Give Me Sleep!

Deplorable… I skipped an entire month. However, this time I’ve been having a life. Novel concept, right?

Since the last time I wrote, I’ve visited the littles (and their parents), spent four days in Phoenix on business, flew home to Colorado for a weekend and to celebrate the peanut’s first birthday, camped at Chris and Joanne’s for a weekend, spent a weekend cooking (scratch made chicken noodle soup, chicken chimichangas, chicken tortilla soup, and almond-crusted chicken–all packed up for lunches and dinners to be consumed over the next two weeks), and worked no more than forty-five hours a week. I know! Right?! Forty-five hours a week? Actually, I’ve even pulled a 40-hour work week. More novel concepts…

Suffice it to say, I’m loving the new job. And the lack of a jangling telephone on my desk. I have a phone on my desk, but it rings only about one time a day. AWE-SOME!

In the midst of all of this, I have a sneaking suspicion my body has decided it’s no longer in peril and allowed to relax… after two years of extreme stress and sleep deprivation. I start yawning at 4:00 p.m. and am ready to go to sleep around 7:30 p.m. every night. I stretch it out a bit longer because I don’t relish waking at 2:00 a.m.–sans alarm clock. No bueno. But I have been sleeping like a champ!

In between the traveling and sleeping, I’ve been chipping away at my audacious movie list. There haven’t been any new additions, so here goes the list:

  • 42
  • 50 to 1
  • American Sniper
  • Argo
  • The Best of Me
  • The Best of Men (not a redundancy with a typo, it’s a real movie)
  • Black or White
  • The Book Thief
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  • Far from the Madding Crowd
  • The Final Season
  • The Flying Scotsman
  • Foxcatcher
  • Fury
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • The Hundred-Foot Journey
  • The Imitation Game
  • Inside Out
  • Into the Woods
  • Invictus
  • John Wick
  • The Judge
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service
  • Leatherheads
  • Madison
  • Maleficent
  • McFarland, USA
  • The Mighty Macs
  • Million Dollar Arm
  • The Monuments Men
  • Philomena
  • Spare Parts
  • Taken 3
  • The Theory of Everything
  • Trouble with the Curve
  • Unbroken
  • United
  • We Bought a Zoo
  • When in Rome
  • When the Game Stands Tall
  • The Wolverine
  • Woman in Gold

If not for the travel, I would’ve made it further through this list, but I’m okay with my current status. And the combination of films is interesting, to say the least.

I watched Far From the Madding Crowd just this evening. Based on a Thomas Hardy novel, it stars Carey Mulligan as the primary protagonist, Bathsheba Everdeen. Poor thing, her folks died before she could find out why they christened her with such a handle. Bathsheba, not Carey. The film is a period peace and I enjoyed it… aside from the whole marrying-the-wrong-guy thing. You know, she married a pinhead who has honed the skills of jackassery while being unknowingly in love with a noble, humble fellow. Oops. Ms. Mulligan was completely believable in the part, as were the various gentlemen cast in the film.

Taking a broad turn, I also saw Foxcatcher. That is one seriously eery and disturbing film. First, it’s based on the true story of gold medal freestyle wrestlers for the United States, Dave and Mark Schultz, and the murder of the elder brother, Dave, by billionaire John DuPont. What makes the film eerier is that my dad sold a VW bus to Mark, prior to Dave’s murder. I grew up around freestyle wrestlers. Olympic wrestlers. Dave and Mark were friends and teammates of a dear family friend. A friend who is a beloved member of my honorary family. I’ve heard about the Schultz brothers every so often for all of my life. I distinctly remember DuPont’s murder of Dave and his attempts to barricade himself in his mansion in January of 1996. Weirdly, I think of it whenever I happen to see Jeff Gordon’s car in a NASCAR race (no, I don’t make it a point to watch NASCAR, but Gordon used to have the prettiest car on the track… the DuPont car… yes, I called the car pretty… I went there). Watching DuPont psychologically devolve was disturbing.

I also saw John Wick. I know, I know… you’ve never heard of this film. Well, take Sam Mendes’ masterful Road to Perdition (it starred Tom Hanks, Paul Newman (he was robbed of an Oscar!), Jude Law, and Daniel Craig (he wasn’t very James Bond-y… he’s pretty despicable!)) and recast it with Keanu Reeves in 2014. Yeah… about that. Just watch Road to Perdition. The acting will be far superior and the story line a bit more plausible. A bit.

Million Dollar Arm is the next film in the based-on-a-true-story-Disney-sports movies. A sports agent, J.B. Bernstein, got the crazy idea to run a contest in India wherein cricket players were scouted for potential as Major League Baseball pitchers. It ended up successfully finding two gentlemen with skills. As expected, I enjoyed it. Invincible, MiracleRemember the Titans, and The Rookie are better, though.

Trouble with the Curve is a film I’ve seen before and love. Saw it again. Still love it. It has a great story line involving the dysfunctional relationship between an aging baseball scout and his highly successful attorney daughter, played by Amy Adams. John Goodman and Justin Timberlake have additional rolls of import in the film. It’s very well acted, humorous, poignant, serious, and very baseball-y!

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I The most impressive film of the group is Woman in Gold. Starring Helen Mirren, Ryan Reynolds, Jonathan Pryce, Frances O’Conner, and Elizabeth McGovern, it is the true story of a Holocaust survivor who, with her husband, fled Germany with literally the clothes on her back. They ended up in Pasadena, California. Upon the death of her sister, Ms. Altmann decided to reclaim a group of Gustave Klimt paintings owned by her family prior to their illegal seizure by the Nazis. Ryan Reynolds plays attorney Randy Schoenberg, whose family also fled the Nazis and have known Maria’s family for four generations; he represented her throughout the process. The Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I was the most impressive of the Klimt paintings, and a portrait of Ms. Altmann’s beloved aunt, Adele Bloch-Bauer. The painting is also referred to as the Woman in Gold, thus the movie’s title, and was one of the most famous of Klimt’s works even prior to the case. And a bit of trivia, Klimt was a dear family friend. The film was absolutely fantastic. Fan-tas-tic. Well acted, compelling, true. <sigh> I bawled like a baby at the end of the film. Like. A. Baby.

So there you have it… progress.

And now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to sleep.

A Good Book and a Cuppa

New Year's EveI have no idea if this is truly a Brad Paisley quote, but a friend posted it on FB and it caught my attention for a few reasons.

The least impressive reason is that I enjoy much of Mr. Paisley’s musical lexicon. I can just see the smirk flitting across his face as he wrote some of his clever lyrics. I can picture in my mind the characters in his songs and the scenes they play out. And a few songs have so poignantly suited the moments of my life. That’s the beauty of music, though… le sigh.

The second thing that caught my attention was the simple pondering over the veracity of the quote’s citation. Did Brad actually pen this thought? Hmmm…

The most profound thing to give me pause was the thought expressed in this quote of dubious origin. You see, I’m in the midst of a multiyear… um… not a “rewrite” of my life’s story, per se, more like a new chapter in my life altogether. Or rather, chapters. Plural.

This blog was started at the behest of my brother when I decided to embark on an adventure to become a thinner, healthier version of me. To become lithe. (For anyone scratching your head, Webster’s second definition of “lithe” is what I was shooting for: characterized by easy flexibility and grace; also: athletically slim and to be “lithesome” is to be nimble, something I strive for intellectually as well as physically.) I faithfully blogged about my adventure so he could follow along and cheer from 1,100 miles away. After reaching my goal, I continued to write… partly because I found I enjoyed it, and partly because this crazy thing acted as a form of accountability to maintain the weight loss.

A little over eighteen months ago, I made a monumental decision to change careers. To leave a steady, well-paying job and jump into the great unknown. To chase a dream. To go to culinary school and study baking and patisserie. Although my writing has taken a backseat (shoot, if my life was a train, my writing would inhabit the caboose), I still pop my head up every now and again to check in and report back on the goings on of culinary academia. And though I find myself whining more often than I ought, I really am enjoying the adventure. (That isn’t to say I’m not looking forward to its conclusion and the opportunity to sleep.) For all the headaches–literally and figuratively–it’s been worth the blood, sweat, and tears. Also literally and figuratively.

What you don’t know is that this blog is not my only writing outlet. I have 350 pages of a novel written. This was the final point to ponder as I read Mr. Paisley’s alleged quote.

I started my novel years ago when I was a college student enrolled in an excruciatingly boring British history class. My apologies to my lovely Brits. I actually love British history. I just hated that class. The professor was dull as dishwater. Awful. I was a history major and love the subject, so if I say it was boring, you can rest assured it was horrid. Since I had to present in class, I ignored the monotone droning and daydreamed, creating an entire cast of characters in my own world of make believe. The next thing I knew, I had eight chapters of a historical fiction novel written and a well developed outline for the remainder of the book. And some sequels. When the class ended, I set the novel aside and promptly forgot about it.

I ran across it a few years later and reread what I had written. I had expected to find drivel. Bear in mind, I’m a prolific reader. I own somewhere around 4,000 books. I’ve read some of those books well over 200 times and most of those books more than once. I read. A lot. (If you’re wondering, the finest book ever written is Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Don’t bother arguing. I won’t believe you.) As I said, I reread my writing and was pleasantly surprised to find out what I had written didn’t, um, suck. In a matter of a few weeks, I punched out 200 additional pages of text. Then life intervened again and my novel was set aside and forgotten.

Every so often, I’d pick up my writing, reread the entire text and tack on a chapter or two.

However, the fact this novel is just sitting there, only partially constructed, is distressing. I have characters that need to be fleshed out. They have adventures that need conquering. Of course, I don’t exactly have much spare time to devote to these poor people, but I graduate in six months and think this would be a great project to take on once I get some of my life back.

And this brings me back to this quote of dubious origin.

Tomorrow, I get a clean slate. 2015 is a new year. It will bring its own challenges. It’s a new chapter in the story of my life. A story that’s still being written. The Author of Life is writing a masterpiece, I just don’t know its ending yet.

I’m not much for New Year’s Resolutions, but I have resolved myself to these:

  • I don’t want to be afraid to dream big.
  • I don’t want to be afraid of failing big if I’m in the middle of dreaming big.
  • I don’t want to live with regrets for what might have been.
  • I want to courageously tackle the obstacles that block my path.
  • I want to love the people in my life fiercely.
  • I want to be the woman God wants me to be.
  • I want to graduate from culinary school at the top of my class.
  • I want to see my culinary dreams soar and leave behind the office.
  • I want to deepen my relationships with the people that matter.
  • I want to continue growing more comfortable in my own skin, appreciating myself for who I was designed to be.
  • I want to finish that novel.
  • I want to anticipate the things I can’t see around the corners in life.
  • I want to drink more tea because trying new things is important. (Just herbal… baby steps.)
  • I want to hug my nieces and nephew as much as possible.
  • I want to savor time with my family.
  • I want to continue growing.

Most of my desires are conceptual and really meant for a lifetime, not one year. But you have to have goals, right?

So here’s to 365 blank pages… grab your crayons, pens, pencils, and paints and start dreaming and doing!

Happy Birthday, America!

Today has been a fun-filled day celebrating our country’s independence (as per usual, my apologies to my British friends!). This is a singularly American holiday. It’s barbeque and apple pie. It’s neighbors, friends, and families getting together. It’s baseball games. It’s fireworks. And for me, it’s Pops Goes the Fourth with the Boston Pops Orchestra. This year, they streamed their annual concert on the esplanade and I get to watch it in its entirety. That means the full 1812 Overture, complete with Howitzer cannons. Oh, yeah! That’s how everyone should do the Fourth. (Seeing the BoPops live on the Esplanade on the Fourth is on my bucket list.) Oh, and fireworks. There have to be fireworks. The day I’m too old to get giddy about fireworks is the day I’m dead.

Every year I’m drawn to the same historic passage… so as I’ve done almost every year, we’ll let Mr. Adams do most of the talking:

On July 3, 1776, while serving in the Second Continental CongressJohn Adams wrote a letter to his wife Abigail. He wrote:

But the Day is past. The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America.

I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. – I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. – Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.

What a beautiful summation of what had occurred and what was to come. As a side note, Mr. Adams reflected on July 2, as it was the day Thomas Jefferson and his committee of five drafted the first version of the Declaration of Independence. It was later ratified on July 4, by the Second Continental Congress, following two days of revisions. Thus our attachment to July 4, and not July 2.

As for any perceived spelling errors in that excerpt… stuff it. That’s how they wrote in the eighteenth century. Weird punctuation, different spellings (‘tryumphs’ for one), and random capitalized letters. None of that takes away from the lyrical prose that still holds true today.

P.S. And a very happy birthday to one of our family fireworks, my cousin Ryan! He’s a fantastic daddy to two little girls, and a wonderful husband to his wife, Lisa. He adores his parents, my fantastic aunt and uncle, and he’s one of the most genuinely likable guys you’d ever hope to meet.

Things That Make Me Go, “Hmmm…”

I have an almost insatiable curiosity about many things in life–including why ‘curious’ is spelled with a U and ‘curiosity’ isn’t… who decided on this path of lunacy?! Sorry, squirrel moment. Back to my natural inclination towards curiosity. I read a lot. A. Lot. I own approximately 4,200 books (I know, at last count it was approximately 4,000… I didn’t stop reading!), I subscribe online to newspapers of choice, I have subscriptions to a handful of periodicals, and I’ll read any number of random articles online. I like to learn. I like to exercise the muscle between my ears. Medical experts will tell you the brain is most definitely not a muscle. I disagree. It may not have all the hallmarks of a muscle, but if you don’t exercise it, it will atrophy. As I have no intention of allowing this to happen, I’m constantly making the sucker work. Unlike going to the gym, this is rarely a trial for me! I rather enjoy it, actually.

Anyway, a friend of mine posted a link on FB that caught my attention, and being the curious person that I am, I clicked on it and read the article: Mentally Strong People: The 13 Things They Avoid. I had very mixed feelings about this article, to be honest. First, tucked into the last sentence of the second paragraph is an important qualifier to this list, the author of the article slanted everything toward how they would apply to an entrepreneur. And let’s face it, most people skip the fine print and read the bullet points–or in this case, the boldface type–so they may miss this little detail. However, I tracked back to the original article, and there is no such qualifier. That brought me back to my original concern with the line of thinking taken by the authors (now there are two people on the ropes).

I realize these lists are generalizations and there will always be an exception to the rule. As such, it fails to take into account situational deviations and personality traits. Huh?! Let me ‘splain as we walk through this list of things “mentally strong people” supposedly avoid:

1. Waste Time Feeling Sorry for Themselves. For the most part, I’d say this is true. Mentally strong people aren’t likely to sit and have a one man/woman pity party or spend weeks on end licking their wounds. They are, to quote a song, going to pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and start all over again. Or at least pick up where they left off. That doesn’t mean, however, they won’t encounter a situation that levels a knockout punch. Life can throw some pretty unexpected and nasty curves that require recovery time. Not everything can be sloughed off nonchalantly. Not everything can be explained away flippantly. No, sometimes very serious things happen in life that require you to grieve in order to properly recover. In so doing, even a mentally strong person is likely to have a pity party or two. The difference is they won’t be living in that mental space for the rest of their lives. They’ll move through the process and recover, a little wiser, more compassionate, more driven, more determined, or whatever else has grown from the experience. They’ll move past it. But was it a waste? No. One can learn many things and grow exponentially even when feeling sorry for themselves is part of their recovery process when they’ve been knocked around by something of consequence.

2. Give Away Their Power. I can see where the author was going with this one, but it is by no means complete. I can make decisions for myself about who and what I will allow to affect me. To some extent. There are many variables in life over which I have zero control. And I do understand that I have about 95% control over my reactions to things. And let’s be honest, no one has 100% control over their emotions and reactions. Everyone has a button that if pushed, will cause someone to crumble into tears or fly off the handle with temper. I agree that some people have buried those buttons so deeply and constructed such impressive defensive walls, that locating and/or breaching them is something that seldom occurs. However, it’s impossible to protect ourselves forever from everything. Eventually, something causes an uncontrollable reaction. Sometimes it’s positive, sometimes it’s not. Also, giving up control and power sometimes requires more strength than holding onto it. This avoidance principle fails entirely to consider this point.

3. Shy Away from Change. I admit this point brought about the most vehement reaction from yours truly. A violent, “Uh-uh!” complete with a mulish expression and head shake may or may not have occurred. Why? Okay… clearly I don’t avoid change at all costs. The entire existence of this blog is a prooftext for that. I started the blog when I embarked on a journey to change physically. But in the past few months, I quit my stable, well-paying job (that I hated) to go back to school for culinary training with the intent to change careers. I’ve tackled it, sure. That doesn’t mean I like change. In fact, I hate it. I hate change with every fiber of my being. I’ll do it, but I’ll complain through a lot of it. I’ll be grouchy and cranky, I’ll be unpleasant and snap at people, I’ll be intimidated by obstacles I hadn’t anticipated, I’ll be leaky and cry a lot. In short, I will not handle it gracefully. I understand change is an unavoidable part of life, but that doesn’t mean I have to embrace it lovingly! No way, Jose! I am, and always have been, slow to change. I’m an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” kind of girl. I have to see benefit in the change or I won’t even begin to consider it. Even then, I’ll probably drag my feet. Shoot, it was May 1 when I decided I was quitting my job… I’d been considering it for a good year and without going into detail, the proverbial straw broke this camel’s back and I announced I was quitting my job. It didn’t appear to the world that I spent a great deal of time pondering my options, but that’s far from the truth. I’d already been considering for months when I would leave my job. It was a foregone conclusion in my mind, all I had to do was line up my ducks. I will admit the finer details weren’t in place in May, but the escape plan was definitely in motion. I didn’t give notice until August. I started speaking with Le Cordon Bleu mid-May, but much to the consternation of the advisors, I refused to commit until I had my ducks lined up. I maintain God made me intelligent and expects me to use said intelligence! I wasn’t moving forward with the escape plan until I knew what and how everything was going to play out. I don’t regret the change at all. I’m convinced I’m right where I’m supposed to be. However, I have not always been the best version of me throughout this process. I have been stressed to the point that I would cry at the drop of a pin. I have been snappish. I have avoided people in order to spend more time in my own company. When I say that I don’t handle change gracefully, I’m not exaggerating. I really, really don’t like it! For this reason, I’ll probably tolerate something a lot longer than many in an effort to see something through, rather than trying to turn around a runaway train. It’s a bit of a cost-benefit analysis where I decide what is less palatable, keeping on or changing. If changing is more stressful, I’ll often stay the course. My mom will tell you’ve I’ve held to this practice since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. I’ve never liked change. Does that make me less mentally strong? No. It means it’s an inherent tendency of mine. I will change, I just won’t embrace it and pretend everything is peaches and cream. And I can come out on top in change and still dislike it inordinately. See? Look at that paragraph! Toldya I had a huge response to this one!

4. Waste Energy on Things They Can’t Control. I saw where the authors were going on this one, and didn’t have an issue with it. I actually thought of my trip to visit Jackie in Valdosta, Georgia in November 2012. Do you remember that trip? The one where I booked a flight to Jackson, MISSISSIPPI instead of JacksonVILLE, FLORIDA?! And found out while I was deplaning in Chicago? I never got mad, never cried… I just rolled with the punches. There was nothing I could really do except roll with the punches. And I had a fantastic visit and saw the humor in the whole ordeal from the beginning. I said then that it was a comedy of errors and I maintain that today.

5. Worry About Pleasing Others. Alright, this one is kind of “six in one hand, half a dozen in the other” for me… There can be a time and a place for being a people pleaser. “They are able to withstand the possibility that someone will get upset and will navigate the situation, wherever possible, with grace.” Right… like a family member’s wedding is the time to put this into play. Nope. You’re going to people please so as not to raise a ruckus in the middle of the most important day of a loved one’s life. You can choose to challenge that person some other day and some other time when it’s more appropriate. The overall principle is fairly sound, though. Calling someone on poor behavior and choices and placing responsibility for an action with the responsible person can be done gracefully, and should be done.

6. Fear Taking Calculated Risk. Can I rephrase this? They don’t let fear prevent them from taking calculated risk. Courage isn’t doing something you’re not afraid of… it’s doing something in spite of that fear. And there is a difference between courage and recklessness. Notice the principle pertains to a “calculated” risk.

7. Dwell on the Past. I concede the authors are referring to someone who remains mired in the past. After all, the only way to avoid the eighth principle is to look at the past.

8. Make the Same Mistakes Over and Over. See? Toldya you have to look at the past to avoid this one. I was a history major in college–I know, I know… total nerd alert. Anyway, history is cyclical. Sadly, humans repeat the same mistakes over and over. All the time. And on a colossally large scale, too. In that regard, we’re not the brightest. I’d go into that further, but it’s an entirely different soapbox for an entirely different day. But you must look to your past in order to find areas that need improvement and to see where you have grown in order to avoid repetitious failure. Failure isn’t a problem, per se, but repeating the same mistakes over and over is. We need to learn from our mistakes and grow. We may fail at the same thing twice, but if the measurement of failure lessens because we have grown since the first occurrence, it’s actually improvement. I hope that convoluted sentence made sense!

9. Resent Other People’s Success. I’m in total agreement with this one. Don’t resent their success. Get off your butt and work hard to achieve your own success! Don’t begrudge someone else their success. I have marveled at promotions throughout my prior career, but I’ll admit I wasn’t involved in the hirings and don’t have all the information. I don’t know what led to the decisions. And I don’t blame the person who got promoted.

10. Give Up After Failure. This one seems self-explanatory. It goes back to those song lyrics again… you have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again. And in the words of Yoda, “Do or do not, there is no try.” So go at it!

11. Fear Alone Time. Alright, I admit it. This one hit my funny bone. The day I fear alone time (as a hyper-introvert) is the day the Earth ceases to spin on its axis. But, here’s where personality traits can kick in. Some people are more creative and successful when other people are involved. Not me, necessarily, but extroverts aren’t wired the same way as myself. In many ways, introversion and extroversion are completely misunderstood. They affect our problem-solving methods, where we obtain energy, how we process information, how we process emotion, and a myriad of other things. However, our thought process plays a major part in how we think things through to completion and that, ultimately, can affect success or failure. For some extroverts, that means bouncing everything under the sun off of others. For many introverts, that means closeting ourselves away, like a turtle, and thinking everything through ad nauseum. (I’m not insulting introverts… I’m a HUGE fan of my turtle shell!) Alone time is depressing for a lot of extroverts. Literally. So this principle dismisses a crucial element of people and introversion/extroversion is something over which you have very little control. As a hyper-introvert, you can trust me on that one. Being around too many people can be physically painful and unbelievably stressful. I’m fairly certain the converse is true for some extroverts.

12. Feel the World Owes Them Anything. Could someone embroider this on a pillow? We live in a world of entitlement. It’s a disease. And a damn obnoxious one at that. It’s pervasive. The world owes me nothing. I’m perfectly capable of going out and earning things, though. And an organization may owe me something, but that’s usually because we have a contractual agreement of some sort in place. (Keep that in mind next time you chew out a claims adjuster… read your policy. It’s a contract. You might find out the adjuster is 100% correct about denying you something you think you’re entitled to. Okay. I’m stepping down from my soapbox now.) A contractual obligation and entitlement are not the same as you are only entitled to the stipulations lined out within said contract… not the kitchen sink you think you should get.

13. Expect Immediate Results. Oy vey. While we’re embroidering, can we have a pillow made with this, too? Instant gratification in the technology world has spilled over into expectations of everything else in life. But the truth of the matter is that there are a lot of things in life that don’t happen instantaneously. With all of our medical developments, you still can’t bring the baby home from the hospital the day after you take the pregnancy test (unless, for some odd reason, you opt to take a pregnancy test to confirm the belly that has grown and wiggled throughout the past few months really has a kid in there the day before you go into labor). Those results aren’t immediate. Yes, I know that’s a very simplistic example; however, there are times in life where situations must evolve over the course of months or even years. Not everything is a bag of microwave popcorn. For that matter, I’d rather have popcorn from an old-fashioned popper that involves heating oil and then popping the kernels while they’re agitated. The popcorn tastes far superior when done the slow way. There are many things in life that are worth waiting for. Don’t give up just because something hasn’t happened as fast as you wanted it to! I have to continually remind myself of this because I’m still single… it’s a two person operation so it’s not something over which I have control. But I’m not giving up on my “happily ever after” with an imperfect man, imperfect kids, and a messy, imperfect house. It’s just going to take longer than I ever anticipated. But is it worth the wait? You bet your boots!

Alright, this has to be the longest blog post I’ve ever written. I’ve always known I’m longwinded. Now you do, too! But I’ve been percolating all of this for the past eighteen hours and needed to both think through it and get it out of my system. Hello, really looong blog post–I think my posts from Europe and last year’s east coast trip rival this for length, but they’re loaded up with photos so they don’t really count! I try not to abuse my blogger-person privileges too often, but sometimes we just need to climb onto a soapbox and if you author a blog it’s a great pulpit for soapboxing (surprisingly, this appears to be a real word according to Sean’s spell check (yes, my trusty laptop has a name, it’s Sean… feel free to say hello to Sean, he’s very nice)).

Okay, I have homework to do and an episode or two of Top Gear to watch (it’s the BBC version so don’t get your knickers in a twist). Then I have to figure out how I’m going to engineer the hanging of Christmas lights on my apartment’s porch as they were purchased yesterday. Twinkle lights and all! I can’t wait!

A Long Overdue Hodge Podge

I’m sitting in the Greenville, South Carolina airport waiting for my flight. Yup, it’s the twelfth anniversary of 9/11 and I have no qualms about flying today. In fact, I’m pretty sure I flew on 9/11 two years ago. I figure the Lord could’ve taken me home on any random Tuesday on my drive to work (you know, the job I quit) just as easily as He could today. Therefore, I’m not going to fear climbing on a plane. I’ve been in North and South Carolina for the past five days, staying with Jim and Marilyn and having a wonderful visit.

I flew in on Saturday and they laughed at me as I picked tomatoes and onions off of the pizza we enjoyed for dinner. What can I say? I’m nothing if not consistent. I hate those little buggers and will always pick them out of my food. We got all caught up on the goings on in my family and theirs. Sunday morning, I attended church with them. Now, I’ve been to some big churches… Rock Harbor (my home church in southern California), Grace Community Church (Dr. John MacArthur‘s church), Saddleback (Dr. Rick Warren‘s church), Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church of Los Angeles (yes, that’s its full name, Reverend E.V. Hill‘s church–E.V. Hill, I–now run by his son, E.V. the Second), so on and so forth. Jim and Marilyn’s church has about fifty people; about thirty-five were there. It’s officially the smallest church I’ve ever attended. I sat between Marilyn and her daughter-in-law, Dawn. Dawn and Craig are an absolute hoot! I think I’ve officially been adopted into the family. We stayed at Craig and Dawn’s farm for two days.

Let me tell you about The Farm… built by a Mennonite and owned by a gazillionaire, Craig and Dawn are the caretakers and farmers. Holy cats. What. A. House. I stayed in the Colonial Room. I had my choice of the Colonial Room or the Eagle Room. Jim and Marilyn were in their usual digs, the Magnolia Room. I am sooo not joking! The rooms have names! The massive back deck has the most fantastic view of the forest. It’s gorgeous!

On Monday, Marilyn, Dawn, and I drove up to the Biltmore. Funny enough, that’s my country. My ancestral home is in and around Henderson County, Buncombe County, and Transylvania County (yes, there’s a Transylvania County)… you can’t swing a cat without hitting someone whose ancestors intermarried with mine. Anyway, we visited the Biltmore. I have no groom lined up, but I’ve decided that’s where I’d like to honeymoon. Totally serious. I did the basic audio tour and would like to do it again. I’d like to go back with my big camera (on a slightly cooler day) and nerd out on the other tours. The Croque Madame I ate in the Bistro was nothing short of divine… and that’s not their most impressive restaurant. You can’t actually stay in the Biltmore, but you can stay in the Biltmore Inn. As to the cost, if you have to ask, you don’t want to know. Trust me! Like I said… honeymoon! But I’m dead serious about liking it for a honeymoon location. To say I enjoyed myself is a huge understatement!

Haha! I pegged three girls as college cheerleaders while in the security line… and they are! The A/V guys just arrived.

I came home with a replication salad plate from the Vanderbilt china to go on my wall with my other plates and a cookbook. A cookbook with a recipe for a cake with key lime filling and a buttercream frosting guaranteed to handle the heat and humidity of the south. You know I’m going to try the cake!

Yesterday morning was a big breakfast from Dawn (dubbed a ‘Space Breakfast’ by one of her sons-in-law because he says the breakfast is so big you can see it from space) and then Jim, Marilyn, and I were off to an apple orchard. We bought a dozen apple cider donuts (ohmigosh!) and three varieties of apples for a pie that I baked this morning… Mutsu, Cortland, and Gala. I’d never heard of Mutsu and Cortland apples, but the pie was divine. And yes, I baked a pie the morning I fly home. How to know my career change of choice is well chosen, right?

This evening I’ll have to call my eldest niece, Sawyer, from Atlanta’s airport to wish her a happy eleventh birthday. Baby girl is growing up! I can’t believe she’s eleven already! And Auntie Beth always calls to get the rundown on the birthday and to sing the special song. You know I love you if I sing you “Happy Birthday”!

Being in the south has been fun and interesting… interesting from the perspective of being ninety-five pounds less than I used to be. It’s strange to be on the slimmer side and find myself judging people for being morbidly obese. I have to remind myself that every person has a story and sometimes the picture isn’t the complete story. Mine wasn’t! I did realize that if I lived in this region, I’d have to make sure I moved for an hour on a daily basis and I’d have to carefully watch my fried foods and sweets or I’d revert back to the larger version of myself.

Tomorrow I hope to hit the gym, do some laundry, and I’ve been conscripted into painting my mom’s kitchen and dining room with her so I guess I’ll be doing a little of that as well. My departure to L.A. has also changed slightly. I’ll have three to four additional days in Colorado before moving back to the motherland.

Hmmm… interesting wardrobe choice. A long sleeved t-shirt with a hole from the back of the shoulder to the back of the elbow on the right arm only. What can I say? You’ll see all manner of things in an airport!

Okay… gotta scoot because we’re going to board.

Happy Independence Day!

To my friends from the British kingdom… sorry! That’ll be us across the pond yelling goofy things like, “Down the British!” and, “No taxation without representation!” We’ll be barbequing and enjoying small town parades (complete with large groups of Vespa owners tooling down the street or VW Beetle clubs driving in the parade (I’ve seen it–pretty darn hilarious!)). Our fire trucks will be parked outside the firehouses with ladders hoisted in the air, flags flying from their tip. Flags will be hung from houses with care, in hopes that Saint Nicholas… no… wait… wrong holiday. But seriously, many houses in America will be flying the American flag. Baseball will be played. Hamburgers and hotdogs will be consumed. Apple pie will be on many a menu. As redundant as it sounds, there is no holiday more American than the Fourth of July. And we take it very seriously! And joyously! Why else would we wrap up such a wonderful day with wondrously colorful explosions in the sky? Fireworks matched to patriotic music. It makes me feel like I’m five or six again.

Every year I’m drawn to the same historic passage… so as I’ve done almost every year (for whatever reason, I didn’t repost this last year), we’ll let Mr. Adams do most of the talking:

On July 3, 1776, while serving in the Second Continental CongressJohn Adams wrote a letter to his wife Abigail. He wrote:

But the Day is past. The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America.

I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. – I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. – Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.

What a beautiful summation of what had occurred and what was to come. As a side note, Mr. Adams reflected on July 2, as it was the day Thomas Jefferson and his committee of five drafted the first version of the Declaration of Independence. It was later ratified on July 4, by the Second Continental Congress, following two days of revisions. Thus our attachment to July 4, and not July 2.

As for any perceived spelling errors in that excerpt… stuff it. That’s how they wrote in the eighteenth century. Weird punctuation, different spellings (‘tryumphs’ for one), and random capitalized letters. None of that takes away from the lyrical prose that still holds true today.

P.S. And a very happy birthday to one of our family fireworks, my cousin Ryan!

That Time of Year

Fourth of JulyNext week we celebrate Independence Day here in the United States. My apologies to my friends across the pond, but you may hear shouts of, “Down the British!” and “No taxation without representation!”–we’re pretty serious about this particular holiday! Fourth of JulyThat means the Third Annual Fourth of July Party on my parents’ block (the block is only three years old). There were about thirty men, women, and children crammed into my parents’ garage and driveway last year. And the block has since filled in so we’re expecting a swell in the numbers next week.

Mom has roped me into a small project in preparation for said festivities. Apparently, we’re making tablecloths out of red, white, and blue bandanas. You know, those things cowboys wear around their necks. Actually, it’s a fun tablecloth and very easy to make. So, I ordered a slew of bandanas from Amazon today (thank heavens I have a Prime membership… free 2-day shipping is a must considering when these things have to be finished). I guess I’m sewing with Mom next weekend. In all reality, it should be quite fun. And these can be reused year after year, so I’m not overly concerned.

Fourth of July

The kids cranking ice cream.

Fourth of July

Yes, sitting on the bucket helps!

However, I do have to sit down with the recipes for homemade chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, and mint ‘n chip ice cream to figure out just how much vanilla, cream, eggs, and chocolate I need to make enough ice cream for the block. This is my department: Dessert!

The first year the block party consisted of three houses. That’s how many houses had been built. Last year about half of the block was occupied and just about everyone had never experienced homemade ice cream. To say it was a success is a massive understatement! Especially the mint ‘n chip. Our family recipe, the one we’ve used since I was a little girl, involves Creme de Menthe liqueur. That’s right, there’s alcohol in it! And believe you me, it’s the most fantastic mint ‘n chip you’ll ever taste! The mint is very potent. That flavor has to be made in advance because alcohol doesn’t freeze. There’s not enough in the ice cream to cause a problem, but it has to set up in the freezer for many hours. I think we’ll let the kids make vanilla in the hand crank again.

My niece licking ice cream off of the mother of all beaters!

My niece licking ice cream off of the mother of all beaters!

The rest will be done in batches during the week using the electric ice cream maker. I can do a gallon at a time and then store it in Tupperware in the freezer. I am considering the addition of peach ice cream this year as we’ve got a ton of fresh, juicy peaches at the market. Peaches also go part and parcel with barbeques and picnics during the summer. Anyway, I have to calculate how much of the ingredients I need to buy. As this is a bit expensive, it’s my only contribution to the festivities. I don’t bake anything, I don’t cook anything. I just make homemade ice cream the likes of which these folks have never encountered. Ben & Jerry’s, Häagen-Dazs, Blue Bell, and the like have nothin’ on me!

Everyone on the block is responsible for their own meats… burgers, hot dogs, Polish sausages, chicken, whatever. Everyone is also responsible for bringing a side dish… salad, baked beans, whatever. The water, tea, and lemonade are supplied by my folks because they have those ginormous tanks you can see on the tables and folks can just line up to fill their cups. If you want a beer, it’s bring your own. It’s a fun way to spend the holiday, even if the prep work is a bit for the primary hosting family. I will most likely miss the next two block parties as I’ll be in California for culinary school, so I plan to enjoy every second of it next week! And I plan to enjoy my ice cream! (I’ll make that in SoCal, too, though.)

I’m especially looking forward to this because I worked 46 hours last week, including Saturday. Then I put in 49 hours this week, including yesterday. I’ll be in the office again next Saturday because I’ve got that much work pouring down around me. And call me crazy, but my own integrity won’t allow the work to languish just because I know I’m leaving soon. I intend to leave gorgeous files for my coworkers when I depart. It’s a matter of personal pride.