Monday, July 31, 2006

It's Like an Escher Print

I really think it's time for me to become the Wal-Mart greeter that I have aspired to be when I finally grow up. Just getting to my office has become problematic.

This morning, I arrived at work in the usual manner, parked in the garage, walked into the lobby, got on the elevator (ever since I moved from the 3rd to the 4th floor, I've started taking the elevator instead of the stairs; this greatly diminishes the amount of exercise I get, but that's another post), got off when the elevator doors opened, began walking to my office and wondered why all the cubicles were now occupied by different people, and why someone else's furniture was in my office?!

Before realizing that I was simply on the wrong floor, I wondered why nobody told me that I'd moved. Or had I been terminated? There was that GAAP research I used Google for on Saturday afternoon, in order to win a valuable prize, but I don't think that constituted real grounds for termination (although using Google to do accounting research was probably the beginning of the end for Ken Lay). I felt like I was in a dream (notice I did not use the word "nightmare").

I began to recognize that I was on the 2nd floor and while embarassed, did not admit this to anyone. I decided to trudge up the inside stairwell two flights, carrying a boatload of stuff (computer, purse, briefcase full of client files, etc.). I figured I could use a little exercise. After trudging up two floors, I was huffing and puffing and noticed that the next flight was a set of emergency fire escape stairs to the roof. Hmmm, the roof is actually on top of the 5th floor, not the 4th. So I quickly turned around and went back down a flight. Hrmph! Since when has the job of just getting to my freakin' office become so difficult??

This would have been embarrassing if anyone knew I did all this. Please don't tell. ;-) I think I need a vacation!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Happy Birthday!

Today, we celebrated my step-mother's birthday. She is a gourmet cook and so we wanted to treat her to something extra lovely for her birthday. Here is her birthday cake, straight out of Bon Appetit (or not?). It is called Kitty Litter Cake. You could call it something more appetizing, but Kitty Litter Cake by any other name is still...well...delicious! Mmmm. Let me know if you'd like the recipe. ;-)

And what do you get for the woman who has "everything?" Well, here is what we made for her...a river...of glass. "We" is a little generous. Mostly "we" includes Dad, the architect, artist, and designer on the project, also the primary source of manual labor. The "kids" mostly just whined and sweated a lot and chipped in some dough. Dad had to finish the project. He is an awesome Dad!!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Blogathon Update

I'm not even participating in Blogathon and already it has consumed much of my day. I was going to post my entry in the Homes Tour, but didn't get past my blogging chair in the living room:

I've tried fitting in some real work (unsuccessfully) in between reading the posts of my favorite participating bloggers:

The Fire Ant Gazette (blogging for Midland Fair Havens)
Lone Prairie Blog (blogging for Abused Adult Resource Center)
Sticky Doorknobs (also blogging for Midland Fair Havens)
And Then I Woke Up (also blogging for Midland Fair Havens)

For these folks, the event is only a little over half over. Please pay them a visit and cheer them on through the wee hours of the night.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

I Have...A Meme

This was picked up at Eric's and Beth's place...the perfect countdown meme before Blogathon begins this Saturday.

It's harder than it looks.

I have...

10 giant gophers bent on destroying our yard.

9 smaller gophers, aiding and abetting the 10 giant gophers.

8 legged spiders living in our basement.

7 bullfrogs (maybe more) living in our "septic lagoon."

6 legged june bugs swarming the front porch.

5 caged birds.

4 parents (including a step-mother and a step-father).

3 goldfish.

2 Australian shepherds.

1 horse.

0 snakes (after that one slithered out of its cage and disappeared into the house somewhere).


OK, the rules are simple. First, be honest. We might not know otherwise, but the God of Methuselah, Moses, and Memes will. Second, despite Rule #1, you get one wildcard if you need it; feel free to make up one of the items. And, in support of the proposition that there should remain some mystery about a blogger, don't identify the wild card.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

An Exciting Day

Starting your day out with a mammogram is not quite the same as a colonoscopy, to be sure, but for those of us women of a certain age but not yet in the prime of our lives, it's the next best thing. Just trust me on this. I won't go into the details except to say, if we needed further evidence that Satan exists, look no further than your nearest mammography center.

But I have a question. This is a What Would You Do kind of question. As I was leaving the hospital (because that is where Satan resides), I was walking down the long corridor toward the parking garage and coming towards me from the other wing (the in-patient wing, I presume) was an annorexic-looking woman (not really a girl...her hair was graying), clad only in a long t-shirt. She was barefoot and holding a wad of toilet paper (I am assuming) against her arm where it appeared she had pulled out an IV. I figured she was headed for the vending machine or something but instead she followed me out the door and got into a waiting vehicle. She was escaping from the hospital! What would you do? This isn't the same thing as someone escaping from jail, I suppose. I mean, it's her own life afterall. The car she got in was a nice Ford Expedition driven by a respectable looking citizen, not some drug crazed teenager or anything. Why would someone do this? I would have to walk all the way back to the front desk to report anything, and by then, she's long gone. They'll figure it out soon enough. But I pity the poor woman without enough sense to at least have her IV properly removed, let alone stay for whatever other treatment she required.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


For those of you who do not already read the Fire Ant Gazette (I'm not sure who I'm talking to here, because everyone reads this, but if you don't you should because he is a talented, smart, witty, honest, funny, God-focused writer), please check out his site and consider supporting his efforts this weekend in the Blog-A-Thon.

I actually began reading the Fire Ant Gazette just last year during Blog-A-Thon when I stumbled over from a friend's site and read this post. I decided then and there to make a pledge because of the injuries he sustained during a blogathon, for the love of Pete! It's not too late to discover his site and contribute to a good cause.

Also, the inimitable Beth, another talented, smart, witty, honest, funny, and God-focused writer, will be trying to stay up all night and participate but has already admitted that this is near to impossible (she says that she never ever had to do this in college...are you kidding me Beth? I can't remember a single term paper for which I did not labor all night the night before it was due). In lieu of making a commitment she cannot keep (honorable, I must admit), Beth has directed that all pledges on her behalf be directed to Eric's chosen charity (directions provided at Eric's site).

And while I'm supporting talented, smart, witty, honest, funny, God-focused writers, let me also provide a plug for Julie at Lone Prairie Blog who will be presenting the story of Bob again this year. She too deserves a lot of support and will be a most entertaining addition to the 'thon.

Yours truly will not be attempting such a daring feat (although I could probably do the overnight part). I will definitely check in with these and others to cheer them on, especially during the wee hours of the night. Now, please go and do the right thing. ;-)

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Don't Touch My Stuff!

You Are 68% Control Freak

You are a pretty major control freak, though you may not know it.

While your confidence is inspiring, your bossy ways tend to scare people off.

Are You A Control Freak?

Um, "pretty major?" Is that not quite so very bad as "major?"

I Won! I Won!

Ask and ye shall receive. Since posting about my Roseville collection, I have resumed my search for a piece of bargain Laurel Roseville pottery. Not only do I love the pattern and colors, but my middle name is Laurel. :-) Sightings of this particular pattern are rare and bargains even more rare, so I had given up a long time ago. But, I have finally "won" the coveted vase, for less than $100! I am so pleased. I can't wait to get it and check it out to make sure it's all in good shape...I'm optimistic. I've never been burned on an Ebay purchase, not yet anyway. ;-) It's only 6 inches tall, not a large vase, but I prefer the small pieces because they're much easier to place, and they are more gem-like. ;-)

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Top 10 Travel Destinations

I'm sitting here, watching the Travel channel. I love this channel, except that they seem to show more poker "tours" than travel shows...what's up with that? What fascinates me when I travel is not only how many differences there are in how Man adapts to his environment but also how similar we all are, regardless of those differences.

The show on right now is the Ten Creepiest Destinations. I have no interest in seeing most of these places (although I'm ashamed to admit that I meant to but did not make it to the Mutter Museum, #6 on the list, while I was in Philadelphia...I had it on good authority that this was the place to visit while in I see that I missed a lot! For example, I missed seeing a real human colon the size of an anaconda snake (excised from its original owner, of course). I think I need a vacation. Without further ado, here are the...

Top Ten Places I would like to visit before I die (places I've never been):

1) Denali National Park, Alaska (this is mostly just so I can color in all of the states on that map of states I have visited...Alaska is the only one I'm missing)

2) New Zealand (I want to rent an RV and spend 2 or 3 weeks seeing the entire country. And now that I have Rachel's contact information, perhaps I can solicit her travel advice).

3) Scotland (I don't golf, but I would definitely sign up to "play" 9 holes on the world's original golf course, if they would let me)

4) The Greek Islands (I love the old world whitewash architecture and the food, and I'd like to see some of the remnants of Ancient Greece, the foundational culture of Western civilization)

5) Italy (I've been to Trieste, but would love to visit Venice, Rome, Florence and Tuscany; I'd like to rent a Vespa and drive fast on the sidewalks and I would not stand in line to visit all the "things you must see" in all of these cities)

6) Australia (although after reading In A Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson, I think I must be nuts to even consider visiting Australia, home of the most poisonous things in the world)

7) Prague (I'd just like to sit in the coffee shops and read and watch people, for a full week)

8) South Pacific (Fiji, Christmas Island, Bora Bora, or some lesser known islands; I'd like to do this by sailboat and experience it at the slow pace of the natives)

9) Bali (I have always loved the folk art from this country, especially their batik work and wood carvings)

10) Jerusalem (for all that it is and all that it represents, if only the region were stable enough to even begin to think about visiting...the way things look right now, I'm even more envious of my cousin Mike's recent travels through the region without incident)

10A) In lieu of Jersalem, I would pick Egypt (although I'm no Egyptologist, I would love to see the pyramids, etc.)

Top 10 Places to Re-Visit (places that are worth repeating):

1) Ireland (My Dad and I bicycled the Ring of Kerry and loved it, but I have never been to Dublin which is still on the wish list; the people of Ireland are among the most welcoming and gregarious people I've ever met)

2) Dubrovnik, and the entire Adriatic Coast of Croatia (this medieval world still feels very real, not hasn't been overrun with tourists yet and it's absolutely gorgeous! The link is to a small album of photos we took on our last trip there)

3) Big Sur, California (I return here at least once a's one of the best places in America, imho, and I never tire of it)

4) Hawaii (I've only been to Kuaui and would love to return to that island, but would also visit the Big Island and maybe a bit of Maui if it's not all golf and spa resorts...I'm not into that sort of fact, this is what kept me from visiting Hawaii for so long, but it is truly beautiful and I would definitely go back)

5) Olympic National Park, WA (Cape Alava to be exact...miles of pristine camping on the beach and miles from have to pack in your own food and hide it from the raccoons, but aside from this, it's an easy hike and well worth it!)

6) Vancouver Island, Canada (especially the western shore and a small Indian fishing village called Tofino that has also become an eco-tourist destination...again, pristine coastline and campgrounds on the beach, along with kayak and bicycle rentals with which to see more of it)

7) La Digue, one of the Seychelle Islands out in the middle of the Indian Ocean (where there are no cars, only ox carts, and the people live off of the fish they catch and the very large fruit that falls from the trees; I would take up scuba diving if I returned to this diving haven)

8) Stone Town in Zanzibar, Africa (I'd like to go back when it's not 100+ degrees and nearly 100% humidity, having to wear a wet wash cloth on my head to prevent heat stroke; I'd like to spend more time with the people of Africa; most of our time was spent scouting out animals on the safari north and west of Zanzibar)

9) Rocky Mountains, Colorado...skiing Arapahoe Basin, Keystone, Dillon, Breckenridge

10) Anyplace that old friends live

What are your favorite places?


Friday, July 21, 2006

Where's My Hammer?

Your Birthdate: July 7

You are an island. You don't need anyone else to make you happy.

And though you see yourself as a loner, people are drawn to you.

Deep and sensitive, you tend to impress others with your insights.

You also tend to be psychic - so listen to that inner voice!

Your strength: Your self sufficiency

Your weakness: You despise authority

Your power color: Maroon

Your power symbol: Hammer

Your power month: July

What Does Your Birth Date Mean?

If I had a hammer, I'd hammer in the morning. I'd hammer in the evening...all over this land. I'd hammer out danger. I'd hammer out a warning...well, you get the idea. So why can't I ever find a hammer when I need one?

Except for people being "drawn" to me (in fact, I repel them), and the deep part, and maroon as my power color (maroon? that is my brother's power color, not mine), and despising authority, the rest is all true. I am psychic...I know for a fact that we will all die someday.

From the inimitable Beth, whose power color is the audacious tan. ;-)

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Embarassing is...

...when the doctor calls to give you your test results and you think she's talking about your dog, who suffers from the same medical condition.

Nurse: Hi, Gwynne, we've got your test results back from the lab and Doctor would like to lower your dosage on the levoxyl because your thyroid is being over-replaced.

Me: But we got the test results back the same day we were in and the nurse told me his T4 was in the normal range and to stay on the same dose until the 30 day supply was gone.

Nurse: No, we couldn't have given you the results the same day because they had to be sent out to the lab, [Sybil].

Me: No, I'm sure. It was the same day because he was there all day for other procedures and they checked his blood work while he was there. It was just last week. Maybe you could pull his file...

Nurse: [jumping ahead to the next subject as if I was not even talking] And also, Doctor would like for you to come in and talk about your cholesterol. It is higher than it should be.

Me: Oh! You mean me! I thought you were calling about my dog. He was recently diagnosed with hypothyroidism and just began taking the same medication I take.

Nurse: [laughs] No, no, I'm calling about you. I was beginning to wonder if we needed to refer you to a psychotherapist.

Hey, me and the dog had bloodwork done the same day, okay? These things happen. ;-)

The Blogs of Summer

Celebrating the Blogs of Summer
Now Taking Nominations

I have no idea how all of this works. But go forth and vote/nominate/whatever for your favorite blogs in each of 6 categories (up to 5 nominations in each category). Vote for me if you want to. Was that shameless enough, Lyn? The traffic should start pouring in to your site any minute now. ;-)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Bicycling Across America

Ian has decided to preserve his physical resources and drive across the "desert" of America (across Missouri, all the way to Oregon, all being exceptionally hot this time of year). His trip was postponed in the take-off phase, and he has experienced multiple equipment failures that caused further delays through the eastern states. So the drive was a disappointment for him, and now he finds himself on the western shore, ready to embark on what may be the most beautiful route in the entire country.

The only problem may be that the route is also extremely perilous for bicyclists. This is my old stomping grounds and I used to ride my bike up and down the coast. Riding south is definitely easier than riding north, due to the winds. But the roads are curvy and narrow and riding south means he will be on the cliff side of the road (perched above the ocean), sharing the road with drivers (including RV's!) that are not always patient and kind toward cyclists, especially those they cannot see. And Ian is riding a low-profile recumbent trike which sits low but also takes up more of the shoulder than a standard recumbent. In other words, I'm afraid Ian might be in for more danger than he realizes. He doesn't have a comment board at his site, but I'm sure he could use some prayers to help him arrive safely at his destination, both physically and emotionally. You can tell from his latest post that he is beginning to uncover the fact that his internal joy is not necessarily a product of his external circumstances. We should all be so wise. But can we really demand Joy? Or do we simply embrace it?

Eric has also written a nice post on Ian's quest, over at Fire Ant Gazette.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Breakfast of Champions

For Mis_Nomer ;-)

Here we have this morning's breakfast, consisting of none of the known food groups:

On How I Met My Husband

This is for Rach and Beth. The rest of you might want to skip to the next post. ;-)

I’ve never been much of a romance reader, let alone a romance writer, so this will be short.

It was a dark and stormy night.

No, no.

It was a bright and sunny afternoon. Halloween to be exact.

I was wearing a pink linen jacket with lighter pink shell underneath, and a long grey pleated linen skirt, by Liz Claiborne. And pearls. And grey suede pumps.

Details are important, no?

I was at work in San Luis Obispo, CA, minding my own business, when I received a phone call from a friend. Said friend asked if I would like to meet him and his buddy for lunch because they were close by my office (my friend was trying to break into the real estate business and was busy delivering pumpkins to folks’ doorsteps with a note to give him a call if they were interested in selling their home, an odd marketing technique for which I never heard the results; he had solicited help from my now-husband to deliver pumpkins, since this is rather strenuous physical labor for a realtor). “Sure,” I said. So off I went.

I was recently single (this short statement obviously has a lot of back story behind it which I choose not to go into at the moment) but was not searching for a husband, or boyfriend for that matter. He was also recently single and not searching for a wife or girlfriend. This was just supposed to be lunch with friends.

He had a thick Croatian accent and I had to work to understand him, but we swapped travel stories for a long time. He was once a Merchant Marine and left Croatia when he was 14 to travel the world. He’d been everywhere. Of course, I inquired about how he’d come to America and all of that. He first came to San Francisco through an agency that sponsored people to come to the U.S. for work, and then to Beverly Hills where he worked as a chauffeur and domestic help for the stars (Cher, Gene Hackman, Zsa Zsa Gabor, etc.). There was a lot to talk about.

Well, we had so much fun at lunch that they asked me if I would like to go to a costume party that night. “Sure,” I said. So after work, I went to the thrift store. The quickest, easiest thing I could put together was a witch outfit. So I went as a witch and my now-husband went as a sailor/pirate, and some things have not changed much since then. ;-)

We had a fun time at the party and became inseparable right away. He had 2 very young girls (6 months and 2 years old) who were living with their mother most of the time and these are the teenagers that I am helping to raise today (they lived with us full time for 13 years and moved back with their mother last year for a trial period which has not gone well; they return soon). We have never had any children together, by God’s will, but I believe that all things work out for good and there is a reason for this, namely 2 young girls who needed as much love as we had to give.

The End.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

A Quick Dinner

What to make when you're tired and hungry, but still in the mood for something tasty, healthy and good at the end of a long day?

My absolute favorite recipe, without a doubt is grilled salmon served on top of a green salad. We have this at least once a week, sometimes 2 or 3 times. 8-}

You can fancy up the salmon if you like, by marinading it or basting it or seasoning it with Voodoo spices, but that's not necessary. Plain old grilling is fine (or searing if you don't have a grill handy).

You can do whatever you like with the salad. I usually buy a bag of spring mix and throw in whatever extras I have (avocado, toasted nuts, mandarin oranges, tomatoes, cucumbers, blueberries, dried cranberries, whatever).

And my favorite dressing for the salad, because it goes so well with the salmon is a basalmic vinegarette (I usually make my own):

1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/3 c. fig basalmic vinegar (the recipe calls for just basalmic, but if you can get it, the fig is great with salmon
2 T. dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Crass Materialism

By special request from Beth, here is a piece of my Roseville collection (pottery made in Ohio during the Arts & Crafts period).

The post title is in reference to Beth's post on the Celebration of Discipline. But I won't be parting with my collection anytime soon. ;-)

For more pictures of my haphazard collection, go here. I hope this works...I've never tried linking to the kodak gallery site before. If not, well then, one picture must be enough. ;-) The labels on the photos refer to the Roseville pattern (I'm still trying to verify a couple of them).

I covet the green Laurel pattern, but as yet, have not been able to find one for less than the price of airfare to New Zealand.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Near Death Experiences, Part 5 (By Moat)

Update: I've now changed the post title 3 or 4 times, trying to capture the essence of stupidity evidenced in this post, should anyone stumble upon it after I'm gone. ;-) This is part of a series of near-death related incidents in my life. Others may be found here, here, here and here.

In The End, Brian suggested that he might like to hear another "Gwynne-Almost-Drowned" adventure story. I'm afraid I'm truly out of those, but I do have a "Gwynne-Almost-Drove-Into-A-Moat-And-Drowned-Us-All" adventure story. So maybe I'll share it. I don't usually share this with just anyone, so pull in close and I'll speak quietly so that nobody else can hear. ;-)

Let's preface this story with a prayer. Forgive me Father, for I knew exactly what I was doing and I did it anyway (Luke 23:34...sort of). I am not proud of this story, but it qualifies as a "blogworthy" response to Brian's request. Maybe this also qualifies as the corporate discipline of confession. In a sense, this is also a response to Rach's request to share "ways I have been blessed." All I can say is, before you do something stupid like this, please think twice and ask yourself, "do I feel lucky today?"

At any rate, here we have more excerpts from the Long and Boring Travelogue of the Trip With Excessive Luggage (extra links to prior excerpts just in case you have run out of sleep-aid pills):

First, we have The Car (this is just back story to fully appreciate the rest of the story)...

We went to pick up our rental car, and they had our reservation waiting (amazing!), an “upgrade” even, which made me examine the meaning of the word. It was a small (“economy”) diesel stick shift just like I had reserved. I’m not sure where “upgrade” fits in. And as it turned out, we might have been able to carry the car to all of our travel destinations. In fact, I’m sure it weighed less than my luggage. And then, well, and then we had to actually figure out a way to fit my luggage (oh sure, and his) inside the car. I’m glad I did well enough in geometry and calculus and linear programming to figure this all out (well, okay, I flunked linear programming, because I did not understand its applications, which were now clear). But eventually, we worked out the formula that maximized the amount of stuff we could stuff into a Yugo (or whatever kind of car it was…it was small and it was left behind by the Cold War is all I really know). My beloved husband (MBH) insisted that I ask for “another” upgrade, to an automatic…HA! "Did you forget you are in Eastern Europe…your homeland?! We’ll be doing real good if we don’t have to pedal, honey…so please just get in, sit down, hold on and shut up!" (okay, before anyone chastises me for being a disrespectful wife, I did not really say those things...I just thought them ;-). I became the designated driver for the trip, even though I could not read the signs. We would later test the car’s capacity by adding more passengers and more luggage.

And now the story...

Preface: MBH had scheduled a reunion with his childhood friends in Croatia, many of whom he had not seen in 30-40 years. He and his best friend had been planning all of the details for months and finally, the big day arrived...

We enjoyed the reunion as planned, with about 12 of MBH's childhood friends, and his surviving relatives in Senj (5 of his closest relatives had died or been killed in the war since our last visit). The Big Party was at a small local pub that shut down for our private party. We enjoyed a barbequed pig and a lamb. MBH made me take pictures of both heads as evidence. They are very proud of their barbequed animals in Croatia.

This party was very fun, even for me in a room full of smokers who all seemed to be yelling above one another the entire evening, in a language I do not understand. I enjoyed their traditional Croatian singing though (by the end of the evening, I even "knew" the words), and I "danced" polkas with MBH, his brother and his nephews. We sang and drank wine and danced until about 2:30 am and then went back to his nephew’s house for more drinking and singing. Somewhere along the way, I lost my senses.

Driving back to the nephew’s house required use of The Car...and making room for 5 passengers. Due to the drinking, I really should not have been driving, but justified doing so by the size of the car (almost like pedaling a bicycle), and the fact that it was 2:30 in the morning (no one else would be on the road). Besides, we really didn’t have far to drive, but it was too cold to walk. So I drove against my better judgment, and we came within millimeters of driving into the moat that surrounds the Old Town (his nephew lives inside the old medieval town and parking is just outside the thick city walls, across the moat; there is no curb to stop one from driving into the moat if one so chooses). It wasn’t until we left, after even more drinking, that we noticed our tires were perilously perched dead center on the edge of the concrete cliff! Another 1/4 inch (yes, I realize I've just gone from metric, what is our system called?) and gravity would have taken over. We laughed about how close we came to the edge without even knowing the cliff was there. And then, for reasons I can’t possibly justify, we got back into the car and (with a stick shift, parked on a slight grade pointed downward into the moat) backed up and drove home. Only angel’s wings kept us from going into that moat, or getting hung up on the cliff, either way causing severe damage to the rental car! I can hear the rental agent now, in perfect English, “Insurance declined? Initial here please.” I figured if we were in an accident in this car, we’d be in no shape to worry about insurance; obviously, I hadn’t considered all of the possibilities. Plunging into a moat is now at the top of my list. I promise never to do this again!!

The next morning, we were up early to go visit MBH's friend, to say good-bye. What a hangover! That moat wasn’t sounding so bad after all. I haven’t felt that bad since we drank Tequila and smoked parsley (really, parsley…don’t ever try it; the headache is unbearable), and rode our bicycles down the stairs in our apartment back in college…ahh, but what a proud moment that was. His friend was happy to see us and offered us food and tea to overcome the hangover. And then he brought out his gallstones (no joke…he even took them out of the baggie for a closer view) to show us why he had been hospitalized recently. I nearly lost it on the nice white lace tablecloth. He said that if he died tomorrow, his wish to reunite with his best friend had made him a happy man…how sweet! But I felt as if I might die today…right here on his dining table.

Before anyone could die on the table, we said our good-byes to family and friends and off we went…to play tourists for a few days. But the wind was fierce for our drive along the Adriatic Coast (busses and trucks were banned from the road due to the high winds). The curvy road along the cliffs above the ocean was dangerous enough without wind (and did I mention the hangover?)! Several times, I thought for sure The Car would be hurled off the cliff to experience wingless flight! And the people drive like maniacs, as in most of Europe I suppose, passing on blind curves, tailgating and speeding double the posted speed limit…the kind of driving seen in movies where vegetable carts go flying! The aggressive driving makes up for the fact that they are driving embarrassingly small cars. My knuckles were white and my muscles tired by the time we stopped for the night. But somewhere along the way, the hangover finally dissipated…a silver lining in every cloud.

Thank God for His Mercy!


The "Promised" Book Meme

As promised...mind you, I fell asleep doing this, so I'd venture to say the list is not particularly compelling (in keeping with my "this is not blogworthy" spirit). Here it is:

1. A book that made you cry
Bridges of Madison County, by that one-hit wonder, wuzhisname

2. A book that scared you
Jaws, by Peter Benchley (but I've done some research and learned that if you "just" punch them in the nose, sharks will leave you alone ;-)

3. A book that made you laugh (just one?)
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, by Mark Haddon

4. A book that disgusted you
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S. Thompson (but hey, it also made me laugh)

5. A book you loved in elementary school
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Willy Wonka (er, Roald Dahl)

6. A book you loved in middle school (besides Jaws?)
Suicide Submarine, by Yutaka Yokota (a documentary about the WWII Japanese kamikaze submarine pilots)

7. A book you loved in high school
Moby Dick, by Herman Melville (kidding! This book almost made me despise reading)
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey

8. A book you loved in college
Beloved, by Toni Morrison

9. A book that challenged your identity or your faith
The Last Days of Socrates, by Plato

10. A series that you love
Griffin & Sabine trilogy, if that counts as a "series"
If not, then the Sue Grafton mystery series, starting with A is for Alibi

11. Your favorite horror book
The Shining, by Stephen King

12. Your favorite science-fiction book
Um, how about Future Shock, by Alvin Toffler? I'm no fan of science fiction.

13. Your favorite fantasy book
Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis (disclaimer: I have never read LOTR)

14. Your favorite mystery book
Mystic River, by Dennis Lehane

15. Your favorite biography
This will sound really odd, but the most influential biographies were those of Knute Rockne and Babe Didrikson (read in 4th grade)

16. Your favorite coming-of-age book
Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret, followed quickly by everything else ever written by Judy Blume

17. Your favorite book(s) not on this list
A whole bunch of travel essays, including...
The Lost Continent, A Walk in the Woods, In a Sunburned Country, all by Bill Bryson
Running the Amazon, by Joe Kane

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The End

I'm all out of "material," content-free or otherwise.

I'll be back when I think of something. Feel free to leave suggestions, but I won't beg. ;-)


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Heart of Art

It's not often that we get a chance to read something as articulate and eloquent as this, by Julie at Lone Prairie Blog. I wish I had read it before posting my own random thoughts about art, but then I probably wouldn't have written a thing. Do yourself a favor and go read. Good stuff!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

What Good is Art?

Warning: I’m about to wax philosophic about art. This is not for the faint of heart. Please keep your hands inside the tram.

Brian made a comment about his visit to the Chicago Art Institute that caused an internal conversation to well up inside my head. Voices. I hear voices. ;-)

I’ve grown up around art and enjoy it a lot. I wish I had actual talent to go along with my appreciation, but I’m happy to be an art spectator. So today, what with the voices and all, I headed off to our local museum and walked around a bit and enjoyed lunch in the Rozzelle Court.

A few observations at the museum:

1) Wandering around the ancient Greek and Egyptian section, every single piece seemed to be representative of the gods or statuettes to be offered up to the gods on behalf of the deceased; everything had an explanation. But then, I came to a cabinet of small statuettes devoted to Osiris, Horus, Anubis, and a “Young Woman.” I dutifully read the wall plaque explaining the mythology behind these gods of the living and the netherworld and then read the individual placards. Here’s what the Young Woman’s card said: “The function of this statuette has stumped archeologists.” This small bronze statuette dating back to 670 BC served no function! Gasp! They’re kidding, right? I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen plenty of statuettes that served no function. The idea that all the others do and this particular one does not seemed absolutely laughable to me. I mean, I’ve seen plenty of “Portraits of a Woman” in my time and I believe those count as art, no function required.

2) Then, just when I thought the Young Woman was an anomaly, I came to another piece. This time, it was a coffer from Italy dating back to 1200 AD. On it were carvings, just like so many other marble and alabaster statues around the room, of important stuff again. This time, the card read: “The precise meaning of imagery carved is not yet understood. On the side to your right are two beasts with lion-like tails devouring the feet of a nude man hanging upside down.” I looked around to my right and yes, indeed, that is what I saw, the man’s feet already gulped down by the lion-like beasts. This can’t be the only piece depicting lions devouring men. I think I could have come up with a better explanation, but then, as I was writing this down in my notebook so that I might drop off my suggestion in the suggestion box, I was reprimanded for using a pen in the museum. A pen! I had already turned off my phone, left my camera in the car, and was wearing my backpack style purse like a purse instead of a backpack (backpacks are not allowed, so if your purse looks like a backpack, you have to wear it with just one strap on one shoulder in order not to violate the rules...the Smithsonian in D.C. has this same rule, so you've been warned).

3) Then I came to the 16th and 17th century Dutch artists. Now, I really do like these folks. These are the moralists. They use a lot of symbolism in “everyday scenes” to illustrate moralistic principles. But they too can go a little overboard and you’ve got to wonder if the artist really intended what is inferred. One in particular made me giggle. This was called Still Life and indeed it was just that. There was a wine decanter and a fallen goblet laying on the table, some fruit and cheese and a lemon with a “delicately spiraling peel” hanging over the edge of the table. Sounds like a standard still life, right? But wait, there’s more. Somehow, we are to infer that the person who was enjoying all of this had to leave the area quickly (the fallen goblet and mussed up tablecloth tell us this) which is a message about the “fleeting nature of wealth and prosperity in our mortal state.” Um, okay.

Which leads me to my point...the voices. The conversation in my head centers around the absurdity that often accompanies art, especially contemporary art. We’ve all seen the large canvas painted black with some esoteric psychoanalytical explanation on the gallery wall to explain what it “means.” But can we always interpret the meaning of nonliterary art with words? Do we really believe that the artist had all that figured out when they set out to paint the canvas black? I believe the answer is a resounding NO, because the language of nonliterary art is not found in words. It’s found in form and color, light and shadow, maybe even sounds and smells. At any rate, art affects many of our senses and sometimes, we should just let it wash over us and take it all in. But instead, we try to reduce it to words, leading to some “absurd” results.

For one, it is difficult to appreciate art because we become frustrated in the trying. We become scared off by “art snobs,” the ones who talk like they know everything. You know the type, the kind that take all the fun out of romping through art galleries for fear you’ll be kicked out as soon as they discover you’re not “one of them.”

For another, it leads to revolt by the artists. Artists like Jackson Pollock simply number their pieces...I saw one today with black paint splashed about the canvas, titled “#6.” My mom was a Fine Arts major and I remember her “abstract” period in the late 60’s where she wouldn’t title her work because she didn’t want labels attached to it. She wanted it to mean something different to everyone who viewed it.

I think the revolt, which started with the modernists at the turn of the 20th century (they wanted to force spectators to see art in its own terms as opposed to a narrative or a realistic representation), has gone to an extreme, especially when it comes to “contemporary” art. It's gone so far that now, words are needed in order to turn something into "art." How else is a string of christmas lights or a pile of candy on the floor going to become "art?" The whole goal of contemporary art seems to be to start a conversation, to make a statement of some kind...usually social, political, or religious. So in a sense, the revolt has gone full circle.

I, for one, enjoy art for its beauty, and appreciate the talent behind its creation. I believe art is as close to divine creation as Man can achieve; it is the product of ideas; it’s what sets Man apart from the beasts. Art may not have any intrinsic value (I mean, we can live without it), but it gives our lives value.

Friday, July 07, 2006


I received this email today from a dear friend and really love this poem. In today's materialistic world, in which we often find ourselves wishing we had more, this is a pleasant reminder that all it really takes to make us happy and appreciate what we do have is "enough:"

I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright no matter how gray the day may appear.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun even more.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive and everlasting.
I wish you enough pain so that even the smallest of joys in life may appear bigger.
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final good-bye.

A Birthday Meme

For my birthday, I'm just going to play along with this meme I found at Lyn's place, Bloggin' Outloud. Feel free to play along.


1. Go to Wikipedia.

2. In the search box, type your birth month and day (but not year).

Mine is TODAY (July 7 or 7/7) :-)

3. List three important events that happened on your birthday.

1947 - Downed UFO believed to be found in the Roswell UFO incident (we're all a little better as the result of this bit of historic lunacy)

1991 - Yugoslav Wars: Brioni Agreement ended ten-day independence war in Slovenia against the rest of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. (Unfortunately, Croatia's and Bosnia's respective fights for independence were not as efficient)

2004 - The last patent on the LZW compression algorithm (in Canada) expired. (just when we thought nothing important ever happened on my birthday) ;-)

4. List two interesting birthdays and one interesting death.


1940 - Ringo Starr

1906 - William Feller, Croatian mathematician (I'm sure you all wish a "famous" mathematician was born on your birthday) ;-)


2005 - 52 innocent people in the London subway, the result of terrorist bombings (a sad day)

1129 -
Emperor Shirakawa of Japan (born and died on my birthday, different years ;-)

5. List one holiday or observance (if none, make one up).

Bottler Bonza Day (I'm not making this up although this is the first I've heard of it; the mascot is a dancing groundhog...this is just so fitting)


Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Advanced Kick Ball

We have been recording and watching most (or many) of the games in this year’s World Cup Soccer. The team we most hoped would win (Croatia) was eliminated early on, but fought an admirable first game against Brazil, losing 1 to 0. This, against the tournament favorite was enough to give us hope that maybe Croatia would make it to the second round, if not the finals. But, as with the United States team, there was disappointment ahead and neither team made it to the second round.

My favorite underdog team was Ghana. Even though Ghana was a part of the problem for the U.S., we were sorry to see them tossed out so early in the second round (losing to Brazil in a predictable game). I don’t think I’ve seen a more sportsmanlike underdog team, ever. In a tournament that has had more than its share of temper tantrums and bad calls, the Ghana team played cleaner than any I’ve seen, even holding the ball until a fallen opponent was back on his feet. In their surprising (and first ever World Cup) win, against the Czechs, I cried. And the people of Ghana enjoyed their 15 minutes of fame. They won that game fairly and tactically. They were solid and deserved every victory.

So far, every finals game we have watched was won in the last minutes, if not seconds, of play, most in overtime and/or penalty kicks. France just beat Portugal in the semi-final match on a penalty kick and Italy beat Germany by scoring two goals in the last two minutes of overtime. The teams are all so evenly matched. Germany (playing on its home field) beat Argentina when it blocked England’s final penalty kick after a double overtime and no goals. Portugal beat England in similar fashion, on penalty kicks. It’s always disappointing to me when a game goes that long without scoring and is ultimately decided on penalty kicks, where everything falls on the shoulders of just two men, face to face.

If there is one thing to walk away with after watching the World Cup, it’s the capacity for man to push himself physically to the limits. I don’t think there is a group of athletes out there that can compete with soccer players for best overall fitness levels. With 90 minutes of regulation play and only one break at half time, and many games running into 30 minutes of overtime, we’re talking about running, jumping, kicking, shooting, rolling and tumbling at full speed, at full force for nearly 2 hours straight! I’d rather watch a soccer game over an American football game any day of the year. The tactics and skill required are far superior, imho.

There’s still time to watch the final game if you haven’t been keeping up with the earlier games. The final game pits Italy against France next Sunday afternoon (at least that’s when it will be aired here). Germany and Portugal will duke it out for third place on Saturday. France may be the underdog, but I think we’ll be rooting for Italy.

And now I’m going to say something very girly and shallow. Guys, close your eyes. There is no better sports uniform than the soccer uniform. You can have all the Speedos, lycra cycling shorts, football, basketball and baseball uniforms. Those do nothing for me. But put a man with incredible legs in a pair of loose fitting soccer shorts, a white shirt and shin guards, and there’s just a certain boyish quality that I find incredibly charming. Okay, I’ll be going now. 8-}

God Bless America!

What a lovely, lovely weekend.

We took advantage of the four day weekend and spent all of it relaxing.

Friday, we went down to the river market in Kansas City and watched a wonderful fireworks display over the Missouri river. We had to park and walk two miles for a good seat, but it was worth it and it got our fireworks watching out of the system in case the rain they predicted on the 4th became a reality.

Saturday, MBH took his 4 NASCAR truck tickets and a couple friends to the Speedway while I spent the morning in the dentist chair. Here's how the conversation on Friday night went:

MBH: "I have 4 tickets to the truck races on Saturday. Wanna go?"
Me: "Oh, darn, I'd love to go but I have a dentist appointment"
MBH: "You could always reschedule."
Me: "But I'd really rather get my teeth cleaned than go to the truck races."
MBH: "Girls!"

So, he enjoyed the races and I enjoyed watching World Cup Soccer while getting my teeth sand blasted. It wasn't all bad. No cavities!

Sunday, we loaded up the truck with our bicycles and suitcases and headed to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, a wonderful little relaxing artist colony in the Ozark mountains. It also happens to be near Lake Leatherwood, home of the Fat Tire Festival. This means lots of "good" mountain bike trails. Now, we are not true mountain bike enthusiasts. In fact, we ride our mountain bikes on roads mostly. But we asked someone where we might find some good bike trails and they sent us to Lake Leatherwood. A true mountain biker would appreciate this place. We, on the other hand, were in over our heads. We asked one of the rangers for the easiest trail and he pointed us to a 4-mile trail around the lake. We spent the next 3 hours "riding" 4 miles. Most of this time was spent pushing our bikes along a rugged trail better intended for pack mules. We also spent about a half hour swimming. It was hot and humid and we were in desperate need of a cool break. Since we didn't bring our bathing suits, we just removed our shoes and watches and jumped into the lake wearing our shorts and t-shirts. The rest of the "ride" was a bit soggy (we should have worn lycra), but much cooler.

We ate well (twice at The Smokehouse and Guido's BBQ...the best ribs ever, bar none! And the fry bread dripping with butter and honey? To die for!!), did some shopping in the art galleries around town, and listened to live bluegrass music in Basin Park, a beautiful park in the middle of town that sits in a basin of terraced landscaping fed by natural springs:

* click to enlarge

(The young girl in this picture came up to the motley hillbilly crew with her nice new fiddle in its nice case and politely asked if she could join them. They asked her a few questions and helped her get in the right key and then asked her to play a few bars. Rather than jump right in and start playing over the top of her, they all looked on in awe...she blew them away. She was the sweetest thing, completely confident in her abilities but not at all arrogant. Before long, they were all playing together as if they had practiced for years.)

On our way out of town, we stopped in at our favorite spot in Eureka Springs, Thorncrown Chapel. Our timing was just perfect because we walked in just as the woman who normally sings at Sunday services was finishing up a narrative of the history of the chapel for a busload of visitors and preparing to sing God Bless America and The Star Spangled Banner. Take a look at the photos in the's just wonderful. This place is simply beautiful and with the music, sublime...the perfect place to pray for the leaders of our country and all who serve it. And a perfect ending to a perfectly fun and relaxing weekend.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Creedence Clearwater Revisited

We went to a concert Thursday night!

But there was something very anti-climactic about the band’s new name and the opening song (not the song itself, but the way they played it...without enthusiasm, without conviction, like this was just another night at the office...ack, this was going to be a disappointment). I didn’t even realize we had purchased tickets for “Revisited” instead of “Revival.” Was it even the same band? At all? They seemed in need of some revival. Thankfully, it got better as the evening progressed. In fact, by the second song, they kicked it up a notch and became more of what we had come to see (and hear). Absent was John Fogerty who left the band years ago. But with a new lead singer who sang with that same gruff voice and a young talented lead guitarist, the original drummer and bass player (who have played together since they were 13 years old, in their garage) played all of their old hits (and nothing else), pleasing the fans who all looked like older, plumper versions of their former 60’s/70’s “swamp rock” groupie selves. I, of course, was too young to be much of a groupie at that time, but enjoyed listening to them perform so many classics like Suzie Q, Heard it Through the Grapevine, and Proud Mary.

It turned out to be a very fun evening, a much needed night out.

Blogger Problems

Is it telling that when you type in the key words “blogger problems,” Google returns 46,900,000 results?!

Was it just me, or was Blogger out all day today?