Friday, December 30, 2005

Weekend Plans: Last Weekend of 2005!

* Rowen desperately needs taken for a walk. And the weather is gorgeous. So even though I really, really want to go straight to bed when I get home, I will take her for a walk.
* Watching DVDs and working on a belated Christmas gift (one of the scarves didn’t get finished in time).

* Taking Rowen to the dog park.
* Buying a vacuum cleaner at Wal-Mart because I am old and boring and the first thing that I thought when I got a gift certificate to Wal-Mart was “Great! Now I can get a new vacuum cleaner.”
* Laundry.
* Housecleaning.
* Making a pumpkin roll to take to a party.
* Napping.
* Going to a New Year’s Eve party. I don’t know if I’ll last until midnight. Because, well, I’m old and boring. And also still not feeling my very bestest.

* Gym. Let the resolutions begin!
* Reading. Loving Behaving Like Adults. Definitely on the recommended list. And I once again have way more library books checked out than I can possibly read before they are due back.
* Knitting and watching DVDs.
* Napping.
* Proofreading to make up hours at work that I missed for feeling cruddy this week but have to save for The Wedding.
* Exercising Rowen in some fashion. Either dog park or a walk.

Have a Happy New Year! See ya in 2006.


It's that time of year. And maybe, just maybe, if I post my resolutions for all to see, I might actually keep one or two of them. Maybe.

* Get back into a Size 8.
* Run a half marathon. (I'm trying to be realistic.)
* Be more social. (And, well, I don't think I could be any less social than I am right now, so this shouldn't be too hard to accomplish.)
* Volunteer more often. (Ditto.)
* Finish the first draft of the novel that has been languishing all through 2005.
* Set a budget and live within it.
* Pay my bills on time.
* Improve my work ethic by, well, actually doing my work. And, you know, meeting my deadlines.
* Improve my cooking skills. I'd like to have four or five complete meals that I feel confident in preparing.
* Refresh my French skills. Once upon a time, I had a degree in French. Before it's gone completely, I'd like to brush up on the language, at least to the point where I could read a menu and ask directions.

And the Big One: Don't buy any books! (Except if I get into grad school, in which case I will have to buy books for my classes. But that's it---no other exceptions.)

I know I'm not following the "resolutions rules"---I have too many and most of them are vague. But there you have it.

Rowen also has some resolutions that she would like to share:

* Stop jumping on people when I want to say "Hello." My mom tells me that it's rude.
* Come when my mom tells me, even if I'm at the dog park and having a really good time and don't want to go home.
* Learn to wait until my mom comes home before I piddle so that I don't have to stay in my crate all day.
* Remember to bring my toys back to my mom after she throws them because she's kinda lazy. She doesn't like to run after balls like me; she just stands there and pouts.

Feel free to share your resolutions in the comments area.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

I've Fallen . . . And I Can't Get Up

I've fallen off the wagon, rolled through the mud, and landed in the gutter.

I was doing well---not saintly, not even great,but well---on my semi-detox. I had made it through the dark days of withdrawal and, despite great temptations all around me, was avoiding caffeine, refined sugar, refined carbs, bad fats---in other words, my four favorite food groups. I had strayed on occasion, but I found my way back to the straight and narrow path of wholesome goodness.

Then . . . two days before I was to leave for Christmas "vacation," I caved. It started with a bagel. And then a chocolate candy. And another. And a couple of butter cookies.

But I still had the vision of me trussed into a bridesmaid dress like satin-clad ham to keep me from giving in to sugar lust.

Once, I was through with the dresses, though, the flood gates opened. The cookies flowed in, followed soon after by the best red velvet cake I've ever had (a sample of the wedding cake) and my weight in shrimp. There were Utz ripple chips and homemade onion dip---an irresistable combination. Waffles. And the pumpkin roll. Oh, the pumpkin roll.

By Monday night, I hit what I thought was rock bottom: McDonald's. Those golden arches glowed like the gates of heaven to a weary and tired traveler who knew she was returning to an empty fridge.

But, lo, it got worse. On Tuesday, I awoke with a fluish cold. And unlike most people, being sick does nothing to abate my appetite. Rather, I use it as an excuse to immerse myself in comfort foods. You're supposed to feed a cold, right? Hence why yesterday's dinner consisted of clearance-sale Christmas candy and Hagen Daaz chocolate chocolate chip ice cream with chocolate sauce.

On the upside: I scheduled my first personal training session for January 4. Might as well make the trainer earn her money, right?

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

On the Pile

As if giving me a cold weren't enough, Santa also put himself into my bad graces by only getting me one book. ONE! And not even a gift certificate to a book store. I think Santa may be losing his touch (although the watermelon-pink cashmere sweater makes me want to give him a second chance).*

The only book under the tree: Marley and Me by John Grogan. I've only dipped into it a bit so far, but I'm already loving Rowen so much more.

With my bookless year only a few days away---and some time to kill at the airport---I took matters into my own hands: A Scent of Scandal by Carole Matthews and Making Mischief by Elizabeth Young (I really liked A Promising Man; less so A Girl's Best Friend). I also picked up the latest New Yorker (the international fiction issue).

And, as I do after each trip home, I carted back about a dozen books from the several hundred (not even exaggerating) that I have stored in the attic, basement, and closets of my parent's house.

Currently Reading: Behaving Like Adults by Anna Maxted. I've temporarily put aside Vernon God Little because it was requiring too much mental effort. But it's due back at the library next week, so . . .

*I really am grateful for any and all gifts that I receive. But I have a cold. And I am the biggest baby when I'm sick. I feel sorry for myself and take everything very personally and feel very put upon by the littlest things so I tend to whine. A lot. Especially when it's one of those fluish things where you feel crappy but look fine so no one is giving you any sympathy. Which is what I have now.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Gee thanks, Santa

I was a good girl all year. And what did I get for Christmas? A cold.

Thanks a lot, Santa.

Nothing to post today because I feel crappy and tired and I resent that my holiday is over and I had to come back to work. I really just don't like my job. But I'm leaving early to snuggle with my puppy, whom I sprung from boarding this morning and brought to work with me, watch DVDs, and tell myself that I should unpack even though I won't. I might also eat some ice cream because it's 80 frickin degrees here in Austin and I have seven months until I have to wear the bridesmaid dress.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

A Christmas Meme

From Bdogg

Hot Chocolate or apple cider?
Hot Chocolate

Turkey or Ham?
If I still ate meat, I’d go with ham.

Do you get a Fake or Real you cut it yourself Christmas tree?
Neither. Either one would be a hazard with my curious pup.

Decorations on the outside of your house?
Just one strand of lights on the balcony. Kind of lame, but I just wasn’t in the holiday spirit.

Snowball fights or sledding?
Snow tubing.

Do you enjoy going downtown shopping?
Not so much.

Favorite Christmas song?
"Carol of the Bells" or “Halleluiah Chorus.” Although I love just about any of the traditional hymns if sung well.

How do you feel about Christmas movies?
Pass on them.

When is it too early to start listening to Christmas music?
Anytime before December 11. Two weeks of it is plenty. Decorations should not go up before then, either.

Stockings before or after presents?
We open presents on Christmas Eve, and then have stockings on Christmas Day.

Carolers, do you or do you not watch and listen to them?
If I saw them, I’d watch and listen.

Go to someone else’s house or they come to you?
Go to my parents’ house. Which is a blessing and a curse.

Do you read the Christmas Story?
Not that I remember. But my sister used to read “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” to me.

What do you do after presents and dinner?
Exchange receipts.

What is your favorite holiday smell?
Cinnamon and Nutmeg

Ice skating or walking around the mall?
Neither, although I’m open to ice skating if a handsome man wants to hold my hand.

Do you open a present or presents on Christmas Eve, or wait until Christmas day?
See above. I also get to open a couple things even earlier because my parents ship some of my gifts to me (so I won’t have to cart as much back on the plane).

Favorite Christmas memory?
Hmmm. As I’ve said in previous posts, Christmas isn’t my favorite holiday, so I don’t have a lot of happy Christmas memories. I have pictures that I treasure from one of the last Christmas’s that both my grandmother and my childhood dog were alive. In one, my grandmother is clutching a statue of St. Anthony---her favorite saint. I also remember my Christmas in Malawi, which was completely absent all the hoopla of an American Christmas. One of the other volunteers dressed up like Santa and gave out silly gifts that he had found around the school.

Favorite part about winter?
Again, having a hard time coming up with something because it’s my least favorite season. Probably just snuggling under the blanket on a snow day with a cup of tea and a good book or a movie. Or, back when I was running more seriously, coming back from a long run on a cold, damp morning, changing into dry clothes, wrapping myself in a couple blankets, and taking a nap on the couch.

Ever been kissed under mistletoe?

All I Want For Christmas

Is some freakin' holiday spirit.

Christmas has never been one of my favorite holidays. I much prefer Easter. You still get to dress up, go to a friggin' long mass, and have a nice meal with friends and family afterward, but you don't have the pressure to get gifts, decorate your house, write a gazillion cards, etc. Okay, so the hymns aren't as good, but most of the Christmas ones get butchered anyway, so . . .

This year I'm crankier than most. I don't want to travel; I don't want to spend my only long weekend between now and Memorial Day stuck at my parents' house; I don't want to load my credit card with even more debt to put my dog in boarding and my car in a parking lot; I don't want to deal with cranky drivers and rude people at the airport. Making gifts this year has become an albatross; I don't enjoy crafting when I'm rushing through it just to get it done. Which admittedly is my own fault for not being more diligent throughout the past four months. Even the vendor gifts at work have become a source of stress; we have more food than we know what to do with, but we get bent out of shape if someone takes the goody we wanted (and I'm guilty of this, I know).

I don't think I'm alone in this. Seems that most people are finding the holiday spirit to be especially elusive this year.

What's the deal?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Your Chocolate-Coated Center

From Utne: What does the center of your favorite chocolate say about you?

Almond: Quick thinking and freedom loving, you thrive on change and variety. You can also appear flippant at times, and you may have a tendency to flit from one thing or person to another.

Brazil Nut: Your life appears perfect, and you like to be seen at all the right places. But sometimes, despite outward appearances, you are vulnerable and anxious on the inside.

Caramel, Hard: People can rely on you, and you like to get things done. Routine is important to you. The downside is that you may find it hard to listen to and respect the points of view of others.

Caramel, Soft: You are comfortable and easygoing---too much so sometimes, so you don't get the credit or reward you deserve.

Cherry: You have a lust for life and love. Your energy is incredible. Just watching you makes others feel tired.

Chocolate: You can laugh at yourself and don't take yourself too seriously. You enjoy the game of life and look to the future with healthy optimism.

Coconut: Creative and artistic, you feel drawn to music, dance, and the rhythm of life, but you might appear a bit flighty to others.

Hazelnut: You are a nature lover and rely heavily on your intuition, which often brings you great success. You may have to fight against shyness.

Marshmallow: You are very sociable and like to party and have people around you. The danger is that you can get bored quickly.

Mint: Cool and sophisticated, you have bags of charisma. It's not that you don't want to commit, it's just that life is too exciting and you love your freedom.

Peanut: You are an outdoor kind of person. Time is precious to you and you fit a lot---sometimes too much---into your day.

Pecan: Staying young in body and mind is important to you, and this makes you an appealing and fun-loving person.

Strawberry: A loving and thoughtful person, you are an eternal optimist with lots of love to give. Your generosity means that you are often taken advantage of.

And just a reminder: If you can, buy fair-trade chocolate to support small cacao farmers and help eradicate child slavery on cacao farms.

I Am Not Cool

I am not hip or rebellious or even a little bit naughty. I get occassional bouts of mischief, but I rarely act on them. I'm not very creative, and a long line of people will tell you that I'm not at all spontaneous or really very much fun.

But I want to be, which is why I admire people like the Knittas so much.

I Want My Starbucks!

I want a big ol' chai and a pastry and maybe a chocolate-chip cookie. And I want the Hershey kisses that are sitting in the conference room, another slice of the incredibly yummy cinnamon bread (yeah, I had one slice---but a really small slice!), and some of the butter cookies.

I'm starting to crack. And it's all Rowen's fault.

The cold weather has made Rowen extraspecially hyper, but she's been very good about snuggling down to sleep with me when I go to bed and sleeping soundly through the night. Last night, however, she wanted to play with her toys at bedtime. And her toys are not allowed in my bed, mostly because the sound of her chewing and licking rubber is gross and annoying. So I tossed the toy out of bed, and Rowen followed it. I invited her back into the bed sans toy (she has to be invited onto the bed; she's not allowed to jump up on her own), but she decided she'd rather stay on the floor with her toy. That was fine by me, so I turned out the light and went to sleep.

At about 2 in the morning, Rowen changed her mind. She wanted in the bed with me. And because she knows that she's not allowed to jump up without my say-so, she sat next to the bed and proceeded to whine. And whine. And whine. But yet another one of my rules is that once the lights go out, that's it: She's either in the bed or out of it. The rule exists to teach her not to do this exact thing: Wake me up in the middle of the night wanting to get into the bed. I tried to ignore her for as long as I could, but after nearly an hour, I decided that enough was enough and she needed to spend the rest of the night in her crate. I roll out of bed and toss her in (with a toy and plenty of water---I'm not a totally horrible mom). She then continues to whine and cry for another TWO HOURS as I lie in bed absolutely refusing to give in. Finally, though, I think, "Maybe she has an upset tummy and needs to go outside." So I once again pull myself out from my warm covers, bundle up, and take her outside. She does not have an upset tummy. She's just being a brat. Back into the crate for her. And back to bed for me. Although I'm not sure why I bothered, because she kept whining for another two hours, by which time it was past time for me to get up.

She knew she was in trouble this morning: She sat right behind me while I washed up, which she never does; kept trying to bump my hand with her nose to get me to pet her; and went straight to her crate the first time I gave the command (she stays in the crate during the day).

So I'm tired and cranky and at work and surrounded by goodies and I'm very, very close to giving in to temptation.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

100-Acre Woods

Not what I would have expected. I thought I'd be more of an Eeyore.

Take the 100 Acre Personality Quiz!

Hey, Bush! Check This Out

I so want to be on Bush's enemies list.

You are Socialist

What: Socialism

Where: At the distant bottom-left of the politcal spectrum

How: Comparable to communism, socialism is an economically authoritarian political standpoint. Often, people are guaranteed jobs and given them, while workplaces are being closely regulated. Forms of it are currently instituted in many modern countries, and it is know to support the working class, but also implode economies.

What political extremity are you?

Hey, Santa! Check This Out

Somebody's getting the good gifts this year. And that somebody is me!

How evil are you?

From Poppy and Bdogg.

Buy Citgo!

It's a rare day when I'd support any gas company or when I'd encourage anyone to purchase gas, but Citgo has given me reason to do so. They are selling heating oil at a discount to poor communities in the Northeast, including in Massachusetts and New York. As of now, they are the only gas company doing so. And according to a recent USA Today story, oil prices are expected to jump nearly 26% this year. In the meantime, the U.S. government's budget for energy assistance for low-income families hasn't changed in 23 years.

The Northeast has already seen some cold, cold days, and winter is just getting started.

Show Citgo that you support their policy by buying gas from one of their stations. You can find the nearest station by visiting the True Majority Web site.

On the Pile

And in rotation.

Just Finished: Dog by Michelle Herman. Well written and paced, although the plot was a bit too loose. I couldn't figure out why Phil the human was so important to the main character, Jill, or why Jill was the way she was. Also had some serious flaws in logic (Jill has lived in the midwest for 10 years but hasn't figured out that she needs a hat and gloves to go out in the winter? And how would her being a New Yorker explain that---as we are led to expect? It gets mighty cold in New York---just ask the unfortunate folks walking to work today.) Would have been better as a short story, in which case the plot would have tightened out of necessity and not left so many gaping holes, or as a full novel, which would have given the author the space to more fully explore Jill as a person and given more time for the Jill/Phil the Dog relationship to develop.

Now reading: Vernon God Little by D. B. C. Pierre. I'm finding it difficult to follow. The narrator, a teenage boy, speaks in the voice of a semi-educated teenage boy, mumbling through his sentences and dropping slang that reads like a foreign language. The story jumps from scene to scene, often starting in the middle of the scene, as do the conversations, with the dialogue unattributed. Characters are thrown in rapidly and with little introduction, as if we should already know who they are. Little exposition is provided to explain various references (What is the meatworks? Why is Vernon getting a haircut there? Why does it have a marching band with an elderly majorette? WTF?). I'm only 50 pages in and I feel like I need a character chart, a Vernon-English dictionary, and an annotated guide. That said, the author has skillfully dropped enough subtle hints at a mystery to keep me reading. But has anyone else read this and understood it?

New on the Pile: On Love by Alain de Botton and Behaving Like Adults by Anna Maxted.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Littlest Reindeer

Status Reports

Running Report
Well, this one is easy. Haven’t done any. In more than two weeks. I really did mean to go yesterday. But Rowen and I had a more exciting walk than I had planned. About one mile into the walk, we passed a house with two labs playing in the backyard (fenced at least). One of them jumped the fence to check us out and then tried to follow us on our walk. I didn’t want to be responsible for the dog and I didn’t want to leave it out in the street to get hit by a car, so I repeatedly ordered it back to its own yard. No good. I tried to lead it back to its yard. No good. Finally a car did come by and spooked the dog back to the yard. Then, about another mile from that, a second dog---this time, it was in the front yard (which turned out to be the neighbor’s yard, not even its own), completely unrestrained and unattended---wanted to play with Rowen. Once again, I didn’t want the dog to follow us and I didn’t want it out in the street, so I tried walking it back to its yard. But every time Rowen and I would walk away, the dog came with us. Finally, the dog’s owner came out and I told him that the dog kept running into the street and needed to be restrained. I probably said it a bit more sharply than I needed to because, at that point, I was exasperated with irresponsible dog owners. This is hardly the first time this has happened. A couple times each month, as I’m walking with Rowen, dogs will leave their yards to join us. Not that I blame them. I don’t think most of them get regular walks. I rarely see another dog being walked when I take Rowen out. Anyway, so the owner of this particular dog-on-the-run disappears back into his house. Now I’m sort of stuck. I don’t want to just leave the dog there---and I don’t think I could have if I wanted to---he just kept following us. But I also don’t want to wrangle a dog that isn’t mine back into his yard. In the meantime, the dog and Rowen are having a party, with me stuck in the middle, because I’ve got Rowen on a leash and I’m not about to let go. Finally, about five minutes later, the guy comes back with a long rope and ineffectively wrangles his own dog. We finally get back on our walk, and when we’re just about to the end, Rowen attempts an Alex Roll in a field of poo. In a true Christmas miracle, she somehow missed getting any poo on herself and still smells like the cookie shampoo that the groomer used on Saturday.

So between that and assembling the afghan---which required much hunching on the floor---I was wiped out.

Detox Report
The detox has become less detox, more diet. I’m still keeping the caffeine out (with the exception of a chai on Saturday while I waited for my car to get a lube job), and I’m mostly avoiding refined sugar (except for a tiny bit in my morning tea). But we had a birthday lunch at a Thai buffet restaurant and our department holiday potluck last week, and I indulged in both (I made corn pudding---a family tradition---for the potluck). And the goodies keep arriving from our vendors at work. Cookies, popcorn, candy, pretzels---and that’s just today’s treats. I’ve been resisting most of the treats and sticking to the pretzels today, but it’s getting harder and harder to be good. And I’ve stretched the definition of healthy, whole foods to the breaking point (taco casserole is healthy, right?). Still, I’m down another 2 lbs, for a total of 5 lbs. Which is probably better for me anyway, because a slow weight loss is more likely to be maintained. Right? I still need to be much better about drinking water and getting raw veggies in me, though.

Christmas Project Report
* Afghan---Finished the fifth panel, assembled the panels, and did the trim on one side. One more side of trim, two sides of fringe, and interior detail work yet to go. Yesterday was slow going because I had to learn some new techniques for joining the panels and stitching the trim and the book’s instructions weren’t well written. But I think I can finish it tonight.
* Scarf 1---Finished except for the fringe.
* Scarf 2---About four inches finished. A long way to go.
* Cross-stitch---No change. I decided that this would be the easiest of the projects to take on the plane with me (knitting needles are too long for the space and tend to poke one’s neighbor as I know from being the one poked on a very long transatlantic flight), so I’m saving it for last.

A Tale of Two Nuns

Inspired by Bdogg and Poppy, I went in search of my own Busty Nun.

Sr. Mary Pert arrived early last week:

After braving an encounter with a heathen giant

Sr. Mary Pert found her way to the baby Jesus.

And all was peaceful in the land. Until . . .


Ho, Ho, Ho!

From Poppy, who got it from BDogg.

You Are Dancer
Carefree and fun, you always find reasons to do a happy dance.
Why You're Naughty: That dark stint you had as Santa's private dancer.
Why You're Nice: You're friendly. Very friendly.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Weekend Plans: Holiday Countdown

If I don’t develop acute arthritis after this weekend, it will truly be a Christmas miracle. One week left to finish all the projects.

Not sure yet. I was scheduled to have my very first ever blogger encounter with LostInTexas, but she’s not feeling well, so that’s up in the air. If we do get together, we’ll be going to see The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe while sipping sangria and noshing on greasy food. If we don’t get together, I’ll take Rowen for a quick walk and then be home with a pile of DVDs and my knitting. I finally finished the body of Scarf 1; I just need to cast off and add the fringe.

* Taking the car in for maintenance---fluids checked and changed, filters replaced, wipers replaced, tires re-inflated.
* Taking Rowen in for maintenance---bath, tooth brushing, nail clipping.
* Taking Rowen to see Santa. Check for pictures on Monday.
* Taking Rowen to obedience class.
* Taking myself home for an evening of knitting and DVDs. I was invited to a party but it’s the same situation that I’ve written about before where I only ever hear from the person when she’s having a huge party and inviting everyone in her address book and I barely know any of the other people and it’s just awkward because I obviously am not part of any of the groupings, so I’m going to skip it.

* Going for a run. I hope. My back is still acting up. I might do elliptical instead, although I miss running.
* Taking Rowen to the dog park so she can undo all the good from her bath the day before.
* Watching DVDs and knitting, knitting, knitting. Maybe taking a break to cross-stitch.

Q & A

So a few of you stepped up to keep me off the happy pills. Here are the questions I’ve gotten so far. Feel free to submit others.

From Liz:

Q. Based on some of your previous entries it sounds like you've lived abroad quite a bit. What kind of work/cause took you to those places?

A. I spent about two years outside of the United States, mostly doing volunteer work through a Catholic mission program. I was in Rome, Italy, for three months for training; then went to Malawi (in East Africa) for one year to teach at a secondary school/college for girls; then back to Rome for another five months to volunteer in the program’s office. I was supposed to have stayed in Rome for a full year, but was chased out of the country by a psychotic nun. I also spent a semester in Paris my junior year of college.

From Bearette24:

Q. How tall are you?
A. 5’6”. Although I’m slightly above average for the general population, I often feel short because I’m the only one in my immediate family under 5’10”.

Q. What color eyes do you have?
A. Blue-gray

Q. And I picture you with curly hair, for some reason. Is that accurate?
A. Oh yeah. I have very curly hair. Keri Russell curly. Chelsea during the awkward years curly.

Q. Why'd you go to Malawi?
A. See above.

Q. Have you ever been to Antarctica?
A. Not yet, but it’s on my list.

Q. Did you go to UT-Austin? (I thought this for some reason, don't know if I'm right).
A. No. I did my undergraduate degree in Washington, D.C. I’m applying to UT for my master’s degree in anthropology.

Q. What is your place in the family order? (oldest, youngest, middle)
A. Younger of two.

Q. What is your favorite color?
A. Blue.

Q. Which do you prefer, pomegranates or pineapple?
A. I don’t think I’ve ever had pomegranates, so I’ll have to say pineapple. I only started liking pineapple a couple years ago.

Q. Favorite author (I'm suspecting Madeleine L'Engle)?
A. Too hard to pick just one. And it varies by genre. For fiction: Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison. For spiritual writings: Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, Madeleine L’Engle. For nonfiction: Jonathan Kozol, Bill Bryson. Poetry: Emily Dickinson.

Q. Were you an English major undergrad?
A. Nope. Communications and French. But I’ve lost what little French I had. I did take enough credits in the English department to get a minor, but I didn’t take the prescribed courses, so . . . I skipped the dead white men.

Q. When's your birthday?
A. August 24.

Q. You mentioned a "new life" after Thanksgiving. Tell us about it!
A. Seems like I’ve been busier than usual lately. I’ve had the usual church meetings, and then I was asked to speak at a different church about “living simply.” And I reconnected with a friend I had written off about nine months ago. Back then, after an intense discussion, I really thought that our values were just too different and that she wasn’t a positive relationship in my life, so I just stopped trying to be friends with her. Then she had a major change in her life---taking on the care of a disabled relative---which really changed her personality and outlook. So we’ve been spending time together, again. And then there’s obedience classes with Rowen and play dates for her at the park.

Q. What is your favorite shade of nail polish?
A. Hmmm. This is a hard one because I rarely wear nail polish any more, but probably a dusty rose color.

From Frema:

Q. Which fictional character do you love the most and why?

A. Samwise Gamgee from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I think because he’s underrated, yet he’s so much at the heart of the story. He’s the unsung hero. He has good intentions that often are very poorly executed (sort of like me), and he berates himself for his mistakes (definitely like me), yet he has so much courage and selflessness (not so much like me).

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Two Down

I dropped off the UT application yesterday; only Kentucky is left to do. Once upon a time, I had visions of myself having all of my applications finished and sent by November 1. Hah! Then, I though, I'll get them all done before Christmas. Well, I came close. But I'm way behind in my Christmas gift crafts, so UK will have to wait until January.

And the status of those Christmas crafts?
* Afghan: 4 of 5 panels are completed; 1 panel left plus assembly and fringe.
* Scarf 1: 3 more inches in length and fringe left to do. I would have been done this past weekend, except I'm making this one for my sister's fiance who is 6'4", so I had to add some length. It would also help if my cable stitch holder didn't have the magical ability to grow legs and relocate to various hiding spots within my apartment.
* Scarf 2: Bought the yarn. I'm tempted to say "The heck with this one," but I bought specific colors to match my uncle's favorite football team and I'm not sure what I'd do with the yarn if I don't make the scarf (other than hang onto it until next Christmas).
* Cross-stitch: About 1/5 finished.

I unexpectedly got a life post-Thanksgiving, which threw off my whole schedule. So guess what I'll be doing every spare moment from now until next Thursday?

And, yet, despite my newfound busyness, I still have nothing interesting to write. Nothing. No stories to tell, no reports to give (haven't been running in two weeks---gah!), no drunken adventures to recount. I have some recipes to share, but I keep forgetting to type them at home. There's not even any really good gossip to share (other than speculation about Katie's bump shrinkage and reports that my new imaginary boyfriend may be cheating on me).

So I'll steal a page from ACW to drum up material: What do you want to know about me? Ask me anything and I'll answer. Within reason. For obvious reasons, I won't reveal any identifying details, such as my full name or where I work. And keep in mind, this is a (dysfunctional) family channel. Also keep in mind that I have a fragile ego and a lack of questions could keep me in therapy well into the next decade (I'm not above begging).

Ask away!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


Q: What sort of evil, sadistic person would schedule dress shopping for two days before Christmas, thus preventing the poor, hapless dress wearer from enjoying any of the holiday goodies that surround her?

A: A bride-to-be.

And, of course, our printing press is located in the snack-food capital of the world so they send us yummy things like Utz chips (only the best chips in the world*) and cookies.

* Bdogg, if you are reading this, you MUST try some Utz chips while in DC. Try to find the crab version. Yummy, salty, greasy goodness.

Monday, December 12, 2005

New Tunes

My lack of actual running didn't stop me from putting together a new running mix. And I know that when I asked for suggestions I said "nothing too pop," but I went the pop route anyway.

Under You --- Kickovers
Beverly Hills --- Weezer
Ohio (Come Back to Texas) --- Bowling for Soup
Accidentally in Love --- Counting Crows
Holding Out for a Hero --- Frou Frou
AllStar --- Smashmouth
Come On, Come On --- Smashmouth
I'm a Believer --- Smashmouth
Keep Fishin' --- Weezer
The Taste of Ink --- The Used
Pour Some Sugar (On Me) --- Def Leppard
Make Love Like a Man --- Def Leppard
Tear Me Down --- John Cameron Mitchelle
Never Win --- Fisherspooner
Could Be Anything --- Eames Era

Progress Report

I was doing so well on my detox. I was eating healthy, wholesome home-cooked meals chocked full of goodness (sweet potato and black bean chili served on corn bread; veggie Sloppy Joe with spelt biscuits; pumpkin polenta with spinach and white beans). I had switched to spelt bread, because it’s supposed to be healthier than wheat (higher in fiber and B-vitamins, yet still very yummy). I was snacking on organic, unsalted nuts instead of M&Ms and potato chips. I still wasn’t doing great about getting fresh fruits and veggies into my diet, but I was improving.

And I was actually feeling a lot better. On the side of TMI, my digestive system was never happier (that spelt is like a scrub brush for my intestines). My energy level was still on the low side, but it had evened out---no more rollercoaster days. My skin was clearing up, and I was less irritable. Best yet, by this past Friday, I had lost five pounds.

But the winter weather hit and things started to fall apart. On Wednesday night, I was cold and tired and just wanted a hot cup of tea, so I made myself some Earl Grey (organic decaf) and put in a couple spoons of sugar (refined white). Then on Thursday, the weather was frightful: icy, gray, and windy. So I made myself several more cups of tea, each with sugar. And just that little bit of sugar sent my cravings into overdrive. Fortunately, I couldn’t go anywhere to get a fix and I managed to resist the cookie dough sitting in the freezer. I couldn’t, however, resist a big bowl of refined carbs in the form of bow-tie pasta with tomatoes and mozzarella and dripping with olive oil. Friday morning, I thought I was back on the wagon, but then I didn’t get lunch until late (3 p.m.; mixed greens salad with shredded zucchini and carrots, topped with canned tuna and balsamic vinaigrette). So I was tired and cranky in the afternoon. By dinner, I wanted comfort food in a big way and I was out of all my home-cooked goodies. So I made myself scrambled eggs and toast. In themselves, not so bad, but I can’t eat plain scrambled eggs, so I added ketchup. A whole lot of ketchup. Heinz ketchup. Full of sugar and additives and all the sorts of things I’ve been trying to eliminate from my diet. Plus another cup of tea with sugar. (And, really, scrambled eggs on toast with tea for Friday dinner in front of the telly---I should just move to England and officially register as a spinster.)

By Saturday, I was officially off the wagon. Frosted flakes (organic, at least) for brunch; half of an individual-sized pumpkin parfait (with chocolate chips!) for a late afternoon snack; one third of a crème brulee for pre-dinner dessert; corn-and-cheese tamales, fried catfish, and french fries for dinner. Sunday wasn’t any better: skipped breakfast; had a Greek veggie platter for lunch (baba ganooj, rice pilaf, tabouleh, falafel, and a spinach pocket); picked up salmon stuffed with crab, asparagus, and a lemon risotto patty for dinner, with the leftover parfait for dessert. Better than how I normally eat---I stuck to smaller portions and avoided the fast-food places---but definitely not on the detox plan.

This morning I felt bloated, constipated, heavy---I knew I had done wrong. And the scale showed it. Back up 2 lbs.

Now, before you comment, I don’t intend to stay on the detox forever. I do hope that parts of it will stick (e.g., staying off caffeine, eating more whole foods), but I’m not willing to give up foods I love forever (e.g., ice cream, cookies, pasta). But I’m on a time crunch to get back into a size 12 by Christmas. That’s looking less and less likely by the day. Doesn’t help that I haven’t been to the gym much in the past two weeks. And won’t be able to go much in the next two weeks.

Today I’m climbing back on the wagon. I’m starting out from a better place: I haven’t gone back to the caffeine and, although the sugar I did consume set off cravings, I didn’t consume nearly as much sugar as I normally would in a weekend so I don’t expect to have much withdrawal.

All in all: 3-lb net loss, some major eater’s regret, and a big craving for a soda and a veggie burger sub loaded with mayo, mustard, and cheese. Or maybe deep-dish pizza with extra cheese. Or a veggie dog loaded with veggie chili and cheese and a side of tots.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Weekend Plans: The Half-Day Edition

I was going to give you an update on the detox, but that will have to wait until Monday. I’m working a half day today, leaving in an hour to have another interview for grad school, and a printer’s proof just plopped on my desk and everything is a little topsy-turvy because the office was closed yesterday due to ice.

* Interview at UT
* Gym. I will, I will, I will get my lazy, wimpy butt to the gym. I will.
* DVDs and books in front of a semi-warm fire.

* Gym again. Goal assessment time. Bah.
* Mucho Rowen time: a walk, the vet for vaccinations, and obedience class.
* Trail of Lights 5K run/walk. And it will probably be mostly a walk.

* Gym. This time for a real run.
* Making up hours for work and finishing the overtime project.
* DVDs.
* Knitting.
* Finishing my personal statement for UT.
* Getting ready for a crazy busy week ahead.

More over the weekend or Monday when I can catch my breath.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Well Then

I also took the What Famous Leader Are You quiz. Twice. Both times it came up as Hitler (You are paranoid but killing all your enemies does help to relieve the anxiety). To quote Poppy, Que la F?

Doubting Lisa

I've spent more than a year researching graduate school programs, bouncing from idea to idea. Public Policy. Urban Planning. Library Sciences. Political Science. Writing. Journalism. Liberal Arts. Public Policy again. They all interested me, but none of them felt quite right. Then I stumbled across Anthropology, and I thought, "This is it! This is exactly the program that I want."

I've spent nearly six months researching graduate programs in Anthropology. I've visited Web sites, looked at rankings, Googled professors. I systematically narrowed the field to three schools: University of Texas, University of Wisconsin, and University of Kentucky.

I've spent the past four months applying to those three schools. I studied for the GREs. I hunted down professors and supervisors to beg for recommendations. I requested transcripts, filled in forms, and payed fees.

Now it's down the the final stretch. I've submitted one complete application. All I have left to do for the other two is to finish my personal statements.

And I'm starting to have major doubts.

I've had niggling little "but what abouts" all along. But what about writing? But what about my secret desire to be a librarian? But what about all the other things I'm interested in or have thought about doing? I put those aside, usually with a "I can always come back to that" or "I can try that later if I don't like this." Which are both sort of true.

Then, yesterday, the doubts came flooding in. I had a meeting with one of the professors in the anthropology department at UT. As I was preparing to talk with him, I realized that I know nothing about anthropology. Seriously. And as I was talking to him, I realized how unprepared I was to make this decision. I couldn't even have a thoughtful discussion with him. I didn't know what to ask or say. I have no idea what project I want to do.

Now I'm usually good at faking my way through discussions. I can talk about a book I've never read, a movie I've never seen, or a sport I don't even like. Go on. Ask me about Harry Potter or the Rose Bowl. So my sudden inability to come up with even a few intelligent questions worries me. Am I really doing the right thing? Yes, I'm interested in the issues of social anthropology, but do I really want to put myself in major debt to study it? Do I want to make a career of this? Am I making an informed decision or am I jumping into something out of desperation?

I don't want to flake out because of fear. But I also don't want to make the wrong decision just because I don't want to look like a flake. (I've already been there and done that with going to Malawi. Not that Malawi was a mistake, but going with the program that I did was a HUGE mistake.) And I can't stay in my current situation much longer.

Is this just pre-application jitters? Or is my gut telling me something?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

On the Pile

I haven't posted an On the Pile lately because it's mostly been the same books in the same pile being renewed over and over again and not get read. But I finally gave up on reading some of them for the moment (Lolita in November? What was I thinking? January is a much better month for the Russians.), have finished some, and have added some new ones.
I'll second Bearette's recommendation of Case Histories. I was mildly disappointed in the ending, though. It seemed rushed and a little cheated. Loose ends were tied up too neatly and resolutions appeared out of nowhere.
Currently in the To Be Read pile:

Dog by Michelle Herman
A short novel about a lonely spinster and a dog. In other words, my life. But just look at the cute cover!
The Finishing School by Muriel Spark
British school dramas are perfect for cold December nights. And, although I didn't love The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, it was a fun, quick read, which is exactly what I'm looking for right now.
Smashed by Koren Zailckas
What better way to feel better about my life than to read about how horribly screwed up someone else's life is? I'll try not to dwell on the fact that she published her first book at the age of 24 and I don't seem likely to finish a short story before I turn 30.
Vernon God Little by D.B.C. Pierre
The literary IQ test on Doppelganger's site left me feeling sufficiently illiterate that I thought I should maybe read some of the books on the award lists. This one won the Whitbread and the Booker.

In addition to those, I still have Collapse, Awake at Work, and The Feeling Buddha. Affluenza and Paradise are back in the pile. And I'm picking up The End of Poverty and American Dream from the library this afternoon (both have made previous appearances on the pile). And, as if those weren't enough, I borrowed Wicked from a friend because I didn't get to finish it before it had to go back to the library.

Not that I have any idea when I'll read these. I still have one and a half scarves to finish, as well as the afghan and a cross-stitch---all for Christmas. And perhaps some can knit and read at the same time, but I'm not nearly that good. It's taxing enough for me to follow an episode of Alias while knitting. Oh well, I can always renew them. And then request them again. And renew again . . .

Monday, December 05, 2005


Bookslut has a link to the Guardian's review of the movie version of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Unfortunately, the reviewer is an idiot (and more unfortunately, Bookslut fails to point this out). To wit:

Narnia is a strange blend of magic, myth and Christianity, some of it brilliantly fantastical and richly imaginative, some (the clunking allegory) toe-curlingly, cringingly awful. . . .

. . . from its opening scenes of the bombing of their Finchley home in the blitz and the tear-jerking evacuation from their mother in a (spotlessly clean) steam train, there is an emotional undertow to this film that tugs on the heart-strings from the first frames. By the end, it feels profoundly manipulative, as Disney usually does. But then, that is also deeply faithful to the book's own arm-twisting emotional call to believers. . . .

Because here in Narnia is the perfect Republican, muscular Christianity for America - that warped, distorted neo-fascist strain that thinks might is proof of right. . . . This appears to be CS Lewis's view, too. In the battle at the end of the film, visually a great epic treat, the child crusaders are crowned kings and queens for no particular reason. Intellectually, the poor do not inherit Lewis's earth.

I have no doubt that Disney plays up the more heroic scenes, but the reviewer obviously has read neither the book nor any of C. S. Lewis's own commentary on the book (or the first book in the series, The Magician's Nephew, which is essential to understanding why the four human children were crowned). Otherwise, she would have known that the book was never intended as an allegory; it's meant to be a hypothetical (What if we weren't the only world created? What if God created another world? What if, instead of humans, He created speaking and unspeaking animals? What if, in that world, He came in the form of a lion instead of the form of a human?). She would also have known that the book contains not only great battles, but also wonderful moments of forgiveness, humility, sacrifice, and personal courage. And she'd have known that Lewis isn't nearly the fundamentalist Christian that the reviewer and others (particularly the Christian Right) make him out to be.

If anyone actually cares to understand the Chronicles of Narnia as Lewis intended them, read his collected letters or Walter Hooper's biography/reader's guide C.S. Lewis: A Companion and Guide.

I was looking forward to the movie, but now, reading about how much Disney is selling this as a fundamentalist Christian movie, I kind of want to boycott it as a reaction to the marketing strategy and the co-opting of Christianity by the extremists.

It Moved!

The needle finally moved to the left. I'm down about 3 lbs. Most of it is probably water weight that I was retaining from having so much sodium in my diet (from sodas and prepared foods).

The withdrawal symptoms are finally abating. I still get a headache at about 4.00 p.m. each day, but it isn't nearly so severe. I'm not as tired as I was last week; but I'm not bursting with energy, either. Mostly, I'm feeling a little more even---not the extreme highs and lows from the sugar and caffeine. And I feel a little more focused, less jittery. It hasn't been the dramatic change that I expected, though.

It's definitely been time-consuming, with cooking most of my meals, reading every label at the grocery store, trying to figure out if it's better to eat whole wheat or avoid wheat all together. Is organic sugar okay? What about honey? I've had to adopt a "best effort" attitude to save my sanity. Otherwise, I could spend a day just trying to figure out which loaf of bread to buy---or if I should even buy bread.

Now if I can just resist the maple pecan pie that a coworker brought in . . .

Friday, December 02, 2005

Weekend Plans: The Detox Edition

I wish this weekend would be all about curling into a ball and letting the withdrawal symptoms run their course. Unfortunately, I have to leave the house. On Saturday, at least.

Friday Night
Curling into a ball and letting the withdrawal symptoms run their course. Watching DVDs and then going to bed at about 8 o’clock. And making Black Bean and Sweet Potato chili with corn bread. This detox diet may not be so bad afterall.

* Making up hours at work. Again.
* Taking Rowen to the dog park so she’ll stop bouncing off the walls and ceiling.
* Taking Rowen to obedience class.
* Staffing a booth at the church holiday fair to sell fair-trade chocolate and coffee. If you live in Austin, come by St. Austin’s Catholic Church (Guadalupe & MLK) on Saturday; I’ll be there in the evening, from 5.30ish until 8.00, surrounded by caffeine and sugar (Gah!). And my friend Gina, who is an amazing singer, will be performing at the fair at 6.45 p.m.

* Working on an overtime project for work. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
* Prepping for grad school interviews at UT.
* Taking Rowen to the park. Again.
* Running. I’m hoping that by Sunday, I’ll feel energetic enough to get my butt to the gym.
* Working on Christmas gifts. I haven’t done any knitting all week. I haven’t done much of anything this week. Where did my week go?

To My Coworkers

If any of you are still reading this blog . . . I apologize. Because today, I'm going to be tired, cranky, irritable, moody, morose, whiney, stinky, and generally horrible to be around. And I realize I'm like that every day, but today it will be to the power of a gazillion.

The first few hours of the detox diet weren't too bad---a little more tired than usual because I hadn't had any caffeine. But by lunch, I had a vise wrapped around my head and the little drummer boy had taken up residence in my frontal lobe. I couldn't concentrate, couldn't think, couldn't read. I just wanted to lay down. By the time I left work, the vise had tightened, the little drummer boy had invited a few of his friends to join him, and I was starting to feel queasy and light-headed. I really, really wanted to lay down. And I really, really, really wanted a soda, some tater tots, and a donut.

I went to bed at 9 o'clock last night.

How many hours until the weekend?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Running Report: Weeks 12 and 13

My lack of reliable Internet at home meant that I missed posting this last week so you get a twofer.

Week 12
Friday: Despite tremendous internal forces pushing me toward a comfy chair in front of a DVD, I went to the gym. 2 min/3 min walk-run intervals at the usual pace (15 min walk; 12 min run) for 30 minutes. Then I was so proud of myself that I skipped the gym on Sunday AND Monday.
Wednesday: Pre-emptive T-day guilt led me to gym. 2 min/3 min walk-run intervals; usual pace.

Week 13
Friday: Post-Thanksgiving guilt and a misguided belief that everyone one else would still be in bed at 8.30 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving sent me back to a bustling gym. This time I went for distance instead of time. 2 min/3 min walk-run intervals for a 5k (3.1 miles), which took about 40 minutes. Which is very sad indeed.
Sunday: I meant to go. I really, really did. I even got dressed to go to the gym. But I was suddenly struck with inertia at the thought of having more than one thing to do in a day. So I took a long walk with Rowen instead.
Monday: Bumped to the next level---2 min/4 min walk-run intervals at the usual pace. Tougher than the transition from 3/2 to 2/3. Especially the math part.
Wednesday: Again, I really meant to go. But as I was taking Rowen out after dinner, I felt shooting pains down my left leg again and the right side of my lower back got twitchy, so I stuck the heating pad in the microwave and watched Homicide instead.

Also still doing the 8 minutes in the morning. I think I might be getting stronger. Push ups have gone from hurting like a m-f-ing g*&d#*$ b!tch to hurting like hell on fire. Woohoo!

The Detox Plan

Have you seen Super Size Me? If not, go out and rent it immediately. On DVD so you can watch the extras, which are awesome.

In a nutshell, this guy---Morgan Spurlock---spends 30 days eating nothing but McDonald's food---breakfast, lunch, and dinner. To better approximate the average U.S. lifestyle, he also limits his walking and exercise (Did you know that New Yorkers walk an average of 5 miles a day? The rest of us average under 1 mile a day. Almost makes me want to move to NYC.). In the course of the month, he gains 25 pounds and does so much damage to his health after only three weeks that three doctors told him that he was risking his life if he continued for the full 30 days. He woke up with chest pains and was having serious liver problems. He also became extremely depressed.

Watch this and you will never want to eat fast food again.

Anyway, his girlfriend---now fiancee---is a vegan chef. After he finished his experiment, she created an 8-week detox diet for him to reverse the effects of the All-McD's diet. She then wrote a book based on the detox.

That's the book I've decided to use to guide my own detox: The Great American Detox Diet by Alex Jamieson. It arrived on Tuesday. (Yes, I bought it. Yes, I am hopeless.)

I read through the first few chapters, in which she explains the rationale for the detox, and the appendices, which get into the nitty gritty of the detox. The rest of the book is more detail on specific elements of the average U.S. diet and how to eat more healthfully. I'll be sharing tidbits from those chapters as I go through this.

In the meantime, here are the basic principles of my own detox, based on Jamieson's book.

* I will avoid caffeine, alcohol, refined sugars, and refined/white carbohydrates. Meat is also part of the plan, but I already don't eat that.

* I will limit dairy (one serving a day, gradually eliminating it) and fish (only fresh fish prepared at home, 2-3 times a week).

* I will add water; organic, fresh fruits and vegetables; and protein.

* I will prepare my own foods as much as possible.

* I will eat fresh, unprocessed foods as much as possible.

* I will get one "free" meal each week (because it's the holidays and I'm realistic).

So that's the deal. I'll be posting my progress as I go.

Wish me luck!

My Imaginary Husband

In my imaginary world, this is what my imaginary husband would do:

In September, Ms. Gursky received a birthday gift from her husband that earned her the envy of her book-loving friends: the complete collection of the Penguin Classics Library, 1,082 books sold only by for nearly $8,000.

And my imaginary Christmas gift would be the complete, unabridged Oxford English Dictionary.

The rest of the story and some other fun stuff are over on Doppelganger's blog.