Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Land of Blue Bouffants

My mom, bless her heart, loves to collect and send me newspaper clippings, along with letters and gifts at various times throughout the year. I love my mom! She's got a great sense of humor too, so I always look forward to these care packages. The latest one came at the end of tax season and in it were many clippings, everything from an Awake! article about Michael Agricola, the scholar who translated the Bible into Finnish (there's a little Finnish blood in my ancestry, but I don't speak any Finnish...Mom just thought I'd find this "interesting"...told you she has a sense of humor), to another that informs us the purple "boysenberry" in our yogurt is actually ground up bodies of the female Dactylopius coccus costa beetle (sweet!), to this article about death, dying and cosmetology laws in Florida (I was able to track down a link to the article...apparently it's old news, but only recently hit her local paper). You've gotta love Florida for enforcing their cosmetology laws. Too bad Mom doesn't have her own blog. The world would be a better place. Thanks, Mom!

Saturday, April 29, 2006

No Para Uso Exterior

There are certain duties around the house which I should simply not be allowed to perform. Among them are projects involving grout. Here we have a perfect example (there are others but let's just focus on this one, shall we?).

You see, this is not just the initial pre-clean-up phase. No, this is the post-op. This is one week later and the grout has still not dried. In the meantime, we have had lots of rain and dogs padding around in the grout. This is our front porch, the entry to our home. Nice, no?

To add salt to my wounds, my beloved husband just asked me if I was sure the grout I used was meant to be used outdoors. In other words, did I know what I was doing? "But of course," I said. I always read the instructions.<*/sarcasm> But then, I don't know much Spanish. Is it telling that MBH did a happy dance when I confessed that I was wrong? I will never again poke fun at him when a home improvement project goes south (not that I would ever, ever do such a thing, because that is disrespectful and rude, but just in case the thought ever crosses my mind, I promise not to laugh...but I have to ask, has anyone else ever roofed a doghouse? And if so, did you start by putting the first row of shingles along the top? I rest my case ;-).

And now, if you'll excuse me, I have work to do.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Wal-Mart Bank?

I, for one, love Wal-Mart. Say what you want about its "dirty" employment practices or whatever, it is a large company and it is bound to be the target of accusations and I'm sure it is guilty of some of those charges. But Wal-Mart is the quintessential example of capitalism. And it is patriotic and gives back to the communities in which it "lives." It is successful because it takes care of the little guy, not because it abuses him. Anti-trust laws and banking regulations are in place to protect the little guy, not to prevent successful companies from becoming even more successful. So why not let Wal-Mart have its bank? We'll all be better for it. There's a lot of press out there to the contrary, but I'm not buying most of it.

I understand the concerns of small grocers and local retail outlets who have been bulldozed by Wal-Mart, but that's capitalism. I've lived in a town where I was at the mercy of the local grocer who charged double what Wal-Mart charges for bare essentials. The nearest Wal-Mart at that time was hundreds of miles away. That was not pleasant. But local entrepreneurs have figured out ways to carve out niche market businesses in the face of sprawling Wal-Mart competition and are still alive and well. The same will be true for small community and regional banks if and when Wal-Mart opens its first branch (they've managed to survive recent roll-ups into the likes of Bank of America already). In the beginning, Wal-Mart only seeks to operate its own bank to process its own credit and debit card tranactions. That's just cost control on their part. They're not looking to charge customers fees for checking accounts or loans, at least not yet. Why should they have to pay another bank millions of dollars in bank fees just for the sake of doing business with those of us who don't even know what cash looks like anymore? Maybe, in an altruistic world, they'll use that cost savings to pass along further "every day low prices" to us, the consumer. That's what they claim they will do. Hey, even if it helps them maintain those "every day low prices," I'm happy.

I love the one-stop nature of Wal-Mart, in addition to the low prices, so if and when they decide to add banking services, I'm behind that also. I do question their motives in offering bank accounts and loans to the "unbanked." Most of the unbanked are in that position because of credit problems, not because of prohibitively high bank fees. If Wal-Mart gets into that business, they better keep it very separate from their store operations, or we may start to see the beginning of the end of Wal-Mart as we know it. But adding a bank to the already extensive services that Wal-Mart offers seems like a logical next step. Imagine a world where you can take care of all essentials in one shopping trip instead of many. The only thing I can think of that I would not want in my Wal-Mart is a church. I cannot imagine myself worshipping the big yellow smiley face, or witnessing baptisms in the pool aisle.

This all reminds me of a very surreal experience I had after my one and only trip to Africa 10 years ago. As most people know or can imagine, Africa is a continent of incredibly poor countries, barren of resources and stricken by famine. Of course, there are no stores in most parts, save a few cities, and our journey took us out into the Masai Mara where the people live in dung huts and live off of the land with their prized livestock. They have nothing of material value, but they are a beautiful and loving people and they seemed very happy. To come home, we boarded our plane out on the Mara and hours (and hours) later landed back home in a completely different world. Driving home from the airport, we stopped at the nearest Wal-Mart, a large Super-Center in a densely populated urban location. Inside were lots of people who call themselves African-American but I wondered how many of them really knew their African kin, the ones we had just been with yesterday. We were now in a "world" (Wal-Mart) of everything we could possibly want, from toothpaste to riding lawn mowers and yet there was more whining and complaining and general misery and rudeness (and food stamps) than we had seen in all of our tour of the world's poorest regions. It left a hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach. It was at this point that I began to believe every American child should experience living in a third world country for at least a year before the age of 10. Just think how much more compassion there might be if we all walked a mile in the rest of the world's shoes (cycling shoes, or barefeet for that matter).


BMW's at the Mall?

Need yet another way to max out your credit cards? Take a stroll through the Oak Park Shopping Mall where BMW just opened up the country's first BMW retail store in a shopping mall. I've seen store front outlets in cities before, like the Bentley store in Chicago last weekend, but I've never seen a car dealership in a suburban shopping mall. After running into Casual Corner for a sweater, or Bath & Body Works for some bubble bath, stroll on into the BMW store. You can pick out all the features you want online and order that special car right there, or, if they have what you want in stock, I suppose you can drive it out the door, past the mall kiosks and carousels.

Actually, last I was at the mall, which I avoid like the plague, there were a bunch of teenagers just "hanging out." I'm not sure how much shopping really goes on at the mall, but parents, do not let your teenagers out of the house with your credit cards (as if that even needs to be said)!

All Elvis, All The Time

Going back to my roots. Today's Top 10 list:

10) Stand by Me
9) Lipstick Voque
8) Angel Wanna Hear My Red Shoes (and Beth thought they were blue suede...bonus points if you can name that Elvis)
7) Crying in the Chapel
6) What's So Funny 'Bout Peace, Love and Understanding
5) By & By
4) Radio Radio
3) Love Letters
2) New Lace Sleeves
1) Love Me Tender

It's a regular Elvis fest today on the pod. And it's Friday! Hallelujah!

Update (Illustrations! And both taken on the same road trip, but not intentionally. Well, the pictures were intentional, but not the juxtaposition of Elvi)

It Was the Swimp & Grits, Wasn't It?

Really, no. I mean, I was born there and all, but I've worked hard to lose the accent. Real hard. I didn't realize it stuck with you for life. Literature? Wuz that? But I've been in Elvis' Jungle Room, yes, I have.

Displaced Southerner
You are 75% true Southern!

You're pretty Southern, but something is keeping you from being a true Southern Belle or Gentleman. Maybe you've moved, or maybe your parents were Yankees and brought you up without ever taking you fishing or hunting or to Memaw's for chicken and black-eyed peas. You know your Southern facts and culture, but that literature still escapes you. And when you order tea at a restaurant, you expect it to come "unsweet." Yikes. Next time you have the chance, visit a classic Southern downtown area and spend an afternoon just soaking it in... Montgomery, Birmingham, Jackson, Natchez, Memphis, Charleston, Atlanta, or even New Orleans!

Via Beth, the Queen of the Quiz (but Elvis is not her King)

Update: You know, I'm a little peeved at that "literature still escapes you" comment. Why did I bother to wallow through Pat Conroy's Water is Wide or Prince of Tides then? Not that this counts as literature. But what about, what was it called? You know the one, with Scarlet? Or Faulkner's Sound and the Fury...he's Southern, right? Whatever.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Bills, Bills, Bills

I've not wandered off. Not yet, anyway. No. I'm slogged down in billing. And flogged. No time to blog. There's a Dr. Seuss tale in there somewhere, but I'm too lazy to pull in out. The flogging began just over an hour ago. It's "that time of month." Again. It happens every month and it is my very, very least favorite thing to do, asking people to pay me for what I do. I wish we still lived in a barter society and I could just do my thing and then when I needed a loaf of bread, or a car, I just trade in my "chips." So anyway, when I am done, I will kick up my heels and post something very exciting. Like, oh, I don't know, maybe some thoughts on the proposed Wal-Mart Bank. Anyone else heard this yet? Any thoughts? Would your thoughts be different if Microsoft or Apple wanted to enter the banking business? Do you even care?

[Scurries off into her "billing" hole, to escape further flogging.]

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

More Reflections

Inside the Cloud Gate (I'm in this photo about 36 times, it's kind of like Where's Waldo?):

And from the Tiffany Studios ("Angel's Wing"):

Chicago Wrap-up

Here's one of many photos I took of Eric Idle, the Python responsible for Spamalot, at the Borders Books signing party, where we waited in line for an hour to get our CD signed. Since we just happened to be in the right place at the right time, this was very exciting for us.

We also made a trip to the Chicago Art Institute, which houses a nice permanent collection of the Masters (including many Impressionist works, thanks to a benevolent philanthropist who bought up a large collection of paintings in order to show the world what a cultured city Chicago was at the World's Fair). The featured temporary exhibit this time was
Girodet, a French Romantic "Rebel" from the late 1700's/early 1800's. I enjoyed the show, but not nearly as much as the Rembrandt exhibit on display last time we were in town. We made a special point to see Nighthawks, which is a painting Brian mentioned in a recent post as one of his favorites. I've always liked it too, as a moody reflection of the loneliness that exists in any big city, especially at night.

And here's a photo of the big city of Chicago, as much of it as I could fit into one shot. This is looking into the shiny silver Cloud Gate sculpture at Millenium Park and you can see much of the city skyline as well as the weird (or fantastic, depending on your tastes) Frank Gehry architectural wonder to your left. It's also a self-portrait. If you look really close, you can see my reflection in the cloud.

That's all.

Update: Forgot to use my new found font and justification buttons. Is there no way to set these as defaults? Oy!

And again...must stylize each paragraph separately if there's photos in between. This is far more trouble than it's worth. As it were.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Look Ma! Left And Right Justification!

Well, look it here. I've finally discovered the left and right justification buttons! Oh, it's getting good now. I can feel the blog coming alive. Now if I only had a paragraph's worth of stuff to write so you could see the vast improvement. I'm also experimenting with new fonts. This is Trebuchet. Never heard of this one, but I'm hoping it's a little easier to tell the difference between a "w" and two "v's." Any other thoughts?

No, I don't like Trebuchet. How about this one? Plain old Courier. And I'm wondering why they look so different on the blog than they do in the editing phase?

Oh No! Not the Dixie Chicks!

Eric's dramatic reading of the Roly Poly Fish Head Song (or something like it) inspired a special request. While I couldn't find the lyrics to send Eric so that we might hear his Texas drawl ("what accent?") rendition, I did find an mp3 clip of the more Jewish version. I'm assuming it's more Jewish anyway, since Eric is not Jewish (or Catholic) and Peter Himmelman is Jewish (but not Catholic). So here, without further ado, is Dixie the Tiny Dog. If ever there was a song that made you wonder what your dog is doing while you are sleeping (and beg for a song by the Dixie Chicks instead), this is that song.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Work, Play & Leisure

I read a series of articles a couple years ago, by philosopher Mortimer Adler, that influenced my way of thinking about how I spend my time. Basically, we spend every hour either working, sleeping, playing or engaged in leisure activities. Mortimer also pointed out a 5th, "rest," which has a very special meaning, different from sleeping, that encompasses our spiritual activities or the day of rest on the Sabbath. I believe we have a duty to allocate our time wisely between these activities, but what does that mean? I had it all wrong.

I was pretty sure I had a good working understanding of "work." Ever since the angel expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden and sent them out into the world, we have had to work to sustain ourselves, "by the sweat of thy brow." And I've no problem understanding "sleep." I love sleep. But what's the difference between play and leisure? And where does blogging fit in?

Basically, Mortimer started with the assumption that everyone has a duty to pursue the truth, to improve their minds, and fulfill obligations of citizenship, parenting and friendship. These are obligatory, but they aren't "work." Neither are they "play." So basically, leisure activities include learning and thinking, creating, writing, enjoying works of art, reading, all things intended to improve the mind, not just to kill time. Put another way, leisure activities are the things we do to "grow morally, intellectually, and spiritually, through which we attain personal excellence and also perform our moral and our political duty." So I'd say "rest" is essentially a leisure time activity although Mortimer didn't address this in the context of Work, Play & Leisure, leaving us to wrestle with "rest" on our own, for the time being.

For children, "play" fills the role of leisure activities in adult life. Children learn by playing. And whereas children consider learning and "school work" to be "work," a sign of growing up and becoming an adult is that we regard learning as the opposite of work. In other words, learning is fun! Yes, it is! I'm a big fan of lifetime learning.

So, whereas there is still an element of obligation or duty in our leisure activities, there is no such compulsion about play. There is no necessity to play. What?! Oh, I beg to differ! Okay, this is the part that has stuck with me all this time. I've always been a big believer in "play." Work hard, play hard, and all that. Play is essential to our happiness, no? (Mortimer did eventually concede that some play was essential to happiness) But there's play for pure amusement, which is mostly useless, and there's recreational play for our physical well-being, which is useful. Pfffttt.

Mortimer stratified all of these activities into more and less worthwhile activities. While work is necessary and useful to achieving its ends and we are morally obligated to work, work is less important than leisure activities. Leisure activities (including "rest") are "intrinsically rewarding and virtuous, ennobling, making a man good as a man." Leisure (and rest) are the highest form of human activity while play is the lowest (we are under no moral obligation whatsoever to play).

Much as I like to play, I'm also interested in using my time wisely. So now, whenever I sit down to enjoy a good book, or write a blog post, or watch a movie, I think about this and I wonder if I'm doing something that is intrinsically worthwhile. Are you?

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Shuffle

I am not a big fan of the iPod Shuffle. Case in point, today's Top 10 list:

10) Jealousy Tango, by Placido Domingo
9) Some reggae number from a World Music CD, no artist or title given, but trust me, opera doesn't segue well into reggae
8) Jingle Bells, by Count Basie and his Orchestra
7) Let the Lower Lights Be Burning, by Johnny Cash
6) Bust A Move, by Young MC (I have no idea how this got on my iPod, but I'm guessing this is left over from our annual tax retreat where we...oh, never mind)
5) On the Road Again, by Willie Nelson (really, I'm not making this up!)
4) Everybody's Jumpin, by the Dave Brubeck Quartet
3) April in Paris, by Billie Holiday
2) Thankful, by Caedmon's Call
1) Country Farm Blues, by Rory Block

All that while walking around the streets of Chicago. Surreal, really.

Okay, dig in, Jim. ;-)

Whoa, there!

So, when is a musical not about the music? When it's got Spam in it, I think. And obnoxious French people, and K-niggits, and Killer Rabbits, and coconuts, and Farcical Aquatic Ceremonies. That's when.

Well, that was fun. I wondered if the movie would translate well to a musical, you know, the way a book almost never translates well to a movie. I worried that I wouldn't recognize my favorite parts or that they would be mutilated in some Pythonesque way, but the thing is, mutilation is part of it and Eric Idle is sheer genius. Favorite parts were still there. Yes, even the Black Knight, who managed to sing and dance his way through the scene in the Very Expensive Forest without his limbs, with "it's just a flesh wound" bravery. The opening scenes nearly followed the movie word for word, while later scenes were modified with timely and hilarious additions. The Lady of the Lake was drop dead gorgeous and completely out of sync with everything else that was going on, in true Python fashion, proving that indeed, "strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government." The Killer Rabbit scene is wonderfully done and when the brave knight's head flew across the floor, the audience erupted in laughter. By the end of this brilliant musical, I was beginning to doubt that I knew where the movie ended and the musical began.

There were a couple scenes I could have lived without (like when Sir Lancelot falls in love with and marries Prince Herbert, for example) and as Jen said, the use of Jesus' name as an epithet was uncalled for, but then nobody was billing this as a reverential Biblical search for the Holy Grail. There is nothing Holy about this musical. It is fundamentally irreverent. That's not usually a good thing. But then, this is mostly about Man's stupidity when it comes to matters such as class and making choices, and that's something worth examining.

I'm pretty sure that the musical does not translate well to a book, or a blog post for that matter. And I don't want to spoil it for the rest of you. Go see it for yourselves. It is one musical you don't want to miss!

And now I'm off to get my new DVD signed by Eric Idle himself. I happened to sit down in Borders just as they announce that Eric is here, HERE, to meet with the people! I had no idea. It's a very good day. :-)

Thursday, April 20, 2006

More Words From The Road

Well, Giordanos was everything we remembered. And good that we got there early. The crowd was waiting outside when we left. We ate only half of our 10" pizza, saving the rest for the first homeless person we felt worthy of our leftovers. We passed the other half off to what looked like an 80-pound 80-year-old who hadn't eaten in days. He was very appreciative.

Today has been another beautiful day in Chicago, playing tourist.

First, we went to see the new Millenium Park (the Frank Gehry monolithic stainless steel architectural creation). It was big and shiny. Beyond that, not impressed.

Then we stumbled into the Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows (the world's largest such collection, much of it coming from the Tiffany Studios in New York, and much of it from local Chicago churches and homes). To say that these were beautiful is a great understatement. Tiffany was a painter without paint. Whereas the impressionist painters attempted to make light reflect off of their surfaces, Tiffany used the light that reflected through his glass surfaces to create paintings. Layers and layers of mottled and striated glass give the impression of sunlight dappled on leaves or draped fabric or misty, sunny landscapes. They are truly masterful. Wow! And the best part was that we weren't looking for the museum. Those are always the best discoveries. Serendipitous!

From there, we strode down the Lake Shore walkway (it was another beautiful sunny, cool day) and into the Museum of Contemporary Art. Now this, I was looking for (much to my husband's chagrin...he's not much of a contemporary art fan...I run hot and cold, but I always like to check it out). Today's special feature was a large Andy Warhol exhibit. The guy who recognized America's passion for producing and consuming pop culture and turned it into an artform. Can't say I embrace his approach or appreciate his art (though I do display some of his animal prints in my hallway...bought 'em at the San Francisco Zoo years ago for cheap) but it was neat to see some of his originals up close and personal (Marilyn Monroe, Liz Taylor, the Tomato Soup've seen these, right?). There were also some morbid car accident photos that he had blown up and added paint to, saying that there was beauty even in the tragic. Ick. We were in and out of there in an hour.

We're off to the theatre, to see this Spamalot that everyone is talking about.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Chicago is one of my favorite cities. I love the buildings (the architecture here is spectacular, especially the old Frank Lloyd Wright homes and the Art Deco skyscrapers), the people, the food, the music, the museums, the people watching on Michigan Avenue, the Dutch Babies at the House of Pancakes, all of it!

My first visit was a little unnerving, big city and all. I was young and came from a small town in Kansas. My younger brother (10) and I (12) were allowed to wander the city on our own (while my mom and step-father were packing heat...what's wrong with that picture?!) My brother and I visited all the museums, aquariums, planetariums, and Al Capone's jail cell. We also accompanied our step-father to a tattoo parlor on the South Side where we sat in utter disbelief because a) he was getting a tattoo (a hummingbird, for those who care) and b) there was a woman getting a tattoo in the next room. Sitting there, we listened to sirens racing up and down the night streets of the city. Not a good place to take the kids, if you want my opinion, but there we were. The thing that struck me most about Chicago then was its integrated diversity. There didn't seem to be a "good" side and a "bad" side of the city. Both seemed to coexist on the same street, if not the same block. At least this was true of the small section of Chicago that we were able to experience on foot and by bus. We were too nervous to try and figure out the train system back then. But I always liked that about Chicago.

Fast forward to today...we're in Chicago for a few days of rest and relaxation. And this city has gotten better with age. We visit on occasion and it's always a treat. The weather is spectacular and the city is pristine! Lake Michigan is filled with sailboats not quite ready to venture out. The air is still a bit chilly. And windy. But it's a dry wind. ;-) Tomorrow, we see Spamalot! And tonight, we'll enjoy Giordano's pizza!

I'll be back...

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


No, not the TeeVee show. I know nothing about that. But today marks my completion of 24 tax seasons. I don't know how many more I've got in me. Each one seems to take its toll on the soul. I am wiped out. I haven't gone to bed before 3 am for 2 weeks now. But somehow, praise God, it all got done. As it does every year. I can't tell you how many times the words "this too shall pass" were uttered here in the office. And everyone was able to take Easter off because that was important to us. But it took a lot out of us. Every year, we lose a person or two or three. They decide they'd rather join the creative ranks of the oil and gas accountants or better yet, become stay at home moms. Me, I think I want to sell everything, go live on a sailboat, travel around the world and write about our adventures. Maybe do some business consulting, via satellite, to pay the bills. Maybe. Maybe just find a way to live on much less and enjoy life more fully. Maybe. Maybe open up a silversmithing studio and do a few tax returns out of the front office. Maybe. I guess I really like what I'm doing or I wouldn't still be doing it. Either that, or I'm crazy. Today, as the fog lifts, I think it's the latter.

And who's responsible for this blog thing anyway? Did I do this? What was I thinking???

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Easter Blessings!

Easter Prayers

"God, give us eyes to see the beauty of the Spring,
And to behold Your majesty in every living thing -
And may we see in lacy leaves and every budding flower The Hand that rules the universe with gentleness and power -
And may this Easter grandeur that Spring lavishly imparts
Awaken faded flowers of faith lying dormant in our hearts,
And give us ears to hear, dear God, the Springtime song of birds
With messages more meaningful than man's often empty words
Telling harried human beings who are lost in dark despair -
'Be like us and do not worry for God has you in His care'

Alleluia! Christ is risen, indeed!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Prayer for a Blogger Friend

Brian and Jennifer have just lost their dear friend, Dave, in a motorcycle accident. It is tragic. It is tough to lose a close friend, especially for those of us who claim to have only a few true close friends. I've been in those shoes. It hurts. A lot. I'm sure they would appreciate your prayers and condolences.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18

Peace be with you both. I am so sorry about your loss. You're in my prayers.


Thursday, April 13, 2006

Another Quiz - What is Your Element?

Whuda thunk it?

Your Element is Water

Your power colors: blue and aqua

Your energy: deep

Your season: winter

Like the ocean, you evoke deep feelings and passion.

You have an emotional, sensitive, and spiritual soul.

A bit mysterious, you tend to be quiet when you are working out a problem.

You need your alone time, so that you can think and dream.

What Element Are You?

[via Rachel]

Stayin' Alive

No, this isn't another "Near Death" post. It seems my morning commute is now in sync with the Bee Gees (BeeGees? Bee Gee's? BeeGee's? BG's?) tune by the same name. Three, THREE, days in a row now!

God, is this your idea of encouragement?

Guess it's time to buy a transmitter for my ipod. *sigh*

More Dave Barry Connections

Feeling the need to check up on my family, I clicked over to Dave Barry's Blog again. This time he points right back at my home town, a small town of 27,000 citizens with the dubious distinction of being the home of the first recorded daylight bank robbery, committed by outlaw Jesse James. Not much else happens here, except this. Who knew? I thought dodgeball was outlawed a long time ago.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Accounting Triage

I hate to leave another "Near Death" post up for the duration of "tax season" although it does speak to my current state of being. For those who do not want to listen to my whining, leave the room now.

We are now in what I affectionately call "Triage" mode. If your issues are not life-threatening (really, when is this ever true of accounting issues?), do not call me or stop by my office! Period. [slams door shut and proceeds to blog...what's wrong with this picture?!] I've had more phone calls today from clients whose matters have nothing, nothing, to do with their tax return. They have all started with "I know you're really busy right now, but..." What is that supposed to mean? But what? But I'm not really that busy?! You mean, you'd like to discuss that stuff about your deceased brother, Elmo, who never filed a U.S. tax return in all of his years abroad? Now?! The stuff I tried talking to you about back in December? I'm not listening. LaLaLaLaLa. I have work to do, really, I am busy! Panic attack busy! And even if I were listening, I cannot process a cogent thought at this point unless it has to do with your tax return (and even that is sketchy...for anyone reading this, know that you're not getting the best quality time with your accountant the week before 4/15). I'm about to blow a gasket! I really don't want to work this Easter, but it's iffy right now.

Ahhh, heavy sigh. I feel better now. In the meantime...random thought...

I need to figure out how to put a dog photo roll up, like Eric and Rachel (at Life Being Beautiful) have on their blogs. For now, let me introduce you to Smokey...isn't he precious? :-)

Update (more ranting therapy): And another thing. Don't call to ask "how are you doing on my taxes?" They are not done yet. When they are done, I will call you. Until then, they are not done. For every call like that, I am interupted from doing your taxes (or someone else's) and it takes all the fun out of it for me. I know when the due date is. That's my job. If you're so worried, then bring them in earlier next year, like Lyndon does. Thank you!

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Near Death - The Quiz

This comes as no surprise:

"You scored as Disappear. Your death will be by disappearing, probably a camping trip gone wrong or an evening hike you never returned from. Always remember that one guy who was hiking alone and got in a rock slide. He could have died, but he cut his own hand off to save himself. Don't end up like him (or worse, dead)."

How Will You Die??
created with

[via Jen, who prefers the more vanilla "natural causes"]


Monday, April 10, 2006


Brian, over at BeanQuest, has started a series of posts on Things That Turned Me Off To Christianity. One of those things was "terminology" which he said now, looking back, was just "silly." But I don't think it's so silly. What else could possibly explain the seemingly infinite number of Bible translations that exist in the world today? There's no doubt that it presents a huge hurdle for the unchurched. I also struggled with terminology growing up. I still do. This subject deserves more time and attention than I have to give to it right now. But Brian mentioned one particular instance of terminology that struck a chord with me because my friend, Lyn(don), actually wrote an entire sermon about it. And, after re-reading his sermon, I think I'm going to have to start calling him (Brook)lyn. ;-)

One of Brian's questions was, "Is He "The Son of God" or "The Son of Man"?"

With Lyndon's permission (in exhange for a small stipend), here are a few excerpts from his sermon (you can read the whole thing here)...

"And aren't nicknames what other people call you? You don't choose your own moniker, do you? Sounds presumptuous. Call me Brooklyn. What is that about? No wonder it fell flat, right? People don't easily latch on to titles they don't own or understand.

Imagine the reactions, then, when Jesus appeared on the scene proclaiming himself to be . . . the Son of Man! The Son of . . . Man. The Son of Man? What does that mean?

As you know, our Advent series is titled, "Here Comes the Son." And we're considering Jesus, the Son of God, the Son of David and the Son of Man. When we very spiritually and pietistically determined who would preach on what topic (we drew lots) and I found out I was preaching on the Son of Man, I got to thinking, "I know very little about that subject."

So this will be a first for me. Maybe a first for you, as well. A freshman encounter with Jesus, the Son of Man. Sorta like a blind date. We're a bit uncertain as to who it is we're going to meet. We sort of know who he's not - a military figure - but do we know who he really is?"

So if terminology befuddles the theologians, should we really be so ashamed to admit that it befuddles us at times too? That's why we call it "Bible Study" instead of "Bible Club."

April Flowers!

For those of you who have complained about leaving the Tax Code Podcast post up far too long (you know who you are ;-), I will leave you with these instead:

My beloved husband knows just how to brighten my day! Valentine's Day comes and goes. No flowers. I've learned to accept this. His nature is not to pander to Hallmark holidays but to show he cares when I truly need it. And this is how he showed it today. Sweet, no?

More posting forthcoming, but I couldn't NOT share these!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Tax Code Podcast

I fell out of my chair when I read this. You all won't find it so amusing, but I'm posting it because it's my blog. ;-) For the accountants among you (that's probably just you, Eric...I realize tax law and oil & gas accounting overlap only ever so slightly, if at all, but hey, we gotta stick together...the world is a dangerous place for accountants these days), indulge yourselves by reading the comments as well.

[via Denise of Blue Sky in Texas]


Accountants Kickin' It, or Another Day at the Office

I've been out. 9 days to go in "tax season" and we've all been out, playing kickball. Nothing beats stress like kickin' it. There are no words. Here's the photo (I'm the one behind the camera). Wonderin' why your tax return isn't done yet?


Friday, April 07, 2006

Just Plain Weird

When I set out on this blogging adventure, I never in my wildest dreams expected it to be a source of information as relates to my family, because none of them blog. Yet.

Fast forward to today...

In between tax returns (only 10 days left!), I scan my favorite blogs for a chuckle or two, maybe some enlightenment. Anything but taxes. Some people take a cigarette break. I take a blog break. So today, as I perused my lengthy list, I decided to pare it down. You know, because it's just too long. ;-) So I decided that I really didn't need Dave Barry's blog now that I have his column which is 9,000 times funnier than his blog, imho. But first, I took one last peek, to see if really I should be so quick to eradicate him (or rather, his blog) from the rolls. And that's where I learned that my Mom had just survived an earthquake (she lives just 8 miles from the epicenter). Granted, the earthquake did little damage and apparently didn't even alarm the residents (if all of our natural disasters could be so stealth), but still! I wouldn't have even known had I not read Dave Barry's blog. Just weird.

And then to learn that Dave Barry's in my old college town, well, that's just cool!

So I guess I need to leave his blog on the rolls, if for no other reason, but to keep tabs on my family members. 8-}

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Near Death Experiences, Part 4 (By Firing Squad)

And Now! The moment you've all been waiting for! [drumroll] In my head, I sound like P.T. Barnum. Do I sound like that to you?

Near Death, By Firing Squad.

This is going to be so anti-climactic, it's not even funny, but I'll continue…

The place: Knoxville, Tennessee (place is important because the only anti-gun law worth noting in TN is the prohibition of gun sales to kids; anything else goes)

The time: About 1969, approximately 7 years old.

The firing squad: One 5 year old gunman, named Eric (but we'll call him Peter to protect his privacy), in possession of an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle!

Parental supervision: None.

The execution:

Me: "What have you got?"
Peter: "An Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle!"
Me: "I'll bet you can't hit anything with it."
Peter: "Bet I can!"
Me: "Prove it!"
Peter: "Okay. You stand on the other side of the yard and I'll shoot you."
Me: "You can't hit me."
Peter: "Oh, yeah?"
Me: "Just try it!" I stood perfectly still about 50 feet across the yard, fully expecting the bullet to ricochet off of his house and into the nearby ravine.
Peter: Ready. Aim. FIRE!
Me: "OUCH! That hurt!" I looked down to see a small hole torn in the shoulder of my shirt and checked for blood (there was none). I ran home to Mom and told her that I'd just been shot! Mom asked a few questions and then said, "Just be glad he didn't shoot your eye out." Sheesh, no sympathy. :-{

In reality, I should just be glad the gun didn't look more like this.


I just looked up the Wiki definition of "Near-Death Experience."

"The phenomenology (which means, a current in philosophy that takes the intuitive experience of phenomena, what presents itself to us in conscious experience, as its starting point and tries to extract from it the essential features of experiences and the essence of what we experience) of a near-death experience usually includes physiological, psychological and transcendental factors such as subjective impressions of being outside the physical body (an out-of-body experience), transcendence of ego and spatiotemporal boundaries, and other transcendental experiences."

Okay, that is not what I've been talking about in this here blog. I hope no one was misled.


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Which European City?

You Belong in London

You belong in London, but you belong in many cities... Hong Kong, San Francisco, Sidney. You fit in almost anywhere.

And London is diverse and international enough to satisfy many of your tastes. From curry to Shakespeare, London (almost) has it all!

What European City Do You Belong In?

Boy, do I! Diversity is good. London would be just fine. Where do you belong?

via [Jim], the wild and crazy pub crawler. ;-)


Oops! Church Bulletin Bloopers

This just in, via email. You've all seen these before, right? Enjoy. :-)

The Fasting & Prayer Conference includes meals.
The sermon this morning: "Jesus Walks on the Water." The sermon
tonight: "Searching for Jesus."
Our youth basketball team is back in action Wednesday at 8 PM in
the recreation hall. Come out and watch us kill Christ the King.
Ladies, don't forget the rummage sale. It's a chance to get rid of
those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.
The peacemaking meeting scheduled for today has been cancelled due
to a conflict.
Miss Charlene Mason sang "I will not pass this way again," giving
obvious pleasure to the congregation.
For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a
nursery downstairs.
Next Thursday there will be tryouts for the choir. They need all
the help they can get.
At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be "What Is
Hell?" Come early and listen to our choir practice.
Eight new choir robes are currently needed due to the addition of
several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.
The church will host an evening of fine dining, super entertainment
and gracious hostility.
------------------------------------------------- --------
Potluck supper Sunday at 5:00 PM - prayer and medication to follow.
The ladies of the Church have cast off clothing of every kind. They
may be seen in the basement on Friday afternoon.
This evening at 7 PM there will be a hymn singing in the park
across from the Church. Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin.
Ladies Bible Study will be held Thursday morning at 10 AM. All
ladies are invited to lunch in the Fellowship Hall after the B. S. is done.
The pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the congregation
would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday.
Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 PM. Please
use the back door.
The eighth-graders will be presenting Shakespeare's Hamlet in the
Church basement Friday at 7 PM. The congregation is invited to attend this
Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM at the First Presbyterian Church.
Please use large double door at the side entrance.

And so on...

Near Death Experiences, Part 3 (By Lake)

This will be quick. This story is distinctly lacking in heroism and knights in shining armour and is not nearly as perilous as By Ocean, but what it lacks in heroism, it makes up for in stupidity. There is no need to set the stage here except to explain why there are suddenly flesh-eating carp in this story where there once were none. The fish come at the suggestion of my readers who are crying for more excitement, more blood and guts. Okay, fine.

This had all the makings of a disaster, except for flesh-eating fish:

Sailboat? Check. Inexperienced sailors? Check. Excess poundage? Check. Excess wind? Check. Sailboat manual? Check. Dirty lake? Check. Containers of food? Check.

And off we went. My dad was the captain. My dad is notorious for teaching himself new skills by buying "the" book. On this day, he decided to break in his new 17 foot catamaran by taking me and my brother, and his best friend, a good sized man, along with him. None of us had a lick o' sense, or sailing knowledge for that matter. More than once, we all found ourselves on the same side of the boat, causing it to list severely. Dad suggested I put on the harness so I could hang off the (opposite) side of the boat and do my part to help stabilize it. "Yes, Father," I said. A smart person would have jumped ship right then and there. Fun while it lasted, it didn't last long.

A swift gust of wind came along and poof! Swish, boom, bam! We were history. The bow, port side, took a sharp left and then a nose dive in the general direction of the bottom of the lake. But going under takes time. So Dad grabbed his sailing manual, because now is a good time to search the index for that critical piece of information he must have missed in all the preparations. What exactly did he look up, I wonder? S - sunk? C - capsized? D - doomed? I was still in the harness and got dumped in the water, wiring and all, still attached to the boat. A quick panic set in. The boat was going down and I was under it, experiencing the basic principles of entanglement. But just like Houdini, I wriggled free from all the lines and canvas just in time to pop out from under the boat, catch my breath, and help the others right the boat before the mast could fill with water, causing the whole kit and caboodle to disappear into the filthy lake forever.

We eventually righted the boat and paddled our way back to the dock, sails at half-mast, tails tucked between our legs.

The sailing manual sank to the bottom of the lake. Good riddance. Stupid manuals.

And the flesh-eating, bottom-dwelling, carnivorous, cantankerous carp devoured our lunch, and maybe Dad's wallet.

Next up, Part 4 (By Firing Squad)

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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Near Death Experiences, Part 2 (By Ocean)

The promised "next story." This one is a bit more sobering than the last (By Pool). In fact, so sobering that it was the subject of a term paper back in high school, the topic of which escapes me now. In all seriousness, I think this was a pivotal point in my life. One of many points, when I realized that I was not in control.

This story, once again, involves my two old friends, Lyn(don) and Beau. By way of brief introduction, if I might brag about them a bit, Lyndon went on to attend one of the top seminaries in the country and became a Baptist minister (he also went on to compete in the national swimming championships at the college level...not bad, but don't tell him I told you about that; it might go to his head ;-). Beau dropped out of high school after 10th grade (we all love telling that part, because he is so "wicked smaht" as his wife, Jen, will testify) in order to start college early and went on to earn 5 degrees, including several advanced degrees, in everything from physics to electrical engineering to political science. In addition to being two of the smartest, most Faithful people I know, they are also two of the nicest. And on this day, they also saved a couple lives, which makes them heroes in my book. They are good people. You'll see.

Again, with the swim team, about 10 -12 of us grabbed our kick boards and headed down to the beach for some body surfing. A little fun to give us a break from all that swimming back and forth. We quickly dispersed among the waves, trying out all sorts of body surfing techniques, including my favorite, riding a wave all the way to its natural conclusion on the beach, hitting the sand at full speed and experiencing sand burn on the chin, if not tooth loss. All was going just fine until…until it wasn't. Suddenly, without warning, I realized that I was drifting off to Mainland China. And worse, every crashing wave was knocking me down and pulling me under. I pretty quickly realized that we were in a "riptide," with undertow currents. I kept my cool and started swimming parallel to shore thinking that I would eventually find the edge of the riptide and then head into shore. This is what we'd been taught. I was still in control.

Along the way, one of the younger kids, a small 12-year-old, was waving his arms around and screaming for help. He was completely panicked by the same sensation I was experiencing. Only I thought I had it all figured out, so I swam over to help him, no big deal. Only thing is, I had forgotten all I learned in lifeguard classes. #1 - Always approach from behind, and #2 - Never underestimate the power of a panicked person, regardless of their size. Small though he was, he immediately put me in a death grip, using his arms and legs to tie my own arms and legs to my body, much like a Sunday afternoon pot roast. This completely eliminated my ability to help him, or myself.

So with my arms and legs securely tied, we were both pulled under, waves crashing on top of us with no way out of the predicament unless he let go, which wasn't going to happen. We were tossed and tumbled in the waves like so much laundry in an old Maytag washing machine. The only respite was when it stopped to change spin cycles which didn't happen often. I couldn't see the others at that time, though I tried some screaming of my own in the brief moments that we came up for air. Absent any response, I resigned myself to drowning. I really did. I thought, this was it. I thought, "Gosh, what a way to go." I had so much more I wanted to do. All I could think about was how sad my parents were going to be. I figured I'd sink to the bottom of the ocean floor and never be found again. That part bothered me the most. Having passed out in the pool, I knew the actual drowning wouldn't be bad once I passed out. It would be painless. Yikes! I really did think all of those things. It's all in the term paper.

And then (you know how it ends, right?), Beau and Lyndon show up. I don't remember if they showed up together or if it was one and then the other, but the important thing was that they showed up and struggled to remove the young boy's death grip from me and then they had their own fight on their hands, both with the boy and the waves and currents. As soon as I broke free, I fought with every ounce of my being to a) get away and b) get help. When I got to shore, the coach was surprised there was trouble but he raced out to help. It took Lyndon and Beau and the coach a good 5-15 minutes (it seemed much longer) to wrestle him to shore. When they carried him in, he looked limp and lifeless. We were all petrified. They laid him on the beach and compressed some water out of his lungs. In a minute or so, he coughed out the remaining water and returned to life. Hallelujah!!

It wasn't our time to die that day afterall. More lessons learned. Thanks be to God!

And, you guessed it, that was the last time we got to swim in the ocean.

Coming up, Part 3 (By Lake) and Part 4 (By Firing Squad)


Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Ghost of April Fool's Past

Happy Belated April Fool's Day!

I have now successfully broken Rules #1,2,3,6 and 7, and I'm about to break Rule #9, proving that indeed, rules are for sissies. I didn't even turn on my computer yesterday, let alone post. That's because I was busy doing other things. Goes without saying, right? You would hope.

So yesterday was spent chopping down trees, scaling tall buildings, and setting the yard on fire. Let me explain.

My beloved husband (MBH), bless his heart, is a pyromaniac. Every year about this time, much like the lovely people of Madagascar who have turned their beautiful country into an island of red dirt, my husband sets fire to our yard. He starts with the ditch that stretches the length of our property and the area around our septic "lagoon" (a real estate euphemism if ever there was one). Beyond that, fire has a mind of its own. We called the local volunteer fire department to put them on alert. It's just us, we told them. Don't bother responding to reports of a fire unless we call you back. We'll handle it. Indeed. We had our hands full, but managed to keep it all under control.

While the yard was burning all around us, we decided to chop down a couple trees that died over the winter. Because this is a good time to fell fire wood, onto the burning lawn. These were poplar trees, only about a foot in diameter but very tall. MBH has some tree trimming experience and assured me everything would be okay. I quickly surveyed the surroundings to see where we'd like to have the trees fall, given our druthers. The first one followed the directions perfectly, crashing loudly to the ground, but causing no damage except to the grass. The second one, not so much. The angle of the cut was all wrong. As the tree fell, it took out half of our favorite Red Bud tree (the one that survived a lightening strike a couple years ago...leave it to Man to screw up what nature was unsuccessful in destroying), and narrowly missed our horse (no, that's not a typo, the house was never in danger). But dang! I love Red Buds.

As for scaling tall buildings, MBH is a painting contractor and needed some help taking down a small scaffold from a tall building downtown where he's been working for a few weeks. And since I have nothing better to do these days (for those who like statistics, our firm does about 1,300 tax returns; to date, about 400 of these have gone out the door which leaves just 900 yet to get out in the next 15 days; I'm not whining, really, I'm not), I agreed to help him take it down. It was a beautiful day and I enjoyed the outdoor time and some quality time with my husband.

The rest of the day was spent reviewing tax returns. As I worked, MBH watched TeeVee and I overheard the most startling story on Animal Planet. I have never been enamored with cockroaches. I've always known that they will be the last living things on earth and that they carry diseases, etc., but I had no idea just how extreme are their survival skills. First, did you know that cockroaches have a second brain in their rear??? Which explains, I think, the next astonishing fact, which is that they can live up to one full month without their head?!! They can also endure up to 200 times the amount of radiation we can endure, which is just what the world needs, radioactive cockroaches! Holy smokes!! This is why I was quite happy to live without cable TeeVee in our house for so many years. Some things we're just better off NOT knowing.