Tuesday, January 31, 2012

"Oh my aching back, teeth, et al...!" (1.31.2012)

So here’s the joke: I’m minding my own business on Monday morning having just parked my car in the parking ramp. I get out of the car, hoist my laptop case from the front seat and plant it firmly on the ground. I lean down (by all accounts, leaning at about a 30 degree angle) and gently pull up the telescoping handle so I can roll it inside the building and BAM! – my lower back just spasms and rearranges itself inside my body. So weird. So cause and effect of NOTHING. What am I, 80??? When I tell my sad story to my colleagues and imitate the little shuffling movement that I should have been making in the parking ramp after my injury, they are appropriately sympathetic through their tears of laughter.

Today, the first email I open is from the health clinic at work. I send it to my colleagues….

My colleague sends me the name of her chiropractor...

Other non-back-related jokes from the same group of rapscallions:

One day about 4 years ago, I was sitting at my desk eating a salad. I bit into an innocent piece of lettuce and my front took cracked and fell out. P a n i c - s t r i c k e n, I ran to the dentist in tears not knowing if he could fix it or if I would always look like I came from the Ozarks. Not too much later (after my successful dental implant surgery...), my sympathetic colleagues gave me the tribute below. I have held onto it for 4 years. We repurpose it as necessary to keep the dream of laughter in the workplace alive. (And NO, this is not my picture, but close enough...:-)

Special thanks to Kathleen and Janet for keeping me laughing even when my back or my teeth fall apart!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Living in the Fault Zone (1.30.2012)

I have been thinking about forgiveness a lot lately. Not moving in one direction or the other, just frozen a bit as I think about how to approach it. How I should negotiate it.

Being angry, and not being willing to forgive someone is like living in a mountain range with no base camp. It’s twisted, craggy and solitary. It should be a good place to be but it’s not. One of its inherent pleasures is that it offers you a great view of your own rightness. That’s because every day that you spend there, your view of your own rightness gets stronger but you don’t’really gain any ground. Your backpack gets heavier, your crampons dig in even deeper and before you know it, you are carrying so many reasons for why you have been maligned that you need a few Sherpas to help you carry the blame and fault.

Living on this mountain range of rightness has been exhausting. And I am ready to put down the backpack, fire the Sherpas and find my way back to base camp. One of the hardest parts of the journey may be realizing that I need to forgive myself. (Because that’s always the hardest part, isn’t it? Accepting that it always takes two to make a mess of things is a harsh reality.) But I suppose dealing with my own mess and forgiving myself is a good enough place to start.

A few thoughts that are inspiring me today about forgiving, both myself and everyone else:

1. Keep a fair-sized cemetery in your back yard, in which to bury the faults of your friends.--Henry Ward Beecher

2. To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you.—Unknown

3. Anger makes you smaller, while forgiveness forces you to grow beyond what you were. --Cherie Carter-Scott

4. He who cannot forgive breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass.--George Herbert

5. Forgiveness is giving up the possibility of a better past. --Unknown

6. It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend. --William Blake

7. Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heal that has crushed it.--Mark Twain

8. Forgiveness is the final form of love. --Reinhold Niebuhr

9. One forgives to the degree that one loves. --Francois de La Rochefoucauld

10. Always forgive your enemies--nothing annoys them so much.-- Oscar Wilde

PHOTO: Alexandre Buisse.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Seven + 1 = Leftovers! (1.29.2012)

One of the great things about our theatre nights is splurging at a good restaurant. It more than makes up for all the food on the run.

But the best part is the morning after, when Sam gets to have dinner#2 for breakfast. And I get to bring a healthy portion of pan-seared salmon for lunch on Monday. Seven is definitely pricey, but we get more than our money's worth in meals and memories.
(Be sure to note the Fudgecicle in the right hand.)

Top Ten Memories From Seeing Lion King (1.28.2012)

1. The look on Sam's face during the opening song when he saw the singers, dancers and "animals" coming down the aisles. Priceless!

2. Trying to find our aisle seats which turned out to be non-aisle seats, 2nd row, dead center. Great seats! but impossible to get to.

3. Me as I almost fell trying to hop over the back of the seat for a quick exit. I made enough people laugh that I could have sold my own tickets.

4. The lobster bisque at Seven. Yum!

5. Watching Sam blow through a 14 ounce New York Strip steak like it was a Happy Meal.

6. The crazy theatre attendant who tried to make sure I didn't go downstairs to the men's room with Sam. Huh? (No worries, dude. Got this covered. He knows how to pee on his own and this is not my first bathroom rodeo...)

7. The beautiful snow as we came out of the performance. Cool!

8. Walking down Hennepin with Sam "Daddy-Long-Legs" Taylor and begging him to slow down so I could keep up and threatening to brain him if he didn't. LOL.

9. Waiting outside Seven for about 20 minutes so the valet could get our car and people-watching. It was a show all it's own. Who knew there was an entire universe of young women with perfect figures in perfect suede stillettos (in the snow) who start their evening at 11:15? As Sam said: "Wow."

10. The theatre attendant who took pity on me and let me use the top-secret family bathroom instead of waiting in the line for the Ladies Room for 15 minutes, leaving Sam waiting outside and missing the show. (I was so overcome that I told her: "God Bless You"...)

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Beef Stew Project (1.27.2012)

So today I am making beef stew. I promised Sam I would do this. The original concept was to cut back on any fast food we might be tempted to buy this weekend and to make an effort to be – there’s that word again-- healthier. 
My original concept was to go to the local store and buy a frozen crock-pot beef stew. (Right?) Then the Mom-guilt started in and I found myself searching for recipes and making Emeril's Essence.
The problem is that I really don’t like to cook. My mother and my grandmother were both great cooks but in my case it skipped a generation. I have more of a tendency to date and or marry men who are good cooks. I like to eat but for the sake of my friends and family, I restrict my cooking to the microwave.
Stage One: Planning – I go online and find a reasonable recipe from FoodNetwork.com. There are 27 ingredients but many of them are spices.  I do this on like, Monday, and I am really excited about cooking again. It's been a while. 

After: Kitchen Disaster
Stage Two: Shopping – By Thursday, my excitement is flagging a little. I go to the store because Sam will be home tomorrow. It’s been a low-energy week and I am dragging. Up and down the aisles, I get the ingredients I need. Luckily, I only need to buy about half the stuff and have the rest of it at home (like olive oli, oregano, butter--what every good Italian girl who doesn’t cook should have in her pantry). When I get home I realize I have forgotten to buy garlic powder and I worry that it might make a difference. Then it occurs me that Sam has never once in 21 years eaten anything and said: “Needs garlic powder.” So, I figure I’ll be ok.

Stage Three: Prep – I get into the prep. Seasoning the meat and searing it; cutting the button mushrooms and peeling the long, old-school carrots, I get into a rhythm which makes me feel competent. I put together this stuff called Emeril’s Essence. It’s got ingredients like cayenne pepper and paprika and I worry that the end result will burn my eyelashes off. (If there is ever a Food Network show called The Bland Cook, I will be the star.) The recipe just calls for a teaspoon of the cayenne mixture so I put it in there anyway. We’ll see.

Success! "I like it!"
Stage Four: Tasting – Everything is in the crock pot and I take a taste. Not bad. Eyelashes are still intact. Remarkably, after only two hours of cooking, it has a great taste. Like I actually know what I’m doing. I consider the idea of putting the leftover Essence on my Lean Cuisines from now on.
Stage Five: Debut – As promised, beef stew and garlic bread with some Kirby's Return to Dreamland for Wii on the side. It’s snowing outside (although I didn’t promise that) and Sam seems really happy with dinner. And I'm pretty happy with myself. Who knows, I may actually try this cooking thing again some time.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Why I Love 'Sam Taylor': Reason #497

One weekend a few years ago, Sam and I had what amounted to a knock-down-drag-out argument over his inability to go to bed. Two facts remain undisputed: Sam would rather stay up all night playing Crash Bandicoot than sleeping; and I simply become psychotic if I don't get my sleep. This is a bad combination. I don't remember anything else about the particular events that led up to this apology letter, except that when he gave it to me it warmed my heart. (And I always love that no matter what kind of card he signs his name to, he always signs it "Sam Taylor". Just so I know which one.)


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Personal Inventory: Getting Healthy, Being Blue. (1.25.2012)

About a year ago I attended a presentation given by a guy named Dan Buettner. In addition to being a world-class cyclist, writer and damn cute in his own right, Dan is the author of a book entitled Blue Zones (http://www.bluezones.com/), which identifies certain regions of the world where the populations live healthier and longer lives.

Buettner identified five Blue Zones:

Sardinia, Italy: One team of demographers found a hot spot of longevity in mountain villages where men reach the age of 100 years at an amazing rate.

The islands of Okinawa, Japan: Another team examined a group that is among the longest lived on Earth.
Loma Linda, California: Researchers studied a group of Seventh-day Adventists who rank among America's longevity all-stars.
Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica: The Nicoya Peninsula was the subject of research on a Quest Network expedition which began on January 29, 2007.
Icaria, Greece: The April '09 expedition to the island of Ikaria uncovered the location with the highest percentage of 90 year-olds on the planet - nearly 1 out of 3 people make it to their 90s. Furthermore, Ikarians "have about 20 percent lower rates of cancer, 50 percent lower rates of heart disease and almost no dementia".
Working with a team of scientists, Buettner found nine common characteristics of all the world’s long-lived people. The secret of how to live longer lies not in diets or exercise programs but in creating the right surroundings.
According to Dan and the scientists, these nine characteristics can help you add up to 12 good years to your life and help you look and feel younger at every age:
1.  Move Naturally: We can get more physical activity naturally if we live in walkable communities, de-convenience our homes by getting rid of power tools and grow gardens.  Walking is the best activity for longevity.
How’m I Doin'? Texting. Does texting count? My fingers are ripped. Also, note to self: re-think garage door opener and TV remote (chances are they will have to pry both out of my cold, dead hands).
2.  Know your Purpose: People who know why they wake up in the morning live up to seven years longer than those who don’t.  Know your values, passions and talents–and how to share them on a regular basis.
How’m I Doin'? Every morning that I am lucky enough to wake up, I know it is because I was put on this earth to be “Sam’s Mom”. Done!
3. Down Shift: Chronic inflammation caused by stress is related to every major, age-related disease.   To reverse inflammation, find time each day to meditate, nap, pray or enjoy a happy hour.
How’m I Doin'? Have significantly reduced the amount of stress in my job by downshifting to writer role. Some days it actually dawns on me: I am happy. I could use more yoga in my life. Finding time for Happy Hours are not a problem.
4. 80% Rule: Cut 20 percent of your calories with evidence based practices: eat a big breakfast, eat with your family, remove the TV from your dining area and say pre-meal expressions of appreciation.
How’m I Doin'? Breakfast: check! The others need work.
5. Plant Slant: Eat mostly a plant-based diet heavy on beans, nuts and green plants.   Eat meat in small portions (the size of a deck of cards) fewer than twice weekly.
How’m I Doin'? A work in progress. I never was very good with plants.
6. Wine at 5: Drinkers out-live non-drinkers.  Two glasses of wine daily will add years to your life, especially when consumed during a plant-based meal.
How’m I Doin'? See #3 “Happy Hour”…J
7. Family First: Living in a thriving family is worth a half a dozen extra years of life expectancy.   Invest time in your kids, nurture a monogamous relationship and keep your aging parents nearby.
How’m I Doin'? Does searching for Mr. Right on match.com count for this one? At least I have Sam and the cats. (I am a woman of a certain age after all.)
8. Belong: Recommit, reconnect or explore a new faith-based community. It doesn’t matter if you’re Christian, Jewish, Muslim or Buddhist.  People who show up to their faith community four times a month live an extra 4-14 years.
How’m I Doin'? I just broke up with a Jewish guy. Does that count? (Need to work on this. Lately, my only worship is when I go to Orange Theory and pray that the trainer will make it stop soon…)
9. Right Tribe: Your friends have a long-term and measure impact on your health and longevity.  Taking stock in who your friends are and expanding your social circle to include   healthy-minded, supportive people might be the most powerful thing you can do to add years to your life.
How’m I Doin'? I feel good about this one. Most of my friends feel lucky to be well-employed, generally upbeat and grateful for their lives (whew!). For myself, I try to listen to my own voice when it gets that “whiney-tone”.
So there’s my personal inventory. I’m sure Dan can explain all this better than I can. If you’d like to hear it from him directly, you might enjoy this video from TED/Ideas Worth Spreading:

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Your Guide to Unusual Phobias (1.24.2012)

Today was kind of a low energy day so I thought I'd borrow from my dear friend Merriam Webster. In fact, today was kind of a #4 day which made me start thinking about #7 which led to me worrying about having #10. Enjoy!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sliding Down 494 on a Snowy Morning (1.23.2012)

Here's my tribute to my one hour commute this morning vis a vis Robert Frost*: 

Whose roads these are I think I know.
My laptop’s in the village though
It will not see me stopping here
Thank God for AWD on snow!

My little X3 must think it queer
To stop without a Starbucks near
But lines of cars await the lights  
On the snowiest morning of the year.

My heated seat warms up my coat
And other "parts" (I dare not gloat!)               
The only other sound’s the sweep
of cars careening toward roadside moats.

The roads are snowy, dark (black ice!) and deep.
My X3 hums as I start to weep
(I got here safe and warm and neat) 
But end of day, I must “REPEAT”.
And miles to go before I sleep.
And miles to go before I sleep.


*Poetry is not really my thing so here is the real thing from Mr. Frost. Enjoy!

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.   
His house is in the village though;   
He will not see me stopping here   
To watch his woods fill up with snow.   

My little horse must think it queer   
To stop without a farmhouse near   
Between the woods and frozen lake   
The darkest evening of the year.   

He gives his harness bells a shake   
To ask if there is some mistake.   
The only other sound’s the sweep   
Of easy wind and downy flake.   

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.

Robert Frost, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” from The Poetry of Robert Frost, edited by Edward Connery Lathem. Copyright 1923, © 1969 by Henry Holt and Company, Inc., renewed 1951, by Robert Frost. Reprinted with the permission of Henry Holt and Company, LLC.

Source: The Random House Book of Poetry for Children (1983)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Post for Mom (1.22.2012)

My Mom passed away in August, 2011. Lately, I've been thinking about my Mom and how much she would enjoy being part of my blog.  Because my Mom's eulogy was written to reflect her, it's pretty funny - or at least, it's supposed to be. In honor of her, and for no particular reason other than she has been on my mind lately, I dig this out of the Severino archives and make it public...
I have spent the past few days thinking about how to honor my Mom in a eulogy. Some of you here knew her. Many of you did not. I thought the best way to honor the life of my mother was by telling you all the things I loved about her – and there were many. That is not to say that there weren’t moments when we drove each other crazy because don’t forget – she WAS my mother after all -- but these times were few and usually given enough time and enough Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay, we would laugh about how hard-headed we both were and start laughing.
But back to the reasons that my mother was awesome. First, one of the things I loved about my Mom was that she was a lot of fun. I think she would enjoy being remembered that way and it certainly is the truth. Hopefully you can see that from some of the photos. She had this great spirit. She was funny, “sassy” and she never acted her age. I loved that about her. She had an irreverent sense of humor that always cracked me up. A good example of this is when my Dad passed away in 1992. The back story is that my Mom’s family was German, French and Dutch…and she married into, well basically The Sopranos. When my father passed, my Mom did her best to “do the right thing” according to the Italian relatives. This meant the professional Italian funeral home, inviting all the Italian relatives, and having several people attend services who even my Dad would have called “professional mourners” (4’ nothing, all in black with veils). Well anyway, my Mom went through all this to honor my Dad and to make my little Italian grandmother happy. Anyway, so after the wake and the funeral, we finally get home and sit down to relax and have a glass of wine. My Mom has a stack of funeral cards and she decides this is a good time to open them. She opens the first one – and a check falls out. Opens a second, and a few bills fall out. This went on for quite a while…and we were just speechless. Neither of us had any idea that Italians give money at funerals! And my Mom is just like “I had no idea your Dad was such a profit center”…and we are just crying with laughter in the middle of this terrible loss. THAT was my Mom….
Another thing I really loved about my Mom was her sense of adventure. I always admired that even after spending nearly 50 years in Poughkeepsie, she just picked up and started a whole new life in Sag Harbor, NY near my brother. I think she was there a week before she joined the Sag Harbor Whaling & Historical Museum Volunteer Committee. A month later, she was organizing events and practically knew the whole town. She just amazed me. One of the other things she did when she moved to Sag Harbor was to get a job working as a receptionist at a swanky Easthampton real estate office. One of her favorite stories to tell was when Alec Baldwin first came into the office and she called him as “Mr. Baldwin”. He replied: “You can call me, Al.” We lived on that for weeks. We’d be in the middle of something completely different, and one of us would pipe up and just say: “You can call me, Al”.
And of course, her final big move – back to the Midwest to MN to be closer to me and Sam, was really a gift. Ben and I had moved to MN when Sam was 5, so she really didn’t know him as an adult. Suffice to say, they wasted no time catching up. They were two peas in a pod. They had that amazing connection that happens between grandparents and grandkids. It always cracked me up but slightly annoyed me that when she and Sam were in a room together, I was superfluous. Those two just connected on another level and it was such a gift for Sam to have that and such a gift for me to see that connection.
My Mom was an avid reader of everything. She was NEVER without a book. It was almost like breathing or eating to her. If she ran out of books, she would RE-READ them and I’m talking The Complete Works of Jane Austen. I actually brought in a volume that she had loaned me to read and as I stopped and started and clutzed my way through the first novel, taking forever to get into it and feeling like I had ADHD, she had called to say “Could you bring it back? I’d like to read it again.” 1,364 pages and she wants to re-read it!
And finally, my Mom had a ferocious sense of humor. To know my Mom was to laugh with her. To add to some of the words I described her with earlier, I would add: She was a CHARACTER. Here’s a good example: The evening that my Mom passed was an emotional one. But even in that, my Mom managed to figure out a way to get me laughing and leave her mark. Granted, she had some dementia toward the end and was good for a tall tale or two, but that last night, Mom was sound asleep and as I sat there listening to her unsteady breathing, two nurses came in to adjust her pillows. I was watching them go through this rather delicate process when one of the nurses said to me – completely sincerely – “Is it true that your Mom was really an undercover police detective???” I said “No, not to my knowledge” and we laughed. All I could think of was that even during my Mom’s transition to the next life, she was still trying to make me laugh. It reminded me of what I loved about Mom so much. And what I will miss about her.
When the end finally did come, we had more than our fair share of miracles. The last words my mother spoke to me happened on the Saturday before she died. She was sleeping and suddenly woke up and found me sitting next to her. Out of nowhere she said “I love you. Please remember to tell Sam I love him too”…and then she closed her eyes and drifted back to sleep. The Monday she passed away, Sam and I were both able to say goodbye properly. And I suppose my one regret about that evening is that I didn’t let Sam give her his usual “raspberries” kiss on her cheek [INSERT LOUD INAPPROPRIATE SOUND HERE]. It just seemed wrong at the time. But now I wish I’d let him because he always did it and she probably would’ve loved it. That was Grammy. I suppose that if that’s my biggest regret, I’m doing OK.
So, at this point in the evening, I’d like to address the guest of honor in order to properly say goodbye:
“I miss you, Mom. I tried to do what you would want me to do – like picking out the best picture for the program and making sure all the other pictures make you look thin. It’s what I do for you and what I would want Sam to do for me some day. I can’t believe you are gone from this earth, and it will take so much more time for me to “get” that. Not a day goes by that I don’t think ‘Oh, I should give these earrings to Mom’ or ‘I wonder if Mom has enough Diet Snapple’. You are not only my Mom, it’s like you are a PART of me. And that is not a bad thing. I will miss you so much but know that that part of me – YOU -- will live on in our hearts and you will never be forgotten. I love you, Mom.”

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Texts From Last Night...On My Desk (1.21.2012)

I have a Texts From Last Night desk calendar on my desk at work. It's one of the things that keeps me entertained on a daily basis -- as well as my fellow cubemates (think gales of inappropriate, non-company- sanctioned laughter).

Below are some of my favorite "days" that I feel comfortable sharing. Some calendar days are so bad that I had to create a plain brown wrapper that sits on top of the calendar page which says: "Caution: RED ZONE" so I won't offend anyone who might happen to stop by (and doesn't think these are funny and wants me fired.) Of course, I don't know how that could be, but you just can't be too careful.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Blonde Ambition (1.20.2012)

January is a time of reflection. A time to look at our life and our waistlines and make decisions about what needs changing. Or maybe just appreciating. So that being said, let me take a moment to appreciate a whole new year.

This year will be different from last year. Last year was chemo and surgeries and trying to keep my head down and get through it all. This year is all about climbing out of last year, and figuring out how to move forward. It's like frisking yourself and figuring out what's there, what's not, what may have moved around a bit.

It's funny what has kept me going. Last year and the year before, as I started to see the end of the chemo dates, and surgeries, and as my hair started growing back (not necessarily blonde) and my energy started getting a little better, all I could think of was all the things I wanted to do after I was all put back together. One of those things -- for some reason, a very important thing for me -- was going to the theatre. I wanted to go to NY and just binge on theatre. It never occurred to me at that time that I would have the experience I so wanted and have the great fun to share it with my favorite person in the world: Sam.

The picture here is of me and Sam in the lobby of the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis, New Year's Day, 2011. We are going to see Billy Elliott. It's a milestone for me because my hair is starting to grow in and, for the most part, breast cancer is behind me (And the irony of the order of magnitude in the previous sentence is not lost on me: hair first; that pesky breast cancer second). And a milestone for Sam -- who is seeing his very first ever live theatre. It was huge on so many levels.

Taking Sam to his first play was a parental milestone for me: it was an opportunity for me to close the loop. At that moment, I gave Sam something my parents had given to me. And as a result of the gene pool, or nature vs. nurture or just plain dumb luck, Sam loved going to the theatre. It's become one of our favorite things to do together (and for his Dad too, who had the idea of taking Sam to see Billy Elliott in the first place. Way to go, Daddy-o).

And I'll never forget that first outing: between me with my post-chemo head, and Sam with his natural exuberance, the vibe from the people seated around us was pure love fest. People were so taken with Sam -- just the fact that he was there and the fact that he was enjoying the show. A few people grabbed me during intermission to ask: "Is he enjoying it???" like they were long-lost relatives who were part of the first-time festivities. Do I need to mention that we are talking about Minnesotans starting conversations with perfect strangers? That was the power of Sam's charm. I will never forget it.

In the past year, we've become regular theatre-goers. Billy Elliott, Shrek the Musical, West Side Story --we even went to see Jerry Seinfeld. In the next few weeks, we're seeing Lion King, American Idiot, The Addams Family and -- this one is a little off-beat (a theatre experiment) -- End of the Rainbow at The Guthrie. Since I've hogged the local theatre schedule, his Dad is taking him to things like The St. Paul Orchestra, and he even took him to see Doc Severinson. Of course, he loved it all.

Given our ambitious upcoming theatre schedule, Ben and I have to check Sam's calendar before booking any more shows. Sam marks his weekends now by the play or musical he's seeing ("Lion King weekend?...") and one of his favorite parts of the experience -- the Playbills -- are now saved in an official Playbill binder up in his room. Without realizing it, we have managed to bring a little bit of Broadway to the Midwest.

All of this may sound a little grandiose for a 21 year old. But perhaps part of appreciating is appreciating that Sam is now able to do these kind of things and enjoy his life (which wasn't always the case), and I am able to do these kind of things and enjoy my life (again). And best of all, we get to do it together.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Top 10 Charming Words for Nasty People (1.19.2012)

The following list is totally borrowed from Merriam-Webster online, but I thought it was worth sharing. The next time someone you know acts like an a-hole, try throwing one of these at them and watch the fun begin!

#1: Ruffian


a brutal person; bully

#2: Scalawag


a mischievous and often
morally corrupt person

#3: Knave


a tricky deceitful fellow

#4: Rapscallion


rascal; an idle worthless person

#5: Reprobate


a morally corrupt or depraved person

#6: Cad


a man who acts with deliberate disregard for another's feelings or rights

#7: Scapegrace


a reckless unprincipled person; an incorrigible rascal

#8: Hooligan


a usually young man who does noisy and violent things as part of a group or gang; hoodlum

#9: Scamp


rascal; rogue

#10: Wretch


a base, despicable, or vile person; a miserable person

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

So Let Me Say This About That: Lolita (1.18.2012)

Cover of first edition of Lolita,
published in 1955.
One of my New Year's resolutions was to read more. I tend to read non-fiction (and write non-fiction), but wanted to spice up my reading list with a few classics. A friend of mine told me that her book club read Lolita, so I thought why not? I'm probably the last person on earth to read this but somehow it just never popped up on the reading list at either St. Mary's or Our Lady of Lourdes.

It's rare to read a book that forces me to grab a dictionary every 10 minutes. My own Asperger's forced me to make a note of the words I didn't know in the first few pages. There were a lot of them*.

The friend who recommended the book to me is a fellow writer and just hideously literate. She totally denies this, but is someone who has not only read many of the classics but can comment in full on the story lines and how they compare to other books I've never heard of. Me? I can barely recall what I had for breakfast while I'm eating it.

Anyway, with the amount of writing I've been doing (both at work and at home) it makes me notice and appreciate the way a writer writes when I finally get around to reading. For example: Joan Didion and Vladimir Nabokov don't have much in common in their writing style, but I learn something from reading them both: Joan teaches me not to get bent out of shape about punctuation; and Vladimir teaches me that there can be many joys in using big words in a run-on sentence if you know what you're doing.

*midges, biscuity, sibilant, uranists, coevals, poltroon, girleen, voluptas, inveighled, fructuate. (My word nerdiness is definitely starting to expose itself...)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Monday, January 16, 2012

"Rare Sighting in Plymouth!" (1.16.2012)

Meet Faelyn and Ginger. Around our house, we call this The Two-Headed Fat Cat. It is rare indeed. On the right is Faelyn. Faelyn is what Sam and I call our "special needs kitty". She is a cat that we adopted from the Humane Society about eight years ago. She looks more like a bobcat than anything else and it wasn't until we adopted her and took her to the Vet that the Vet told us that Faelyn was feral. We didn't really understand what the implications of "feral" meant, but after a few years of not being able to pick her up and noticing that the only time we could pet her was when she was under the bed, we got it. Ginger is on the left. Ginger never met a wall, a person, or a shoe that she wouldn't snuggle with. Ginger is what I call my "typical" kitty. Very outgoing. Think "My Big Fat Greek Wedding". Ginger is the loud cousin with the big hair and the cleavage in the hideous blue bridesmaid's dress. That's Ginger. Faelyn is more like "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo". Somehow over the years (about five together) they seem to have adopted the best qualities of the other one. In Faelyn's case, we always say that Ginger "modeled" appropriate kitty behavior for Faelyn. Faelyn just had no idea. I've always thought it was extra fascinating that it was Sam who picked out Faelyn in a building filled with 80 other purring, friendly cats. He clearly saw something in Faelyn. She was the only one who was sitting at the top of the cat tree -- about 6' up -- and glowering down at us with these big black eyes. The family joke is that despite the glower and the look that said "I double-dawg-dare you to adopt me", we did. And somehow, we've made it all work.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

What Am I Doing Today? Sunday with Sam (1.15.2012)

Here's a little one-on-one with The Man Himself...
Happy Sunday and long weekend everybody!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

It All Started With Adaptation (1.14.2012)

So I was minding my own business this morning when I started watching Adaptation, the quirky movie with Meryl Streep and Nicholas Cage that features rare orchids as a main character. I am not much of a plant person. I mean, I like them, but never seem to be able to keep them alive. I am much, much better with cats. And children, thank God.

Anyway, this got me to thinking ... 
that I had never been to the orchid nursery right around the corner (Orchidweb.com)
and right next door to my beloved llamas.
A fun thing to do on a cold, snowy day.
Experience-wise, it was very cool.
Temperature-wise, it was like...well like a hothouse in there.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Things You Should Know About Me Before You Read Further...(1.13.2012)

1. I have a secret crush on Robert whats-his-name from Twilight.

2. I split martiinis with my friends. Sometimes I "split them with myself". Like tonight.

3. I am a contrarian. All day I kept thinking Friday the 13th was a state of mind. Wrong!

4. I have actually started running again. I need to say a few words about this: In 2009, I went skiing, crossed my ski tips like a dope and tore my ACL (left knee). Ouch. Lots of drinking, crutches and no time on the slopes for a week and I came back home to: 1) a $1,200 medical bill for "out-of-network services", 2) a new pair of crutches, and 3) a breast cancer diagnosis only three weeks later. Part of "putting me back together" (see "I Love My Plastic Surgeon"...) is getting my knee back in one piece. The only thing -- theoretically -- that stands between me and "I'm gonna make a comeback" is one more surgery to repair my knee. So I digress. Anyway, despite my wonky knee which -- if you happen to be a professional football player and you've had a torn ACL--you know that that means your knee is more than happy to bend in any-ol-which-way-direction you have a mind to send it. (Arghhhh. Creepy.)

I've really gotten off the point here, haven't I?

OK, so: running. I've actually been doing this Orange Theory thing and went to class the other night. Usually when I run on the treadmill -- and this is admittedly SO pathetic -- I kind of "hang on" (just plain embarassing) because I don't have a lot of confidence in my wonky knee. But gradually my knee and I have made peace and last Tuesday, I actually just went for it and started running. Look Ma, No Hands! It was an amazing feeling. I was really running and if that wasn't enough, when the class was over and the instructor -- my personal pain-meister, Mike -- started reviewing the HRT results, he made kind of a big deal about the fact that I had spent 40 minutes in the "orange zone" or whatever. It was kind of disorienting. Usually I find myself in situations in life where I think I'm going to be a big achiever and I end up being average. Here was a situation which totally caught me by surprise: He was like "LET ME SHAKE YOUR HAND!" I did the obligatory look over my shoulder like "Who. Me???" So anyway, I learned that 40 minutes at 80 percent of your HRT is not too shabby.

I've really gotten off the point here, haven't I? (One sec: Martini refill. Wait. Maybe I'll go with Diet Coke...)

5. These are all the things I can think of that you should know about me. At least for tonight. I don't want to be TMI or pushy. The only other thing I can think of is that I am spending Sunday and Monday with Sam and I know our agenda includes a tour of Office Depot and frozen yogurt at Freeziac. I will be sure to report on all of it...:-)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Llamas, Alpacas and Mini-Mansions. Oh My! (1.12.2012)

This post is going to be about llamas, but not Fernando Lamas or his son, Lorenzo Lamas. Those guys won't be mentioned, so if you were looking for a juicy story about say...Argentina, you won't find it here. What you will find is a story about a very average, normal neighborhood in Plymouth, MN that happens to have a bunch of llamas right in the middle of a group of suburban homes.

It's really the oddest thing to see a very large fenced in area containing llamas (and alpacas, apparently) right in the middle of town. I mean, I don't live in Mayberry or anything. It is Minnesota, but we don't have farmers on every corner or anything (which I think was my general impression of Minnesota before I moved here, back when I lived in and around New York City). Or maybe I'm in denial. Because, apparently, I live in a neighborhood that has a pen full of llamas right down the street. Or is it a bunch of alpacas? I haven't figured that out yet. (It's like they say: you can take the girl out of New York, but you can't take the New York out of the girl.)

These guys, whatever they are, are really damned cute. They look like big, furry E.T. type characters with these big Bambi eyes. And yesterday morning, as I was driving by them on my way to work, there were two of them hanging out together near the street, and I just had this urge to beep my horn at them and say: "Way to GO you cute little llamas in the middle of my neighborhood!" But I didn't.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Egg Roll Cravings (1.11.2012)

So I had this great idea that I would take a picture of two egg rolls from Leeann Chin -- a la Hadley's blog -- for today. But the more I started thinking about these eggrolls, the hungrier I got and well..that's why I can only offer the empty egg roll bag. What makes it worse is that it was an egg roll moving violation -- that is, egg rolls eaten in the car. (How hot is that?) This photo is not guite as artsy as what my buddy does with his photos. But hey! I am just starting out. I will need time to develop the high-concept blog idea. For now, my egg rolls will just have to do.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Naming of Parts (1.10.2012)

Today we have naming of parts. Yesterday,
We had daily cleaning. And tomorrow morning,
We shall have what to do after firing. But today,
Today we have naming of parts. Japonica
Glistens like coral in all the neighboring gardens,
And today we have naming of parts.

--Excerpt from Naming of Parts by Henry Reed

Yesterday, we had a full moon. It was the first thing I saw as I put the car in drive, after turning on my fashionable heel and walking out the door with my suitcase, after he said "well, I don't want to have dinner any more", after a long pause where I wondered if he had listened to a word I had said, and after I had finally listened to the little voice in my stomach that said "you need to get out of here", after he tried to pretend that ignoring everything I asked of him was just fine, as it always had been, after I used my voice again to say that everything was not fine and had not been fine for quite a while, and even after what had been love was reduced to two people in one small room who were far, far away from each other on a Monday night.