Wednesday, April 29, 2009
by William Ernest Henley
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the full clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishment the scroll,
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
They put me right in against a seven. And I'm a three. Meaning that the guy I was playing against was four levels better than me. Yahoo. Boy, I love losing. (He was really nice, though.)
But a funny thing happened. I don't know if it was that my opponent was just in a hurry to get out of there or the planets aligned for me or what, but I didn't stink. I won. I won the match! Like, legitimately. Like, hitting the balls into the pockets and everything. Not a charity win. Could not BELIEVE it.
I have to attribute it to coach, who has had the patience of Job teaching me while I consistently played like crap for months. That and the fact that some decent music FINALLY came on over the jukebox. (I still insist that this pool hall is the place music goes to die. I hardly EVER hear a decent song in there, and most of what I do hear is the crudest stuff you can imagine.)
Maybe I might could be a pool player one day after all?
Sunday, April 26, 2009
I leave for work early in the morning. Hubs leaves later and drops booger off at daycare on his way in to work. I often come home to little surprises (like messes that weren't there when I left), but I also come home to cute little evidence that the two of them were cutting up together.
I love this man.
And as for Cookie Monster, I think that crazy kid may just have a career in entertainment.
At any rate, there was this cute blonde guy who ALSO worked at the Dairy Queen. One day, best friend and I were at the mall, and we ran into said cute guy. He was leaving Steak Escape with a to-go order. So we stopped and talked a minute, and he said that he was just taking his Grandest Chicken Sandwich to somewhere or other.
The Grandest Chicken is one of my favorite sandwiches. My love for this sandwich knows no bounds. So when cute blonde guy mentioned that he, too, harbored a deep affection for this gooey concoction of chicken, white bread, mayo, and deliciousness, my respect for him immediately jumped up a couple of notches.
Later, when best friend told me that cute blonde guy would be interested in asking me out, my teenaged brain rationalized the situation this way:
1.) He's really cute.
2.) He's really, really cute.
3.) He likes the Grandest Chicken.
From there, it was a short hop to our first chaperoned date. (No lie. Best friend came along. It was the three of us!) After that, it was a year of fun dates and school dances, four years of on-and-off dating through college, and then a joyful traipse down the aisle.
Now, why am I telling you all this? Because a Steak Escape just opened near where we live!! It's Grandest Chicken time ALL the time!! Clearly, this is a sign from the heavens that I made the right choice in selecting my martial partner. My judgement, confirmed by the universe, once again.
Now, off to get lunch . . .
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Right after Vicksburg, you'll notice Haddad's Sporting Goods and Guns on your right. (I always wonder who Haddad is, and why he ended up there. Dad would probably know.) A little bit further down the road is OK Cars. (As in, "These cars ain't GREAT, just OK." Whether this marketing strategy has worked well for the proprietor, I can't tell you.)
Once you get out of the Vicksburg area, it gets really interesting. I watched a bright yellow crop duster spin like a kite in the air. I'm sure the guy was doing his job and all, but he looked like he was having alot of fun, too. (Probably someone I would like if I met him.)
When you get into the Delta, the flat land stretches itself out underneath the sky. (The day I went was gorgeous, with hardly any clouds. The sky cupped over the land like a perfect blue dome.)
Then you come to Onward. I've always wondered how Onward, Mississippi, got its name. Did the people who first settled there figure that they had reached some destination they'd dreamt about? Onward is supposedly famous for the Teddy Roosevelt hunting incident, but I associate it more with The Onward Store. It looks like the quirkiest place you ever saw, perched with a fearless cheer right on the edge of the road. Every time I drive through there, I want to stop at The Onward Store, but I haven't yet. Maybe next time . . .
There are lots of fields in north Mississippi. In fact, fields are what you'll mostly see if you drive up Highway 61. They'll have those big irrigation systems lumbering across them that look like metal dinosaur skeletons. If you drive on 61, you'll slow down alot and pass tractors or guys in trucks hauling all kinds of farm-related stuff. They'll wave, and so will you.
You'll smell alot of wet earth, some pesticide (in the case of my crop dusting friend), the occasional dead skunk. But mostly, you'll breathe in nice, fresh air. And even though the road is two-laned, you'll have it mostly to yourself and whatever music you choose to crank up on the radio. (I listened to alot of Caroline Herring - I love her song "Mississippi Snow" - and Claire Holley that day.)
Along the way, I stopped to eat one of those ice cream Drumsticks (the kind with the chocolate in the bottom of the cone) at a little gas station. I ate them all the time when we used to ride with mom and dad up to our grandparents' house in Iuka, but I hadn't had one in years. It was really good.
And I stood near the edge of the road dust, eating my ice cream, with the sun shining full on me, thinking I was the luckiest girl in the world to have time to drive, eat, see, and think on Highway 61. If you haven't done so, go there soon.
Monday, April 20, 2009
After examining it and trying some repair ideas, hubs and I decided to keep the chairs as incidental seating for the yard and chuck (or perhaps re-imagine?) the table. Thus, the need for a new patio set.
We shopped around a bit, visitng four or five stores to look at what was available. I wasn't too impressed with the tables that I was seeing. I don't like glass-topped tables for outdoors. There are always leaves and junk under them, and I don't like looking at that mess while I eat.
I finally found a table I reallyreally liked at Target. It was metal with a tile top, and it was reasonably priced. But, since we don't have a truck anymore, and since Target doesn't deliver, I was in a quandary. The Target employee told me it was one of the few tables they had left, and that I couldn't leave it at the store for much more than 3 hours after I purchased it (liability issue).
After trying to wrestle it into the CRV for a few minutes, I was getting a bit frustrated. But I am the kind of person that doesn't give up when I want something. So I said to the Target employee, "You know, there is usually alot more box than there is table, know what I mean? What if we took the table out of the box? I bet it would fit then." We went back inside, got some scissors, and removed the table from the box. Voila! Easy as pie.
Brought it home, and hubs put it together. It's sitting on my back patio now, looking gorgeous.
Then for the chairs. The chairs that came with this table had alot of fabric in them, and I didn't like them. Soooo, after buying the table sans chairs, I went looking for some metal chairs, maybe with fabric cushions. Hubs and I had seen some at Lowe's that we thought would be perfect.
My plan was to stop by Lowe's on the way to pool night, pop in to buy the chairs/set up a delivery date, and be on my way. But did things work out that way? No. My life is weird.
I show up, and a store employee quickly approached me to help. As we were looking for a box of the chairs I selected, I told him there was no way I'd be able to haul the stuff home myself, so I'd have to set up delivery. He asked me where I lived and, after I told him, he mentioned that it would be $50-$80 for Lowe's to deliver the chairs out there. I said something to the effect of, "Well, if I have to pay, I'll pay."
He looked at me for a minute and narrowed his eyes. Then, he said, "If you don't mind driving a ratty old truck, I'll let you borrow mine." What?
Seriously. The guy reached in his pocket and pulled out his keys. He asked me not to tell anyone at Lowe's, because he might get in trouble for keeping me from paying that $80. Come again?
Before I know it, I'm driving his truck, loaded with my chairs, back to the house. Within 15 minutes or so more, I had it back in the Lowe's parking lot and was handing him his keys.
Weirdest thing ever. But I bet that, once I put these chairs together, my patio set is going to look terrific. ;)
Sunday, April 19, 2009
First of all, alot of things in my life have decided to break at the same time. First, my car. Let's just say that I *might* have been doing some extreme driving last week, and I totally blew out my brakes. Saturday morning found hubs and I at the shop, where I not only had some extensive scheduled maintenance done (60,000 miles), but I also had a complete brake job.
Secondly, my garage door opener. Lucky for me, hubs installed a keypad on the outside of the garage that you can also use to open it, because my remote opener has totally crapped out. Had to swing by Lowe's this weekend and replace it.
Thirdly, my phone. Still trying to work that one out.
Fourthly, my DirecTV. We are getting all the cable channels, but for some reason, we aren't getting local channels. I called them to send a serviceman out to the house on Friday, and they said he'd call when he was on his way over. But of course, he didn't call me at work (like I SPECIFICALLY asked him to when I booked the service appointment), he called me at HOME. People, I am at work to make money so I can PAY you to fix this dish!! There IS no one at home! ~Sigh.~ Sooooo, I've rescheduled my appointment for tomorrow.
In the last week or so, we've also had to replace our hammock (Because that thing was just getting sad. When we'd all get in it, our butts would touch the ground.) AND our patio table. (The legs were really wobbly, and we couldn't fix them. I kept getting the heebie jeebies because Clay kept trying to climb on it. If that thing had fallen on him, it could have killed him. It was heavy as lead.)
In addition to this, I've been going out a fair amount (concerts, dinners with hubs, other fun stuff) and staying on top of a pretty rigorous schedule of meetings at work. (If I can just make it through the end of this month, that will quiet down a bit. I hope. At least until someone else thinks of another series of meetings they want me to conceive, plan, create presentations for, publicize, and host. Sheesh.)
I think I need a long massage. Who's with me?
Ok, I am a huge fan of Mary Chapin Carpenter. I don't buy LOTS of CDs by the same folks, but I have most of her stuff. And I've loved it. I've been listening to her music since junior high/high school.
So, needless to say, when I heard she was coming to town for a live appearance, I bought a ticket. The concert was held on Friday night as part of the Welty Centennial. Carpenter was featured along with Claire Holley, Kate Chapman, and Caroline Redding. The music was fabulous. (My only real gripe was the cruddy AV. Mics kept popping and going in and out, and this sad little man kept coming out on stage to "fix" stuff. They FINALLY got it worked out, but it took way too long to do it.)
After the concert, I hung around talking to the TONS of people that I knew there. Then, I figured I'd head for the restrooms and go home. Well, back near the restrooms was a roped-off hallway. Byt this time, the theatre was pretty cleared out. There were two women standing near the rope. I asked them what was going on, and they said they were waiting for the performers to come out. These two ladies had come all the way from OHIO to hear this concert.
I'm not one of those people that gets giddy around people that are famous. Fame does not impress me. But artistry? Someone who has created something that has MEANT something to me? Fugeddaboutit.
I had my camera with me, and I started thinking, "Wait a dang minute. I could get my program signed, I could get a photo, and I could freakin' MEET Mary Chapin Carpenter!" That was all it took. I stood by the rope and waited. All the other performers came out, and they all graciously signed my program. But Carpenter was suspiciously absent.
The two ladies and I huddled. We decided I'd go up front and make sure she wasn't out there meeting and greeting, and they'd stay at the rope and holler if she appeared. So off to the front I went. Of course, you know me. I got out there and found a couple of other people I knew still hanging around, and we chatted for a bit. Then, I headed back to the rope.
And my two ladies were GONE. All of a sudden, I hear them screaming my name from down the hallway. "Nicole!! Get down here!! NICOLE!!"
But, see, the rope was still there. And I have such a hard time disobeying authority, you know? But I could SEE Mary Chapin Carpenter down there. And, MAN, I wanted to hop that rope and high-tail it.
Just then, the clouds parted. The angels sang. The security guard came out. And I KNEW the guy. He was on my security detail when we had performance events at my old job. And I looked at him with this pleading look.
He waved me through!! I hopped back there, got my pic made, got my program signed, et. al. But BEST of all, I got to tell this woman that I'd been listening to her music for decades and thank her. Even though I'd never met her before (and I still don't know her), she has really added something to my life.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
So, anybody want to make the case for the kind of phone they use? I'm shopping. Suggestions?
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
He's even started to put a few words together now. The other day, he came up to me, pointed to his diaper, and said, "Diaper change." Sure enough, he was toting a load in there. I guess I should be glad he felt he needed to tell me about it, right?
He gets really frustrated when he asks for something and we don't understand what he's trying to tell us. We do the best we can, and we figure it out most of the time.
He can pretty much identify all his colors now - red, yellow, blue, green, orange, and purple (He loves purple.). He has some trouble with brown and black, but I think he's gotten the hang of white now. He's also pretty good at identifying pictures of things in his books - household items, different toys, fruits and vegetables, etc. He knows the sounds that lots of animals make (sheep, cows, horses, ducks, chickens, etc.), and he will recreate them to hilarious effect. We love asking him to roar like a lion or a tiger; he even shakes his little head back and forth, trying clearly to be as menacing as possible!
It has been really gratifying to communicate with him verbally. He's clearly very pleased when he asks for something specific, and we understand him. It's been fun to watch him learn more about words and see him enjoy the payoff in talking instead of hollering!
He is climbing like crazy now, and he's gotten pretty smart about pulling up a chair or something so he can climb on it to reach a higher surface. Very few tabletops/counters/etc. are safe anymore! We spend alot of time outside to help him blow off steam. We run all over the back yard, loll in the (now-falling-apart) hammock (gotta replace that thing), dig in the dirt with his little hand fork, climb all over the patio furniture, and swing the the back yard swing. We also peep through the slats in the fence to look at the dogs in the yards on either side of us. (Though he backs up pretty fast if they start barking!)
Brian and I spend a fair amount of time talking about how brilliant he is and patting ourselves on the back for creating such a wonder of the human species. For the remainder of the day, we try to keep him fed, clean (It's debatable at this point if this is even possible.), and otherwise tended to. But, geez, it's pretty dang worth it. I love that kid.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
1.) Easter is the reason we are Christians. Easter is the follow-through on the promise of Christmas.
2.) Easter is more low-key. It's not about cards and decorating and tons of parties and baking and presents and all the "to dos" on your list. I love those things about Christmas, but pretty soon, you find yourself thinking more about all those obligations than you are about the whole reason you're celebrating in the first place. Easter gives you time to think more about the why, because you don't have so much extraneous stuff to take care of.
3.) Easter is at the change of seasons. I love fall and spring. Winter? Not so much. But I think what I really love about fall and spring is the change of the seasons. Seeing the leaves turn or watching my plants put out new leaves and blossoms makes me happy.
Easter spells out beauty, the rare beauty of new life. ~ S.D. Gordon
Our Lord has written the promise of the resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in spring-time. ~ Martin Luther
Easter says you can put truth in a grave, but it won't stay there. ~ Clarence W. Hall
Saturday, April 11, 2009
First, Smart People - The movie stars Dennis Quaid, Ellen Page, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Thomas Haden Church. The film tells the story of Lawrence Wetherhold (Quaid), a literature professor at Carnegie Mellon. Lawrence lost his wife some years before the movie begins, and he appears to have been emotionally stunted ever since. He relates to his daughter, Vanessa (Page), on a purely intellectual basis, and he's cut off entirely from both his grown son and adopted brother, Chuck (Haden Church).
However, after a medical emergency, Lawrence meets Janet Hartigan (Parker), a former student now working as a physician. The two feel drawn to one another, and Lawrence's shell of smarts slowly begins to crack.
I really wanted to like this movie. The cast is great, and the concept, I think, is a good one. The problem? I really didn't give a hoot about most of the characters until the movie was damn near over. I never "got" what made Lawrence and Janet good for one another. I also found it difficult to relate to any of the characters. I mean, I understand that Lawrence needs to be an arrogant blowhard at times, but maybe a bit more humanity on Quaid's part (and in the script?) in some of the early scenes would have helped me out here. Ditto with Parker, who exasperated me to no end for no apparent reason.
Page's Vanessa and Haden Church's Chuck were the only things that kept me watching. Page did a good job portraying Vanessa's confusion, her defense mechanisms, her vulnerability, and I appreciated it. Haden Church provided the only lightness in the script, which was desperately needed considering all the just plain draggy folks we were having to spend time with. I was desperately looking for such from all the characters, but I left disappointed.
Not a must-see.
Now, Vantage Point, on the other hand, is worth going out and hunting for. The movie covers an intense hourlong period in the lives of several key characters. At the culmination of a historic peace summit in Salamanca, Spain, an attempt is made on the life of the President of the United States. Each one of the primary characters sees and knows something about the true culprit. Over the course of the film, the hour is rewinded and replayed through the eyes of each character until, finally, the audience has the whole story.
This was a great action thriller. I loved the style and premise of the movie, and I really loved the fact that, even though the movie was largely about action, all the performers were really strong in their roles.
The cast was great, with heavy-hitters even in small roles. Matthew Fox plays Agent Taylor, who serves on the President's Secret Service detail. Dennis Quaid plays Agent Thomas Barnes, who's recently returned to the detail after taking a bullet for the President the previous year. William Hurt plays the Prez, and Sigourney Weaver has a great (but small) part as Rex, a television journalist on-site to cover the summit. Forest Whitaker turns in a touching performance as Howard, an American with a troubled marriage in town to observe the festivities. There are also several foreign actors in the film that you may not recognize, but who deliver the goods on screen just as well as their famous co-stars - Edgar Ramirez, Ayelet Zurer, Eduardo Noriega, and Said Taghmaqui.
I won't spoil how everything shakes out, but the ending had me on the very edge of my seat. I also think the movie made some interesting larger points about global politics and terrorism without bashing us all over the head.
See this movie.
Monday, April 06, 2009
I'm officially about halfway done with the list now, which (I think) is about right, since I'm at close to halfway through the alotted timeframe. Wish me luck on the second half!
101 things to do in 1001 days
Record family history (Create a family tree with my grandmother? Photos? Stories?)
Take Clay’s picture professionally at least once every 6 months
Make a will
Make a living will
Talk with Laura about Clay
Send a Christmas card to an estranged family member
Write to my grandmother
Attend services at three local churches
Volunteer in a way that’s meaningful to me
Go back to the gym – at least 3 times a week
Lose 10 pounds
Keep it off for 6 months
Train to run 3 miles without stopping
Try a yoga or pilates class
Go to the International Museum of Muslim Cultures
Go to the Smith Robertson Museum
Go to the Lauren Rogers Museum
Take an art class (pottery, painting, etc.)
Paint a picture
Learn to play at least one song on the guitar
Write a food article and get it published
Write at least one poem or short story
Paint the front porch swing
Tile the master bathroom
Plant some flowering shrubs in the back yard and DON’T let them die
Plant an herb garden
Fix the patio table
Get a window shade for the baby’s bedroom
Have an energy audit done on the house
Paint the shed in the back yard
Paint the inside of the garage
Take Clay swimming
Drink wine in California
Ride in a helicopter
Ride in a hot air balloon
Go to Graceland
Go to New York City
Create a “great books list” and start reading (at least 5 books)
Create a “great movies list” and start watching (at least 5 movies)
Treasure hunt on Highway 49
Host a New Year’s open house party
Host a “dinner among the leaves” party
Host an Easter brunch
Throw a Kentucky Derby party
Celebrate the Chinese New Year
Pay off the last of my student loan
Buy some sexy new underwear
Attend at least one live concert
Go the fall flower show/festival in Crystal Springs
Visit a botanic garden
Learn more about the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict
Watch a meteor shower
See the ocean
Adopt an Angel at Christmas
Pay for the person behind me in line
Do an anonymous good deed
Learn to bake a good loaf of bread
Go on a day hike
Write a letter to the editor of my local newspaper
Go on a vacation sans baby
Let Clay ride in the convertible with the top down
Perform in at least one stage production
Attend at least one Mensa meeting
Attend at least one college alumni event
Get back in touch with some of my college professors
Learn how to play poker
Learn how to shoot a decent game of pool
Make a real paella - new for March! I invited some gals over for paella and sangria.
Make a real sangria, to go with the paella - YUM. Posted the recipe for this last month. WORTH MAKING!
Get a facial
Start taking vitamins again
Take mom to have her makeup done
Discover 5 new recording artists I really like and buy their CDs
Find a pair of sunglasses that will change my life
Find my signature fragrance
Take some pictures of leaves turning color in the fall
Set up and take some faux-tography shots of the baby
Write to Grace
Visit Grace in Oregon
Go on a picnic and eat food that I MADE, not food that I bought
Visit a dermatologist
Book a session with a personal trainer
Buy sheet music for a song I like and learn to play it on the piano
Learn to do a passable waltz
Bring the baby to visit my dad at work
Take a bubble bath
Light some candles just for us, when we DON’T have someone coming over
Make mint juleps and drink them on the front porch swing
Go ice skating
Preserve Clay’s foot and hand prints
Attain APR accreditation
Buy or make Clay a kick-ass Halloween costume
Give a gift that I made.
Send someone flowers for no reason
Begin using my wine notebook again and identify at least three new wines that I like
Buy a birdfeeder and set it up in the back yard
Fix the broken window pane on the porch
Spend an afternoon lying in the hammock
First day of the challenge: January 1, 2008
Last day of the challenge: September 28, 2010
Sunday, April 05, 2009
Luckily, he rallied, and the two of us headed to NatureFEST! at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science on Saturday morning. First, we had to spend about 40 minutes in the fish tank part of the museum. He LOVES watching the fish swim around. He kept pointing at them, gasping over them, and saying "Oooooh," and "Wow," alot. (When we'd swing by one of the really BIG tanks, he'd go right up to the glass. But if one of the huge fish came swimming his way, he backed up pretty quick! Too funny!)
After a while, I decided I was tired of looking at fish. I talked him into going outside to run around on the trails a bit, which he thought was the Best. Thing. Ever. We ran all over the place out there, and he got to practice climbing up and down steps and jumping on top of rocks. We even played some in the small maze they have set up out there. It was a gorgeous day and pure pleasure being outside. That was at least another 40 minutes.
THEN we checked out the "Sustainable Choices" exhibit. I'd really been wanting to see it, because my company sponsored it. Clay thought it was a hoot. He could push buttons and make lights turn on, open little doors to see what was behind them, and practice recycling. Time in there was something like 30 or 40 minutes.
So, seriously, I paid $5 to get into the museum that day (kids 3 and under are FREE), and it amused my kid (and wore me the heck out) for nearly TWO HOURS. A deal, I tell ya'!
That afternoon (after lunch and a nap), I tried (with no success) to have his picture taken. We got all the way to the studio, and he screamed bloody murder whenever the photographer got near with the camera. Ah, well. Next time, I guess!
Yesterday evening, I made a quick trip to Home Depot for PLANTS! Booger and I spent the rest of the night planting them in our patio pots in the back yard. I put a big pile of dirt out for Clay and gave him a few small hand tools to putter around with. He had the best time moving dirt from one spot to another, looking at all the flowers we'd gotten, and "helping" me fill the pots with dirt and plants! The back patio looks so pretty now!
We also put a few hanging baskets on the front porch and made a list of some perennials we can plant in the flower beds. Most of what we have looks pretty good, but we need to fill in a few holes with azalea, hydrangea, and a few lorapetalum.
Our back yard at this house has definitely been a work in progress. When we moved in, we had a tiny patio, no shed, and no plants to speak of. In the past five years, we've poured a large patio, had a shed built, and put in two or three pretty large flower beds. We still have some work to do, but it's come a long way!
Thursday, April 02, 2009
Sooo, I'd like to offer a public apology to the following people:
1.) Aislynn Thomas McDonald (Poor Aislynn is unfortunate enough to be the FIRST person in my phone's contacts list. Clay has called her many, many times. Sorry, Ais.)
2.) Christy Bridges (Again, near the top.)
3.) My mom (Mom had the luck to get her call after we were home. Clay was getting his diaper changed, and mom was treated to my flawless rendition of "Shake Your Booty.")
4.) Whoever picked up the phone at 444-444-4444. (You see how that one happened, don't you?)
5.) My pool coach (Either he'd called me, or I'd called him, fairly recently, and it's only the push of a button or two to get to the "recent calls" list.)
6.) The person from 769-233-3643 who actually called BACK. I knew it was you, I knew what had happened, and I didn't pick up. So, sorry for not only letting my toddler give you a call, but also for being too cowardly to pick up when you returned the call.
On various other phones, Clay has dialed friends of my dad's, my little sister in Oregon, and, no doubt, total strangers in foreign lands.
Now, to all other folks loaded onto my SIM card - it may not be today, it may not be tomorrow, but someday - and SOON - you are likely to get baby dialed.
Clay strikes again!