Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I Heart Christmas

Boy, Christmas can really get on top of you and hold you down like you're its bitch, can't it?  A bunch of people at work have out been dealing with various injuries/illnesses/family drama, and the dentist told me that stress-related tooth injuries make this is their busiest time of the year by far.  So far I am holding my own.  My shopping is finished, although I haven't wrapped anything, and two things haven't arrived in the mail yet.  My Christmas cards and stamps have been acquired, all but three cards have been sent out.  I put up our tabletop Christmas tree and lit my Christmas-scented Yankee Candles and pulled out my Christmas t-shirts (living in Florida, t-shirts make more sense than Christmas sweaters).

I'm trying to keep a close eye on my teeth/jaw,since I don't know if I am clenching my teeth in my sleep until it becomes a problem.  So far it's been fine.  I don't want to end up back at the dentist.  I also don't want a repeat of the really bad migraine I had last Christmas.

I love Christmas. I look forward to it all year, and when it's finally here I happily sing Christmas songs and bake cookies and curl ribbons and watch the tv specials from my childhood.  The tricky part is not getting stressed, especially over things that are made up or blown out of proportion by my own expectations.  Last year I got too stressed, and honestly now I don't even remember why.

Every year Mom asks me not to get her anything because she won't have any gifts for me, but I still take her a couple of things so we can open up presents in her apartment on Christmas Eve night.  Last year instead of making a family photo calendar I got her a calendar of Robert Tuckwiller's art, the landscape artist who lives right exactly where we are from.  Mom loved it, so I'm giving her the new one this year.  I have to admit, I got a second one for myself to hang up at my desk at work.  His beautiful paintings make me positively homesick.  I also got a great Black Friday deal on a digital photo frame for her.  When I received it, I wasn't thrilled with the resolution, but it seems to work just great and it's very easy, so I think I'll give it to her anyway.  I'm loading up a memory card with photos and hope to get some from my sister and my niece.

The little old lady who lives next door to us is in the hospital.  I'm not sure what's going on with her, but I like her; she's very sweet, and I hope she is okay.  It really does seem like practically everyone is having some kind of problem right now.

If you are stressy, please take a moment to enjoy this incredible video of Annie Lennox singing God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, from her new Christmas album.  It's truly beautiful.



Saturday, December 10, 2011

Olive Juice

When I look back at that post a few weeks ago about how bad things were going to be at work, I just LAUGH.  I was worried about not knowing how to use the new systems!  I hadn't been trained enough, I feared!  OH NO!  Well, the sad reality is that many things with the new systems that went live mid-October are still not even working completely.  Lack of training has certainly taken a back seat in my giant mental bus of things to worry about.  Our department has been moved into the call center now, which is being taken apart piece by piece and moved to the new call center area, which is around half the size.  People keep coming back from the new area with wide eyes, saying, Well, it sure is going to be... tight.  Whatever.  We'll all deal with it.


Despite waking up with a slightly sore mouth most mornings, my teeth/jaw seem to be basically okay now.  At least, okay enough to wait until next month to go back to the dentist for more x-rays and to have a night guard made.  Ibuprofen and a heated pillow on my jaw for a few minutes before bed helps a lot.  I don't think I was being super paranoid to worry about the intense shooting nerve pain in my back tooth being from a cracked filling or a cracked tooth, but it inexplicably seems to have gone away now.  I will just assume I have regenerating tooth enamel or something.


This past Tuesday was the 10th anniversary of my first date with Greg, and we are planning to go out tonight to celebrate.  We considered a fancy restaurant, but decided instead to go to Rossi's, a casual Italian restaurant that we used to go to pretty frequently when we were first dating.  Since we moved it's farther away, so we don't go very often any more.  Rossi's is a family owned restaurant that's been in Orlando for decades, and it's filled with oil paintings done by the owner's mother.  They'll put green olives on pizza, and it's surprisingly hard to find a restaurant that does that.  Rossi's is like an old comfortable friend.


Sometimes I read something about the craft of writing that really changes the way I think of writing, and this wonderful post did that:  Sean Ferrell - Pathetic Email.  Here's a short exempt that does not do justice to the full amazing insight:  "... anyone who tries to hollow out a part of themselves so that they can give a home to people who don't exist in a physical sense but exist in a very hard and uncomfortable emotional sense. It's not easy giving them a home, a safe place to be themselves, and it will often destroy us in the process. I think it's supposed to. After completing a book you won't be the person you were before trying to write it, not if you've done it right. There's real fear in that... You're supposed to be scared."   Go read the whole thing, and possibly you'll be as inspired as I was.  One person left the comment: "This is the best post in the history of ever". 


FYI:  My blog entry title is from the idea that mouthing "olive juice" looks to someone lip-reading like "I love you".

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Thursday, December 6, 2001

Ten years ago today...

I was looking forward to going on a date with this guy.  I knew him because we were in the same circle of friends, and the week before we'd ended up spending a while talking at a friend's birthday party, and we'd kind of hit it off.  I came home and IMed a friend, asking if he was still dating this scary chick I'd heard about, she said:  No, he's not.  Hmmm, I thought. Then the guy and I saw each other online and had our own IM conversation, which led to a phone coversation, which led to him asking me out on a date.  He was cute, and smart, and funny.  He was also 8 years younger than me:  I was 35, he was 27.

My two cats and I lived in a one bedroom apartment on the third floor.  Running slightly late, I got out of the shower and, still naked, started to comb out and blow dry my hair in the steamy bathroom.

I thought I heard a noise.  I turned off the hair dryer and listened:  silence.  I looked at the clock, it wasn't even 6:30, and he was supposed to pick me up at 7.  I turned the hair dryer back on and bent over at the waist, blow-drying my long hair upside down to maximize volume.

I thought I heard a noise again.  I turned the hair dryer back off, and listened. This time I clearly heard a knock on my door.

Oh my god, don't tell me this guy is more than a half hour early!  Who does that?  I already don't like him.  I ran out of the steamy bathroom and frantically tried to pull on jeans and a shirt.  My jeans didn't want to go on, because my skin was all steamy from the shower.  Ugh, ugh.

I ran to the door, and there's no one there.  Good grief, I thought, it must not have been him after all.   I slammed the door, went back to the bathroom and turned my hairdryer back on.

Again, I thought I heard a noise.  I stomped to the front door and flung it open.  There he stood, looking at me with my hair all wild from being upside down, and my shirt on askew.

"You're early!"  I barked at him.

"Oh, sorry," he said, smiling at me.  "I'll go wait in my car."

I rolled my eyes.  "No, you can sit here on the couch and make friends with my cats.  But I'm not going to be ready until 7!"

"Okay."  He sat.  The cats eyed him warily.

Twenty-five minutes later I emerged from the bedroom, this time with actual underwear on beneath my clothes, and found him with one cat on his lap and the other lying next to him on the couch.  Who can stay mad at a guy who makes friends with your cats?

We went to the Orlando Museum of Art for their Third Thursday event and had a great time walking around talking about art.  Then we went downtown and had pizza at a little cafe, and walked around Lake Eola.  I was surprised by how comfortable I felt with him; I am uncomfortable around everybody, so this was unprecedented.  We walked and talked, and I forgot that he was 8 years younger than I.  He made me laugh, and better still he laughed at all my weird sarcastic jokes.  I noticed how blue his eyes were.

Then he drove me back to my apartment, and still enjoying the warm Florida December evening, we decided to walk around my giant apartment complex.  We walked around the three big ponds and the two pools, under the sidewalk lights, and talked more, and held hands.

It was one of those nights described in romantic books that you think are not real until you have one of those nights yourself.  We wanted to find out everything about each other, and we couldn't listen fast enough.  I told him about my childhood in Virginia and being shy and making art, he told me about his childhood in Florida and his time in the military and making music.  We sat on my couch and drank Coke and petted cats and told each other about all our previous relationships and jobs and hopes and fears.

And then we noticed the sun was coming up.  Even after being together for more than 10 hours, I hated to see him go.  He gave me a little kiss at the door and left.

In retrospect, I think we both fell in love at least a little that night, even though it was nearly three weeks before we'd actually say the words to each other.  Today, 10 years later, I love him so much.

Even though, as it turns out, he is ALWAYS early.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Doggies and Kitties ≥ People



I love this.  One of my friends posted it on Facebook, and boy, is this ever ME.

On Thanksgiving day, Greg and I took my homemade pumpkin pie (and Cool Whip) to his Dad's house for lunch, and we hung out with his father, his stepmother and her siblings, his sisters and their various husbands and children.  We ate ham and turkey and stuffing and all the typical Thanksgiving stuff.  After stuffing ourselves Greg and I went out to the backyard to meet his little sister Kayla's dog Capone.  Capone is a lovely and high-spirited young German Shepherd dog.  He fetched a ball for us, liked having his ears scratched, and is prone to jumping up on people -- I sadly had to deflect him due to his muddy paws. 

Then we took more pumpkin pie (and Cool Whip) to Greg's sister's (on his mother's side) house, where we hung out with his sister Ashley and her husband and two sons, Greg's mother and aunts.  They have had two sweet little Chihuahua dogs, and they recently adopted a mixed breed dog who is at least partly Dachshund, and a little black Labrador puppy.  I spent some time petting the little black Lab, who has an adorable puppy tummy, and playing with the Dachshund's long silky ears.  At one point I was on the couch and both Chihuahuas hopped up on me and curled up on my lap.  They're so little they both fit.  *happy sigh*

On the way to Ashley's house we stopped at the shop of one of Greg's clients.  A little sweet black and white kitty lives there and Greg is friends with her, and since she's mostly an outdoor cat, he was hoping she might be hanging around.  When we pulled up, she stood up from her sleepy spot in the sun and started meowing at us, as though she'd been waiting.  She was the friendliest cat, I picked her up and cuddled her and she just purred and purred.

The highlight of our Thanksgiving day was clearly the animals.  It's true, Greg and I are both very thankful for dogs and cats...  Sometimes more than people, particularly relatives.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

They Rocked My Teeth Out

They caught no fish, since the wind was too strong it wasn't safe to go out on the bay.  Bummer for Judas Priest.  They still kept their word about the tickets, but when we got to the venue they turned out to be VIP tickets, which meant tickets in the VIP section.  Which was right by all the other non-VIP sections, although more centrally located.  So we got to see Thin Lizzy (best known for their biggest hit in 1976, The Boys Are Back In Town), Black Label Society (best known for being the band of Zakk Wylde, the guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne), and Judas Priest, best known for being awesome.

One interesting thing about Judas Priest:  in 1990 the band was accused of causing a fan's suicide by subliminally including the message "Do it" in one of their songs.  Rob Halford responded by stating that if they were going to include a subliminal message in their music it would be counterproductive to encourage fans to kill themselves, they'd rather have a message encouraging the fans to buy more records. The lawsuit ended up being dismissed.

Anyway, there were no backstage passes, no meet and greet with the band, just pretty good seats and a very good concert.  Judas Priest had the flaming pyro effects, the black leather outfits, and they really rocked.

For the past few days my teeth have been hurting, a lot, especially in the morning, and especially on the right side.  Yesterday I woke up with a swollen right jaw and pretty intense pain, and managed to get an emergency appointment with my dentist.  They took x-rays and poked around and said that I am not exactly grinding my teeth in my sleep, but I am clenching my jaw in my sleep, to the point where it's causing problems.  (Since my surgery to correct my deformed upper jaw when I was 17, I still have a bite that's just slightly off, my teeth only meeting on the right side, in the back.)  He ground away part of my teeth on the right side, just enough to change where my teeth were hitting, and said that should fix it for now but I need to come in next month to get night guards made.

I managed to still go to the heavy metal concert last night without getting a headache, which I am going to consider a Christmas miracle.

But today I still have pain, I still have swelling, and the ibuprofen and moist heat he prescribed don't seem to be helping.

Of course with my lame-ass dentophobia I am positive that something terrible is happening in my mouth and they just didn't see it yesterday.  Part of my brain knows that even if that is the case and I have to go back in to have some sort of procedure done, I'll survive and it'll be no big deal really.  But the loudest part of my brain is convinced that this will mean a ton of money (right before Christmas), a ton of pain, a ton of vacation time from work that I can't afford to lose, and just lots of agony in general.

I'm just hoping I wake up tomorrow and it's at least better...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

I Hope They Catch a Lot of Fish

Greg's father lives in the Tampa Bay area and is an expert fisherman.  Recently he started operating a charter fishing service.

Greg's dad called Greg and said, "Hey, do you know who Rob Halford is?  He just booked a fishing trip with me."

Greg said, "Rob Halford?  You mean the lead singer of Judas Priest?  Going fishing with you?  THE Rob Halford?"

It is, in fact, the Rob Halford, lead singer of the famous British band who arguably invented heavy metal. They are on tour, will be stopping in Tampa on Wednesday 11/30, and apparently wanted to do some fishing.

Judas Priest

Greg's dad: "He said he can give me some kind of passes, backstage or VIP or something, but I'm not going to go.  Do you and Ellen want them?"

Greg:  "OH MY GOD!!"

So I was able to take Wednesday and Thursday off work, and will be going to see Judas Priest.  We have no real idea exactly what we are getting, if it'll be concert tickets or VIP tickets or backstage passes or what, but it'll be an exciting adventure, I'm sure.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Antmusic for Sexpeople, Sexmusic for Antpeople

Good things, part 3.

I've mentioned my enduring love for Adam Ant and his music a couple of times before on this blog:  HERE, when I talk about how my 14-year old self first discovered his music, and HERE, when I briefly mention seeing Adam in concert with my friend Hellione.  I felt compelled to at least try to write about how I love Adam Ant and his music, but truly, it didn't even begin to describe the scope of my feelings.

I'm going to try again.

When I bought that first Adam and the Ants album (Kings of the Wild Frontier) and had never heard any of their music previously, I fell in love immediately.  Music was a big part of my life and I liked all kinds: classic rock, pop, punk, things that would be called goth now but back then that word didn't exist yet.  The songs on this album had a screamy, punky edge, with tribal drums and such incredible energy.  I'd never heard anything like it before, and still now, 30 years later, I love every song on this album.  Not only have I not gotten tired of it, I love it more than ever.

Here is Adam and the Ants performing Kings of the Wild Frontier on Top of the Pops (a British show similar to American Bandstand).  They are clearly lip-syncing to the recorded track, and in fact Adam isn't even bothering with the pretense of a microphone.

Lyrics from this song, co-written by Adam Ant and the guitarist, Marco Pirroni:

"A new royal family
A wild nobility
We are the family"

"No method in our madness
Just pride about our manner
Antpeople are the warriors
Antmusic is the banner"





That inclusive, "outsider but part of our family" message really struck me.  As a lonely, shy girl living in the middle of nowhere, this idea of Antpeople was extremely appealing.  I loved the music, I loved the message, and I have to say the fact that Adam was hot as hell didn't hurt.


I found that Adam had had one previous album that had only been released by a small label in England, and I had a local record store special order it for me.  It was called Dirk Wears White Sox, and was completely punk; very angry and very poetic.

Here's a clip from Derek Jarman's movie Jubilee, with Adam performing the song Plastic Surgery.  This is very early, before he was known at all, and very punky.



My admiration for both Adam and his music was cemented in my soul with these songs.  Regardless of the poppy stuff that that came afterwards, these two albums are still some of my favorite music to listen to.

Adam and the Ants had been tremendously popular in England, much more so than in the US.  They had dozens of hit songs and legions of loyal fans.

And thus began a decade and a half of buying every Adam and the Ants album and single, and then when the Ants broke up and Adam Ant was a solo act, buying all the Adam Ant stuff.  I went to Georgia twice to see Adam in concert, one to Washington DC, once to Norfolk VA, and I saw him on his last tour here in Orlando (the Wonderful tour, in 1995).

After that Adam disappeared for a while, not releasing any more music.  In 2002 he announced a new album, and started doing promotional appearances and interviews.  But he was behaving erratically and saying things that sounded strange.  He did one promotional single for charity that was so bad it kind of scared me.  Then Adam got arrested for threatening patrons in a pub and pulling a gun on the police when they arrived. He was given a suspended sentence and he ended up spending nearly a year as an in-patient in a psychiatric hospital.

By this time, I had a computer and internet access and was trying to keep up with Adam.  This was extremely upsetting news. I was glad he was getting treatment and really hoped he'd get better.

In 2006 his autobiography was released, and he told about how he had suffered for years with undiagnosed bipolar disorder, and had attempted suicide.  He made it clear that he was working with doctors to manage his illness with medication and was doing well.

Then about a year and a half ago, he popped up in the news again, talking about a new album and a tour. He started doing public appearances at charity events and things, and then doing actual shows in small clubs around London.

This really worried me, as it really appeared to be the same type of manic behavior that preceded his breakdown before.  I watched YouTube videos of him performing, and he did seem a little off, forgetting lyrics to his songs sometimes.  But as the months passed, he seemed more and more in control and happy.  I watched videos of him being interviewed on British tv shows, and he looks healthy and, really, pretty damn good.  The more recent videos show him performing in bigger and bigger venues around the UK, looking and sounding amazing.  I started to feel better.  Maybe his illness is under control, and his creative spirit is returning.  He spoke in interviews about wanting to return to that early, punky type of music, and the set lists posted online from his recent concerts back that up, he's been doing a lot of the really early songs along with the big hits.

Then on Monday a miracle happened.  I had taken a random vacation day from work, putting in for it a few months ago when I realized how stressful this time would be; I figured I'd need it.  Late morning I was pooting around on Facebook when I see an announcement from the Hard Rock Live Orlando.

ADAM ANT IN CONCERT IN FEBRUARY!  Tickets were going on sale that very day at 5pm!


This was a complete shock.  His new album is supposed to come out in January, and there had been vague talk of a US tour afterwards, but it seemed way too much to hope for.  Then that not only is there a tour, but the first concert date to be announced and go up for sale is right here, where I am!

And how lucky that I was off work and saw the announcement, and was at home to call and buy tickets immediately!  Obviously, I called and bought tickets the second they went on sale.


I seriously want to cry a little just looking at that.  FRONT ROW CENTER!

So, anyway...  good things are happening.  This is a good thing of such miraculous importance to me that it has literally changed everything around in my head, and I have trouble thinking about anything else for very long.

Adam Ant!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Good Things, Part II

We finally had enough money saved up and we bought a 13" Macbook Air.

I have never had a laptop before, and being able to carry around this awesome tiny machine seems like magic to me.  How did we ever get along without this?  It's so light, I think it really is made mostly of air.

Being me, I am doing obsessive research about what kind of case to get to carry it around.  After looking at skins, covers, sleeves, bags and backpacks, I think I've decided that I'm just going to go with buying a quilted padded zippered cover on Etsy.  I like the idea of getting something handmade and supporting a creative person, instead of giving business to a big impersonal electronics store.  I just need to find one that has a fabric that isn't so girly my husband would be embarrassed to carry it around - I might really like the one covered with tiny lavender butterflies and pink flowers, but I don't think he'd appreciate it on quite the same level.

Adam Carolla calls his computer his "magic porn box" and similarly I now think of this laptop as my "magic writing box".  I've installed Scrivener (my writing program, see it here) on it, and it really does seem positively magical that I can carry around this tiny thing and not only have my novel and my novel in progress, but all my research and notes and everything right there in my little hand.

Speaking of writing, I completely stopped all writing a few months ago.  I was just getting into my second novel, and I was having an extremely difficult time.  I needed a get-some-perspective break.  I also needed to stop beating myself up.  I did some reading (including the Hunger Games books, which I seriously cannot recommend highly enough, very fun to read) and did some thinking.

And now I can see that I was going the wrong direction with my work-in-progress.  I still really like the characters and the overall plot arc, but I was trying to take it the wrong way.  It's funny, I felt like if I think something is a good idea, then it is, I'm the writer and therefore what happens within my writing is all up to me.  But I can see now that the severe events I had planned were wrong for the relatively gentle tone of the book, and I now have a better idea of what the theme is.  I am probably going to scrap what little writing I did actually do, and start over, with a much clearer plan.

But not yet.  I think that my first novel was written somewhat fearfully, in that I kept hearing critical voices in my head that, despite my attempts to ignore them, still steered me in the wrong direction about several things, including the personality of the main character.  I wrote Megan fairly ditzy, and sweet, and a little naive, and I see now that if I put more of my own personality into her, it would be a lot more interesting.  I think she should be funnier, more sarcastic, and a little darker.  And even though the novel mostly takes place in her office, I really shied away from having too many scenes there, especially with other characters that she works with.

So here I go with My First Novel: The Second Draft.  Yay!

I've already re-written the first scene, and I am positive that it is much better now.  I am tremendously excited to get going with the other changes, and I can confidently say that the joy is now back in my writing.

And therefore, back in my life.  And holy crapmuffins, I could use some joy right about now.  Work remains horrifying.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

There are some good things, too...

... in between the stress and sadness that is my job now.

Like so many other people, I don't get any exercise, yadda yadda yadda, my muscles are congealing into an ever-expanding Jabba the Hutt style mound of goo, blah blah blah.  Virtually everybody, other than, I assume, actual professional athletes who have negative four percent body fat and work out for 12 hours per day, bitches and moans about needing to get more exercise and eat healthier.  I do not know for sure that professional athletes do not also bitch and moan since I do not know any actual professional athletes, I mostly know people like me who sit down all day and then come home and eat mashed potatoes for dinner and then complain about having to walk more than two feet to get from their car to the grocery store.  But I have had so many sincere, heartfelt, passionate conversations with my husband and my friends and my coworkers about how much I need to get some damn exercise every now and then, and then not actually doing anything, I am sick of hearing myself talk about it.  Shut the hell up until you actually do something, me.

And then a month ago I discovered that our cable provider has a whole On Demand exercise channel, with buttloads of workouts.  They have one entire section of ten minute workouts.  TEN MINUTES.  Who am I kidding to say I don't have ten freaking minutes?  So I looked around, some were too hard for me, but I found one I really liked:  Denise Austin's Daily Dozen.  It's actually twelve minutes long, and it's one dozen different exercises, stretchy and jumpy and lungy moves, one minute each.  It's mostly cardio, and it actually makes me sweat.

It was hard, and I had to seriously force myself to do it.  I am amazed at those people who really enjoy pushing their bodies and exerting themselves physically, I have never, even as a child, liked that.  During each 12 minute workout there are at least two or three points where my body is yelling at me, quite convincingly, to stop it right now and go sit down.  Stupid body, what does it know?  I keep looking at the clock and telling myself: for heaven's sake it's only a few more minutes, don't be such a wuss!

But I am now in my fifth week, and I can honestly say that I can actually see a difference.  The workout is less hard than it was in the beginning, my back feels better, my sore shoulder feels better, and I do have a bit more energy.  And that's with only doing 12 minutes a day, four or five days a week.  I have no doubt that this has made it easier for me to deal with the stress at work, and I have to admit...  I am proud of myself.

:)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Trying To Keep Perspective, But Mostly Failing

I have never before been so stressed about work stuff that I just couldn't stop myself from thinking about it all the time, while at work and at home in those moments where my mind is not occupied by something immediate.  When I'm driving, when I'm taking a shower, when I'm doing the dishes, despite my best efforts to calm down and stop thinking about it I find my mind turns to work issues.

I have never wanted to write about work stuff on my blog, and I still don't but there seriously isn't anything much else in my head these days.  And I'm so busy, and so tired.

I work in a call center operations department, overseeing two call centers in two cities, totaling over a hundred agents and dozens and dozens of different types of calls coming in on different lines.  We use two main programs for this, one to watch/control the calls and one to watch and track the agents.  Both are changing, this weekend.

The new program to watch the agents is one that we have received a fair amount of training on, and a manual.  The training was all done in a hypothetical context, because none of the actual information that we will be using was loaded into the program.  Still, it was helpful.

To learn about the new program to watch the calls we were included, along with a dozen other supervisors and managers, in a web conference projected onto a screen in our training room.  The actual stuff that we will do, watching and controlling calls, was but a very small amount of time, and very hard to see on the screen.  And that's it, no training manual.

To say that we are panicking is putting it mildly.  My department is small, only 9 people, and we are all walking around like we are in a nightmare.  (One co-worker is actually having nightmares.)  One other co-worker looks weepy and confused, one keeps snapping at me and then apologizing. 

Our boss is a wonderful person who we all care about a lot, and she is having a very sad family emergency and has been out of the office most of this week.  Our sadness for her is not helping, and neither is the fact that she's not there.

Pretty much every other department is the same as ours, panicked and overworked and understaffed (two supervisors have left and not been replaced, two people on the technical team overseeing these changes have quit).

Like a cloud of doom hanging over our heads is the fact that our office location will soon be reconfigured to be 50% smaller.  We have no idea how this will happen or when it will begin, but the office manager keeps bringing people into our area muttering about knocking down walls and putting in doors.  When asked they tell us that an official statement will be coming at some point, they don't know when, but soon, within a month.  Until then we feel somewhat homeless, having been asked to clear out anything not vital from our cubicles.  None of us has even started with that yet, and unused bins sit stacked in the corner, a reminder that something is coming, but who knows what, or when.

We found out yesterday that a giant amount of information that was supposed to be uploaded into one of the new programs hasn't been, and won't be -- the company didn't pay for that upgrade.  I have no idea how that wasn't made clear to us earlier, but it means we will have to do it all manually, before Sunday.  It's extremely tedious and will take a really, really long time.

When I visited Mom last month, we went through some very old photos, and I found this one.  Mom laughed but was slightly appalled when she saw it, I don't think she quite approves of Dad having taken a photo of her so (in her mind) unattractive.  It must have been taken sometime in the late 1930's.

I love it, and I am sharing it, because it really makes me smile.

Written in her handwriting in pencil on the back is this.  It says, "Made just after I got up to the top of Stone Mt! Some climb --"



And here is the front.  I love this, and I feel a lot like this lately, especially when I am finally walking out of the building, across the parking lot to my car to go HOME.  Too bad I don't have a cute hat like that.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

90

On Friday 9/23 I posted this status update to Facebook:  On Friday, September 30, one week from today, my wonderful mother will celebrate her 90th birthday. She absolutely loves to get mail, and would be delighted to get birthday cards. Anyone interested in pleasing a sweet 90 year old woman, please PM me for her address. :)   

I was surprised to get more than a dozen messages from people who wanted to send her a card.  One person from high school that I haven't seen in decades, one person in another state that I only know from work, so many people who have never met my mother sent her cards.  She ended up getting 32 cards, here's a pic of her display (she got more after I left, so this isn't all 32):




Many of the cards were from our relatives in VA, including my cousin Clara Sue, who is a third grade teacher and had her whole third grade class draw cards for my mother.  How sweet is that?  Here is Clara Sue's birthday wish/memories:

Dad actually grew popcorn in the garden and had an old (very old, I don't even know how old - possibly from the 1800's, maybe the very early 1900's) popcorn popper.  It looked like a metal box on a metal pole, we'd shake it over the fire in the fireplace to pop the corn. Popcorn at my house was an antique country adventure, that's for sure.  He also had walnut trees and would sit on the carport shelling walnuts for hours.  I still miss those black walnuts, nothing that I've found in stores since then has even come close.  Back then Dad smoked a pipe, and I have to admit, as a teenage girl I bitterly resented all my clothes smelling like pipe smoke.  Everyone has fond memories of that smell except for me, I think.  Deidra is Clara's little sister, who was a baby when I was in high school, and my Mom really doted on her.  It's a thoughtful and sweet list of memories.

Here's a pic of the whole group of drawings laid out on Mom's bed:
I especially love the mermaid and the one with "Star Wors" characters holding little light sabers.

She also got a giant flower arrangement from my cousin Tony and his wife.  You can't really tell in this pic, but I swear it had to be nearly 3 feet tall.  And it meant so much to Mom, who remembered how Dad used to grow sunflowers in the garden in VA.



I had quite a wonderful trip.  I always get slightly anxious about making the long drive alone, but then once I'm on the road I'm fine, and everything went perfectly.  We had our traditional breakfast for dinner at IHOP the afternoon I arrived.  The next day we went shopping at Belk and Penny's and bought a couple of new blouses for Mom.  She made it just fine with her cane and with me helping her get around, although it always makes her very tired.

On Friday, her birthday, we went to Longhorn for lunch to celebrate: It was my brother and his wife and their daughter (her husband was at work and couldn't come), my sister and her husband, and me and Mom.  A big enough group to be celebratory, but small enough so that Mom was able to hear what was being said (most of the time).

I had several meals in the dining room with Mom and her friends Mickie and Wilma, and spent time watching Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune.  Mom has turned on the closed captioning because often has trouble making out what people are saying, but I tried to speak clearly and she rarely had to ask me to repeat anything.

She's been sad about her hearing, and I think this visit cheered her up.  I'm already looking forward to going back at Christmas.  It just makes me feel good to be with my Mom.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Up With Ruts

As I get older and get to know myself a little better, I am beginning to understand one thing about myself:  I  don't like change.

I would really like to be the kind of person who thrives on new experiences, finding new ways of doing things and being adventurous.  But no, I am a stick in the mud old fuddy duddy who really enjoys a nice, comfortable, boring rut.

Things are busy, lately.  Both Greg and I have had some kind of stomach problem that has lasted for around a month and a half.  Not bad enough to call in sick to work, but bad enough to be no fun at all, and it just won't go away.  Greg has had it worse, and he went to the doctor last week.  Hopefully test results will show that it's something very quick and easy to get rid of.  We are, as the saying goes, sick and tired of being sick and tired.

All of those changes that I mentioned earlier are starting to happen at work.  The first of several major changes happened last week, and it's been stressful for everyone.  The second and third major changes will happen at the exact same time mid-October, and we are all extra busy trying to prepare.  The fourth major change, our company moving to a whole different building or our department moving to a different area of our current building, is still hanging over our heads like a cloud of doom.  We don't even know when we'll know.

On Wednesday I'll drive up to Georgia to spend some time with Mom, and on Friday we'll go out to lunch to celebrate her 90th birthday.  Saturday I'll have breakfast with her and then drive home, and will hopefully be home in time to have a nice dinner with Greg to celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary.  We took two vacation days to celebrate, so Sunday, Monday and Tuesday will be all about having fun and relaxing.

One good thing is that I'm now old enough to recognize those things about myself that I might have been reluctant to acknowledge during my thoughtless youth.  I can at least plan ahead and make it a point to take care of myself.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Old

My mom got some bad news:  Her hearing loss is being made much worse by a problem within her inner ear, which is distorting the sounds she hears.  The doctor said her ability to understand sounds went from 90% two years ago to 20% now.  There's nothing that can be done about it.  Her hearing has gotten noticeably worse in the past few months, even with her hearing aid, but we were all hoping that a new hearing aid or an adjustment would help.

Every now and then on the phone she has to ask me to repeat myself, but mostly she can still understand me when I speak to her. It's harder for her if there is any background noise, or if the person speaking isn't clear.  Sometimes she holds the phone up to her answering machine to see if I can hear her messages, because she has so much trouble making out what they are saying.  It was tremendously upsetting for her to find out that it wouldn't get any better.

Overall, at almost 90, she is in pretty good shape.  Everyone at the retirement home just loves her, she is the "sweet" one who tries to help out and be kind to people.  Her mind is fine.  She walks perfectly well with the aid of a walker/rollator, which is really only there to keep her steady in case she needs it.  Her vision is good enough to do crossword puzzles and read the newspaper.  She gets tired easily, and her back hurts because of her osteoporosis, but she is in better shape, I would guess, than the average 90 year old.

I'll be driving up to visit her next week on September 28th, and we'll be going to a birthday lunch celebration with other family members on her birthday, Friday September 30th.  I know she misses Dad so much it's hard for her to celebrate anything.  Some days I can tell she just feels tired of living.  I hope her birthday celebration cheers her up, at least a little.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Say Something Nice

A group called Improv Everywhere put a lectern with a megaphone and a sign that said "Say Something Nice" in New York City, allowing passersby to say whatever they wanted, and videotaped the results.  The whole story with photos is here:  Improv Everywhere.

Some people just walked by and looked, some took a photo of the lectern, one guy said literally "something nice", but a lot of people said "I love you", or "have a great day".   Some people got more creative, and played guitar or sang.

I just love this.  I don't watch the news because it's needlessly upsetting to me, but I do listen to NPR every day, and lately that has been just as upsetting.  Sometimes I need a reminder that people are, in general, pretty neat.

(There is a short commercial before the video, sorry)




Saturday, August 27, 2011

Beauty

This is where I am from.  How beautiful is this?


I was looking around online, and it always amazes me when I can find something on the world wide web that originates in little Newport Virginia (that is NOT Newport News, thankyouverymuch), because the whole area seems to be straight out of the 1800's.

I found this website:  Windrush Farm.  This is literally less than a mile from where I grew up.  I was raised in the house that my father built for me to grow up in, built right next door to his sister and the place where he grew up.

To say that I did not appreciate the beauty of this area during my childhood would be such an understatement.  I was right there living next to that mountain, listening to Adam and the Ants and the Dead Kennedys and reading Anne Rice and dreaming of living in a real place, a place with public transportation and tall buildings and culture.

I suppose most teenagers are fairly stupid.

Now with the perspective of decades of distance I look at photos of the wondrous beauty of the Appalachian mountains and it just makes me ache with homesickness.  I like where I am now and I really don't want to move back, but it feels like a sizable chunk of my heart is there, and always will be.


Monday, August 22, 2011

I Heart Art: An Etsy Experience

I love Etsy and can spend hours pooting around on the site, looking at handmade soaps and jewelry and wall hangings and clothes, and daydreaming about spending thousands of dollars.  Unfortunately, I don't happen to have thousands of dollars to spare, so I've never actually bought anything.

Until I saw this store!  This artist hand paints lovely little portraits onto actual pages from vintage books.  Having a bit of a book fetish, I thought this was the coolest thing ever.  And her prices, for originals or prints, are very reasonable.

So when I saw the sweet couple dancing in front of the Eiffel tower, I had to do it.  I bought a print (which is actually enlarged and is bigger than the original book page painting), and a set of note cards.

The artist is in England, and I was a little afraid of the possibility of the prints/cards getting bent in transit, but she packaged everything so well that the artwork reached my eager hands in perfect shape. And she even sent me a bonus note card as a gift, which was so nice of her.



Here's the Eiffel tower print, in a plain black 11x14 frame (I hung it by my bedside table):


The notecards were such good quality, I decided to frame one of those, too, and I put it on my dresser:




I'm sure this is obvious, but I do want to make it clear that she didn't compensate me or anything for this blog entry, I just wanted to share her stuff because I was so impressed with it.

And I'm so not kidding when I say I am really, really, really tempted to buy this, a giant octopus wall decal.  Neat!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Favorite Websites: Hot Guys Reading Books

Those of you who still haven't stopped cringing from my last favorite website post can relax, this one is safe for work.  Hot Guys Reading Books

It's a Tumblr site, a collection of submitted photos of guys who are reading books.  Photos taken of strangers on a bus or in a park, photos taken of boyfriends or husbands or brothers in bed or on the porch or lying on the couch.  There's even one photo of a celebrity hot guy reading a book:  Neil Gaiman.

One of my favorite parts is trying to see what they are reading.  Somehow it feels so intimate to see a stranger reading a book I've read; they're learning about my fictional friends, and sharing my literary experiences.

Seriously, any guy who reads is hot, because reading is hot, right?  Right.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Look Who Works In The 7-11

A real live Death Eater!  My goodness, they are everywhere.  




Other than the obvious negative attributes one has to assume of all Death Eaters (being evil, serving the Dark Lord, disliking the super awesome Neville Longbottom, being mean to Harry Potter, etc.) this particular Death Eater seemed quite nice.  She sold me my Coke Zero and my sunflower seeds quickly and efficiently, and if any evildoings happened while I was in the 7-11, I was unaware.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Vali Myers Revisited

A few days ago I got a comment on a blog entry that I wrote last June about Vali Myers (here) from the Vali Myers Art Gallery Trust.

How wonderful!  I didn't know this organization existed.  They even have a Facebook page, here.  

There are a lot of interesting photos on their FB page, including a photo of the little house in Australia where she was born, photos of Vali herself, and some images of her artwork that I've never seen before.  They announced yesterday that they will soon show previously unseen diary entries by Vali, and I'm tremendously excited about that.

I am so delighted to know that her vivid, emotional artwork is still being loved and shared.

From their Facebook page:




Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Favorite Websites: Lurid Digs


Maybe I am kind of a voyeur, but this site just positively fascinates me. 

I want to say immediately, this site is exceedingly Not Safe For Work.  The site is a collection of unfortunate and usually hilarious photos taken from gay male hookup websites where people post photos of themselves, typically at home, typically naked.  The often funny part is their surroundings.  It's just odd to see a naked man sprawled across a chenille bedspread festooned with sweet little stuffed animals, or standing in front of a merrily decorated Christmas tree.  What, hot sex with strangers isn't your idea of a nice Christmas?  Everybody has their own traditions, okay!  That's what makes America great.

I have to admit, sometimes the photos make me slightly sad.  To see them naked and therefore vulnerable, and to assume they are looking for companionship (for a couple of hours or for ever); sometimes the photos strike me as poignant.  That is probably just me projecting my own psychological crap onto the people in the photos.  I am not able to have a naked photo taken of myself without feeling vulnerable to the point of panic, but clearly other people enjoy it and are empowered by it, and that's fine.  I am not interested in being physically intimate with someone I am not in a loving relationship with, but other people do it all the time and that's fine too.

I guess I am the type who would prefer to watch unseen, sometimes cringing on their behalf, and sometimes giggling.  It is entirely possible that the person who puts their own self in front of the camera and then enjoys a perfectly nice hookup is better off than the one hiding.

At any rate, I love this site so much.  One more time, this site is very Not Safe For Work.  The photos show naked men, mostly just sort of standing there (some of the men are doing more "standing" than others, if you know what I mean) but the ads show full on porn.  If you do not want to see actual porn, don't click here.  NSFW Lurid Digs NSFW


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Medical Blah Blah

I got the full report back from my blood test yesterday, and I do not have either thyroid problems or arthritis.  I still wonder what's up with the occasional pain in my joints, but since it is not bad I won't worry about it.
 
Apparently I have somewhat high cholesterol levels, so I need to work on that.  I know everybody says this all the time and it's just boring old empty words, but I need to change things.  I eat fairly well -- occasional trips to potato chip land or fried food town, but I spend more time eating baked chicken and steamed broccoli.  My main problem is that I don't get any real exercise, and now would be a fine time to change that, when my medical difficulties are still no big deal. 
 
Also, oddly, I have a Vitamin D deficiency!  I live in the Sunshine State, for heaven's sake.  The doctor actually wrote me a prescription, saying the over the counter Vitamin D wouldn't be strong enough for me.  Apparently Vitamin D deficiency is becoming a more and more widespread problem because of people wearing sunscreen, which blocks Vitamin D absorption. 
 
Internet research has not convinced me that I have roseacea, but I am giving the cream a chance to work, and I'm hopeful that the Biotin will help my hair loss, as I am currently a hideous mess.
 
No, really!  A HIDEOUS MESS.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Result

Well, my test results were supposed to be in yesterday, so I called the office only to find my doctor is on vacation!  For heaven's sake, who approved that, when I am waiting for my results?

Anyway, the nurse could tell I was kind of anxious, and basically told me without telling me that my blood test showed that I do not have a thyroid problem.  That's kind of a relief, but that means I still don't know why my hair is falling out all over the place.

The doctor had told me that if it turned out not to be a thyroid issue I should start taking Biotin, which I'd never heard of before but apparently is a type of vitamin B.  I started taking that yesterday, and I also got around 4" cut off my hair; it's shoulder-length now and the shorter length makes it look a lot less thin.

Next week I'll talk to the doctor and get all the official test results, including whether or not I have arthritis.

In the meantime, it's Friday (yay!) and this weekend we plan to:  take several big bags of old clothes to Goodwill, take aluminum cans to the recycling center, go have lunch at the Cheesecake Factory using a gift card a lovely friend gave Greg for his birthday, and go see Captain America.

Last weekend I redesigned my blog a bit, while keeping the same header because, if I do say so myself, it's super.  I added several pages, let me know how you like it!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Things Rattling Around Inside My Head (Ow, They're Pointy)

  • I use three main computer programs at my job every day.  All day, every day.  All three of them are being replaced within the next two months.  The only thing not being changed is that we will still use Microsoft Windows, so emails will still be Outlook, etc.  But that's probably 10% of my day, most of what I do is using specialized, fairly complicated software that has taken years to fully learn and get used to.   But now it's aaaall changing.  I know I am smart enough to learn the new programs (at least eventually) but I kind of hate new stuff just in general, and having all three change completely and at the same time is going to be stressful for all of us.
  • The lease is up soon at the office building where my company is located, and apparently there is at least a very solid chance that we will either move, or the company will try to downsize the area that we are renting and we will be reorganized within the same building.  Either way, things will change, and it's certainly possible that my department's isolation in a back room will end.  Anyone who knows me at all know that I am a BIG FAN of being isolated...  
  • At home we have an iMac, and we were delighted when the new OS was released last week.  It was only $29!  That's surprisingly inexpensive.  We immediately downloaded it and were horrified to see that our very old version of Photoshop no longer works.  We have CCS2 and it's so old it's not compatible with the new OS.  Oh, this is a huge bummer.  It'll cost $199 to upgrade to the newest version, CCS5.  If we don't upgrade now, the new version of Photoshop (CCS6) will be released (there's no official date yet but it could literally be any day now) and it'll be so far ahead of our poor old CCS2 that we won't even be able to upgrade it, we'd have to purchase the whole full program for $699.  We both love Photoshop, I had been trying to get back into digital fine art and Greg uses it all the time to make the graphics for his site.  This is sickening, we would have been happy with the old one forever.  I guess we will have to pay $199, which will make it even that much longer before we can afford to buy the laptop we've been saving for.
  • I had planned to go visit Mom next month, but my brother and sister want to have a birthday party for her;  Mom will be 90 on September 30th.  That's great, and I am excited for her to have a nice gathering, but that means I'll have to wait another month and a half before I can see her.  My wedding anniversary is the very next day, October 1st, so my plan now is to drive up to GA on Wednesday the 27th, spend three nights in the retirement home guest room visiting with Mom, then have breakfast with her on Saturday morning October 1st and drive home that day.  Greg and I took two vacation days on Monday October 3rd and Tuesday the 4th, so we'll have a little three day weekend together to celebrate our anniversary.
  • I have to admit, I am slightly anxious to get my blood test results back.  What will they show?  Is my cholesterol too high, do I have the beginnings of arthritis, do I have a thyroid problem?  Gads.  I am trying not to worry about it, because it could be all good news.  I should hear on Thursday.  I mean, the giant bloody purple bruise in the crook of my elbow has almost entirely gone away, so that should mean the results are ready, right?  

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Doctor Visit

I went to the doctor for a check-up today.

I know everyone hates (or at least somewhat dislikes) going to the doctor.  Sometimes being an adult and taking care of myself maturely is no fun at all.  I would much rather eat fried chicken and lay on the couch all day than go to a doctor's office.

The earliest appointment I could get was 11am, which was later than I'd have liked because I had to fast for the blood tests.  I took a granola bar with me to munch on the minute the terrible, terrible blood tests were over.

This was my first visit to this doctor, and I liked her.  She was very kind and easy to talk to, she didn't rush me and she seemed to take me seriously.  Being old middle-aged and broken down, I had a list of complaints, many of which seem so weird I had to resist a powerful urge to not mention them at all.

First on the list was my migraines and the shoulder/back pain that's been causing them.  She thinks that particular bit of self-diagnosis was wrong, and that I just have regular old menstrual migraines that may aggravate/be aggravated by my back/shoulder problems.  She gave me four samples of a new migraine medication to try (I love free samples, win!), and hopefully I won't need them for a very long time.

She felt around on my back and my shoulder and said that my vertebrae seemed out of line.  She laid me down and pushed around on my back and twisted my neck just like chiropractors do on tv (I've never been to one) and several very dramatic pops later my back actually did feel better.

That was like a miracle!  Man, I was not expecting that at all.

She gave me a prescription for a muscle relaxer and said I could come back for more popping if my muscles manage to pull my back out of line again.

Next on the list was my hair loss.  I haven't mentioned it here because, frankly, it scares the bloody hell out of me, but my hair has been falling out.  I used to have very thick hair and I swear at least half of it is gone. She said several things can cause that, we'll see what the results of my blood tests show, and until then I'm going to try not to think about it.

Next on my list was what I have assumed was adult onset acne, but after having it a year and not being able to find anything to clear it up, I thought I might as well mention it.  She thinks it might be rosacea!  She gave me a prescription for a cream to try, but it'll take six weeks before we know if it is helping.

Next on my list was sporadic joint pain, particularly in my thumb and elbow.  My mother has rheumatoid arthritis, and though my pain is only occasional and not bad at all really, I am afraid I might be heading down the same road.  The doctor said the blood test will show if I have it.

Then the blood test.  The little old man who draws blood was very nice and very apologetic, but nothing can help the fact that I am apparently a bloodless, veinless freak of nature.  After sticking me four times he finally managed to get a little blood.  I will have lovely inside-of-the-elbow bruises for a week now, but at least it's over.  I always fear one day, amidst the vials and the syringes and the biohazard containers, I will just faint dead away.  Having to go through all that while fasting certainly doesn't help, but today there was no fainting.

Blood taker guy did give me very helpful advice for next time: make the appointment very early in the morning because the longer I've been fasting the lower my blood pressure is and the harder it is to take blood, and also to drink an extra lot of water the day before.  I will totally remember that for next time.

My test results will be in in a week, hopefully everything will look okay.  I am relieved that it's over, that I didn't faint, and I'm proud of myself for going.

On the way home I drove through Chick Fil A and got a chicken sandwich, waffle fries and a peach milkshake.  I deserve a high calorie unhealthy treat, right?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Screw You, Someday

"Bucket list" is a term I've been hearing a lot for the past few years. I like the idea of identifying the things that are important to do before kicking the ol' metaphorical bucket, but for some reason that I can't really put my finger on, I'm annoyed by the recent trendiness of it.

Maybe because a good number of these bucket bloggers seem to be in their 20's and have lists titled 30 Things To Before I'm 30 that include visits to half the world, SCUBA diving, betting a giant pile of cash on one hand in a Vegas casino, attending Oktoberfest, climbing Mount Everest, etc.  A quick googling overview shows a big pile of bucket list blogs by young (FYI, "young" = anyone who is not as old as I am) people talking about Setting Priorities and Documenting Experiences and Having Goals, and a much smaller number of very sad blucket list blogs written by people who are actually dying and are trying to make the most of their remaining time.

Maybe because for the last several years I have been confronting my middle-age status and dealing with the knowledge of my own inescapable death. I don't think I've had anything that could be considered a mid-life crisis, not really, but I have had moments of very bitter awareness that my time is running out, I've already passed the half-way mark.  For basically my whole life I filed away things in an I'll Do It Someday file in the back of my head: going to Barbados, learning to speak Spanish, riding a gondola in Venice, floating in a hot-air balloon, etc.  When it hit me a few years ago that my time to do things is limited I realized I can't possibly do all the things in my Someday file.  The day I stopped putting things in my Someday file was a sad day.

After thinking about it for a few years, I'm starting to have a different perspective.  Indiscriminately sticking things in an imaginary Someday file really wasn't worth very much.  I didn't stop to think about how reasonable the things would be, how much they would cost me in time and money, and whether I would be likely to get anything much out of them.  It was the mental equivalent of hoarding.

I was forced to throw out the whole moldy pile of half-assed Someday plans, and decide which few were worth saving.  Which VERY few.

The first and most important thing, the one has been yelling at me and waving desperately from the depths of my stupid head for decades, was writing.  So I made that my top priority, and I did it.  I wrote a whole novel!  Now I'm writing another one!  *whew*

The next thing is to go to Paris.  I want to go to Paris so badly.  Greg and I had planned to go once before, near the end of 2007 we decided to start planning a trip, and I was compiling information and buying guidebooks and doing internet investigation when The Year Of Hell hit us.  After Greg lost his job I gave up on planning the trip at least temporarily, and when he was forced to take a job making a lot less money I gave up for good.

But now things are getting better, our financial horrors are easing somewhat, so the idea of Paris has been creeping back into my head.  My last defenses were knocked down the day I gave in and looked at Paris vacation apartment rentals online.  Some of them have little balconies!  Oh, man.

We have decided to loosely plan to celebrate my 50th birthday in Paris.  That'll be March 17, 2016.  Next year we will have a chunk of our debt paid off and will be able to begin saving, and even if we can only save a little every month, we still have plenty of time to save up enough for at least a modest vacation.

PARIS!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Last Harry Potter Movie, Ever

The tickets were for the 12:20am show, so we got to the theatre a little after 11pm, expecting to wait in a long line.  Walking up to the theatre we saw very long lines of people waiting outside, and when we went in we saw people sitting along every wall in the lobby and in the hallways, waiting.  We walked up to the ticket taker guy and gave him our printouts, and he said our theatre was already open and seating.  Woo hoo!

The theatre was around 80% full when we walked in, but we managed to find two aisle seats near the back, and had a great view.  The one thing we were worried about was ending up in the front row, there's just no way to watch a movie from under the screen without ending up in pain.  We got some popcorn and a coke and settled in, and the hour+ wait seemed to go by pretty quickly.

The crowd seemed to be mainly college students, which makes sense because we live near UCF.  There were a couple of people in costume and many people in Harry Potter t-shirts, but the majority just wore the Florida college student uniform: t-shirt, shorts, flip flops.  While we waited I quizzed Greg about what horcruxes had already been found, which had been destroyed, and what the Deathly Hallows are.

I wore my Death Eater logo t-shirt, which I did feel slightly guilty about.  I am clearly not rooting for Voldemort, but you have to admit the Death Eaters have a very cool logo.  To counteract any appearance of Dark Lord sympathy, I also wore lavender nail polish with a thin layer of pink glitter, in honor of Luna.

At only two hours and five minutes long, the movie is one of the shortest (taken by itself), but I thought it did a pretty good job of including everything.  I knew there would be things they would leave out, it's happened every movie and I am numb to the injustice of what they choose to cut, but overall I really, really liked it.

Also, great googly moogly, when did the kid who plays Neville grow up and become suave and handsome?  Behold little Neville and his pet toad Trevor:


How is that kid now this guy?


Also, Greg and I discussed briefly going to see the movie at Citywalk at Universal, just because I knew it would be bigger and more awesome in general.  We decided not to, because it's a lot farther away from us and we knew we wouldn't want to walk a mile back to our car and then drive 30 minutes to get home at 3am, because we are old and lame.

Wow, that was a mistake.  When the movie ended at Citywalk, the moviegoers got to go to a special event: Universal opened up the Wizarding World until 5am!  Free!  Everything was open, all the rides were running, it was a celebration of the final movie!

Here is the video of the event on YouTube.  Well, no point in beating myself up for not being there, but holy crapmuffins that looks like it was amazing.

Still, the movie itself was very good, I wasn't disappointed.  I can't wait to see it again, actually.  :)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I'm Pretty Sure Casey Anthony Caused My Migraine

Another migraine!  Gads.  When I was younger I'd get migraines more frequently, but they only lasted one day.  I get them less often now -- it's been about seven months since my last one -- but they seem to take forever to go away.

This one started last Saturday, and was held at bay somewhat through use of pain pills/frozen washcloths/sleeping in a cool dark quiet room/massage.   It never completely got its hooks into me (by which I mean I never puked and was able to move about for at least a little every day) but it was bad enough to basically ruin a perfectly good weekend.  I went back to work on Monday, and probably shouldn't have.  
 
I did have to go a few days without writing, and I broke my streak.  That's okay, I'll just have to start a whole new streak now that it's finally gone.
 
Despite the migraine setback, I have still managed to re-watch all of the Harry Potter movies, from the Sorcerer's Stone through the Deathly Hallows part 1, and I also re-read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
 
I've never done the midnight movie release thing, but since this is the last one ever I decided to go for it, and I bought my tickets weeks ago for the 12:20am show tonight/tomorrow morning.  Woo hoo!   I'm hoping to see a lot of kids (maybe some adults?) dressed up in costumes.  I'm ridiculously excited about it.  I've already warned Greg that I will need at least a half an hour immediately after the movie to explain to him everything they left out or screwed up in the movie.

If the movie starts at ~12:30 and runs for 2 hours and 5 minutes, it'll be nearly 3:00am by the time we get home.  I am so going to take a nap this afternoon...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sympathy

Such a tremendous amount of emotion and publicity over the whole Casey Anthony trial.

It feels a tiny bit more personal to me because of the proximity, this has all taken place within just a few miles of my home.  Cindy and George Anthony's house is in the same general part of Orlando as we are, and back in the early days when Caylee was missing, Greg stopped and talked to George at his roadside stand over on Goldenrod Road.  They chatted for 10 minutes or so, and Greg took a flyer.  George seemed very nice, Greg said.  The Anthony's house is actually just two blocks away from where my co-worker lives; she's had to go home a different way the past few days because of the news crews and the people who just drive past the Anthony house like it's a tourist attraction.  She can hear the helicopters circling from her house.

It's been weird having international news crews camped out in downtown Orlando.  It was weird the afternoon we had a bad thunderstorm; Greg and I sat on the couch watching the storm outside our living room windows and, at the same time, on CNN.  Dozens of reporters were in the same storm, on multiple different channels, all reporting live from outside the Orlando courthouse.

What could be worse than a parent not only failing to protect their baby, but actually causing the baby harm?  It might be the very worst thing.  To any person not broken, it's heartbreakingly upsetting to hear about it happening.

My heart breaks for little Caylee, and for anyone who loved her, too.

I wish things were different.  I wish Caylee had lived the long life she surely deserved.  I wish her little body had been found in time for a cause of death to be determined.  I wish, assuming Casey caused Caylee's death, that she had been proven guilty.

But her body wasn't found in time, and the medical examiners couldn't determine whether or not she'd been murdered, and prosecutors couldn't prove that Casey killed her.  Maybe she did, she certainly did a lot of bad and suspicious things.  She probably did, but probably's not good enough.

I admire the jurors for being able to separate the emotions from the rational thought, and for having the courage to make what they knew would be an unpopular verdict.  One of the female jurors was apparently crying as the verdict was read.  I probably would've cried, too, I just hope I would have had the bravery to vote the way they did.

Good for them.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Update: Writing!

Today marks one month since I started on Novel #2, and it is my 30th consecutive day of writing.
 
Of course, when I say "writing" that can mean anything from sitting at my computer working steadily for two hours to grabbing a quick five minutes at the end of a long busy day.  I've just been determined to write EVERY DAY, even if it's just for a few minutes. 
 
The good news is that it seems to be going good so far, I am really enjoying reconnecting with my characters and my plot every single day.  I feel like every day that I went without working on Novel #1 made me slip farther and farther away from it, and I really don't want that to happen again.
 
The bad news is that, after one month, I have written exactly eleven pages.  That's kind of not good.
 
I want to be nice to myself and not get all stressy, but I also want to get somewhere.  At 11 pages a month, it'll literally take years to get finished.  I know some writers spend years working on one novel, but I would really, really, really prefer not to be one of those writers.
 
Having a very specific goal during NaNoWriMo worked great for me, it kicked my lazy butt just like it was supposed to.  I've heard that a lot of writers have daily goals, and they write a certain number of pages or words per day.  There's just no way that's going to work for me, because of my weird work schedule I may have a ton of writing time one day and then practically none for the next few days.  I'm going to try having a weekly goal, so that if I go a few days writing very little I can theoretically make up for lost time on the days when I have more.
 
According to my internet research, a Young Adult novel can range anywhere from 50,000 words to over 150,000.  How helpful.  It looks like average might be more like 75,000, probably less, so I'm going with that.  If an average page has 250 words, that comes out to a 300 page novel. 
 
If I want to write the novel in, say, six months (which still seems like a long time, but I am trying to take it easy on myself) that would mean writing approx. 50 pages/12500 words a month, which would be 12.5 pages/3125 words per week.
 
Yikes.  Well, I really do want to pick up the pace, so that'll be my goal.  I don't even have any real idea how long this novel needs to be.  I suppose there is a chance it might not even turn out to be a YA novel, who knows.
 
And speaking of my dear little Novel #2, I have no idea if I should share much about it here or not. I love my main character so much, she's so interesting.  To me, anyway.  Is it appropriate?  Is anyone interested?  

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Things That Make Up A Day

Mom has had various troubles with her tv in the past few years.  The old tv set that she and Dad bought back when they lived in Virginia, then moved with them to Florida, then moved with them to Georgia, was glitchy and then finally quit working early last year.  My brother had been thinking about getting a new tv for himself, so he gave his perfectly good old one to Mom, and it worked fine.  It was much bigger than her old one, and she liked that a lot.

The only thing she didn't like about it was the remote, which was without doubt the most torturous thing I've ever seen: it was huge, with buttons to work a DVD player or a DVR or a sound system as well as the actual tv control buttons, but all the many many buttons were unbelievably tiny.  Her poor arthritic hands had the worst time with that awful remote.

So I took her a universal remote, the smallest remote with the biggest buttons I could find.  I even managed to program it by myself, and it worked great.

Until the cable company changed things.  Basic cable is included in Mom's rent, and it was just a cable from the wall to the tv, with no cable box.  Early this year they came around to install cable boxes.  They told her not to use her universal remote any more (though I think she could have, if it had been reprogrammed), and to use the cable remote.  That worked okay most of the time, but the button to turn it on is right next to the AUX button, which would screw things up if she hit it accidentally.

When something seemed to be going wrong, she'd call and I (or Greg) would try to help her through it.  Sometimes she just needed to unplug it and plug it back in, and then it was fine.  A few times the problem was that she'd hit AUX.  One time the actual tv had accentally been changed to a different channel -- it needs to stay on 3 to hook up with the cable box -- and when she put it back on 3 it was okay.  (I'm still amazed that Greg figured that one out over the phone.)

Every time she called saying something was wrong, I'd try not to freak out overmuch (being on the phone in my womb closet would come in handy) but I couldn't help picturing her all alone in her little apartment without even tv to keep her company.  She doesn't watch that much tv except in the evenings, when it's dark outside, and watching Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy is one part of the day she looks forward to.  But the idea of her sitting all alone in a quiet apartment at night just breaks my heart.

There are just not many things making up a day for mom, and losing even one thing is huge.  My sister takes her out to lunch every other Friday, my brother goes by once a week or so, my niece brings her two young daughters for a visit every now and then, but most days Mom is just there, in the retirement home, by herself.  She goes down to the dining room to have breakfast, lunch and dinner, and spends time at each meal socializing.  She has a newspaper deal with one lady down the hall: Mom gets the local paper, the lady gets the Atlanta paper, and they trade after they finish reading.  Another lady gets a super good crossword puzzle in her newspaper, so every day she makes a copy for Mom and a bunch of other crossword fans.  Mom will walk through the dining room with her walker and stop at several tables to chat with people; talking about things like how the Braves are doing, or who it was the ambulance came for, or whether or not anyone has seen the new resident.  On Thursday mornings she goes to the retirement home's beauty salon to get her hair fixed, and on Sunday afternoons she attends services in their chapel.

When I call her every night at 8pm she'll run down what she did that day, and sometimes she'll say I'm the only phone call she had all day.  "How was your day?"  I'll ask her.

"Just another day," she'll often answer.

When her tv finally broke completely last week, I had to freak out just a little.  She doesn't have much money, and the days of going to Kmart and buying a small cheap tv are over; now all tvs are flat screen high definition and cost hundreds.   It's so hard being so far away, and wanting to help but not being able to.  I knew my brother would take care of it, so I told myself to let it go, and not get worked up about something I can't help with at all.

Sometimes worrying and getting all stressy feels like the only thing I can do.  If I'm not doing that, I'm not doing anything.  I feel like if I lie awake at night and drive myself crazy then at least I am doing something.

My head knows that's stupid, and it's kind of a shame that my head is apparently not necessarily in control.  I did pretty good this time, though, and just kept pushing away worry-brain thoughts.  I had to have faith in my brother to take care of it, and in my mom to be okay, and faith that there would be enough money.

My brother did take care of it, he found a great deal so she didn't need to spend too much.   She ended up only going two days without a tv, and they were kind of crappy days, but she got through it and now everything is all set up and working fine.  So far she hasn't even had any problems with the remote, either.

She's been having more and more trouble hearing, even with her hearing aid, and she has the new tv set up to show closed captions, which she says takes some getting used to, but it's making things easier.

My poor sweet little Mom, I just want things to be easy for her, every day, all the time.  She deserves it.