Monday, December 22, 2008

The Best Time to Do Anything...

...Is T-o-m-o-r-r-o-w, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow!

A short list of the things I have decided to do tomorrow:
1. Finish laundry - includes folding and putting away laundry currently in dryer; folding and putting away laundry that will be dry tomorrow; putting away laundry that was folded approximately 2 weeks ago but which remains in basket. If time, I may even put one (or dare I say two?) more loads in the washer.
2. Empty dishwasher which was run three days ago.
3. Put dishes which have piled up outside of dishwasher into emptied dishwasher. If time, wash evil, non-dishwasher safe dishes.
4. The litter box. For the love of God, the litter box.
5. Wrap gift for grandmother, which finally arrived today thanks to snafu with online ordering. (Phew, I had given up on that!)
6. Purchase (and wrap?) three more Christmas gifts.
7. Catch up on Mel and Danielle's blogs. (Sorry, girls. I been busy. Luckily, I see that you are too, only you have better excuses for not blogging, like "coaching speech team", and "rehearsing/performing play". I have: "playing Wii", and "sleeping".)

That's doable, right?

Things I have decided to do tonight:
1. Write blog.
2. Transfer wet laundry to dryer after removing (but not folding - that is for tomorrow!) laundry. Mind you, this is strictly due to potential for stinkiness of wet laundry, and not due to actual desire to complete this task.
3. Read my book and turn in early.

(In my own defense: I went to my fifth and final Bikram session after work. And I have a urinary tract infection. Again.)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Whopper or Big Mac?

As I typed my last blog entry, the television blared its familiar background noise in my general direction. Usually, my brain does not bother with the hassle of translating the sound waves into coherent language. However, one little tidbit of advertising made it through. This was the new "whopper virgin" commercial. For those of you who have not seen it, the basic premise is that people in third world countries taste both a Big Mac and a Whopper, and decide once and for all which is the better burger. These people, in theory, have never tried a hamburger before and are deemed "Whopper Virgins."

It turns out, like everything these days, that these commercials are offensive to a lot of people. There are numerous articles on the ole' int'net about how it is wrong to travel to underprivileged countries and exploit their poverty. I don't really see it that way because, despite the convincing disclaimer by Burger King that the people in the commercials are "not actors", I don't buy it for a second. It seems to me that if you feed non- burger eating people two burgers back to back, you better step back to avoid the inevitable barrage of regurgitated burger. Heck, I think I would puke if asked to eat a whopper and a big mac.

Incidentally, I am not certain which I would choose. The Whopper certainly has more substance, feels more like a meal. But the Big Mac taste is hard to find anywhere else. It is like comparing Honey Nut Cheerios to Lucky Charms. I like them both, but have had neither in years.

2 Out of 3 Ain't Bad

Flashback to three years ago:

My sister and I planned one day to go Christmas shopping. All. Day. "It will be FUN!", we said. "We can have lunch in the food court," we thought. "Before we start, we'll get coffee and bagels at Dunkin Donuts (and a few bags of coffee as gifts)," we multi-tasked. Did I mention that we planned to go all day?
Flash forward a few hours: Our backs breaking, feet aching, hungry due to inefficient price to portion ratios at food court, and we're just a tad exhausted and irritable. I am at Target, purchasing a white hoodie for our other sister when I realize there is a good sized hole near the neckline. "We better go back," said exhausted sister #1 as tears began to well up in her eyes. It was, of course, the last white hoodie on the rack. We had already been in line for half an hour. "Nah," I said, "She can exchange it at her Target." (I should mention, at this point, that after a nice sleep, I did go to another Target the next day where I exchanged the shirt myself.)

This was the last time I went Christmas shopping. Catalogs, how I love thee. Amazon.com, you are my savior. Online, baby! It's where its at. I hopped on that train and never looked back.

Unfortunately, I discovered this weekend that just a click of a button can cost you. A friend sent a catalog for one of those Tupperware-like businesses a few months ago. This one specializes in dip mixes, spices, cake and bread mixes, and that sort of thing. Of course, I searched the catalog immediately, and promptly resolved to place an order - tomorrow. After about 60 tomorrows, we come to Saturday, when I sat down, credit card in hand, and made three orders:
1. I sent a friend a gift package, but registered my consultant as a random person instead of the girl who sent the catalog. I know these people work for commission. I do not know that my order has successfully been placed.
2. I sent my friend a second gift package, this time registered to the correct consultant.
3. I sent my friend a third package that is supposed to come to my address.

The moral of the story? It is good to be my friend!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Naughty or Nice

I read once that it takes 3 months to officially break a bad habit. So, when I began my weight loss endeavor, I thought if I could just get my act together for 3 months, I'd be set. It wasn't easy, but I think I did manage to nuke my naughties and turn them into nices. But old habits die hard. Seemingly without my notice, I've turned back into my old self. Luckily, my new self is smaller than my old self, but my new new self could end up looking like my old self if my new self doesn't do something soon. Last time, I tackled my bad habits one at a time. But this time, I'm going to stop being naughty, and go right to nice (maybe).

Naughty: My daily office job is stimulating to the mind, but not to the body. When filling out a survey online, I was forced to admit that my life is "sedentary". I sit in a chair. All. Day.
Nice: The one time of day I can change this is lunch. I get one hour to do what I want. My old self generally chose to spend this time eating burritos. My new self walks at least a half hour at lunch each day (with the occasional burrito mixed in). Hey, I'm no saint.

Naughty: I often stay at work late for no good reason. Even when I have no deadline to meet, I find myself looking at the clock to find that it is 5:30. I then look to the gym schedule and see that I have missed a class, and I think I will need to go home before the next one. Right.
Nice: Priority #1 after office hours are over is M-E. I actually enjoy the classes at the gym, so all I need to do is watch the clock and make it there in time (at least three times a week).

Naughty: I drink too much dang coffee.
Nice: Umm...I still drink too much dang coffee. But at least I can limit it to one cup a day.

Naughty: I eat too much! I can't help it! I love cookies. I love cake. I love pizza and free lunch turkey wraps and brownies and nachos and beer.
Nice: Duh! I have to eat less. The spreadsheet worked well, but it is structured and time-consuming. Over time, I've learned to assess calories fairly accurately, so I do need to continue to count. Sigh. I can eat cookies, but not every day. So sad.

Naughty: Parties. All-you-can-eat buffets. Happy hours.
Nice: I don't know how to control myself in these situations. I have heard that chewing gum, or eating a good-sized "snack" like a bowl of cereal before the party are ways to cope with temptation. If this was just once in a while, I would say "screw it" and enjoy myself. But this is at least once a week. I do not wish to choose between my social life and my waistline.

Well 4 out of 5 isn't bad.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Home Cookin'

The directions on the box: Bring water and milk to a boil; add rice and seasoning packet. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20-25 minutes, uncovered, stirring frequently.

My (apparent) interpretation: Bring water and milk to a boil over front burner; add rice and seasoning packet. Turn rear burner to low and watch as rice boils rapidly. Wonder if rice has some sort of "rapid boil additive" and resolve to ask food scientist brother if such a thing exists and, if so, how it works. Stir rarely.

Part 2 of the directions: Remove rice from burner and keep warm. Saute garlic and red pepper in oil for 30 seconds; add spinach and rice. Cook and stir for 3 minutes. In a separate bowl, whisk 10 eggs with milk. Add to rice mixture and stir quickly to distribute ingredients. Reduce heat to low and cover for 30-35 minutes. Top with cheese and tomato slices.

My interpretation: Remove rice from burner and place cheapo plastic spoon over piping hot pan. Saute garlic for 10 seconds, then open wrong side of container and dump at least 2 times the recommended amount of red pepper flakes into oil. Saute for 1-2 minutes until garlic is brown and sticking to pan. Add spinach and rice. Use slightly soft cheapo plastic spoon to scrape rice from edges. Read directions approximately 4 times to guarantee that yes, it does indeed require 10 eggs. Beat eggs with milk, add to rice and spinach. Reduce heat on correct burner and set timer. Before retiring to play Wii, put remaining eggs into specially designed refrigerator door holder, and be sure to drop one of them under the fridge. Use dustpan to scrape raw egg from under fridge, and wipe up remaining goo using kitchen cleaner. Retire (finally) to Wii game, but be sure to ignore timer in favor of winning game. Find pause button after pressing every possible button on controller, and return to kitchen where delicious, slightly burnt frittata sits in pan, complete with slightly chewy rice and trace amounts of plastic/teflon.

Skip the cheese since you forgot to shred it. Ditto on the tomato, since you forgot to buy one at the store.

Nothin' beats home cookin' eh?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Be Thankful

Be thankful for your health. Be thankful for your wealth. Be thankful for the things that are good in your life, and try to change the things that are not. I like to keep my blog light, airy, even jolly. But my life is not actually consumed by thoughts of baked goods (usually). I occasionally have serious thoughts. Lately, my thoughts are of two very inspirational people who lost their health, but not their spirit:

One – my grandfather, who died of cancer in 2002. I stopped by to visit him much more often as he neared the end, knowing that I would not have the chance for much longer. Many of my visits coincided with a visit from a physical therapist who worked with Papa regularly to help him maintain muscle movement. I think back on these times, as Papa sat in a chair and struggled to lift his leg to knee height. Sweat poured from his face as he counted the repetitions with a controlled breath. Part of me cries when I remember this, and part of me rejoices. He never gave up on life, even when the disease caused him extreme weakness and pain.

Two – Adam’s step father, who went to a Steeler’s game two weeks ago and was bumped by someone as he attempted to find his seat. He lost his balance and fell face first to land about three rows below. He was paralyzed at first, but after a few days, he was able to wiggle a big toe. Now, he is in a rehabilitation hospital. He has re-learned to dress himself, to eat with a spoon and fork, and to do countless other mundane movements which we take for granted on a regular basis. He has not yet mastered walking, but he related a tale in which he struggled for a half an hour to open a carton of milk. Eventually, he drank that milk. He is very proud to say that the carton did not win.

No matter how bad my day is, I am thankful for my health. I went to the gym yesterday and worked hard, even when I got tired, and I counted out the reps with sweat pouring down my face. My mentors are maybe not so lucky. But they sure are inspirational.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Blog of the Day

You may have noticed that one of my comments on my last post was removed by yours truly. I was excited to see a comment from a new person, but sadly, "Aimee" turned out to be a link to coupons for NY and Company. I think this is like making flirty eyes with a hottie at a bar all night only to find out he wants your friend's number.

However, I should thank this anonymous user who has toyed so ungraciously with my heart. Because of her, I had to figure out how delete comments (uhh, yeah..turns out that is the little trash can that shows up next to the comment...in my own defense, it looks a LOT like a hairbrush or a seashell.) While searching for this information, I found tons of things I can add to my blog!

A few that come to mind:
"Of the Day" series:
- Quote of the day
- Spock quote of the day
- Trump quote of the day (ick)
- Painting of the day (your choice of Picasso, Dahli, van Gough, etc, etc, etc)
- NASA picture of the day
- sunset of the day
- joke of the day
- today in history

"Tools" series:
-Wikipedia
-Dictionary
-Spell checker
-Thesauras (guess a spell checker might come in handy)
-Calorie Counter
-Exercise Tips (also available in the "of the day" series...)
-Weather
-the Periodic Table (wha??)

There are also games, sports updates, stock market updates, links, "Make a Wish" icons, and something called a "Woot! Watcher". The description clarifies: "Never miss a Woot! again. This gadget will show you the Woot! of the day, or will allow you to track Woot-Off in progress." Yeah. Crystal clear.

So you may notice that other than a list of blogs I follow and those who follow me (which I have been meaning to add for some time now), I did not add anything. Ever heard of sensory overload? It is just too much. Can't. Handle. Too many. Gargh.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Gray Sort of Day

Gray are the skies over “Balmer” this day. Luckily, the clouds are finally yielding what Marylanders refer to as “snow”. Most Pennsylvanians call it a “light flurry”, while my boyfriend from Erie, PA calls it “Spring”. I do not mind cold temperatures as long as snow is produced, because I like snow. In stark contrast to my friend Cara, I detest climes less than 40 degrees. After work, I went to the grocery store and found that my gloves were not in my coat pocket, my backup gloves were not in the glove compartment, and my earmuffs were not in my purse. My backup hat, thankfully, was in place in the inner pocket. And I still had my hand warmers in the back for emergencies. Did I mention that I hate being cold??

Gray are my clothes today, for I woke this morning with a desire to wear a shirt that only matches one pair of pants. The clasp on these gray tweed pants broke about 10 months ago (give or take a month). The mission: to finally repair the clasp. It seems that I always have a pair of pants in the repair pile. This is why the expensive Talbots or Coldwater Creek pants are worth the extra buck(s). They don’t need ironing, and they don’t need mending. But sadly, a girl cannot resist 50% off sales at NY and Company. So, despite this small triumph in home economics (not my forte), I have two other pairs of pants needing mending. I am sure I will get to this by 2015. Maybe.

Gray is a hair on my head. Yes, I believe this one is official. The lighting in the office bathroom is such that I have been tricked into double-takes in the mirror, only to be relieved that the silver hair I thought I saw was just a shimmer. Yesterday, I realized the difference between a shimmer and an actual, real-life, gray hair. Home inspection under different lighting conditions confirms my assessment. I blame the architect who drove me to a near break down earlier in the week. Jerk-wad.


Gray was my face after I found some ranch dressing in the fridge, marked with the name of a co-worker who quit in September. I checked the date, saw it was February, and smothered it on my turkey sandwich for lunch. It tasted and smelled fine, but closer inspection of the label proved it was Feb 2008. Oops. Wasn’t that almost a year ago? I think my symptoms are psychosomatic, but I decided to leave work early anyway. You know, just in case.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Working Out is Fun...Or Not!

Today, I was unable to get to the gym for my usual Tuesday Step class. Correction - my usual Body Step Class. "Body Step" is for those of us who go to the gym for a cardiovascular workout, while "Step" is for those of us who plan to try out for a spot in a Janet Jackson video. I have occasionally made the mistake of attending a Step class (go figure). At best, I end up mired in frustration because I cannot dance. At worst, I twist an ankle and fall off my step. Yes, this is just as embarrassing as it sounds. Body step eliminates the complicated dance moves, and incorporates some good old fashioned squats and lunges in there. My ass has misinterpreted the intent and decided to bulk up, apparently. My ass has always been a slow learner. Se la vi.

So, today: Instead of my relatively fun class, I came home and cleaned with a frenzy. I scrubbed the toilet, swept and mopped the floors, scoured the shower, cleaned the mirrors, did some laundry, emptied the litter box, and tidied the apartment. And, according to "fit day", I burned 353 calories. No sweat! (Well...maybe a little.)

As I cleaned the bathrooms, I came to the realization that Adam has never done this since we have lived together. As with this last three months of non-cleaning, I have tested him on several occasions, and I just cannot beat him. I cleaned today due to absolute disgust with the state of the bathroom, and after a few days (ok, a week) of telling myself that I will definitely tackle the job after work. Men do not apparently have this threshold. As I continued to breathe in the toxic fumes of cleaning chemicals, it occurred to me that Adam is not alone. Nearly all men I have met have this ability to withstand potty germs. My friends from college had consistently gross bathrooms, or girlfriends who regularly cleaned. My brother and his roommates had no qualms about a toilet that involved hands in toilet water to flush. I have met men who will wear flip-flops in the shower before they even consider cleaning it.

The fumes continued to irritate my innards, and I realized that this phenomenon is not limited to my generation. I have never seen my father clean the bathroom. Nor have I witnessed my uncles or grandfathers with toilet wand in hand. One grandfather had his own shower in the basement, and I remember that he named the stains. Look, he would say, this one looks like Mickey Mouse. This did not strike me as odd when I was a kid. But now I see. The ability to clean a bathroom may be one that is lost to the male species. It happened long ago, and we women have not noticed because we women do not don flip flops in the face of mold.

I rose from my task determined. I will re-teach this skill to the men of the World! One man at a time. First lesson - chlorine and ammonia work best* when combined for Ultra Cleaning Power!
*Just to be clear, this is really not a good idea. So don't sue me if you failed Chemistry in high school!!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Excuses and Muses

I have not blogged in a week. I have several excuses prepared, so please choose the one you like best:

1. The computer had some sort of problem. Adam (a computer programmer) explained the problem to me thusly: HE - The power supply blah, blahblah, blah blah blah blah, I think the garbage needs taking out and blah blah blah blah, don't I look good in my polo shirt? ME - I see. So does it work now? HE - Yes. ME - Cool. I'm going to take the garbage out.

2. We got a Wii. Our new bundle of joy! (Mom - that is funny, see, because Wii's tend to be sold in "bundles" with a bunch of accessories and games. Aren't I clever?)

3. I had, umm, stuff to do. At least I am pretty sure I did. I didn't play the Wii for hours every night, I swear. Grrr. I thought I had more excuses lined up.

OK, so I am sure you are on the edge of your seat, wondering what new and interesting things I have thought up to say. These are a few of the things that have been on my mind of late:

1. Bikram Yoga is still evil. Tiff and I went a second time, and she nearly threw up during class. Those who know me are aware that such a statement would be fairly normal for me - in fact, a session of physical activity without nausea is more worth mentioning. But this is far more rare in my sister. Hence, Bikram is evil.

2. Brunch at Jesse Wong's Kitchen in Hunt Valley, MD. Oh, the pounds I gained. They had 20 different desserts. Literally. Alas, I was unable to try them all, because they had an equally extensive selection of egg rolls, stir fries, dumplings, and sushi. I gave it my all, and they kept bringing more. Plus unlimited mimosas and champagne. Fine. It is not "brunch" in the Perkins sort of way. Let's just call it heaven and leave it at that.

3. Despite my splurge at Jesse's, I am almost on track with the diet-exercise thing we are all supposed to be doing. The spreadsheet is no more. I have graduated to the next level - I add my calories for each day and log the final number in my daily planner. I attempted skipping this level, and going to "watching what I eat", but found myself at Jesse Wong's. So it's back to tracking. I have not returned to my daily walks at lunch time. Someday...

4. The Wii is so much fun! But as I attempt to download the old Mario 64 that I played in college, and the machine tells me that I need the "classic controller" for this game, I realize: this is going to get expensive. As a kid, I had a Cabbage Patch doll, and each Christmas, I asked for all the Cabbage Patch accessories - the playpen, the stroller, the high chair...actually, this is sounding a bit like my friend's baby registry. You get the picture. I never got any of these things. But now, I am an adult, and if Mama wants a classic controller, Mama's gonna get it. It was $19.49 at Wal-Mart. They did not have Mario Cart. Guess what Mama's gettin' next time?

5. New thought - I almost retyped Wal-Mart and wrote Target. I am such a hypocrite sometimes. I know Wal-Mart is supposedly evil and they don't pay their employees well and they are driving all our manufacturers to China. I am embarrassed to admit that we went to Wal-Mart to buy our Wii accessories. But we did. They have these delicious non-frozen pizzas...

6. OK, this is to redeem myself: I resolved recently to carry cash so that I will have money to give the Girl Scouts. I have refused to buy cookies from at least three girls in the last week because I don't have any money. Or perhaps the Girl Scouts can begin taking credit cards? Ditto for the Salvation Army Santas?

Is there anybody OUT there?

Good news readers, I am back. More about that in my next post. But what I am wondering is, are there any readers out there? I thought my last entry might merit a comment*, but alas, I suppose I find myself more amusing than I actually am. Just a bit bummed, I suppose.

My cousin Jamie sent me a text that may bring a few of you out of the woodwork. She asked how she could comment without getting a gmail account, and I found a setting for that!! So now everyone can add their witticisms and praise! And, Jamie did make her comment. It's a pretty good one, but on an older post - click here. Thanks Jame!

BTW - thanks ever so much to my regular commenters, Cara, Mel, Danielle, Tiff, and Liz. Now, on to the blogging...because I guess in all fairness, a few of you may be wondering...

...Is there anybody IN there?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Confession of a Complacent Citizen

It's gone.

For the past two months, I have arrived to work and parked in my normal space below the parking lot. There are the same familiar cars each day, but one caught my attention. It was a silver BMW with Texas license plates. For those who are geographically challenged, I should point out that a daily commute from Texas to Maryland (about 1500 miles) seems unlikely. Yet each day, it was parked in the same place, and it was always there before me. (In itself, this is no great feat. I have a love of sleep, and a recent propensity to hit the snooze button.) But, it was also always there after me, even when I worked until 6:30pm. A few weeks ago, we went out for Happy Hour at the bar next door, and I returned to my car at about 9pm. (umm...4 hours later...) It was then I realized that this car was just always there.

Quite possibly, there was a reasonable, boring explanation. Like there is some sort of Army recruiting office that has fleet vehicles parked in the same general area. They all have government license plates, but perhaps this was newly acquired, and they hadn't registered it yet. This was plausible, perhaps even likely.

But...what if this was a get-away car in a crime? What if there is a dead body in the trunk? What if is it stolen? What if someone had figured out an elaborate scheme to avoid long-term parking fees at the airport? What if the battery was dead, or the engine had failed? What if the car itself was a spy, transmitting information via satellite to top secret government agencies? No, that is not very likely. A spy car would probably have to park on the top deck.

After two weeks of this, I finally decided to tell our office manager. She sent an email to the building managers to see if the car was registered to any of the other companies in our complex. Another week went by. The car was still there, and beginning to collect some dust on the trunk. One day, I considered writing "wash me" on it, but decided it would be better to keep my fingerprints to myself. I found myself sniffing the air, trying to catch the scent of decomposing body parts.

Isn't this sick? Why didn't I just call the police and get this settled? I don't know. I considered it, then decided that my suspicions were a tad far-fetched. (Or worse, that the spy car theory is true, and it is given instructions to shoot on site...) Plus, if someone has figured a way to beat parking fees, more power to 'em - as a senior in college, I did not register my car with management in time to secure a space, and I spent the whole semester obsessed with free parking. I feel this person's pain (even though they do have money for a Beemer...) Honestly, I think one reason was shame. The operator would surely ask how long the car had been there, and I would say...well, I definitely noticed it on October 14th, but its probably been there for two months. And what other information do I have? Nada! Whack-job theories concocted by a crime show obsessive who loves Stephen King novels! Oh the turmoil! To call, or not to call!

And today?
It's gone. Probably got beamed back to its home planet.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Rock the Vote

I want a fat,
a black,
born handicapped,
old single mother lesbian with a high IQ
for President in the White House.
(courtesy of Pork Tornado)

What ever your beliefs, get out there and vote!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

My Little Helper

I have been pretty lazy lately, sort of in a funk. Slowly, I am emerging back to my normal self. This is why I had not, until today, gone through the semi-annual exercise of switching the clothes in my drawers to the winter wardrobe.

Luckily, as I began to fill a box with my short sleeved work shirts, I had a helper:


Nothing like a little cat hair to keep out the moths until next summer. After gently removing my purring beast from the box, I turned to put it into the closet, to find:


Again, I gently removed my purring beast from my drawer, and replaced my sleeveless tanks with fuzzy sweaters. Nearly each day, the cat runs into the closet when the door is opened. The closet is not insulated, so we keep the door closed to try and salvage what little heat/air conditioning we can. As a result, the Puss is often locked in the closet for several hours before we hear the whine from within, and we must keep a careful watch on her as we pack our bags for a trip. Thankfully, she has not been locked in the closet for a weekend. You would think this would be traumatic for a cat. But no:


I did not need to gently remove the cat before shutting the door. As we go through this daily, she stood there looking bewildered as I attempted to call her out, but she zipped through my legs when I made the move to physically remove her. Will she remember this in the morning? I doubt it.

Extreme Yoga

Over the summer, my sister went to a BikramYoga session while on vacation, and she loved it. It just so happens that a Bikram studio is near my house, so I bought her five classes for her birthday. I also bought five sessions for myself, so that we could take the classes together. I have been faithfully attending a yoga-based class at the gym for years, and I occasionally pop in my "Power Yoga with Rodney Ye" DVD and practice at home. I have found that yoga, above all other things, has improved my strength, balance, and stress levels, and I highly recommend it to everyone for improving overall health and peace of mind.

...But, I would not recommend starting out with Bikram Yoga. Sure, the body feels great after the class - the same way I imagine torture victims of the Middle Ages might feel upon being returned to their cells.

It is very unlike me, but I was totally unprepared for the experience. I did no research on the topic, figuring if I could handle Rodney Ye, I could handle anything. Tiff told me the room would be hot, so I at least knew that much. It is actually at least 105 degrees according to the website.

We are told by the teacher that our goal for our first time would be to stay in the room for the whole class. This was when I began the have second thoughts. She then asked if I had water and a towel for over my mat. Towel? I thought, why the towel? When I suggested that I could get by without it, she silently handed me a rental. Likewise with the water.

After stowing our belongings in the locker room, we enter the "hot room". As the name suggests, it is hot. "At least 105 degrees" really does not do it justice, because most people liken it to a very very hot summer day. I would liken it more to purposely walking into a room sized oven. It is stifling. A few of the other pupils are sprawled out on their mats, meditating. We quietly unroll our own mats and situate ourselves near the back, talking in whispers as other people filter in, each one letting in a refreshing tease of cool air when they open the door.

We begin the class with breathing exercises, and Tiff and I are told to watch the other students before attempting it ourselves. Everyone then begins to inhale with their hands clasped below their chins as they extend their elbows upward. They make this weird near-snoring noise as they breathe in, then let the air out slowly with an audible "haaaaa" sound and rotate their heads until they are looking at the ceiling, and their elbows until they are touching in front of the face. The process is then repeated, and after a few times, I begin to mimic this rather odd behavior. It is very hard to inhale for 15 seconds straight, and I am unable to produce the weird snoring sound. Also, the movement of the head seriously stretches the neck. I am actually a bit sore today (though the neck is the least of my problems.)

After that, we do the "half-moon" pose in which we lift our arms above our heads and then lean the upper half of the body to one side as much as possible. This stretches the long muscle that runs from the pelvis to the shoulder-blade. We are approximately 10 minutes into the class at this point, and I realize that I am exhausted even though all I have done is stand there, breathing and stretching. After a back bend and a hamstring stretch, it is "party time" and we are permitted to drink some water in small sips.

I am truly wondering if I can manage to stay in the room. Our next pose is the eagle, which I have done before in the gym class. It stretches the upper back and shoulders, and normally feels wonderful. However, it involves wrapping the arms and twisting the legs around. To keep the legs in place, one must hook the one foot around the opposite leg's calf. This is extremely difficult to do when one is drenched in sweat. At this point, I am slimier than a greased pig.

That brings me to the towel. The man in front of us has a very nice towel that exactly fits his mat. However, he begins to sweat to the point that it is dripping off the bottoms of his shorts, as if he had hung them out to dry before the spin cycle had begun. At the end of class, he is standing in a literal pool of sweat that had soaked through his towel, through his mat, and left a dark spot on the carpet. Ah, that is why the room smells faintly of B.O. Turns out they sell the towels out front - 50 bucks. I think I will bring a beach towel next time.

Finally, after a few more poses, we do my favorite pose, Savasana. This is sometimes referred to as '"corpse pose" in my gym class, and practiced by lying on the mat, hands by your side, feet flopping out as they feel comfortable, and breathing deeply. Ahhh...now if only the teacher would open that door! My heartbeat is so dramatic that I feel like my entire body is moving with it, and my ears drums are in danger of bursting with the sound of it thumping.

We are directed to begin the next pose, and I reluctantly oblige. We sit on our knees, then push the legs out until our "costume" touches the floor. (This is the endearing phrase the teacher uses to refer to the general crotch/buttocks region.) Then, we are told to reach behind us and support ourselves on the hands, then the elbows, and finally, to lie on our backs. I feel pain in the knees and ankles at step one, and remain supported on my hands, waiting for release from this torturous pose. We do a few less challenging poses and I collapse once again into savasana. This time, the teacher actually does open the door, and wonderful, inviting, cool air slides over my body. She closes it again, and I realize that I may actually hate this woman.

I fair somewhat well when I am told to sit with one leg out and lean forward until my head touches my knee. Perhaps that is because it is purported to be our final pose. However, when told to sit with both legs outstretched, we are directed to touch our foreheads to our toes. I stare at my toes, drenched in sweat and glistening about a foot away from my head, and decide that this is not a literal direction when the girl in the front actually succeeds in this task. Perhaps she has short legs.

At last, the class is over, and I painfully roll up my mat. I feel a bit nauseous, a bit tired, and well aware that I have just strained muscles whose existence was previously unknown to me. I enter the hallway, and the air is so relieving, that I feel like I could cry.

Are you coming back? Several people ask. Of course I am. I already paid for five classes.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Phishin' and Dishin'

First, the Phisin':
This post is admittedly late, but I am still so sad. I went a-fishin for Phish tickets, and the Phish weren't biting. In fact, they sold out in literally a fraction of a second, while scalpers were posting them for $799 a ticket BEFORE they went on sale. Jerks. If I were confident that all the tickets went to fans who would be thrilled to see the show, I'd be content enough. But I know that wasn't the case, and I am bitter.
In the Phish world, I am a "second generation" fan. Though I was busy with 4th grade when they first started playing, I got turned on to the band in high school when I heard a "more commercial" album called Rift. Since then, I've seen the band exactly 18 times, generally on a Wednesday in July, and so I have heard 25% of all Phish songs live. I have most often heard "Chalkdust Torture", followed closely by "Golgi Apparatus" and "When the Circus Comes". I have chiefly seen the band in my home state of Pennsylvania, of course, but I was surprised to learn that this was only 44% of the time. I then realized that 28% of the shows I went to were in New Jersey - Camden, NJ to be specific, which is just across the river from Philadelphia. In my book, these were Philly shows, though I had to cross state lines. (Do not fear, I am not nerdy enough to figure all this out myself - it is from a fun site that will calculate your personal Phishtistics.)
I was vaguely annoyed at my first Phish show, back in 1996 in State College. A girl on my floor ordered the tickets when I mentioned that I might be interested, but I thought they were too expensive (which they were. Please click here for my standard Ticketmaster rant.) Well, Heather, you certainly did turn out to be a terrible roommate who refused to put another person's spoon in the dishwasher and who charged your friends for toilet paper, but I must thank you for forcing those tickets down my throat. And if you have any for the upcoming show?? Send them my way?? Please?? I promise I will vacuum the carpet...

And next, the Dishin':
Good news, my adoring fans! I will now have more time for blogging! Lets Dish is an awesome idea that I wish I had first. Clients pick 4, 8, or 12 meals from a list of about 20 total, and schedule a time to "Dish". At the appointed time, you go to several stations where all the ingredients for the meals are set up, and you assemble the meals (which each serve 6 people, or you can split them into two 3 serving bags.) In about 2 hours, you have enough meals for the month, ready to freeze, and someone else does the dishes. You can also take a break to eat fresh baked scones and coffee while you are assembling . The cost is pretty reasonable too, when you figure that you would have had to buy all the stuff at the grocery store (and no one would do the dishes for you.) I love cooking, and even planning meals at home, but now and again I get stressed out, and I just don't feel like it. It is nice to have meals in the freezer to thaw and simply pop in the oven. I have been feeling rather blah for about 3 weeks now, and I was getting tired of cereal for dinner. Of course, at the moment, I am so full of scones, I don't need a meal...

Friday, October 24, 2008

My Two Cents

I am not a movie person. I do not remember the names of actors or actresses, I do not rush out to see every blockbuster, and in many cases, I do not stay awake to see the ends of many sagas. As a general rule, I am very very bad at the “Kevin Bacon” game. This is nothing new, and I am generally ok with it. However, there are several movies I have not seen which earn comments from amazed friends and acquaintances. These usually go something like this: “What? You haven’t seen that? Are you sure you’re American?” Rest assured, I am, indeed, American. But, I have not seen:

-The Karate Kid

-Rambo

-any of the Godfather movies

-Gone with the Wind

-Maverick

-the list goes on and on...

All of these were immensely popular for their time, but I just never got around to watching them. So, I recently added “Braveheart” to my Netflix queue in order to rectify at least one of my deficiencies. I cannot say I was all that impressed. First of all, this movie is three hours long and it was extremely hard for me to block out a chunk of time sufficient for the full viewing. (In fact, I did put this movie in the VCR back in 1999 but never got past the half hour marker…) Now that I have watched the film, I can say with confidence that there is entirely too much slow motion. It sometimes took nearly 5 minutes for men on horses to ride 50 yards. Is this supposed to be dramatic effect? I found it annoying. And speaking of horses…

…There are many scenes involving the killing or serious injury to horses. Poor horsies. They are just innocents in the conflict. There is even one scene where a horse jumps out of a 4 story building into a body of water. Who cares if Mel Gibson survived, what about the horse? And speaking of Mel Gibson…

…Is he aware of how old he is? OK, so his love interest in the movie is shown in a flashback scene in which Mel is played by a 12 or 13 year old kid, and she is played by a 7 or 8 year old kid. The difference in age is like 5 years, right? So then, we flash forward and Mel is nearly twice the age of this 20-something girl. And while we’re on that topic…

…How is it that she is still not married when Mel returns from his travels after 10 years? This is supposed to take place in 1345. Didn’t people get married at age 14 back then? (Of course, then the age difference makes more sense.) It just seems pretty convenient to me. And one other thing…

…Of course she is the most beautiful girl in the village. She is the only one who cleans/combs her hair. I think the writers went to extremes to show the differences in class of people by their dress/hygiene. But only with the men. Apparently, the women of all classes still managed to make it to the beauty parlor on a daily basis.

OK, now I got that out. Despite the above ranting, I did not hate the movie. I just don't see what all the hype was about. I did appreciate that it did not have the sappy Hollywood ending in which everyone who was going through a ton of turmoil is suddenly ok, saved by some amazing coincidence. I appreciated also that the bad guys did not hang over their victim saying "I'm gonna kill ya!" for ten minutes, allowing the hero sufficient time to swoop in for a "dramatic" rescue. I also enjoyed Mel Gibson's ability to convey emotion without speaking. His portrayal of hurt when he is betrayed by a noble of his own clan is great - no words need to be spoken (though, of course, this part is in slow motion...) He also has awesome expressions of passion and love in his eyes throughout the movie.

But that is just my two cents. I am not sure I want to see The Godfather. Next on my queue: Monty Python skits. Now how did that get to the top?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Success Has a Price

Success!

In MAY (yes, that was 5 months ago), I made a "birthday wish list" on Amazon. (Feel free to peruse this at your leisure, Constant Reader, for the Holidays are fast approaching.) One of the items on my list was an unexplainably expensive gym bag called the "Everything Fits Gym Bag by Gaiam". This sucker costs $50, but it looks nice - simple black design, very chic. And, according to the many reviews, it is aptly named: everything fits. This is the primary flaw of my current bag (a free duffle given out at an Orioles game). In the winter, I wear work clothes to the gym, and pack the following: sneakers, socks, sports bra, two tee shirts (one to change into after my workout), shorts, and sweat pants. I also have shower gear. Frankly, I could probably just head out for the weekend if I were in a pinch. Only I cannot, generally, zip my bag all the way.

I was aware that my friends and family, though they of course adore me (who wouldn't?), would not be likely to purchase this bag for me. So I decided I would make it a reward for reaching one of my weight loss goals. It would have to be a big goal though, for I too have a cheap side that is outraged at the cost. Not only does TJ Maxx have gym bags for $10 which look big enough, the cost is literally infinitely more than the cost of my current bag - if you believe infinity exists of course (that's for you math majors out there). But this bag also looks good! Oh, the turmoil! My practical side and my fun side engage in an unending battle of the brains!

OK, so the goal I came up with seemed relatively simple: meet my calorie goals (1600 calories or less per day) for 4 weeks in a row. And here we are. In the month of September, I finally accomplished my goal. (Yes! I know I made the goal in MAY, and that was 5 months ago! Geesh!)

I got the bag in the mail on Saturday. It cost $60, and I don't know if I simply misremembered the price or if it went up in the FIVE freaking months it took for me to reach my stupid goal. AND, it is not eligible for "Amazon free shipping" so it cost $70 in the end. Whatever...

On the bright side: Everything Fits! And it looks nice! And I love it!

Yay!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Crime Fighter I am Not

Tonight I began driving home from my sister's house, when a rather rude car approached in my rearview mirror and passed me at 50 miles an hour on a residential city street (not a two lane road). I considered honking at the jackass, but decided a) it is a residential street and after 9pm, b) he is a jackass and by definition would care less that a random car was honking at him, and c) my horn is way whimpy. (I heard recently that this can be remedied - they apparently sell many varieties of horn at car parts stores, so it is just a matter of seeing how many you can sound off before annoying the hell out of everyone in the store or finding the sound to match your personality. I, personally, would like one that is manly, yet not overly aggressive.)

Anyway, the car speeds in front of me, goes through a STOP sign, and about 5 seconds later, a police car with lights a-flashin' also passes me. (and runs the STOP sign.) I proceed to the sign, and STOP like a law-abiding citizen, and another cop car appears suddenly in the mirror just as I am proceeding through the intersection. Flustered, I try to pull to the side and the cop gives a teeny toot with the siren as I watch the two cars in hot pursuit.

As I continue on my way, I see a car, sitting in the middle of the road. But then I realize, the car is not just sitting, it is backing up. And then I realize that the drivers side door is open. And that there is no driver. Like me, two pedestrians are just staring at this unusual phenomenon, and I begin to wonder what I should do. The car did not hit anything. It rolled backward, up over the curb and came to a stop just before hitting a chain link fence. I decided at that point that my work was done. It did not hit anything, the authorities were obviously aware of it, and I didn't have my cell phone. So I drove the 100 or so yards to the next stop and rather stupidly sat there at a red light with my window down thinking how it was cool that I had been in a police chase. Then it occurred to me: an alleged criminal had just jumped from his car to flee on foot a few feet away, and I was sitting there with my window down. I quickly rolled it up, hit the lock button, and grabbed the 8 year old pepper spray keychain my mom gave me for Christmas when I was in college. Would it even work? I know not, but it made me feel a little safer.

For some reason, "The Wire" is constantly recommended on Netflix because I live in Baltimore. I ask you: Why would I want to watch a drama about crime in my own backyard? Especially when real life is right there to remind me a bit too often.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Dang Kids!

One of my fellow bloggers just posted a rather disheartening entry about apathetic teenagers. No doubt, there are unfortunately a number of apathetic teenagers who will, more than likely, grow up to be apathetic adults. But I feel obligated to post my own entry in order to point out that not all teenagers fit into this mold. My youngest cousin, Jamie, and her friends get together to go shopping, see movies, go to the high school football games, and...watch the presidential debates. In fact, Jamie has been volunteering for her local Obama campaign. The last time we spoke, she had registered 14 people to vote, despite the fact that she can not vote herself.

I am totally impressed. When I was her age (1994):
  • NAFTA was signed
  • Loraina Bobbit was found not guilty for her insane act
  • Tonya Harding's ex-husband pleaded guilty for his insane act
  • The Rwanda genocide began
  • Ronald Regan announced that he had Alzheimers disease
  • Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were murdered
I was aware of each of these events as a teenager - because they were all skits on Saturday Night Live. I guess there is some hope for the apathetic teenagers of the world after all.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Big Read


Sleep is not coming easily, so I just read a friend's blog. She has this list from The Big Read which endeavors to encourage community reading initiatives. This is something that has always been of interest to my mother, and she passed on to me an extreme love of reading, though I admit I only read for about 20 minutes a day anymore. I used to read for full days at a time! Anyway, of their top 100 books, they estimate the average adult has read only six. I find this a bit hard to swallow - I have read 49. (Maybe 50 - I can't remember if I finished Anne of Green Gables, so I didn't count it. I do remember that she goes to live at her aunts? house? after she is orphaned? and the aunt is mean. I think. Or maybe I made that up. I also remember green wallpaper?)

So, the boldface are books I have read. The underlined boldface are books I would definitely read again, because I loved them so much. The italics are books I'd like to read, but to be perfectly honest, I have not heard of many of the books on this list which were not read, so please comment if you think I would like one of them. (Generally, I read whatever I can find and am still working on Adam's collection after 7 years together...) Some other books that I love are in my profile - but I am surprised that some books didn't make the cut: The Picture of Dorian Gray (love this), Beloved (hated it, but it was literature...), The Scarlett Letter (pretty good), and a recent one, The Poisonwood Bible.

What would your list look like?

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte (HATED IT)
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens (HATED IT)
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott (DID NOT HATE IT, BUT THE SWEETNESS GETS TIRESOME)
12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44 A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery (can't remember...)

47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curios Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens (hated)
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker (HATED IT)
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte's Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams (This movie - a cartoon! - scared the crap out of me as a child. But perhaps I am ready for the book...)
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo


Counting Sheep is So Old Fashioned

Argh. I'm Sick. Yes, that's a capital S. I even stayed home from work yesterday, for the first time ever in all the years I have been out of school. But I guess I did too much - I had a ton of dishes and knicknacks from my grandmother's apartment to clean, and I had to get groceries because we had no food. (I ate a grilled cheese roll, slightly moldy, for lunch. The roll actually worked out pretty well - and don't worry, I am pretty sure I picked all the mold off.)
Anyway, this morning, I felt pretty good. But by midafternoon, I found myself wondering if I was actually walking in slow motion, of if it just felt like I was. By late afternoon, I was tiptoeing through the office, hoping to soften my steps, for every one caused sharp pains in my teeth and head. As I left the office, it was apparent that I was actually walking in slow motion. I can't imagine how I'd feel without medication.
So here I am now, blogging myself to sleep.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Mini-Me

I have oft admired the profile pictures of my fellow bloggers. However, I have noted that few people choose a boring old picture of themselves. Apparently, this approach would be rather uninspired. To name a few - Mel uses a picture of the Fraggle of the same name, and Maureen (who is living in New Zealand) uses the New Zealand flag. Danielle uses a picture of an eye. (I am most jealous that she thought of this before I did!) At my cousin Shanon's wedding, Adam was kind enough to take a picture of me, smiling with my other cousin Jamie. He took forever to take the photo, and we were both holding our smile for way longer than we should. Then, the smart-ass shows us the pic:

This is me. A bit too close for my liking.

Anyway, Carabee comes closest to a picture of herself, but she uses a baby picture. Perhaps a clever commentary - her blog is most often about her baby, but focuses on how she is experienceing the world (of parenting) for the first time just as she did when the picture was taken. Or maybe she just likes the photo. I don't know.
Point being, I needed likeness to represent. So today I went to South Park Studio and created my own little me. Aren't I cute?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Spelunking

Original Post Date: September 21, 2008

For weeks, Adam and I have planned to go spelunking. My sister was unfamiliar with this term and did a quick Google search on the word. The first entry to pop up was from the "urban dictionary" indicating that "spelunking" refers to a search through certain body parts for used condoms which may have inadvertently slipped off. The second entry to pop up defined "spelunking" as "exploring a cavernous cave". While I agreed that the word "cavernous" was unnecessary, I assured her that we planned to engage in definition #2...and to never never mention definition #1 again.

As it turns out, we did not go "spelunking" which, according to our tourguide, carries a negative connotation. It implies that we intended to "raid" a cave with disregard for its fragile ecosystem for amusement rather than education. So we did not go spelunking after all. We went caving.

Adam and I enjoy outdoor activities like climbing, biking, and hiking, and we tend to prefer National Parks over sunny beaches as vacation destinations. The hike in a cave, however, was a bit more extreme than any we had done before. First, the release form. These are fairly standard in the US, and I am sure you're familiar with the basic premise that these serve to inform you that you are engaging in some sort of dangerous behavior at your own risk. But this release form is unlike any I have signed before. Luckily, the full text is available online so I can offer you my favorite excerpt:


13. Injuries are inevitable in caving some have occurred in Laurel Caverns even involving broken bones. Something as simple as a twisted ankle may require a long tortuous removal process involving up to twelve hours of immobilization in a rigid basket, thirty or more rescue personnel, an ambulance ride and hospital stay for X-rays and observation at the participant’s expense, and finally, exposure to unbelievably hyped media attention on your “dramatic cave rescue.” (NOTE: The grammatical errors are theirs, not mine!!)

Seriously. And yet, we still chose to go.

The guide begins her tour by making me sign a second form indicating that I am aware of my "inappropriate footwear" (no ankle support). Then, she explains that we will see bats which could be perched low enough for us to inadvertently knock them down with our heads. If that happens, we are to tell her so that she can put the bat back. Apparently, bats cannot take off unless they are perched, so a bat that falls will just lie on the ground and starve to death. Poor bats. I resolve not to hurt the critters, and we are off.

We ascend through the lighted, concrete topped part of the cave in about 10 minutes, which is the 55 minute tour for all ages. I can only conclude that it must be very boring. Then, we get to a more cavernous part of the cavern, and the guide tells us to turn off our lights, and we are in total darkness. Very cool. The eyes attempt to see, and the brain begins to invent swirling patterns - but site is not possible. The blackness is complete. Imagine being in a dense wood on a dark, cloudy night. This was darker. Close the eyes. Open them. The view is the same. We sat in silence, listening to the trickle of water which formed the cave throughout thousands of years. I breathed deep, inhaling the cool air, and was at peace.

After this, we reach the first "stream crawl". I stupidly ask what that means, and the guide explains that we will have to crawl through a small tunnel with an inch deep stream of cold water running through it. This was just as fun as it sounded. We then reach a narrow hole, where we are instructed to toss our belongings through to the ground on the other side, and then shimmy our bodies through the opening. I am reminded of that episode of Winne the Pooh, where Pooh gets stuck in Rabbit's hole, and he has to stop eating for days until he is skinny enough to pop through. Luckily, we did not have to resort to such measures. After this, we climb up a bunch of rocks, over a ledge, and then "chimney walk" up to a little peak. These parts were the most fun. Then it was time to make a decision: another "stream crawl" or climb over the rocks that form the tunnel. I quickly respond that we will skip the stream crawl. Next, the "moneymaker" which is another narrow hole which is best navigated by sort of diving in head first. This tends to empty the pockets of cavers.

On the way out, we are again charged with the decision to take or avoid a stream crawl. We decide not to be wimps and take the crawl. About 5 feet into the cold cold water, with my camera dragging about 3 inches deep, I see our guide's light 50 feet ahead. This seems very far away, and I think "Why did I do this?" because my jeans, which are technically too large for my reduced size body, are soaking wet. They become heavy and the cuffs begin to slide under the soles of my feet, so I have to roll them up. Wimpy or no, I think I will decline stream crawls on future caving expeditions.

All in all, I enjoyed the caving experience. Total darkness was awesome, there was a lot of old graffiti (mostly 1920's and 30's, but one as early as 1836, carved into the stone), and best of all, we were filthy dirty. Like fingerpainting, for some reason, being messy is part of the appeal of the activity. And yes, we saw bats, but they were all up at least 10 feet.

My flash was not able to overcome the darkness, but I got a few pictures that turned out half decent:

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sad, Part ?

My sister just called.

She said Gromom passed away.

I feel....so...empty. Mostly, I feel sick, as though the apple cider I had a few hours ago might make a reappearance. Not sad. Certainly not happy. Just....

So maybe I should call someone. Someone who knows her and would be interested to know that...well, to be updated on the events of the evening. That would be productive, I suppose. In fact, I have my second cousin's phone number and address sitting here on the desk right in front of me. The last time we spoke, my cousin told me how my grandmother had been like a second mother to her. But, it is late. I don't even know how she died. Or when.

We were away for the weekend, and this blog entry is supposed to be about tailgating at Penn State. It is supposed to be witty, yet insightful. I was going to mention how I wish I had spent more of my time in college enjoying life, as I do now. But in an amusing way. Now, I wonder why I hadn't even thought about Gromom. She was where she always was, just a phone call away, watching movies for all hours of the day.

For once, I had figured out what to buy her for Christmas because one of the last times we talked she had told me how she enjoyed watching music DVD's, and they were actually cool ones - Eric Clapton, and a George Harrison Tribute one. I planned to add to her collection, and perhaps watch a few with her. I was thinking Neil Young. I think she'd like him. Goodness. My tense is all screwed up. I am confusing past and present. They are melding into one, and I am realizing that it is all past. No more present tense.

She already bought me my Christmas present. She told me about it the last time we talked. It was just two weeks ago, actually. She told me I probably wouldn't like it. But she knew I would. I haven't seen it, but I know that it is pottery, made by Lester Brienninger. She has been buying me this pottery for years. As I sit typing at a desk she gave me, I look up and see a Christmas tree by the potter. It is not too "Christmas-y" and I like to keep it out all year. It is dated 2000. I am pretty sure she has been buying these things for me for longer.

Almost every conversation with Gromom has been about her death. She was not afraid of dying. I would say that this made most people uncomfortable, but not so much with me. Her words were usually negative, and she would often be heard to remark, "I'm so sick of livin'." Most people would tell her not to talk like that, but I never did. If I allowed her to talk a bit longer, she would explain that what she meant was that she had a good life. She had done all she wanted to do.

I am feeling better in the stomach now. I've had a bit of water, to get the taste of apple cider out of my mouth. I am having trouble seeing the screen though. Tears.

I am still not exactly sad. Words are so inadequate.

This entry is getting long. Should I call it "Sad, Part I" and begin anew with "Sad, Part II"? I cannot. I write this blog for myself. I try to make it amusing to others, and I love to hear that people enjoy it. But, of course, that praise is for me. I always wanted to be a writer, but I was afraid to reveal myself, and have people read my work, criticize it. That last sentence? Not really grammatically correct, was it? Guess what? I'm ok with that. There is no right answer in writing. My engineer-brain worries about the right answer, and my writer-brain worries about the right words. Sometimes, words must bend to my liking, for they do not express my grief. Or whatever I am feeling. My angst? Bah. Words.

My earliest memories are of Gromom. My sister and I spent countless hours at her house. We played "Red Light Green Light" which basically meant she walked, and we ran ahead as she yelled out Green Light, then skidded to a halt when Red Light was called. We did Yellow Light too, walking in slow motion like Frankenstein. We colored. Gromom did not hand us coloring books and begin making dinner. She colored too. She always picked the weird colors for Holly Hobby's dress, like avocado green and brown. Very drab in our opinions, but she was very good at staying in the lines. We played her favorite game, Sorry. It is a pretty fun game - I played it with her almost every time I went to visit, and she still never let me win. She is a ruthless Sorry player - she sends you back to start with a keen eye for position, as she sings the "Sorry Song." Words on the screen do not do it justice, but my siblings and cousins will surely hear her singing it: "Sorry, sorry, sorry-sorry-sorry." (She wasn't sorry.) I told her I remembered how my brother would cry when we played this game. "You kids all cried," she said, "But I never let you win." We also made Christmas balls, went to the movies, went shopping, went out to eat. And lately, we play a game of Sorry and watch a movie on TV instead of leaving the house. These may be considered mundane pastimes, I suppose. But somehow, they were always fun.

I hope she can read my blog now. I made her a button on her computer, and showed her how to click it. But she said she was too stupid to learn the computer. Yet she was a whiz at Solitaire. She learned what she wanted to learn. But she wouldn't admit it. And for all her grumbling (and she grumbled a lot) I truly believe she's been at peace for a long time, just enjoying passing through life.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I need a Shower!

Many people think of famous architectural wonders when I tell them I am a structural engineer - things like the Sears Tower, Falling Water, even the Superdome. They tend to forget that architects and engineers are needed to design convenience stores and supermarkets as well. So, yes, I get to work on the occasional high profile project, but I also get to crawl around in people's attics, looking for splits in the wood on their trusses. I also look at a lot of cracks.
Today, I visited my second historic house, which a county in Delaware has decided to make our client preserve. At least my first experience with this type of assignment left me prepared to ask the right questions. I visited it about two years ago. It was "believed to be part of the underground railroad" by the county, and I thought it would be a fun excursion to preserve history. Instead, I found a very scary house that was nearly destroyed. The roof was caved in, the windows were boarded up, and the floor was rotting. It was filled to the brim with old furniture and who knows what else, some of it obviously from the second floor bedroom which had collapsed. I am pretty sure someone took one strategically placed swing of a sledgehammer and the whole thing crumbled to a pile of rubble.
Fast forward to today. I found out that a report had been written about House #2, and the client forwarded it without comment. The report discusses rotting structure and asbestos shingles, and concludes with a section indicating that it "reeks of urine", "is littered with feces", "exhibits signs of severe mold spore infestation", "is a bio hazard due to the presence of used drug needles", and (my personal favorite) causes anyone entering the premises "to be a magnet for fleas and ticks." OK, so I can handle wearing a mask to enter the building. I can step around feces and used drug needles. I can even ignore the scent of urine (having lived in a college apartment requiring use of an elevator on weekends). But they lost me at fleas and ticks. I thinketh not.
I wrote emails of protest to the client, but apparently, despite this assessment by a third party, the county is still requiring them to save it.
Actually, "save" is not even the right term. The house is right where they want to build their convenience store, so the county is making them move it to another location, where it will continue to stand, vacant and collapsing. Sometimes, I do not understand the government. But there was nothing I could do.
So, with a bit of trepidation, I drove to the site. Luckily, I was able to observe a lot from the outside. As I descended stairs that looked relatively in tact, I was bitten by a critter. It was a bug of some kind, though I did not spend much time studying it. I looked down to see a biggish spiderlike thing, and whacked at it. I was his last meal. (I am not certain how to define "biggish" because every time I replay the event, it gets bigger and bigger in my mind, until it is nearly dime-sized. It was probably more like the diameter of a pen cap...well, maybe less. I don't know. But it did bite me, and I raced up the stairs. I cannot get the feeling that I have fleas in my hair out of my head, and I am constantly running my fingers through to my scalp.
I went briefly into the rest of the house. Though I saw no feces, I was very creeped out by the darkness and the emptiness.
The sad part is, the house will probably not survive being moved - and that might be a good thing. It would be nice to see these dilapidated old buildings maintained, repaired, and restored. But I do not see the point of allowing them to remain vacant cesspools of disease and decay. That's just my two cents.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

It's BA-ACK!

Fall has caught me a bit by surprise since Labor Day. Just the day before the holiday, I had embarked on my weekly grocery trip with my list consisting of late summer produce - peaches and some corn on the cob and the like. At first, I was a bit bemused to find a bin full of pumpkins and the pre-made bags of apples associated with my most favorite of all the seasons. Where had the summer gone? Did the grocery store workers put in overtime to hit us customers with this obvious autumnal display? With a somewhat careless shrug, I realized that apple cider was likely awaiting in the depths of the store, and I happily maneuvered my cart between Halloween candy displays and Ravens cakes.

But this weekend, summer counterattacked defiantly. I awoke yesterday morning to go the gym, and considered a light jacket because I opted for the sleeveless shirt with the shelf bra rather than rummaging through the clean clothes in the laundry basket which had been awaiting folding for nearly a week. Then, the cat requested politely to go outside. (Think MROW! with insistent gestures for the doorway.) I opened the door, and we both hestiated as extremely humid heat quite literally smacked us in the face. Apparently, summer was back with a vengeance.

After the two weeks of wonderfully crisp, non-humid weather (except for the occasional hurricane rain), Adam and I found ourselves completely intolerant of this rash of sunshine. We briefly considered leaving the house, but just can't seem to find the motivation to walk through the parking lot.

Summer, I love ya, but your time has past. See you next year!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Finally, A Sport for the Ladies...

...Tennis! Just to be clear, I definitely do not mean playing tennis. This looks as though it requires effort. I am fairly certain that even if my first experience attempting this sport hadn't resulted in my best friend's bloody nose as I crushed a ball directly into her face, I would lose interest in chasing the little ball around and smacking at it in approximately 10.5 seconds. No, no, I mean watching tennis - specifically the Men's U.S. Open. After 5 seconds of watching, it becomes quite apparent that those with the attention span and stamina to chase the ball for a full game tend to have rather impressive physiques:


I rest my case.

I missed my class at the gym today, and opted to use the dreaded machines. I hate the treadmill, and the elliptical, and the stationary bike. They are so booooring. But today, this guy (his name is Roger, but do we really care?) and his opponent (also impressive looking, but unfortunatey chose the "sun visor" as head gear and lost my loyalties) kept me from looking at my treadmill timer for 7 minutes and 13 seconds. Up to this point, I had never passed more than 45 seconds without sneaking a peek.
While other sports invlove well-built men, I find them inferior because the men are often obscured from view by lots of equipment, or the camera angle is, like, way above them as if the viewer might be interested in seeing the whole field. Not so with tennis - we get nice, close up shots of the players after each play, which thankfully lasts only a few seconds. The perfect sport for the ADD patient within.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Eating This, Not That


I bought a new book: "Eat This - Not That". You've probably heard of it. (It was all over the book store.) It addresses my most formidable adversary in the weight loss battle: unplanned meals. This includes meals eaten out at a restaurant, holiday meals, and party meals.
When left to my own devices, I do OK. Luckily, I already enjoy preparing home-cooked meals from fresh foods, so I have few issues with packaged goods. It's a whole new ballgame when I have reached the food table at a potluck supper, which includes everyone's specialty item. The longer I avoid the temptation by chewing gum or simply sitting at an inconvenient table, the more likely I am to crack under pressure and begin devouring brownies Tasmanian Devil style. I am just a blur with crumbs flying out in all directions to the average bystander.
The purchase of this book was prompted by my friend (who also bought it) and a recent trip to "Romano's Macaroni Grill" (incidentally given an "F" grade in the book). I perused the menu, and found only 2 items listed as "Smart Choices". One was a salmon fillet with broccoli on the side, the other was "Skinny Balsamic Chicken" listed right next to the obviously more delicious "Basalmic Chicken". The skinny recipe was unappealing due to its proximity to its regular counterpart, and the salmon lacked flair. I have salmon in my freezer at all times, and if I am paying $14.95 a meal, it better be for something I can't/won't make myself. This left all the pasta dishes. I reasoned that I could limit myself to half an entree and still be ok, but which to choose?
On the bright side, Macaroni Grill does list its nutrition information online, a feature I find extremely useful as a calorie-counter. On the dark side, I ended up choosing the pasta dish with the most calories of any other dish!! This, while I was attempting to make the right choice. That is where the book comes in. The basic premise is that simple substitutions can go a long way in reducing overall calorie intake. For instance, the chicken burrito bowl without rice at Chipolte has 489 calories, while the chicken burrito has 1092. It also reveals some truths which even the health conscious may not be aware - like fish tacos may sound like fewer calories than steak fajitas, but they are really not.
I think I can live without some frills like cheese or mayo, and I can begin training myself to eat half the meal by getting a box right off the bat. It is either that, or skip these wonderful meals altogether, and to me, that's just not living.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Brain and Stomach Battle the Munchies

If my stomach had a personality, I imagine it would be a bratty toddler who needs a nap. My brain, the exacerbated parent, responds:

Stomach: I'm huuungry!
Brain: You just had lunch 45 minutes ago. You can't be hungry.

S: Yes, yes I am. Can we go over to architecture and see if they still have the cookies from yesterday?
B: No! You can have some water. You're probably just thirsty.

S: But, Braaaain, I don't want water! I'm hungry. I want a cookie!
B: Look, do you want to ruin it for everyone else? What about butt?! She's down there, working hard for this body, and all you want to do is make her lumpy and undesirable!

S: Hmmmph. (Silence for approximately 19 seconds.) BRAIN!! I just want one cookie! Then I'll be quiet, I promise!
B: Oh my God. OK, if you PROMISE to stop with the hungry talk, I'll take you over to see if there's cookies. But if there's not, you still have to shut up, got it? No talk of vending machines, or Dunkin Donuts runs, none of that. Got it?

S: OK! Let's go!

Brain and Stomach walk across the office, and find that the cookies are gone. They have been replaced by a box of Munchkins.

B: Those are not cookies.
S: But they look OK. Let's eat a few! I'm hungry!!

B: Don't start again.
S: Munchkins are practically cookies! Come on!
B: Fine. But just one.

Hand reaches in and finds one glazed chocolate munchkin....and one with sprinkles...and another one with powdered sugar. Stomach awaits anxiously as Mouth chews while Brain, noting that the Munchkins are a little stale, begins calculating the devestation.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Ode to Oats


I have reverted back to weight loss research for this blog entry. In this case by "research" I mean that I read part of a page in an article in my recipe magazine. It is a start.

Anyway, the article was about "power foods": foods that are good for you due to the nutritional content. They give more bang for the buck. I was amazed to learn that I actually enjoy all of the foods on the list, though I was disheartened to find that "German style pilsner" and "semi sweet chocolate chips" did not make the list.

So, here is the list: spinach, black beans, broccoli, salmon, blueberries, soy, oats, walnuts, tomatoes, and olive oil. Not only do I like these things, but I actually love tomatoes and black beans, which are in my favorite food (chili), and I like salmon and walnuts quite a bit.

One of my most successful breakfasts has been "oatmeal and a piece of fruit." When I originally began eating healthy, I purchased the "no sugar added" version of Quaker oats flavor packets. Then one week, Adam helped with the shopping, and he chose a variety pack that I typically avoid - it includes an "original flavor" packet. Original flavor is actually code for "no flavor" and I am fairly certain that a few of these detested packets remain in my parent's kitchen cupboard for they were the most hated of all packets when I was a child. As an adult, I have dutifully avoided the conflict of the original flavor packet and refrained from purchasing the variety packs that include it. You know what? Original flavor is not that bad. In fact, the too-sweet "maple brown sugar" packet was probably my least favorite in that variety pack. I guess I have grown up...

This discovery was also beneficial because my sister thought it would be funny to give me a HUGE canister of oatmeal for Christmas after I made a comment about how I use oatmeal all the time. Well, I ate oatmeal about 3 times a week for 15 weeks, and not only did I use it up, I purchased an even bigger package at BJ's. I have found that this meal sticks with me longer, so I don't start craving lunch until almost lunchtime. Yay oatmeal! My power food du jour!

Monday, September 1, 2008

What Was I Thinking?

The topic of a semi-recent post was the way many of my clothes fit better after I had begun to shed a few pounds. This is likely because of a stoic refusal on my part to accept that I should have been buying clothes in the next largest size. My pants were tight, and I often had poor, umm, well let's just say I had digestive issues. Also, there were a few pairs of pants which I did not wear because I thought they were too short. A few months ago, the little stupid tab on a pair of dress pants came off (still haven't fixed this - can't cut the duct tape small enough) and I was forced to wear the "too short" pair of pants. Surprisingly, they were no longer too short. Neglecting the theory that I have, in fact, shrunk (my third grade self would be so happy!), I decided that prior to my weight loss, the pants were not low enough on the waist to provide optimal ankle coverage. In other words, my pants were not too short. I was just too fat. This has proven true with several other pairs of pants, and a few pairs of shorts.
But not all. On Friday, a rainy day which Adam and I had planned to spend outside, I reached daringly for a pair of jeans that had not fit properly last fall. They still don't fit - the legs are tight, the butt is tight, and my underwear is visible when I bend. Today, I put on a pair of shorts which I never really had much problem with before, expecting them to fit satisfyingly baggier. Not so. In fact, they are borderline tight.
I guess my standards have changed? Did they shrink in the dryer? I am just wondering what I could have possibly been thinking wearing these clothes in public pre-weight loss. And how many other long-forgotten fashion faux-pas are lurking in the depths of my closet?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Mmmm....Litter....


I got incredibly lucky when I adopted a little stray cat named Daisy. From day one, she has been lovable (but not annoyingly so), she has not scratched on furniture, she has used her litter box, and she has not eaten/pooped in my plants. (Note - this is very unlike my friend Cara's cat, Gomez. Some of my favorite Gomez adventures: "Monsieur Green Paw", "Sexy Pig", "Oh the Carnage", and "That Darn Cat")

Anyway, back to my sweet kitty, Daisy: we found out recently that she is asthmatic. This is very rare in cats, but as I mentioned, I got incredibly lucky. For the past few weeks, she has been on steroids, and her breathing/shedding has improved. Unfortunately, like all medication, the steroids are not without their side affects, including a risk of diabetes and development of some very icky looking skin conditions (I will spare you the link - trust me on the ickiness). So, we began to consider possible causes for her condition, because she has not always had a problem. (I am sad to say that she has had this problem for a while though - I did not know cats could have asthma attacks, and I have been incorrectly diagnosing her episodes as hairballs or poor choices in food such as bugs or plants.) It is too bad cats do not, as a general rule, speak English.

We decided that the problem may have begun a few years ago when we began using a litter box with a cap on it - she is in a confined space with the litter dust floating around on a daily basis. But the cap serves a purpose - we don't wish to have a bathroom coated in kitty litter. So Adam bought "dust-free" litter that is made from wheat.

A snippet from the packaging: "Wheat litter and why its better: Wheat enzymes naturally eliminate odor; Low dust, less tracking; biodegradable, certified flushable; Safe and non-toxic for kittens and cats."

It also looks delicious. Seriously. I eat steel cut oatmeal for breakfast, and this stuff looks like it could be cooked up in a pinch. It also costs about the same. The cat, always wary of new things, gingerly approached her litter box, sniffing as she went, and began eating it.

I am gravely concerned that she will not poop in this. And who could blame her? I would not want to poop in oatmeal either. What worries me even more is where she will decide to poop. I'll keep you posted. Hopefully it is in something of Adam's...or the toilet. Now that would be worth posting about.

Updated: I was pleased to find three little turds in the appropriate location this morning. Never thought I'd be so glad to see poo.

Monday, August 25, 2008

My Achin' Bum

Owie! Yesterday, I suggested that we take the bikes up to my old stomping grounds in York, PA. Before Adam joined me south of the Mason-Dixon Line, I learned to ride the mountain bike by participating in beginner group rides at Rocky Ridge Park. It was quite the feat to race from the office with disassembled bike in trunk of Cavalier, through seas of cars going SLOW for NO REASON and meeting the group by 6pm, where I would reassemble the bike NASCAR-style. (Wait - does NASCAR get all caps? Is it an acronym for something? Oh, yeah, that's right: I don't care.)
Anyway, I stopped making this trek after Adam moved, but we still went up to York from time to time, not only for "the Ridge" but also for Cobblestones, which serves 60 beers (beer snob heaven) and "Skillet of Skins". This consists of a hot plate of red potatoes smothered in ranch dressing and provolone cheese, baked to perfection. It is also a quick and delicious way to completely negate any calories you may have inadvertently burned while biking.
Our "new" apartment (we just renewed our third lease) grounds are bordered by Loch Raven Reservoir, which boasts miles of mountain bike trails. This is a great feature, but it has made us somewhat lazy - we never travel to other biking areas since there is one in the backyard.
Which brings me to my achin' bum. You may be curious as to why Rocky Ridge was christened with this name. Well, boys and girls, it has a lot of ROCKS and it is a RIDGE - 750 acres of trails split down the middle by a peak about 350 ft above the parking area. The downhills are fun (mostly - there are some steep areas which cause me to envision several ways my body could fly and/or crush). The uphills? Hurt. So much. And once you get hung up on the first rock, your "ride" becomes more of a hike, only you have 30 lbs of bike to lug up the hill as your calves begin to cramp. Despite all this, it is really quite fun.

Until today, when I decided to take a spin class at the gym. It was then that I realized I am actually pretty sore after yesterday's excursion. Our first track was a standing climb, thankfully, because every time I sat down, I began squirming back and forth on the seat trying to find a more comfortable position. I never did find one, but soon my legs began to burn and scream and whine, saying why? After all we do for you! My legs threatened to go on strike, and my bum got lost in the shuffle.
I am sure you are asking yourself why I do this to me. The answer is because I feel wonderful when it's over. I am tired enough to sleep, and perfectly content with life.

...but I just realized I forgot to add those wonderful potatoes to my log...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Did you get a haircut?

...No, I got them all cut!

Like my new virtual friend Danielle, I do not have as many girly genes as I maybe should. However, last November, one of these genes was awakened within me, and I realized that at some point, I would need to overcome my fear of hair salons. Not only do hairstylists tend to spend much of their time telling me how dry and unhealthy my hair is, they also tend to cut my hair way shorter than I specifically request. Hence, I have not really gone to a professional salon since about 1989. Yes, I was 11 years old at the time. I attempted one haircut during college, and found the whole experience to be just as I remembered - with the added "embarrassment" of not owning (or being remotely aware of) any hair products, and complete ignorance of tip etiquette.

This last one was particularly worrisome to me, but my mother explained the process and made me an appointment with Jessica at Ulta.

I think I scared Jessica.

I made the mistake of telling her how worried I was about the prospect of losing the long hair I had worked hard to grow, and how I feared hairstylists in general. Jessica was great - she even showed me how to style my hair (if I would be willing to purchase a curling iron) and explained how to use some of the "products". But, she neglected to cut much hair. Not a single person even noticed my haircut. And, due to Jessica being two hours away, I was again reluctant to chop it for real, despite increasing annoyance with my hair. Of late, I had been sleeping on it and then waking myself up in the night because I cannot move my head. Also, I am constantly getting it stuck under various shoulder bags, again, restricting head movement.

So, I decided to try again. I began my inquiries - my friend Jess got a great haircut at the mall, my friend Anne "has a girl", and my friend Courtney always gets nice cuts. Turns out she goes to the same place at the mall, so I made my choice. My sister turned me on to a fun site on Ladies Home Journal (www.lhj.com) where you can download a photo of yourself and then pop different hairstyles on your pic.

Here's what we came up with:








Sexy, no?







After another two weeks or so of deliberation, I gathered my courage and went to the mall. I had unfortunately forgotten that the first day of school is next week, and that normal people get haircuts in preparation. So I had about two hours to kill, but this was no problem. I was at the mall.

When I returned, I sat and waited, carefully observing the payment operation, specifically the tipping. I had come prepared with a $5 bill - had to purchase cookies in order to make change, but a girl has to sacrifice. But, if there was any way to avoid the uncomfortableness of slipping the fiver into a person's hand, I wanted to be aware of it. Thankfully, I successfully read the lips of a girl at the register, asking if she could put the tip on her card. (I hoped.) Then, it was my turn:

Hmmm...I actually like it. I must admit I was a little frightened that I had moved too much too soon. I showed the woman my LHJ printouts and she agreed that something like this would work well with my hair type. Then, she picked up a pair of scissors and snipped off 5 inches of dry hair. No turning back at that point, but a large part of me wanted to get some hot glue and get working. Also, I was told to purchase a $32 shampoo and conditioner set in order to control my dryness. (I passed - I just bought a tub of conditioner from BJ's and damned if I'll be wasting it!) My hairstylist found it amusing that I was unaware that all mousses come in a can. She was nice about it, but hmph. I bet she thinks cement and concrete are the same thing! (A common engineering pet peeve. I'm just saying...we all have our specialties...)

Anyway, I am supposed to go back in 6 weeks, lest I do any more damage to my poor follicles. We'll see. I think if I get back in 6 months, I'll be making huge strides.