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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Novel Yoga

December 31, 2011
What is your "one word"? One word for this year, one word for next year.
Me

This was one of the first prompts from last year's Reverb project.  I never wrote that post, but I have been using "yoga" as my word for this year.  I have used the word to be a touchstone this year, as my mantra when I needed to calm myself.  I don't know what others experiences with one word for was, but for me it was incredibly powerful.

I chose yoga because I wanted to ensure, or rather force myself, into taking at least one yoga class for the year and I wanted to bring that practice home with me.  I was successful on both those ventures. I also wanted to encourage myself to be more "mindful."  I took a Mindfulness class several years ago and wanted to bring that practice more to the forefront of my life.

Mindfulness is being aware of yourself and your actions.  It's a practice of doing things with intent.  It is not  moving from the couch only to realize the can of Salt and Vinegar Pringles, the pint of Cherry Garcia, and half a pan of brownies have disappeared without a trace after watching umpteen straight episodes of <insert television series here> and having no idea if it is day or night.  It is having a scoop of Cherry Garcia and savoring it while doing nothing else.  Mindfulness is accepting your limitations and taking action to stretch them.  It is accepting that the body hurts and then moving on.  Mindfulness does not dwell on the negative; it acknowledges them then moves on to savor the good things.

To me (and many others) mindfulness and yoga go hand in hand.  For the curious, the book I first used was Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

For 2012, my word is "novel".  I will edit my novel.  I will bring more novelty into my life.  I will try novel (and mundane) new foods.  I will pursue novel activities and read novels outside my comfort zone. I will use the idea of novel experiences to say "yes" to more offerings and to be more creative myself. And I will do this all with intent.  The yoga isn't going anywhere.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Elvira, It Goes On and On

December 29, 2011
What was the soundtrack of your year? Of your life? Which songs most strongly represent the various eras of your life? What songs were playing for the most crucial, formative moments of your life? Or, if the chronological approach doesn't work for you, which songs best capture the different facets of your life? (Childhood, Love Life, Adulthood, Loss, Growth, Career, Happiness, Sadness, etc.) Please elaborate.


Early Childhood
  • Animal Stories as told by Uncle Lar' and L'il Tommy
    were required break while doing chores in my pre-kindergarten days. My dad and cousin would lean against the stanchion separators and listen to these stories then go on with their work. Quiet was mandatory. We still call my brother, Tom, L'il Tommy
  • Oakridge Boys - Elvira
    This is the first song I can remember singing along to. Oomp papa, Oom papa, mow mow.
  • George Strait - Ocean Front Property
    The first song where I questioned the logic of the lyrics. I was old enough to figure out there wasn't any ocean front property in Arizona. 


Middle School
  • Tiffany
    This goes right along with Poochie and my mysterious sweatshirt.  


High School
  • Chad & Jeremy  - Summer SongOne of my dad's favorite songs.  Always worth a listen.
  • Richard Marx - Right Here Waiting For YouThe first song I can remember all of my piano-playing classmates learning how to play. And for a time it was the only thing played on the school pianos, beating out even Heart and Soul.
  • Simon & Garfunkel - The Sound of SilenceFor some reason, when attempting to write a speech about this song, I had a glimmer of enlightenment about the meaning of the song and then it disappeared.  It was the first time that I had ever felt meaning slip through my fingers.
  • Bonnie Rait - Something to Talk About, Sinead O'Connor - Nothing Compares to You, and Seal - Kiss from a RoseThe songs I remember playing incessently on Z104, the Top 40 station of my high school years, while I attempted to do my homework and figure out how to fit in with my high school classmates


    College


    • Dvorak - Symphony #9 and Green Day - Dookie
      One of my study tapes had the symphony on one side and Dookie on the other.
    • Violent Femmes - Blister in the SunThis is the song that one hears when walking around campus on 'Dillo Day.  It seems to summarize the sense of being young, with friends, and in the sun. Though, really, that's not what the song is about.
    • Pulp Fiction Soundtrack
      The standard at all college parties of the time, or at least with my friends. This is still one of my favorite soundtracks.  Right now, Son of a Preacher Man is running through my head.
    • Prince - When Doves CryFor some reason, this was playing on the radio the summer I walked a lot, trying to get rid of my anger at working at a fast food restaurant
    • Smashing Pumpkins
      Pearl Jam and Nirvana may be the "true" grunge rockers, but it's the Smashing Pumpkins that are my favorite from this era
    • The Beatles
      The Beatles came into my life in college. Revolver is still my favorite Beatles album

      Post College
      • Van Morrison - Jackie Wilson SaidThe first time I had my heart broken this had been our song.  I wasn't able to listen to this song for years afterwards
      • Semisonic - Closing Time and Joan Osborne's Relish
        Music from the Norris Center Bookstore, where I learned that the music could be more important than the job.
      • Ben Folds Five - Song for the DumpedJust a great song for when a relationship comes to a nasty end



        First Years in Minnesota

        • U2 - Joshua Tree and Beethoven's Symphonies (MnOrch's version are great)
          Music that I listened to obsessively the first years I lived in Minnesota

        Getting to Know Jon
        • Dresden Dolls - Coin Operated Boy
          I heard this song on The Current one day.  The next time I see Jon, I tell him about it.  He starts singing it to me. While not the most romantic song in the world, it makes me think of my husband every time I hear it
        • Ben Folds with the Minnesota Orchestra
          It was the first time I heard "The Luckiest." Folds is an amazing musician and his performances with symphony orchestras are wonderful.  Also, he makes a great Sonny.
        • Shatner - Real
          The discussion about Coin-Operated Boy actually lead me to Shatner's Common People, which lead to Has Been. My favorite song on the album is Real. 

        Marrying Jon
        • Dave Matthews Band - Crash
          Slow-dancing with Jon shortly after we got engaged 
        • Ben Folds  - The Luckiest and Gracie
          The dance with my husband and the dance with my dad

        Recently I have been obssessing over listening to:
        • Mumford & Sons
        • The Avett Brothers

        Now that I've gotten through this, I realize I can't think of any songs I associate with my mom. Well, except Elvis, there's always Elvis.


        Wednesday, December 28, 2011

        Not Gifts and Domain Names

        December 28 Reverb Broads
        Do you consider yourself a romantic person? Do you prefer fancy dinners, roses and chocolate romantic, or are you more non-traditional? What's the most romantic thing you have ever done for a loved one or had done for you?
        Kassie at http://bravelyobey.blogspot.com/

        I would say that I have cliched romantic expectations and then, when they are fulfilled I find myself extremely disappointed.  I have come to realize that there are somethings that are better left to chance.  I no longer want roses for Valentine's Day.  I would rather have a bunch of grocery store flowers, "Just because".  But I'm not going to kid you, I still want the chocolate and the card. I would almost rather make my own fancy dinner than go out for it, but having a clean kitchen is pretty damn romantic, too.

        I don't know if it's the most romantic gift my husband has ever received, but it certainly falls into the category of the most thought-filled present I have ever given.  For our first Christmas, wherein we each went to our separate families, I wrote a picture book for Jon and sent it to his parents' house to be put under the tree.  It was a book of what he was not going to get for Christmas and it was in rhyme.  For example he wasn't going to get a sonic screwdriver* so he could be like MacGyver; nor was he going to get a yellow lambourghini because I had no three-wish giving genie.  Anyway, I put a lot of thought into it and it featured things we had talked or joked about.

        The most romantic thing I've ever had done for me? Well, for Christmas this year Jon gave me 2bperfectlyfrank.com, my very own domain for my blog.  He was a little chagrined about not finding a way to wrap it in paper, but he did a pretty good job of wrapping it in words.  Something to the effect of "You've been having a lot of fun writing your blog this year, especially this month."  He had also previously mentioned that gifts should be something that the receiver never knew they really wanted. I really am going to have to keep him now.

        So, next year, I'll be on my very own site.  Right now my computer is acting up and I'm focusing on getting that resolved, so stay tuned for updates.

        ________
        *He has gotten the 10th and the 11th Doctor's sonics for various Valentine's Days.  I see ThinkGeek now has River Song's, hmm.......Sonic Screwdriver duel anyone?

        Monday, December 26, 2011

        Saturday, December 24, 2011

        Pink, Poochie, Plaques, Peals of Laughter, and Pencils

        December 24 Reverb Broads
        Name your top 5 best holiday gifts given or received. Who gave it to you? Who were you giving it to? Why was it memorable?
        Kassie at http://bravelyobey.blogspot.com/

        The first thing I wanted to write about was my pink GUESS sweatshirt with the dogs on it*.  I can remember walking through the Janesville Mall with my mom.  We passed by a store that had some on display in the window and she asked me if that was the shirt I wanted.  I said yes and thought little more of it.    That Christmas, there it was, the sweatshirt I wanted, the one that I thought there was no chance I was ever going to get. My mom always was good about that sort of thing.

        As much as I would like to deny it, I did go through a "girl-y" phase.  For what ever reason, I desperately wanted this  ---->.

        A pink dog that stamped things when you pushed down on her sunglasses.  I think there was special pink paper.  And look, it's "For Girls." Ugg...I hope think I got over that pretty quick.



        I'm not nearly so good at giving gifts.   There was the year I gave my dad a "World's Best Dad" (or something similar) plaque. I have no idea how old I was; I would have been old enough to be allowed to buy gifts by myself, but my age was still likely in the single digits. I gave a plaque to my mom that year, too.  Hers featured a woman with curly hair coming out of a cap, a mis-buttoned coat, and a host of other signs of not being put together.  Hers said "God knows I try."  Don't ask me what the thought process was.  I can only think I was trying to tell her that I knew she was always trying her hardest, even if she wasn't always successful.


        Given my lack of gift-giving ability, it's a good thing that there is a certain predictability to gift giving with my family, especially with my dad.  For the most part all my brother and I need to do is buy some Fannie May Mint Meltaways and some cashews and we're golden.  This year was no different, up to and including my father throwing balls of wrapping paper at me.  Remember, it's always fun to make Amy scream.  That's the biggest gift I give my dad most years: squeals of disgust as he throws wrapping paper at me, puts his icy cold hands on my bare neck, throws more wrapping paper at me, or sneaks up behind me to poke me in the sides.  Of course, it all ends up laughter in the end.



        But the best gift I've received in quite some time is one that my husband gave me this year.


        Yep, my very own library kit. It even comes with a "genuine pencil." I can't want until I have my library.  Until then, my books will just stay in their boxes.












        _______
        *I spent quite a bit of time last night trying to find an image of this sweatshirt.  I was not able to find one. If you have one, please send it along.  I'd like to think that it actually exists.

        Friday, December 23, 2011

        I'm dreaming of a white-collar job

        December 23, 2011

        If you could have any job, what would it be?
        Dana at http://simply-walking.com/


        Up until some time in high school I wanted to be a veterinarian.  It was herd check day and I realized I didn't want to be doing pregnancy tests on cows for a living.  Since then, I've never really figured out what I want to be when I grow up.

        My dream job would have the following features:
        • An office with a window and ability to work mostly by myself
        • Spreadsheets and statistical analysis
        • Writing, not standard operating procedures or manuals, but non-fiction
        • Research
        • The ability to spend the day following threads through the internet
        • Freedom to make my own hours
        • A fun group of co-workers
        • Not in academia
        • Relatively free of politics
        • Technical, even though I would likely be on the sidelines of the technology
        • Likely at a small to medium-sized business
        • Projects sufficiently detailed that the end is visible, but still allows for plenty of creativity

        Thursday, December 22, 2011

        Polygons For The Win!

        December 22 Reverb Broads
        If someone made a board game of your life, what would it look like? What pieces would you need to play?
        Jessica at http://profbanks.com/

        My original thought is that my game would likely be a card game, rather than a board game. If for no other reason than I would rather play cards that play

        My board game would be something like this.

        Materials:

        • 1 hour glass timer
        • 1 storage bag
        • 4 square frames
        • 48 multi-colored polygon tiles

        For up to four (4) players or teams, ages 5 and up


        Each player takes turns selecting tiles from a bag (think Scrabble tiles) until the tiles are gone.

        The timer would start and each player would have approximately one (1) minute to put as many tiles as possible into their frame using the following rules:
        • Each tile must touch the frame
        • Each tile must be either the same shape or same color as the tile next to it (think Uno rules)
        • Tiles may not over lap
        • Tiles may not extend past the border of the frame
        • Players may shift tiles within the frame or remove tiles from the frame at any time
        Once the time is up, the player who has placed the most tiles in the frame wins that round.



        Why this game?
        • Primary colors: I tend to see the big picture first, the into the subtleties
        • Polygons: Straight lines are pretty
        • Rules: As a Myers-Briggs INTJ, I love (love) rules, but I want them to be flexible enough that I can "game" the system
        • Time Limit: I like knowing when I'm done, even if it is an arbitrary deadline
        • Clear winner: I like to know how to win the game
        I have to admit I'm surprised that it's not a card game or a word game.


        Wednesday, December 21, 2011

        Love or Logic

        December 21 Reverb Broads
        If you returned (or went, if you've never been) to college to study anything you want, what would you major in, and why?
        Matt at http://thegeekygay.posterous.com

        Does one go back to school for logic or love? In a world where neither time nor money are constraints does one obtain additional education to advance their profession or their passion?

        I obtained an MS in Project Management because I felt it would advance me professionally.  I did well and enjoyed it, but I certainly wouldn't say that I had a passion for it.  On an almost weekly basis I think  I should go back to school and get a degree in engineering (mechanical, I think) and/or statistics.  Statistics is just a natural connection to my love of spreadsheets.  As for the engineering I seem to have ended up in the medical device and automation fields.  Going to back to school for subject of those could make my recent jobs a career.

        But I've done enough reading, especially Kohn's Punished by Rewards, to know that I should go back to school under an intrinsic rather than extrinsic motivation.

        I love books, but I don't think I could be a literature major.  The few literature classes I've taken make me realize how much I miss when I read books.  I think I would rather just read on my own time.

        I was a credit short of a philosophy minor in undergrad.  I suppose I could go back and study that.

        But really, at the end of the day, my love is sociology and gender.  I already have a BA in Sociology. Just today, Emily's husband posted this article about girls and Lego on his Facebook page.  I love studying women's roles, men's roles, intrinsic and extrinsic motivations, in-group and out-group relations, systems and bureaucracies.  How do religion, the economy, war and myriad other pressures create generational groups?  How are my Gen X'ers different than today's snowflakes, and yesterday's baby boomers? Did you know that marriages get worse and more violent as the economy gets worse, but the divorce rate drops? That's gender studies and sociology wrapped up into one pretty bow.

        Yep, I'm pretty sure I could go back and take gender studies and sociology classes. And guess what, there are a lot of stats to be had there, too. 



        Monday, December 19, 2011

        An Evening in the Life

        December 19 Reverb Broads
        Self-Portrait: Post a picture of you that you like, write about yourself, post a video - what do you want your self-portrait to say about you?
        Kristen at http://kristendomblogs.com/

        There are very few pictures I like of myself.  I suspect I'm like many people in that respect.  I decided to choose three from our recent visit to Jon's grandma and uncle.  They seem to capture the basic elements of me.

        I'm wearing blue jeans and a cotton shirt.  My favorite type of clothes.






        I tend to slide into myself when I'm doing mundane tasks. In this picture I am lost in my own little world.  The chunk of bangs that always falls in my face has fallen and I'm completely unaware of my picture being taken.  I'm off in this little world quite often.  It's what makes it so absolutely easy to startle the bejeebers out of me.







        This is me in my standard, "Yes, what do you want?" pose. Notice the hand on the hip.  Yep, that's standard, too.  Apparently I've been a hands on the hips gal since I was a toddler.  And the expression, yes, it's a bit unpleasant (?). But really, it's just my neutral look. I really don't mean to scare people, but I do.  Sorry.





        And this is me sharing pictures with Grandma. That's what I do like to do.  Share things that make people happy.







        ___
        All pictures by Jon

        Sunday, December 18, 2011

        Grandmothers and the like

        December 18 Reverb Broads
        Who would you most like to meet and why?
        Dana at http://simply-walking.com/

        I would love to meet someone famous or life-changing or at least who changed my life. Yet, on the occasions where I've had the opportunity to meet some of my favorite authors find myself completely shy and awkward. For example, I stood there silently, scared to open my mouth as Dave Eggers drew his left hand into my copy of a Heartbreaking Work of Terrible Genius. 

        I hate that sense that I should be able to converse naturally with these people, though completely incapable of doing so.  I can only imagine how painful it must be for them, sitting there with dumbfounded mutes all around. If I'm going to meet someone, I'd rather that all of us to be comfortable.   I would like to meet my grandmothers.

        My maternal grandmother, Grandma F, died from an accidental fall down the stairs when I was in eighth grade, so it is somewhat disingenuous to say I haven't met her. For those first thirteen years of my life, I certainly knew her, but only as a child knows a grandparent. What I would like to do is to meet her as an adult.  Her three sisters, "The Aunts", are three of the smartest and most wickedly funny people you will ever meet.  I can't imagine that Grandma F. would be any different. 

        With regard to my paternal grandmother, she passed away before my birth.  My grandfather remarried before I was born and she has always been my Grandma K.  I would like to meet my dad's mom. Women are usually the key to family history continuity.  My dad, his siblings, and his cousins are all great story tellers, but it would be nice to be in the kitchen and hearing the stories from another point of view. There is something magical  about women sharing stories.  It's those stories that help hold a family together.

        I would think that by meeting two women who are a part of me, it would be far more comfortable to sit down and have coffee and tasty baked goods with them rather than feeling I need to impress someone famous. A little more history to tie me into the world behind me.  A couple more roots to give me strength to stretch my branches into the world.


        Saturday, December 17, 2011

        10 Things I Hate

        December 17 Reverb Broads
        Instead of a list of your favorite things, write a list of your least favorite things, e.g. Worst book you ever finished, the color you hate, bad songs, bad romances, bad recipes.
        Me


        During confirmation class our pastor asked what the opposite of love was.  When we said hate, he told us we were wrong.  Hate, he said, is really a different sort of love.  They're both strong emotions that demand enormous amounts of energy.  The difference is that one of them is fulfilling, the other fruitless.

        That being said, I love to complain about the things I hate.

        1. People who suck the life out things. For example, walking out on a spring day and I notice some of the first buds of the season.  After pointing them out to my companion, this person goes on a rant about how even the first bit of spring ends in death and decay.
        2. People who don't use their turn signals.  I'm with Nikki on this one.
        3. Caraway seed, potato salad, coleslaw, meat loaf, and most winter squash.  The first three I cannot eat; I will spit them out if somehow they enter my mouth. As for the last two,   I am capable of swallowing them, but I'd really rather not have the opportunity.
        4. Television commercials.  I hate the way they break up a show.
        5.  Pepto-bismol and breast cancer awareness pink.  Both are fine institutions.  I just think they got stuck with bad colors.
        6. Having a kitchen full of staples, always.  Except for that one ingredient, that we always have, except for tonight when I need it.
        7. When I get home from work and want to sit quietly and read or just generally zone out and my husband really, really, really needs to talk to me.
        8. Shopping for clothes.  Books, music, stuff for the house, sure, but clothes? Please, I beg you, spare me.
        9. The morning hosts on the classic rock station on my husband's alarm clock
        10. Underwear that is too tight and socks that are too loose


        Friday, December 16, 2011

        This will be more fun then half a cookie*

        December 16 Reverb Broads
        What are your biggest pet peeves?


        I get annoyed by things.  A lot.  However, there are two things that annoy me beyond reason.

        I can't really condone their/there/they're, your/you're, were/we're etc. misuse, but since I am guilty of it**, I suppose I'm obligated to give out the occasional pardon.  In fact, while basic grammar failures annoy me, they are understandable, if only from the "English is boring, is it time for recess," mentality of most students.

        What I cannot understand is how people confuse "then" and "than."  Yes, they are 75% the same word.  And yes, depending on regional dialects, they likely to even sound similar. But they are entirely different words. Yet in written and spoken English, I frequently encounter them used incorrectly.

        Let's allow The Oatmeal to explain, shall we?

        Now that you know how to use "then" and "than", I think it's time to move on to my biggest pet peeve: 
        The Half Cookie (insert ominous music here)

        Based on a rather limited sample, this seems to be a Minnesota phenomenon.  As part of being "nice," no Minnesotan wants to take the last cookie or slice of pizza or sheet of paper or really any comestible or supply.  The "nice" person simply takes half a cookie.  Look, if you want the cookie, take the whole damn cookie.  If you want to share the cookie with someone who is in the immediate proximity, please do so.  But, for the love of all that is good and true, please do not leave half a cookie to "share" with the person who walks into the room half an hour later.  


        _____
        *the use of "then" is intentionally wrong

        **in my defense usually in casual, unedited text

        Thursday, December 15, 2011

        Going Caveman

        December 15 Reverb Broads
        Did you taste any new flavors this year? Did you love or hate them or something in between? Will you incorporate these new flavors into your life? 

        A little over three months ago I went "caveman." Essentially, after having a complete freak out about my weight I made the decision, with plenty of support from Jon, to dramatically change our eating habits.  No grains (particularly corn and wheat), no processed foods, no legumes, no potatoes, dairy optional. It's low carb and high protein. It's part of a lifestyle known as caveman or paleo.  Essentially eating what our caveman forebears would have eaten: meat, vegetables, fruits, and nuts.

        For the most part, it has been relatively easy.  I've learned that cauliflower "rice" is a decent base for curries and stir fries.  I enjoy my plain yogurt with fruit and nuts for breakfast. Braised cabbage makes an excellent side. Apparently, though I don't really care for winter squash, I'm surprised to find that with tomato sauce, spaghetti squash is pretty good. I've even made paleo biscuits and gravy.  The gravy part tastes just about spot on, the biscuits leave a lot to be desired.  Good thing that going paleo lets a person cheat now and again.

        I've even caveman-ed some favorite recipes.  I'm still learning.  I will say that I've lost about 20 lbs. On the days when I stick to the rules my appetite is well under control.

        But I've also made some other lovely things.  Kassie blogged about these browned butter Rice Krispie treats and I must say they are fantastic.  I've had this recipe for Chocolate, Almond, Cranberry Biscotti in my recipe box for ages.  I finally made them this year, only substituting dried tart cherries for the cranberries.  I think they may be one of my most favorite things ever.

        There have been a lot of new flavors this year.  Many of them I will have to carry into the next year.  Twenty pounds is a great start, but I have a long way to go.  Of course, I'm still going to be looking forward to the next new tasty baked good recipe.
        _________
        I suspect there are readers who will wonder why I chose the gender specific, caveman.  I know it's likely un-pc.  I don't care.  Such is life.

        Wednesday, December 14, 2011

        Something to really be guilty about

        December 14 Reverb Broads
        Is volunteering something you do regularly? If yes where do you volunteer? If not, why not?

        This is certainly a guilt inducing prompt.

        I grew up in a volunteering culture. I volunteered with m 4-H club and with the church I grew up in.  My mom still volunteers as an election judge and donates time to the church. I donate blood because my dad donates blood.

        The volunteering tapered off in college. I still did some random volunteering, but I allowed my time to be gobbled up by euchre and working to pay for college.

        After a couple of years in the Twin Cities, I started volunteering with Single Volunteers of the Twin Cities (SVTC) for admittedly selfish reasons. I was volunteering most weekends. I also got trained as an ESL and adult basic education tutor and tutored weekly at the library.

        Volunteering is important. I think, and likely others would agree, that volunteering is the best way to get to know a community. For me, volunteering was a lifeline out of the depression that being lonely and single in a new town.

        But, I haven't volunteered much in recent years. One must be single to be in SVTC. I took a job that required working evenings and stopped tutoring. I tried getting involved in the local 4-H, but aside from passing the screening, nothing happened. The 4-H organization in Minnesota seems to be quite different than the 4-H I grew up in. The real fault lies in me.  I never figured out how to truly offer my help.

        With any luck this prompt will force me into action for the New Year. I moved into a new town/county this summer. I have a new community to learn. Maybe I'll find some way to share my myriad (but suspect) talents.

        Tuesday, December 13, 2011

        Cleaning Trivial Spreadsheets

        December 13 Reverb Broads
        What are three things you are better at than most people 


        Three things that I'm better at that most people, in no particular order:

        1. Retaining Random Bits of Trivia
          In college my friends took to calling me Cliff after the character on Cheers because of my tendency have a "storehouse of useless trivia, often of dubious veracity and bearing little relation to the conversation going on at the bar." Though I would like to think that my trivia is useful.

          A few weeks ago one of my co-workers, quite out of the blue, asked me if I knew if fish oil pills caused indigestion. Well, since one can buy fish oil pills that don't cause "fish burps" it seemed to me that, in fact, they could cause indigestion. See, not only do I retain knowledge, I can use it for myriad purposes.


        2. Spreadsheets
          I love spreadsheets.  I love using them to organize information, for calculating sums, analyzing things.  I know all sorts of tips and tricks.  I'm the go-to gal when people need help with their spreadsheets. And I can usually, but not always, make MS Word and Powerpoint behave.

        3. Cleaning
          I may not be the world's best housekeeper, but when I do clean, I clean.  Top to bottom, inside and out.  I get rid of hard water stains, take toothbrushes to grout lines, use shish kebab skewers to that excavate the gunk out of that nasty little seam between the oven and the counter, and disassemble fans/toaster ovens/other small appliances to ensure that every last bit of filth is gone.  Bleach, vinegar, Dawn dishsoap, and Barkeeper's Friend are my companions.  

        Monday, December 12, 2011

        Friday Freedom

        Name and explain the one guilty pleasure you can't live without. ie: that cupcake shop you visit weekly, a book you repeatedly read to find solace in, etc). Then explore the idea of how you would feel if you gave that thing up for a year. 


        I have a longer commute and usually spend more time at work than my husband, I to leave the house before he does and then return after him. For the most part, when I’m home, he’s home.

        Except for Friday afternoons. My last two jobs had short Fridays. It was possible to work nine hours each day Monday through Thursday and then leave at noon on Friday. My Friday afternoons, home alone, are completely decadent. I get to watch my “chick” shows and movies piled up in the Netflix queue. I treat myself to some takeout for lunch or a chocolate-y coffee drink or a tasty baked good (or, sometimes all three – that’s the guilty part). I take a nap. I run errands free from the hassle of after-work and weekend crowds. I read.  I write. It is my time to be “single”. My time to be alone and lazy.

        With my new job, my solo Fridays are few and far between. Core work hours at 9-3, even on Fridays. A week ago I had Friday afternoon meetings at 2pm, 4pm, and 4:30pm.

        How would I deal with a year without my Fridays? Well, I’m already a bit put out that I don’t have as many as I used to. A year without them?!? I imagine there are not enough calming agents in the world to completely replace what a well-placed Friday afternoon can do for my psyche.

        Sunday, December 11, 2011

        The Nut Doesn't Fall far from the Tree, Revisited

        How are you like your mother? And if you're a mother, how is/are your kid(s) like you?





        Like I said, my dad, brother, and husband are all more than happy to tell you how I am like my mom, usually because they find it so amusing.

        So, for the easy things.  I don't have kids.  I'm not able to address that.  Also, I'm a good 6 inches taller than my mom. Such is life.

        Still, I chose to query my cousin and my brother about five characteristics that they associated with my mom. Thus far my brother has been kind enough to provide me with cranky and forgetful. Which, sadly enough I share.  At least the cranky part.  I'm going to disagree about the forgetful part.

         My cousin, Gretchen, on the other hand, was quite helpful

        Aunt Karen is a hard-working person who demands perfection from those that she works with and those that cut vegetables for Italian salad. She's a stellar cook and enjoys having family around, at least I think so. When I was a kid her style was pretty traditional, meat, potatoes and a veggie, get a glass of milk and get eating. It has morphed some into new dishes with spices I can't pronounce or find in the store, but still really good. She believes men can cook, clean and do laundry and encouraged me to make sure my husband knew how to do those things when I got married. No gathering is complete without a cup of coffee and something to dunk in it, no matter what time of the day the gathering takes place. Your mom works hard to find gifts that bring back memories for her sister and things that are handmade to keep me warm. She doesn't miss major life events (graduations, birthdays, holidays, weddings) and uses her meticulous qualities to make sure everything is perfect, down to the last button, corsage or straight tie. She appreciates a hard-worker and her laugh is infectious.


        So, to address the points above.

        Like poor Gretchen, I often cut vegetables improperly.  Who knew that they had to be just so?  Well, my mom, of course. And don't worry.  She will tell you when you are doing it wrong.

        I’m a good cook myself, but a basic meat and potatoes dinner? I still haven’t mastered it. The unpronounceable spices? I'm not exactly sure what those might be, but I have a drawer full of spices to cook Indian, Chinese, Pakistani, Japanese, Midwest, and European.

        My mom has always felt that we all should be able cook and clean and fend for ourselves.  Jon and I both cook, clean, and do laundry.  In fact, this week is Jon's week to cook and I rarely have to deal with his bike clothing.


        Well, exactly, what is the point of spending time with people if you don’t have coffee and tasty baked goods. I realized as I was putting together this year’s tasty baked good Christmas packages that they are all good coffee cookies.

        Mom makes awesome knit caps and can even make mittens to match.  Hmm, I can't knit.  But I crochet.  Close enough, right? And sadly, I'm just not that great a gift-giver.  Apparently my brother scored on that front.

        Why would anyone want anything less than perfect?  And my husband wonders why I stress out before my parents are due to visit.

        Me and Gretchen in one of mom's hats
        I hope that I can be the same sort of person my mom is.  The kind that people count on to ensure that everything is just so.  

        Thanks, Mom.  

        Saturday, December 10, 2011

        Potentially Awesome, Potentially Disastrous


        December 10 Reverb Broads
        What is the best and/or worst thing about your life right now?
        Dana

        The best and worst thing in my life right now?  Potential.  

        Is it the best or worst thing? Yes.

        Jon and I moved into a new house this past summer.  While it is our dream house, our forever house, it still needs some tweaking.  Starting Monday we're having new hardwood flooring put into the rooms that will eventually become the office and the library.  And that's fantastic.  We'll have wonderful work spaces and eventually shelves for all my books (you're jealous, I know).  

        But holy smokes is this all a lot of work.  What kind of flooring? What do do with the existing flooring? How to create good spaces?  Essentially how to deal with all the potential in the house.

        Exciting and frightening all at the same time.  But eventually my books will have homes, so it's all good.

        Thursday, December 8, 2011

        The Monster at the End of This Blog

        What was your favorite children's book?

        My mother never ceases to amaze me. She probably can't remember what happened five minutes ago, but she did remember my favorite little kid book.*

        Last night's email exchange
        When I was looking for images, this one made me laugh
        A: Did I have a favorite little kid book? I need some help for tomorrow's Reverb Broads. 
        M: You liked "The Monster at the end of this Book", I'm sure there were many others but that's the only one I can remember. 
        A: You know, it's funny. That's what I was thinking, too, but I thought it was because I recently downloaded the iphone app. Do you know why I liked it? 
        M: I think the first time it was exciting and then after that it was just funny.
        But really I don't remember being read to.  It's not that I wasn't; I just don't remember it.  What  I do remember are all the series chapter books I loved. The characters became like family as I read more and more of the books. It seemed that with series books I would never run out of friends.  The more books in a series, the better.  Or perhaps, more books by the same author, the better

        Some of my favorite series books.  I chose the images that most closely remembered the books I read.

        I loved walking down to the basement of the public library or circumnavigating "the pit" in the elementary school library and pulling my favorites off the shelf.  Other favorites included the Little House books. For more on my love of books, see this post from earlier this year.

        Also, the books I liked (um, like) were (are) full of mystery and adventure.  I think Kassie wrote that she wanted to live by herself after reading Island of Blue Dolphins. I wanted to make a yucca skirt because we had a yucca plant.

        This post doesn't talk at all about children's and young adult fiction I love as an adult. The Hunger Games, To Kill a Mockingbird, Bridge to Terabithia, The Giver - all books I love as an adult.  I would also like to meet the woman who didn't use Judy Blume's books as at least a partial guide to growing up.

        I was and am a person who reads and re-reads books.  So, the monster at the end of this blog?  Like the one in Grover's book, benign little ol' me, who just wants a book, or three.

        __________
        *Apparently, according to my mother, I'm supposed to stop teasing her in my blog because my readers will think she's lost her mind.  I asked her what her point was.  So, for the record, my mom hasn't completely lost her mind.  Not yet anyway.

        Glutton for External Validation


        December 8: Reverb Broads Prompt
        Why blog? Why do you or why do you like to blog (recognizing that these are not always the same thing)?


        Appreciate me, please.

        I need other people to appreciate it when I do something well. I also need to share the interesting things I find with other people and I take great satisfaction when they are interested in it, too, especially if they haven’t heard about it before.


        Also, I am a copy cat. I can’t help it. Just remember if I’ve copied from you it is always with the best of intents; it’s because you did something I thought was a really good idea. If I do that same thing, then I will be cool. If I am cool, then I will belong. If people comment and respond to what I have written, then I will know I belong.

        I started this blog last year after reading Emily’s Reverb10 posts. I had hoped that was going to be enough to get me to start writing. And it did, only not in December. I think like many of you, I write because I truly believe I have something to share. I want to start a conversation.

        I've found that reminding myself to be looking for post topics helps occupy my mind. What will make this blog-worthy? Take more pictures. Look for the little things. Play with the little people. Listen for the little voices. Sample the little dishes. Pay attention to the little aromas. Remember. We usually remember the big things, but sometimes we forget why they’re big. It’s the little things that make life worth living. And I hope that I learn appreciate and write about the little things.

        But really, I just want people to pay attention to me and give me kudos. Acknowledge my small little gift to the world. To be a dust speck.









        Wednesday, December 7, 2011

        What's Red and White on the Outside and Gray on the Inside?

        Who or what makes you laugh so hard that milk shoots out of your nose and why? Slapstick, dry witty comedy, your kids, Monty Python?




        Why, a can of Campbell's Cream of Elephant Soup, of course.


        I heard that lovely joke last week and immediately had to text my dad to share the fun. His response "Gah-roan." Exactly. What made that joke funny to me was knowing that I could call my dad and share it with him.

        The one post I wrote for Reverb 10 was about my sense of humor.  When Melanie responded with "What is brown and sticky?....A Stick." I was on the floor.

          
        I love the smart, clever word play of a will written Aaron Sorkin show (I re-watch Sports Night and West Wing regularly).  I'm pretty sure I laughed out loud at every single episode of Firefly. Doctor Who makes me laugh on a regular basis. I laugh at word play in books and word play in real life.  I laugh at ironic images and political satire. My husband makes me laugh.

        But what makes me laugh until whatever fluid I'm drinking gets expelled? That's my family.  Well, it's actually more that they make me laugh until I can't breath. Asthma is really a pain in the lungs.

        I'm not able to recount any single episode, but whenever I go home and sit at my parents' big oak dining table something happens.  Stories are told.  Recollections are made.  At some point my mom and I will find something funny and will get trapped in an infinite loop of giggles. 

        I'm looking forward to spending Christmas at my parents'.  I'm looking forward to laughing.

        What did the grape say when it got stepped on by the vintner?
        Nothing, it just let out a little whine.

        Tuesday, December 6, 2011

        I Solemnly Swear...

        December 6: Reverb Broads Prompt
        List 10 things you would never do.


        That to the best of my ability, and barring extraordinary circumstances, I will never...



        10. Take my crock pot, KitchenAid Stand Mixer, or my husband for granted




        9. Become a vegan (sorry, I love beef, chocolate, milky coffee too much)


        8. Run a marathon (for what ever reason, running is one of the things that really aggravates my asthma.)


        7. Lose my appreciation for fireworks (Shiny)



        6. Stop procrastinating (deadlines are there for a reason, right?)


        5. Regret getting married at my parents' farm




        4. Stop talking to myself when I'm grocery shopping (yes, I'm ~that~ crazy lady)

        3. Using sarcasm or irony, even when it's not in my own best best interests

        2.  Have enough books or music (or have enough time to consume as much of both as I want)

        1. Stop appreciating the pure, unadultered joy of kids being kids




        Wow, this post was much harder than I would have thought. And yes, like Em, assume that the really bad things like murder, running a meth lab, etc are already on the never list. Also, there is the tendency for me to feel obligated to take lists like this as a challenge.

        ____
        All photos by me! Except no.  The one of the wedding, someone else took that one.  Oops.

        Monday, December 5, 2011

        A Little Closer to that Elusive Cat

        December 5: Reverb Broads Prompt
        What is the one thing you finally did this year that you always wanted or said you were going to do, but in your heart of hearts never thought you would actually do?
        Amy (Me) 

        I thought that since this was my prompt and that I knew what I was going to write about this was going to be an easy post to write. I think I may have been wrong, but only because I realized it was going to take a different path than I had originally intended.

        First off, I was going to write about participating in this year's National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).   As I say in the About section of this blog, I have always intended to write a book named A Cat Named Frank.  Now, I've had that title floating around since I was in high school.  I had chosen the name basically because I liked out it sounded. Also, at the time, I think we actually had a cat* named, well, Frank.

        I started this blog just about a year ago.  Well, I started my Blogspot site about a year ago, motivated by Ms. Ronning's Reverb 10 posts.  I never really got around to writing those posts, but I did get around to writing this blog.  Anyway, from Ms. Ronning's blog, I ended up at Ms. Sands' blog and eventually ran into NaNoWriMo.  Writing a book in a month.  I could do that. But, I never said anything about it to anyone.

        In October, I got an email from my mom.
        "You probably have seen this website but I'm passing it on from Ingrid." - nanowrimo.org
        Yes, I had seen it, I was surprised my mom would have thought to send it to me. Sadly, upon query, my mom isn't able to remember why she sent it on.**

        Now, I don't know about the relationships the rest of you have with your moms, but even when something is somewhat obliquely referenced by my mom, that's almost as good as command.  She's a wee bit bossy, you see, and it is usually easier to just do what she asks, even when she hasn't actually asked. In other words, by sending me the website it seemed that my mom was saying, "Get on with it. Write your book. In November. Of this year." Though really, that doesn't really sound like her.

        And then Troy told me that I had to say I was NaNoWriMo-ing in order to prod Beth*** into participating.  He mentioned some other of my former co-workers who were also going to participate.  What he didn't know.  Or at least I think he didn't know, was that I was already thinking about participating myself.

        And the days ticked ever closer to November 1.

        I've tried to write A Cat several times before.  I've tried to write outlines.  I've tried to map out a story.  I've maybe managed to get to two pages.  Monette has said we should write a cheesy romance novel together. But really, I never truly thought I had a novel in me.  I thought it was vanity idea. I pretty much figured I was going to end up writing things like "Bringing RPL2 back into service in accordance with SOP xx-xxxxxx will require that the DCP and RMP are approved and all assays pass the 10-microliter testing" for the rest of my life. BORING (but it pays the bills).

        Then November arrived and I started writing an actual story.  At the end of the month I had over 50,000 words of gibberish that with careful editing will become something****. I am surprised and thrilled with myself that I actually wrote it, especially since based on my previous attempts I never really thought it was going to happen. 

        It isn't great.  It made me realize I still have a lot of pent up anger about losing my job this past March and the circumstances around it.  I now know that I can sit and write for hours and pull a story out of the air. I know what authors are talking about when they talk about their characters taking on a life of their own. I know I have a lot of editing to do. But in the words of the Mommy Person, you "can't edit if you don't have anything written." It made me realize there are a lot of people around me who have believe in me more than I believe in me.

        Here's a big giant thank you to Mom, Troy, Kassie, Emily, Beth, Melanie, Astella, Gretchen, and the Husband for your support this last month. Maybe someday I'll even let you read part of it.


        If you're curious, the post entitled "Snippet" contains just that.


        ____________
        *I'm a farm kid.  Farm cats aren't known for their longevity.  There are certainly some who have passed the test of time, but really, they are just long-tailed phantoms in my mind

        **Sadly, it isn't surprising my mom doesn't remember.

        ***And here's kudos to Beth who works mad crazy hours and still got well into her novel as well!

        ****Right now as I am writing this part of this post, my husband has finally realized that I will be blogging all month.  He wants to know if you all know that you are preventing me from working on my novel.  For the record, he got thbthththth-ed

        Sunday, December 4, 2011

        Movie, Schmovie

        December 4:Reverb Broads Prompt
        In the movie version of your life, which actor/actress would 
        play you and the significant players in your life? 
        What kind of movie is it (e.g., made-for-TV, action, emo/indie, etc.)? 
        What would be the major plot points, and how will it end?
        courtesy of Emily at warmedtheworld.blogspot.com


        So, here's the thing. I don't really think of my life as something to be put on on the screen. I love my life. It is very interesting to me. There are parts of it that could actually be made into decent little vignettes. But two hours of something? I just don't see it.

        Also, I don't know much about movies and such. I know that the last movie I saw in the theater was An Education and that was in February of 2009. I actually watch a lot of movies and television shows thanks to Netflix and Amazon streaming, but I don't analyse them. I watch. Well, sort of, anyway. I'm often doing something else.
        This is Me

        So, since whatever movie about me would likely have food, I suspect it would be some sort of home-based indie movie, centered around the kitchen table, with lots of talking about nothing. Sorry, i can't think of any movies that really represent that. As for the actors and actresses? Honestly, I've got no one. Several other Reverb Broads bloggers have commented about the lack of plus-sized actresses, so that's certainly a hurdle. And I even went so far as to search for actress with dark hair and blue eyes. Going through the list, and assuming that size is relative, there's not a single one of them I would chose to be me. Maybe, maybe, maybe, Zooey Deschanel, but only as Trillian in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. And a lot of that is only because that's what I've seen her in. Though I would love for any the words to come out of my mouth to be as witty as anything either Lauren Graham or Alexis Bledel said in Gilmore Girls. Also, my eyes are easily as blue as either of theirs.

        As for the other players in my life. Um, I just don't think that way. I've never really send someone on screen and thought, "my word, that actor is just like that person I know."

        So, to make life simple and at the very least pay homage to the intent of Emily's* prompt, I guess my movie is going to be a documentary where the people I know and love are sitting around a big wooden dining table, eating and drinking and talking and maybe playing cards, and everyone just is, just as they are.


        ______
        *Afterall, she is the only one of these lovely bloggers I actually know in person

        Saturday, December 3, 2011

        Is There Somewhere Between?

        December 3: Reverb Broads Prompt
        How did you become more of a grown-up this year? 
        Or did you pull a Peter Pan and stubbornly remain childlike?


        I did, in fact, start this post yesterday, but now I'm somewhat glad that child-like procrastination and grown-up things prevented me from posting, because this was in my inbox this morning.



        And, well, that's me.  I am a grumpy grown-up.  I now realize that I should have said two things to middle school me; the second would have been: try not to loose whatever it is that had you that happy before 7:30 in the morning.  And how do I know  what was before 7:30am?  That's when the school bus arrived and that picture is clearly a before school picture.

        Still, I had to write a list to decide if I was a grown up or not and this is what I came up with

        Grown Up Things

        • Took myself to urgent care when I fell off my bike and broke my thumb*,**
        • Bought a new house and I signed my first mortgage papers
        • Bought a well-researched and practical car
        • Starting to re-model said new house, including refinishing the floorr
        • Didn't buy Lucy Charms or any other "kids" cereal
        • Bought a Christmas Wreath from the local school kid who came to the door
        • Apparently was a stingy crochety Halloween candy giver
        • Got laid off and found a new job
        • Started eating at the table rather than on the couch in front of the tv.


        Childlike

        • Slept until 10 at least once and until 9 on numerous occasions
        • Wore pajamas all day more than once
        • Carved jack o'lanterns
        • Christmas decorating will be limited to the wreath, partially because of the floor
        • Not sure that I have a career


        I'm in my mid-thirties I can (for the most part) fold a fitted sheet. I cook. I clean. I eat my vegetables. I go to work and even work on weekends. I am married. I own am paying for my own house.

        There is still something very juvenile about our (my husband is going to get sucked into this, whether he likes it or not) existence. We have been married for fourteen months and eight days (but who's counting). This is a first marriage for both of us. We have neither pets nor kids which means we get to choose how we spend our days. We can sleep late, eat whenever, and go to bed when we like. We can open a bottle of wine and watch stupid movies to our hearts' content.

        I'm not going to say we are child-like.  We are responsible, contributing members of society, yet we haven't been forced to truly set up to the plate as far as "grown-up" goes. But is possible that I may have lost some of my child-like zest for every bright new day.

        So, I'm going to call myself a grown-up, but I'm going to start focusing (again) at looking at things from a child's perspective. Just as soon as I get these darn reports for work finished.

        __________
        *Okay, well, maybe falling off the bike is child-like
        **and going to Urgent Care, very adult like.  My pinky is still crooked from when my mom didn't take me to the doctor when it got jammed playing volleyball in middle school.



        Friday, December 2, 2011

        Yes, That Was Truly, and in All Other Ways, STUPID

        December 2: Reverb Broads Prompt
        What is the stupidest thing you did this year? What about in your whole life? You can take stupid to mean: embarrassing, dangerous, funny, lame, whatever you consider "stupid."


        I do a lot of stupid things, mostly of the open-mouth-insert-foot category. I hope they are as transient for those who see them as they are for me. Sadly, they don't really stick in my mind so I am somewhat condemned to repeat them.

        This week seems to have been somewhat full of stupid things: leaving my phone/music at home one day; leaving my coffee at home two days in a row; leaving my computer-glare reduction glasses at home one day.  Stupid, stupid, stupid, but likely forgotten by next week


        Then there are some stupid things I have done that I don't simply forget. They teaching devices after all.


        At the end of my first week at a new job I went out to my car to find the inside dripping with some sort of liquid.  My first thought, my absolute first thought: Who hates me so much after one week at this job that they would vandalize my car*.  I was convinced someone had done this on purpose as some sort of revenge for some previously aforementioned foot-in-mouth event.  Upon closer examination, I realized it was Diet Coke, from the full, unopened can I had intended to take with me into work on that hot July day**.  The can, inside my car on a rather warm day developed a pin-hole leak and sprayed the inside of my car with Diet Coke.   So the stupid thing? That was assuming someone was out to get me.  No one wished me harm, but that was the first thing I thought of.  Since then, I've made it a priority to look for causes rather than someone to blame when things go wrong.

        But, in the grand scheme of things, those are relatively benign stupid things.  Sadly, I have made at least one, potentially malignant, mistake.

        One of the more stupid things I did was smoke my first cigarette.  Absolutely, hands down, without a doubt, the stupidest thing I ever did was smoke the second one.  I don't know much about the science of addiction, but I know this: it took me six or seven attempts over thirteen years to finally become an ex-smoker. The lesson, don't do drugs. Ever.  Accept that I have a tendency to obsess over or become addicted to things and I need to find a way to put limits on them.  Do what I can to repair the damage I've done to my body.  It's been years since I last had a cigarette, but, in those minutes when I really, really want one, that's when I need to take a deep breath and figure out what it is that I'm trying to avoid.




        ________
        *It should be noted that this was before my window was smashed and my car radio stolen from that same parking lot. Not from malice, just because it was a bad luck parking lot.  Mine was not the only radio that was stolen, and unlike my truck driving colleagues, my spare tire never went roaming.
        **Yes, if my head wasn't attached there are days when I would show up at work without it.

        Thursday, December 1, 2011

        Engineering? Really?

        December 1: Reverb Broads Prompt
        "If the you of today could go back in time and give advice to any of the previous yous, which age would you visit and what would you tell them?"
         Kristen at kristendomblogs.com




        To the middle school me, I would tell her "Never to let anyone take a picture of you on a bad hair day." The frightening thing is that given the grin on my face, I was pretty happy with my efforts. Must have been a dress up day at school.




        But in general, I'm not sure there is much I would be able to tell previous me's that would have made any difference. I have have made my mistakes and learned from them. They are the mistakes of youth. The mistakes we all have made as we travel through this life. They the errors that we are warned against, but we are young, we know what we are doing, we don't need to listen. And really, would you want to change your path? Remember, it is the one that brought you to where you are today.



        Still, there is one thing that I do wish the young me would be willing to listen to. Perhaps because of where I have ended up professionally, I do wish that someone would have talked to the high school me about becoming an engineer. I imagine I wouldn't have listened. It's even possible that someone did. And then I still would have had to make it through college chemistry and calculus, both of which were enough to convince me to not be a chemistry major*. Still, there is a part of me that is awfully curious about what I may have missed by sticking with the social sciences.






        _________
        * For the curious, I ended up with a degree in sociology.