Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Cold Freak

I have to admit that I am a little bit of a freak when it comes to cold weather. I live in central Texas but my Minnesota roots (dad was raised there) run deep. I love the cold weather. Feeling the bite of frigid air brushing against my skin and the intense chill sucking the air from my lungs highlights the experience.

Almost every year, I come to Wichita, Kansas the weekend before Christmas to spend some time with my uncle, aunt, and my cousins. We always have so much fun each time we get together – it is the way holidays are meant to be.

I’ve probably mentioned our $1 gifts before. We have more fun with a dollar than just about anyone I’ve known. The kids bring out the kid in all the adults as we spend the evening shooting one another with nerf darts, bouncing ping-pong balls, eating and visiting.

This year along with the family fun, we had COLD! The temperatures dropped into the single digits with highs in the upper teens to low twenties. I think the warmest it was while I was there was twenty-two degrees. Almost the entire time a wind blew that instantly chilled one to the core -  no gradual easing into the sensation of cold. It happened automatically on contact.

So this Christmas was exceptional.  Now to pray for snow in central Texas.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


The Apostle Paul made reference to the thorn in his flesh as a source of the suffering. For him, it was a constant reminder of the suffering of Christ and of his own persecution of the early Christians.

I am trying to be so noble.

During my visit with a doctor Wednesday morning, he informed me that as a result of the recent infection, I may be in pain for the rest of my life. Apparently following the swelling, some permanent nerve damage may have occurred.

My initial reaction has not been so gracious as Paul’s.

But I wonder if he was always so gracious or if the acceptance came after a time of learning, growth, and sheer frustration. Humans rarely choose suffering as the path we take. We seek comfort and security, and lessons from pain require time to be realized.

When I was first diagnosed with my chronic illness it took about a year before I came to accept or at least justify a purpose for it in my life. Fortunately, the illness has no daily repercussions beyond taking my medications on time daily. I do not “feel” anything though.

Pain is a little different though. It bites every time I move. It aches all the while I sit.

I do not want to make peace with it or accept it as a lifetime affliction.

Nevertheless, if the pain is to be a daily companion until my passing, then by golly, there better be a good lesson from it. Perhaps the biggest challenge I will have is coming to take the Apostle Paul as my guide. Some of his writings are used to justify the hate exhibited by so many of the most conservative Christians and I find myself drawn to the gospel of love presented by Christ.


Where in that conflict can I find my guide? Granted the prognosis for persistent pain only came today, but the pain has existed five weeks and the frustration with it has grown out of proportion to the pain over that time. Those who know me know I do not handle frustration well. I like order, answers, and certainty in my life and work even while I propose and ponder larger questions. It is one thing to think broadly but quite another to live broadly until the thoughts have somewhat gelled.

While the thoughts are still fluid though, frustration creates in me the sense that I may simply start to weep at any moment. The frustration is what I’m trying to move through now – and then I’ll be in a better place to deal with the rest.

Monday, December 08, 2008

What I Would Have Said

Where does the time go? In the last few weeks I’ve had so many topics for posts come across my mind, but have not successfully composed one or posted it.

I am also a week late in sending out my holiday cards. I have been trying to take the perfect picture to match my mood this year: cranky. But I have yet to get the perfect one snapped – and it is double difficult because I rely on the timer delay on my camera since I take my own picture. Yes – I even have to multi-task picture taking.

I digress.

Had I actually written posts for your enjoyment they would be:

1) What is the BCS thinking? (in which I grouse about UT not making it to the National Championship Game)

2) Economics Schmeconomics (in which I rejoice at having seven professional certifications in education, thus will likely stay employed)

3) Party Anxiety (in which someone else had a party at my house)

4) Election Hangover (in which I think I still have to check every 15 minutes for the latest Sarah Palin gaffe)

5) Lights Fantastic (in which my roommate succeeds in putting up enough Christmas lights around the house to confuse small airplanes heading to the airport behind my house)

Just think of the hilarity and grouching you missed out on!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

About Thanksgiving...

This year I did something I have not done before – hosted Thanksgiving for friends without any family around at all. Normally some of my family members make it, but this year everyone had other plans, so it was just friends.


I do not say that to disparage my family because I always enjoy getting to host them in my home and was looking forward to seeing my nephews. The absence of family, though, took away all the stresses that come with being around family that are natural, normal, and simply a part of being family. No matter how much we love them, the “ugh, family” factor always surfaces.

Seven friends came over for Thanksgiving Day lunch (and three days later I still have leftovers enough to feed another seven). The friends came from various parts of my life: church, professional contacts who became friends, and relatives of friends. It was an amazing mix of people who all got along well. In fact three people spent the night. I don’t count J since he lives here now, but it was great to stay up late, watching football, movies, and watching everyone else play Scrabble (I was about to collapse after cooking, so I sat aside).

I look forward to more holidays like this one.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Friends and Allies

Election day this year was one of the most exciting days I can remember in recent history. It was the first time in memory that I was truly excited to have voted and came away with some faith in those elected. I am not naive enough to believe they can accomplish everything they want (perhaps I am just too jaded).

After the tears of joy and excitement of a new start, the realization came that hate had one more time made gains in the country with the passage of Proposition 8 in California. In review it was clear that the victory was motivated by nothing more than hate and fear-mongering. Even the Republican governor of the state campaigned against it, yet mis-information prevailed.

Now it seems that the battle is not over. The temporary victory has done more to draw attention to the fact that the battle over gay marriage has boiled down to prejudice and lies brought against fundamental rights of equality. There is no other way to label the campaign any longer and more people are seeing it for what it is.

A week and a half after the election, unprecedented rallies took place across the nation - not only of the GLBT community, but of friends and allies ready to stand with us and procaim that we can no longer tolerate a society governed by hate. Among those to join the rally in San Jose was the son of one of my cousins along with many of his friends. Those straight young people chose on their own to participate because they do not buy the fear and lies.

Seeing his picture at the rally buoyed my spirits as much as Obama's victory. Hope is still alive.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Liver and onions have always been one of my favorite dishes and I have come to understand that people either love it or hate it. I have never come across anyone who can take-it or leave-it.

When I was growing up, my grandmother always told me that the best liver to eat was lamb liver, but by the time I was growing up, the slaughterhouse down the road rarely ever slaughtered lamb and when they did it was for a private customer. Years ago, I gave up on ever experiencing the delicacy my grandmother described.

A few weeks ago at the farmer's market I came across a booth that sold fresh, grass fed lamb and asked if they sold the livers.

They do!

But they were out.

I try to eat whatever my body is craving. I think it knows better than I do exactly what my body needs in nutrients. Nevertheless, knowing one of my fantasy foods was in reach only fed a growing craving for liver smothered in onion. Nothing satisfied. The craving grew to a desperation as week after week, the lamb vendor arrived at the market without liver.

Finally, yesterday they had some packages of liver!

I couldn't wait to get home from church and a study group tonight to make it.

My grandmother was right! I have often been disappointed when I had the chance to satisfy a craving, but this time brought no disappointment. The lamb liver has such a subtle, yet full flavor. I had to stop myself before I ate the entire liver.

Tonight, I am going to sleep well and satisfied.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Infections Still Suck

I have made enough progress that the doctor is not putting me in the hospital.

I asked him why my pain was worse and he replied "because you're getting better."

Something about that answer just was not satisfying, but after the doctor explained it all, it made sense, so I still love my doctor.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Tongue Depressors Expire and Infections Suck

I have spent way too much time in the doctor’s office when I start noticing that tongue depressors have expiration dates.

In the last month, I have had a skin biopsy, which resulted in a dermatological visit during which a skin cancer was cut/burned away. I have to admit that I do like the dermatologist because he has such a great sense of humor.

I had two medication follow-ups and was thrilled that all is good on that front.

But in the last five days I have been to the doctor three times with the first one leading to directions to go immediately to the emergency room. I’d only ever been to the emergency room twice before that I recall – once on a holiday weekend for a Benadryl shot due to an allergic reaction to a bee sting (an no store that was open had Benadryl), and another when I broke both my arms at the same time (a story unto itself).

This time was actually scarier – my doctor said go immediately.

The emergency room doctor diagnosed an infection – and five days later now, they still have not identified it and it has not responded to antibiotics. Today the doctor gave me two additional antibiotics and a two-day deadline for improvement or he is going to admit me to the hospital.

Fortunately, the high-strength painkillers have knocked the pain from being the most excruciating feeling I have ever had to merely a persistent low-throb. Unfortunately, that masked pain does not help me know how I am really feeling – it just keeps me in a mental haze that I do not like.

Hopefully within the two days there will be no more swelling and no more pain and I can get back to normal.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Rabid Fan

I think I crossed the line today.

At the end of the Cowboys game, I started walking around the house singing, "How big is that L on your forehead?" to the tune of "How much is that doggie in the window?."

If you "valley-girl" the "L" it works.

Something has to change in Dallas, and soon. This is ridiculous.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Breakfast Torture

This morning I woke up early to get to church to cook breakfast for the youth group who had spent the night in the church for a lock-in.

Things were very quiet when I arrived, but I set to work cooking the bacon and pancakes.

As the bacon started cooking, that most distinctive salty-smokey aroma began to fill the kitchen and fellowship hall, my mind was drawn back to Saturday mornings when we often had bacon and eggs.

Waiting for breakfast after the bacon aroma has already filled the room qualifies as torture. Even as I was cooking the breakfast the wait to finish the bacon and pancakes, my hunger pangs grew even as the youth started making their way into the kitchen, snagging pieces of bacon on each pass.

Maybe the next administration will consider cooking bacon as a replacement to waterboarding and the other illegal techniques that have been employed against al Qaeda. Surely a morning of smelling bacon and only being fed gruel will break the toughest character.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Smells Like Grandma

Being a good host, I like to keep a can of room deodorizer handy in each of the restrooms in my house - just in case not everything is rosey.

As I was making a quick run-through of my local grocery store (H-E-B) the other day, I passed down the aisle with the room sprays and remembered that the one in my restroom was getting a bit low. The store did not happen to have the fragrance I usually use handy, but had one that sounded rather nice, and light, and all together appealing: Powder Soft.

This morning as I was putting it in my bathroom, I made a couple quick sprays to see what it smelled like.

It did not take long to realize that it smelled like grandma.

Grandmas have two smells.

There is fresh-baked cookie grandma who is gonna love and spoil you until you can't take it anymore. This is a good grandma smell.

Then there is grandma-farts-in-a-nursing home grandma smell. This is not a good grandma smell.

H-E-B Powder Soft Room Spray is grandma-farts-in-a-nursing home smell.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Office Space!

Finally I have a functional office space in my home. Since I moved into the house two and a half years ago, my office has been the clutter/junk room. During my recent vacation, though, my office was project #1 and it has come out quite nicely.

The first step was getting four bookcases out of the room. I still have the books, but finally gone mine put away in somewhat of a logical order. On one wall, I put in a track shelving system and it made a world of difference. Being able to adjust the shelves gives me so much more usable space than the standard wall-unit bookcase – and it looks so much more orderly perched up above my new desk.

The desk made another huge difference. Despite eating up a chunk of space, it is a real desk and fits nicely in one corner with a writing and a computer space. Since I still like to compose most of what I write by hand rather than by typing, that space is so important to me. The writing space looks out a window to my front lawn – usually at the damn grackles, but still it is some kind of wildlife beside the college-age boys renting the house across the street.

I also moved in my 55 gallon aquarium and the comfy recliner that never matched any of my other furniture. So now I have soothing sounds to go along with a favorite reading space.

I have a couple boxes of books to put away somewhere yet and some scrapbook boxes to file. I make scrapfiles, not scrapbooks. It is much more exciting to open one of the boxes and rediscover a memory than to have it neatly organized in a scrapbook where you know exactly what you are going to find.

All in all, though, my reading, writing, and quiet place is back. With just a bit more organization (stuffing things in the closet), it will be the perfect place for my evenings, and maybe I’ll be able to get to the short stories I kept threatening to rework and publish.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Sleep NO!

When I started taking the new medications last week, in addition to all the ranging side effects I laughed about, I knew there was also the possibility of very vivid dreams. Several people told me just how strong the dreams could be.

Since I rarely dream – or recall my dreams rather – I looked forward to this new experience in my life.

I did not expect that experience to turn into, “Hell no! I’m not going to sleep!” or more accurately, “I’m not going to lay down.”

So far I do not recall any vivid dreams, but the images that pass through my mind as soon as I lie down and begin to drift off are nothing short of horrifying. They are all violent images of death and torture of only the kind Jack Bauer could survive. I simply do not want to close my eyes.

Given the choice, I do not watch those kinds of movies and do not even pay close attention to the trailers in movies or on television; it simply does not interest me in the least. In the case of 24, I simply am unable to suspend my disbelief long enough for the story, no matter how compelling, to come alive for me.

Call me unpatriotic – I still do not like the show.

Let me be clear – in the pre-sleep visions, I am neither the protagonist nor the victim. I am a completely removed person as though watching a movie or television show. The option to intervene or somehow change the course of action is out of my control. My option to change the channel, so far, is also out of my control.

I need to find the right reading material to change my frame of reference before going to bed. I usually watch The Simpsons, but clearly Homer and crew are not doing it for me.

I say all this and find myself up at 3:30 a.m. listening to one of my all-time favorite classical works – “Danse Macabre” by Saint-Saens.

Go figure.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Side Effects May Include...

I have never been a fan of taking medicine, but I’m good about doing it. Whenever I am prescribed an antibiotic, I take it no matter how sick it makes me feel.

One of the highlights of taking any medication is the visit to the pharmacy where the pharmacist (or pharm-tech) reads the script at the little side window that provides absolutely no privacy. I know I heard what the person said to everyone ahead of me, so I know everyone after me is going to hear what he has to say to me. At least they don’t usually name the diagnosis.

Last week I went to the pharmacy to pick up some meds. The doctor and I decided it was time for me to start taking medicine over a month ago, but he gave me some options to explore about which drug or combination of drugs I would take. After reading all about them, talking to people I know who were taking them, and some serious soul-searching, I decided on the meds I wanted.

Two days after the prescription was called in the drugs were ready for me to pick up. Since it was a new prescription, I got to have a conference with the pharmacist – despite the volumes of research I had already done.

He goes into the first medication and reads his script about common side effects – nausea, dizziness, rash – all the usual suspects.

He goes to the next prescription and reads his script about side effects – and gets to some for which I am to call the doctor immediately. They include nausea, dizziness, and rash!

He kept a straight face!

Of course, the pharmacist’s script leaves of some of the side effects one can read about if one reads all the information available.

One of my meds has possible side effects that range from rash to sudden death.

I was driving today and a friend could hear that I was driving and asked me what I thought about operating a vehicle – he knew of the possible sudden death I could be facing any day now.

I assured him that I didn’t have a problem with driving.

He replied, “Well, you’ll be dead, so I guess a crash wouldn’t matter to YOU!”
I kept driving.

I’m not going to let a medicine’s the side effects stop me any more than I’ve let disease.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Medicine Ball

As I visited some friends earlier I saw their medicine ball out.

I've written before how much I hate to sweat (from exercise), so I began to wonder: Does anyone make a placebo ball?

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Some Families

Some families don’t know better.
Some families think they are fine.

Some families just keep going

Despite the dysfunction,

Despite the abuse,

Despite the addictions

The lies,

The hopes,

The truths.

Some families just exist each day.

Some families hang on blood.

Some families find a way

With the abuse,

With the pain,

With the confusion

Of roles,

Of expectations,

Of reality.

Some families beg to be normal.

Some families die a little each day.

Some families don’t even see the blood

That words draw,

That fists contuse,

That broken hearts seep

From stabs,

From breaks,

From futility.

Some families should not be.

Some families should dissolve.

Some families should find peace

By finding individuality,

By growing apart,

By forming scabs

That stop the blood,

That give the distance,

That allow the future.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

It’s Getting Cold in Here!

Recently I had one of the kinds of experiences that actually make a man go to the doctor. And so I went. I had done all my checking on Webmd and other sites – just so there would not be any surprises. I actually walked into the doctor and diagnosed myself.

He did not buy it.

He did not trust my research.

He wanted tests.

He wanted me to get an ultrasound.

All I could think was, "that is gonna be cold!"

And to be sure I did not get cold feet, before I could even get to the office to make the call for an appointment, the radiology clinic called to schedule my appointment later in the day. I really was not prepared for later in the day. I would have done some additional grooming before I left the house that morning. Nevertheless, I gave in and took one of the later appointments.

Might as well get it over with.

So after an uncomfortable day at work thinking only about what was to come, I made my way over to the clinic for the test. I had been given specific directions and followed them to the letter.

I knew the event was going to be cold, so in my mind I was praying the technician would be a straight man or a woman. I wanted to be careful of any impression I might make on any potential date – no matter how remote the chance would be.

Despite following the directions to the letter, as I sat and waited to be called back, my appointment time came and left. And left farther behind. Finally the manager came over to apologize and let me know they were still running far behind, but promised it would not be too much later before I was called back.

Fifty minutes after my scheduled appointment, I was jolted by someone calling my name. I had been there so long I almost drifted away from listening for my name. I turned around to see a sizable woman standing in the door smirking.

She directs me back a room much larger than I was expecting with an adjoining restroom. With her in the room is a VERY young girl.

Just my luck. I got the intern!

She lays out a gown, a paper sheet, and some plain hand-towels and gives me specific directions on how to prepare myself with exactly what was to be covered and what was to be exposed. They then stepped out of the room and allowed me to prepare and position myself. I just wanted to get it over, so it didn't take me long to prepare. Waiting for her to return, I found myself again drifting away mentally.

Just as I was getting comfortable in my happy place, the door opened and the larger woman returned. She asked permission for the intern to come in as well as she had never seen this particular procedure before.

What could I say? I'm laying on a bed with just the jewels exposed.

"Sure. Of course she can come in!"

The intern sheepishly returns to the room and I found myself wanting to say something to make her feel more comfortable, but what are the appropriate words to say to someone who can only stare at the two inches of bare skin exposed?

The larger woman turns off all the lights so only the monitor and a single yellow light in the ceiling brighten the room. She reaches over and shuffles through several large tubes and said, "This one's warm. It's gonna get wet down there."


And then comes the cold wand and it begins to slide around the area covered by the warm gel.

For some reason, the large woman thinks now is the time to start making gel jokes. I guess they are ones that make the rounds of the ultrasound world since the young girl was taking notes.

A few more splooshes and corny jokes about gel and how many towels she's gonna leave me to use to clean up and all is done. She and the young 'un step out while I wipe off and get dressed again.

By this time, I was even more ready to leave than I had been upon walking in.

Two days later, my doctor's nurse gives me a call to let me know I am going to be fine.

My doctor has a great sense of humor.

My diagnosis was right all along!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Post 201

From a modest false start in May of 2005, to today, I have finally passed post 200.

For those who post 200 times a week – I admire you, but I have a real job.

Actually, as I have said before, my job leads me to write and post. While I rarely give intimate details about work, the nature and stress of my work leads me to need a creative outlet and a place to vent. Sometimes I get to be creative there or actually spend so much time thinking there, I have little to write here. Sometimes I am so frustrated there I write daily when I get home.

Usually from the stress of work, I find myself seeking out the funny parts of life. Most often though, I get to present my warped view of the events that happen around me. And I am warped!

Expect me to grow increasingly warped. I realize that since I passed 40, I will say most anything I want.

Now with full-time work, graduate school (again), and health issues that occupy an increasing amount of my time, I am certain my sense of reality can only grow more perverse. Life has a way of doing just that. As the commercial proclaims, "Life comes at you fast." The faster it comes, the faster you learn to react. I firmly believe that a good honest reaction leads to the best decision. Sometimes it may seem foolish, but it has worked well so far.

Now on to the next 200 posts!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Something Stinks!

Something stinks in my back yard. Specifically something is dead somewhere in my garden. In all likelihood, it is a dead mouse my dogs managed to kill. I have searched for it for several days, but I have not been able to find it.

And my dogs – being dogs – are rolling in whatever is dead.

They are simply the most rank pets anyone can imagine having.

I suppose I could put on some rubber gloves and pet them, but I fear if I touch them without the gloves, I will reek at the level they presently do. I am going to give them a bath sometime after the smell goes away or I find whatever it is that died, but until then, a bath would be an exercise in futility.

Speaking of things stinking, the party conventions are starting, and for the next two months, we are going to be treated to two more months of half-truths, smears, and outright lies. At least the source of the smell in my backyard will be gone in a few days.

I am going to try to keep my dogs away from the television until after the election!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Cheer ‘em On!

Cheerleaders are not often known for being the smartest team on the field, but last week cheerleaders attending camp at The University of Texas proved to be about as smart as frat boys. They decided to see how many cheerleaders could fit in an elevator. They made it to 26 before the doors closed.

So there are twenty-six 14 to 17 year old girls on an elevator.

They are holding each other tighter than on a basket-catch.

Then the doors don't open.

There are still twenty-six 14 to 17 year old girls on an elevator. Let me rephrase that. There are twenty-six 14 to 17 year old cheerleaders on an elevator.

Panic ensues.

I have resisted commenting, but after watching the squads of cheerleaders parading across campus each morning for a week I have to say I am really disappointed in the cheerleaders. With their skills at building pyramids and their tiny bodies (well, some of them were not even close to being tiny – must have been the base), I expected them to get far more into the elevator before giving up at 26. Granted, they are high school cheerleaders, but this was near the end of a national camp, so they should have reached a certain level of skill. Surely they could have stuffed at least thirty 14 to 17 year old cheerleaders in an elevator!

I still want to see the security tape from the elevator when they realized the door was not going to open – just before the cell phones came out.

Even better than that moment – twenty-six girls cheerleaders attempting to talk on their cell phones at the same time while trapped in an elevator. Some called for help. Some called parents. All while squeezed in an elevator! I'm amazed they were rescued – how could help have ever understood a word they said?

By the time officials, police, and an elevator technician gets them freed, one has passed out and is taken to the hospital, two require treatment at the scene. University officials are steamed. And a new generation of cheerleader jokes is set to entertain us for years.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Thought Out

There are two more days until the first summer term of my second Masters degree is complete. All I can say right now is that I am tired. I wrote earlier in the summer about the task of re-learning to think and regain my academic stamina. Two months later and I am almost up to marathon pace.

The combination of work and school has kept me mentally engaged at least twelve hours a day. I have actually appreciated the challenge or work and school combined. Even though I did it before while earning my current (first) Masters degree, this round has nothing in common with the first time. I have never taken so many hours (12) in such a short time (two calendar months from start to finish) while working. That I came out relatively unscathed has been pretty amazing.

I did learn, though, that I am not as young as I was back then.

I am exhausted now and it is time for the school year to start, so there will be no rest soon, but I swear this Friday morning, I'm picking up a Harlequin romance novel rather than anything harder to read!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Too Darn Hot

According to the Kinsey report
ev'ry average man you know
much prefers to play his favorite sport
when the temperature is low

but when the thermometer goes way up
and the weather is sizzling hot
Mister Adam for his madam is not
cause it's too too
it's too darn hot, it's too darn hot
It's too too too too darn hot

Cole Porter certainly knew what he was talking about when writing the lyrics for his song from Kiss Me Kate! This summer we have passed 40 days with over 100 degree temperatures. It may not set a record this summer because I think the record number of 100+ day was 89 for a year, but we are going to make a run at it. August until early September is generally the hottest part of our year and nothing in the weather pattern seems likely to break to give us relief anytime soon.

Yesterday I went to the river with some friends to go tubing. For those dear readers not from the south, tubing involves taking a big inner tube (from a truck or tractor tire), putting it in a river, climbing on, and floating for a few hours. At the end of the few hours, hopefully a good friend with a truck, or someone (tubing company) you paid, will be there to pick you up and take you back to your car. One usually brings along an extra tube – for the beer, which is the most important part of the trip.

The cypress and pecan lined sections of the Guadalupe we floated were nearly idyllic as the stream flowed gently and the temperature felt quite comfortable. The gentle flow under the baking sun was completely different. The cool water flowing below did little to keep any parts out of the water from quickly baking. Even with SPF 50, the sun won and left me with some bright spots on my face and a nearly perfect farmer's tan on my arms. Fortunately, the SPF 50 put up a good fight and I did not badly burn anywhere on my exposed body.

The purpose of such a trip is just for pure relaxation because one cannot do much work while navigating the river. The river gives us a few good lessons too. The gentle float down our nearby river sometimes gets broken up by a brief stint of rapids, but then shortly returns to its placid pace through cypress-lined banks or under the baking sun. The river has carved its path for centuries so that most of it is gentle, slow, and steady. The pace picks up and the rapids race, but briefly, from time to time. If we could get our lives to work like the river, we may find ourselves happier and more fulfilled in what we do. After all, the river has been doing the same thing for centuries.

I have not been tubing in a while and maybe I need to make it a regular habit. It is kind of like the lake in that I get away from work, but I can still read or do some writing at the lake. I have not found the book with plastic pages that will let me read it at the river – nor do I want to. The rapids can come unexpectedly, so it pays to be on guard at all times, but not so much that a few rocks along the bottom don't bump you in the butt.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Pedicure Me!

You know your feet need work when you go on a date with a guy who has a foot fetish and he tells you to put your shoes back on.

It is even worse when the next day you are at a bar with some friends and they say, "Hey, Rusty, you really need a pedicure."

So the guy with the foot fetish – he can be picky. Feet are his thing, and I am ok with that. I'll file and moisturize next time!

But friends at a bar? Is that really fair?

I will admit that I do go for a pedicure from time to time just because I love the foot massage and they get to places around the nails that I never take the time to reach. As much as appreciate their tender care, taking the place of a pedicure technician (?) would not be one of my personal aspirations.

One time I decided to have a manicure while I was at there. It had been a long day and I decided to splurge. As usual, the lady did an excellent job on the feet and I wanted to be carried out because I didn't want my feet to be sullied by the dirt or any dust my flip-flops may disturb while I walked.

But then! Oh yes, there is a definite BUT THEN!

But then, the lady started working on my hands.

With the SAME instruments she used on my feet!

I have one set of grooming gear that I have been using since I think 1992 or 1993 – whenever Bryan gave them to me as a gift for being an usher in his wedding. Yes, I use them on both my hands and on my feet. Still, I was paying her good money to do my hands and feet up right!

I did not want my chemically altered toe-jam coming anywhere near my fingers. I know it has to be chemically altered because they get some much more out than I have ever been able to achieve on my own even with persistent effort. As pretty and buffed as my nails looked when I walked out of the office, it took several high-power scrubs under HOT water before my hands felt clean enough for me to consider using them for cooking or eating.

From now on, I'm going to have a "mani" person at one location and a "pedi" person at a different location and the twain shall never meet! And I'm going to pretend they don't share instruments.

Voyeur Me!

My friends sometimes bring me into the most interesting conversations. One friend told me he found out after the fact that a former roommate's boyfriend used to stand outside his door and listen to him having sex. That person also discovered a location where he could look through the window and watch. We both found the acts to be more than a little creepy.

We also found it a bit of a turn-on and a more than a little bit flattering.

I find someone secretively being a voyeur disturbing, but the idea that he may get off by watching or listening to me excites me. Does that make me an exhibitionist or does it mean I have an enormous ego? The entire idea of watching and being watched led to a long discussion of what are the boundaries of voyeurism and exhibitionism. Is there a boundary at which one stops becoming a voyeur and is merely a vehicle for someone who is an exhibitionist? Likewise, does the point exist at which one is no longer an exhibitionist, but merely live porn for a voyeur?

As he and I discussed all the possibilities, we discussed each of them in depth. In the week since the conversation, I have not come to any better conclusions we did in the conversation. I can give the clinical definitions of each, but it is hard to distinguish the boundary – if there even has to be one. Perhaps exhibitionists just exist to provide an outlet for voyeurs – and vice-versa.

All I know is – if you are gonna watch me – tell me first! Boost my ego (and don't make me think you're a creep!)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Trapped in Hymnland

This is my story. This is my song.

I just wish it were not my song in the middle of the night.

A classmate came into class today
screeching one of my favorite hymns. Someone else asked what the song was, as she did not recognize it, so I sang a few bars so she would know it.

Since then a medley of classic hymns has filled my mind. More than just filled, as tune flowed from tune, my mind began to process the connections between the old hymns that they could pour out in such a constant manner without pause. That consideration put me on a search of tune composers to see how many of the hymns in my growing medley the same person composed. And that led me to my iTunes library to listen to some compositions a contemporary musician has created from phrases of hymns by some of the most prolific composers of the last century.

Meanwhile, I am listening to the latest cd from
Moby. So far, the very contemporary alternative music has done nothing to move my humming away from 18th and 19th century church anthems.

That actually makes a tremendous amount of sense to me personally. The same hymns I am singing now are the ones that I grew up with in childhood and that I often turn to in times of stress. Whenever my back starts to spasm from tension, I sing hymns.

To be fair to the world, most of the time I sing them inside my own head. When I am certain I am alone I sing aloud: I sing a lot; I sing loudly; I just don’t sing well. As a result, I have tried to protect the world from my singing.

Whether sung aloud or silently, though, the old hymns bring a greater sense of comfort than the more modern melodies. So many of the modern praise tunes do more to create a mesmerized cultish atmosphere than to create an internalized sense of worship as the classically inspired songs of old do. As a non-musician, I cannot pinpoint the term, but I know the older songs contain a level of richness and depth not found in the contemporary worship songs.

The older songs call my soul to a place the newer songs have never let me reach.

The greatest complaint I have with the new songs is that they preach to me and never make me find the meaning; they tell me exactly what it is they want me to know. The old hymns bring one to a point of spirituality that opens one for a revelatory experience. The state of openness offers the chance for one to discover one’s own message rather than be hammered over the head with someone else’s message.

Now with all the hymns circling through my head, I am just thankful that “there is a song I love to hear” until “it is well with my soul.”

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Girl Crack

Plumbers are expected to show crack.

Guys with guts cannot find pants that fit in the right way, so when they bend over, a crack shows.

Men generally live in a world of oblivion as to the state of their clothes, so when the pants fall below the waist, it goes unnoticed as the crack airs out.

Crack is never acceptable with women.



Today I saw girl crack twice!

Full on butt-crack.

Both of the women were thin and dressed fashionably. They just were not wearing clothes appropriate for the task at hand. One picked up her laundry basket; the other crawled on the floor. Neither one expected to present the show she gave.

Me - I just happened to look at the WRONG time.

Way wrong time.

Tonight I’m going to watch something “sciency” on one of the HD channels and have a few drinks. I want to see something fantastic to get my mind off the images seared onto my brain today.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Crabby Old Coot

I think I have reached the point that I am now a crabby old coot.

I have found myself using a tone of voice and writing lately that I later think came across as sharp and harsh when I do not really mean to be. Often I have been asked a question or given a portion of information and I reply directly with as few words as possible.

It makes me wonder what the people who have been receiving the responses and emails think about me. I do not necessarily mean to be sharp and hope the people do not realize that I mean to be sharp, I am just getting my point across or my response complete in the shortest time.

Amazingly, I do not think the same tone has come across in my recent posts, so, kind readers – keep reading but do not call or email me or you may find that I am truly crabby.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Death Certificate?

When do you declare an idea dead?

At the end of it’s rope.

Pushing up daisies.

Since my first round of college, I have periodically nursed a series of stories out of hibernation. Each time I dredge them up from the deeper memories of my brain, either the disk on which I had them stored had degraded to the point that they are no longer able to be retrieved or my imagination of the story has changed so much, the saved version provides little more than memories of the time I first put those words to paper, or in the most recent cases, screen.

Twenty-some years later and I’m back in college with absolutely no time to spend on creative writing, at least at the short story or novel length (I’m still trying to keep the blog going). Yet rather than concentrate on academic pursuits, my mind keeps drifting back to the exploits of Billy Chris, Mark, John, Matt, April Dawn, and Luke. Despite living in Austin, I have not found characters to match people I knew growing up in a small town. For such a reason Southern writers such as Eudora Welty and William Faulkner mined wealth from small town life.

Despite the regular visits back to the series of stories, I have not completed one to the point that I would consider it finished or even to the point of sharing. If the story has not matured in twenty-three years, is there yet hope for it?

I think hope still exists.

My brain will not let go of these stories. They tumble about in the vacant spaces between thoughts and sometimes they spill out. Because they live in memory, I believe they simply need a good editor. Somewhere between the now yellowed sheets of notebook paper and the floppy disks that no longer work, the real story waits to be composed.

Because the stories and characters keep taking up synaptic space, I refuse to fill out their death certificate or write the obituary.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Dreaming of Sleep

More tasks than time
Challenge every day.

As such, precious moments -

Undedicated hours

Unclaimed seconds
Gleam beyond polished gold,
Sparkle above shined silver.

Mindless minutes


Wear from sleepless nights -

Turbulent times without dreams

Or psychic relief.

Claim me back to lucidity

And simplest sanity.

Soul’s salvation,

Emotion’s energy,

Rational revelation upon

Eternity’s clock

Call habits to justify

Brain drain and cerebral calories.

Let me sleep early tonight.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Ding by Stereotype

In the last week, I have gone without a single reason to rant. The only reason I for a rant was diminished by the fact that the person who hit my car so perfectly fit two driver stereotypes that there is no point in even going there.

In fact the driver so perfectly fit the stereotypes, I have started saying, “you know ‘who’ the driver was,” to people who ask me about it. So far everyone has said something to the effect of, “how *$^*# was $@! ?” (typing in symbols is tough – you never know where the ‘word’ ends and punctuation begins – but if you read carefully, you know what the symbols mean!) And so far, everyone has filled in the blanks correctly.

As a result, a rant on the subject of *$^*# drivers is pointless.

I’ve written about the song “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” from the musical Avenue Q before. One line says “racist jokes my be uncouth, but we laugh because they’re based on truth.” The dent in my car is proof positive, but it has been so often repeated, the gag is no longer funny.

Meanwhile, my car has an ouchie. Actually, it is barely a boo-boo, but I feel much less macho driving around in imperfection.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

White House? Black House? Gray House?

It should really come as no surprise that the Texas GOP, which gave us W. could come up with such a racially insulting campaign button, but I still find myself obsessing over the sheer ignorance that allows a person to actually make such an object. Still there it was, proudly displayed at the Texas Republican State Convention. Has the person not read a newspaper since 1964? Or do they still believe we can go back to a segregated society?

Conservative groups continue to put up a fight over GLBT issues and the marriage wars are going to continue for a number of years, but they lost the Civil Rights War decades ago.

I cannot imagine what button they would have created had Hillary won. I’m really still a little befuddled as to whom they fear more – a strong woman or a black man.

Republicans who would come up with such a button remind me of the Japanese soldier, discovered on a desert island in the Pacific years after World War II ended. He was prepared to fight anyone who stumbled upon the island, unaware that the battles were over and Japan was back in the mainstream of the world. Nothing about the real world around him had changed his fervor and oath to die for his homeland.

He had an excuse. Japanese language newspapers are not regularly dropped on desert islands in the Pacific. He simply, loyally, maintained his commitment to the oath he had sworn to his emperor.

No Republican at a state level convention can claim such ignorance.

The only explanation that remains is pure hatred, unmitigated intolerance of anything that is not “me,” a darkened soul. As much as I am angered by this behavior, deeper down, I pity the people who act such a way. Can you imagine living every day in a world that is so different from what you demand it be, knowing that society has bypassed your antiquated beliefs?

While fads and trends come and go, when society makes a shift in one direction, it rarely returns to a state prior to that shift. Civil rights and women’s rights are two shifts that have been made in the last 50 years that cannot be reversed. Certainly full measures of social justice for women and people of color have not been met in the United States, but the trend has reached a point of no return. With the realization of a global economy, “white” is no longer synonymous with “majority.” It was only ever that way because it was synonymous with “power.”

Now that the Texas GOP has embarrassed itself once again on a global stage, they need to reflect what it is they truly believe. Social justice for all people reflects Republican fundamentals more than it does Democratic fundamentals, but in the last twenty years, while lauding the fundamentals, the Republicans have moved far from them. If they truly valued lesser government and greater individual responsibility, they would embrace social justice and true equality for all people. Without the barriers that protect so many of their own interests, those who are “entitled” would no longer have an excuse for the state in which they find themselves. Instead, the Right, in their grasp for power, keep policies in place that promote stratification of society, that promote an “us-vs-them” atmosphere, and that eternally leaves many behind.

And so they proudly wear a button that does not attempt to hide its racist bent and boldly proclaims their personal intolerance. This liberal is gonna be praying hard for your soul because that is not what Jesus would do.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Remembering Russert

Although I strive to keep up-to-date on pop culture and do occasionally comment on it here, my television spends much more time off than on, sometimes going between weekend sporting events before being turned on. When it is on, it is usually news or some kind of educational programming from one of the "nature" channels just to provide noise in the house while I'm alone and also giving me the chance to possibly learn something in the process.

The educator in me is always present.

Tim Russert was one of those voices that could always catch my attention. As hard as he skewered various politicians, fairness dominated that skewering. A Democratic Congressman would be on the spit next to a Republican operative. Party or view protected no one with Russert. His intellect and research always turned up something worth a challenge.

Despite the awards and recognition of his peers and politicians after his untimely passing last week, the moment that made me pause and both cheers and haunts me is the interview on Today with Russert's son Luke. Luke at 22 years old demonstrates a composure that proves he is Tim's son more than the similar build and family looks. He spoke of his father in such a composed and mature way it was like watching his father post-time-travel. Those around him, those who are journalistic professionals, could not control their own emotions as well as young Luke.

The video is fifteen minutes long, but I'm already ready to nominate young Luke to take his father's place on Meet The Press. If he can be this composed and well spoken so shortly after his father's death, the Washington politicians would be quaking in their boots.

The clip is fifteen minutes long, but it is truly amazing to see how well young Russert handles himself.

I would hope that Luke Russert is just an example that society is not totally doomed. As an educator, I can vouch that there are many young people as impressive as Luke - they just don't make the news. Maybe if Luke does not take over his father's spot, he can start a channel of positive news stories and help us to know that all is not lost with the future.

Go get 'em, Luke.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

(Re)Learning to Think

After nine years out of any formal schooling, I began to work on a second Masters degree this week. I realized about the second day of class that never in my life had I gone so long outside some organized education. Those nine years have taken a real toll on my thinking processes.

In the interim there have been numerous professional development sessions and various conferences, but they were one-offs and usually did not require more than a few hours at a time. I’ve grown into the habit of critical, academic thinking in sprints rather than marathons. My mental stamina over the last few years has diminished to the point that I would compare it to the physical stamina of a sixty year old chain smoker. My mind periodically demands a walk break during the seven-hour class marathon.

Actually, in the last nine years, my mind has developed the habits of multitasking. Those habits make a single source focus nearly impossible. I find myself in class with my mind trying to get three steps ahead. I’m wondering how the lecture being given now is going to connect to a concept from the text later.

I spend so much time with sense-making an connecting various pieces of my department with one another since they do not often connect in an obvious way under older visions of public education. Some of my programs are process based while others are knowledge based. As a result the two do not often appear to have a direct connection to one another other than the ultimate outcome of getting student to take advantage of the postsecondary opportunities available. Still, fundamental math skills do not have much connection to completing the resume portion of a college application – at least in the eyes of a middle school math teacher.

I work to find that connection and also to present ways for delivering it through best instructional practices.

And so in the past week, I have had to reshape my thought processes to consider how to do pure academic study. I have always been a reader and a writer, but my academic and grammar habits have become increasingly sloppy over time. In my mind, just like in my home and office, I am picky about some things while letting others go.

We all have our clutter somewhere.

As the academic study becomes more intense over the semester and I actually have to start using APA style for writing, I’m going to have to relegate my mental clutter to some closet; I now have to find the right size closet to manage all the piles I have stacked in various places throughout my head. All that “stuff” does not go away it just gets stuck somewhere. 

I should know the answer to this question, but is it possible to have a mental garage sale and pass on the clutter to someone else at a discount? I could post signs up and down my street:

Get your used mental mess! Saturday from 7:00 until it’s gone. Reasonable prices – negotiable.


And is it ethical to sell the junk left over from (former) friends or should I just donate it all so some poor soul? Too many people have not lived enough to develop clutter of their own so they can have some of the wilder thoughts I’ve had over the years. Maybe they could stand to have a bit of a jumpstart and thus begin to develop their own. As with sourdough, all it takes is a bit of starter.


Really though, I don’t want to part with anything floating around in my head, but I could stand to come up with a better organizational system. I can learn to encrypt it and put it on a jump-drive for later recall. While I’m giving the MacBook another shot at the moment, I think I will use a Windows filing system – unfortunately my brain was wired by Bill Gates not Steve Jobs.

All my metacognition over the past week has begun to pay off. I successfully managed to not study for four hours while sitting at a coffee shop! I thought about studying and the reading I needed to do. I transferred my calendar entries to the new calendar that spans the time I need now.

And I wrote this post. (Re)learning to think is much more fun than I thought it would be.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

I Wish

Earlier this week a friend asked me what my wish was. The question totally stumped me.

“If wishes were horses then dreamers would ride,” came immediately to mind, but when I Googled the phrase, I found out I’ve had it wrong for years. The correct phrase is, “If wishes were horses then beggars would ride.”

I learned the phrase from my friend J who was citing lyrics to a 70’s rock song. Google as I may, I have not been able to find the song and validate my mislearning from so long ago. I think J may have just misheard the lyrics and recited them the way he heard them.

Or maybe he didn’t know what he was talking about.

And that analytical tangent is why I don’t wish. I begin to evaluate all the factors necessary to make something happen and the various what-ifs. My wishes turn into cerebral chess matches as the “gonna-happen” side and the “never-gonna-happen” side battle for dominance of my reality. Google, Wikipedia, and the American Heritage Dictionary (1983 paperback edition) always have a say.

In fact the dictionary’s role in my daily life became topic of a debate when I realized that it was indeed the 1983 edition (the first major new dictionary in 10 years the cover proclaims!). Twenty-five years later terminology for devices that didn’t exist back then dominates our functional vocabulary. The very technology that has made the old dictionary obsolete also makes the purchase of a new one unnecessary. I have the Internet on my phone – I don’t even have to have access to a computer.

And so, I forgot how to wish a long time ago which is really a shame. Some magical spark disappears when wishes evaporate from the consciousness. Maybe it’s a skill we lose when we forget to use it or grow up to find that wishing isn’t allowed. Children all master the skill, but between childhood and adulthood, except for a talented few, wishing goes away.

Star light
Star bright
First star
I see tonight

I wish I may
I wish I might
Have this wish
I wish tonight:

I wish to wish again.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Going Sane

Why do others feel compelled to panic at someone else’s bad news? It truly confounds me that they feel as if they are not truly supporting you unless they are running around screaming and flailing.

Really? Does that help anything?

Maybe I’m a natural counselor in that I remained completely calm on the surface and still am. I have never accomplished anything by screaming and failing: I’m not coordinated enough to manage screaming and flailing while actually THINKING about things. I schedule my meltdowns because unscheduled ones rarely do any good.

The news revolved around financing for my job. I knew going into the position a year ago that there was a good chance the job would not be funded beyond a year. Word came today that it was not in fact funded beyond the end of the month (conclusion of one year). I’ll have a job by the end of the month, so I’m not terribly concerned.

My heart broke today when shortly after finding out there was no funding for my position (which is really ok – if I get a certain promotion, I would get rid of my current position), I found out there was no funding for the other two people who work in my office – and it was my job to tell them.

How do you go about telling two people you truly respect, admire, and LIKE that their jobs are not being funded for the next year? I knew I wanted to do it as soon as possible to give them the quickest heads up possible, but it was the last thing I ever wanted to tell anyone. And I was angry. It is one thing for me to think my own job is not worth saving, but how dare they affect the jobs of those who are worth saving; the people who do the day-to-day work that makes a difference in the lives of students. My insides tumbled around for about thirty minutes until I was able to tell both of them at the same time.

They took the news remarkably well – better than I did inside. Maybe inside, they were upset as I, but they kept their calm and managed the news and went right about looking for new jobs. I could barely stay in the office in their presence.

Somehow I managed to stay sane through the day and came home and just chill while I thought about options and tried to decide exactly what it was that I want next while I make sure my co-workers get what they deserve.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Dear Hillary

Dear Hillary,

Please stop. For those of us who truly love and respect you, please stop while you maintain that love and respect. I began this campaign season fully supporting you and was certain you would bring a new character and example of leadership to this country and the world.

As a child of the 60’S, I lived through the presidencies of Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, and now Bush II. Your husband’s presidency is by far the best I’ve experienced in my lifetime. Sad to say, but that has been against some very low standards. Still, despite his personal weakness, he was a remarkable leader for the nation.

Entering the election cycle, I viewed you as the steel, the strength, that made his presidency as potent as it was. And so it was without giving any of the other candidates consideration that I embarked on my “elect Hillary” mission. You possessed the precious metal to regain the honor of the office. Sadly, as the campaigning progressed another side of you emerged. Through all of Bill’s dalliances, you remained stronger than Tammy Winette could have ever sung, yet when all the states did not roll over and succumb to your feminine ways, the vindictive Clinton showed her face.

There were thousands of jokes about how Bill must have felt crawling into bed next to you as his indiscretions were counted. Suddenly, we, the voters, became Bill. We were treated to your wrath, indignation, and genuinely mean spirit. As Obama’s message of hope became something we more and more craved, your anger distanced us more and more.

This weekend, as you asked for the rules to be changed at the end of the game, that hostility to the real common man became clear. As an educator, every day I work within “No Child Left Behind” which daily disenfranchises more students than it empowers because it unjustly judges. Still, we play by the rules, take the embarrassment when it comes in the media, and go back the next day to educate children. In my school 80% of the students enter 9th grade reading at the third to fifth grade level. We are considered low-performing because we have a four year graduation rate of 67%. In three year’s time, we move 47% of the students from elementary level to high-school graduation level.

The rules are not fair, but we play by them.

With Michigan and Florida, you knew the rules. The state parties knew the rules. The voters knew the rules, and yet they continued to break them. How then do you expect me to support you in such a dishonest and obviously manipulative grab made only out of desperation? Every day you draw this out. Every attack on the party and on Obama you make, makes me respect you less.

Your recent behavior and that of your most fervent followers, has made be see you as nothing more than the current regime in sheep’s clothing. You are not the woman, the senator, the person I thought you were. I’m hurt and broadly disillusioned. Senator Obama was not my candidate of choice, but after observing you in the last few months, he has become my only hope.

If you really love this country, you will gracefully accept defeat and give us a chance to move forward into a brighter future for all than the Republicans would ever allow even for a few.

Thank you.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Yankee Doodle Dandy

Since 1976, every time I hear the song, “Yankee Doodle,” I get a mental image of Senator Edward Kennedy. The image has aged in the thirty-two years since I first made the mental connection. With the recent diagnosis of brain cancer for Sen. Kennedy, I worry that my image of the Yankee Doodle Dandy will soon be frozen.

Why Edward Kennedy became my visual representation of Yankee Doodle, I do not know, but I have some theories.

1976 was a big year for “Yankee Doodle” in the third grade circuit. As part of the nation’s bicentennial celebration, such patriotic ditties made a daily appearance in the curriculum. Somehow Kennedy’s Massachusetts connection made him the perfect Yankee Doodle in my mind. Along with that perhaps some of his playboy ways came through to a ten-year old mind and I associated him with “dandy.”

However it arrived with me, the connection stuck.

Having been born between the assassinations of his brothers, my entire life has been somewhat steeped in the Kennedy mystique. Teddy Kennedy was the only one around to live in that out in my lifetime. Whatever the event, Kennedy’s voice was always one that was heard. Even when I disagreed with him, his voice always shaped my thinking.

While the prognosis does not look positive in the long term for Sen. Kennedy, I’ll never shake my mental image of him with a tri-cornered hat with a feather.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Hand-Picked Goodness?

I don’t know why I do it, but I keep reading packages. The latest to catch my eye was the latest flavor of Miss Vickie’s potato chips. I couldn’t pass up the idea of “Hand Picked Jalapeno” I just had to find out what made it so very special.

I’m a pepper freak and have every type of pepper I could find in the garden shops in the area, and as I’ve posted, they have been producing like crazy – and everything there is hand-picked. But honestly, in the peppers, I’ve never noticed much different between the flavor of the hand picked ones from my garden and the ones I purchase in the off-season from the supermarket.

So I bought a bag.

I was disappointed to find that there was no email address for Miss Vickie* so I could ask her about her hand-picked jalapeno secrets. However, the bag did offer some tips such as, “picking the jalapenos by hand when they are perfectly ripe.”

I think she meant to be talking about the tomato that goes with the jalapeno in salsa. Jalapenos when “ripe” either become woody or mushy and sweet.

I was also a little baffled at how the pepper went from “perfectly ripe” to “jalapeno powder.” Something gets lost in that translation. I want to take a tour of the process to see just what they do to preserve the hand picked goodness. The powdering process seems to violently diminish the gentle care of hand picking.

Despite all this – yeah, they’re good!

*Miss Vickie is a little sister to Frito Lay

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


After 17 years, it was time to get a new washing machine. My old one worked, but it really liked to go on walks - so much that I had to leave the laundry room door open if I really wanted to get my clothes back.
So...I went shopping and found a great front loader. I'm being good to my clothes and the environment.
I am enjoying doing laundry again - as all the blankets, towels, pillows (and my clothes) now know well enough. It is so much quieter, I have to listen carefully to know when it is done.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Garden-y Goodness

The picture above is some of today's harvest from my garden. Fresh basil, oregano, fennel, tomatoes, yellow and zucchini squash, various peppers. At the rate things are going, this is going to be a very good summer for me. I may have to purchase a second freezer to save everything.

I made a pesto of oregano, basil, and jalepeno and mixed it in the bread I baked tonight. I'm going to be eating good for the next few months!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Music Review: Noise Cancelling Headphones

Another music review and I’m not talking about music. This weekend I finally bought a pair of noise cancelling headphones. I have been thinking of getting some for the times when I’m traveling on planes or staying in a hotel and find myself surrounded by unfamiliar sounds. The basic concept behind noise cancelling headphones, is that they create a counter-sound wave to whatever sound is coming in from the atmosphere that essentially leaves one hearing no sound, so whatever sound, if any, you have coming from the computer or device is all you hear.

I was prepared to have a white noise creator, so I purchased a mid-level headphone set. I am amazed at how well they work. The music I listen to, the podcasts I like to keep up with, all sound worlds better without any interference coming from without. I am normally sitting in my recliner next to my aquarium. It always has sounds coming from the air pump, the water, and the fish splashing around. The first time I turned on the headphones, the aquarium disappeared as background noise.

When the headphones are turned on, there is clarity to the sound that I’m not familiar with and I’m finding that it works really well with all kinds of music and talk. Because I so enjoy my music, I am seriously considering purchasing a higher end set for home use. With a little longer cord, I could plug into the home theatre system and listen to everything that way.

One side effect I noticed is that I have to have my cell phone sitting on my chest while I’m working on the computer with the headphones on; the phone ringing is drowned out by the noise cancelling feature. I think that may become my new excuse – “I’m sorry, the headphones hid the sound.” I may not have to ever hear a salesman knock at the door, a phone ring, or my dogs fight again.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Music Review: Hard Candy

Ok. It’s a Madonna cd. I’m gay. I’m obligated to like it.

And I do.

I have to confess that one of the reasons I like Hard Candy is that it reminds me of “Early Madonna.” Only now, it is contemporary Early Madonna. All the beats I loved in high school and college are there with a techo twist I want to dance to (while fantasizing about Justin Timberlake). It sounds like now and reminds me of then.

Too bad I’m old and dance like a white man.

Despite liking this cd, it has taken some time to grow on me. The first time I listened to it, I did not fall in love and I’ve only listened to it since its release when I made a conscious effort to do so. I’m challenged to come up with a reason not to like the cd and cannot say that there is one reason I don’t. I like it, just not as much as I want to.

Every single on the cd is pure Madonna. She stamps each one with her personality and style and each one is well produced, but after listening to the entire cd, I find myself still wanting more. Kind of like hard candy, each piece contains tremendous flavor but only makes one crave more; I find myself stuffing one after the other in my mouth. On the cd, each single has its burst of flavor, and I listen intently from one to the next, but at the end, the cd as a whole does not leave anything satisfying or memorable.

The songs on Hard Candy will be ones that have a place on play lists and mix cds for years to come, but I don’t expect to listen to the cd all the way through many times. It belongs in the music library of anyone who enjoys Madonna or even contemporary music, but it won’t be at the top of the stack.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Degree Queen

As a person in an oft discriminated against group, I have worked hard to identify any personal prejudices I have and to consciously guard against them. I only have one that I am clearly aware of. It has nothing to do with race, age, or gender. It has to do with size. I have an immediate internal, physical reaction to people who are grossly obese. I know it is not rational, but I do.

In the last two weeks, I have discovered another bias. A quite handsome man who is the right age for me (over 30) has been expressing interest. He really wants to get to know me and date me. I enjoy the conversations I’ve had with him. And then comes the “but.”

As a gay man, 90% of the people reading my bias about size earlier immediately thought one thing until I clarified.

Which comes to the “but,” and the other bias I discovered.

It’s not what’s hanging in your pants that impresses me, it’s what’s hanging on the wall.

No matter how sexy a guy is, I don’t find him attractive for more than a roll in the hay unless he has a degree. And the more degrees, the more attractive he is. I don’t think I can date someone who does not at least have a bachelor’s degree and I fear that may even rise as I begin work on my second master’s degree next month.

So all you non-obese, 30+ men with degrees start lining up!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

More of God's Little Acre

I am very excited about the progress the yard has made already - this is the back right corner - which is now the herb garden and a massive improvement over the previous arrangement.

The herb garden has several types of basil, oregano, rosemary, fennel, and a few pepper plants.

Above is the entire area leading up to the herb garden which is the back. I have the turtle pond, an area to lay out, and my grill. It is a perfect area to just relax out in the sun with my lounger and a book.

The amazing zuccinis are already starting to produce. I'm going to be out of town for two days and they will be perfect for picking when I get back! Squash are one of my very favorite veggies and I am always happy that zucs produce so proficiently.

Just one of the HOT PEPPERS I have growing in the beds. I have an entire half a bed dedicated to hot peppers. I'm serious when I say I have not found one yet that is too hot for me.

Last here, but certainly not least - the Roma tomatoes. I have three Roma plants and they are all loaded with clusters of rapidly growing, meaty tomatoes. I also have six Better Boy tomato plants. I'm gonna be eating healthy this summer.

God's Little Acre

I have not been around much and the pictures below are the reason why. I did not do a good job in taking pictures completely before, so some work has already been done (one of the beds laid out in the background)

Above are the dirt piles and back left side of the yard. I built up two garden beds back there and the results are in a later picture.

This is the back right corner - that became the herb garden.

Here are the squash - I already have zuccinis almost ready for harvest. And here is the back right corner with beds in place and the squash, peppers and tomatoes planted. I have already harvested some peppers. Now I'm waiting for the grass to grow back in.