sense to me.  And it makes me feel a certain kinship with PWSux and Rechelle and the Marlboro Woman, even if their fight isn't my fight--even if I probably won't stop reading PW or making buttery recipes or entering some of her contests.

Because the truth is reading Rechelle's parody website is about to become my new obsession, and it's ever so much funnier if you know enough about PW to understand what's going on.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

happy birthday to the popster

The Popster turns another year older today.  I don't think he's very sensitive about his age, so I'll go ahead and tell you that the particular age he's turning is old, old, very old.  If I'm doing the math correctly, it's sixty-four, which is not such a bad age to be if you're a Beatles fan, but I'm not sure the Popster is (and yet I still find it in my heart to love him.  So generous of me.)

Friends of the blog may have noticed that the birthdays of our young folk are events, causes for gatherings and cakes and pictures and presents and stuff.  Sometimes that even happens for the not-so-young folks, but if there's a birthday in our family that gets neglected, it's the Popster's (and also Will's which is in two days, but he's just an in-law, so does it really even matter?).  Part of the problem with the Popster is that he inconveniently has all his holidays in the summertime.  Father's Day was just a few weeks ago (and I nearly always see him for Father's Day), and his anniversary (and my moma's obviously) was last Thursday, so we all spend the better parts of June and July trying to figure out multiple gifts for him, and it's a task.  He's not the easiest man for which to shop (constructing sentences to avoid ending them in prepositions is so obnoxious).  Plus it's hot in July which brings on lethargy.  Plus we've just never made a habit of gathering for his birthday, and in my heart it's because he really doesn't care about making a big deal, but I'm rapidly becoming riddled with guilt as I type out our neglect of him.  Sorry, Popster.  I did at least give you your present already.  That's love, right?

Before I mire myself in guilt any more (or make myself look any worse in your eyes with my bad daughtering), let me tell you my five favorite things about the Popster, so you can love him just as much as I do.

5.  The Popster is a fixer.  When he bought our new Kentucky home, it was old and neglected and the second floor was almost all open attic space, but my dad (with my moma's help) did all sorts of updating and building of upstairs rooms, and now it's a lovely home.  He did all the work himself--except maybe the plumbing.  He really doesn't like plumbing.  He can also fix cars and give advice about washing machine hot-wiring over the phone.  He's a careful and precise sort of guy in most ways, which makes him that much better at fixing things--or taking such good care of his stuff that it doesn't require fixing.  I think he's probably where I got my own handiness.  We are just two fixers fixing things, the Popster and I.

4.  He doesn't show much emotion, does he?  Okay, I have to explain that sentence with a story:  a few years ago, the Popster was making some large purchase.  I can't remember what it was now because that's not the funny part of the story.  Maybe it was a boat or a lawn mower or a four-wheeler or something--the Popster likes vehicles.  Anyway it was the sort of purchase that required the assistance of a salesman and some waiting around and talking.  So the Popster had put in a significant amount of time with the little salesman but had not formed the sort of attachment that the salesman clearly would have liked.  The Popster didn't want to trade secrets or braid hair or become facebook friends.  He was keeping things professional.  At some point during the sales transaction, the little salesman asked the Popster for his name for some sort of official form.  My dad's last name is unusual and difficult to spell phonetically, so instead of saying his name, he showed him his checkbook cover which has his full name printed on it.  The Popster's first name is David (though like three of his kids, he doesn't go by his first name), but though the little salesman got his name written down correctly, in further conversation he referred to my dad as Dale.  The Popster chose not to correct him because it just didn't matter to him.  Anyway, after using every trick in his little salesman arsenal, he still hadn't secured a long-term offer of friendship by the end of the sales transaction, so his parting words to the Popster were "You don't show much emotion, do you, Dale?"  My dad answered with a simple "no" and departed forever robbing the little salesman of the joy of winning him over.  We love this story in our family.  At first glance, the Popster is the strong, silent type.  In our family of emotionally overwrought, obnoxiously loud people, he's a man of few words, often solemn, and soft-spoken.  Dale doesn't show much emotion, and sometimes that's just the sort of calming presence we need.

3.  But the Popster is also witty and entertaining when he wants to be.  It's entirely possible that he's funnier than me.  He definitely has a higher funny comment to normal comment ratio.  I think this is the secret to his comedic genius.  My approach, by which I mean the nature of my psychosis, is to spew words nonstop.  I throw every remotely amusing thought I have up against the wall to see what sticks.  As a result, I speak volumes of unfunny things.  But the Popster is more patient and subtle and in control of his tongue than I'll ever be, so he doesn't speak every thought in his head.  But when he does speak:  hilarity.  And since, as faithful readers well know, I live for comedy, it's not wonder I'm the Popster's girl--even when he's making me the butt of his wit.

2.  I've told my imaginary readers the story of how the Popster coined the term Handful to refer to his grandchildren after Thumb was born.  What may or may not have come across in that story is that my dad is bursting with pride over his five grandkiddos.  Before Pointer was born, I knew exactly the sort of Nana that my moma would become--it's very similar to the sort of moma she's always been except with more spoiling.  I didn't know then about the Popster.  He's cuddlier than he seems, but I didn't really see him as a baby guy or even really a little kid guy.  He's spent the past twelve years showing me how wrong I was.  He loves his Handful with intensity, a slavish devotion, and complete delight.  He is calm and patient with them, and they are so drawn to their Popa as a result.  He is a softer, sweeter man because they exist.

1.  Last year I named my moma's decision to marry the Popster as my second favorite thing about her.  And while the things I said about them as a couple and their choice to make our family bear repeating, the more amazing part of their story is him choosing us.  We were not at our charming, most lovable best when the Popster walked into our lives.  The four of us ranged in age from nine to sixteen.  We were loud and ate a lot and sassed our mother and were all suffering more than we would admit from that whole broken home thing in ways from which we wouldn't recover for years.  We were, in every quantifiable way, a bad bet, and even with the way that I idolize my moma, I'm not sure her many fine qualities could overcome all of our scary, needy ones.  Except that he did choose us, all of us.  And if he didn't love us all from the word go, then he at least faked it until he felt it, and he's spent the past twenty-one years being our dad in every single way that matters.  I know some great dads who have fallen in love with their children as tiny newborns, who've raised them and taught them and nurtured them through their entire lives, and it takes a good man to do that.  But men like my dad, who walk into the lives of half-grown, messed-up kids and change their world just by loving them and loving their moma . . . well, imaginary reader, I hope you'll understand why I think they're in a whole other class of fine men.

Happy Birthday to the best man I know.  I don't say it nearly enough but thank you for for making my moma the happiest she's ever been, for seeing how much we needed you, and for completing our family.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

oh bless my heart

The Southern sayin' backstory:
I know the overriding characteristic of my writing here is sophistication, so this may come as a surprise to friends of the blog, but I come from a rural background.  I grew up living eight miles outside of a town of roughly 1700 people.  We had one county school, and I graduated in a class of about fifty-two.  Not only is my hometown as podunk as they come, I come from an ancestry that is a mixture of Kentucky hill people and Tennessee dirt farmers.  Because education has been a fairly high priority in my family for two or three generations now, I can largely pass for a mostly normal, non-hick person.  Much of the time I'm even allowed to forget about this ridiculously country accent I have.  But every so often, I find myself in a situation that can only be summed up in the dialect of my youth; some quaint, down home saying comes out of my mouth, and I embrace my true self.  Today is one of those days:

oh bless my heart

I know this should actually be "bless his/her heart" or "bless your heart," but what will follow is a story of how I am the sad and pathetic entity requiring all the heart-blessing.  Perhaps, imaginary reader, you're unfamiliar with this expression, so you don't yet grasp just how deserving of your sympathy I should be.  There are two common usages:  Primarily bless (appropriate third-person possessive pronoun) heart is Southern-girl code for "that poor, unfortunate soul . . . let me use my seeming concern to gossip about problems faced and dramas encountered in the life of said individual."  Southern girls could make an Olympic sport out of gossip, but their momas raised them better than to do it overtly--avoiding tackiness being a required course at SEC schools.  So bless whomever's heart is the magic word, the get out of tacky-gossip-jail free card.  For the record the malicious spirit is optional.  Sometimes Southern girl gossip isn't as bad as I'm making it sound . . . I think.  Bless your heart is a slightly different thing . . . when you're blessing someone's heart to his/her face, it's not gossip, but it's still a mild put-down in the vein of "oh you poor, dumb thing."  It's that sort of condescending sympathy of which I am in need today.

I normally don't leave work at midday.  Even if I don't bring my lunch, I eat at one of the many fine downtown dining establishments.  Because I have to park in a parking deck more than half a block away, it's just sort of inconvenient (and for most of the year uncomfortably hot or cold), but sometimes I have to deal with the inconvenience.  The problem with leaving at midday is that I typically don't pack up all my stuff if I'm not leaving for the day, so it's not altogether uncommon for me to arrive at my car and realize that I've left my keys in their designated pocket of my bag which is sitting under my desk.  I always feel beyond stupid when this happens, and as luck would have it, I am almost always caught walking in circles to retrieve them by someone who's only too happy to give me crap about it.  So when that happened to me this afternoon as I was trying to leave, it was scarcely noteworthy.  Sure I wasted ten minutes round trip due to my own frustrating stupidity, but it certainly wasn't breaking news.

Lucky for you and blog fodder, my key drama continued.  Tonight at closing, we had a couple of underagers who were waiting for a ride, so I ended up waiting with a couple of my security buddies for the parents to arrive, so it was already 8:15ish when we hiked over to the parking deck.  Just as the elevator was nearing the third floor, I began to dig fruitlessly through the key pocket and the rest of my bag for my keys.  Marquis, the best security guard in the history of security guards, walked me back over to the library to get the forgotten keys.  I foraged through the upper strata of my desk with no luck.  I retraced all the steps I made in our department after my return.  By this point, I was not only moderately frantic but also painfully aware that I was keeping my pal Marquis from going home thanks to my ridiculous inability to keep track of my possessions.  So I gave up.  I called in the cavalry, and when allegedly helpful roommate Jess screened me in my hour of need, my superhero of a brother came to my rescue to pick me up.  Lots of cuss words ensued (mine, not Shane's--he was nothing but pleasant and patient).  I got home for the first time at nine, and rather than follow the original plan of getting copies made of Jess's house keys (which was likely impossible at that time of night), I finally confirmed that the extra key that's been hanging out at our house for the past fifteen months does indeed unlock the knob of the kitchen door, so I can enter and leave my house at will.  My run of improved luck held when I realized that I hadn't yet lost the spare key (and extra clicker) to my car.  So a penitent Jess took me to liberate my car from the parking deck, and after a quick stop back at the house to pick up my wallet (because of course, I'd left that at home), I tracked down some dinner and made it home before ten, but not by much.

So bless my heart . . .

It did sort of end up better than it began, and I've calmed down considerably about how my life will play out if I don't find them, but I was deserving of the most sincerely contemptuous bless your hearts ever just a few hours ago.  Lucky for me, Jess isn't a real Southern girl, so I didn't actually have to endure any.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

a birthday tribute

My Grams turned fifty the year I was born.  It was a handy piece of information when I put that together as I never have to stop and wonder how old she was.  As long as I can remember my own age, I can get to hers.  Today she turns eighty-two (which means, incidentally, that I'm thirty-two in case that math was too much for you).
(The birthday cake I made her in 2006)

Friends of blog will recall that I posted pictures from Grams's birthday last year but did not do the full five-favorite birthday treatment, a fact I intend to remedy today.  I have found that it is sometimes tough to write the five-favorite posts about the youngsters in my life because I've known them such a relatively short amount of time and don't have years of shared experiences and memories from which to draw.  The difficulty I find with writing these posts about the adult-types in my life is that there are too many stories and characteristics, too much specialness to narrow it down to five.  So my favorites may be deliberately broad here so I can cram in as much Gramsy goodness as can be managed.
(With the first 8 great-grands in 2007)

5.  Most every childhood memory of my Grams is wrapped up in food.  Faithful readers may recall that I have occasionally mentioned my moma's cooking as the standard for all great things in the world, and she came by that skill quite honestly.  My Grams is the mastermind behind the way I think Thanksgiving dinners ought to be.  Her way of cooking a roast is the best way.  And though my moma cooks many things just like her, there will always be dishes that are Grams's signature dishes, things that no one can do as well as her, like baked apples (which I foolishly didn't even eat as a kid) and banana pudding and chocolate pie and fudge and Sunday night popcorn.  And cornbread--I could cheerfully eat her cornbread for every meal for the remainder of my life.  The summer I was learning to cook like a grown-up, I tried to get Grams to give me her recipe for deviled eggs.  The only exact measurement in the whole thing was the number of eggs to use--and even that was dependent upon how many people I wanted to feed.  It was years before I worked up the nerve to try and make them on my own with a little of this and just enough of that.  Of course, they were nothing like as good as hers, but I'm going to keep trying. I'm sure this idea came down the generations long before my Grams entered the picture, but she's the place where I learned it:  feeding someone, taking the time to prepare meals and making sure that everyone gets their favorite is one of the purest expressions of love.  Food fuels the body, but my Grams's food and the memories of meals at her table (even the card table in the utility room) will feed my heart for the rest of my life.
(With my moma last summer)

4.  My Grams is careful and meticulous.  In this day and age, folks would look at her organized cabinets and storage solutions and mention OCD, but that's not really it.  She has just always been a person who likes order and never had enough money to be wasteful.  So she re-purposed things that others would discard and made lists on the insides of cabinet doors so you could find what you needed at a glance.  In case you were wondering, while this is a trait that she passed down, I didn't get a drop of it.  Michelle took all that organization and attention to detail and love of order and left me with the haphazard sloppiness of some other ancestor, but I can still admire the clever ways that Grams has of keeping things orderly.  The one time she helped me move, I put her in charge of lining the kitchen cabinets and drawers.  She measured and cut perfectly straight lines and lined everything with such precision that I was shamed into keeping everything orderly just to honor the lining. I can remember when she helped Michelle pack up to move one time, she had to clean the glass on every picture frame before wrapping it flawlessly in newspaper.  The woman was born for detail work, and though I often lament that more of this trait didn't rub off on me, if I ever have a moment of ingenuity or an organizational breakthrough, it makes me feel like her girl.
 (Christmas 2010)
3.  My Grams is a woman of faith, and that is truly something she leaves as her legacy.  My childhood memories of Grams and church are completely intertwined from her forceful, strong singing voice to her mispronunciation of Matthew to her unabashed arguments in Bible class.  Her devotion to the study of Scripture has always been an example to me--and not one that I come close to living up to.  If she'd been doing Project 4:4 last year, she wouldn't have quit in April.  I always remember my Gramps as the spiritual leader of our family, but the truth is without Grams, he wouldn't have been.  And while I sometimes think Grams and I don't see eye to eye on all things theological, she's such a huge part of why I believe at all, and her steady faith is a constant comfort to me.
(Fall 2010)

2.  When my Gramps was alive, I think he overshadowed Grams a little.  He was such a charmer, with such a big personality that it was easy to be drawn to him, and in my memories she was always stricter, more serious, the straight man to his comic.  But they worked together as a team gloriously.  Maybe it's just because I didn't know them until they'd been married for over thirty years, but the two of them fit together in a way that made perfect sense, which is not to say that they always agreed or got along perfectly.  But when I think of them, I can remember how when she was exasperated, he just smiled and those blue eyes twinkled, and when he was frustrated, she soothed.  Maybe that's selective memory, but that's how I want to remember them.  They took care of each other in a million little ways, and so much of my idea of what marriage is supposed to look like comes from them.  When I was in the fifth grade, I started riding the bus to their house in the afternoons to hang out with them until my moma got off work.  When I think about them together, that's where I picture them--in the living room watching Club Dance or sitting at the kitchen table with their afternoon coffee (and if Gramps and I were lucky Twinkies), with their everyday, ordinary conversations and teasing and occasional bickering.  In the fourteen years that I've gotten to know Grams without Gramps, I've come to appreciate her humor and personality a little more, but I also always think she's just a little incomplete, a little less than she was with him.  That idea drives my vision of heaven as a place of reunion.  I need to believe it will be for the two of them.
(A four generation pic with MacMac, CST1BF, and tiny Elijah)
1.  One of my favorite things to do over the past dozen years or so is to watch Grams with our babies, the great-grands.  She's got ten at the moment with number eleven due to arrive in November, and she adores those babies.  Seeing her dote and laugh and fuss and fill up with pride over these kiddos gives me flashes of my own childhood, and I know that she doted and laughed and fussed and burst with pride over me (and the other seven grands) just as she does for them.  It's the same kind of love she has for her three girls, and it's the basis for all the love that we all give back to her.  It's continuity, linking us to the past and stretching us into the future, a love that will outlive her and someday me.  It's a love that is making this last long good-bye the easiest thing to do and the hardest, both triumphant and heart-breaking.
Happy Birthday, Grams!

Friday, June 24, 2011

five things

Five things that make me happy:
(About a month ago some fb friend talked of making a list of 50 things to be happy about.  I thought I might try it, got as far as what I ate for lunch, and couldn't finish.  I'm going to do better this time--but 50 is still too ambitious for me.)

5.  Well, to honor the original list:  grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches.  It was a really great lunch.

4.  Rainy days.  Everyone I know seems to suffer from season affective disorder, but I am the opposite.  I love clouds and rain and cold.  I especially like when it rains at work because we're surrounded by windows, and I love the watching the sky drama. And since it's ridiculously hot here now, sweltering, miserable, August-style hot, I'm remembering our storm-riddled, mild-temperatured spring with all sorts of fondness. (Well, not the devastating tornado part of it, obviously.)

3. Singing.  Various factors have kept me from my church lots for the past couple of months, but last Wednesday I managed to be there for an entire service for the first time in forever.  There was this spectacularly transcendent moment when we were singing "How Great Is Our God" that managed to restore my spirit in ways that I didn't even realize were needed.  I'm going to remember not to forget to sing.

FitFlop Women's Walkstar Toning Sandal,Bronze,7 M US2.  FitFlops.  My moma bought me these.  I mentioned to her sometime in passing that I thought I would buy some this summer.  The truth is I'm getting too old to wear cheap shoes all the time, and I have long admired Michelle's FitFlops.  So she bought them for me out of the blue because she's so precious.  They're delightfully comfortable, and I don't even mind that they make me even taller.  Typically I don't like shoes that make me taller, but these are great.  Thanks, Moma!

1.  Family.  I couldn't decide if it was even fair to include the soul-filling, constant-comfort kind of happy that is my family in a list where I talk about sandwiches and footwear, but it would be an insult to omit them and the laughter, the belonging, the delight that people I've known my whole life can still surprise me with their strengths and kindnesses. They are mine, and my cup is full and overflowing just from being theirs.

Five things that make me nervous:

5.  Grad school.  It's happening this fall, I guess, though I haven't been officially accepted yet.

4.  Summer Reading Club. It's the most intense seven weeks of my entire working year--plus the even more than most intense six or eight weeks getting ready for it.  Somehow it always sorts itself out, but in the meantime it slowly sucks my will to live, or at least my will to blog. (Only five and a half more weeks to go!)

3.  Awkward situations in movies.  Have you noticed this thing in every comedy made in the past few years wherein all the humor relies on social awkwardness or characters who create ridiculously embarrassing situations for themselves?  It seriously makes me squirm.  I can't take it.  I'm a mess.  I know I shouldn't get so invested in stories and fake people, but it's a thing I do, and it's nerve-wracking.

2.  Tweeting.  Maybe I haven't told you that I'm on the twitters (@sellensam if you want to follow me), but I've been tweeting with some regularity for a few months, and I still find it intimidating.  I think I need to stop following funny people and that will ease the tension.

1. The state of my DVR.  I started falling behind on tv in April and though I've taken some time here and there to try and catch up, there are still two or three shows that have been over for weeks that I can't seem to finish, and the So You Think You Can Dance episodes are piling up.  That's really not the kind of show one should put off, and yet I can't seem to sit down and watch.  In the meantime, the free space percentage on the DVR shrinks daily.

Five things that aren't going my way: 

5.  FHDM has never been a more appropriate name for him, but sadly he's never going to be my future husband.  Donald Miller is engaged to someone who's not me.  I'm sure she's a lovely person as he recently tweeted that she's going to Africa to help children, so I can't even hate her.  So I'm once again taking applications for my future husband.  Fairly minimum job requirements:  must be funny, literate, a multi-millionaire, and willing to let me have my way always.

4.  My Grams is not doing well.  I've not known whether/how to communicate this to pretty much everyone, but how to deal with it on the blog has been especially confusing.  Ultimately, it's a family matter, and while I'm not hesitant to broadcast family stuff normally, I've just gone back and forth on how much I want to talk about this.  But here's the deal.  She's in liver failure, and she's at home and in hospice care.  And she has good days and bad days, and it's not any fun.  On the other hand, I'm going to see her two or three times a week, and that's been mostly nice.  I'm seeing a lot of my family which I also enjoy.  I have a lot of feelings about it, and for once in my spill-my-guts life, I am doing a terrible job of knowing how to talk about it.  So apparently I'm going to do so awkwardly.  Thanks for not judging me too harshly for the awkward. And thanks for the prayers that have been sent up and will continue to be sent up on behalf of her and my family.

3. My house refuses to be trained to become self-cleaning.  I know it could do this--if only it would apply itself.  But alas, I come home nightly, and the same messes I left that morning are there, taunting me.

2.  I fell off the healthy-eating wagon in April, and I can't seem to find the discipline, energy, or interest to get back on. 

1.  I know this five things was my idea, but now I can't think of a fifth go here, and I've ruined the lists.  I guess that could count as something that's not going my way.

Five things I've learned lately:

5.   You can't force funny.  A couple of weeks ago, cousin, scholar, theologian, #1 blog fan suggested a humorous treatment for a topic I was considering writing.  If I could have pulled it off, it would have been perfection (so perfect that I'm keeping it in reserve for another time), but as I tried to write it, it just wasn't funny, and nothing I did was helpful.  So I stopped throwing good humor after bad.

4.  Don't get a haircut without a plan.  I've been growing my hair out for two and half years.  And then suddenly it was a mess.  I never wanted to fix it, it was so long it didn't even make a cute ponytail anymore, and it was smothering me in the oppressive Arkansas heat.  So I decided to get a haircut last week, but I didn't pick a style or find a picture or make a plan, and as a result, I have a mess on my head.  The official length is pretty much what I wanted, but my usual long layers that I need to thin out the ends and make them lay nicely turned into short layers that pretty much guarantee my hair's going to flip and be insane and never lay nicely.

3.  My tastebuds routinely make a fool of me.  Though I've always claimed to not be a picky eater, there have always been certain foods that I didn't like and would never eat.  Lately, I've had opportunities to re-try some of those foods or go hungry, and what I've found is that I like pretty much everything.  Fish is still iffy, and oatmeal is questionable, but lima beans are my new best friend.  Go figure.

2. Sleep is important.  Okay, I knew this one, but lately I've been forcefully reminded.  My sleep pattern is off, and it makes me constantly late and occasionally irrational.  Boo.

1. I don't know everything.  Yeah, I knew this one too, but you can rarely tell by the way I act.  So recently I've been becoming more okay with not knowing everything, and though it's an adjustment, I think it's a welcome change.  I dare say it might eventually make me a better person.  Keep your eyes peeled for that.