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.