31 December 2007


In a holiday greeting, a friend urged me to remember those we lost this year, and celebrate those that are still here. We do that around New Year's. That and make new starts, new resolutions.

Generally, for a reason that remains unknown to me, I tend to think of fall, rather than the new year, as a time for resolutions and changes in habit. Probably just 'cause I like to be contrary, more than any other reason. However, since most of the rest of the world does it now, I'll indulge in a bit of it as well.

I'd like to be able to let go of the guilt that I carry around.

That's my resolution, to feel less guilty about any and everything. There's a website I discovered years ago, I don't know if the domain is still active and I'm not about to check; it was called Catholic Guilt, and it was a porn site.

The name stuck with me, though, making me wonder at the time if the Church created guilt in its practitioners, or if those who practice the religion are just prone naturally to more guilt.

It starts young, this whole guilt thing. It varies from parish to parish, of course, but the sacrament of Confession, a Catholic's FIRST confession, takes place anywhere from 8 to 12 years old. Mine was in the 4th grade, at about 9 years old.

Confession is all about receiving absolution for your sins. Now please tell me; what sins could the average middle class American 9-year-old possibly commit? Lying, fighting with siblings, OK, I'll give you those. I imagine that the priests tasked with hearing those first confessions howl with laughter as soon as they're able....the kids are so nervous, and the sins so petty, I'm sure it is an exercise in hilarity for the most part.

I dutifully made my first confession with the rest of my class, but the strains that became fissures, then cracks and finally breaks in my faith started not long after that first confession.

I was about 12, and playing with a new friend in our neighborhood. I'd gone to school with her for a while, and like most of my suburban schoolmates, she was Catholic like me. Her parent's new house was within walking distance of mine, and we spent a lot of time together in the summers.

"I have to go, I have to get to Confession," I told her one afternoon. The local parish had open time for confessions on Saturdays, and I went from time-to-time.

"Why?" She asked, hugely startled. "I don't believe in Confession. How can a priest grant forgiveness? Only God can do that. Priests are human; forgiveness is divine. I don't believe that they really have the power to grant absolution, do you?"

(Yes, we really talked like that. Bright kids, with big vocabularies...dorks...shoot me.)

"Um, yeah..." I trailed off. She was by far cooler than me during the school year, and I didn't want to seem provincial. "That's what they teach us..."

The more I thought about it, the more I decided she was right. How did saying a few Hail Marys fix some petty wrong that I'd done? God somehow was closer to the priests than the ordinary people? With typical pre-teen sarcasm: What-ev-er! And: plur-eze! That was the end of confession for me. I've never been back.

It is a really nice idea, though. That with a few simple prayers, you can atone for wrongs done, whatever they may be. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way for me.

What guilt am I carrying around? Oh, a few things. I feel guilty that I'm not as good at many things as I think I ought to be. That I'm not perfect, which who knows where I got that idea, I ought to be absolutely perfect at everything I try on the very first attempt. Or that I'm insanely jealous of the lives my sisters are leading, I feel really guilty about that, how jealous I am of them, because it is patently ridiculous. I should be proud of them, happy for them (and I am) and able to leave it at that (but I'm not).

The times that I know peace from this cacophony are only when I'm able to enter into a meditative state of some sort; either during my yoga practice, or when I'm running. Both of those things being times when I can concentrate solely on what I'm doing just that second, and nothing else.

Not even when I'm sleeping does it go away; I had way, way, waaaaay too vivid dreams the other night that I feel very guilty about. And yep, there ARE limits to my over-sharing, because I'm certainly not about to share that one.

So the question remains; how to let go of the guilt? And the only answer I can come up with is to increase the amount of time that I spend running and doing yoga. An answer that I like a whole lot, incidentally.

In my spare time (hahahahahahahaha) next year, I am going to get my certification to teach yoga. As well as apply to several graduate programs, after taking the GRE.

hmmm. perhaps the guilt factor comes from setting expectations far too high, then feeling like I've failed when I fall short.


Listening to: Rent soundtrack, Seasons of Love

27 December 2007


At my request, my mother-in-law got me a copy of Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass as a birthday present.

(Yes, dear readers, even with my best attempts to ignore it, my 33rd birthday has come, and mercifully, gone.)

I read the book quickly, in just a few hours. I must say, I'm utterly mystified. First, over the hype about this being a great book. Terry Brooks is quoted on the back of the paperback as saying, "The Golden Compass is one of the best fantasy/adventure stories that I have read. This is a book no one should miss." With all due respect, I disagree.

Which is not to say that I didn't enjoy it; it was all right. I hate to say this, though...I've honestly read better stories that were written as fanfic. And I don't venture into the fanfic world except under duress.

Next, I'm confused by the fanatics and crisis-mongers who have been screaming about how this book is all about the death of Christianity. Really? 'Cause I just don't see it. He writes about how a super-powerful Catholic Church is a dangerous thing....it ought to come as absolutely no surprise to regular readers that I happen to agree. A Church having power over every facet of society.....hmmmm....isn't that why we believe so strongly in the separation of Church and State? Balanced governance and all that? The founding fathers were deeply religious, deeply Christian religious, folks who nonetheless did not want even their church to have that much power.

To me, it seems more as if Pullman is warning about a return to things like the Spanish Inquisition, or the Salem Witch Trials. Nothing in my upbringing or background suggests to me that we ought to be terrified of what the Church is going to do next, that we should be locking up our children so they aren't snatched by the Church in the dark of night.

Fearing a higher power, and fearing her/his incarnation on earth just aren't the same thing. I know many sects of Christianity teach that we should be god-fearing peoples. Sure, fine, I understand that, even whilst disagreeing with it. (I'll spare you all the feminist rant about how fearing god is just another way the patriarchal society we live in attempts to keep us all obedient to a particular set of...um. Right.) But we ought not fear the place where we worship. Or the leaders of those places. Their power should not be so that we fear to speak against them, or feel that we need to tread lightly around them.

Another idea that he touches on that tugged at my heartstrings more than anything else in the entire story was the fact that children were disappearing, and these children were, in the eyes of those in power, disposable. Poor children, from poverty-stricken homes. Working class kids, Gypsies, homeless children. Take them for your experiments, no-one will notice. They don't matter. Ouch.

I would have not ever picked up this book if it hadn't been for the hysterical e-mails I got on the subject. I would have stuck with the vampire trilogy I've been immersed in for a couple of months {Stephanie Meyers, Twilight, New Moon, and Eclipse, all very captivating} or picked up a few other things that are on my more serious list of things to read, like The Kite Runner, or even Eat, Pray, Love, something one of my atheist sisters read and found interesting.

Now if you truly want to lose yourself in another fantasy world, check out Charles deLint, or Melanie Rawn, or Anne McCaffrey, or Tolkien......

21 December 2007

More MAJOR kudos to the Armstrongs

Heather and John Armstrong, in case you're living under a rock, are Dooce and Blurb, at www.dooce.com and www.blurbomat.com. Heather had a great depression post the other day, and John wrote a very eloquent and amazing post kind of in response to that, about what it is like to live with someone with depression.

Truly, one of the most difficult things to read that I've ever tried to make my way through.

Not because of my usual bitches about spelling and grammar, but rather because it hurts me to think that this is what my family is going through with me.

Powerful stuff. Again.

Their courage in standing up for those who suffer from mental illness, their sometimes painful honesty, their willingness to share their lives in such an open fashion with the world often simply staggers me.

20 December 2007


I apologize most sincerely for inflicting this upon you, because you will leave this post with an obnoxious pop song stuck in your head.

I'm also putting on my Spinster Aunt Grammar Police hat.

You got me trippin', stumblin' flippin, fumbling
Clumsy cuz I'm fallin in love
You got me slippin, tumbling, sinking, fumbling
Clumsy cuz I'm fallin in love
So in love wit you

That's the chorus to Fergie's latest pop song, Clumsy. I've seen the video twice, randomly surfing the TV channels, and I am hearing the bass line in my head for hours afterward. I like Fergie's music, understand that. But that last line, "so in love wit you" has me all fired up, for a couple of reasons.

First, it is miserable grammar/pronunciation. Folks who don't enunciate make me nuts. "Wit" instead of "with" is really one of my pet peeves. Another one is people who mispronounce the word frustrate, but that's a story for another day. Wit is intelligence. Wit is savvy. W-I-T is not an appropriated shortened form of with. Grrr.

The other reason this irritates me requires a bit of backstory. You already know I'm a music geek. I don't think I've ever talked about my singing here; I no longer sing in public, but to not sing would be to not breathe. I sing all the time. With the iPod. Without the iPod. With the radio. Not with the radio. With the muzak in department stores. At full fortissimo or as quiet as a church mouse. I have a halfway decent voice. I'll never be Maria Callas or Mariah Carey, with their astonishing ranges, but I can carry a tune, and carry it well. From the time I was 12 years old until I left for Sweden at 16, I studied with a vocal coach, in addition to singing in my school's choirs.

My coach had been an opera singer with the Met, once upon a time. She taught me wonderful things about breath support and projecting volume. She was also at considerable pains to teach me how to sing the words 'with you' so it didn't sound like you were singing the word 'chew.' The choir director at school was the same guy from 6th grade all the way through graduation; this was one of his fussy things too. Thanks to both of them, this is something I notice in popular music, and when it is done incorrectly, it makes me grind my teeth. It isn't that hard to do; any singer should know this little trick. All you do is soften the "t" sound, almost as if you were going to drop it off all together, and emphasize the 'you', being careful not to introduce too much of your Midwest twang into it and making it sound like 'yew'. Oh, wait, that Midwest thing would just be me. Anyway.

Fergie-Ferg has a lovely voice, is a talented songstress, and produces extremely entertaining music. This just makes ME nuts, it is a psychosis, I know. The song really sticks with you, which speaks well for it being a major hit for her. And that means that I'll be hearing it everywhere.

If you need me, I'll be over there in the corner in the fetal, rocking and grinding my teeth.

clumsy 'cause I'm fallin' in love..in in love
so in love
wit you


19 December 2007

The Resources Available

When I worked for the non-profit, for a good long while I was the only employee. This meant several things; one, no one was looking over my shoulder most of the time. Two, there was only so much I could do; I used to say all the time, "I do the best that I can with the resources I have available." 'Resources' usually meaning me, myself and I.

NPR is doing an occasional series about the songwriting process. As a music enthusiast, this interests me a whole lot. On the way home the other day, I listened to this piece, about pop group Georgie James and their dynamic. The reporter, Bob Boilen, used my resources available phrase when he was talking about what he thinks the true test of an artist/creative person is; the ability to use whatever they've got to accomplish the goal at hand.

My new job requires me to be constantly creative; there are, of course, some days when this is effortless, and others when it is quite the struggle. I have been feeling like the job is sucking up all the creativity I've got, leaving none at all for me. And that bums me out, because I haven't worked for more than a minute on my novel since September.

My friend who owns a beauty salon tells me all the time, "You're crafty," because I'm always bringing her things I've made. Cookies, or something else I've baked, endlessly. This time of year, it is bath salts and the coolest thing that I make all year long, solid lotion bars. (I wish I could claim that one as my own idea, but unfortunately, all I do is mess with the kit that they send me, adding a few things.) I always correct her, though and tell her with barely suppressed laughter, "I'm creative, not crafty. Martha Stewart and the people on HGTV are crafty. I'm cooler than that."

A while ago, I wondered on these pages if feeling better, with my depression symptoms easing, was making it more difficult to write. Something that I fear, quite honestly. I now think my fears were well-founded, and that in order to write fiction, and write it well, I need to be in a pretty dark place psychologically. Many of the things that I've discovered on this journey which initially made me uncomfortable are now all right with me. Not being able to write; that isn't OK with me.

It is a big push/pull, though. I am not willing to stop taking the meds in order to boost my creativity. I am not willing to not stop writing. There's a bit of an impasse there. One that I don't know how to fix. Besides not feeling like I'm able to further express what I want to say about my story, I also have absolutely no time for it at all. Last night, I posted my usual Tuesday post at just a few minutes before the calendar flipped over to the next day, because I didn't have time to finish the post during the day. I was working until nearly 10.30.

I don't mind being employed again, that's not it at all. I'm incredibly grateful to be working at all. I know that the fact that I am working has a lot to do with the improvement in my outlook. Not as much as an impact as the meds have, but I felt worse than worthless while I was unemployed. Not unloved, but unlovable. Not that circumstances forced being jobless upon me, but that I was apparently completely undesirable as an employee. Good times, good times.

Me-time is an essential part of who I am. There's a world of difference between alone and lonely. I treasure time to myself; that solitary-ness, the need for solitude, is one of my defining characteristics. Not having time to myself will eventually make me a bit stir-crazy, a little twitchy. More than a bit grumpy, too. It isn't the same sort of c-r-a-z-y as the depression, this is more just being temperamental.

So I feel like my resources are limited. It is partly the season; after work today I'd like to spend some time chatting with a few online friends and writing, but my house is an utter, complete, horrible disaster area, and it needs cleaned desperately. Three loads of laundry await folding, another two need run through the washer and dryer. One of my OCD things is that I have to take the dry cleaning off of wire hangers that the dry cleaner uses and switch the clothes to my nice hangers, and hang them in my closet in very specific order. That needs done, I brought home $150 worth of dry cleaning yesterday. As if all that wasn't enough, because of the holiday season, there are gifts to be wrapped, and still one or two to be purchased. Urgh. Have I mentioned that I'm training for a race that is in 12 days and I have yet to be able to run the entire 5K on the treadmill? Too much to do, too little time.

How to fill the well when it is in danger of running dry?

18 December 2007


Suffering from depression is like living at the bottom of a well. The days slide by, and you hear distant echoes of life above, but you're not there. You feel incredibly alone. Even though you know that there are any number of people who want to pull you back up, you have to do it on your own.

I'm "out" about my depression. It isn't something I'm ashamed of, or embarrassed about. I don't go around introducing myself to new people by saying, "Hi, I'm Lucy and I'm heavily medicated for severe depression!" but if someone asks, I'll be very frank and honest with them about it. I will talk about the meds, the therapy, the therapist, the doc who prescribes the meds, where I think it came from, how I'm doing today or yesterday or how I think I'll be doing next week. Maybe I'm a wee bit too out about it. But I don't care much what some random person, be they friend, family, or stranger thinks about anti-depressants, whether they're good or bad.

You feel so alone when it is at its worst, but you are aware that you're not the only person in history that's ever felt this way. It isn't really possible to find your way out of it just by listening to someone else's experiences; in fact, I think I really couldn't hear them when it was at its worst. I should probably not be surprised at all when I discover that yet another friend or acquaintance or even family member is traveling the same road I am, but I am always surprised.

So many women I know are in the same boat. Inside the computer, outside the computer, in my personal and professional life, we're everywhere. Is it possible that it is gender-related? Or that women are more susceptible to depression than men? I think an argument could be made for it; I know very few men who are having the same trouble as my girlfriends are, but women actually talk about this stuff, men, by and large, don't.

Conspiracy-minded (and admittedly self-centered) as I am, once upon a time, I would have thought that the common denominator among all the women I know who are depressed was me, that somehow I was contagious, and the depression spread outward in ripples from me to everyone around me. Like attracts like, you know. My OCD makes me want to line it up all neatly and find something that makes it all fit neatly into little boxes. Doesn't work like that, but I'd sure like it to.

Right now, where I'm at with it is a relatively good place. I'm dealing all right. I'm even all right with the fact that I'm on meds. At various points during this journey that hasn't been OK, I've wanted to get off them asap. But at the moment, I'm just fine with the fact that I'm on the maximum daily dosage of Wellbutrin XL. It is helping. I don't think I want to be on it for the rest of my life, but at this stage, I'm willing to actually listen to the doctors and seriously consider their advice. Today, anyway. I can really even see a future where I'm not a train wreck.

Hope is an amazing and wonderful thing.

17 December 2007

Evolving Tastes

Professional sports aren't my thing. They never have been, and that's OK with me. Football? Meh. Baseball? Meh. Basketball? Meh. NASCAR? Meh.

But then there's hockey. I like hockey; that's due to living in Sweden. I challenge anyone to spend any time at all living in Scandinavia and not become a hockey lover. One ex in Sweden took me to several games of a minor-league team in his home city, and he painstakingly explained the rules to me. So unlike football, which makes little sense to me, I know what's going on down on the ice during a hockey game.

I've been at several hockey games lately, and the team has cheerleaders. Which is laughable, really. Can't have a team without cheerleaders, right? Seems to me that's a pretty uniquely American oddity. Anyway, I think it is a requirement that all hockey arenas must play a few particular songs during the match; The Hey Song, Unbelievable (by EMF), Everybody Dance Now (C+C Music Factory), to name a few. Stuff that I forget about until I hear it played again, which brings it back up into the forefront of my thoughts.

When I got in front of the computer after the most recent hockey game, I started searching iTunes for a few 90s dance hits that I liked back in the day, a few things I was reminded of at the games.

Itunes is a ginormous time-suck, have I ever mentioned that? As bad as the web; maybe for a music addict, worse than the web. C+C Music Factory took me to The Hit Crew, which then led to browsing of the entire dance genre on iTunes, and before I knew it, more than two hours had flown by.

Once upon a time, I adored dance, techno, rave, trip-hop, drum & bass. Isn't it funny how our tastes change over time? At one time, all I listened to was electronica. Stuff that to the uneducated ear is repetitive computer-created crap. I remember another ex, who bitched incessantly about the prevalence of techno in the early 90s. He claimed that any three-year-old with a computer could compose any one of the hits that swept through the European dance club circuits back then; I disagreed vehemently, but because I was a shy little pushover in those days, I kept my mouth shut.

When I was living in Europe, I was spellbound by the DJs in the dance clubs. The way that they'd take songs and blend them together, looping back to the original melody, flowing to the next song, I wondered a lot about how difficult that was, and what you needed to accomplish such amazing technological feats. And how much music each of them must have owned; seemed to me like they had every note of music ever recorded.

As I wandered around iTunes, listening to bits of old techno, a trip(hop) down memory lane, I wondered what had ever happened to my copy of The Prodigy's Experience CD, or the CD-Maxi I had of Das Boot, or anything I owned by The Chemical Brothers. I've never been one to toss music, even when I no longer like it. I own an embarrassing lot of music, and when you add DH's collection in to mine, there's quite a bit there that could be cringe-worthy.

Watching that vid of Das Boot over on YouTube brought back a flood of memories. I thought that the video was frightening back in 1992, showing as it did clips of the epynomous movie which is about a German sinking submarine during WWII. I still find it disturbing, but I also find that I can't sit still while the song is playing, it makes me want to hop up and dance. That's disturbing as well, on some level.

A fangirl friend gave me an mp3 file of Blue (Da Ba Dee) by Eiffel 65; another early-90s hit that I can (and do) listen to over and over.

I like dance music for working out. I hate to admit it; there's so much out there that must be better to listen to. But for motivating me to move faster, there's nothing like something that comes in at over 150 bpm.

There was a while that I wouldn't listen to the tech/electronica/dance at all. Other times, I've cringed about the classic rock in my collection, or been embarrassed that I own opera. These days, I shrug and smile if someone harasses me about something on my iPod or on my computer. It is your problem if you don't like it, not mine. I tell people that my music tastes are just eclectic. Besides downloading a remix of Das Boot, I've also recently snagged Eminem's Lose Yourself, (rap) Men in Hat's Safety Dance, (80s) Pink's I'm not dead album, (Pop/Rock/R&B) Lifehouse's new single, (Rock) an older Finger 11 song (Alternative) that I like....and I'm working on getting my entire CD collection digitized. Yeah, eclectic. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

15 December 2007

She can't drive.....55

DH can not be in a vehicle that I'm driving without making some remark about my inability to drive. For the record, I am a good driver. I drive too fast most of the time, but we'll get to that in a second. DH likes to yell and fuss about things like "WATCH THE CURB!!!" and his yelling often makes whatever he thinks the problem is about 50,000 times worse, because the screaming startles me. I have been known to stop the car, turn it off, hand him the keys, and get out, rather than listen to one more second of his kvetching about my driving. It isn't that I'm a bad driver, it is that he's a control freak and does not like being a passenger.

I'm kind of on the defensive about this.

One day this week, I was headed to a meeting with a client, in the county north of my own. A roughly half hour drive, mostly freeway driving.

Can you see the ending here, already?

As I came around a bend on a connector between two freeways, sitting on a huge cement pad between the lanes was a friendly Ohio State Highway Patrol officer. I was driving 72 miles an hour. The speed limit there is 55 miles an hour. He tagged me at 72 only because I slammed on the brakes when I saw him; I thought he was going to pull out in front of me. Otherwise, he'd have probably gotten me for 80.

Oh-hia requires drivers stopped for moving violations to show proof of insurance; I can never find the damn card when I get pulled over. The officer went back to process the paperwork, assuring me that he would, "have me on my way quickly," which made me giggle. I think the point is to NOT be on your way so quickly, no? But of course I couldn't find the current insurance card in the glove box. Cards dating back to 2001 are in there; not any from 2005, 2006, or 2007. Fortunately, he let that slide.

When he handed me the ticket, after explaining how I need to call the court to find out what the fine is and that the fine is due by January 8th, he said, "I'm sorry."

When I had rolled up the window and drove away, I howled with laughter. He's sorry? He's sorry? He's sorry? Hm. If he is so sorry, why'd he give me the ticket? Or was he apologizing for catching me breaking the law? Or perhaps he's sorry that I broke the law. I'm not really sure what he meant, but it struck me as funny.

Here's the painful part. The ticket is going to cost me $114. Oh-hia-ia has a points system for traffic violations; twelve points and YOU'RE OUT! This ticket makes 4 on my license. I had another ticket in January/February of 2006, for driving 42 mph in a school zone, where the speed limit is 20 mph. When I get a ticket, I get a ticket. Your insurance rates are based on your driving record. Adding insult to injury, therefore, is the fact that my insurance rate will go up with this additional ticket. The fine is bad enough, but you continue to pay for it with the increase in insurance. Takes two years for two points to drop off.

There ARE days, even when you're not someone who suffers from depression, when you just ought not get out of bed.

14 December 2007

Powerful words

Dooce has a post she wrote yesterday that is incredibly moving. How I wish I wrote about 1/4 as well as she does!! Please check it out, she really clarifies some of the things that I feel about mental illness.

Good for you....and...Tastes Good!

A comment left the other day that jokingly suggested that next on my health kick I was going to start eating bran for breakfast reminded me that I've wanted to share this recipe.

These muffins are delish. "Good" carbs as opposed to bleached, enriched white flour. Natural sugars only, no refined sugars. You have to store them in the fridge 'cause there are no preservatives. I think of them as breakfast food only because of the cereal, but they make good snacks, too. They're very filling. About the only "improvement" that I want to make is to add some protein powder.

I use whey protein in a breakfast/lunch/snack smoothie I make often; (1 cup strawberries, 1 banana, 1/4 c organic low-fat vanilla yogurt, 2 scoops protein powder, blend until desired consistency) but I've never baked with the powder and don't know how it would react with the heat of an oven. Plus, here's a chemistry question; does it still count as protein once all the chemical reactions take place?

I don't like using an 'artificial' protein source, but neither do I like the idea of grinding up some chicken for my smoothie. Likewise raw eggs kinda squick me. Whey powder isn't too terrible on the scale of artificial ick, but the ingredients do list artificial flavors. There's an un-flavoured version, but it adds something, an undercurrent of taste or an aftertaste that I don't care for, so I use the vanilla flavour.

Adapted from The 8-Week Cholesterol Cure

Breakfast Muffins
2-1/4 cups oat-bran cereal, pulverized in the food processor until as fine as sand
1/4 cup coarsely chopped almonds
1/4 cup golden raisins or chopped pitted Medjool dates
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 cup organic honey
1-1/4 cups skim milk
2 egg whites
2tbsp olive oil
2 mashed bananas

Oven 425F

Combine the cereal, nuts, baking powder and raisins/dates. In a separate bowl, whip the egg, milk, honey, and oil together and blend it into the cereal mixture. Line a muffin tin with paper liners, and fill with batter. Bake 15-20 minutes. They are done when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out moist but not wet. Store in refrigerator.

This recipe has so many possibilities. Add blueberries (in season) to the muffins instead of or in addition to the bananas. Use a chopped apple; play with the combinations of dates or raisins with other fruit. They freeze well, too.

So, yes, bran for breakfast. :-)

13 December 2007


The following is an e-mail that I received, copied and pasted word for word. The only thing I've edited is removing the people's names and e-mail addresses, and I've italicized the text so that you know where the lunacy ends and my snarky commentary begins after it.

The woman who sent it to me....well, honestly, I have no idea who she is, or why or how she got my e-mail address. This showed up in the e-mail box that I use for work, and has my real name in it, so obviously she's someone I've given my e-mail address to in the past. Scanning the list of recipients, there are names that I recognize as being locals, although I don't know them personally, so apparently she lives in town.

I want to shoot off an angry response, something along the lines of "Don't assume I share your prejudices," and, "don't EVER send me shit like this again" but there is no point. Whoever she is, she'd probably respond by telling me that she would pray for me. Sigh.

Please forward this to everyone you know, especially those with children. I believe whole heartedly in free speech and people's right to make decisions but I don't believe that movie /publishing companies should be supported on such a venture. What are we telling them as a society IF we SUPPORT this? The movie industry and theaters make a lot of money. Please encourage those you know NOT to SUPPORT any THEATRE that would show this trash.
This was sent to me by a friend who received it from a church staff member. You can read about the movie on the following site:


As a follower of Jesus Christ, I encourage you not to support this movie and to share this with as many as possible. I encourage you to choose to fill your mind and those of the children in your life with the things of God instead of what the world would have you see and read.

Warning about "The Golden Compass"
Yesterday, I was handed a children's book by a staff member who said, "I think you need to see this." The book is published by Scholastic and is part of a collection of books. The book I was given is called The Golden Compass. This children's book is one of the most alarming things I have ever read. What makes it worse is that a movie based on the book premieres in December. Both the book and the movie introduce atheism to children. The story ends with Adam and Eve killing God.

The movie has been described as "atheism for kids" and is based on the first book of a trilogy entitled "His Dark Materials" written by Phillip Pullman. Pullman is a militant atheist and secular humanist who despises C. S. Lewis and the "Chronicles of Narnia." His motivation for writing this trilogy was specifically to counteract Lewis' symbolisms of Christ portrayed in the Narnia series.

Clearly, Pullman's main objective is to bash Christianity and promote atheism. Pullman left little doubt about his intentions when he said in a 2003 interview, "my books are about killing God." He has even stated that he wants "to kill God in the minds of children." It has been said of Pullman that he is "the writer the atheists would be praying for, if atheists prayed."

While "The Golden Compass" movie itself may seem mild and innocent, the books are a much different story. In the trilogy, a young streetwise girl becomes enmeshed in an epic struggle to ultimately defeat the oppressive forces of a senile God. Another character, an ex- nun, describes Christianity as "a very powerful and convincing mistake." In the final book, characters representing Adam and Eve eventually kill God, who at times is called YAHWEH. Each book in the trilogy gets progressively worse regarding Pullman's hatred of Jesus Christ.
"The Golden Compass" is set to premier December 7, during the Christmas season and will probably be heavily advertised. Promoters hope that unsuspecting parents will take their children to see the movie, that they will enjoy the movie, and that the children will want the books for Christmas. Please boycott the movie and the books. Also, pass this information along to everyone you know. This will help to educate parents, so that they will know the agenda of the movie.

Other valuable information about the movie:

Having problems viewing this e-mail message? Click here.

If you are a parent or grandparent, you need to be aware of the movie The Golden Compass
Movie to be released December 7
Dear Perry,
There is a new movie coming to theaters December 7. You should be forewarned about The Golden Compass. The target audience for the movie is children, and it is being promoted in some schools. The Golden Compass is based on a book trilogy that promotes atheistic views, likely to be reflected in the movie.
For more information on The Golden Compass, click here to read the column by AFA's Rebecca Grace. You might also want to read an article from Chuck Colson's Prison Fellowship. Click here for the article.
Forward this to friends and family. Encourage them to sign up for AFA's Action Alerts to stay informed on this issue and other issues of importance. They can sign up by clicking here

Thank you for caring enough to get involved. If you feel our efforts are worthy of support, would you consider making a small tax-deductible contribution? Click here to make a donation.


Donald E. Wildmon, Founder and Chairman American Family Association
Donate with confidence to AFA

(gifts are tax-deductible)

Question #1:

Have any of these fools actually read the book?

Just like the hysteria over Harry Potter, where fanatics and nutballs were claiming that Harry promotes witchcraft, I'd be willing to bet my entire retirement saving that the folks that are most up in arms about this have not ever cracked the book.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that I haven't read it either. On my travels today, I'm going to pick up a copy.

Question #2:
If you "support freedom of speech" then you can't support it conditionally. Supporting freedom of speech means that you support that which you DON'T agree with as much as supporting that which you do agree with. So you support freedom of speech only when it applies to stuff you agree with?

Question #3:
Don't you want to teach your kids to think for themselves? Allowing them to be exposed to things you disagree with, and explaining your reasons for disagreeing, rational discussion about the topic....hey, isn't that called "learning"?

I met someone the other day who is a practicing Wiccan. She was incredibly serene, and supremely non-judgmental. What a contrast with these crisis-mongers.

Freedom of speech means to me that I support people's rights to write and distribute their horrified missives about a movie that is apparently going to bring about the collapse of Western civilization. (*eye roll*) Just as it is my right to vehemently disagree.

Listening to: Xavier Rudd, the "Good Spirit" album

12 December 2007


Once upon a time, I smoked.

Cigarettes, silly, not anything else.

Not a whole lot, you understand, but enough. It started as a "look at me, I'm so tough with my beer and cigarette" thing, and grew into a "well, everyone else does it, so why not." I'm not suggesting that intelligence was ever a factor here.

Shortly before I met DH, however, I quit. I was very ill the summer after I graduated high school, and stuck in bed for most of that summer. When I began to feel better, the first time I went out with friends and lit up a cigarette, I started to hack and cough. I put out that cigarette, and have only had a stray puff here and there in the 14 years since.

It isn't a habit that I miss, most of the time. Every now and then, on a stressful day, I'll walk past smokers outside and think, "ah, that would be nice." Middlesis smokes, but I can never talk her in to giving me a hit off of one of her cigarettes if I'm around her when I'm having a day like that. Which, all things considered, I'm grateful for.

I despise the smell of cigarette smoke. With a burning passion. (No pun intended.) Ex-smokers tend to be the most nazi-like enforcers of "no smoking" signs, which is pretty hilarious and hypocritical, but somehow I think ex-smokers are particularly sensitive to the smell.

About a year after I quit, I was diagnosed with asthma; the decision to either breathe or smoke was a pretty simple one. Its tough to do both if you're an asthmatic, although I do know asthmatics who smoke.

When Oh-hia-ia passed the smoking ban a year or so ago, I was ecstatic. Finally, no more smelling like cigarette smoke after an evening at a bar with friends. No need to strip down in the garage after bar-hopping, lest the smell of the cigs be carried in the house with the clothes. Enforcement of the law isn't perfect; there are still a few places where you can light up and no one will say anything. The state does not have near enough folks to enforce the law; it is the local health departments who are responsible for checking up on restaurants and bars. Which is ridiculous, really, because personally, I'd rather that the health department continue to insure the cleanliness of the area kitchens than play cigarette cop. The law isn't without its flaws.

Over the past two days, I've been smelling cigarette smoke IN my house. Ugh. And double ugh. I can not figure where in the living hell it is coming from. DH, the son of a pretty heavy smoker, despises the smell worse that I do; but he says he can't smell it. Now we already know that I'm mostly out of my mind, but phantom smells? Really?

It is strong enough that it woke me this morning; spraying air-freshner (something I hate to do) only covers it for a short while. Lighting the two aromatherapy diffusers I have hasn't helped much either. One is sitting next to me as I type, filled with a combination of lemon, lavender and cedar essential oils. It isn't helping sitting less than a foot away from me, I still smell the cigarette smoke. And we aren't talking about that first inhale from a cigarette, which could still appeal to me; we're talking about the smell of a week-old overflowing ash tray. I say again: ugh.

I can't open the windows...besides being too cold outside to open the house up, we've plasticized the windows, something we do in the winter to help keep our heating costs down. Even the sliding glass doors have been covered over with a shrink-wrap-esque sort of material. Baking more cookies is out, because I only smell it in the bedroom, which is on the second floor. So that wouldn't help either.

As if I needed more proof I was out of my mind......

On something not exactly related, I have sent in the entry form for my first ever 5K race. It is on New Year's Eve. I choose this race because it is at a location that is entirely flat; and I think it is a good place to start to attain my eventual goal of running in a marathon. What was I just saying about being out of my mind? Just nod and smile at the crazy woman in the corner.

11 December 2007

Stress, seasonal or not.

Headache, n. (hed-ake)

The feeling you get when your body responds to stress that you have piled needlessly upon yourself.

When I worked for the olde evile bank, I realized after I'd been there and working full time for a few years that I really didn't like working full time. But, then, who really does? Even when you love your job with all your heart & soul, you'd still rather do things other than work.

I didn't love being unemployed. I was bored, bored, bored most of the time. But neither do I really love working full time. Besides seriously cutting in t the time I've got for my hobbies (ha!!) it also cuts into the time I have for mundane household chores - - - laundry, keeping my house in good order. Things that aren't truly important in the grand scheme of things....not important like having a roof over your head or heat in your house is important, but things that do need done. I, for one, like having clean clothes.

I'm also OCD enough to admit that the sight of dirty dishes in my sink, or too much clutter in my rooms makes me crazy. Twitchingly crazy. When there is nothing at all to do, I'm climbing the walls. Then when I've got too much to do...I'm still climbing the walls.

I love to entertain. And I love my family. So having the holiday celebrations at my home is no big deal. Even having both families, mine and DH's, isn't a problem.

What is a problem is the sum of the whole. Baking. Cleaning the house. Putting up not one but TWO Christmas trees. Buying and wrapping all the presents. Grocery shopping in overcrowded grocery stores for ingredients for party food. Decorating the rest of the house. Sending holiday cards.

So what's done on the list of things to do? The baking. The house is decorated, and the trees are both up. Don't ask me why the hell I do that to myself; one tree should be enough for an agnostic, no? But that is all that is done. The house still needs a stem-to-stern cleaning. None of the shopping is done, and you can't wrap what you haven't purchased. Not one holiday greeting card purchased, addressed, or mailed.

Oh, the holiday cards. Sigh. I'm feeling particularly guilty about that this year. I usually begin looking for something unique and serene in August. I usually get cards imprinted with our names, and a nice little greeting. I have whoever prints them put our return address on the envelopes. I print out the addresses to send them from an excel spreadsheet. THEN I write personal messages inside each one. And then I send them to 4 countries on 2 continents. Why? Well, I really like getting cards. I like hearing from people that I might have lost touch with over the current year.

I guess you could say it is part of the ritual of the season for me.

Please don't ask me to reconcile the fact that I don't believe in a higher power with the fact that I completely love the holiday season. Just add it to the list of things that make me lovably nuts.

I haven't done the annual sending of the cards (yet) this year for a couple of reasons. Laziness has to figure in there somewhere. Then there's the sad fact that when I lost my old job, my PDA lost its memory. I lost everyone's everything. Birthdays, anniversaries, snail-and-e-mail addresses. I sent a pleading mass e-mail to my entire e-mail address book that gmail has saved. Most everyone responded; but I haven't input the data into my new computer yet. And then there's the little detail that I was running out of money right around the time I would normally do my card-ordering, because I had been out of work. Lack of time, too. So holiday cards weren't so high on the list of what was important.

They aren't really moving up the priority list, but the fact that I still haven't done them is adding to my current headache.

07 December 2007

I Can See California Sunlight In Your Hair...or why my baby sister is an amazing woman.

I can smell the ocean salt in the air
and I can see you, you're standing there washing your car
and I can see California sun in your hair

Its a winding road
I've been walking for a long time
still don't know
where it goes
and its a long way home
I've been searching for a long time
still have hope
I'm gonna find my way home

~"Winding Road," Bonnie Somerville, Garden State soundtrack

Here's a quick refresher course on Lucy's fam.

I have two sisters, Middlesis and Babysis. Middlesis lives in New York City, Babysis lives in California. I am insanely, irrationally jealous of the lives they're leading. Logic enters into this not at all. And I know that. But they're both doing amazing things.

Babysis has been on a 700 mile bike trip for the past few weeks, with the company that she works for, promoting environmentally responsible living and sustainability. (Can you see why I'm jealous? And why she's so incredibly cool???) They biked from San Francisco to San Diego, along one of the most beautiful stretches of road in the world.

There is a photographer that has traveled with them for portions of this amazing (and slightly insane) journey.

If you have access to it, hop over to my MySpace page, where I've posted two pictures that she has sent the family; one of herself and one of the whole crazy posse.

I am so proud of her; I can barely tell you how much I've realized in about the past six months that she's grown into an amazing person. She is about 9-1/2 years younger than me, so when we were growing up, we weren't all that close. Think about it; when you were 17, did you want to spend time running around with a 7-year-old? Not so much. In my friend's memories, she remains about 11 years old, much like my memories of their younger sibs. Sometimes when I think about her, that's what I think about, too, is the pesky kid she was to me in those days.

With the age difference, we're always going to be at vastly different places in life, looking sometimes at one another across a huge chasm of perspectives that don't match up. Which isn't to say that I can't relate to her, but....it can be tough to see things from her point of view from time-to-time.

One of the really silly things she and do I share is a dumb obsession with celebrity gossip. The first chance she gets to spend some time surfing the 'net, she'll catch up on what Perez and The Superficial and Go Fug Yourself are all talking about. We'll spend at least one afternoon sitting someplace in a cafe sipping chai or lattes and happily gossiping about what Paris and Nicole and Lindsey and Brit-Brit are up to.

The reason for this incredible bit of schmoopiness? She'll be home in a week. I can't wait to see her, to get my hands on her and hug her tight, to spend a few hours chatting about everything and nothing. Yes, she was home for my Auntie H's funeral at the beginning of November, but it was really a drive-by visit, and we were all so distracted with what was going on.

Time. The most precious gift we can give one another.

06 December 2007

Candy is Dandy, but Liquor is Quicker

I picked up a piece of candy off of a table at an event, those little generic M&M sort of things, chocolate, candy shell, mint flavor. After I popped it in my mouth, I realized that it was sure to be full to bursting of the sorts of things I usually avoid. High fructose corn syrup. Refined sugar. Artificial flavors. Artificial colors.

Really, the sort of thing I don’t eat at all anymore, not the sort of thing that I just avoid.

And it tasted disgusting. Really bad. Either I had forgotten that I don’t like those, or my taste buds readjusted, or something. If I hadn’t been at a work event, I so would have spit it out. I didn’t eat anything else at the rest of the event. I’ve taken to completely ignoring whatever food is served at holiday events that are catered, because it just isn’t worth it to me to eat it.

I had a similar experience with a Milky Way bar, and a 3 Musketeers. (These episodes were all several weeks apart, I haven't been going around noshing on candy.) I used to eat a lot of candy, all the time. Chocolate, mostly, but anything with sugar was OK. I have recently started to realize something; I was seriously addicted.

When I say addicted, I really mean it. I was addicted not only to food but also to sugar. Food used to really be a problem. I can’t eat just one Oreo cookie. I can’t eat just one French fry, or just one potato chip or just one anything, frankly. I hate to compare it to something as serious as alcoholism, but I think that it is a little bit like that. An alcoholic cannot drink just one beer; I can’t eat just one cookie.

For many obese people, food is a comfort. I don’t know if that was the case for me, I’m sure somewhere that figures in, but I really can finally recognize how self destructive, incredibly self destructive, my relationship with food was.

I still like chocolate. But somehow, I don’t enjoy eating it unless it is chocolate that I can actually understand all of the ingredients on the label. A good case in point for that is the fudge that I made with my niece and nephew last weekend. We used Baker’s chocolate, and there are no mystery ingredients in that stuff. I will eat squares of the semi-sweet to satisfy a chocolate craving. The other ingredients in the fudge were vanilla, marshmallow fluff, sugar, and water. OMG, I had to give it away because I couldn’t leave the stuff alone.

Typical, though, that my taste for chocolate has evolved in to stuff that is more expensive. There's a whole 'nother post in that, about how expensive it is to eat healthy food. Move up the scale, to organic, fair trade produced stuff, and it ties back to what I was ranting about recently; the obesity epidemic. Sugar-filled soda and "juice drinks" are cheap. Oh, you want "not-from-concentrate really from apples" apple juice? That'll be $78.34, please. Alright, I'm exaggerating, but you see my point.

Champagne tastes and a beer budget, of course, that's me.

Terribly unfortunately, however, I haven't lost my taste for booze or wine with my changing taste buds.

05 December 2007


My father collects clothes. So much clothing does he own that he has a closet of his own, plus the entirety of a guest room closet and the storage area in their basement also has a rack full of clothes that are his alone.

DH collects movies. At last count, more than 250 films of every genre reside on shelves in our media room. Most on DVD, but some on VHS too. Although opposites attract, and we are opposite in many, many ways (politically, socially...I could go on) but we share some OCD tendencies, and there is an Excel spreadsheet list stored on his laptop and on mine that lists all of the movies. One worksheet has them listed alphabetically by title. The second worksheet lists them by genre.

For me, it is neither clothes nor movies, but music. When I was razzing my father a few weeks ago about the amount of clothing he owns, he took it stoically for a few minutes; then he asked how much music I own. Guilty as charged. The only proper answer to that question is LOTS.

I will listen to almost anything; from hip-hop to opera, alt-country, trip-hop, dance hall, pop, classic rock, folk, bluegrass. About the only thing I don't really like is country, but that's not a hard and fast rule.

I use iTunes to digitally store my music. When I got my new computer, I divided the hard drive, portioning off a section to dedicate to music storage. I keep increasing that section, because it keeps getting too close to being full.

I subscribe to a handful of free podcasts on iTunes, and one that I listen to faithfully is DJ Steveboy's Podrunner. I've written about Steve Boyette before; I discovered him on iTunes by searching for music to run to. Using words like awesome, amazingly talented, and unbelievable don't come close to doing justice to describing him. Subscribing to the podcast on iTunes means that whenever he uploads a new one, I get it automatically whenever I log in to iTunes. And he does these things weekly.

Some of the mixes I like more than others, of course. House and dance hall stuff can be annoying if it isn't your thing. But I have yet to find one that I don't like at all. He categorizes them based on number of beats per minute (bpm) which range from 130 to 170. I tend to use the slower end of the spectrum for my runs, as I'm not a world-class marathoner, but using the high speed ones sometimes kicks up my workout a bit.

I couldn't work out without music. I've been known to leave the gym if I don't have at least headphones with me; most of the cardio machines have headphone jacks so that you can watch TV, and without at least that, I just can't face more than about 3 minutes of cardio. I have forgotten the iPod from time to time, and as long as I can listen to something that is all right, but of course I'd rather have my own music.

I owe DJ Steve a debt of extreme gratitude. (Ooo, he blogs, too.) Without several of his more recent mixes, among them "Radiant Dark," "Beat Cathedral," and "Step Sequencer," I wouldn't have been able to get back in to the groove of running. I skipped about 2 weeks total of the gym as I've settled into the new job, 3 days here, 2 days there. Not going a few times makes it easier to not go at all. But then those numbers on the scale creep up, and I can't stay away from it, no matter how hard it is to drag my ass out of bed to get to the gym in the mornings.

I've claimed throughout this process that I don't like working out. And I don't, really. I don't like to sweat. I don't like being too hot. I don't like my clothes sticking to me when I'm done. I don't like that I think *I* sweat more profusely than other people. I used to say of running, when I was a teenager, "The only good thing about running is when you stop." But I don't really feel that way anymore.

When my time on the elliptical was winding down today, I felt so exhilarated, so energized, that I couldn't believe my time was up. I've been so cautious about running, with the shin splints causing me so much pain. I don't like not being able to run, but neither do I like the idea of stress fractures if I'm not careful. But since I didn't feel "done" today when my time was up on the elliptical, I ran a few times around the track, to the "Beat Cathedral" mix, feeling so strong.

It is so very hard for me to put into words how much 'feeling strong' signifies major change for me. I didn't use to be. Strong, that is. Running a few blocks to catch a bus in NYC would have had me gasping for air like a fish out of water. Carrying baskets of laundry up the stairs in our old apartment building had me heaving and panting. No longer.

In fact, I'm actually considering signing up for several upcoming 5 and 10 K races. I must be out of my mind.

03 December 2007


The weather is ever-changing here in Oh-hia-ia. One of the very few things that I like about living here is that we have four distinct seasons; there's no mistaking summer for winter or vice-versa.

Although the actual date of winter is a few weeks away yet, we've been having a sample of winter's fury over the last few days. The wind, bitter, biting, and at near gale-force over the past few days has blown down power lines and trees. Overnight last night, each time I woke, I was reminded of people interviewed on the news after tornadoes; they always say that it sounds like a train. As it whipped around our home last night, I wondered if we were about to have an out-of-season tornado, because it sounded like a train had taken up residence on tracks that must invisibly circle the house.

And then it started to snow.

All day Monday, the snow was propelled to the ground with such stinging force, were you silly enough to leave any skin exposed, you'd be sorry.

I went to see my hairdresser, and was frozen walking across the parking lot. The salon is near my old place of employment, and for no reason other than self-torture, I drove past the old office.

It was dark, cold, snowing. Really, it couldn't have been more bleak. The signs identifying the place have been removed; I took the sign off of the front of the building myself, back in June. The bigger sign, near the sidewalk, was still there the last time I had been there. I don't know when it was removed, nor where it went. The blinds are all drawn, making the windows look like dead, empty eyes.

There was a time when this action would have sent me into a tailspin of agony, a long bout of self-flagellation, wondering why I couldn't have done something, anything, to save the facility from closing.

I'm mostly past that; circumstances far beyond my control converged into a unique situation that forced the closure. I know that now. I hate it when people tell me that something, "isn't my fault." Own up to your mistakes, take some responsibility for your own actions. But the loss of my old job wasn't my fault.

I'm still not to the point that I think that the loss of my job was a good thing; I can finally view it as an opportunity for a new direction. My new job is taking me on avenues I never expected, an adventure that I'm still not sure I can see the end of.

Needless torture, that walk down memory lane. It is still too painful to remember the good, fun, positive things that happened there. But it hurts a little less than it did a few months ago.

I found some of my old business cards in a bag I hadn't used for a while. Losing a job you love is like experiencing a death of a person, someone you loved. Just when you think that you're mostly over the grief, you stumble across something, like those business cards, that bowls you over and makes you catch your breath, trying to hold in the grief until the moment passes you by. So perhaps voluntarily choosing to drive past the old office was foolish, opening me to more grief needlessly.

To my extreme surprise, in the light of a new day, it isn't painful. But yes, it was unnecessary.

It IS still snowing, and fucking freezing.

29 November 2007

Cheesecake Poppers

Sonic is a drive-up restaurant that advertises in my cable market. I'm not sure why; there isn't a Sonic within 50 miles of here. Their commercials are memorable, if nothing else. I'd categorize them as annoying, but maybe that's just me.

They've been showing ads for "cheesecake poppers" lately, which if you've escaped this phenomenon, are little bites of cheesecake, covered in a batter and deep-fried. Deep fried! Cheesecake is bad enough for you, but then deep frying it? Wow, holy calories, Batman. Probably just as bad for you as deep-frying Mac & Cheese. Sonic's website does not list the nutritional information for the cheesecake poppers, but I suspect that's because it is a new menu item and they haven't updated their website.

Then I saw a sign for the same thing at an Arby's.

No wonder America is in the midst of an obesity epidemic. Deep-fried everything, mega sized meals, sugar bonanza sodas. I'm not telling you anything you don't already know. I know that. I'm just astonished all over again at our wacky perception of portion size and what a reasonable daily caloric intake is.

On Tuesday, I was at a meeting held at a restaurant, a local family-owned sort of thing. Many restaurants of that stripe around here are Italian, but this one, I couldn't put a category to. Typical Yankee food, burgers, sandwiches, nutritionally worthless iceberg lettuce salads, a few grilled chicken/grilled fish things. I'd never been to this place before, and I ate prior to the meeting at home, where I can control what I'm getting and I know what is in everything I'm eating. (Control freak? Me?!? Surely, you jest.) I didn't know what I was walking in to there, so rather than take a chance, I just took out a little insurance that my tummy wouldn't be clamoring through the whole thing.

I ordered a cup, a CUP, mind you, of soup, so that I wasn't the only one without food in front of her, and they brought me a bowl that was perhaps six inches across and three inches deep, filled to the brim. If I had to guess, I'd estimate that there were two cups of food inside that bowl. That's their "cup" of soup. It was a vegetarian barley stew sort of thing, and delicious, and it set me to wondering if I could re-create it at home, but I ate perhaps a third of it. I shudder to think what a bowl of soup is to these people.

Being out in the community all day as I am for my new job, the temptations are myriad and near-devastating to my constant refrain of "do you need to eat that?" Fast food abounds, and sit-down restaurants take too long. I've discovered that if I drink coffee, I'm not as hungry and can wait for something to munch on until I get home. Decaf, of course, but I don't think it particularly wise to use that as a long-term plan. I haven't been smart enough yet to remember to put snacks in the car so I'm not ravenous.

I won' fall off the wagon; I'm far too OCD for that. I step on the scale a far more often than is healthy, checking constantly to make sure I haven't gained anything back from the bad eating habits that I have indulged in from time to time over the last month. The eating something crappy is only sporadic, but I worry about it regardless. I've worked too hard and too long to have it completely destroyed by our fast food nation.

The moral of the story? Read the labels, people.

28 November 2007


Charles DeLint is one of my favorite authors. He's a Canadian fella, and I want to live in the city he writes about. His complete literary works are listed on his website. If you've never picked up anything of his, I highly recommend it. Just don't start with Onion Girl, because you'll be completely lost. All the rest of the novels stand well on their own.

He writes what he calls Mythic Fiction. Yes, this is fantasy, but it isn't ever really about a world far away. Rather, he writes about a world, our world, with a small twist. His characters sometimes have psychic perceptions, but mostly I think about his writing as the world that exists at the corners of our eyes. You know how you see something fantastic out of the corner of your eye, and when you turn to look, whatever you thought you saw is something completely ordinary?

Happens to me all the time...it is my imagination, which I like to think is still as active as a child's.

DeLint has a story about Balloon Men, which look like those myriad plastic grocery bags blowing around in the wind that litter our whole planet. When you aren't paying complete attention, all you see is the plastic bag rolling around.

The rain of the last few days has dried up, and we had a very windy day on Tuesday. Leaves, some of the last of the season, swirl in the wind in tiny vortexes, like eddies in a river current. At the end of the fall, the last leaves that litter the ground are brown, unlike the extraordinary colors we see earlier in the season. The uniformity of color is not matched by uniformity of size and shape. So these swirls of leaves look like little animals or perhaps one of the fey when you catch them out of the corner of your eye.

The first time I noticed them was driving in the car, and for a brief moment I thought that something was about to run in front of the vehicle. It was broad daylight, and I actually tapped the brakes before I realized that it was only leaves. Since I wasn't on a busy byway, I slowed the car to watch the wind pick up and gather these groups of leaves, and then scatter them again with the next gust.

If I was a talented writer, I'd find some way to weave those leafy beasts into a short story. Instead, I imagine what they might be.

27 November 2007

Political Stump

I was at an event recently where 4 politicians were given the opportunity to speak.

It made me remember why most people hate politics.

Not that any of them were poor speakers, far from it. The youngest of the bunch was a woman about my age (32) give or take a year or two. She was the best speaker, and she made me wonder if she had been on her high school's debate team, so forceful was she.

Political "season" never ends, it is just more active at times than others. The November general elections were a few weeks ago, but the presidential primaries are looming, some of them only a little more than a month or so away. This primary, for the 2008 presidential elections, will be the longest running and most expensive in our country's history. I've bitched about that before, and I don't want to get too far off track, but I'm astonished when the news shows fundraising totals for each candidate. Where the heck does all that money come from?


Each politician given the opportunity for a few minutes at the microphone said basically the same thing. Two women and two men, two state reps and two state senators. As fascinating as I find the political process, I was bored witless by the speechifying. More people than the politicos took the mic, (four other visiting dignitaries who were just as boring) and by the end I wanted to act like a twelve-year-old and whine about "Can we go now?"

I often bemoan the state of voter apathy in this country, but if what I saw was what most people see when they see/hear politicians....well....then I understand a bit better why people are so apathetic.

One of my admittedly ancient Swedish pop songs that I listen to for assistance in keeping up my language skills has a line that I think about whenever Congress is deadlocked over something, or I notice that somehow, none of the elected bodies, state or federal, seem to get anything done. The singer/songwriter is a fella named Mauro Scocco, someone who writes a whole lot of Swedish pop. The songs that he records himself tend to not have the brightest outlook, but for all the melancholy, I love his music. The line is politiker mot väggen som bara står och stammar, which translates to politicians against the wall who only stand and stutter. And sometimes, isn't that all they do?

Hm, talk about melancholy. Aren't I cheerful today? The weather has been grey and miserable, raining and cold, which contributes to my bad attitude.

As lame as I found the speeches, I still think I'd love, love, love to work as a lobbyist, or in some other position where I would be in a place to participate in the political process. I don't want to be a politician myself; but I'd like to be in the midst of it. If I wasn't having a fit of the shys today, I would have boldly asked the young state senator if I could come to work for her. Doing what, you ask? No clue. Wouldn't really matter, honestly.

Listening to: Dr. Space Dagbok, Mauro Scocco, "Det Finns," release date 1991.

24 November 2007

Baker's Dozen

I read cookbooks as if they were novels. (Funny how they all end the same, no? Those gripping indices!) One shelf of my library is solely cookbooks. Several Swedish cookbooks in both English and Swedish, several ethnic cookbooks, including Greek, Thai, Indian, more than ten about eating and cooking healthy, tasty food. But the preponderance of cookbooks on the shelf are dessert cookbooks. Cookies, cakes, one dedicated only to chocolate, half a dozen that contain recipes for "celebration desserts" for any sort of themed party you would ever care to throw.

With so many of them, you'd think I'd never notice if one were missing. And were it any other time of year, you'd probably be right unless I was searching for a specific recipe. This time of year, however, the cookie cookbooks get pulled off the shelf and scattered about the kitchen and sometimes around the entire house as I attempt to decide which cookies to bake for the holiday gift-giving madness.

I give cookies to people that I want to give a gift to, but don't want to get into the habit of buying something for. My friend who does my nails. My hairdresser. Co-workers. Business colleagues. That makes it sound as if I give them away casually, but such is not the case. My hairdresser has been my hairdresser for more than a decade. My manicurist friend is as close as if she were family. I bake between 12 and 16 dozen cookies annually. Last year, I didn't think I'd be able to resist the urge to eat the dough and hundreds of baked cookies if they were in my house, so I didn't bake at all. This year, I've tasted one of each of the three varieties I've made thus far, and don't want any more. I suppose it helps that I've got a stuffy head and everything tastes "off" due to that, but I don't think I'd want more than that in any case.

For the first time ever, I'm participating in a cookie exchange this year. When the invitations went out, I told the hostess that I'd be bringing Coffee Spice Cookies and Pumpkin Cookies, two standbys on my holiday list. The pumpkin cookies are so easy that I could recite the recipe from memory; I usually bake them throughout the fall in addition to Christmastime. They're so evocative of the season, being made primarily of pumpkin, that I can't resist. Plus, bonus, they're egg-free, so my nine-year-old nephew who is allergic can make and eat them with me. The coffee spice cookies, on the other hand, are more complex and time-consuming. But they make the whole house smell like Christmas, with their allspice and cinnamon and nutmeg.

Unfortunately, the cookbook that contains the coffee spice cookies (and the almond crescents, and the molasses crinkle cookies and about 6 other kinds that I like to make) is missing.


Where could it have gone?

I called a friend and asked if I'd lent it to her; no. I searched the house, even our room dedicated to storage. It isn't on the bookshelf in the bedroom, nor in any of the drawers under the end tables I inherited from my maternal grandparents, the cubbyholes in which turn up the most unlikely things. Every likely hiding place was sussed out, and I even enlisted DH's help, showing him a picture of the cover from Amazon. "Oh, I remember that one," he said. "Do you remember seeing it recently?" I asked, hopefully. "No," he said, looking crestfallen. Then he got a crafty look on his face and disappeared for a few minutes; he admitted to stashing several of my books in cabinets in the library when picking up around the house. Unfortunately, Cookies: A Cookie Lover's Collection was not among the books he hid away.

Amazon and eBay both have the out-of-print book available. Talk about adding insult to injury, I can't just walk in to any of the area's mega-bookstores and replace it. Yes, I've placed an order, but it won't come in time for the cookie exchange.

No one would be the least bit upset if I didn't bring the coffee spice cookies to the exchange; but I want to make them. A search of the rest of the cookie cookbooks turned up a kinda-sorta-not-exactly similar recipe, or at least the picture looks alike. I read the recipe, and thought, "That could work." and set to making it.

Experimentation in the kitchen is one of my greatest pleasures. But you can't mess too terribly much with the recipes for baked goods unless you're prepared for unusual results. See Pie Crust, whole wheat for an example. Baking is chemistry. Mix the wrong stuff and, well, you could end up looking like Wylie Coyote after an explosion.

I didn't alter the chemical parts; kept the sugar/flour/butter ratios the same. But I added a whole lot of spices and flavors, doing my best to re-create the original. There are two minor problems with this. One, we're supposed to bring the recipes of the cookies we bake to the exchange. Two, the base recipe came from the 1963 edition of the Betty Crocker Cooky Book. (That isn't a typo, that's the title on the cover. Google it yourself.)

The first is a problem because for the first time in forever when tinkering, I didn't keep detailed notes. What? Yes, I'm that anal. I'm a Capricorn; we practically come out of the womb as organized, mature little adults. I'm also the oldest of three children; if you tell me that birth order doesn't matter, I'll....I'll...I'll tell you that you're wrong, that's what.

The second is a problem because apparently any baker worth her or his salt in 1963 must have had homemade cookies by the bazillions on hand at any given time. Even halving the recipe after noting the ridiculous yield in the initial read-through of the recipe, I've got about 20,000 of these things. If no one likes them...I'll be stuck with thousands of them. They taste fine to me; but that aforementioned head cold might be helping me fool myself.

So, anyone for a cuppa and a few hundred cookies?

23 November 2007

Att banta

When I was learning to speak Swedish, various things confused me as a non-native speaker. It made me appreciate how incredibly difficult learning English must be. I can never remember which is which, but homophones, homographs...you know, words that sound alike but are spelled different, or are spelled the same but pronounced different...how confusing that must be for someone to try to figure out. Then there are words that mean the same or similar things, like red and crimson. I can't remember what those are called. Homonyms, maybe?

One of the things that I love about English is its richness of vocabulary, the fact that there are hundreds upon thousands of words, the many descriptors available for your use, for free!

Yes, I admit it. I'm a grammar geek. I love all this stuff. No apologies for it either.

Swedish has these little quirks too. The words for ugly and drunk are both ful, but I can barely hear the difference between the two. (Context...so important!) In order to avoid having to say ugly, I would use the word horrible, so that I didn't mispronounce it. Again. Then there are the words for ice cream, glass (like in a window) and glasses (for vision correction), which all sound like the English word glass, but they're spelled differently. I think. I can speak it much, much better than I can read and write it.

Words that had similar meanings threw me from time to time as well. To diet in Swedish is att diet; but then there's this other word, banta, that seems to mean the same thing. My host father explained it to me like this; diet was the word you would use for what you were doing when you were trying to lose weight, but to banta was to just hold back. As best I can figure, banta-ing is somewhere in between leaving something on the plate so you don't feel gorged and starving yourself. Kidding!! OK, so not starving yourself, but not eating all that you want to, either.

Recently, I've officially reached a big number in my weight loss quest. 40. I am 40 pounds lighter than I was a year ago at this time. I had been at a plateau with the losing weight since about May or June. It seems after the death of my Auntie H in October that the scale has been showing smaller numbers, finally, and very slowly. We're talking initial changes in ounces. I've finally invested in a decent scale at home instead of relying on the gym's. I have no earthly idea what to attribute this resumption of weight loss to; I haven't changed anything that I've been doing for the last year in the last few weeks. It is a huge relief to see those numbers going down again.

Yesterday was Thanksgiving, and yes, even atheist-leaning agnostics celebrate Thanksgiving with their families. My Auntie G cooks twice a year; Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is an event not to be missed. Her stuffing? To die for. Better than your granny's or your mother's, I promise. Since I only have the opportunity to eat it twice a year, I tend to overload my plate with it.

Thanksgiving is a carb festival, isn't it? At least, it is for my family. In addition to the stuffing, which is bread-based, there's mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, rolls, corn...all starch-y, not good to overindulge in. Plus this is the Slovak side of the family, so noodles and butter with gravy are also on the table. Like haluski, without the cabbage. Don't ask why we do this, I couldn't explain it to you if my life depended on it. But trust me, it is good. Gooooood!

When people ask me how I've lost the weight, my answer is always the same: "The really, really hard way." Sweating my ass off (quite literally, hahahaha) at the gym, cutting my portion sizes, paying lots more attention to food labels, both for the nutritional value and for the actual ingredients, trying not to eat pre-packaged food, staying away from fried anything. Banta-ing, essentially.

I did not take the opportunity to overindulge yesterday. My attitude about food and relationship with food have changed so much in the past year. It isn't that I no longer derive pleasure from good food, it is that I don't need quite so much of it to be satisfied. One of my cousins, for hours after dinner, moaned about how overstuffed she felt, and I couldn't help but think to myself, "Why the hell did you eat that much, then? No one was forcing you to."

Did I eat the stuffing? You bet. Wouldn't miss it for the world. But there were more carrots from the veggie tray than there was stuffing on my plate. I even ate a little bit of the noodles. I passed on the mashed potatoes. If I eat those these days, it is going to be my own recipe that includes sour cream, cream cheese, garlic, and butter. But was my plate so full yesterday that I had to make a separate trip for a roll? Nope. Didn't eat one of those, either. The fat content and other icky preservatives that are in them aren't worth the taste to me anymore. (They were those rolls that come in the can, that you shape into little quarter-moons.)

Overall, I think my relationship with food and my attitude about it are so much more healthy now than they've ever been. Even when I was a size-0-wearing skinny little bit of a thing. I think about the word banta often. I ask myself all the time; Do you really need that much of that? I turn things over and check out the label, and if it has corn syrup (evil, evil, evil) or tHBQ (dude, two words...PETROLEUM DERIVATIVE!!!) in it, I put it back on the shelf. There's some magic number of fat grams that I won't go over on a single serving of anything. I don't really know exactly what that number is, but impulse buying of a candy bar isn't something that I do much these days. Not worth the calories and fat, and if I'm going to eat chocolate, it is going to be chocolate that has a list of ingredients that I can actually pronounce.

I don't suppose that I can go around answering the question "How'd ya lose the weight?" by saying "I banta-ed," and not just because the Swe-Eng nonsensical word won't make sense to people. I've changed my philosophy, my daily routine, my grocery-shopping habits, my cholesterol levels, my blood sugar, my number of asthma attacks, everything, to get where I am. Much easier to say 'the really, really hard way.' But my favorite upside of it all? Not the fact that I'm stronger and healthier, not the fact that my asthma is under control. Nope. As vain and shallow as it is, my favorite benefit is that in addition to the laundry list I've made of changes, I've changed my dress size, too.

20 November 2007

Red Wine

Why, oh why, can I not remember to stop drinking red wine at one and only one glass? Hmmm? I love wine. I love all kinds of wine, sweet white, dry-ish reds, from every corner of the globe.

One of my favorite family-owned local Italian places has a wonderful red that is called Luigi Leonardo or Leonardo Luigi...I can't remember which. It is goooooooood stuff. Especially with the super-garlicky pasta that I like to get there. Just goes down so smooth.

DH and I and friends went there last night for good food and general hilarity. A good time was had by all. Too much food, and decadant stuff at that. I didn't eat most of the day yesterday in order to be able to indulge in this wonderful cheesy garlicky cream-based pasta dish. I can never finish it. DH decided on dessert; I passed in favor of a second glass of the double LL. The bartenders there believe in healthy glasses full of wine, and I woke at about 1 AM with thousands of little hammers banging away in my skull. Two naproxen sodiums at one, another three at ten AM, and ow.

The tannins in the red wine are what give me headaches. I'm too stubborn to stop drinking the stuff. Working up a slow tolerance does not seem to be working so well; nor does drinking lots of water with the wine. Oh well. Red wine's good for the heart, right?

19 November 2007


I have a good friend who works an unusual (read that not 8-5) schedule. Actually, come to think of it, most of my friends don't work a normal 8-5 schedule. I haven't worked that way since working for the bank, 3 years ago. Working for the non-profit was on call 24/7/365, although I was a day-shift person, my hours were always changing.

My new job has required me to be in an actual office, at a desk, from 8 AM until 5 PM while I'm learning the position. Now, I'm not giving away details of what I do here, nor whom I'm working for; I'm just talking about work in general. I am reminded of how much I dislike being chained to a desk for eight hours a day.

The reasons I left the bank were varied and numerous; but chief among them was that I was expected to sit at a computer terminal for 90% of my day. When I first took that job, it was 90% doing things that I liked and 10% data entry. By the time I quit, it was 90% data entry and 10% of things I liked to do; filing papers at area courts, getting signatures from clients and attorneys, supervising estate sales. I need to be moving, doing different things, out and about. Otherwise, I'm stir-crazy.

It requires a major shift of thought for me to be in an office. I despise office politics. I have no patience whatsoever with cliques and the cool kids. Nor with the bullshit like this: she wore that and its OK, but I can't wear this. Are you getting the job done? Yes? Then who fucking cares?? I hate the conversations that revolve around what people watched on television last night. I don't watch but one television program with any regularity, and I don't give a shit what happened last night on Survivor or Two and a Half Men. I don't work well under micro-management. I'm smart enough, you see, to figure out what needs done without you over my shoulder.

All that makes it sound like I'm angry and bitter. I'm not. I kind of like what I'm doing. It is endlessly fascinating. I'm still helping people in my hometown like I was at the non-profit. It isn't the same sort of help, but it can and does make a difference in my community. I just can't wait until this training is over and I can be doing my own thing. Soon.

17 November 2007

I'm NOT the only one.

I have not ever, to date, had a post that was just song lyrics. Yes, I'll print bits of songs, a chorus or a few lines that I think are appropriate to the situation.


I saw a video while I was on the elliptical at the gym and it brought me nearly to tears, so I'm going to embed the video and print the lyrics, and let that speak for itself. Watch the video. Spend the four minutes that it would usually take you to read one of my long-winded posts.

I can't imagine that someone would not find it deeply moving.

Dear Mr. President,
Come take a walk with me.
Let's pretend we're just two people and
You're not better than me.
I'd like to ask you some questions if we can speak honestly.

What do you feel when you see all the homeless on the street?
Who do you pray for at night before you go to sleep?
What do you feel when you look in the mirror?
Are you proud?

How do you sleep while the rest of us cry?
How do you dream when a mother has no chance to say goodbye?
How do you walk with your head held high?
Can you even look me in the eye
And tell me why?

Dear Mr. President,
Were you a lonely boy?
Are you a lonely boy?
Are you a lonely boy?
How can you say
No child is left behind?
We're not dumb and we're not blind.
They're all sitting in your cells
While you pave the road to hell.

What kind of father would take his own daughter's rights away?
And what kind of father might hate his own daughter if she were gay?
I can only imagine what the first lady has to say
You've come a long way from whiskey and cocaine.

How do you sleep while the rest of us cry?
How do you dream when a mother has no chance to say goodbye?
How do you walk with your head held high?
Can you even look me in the eye?

Let me tell you 'bout hard work
Minimum wage with a baby on the way
Let me tell you 'bout hard work
Rebuilding your house after the bombs took them away
Let me tell you 'bout hard work
Building a bed out of a cardboard box
Let me tell you 'bout hard work
Hard work
Hard work
You don't know nothing 'bout hard work
Hard work
Hard work

How do you sleep at night?
How do you walk with your head held high?
Dear Mr. President,
You'd never take a walk with me.
Would you?

14 November 2007

Really, didn't we have enough of this during the 80s?

The BBC reported today that President Idiot is moving forward again with Star Wars, the space missile defense system that is too stupid for words. Expensive, non-functional, asinine, and yet, the Idiot At The White House insists that we need it. Um? Dude, he crazy.

The Beeb is radically opposed to Star Wars, and rightly so. At billions of dollars cost with no end in sight, Star Wars has yet to accomplish a single of its objectives. Several tests have been conducted over the years with media invitees, and it never frigging works.

What a clusterfuck. Do we need this? No. A thousand gallons of no. Remind me again, who elected this fool? Oh, right....no one. During the 2000 presidential election season, the Supreme Court made a mockery of the electoral college system and installed W, who was NOT elected by popular vote. Yep, that still pisses me off, seven years later.

And just look what he's done with his appointment; he dragged the country into wars on two continents, pushed women's rights back 30 years or so, eroded your civil rights and turned the economy to complete shit. Heck of a job there, Mr. President.

13 November 2007

Its a bitch to get old, man.

But it is always better than the alternative.

I went to see my physical therapist, physical, as opposed to my shrink...don't ask about my shoulder injury that he works on. It makes me feel older to complain about my aches and pains. As I was walking in the door of the office, I was thinking about something that would make a great blog post. I didn't write it down, and consequently, I've forgotten what the heck it was about.

Since I can't remember that, I'm going to indulge in my vanity instead and tell you how fabulous I'm looking these days.

I had my hair cut and colored over the weekend. This super-super-super short style I'm wearing needs cut often. More than about 3 weeks and it is too long. My hairdresser (love, love, love, love him) put streaks of 3 colors in my hair; a blonde, and two reds. One very red, nearly punk, and the other darker, more of my mother's natural hair color, an auburn. Depending on which direction I style my hair, the punk streaks either show or don't, which is a good thing now that I'm working. Conservative and businesslike for work, punk and loud when I'm not.

Then I went shopping for new clothes; I'm broke as a joke, but didn't have a full week's worth of work clothes since I shit-canned all the stuff that doesn't fit me. Now I've got a more than a week's worth of beautiful clothes thanks to the assistance of my friend K (couldn't have done it without ya, babe!) and most of it? Is a size 10. Considering that my most comfortable suit a year ago was an 18, I'm pretty damn happy about that. Ten! Ten!! Yes, I still have about 25-27 pounds to go, and yes, I'm still working my ass off on it, but I look better than I have since my early 20s. I'm older, more confident, and more fabulous too.

Still highly medicated for depression, though. And not interested for even a second in tapering the anti-depressants right now. I still don't want to need to take them for the rest of my life, and the sooner I can get off them, the better, but they're working right now and I'm feeling better than I have in about a year. I know that part of feeling better is because I'm back to work; my shrink told me that I could not allow my self-worth to be tied up in what I do for a living. I'm still working on that one.

Also still working through the grief of my Aunt passing away. One day at a time on that one.

I'm very cautiously optimistic about feeling better. Once upon a time, when DH and I had just moved in to our current house, the non-profit job was going very well, I remember telling a friend that everything was going swimmingly but yet I had this sense of impending doom. In fact, I'm pretty sure I wrote about it. Is it my Catholic upbringing that makes me wait for the other shoe to drop? Superstition? I don't know. But I'd rather feel that than as if I was living in a black hole.

08 November 2007

Being thoughtful about Pres Idiot's War On Terror

I heard several speeches today from military veterans in advance of Monday’s observance of Veteran’s Day. Listening to people who have actually served in the country’s military was a humbling experience, especially for someone who is adamantly opposed to the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan, as well as W’s idiot war on terrorism. (what the hell does that mean anyway?)

There were veterans of nearly every major conflict over the last 50 years, including an adorable old fella who stormed the beaches at Normandy, in attendance. Two Vietnam veterans and a 59-year-old veteran of operation Iraqi Freedom gave speeches. All of them were excellent speakers, and most of them refrained from political commentary.

I have said many times before that I support the people who are in uniform, even while being opposed to where they are stationed and their missions. I know full well that all of the current military personnel have volunteered to be where they are. Some of them may have been forced by circumstances, lack of opportunities, to join the military, however many of them voluntarily stay in the military long after their original enlistment is up. They are extraordinarily proud of the work that they do. Rightfully so, because what they’re doing is damn difficult.

I don’t think that we should be in Iraq. Period. It is my belief that if there were no oil in Iraq, we would not be there. It is also my belief that we are creating a bigger mess the longer that we’re there, and it is not belief but simple fact that we are creating an entire generation of people who despise the United States.

But the speeches today made me see things from another point of view. I was astonished to learn that more than half of the country’s homeless people are veterans. That statistic is disgusting. Deeply. Whether or not you agree with any conflict (and I disagree with most of them) the country has a responsibility to care for those who have put their lives on the line to protect it.

I was also astonished to learn that funding for the veterans administration is not an automatic thing. Congress must allocate funds to pay for health care for veterans, physical or mental, annually. We all know how well Congress does its work.

The gentleman who just returned from Iraq talked about the media’s coverage of the conflict. According to him, the media is 110% on when it comes to the coverage in Iraq, however they are only reporting 10 to 15% of the story. Apparently, there are plenty of good things happening there that no one talks about. I find that difficult to believe. Every day, there are reports of more very young soldiers dying. The government does not keep statistics on the deaths of Iraqi civilians who die needlessly either in the crossfire or from mistakes made on bombing runs. Yes, the insurgents kill innocent civilians too, but the insurgent’s cause is not my concern. I think that the military should be held to a higher standard of accountability, especially when the claims of being the most technologically advanced military force in the world are constant.

The fact is that we can’t leave Iraq now. But as I whispered to a friend during these speeches when someone asked when we’ll be out of there…I think everyone will come home when my friend’s kids are grandparents. What a quagmire. It is a weirdling line that I’m walking here…admire the selfless service of all of the military branches, despise the conflicts, opposed to the policy.

I know my own mind, anyway.

On a completely unrelated note, the voice recognition software IS learning. I dictated this up until a few paragraphs ago, and the errors were very few. Teh technology is teh cool.