31 July 2008

Critically Flawed



A funny thing happens when you post about controversial topics, you get controversial comments. Now, in and of itself, that is a good thing. How can we possibly grow as people if we never consider a point of view that is different than our own. I actually like it when people disagree with my position and are able to convey their thoughts in a logical, unemotional argument. My post on the Chicago Public School's proposed "walk out" to protest per pupil spending discrepancies generated just those kinds of arguments, and a few others.

Before anyone questions my blogger integrity, I did ask XXX
and XXX for their permission to use their comments and post, and they both graciously allowed my indulgence, and amends a mutual respect has been assumed [EDIT: There I go, making assumptions again. Seems XXX and have come to a place of mutual respect. XXX flip-flopped on me]. This isn't a "Blast the nasty commenters" post, but rather a post that explores how our own biases and perceptions can sometimes cloud the real point of a post, and how perception of those we don't know, but think we do, can be critically flawed.

I'll admit, I was a bit taken aback by XXX responses to my post, more specifically, parts of her second response.

If I understand correctly, you went to school to be a paralegal. I wouldn't exactly call that "college educated". I'd call that a vocation.
This was, in my opinion, an emotional response and not meant to validate her argument, but rather to belittle mine. In her defense, she claims that was not the case - it was an honest mistake, but it is this type of response that loses me in a debate. It isn't factual, yet was presented as fact. Even if it were, it in no way relates to parents becoming involved in their kids' education - the main point of my post.

Perhaps you didn't intend to come off they way you did at least to my eyes, but I think it's a bit wrong to think your child deserves better simply b/c you live in a rich neighborhood and the factory worker's kid doesn't deserve that same opportunity.
I do feel that if I work hard, my family should benefit from that hard work. I didn't just arbitrarily find myself in a "rich neighborhood," I worked hard to get here. It wasn't dumb luck, a lottery win or a trust fund, but rather embracing and realizing opportunity. It was setting priorities and goals and striving towards accomplishing those even when there were significant setbacks.

What I now know about XXX is that she grew up in a "low income" home in a poor area with a struggling and depressed single mother. I would assume that she has a bias that clouded her ability to see the main point of my post. She felt I was putting her down and she fought back.

Then there was XXX. He actually published a post and then deleted it from his blog. Although technically it is no longer on his blog, it was, and is, available in its entirety on any RSS feed reader. [EDIT: XXX has since re-posted his response on his blog, along with unmarked edits and all (?) of the original comments] He wrote, in part:

Its interesting that people who 'work' for a living are the biggest complainers...try 'creating' see how hard that is. We NEED all of you people -people like, like Dana that feel superior and do some kind of 'work' that is 'superior' to the people that keep the airport clean more superior than the the rest of you "people" you are all perfectly good little office 'grunts' basic 'lowlifes' because you are below the college education of say- Dana ...me I just make art and it does all right by me...... and I appreciate every single person I ever come across - slow like the slow child or quick witted like the neighbor. I think education comes from________fill in the blank.
XXX's writing can be a bit abstract at times, however this was pretty clear. His perception is that I feel superior than "
the people that keep the airport clean (snip) perfectly good little office 'grunts' basic 'lowlifes'" and, I can reasonably extrapolate that he perceives me as someone without appreciation for the people I come in contact with daily. OUCH!

XXX did say in a follow-up email, "I had this opinion last night but then had a change of heart this morning....I felt bad singling you out as you probably voice an opinion had by many and I didn't want to seem like I was picking on you because I am not."

[EDIT: Apparently he's had a change of heart on this as well and attempts to "blame" it one me for "bringing him back into this" when he had the opportunity to decline my request. Hmmmmm - agenda?]

All that I can reasonably assume is that XXX has a disdain for people he perceives as feeling superior - not just superior towards him, but superior towards anyone. Like Fairy Flutters, he felt a personal attack at some level and he fought back.

I'd tell you I was shocked by their perceptions, but I've heard them before. It makes me sad - sad that I am not able to communicate my position in a way that is logical, yet empathetic. I've never quite been able to put it into words, but Matt-Man (with a little help from Schmoop) was able to. He wrote:

Schmoop has pointed out to me that when I argue or debate with others, I am always cool, calm, collected, and matter of fact. She knows that I have very little little feeling of any kind of grandeur, but to others it can come off as smug.

I can see how this type of thing can apply to you. You know why? Because like me, when you do debate you stick to your facts without interjecting visceral statements. (although I do DO interject sarcasm, if I know it's gonna piss the other person off, Hee Hee)
Smug. There it is. I debate in a matter-of-fact tone, I stick to the topic of debate, I detach myself emotionally, and it is sometimes perceived as smug. My own bias towards protecting my emotional vulnerability is likely the culprit. I know that identified weaknesses are easy targets for those looking to take aim. I've learned to minimize those targets - at all costs.

There is a price for emotional protection - it's called smug. Smug isn't me - just a perception of me - a perception that really is critically flawed.


30 July 2008

HNT - Thin Mint Blizzard


“Age does not diminish the extreme disappointment of having a scoop of ice cream fall from the cone.”
~ Jim Fiebig

Especially when it's a Thin Mint Blizzard!

Damn! I spilled! *click*



29 July 2008

Do You Have a Hall Pass?

The Chicago Public School (CPS) District is the third largest school district in the nation. The 655 schools educated 408,601 students last year - 84.9% of those students from low-income families and 92% of them minorities.

Recently, Senator James T. Meeks (I), 15th District, called on students from poorer parts of Chicago t
o protest the discrepancy in per pupil spending (about $10,000/pupil in CPS compared to the roughly $17,000/pupil in neighboring districts) by skipping the first day of school to travel to a more affluent, neighboring school district where they will attempt to enroll. Illinois state rules allow students to transfer to another district if their safety is at risk. Meeks contends that the inferior education children receive in Chicago is "not good for the safety of their futures."

Meeks' plan fails on several levels. First, Illinois funds schools based - in part - on attendance. Pulling children out of school on the first day will actually decrease funding and hurt the per pupil spending.

Second, CPS has a long standing problem getting kids to actually come to school during the first week, let alone on the first day. They run a multi-million dollar campaign, each year, to insure parents know when school starts. This is critical not only for the success of students, but for funding implications of low attendance.

I have my own problems with this protest. Why? Well, you see, I don't think
education should be funded equally across the board. I know ... I know ... it's about the kids. Why should the poor not have the same opportunities as the more affluent when it comes to education?

Let's start with we all get what we work for. Husband and I went to college so that we could increase our earning potential and move into an area with better funded schools. Shouldn't that be rewarded in some way? Even if we throw money at CPS and increase per pupil spending, parental support will still be non-existent and the failure rate will not significantly change. What's worse, in the process of throwing money at the CPS problem, you'll have taken money away from my child - money that I have earned and contributed to his education through my property taxes.

Yes, if our education system was perfect, all children would receive an equal education, but our system is not a perfect. Study after study shows that parental involvement - not per pupil spending - is the real key to student success. Maybe Senator Meeks would see better results if he protested the real problem - the parents. How about the parents skip the day of work and show their support for their children - AT SCHOOL - instead.

28 July 2008

TMI Tuesday - Language Edition

TMI Tuesday

1. What is your language pet peeve. (example 'hot water heater', why would you heat hot water)

Most of my language pet peeves have to do with written language. Take, for example, blogging. If I land on a blog that uses text messaging as a language, I'll NEVER go back to visit. Run all of your paragraphs together? Not even close to using proper grammar and sentence structure? I'm not reading - sorry! Now I do make exceptions for literary style, but I better be able to tell that you are actually using a style. Maybe I'm a blog snob I'm enamoured with those who write well, but I really want to spend more time reading than I do deciphering what you have written. Fortunately, there are a lot of good writers out there!

Yes, I do realize that my own writing needs some work. I'm in no way a great writer, but most days I can put together a cohesive thought.

2. What is your favorite word? Both dirty and clean?

Hmmmm ... there is nothing like a good FUCK - literally and as a dirty word *giggle* It works just as well when saying, "Fuck you!" as it does when saying, "You stupid fuck!" It's quite versatile.

Clean words? Well, pomegranate, onomatopoeia and chortle come to mind. One of my favorite sections of Reader's Digest (yes, I read it - I'm old - it's authorized) is the "Word Power" feature. I find words to be quite fascinating.

3. What is the one word you cannot spell?

Definately ... or definitely if you want me to spell it correctly. I'll use certainly just so that I don't have to think about how to spell definitely! I am actually a TERRIBLE speller and anyone who IM's me will confirm that. Spell check has just made me even more lazy.

4. What is the one word you always pronounce wrong?

Substantive. I always want to say "substantiative" Husband always says "anather" (another) and preventative (preventive) and it drives me BONKERS!

5. If you could erase one popular catchphrase from the English language, what would it be?

EGADS! Seems there are so many ...

Moving forward, incentivising, value-added, outside-the-box, let's take this offline - yes, they are all corporate catchphrases and I could keep listing them if you'd like.

[Edit] I almost forgot "Dude." I am not your "dude." I have a name and if you've forgotten it I'll be happy to help you out!

Bonus (as in optional): The late, and very hot Michael Hutchence (INXS) once sang, "Words are weapons, sharper than knives" . What is the most hurtful thing you have ever said to anyone? Was it deliberate or accidental? What was the most hurtful thing ever said to you? Do you think it was deliberate or accidental?

I have no doubt that I have said some hurtful things to others, and sometimes (infrequently) I mean to do exactly that. More often, I say things that hurt others because I refuse to say things just to be nice (I will make an occasion exception). I've resisted the "If you can't say anything nice ..." thought process - I think it just makes us a bunch of passive-aggressive pansies.

I grew up in a house full of hurtful words. In fact, when my dad was drunk, and I knew abuse was coming, I always hoped he would just hit me and be done with it. Bruises and cuts healed - words never did. Unfortunately, that wasn't usually what happened. His favorite? "You'd be so pretty if you weren't so fat." It still plays in my head every day.


How Much is Too Much?

I was out and about yesterday, getting a little exercise, and came across quite a find - there, just off the edge of the sidewalk on main street, was $60 - three $20 bills. It seemed kind of ironic considering my Sunday Secret. Could this be some cosmic test of my personal integrity, good luck, or someone initiating their own random act of kindness?

I wasn't in the "business district" (those two blocks of main street that actually have businesses on them), nor was I close to any one's driveway or front walk. It seemed these three bills had fallen out of the sky and were just waiting for someone to pick them up, so I did.

Now, in my world $60 is a lot of money. It's a full tank of gas. It's 4 days of groceries for my family. It's a monthly rent payment on Cam's oboe. With the economy as it is, I think it's quite a bit of money for a lot of people. It's not a quarter, or even a five-dollar bill - it's $60!

When I got home, I told husband about my find and asked what he would do. He says anything under $1000 he'd just keep. He figures it is the world giving back to him for all of the money he's lost or wallets he's had stolen. My mind doesn't work that way. I know that if I don't do the "right" thing, the world is going to "take" from me, and it will likely be worth far more than the $60 I found.

So how much is too much to find and keep? What would you do? Keep the money without guilt? Go out and buy that pair of shoes you've been wanting? Fill your tank with gas for the week? File a report with the police? I probably should have just left it right there on the sidewalk and let someone else be the recipient of it's karmic woes, but since that opportunity already passed, I think I'll donate it to the local food bank instead. The karma fairies should find that acceptable, don't you think?


26 July 2008

Sunday Secret

When I get change from a vending machine purchase I always leave it in the change return, hoping that whomever finds it will feel a little special - at least for a few minutes.

Fluff 'n' Stuff


Some days you just need a little fluff (No, Jay - I didn't say some day I'm going to be a fluffer) Between far too many silly dramas, and preparing for our road trip departure, I am feeling like a bowl of Cream of Wheat friggin' tired. Instead of looking for something substantive to post about, I perused the ever useful world wide web for some mindless insightful quizzes, both of which were obscenely long, indicating their flawless, scientific authority!

This first one is based on a 1939 marital rating scale.
The scales draws on the opinions of over 600 couples in the 1930s and what they most frequently voiced as flaws and virtues in their spouses. These are the critical elements in marriage if you want to make it both permanent and happy ... 70 years ago.

These results indicate one of two things - either I was born 50 years too early and missed my calling or, I'm a door mat. I think I'll go with being born 50 years too early!

I Scored 80

As a 1930s wife, I am
Very Superior

Take the test!


I didn't want to get too obsessed with my red nail polish and the seams on my stockings (important qualities of a 30's wife) so decided to explore my brainy side. Chess. What could be more intellectual than that?

Honestly? These results were scary spot-on ...

Your result for Which Chess Piece are You Test?...

The Rook's Hawk

(Congrats! Only 12-16% of the population score this!)

The Rook’s Hawk is like a judge. They have a great sense of right and wrong especially in their area of interest or responsibility. They are devoted to duty. They are punctual. People who set their clocks on others are typically measuring their time with the Hawk. It is common to perceive that the Hawk is cold or aloof. They frequently protect their emotions via practicality.

They work systematically to get the job done. When a new procedure is proven, they can be depended upon to carry it out. The Rook’s Hawk is deeply frustrated by the inconsistencies of others, especially when it comes to commitments. They will keep their feelings to themselves – but when asked expect truth over tact. They are quite able to make the tough call and carry it out. You will find the Rook’s Hawk at home in government, schools, military or any other organization which maintains strict hierarchy. They are the traditionalist and are perfect for balancing out the idealists of other types.

The Rook’s Hawk thrives on organization. They keep their lives and environments well-regulated. They bring painstaking attention to detail in their work and will not rest until satisfied with a job well done. They are obviously hard workers. They will sort through ideas and find the most practical ones, again revealing how common sense prevails in this type. This ‘Pawn’ is the cornerstone of an ethical working society. They are centered on dealing with the present and most practical affair. They observe life and promote consistency in society. They value loyalty and others are best to acquaint themselves with this type if they wish to gain a fruitful insight to what makes the world tick.

Take Which Chess Piece are You Test? at HelloQuizzy


24 July 2008

It's a Cam Vlog!

Way back when - June 30th to be exact, Bond (a.k.a. Vinny) held a contest for all of us sitting on the Big Leather Couch for a chance to win a copy of John Mayer's WHERE THE LIGHT IS. The rules were pretty simple: "Tell me in your comments why you should be the one to receive this and tomorrow, I will announce the winner...as always creativity counts!"

Creativity? Well, I've got that! And I can certainly type a comment! I even had a cheering section (thank you Micky-T and The Teach). How could I lose? Well, I didn't - I ... ummmm ... I mean ... Cam won!!

Now, Vinny was quite prompt with the shipment of my prize, and it sat on my desk for WEEKS! You see, I had promised a vlog of Cam opening the prize, but was having a little difficulty with the logistics of said vlog. As you may recall, husband has no idea I blog - nor does Cam - so I needed some time with just Cam and I had to come up with some excuse why I was videoing him. Ha! Remember that creativity? Well, last night I had a few minutes and look what I got!

Yes ... it's a bit long (4-ish minutes) but I wanted to prove to Vinny that I was Cam was actually listening to, and enjoying, the CD!

23 July 2008

HNT - What a Tangled Web We Weave


This week's HNT is a bit different for me. As some of you know, I spent my birthday weekend with my girl friend Tali. Now, when I say "friend," understand that I don't use that term lightly. Tali is someone I first met on-line, and later met in person. Over the past 18 months or so our friendship has grown into something very special. She knows my secrets - in fact, she knows more of my secrets than any other single person. I trust her. I admire her. I adore her.

She's the one I called when I was let go from my "d
ream" job in November. She's the one I called when husband and I had the argument that escalated to the point that I had to call the police. She's the one who IM's me when she sees storms coming through my area to make sure Cam and I are safe. She's the one who asks me what kind of cake I want for my birthday. And she's the one who gave me this gift - an HNT with her - the way I wanted her.

Thank you Tali, for all of the things you've done for both Cam and me. Thank you for being gentle when I needed it, and for whacking me up along side the head when you knew that would be more effective. Thank you for listening when we both knew that I was talking crazy, and for introducing
me to Polito's Garlic Special pizza. You've been not only a great friend, but a safe harbor for us - a place where it was perfectly alright for us to be ... well ... us! And most of all, thank you for letting me share this little glimpse of our friendship on HNT!


“Some people weave burlap into the fabric of our lives, and some
weave gold thread. Both contribute to make the whole picture
beautiful and unique.”

~ Unknown


Wednesday Weirdness

Well, since I didn't play TMI Tuesday yesterday, I decided to be a mid-week meme whore and play Wednesday Weirdness instead.

1.) What material is your favorite for bed sheets?

It depends on the season. If the weather is cool, give me soft, cuddly flannel sheets. Warm? At minimum of 600 thread count Egyptian cotton will work!

2.) How often do you masturbate?

From sheets to masturbation in just a few words? Sounds like a few dates I've been on! You know, I'm not really on a regular Tuesday/Thursday schedule with masturbation. Being that sex with husband is non-existent, my solo activities can go anywhere from multiple times in the same day to one or twice a week. Just depends on my mood.

3.) What takes you the longest to do while showering? (IE shaving, washing hair, etc)

I'm a 4-6 minute shower person depending on if I need to shave my legs or use the hand-held shower massager! I'm not one who just stands under the water forever ... probably because I pay the water bill!

4.) What do you think is the right amount of foreplay? Do you spend enough time readying your partner for sex?

The right amount of foreplay is just a bit longer than, "I can't take this anymore" *wink*

5.) Who tends to initiate sex more when you are in a relationship?

Before I started hearing, "Not tonight - I'm tired" every time I initiated sex, I'd say it was me. Now, neither of us even bother.

6.) What birth control do you use?

Tubaligation - when your youngest child is 12, the thought of a baby is a bit terrifying ... unless it's a grandchild 15 years from now.

7.) What is one thing your partner could do in bed that would instantly turn you off?

Call me by his ex-wife's name - yep ... been there done that!


22 July 2008

Just a Little Too Much TMI Tuesday

I'll be the first to admit that I can "do" 7-year old fart humor with the best of them, but I just couldn't manage the TMI fart questions today. Besides, I don't fart, I fluff! If you are dying to know what the questions were you can find them [HERE] Hell, I'd love to read everyone elses responses *giggle*


I've not yet received an update on Matthew but hope to hear something later this morning. I'll be sure to put an update on the blog when I know more.

*UPDATE* Matthew is home from the hospital - YIPPEE! He still has quite a bit of swelling in his abdomen, but the pain has lessened significantly. He has a follow-up on Thursday. Tali and Andy will be watching him closely, but it looks like his injury is continuing to improve.


I found the responses to my Sunday Secret quite interesting this week. Seems many of you handle joint finances far differently (or think you would) than we do in our home. I thought I'd give you a little glimpse into how we do this. Honestly, it seems the most fair way (being that we both work) for us to divvy up the funds. I'm sure some of you are going to think this is FAR too much work, but remember that I have anal retentive quirks am a detail oriented person, so this is actually kind of fun in a geeky way.

For the record, All numbers used in this example are fictional. Although I am pretty open about my life, I think posting husband's financial information might be crossing the line ... even for me!

We have a consistent, monthly, household budget based on the previous year's expenses (yes, I actually keep track of our monthly expenses on an Excel spreadsheet). Included in the household budget are things like groceries, mortgage, insurance, entertainment - basically the things required to run the house and entertain the family. For this example, I will say the monthly household budget is $5,000.

I then look at the total monthly household income. For this example we'll say the monthly household income is $9000 and of that $9000, my earnings are 1/3 ($3000/month) and husband's earnings are 2/3 ($6000). Based on those percentages, I deposit 1/3 of the household budget ($1665) to the joint account and husband deposits 2/3 of the household budget ($3,335) to the joint account. Any money left over from the budget at the end of the month is put into savings and used for things like family vacations, major repairs/renovations, etc.

The remaining earnings (in this example, $1335 for me and $2665 for husband) stay in the individuals' accounts and are used for "personal" expenses like transportation costs, clothing, GIFTS, etc.

I review and adjust the household budget numbers about every 6 months, or if one of us has an increase in earnings. That way we continue to contribute "proportionately" to the household expenses.

I know ... I know ... it seems like a lot of work, but it really isn't. It also allows us to see where our money is spent and keeps us true to our budget. Neither of us has to explain purchases from our personal accounts, nor do we have to ask permission to spend money from those accounts. Quite honestly, it saves many arguments. We don't fight about money as long as the other person follows the rules!

So, how do y'all handle your joint finances? If you have just a joint account, are there any "rules" regarding how much any one person can spend on themselves without notifying the other person? How do you handle those "personal" expenses?


21 July 2008

Trip Results and Quirks

First things first ...

As y'all know, I headed out to Indiana this weekend to see my favorite pain in the ass buddy Tali. Well, there was a bit of a situation that occurred yesterday afternoon that involved her 10-year old son Matthew, his bike and a jumping ramp. Matthew is still in the hospital, under observation. He took a handlebar to his mid section and they are keeping an eye on him to insure he doesn't have a perforated bowel. I am currently babysitting Cam and Tali's three boys (2-year old Ciaran, 8-year old Sean and 30-something year old Andy). I figure it's the least I can do. If any of you are so inclined, I'm sure thoughts and prayers for Matthew (and for me) would be appreciated!


Now, I understand that Cathy (Practical Pisces) is a new blogger, and clearly she hasn't yet learned that I don't play well with others don't do memes, so this one time I'll make an exception.

You've probably seen this more times than you'd like a few times in other blogs - the six quirky habits meme. Of course there are rules, but you know me - rules, schmules ... but just in case you decide to do this (you know I don't tag) and you have a need to follow rules, here they are:

~ Link the person(s) who tagged you
~ Mention the rules on your blog
~ Tell about 6 unspectacular quirks of yours…
~ Tag 6 following bloggers by linking them…
~ Leave a comment on each of the tagged blogger’s blogs letting them know they’ve been tagged.

Now, let's get down to business! This was too simple nearly impossible for me to do because I am such a quirk-free kind of gal *gigglesnort*

6. When I do laundry, all items that are put on hangers must face the same direction and be on the proper colored hangers; white for me, blue for husband, black for Cam.

5. I always do my dark loads of laundry first and end with the whites so that I can run hot water and bleach through the washer in my last load.

4. So as not to get stuck in the laundry mode, when I eat M & M's I first separate them into colors, and then eat them based on which color I have the most of - and always in twos. If I have an odd number of any one color, I give it to Cam to eat (or throw it away if he isn't around).

3. Staying with quirky food issues, I don't like my foods to touch on my plate and I always eat all of one thing (vegetables first, then meat, then starch) before moving on to the next food item, although I do my best to "hide" this quirk when eating out.

2. Although I write and eat only left handed, I paint with both hands and throw/bat right handed.

... and the number one quirky thing ...

When I go to the movie theater there are two things I must do:

(1) Buy Raisinettes and a small bag of popcorn and mix them together, and,
(2) Stay in the movie theater until all of the credits are finished ... and yes ... I read them.

19 July 2008

Sunday Secret

The flowers you sent to my office for my birthday were beautiful, but when I checked the bank account balance later that day and saw that you paid for them with "our" money, rather than with "yours", they lost about half of their appeal - the half that I paid for.

Road Trip - Short Version


Cam and I are on our way out the door for our preparatory road trip for the summer - a short drive to South Bend Indiana. We'll be spending a long weekend with Talisman and her family. We try to make this trip at least once every two months or so and it's always a great time. The bonus this trip is that I get to spend my birthday weekend with someone who asked me what kind of cake I wanted AND, when I mentioned fish tacos, told me she'd make sure I got them before I left! It doesn't get much better than that!

Cam has been given temporary custody of his bike for this trip - a privilege surprisingly granted by husband. The details of the custody agreement include
that he wear his helmet at ALL times or the bike will be confiscated for the summer.

I upgraded our hotel reservation from our standard economy hotel to one that is a bit nicer. It's my birthday weekend, I deserve it!

One more thing, thanks for all of the birthday wishes yesterday! My cyber birthday was the best birthday I think I've ever had! A special thanks to Matt-Man, Knight and Os (and anyone else I might have missed) who gave me a special shout out on their own blogs. Don't know why, but it still surprises me when I find a link to my silly little cyber world in the post of a fellow blogger. All y'all are the best!


17 July 2008

Growing Up Dana

Happy Birthday to Me!

In honor of my birthday and my birthday gift to myself (a new printer/copier/scanner) and because I had to make my own birthday dinner reservations and had to pick out my own birthday cake, I thought it was fitting to toot my own horn and wish myself a happy birthday while letting you laugh hysterically walk with me down memory lane. The photos represent the first 25 years of "Growing up Dana". I did my best to put the pictures in chronological order, but it seems neither of my parents felt it was necessary to DATE anything! That leaves me with my memory and ... well ... you know what happens when you get old! It's the second thing to go *wink*


16 July 2008

HNT - Gray Garden

Life. It's a funny thing really. Full of scars, haunting memories and glimmers of joy. Some of you know the story behind the body art. For those that don't I'll share it with you. Although this looks like one, large piece, it grew from three "plantings"; the first in 1989, the second in 2006 and the most recent addition just a few months ago.

The flower at the top center, the iris, was the first flower in the garden. It was planted in San Antonio during my Advanced Individual Training for the Army. I went to the tat shop with my "love" - or more appropriately, my love for the moment. He was a fellow (married) soldier who would return to his wife after the four months we spent in training together. He was the first
man I allowed myself to care about after Alan's death. He was special to me. I wanted something that would always bring a smile to my face and remind me that I could care about someone again. He got a dragon on his shoulder while my iris was being planted.

Some of you may remember the story behind the planting of the lily, the flower at the top left position. It was done the summer of 2006 in San Diego during our first vacation as a blended family. It was meant to symbolize the rebirth of my perceptions of what a family really is.

Then came the biggest piece, the three orange flo
wers and the vining that balance out the garden. They are there to celebrate my son. Orange is his favorite color - there are three flowers, one of those larger and different from the rest - the total number of flowers (3) symbolizing his birth month and the single, larger flower (1) symbolizing the day of the month he was born.

Because I had the entire piece recolored during the final "planting", the colors really are this bright - this intense. Soon, the colors will fade, but the memories will remain vivid.

“Out of damp and gloomy days, out of solitude, out of loveless words directed at us, conclusions grow up in us like fungus: one morning they are there, we know not how, and they gaze upon us, morose and gray. Woe to the thinker who is not the gardener but only the soil of the plants that grow in him.”
~ Friedrich Nietzsche



Bits and Pieces


Holy bunny poop Batman! What a crazy week this has been, and I'm only two days into it! I've been kind of a sucky blogger friend as of late - skimming blogs, days late, and commenting infrequently. And still, you all come to visit!


Monday was my day off. I scheduled a 3-hour evaluation appointment for Cam (there seems to be some question as to whether his Asperger's diagnosis is correct). This was a 9AM appointment - I figured he would be done by noon and we could at least have a little "fun" time later in the day.

We show up at the doctor's office and one of the staff members asks me who I have an appointment with. I tell him we are there to see Dr. Al and he gets a concerned look on his face. Seems Dr. Al isn't in the office.

Long story short, Dr. Al was sitting in the dentist's chair getting a root canal because he "doesn't schedule appointments for Monday morning." Well, the computer says you had one - with me - not with your dentist. We were able to reschedule for noon on the same day, but that rescheduling, coupled with a 6:30 orthodontist appointment, totally blew the day.

What I find most irritating about this is that there is a sign prominently posted in the doctor's office which reads:

A broken appointment is a loss to everyone. Please inform us 24-hours in advance if you are unable to keep your appointment. Failure to provide 24-hour notice will result in a charged appointment. (Please note we cannot bill insurance for missed appointments.)
Well then, can I expect a $500 credit on my account? My time is every bit as valuable as yours is and you didn't give me 24-hours notice! Sure, when hell freezes over ... or the Cubs win the World Series ... whichever comes first.


I had to renew my driver's license yesterday (it expires Friday). I went to the Secretary of State Driver Facility (Can't Illinois be like every other state and call it something like the DMV? We don't even rate an acronym!) and was quite impressed. From the time I left my car, until the time I got back in my car with my new and improved license was ... are you ready?? 13 MINUTES!! Seriously! Quite impressive.

Anyway, in the short time I was there, I watched several people in various stages of the application process. I was pissed off a bit disturbed by the lack of English skills some of these applicants had. A young man was asked, "Have you ever had a driver's license in any other state?" and could not answer the question because he didn't understand English well enough to know what was being asked.

Call me a racist pig, but if you can't answer the verbal questions asked of you in ENGLISH, maybe you shouldn't be driving in "my" country! Oh, but that would be discriminatory, wouldn't it? Instead, it appears my local
Secretary of State Driver Facility employs several interpreters who speak the most common languages for this area. We'll just ask them questions in their native language because it's not like the street/traffic signs are printed in ENGLISH, or that the police will be speaking ENGLISH if they pull you over, or that, should you have an accident, the person driving the other vehicle might speak ... well ... ENGLISH!

OK, I feel better now. Not really, but I did need to get that off my chest! Along with my shirt ... oh ... it's not Half-Nekkid Thursday yet?


One more thing, while I'm successfully ranting ...

I had to register Cam for 7th grade last night. Remember, he attends a public school. The cost? $115 just to walk through the door of the building in September, and extra $15 because he participates in band.

Now, if this was the only money I was expected to pay I wouldn't be complaining, but there will be more ... much more!

If he decides he wants to participate in an after-school sport, he will need a sports physical. At a minimum, that will cost me a $20 co-pay AND the participation fee (currently $50/sport).

Band? Well, I'm currently paying $54/month to rent an oboe - that's $648/year. Yes, I should consider buying one, but do you have any idea what an intermediate level oboe costs? You don't want to know. Then there is the band uniform - black slacks and whatever shirt they decide is appropriate this year. Cam won't be able to wear last year's clothes, so we're probably be looking at about $150 for a uniform (including new dress shoes).

Then we have all of the little stuff ... the assignment notebook ($2.50), the PE uniform ($25), the school supplies (usually in the $100-$200 range depending on the calculator requirements). Oh, and speaking of school supplies, can someone please tell me why a 24-pack of CRAYONS are still on his supply list for 7th grade?? All that I can say is he better have learned how to color inside the lines by now!!


14 July 2008

TMI Tuesday - School Days


TMI Tuesday

1. What were you known as in HS (Jock, Princess, Geek)

I was known as a band geek

2. What were you really?

A really, really, geeky (i.e. straight A student) band geek.

3. If you could go back and tell your 16 year old self one thing, what would it be?

Disregard all of those messages you've been getting from your parents. You are a special person with many talents and you must believe in yourself when no one else has anything good to say, in fact, especially when no one else has anything good to say. You are smart, you are talented, and there is some mission in this life that needs you to complete it. It might take many, many years in discovering, but it will come. You may not think you are beautiful on the outside, but with time you will become a beautiful woman both inside and out.

I still need to hear this, 28 years later. My hope is that one day it will actually sink in and I will believe it.

4. If you could erase one moment from your school days what would it be?

There are so many. School was both an escape from an alcoholic, abusive home, and its own torture. I was excluded from most everything except music, where I was always able to prove myself. I never wanted "out" of school, I wanted "in" - to be a part of something greater than myself - to be recognized for what was right with me rather than what was wrong. Looking back, I did get some of that validation, however it never carried itself home with me.

5. Who did you not date (or more) that you wish you did?

I didn't date anyone in school. At 6' tall and a size 18/20, I wasn't someone most high school boys wanted to be associated with. In fact, I still haven't dated (casually) much. Dating relationships have always moved quickly from casual to committed, often with less than desirable results.

Bonus (as in optional): If you went to prom, describe your outfit.

How about I just post this senior prom picture instead. It was 1982 and Bill F (a baritone sax player) and I went together as friends. We never dated and there wasn't even a goodnight hug, but I went!

You'll notice that it looks like the slip is too short. It was actually a built in slip, but the dress was too short. I added that bottom ruffle to add about 3" to the bottom of the dress.


13 July 2008

Dirt, Mooning, Jr. HNT and Pussies

Did I get your attention? Well, some of you sick pervs faithful readers might be disappointed, but to heck with you!

Remember my getting back to roots post? The one where I embarrassingly confessed owned up to my redneck roots? Well, Saturday night the family tradition continued and Cam got a little dose of his heritage. There's nothing like taking your family to Sycamore Speedway for the Saturday night races!

This is the stuff memories are made of! It just doesn't get any better than sitting on the hard wooden bleachers, breathing in a combination of second-hand smoke and car exhaust, while drinking $2 jumbo cups of Miller Genuine Draft. What's even better is when you walk back from the concession stand during a race and you get chunks of mud kicked up into said beer! Of course I drank it!

Not only were the races fun, but this is the kind of place that when a driver does something idiotic, taking matters in to your own hands is not only acceptable, but crowd pleasing. There were several instances when a driver felt someone did them wrong and rear-ended the other driver intentionally gave the other driver a little love tap to remind them they needed to be more considerate next time.

So, while other Chicagoans were in Joliet, where they paid upwards of $250 to watch the big boys race (NASCAR was in town), we were in a crowd of "wife beater t-shirt" wearing, chain attached to their wallet, mullet-heads good old, down to earth, Midwestern families. And you know what? It was a blast!

As a bonus, I was downloading the Saturday pics from the camera and I came across a few pics that had been taken and never downloaded. Remember that lunar eclipse a few months ago? Here was my view of it.

Then, it appears I've got a budding HNT-er on my hands. No, the fruit never falls far from the tree, does it? Fortunately, there weren't any of those kind of photos to be found, but he does seem to enjoy sharing a little glimpse of himself with the camera.

This one is actually my favorite.

He does seem to have a knack for making some goofy faces, doesn't he? He tells me these are his "I'm cool" poses. Ummmm ... I think I forgot what it's like to be 12. And yes, I did remind him that hats have a bill on them to keep the sun out of one's eyes, and unless he is a flounder, he needs to wear his hat the right way.

Oh, and he didn't forget the obligatory cute kitten photos. This is Gizmo - the newest addition to our family. We picked her out from the animal shelter about two weeks ago. See that funky ear she has? This wasn't a twitch, her ear always looks like that. Apparently she was one of a large litter of kittens and her head was wedged in a position that kept her head from developing in a "normal" fashion. She always looks to have her head tilted just a bit.

This is Tessa. She was queen of the jungle until Gizmo came along, and she's not very happy to have to share her house with the cute, little furball. OK, she might be looking fierce, but it was really just a yawn!


12 July 2008

Sunday Secret

I haven't been to a funeral since Alan died 19 years ago. There have been several deaths in my family and I was always able to use the distance as an excuse to not attend. Dan's service is tomorrow, and distance is not an issue. I cannot bring myself to go. I will spend some time at home honoring Dan - quiet, alone time - I hope he understands.

10 July 2008

Friday Wrap-Up

What a crazy week! Maybe it was the fact that I had a 4-day weekend over the holiday, or that it was month/quarter end at work, or that I had several after work meetings and appointments scheduled over the last four days, or ... or ... who knows? I'm just really thrilled to see Friday and know that the next three days are mine - all mine - well, maybe not mine, but damn it! It's the weekend!


A few weeks ago I was listening to the radio and they were talking about a recent survey done by AOL on America's Most Hated Foods. Out of the top 10, there is only one I won't eat. Here is the list:

10. Gelatin - OK, I'm with them on this one. The only place Gelatin belongs is in an inflatable pool along with me, Leighann and Knight!

9. Tuna - Now, I'm not a huge fan of tuna noodle casserole, but that has more to do with my aversion to my foods touching each other than anything else, but tuna samiches? Grilled tuna steak? Maguro? YUM!

8. Brussels Sprouts - I know ... I know ... they've got a bit of a bad reputation, but they really are yummy when cooked properly. If you want to try something a little different, this Sweet & Sour Brussels Sprouts recipe is wonderful - really!

7. Beets - Another really great food, and good for you! I love them pickled and shredded on salads, and they are the prettiest color of purple!

6. Okra - I've been fortunate enough to spend some time in the south where this vegetable (really a botanical fruit) is served more frequently, but I use it when making gumbo - mmmmm - gumbo - I might have to make that this weekend.

5. Eggs - This one just baffles me! Scrambled, hard boiled or my favorite, sunny side up over a big plate of grits!

4. Mushrooms - what is it with people and their vegetables?? Portobello mushrooms are almost as good as prime rib! Well, maybe not, but they are great! Don't believe me? Try this Stuffed Portobello Mushroom recipe from the now dead neglected Kids Eat the Darndest Things blog that Tali and Elisa used to co-write.

3. Mayonnaise - It's not even a food, it's a condiment for goodness sakes. If your eating it as a side dish something is seriously wrong with you.

2. Lima Beans - Not a vegetable, but a wonderful legume. I really like that word legume. Far better than bean which always makes people giggle and tell fart jokes. Maybe if they called them Lima Legumes people would like them better ...

And the single food American's most hate? C'mon ... you know what it is, don't you? LIVER!! Again, I think people get hung up on what liver is. I mean really, can anyone say "organ meat" with a straight face? But here's the deal, not all liver is created equal. I happen to think that if people were given foie gras, pan seared and served with ... say ... a Port Wine Sauce, and no one told them what it was, they'd be licking their lips for days.

Poor liver ... it's so misunderstood ...


And finally, just because I can ...

You Are a Snapdragon

"Mischief is your middle name, but your first is friend. You are quite the prankster that loves to make other people laugh."

What kind of Flower are you?


09 July 2008

HNT - Tomatoes


"A world without tomatoes is like a string quartet without violins."
~ Laurie Colwin

*Oops! The hose got away from me!*click*

Why, you ask, are the tomato cages upside down? That would be because I've never grown tomatoes and I had no idea they were upside down - until a seasoned tomato grower asked me the very same question!

How silly do I feel now??



08 July 2008

It's All About Me

The new 3G iPhone goes on sale Friday. The excitement? Is it the smaller size? The lower price? The faster download speeds? Of course not! The excitement is that apparently some women feel the iPhone is discriminatory. You might be wondering how that could possibly be - an inanimate object discriminatory? Well, this is why:

It seems the iPhone's touch screen responds to the electrical charge emitted by fingertips, an electrical charge that is NOT not emitted by fingernails. Oh, my! This forces a choice between pretty nails and the iPhone. What ever is a woman to do?

I'll tell you what she does. She makes a lot of noise. She demands that Apple include the option of a stylus. She considers litigation. Why? Because this is America damn it, and we want what *we* want, not what manufacturers want us to have. We have rights!

The iPhone was designed so that it specifically responds to a finger - nothing else. This means that when you put it in your pocket you aren't accidentally making phone calls after eating that bean burrito. This is a good thing!

Get over yourselves women (and those with chubby fingers). If the iPhone interferes with your manicure preferences, purchase something else. And kudos to Apple. They have declined to comment about fingernails and the iPhone. In the past, the company has said that it's more natural to use the pointing tool you were born with: the finger, and I'd like to give that pointing tool to the woman who decided it was her "right" to make demands of Apple.

TMI Tuesday

TMI Tuesday

1. LUST: Besides your current Significant Other who do you lust for or have you lusted for?

Can we have a little talk? Lust is likely one of my top deadly sins because it can be so much fun! In the name of fairness, and because we could be here all day if I had to compile a list of all current and past recipients of my lust, we'll further define this as blogger lust AND limit it to one male and one female (because lust has no gender bias).

Anyone who has read me for a while knows about my blog crush. Well, that blog crush has grown into blogger lust. Yes, it's true, I lust for Matt-Man. Now stop shaking your collective heads.

Anyone have any guesses on my female lustee? Let's just say this has been going on for quite some time and although I've told her about it on numerous occasions, I don't think she's ever really believed me. Maybe making it public will help. Yes, Tali, you are on my lust list!

2. GLUTTONY: What food brings out your inner glutton?

I was just talking about this yesterday - freshly baked bread! Seriously, I could eat loaf after loaf, fresh out of the oven, dripping in butter.

3. GREED: What are you greedy for?

Love. I really don't want for material things, but I have an empty heart that I want so badly to fill, so much so that I would qualify it as greed.

4. SLOTH: What is your plan for an ideal day of sloth?

Sloth is probably the deadly sin I least identify with. Sure, there are days when I spend too much time on the computer, but that's really about as close as I ever get to sloth. I tend to be about efficiency and completing projects.

5. WRATH: Describe a time that you let out a can of whoop ass on someone.

It takes a lot to push me to the point where wrath plays a part in what I do. I tend to be more of a walk away quietly, without turning back, kind of person. I can't even think of an event that qualifies as wrath ...

6. ENVY: Who or what do you envy? Why?

Hmmmm ... I'm feeling like this is a bucket load of Sunday Secrets rolled into one blog post! I'd have to say that I envy Boo(duh). Why? Because she's living the life she wants, and the life I'd like to live. I think she'd be the first to admit that her life isn't "perfect," but she's been honest with herself and is out their living the life that she chose each day.

7. PRIDE: Have you ever had to swallow your pride? What are you proud of?

I think I've gained at least 72 pounds swallowing my pride! It isn't something that is easy for me to do, but when I do it it's often in large quantities.

What am I proud of? Much harder question. Seldom do I allow myself to be proud. I'm afraid if I dwell on my accomplishments I'll somehow miss the opportunity for another accomplishment. I strive to always do better so pride is a fleeting thing.


05 July 2008

Sunday Secret

There are a handful of secrets that will likely always remain secret, either because I am so ashamed of them that I cannot - will not - share them publicly, or because they are such very special, intimate and happy moments that I am afraid would lose their sacred place in my mind and heart should I ever dare to compromise them.

When Bloggers Meet

I've been fortunate to have met a few of the bloggers I read ... well, actually two of the bloggers I read ... and one of them wasn't really blogging much when I first met her ... so, I guess I've been fortunate to have met exactly TWO bloggers, one of which wasn't blogging much when I first met her (nor was I).

Talisman (Tali) and I first met ... gosh, what's it been? A little over a year ago? Cam and I actually head out that direction about every other month. Tali and I have developed quite a real life friendship. There's even been talk about her making a cameo appearance in an upcoming HNT shot!

Leighann I met just over six months ago. Not sure why I haven't been back (what kind of blogger friend am I?) but it was fun to see that the blogger girl was very much like the real life mom and wife. Yes Doc, even the boobies *wink*

So, this past Wednesday I had an opportunity to meet Apple (As American As Apple Pie) and Apple Hubby (yes, that would be Apple's husband who has a blogger profile, but no blog - not sure what is wrong with him *giggle*). They were on their way home to North Carolina, from Wisconsin, after leaving their evil spawn lovely children with Apple Hubby's family for a summer excursion.

We met at one of my most anxiety provoking favorite places, the mall, for dinner at Ruby Tuesdays. You know, we had to do the whole public place meeting thing - anyone known as Apple and Apple's Hubby could be ... well ... I don't know, fruit
pie makers? Dinner went well, and it is always fun to actually meet someone you've had only cyber contact with. Unfortunately, I had a senior moment forgot to bring my camera and can't even share a mouth full of food photo with y'all.

I've got plans to meet two other bloggers this summer - one of those is a firm plan (*giggle* I said "firm") - the other one is still in the works. And yes, I'll bring my camera next time! You just never know when an HNT moment might present itself - nothing like getting half-nekkid with strangers!

04 July 2008

Friday Wrap-Up


“The true meaning of America, you ask? It's in a Texas rodeo, in a policeman's badge, in the sound of laughing children, in a political rally, in a newspaper... In all these things, and many more, you'll find America. In all these things, you'll find freedom. And freedom is what America means to the world. And to me.”

~ Audie Murphy


On Monday, Vinny over at the Big Leather Couch reviewed John Mayer's new CD, Where the Light Is, and hosted a give-away of that very CD. All that it required was a creative comment describing why the blogger was deserving of such a gift. Well, I decided to throw creativity aside and go with the pity angle instead ... and it worked! I wrote:
John Mayer is one of my son's favorite musicians, and since he won't be riding his bike in the month of July (Can you say bike helmet attached to handlebars of bike - instead of on his head - and a crash that resulted in a 3-hour visit to the ER which included x-rays of his skull and elbow?) I was thinking maybe listening to John Mayer might just offer him a little entertainment. I'm thinking "Gravity", in particular, might be a great one for him to listen to over and over again!
I even managed a couple of sympathy votes from fellow commentors. Who new a visit to the ER could reap such benefits? Thanks Vinny!!


It was a good week for prizes and awards! Jeff, over at A Word in Edgewise does a weekly "What Is It?" photo contest. He posts portions of pictures and asks you to identify them. Now, in all honesty he was quite kind to his readers this week - sometimes I have no clue what anything is - but this week I got in early and guessed them all correctly. And for my efforts I got this cool image that will proudly be displayed on my blog for ever and ever. He hosts this game every Friday during the summer so be sure to stop by today and take a crack (hehehe - I said "crack") at this week's contest. Thanks Jeff!


On a more somber note, I want to say goodbye to a friend who likely touched my heart more than he knew.

Dan, your carefree and welcoming personality always made me feel more at ease at the monthly poker parties. I'm certain you had no idea just how much anxiety I felt at these events, and yet you were always one to give me a warm smile and friendly conversation, putting me at ease in a socially difficult situation. I cannot imagine the pain your family and close friends must be feeling, especially knowing that the person who took your life didn't even have the decency to stop, or to call 9-1-1, to alert them to the situation. At 32 you had so much more to give this world, but know that you gave me, and likely many others, much more than you ever knew.

Peace to you, my friend.