Thursday, November 5, 2009

Troop Cohesiveness in Jeopardy

In time of war, it’s important to have unity amongst the troops. Currently my two new WMDs are not able to work together. Stinky refuses to allow BooBoo Kitty access to the lower home front during the day watch. BooBoo is much more advanced at searching and destroying the enemy, but at this time we are only able to use her skills during the night watch.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

New WMDs Need Tweaking

I’ve noticed that my new WMDs are attracting the enemy by leaving a portion of their food rations out each night. I don’t agree with this tactic and have been forced to remove their rations to discourage this behavior. It would appear that my new automatic WMDs are going to need more human interaction than previously planned.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mouse Wars 2009

The enemy’s first attack didn’t come as a surprise to me this year. After carefully studying my opponent last year, it was pretty obvious they’d plan their invasion once the temperatures dropped below 40 degrees.

Well, my battlefield is different this year, but my opponent is still the same. This year I’ve added two new Weapons of Mouse Destruction (WMDs) to my arsenal:

Prince a.k.a. Stinky

• can make a lot of noise to scare off the opponent
• loves to chase things – can be relentless

• has a tendency to go after the wrong opponent
• has difficulty focusing at times, gets confused easily

Trouble a.k.a. BooBoo Kitty

• eats the majority of what she kills
• has sharp jaws that can penetrate skulls for chewing and devouring the enemy

• unable to take orders
• has a mind of her own

Friday, September 18, 2009

I Created a Belly Monster

In my temporary living quarters, I share a house with a funny little canine named Prince. He’s different than most dogs I know in that he doesn’t crave attention like normal dogs. At first I thought he might really be a cat trapped inside a dog’s body because most of the time he acts more like a cat than a dog.

However, I discovered his aloofness is really due to fear of intimacy and I’ve made it my personal goal to help Prince overcome his problem. I’m constantly invading his personal space and forcing him to sit near me while I pet him. Now I’m proud to say that Prince has become a much friendlier and social dog and actually enjoys being around people.

Unfortunately somewhere along the way, I’ve managed to create a Pavlovian Belly Monster. Every time I look at Prince and walk in his direction, he flops down on his side, rolls over on his back, and stares at me hoping for a belly rub. It’s quite hilarious actually, but I really don’t understand why his little brain hasn’t figured out that he doesn’t have to flop over like a dead fish to get attention. Fortunately he doesn’t do this with anyone but me. I wonder what the Dog Whisperer would have to say about my predicament?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Confusion About Dust

I once read somewhere that over 70 percent of household dust is comprised of dead skin cells. That’s pretty disgusting if you really think about it. But it got me to thinking...if a person is highly allergic to dust, does that mean they’re allergic to themselves?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Go Fish n Chips

What happens when you give a 4-3/4 year old a poker set? You end up having a lot of fun and the opportunity to play a card game that doesn’t have anything to do with poker. At least that was my experience when my friend’s little girl asked if I’d play a game with her.

“You know how to play poker?” I asked her.

“No, we’re playing a different game and I’ll tell the rules to you,” answered my little playmate.

“Okay, but I have one rule of my own. If you cheat or cry because you’re not winning, then I’m done playing. Are you okay with that rule?” I asked.

She nodded in agreement and began to unpack the cards and poker chips. She divied up the cards and chips and announced that we were playing “Go Fish.”

“But there aren’t any fish on these cards,” I remarked.

“That’s because just pretend,” was her response.

“What are the chips for?” I wanted to know.

“Because I like them. Just play and I’ll show you, okay?”

I took the first turn and made her hand me over one of her three’s. I was surprised that I also received 2 blue poker chips. Then it was her turn to fish and she had to draw from the pile since I didn’t have any J’s. I’m not sure why, but I had to give her a white poker chip. We continued to take turns and give up our cards and chips to one another until the game was over. I never quite understood the chip rule. It wasn’t clear to me which person had to give up the chips and what color and how many were to be given to the other player.

But, I must admit that was the most fun game of “Go Fish” I’ve played in a long time. It’s nice to end up with a stash of chips even if you don’t win the game.

I love that kids are so adaptable and able to improvise and create with such ease. They don’t need fancy, expensive toys to play with. Just an object and someone willing to participate and it’s instant fun. Sometimes rules just don’t matter and it’s way more fun to make them up as you go.

In fact my little playmate announced a new rule after our first game. “Okay, but this time I win!”

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

It's All in a Name

Last week as I was at CVS searching for a poison ivy remedy I came across a product that left me completely baffled. When I first caught a glimpse of the bright yellow can of “Anti Monkey Butt” I thought I was imagining things. After a quick double take I realized that my imagination had not gotten a hold of me and that I really was staring at a can of “Anti Monkey Butt”. I thought, “what the…” Then came hysterical laughter. Naturally, curiosity got the best of me and I picked up the can after making sure that no one was watching. After all, I didn’t want anyone to think I had monkey butt, whatever that was.

I really only had enough time to glance the goofy little monkey on the label before someone walked down the aisle and I had to quickly put away the can for fear of embarrassment. Of course when I got home, I googled anti monkey butt just to answer the question “What exactly is monkey butt?” Apparently it’s a term used in certain areas of the country to describe soreness and irritation caused by long hours of riding and sweating. Phew, I was imagining it to be something much worse.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Future Nobel Laureate

Recently I started teaching Sunday school to a dozen or so pre-K and Kindergarteners. I’ve never really spent much time with a bunch of 4-6 year olds all at the same time, so it’s been quite an educational experience as well as loads of fun.

Not to brag or anything, but my pupils are brilliant. I’m convinced one of my students is a sheer genius.

Boy laureate arrived a few minutes early to class last Sunday so I took the time to ask him a few questions to get to know him better. It was during this question and answer time that I discovered just how intelligent he really is. Somehow we managed to get on the topic of birthdays and I asked him if he knew his birth date. He confidently told me that he had his birthday already on March 36th. “Are you sure it was on the 36th? I asked him. He thought about it for a few moments. “No, I turned 6 so my birthday was on the 6th”, he corrected himself. “Next year when I turn 7, it will be on March 7th and the year after that it will be on March 8th”

So, I started thinking...if I use his method to determine my age by adding a day to each month starting after my 31st birthday, I’m a ½ year younger. I’m actually aging slower than I thought.

I think someday the Nobel committee may want to award my star pupil the Nobel Prize in medicine for his discovery on how to decrease the aging process.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Imagine If...

While walking to my front door one evening, I saw this interesting little toad just hanging out. Since it’s been a while since I’ve seen toads rather than snails plastered along the sidewalk, I decided to grab my camera and observe it for a while. I suppose I could make up some bizarre story about this toad, but I’m not feeling the urge to do that right now.

However, there were two things that fascinated me by this little creature. I was amazed that the little guy had the intelligence to hang out by the lamp to catch his prey. At first I thought he was just enjoying the lamplight until I realized he was hunting for dinner by patiently waiting for the bugs to be drawn towards the light. He’s a masterful little bug catcher and impressively quick with his tongue. Second, I thought how great God is that he made bugs, toads and other creepy things small so we couldn’t see the details of their warts, spines, teeth, etc and be scared to death. Imagine if toads, beetles, spiders, and other insects were the size of a horse. I don’t know about you, but I’d be afraid to go outside.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Things That Confuse Me - Part 1

A few months ago I had the pleasure of visiting friends in Texas during the spring where I got to witness first hand the blooming wild flowers and bluebonnets. For the life of me, I really don't understand why a bluebonnet called a bluebonnet when the bonnet part is yellow. Why isn't it just called a blueflower?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Random Observation #1

People with a lot of bumper stickers like to shop at Whole Foods? It really doesn't matter what city or state you live in, there's always going to be at least one car in the parking lot that has more than one bumper sticker. It's guaranteed that the car will have at least one sticker that contains one or more of the following words: "Peace", "Recycle", "Tree", "Earth" or "Obama".

Sunday, June 21, 2009

I Don't Understand Cats

Most people tend to be either dog or cat persons. Some are both, but generally speaking one usually prefers one species over the other. Being a dog person myself, I must admit cats confuse me. Living with a cat for the first time has been quite educational to say the least.

Ten things that confuse me about cats are:

1. Why don’t cats come when they clearly know I’m calling them?
2. When a cat wants to be petted why does it stand just out of arms reach and do the rub up against me/aren’t I cute/pet me ritual? How long do they think my arms are?
3. After petting a cat for several minutes, why do they find it necessary to take a chomp out of me?
4. Why do cats wipe their noses on me? Do I look like a box of tissue?
5. Is it possible to discipline a cat? They don’t seem to be that intelligent or capable of following direction.
6. If cats know they’re going to barf up fur balls, why don’t they find a different way to groom themselves?
7. When cats talk, why do they sound so pathetic?
8. Do cats think of anything besides: feed me, pet me, play with me, I have to poop, or leave me alone, I’m sleeping?
9. Are cats really loyal? As far as I can tell, they’ll bond with whoever feeds them?
10. Why do cats feel it’s necessary to leave fresh kill just outside your bedroom door? Is it supposed to be a gift or a bragging trophy?

If you’re the kid of person who likes predictability in pets then stick with dogs.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Snake Repellant

In addition to being a freak magnet, I am a natural repeller of snakes. St. Patrick also had this gifting and I consider it to be an honor to be in the same league as him. Since I don’t particularly care for snakes, I’m really glad God has blessed me with this gift.

In all the years I hiked and biked on the trails in the southwest, I never encountered a rattlesnake despite the numerous warnings. In fact, if you’re worried about running into a snake, ask me to join you in your outdoor adventure and it’s guaranteed you won’t see one.

Despite my dislike for snakes, I did attend the Rattlesnake Roundup in Brownwood, Texas a few years ago. It’s a bizarre event where insane cowboys get into a cage full of rattlesnakes and see how many they can put in a bag in the allotted time period. Truthfully, I wasn’t interested in the snakes as much as wanting to answer the question “Do snakes really taste like chicken?” To my dismay there were no snake kabobs or snake anything to eat.

Honestly, snakes are something I never think to be worried about coming into contact with since I know I’m a natural repellant. Last week I was pulling weeds in an attempt to get a garden started. I accidentally stepped on a snake and thought I killed it. I ignored the snake and continued to pull weeds. Several minutes later, I noticed the snake had disappeared. The snake had faked its death in order to get away from me! A couple of days later I was turning over the soil with a pitchfork and out came the snake attached to the end of my pitchfork…snake kabob. No I didn’t eat this one, but I did put it on display for the other snakes to see. Unfortunately some bird or animal stole it.

So you see, snakes really don’t stand a chance with me.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Bee Chronicles – Part 4. Pests or Pets?

I’ve grown quite accustomed to being greeted by Scout each morning as I sit out on the deck and read. I find myself being disappointed if he’s not out there to greet me. I think we’ve come to a mutual understanding as far as human and bee brains can connect. We’ve decided to share the back deck in harmony. On most days, I’m able to enjoy my morning word time without interruption. Occasionally, he may slip up, but a quick swat with my bible is all he needs to remind him of our arrangement. Surprisingly, it took only a couple of days for Scout to succumb to my authority. I have to give his little bee brain credit for being a fast learner.

I’ve come to think of them as my backyard, no maintenance pets. I don’t have to feed or pet them. They go to bed when it’s dark and stay inside when it’s raining. However, they do leave their wood shavings lying around and I do end up picking up after them. And every so often, I find it necessary to bang on the railing to wake them up.

For bees' sake, I’m sure glad my landlord decided to do nothing about my destructive little pets so I can enjoy them for a little while longer.

Bee Chronicles – Part 3. One, Two, Three, Ready or Not, Here I Come

Where are you hiding little bees? You must be somewhere close because Scout is very agitated with my search. His supersonic flybys have become more frequent. Maybe the best approach is to sit and observe for a while. Sooner of later one of you are bound to get impatient and give up your secret hiding place. I must admit, your incredible speed makes it nearly impossible for me to see where you’re coming from. However, I noticed that you seem to disappear somewhere around the deck railings.

What’s that I see, wood shavings? What sneaky little buggers you are. You drilled your holes beneath the railing so I wouldn’t see the entrances to your hives. Wow, there are a lot of holes! You’ve drilled holes around the entire perimeter of the railing, the deck table and chair. There are a lot more of you than I originally thought.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Bee Chronicles – Part 2. Who’s Really in Control of My Patio?

Carpenter bees I’ve discovered are territorial little buggers and can be quite aggressive when their space has been infringed upon. Before I head outside I scan the patio hoping to catch a glimpse of any would be dive-bombers. Oddly enough I never see any attack bees until I step foot outside the sliding glass door. I think they have quite sophisticated little bee radar and are secretly spying on me. Luckily, the most I’ve seen at any one time is four. Generally, there’s only one or two bee scouts to greet me. I’ve learned that intimidation is the scout’s preferred method of trying to get rid of me. They fly within a couple of feet of my head and try to stare me down. If that doesn’t work, they wait for me to get distracted and look away. Then at supersonic speeds they buzz within inches of my head, making me think that they’re going to hurt me. Well, I’m not intimidated by their intense stares or close flybys, but they are definitely intimidated by my swats.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Bee Chronicles – Part 1. What are Those Flying Buzz Saws?

Until recently, I never heard of carpenter bees. The first time I saw one, I thought it was a bumblebee on steroids and then I began to wonder if it was even a bee at all. The flying pests attacked but never stung.

As I was discussing my fascination of these mutant flying insects to a friend of mine, she quite matter of factly told me they were carpenter bees. Carpenter bees, did I hear right? What does a carpenter have to do with bees? Don’t bees like flowers?

I was told they are called carpenter bees because they make their nests by tunneling in wood. Cool, first mice, now bee termites.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Human Dominates Creepy Things

Since moving to New England each new season has brought it’s own unique battle with creatures I haven’t been accustomed to dealing with in a very long time. I’m happy to say that I am utterly victorious in each of these battles. Five creepy and flying things I’ve taken dominion over are:

1. Mice – a.k.a. poaching fur balls. Although cute and furry, I preferred not to have them as roommates, especially since the freeloaders ate my food and stayed up all night making noise. Sadly for them, I had to give five of them a permanent eviction from life as well as my house. See mousecapades for further details.

2. Carpenter Bees – a.k.a. flying buzz saws. Fortunately, I didn’t have to a extinguish these outside housemates. We came to a mutual understanding of who was really in control of the back patio. On the few occasions when they tested my authority, a gentle swat with my bible was all I needed to get them under control. I have to say, their little bug brains are quick learners.

3. Mosquitoes – a.k.a. flying, itchy, lymes. I’ve taken to squashing every mosquito I see and declaring my body to be a mosquito, tick, spider, bee, and poison ivy free zone.

4. Ticks – a.k.a. blood-sucking, hard-to-smash, defiant specks. Four ticks in one day was enough for the rest of my life. I haven’t seen one since I made that statement. However I still have the hickey the first tick left on my neck two weeks ago.

5. Brown Snakes – a.k.a. garden-dwelling, insect-eating, sunbathing, giant worms. Pretty harmless and easy to kill. Stick a pitchfork in the ground….voila, snake kabob!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Cell Phone Etiquette 101

It seems the more time I spend in public place, the less tolerant I become of cell phones. Cell phones have become a real source of annoyance for me even though I find myself relying on their use more frequently with each passing day.

Cell phones annoy me because my peace and quiet is frequently interrupted by a person talking loudly on a cell phone. I don’t know what it is about cell phones that make people talk at levels only the hard of hearing or highly intoxicated communicate at. Maybe we think talking louder will help us hear better.

Cell phones annoy me because I’ve almost been killed by someone driving while holding a cell phone up to their ear.

Cell phones annoy me because they have caused people to be less considerate of others and I’m afraid we’re creating generations of social retards that won’t know how to communicate face-to-face.

I could go on and on listing my annoyances, but I won’t. Maybe there should be an etiquette test people should be required to take before they purchase their first cell phone.

Below are ten cell phone common sense etiquette suggestions that I generally try to keep. Now mind you, I've been guilty of breaking all of these suggestions at one time or another.

1. Talk in a normal tone of voice when there are people sitting or standing anywhere near you. If you can’t do that, then move to a location where your phone call won’t disturb those around you. If that’s not possible, then call the person back when you have more privacy.

2. Put the phone in vibrate mode or turn the ringer volume way down or off in public places. It’s really irritating to hear a cell phone ringer go off when in a library, church, restaurant, movie theater, etc. It’s even worse when the same person’s cell phone goes off repeatedly and they didn’t think to turn the volume down after the first call.

3. Finish your phone call or don’t answer the phone when in a check out line. Not only is it rude to the check out person, but it’s also rude to the people waiting in line. They don’t enjoy waiting any more than you do, so don’t make them wait longer while you juggle your cell phone and try to pay your bill at the same time.

4. Don’t discuss your personal affairs in public. I don’t want to hear about the intimate details of your date or your financial or health condition.

5. Use a hands free device while driving. If you ‘re not good at multi-tasking, this is an especially important suggestion for you.

6. Don’t text and drive. Texting while driving is even more dangerous than not following suggestion #5.

7. Call the person if you have a lengthy text message or have to text more than twice to get your message across. I don’t understand why people spend more time sending texts back and forth when a simple phone call would suffice. This doesn’t apply if you’re just playing around.

8. Let the person you’re currently talking to know ahead of time that you’re expecting a phone call before you rudely answer your cell phone in the middle of your conversation with them. There’s nothing worse than trying to have a conversation with someone who is constantly being interrupted by cell phone calls. Likewise, do the same if you have to make an urgent call. Notice I said urgent.

9. Don’t talk on your cell phone while going potty in a public restroom. People in the stall next to you don’t necessarily want to listen to your conversation. Not to mention it’s just gross because most public restrooms are disgusting.

10. Learn to ignore your cell phone ringer if you are busy. Not everything is urgent. See suggestions 1 through 9 for reasons on why you may not want to answer your call or check your text messages immediately.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Lost in Translation?

I was in a shopping mall in Dallas, Texas Monday afternoon and I noticed a store called Japanese Weekend Maternity. I thought what a bizarre name for a store. Maybe I’m just not getting it, but the picture that entered my mind was a bunch of Japanese women that are pregnant only on weekends. My next thought was maybe the person who named the store was one of those people who translates Japanese instructions into English but hadn’t quite mastered the English language yet. Or maybe the saying makes perfect sense in Japanese but when translated into English something gets lost along the way. For the life of me, I really don’t understand the name of this store. It is a store for maternity clothing but the Japanese Weekend thing is seriously throwing me off.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Southwest, For the Experience

As someone who flies several times a year, mostly for pleasure, I have to say that Southwest Airlines has become one of my favorite airlines to fly for short to mid-range trips. For all you critics out there who think that SWA is too cheap to fly or not high class enough, I disagree. If you’re accustomed to only flying first or business class, then this doesn’t apply to you anyways. But, if you just want to get from point A to point B and have a good experience then hear me out.

I agree that SWA might not be the most convenient if you’re used to assigned seating, however the boarding process is quick and very organized. Personally, I'd rather be a little inconvenienced before the flight than during the flight. In a time when airlines are low-balling the ticket prices to get you to fly them and then turning around and charging you for water and checked luggage, it’s refreshing to fly an airline that still cares about the customer more than the customer’s money.

As I was thinking about my travel experience with them today, I realized that when I fly SWA it’s always an experience. What makes it an experience are the people who work for SWA. They’re happy and they love people. They genuinely want to make your flying experience enjoyable because they take pride in their company.

I think you would agree that flying isn’t what it used to be, but it’s good to know that traveling can still be fun. Whether it’s meeting an owner of a popular barbeque restaurant chain, chatting with a country music band or hearing a bizarre story of a woman getting knocked unconscious by an umbrella during a Nor’easter, I’ve always had a memorable time flying SWA. Today was no exception.

On the last leg of my travel, Captain Al greeted all the passengers as they boarded the plane. Shortly after I found my seat I heard this horrible loud music blasting through the plane. I thought to myself, who the heck has their ipod on full blast and what is that awful music they’re listening to? As I looked around the plane, I realized it was Captain Al playing the harmonica over the PA system. After he finished his song, he introduced himself and assured us that his first mate was taking care of things in the cockpit while he was out talking to us. He also told us that he was a much better pilot than a harmonica player and that he has been a pilot a lot longer than he’s been playing the harmonica…thank goodness. He also had great accolades for the flight crew as he informed us that of over the 50,000 flight attendants working for SWA, the 3 members we had on our flight were nominated as the best crewmembers for the entire airline. After we applauded the crewmembers, Captain Al broke the news to us that they didn’t win.

Like I said, it’s the people that make SWA great. Why would you want to fly on an airline where the staff is cranky, the planes are dirty and they ask you for more money after you get to the airport? Believe me, I ask myself that question every time I fly a different airline. Given the choice, I prefer Southwest.

BTW, Captain Al really is a great pilot. He landed the plane so smoothly I didn’t even realize we were on the ground until we pulled up to the gate.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Procrastination – The Key to a Stress Filled Life

I’ve been meaning to blog about this for quite some time now, but you can guess by the title as to why it’s taken me so long. Several months ago I was in the library thinking about all the things I had to do. I was putting off doing some unpleasant task because I really didn’t feel like doing it. Rather than just doing the task, I began thinking about why certain things never seem to get done and wondering why tomorrow always seems to be the busiest day of the week for me. Tomorrow is always busy because all the things that I don’t get done today, I plan on doing tomorrow. Inevitably tomorrow comes and I end up deciding again to do that unpleasant task ‘tomorrow’ and before you know it I have a list of things that don’t ever seem to get done and tomorrow gets busier and busier.

While I was in the library contemplating tomorrow’s busy schedule, I decided to see if I could find a book on the why people procrastinate. I found a book titled “Living Without Procrastination: How to Stop Postponing Your Life” and decided to check it out. Eager to learn about the subject, I went home and immediately started reading. I took the quiz listed in the beginning of the book to determine whether or not I had a problem with procrastination. Apparently, according to the results of my quiz, I have a huge problem with procrastination. Honestly, I was surprised by the results because I never considered myself as lazy or as someone who frequently waits until the last minute to do something. But, I was curious about why there are certain things that just don’t ever seem to get done in a timely manner.

Like so many other things, my excitement and curiosity wore off and I ended up putting the book aside for another 3 weeks and ended finishing it the night before it was due back to the library. Then I started wondering whether or not anyone ever finished this book. After all, if you’re a procrastinator, wouldn’t this be the perfect book for you not to finish or even start for that matter? Wouldn’t a procrastinator procrastinate in using the techniques discussed in this book and never get around to postponing their life?

Personally, I found book interesting, but I never got around to implementing any of the suggested techniques. I know, that’s a surprise, isn’t it?! But the book did confirm that a big source of anxiety is due to procrastination. Whoever came up with the Nike slogan “Just Do It” was obviously not a procrastinator. I’ll bet that person doesn’t struggle with anxiety nearly as much as the average person.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Hazards of Winter

Since moving to New England I’ve had to reacquaint myself with some of the hazards of winter that I’ve long since forgotten. Some hazards I became aware of by trial and error, others by near misses. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.

1. Ice is very slippery. Always hold onto the railing no matter how coordinated you think you might be. A few near wipeouts have utterly convinced me that you can never be too careful. Never try to run on ice...enough said.

2. Icicles are weapons. Beware of falling ice spears that tend to break lose from rooftops unannounced. I’ve almost been decapitated by a few while entering and exiting my apartment. Recently my neighbor got speared by one, leaving a bloody hole on the top of his head.

3. Snow piles obstruct vision. If you thought parking lots were dangerous places to drive in, try driving in them with 10-foot high piles of snow blocking your vision.

4. Slush can ruin good shoes or clothing. There really isn’t any good way to get around slush. Since you have to deal with it, don’t wear pants that are too nice or light colored when you know you have to walk through it. You’ll end up with little brown spots all over the back of your legs.

5. Wet shoes are slippery. Snow is wet and walking in it will make your shoes wet. Doormats are there for a reason. Use them so you don’t end up falling on your tush because your shoes are wet and the floor is tiled.

6. Weather changes frequently. Failing to be aware of approaching snowstorms can leave you unprepared or stranded, not to mention very cold if you didn’t dress accordingly. It’s better to wear too much clothing than not enough. You can be wearing a t-shirt one day and thermals the next, or on the same day for that matter.

7. Snow plows are both fascinating and scary. I’m still not sure if it’s better to be in front of the plow or behind the plow. If you’re in front you don’t have the benefit of the road being plowed. If you’re behind, then you risk having debris hit you as it comes off the plow. Either way, getting too close to the metal monster can’t be all that good.

8. The Internet is a good source of information. I’m still trying to get into the habit of checking for cancellations or delays. Sometimes events are actually cancelled prior to a storm in anticipation of hazardous driving conditions.

9. Cars with snow on them will attack you. Don’t follow too closely behind cars with lots of snow on them. The debris falling off the cars can do damage to your car not to mention scare the daylights out of you.

10. Snow travels. Snow can be picked up from a snow bank by a gust of wind and smack you right in the face. Likewise, it can fall off tree limbs and rooftops and land on your head catching you completely by surprise.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Snow Queen

I was all set to welcome in spring as I saw the tree limbs starting to bud, the grass was finally visible after weeks of being covered with snow and the temperatures seemed to be gradually warming. Just when I thought spring was about to come, we were blasted by yet another snowstorm. I have to admit, the snow is beautiful and all, but after months of cold weather and being cooped up inside more than I have been in a very long time, I’m ready for Spring to come.

While out shoveling a path, I stumbled upon the secret force responsible for today’s mega storm that’s extended our winter season. Hidden nestled beneath an evergreen tree I spied the Snow Queen. Dressed in her snowflake tiara, I could tell she was quietly working her snow magic while no one was paying attention.

How can I be sure that she’s responsible for this latest attack you might ask? Well, in my opinion it seems like a more plausible explanation than blaming my move to New England as the reason for this year’s increase in snowfall.

Monday, February 16, 2009

What's in a Dream?

People that have known me for a while are aware that I suffer from extreme insomnia. On a good night, I may get 4 hours of actual sleep, while the rest of the night, I toss and turn or just rest and think about random things. It’s been going on for so long that I forget that it’s not normal to wake up more tired than when you went to bed. Now I’m not writing this to get sympathy, I just want to point out there is a benefit to having an active mind.

People often ask “are you worried? What do you think about?” Sometimes I worry, but mostly I just think about random nonsense. Usually, I forget about what I was thinking about, but last night, or should I say early this morning, I had such a ridiculous thought mulling through my mind that I decided to write it down just to get it out of my head.

This morning I looked at the paper, and I had written, “I don’t think about dying, but I do think about endive.” I case you aren’t aware, endive is a type of leafy vegetable you toss in a salad. I don’t even like endive, because it’s too bitter for my taste. So why the heck would I be thinking about dying and endive? This statement makes absolutely no sense whatsoever to me. Why something like this would go through my brain at 4 a.m., I have no idea, but you have to admit as strange as it might me, it’s quite hilarious. Hence, the benefit of insomnia.

I wonder, what would Carl Jung think of this statement? Any of you psychology majors or people gifted with interpretation of dreams have any clues as to what this might mean?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Conversations with a Texan Experiencing Winter in New England for the First Time

Last week I had a dear friend from Dallas visit me for a few days. This was her first winter experience anywhere north of Dallas, where temperatures seldom get below freezing and snow is a rarity. Even though I’m still re-adjusting to the climate myself, it was still fun to experience winter from her perspective. Below are a couple of snippets from our conversations.

Day 1 – While driving home from the airport

Tex: “OMG, there’s snow on the ground! I wasn’t expecting that.”
Yank: “That generally happens after it snows.”
Tex: “But there’s so much of it. It’s everywhere.”
Yank: “What were you expecting?”
Tex: “I don’t know. It didn’t occur to me that the snow wouldn’t melt. Snow doesn’t last in Texas.”
Yank: “I guess it wouldn’t.”
Tex: “What’s that brown stuff on the side of the road?”
Yank: “Dirty snow.”
Tex: “Why does it get like that?”
Yank: “From the dirty roads, cars and snow plows.”
Tex: “Oh.”

Day 2 – During a snowstorm in Mystic, CT

Tex: “Look how much snow there is. We’re in white out conditions.”
Yank: “No it’s not a white out. It’s just snowing and a little windy.”
Tex: “This isn’t a white out?”
Yank: “No, we can still see pretty far. We’re no where close to white out conditions.”
Tex: “We’re the only ones visiting Mystic Seaport right now. I haven’t seen anyone else except the people that work here.”
Yank: “I guess we’re the only ones that don’t have any common sense.”
Tex: “This is fun, isn’t it?”
Yank: “Yeah, it really is.”

Day 3 – While Shoveling and Sledding in the Woods

Yank: “Do you want to help me shovel a path on my patio?”
Tex: “Yes.”
Tex: “Why do you need to shovel a path on your patio?”
Yank: “So I don’t have to walk in the snow and get my shoes wet when I take the trash out.”
Tex: “Oh.”
Yank: “Great job on the patio. Do you want to help me shovel around my car?"
Tex: “No.”

…after shoveling

Yank: “Are you ready to go sledding?
Tex: “Yeah, what do we need to do?”
Yank: “Put on some snow gear.”

…a few minutes later

Tex: “My goodness, I got a workout just by putting on all the clothing. I’m tired already.”
Yank: “It’s a little more involved that grabbing a jacket and heading out the door, isn’t it?”
Tex: “What do we do now?”
Yank: “Grab the sled and go outside.”
Tex: “That’s it?”
Yank: “Yup. We can sled right here in the yard or if you’re game for it, we can hike into the woods and sled down a bigger hill.”
Tex: “Let’s do the bigger hill.”

…after our first run

Tex: “That was so much fun. I’ve never been sledding like that before.”
Yank: “Yeah, that time at Big Bear didn’t really count because the hill was only 10 feet long.”
Tex: “Phew, It’s a lot work walking back up the hill.”
Yank: “It’s the Connecticut version of going to the gym.”

Day 4 – Boston, MA, Sightseeing in 15-degree temperature with a wind chill factor of 3-degrees

Tex: “I think I have frost bite.”
Yank: “We haven’t been outside long enough for you to get frost bite.”
Tex: “I’m too cold to walk the freedom trail.”
Yank: “Me too.”
Tex: “I’m really cold. I really don’t have to see Boston today. I can come back in a couple of months when it’s warmer.”
Yank: “Are you ready to go home?”
Tex: “Yes please.”

Day 5 – New York City, Walking to the Met

Tex: “I don’t feel as cold as yesterday. This isn’t bad at all.”
Yank: “That’s because it’s twice as warm today. It’s in the 30’s.”
Tex: “I never thought I’d think the 30’s would feel warm.”

Thanks my friend, for a wonderful visit and allowing me to observe winter through southern eyes.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

You’re Never Too Old to Go Sledding

Last Saturday I saw my neighbor carrying his sled and heading to the small slope nearby. I politely asked him if he wouldn’t mind if I joined him. He nodded his head yes as he was only too eager to have a companion for this fun winter sport. After he gave me a brief introduction to the lay of the land and showed me the location of his newly constructed jump, I was ready to make my first run in over 30 years.

As I sat down on my sled a flood of childhood memories of sledding with my brother came to mind. The feel of the snow, the smell of the woods, the freshness of the cool air gave me the sensation of traveling back in time and being a kid again. Weeeeee, I was gaining speed and having fun. Aaaah…Oh no…I forgot about that darn jump…I can’t control my sled…suddenly I’m airborne…ouch…pain…is the sky really that blue?...oh good, I’m still alive…hysterical laughter.

As I sat up, spitting snow out of my mouth and digging it out from underneath my clothing, my sledding partner walked up to me and said “you didn’t make it all the way down the hill.” “Yeah, I know, but that was a spectacular wipeout, don’t you think?” I replied. “How old are you?” he wanted to know. After I told him, he informed me that he was 5-1/2 and in kindergarten. Next he wanted to know if I was using my kid’s sled. I told him, “No, it’s my sled.” He looked confused. “But you’re not a kid,” he said. “Yeah, but my mind still thinks I am, is that okay with you?” He shrugged his shoulders and we proceeded back up the hill for more sledding.

Disappointed I didn’t make it through the course on my first attempt, I was determined to stay on my sled. My sledding partner challenged me to a race and it was ‘on’. Kid or no kid, I was going to win this race. He started off in the lead, but because of my size and paddling strength I quickly caught up to him. Ha, ha, we were neck and neck. Oh no, not that dreaded jump again…ouch…more pain. Well, at least I managed to stay on my sled this time. I was still short of the finish line though. “Ha, ha, I won!” he taunted me. “Yes you did, but I managed to stay on my sled this time, do I get a prize for that?” “No, he shook his head. Let’s go again.” “Okay, but I’m going to go around the jump this time. I don’t think my back can handle any more jumps.”

Again we raced. “What is it with that @#$#! jump and my sled? That jump is like a sled magnet. Try as I might, I can’t seem to go around that blasted thing!” After about ½ dozen more races all with the same result, I decided to give my back a rest and eat some snow because I was thirsty. My sledding partner joined me for a snow snack and we had a delightful conversation on why it’s not okay to eat yellow snow even though you can if you want to.

Then to my surprise he threw a snowball at me. “Are you sure, you want to do this?” I asked. “I’m a lot bigger than you and I can throw the snowball much farther,” I said jokingly. He spent the next several minutes chasing me around the yard with a snowball before his dad came to my rescue with hot chocolates for the both of us. Now mind you, I’m probably 15 years older than his dad, but he seemed grateful that his son found a playmate/babysitter while he and his one year old watched us play from inside.

Shortly after finishing our hot chocolates I told my sledding partner I needed to go inside. “Why?” he wanted to know. “I’m kinda in a lot of pain and need to take some Advil right now. But, I had a wonderful time and want to do it again some time.” I thanked him for letting me sled with him and then went inside, popped a few Advil and layed on a heating pad for the rest of the afternoon.

Who said sledding is a kid sport?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Winter Woes

Since I’ve moved back to New England I’ve been blamed by friends and family as being the reason we’ve been experiencing an abnormally cold winter. Every really cold day or snow day I usually receive a phone call reminding me of my cold weather charm. I usually don’t say anything in response, I just let them think I can control the weather.

I’ll let you in on a little secret; I met the one true, supreme weatherman this October. We became friendly and he keeps me informed about what the weather will be like the rest of this winter.

Happy Groundhog Day 2009!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Essex Ed, Wake Up!

Living in the country has its privileges, one of which is being able to attend unique small town festivals. This past Saturday I attended and actually participated in a groundhog parade in Essex, CT.

Essex is a quaint New England village nestled along side the Connecticut River and is comprised of three towns: Essex, Ivorytown (which once made ivory piano keys), and Centerbrook all of which encompass about 12 square miles with a total population of roughly 7,000 people. The area was once known for its shipbuilding and rope making during the Revolutionary War and up through the time of the Civil War.

Today, the town boasts the title of ‘#1 Best Small Town in America’ as listed in Norman Crampton’s book “100 Best Small Towns in America.” It’s a typical old New England town with a green in the town center, a couple of old steeple churches and a bunch of century-old colonial houses.

The parade is an annual tradition that is held each year on the Saturday preceding Groundhog Day. From what I’ve been able to find out, the parade was originally established for children by a grammar school teacher who wanted to “perk up” the dullness that winter can bring. When this tradition actually started, I do not know, but I can confidently say that it’s been “as long as anyone can remember”, which makes me believe that no one really knows. I get the feeling that this isn’t really an organized event as much as it is a local gathering for the children.

The parade consisted of a fire truck, a handful of senior citizens playing the fife and drums while wearing groundhog hats, another group of senior citizens wearing groundhog hats and carrying a sign that read ‘Long Island Clam Shuckers Groundhog Assoc’, an antique car carrying the Grand Marshall (who I think was the town selectman), and last but not least, an antique truck pulling a trailer holding Essex Ed.

Essex Ed is an 8-foot, 200 lb Groundhog constructed of foam and fiberglass. Each year Ed wears a different costume. This year he was dressed as a Beatle, although it wasn’t obvious to me if he was supposed to be John, Paul, George or Ringo.

Once Essex Ed passes by, the townsfolk follow him up Main Street banging pots and pans. So not only do the townsfolk get to see the parade but they also become part of the parade. The parade continues the few blocks up Main Street until Essex Ed reaches the rotary that is at the entrance of the roads leading into and out of the town center. Ed is then ceremoniously lifted off the trailer and placed atop the town rotary. People stand in a circle around the rotary banging pots and pans for a couple of minutes and then eventually take their picture with Ed. The noise the pots and pans make is supposed to wake up Ed so he’ll come out from hiding to see if he can see his shadow.

Now this parade might seem a little cheesy to you, but I have to tell you it was really quite fun. The children as well as the adults were all having a wonderful time despite the frigid temperatures. If anything, the silliness of it all is guaranteed to make you laugh.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

What Would Grandma Think? Part 1

The other day while I was at the local fitness center walking briskly and going nowhere on the elliptical machine, I was reflecting on how absurd it is that I my life has become so sedentary that I have to pay a monthly fee to use a machine to stimulate my under utilized muscles. I wasn’t long into my pondering before I was interrupted by a 70ish year old looking gentleman talking loudly on a cell phone while riding a recumbent bicycle that was also going nowhere.

I couldn’t help but think, what would my grandma think if she were alive today, standing in this room watching a typical day in our modern lives? During her lifetime she witnessed the birth of things such the automobile, refrigerator, washing machine, television, microwave oven, calculator, cordless phones, personal computers, men walking on the moon and countless other things which we take for granted. She was a farmer’s wife, raised in a generation where you worked hard for a living and didn’t rely on the government to support you. You didn’t buy things if you couldn’t afford it and you took personal responsibility for your own financial well being. Respect had to be earned, not given and your word and reputation meant something.

Would she think we work as hard today as she did even though we don’t do the same physical labor? How would she feel about the fact that we spend more time working for others and less time doing our own work? Our lives have become busy working long hours and working extra hours from home that we end up paying others to do our yard work, clean our house and look after our kids. Would grandma think we’ve become too materialistic and centered on earning lots of money, so we can buy more stuff, so our lives will become more fulfilled?

I think her answer would be “bah, who needs this stuff.” Then she’d go outside for a walk and enjoy the people in her life.