Monday, December 31, 2007

Resolutions II

Sorry... can't help it. It's the last day of the year and I simply must reflect It certainly doesn't help that I am again stuck at my desk, one of only 50 people in the whole universe, I suspect.

Anyway, aside from making one or two pseudo-resolutions, another thing I've done instead of setting myself up by making lists of things I know I won't accomplish is to have a New Year's Eve Burning Ceremony. I picked this one up from a church I attended and it's kind of a nice way to commemorate the hanging of the new wall calendar.

You set up your fire -- fireplace, woodstove, candle in a nice ceramic/metal bowl, grill*, kitchen stove and a pan, match and a concrete step or bare patch of earth or whatever -- then you write on small pieces of paper, in just a few words, things that you want to be free from in the new year. Emotional things you've been stuck on, relationships (or aspects of them) you're ready to be done with, habits you're oh-so-more-than-ready to quit; anything you want out of your physical, emotional, or spiritual space.

Then you light the freakin' things on fire and cackle with glee as they burst into flames and are released to the universe! Bwah-ha-ha-haaa!

Actually it can be very therapeutic, even for those of us who aren't excessively spiritual.

The whole New Year's thing has typically been a tough time for me. First, it's in the middle of hibernation season, plus I somehow picked up the notion early on that it was supposed to be Meaningful-with-an-M. It rarely ever was, leaving me feeling a little let down and hollow somehow. But this silly simple little ceremony seems to help. It gives me something to do -- gives some direction to my thoughts -- rather than drink, which I really can't do much of any more anyway. At different times in my life it's been a relaxing celebration, a quiet reflection, and an intensely emotional process. And always it surprises me how Meaningful it seems.

So burn, baby, burn! Just don't burn down the house, 'k?

*Charcoal or gas, your choice, but outside please!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Scrapyard Lullaby

Well, I'm pissed yet again. I forgot to bring my new CDs to work for the third day in a row! I really wanted to listen to my latest Chris Whitley CD, Dislocation Blues.Instead, here's a video from Dirt Floor,the Chris Whitley CD I bought last month.

Scrapyard Lullaby, Chris Whitley, Dirt Floor

Rock that Friday, sweet and mellow. Ah, yes.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


I'm making one and only one resolution for 2008:
No matter what it takes, I will have enough vacation time on the books to take off Dec. 26th

Unless we get it off anyway.

Coming into work yesterday sucked and blew. Plus I forgot to bring my new CDs so I didn't even get to listen to my new music. And I forgot them today too. Grrr.

Seriously, I've worked hard to get out of the resolution business. I think it's pretty natural to look backward and forward at the end of the year and think about how things would'a/could'a/should'a been different. I know I'm lucky that I don't have any major addictions or issues that require a drastic lifestyle change*; if there's something like that going on, the New Year is as good a time as any to make radical change. However, I used to resolve to change the same piddly things year after year. I finally realized that that sounded suspiciously like a pattern or cycle that would probably continue regardless of what I did or didn't say.

For example, every year I used to resolve with all good intention that as soon as I pulled out of my winter hibernation, I would lose the same 10 lbs I lost (almost) every year. After a couple of decades of that, I did a reality check: I'm going to gain it and I'm going to lose it, again, and again, and again. Why treat myself to an extra helping of failure by promising myself that this year will be different? I can take steps to not let it get any worse, but as long as I live in the Land of the Short Winter Days, my mammalian heritage will run true and my size will fluctuate from my fat pants to my slightly-less-fat pants.

So in an attempt to stop "should-ing" all over myself, I'm looking back and appreciating the changes I've made over the past year.
  • I bought a stand-up desk for my office at work a few months back. I figure that each minute I spend off of my ass can only help in my endless quest to become more physically active.
  • I stopped buying water in plastic bottles. It saves $$ and generates less trash, to boot.
  • I stopped stocking soda at my house. Again, more cash, less trash.
  • I cut way back on artificial sweeteners**.
  • I tried to bring home fewer plastic grocery bags.
  • I recycled more of my household trash.
  • This Christmas, I bought a living tree in a pot to keep as an outside pet -- like a giant bonsai -- with the goal of using it for a few more Christmases until it retires to Mr. B's yard.

Yeah, all little things, but I feel like I'm staying true to my long-term goal of doing the best that I can at the time. Hey, now that's a totally generic, low-pressure, practically failure-proof resolution!

*Not that I know of....

**Prediction: In The Future, it will be determined that artificial sweeteners provide minimal net advantage over regular sugar, honey, or other "natural" sweeteners. I'm convinced that overuse of the low-calorie substitutes affects the body's insulin in a way that pretty much counteracts the reduced calorie intake. Betcha a nickel!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Oh yeah, I'm bad

I've been deemed inappropriate!

Here I was, being all crabby about having to work today, when I get this in an email from Evil Twin.

All of a sudden things don't seem quite so bleak.

Watch out, Tony Bourdain... I'm a badass too. Just ask the Department of the Interior.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Holiday edition

Lack of sunlight, be damned; it's still Friday and we still must Rock!

If you've ever sung in a group, especially a cappella, I'm predicting that you'll get a kick out of this one.

And they're from... Indiana! :)

The time for frantic last-minute holiday preps is coming to an end. My holiday wish is that you will soon be able to settle in, kick back, and enjoy the fun part of the season.

I ran out of vacation time months ago so I'll be back at work (and, therefore, blogging) next Wednesday.


We've reached bottom.

Here what we're dealing with in the top left corner of the country:

Friday 21 December 2007 Pacific Standard Time

Sunrise 7:56 a.m.
Sun transit 12:09 p.m.
Sunset 4:21 p.m.

Ugh. That's a whopping 8 hrs and 25 mins of daylight, people. Happy Winter Solstice. Watch out, better get out the sunscreen!

Sun over the post office (barely) @ 12:09pm PST, 12/21/07

Compare that to Tampa, where my sister lives:

Friday 21 December 2007 Eastern Standard Time

Sunrise 7:17 a.m.
Sun transit 12:28 p.m.
Sunset 5:39 p.m.

Yes, they're enjoying a full 10 hrs 22 mins*.

Be forewarned: I will brook no whining from anyone receiving more than 10 hours of sunlight today unless the temp outside is below freezing.

*Wish I had thought to have her get a shot of the sun at her house @ 12:28pm EST.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

And the correct answer is...

...It's a No-shitter! Strange but true. My Evil Twin Back East received a gen-yoo-wine holiday letter from the wife of a former co-worker containing that very excerpt*. It was an unbelievably explicit and unintentionally hilarious yet pathetic month-by-month listing of what must be every single event from their 2007 calendar.

Even better, these letters have been going out for some time. As Evil Twin explained in her initial email, "I'm not sure If her dad died -- actually he's not mentioned in the letter, and I just threw the last two years away, so he may have. He had been enjoying ill health for many years.

I can only imagine.

I like Mr. B's summary the best. "Not only is [her] glass less than half full, it's suffering evaporative losses and could tip over in the upcoming earthquake."

You're thinking, Then what should a proper holiday letter look like, Miss Smarty-pants? I'm glad you asked. This one, IMHO, is perfection.
Let's see. Found DS in bed with his girlfriend, DD has worked 36 days out of the last 365, I've gained even more weight, the dog got out twice, I had my colonoscopy, we went to Chincoteague, DH didn't play as much golf as he wanted to, DS worked at the local golf course, BIL died. Both kids graduated, we got a new stove and dishwasher, and had a tree taken down. The paint is peeling off the top of the blue Caravan (yes, we still have it!) and I got another knee. DH got shit-faced at the big football game, and had to be carried into the house by his buddies, much to the joy of his children. DS ran into the house with the Camry. DD has a real nice fungus thing between her toes.

See? The proper amount of oversharing presented succinctly can be a beautiful thing. I love it, but I have to admit that it's kind of a cheat. It was a No-shitter from Evil Twin and it truly depicts her household goings-on this year, but it's also kind of a Bullshitter because she was mocking her husband's request that she write a holiday letter. Her real one was only slightly sanitized.

As Peter so kindly pointed out in his comment yesterday, I've already shared plenty this year so I'll cut y'all some slack and spare you my efforts. But if I get my hands on any more juicy ones, I promise to share.

*I did remove the proper nouns, but otherwise it's verbatim. I shit you not.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

'Tis the season...

...for Ho-ho-oversharing!

It's that time. Time for the Annual Receipt of the Letters of Obscene Oversharing*.

Letters from people with whom I enjoy a current relationship can be sweet, sometimes poignant glimpses of the ups and downs of their day-to-day lives. But, unfortunately, that's the exception to the rule. Most times I'm bemused and a little embarrassed by what former co-workers, neighbors from three moves ago, and other shirt-tail acquaintances reveal under the guise of a holiday greeting.

Hey, that gives me an idea! Let's play No-shitter or Bullshitter. Is this prime example of holiday oversharing real or bogus?
In April, DH and I met with the funeral guy to discuss our plans. On our anniversary - I got sick! Mom had to have a barium swallow test done. Then mom started to have severe pains in her side and back and couldn't get any relief from it - so we spent 6 hours in the ER - they weren't sure what it was either. Mom then saw Dr. E - she sent us to the hospital for an x-ray. Then the next day - we spent another 6 hours in the ER - this doctor seemed to think that mom had passed a kidney stone but we never had any confirmation on that. They did give mom some powerful drugs for the pain - I wouldn't have minded some for me! It took almost 2 whole weeks before mom did not have any more pain from this stuff. Oh - I got a call on my 2 scopes that I had in March: the endoscopy - they removed several polyps from my stomach - they were benign BUT the colonoscopy - they removed 1 polyp that was cancerous. So now I have to have another colonoscopy done in 3 years vs. 5 years. YES cancer does run on both sides of my family.

OK, what do you think? While I wait for the phones to ring, I'll try to invent/scavenge some entries for future rounds.

*Known also as X-treme TMI

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Holiday Greetings from Poland

Here's the tail end of an email exchange I had yesterday with a university professor in Poland:
Dear Liz,

Thank you very much for the e-mails.

I installed the software with no problems and now I'm happy since all works OK. Your software is outstanding!

In the beauty of the season, In the joy of Christmas Day, May you find a special meaning that brings!


You know, sometimes this tech support gig ain't so bad.

Monday, December 17, 2007


Do I or don't I make the cookies?

I love cookie recipes; collecting them, comparing them, carefully selecting my first round and second round (and maybe even third round) draft picks, figuring out my game plan, and sometimes actually making them. Making them is a heluva lot of work, but if you forge on through the hassle and the stress, you have cookies! Yay, cookies!

This year I have the golden opportunity to re-imagineer my holiday traditions. I get to decide, with pretty much no external pressure, yea or nay. And there lies the dilemma.

Although I'm guessing that Mr. B, Young Son, and Lovely Daughter would be willing to eat the products of my endeavors, none of them will be at my house full-time over the next couple of weeks. That does not bode well for my already-stressed fat pants. I'm short on time; shorter still on mental energy. And there are still lots boxes to unpack. There seem to be ample reasons to not.

Fat pants be damned! Do I want to spend Christmas Eve with Chips Ahoys and Oreos*? Wouldn't the pre-holiday weekend be preternaturally sterile without the sounds and smells of me banging around bowls and implements, swearing, and making a huge mess in my new kitchen? Isn't that what the holiday season is all about?

OK, maybe I'll make just a couple of different kinds.

It's funny how lots of naggy, negative reasons to not do can be swept aside in a heartbeat by one single, shiny reason to do.


*Not that there's anything wrong with that. Evil corporate cookies, perhaps, but they are delicious!

Friday, December 14, 2007

First dance

Yeah, yeah, I know; it's internet humor. But it had me doing the happy dance around my office, officially qualifying it as a Class I Friday Rocker.

Baby Got Back,Sir Mix A Lot, Mack Daddy

Isn't this just the cutest thing? You can tell they worked so hard to put this together. That guy is such a good sport.

I do dig the song, even though I should know better. Hope it rocks your Friday too.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I make things

We've been together long enough now that I feel it's safe to reveal this very intimate and quirky aspect of my personality.

Ummm... I make things. I mean, I make things. Lots of them. Or to be precise (and I must), I try things.

I've been making things for a long time. I first recognized this might be a personality quirk as a young teen in the early 70s. I was rummaging around behind the garage looking for a nice piece of firewood upon which to Modge Podge a crude approximation of Holly Hobbie that I had drawn. Even at the time, I thought "How odd, that I feel compelled to do this." But do it, I did. And I was pleased.

Other projects from that era that come to mind are some avocado green melamine salad plates I painted (can't remember what though) and a carved Plaster-of-Paris plaque of the cover art from my copy of The Two Towers. That last one was pretty cool, actually. I poured the Plaster-of-Paris into a disposable aluminum pie tin, carved the image using my mom's manicure tools, and sealed it with nail polish.

I took a really cool class called Craft Design my freshman year in high school. We got to carve wood, hammer brass bowls, and other neat projects. Sheer heaven! I wish I still had some of those early efforts. But since I was a science geek at heart, I abandoned my crafting classes in favor of more science-y things.

I'd learned to knit and crochet as a young child at my Mema's knee and I gravitated back to it later in high school. Pushing past some horrible memories from junior high Home Ec*, I even took up sewing when my husband bought me a sewing machine the first Christmas we lived together**. I must've been all of 19.

Over the next two decades or so, things got quite out of hand. Cross stitch, crewel embroidery, needlepoint, calligraphy, knitting, pottery, ceramics, basketry, quilting, mathematics, grad school, breadmaking, knitting, piano, computers, weaving, and spinning. Knitting's in there a lot. I did a lot of knitting.

As you probably noticed, mixed in there are some things that don't actually produce things. That's when I started forming the notion that I might be trying things, ideas, concepts; not just making things.

Somewhere in there came the soapmaking. Which, of course, led to making other bath & body products. Which, of course, necessitated the launching of a small business*** to sell stuff to get $$ and free up space to make more. Unfortunately, the conceiving of and creating small businesses with the obligatory websites, brochures, and logos took on a life of its own. Another thing to try.

Took about a decade to burn that out of my system. Along the way I managed to try a few more things: Wood carving, running, family blogging, wire jewelry, keeping chickens, singing (choral and lessons), baking, chocolate work, and cake decorating.

Now as I approach what must be the 35-year-point in my career of trying things, I think I've run out of normal things to try because it's starting to get a little weird. My most recent projects include exploring the possibilities of plarn and making clocks out of old CDs. And writing this thing. I mean really! Can it get any more random than that?

For a long time I felt bad about confusing my spouse, spending bucks on books and supplies (half the fun, you know), and then not sticking with things. I thought that there must be something wrong with me. However, lately I've come to realize that while some interests do "stick", it's really the process of learning and understanding -- grokking, if you will -- that I thrive on. A meta-hobby, perhaps?

Mr. B calls it "collecting competencies", which I like even though I can't claim I've always achieved competency along the way. And even better, Mr. B shares my susceptibility to random and severe attacks of Shiny! As in "Ooooh, look! Shiny!". I find that very comforting. And yeah, I'll confess: It is kind of fun to watch someone else succumb.

As for future projects? Future blogfodder!

p.s. Free knitting patterns here!

*Orange and purple plaid pants. I shit you not. Hey, it was the 70's.

**Poor Ex. He thought that would domesticate me. I liked making things with it but never did catch the homemaking bug. Just the first in a long series of disappointments for him, I'm afraid.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


We are closed today in observance of a random Mental Health Holiday.

We will reopen tomorrow when we get a chance.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tech support no-shitter

Probably about eight years ago, I had to call Comcast to help troubleshoot my brandy-new broadband internet connection.

I wound my way through the automated answering system hell and I finally got a tech on the line. He started reading The Script. Had I cycled power on the modem? Affirmative. Then he asked if had I unplugged the power cord from the wall or from the back of the modem. I thought it was kind of an odd question, but I answered the latter.

All stop. There was a just-slightly-too-long silence on the other end of the phone. Uh oh... my brain frantically replayed the conversation so far. What did I say?

Then, with all the authority that a tech can wield when you and he both know that he can and will refuse to help you if you do not follow his script, he told me, in all seriousness, that I had to do it again. And this time I had to unplug the power cord from the wall, because that was different than unplugging it from the modem.

I shit you not.

I was dumbstruck. I was so stunned that I couldn't even form a sentence. He was so insistent about it that I started to doubt my sense of reality. Could it possibly be true? Nah. No way. Maybe? Can't be. Can it?

In the end, I told him yes, I did it again, just the way he told me to. But I didn't.

You know, after all this time, it's still one of my all-time favorite tech support stories. He was just so absolutely sure that it mattered, he had all the power, and he damned well was going to ensure that I did it according to his script. And he probably hung up the phone feeling like he and his script had saved the day.


Monday, December 10, 2007

Snick... snick... snick...

How can the distinctive sound of someone clipping their nails in the privacy of their own office be so unbelievably gross?

Ugh. I'm hoping it's fingernails.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Once more, with feeling

Score! I found the video to the Mike Doughty song I mentioned earlier this week. Just in time to Rock my Friday!

Looking At The World From The Bottom Of A Well,Mike Doughty, Haughty Melodic

I wonder how hard it is to play guitar lying flat on your back on pavement....

p.s. I'm feeling better.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Looking at the world...

...from the bottom of a well. Yes, it's both a cool song by Mike Doughty and an accurate reflection of my mood this week.

So what's up? And what do I have to complain about anyway? I just moved into my own house; I'm warm, dry, well-fed (!), and employed. The chorus of Presbyterian ancestors in my brain just started in with their favorite chant: Suck it up! It's just a flesh wound -- walk it off! Rub some dirt in it! Stop feeling sorry for yourself! Quit being such a pussy! OK, maybe not that last one.

As far as I can tell, this is where brain chemicals come in; or more precisely, my low reserves of them. I usually hold up pretty well when the pressure is on, but if it stays on just a little too long, however long that is, I crash as soon as things approach normal. It's almost more a physical thing than a mental thing although the mental and emotional functions are what suffer.

I can get through the day by sheer force of habit but I have no mental energy left for anything other than the bare essentials*. Given a choice, I'd curl up on the couch with the remote and check out for a week-long pity party.

The saving grace is that over the past three decades of dealing with these episodes, I've uncovered a few basic truths that nearly always hold. It is what it is. It will eventually pass. Falling into the pit doesn't mean my life sucks. Listening to The Ancestors does no good; beating myself up over it doesn't make it go away any faster. Although medication does. Or it would, if I were currently taking my meds....

Uh, wait a minute. What was that last thing, again?

Crap. I think I just told myself the right answer. Which is better than someone else telling me the right answer, I suppose. I just wish it didn't take so long for me to communicate with myself.

*As is evidenced by this really lame blog entry. Sorry.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Gloom & doom

Well, that sucked!

We were visited with a significant (for us) load of wet snow over the weekend followed by a butt-ton of rain, over 8" in 24 hours. Two things saved our bacon: it didn't freeze, and the wind didn't get as freakishly bad as predicted.

There wasn't a lot of major damage in my immediate stomping grounds, but outlying areas are enjoying washed-out roads and bridges and, of course, landslides.

You know, they say that as that climate warms up, this kind of increasingly severe chaotic weather is what we can look forward to in my corner of the globe.