Have you seen the new JC Penney commercials announcing a new change coming on February 1st, 2012?  The ad shows women opening their mailboxes and screaming as tons of fliers, sale ads and coupons pour out.  It shows other women in the store looking at the signage above racks which show 25%, 30%, prices slashed and screaming in frustration.  I feel the same way!  JC Penney is unrolling a new way of doing business; not having sales, but using a bottom price constantly.  They have done away with their return stipulations policies and their exchange rules. In essence, returning the store to days of old where you said what you meant and you meant what you said:)  I hate marketing ploys.  I get sick of sale ads in the newspaper, mailers in my mailbox, stores that want to bombard my e-mail with "coupons".  Enough!!  I do not even look at them any more.  They have lost their effective marketing edge with most consumers.   Instead it paints this picture of mark-ups and then slashing as though we aren't smart enough to understand what they are doing!  It appears to be a vicious cycle which highlights the amount of profit cushion built into every last blasted thing we buy.  Now don't get me wrong, I love to look through the clearance rack in a store for that "find".  But I wouldn't need to do that if prices were more normal.  I think consumers do crave simplicity.  I think we all crave less steps for a purchase.  I mean when I'm at Kohls I need a coupon, their credit card, the combination to the safe at Bank of America and my birth certificate to receive the 30% off that day.  It wears me out.  I hate Kohls!  Penneys is going unplugged.  They are going stripped down.  They are becoming, like the trend has been for churches and restaurants, parred down with simplicity.  Simply just quality in the things that they are really about.  The church; bringing Jesus to people without hype or hoops.  Restaurants; offering cleaner choices and less of them.   Life is cyclic isn't it?  I'm sure some day the pendulum will swing back to convoluted, over-marketing and coupons once again.  But for now, it appears we might have a reprieve in the marketing and pricing of products.  The staging and selection of food in restaurants.  And, the over methodized Church.  Can I get a witness!?? 



I bought a mattress and box springs in the Spring of 2010.  I bought it from Sears.  Do I think Sears is cutting edge, trendy and a stylistic sort of store?  NO!!  I hate shopping.  That includes; clothes, groceries, cars, birthdays, Christmas, appliances and furniture.  Sears was the store when I was growing up.  That's where you bought sturdy, well-made, but God-awful ugly clothes that were somewhat indestructible and stood the test of time and style by never being stylish to begin with.  My parents bought us coats and shoes from Sears.  I always hated them.  Always.  Sears though is synonymous for tools and appliances.  Products that are solid and well made. I needed to buy a stove, refrigerator, dishwasher and a mattress for the house I had just purchased.  My goal was to do it all in under an hour if possible.  Sears was the place.  The appliance sales clerk loved the commission he made on me that day with virtually no work on his part.  He didn't have to sell me on anything.  I simply walked in, perused the aisles, looked for the style, size, price and color I needed and transacted the sale with him.  Don't panic.  That was not the first time I had shopped for appliances in that manner.  It was my usual way.  From the appliance center at Sears, I moved toward the mattress department.  I laid on all the beds, looked at sizes, brands, sale prices.  If I purchased it that day it would all be delivered on the same truck, saving me having to come home from work two different days to meet the truck.  I was all about efficiency.  Deciding on a mattress and box springs, I completed my final transaction in Sears.  The mattress has proven to not have been a great one.  Within the first year it began to sag and valley quite severely.  Now, I am relatively small and was single for part of that mattress time.  So, it was just my weight on it.  When I got remarried the valleying of the mattress grew worse.  Even though my husband is a smaller man as well and our body weights together would only equal a large man, the bed deteriorated.  Yesterday we stopped in at Sears to discuss the poor quality mattress with the mattress department.  I don't sometimes have great tolerance for those that work with the public but are horrible at it.  This sales clerk was one of them.  Sears again probably isn't going to appeal to the young and stylish as a place they would want to work at.  This woman was older, sounded like she had smoked her entire life, and was a bit on the brash side.  I didn't find her overly helpful, sympathetic, or concerned.  She merely stated that I had probably bought a bed with a lower coil count.  She handed me the mattress exchange department phone number and then said, "Don't be overly melodramatic when you call them either."  I think I blinked at her lack of professionalism.  I glanced at my husband who I could tell was on the verge of saying, "Lady, you might want to be careful.  Nancy is about to let you have it both barrels.  She can and will."  I smiled at Doug reading his thoughts like a thought bubble above his head.  We walked away with a bad impression of Sears.  If she was the face of Sears, I was done.  I walked away with a distinctive decision firmly planted in me; I was done with Sears.  No more would I purchase my appliances there ever again.  Customer service in this world is the only thing that can separate the good from the great.  Sears was no longer great, or even good.  Oh, I would get a new mattress from them.  Better yet, I was seeking a full-refund as I didn't want a replacement one from a company that sold crap.  I also didn't want to transact business from a woman who was curt, sounded like she just came in from the dock after a smoke break and wore polyester.  Oh wait, I was at Sears.  That was their employee pool!  I think when Sears bought K-Mart quality declined.  In fact, I saw a blue light flashing in the kid's department.



Today is my one year anniversary of marriage.  Not really that remarkable you might be thinking.  Enter my head and heart for a few hundred words.  You might change your mind. My husband arranged a beautiful weekend at the same bed and breakfast we stayed at on our wedding night. [As I opened the door to our room there were petals on the bed, chocolate covered strawberries on a plate and a bottle of champagne.  I quickly remembered my first marriage.  My husband had never done anything to visually articulate his love feelings.  He had never surprised me, made reservations, or bought me anything that brought a tear to my eye.]   I felt like this was still someone else's life.  That Doug would find out I was just a tomboyish, simple girl and grow tired of my never slowing mind and love of words.  Yet a year later, he was the exact same in his passion, his intensity to never get enough of my mind, my laughter, my words, or my body.  Nothing waned [I whirled in my thoughts.  I lived without passion in marriage for 25 years.  I lived without words of affirmation, without a soul connection, without that person knowing my love languages.  I lived without the power of love.]  Before we headed to dinner, we exchanged cards.  Doug's card to me was beautiful.  It was simple and unadulterated.  Inside he had made his own bullet points using his favorite red pen.  He listed all the things he loved about me.  The list filled the entire card.  He broke down the words I Love You into chunks, pieces, reasons, morsels.  [I marveled at his words.  His thoughts penned for me.   At the things he loved about me.  At how he not only let me be me, but actually loved me being me.]  I dressed in a bustier, a straight legged pair of jeans, black heels and a long black trendy little mid thigh coat.  [I watched his face as I turned around in the outfit he had gotten me for Christmas to see delight, love, and wonder washing across him.   I was still caught off guard by his attention to my physicalness.  I went without that in my first marriage.  Doug just loved me.  All of me.  Every bit of who I was.  Every square inch of my looks.]  He took me in his arms and swooned over my beauty, taking pictures and posting them on his Facebook page wall.  [How did he always make me feel like I was more beautiful than I really actually was?  How could he say it over and over and I never get weary of it or feel like he was merely just giving the words lip service?]  He pulled a small box from his laptop bag.  There it was.  Another thing he had consciously and deliberately done to show the amount of time he thinks about me.  Inside was a modern heart necklace with a small diamond on it.  [There were never any gifts in my first marriage.  Probably because there were no thoughts.   I felt Doug's heart and thoughts every minute of the day.  I felt it as he hooked that necklace around my neck.]  I was humbled again by his generosity.  By his desire to never stop wanting to show how he felt.  We went to dinner at Tello's, a great Italian restaurant where we had also dined on our wedding night.  We sat at the same table, on the same side of it as close to each other as possible.  We reminisced about how we met, why we met, how the other had changed our lives.  I told him that he had done far more for me than I had for him.  [I wondered if he fully knew what I had lived for 25 years?  What I had gone without emotionally, made due with, pretended I didn't need?  Did he know the grief I experienced in the weeks leading up to meeting him?  Did he fully know how my heart was raw, my prayers imploring God for love?  Did he really know the depths of that?  Did he know that he was God's answer to my prayer?  Did he know in high def that God gave me more than I deserved or asked for?]   He told me I made him a better man.  That feeling my love daily made all the difference in his mind, spirit, his work, his emotions.  That my love made him fully alive.   [I realized this magic connection was more than love.  It was something that God had given each of us.  It was a very real picture of God's great love for me.]  The waitress told us she could see our connectivity, our love, and that it moved her.  [I smiled as she spoke the words.  I knew what it was to have been moved to a different place in my life by this love, by this man.  I knew what it was to feel the effects of that soul passionate love in every day life for the past year.   I had known what it was like to live without it too.]  We toasted our glasses to this night, to this year, to that day we both signed onto Eharmony.  We toasted to both of us being able to operate for the first time in our lives as purely ourselves.  To being able to be loved in our love languages and love the other in theirs.   [I did not know till now that receiving love in our love language(s) brings love to a level unknown without it.  How is it that I am 45 years old and just now fully living?  It is as though I was a troll under a bridge.]  When I got glasses as a freshman in high school I remember walking in the grocery store for the first time wearing them.  The packaging on the shelves was vivid, sharp.  The lines were crisp and remarkably clear.  Everything took on a hue that was brighter than I had ever seen.  That is my life with Doug.  Everything is more vivid with him.  All areas of my life are brighter, more brilliant because of his presence - because of Doug's love for me.  [God, thank you for being with me under the bridge all those years.  Thank you for hearing my heart's cry.   For bringing Doug to me to satisfy my hunger for a deep life of passion unleashed.]  Imagine not having full lung capacity for most of your life.   Or not having the gift of sight or hearing most of your life.  Now, imagine that after not having those things you were given them.  That is me.



My husband laughs at how often I brush my teeth.  At how often I wash my hands.  I am not as bad as Howie Mandell or Matt Lauer.  Both of these men are reported to have some major germaphobic behaviors to the point that it is odd.  Some of us just have the propensity to be a little Howard Hughes-ish.  More times than I care to recount, I have been in a public restroom and watched in horror as women exit the stall by-passing the soap, water, and towels.  There have been a few times that I have looked directly at them and just shook my head in disgust not caring if they see my revulsion.  I will not directly touch the door handle on my exit back out of the bathroom after washing either.  Why would I!  Miss Grossie Germie Hands didn't wash after wiping!  I expect that behavior from my 5 year old granddaughter, not a 25, 40 or 65 year old!  In the mid 1840's the rate of death from childbirth was high without always understandable reasons.  That is, until a man by the name of Ignaz Semmelweis (1818 – 1865) began to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Dr. Semmelweis was a Hungarian obstetrician.  He introduced antiseptic prophylaxis (big words that mean something simple) into medicine: Hand hygiene.  The prophylaxis was simply washing one’s hands after performing surgery or an autopsy and prior to entering the mother’s hospital room. Dr. Semmelweis’ countermeasure reduced the death rate from an average of 12 percent to less than one percent.  Dr. Semmelweis and physicians before him had not connected infections with surgeries and the delivery of babies.  It took some years for that methodology to be believed and practiced.  And, for those behaviors to be changed.  Seems so simple on this side of 1847 doesn't it!   One-hundred and fifty years later it seems like a no-brainer to WASH YOUR HANDS after going to the bathroom, being around ill people, touching things that are bacteria laden, or just perusing the aisles of a local grocery store.  More and more large store provide sanitizing wipes where the carts are located.  For a germaphobe such as I, hooray!! The minute I walk in my house from being any where humanity is or things that humanity has touched, I wash my hands.  I watched the State of The Union Address this week. As the President entered and exited the Grand Hall, he shook the hands of tons of people.  He also kissed the checks of most of the women there:)  Both grossed me out.  I am a very touchy feely person.  Touch is one my love languages, but with masses or unknowns, I think about it twice!  I wondered if he was as freaked out about germs as I was.  Probably a good thing he isn't or it could interfere with his ability to connect to the crowd.  Instead of water on the podium, I would ask for a bottle of Purell hand sanitizer:)    Why is it when we are around little kids and they go to the bathroom we yell down the hall, "And, make sure you wash your hands when you're finished.  With soap and water!"  I did that last weekend when the grandkids were at our house.  Ok, at least to the 5 year old.  I have asked my husband about the practices of hand washing in men's restrooms too.  I mean do a few men not wash after either wiping, or holding and flicking their wonder wands free from urine?  His answer was YES!  I began to freak out and was glad that my eyes did not have super hero abilities such as; viewing the world through a black light or a microscope to see the residue and bacteria that poor hygiene leaves on things.  I do have to sometimes talk myself through using a public bathroom, sleeping in a hotel, eating in a restaurant or sitting on an airplane seat.  I have offended many a cashier when I will not use the pen they put before me.  I will use my own pen thank you.  If you ever come to my house, I will wash the hand towel after you leave.  The good news is, I put a clean one out before you get there though.



Isn't it funny what we get used to over time?  Prices of commodities and poor customer service are just part of normal now?  Banks charge fees up the wazoo.  And, they have done it somewhat gradually.  A desire for larger profits become greed to pay for outlandish corporate bonuses.  Clerks talk on their cell phones while handling a transaction with a customer standing in front of them. Remember the summer of 2008 when gas prices soared to $4.50 a gallon?  We were outraged!  People started watching the needless trips they made.  It seems that when something occurs slowly over time we take it better.  It seems less bad.  Less intrusive.  Less wrong.  NO!!!  It's that story of putting a frog in a pot of cold water and putting it on the stove.  If you gradually heat the water the frog will stay in the water and perish eventually.  We are inundated and bombarded with stuff daily that deadens our senses, desensitizes us to its toxicity.  To its moral and or ethical offages.  We compartmentalize so many things in life.  We think watching this, letting our kids play a violent video, going to that site for a pleasurable moment doesn't hurt our marriage, that greed is ok just part of capitalism, eating fast food constantly, or being rude to those around us doesn't affect us or the world.  We have become a society much like the car insurance commercials for Safe-Auto Insurance - the bare minimum coverage.  The bare minimum effort with the greatest return for ourselves.  Yesterday I got a call on my cell phone.  I did not recognize the number.  On the other end was a man named Brock from our bank.  He told me he was reviewing accounts and thought he could possibly save us some money in fees.  And, if we met the criteria, all fees would be eliminated.  Well, first off I was impressed that he reviewed accounts.  Why should I have been so wowed that he was doing his job, but I was.  Banks should always be reviewing accounts.  It seemed almost unheard of to me any more that a corporation would care more about its customers than their profit line.  My interest was piqued.  Because my husband is a Navy veteran, it qualified all our personal and business accounts to be exempt from bank fees.  He told me the document I would need to provide him with to initiate the changes.  I found myself almost stunned.  In total disbelief.  This is not a local bank, but a very large national bank.  "Brock, you do not know how impressed I am right now with you and your institution." I said.  Oh we all get calls from our credit card company, our cable or cell phone company under the guise to "save us money".  Usually though, it is a sales call designed to redesign the package to sell you more and make more revenue from you!  When I was a kid pumping gas was full-service.  You didn't pump your own gas.  While the gentleman pumped your gas, he washed your windshield and checked your oil level.  Above and beyond the call of duty behavior (which really should just be normal expected behavior) is not common any more or the norm.  I am not a letter writer or a boycotter really.  But in this case, I may pen a letter to my bank's CEO.  A little goes a long way.  It made me realize that I have become jaded in how commodities, the business and retail worlds operate.  That I now seemingly automatically assume some measure of dishonesty from them and large measures of distrust from me.  I will thank Brock again for pumping my gas and washing my windshield in a world where that has gone by the wayside. 



"Government should do for people that which they cannot possibly do for themselves--and leave otherwise alone!" —Abraham Lincoln

I find that quote interesting.  Abraham Lincoln, a republican president, was quoted in the 2012 State of The Union Address by a democrat president.  This is not a political expose' or a divulgence of my leanings left or right, whether I follow my lineage of neutrality-the Swiss, or who I am pulling for in the early out-of-the-gaters for the next presidential election.  It is an observation about words.  Lasting ones.  Smoke-filled charlatan ones.  Powerful, rallying ones.  Words that evoke great stirrings of emotions to action.  I write, so obviously I love the tapestry of words strung together to clip, tell, tug, define, and speak out loud what would otherwise remain still and silent.  Maybe too because I will talk about elephants in the room, I love words both for their power (good and bad at times), and their ability to disarm.  I find what people say very interesting.  It is far more interesting to me than what they do.  It is far more telling.  Words open up the landscape of a person.  It gives a glimpse into their mind, their heart.  If they are spoken words they mix with the nuances of body language to tell an even greater story.  I have watched a few State of the Union addresses in my lifetime.  There have been some charismatic democrats and republicans, who, not only had great speech writers, but could deliver with emotion, with smoothness.  They could take words off a prompter and make you believe.  The power of words batted out of the park with the wind at their back.  I too though have seen both parties address the nation and bomb.  Their words were flat, lacked believability, did not evoke emotion other than in the rebuttal that followed its conclusion.  I equate my train of thought this way; if you go to church do you not want to have a great sermon?  One that evokes thought, moves emotion, and creates the desire for change or action?  YES!  That pastor can be the greatest person in all the world but his screen, his billboard is his words of a sermon.  I love the event in the Bible where the woman caught in adultery is brought to Jesus by the religious leaders, the do-gooders, the dot-the-i's and cross-the-t'ers.  Jesus' response to their accusation of condemnation for this woman was simple.  His choice of words, the way He placed them, spoke to the accusers in a show stoppin sort of way.  It was an out of the ballpark homerun!  It says He bent down to the ground in silence and wrote something.  Historically the consensus is that He began to etch in the dirt or sand the sins of those who were accusing the woman.  Bullseye!  The only words recorded in the Bible are Jesus' response to their accusations of her, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."  Zing!!  I don't want fast food words.  The type that are hollow and without substance.  I want gourmet, clean food words.  The kind that display and hold something rich and deep and yet totally satisfying.  Words that nail it to the mind, soul, the spirit as though a light was shown in a dark room.  Last night, as I watched President Obama with my wordaholic addiction, I wondered about that team of speechwriters.  They would mostly be unnamed in penning those words - in taking his thoughts, convictions and political swayings and putting them into real words (unless you googled them).  I was a bit envious.  Whether I agree with the words or the man, I am in awe of the power of the pen to speak something into being.  I don't know if I always clearly articulate my own thoughts in a powerful way through words.  But, I cannot imagine having to pen someone else's thoughts/desires/convictions and yet make it not washed or outlined with my personality style.  I tip my creative hat to those speechwriters for their craft and talent.  I also don't take words lightly.  If you know me, or read this blog, you know that I mean what I say and say what I mean.  I believe words don't end there.  They come to life when penned or spoken.   And life is all about movement.  So, move!



Music is one of those things in life that is both relative and subjective.  It is a design much like art, writing, decorating, and clothing styles.  In that big arena it gives room for opinions.  For preference.  For interpretative ingestion. For comparison even. The music we like defines a part of who we are.  It shows those parts and pieces.  Yesterday I was listening to a little bit of Nelly.  I like his voice and some of his music.  I also very much like Jason Mraz, Andrea Bocelli, Jamie Cullum, Maroon 5, James Taylor, Art Garfunkel, John Mayer, Karen Carpenter (wish she would have eaten a sandwich though!), Adelle, Five for Fighting, Marvin Gaye, Bebo Norman, a bit of Josh Kelley, and my Aunt Dee's spontaneous jazzy keyboard music. That is far from a complete list.  Really I should make a list of who I don't like which would be easier; Brittany Spears, Keisha, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga (ok, she is creative and I will give her that), Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, J Lo, Marc Anthony, Kanye West, Mary J. Blige, Pink, Justin Timberlake (I did get though bring my sexy back at age 44, but it had nothing to do with that song!), Snoop Dog, Pit Bill, Christina Aguilera, Hank Williams Jr., Amy Grant, Jessica Simpson, Garth Brooks, Justin Bieber, several winners of past seasons of American Idol, Crystal Gayle, Elvis Presley, most of all of country music, all members of the Black Eyed Peas and every last song they have ever written and/or sung, and Steven Tyler for his horrific Star Spangled Banner singing voice at the Patriots/Ravens playoff game.  That is just to name a few. I just don't like mass produced cookie cutter sounds and copycatish music or shallow meaningless crap!  I read recently that Jay Z and Beyonce gave birth to their first child.  They named her Blue Ivy. They are artists so why should their child's name not be creative:)   I also read that since the birth of his daughter, Jay Z has said he will no longer use the b**** word in his lyrics.  He does not want his daughter to be degraded.  At least he finally got it!  Parenthood changes us.  That is always a good thing!   There are certain voices that no matter what the song is, I love the tone of their voice.  I love Adam Levine's duet with Gym Class Hereos.  Their voices have a great mix of tones together.  I find myself not wanting the song to end.  Not because it is the greatest song in the world, but I am struck by the sound of them together. I feel that same way when I hear James Taylor or a friend of mine's voice.  It never ever gets old to me.  I asked my daughter yesterday if it was ok that a 45 year old woman liked Nelly.  She replied, "More than ok!".  I then told her that I thought she and I should go see Nelly in concert and then Jason Mraz.  She told me, "You are ridic."  I probably am. 



I am not a foodie.  I don't live to eat.  I eat to stay alive.  Of course there are holidays and special meals throughout the year that create opportunities to eat those special high calorie, fatty, sugary dishes.  Those occasions where we eat both things not regularly eaten, and in volumes much greater than normal.  I don't live there on a regular basis.  I also do not make a living by what I cook or write about food.  It seems that the media gets a bee in their bonnet over certain stories.  That particular story rules the print and digital airwaves until the next big fetish over a person, place or thing happens.  I'm sick to death of Tim Tebow.  I'm also sick to death of Newt Gingerich, the whole Kardashian family and now Paula Dean.  I get how media works.  What drives it - PEOPLE!  I am married to a marketing director at a newspaper.  Over advertising, overkill, occurs to where publicity, which is needed from time to time to draw attention to a person, an issue, a situation, crosses the line to become ineffective.  In essence, over saturation then has the complete opposite effect - it becomes negative, or negates the purpose of it.  Paula Dean for example.  First let me say, she has beautiful hair and skin.  I haven't followed her cooking show, cookbooks, etc.  Though, I have googled a recipe from time to time and looked at a few of hers.  The buzz is that being a southern cook she has touted high fat, high calorie, really bad for you recipes all her career.  HELLO!  She is from the south - that is their native ways.  Southern cooks aren't notably known for Mediterranean cooking, or vegetarian/vegan ways of eating.  I care deeply that she has Type II diabetes.  I wouldn't want anyone to struggle with that.  I don't care that she hid it for 3 years and continued her way of cooking on her show and in her cookbooks.  She has a following of people who a) like those recipes, b) use them either in moderation or in every day life, c) probably know those aren't the most healthy recipes out there.  I don't feel that she needs to divulge her health to me.  If people are not smart enough on their own to know that deep fried butter probably ain't good for the cholesterol numbers, then I pity them!  Why do we not get on doctors and nurses, supposed promoters of health and healing, who are overweight and smoke?  I have known some in the medical field who are fat and addicted to nicotine.  Isn't that a double standard too?  I think this obsession with Paula Dean is another bit of proof that we don't and won't take personal responsibility for our own health.  We are fat and overweight because we put too much stuff and all the wrong stuff in our mouths.  We are fat and overweight because we sit on our asses too much.  We are fat and overweight and in an unhealthy state but NOT because of Paula Dean, Al Roker, or Aretha Franklin!  I am tired of seeing the Kardashian women's butts.  Tired I am of hearing and reading about Newt Gingerich's many wives.  I love God and pray too, but if I see one more story or picture of Tim Tebow I might consider becoming an agnostic.  And, mostly, I am sick of the Paula Dean Diabetesgate that is plastered everywhere! 



We watched the movie "Matilda" with our grand kids this weekend.  The two older ones, 9 and 5 years of age, stayed with us.   "Matilda" is a cute movie about a girl aptly named.  She was born to a family that didn't really love her, foster her intelligence or spend time with her.   She comes to realize that she is very smart, but that she also has special abilities.  She can, by thinking things, cause things to move - objects, people, etc.  It is a kid's movie and doesn't have the evil connotation of the movie "Carrie".  When Matilda realizes she has this ability, she begins to get empowered to change her circumstances and those she cares about.  There was a look she would get on her face when faced with cruelty or unfairness as she was about to use her abilities.  Our kids are all raised.  They are all married.  We don't have little kids on a daily basis and have lost our propensity, our stamina to do that way of life anymore.  What we don't use, we lose:)  It seems that when we needed the physical, emotional and mental energy of raising kids, we garnered it.  Our middle granddaughter is a pill, a pistol, a sparky little 5 year old who really doesn't take to anyone, grandparents included, telling her what to do.  Conflict can ensue because of that.  We watched the movie in the living room eating popcorn and m&m's on a sheet on the living room floor.  After the movie ended, Nadia was not liking something I was telling her to do.  She was not being compliant in any way shape or form.  I watched her face as I talked to her.  I could see she was trying to replicate the face that Matilda made in the movie when she used her special powers to change or move something that was unfair.  "Nadia," I said, "are you trying to do a Matilda on me?"  She wrinkled up her face as though there was no way possible she thought I would figure out what was going on in her head. "Yes" she said.  It was all I could do not to bust out laughing.  I wondered out loud to my husband on the drive home after dropping them off at the Starbucks parking lot with their mom . . .  What would she become as an adult?  What things in life would she, could she do if that powerful sassiness is channeled?  If a teachable spirit can be woven in that I AM way of thinking?  My grown daughter graduated college with a communications degree and an art minor.  She has always been creative.  Her creativity has taken on many different venues through the years; drawing, painting, organizing, decorating, dressing, piercings, hair color, poetry and writing, and tattoos.  When she was 5, like Nadia, I could see her personality.  You don't fully know how it will all come together though.  How their personality will articulate and function in adult life.  But, you get glimpses.   My daughter just got her third tattoo today.  Her first tatto, on the top of her foot, is lyrics to a song.  The second tattoo, on the front side of her shoulder area, is a large bird cage flung open with birds flying out free.  Today's tattoo, on her side, is colorful and  shows an anatomically correct heart with roots and green new growth coming out of the arteries.  I admire anyone who is true to how they were created.  Who can walk in the way that brings fulfillment and satisfaction and honesty to who they are.  She is that person.  I tell her all the time I don't want a tattoo.  I don't think they are right, wrong or indifferent.  They just aren't me much like dresses aren't either.  Being creative, artistic and expressive she is being true to who she is.  She is using her tattoos as a form of art.  I love her for that.  Our best lives are not those that others want us to live.  They are lives that we must live or we are not truly living!



From where I sit at my desk at work I can see a large spider plant in a two-tone brownish hued ceramic planter sitting atop a 3-foot metal plant stand.   The plant is ugly, but it appears to be horticulturally thriving with its many, many new offshoots.   There are so many new little "spider" beginnings that it now brushes the floor.  I know very few people who like real spiders and yet we are to find this plant attractive?  My mom has always had indoor plants.  A few of them are quite beautiful; rich and vibrant African Violets.   Most though, are wannabes or couldhavebeens.   She has, much like her propensity to keep celery wrapped in tin foil until well past its usable and crunchy state, kept some plants that really don't have any visual beauty.   I had to water her plants while they were in Florida for several months one winter.   I killed several, mostly not on purpose.   Mostly:)   I love outdoor plant life.  Normally, I have great luck with growing things out-of-doors.   I don't though have any luck with growing anything plant-like in the house.   Anything is a big and undefined absolute word.   I have never tried to grow a Chia Pet in the house.   That seems like a plant-for-dummies kind of house plant.   I'm sure I would be highly successful with that.   Both of my grandmothers were magnificently green thumbed with house plants.   Even one of my friends, as a kid, blossomed with her botanical skills successfully growing a marijuana plant from seed in a large planter in her parent's house (yes, they knew it was pot!).   She expressed an interest to her mom, a curiosity to see how tall that pot plant would grow.   Her mom allowed it!   It was the 1970's.   What can you say!   When it reached maximum height, she quit watering it and let it die.   All that work without the medicinal and recreational benefits.   A couple of years ago for Mother's Day my daughter bought me a beautiful square green ceramic plant pot.   It was a light jadish color and sat on a square basin.   In it came all the needed ingredients to grow a beautiful pot of wispy vining pansies.   The picture on the packaging clearly denoted the fully grown product would be beautiful.   I did exactly what the instructions for maximum growth said.   I continued its after planting care, consciously and systematically urging it to grow to maturity.   A few shoots broke the soil.   They were frail looking.   No cause for alarm, they were young shoots destined to grow.   I waited. And waited. And waited.   The pot seemed huge for the 4 wispy frail looking shoots that drooped over the edge.   That was it.   My four shoots, which didn't even fill 1/32nd of the planter, looked nothing like that picture on the packaging.   My daughter accused me of not watering it.   Of somehow not talking to it or planting the seeds at the wrong depth.  It mocked me for a couple of months as it sat there unwilling to grow.   I rarely buy poinsettias, Easter lilies (ok I hate the smell of them!), or indoor flowering seasonal plants.   Instead, I just take a $20 bill and light a match to it. It's faster than watching a plant die a slow death at my hand.



Isn't it funny how certain phrases are regional?  Not the dialect, the accent they are spoken in.  But, the words themselves.  For instance, I grew up in one of the states surrounding the Great Lakes in the Midwest.  I also grew up in a farming/rural community.  Not too long ago I said to my husband, "I'm all done." I also use "all finished" and "all gone" as common speech in my everyday world. He appeared puzzled by what I said, so I repeated it.  Now to me it was explicitly clear; all in front of done was dictating how done I was.  Completely.  There was no question that I had squeezed all drops from done.  He was right though, done means in its own right, complete or finished or the end.  It was as though I was saying a duplicate statement much like a double negative.  It was needless.  But, it was part of my regional upbringing.  It was in my Urban Dictionary:) What other strange words and isms did I regularly say that were completely understood by me, but might leave a listener outside of this region scratching their head?  "Red the table".  Now that I just spoke that out loud I am wondering how the hell I ever understood that, let alone anyone else.  That was said in my house growing up in reference to clearing away the dishes off the table after a meal.  It was usually spoken by my mother.  It's not like there were flash cards with pictures and these phrases written underneath.  Somehow, like osmosis, I just came to know what their made-up adaptive sort of definitions to these non-real words were. A little digging today brought to the surface that the phrase originated from the Scots as part of Old English and was a variation from "rid up" - meaning to clean up, clear, put in order.   Personally I think the "all" in front of done, gone, finished, and through adds a more imperative-declarative-absoluteish touch to the thought.  I have heard others use the words, "full up".  That is a combination of double backing same meaning words with a bit of a southern drawl. On this very snowy, windy January day, after returning from a run in the blowing snow, I am "all done with winter"!!! 



We most definitely have, at the core of character issues in this country, an excessive entitlement problem.  Don't get me wrong, entitlement in its rawest selfish form is just a by-product of our humanity, our human ways.  Much like a newborn's first word(s) is NO.  We are all a piece of work from the get go.  It is a life-long journey to not be selfish, self-centered, full of self.  To not motor through life jockeying and protecting our misguided higher-than-it-should-be status of self.  Entitlement was first introduced by Franklin Roosevelt in the 1933 with The New Deal.  Its emphasis was on creating jobs for the unemployed during those years of the Great Depression.  Its many programs were designed to stimulate the economy.  It was designed for short-term use.  Roosevelt's predecessor, Herbert Hoover, president when the stock market crashed in 1929, believed it was not smart for government to become entrenched in people's economic struggles.  Fast forward to modern times.  Roosevelt would have no doubt sanctioned a massive financial market bailout.  Politics aside (calm down everyone!), right-wrong-or indifferent, those programs started a shift toward more entitlement.  Entitlement is a bit like an m&m or a salty potato chip.  Who wants to stop at just one?  Who wants to eat only one serving size of oreos?  Which, by the way, is only 2 cookies:)  Our human nature, given the opportunity, will push the envelope.  I think entitlement has spilled over from government programs, to the way parents have and are raising kids, the way schools facilitate education, to how we treat our fellow man over basic human behaviors in every day life.  Entitlement really has created a way of society that involves hand-outs, praise for mediocrity, rude public behavior, and a lack of self-discipline.  It has affected our country, our politics, created our excessive national debt and monumental personal debt, crippled our financial system, our schools, our churches, our prison systems, our kids, and me.  Entitlement has made luxury into necessity. It has skewed our view of reality by always being in self-gratification mode.  It takes away the character building building block of doing what is best and right because it is merely best and right.  It limits free thinking and creativity and drive.  Best is always discovered in hard, not easy.  I watch THE BIGGEST LOSER.  What I find interesting, besides the amount of weight and transformation that occurs in their bodies, is the capacity of the human spirit to go just a little further.  To push beyond what we think we can.  But, the interesting part too is that none of those contestants were able to on their own, until they came to the ranch and learned how to tap into that spirit, able to succeed in weight loss.  Telling isn't it.  I am amazed at how basic human decency has gone out the window.  Yesterday in the grocery store, I turned into the shampoo aisle (the aisles in this store only allow 2 lanes of traffic).  There was only one other person in the aisle, a 60ish woman with a scowl on her face that would have scared the moon from its post in the night sky.  Her cart was in the middle of both lanes.  I could not get around her if I had wanted to.  I stood silently, as I knew she saw me, giving her opportunity to see if she would use basic human decency and slide her cart over.  She did not.  "Excuse me.  I'm sorry, could I get through?  I really appreciate it." I said to her.  She never spoke a word, looked at me with disgust for taking away what she thought was her entitlement to all of that space.  In fact, she muttered a disgusted sound as she slid her cart over.  My heart sank.  Entitlement was everywhere!  Parents and schools perpetuate this reaffirmance of entitlement by praising kids for the most basic of things.  Johnny, you used a yellow crayon to color the sky!  GREAT JOB!  Amber, you studied for the test, GOOD JOB!  Entitlement is NOT like oxygen, a necessity.  



I am not a celebrity stalker.  I don't subscribe to any of the tabloids.  The only time I read them is when forced to while idly waiting in line at the grocery store.  Do you know how entertaining it is to guess which celebrity's best or worst bathing suit ass is attached to whom?  I don't want to look at my own ass in a bathing suit, let alone have humanity scrutinizing my stuff while checking out their bread, milk, cereal, box of wine, tampons, and some turkey bologna.  I heard yesterday via THE DAILY (an on-line news publication) that Heather Locklear was released from a Los Angeles hospital where she had been in intensive care for an undisclosed condition.  WOW!  I don't need to know that.  Does she really want people to know of something so private and personal?  I hope not, but possibly if she is narcissistic, then yes!  When I am sick, please leave me alone.  I operate in sickness like a dog who has been hit by a car and had its leg broken.  Let me crawl away and leave me be until I feel better!  I can hear the thoughts streaming from your minds right now.  They are celebrities.  They signed on for a life of transparency.  They are used to it.  Some might even feed off it.  You are right to some degree.  I choose to have a normal existence and yet I haven't chosen it.  Meaning, by what I do in life I am just a number, a part of the surroundings.  What I didn't choose is to not be noticed.  It just so happened that there is no conceivable reason why I would be thrust into the limelight, garner public attention or have paparazzi following me because of what I do for a living.  The Golden Globe Awards were a few days ago.  I didn't follow the hype leading up to it.  I rarely go to the movies when a movie is first released (barring NACHO LIBRE when I went on opening release day).  Post-Globe coverage seems to ruling the Internet newspapers.  A headline this morning showed a picture of Elton John, cut and pasted, standing next to Madonna.  She won the category for most original song in a motion picture (that's what I read anyway) for W.E. (a movie I believe she is making).  Elton is pissed off that her talent won over his self-proclaimed more talented song writing ability (his song was written for GNOMEO & JULIET).  The article followed Elton's rants and public statements over his disdain for other artists through the years.  I found myself laughing at his ego which appeared to be the size of Texas and the whole Gulf of Mexico.  Get over yourself Elton!  How is it that we need such accolades in such huge amounts to be validated?  I feel sorry for those in that given field - acting and music.  Those are the creative arts.  People who have those gifts can also have the tendency to be emotionally driven, to feel deeply.  Combine that with an industry and platform that perpetuates touting your talent to get to the forefront, is it any wonder we see ego-maniacs such as Elton John, Kanye West, Lindsay Lohan, Tom Cruise, and a wagon load of others.  It also speaks to the reasons any of us do what we love to do; for the satisfaction it brings internally to be operating, finding personal purpose and fulfillment in being ourselves.  Or, for the attention and strokes we might get from others.  Unfortunately the face of Hollywood is those that yell dysfunction from a mile away and live it out publicly.  Get over yourself!!  We have to see and hear more of this crap and ego tripping amped up to toxic levels until the Academy Awards air on February 26, 2012.  I'm not sure what's really wrong with our society needs to be hung totally on the state of the family unit.  I think Hollywood, The Arts, and Professional Sports players should share the blame!  When egos rule there is no place for others.



I was with my two older sisters last night.  My oldest sister, Jeanne, sat between my middle sister, Diane, and myself.  I have two beautiful sisters.  They are smart, real and quick witted.  We share things and say things that are just a natural part of living life.  Part of what we are experiencing with having raised kids, kids going to college, getting married, relationships with our husbands, our bodies, things and people who drive the crap right out of us.  There is a naturalness that just is between sisters.  It has always been there between us.  There is a two year age difference between each of us.  We grew up stair stepping experiences in life.  Though our middle sister had kids after my oldest sister and I did.  So, the process of aging is also a stair stepping experience.  We compare notes from time to time.  You know riveting and horrifically disgusting stuff like; hot flashes, chin hairs, wrinkles, our ginormous foreheads from hairlines that start near the top of our heads, middle age frumpiness, pounds we don't like, boobs that mysteriously grow in age (ok not mine on that one!).  Last night the subject came up about our mates loving our bodies.  We have distinctively different mates, we sisters look distinctively different physically, and we are at different stages of marriage and empty nesting.  My one sister was lamenting the fact that her boobs are growing (she is the one who has always had big boobs since 6th grade) and that so was her middle.  We roared laughing stating you can't have one without the other!  She said she told her husband that she wanted to lose some weight to which he replied, "Well, don't get too skinny.  I don't want that."  She came back with, "That's because you don't want my boobs to shrink!"  She said he smiled like a Cheshire cat.  Busted!  We talked about aging and what it does to your body.  Both of my sisters are married to their original mates having been married 26 and 27 years each.  I am remarried now and am at the one year mark anniversary.  I told them if they think aging with a mate that has gradually aged with them is tough, try getting remarried at 44 years of age when the youth, collagen and prime of your body is 20 years behind you!  They roared in laughter as they no doubt let their minds go to that frightening thought!!  After all those years of marriage and the newness of my one year, we all commented how we can look horrific in the morning, after exercising, etc.  It is at those moments, as well as when we are the hotties we truly are, that our mates say we are beautiful.  It does not deter them from wanting to go to magic mountain with us:)  We laughed at the absurdity and strange phenomena that is.  "Why?" one of my sisters said out loud.  "Why do they want us even when we are yucky, unshowered, sweaty and gross?".  I quipped back, "It's the Vagina Effect."  Giggles ensued!  It was truth though.  It was a partial explanation of attraction and desire in spite of the effects of age, sweat, bed head, weight gain, boobs that have grown, wrinkles and the effects of gravity.  All three of us have mates who deeply love us.  Who consistently tell us we are hot, sexy, and beautiful.  There might be some truth to "love is blind".  Which no doubt is a side-effect of The Vagina Effect. 



I lost my wedding ring and engagement ring. Right now I can hear you saying to yourself, "Do you know where? Where did you last see it?". That is exactly what those around me have asked! Here is my answer; I DON'T KNOW! That is why something is called lost - because we have no flipping clue where it is! I am not a "stuff" person in the least. In fact, this week I laughed as I was taking a shower trying to recount if there is anything in terms of a possession (other than writings/letters) that I have from my growing up years. Only one thing could I definitively say I had from my youth. And, I was holding it. My cream colored razor that took refillable Track II razors:) The blades don't stay in all the time as it is worn down quite a bit. I just can't part with it though. All the new reusable razor handles are sissyish now - pink, ridiculous designs and lines. Mine was simple. Creamy tan and without all the flash. I don't hold on to many articles/objects in life. But unless I lost this razor, I planned to continue to shave the sparse hair on my legs through my geriatric years. Even if that meant a piece of duct tape to hold the blade on:) When I do have an attachment to the rare "thing", it is deep and lifelong. I was married 25 years to the father of my great and wonderful daughter. I had a wedding ring, which I only wore maybe the first 5 years or so. I've never been a big accessory or jewelry sort of girl, so I just didn't feel all too natural in it. I ran and my hands would occasionally swell . It was just uncomfortable. Maybe subconsciously there were other reasons I did not wear it. Suffice to say, though married for 25 years, I did not wear a wedding ring. That is, until I met my current husband. We had a whirlwind romance and headed to the city clerk's office for marriage in the first 30 days of our meeting. Doug took me to a jewelry store to pick out a ring. I literally felt anxiety well up in me. When the clerk took out a few rings and put them on my hand, I made an uncomfortable face as I looked at that diamond set against my hand. It just wasn't me. It felt unnatural. I squirmed and fidgeted until both the clerk and Doug commented on my unease. I kept telling the clerk and Doug, "simpler, smaller, simpler, smaller". Doug wanted desperately to buy this big diamond, but I couldn't. We left that day without a ring. I told Doug that I didn't want to pick it out, mine or his. He smiled. The day we were married at the city clerk's office was the first time I saw what he had purchased. He told me what angst he had in trying to honor who I was with his purchase. He nailed it! It was a simple white gold small band which he had soldered to a 1/3 caret simple solitaire ring. After our wedding, we took back to get resized - it was too big. That meant, I had to give it up for 2-3 weeks. For the first time in my life, I didn't want to give it up. I didn't want to take it off. Doug had realized who I was and met me there exactly with it. In combination with that, and how I loved this man so deeply and connected to him in my spirit, mind, soul, and body, I wore the ring constantly. It never left my hand except for a few really overly messy home improvement projects. Even after having it resized, it was still a bit too large. Several times over the last year it slipped off my finger unbeknownst to me. Fortunately, I always noticed it immediately and looked down to find it laying right there. Doug kept urging me to get it resized a bit snugger. I would tell him that I just didn't want to give it up again for a few weeks. I loved it and how I felt when I looked at it. There was a strong connection to why I valued that "thing" so much and it was in direct correlation to Doug. Sitting at a restaurant with friends yesterday, I looked down at my hands and gasped as I saw my ring was gone! They went into panic as well and both husbands began searching the restaurant and path to our car. It was to no avail. I could not even remotely recall when I had seen it on my hand last. Was it at the YMCA two days earlier...yes, I think so. How about the next day? Do I remember it when I was mixing the meatballs with my hands? Oh, I don't know! We scoured the house, the car, the driveway, the sidewalk, the kitchen drawers, the trash, the heat ducts, the trash again, under the furniture, the washer, the dryer.  I even cut open each meatball I had made hoping to find that it had been baked into one of them.  Nothing.  I lay down on the couch and cried.  It was just a thing, but what it had represented was huge.  It was a marker of a huge and intense life change, the beginning of a life of passion, connection to Doug in mind, soul, spirit and body.  I felt the loss of the things it signified.  So did Doug.  He would not leave my finger empty.  We stood the second time at the jewelry counter looking at rings.  I wanted what I had lost.  It could easily be replicated.  I didn’t want a new one, I wanted the one I lost.  It marked the start of so much in my life that is good.  I tried on different rings, but nothing felt right or really caught my eye.  Then I spied it - a beautiful square diamond surrounded by small diamonds set on a simple white gold band. It was considerably larger than the one I had lost. I tried it on and a smile broke out on my face.  That is, until I looked at the price. "That is too much money!" I said as I quickly handed it back before I got too attached to it.  I continued trying on different rings until finally the clerk got back out that magical square diamond ring without me asking for it. She put it back on my hand. The smile came back immediately. She told Doug to let her figure how she could get the price down. I cut some jokes during our session with Lisa, the store manager. She and Doug went back and forth in their deal making venture. I continued to whip my wit and humor about. She stopped and turned and said very excitedly, "You are funny!" That was it. I replied to her, "I know I am!" I then turned to Doug and said, "Did you hear that? She said I was funny!" I left the store with that beautiful, big ring. I also left beaming from Doug's gracious gift to me and that woman's validation of my funniness. I had been vying for the funniest person in our family award for a good long time. Her remark was verification that I was, hands down, the funniest person in the family! Doug asked her, while she was finishing the transaction, "Ok Lisa. Now that you have the sale, is she really funny?" Lisa shot back, "Yes she is very funny! Funnier than you." I had two wins. Three if you counted Doug loving me.  And I definitely counted that one.


DON'T WEAR WHITE AFTER LABOR DAY, or shorts from November 1st-April 1st!

Big guys and shorts.  There is a phenomena I just can't quite get.  I live in the Midwest.  It gets cold here.  And, it snows.  I am cold a lot in the winter.  Sometimes though I am cold in the summer too.  If I complain about being cold to certain people I get a response of, "Well, if you had body fat you would be warmer."  I suppose in the world of thermogenics (is that a real thing or word!), there is a smidgen of truth to that.  But I know women who are meaty and cold too.  Though I'm not sure I have ever met a man who is cold all the time. That is, at least temperature-wise!!  Maybe there is something genetically engineered into male and female bodies differently when it comes to internal core body temperature.  Out my back window I can see the street behind me.  There is a very large man that lives there.  Large is a broad term, so let me define it a little tighter for you.  He is huge.  He moves rather slowly due to the enormity of his weight.  His shirts look like small pup tents.  That is not a ridicule of his weight, but an observation of my size=body temperature theory.  I have seen him outside in the winter months, in 30 degree or less weather, in shorts.  Shorts I tell you!  Now for a girl who literally parks her ass in front of an open oven door or huddles like a hobo in front of a space heater, it is quite unsettling to see.  We got 4-5" of snow earlier this week.  After putting on my running pants, a sweat shirt, a light weight coat, hat, gloves and boots, I stood in the kitchen finishing my cup of coffee.  There was shorts man.  He had on only a t-shirt and jeans as he very slowly pushed snow with his shovel like it was a plow blade on a pick-up truck.  I've known a few men who were similar.  No matter the season they continued to wear shorts and short sleeved polo shirts.  Those men though, had calves the size of small tree trunks.  When I was pregnant 25 years ago I got overly warm.  It is a side effect of pregnancy and menopause.  I also weighed 35 pounds more than I do today when pregnant.  That no doubt contributed to my increased body temperature.  I'm sure the man who wears shorts on the street behind me is just more comfortable with less clothes on.  The other day, as I was searching for a parking spot at a store, I noted a very large woman walking in from the parking lot.  She had on a sleeveless shirt.  It is January in the snow belt!  There was a woman in my church growing up whom I never saw wear anything other than sleeveless shirts.  Year-a-round!  I am not here to pass judgment on body types or body core temperature differences.  I am saying that even though they might need to wear shorts and sleeveless shirts regardless of the weather conditions, they should not.  I really don't want to see arms of cottage cheese or legs the size of tree trunks especially in snowy months.  I'm quite confident that a person wearing shorts or a sleevless shirt in the middle of winter really isn't concerned about how they look.  They are going for personal comfort, not the visual comfort level of others. Just like the eye full I got in spinning class last night from the wife beater short short wearing beer bellied guy in the front row.  Those shorts were banned by the NBA about 1985.



Most of us use Google or Bing as a sort of Internet concierge.  Some sort of search engine to navigate us to the answers to our questions via the Internet.  I write titles to these blog posts daily.  Some are highly creative.  Some titles come directly from the blog post itself. A few just suck.  Others are meant to pique interest or shock a bit.  One particular post I wrote was entitled, "Cleavage Wars" from December 15, 2011.  I track page views (don't worry I can't tell who you are just that someone is there reading!) by numbers and by popularity of posts.  Recently I have been a bit baffled as to why the post "Cleavage Wars" was receiving so many page views.  After a bit of research I was able to find the google search page that page view request came from.  There was my blog post about 4 or 5 down in the search results.  All the other search results for "Cleavage Wars" garnered porn sites.  Which, it appeared, had a great deal to do with large and probably most definitely surgically enhanced breasts.  Ah, now I understood.  Men (or women who that's their bag!) setting out on a porn fix clicked on my blog post title that had appeared in their hunt for breasts.  How disappointed they must have been when upon arriving at CHAMPAGNE AND RAISINS and thinking they would be privy to an eye full of mounds of saline plumped breasts, found only words on a page.  My blog post probably didn't give them the satisfaction they were no doubt en route to:)  I do think my soon to be Pulitzer Prize winning post of "Cleavage Wars" would probably need some visuals to win the attention of that non-reading visually stimulated audience.   Hopefully even though those porn questing page visitors didn't "see" anything, they at least got a laugh.  I am thinking about starting a quasi-porn site called, "WEE MOUNDS" - a wannabe porn site for those who could never get a job at Hooters, be invited to the Playboy Mansion, stand next to Dolly Pardon, or even fill a B -cup.  There are those out there who love large mountainous breasts.  There are those who get off on fat women.  There are those who get highly aroused by a woman with a big ass.  I believe then that there has to be a contingency of people who love and seek those whose chest measures somewhere just past a training bra but just under a B-cup!   On that porn site you might need to increase the page size to get a better more zoomed in view.  That is if you want to possibly to see anything at all:)



I tried recently to take two different IQ tests.  After getting to the conclusion of the first test, I hit the submit button.  In that nano of a second that it takes computers and satellites, I waited with anticipation for a definitive number marker to summarize and categorize my intelligence level.  The next screen popped up which read, "Cost is $6.00 for a complete IQ test result score".  What in the hell!   I had just spent a considerable time and some bruised math skills to find out if I was below average, average, or gifted.  Did I feel $6.00 was too high to pay for that result?  Yes!  Being the bargain hunter that I am, I decided to look for a free version of an IQ test.  Googling FREE IQ TESTS, I found a free version of the test.  This one, it seemed, was much easier and quicker to complete than the first one.  Instead of math equations, there were more geometry and "which one of these things don't belong here" questions.  I was feeling as though this particular IQ test was made for those of lower intelligence just by the level of questions.  I didn't feel overly stretched.  I didn't have to search and struggle or guess on the answers.  That left me worried.  Either I was brilliant, or I had a huge false sense of how smart I really was.  After answering the last question, I clicked submit.  It said there was an error on the page, not a wrong answer, but a computer error in submitting.  I tried 4 more times to submit the test but was never able to get it to load.  Another IQ test score blocked.  I am starting to get a complex.  Is the cosmos telling me to leave this uncharted territory alone?  To not be defined by a number, a chart, a segmentation?  Sometimes I wish I was "technically" smarter.  There are moments where I wish I knew more solid sort of stuff.  Things that are measurable and concrete and determinable.  Instead, God gave me a larger measure of feeling intelligence.  I hate it sometimes.  It can be a bit overwhelming from time to time to feel in high definition!  Not only do I experience and feel things deeply, but I can feel others much of the time.  Their very worded thoughts.  Their distance.  Their unease.  Their inward conflict.  Sometimes even to the point where it is fairly intense.  I love the movie, "The Green Mile".  In that movie, the character of John Coffey has a gift-sometimes a curse- to feel and experience emotionally, mentally and even physically what he touches.  It is a heavy burden for him.  I love the fact that I can closely identify with people.  That people, including strangers, feel compelled to tell me their lives - to approach, let down, and be free to just be purely themselves.  I feel blessed.  But sometimes, it is exhausting to feel what others feel close to me.  To feel it so intensely until they are able to let it go, move on, let it run its course.  It is a helpless feeling at times.  It is heavy at other times.  I have asked God through the years why He gave this to me.  At times I can honestly say I have asked Him to take it away. Then I realize the richness of moments I would miss if I didn't have that gift.  It would be like watching TV on an old black and white instead of a 52" LCD flat screen in high definition surround sound.  There is a deep river of connection emotionally that runs through me.  I have a huge screened mind and heart.  It is most assuredly why I need times of intimacy with God in nature.  It is how I get recharged, re-balance from the heaviness of it at times.  The other day I prefaced something I was telling my husband (always feeling a bit like people may find me odd), "I am not Sylvia Brown, psychic to the stars, but..."  I don't read palms or own tarrot cards:)  But, I do have a very cool magnifying glass.



I haven't always liked the dark that nightfall brings.  I haven't always found the secret gift in the night.  That changed for me when I realized that darkness held magic.  It held a solitude, a whisper that can't be found in the day light hours.  When I am out in the darkness I am not distracted by all the visuals.  I am not looking at every detail.  Every piece of creation.  Every car.  Every house.  Every person.  I only experience one thing - the dark.  It's been a full moon for the past few days.  The kind of full moon that rests just barely out of arm's reach.  What a great gift to the darkness the moon is.  In wonder I have watched the moon these past few mornings in its resplendence hang low in the pre-dawn hours.  It moves, seemingly fading, into the western horizon only to appear half way around the world to illuminate someone else's dark sky.  Because of cloud cover, weather conditions, phases of the moon, we don't always see it fully.  It's still there.  The God of Creation knew His stuff.  If you've ever come inside after being in brilliant sun you are struck by momentary blindness.  You can't see things sharply in the darkened room because the contrast of light to dark was too fast.  God created graduated dark to light.  Graduated light to dark.  He created this rising and setting system.  This fading of light to dark.  I love to run in the darkness.  I always have.  The summer I graduated from high school I went out running one late July night after the sun had set.  Living on a farm, I ran down the road flanked on both sides by corn.  There was no noise, except the rustle of corn as the night occasionally took a breath.  There was no light, except from the windows of the few houses on that stretch of road and the summer moon full and bright.  It was a magical run that night for so many reasons.  A run that all these years later I have never forgotten.  Last night I was out in the darkness to run.  I felt that feeling of unabashed ecstasy and unboundaried freedom to have the world to myself.  The air was still and cold.  I wasn't distracted by houses, dogs, people, cars, nature, or even my own stride.  All I felt was silence and darkness.  It was freeing.  It was restorative.  It was once again the magical gift of the dark.  I had to force myself to return inside - inside walls and to the light. This morning as I watched the moon make its descent, I softly said to myself, "The moon, the moon.  The magical moonI will meet you again, oh dear dear Mr. Moon."  



There are things in our lives that have power over us.  Things that hold us back.  Cripple us.  Stifle us.  Ceiling us.  We can identify that thing or things clearly at times.  We can know in our head reality, but crave in our heart for something else - for something more.  Sometimes those things seem insurmountable.  They might be too.  That is, if we look at them as a whole.  If we don't break it down.  Join forces.  Acknowledge the power that they hold.  Find like-minded people to encourage us, to aid us in making it different or dismantling the paralyzing force it has over us.  I watched the movie based on the book, "The Help" last night.  I found myself bawling, laughing, getting indignant and relating to living a life that isn't what you longed for.  There are so many great words in the movie that are telling of things that we all crave - affirmation, freedom to operate as us, significance, validation, empathy.  I will not spoil the storyline for you, but urge you to read the book or rent the movie.  Two quotes in the movie that literally came alive for me:

Change begins with a whisper.

Courage sometimes skips a generation.  Thanks for bringing it back to our family.

It made me think about things in my own life.  Change is hard.  Especially the kind of change that is necessary but met with conflict or pain.  I was talking with my uncle today about why we sometimes don't move forward in life.  Why we don't want to address hard issues emotionally.  It is most definitely not because we don't want things better.  I think we don't move forward in certain areas in our lives because we are met with pain.  Pain from within or from outside.  Who desires, asks for pain?  I know that I want the results of running 5 miles.  I want what that will do to my physical body.  I don't though want the pain, the discipline it takes to get me there sometimes.  I whispered softly a few years back.  It was so quiet I could barely hear it.  It took me some time to change that whisper to a war cry.  For me to confidently know that what I needed, craved and longed for was worth the pain of going through what I would go through to get it.  Change is hard too as most people around us just don't like it.  I can not like having a pain in my left calf.  But I can also get acclimated, used to the pain that it is and make it part of life.  It becomes familiar.  I settle.  I make due.  Change and courage go hand in hand.  Neither are comfortable.  Neither are easy.  Neither promise us the end result will be 100% of what we want.  What they do promise is, at the very least, things will not be as they were.  That is always the first step forward.  That is a good thing.



I have a bit of an aversion to pickled eggs.  My mom made them when I was growing up.  She still makes them.  For those of you readers who are unfamiliar with pickled eggs, let me give you an overview.  Beets are a root vegetable grown under the ground much like a carrot.  There are several varieties of them, but to make pickled eggs most people use the red version of the red beet.  The "red" beet, after being cooked, creates red juice.  To that red juice is added vinegar and sugar and the like.  That concoction is then poured over peeled hard boiled eggs thus making pickled eggs.  The brine concoction turns the whites of the eggs a touch pinkish.  Sometimes the cooked beets are re-added to the mix too.  I love the pickled beets.  I hate the pickled eggs!  I was reminded of pickled eggs while eating lunch in the deli area of our local grocery store this week.  The whole lunch experience was a lesson in the crazy uniqueness of humans.  And, that there are those out there who truly love pickled eggs.  Sitting across the way from me was a woman in her 70's-80's.  It was hard to nail down the age as sometimes lower economic groups look older than they are due to the harshness of their lives.  She was eating with who appeared to be her daughter (my guess by looks and seeing that the daughter would look just like the mom in another 20 years).  The elderly woman, semi-bearded on her chin tip, was eating various helpings of different things off the salad bar.  I don't know if she had no feeling in her lips or chin any longer, but she was wearing much of what she shoveled in her mouth.  Part of it stayed on her lips and chin, while other bits fell to the floor, the table and her lap.  I watched her try to eat a pickled egg but drop the majority of it on the floor along with a spoonful of peas.  She leaned over the table, chin hairs highlighted by being coated in something fluffy and pink, to see the pickled egg.  Should she try to lean out of the booth to get it?  Should she shuffle out and try to bend over to pick up the small grocery store that had gathered underneath her?  Her daughter saw her dilemma and got up with a napkin to scoop up the food, pickled egg included.  That reaffirmed to me that pickled eggs are possibly a generational food.  I wondered if I haven't cared for them up to this point in my life if, when I hit 65 years of age, would I begin to crave the pickled egg?   Sitting in the other direction from my line of vision was a older gentleman of possibly 70-75.  He was wearing jeans, sandals with no socks (it was January in the Midwest), a button down shirt and a tie.  He sat reading a Kindle or a Nook.  Occasionally I could see his mouth move, silently reading the words off the screen.  It was a most interesting outfit and he appeared to be a most interesting mix of things.  Directly across from me were two women there on their lunch hour from work.  The one woman, very large, was eating a salad and drinking a diet coke.  Her lunch partner, average sized, was eating 2 pieces of broasted chicken, a large pot pie and macaroni.  She drank a regular coke.  I laughed at the dichotomy of that picture!  It sort of felt like a scene from the movie "Men In Black" where both humans and aliens co-mingled as they went about life in the city.  I felt in slow motion as I marveled at the differences, the distinctiveness, the quirkiness we all have in being ourselves.  Mostly though, I thought about pickled eggs and chin hairs.



Some of you probably wouldn't want to ride in my car with me.  I think I am a good driver.  But, I view good maybe slightly different than you.  Good to me is defined by following speed limits with a loose interpretation.  Interpreting on the high end.  You know that place somewhere over the posted limit and where you need to check your rear view mirror when a cop passes by you in the opposite direction to be sure he hasn't turned around.  Good to me also means distancing myself from slow drivers.  They inhibit my ability to loosely interpret the law.  Driving back this week from some work I did in a town about an hour from me, I was met with some impediments to my good driving.  I have stuff I want to do in life.  One of those things is not to spend any more time en route to somewhere than I have to.  I want to be there and then on to the next thing.  Unfortunately there are those who are given a license and a car that do not hold to my way of driving.  Which would not happen if I ruled the world.  This week has proven to me that our transportation system needs to be overhauled.  My proposal for change is simple:  Slow Drivers and Farm Machinery must have their own roads.  On my hour drive home on a state highway, I encountered farm machinery twice.  The first close encounter of a farm kind was a huge tractor pulling what appeared to be a 16 row disc cultivator.  The cultivator, even in fold up mode, was wider than one full side of traffic.  The tractor driver awkwardly had half of the plow off the road while the other half teetered near the center line.  There was no getting around this vehicle.  I was 8th in line behind the tractor plow combo.  Behind me were at least another dozen cars.  We topped the speedometer at 25 MPH.  Our convoy piddled down the highway with no ability to pass him for about 4 miles or more.  The farmer made no attempt to pull off the road and let the now frenzied line of drivers by.  Rage roared through me along with a few swear words.  I grew up on a farm.  My dad, uncle and grandfather farmed.  I understood big farm machinery.  I knew all about transporting it from field to field - from the farm to the feed mill or to the John Deere dealer for repairs.  It is a necessary part of farming.  I still didn't like it.   That same day, as I approached a small burg on this same rural highway, a pickup with another plow pulled out of a tractor dealership right in front of my 63 MPH moving vehicle.  I slammed on my brakes and again let a few words fly.  Why he had pulled out in front of me, I don't know.  There was no one behind me.  He could have waited one car to pull out.  But, no!!  I painfully broke my speed to a snail's crawl yet again.  I could see two middle aged men in the cab of the pickup.  They, like the tractor driver earlier, seemed on their own time.  Unaware or uncaring of how their half of the posted speed limit driving affected me.  As I had opportunity, I sped up to pass.  Getting even with the front of their pickup, I looked over and shook my head and mouthed the word why as I accelerated in front of them.  I glanced in my rear view mirror to see the reaction on their faces from my charade game I had just played with them.  They were clueless.  It did not affect them in any way shape or form.  They didn't get mad.  They didn't speed up.  They didn't mouth the words my heart craved to hear, "We are sorry we pulled out in front of you - the only car within miles.  Even though we feed the world, we don't own the roads."  As I pulled even with their pickup truck, I rolled my passenger side window down and in full revolt mode, I threw my wheat bread off my sandwich at them.  It was my way of telling them even though they grow the wheat that made my bread, I was going wheatless!  I didn't really do that.  At least not the bread part!  How fitting it would have been though since I do have a wheat allergy.



My washer and dryer is in the basement.  There are 11 stairs leading down to it.  I am in, what I thought, relatively good physical shape.  Running is a routine part of my life.  I run 5-6 times a week most weeks.  I also do consistent ab work, pushing the limits until I feel an intense burn in the core.  Several times a week I add some light weights for some resistance work.  I actually love that feeling of shoving your body past capacity - to that place of pain.  I really do.  I used to anyway:)  We belong to the local YMCA.  I talked my husband into going to a Cardio Kill class this week.  I knew it would stretch my boundaries and provide my body with some much needed tricking (muscle confusion).  It was beyond a "boundary stretcher".  It teetered on a near death experience.  Even though I am very consistent with running and exercise, my body had adapted to those repetitive activities.  I needed to add some new things to my repertoire.  We entered this dance studio sort of room with mirrors lining one side.  It was filled to capacity with mostly middle aged people foolishly trying to regain their bodies!  Just what I needed to see - myself in all its sweaty glory romping wildly and awkwardly with a large group of people in front of mirrors.  There was close to 25-30 people crammed in the room. That was about 10 more than comfortably fit in that space doing those kind of movements.  Doug and I took a spot in the back row.  Never having taken this class, I asked the little woman next to me what we needed.  She filled me in; a mat, weights and a jump rope from the back wall.  I run and lift weights outside of the YMCA.  No problem, I think to myself.  The blaring music starts and the instructor, with her ear microphone and a small fanny pack holding the transmitter for the microphone, jumps to action.  We don't warm up.  We don't stretch.  We explode into movement.   I don't have a lot of time to look at others as my eyes are riveted to her backside to watch the movements I am supposed to follow.  I can't make out her words through the loud music or her overly warbley turned up too high microphone.  When it seemed like we should be nearing the end of the hour and, my heart rate had hit full blown put-you-in-heart-attack mode, I glanced at the clock.  Only 15 minutes had passed!!  It was THE longest 15 minutes of my life.  I could no longer feel my quad and hamstring muscles.  Two minutes into her maniacal routine I felt those muscles tighten, refusing to fully and freely match her intensity of movements.  They never calmed down or released during that entire hour.  In fact, 2 days later the agony continued.  We were dancing, jumping, lunging, high stepping, incorporating resistance bands and weights followed up with rounds of repetition much like the way you learned the alphabet at 3 years old.  Half-way through the class the fat guy in the back just stopped.  He stood, no doubt crippled with pain, for the remainder of the class.  Doug and I laughed at our inability to catch on to some of her moves.  She asked us to get our mats and get to the floor.  I willed my legs to bend.  To move.  They did so only with a fight.  By the time I could push through the pain to get to the floor, the instructor was already started on the floor moves!  I sailed relatively easily through the ab work and the push ups.  My legs would not lunge as deep as they should have as the muscles had been torn from the bone within the first 2 minutes of the routine.  I sweat like my Grandma Weldy.  My running tank top was completely drenched.  No one else in the class appeared to sweat to my level, except for the guy in the Notre Dame t-shirt. Though most looked like the night of the living dead at the conclusion of class.  Doug said later that the only thing that kept him going during Cardio Kill was looking at my wet shirt!  I know what it is to have residual aches after running.  After pushing yourself.  This was not residual pain.  This was immediate and during the event sort of pain.  Yesterday I willed myself to go out and run.  My head pounded from shoulder and neck pain brought on by jumping and lunging with weights at a fast pace the day before.  My quad muscles re-tightened themselves at the end of the first block mockingly screaming at me, "Oh no you don't!  You will stop this madness immediately.  We will make you!"  Between ice and snow on the roads, excruciating pain and a head that pounded with every foot to the pavement stride, I called it quits at 2.5 miles.  Last night I needed to return to the basement to do something I had forgotten to do while previously down there.  I opened the door to the basement, looked painfully at the 11 steps down and shut the door as I said to myself, "Hell no, I won't go!"  Today is spinning class.  One hour of hell is coming.  How do you prepare for hell? 



I have a love-hate relationship with technology.  I love the things that it can do for me.  That information and knowledge is at my fingertips.  That it opens up the world and makes me more connected to a bigger sphere than the little ball I live in. I do though hate that it dominates our lives.  It fills our every waking moment.  Even, if we think we aren't addicted to it.  We are constantly picking up our phones, checking, searching, playing.  Collectively it becomes a lot of time.  I have an IPhone 4.  Previous to yesterday, my husband had an IPhone 3.  He now has an IPhone 4S.  He one-upped me now in oh so many ways.  The S in the IPhone 4S stands for Siris.  She is the Lady-In-Red of the 4S world.  Literally she talks to you.  The IPhone 4S is voice activated with Siris' voice - a technological Geisha Girl if you will.  I already hate her ever loving guts!  My husband bombarded Siris' boundaries of knowledge last night.  He commanded her to text me that he loved me.  He asked her to find his brother's address.  He told her to take him to  His wish seemed to be her command.  I was feeling nauseous already.  The designers at Apple thought of just about every scenario that people could think.  Even accounting for the fact that people, giddy with technological ecstasy, would ask junior high boyish or inappropriate questions to test the limits of Siris.  We were no different.  After a bevy, a barrage of meaningless questions, we went all 12 year old on her.  Ok, I didn't:)  Her response to Doug's racey inappropriate test question was"Fine question.  Now let's get back to work."  Damn it, Steve Jobs thought of everything!  We are curious creatures aren't we.  We love to test the limits, the boundaries, the capacity of something.  Last night I said to Doug, while he was enraptured with Siris-the S in IPhone 4S, while he was in the initial stages of his torrid love affair, the following things; "You have a servant now:)  Slavery was abolished by law in 1865.  Siris is not your Geisha Girl!  I think I have technology lust."

In the very memorable words of Kip, from the movie Napoleon Dynamite, "I love technology.  But not as much as you my dear (Doug)."  

Back off Siris.  He is mine!