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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Reflection

A string of excited, fugitive, miscellaneous pleasures is not happiness; happiness resides in imaginative reflection and judgment, when the picture of one's life, or of human life, as it truly has been or is, satisfies the will, and is gladly accepted.
~ George Santayana

- - - - -

I like the end of the year because it is a time of reflection.  Except for vampires.  They don't have reflections.  And I would guess, if you live forever, celebrating another "new year" is probably tedious after a while.

I would, however, go see a movie called "Vampire New Year's Eve."  Especially if Meryl Streep and Chris Cooper were in it.  I'm not sure that they would do a movie called "Vampire's New Year Eve," though.

For the record, there is a child vampire standing on the scooter in the photo above.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Awards

I don't deserve this award, 
but I have arthritis and I don't deserve that either.

~ Jack Benny
- - - - -

I don't know why everyone got so upset when I took a picture of Elizaeth's Iowa Games softball medal and posted it on Facebook with the caption, "This is the medal I won for disc golf."  It was the medal I WOULD have won if I had entered Iowa Games in disc golf.

"There are gonna be some comments on THAT," Elizabeth said ominously.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Antiques

You have friends, Paullus, just like your pictures and vases, all antique originals.
~ Marcus Aurelius
- - - - -

"When did you become so interested in antiques?" Chris asked me.

I was unable to formulate a response, but I have two theories.  One is that I became interested when I realized how much stuff my parents have that I should probably start selling off .  The other is that as soon as my childhood toys started showing up in antique stores, I became interested.  In a sad way, but interested nonetheless.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Conversation

                                      
I don't necessarily agree with everything I say.
~ Marshall McLuhan
- - - - -

After an extensive conversation about a variety of issues...

Ryan:  Not that I'm an expert or that you have to listen to me about anything.

Me:  Oh, no.  As long as our opinions are the same and what you're saying aligns with what I'm thinking, I very much enjoy listening to you.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Kirk

Life is too short to be small.
~ Benjamin Disraeli
- - - - -

Today is my little brother's birthday.  In celebration of his birthday, I am going to take some medication that I am allergic to so I can wake up in the morning and have to go to the hospital because I look like a raccoon because of the red-purple rash around my eyes and he won't get a birthday cake, he'll get a miniature cheesecake.  And, even though he might like cheesecake, he will feel ripped off when he opens the metal detector and the Game of Life that Mom and Dad got him because he won't be able to use them.  There won't be batteries for the metal detector and no one will be around to play Life with him.  But it won't matter because they'll all have to go to the hospital to see me because I'm sick.

Okay, that won't really happen because he lives in Maine.  And I'm not going to take some medicine I'm allergic to just to show him how he ruined my 12th birthday.

Besides, I'm over it now.  I hardly ever think about it.  Except on days that are someone's birthday.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Webs

If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.
~ E. B. White
- - - - -

Elizabeth needed to buy Charlotte a birthday present for - well, for her birthday (duh!).  When asked what Charlotte liked, I interrupted before E could respond.  "Does she like webs?"  I asked.  Elizabeth —  strangely — ignored my comment.  So I repeated, "Does she like webs?"  Again E didn't respond.  I added, "Because there's a book called Charlotte's Web!"

I don't understand why people don't appreciate my ideas.  I am terribly helpful at times.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas

It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
It came without packages, boxes or bags!
~ Theodore Geisel

- - - - -

I like the story of the Grinch who Stole Christmas.  I think, though, if we're honest, we know that if the Grinch hadn't returned all that stuff at the Whoville feast, the little Whos would have remembered that as the crappiest Christmas in Whoville history.

Unless they happened to be among those pepper sprayed by that lunatic Black Friday Shopper THIS year.

And to all a good night.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Books

A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.
~ G. K. Chesterton
- - - - -

I have not read the book "Elf on a Shelf."  I imagine it is brilliant despite featuring the ever-present, creepy holiday elf.  I have read some other books.  Like A Gnome in Rome (children's travel guide), A Troll on Parole, and Dwarf on a Wharf.

Warning: Dwarf on a Wharf is NOT a children's book.  You only make that mistake once.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Distraction

At painful times, when composition is impossible and reading is not enough, grammars and dictionaries are excellent for distraction.
~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning

- - - - -

When I saw this book in the antique place, I thought it said, "Distraction Simplified."  I was intrigued and would have purchased it, but then I saw something shiny.  And when I went back and re-read the title, I realized I had made an error the first time.

It's okay, though because — oh!  What's that?!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Selling


I think people become consumed with selling a book when they need to be consumed with writing it.
~ Ann Patchett
- - - - -

I like reading listings on Craigslist.  What people sell, what they want for what they sell, and how they describe what they sell — these things are all very interesting.  The best listing I have seen recently was for a desk.  The desk was free.  Here is how the poster described the desk, "Like the child of a Sherman tank and an ankylosaurus."

Awesome.  Particularly awesome that s/he chose "ankylosaurus" instead of some more common saurus.

Well done!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Service


The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.

~ Mohandas Gandhi
- - - - -

So, every year at this time, I am reminded of my second year as an RA.  I decided that it would be good for my residents and me to do community service.  I also decided that it would be fun if we took puppies to a care facility with kids.  We could bring some happiness to kids and we could see some puppies.

I worked with the local animal rescue shelter place and they said that would be fine.  The event was scheduled for the end of November / beginning of December.  I got a call the day before the event and was told that there weren't puppies available, but that one of the volunteers would bring her own dogs out.

While disappointed at the lack of puppies, I was still excited that we were going to do community service.

The day arrived and I drove with about five of my residents to the location for our community service.  The woman with the dogs arrived.  She had two dogs.  Two old dogs.  And she wouldn't let any of us handle them.  She was the only one who could.

Okay, so we were still there.  We could still talk with the kids.

A woman came to the door to meet us.  She was very upbeat and excited for us to be there.

"Which one of you plays the piano?" she asked with great enthusiasm.

At this point, my residents looked at me with more than a little frustration.  First, I told them we would get to play with puppies and kids.  Then it was two adult dogs.  Now there was talk of a piano...  They were not happy.

"I don't know that any of us play the piano," I replied.

The woman didn't miss a beat.  "No problem," she smiled.  "You can sing acapella.  We'll have you sing to the adults first."

I avoided eye contact with my residents.  No puppies.  Adults.  And now we were singing...

"Excuse me," I said to the woman, "What is it that you told the residents here we were going to do?"

She said, "Well, I told them you'd bring some animals and that you would be singing Christmas carols."

"Oh," I said.

There was a room with about 15 people in chairs waiting for us when we got inside.  There was a piano, too, but the piano was just going to keep waiting because no one knew how to play it.

"Um...  what Christmas carols do you want to sing?" I asked.  Kind of pretending like this had been the plan all along and that they knew we were going to do this and maybe they just forgot I told them.  They didn't fall for it.

"What are you talking about?!" someone asked.

I explained the mix-up.  I apologized.  I begged them to sing with me.  Whatever carols they wanted.  We were here, people just wanted us to spend some time with them.

They finally agreed.

Well, you know how you sing along with carols on the radio or at a concert or whatever?  Well, do you realize that you don't really know the words if you aren't singing along with others?  I didn't realize that until that day.

I believe we tried to sing "Joy to the World" and "Walking in a Winter Wonderland" and maybe "The Twelve Days of Christmas."  We didn't make it through any of those.

The smiling woman who greeted us smiled a little less.  The woman with the dogs kind of pretended she wasn't with us.  The dogs even flopped on the floor - apparently out of disgust.  Our audience was not impressed.  Their attention shifted quickly to the two elderly dogs lying in the back of the room.

We finally figured out that we knew all the words to "Frosty the Snowman."

The audience applauded.  But it was the kind of applause when you hope the performance is over not the kind where you're telling the performers they were awesome.

Our guide then took us to the room where the kids were.  We only sang "Frosty."  They petted the dogs.  I think maybe they were coloring or something and maybe we helped them with that.

The moral of the story is...  well, I guess it is try to do good things and stuff.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Growing

You know your children are growing up when they stop asking you where they came from and refuse to tell you where they're going.
~ P. J. O'Rourke

- - - - -

Elizabeth:  Mom, next year, would you let Maddie and me go to Des Moines by ourselves on Black Friday?

Chris: arrrrrrrrrrrrrrr....

Elizabeth:  You didn't think of that, now did ya?

Chris:  No.

Me:  (whispering)  Next year Maddie will be 17.

Chris:  I KNOW!  SHUT UP!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Unexpected

All creative people want to do the unexpected.
~ Hedy Lamarr

- - - - -

One never knows what to expect at our house.  Elizabeth's "reindeer fingernail design" is one example (see photo above).

I think the girls get their randomness from Chris.  The other day, Chris said, "I should get up on top of the refrigerator tomorrow morning and surprise the girls."

1. That is a sentence I have never heard said before and never anticipated I would hear even once in my lifetime.
2. (Pause)  Really, after item 1, I'm not sure there is more to say.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Robots

Man is a robot with defects.
~ Emile Cioran
- - - - -

I took this photo on the L in Chicago.  If an actual robot drew this, then clearly we need to fear them taking over the world because they have complete disregard for graffiti regulations.  And if they don't care about those laws, what laws WILL they follow? 

On the other hand, if the robot who drew this looked exactly like the picture it drew, well you have to give it credit for its artistic ability.

Did I make that second comment just in case robots take over?  Maybe.  I certainly would like to be a favored one if that happens.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Gas

No one knows his true character until he has run out of gas, purchased something on the installment plan and raised an adolescent.
Marcelene Cox
- - - - -

So, Maddie has her driver's license.  

This is terrifying for me.  And if you go anywhere near roads, it should be of concern to you, too.  Her first day driving independently she decided she needed to put gas in the car.  I have heard the story from her, from Elizabeth (who was along for the ride), and from Chris (whom Elizabeth called three times during the incident).  The following is my version of piecing together all of their stories.

Maddie was driving and the gas light came on.  She went to the gas station, but the line for the pumps was too long, so she parked at Hobby Lobby to wait until there were fewer people there.  When she pulled up to a pump, she wasn't sure what kind of gas to put in the car.

Phone Call 1

Chris:  Hello?

Elizabeth:  Hi, Mom.  This is Elizabeth.  What kind of gas should Maddie put in the car?  Die-sall or unleeeded?

Chris:  What?  Not diesel!  It's diesel, Elizabeth, but not that.  And it's unleaded.  Unleaded.  Ethanol unleaded.

Elizabeth:  K.  Thanks.  (click)

Maddie then tried to open the gas tank.  She pulled the lever to open the tank and the hood popped up.

E:  That's the hood release, Maddie!

Maddie:  I KNOW, Elizabeth!  Crap!

E:  The gas doesn't go there.

Maddie:  I KNOW, ELIZABETH!

Maddie exited the car to close the hood.

Phone Call 2

Chris:  Yes?

E: Uh, hi, Mom.  This is Elizabeth.

Chris:  I know.  What is it, Elizabeth?

E: Maddie can't find the switch to open the gas tank.

Chris:  It's right on the floor on the driver's side.  Is Maddie there?  Give her the phone.

Maddie:  Hello?

Chris:  Maddie, are you in the driver's seat?

Maddie:  YES, MOM.

Chris:  Put your hand on the floor.  Is your hand on the floor?

Maddie:  Yes.

Chris:  Feel around and you'll feel the button for the gas tank.

Maddie:  I just see the one marked "hood release!"

Chris:  On. The. FLOOR! Maddie!  Can you feel the CARPET with your hand.

Maddie:  (disgustedly) YES!  

Chris:  Feel on the floor next to the door.

Maddie:  MOM!  I AM!  (pause)  oh.  i found it.

Chris:  Look at it.  It has a picture of a little gas tank on it.  Lift that and the gas tank will open.

Maddie:  Okay.  (click)

About ten minutes later, Phone call 3

Chris:  What?!

E:  Uh, Mom.  This is Elizabeth.  Maddie can't find the ethanol.

Chris:  It is the cheapest gas there.  I think it's on the right.

E:  Oh, I see it.  (to Maddie)  Duh, Maddie!  It's right there all THREE of those pumps say "Ethanol."  No, not die-sall, ETHANOL.  

Chris:  Let me talk to Maddie, Elizabeth.

Maddie:  Hello?

Chris:  Maddie, Ethanol.  Look at the price.  

Maddie:  Well, I don't know what to do, there is a blue light flashing!

Elizabeth: (in the background) It means you have to hit a button.

Maddie:  ELIZABETH!

Chris:  Maddie, it means you have to hit a button to select what kind of gas you want.  Do you see the prices for the different kinds of gas?

Maddie:  Uh...  yeah.

Chris:  Do you see the cheapest one?

Maddie:  Uh...  yeah.

Chris:  Then hit that button!

Maddie:  Oh, okay.  (click)

Later that evening in the kitchen, I was talking with Elizabeth.

Me:  Elizabeth, the next time we go to the gas station, you're pumping the gas so you know how to do it.

E:  Really?  Are you allowed to do that underage?

Still later that night Maddie came home and I was working in the office.

Maddie:  Want to hear about my first day of driving?

Michelle:  I already did.  Apparently, you don't know how to put gas in the car.

Maddie:  I do!  I learned it!  It's just because I was paying with cash!!

Michelle:  What?!  You were so flustered by paying with cash that you forgot where the gas tank was?!

Maddie:  Oh, I guess you did hear about it already.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Barns

A little and a little, collected together, becomes a great deal; the heap in the barn consists of single grains, and drop and drop makes an inundation.
~ Saadi
- - - - -

There is new artwork in the horticulture building.  I was telling Elizabeth I should take her to see it.  And then I had the hiccups...

Me:  Elizabeth I need to take you to the hor— hor—

Elizabeth:  Whore Barn?

Me:  (hiccups miraculously disappearing)  Uh, no.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ice

Like fragile ice anger passes away in time.
Ovid

- - - - -

I love it when ice looks like precious gems.  I love it even more when you can sell those "gems" to children and make a few bucks.  Seriously, kids — no need to thank me for the lessons I teach you.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Genetics

 
We are driven by five genetic needs:
survival, love and belonging, power, freedom, and fun.
~ William Glasser
- - - - -

After my post about beautiful bottle trees ("Trash," December 11, 2011), I got this email from my father:

Hi,
I have been thinking of making something that might look nice in your margarine tub tree. I have a bunch of snap on plastic lids for coffee cans in the basement and have been thinking of making wind chimes out of them. They would be for people who like wind chimes, but don't like all the noise they make. Haven't gotten any orders for them yet.
Love, Dad

I think this explains a lot.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Cats

He who rides a tiger is afraid to dismount
~ Chinese Proverb
- - - - -

I think it is fine to visit a big cat center if the last time something escaped was in 2007.  It's probably pretty far from the rescue center by now.

I also think it's a really good idea not to allow pets to visit the center.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Discovery

All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.
~ Galileo Galilei
- - - - -

I always have wanted to discover something — a planet, for example.  When asked if I ever actually tried to find a new planet, I responded, "Yes.  I used to look through my Tasco telescope as a child to try and find new planets, but to no avail."

And, yes, I know that the photo above is of a microscope and not a telescope.  I also tried to discover cures for things, but mostly I just looked at the pre-made slides of bug wings.

Science is hard.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Trash

Trash has given us an appetite for art.
~ Pauline Kael

- - - - -

Okay, I will admit that I like bottle trees.  I like to see them when I am out driving around.  I think - if the right bottles are chosen - they are very pretty.  However, when you really it boil it down, what you have created when you make a bottle tree is a bunch of garbage stapled to a pole.

Which is why I don't understand the zoning people and all their complaints about my margarine tub tree and my frozen vegetable bag shrub and my fast food wrapper garden.  Talk about double standards!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Submarine

In the long course of history, having people who understand your thought is much greater security than another submarine.
~ J. William Fulbright
- - - - -

We can't all live in a yellow submarine.  It would be too crowded.  And some of us really have no desire to live in a submarine at all — of any color.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Embarrasssed

I have been complimented many times and they always embarrass me; 
I always feel that they have not said enough.
~ Mark Twain
- - - - -
See the look on Maddie's face in this photo?  That is kind of the look she gave me when she went to school to present her Harriet Tubman tri-fold for class.  Well, she was slightly more alarmed and appalled before annoyed.  I don't understand why.  I thought screaming, "Gooooooo Harriet Tubman!" would be motivating for her as she went to present.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Doctor

Whenever a doctor cannot do good, he must be kept from doing harm.
Hippocrates

- - - - -

My father (via email):  We are home.  Overall, good news [from the doctor] and am celebrating by having a coke.  Supposed to go easy on that.

Me:  By coke, I hope you mean soda and not cocaine.  If it is cocaine, I concur with your medical provider that you should “go easy on that.”

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Library

County library? Reference desk, please. Hello? Yes, I need a word definition. Well, that's the problem. I don't know how to spell it and I'm not allowed to say it. Could you just rattle off all the swear words you know and I'll stop you when...  Hello?
~ Bill Watterson (Calvin & Hobbes)
- - - - -

I don't like it when people say, "lie - berry" instead of library.  Library seems like a word people should learn to say correctly.  Of course, maybe people who say "lie-berry" have never been to one.  

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Decisions


The doors we open and close each day decide the lives we live.
~ Flora Whittemore
- - - - -

Chris:  They are making cookies downstairs in the Sloss House and it smells nice.

Me:  They are making painful decisions here and it smells like tears.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Green

It's not easy being green.
~ Kermit the Frog
- - - - -

I don't believe in environmentalists and recyclers and people committed to green lifestyles.  I resent them because they don't use up as many resources.  And because they refuse to do so, they fail to challenge us as a society to figure out how to overcome using up our natural resources.  C'mon environmentalists!  Have a little faith in human ingenuity!!  Sheesh.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Marketing

Love, like a chicken salad a restaurant has, must be taken with blind faith or it loses its flavor.
~ Helen Rowland
- - - - -

I appreciate roadside marketing.  Okay, I don't appreciate it disrupting the landscape so much, but as you can see here it is just disrupting the landscape of a parking lot.

I do have to wonder about Cindy or Cindy's marketing people.  Homemade Biscuits and 12 Layer Chocolate Cake, I understand.  Those could be really good.  They might be unique even to Cindy's recipes and culinary history and experience.

But chicken salad?  I like chicken salad, but I don't think this kind of sign will really draw a lot of additional customers in.  In addition, chicken salad is not really a visually appealing food.

All that said, I did not eat at this establishment and maybe the chicken salad is worth it.

I do have to wonder though...  which came first - the chicken salad or the egg salad?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Appreciation

Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.
~ Voltaire
- - - - -

I like taking Maddie to school.  I don't understand her, though.  I thought when I yelled "GO HARRIET TUBMAN!" she would appreciate my support of her taking her display and report in.  She really didn't seem to appreciate it at all.  In fact, what is the opposite of appreciate?  Depreciate?  Decaffeinate?  Defecate?

Whatever it is, that's more what her reaction was.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Zen

When walking, walk. When eating, eat.
~ Zen Proverb
- - - - -

At a conference a while ago, I attended a session on Zen Mindfulness.  There were a few places in the presentation where we meditated.  I fell asleep the second time we meditated.  I don't know who thought a session on Zen mindfulness right after lunch was a good idea.

I guess it was a good idea for me.  I must have needed a nap.  And a nap was provided.

Very Zen.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Shells

The cure for anything is salt water - sweat, tears, or the sea.
~ Isak Dinesen
- - - - -

I think the reason the sea puts shells on beaches is so you watch your step.  You look down and make yourself aware of the world around you - it's diversity and beauty.  Even it's danger — some of the shells are sharp!

Also I think that the sea puts shells on beaches because of the tides and because the things in the shells died so the sea is kind of spitting them up.

Also I think the sea puts shells on beaches because of magic.