Wednesday, December 31, 2003

It's About Time
Over the past few years, the meaning of time to me has really changed. Forward progression of time is a difficult concept for me. I'm pretty sure it's largely due to dealing with loss and death, but I had some issues with this before dealing with that stuff. Whatever the reason, I have a hard time thinking in terms of future for myself.

I always find it hard to answer questions about where I see myself in five years, or what my plans are, or what my goals are. I don't think I have any goals. At least not big, long term, career defining goals. I definitely don't have any long term plans. And five years ago, I would never have seen myself where I am now, even though I'm sure at that time I probably didn't have any idea of where I wanted to be now, either. In fact, when I started college several years ago, I don't think I actually ever saw myself finishing. Not that I had plans to leave or expected to not finish. It just seemed like four years was a really long time to commit to something that I'd never done before.

I did finish. And then I didn't know what to do with myself. That's been the case ever since.

There are things that I want, like to have a job I enjoy, to publish a novel, to be married someday, to have a family. But I have no concept of when I'd like that stuff to occur. Well, I'd love to publish a novel, um, now. And I'd hope that would lead to a job I enjoy. But the rest of my life from this point on, I pretty much have no indication of timeline. I think I figure I'll know it when it's supposed to happen. And I know there's not a whole lot I can do about it otherwise.

So I always have mixed feelings about New Year's celebrations and the start of a new year. What's the big deal, really? It's not like when we wake up on January 1, everything is magically different. It's not like just because the year becomes a new year that anything is different than the day before. It's just the next day. Why do we define so much based on the 'year' time mark, anyway? I can say I had a good year this past year, which I did. But that doesn't necessarily mean it was bad up until December 31 of the year before, and suddenly became good on January 1. Yet, that's how we think. Good year. Bad year. That's weird to me.

For me, every year that passes takes me further away from the time when I had all my family members here with me. I don't like the thought of more time passing since the last time I could see them. It's weird that I continue to live my life, do my stuff, have successes and failures, and grow older inside and out, but without them. I know I'll see them again. But the passing of time for now does not feel like it's bringing me closer to anything. Just further away from a different time in my life.

Sure, I like to gather with friends and enjoy the New Year's celebration, yada yada. It's fun. But it's also puzzling to me. People think in broad terms of bringing in a new year, yet I have extreme difficulty thinking to the end of the week. Literally. People make resolutions and become excited about a new year that has yet to be determined as either good or bad. I'm not excited about a new year. I'm not sad, either. I'm just indifferent. It's just more time. Same as before midnight.

I like time. But a new year is a blank year waiting to be planned, and for plans to be broken. And that frightens me. I don't know what to do with all that time, and thinking of it in terms of a whole year of time for me to fill is overwhelming. I can want and hope for things that I'd like to happen in the upcoming year, but the chances of any of those things actually occuring by this time next year when I look back at 2004 seem very slim to me from where I sit now. At the beginning.

I have a calendar and a planner. But it's empty after about a week in advance. I write down birthdays and special occasions. That stuff is important to me to remember. But I can't think further ahead than about a week, and I have major issues with committing to anything further away than a week or so. I know I have a lot to do, places to be, appointments to keep over the next few weeks. But none of that is on my calendar, yet. And often, I'll go back and write things in after they take place. It's not going to change once it's already happened, and that is something I can count on.

I didn't buy a 2004 planner until just a few days ago. Actually, I didn't even buy it. I got it from my mom. Not because I was afraid of buying it. But I just didn't think that far ahead. Suddenly, it was the end of December and I noticed that people were talking about things that should be on the calendar in 2004. Then I noticed that my calendar runs out at the end of 2003. So I figured it was probably time to get a new calendar. It hadn't occured to me, yet, that time would possibly go on past midnight tonight.

I'm not sure things/plans/events/we will be there then. Like, still here to keep our plans. I can't be certain of things or times or places or people anymore. I don't mean to indicate that I have non-dependable friends. That's not the case at all. I just think I've had too many sudden, abrupt, unexpected, and unwelcome changes in my plans to be able to commit to more plans in advance. Ultimately we are not in control of what happens in a week, or even a day. So, I like to know what's going on, and I fully intend to be where I need to be. And if all continues as planned, I'll be there, even if it's not on my calendar.

It's just not that important to me to fill my calendar far in advance, and yet somehow I manage to spend more time with people now than when I used to obsessively write everything down in advance. I used to have to plan. Now I have to not plan in advance. It's probably not the healthiest way for me to go through my days, and being more non-committal than I should probably be is something I struggle with. But to me there's just something not as important as planning everything out.

Somehow I always manage to be where I'm supposed to be, usually on time. And when it comes to the big important things, I force myself to write it down and plan for it. Truthfully, I'm not a wishy-washy, go from one thing to the next as it comes up, kind of girl. I do like to have a plan. And when there is a plan, I find that I'm not sure what to do when the plan changes (ie: my Rainman qualities). I do like to be dependable. If I say I will be there, I will. If I am needed, I can be counted on. Generally even if I can't make myself give a firm answer of committment to something, I'll likely be there anyway. It just can't be more than a week or so in advance. And it has to be okay if I can't commit in pen on my calendar.

So, Happy Day One of the New Year to everyone. May it be what you hope it will be. And if it isn't, I hope it's good anyway. Followed soon after by many more good days.

One day at a time.


Tuesday, December 30, 2003

My Question is this . . .
Is there a difference between 'full' and 'very full'?

On my recent flight home from holiday vacation, I noticed the flight attendants kept stressing to the passengers that our flight was 'very full'. I think this was an attempt to get us seated quicker and to make us cooperate with each other on the on-board space available for carry-on luggage. But I found it very odd, nonetheless.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we have a very full flight today. So please be sure to take your seats as quickly as possible. Put your larger items in the overhead bins. Smaller items should be placed under the seat in front of you to make sure there is plenty of room on board for everyone and their carry-on items, since this is a very full flight."

But if the plane is full, can it possibly be 'very' full? Full is full, right? So if you tell me it is a full flight, I will understand that to mean every seat is taken, thus making it 'full'.

So then, to say it is 'very' full, does that mean it is fuller than full? Are people sitting on other peoples' laps? Do we have people stuffed into the overhead bins and shoved under seats along with the carry-on luggage? Did we put the extra people to work handing out pretzels? Are there crates full of people underneath the plane with the baggage? Is it safe to allow the plane to get 'very' full, as opposed to just regularly full? Will the plane weigh too much? Should some of us get off and wait for the next flight?

It was like the flight attendants expected us to be able to magically compensate for the very fullness of the flight, as opposed to it being 'just' full. Really, all we can do is sit in our seats and experience the very fullness of the plane.

And until they can explain the logistics and the physics of a plane being fuller than full, I simply do not know how to help them.


Monday, December 29, 2003

Christmas Adventures with the Tyrant
A less depressing Christmas tale.

There are a myriad of interesting things that happen to me when I travel. Well, they are interesting to me, at least. You can decide for yourself if they are interesting to you.

I love to travel. Love, love, love it. And contrary to the many fears about air travel these days, I love to fly. Love, love, love it. In fact, I prefer to fly over driving, walking, horseback, camel, sailing, rickshaw, you name it. If I could take a plane to work everyday, I would.

For the Christmas holiday, I flew to spend time with my parents who live out of state. I usually fly American Airlines, but this time my Dad found a great deal on Frontier Airlines. Apparently Frontier is big in some parts of the country. But it's not so much here where I live. In fact, there is only one Frontier gate in the entire gigantic airport. Nice.

I left after work and headed to my usual off-airport parking lot. Except I took the wrong freeway (as I've done in the past) and managed to take the longest possible route to said parking lot. The last time I took the wrong freeway, I made a mental note to not do that again next time. I know the right way to get there. But as is typical with my mental notes, I failed to remember it this time on the way to the same parking lot, and I did the same exact thing I did the last time.

Oh well. I had plenty of time before my flight. I decided to enjoy the scenic tour of the city's freeway system.

Upon arrival at the parking lot, I was informed that the only available parking was valet parking. I had no idea such a thing existed at a long term parking lot. It was the same price as the usual parking fee, but for valet they keep your keys. I didn't particularly like this idea, but not having time at this point to look for another lot (having taken the longest route ever to get to the lot), I nervously ventured into the lot and drove to the valet area.

Many cars were lined up here, awaiting valet. I was still unclear what this meant for my Jeep over the next few days, but there was nothing I could do about it by now. I'm used to choosing a good spot, then going through my 'leave my car in a foreign lot' ritual of making sure everything in the Jeep is out of sight, everything is locked up, and the front windshield cover is in place. I had no opportunity to do this with the valet. I had guys knocking on my window to get out of the car, another guy asking me questions about when I would be returning, and still another guy trying to pry open the back of the Jeep to get to my suitcase. I was very confused and overwhelmed.

But, I managed to remember to take the Jeep key off the ring of my other keys before turning it over to the question-asking valet guy. No need to give them full access to my house while I was away. I handed him the keys, said a quick prayer for the safety of my Jeep, then bid her farewell hoping I'd see her again in a few days. I pictured the valet guys roadtripping about town in my cool Jeep, four-wheeling in my non-4x4 SUV, bumping into things and using up all the gas in the car. I feared returning to a battered and bruised Jeep that would be mad at me for leaving her in the hands of these young guys who were undoubtedly wreckless punks with no standards about providing good and trustworthy parking service to loyal customers.

I had no control. I was worried. I feared for the Jeep.

Anyway, the parking lot shuttle took me to my gate. I can't be sure, but I may have heard the driver laugh at me as I reported to him that I was flying Frontier. He dropped me off at the lonely Frontier gate, where tumbleweeds blow by and crickets chirp in the silence.

With the heightened terror security level and the threats of busy holiday travel, it is well-known to arrive at the airport with plenty of time to make it through the long lines and the security checkpoints. As I entered the door for the Frontier check-in counter, however, I found almost no lines of people, and an eerily quiet terminal. I waited in line for less than five minutes, handed over my suitcase to the check-in lady, and received my boarding pass.

I headed over to the security screening area, removed almost all of my clothing and personal belongings, and placed them in one of those gray plastic tubs, which I'm sure are highly sanitary having been used by all kinds of people, all day, every day, since screening was invented at airports. I wandered through the metal detector, then collected my things. The security people were all very nonchalant about the entire process. I apparently posed no threat to national or airplane security, and even my colorful underwear didn't seem to phase them. I got dressed and continued on my way.

I generally like to find my gate, then wander the terminal if I have time to spare. In this instance I had about an hour to waste before boarding would begin for my flight. Most of the shops were closed in this deserted Frontier terminal, so I quickly had about all the fun I would be able to have before settling in to read a magazine and wait to get on the plane.

The plane was late arriving at the gate, so this meant my flight would be delayed. Soon enough, people began to gather at the gate, and it appeared the flight would be full after all. We waited for the plane to be ready for loading. The boarding process began with rows 16-23. I looked at my ticket. I was in row 23.


I hadn't realized row 23 would be the last row on the plane. I'm generally not a fan of the last row on a plane, mostly because the seats don't lean back. This last row experience, however, would soon top any other last row experience I'd ever had.

I followed the line of people onto the plane and made my way to the very, very back. I noticed my seat would thankfully be the aisle seat. I'm always a fan of the aisle seat. It's my preferred seat. But as I arrived at the butt of the plane, I noticed a small asian guy sitting in the aisle seat. I pointed to the seat and smiled to let him know that was my seat, but he just smiled back.

"23A," he said, very proud of himself and happy to be there. Unfortunately, 23A was the window seat, which I showed him on the overhead signage indicating that his 23A butt was currently in my 23C aisle seat and he needed to move. It was at this point that I realized the small asian guy didn't speak very much english. And remembering back to an hour or so ago, he was the same small asian guy that had been the other person in line at the Frontier counter, having a very awkward and unintelligible conversation with the ticket counter lady. They were trying to figure something out about something, but I don't think either one of them ever understood each other.

23A finally understood me, however, and moved inside the row to his seat. I took my seat, and promptly realized that I would be in hell for the next hour and a half.

Not only do the back row of seats on the oldest Frontier plane ever not recline, they are also the most uncomfortable seats I've ever sat in, plane or otherwise. A chair made entirely of nails, barbed wire, tacks, and sand paper would be more comfortable. The Frontier chairs are built concave to accomodate the natural curve of the spine, I suppose. But when these chairs are installed in a beyond upright position (actually leaning slightly forward), it forces you to sit like a hunchback, awkwardly bent over to fit into the curve of the seat. Not to mention, the headrest is oddly placed so that it hits most people of average height right in the back of the head. Not in the neck where it would be comfortable to lean your head back. But right in the back of the head, forcing you to either sit up perfectly straight for the entire flight, or lean your head forward while hunched over. This is something that could have possibly been relieved if the chair could lean back, but that's just not possible in the back row.

Then, there's the leg room and personal space issue. I'm used to American Airlines, with extra leg room. Here at Frontier, they apparently prefer negative leg room. They seem to have actually taken it away from the back row. It's like they put in all the seats on the plane, then realized they needed to add in one more row to make an official 'back row', so they crammed in row 23. I have long legs, and I was having a hard time. People with longer legs than mine would never have fit in that seat. Seat 22C in front of me was literally in my lap.

Leg room? Only if you don't actually have legs. Then there's plenty of room.

Incidentally, seat 22C was apparently occupied by the brother of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams. I don't know that they have a brother, but I had the pleasure of staring in close range at the back of a corn-rowed, beaded head of someone I came to know as Sonoma Williams, for an hour and a half. Once he leaned his chair back, he might as well have been sitting in my lap.

As the plane began take off and ascent (about thirty minutes later than scheduled), I tried to get interested in my book, hoping the story I was reading would take my mind off of the scoliosis I was developing in my spine. But as the plane angled upward, I was suddenly aware of a lady stumbling down the aisle towards the back of the plane. She was not a flight attendant. I was confused. This was a bizarre and uexpected event. I thought everyone knew not to get out of their seat when the plane is pointed straight up in the air.

The flight attendants jumped into action, reminding the woman that we were still in take-off mode and that she should be seated with her seatbelt on. I immediately noticed that the lady was drunk, and she was trying to explain to the flight attendant that she thought she was going to be sick. Then I noticed she was standing right over me.

Thanks, I thought. I'm crammed in the back of a plane, and I have nowhere to go when the puke starts flying.

The flight attendant grabbed a giant plastic bag and put the lady back in her seat. I buried my head in my book to block out the situation, which wasn't hard since my head, even when lifted, was still buried in the book in my lap.

When the drinks were served, row 23 was a whole extra set of fun circumstances. Sitting hunched over, now with a crick in my neck from not having anywhere to put my head, and with Sonoma leaning back into my personal space, I pulled out the seatback tray for my Pepsi. I always prefer Coke, but thanks to Frontier, they announced they would be 'proudly serving Pepsi products.' Fortunately I didn't have enough space to make a fuss about the Pepsi. I somehow managed to balance my book, the tray, the Pepsi, and my head long enough to drink the Pepsi before the end of the flight. But as uncomfortable as it was for me, I was very thankful not to be the poor young asian guy crammed in the corner with his tray, unable to communicate in ways we would understand. Even being a tiny fellow, he looked terribly uncomfortable.

There were also no windows that far back in the plane. Where you would normally look to the side to see the clouds or the ground floating by, we could look and see plane wall. So literally, we were stuck back there as in a cocoon or a cave. Cut off from the world and too hunched over to do anything about it. I do not suffer from claustrophobia, but I came pretty close to contracting it back in row 23.

The one good thing about seat 23C was that it is conveniently close to the bathroom. Of course, the absolute worst thing about seat 23C was that it was dangerously close to the bathroom, frequented by people who seemed to hold everything they had for the day until we were mid-flight with no escape for people crammed in row 23. The smells, the sounds, the horror of person after person entering and leaving the bathroom located directly behind my seat was enough to make me want to claw my way out of the bottom of the plane and take my chances out in the ozone. Unfortunately I was too hunched over in my seat to be able to worm my way out to fresher circumstances.

Once the bathroom traffic died down, things calmed down a bit for row 23. After my Pepsi, I reached down for my purse underneath the seat. I set it down in my lap, looked for some gum, then returned the purse to the floor. I then noticed that my light khaki pants had a sticky brown spot on them. I was very confused. My Pepsi was already gone without mishap, so how had this Pepsi-like spot appeared on my pants? I picked up my purse and noticed it was dripping wet on the bottom. Nice. The floor contained what I hoped to be someone else's Pepsi, camouflaged by the dark, old carpet of the world's oldest Frontier plane. That Pepsi could have been stagnating down there for years. And now it was attached to the bottom of my purse, and the front of my pants.

I un-wedged myself from my seat in row 23 and turned around to the bathroom. I washed my hands, then grabbed some paper towels. Wedged back into my seat, I put the paper towels on the floor underneath the seat. They were immediately soaked through with brown liquid. Not sure what to do or where to put my purse to avoid the Brown Liquid of Row 23, I gave up and prayed for the flight to be over.

Soon, the pilot came over the intercom to let us know we would be landing in about twenty minutes. The tiny asian guy didn't understand what he'd said, so he turned to me and began asking me a question. I repeated what the pilot had said, motioning downward, hoping to indicate that we would be 'down' soon. The tiny asian guy seemed satisfied with my efforts. He sank back into his hole in the corner.

As we touched the ground and began our taxi to the gate, the right side of the plane suddenly went dark. In fact, the only light on in the main cabin was my overhead reading light. The rest of the plane was pitch black. It was odd.

The flight attendant came on the intercom and announced that we might notice the right side of the plane was dark. This was because they had cut power to the right engine, meaning nothing on the right side of the plane would work for the remainder of our time on the plane. I didn't quite know what to make of this. First, I was thankful they didn't decide to cut the engine while we were in the air. And second, I was suddenly the object of much interest as people turned to glare at seat 23C with my light on. I pretended not to notice. I just wanted off the plane.

Of course, having left thirty minutes late, we were at least thirty minutes late arriving at our destination. The flight attendants announced that people with connections needed to be let off the plane first, and they must hurry as the flights they needed to catch were the last flights of the day. This wasn't a problem for me since I had no connection, and I was in the butt of the plane. Everyone on the plane was already ahead of me. I could do whatever I wanted to in the back of the plane and it wouldn't affect anyone.

But I was having a tough time un-wedging myself, so I missed the opportunity to do whatever I wanted in the back of the plane.

People sat in their seats and were very accommodating to the four people needing off the plane to catch another flight. We waited patiently. . . until the flight attendants came back on with the announcement that we now needed to hurry up and get off the plane, as this was the last flight of the night and they needed to clean the plane and finish up for the evening. First they make us wait, then they rush us off.

Frontier Airlines, ladies and gentleman.

My flight home yesterday was much less eventful. When I received my boarding pass and noticed I was set for seat 23E, I promptly headed to the gate and asked the person at the counter if I could change my seat. She had one seat available, 16B, a middle seat. I gladly and enthusiastically accepted it. The counter person looked at me strangely. Make me sit with a fat guy in my lap. Make me hold three screaming babies the entire flight. Dangle me out the window. I don't care. Just don't make me sit in the back row again.

The plane took off, flew, and landed. I rode the shuttle back to the parking lot. Once there, I was taken directly to the Jeep, which was magically parked in a covered parking space. Had I parked her myself, she would have been in an uncovered and more affordable spot. When the valets park your car in a covered spot, the fee is the same as uncovered. This made me happy. She appeared to be scratch and dent free. Everything seemed in place. I still had half a tank of gas. Just as I'd left her.

The Jeep had been well taken care of.

My house was still standing when I arrived there.

I was home.

All was well.


What I Like Most About Christmas . . .
. . . is when it's over. And I definitely feel that at 12:01 am on the morning of December 26, all Christmas music and decorations should disappear, as it is technically no longer Christmas.

I know that is terribly bah-humbug of me. But, it's true.

All things considered, I just returned from a relaxing and enjoyable visit to my parents. Too bad Christmas had to be in the middle of it to cast a dark cloud over the occasion.

It's nothing against Christmas itself. I understand Christmas and the point of the whole thing. I'm thankful for that. I know other people enjoy it, and that's totally fine. And to be perfectly honest, I have my moments when I truly believe I'm enjoying something about Christmas. But generally Christmas is a reminder of sad things for me and my family, and if I could have it my way, I'd prefer to skip the whole thing all together, thank you very much.

There's just something missing. My sister. It doesn't seem right for us to get together and have Christmas without her. The best gifts I ever gave or received were the 'sister gifts'. I always looked forward to that, because sisters know what sisters like. My parents gave cool things on occasion, but when you get to the 'sister gift' you know it will be fun, or funny, or the one thing that parents just don't understand but that you really wanted.

That's missing now. I'm not even a sister anymore.

It feels wrong to be the one still here to open gifts. The one thing my parents are completely devoted to, other than each other and God, is their kids. My dad has always worked incredibly hard to make sure his wife and kids always had what we need, and often many things that we don't need. He has often gone without a big fun toy for himself so that we can have the big fun toys at Christmas or birthdays. He loves watching us open the big grand finale presents from 'Santa', because we all know Dad is Santa, yet he prefers to see how excited we are at the gift rather than put his own name on it for the credit.

Now, there is something terribly heartbreaking about my Dad being one kid short at Christmas. His whole life is his family, and then he loses one. At Christmas we always take turns opening a gift, watching each other open and react to each present before the next person opens a gift. As a kid, this was a painstakingly slow and annoying process. But now, it seems to always be my turn, and I don't know what to do with that. There's always another present for me to open, and it's never my sister's turn. I can't share the spotlight anymore. My Dad still loves to 'wow' me with the big Santa gift, but there's something bittersweet about it now. It's like I have to fill the role and excitement of two kids, because he deserves it. Yet, I can't do it.

He doesn't expect that or ask that of me, but there's something missing and I can't help but feel like I've been left with the responsibility to be 'the kids'. I can't be that, but I wish I could be, for my parents.

Many years ago we started the tradition of opening our presents on Christmas Eve. It first started with one gift, then the rest of the presents on Christmas morning. Eventually we just did the whole shebang on Christmas Eve, but saved the stockings for Christmas morning. We'd go to Christmas Eve church service, which was again, a painstakingly annoying process as a kid knowing there were presents awaiting us at home. Once church was over, we'd head home. Dad would read the Christmas story, prolonging the presents even longer, and finally we'd open all the presents. Christmas Day would start with the stockings, then we'd all help my mom cook the big Christmas meal. We would eat. My sister and I would then blast Gloria Estefan on the stereo and dance around the kitchen while cleaning up the meal mess together, making it an event. My parents would rest. That was our tradition.

Now we open presents on Christmas Eve because it takes some of the pressure off of Christmas Day. We do a modified Christmas meal, to mark the occassion but with slightly less fanfare. The first year I had to clean the kitchen after the meal on my own, I cried the entire time. Not because of the mounds of dishes I had to do all by myself. But just because I had to do it by myself.

This year we did everything on Christmas Eve, stockings included. We did a simple Christmas meal, and everyone helped with the preparation and the clean up. I think we needed it that way so that on Christmas Day none of us is expected to have Christmas cheer that just isn't there.

And to be quite honest, opening presents just doesn't hold the same excitement for me that it once did. I think I really could do without it all together. I enjoy getting things, and giving things. I love watching my parents open gifts. But it's just lost it's magic for me. I don't anticipate the present opening like I used to. I'm not even excited about it, even though I try to show excitement for my parents. I almost dread it, because it's this big family thing that we always did, and now it's messed up. I never spent a Christmas without all of us together until one of us wasn't here anymore. Now, it's just weird. It's like saving a place at dinner for someone who doesn't show up. It's awkward.

I almost don't want it to be good or fun. That feels harder to deal with than if I could let loose and really enjoy Christmas like I did when I was a kid.

It's proof to me that the presents and the stuff is not what Christmas is all about. I'd trade the presents for my sister's presence anyday. That may sound cheesy, but it's the simplest way to put it. I don't need more stuff. I need my family, complete and whole.

Overall, I enjoyed the opportunity to celebrate the holiday with my parents. I'm always thankful for that, even when we have our moments of getting on each other's nerves, and when all we can manage to do is sit in silence, mindful of each other's sadness. We generally don't just sit around and wallow in depression. We find things to do and we do the best we can to make Christmas a nice time for each other. But still, there are moments when we're just sad, and we have to respect that for each other.

Every year I grow more appreciative of the things we used to be able to do as a family, the memories we have, the stories we can tell now about Christmases past. One year, my sister and I had the brilliant idea to wrap my mom's gift in as much ribbon and tape as was humanly possible to fit on the gift. By the time we were done, it had grown several sizes from its original size. We were quite proud of what we had created, and I remember it being an extremely fun process. When it came time for my mom to open her gift, she acted amused by the gift that took awhile to get open. It was quite a monstrosity. My sister and I could barely contain ourselves, we thought it was so funny and ingenius. In truth, Mom was none too happy at our waste of all her ribbons and tape. But, she knew we'd had fun creating this 'special' wrapping job together, so she was a good sport about it then. It's now become one of those 'stories' that will be told at Christmases. Especially since none of us can remember what was inside the box as her gift once she finally penetrated the wrappings.

I miss the old Christmases and the traditions more and more every year. There was no warning that the last Christmas we all had together was the last one. I'm thankful that it was good.

I know that future Christmases will be good, and new things and people will come along to bring joy to the occasion. But for now, it's still hard. And weird. And it just doesn't seem right.

Of course, the best part of Christmas this year was that my dog is still with us. And, she was more spry and active than any of us expected for a fifteen year old, cancerous dog with a bad back. She keeps us smiling, especially when wearing her ridiculously ugly sweater. It's funny the places we find joy at Christmas, and the things that bless us and remind us to be thankful.

I had a good Christmas. It's hard to say that because it's not what I ever pictured Christmas to be for my family.

But even thought it's sad, somehow it can be good.

Yet, I can't help but be relieved that it's over again for this year. I need a full year to work up to it again for next year.


Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Happy Freakin' Holidays
I'm not really a fan of Christmas anymore. I know, it's the birth of my Savior and that's very, very important. I am very thankful of that and I do my best to put some focus there. But the joy of that tends to become clouded by extreme sadness of another Christmas without my sister. It just never seems to suck any less, but somehow we manage.

In an effort to not bum out the entire reading population of my blog, I will save my Christmas commentary until after the holidays have passed. But I will share that the worst thing about what I feel during this time of year is knowing that I'm not the only one. It's nearly unbearable sadness, and I wish no one else knew what that felt like.

To all of you dealing with loss during the holidays, I'm sorry. I wish I had something to blog to make it better, for all of us.

But since Christmas insists on coming around year after year, all I can do is wish you all a . . .

Merry Freakin' Christmas.


PS: I will be blog-less for awhile, due to holiday travel. Carry on in fine fashion without me until I return.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Why Lord of the Rings is actually Rudy
Or, 'Why I Wish Sean Astin Was My Best Friend'.

I saw LOTR last night. Now, I know there are some diehard LOTR fans out there (like the guy we sat next to in the theater who had a complete LOTR themed meal to keep him company throughout the three-and-a-half-hour movie), so I don't mean to make light of LOTR obsession. I've seen all the movies now. I enjoyed them like any other movie. But alas, I found it to essentially be Rudy, but with much stranger looking characters, and with a bunch of random stuff that happened that I'm not sure was all the same movie, even though I never left the theater for the duration of the film. (ie: the Pyro King- what's up with that dude?)

I'm not quite sure I understand why it took three really long movies to tell the story of Rudy. Sure, they are nice movies. They look great. Again, I enjoyed them, the acting, the themes, the struggle, the victory, the long hair. But seriously, the same story could have been told with a lot less slow-motion and a few less of those drawn-out scenes of longing and contemplation. I'm all for longing and contemplating. But in under three hours.

So, why is my assessment that LOTR is actually just Rudy in much more elaborate disguises and with a lot more catapulted heads? Because in the end, the hero is none of the people equipped or trained to be the victor. The hero is the guy who has helped the 'hero' all along, even when no one believed in him. Sam (played by Sean Astin) is essentially Rudy himself, but with bigger feet.

The parallel is amazing. Rudy (also Sean Astin) works hard throughout the movie as the scrappy, but loyal underdog. Always there supporting the team starters, never in the spotlight, cheering everyone else on to the goal. He literally doesn't know what to do if he can't be a part of that team, even if all he ever gets to do is help everyone else.

Then Rudy/Sean/Sam gains a few pounds, sprouts giant feet, and does the same exact thing for Frodo. He is born to be the supporter, who actually turns out to be the hero in the end. He even physically picks Frodo up and carries him up the final hill, when our 'hero' is too weak to continue. Sam bails Frodo out of many sticky situations, including an actual sticky web-ish situation. Then, at the point when Sam thinks he has lost Frodo, he begs Frodo 'not to go where he can't follow.' He doesn't know what to do if he doesn't have Frodo to follow.

Quite honestly, that line killed me. Holy cow, I've felt that moment. But with somewhat smaller feet.

So, to sum up and conclude, if you want the long version of a great story, go rent the first two LOTR movies, then catch the last one in theaters. It's definitely worth your time. But if you want the short version and prefer football over bloody battles between trees, ghosts, and disgusting mutants, rent Rudy.

Either way, Sean Astin is my hero.


Over 10,000 Served
I've finally done it. I've finally clicked on my own blog over 10,000 times . . . .

Just kidding.

When I started the blog back in February, I wondered what it would be like to have 10,000 hits on a personal blog of mine, something that no one had heard of at the time, and when that would be. Well, it's now, apparently. And it feels pretty cool, and very strange. It's unexpected, to say the least.

Not that 10,000 people have been here. But enough people have been here often enough to make a difference to me, and that's what matters.

As always, thanks for stopping by. I wasn't expecting you, but I'm glad you made it.


Friday, December 19, 2003

Shaking my Head
I do this thing where I shake my head if I have a scary thought or dream. If you know me, you may have seen me sitting there shaking my head for no apparent reason, or in response to something that doesn't warrant a head shake. It's not a bold, neck-breaking shake. It's just a small, quick turn of the head. More symbolic to me than anything else.

I have a very vivid imagination. I see everything like a movie in my head. When I think, it's less a thought pattern and more of a series of images and sounds that I 'see' and 'hear' to myself. I can have entire conversations with people in my head. Academy Awards have been won for the movies going on in my brain.

We already knew I was a little strange. Not to worry.

Sometimes pictures or images pop into my head that I don't particularly like or want to happen. Sometimes the train of thought makes that happen, like it leads to something I didn't expect to be related to where I started. Or sometimes it's a dream or sudden unexpected thought that comes out of nowhere. So I shake my head in defiance, sending a message out to whoever may be watching that the thing I just saw should never come to be.

Last night I had a really scary dream. When I was finally able to wake up from it, I shook my head. I wasn't fully awake, but I had to say 'no' to what I'd just seen. I don't want what I dreamed to happen. Even though my dreams have never been prophetic in any way, shape, or form, I don't like to take any chances that they could start being prophetic.

I don't think I started doing this until after my sister died. I think we've all had a moment throughout our lives when we childlishly wanted our siblings to be gone. Not dead, but just not around so that we don't have to share a toy, or our parents' affection, or the spotlight. I was frequently annoyed with my little sister. She was always the attention getter, much cuter than I ever was, and with a personality that drew people to her. Sometimes I wished that we hadn't found her again that time we misplaced her for a few minutes at Wet n' Wild. She wasn't really lost, but she made a scene like she was. And when we 'found' her she was royalty for the rest of the day. I was just wet.

Or I'd long to ship her off to my grandparents for Christmas and ask that they keep her. They seemed to like her, and she could be useful around the house or in the garden. She had tiny hands and fingers good for reaching into tight places to pick lima beans. Plus, I needed her room to store my Legos. Really, I had everyone's best interests in mind.

Of course, I never really meant it. Considering all the times we moved from city to city, and all the occassions when my sister was my only friend, had I really sold her to traveling gypsies for more Lego money, I would have missed out on precious time with a precious person. She needed me, I needed her. I looked out for her, she found safety with me. She was afraid of the swimming pool unless she could be in the water riding piggyback on my back. She screamed when we'd fly on a plane unless I was there to hold her hand, even when we were older. I'd roll my eyes about those things. Yet to be completely truthful, I actually kinda liked having her around, and didn't mind playing the part of protector.

But big sisters are supposed to be annoyed by little sisters. It's what we do. So in typical big sister fashion, I always kept my eye out for opportunities to send my sister around the world in a hot air balloon. After all, she would have loved the pretty balloon colors, and she did always want to see the world. . .

Then one day she was gone. For real. And I shook my head, I think for the first time in response to something I didn't want to happen. But, it was too late.

I know that shaking my head does nothing to save anyone or anything, in all reality. And I know that any of the silly thoughts I ever had as a kid about wanting to trade her to the neighbors for a hamster had absolutely nothing to do with her untimely departure from us.

But I think that's why I shake my head. The bad things that happen are out of my control, and I don't like that. It's been proven to me on more occassions than I would prefer to experience. And even still, I really struggle with letting God be in control.

I don't have a choice. I can't save the world. I can't even save my little sister at the most critical moment. I couldn't offer a piggyback ride or hold out my hand to get her through. It wasn't up to me. I will never be in control over the things that take place in my life, or the lives of those I love. I have to let go.

But I'll probably keep shaking my head, hoping that God and I are on the same page about the things I don't want to happen, and trusting that even if we aren't, it will all be okay someday.


Thursday, December 18, 2003

Attention People Who Read Here
As much as I love for this kind of stuff to happen to me at my job on a regular basis, I actually would like for this to be me.

So, spread the word to everyone you know, and everyone they know, and then to everyone you and they don't know, about how much you love reading what the Tyrant writes. If you know anyone in publishing, or anyone who is published, or anyone with money that would like to sponsor an aspiring writer's first publishing venture, send them my way. If you know of places where I can submit what I write, or write something specifically for a place that would be interested in something I'd write, please do tell.

And with all that hard work, maybe someday you can have your name in print, too. . . on the 'Thanks' page of my first published book.

Now, get to work.


To Whom it May Concern:

To Websites that contain those annoying Flash pop-up ads that appear in the very middle of the page, don't go away, and continue to pop up, move around, and/or create sound as I continue to click through other pages on your website even though I have a pop-up blocker: You have just lost a viewer.

To companies who create those annoying Flash pop-up ads that appear in the very middle of the page, don't go away, and continue to pop up, move around, and/or create sound as I continue to click through other pages on your website even though I have a pop-up blocker: Know that I will never click on your ad, and I will likely never use your products because I am so annoyed by your pop-up ad getting in the way of what I'm trying to read on the page.

To whoever thought it was a good idea to make tall buildings shiney on the outside: When I crash the Jeep in morning rush hour traffic because I was blinded by the sun reflecting off of your copper-colored reflective building, you can expect to be sued. Hopefully that's real copper on the building, because I want the equivilent of it in small, unmarked bills as retribution for being blinded by your building on a daily basis. You have probably destroyed one or both of my retinas.

To whoever built the major highways in my area the first time: You should never have been allowed to build things larger or more important than what your child can do with a set of Legos, since all of your original highways have been torn up for expansion since the beginning of time, creating the worst traffic known to man, everyday, for as long as I can remember.

I think 'to whom it may concern' will probably be a recurring blog topic.


You know, it's not often that there are any highlights from my job. But every once in awhile, I almost get to go home feeling good about something I did that day.

It was such a rewarding feeling to hear yesterday that the website I completely redesigned (from scratch) for my place of employment was discovered by a company that was so impressed by it, they decided to throw us a party and give us lots of money. I was told they stumbled upon the site and were so pleased with the site itself, they decided to collect money from their employees and make a Christmas contribution.

I felt really good about that. Especially pertaining to the website, which took months of meetings with my boss to get permission to overhaul it, then several weeks to build. Once my boss gave me the go-ahead on it, he was impatient for me to finish it. It took awhile, as I was the only one working on it. But after some hardwork, it was launched and met with positive response. It was a milestone as my first major completed project here.

And, it was a joy to hear yesterday that finally, something I've done around here has paid off. This is a rare occassion.

Of course, that feeling was completely shot to hell when the news of the site's success was immediately followed by the news that my boss told this company (that was so impressed by my work and gave us money because of it) that someone else did the site.

This makes perfect sense since the website falls under my jurisdiction anyway, and I'm pretty sure my boss knows that since he just bought me a book on how to improve our fundraising efforts via email and the website. Not to mention, I have a 'staff' of zero people plus one contract person who helped with some of the graphics on the site for about a week. With so many people involved in the site, I can see where it might be confusing. It turns out the contract person who doesn't even work here and who my boss met once is who got the credit this time. Wha-huh??

Of course, in the end it doesn't matter who did the site. We still get the money from this company regardless, and that's the important thing.

But sometimes I wonder if my boss has ever met me, or has a clue what I do around here, or remembers conversations and major events longer than five minutes.

I've worked here for almost two years.

And still, I wonder.


Wednesday, December 17, 2003

I may have a problem.
For most of the morning, I couldn't get to Blogger. Part of my morning ritual is to check on my blog, to make sure it's okay. Not necessarily to read it or write anything new. It's just part of my routine. I get to the blog, see that it's with me, then I move on to the business of the day. I want to make sure it's still there and in good health.

It's a security/comfort thing. All is well if the blog is well.

This morning, I typed '' into my browser and MSN Explorer wouldn't even recognize the page. I searched for Blogger. No Blogger. By all accounts, Blogger no longer existed.

I typed in my blog address. Nothing. No recognition. By all accounts, Cynical Rantings no longer existed.

I knew logically it had to be there somewhere. Blogs and entire websites don't just disappear one day for no reason, right??? Blogger was likely experiencing a technical difficulty. I knew at some point the blog would return and the world would be right again.

But honestly? I was very on-edge. I didn't know what to do. I felt very cut off from the outside world. I felt like something was missing. Sure, I could surf any number of other websites. But being prone to 'Rainman' tendencies, I didn't know what to do next, not being able to check the blog in sequence with the rest of my morning.

I need my blog. In order. Other things come after checking the blog. Since I couldn't check the blog, I was at a loss.

Is there such thing as a Blog Twelve-Step Program?

I think I may have a problem. I literally took a deep breath of relief once I was able to get to the blog.

Now I can get on with my day.


Tuesday, December 16, 2003

There are many reasons why I do not run marathons.
I discovered all of them on Sunday. But overall, the Team Phoebe Relay Marathon Adventure of Sunday was a huge success. And one day, I'm sure I will recover from it.

The day started early. Too early. It was still dark outside. And it was really, really cold. Why are marathons in the winter? And why do runners insist on running in the dark at such an ungodly hour of the morning? I don't function well that early. Let me sleep in, have some coffee, eat a big breakfast, then get me running by about noon. Things that happen early in the morning are bad for me and those involved with me. This could be why we didn't win the relay marathon. The marathon was half over before I was fully awake.

Contributing to my state of non-alert was the fact that I still had the plague. I contracted the plague late last week. The plague followed me throughout the weekend. And it still lingered when it came time to gather with Team Phoebe and run our race Sunday morning. We knew before the race started that I was the weakest link. We now had to deal with a weak link that had the plague. It was a whole new level of weak linkage.

We gathered early and made it to the event as a team. The plan was to follow the whole route together, dropping each runner off at their designated exchange point, and then moving ahead to the next place to cheer and pick up the last runner. We had a coordinator. She had a clipboard. She wore a Team Phoebe shirt. It was very carefully planned. We were prepared for an adventure.

Now, I went to this marathon last year as a fan and a spectator supporting some friends who were running the entire marathon. But this year I was there as a runner. It is a whole different experience to go as a runner. We had numbers pinned to our shirts. We looked professional and serious. We walked through the thousands of people attending and running in the event as though we had a purpose and mission in being there. We were there to win. And to look good doing it.

Of course, that image was completely shattered as our goal for the day was to be as obnoxious as possible. We cheered for everything. We cheered constantly. And somewhere in the middle of all the cheering, we ran.

Phoebe #1 started off the relay. And she is super fast. We dropped her off at the start line, wished her well, then booked it back to the car to drop off Phoebe #2 at the next exchange point. Then, we raced back to another spot to cheer on Phoebe #1 as she made her way to meet Phoebe #2. It's really not as confusing as it sounds. But this was the typical pattern for the day. It went on and on and on . . .

Cheering the Phoebes involved quite an ordeal. We had the rest of the relay team members (those who hadn't run, yet and those who had already run), plus our Phoebe Coordinator, plus our Phoebe Phan, who also wore a Team Phoebe shirt. There were seven us with matching shirts. The coolest matching shirts ever, incidentally. We made a race day CD, which we carted around with us on a portable CD player. When we arrived at a Designated Cheering Location (DCL), pre-planned and on the clipboard thanks to our Phoebe Coordinator, we would all pile out of the car and run (with the CD player blaring) to a spot on the course to watch for the Running Phoebe.

We would then cheer obnoxiously until the Running Phoebe passed. We got a lot of stares. I'm not sure why.

After Phoebe #1 passed, we ran back to the car and booked it to Starbucks. Each Phoebe was allowed one request of a special item to await her after completing her portion of the race. Phoebe #1 wanted a something-or-other from Starbucks. We had just enough time to secure the Starbucks before making it to the first exchange point to pick her up.

Super Phast Phoebe #1, however, made it there before we got there, so we piled out of the car with the Starbucks in hand to hunt her down. Phoebe #2 was already on her way and running to the next stop. It was time to collect all remaining Phoebes and take me to the next exchange point.

I was Phoebe #3. I requested a Krispy Kreme donut as my inspiration for running.

My portion of the race included the five mile stretch between Mile 10 and Mile 15. This part of the race took place around the north part of the lake. A lake, incidentally, that I had travelled around many, many times by bicycle. Never, ever, by foot. As I mentally prepared for my five miles of plague-infested running that was about to take place, I longed for my bike. By bike, I can cover the entire lake in 35 minutes. By foot, and with the plague, I calculated it might take me the better part of a week to complete my half of the lake.

As we neared my drop off point, the car stopped and several of us jumped out to head to the exchange. I shed my jacket, but I kept my pants in lieu of running in shorts. It was cold. This was not good for my plague.

Now, the exchange points provided quite a challenge. The first exchange/hand off of the traveling wrist band did not go smoothly. As one runner nears the exchange point, race officials spot them and call out the number pinned on the shirt so that the next runner can hear the number and approach the Exchange Zone. However, the calling out of numbers was not going so well, and the mob scene at the first Exchange Zone resulted in a lot of lost people looking for their team person in a sea of spandex, short-shorts, and running shoes. Everyone pretty much looked alike.

Except for Team Phoebe. We had matching shirts. Our rule was to look for the shirts.

Phoebe #2 came along and it was time for me, Phoebe #3, to run. I was nervous. I was tired. I was coughing up a lung. It was cold.

The other Phoebes cheered as Phoebe #2 arrived, we found each other, and handed off the wrist band. I grabbed it, cheered for myself among the other cheering, and ran confidentally off into the unknown, following a group of other runners that I hoped would lead me quickly and safely to Mile 15 as soon as possible.

Now, I am not a runner. I am a biker. In preparation for this event, I ran two times. Then I contracted the plague and my training was set back and altogether cancelled. I was not in shape for this. But I ran as though I was. I ran for the Phoebes.

The first mile was good. I ran. I breathed. I had four more miles to go.

Then I walked. Then I ran. Then I walked. Then I hallucinated purple elephants. Then I ran. Then I coughed up a lung.

Then I was passed by a small child. Then I ran. Then I was passed by an old lady with one wooden leg, carrying a fat guy on her shoulders. Then I walked. Then I was passed by a family sitting absolutely still.

That may have been another hallucination.

I discovered it is hard to run and drink water at the same time. I also discovered that guys in the race who pause for a moment to stand nonchalantly beside a tree next to where everyone is running seem to think we do not know they are pee-ing.

I knew.

At Mile 13, the plan was for the other Phoebes to catch up to me and see if I was going to make it. If not, we would switch someone out to finish my last two miles, and then call 911 for me. At Mile 13, I saw no Phoebes. Apparently I got there before they did. They arrived after I had passed and cheered for me, not knowing I was already long gone. Hmmm. Maybe I wasn't so slow after all. . .

By Mile 14 I was in pain. Knees, hips, other remaining lung - all hurting. There was snot. It wasn't pretty.

But, I only had one more mile to go! Hooray Phoebe #3! I cheered for myself. Random people cheered for me. The Team Phoebe shirts were designed with our names on the front. Everyone knew who we were as we passed.

Approaching Mile 15, there was a hill. I walked until I reached the beginnings of crowds near this mile marker, then I ran so I could confidentally run to the exchange zone and make my Phoebes proud. I tried to follow the signs to the Exchange Mob, listening for the numbers to be announced and looking optimistically for the next Phoebe, but I soon found myself in a glob of people.

My glorious arrival at Mile 15 was clouded by a sea of people I didn't know, and I didn't know where Phoebe #4 was to pass the torch on to her. It was a little anti-climactic.

I wandered throughout the people, calling for the Phoebes. After a couple of minutes, I found them. They were shocked that I'd made it so quickly. Phoebe #4 took the wristband, and she was off.

I was tired. And by 'made it so quickly', I mean 'completed my five miles in an hour.' Slow, in that a few people had already finished the entire marathon at that time. Fast, considering I expected to collapse and crawl my way to Mile 15, hopefully before nightfall.

But it was all worthwhile because there waiting for me in the car was the best tasting Krispy Kreme donut ever. So worth it . . . I don't need two lungs to enjoy a Krispy Kreme.

The Phoebes hurried to another DCL, and after standing and cheering there for ten minutes, we realized we'd missed Phoebe #4. She was fast, too. We collected ourselves and hurried to the final Exchange Point.

We made the exchange, collected Phoebe #4 and sent Phoebe #5 on her way, then hurried to yet another DCL. This time were in time to catch Phoebe #5 triumphantly running her portion of the race. We cheered. She passed us. We left to head to the finish line.

At the finish line, we made it just in time to see Phoebe #5 cross the line and complete our relay adventure. We took pictures. We celebrated. I had another donut. It was grand.

We then went to eat giant burritos. Probably not the smartest decision as a post-race meal, but they tasted good. Until they hit again later . . .

Our total race time was 4hrs 16 min. This was extremely impressive to me, considering we had one semi-sick, green snotty Phoebe, a Phoebe with a knee injury, a Phoebe who doesn't run and who had the plague, another Phoebe who doesn't run, and a Phoebe who had some weird toenail-losing issue. We came in 13th out of 45 teams in our category.

Since then, I've been walking around like Frankenstein- stiff and stompy. But not growly. Well, a little growly.

Next year, we will win. Right now the thought of running it again, well, hurts. But at least I have an entire year to recover and get ready for it.

Team Phoebe Rules.


PS: Odd Highlight of the Day: This award goes to the random person at Starbucks who, upon seeing our shirts with a picture of Phoebe Buffay (from Friends) on the front of the shirt, asked us who Phoebe was and then asked why we were running to sponsor her. Like, as though we were running in honor of someone named Phoebe who had cancer or something. Does this person not own a TV?

PS Again: Runner-Up Odd Highlight of the Day: This award goes to the guy at the burrito place who, upon noticing that we all had on matching shirts and that we were wearing medals, asked us what they were for. Once I told him we had run in a marathon he then proceeded to ask why we weren't still running 'since it should take, like, two days to run a marathon, right?' Yes. And we just decided to take a break for a burrito.

Two Things
I was home sick and away from the computer most of the day yesterday, so I apologize for the delay and the unintentional suspense in anticipation of the Great Marathon Adventure. A wonderful write-up is soon to come.

Also, I notice that apparently the term 'maintenance', when applied to doing whatever my comments people did in regards to 'maintaining' the comments, means 'delete all previous comments since the beginning of this blog.' That sucks. I miss my comments. It feels lonely here without them.

So on behalf of my free comments, I apologize that your comments have been deleted prior to any comments left before yesterday. But I think it is now capturing new comments, so feel free to keep leaving comments, which I'm sure will stay here until the next 'maintenance.'


Friday, December 12, 2003

The Tyrant Runs a Marathon
Well, 1/5 of a marathon, to be exact. And most of it probably won't be running.

A wise friend of mine recently said, 'no good can come from running.' I believe that to be true.

A month or so ago, I committed to joining four of my friends in a team relay running of the local annual marathon. For some reason, I thought this would be fun. I'm an athlete. I'm generally in good shape. How bad can 1/5 of a marathon be? I watched the whole marathon last year. Surely watching it gives me an extra edge in running part of it.

Then I remembered: I am not a runner. I am a biker. In fact, I don't like to run. I have bad knees, bad joints. Running makes my knees and hips ache. It's boring. It takes too long. And it's just plain hard. I don't run for all of those reasons. And probably more.

Biking is much easier on my knees and joints. It moves faster. I don't get bored. It's fun.

I'm not sure what I was thinking when I joined the running team. I must have been woo-ed by the honor of being asked.

Anyway, it soon became too late to back out. And once I commit to something, I am loyal til the end. Plus, I don't like to lose. I could not justify wimping out of the situation. So I decided to jump in head first, get gung ho about it, and be the best 1/5 of my relay team that I can be.

Plus I figured if I still suck at the running part, I can focus my attention on comic relief and being an inspiration to my team mates. I'm much better at that, anyway.

The fact that I don't run puts me in the position of being a very poor runner. I can bike circles around anyone, especially if they are standing still. Running? It's a foreign world to me. My body freaks out. Even when I'm in the best shape I've ever been in, running is hard. I dread it.

Not to mention, when I'm not in the best shape (as I am now) running is even harder. Funny how that works.

I decided I needed to get in shape, getting out and running a bit, if I was going to be able to keep up with the rest of my team. Unfortunately, I only decided this about a week or so ago. This has forced me on a crash training plan to prepare for the race in two days. Training diet, exercise regime, and all that mumbo jumbo. I am a focused running machine.

Of course, I seem to have developed the Plague within the last twenty-four hours. Sore throat, chest pain, coughing, runny nose, the works. Not entirely serious, yet. But by Sunday morning, I should be good and diseased. This has hampered my training regimen, in that after two days of focused getting in shape, I was too weak to lift the television remote last night as I laid semi-passed out on the couch.

My brain was working out. But my body just said 'nope.' I couldn't argue with that.

We, as a team, have already recognized and decided that I am the weakest link on the team. It's best to just go ahead and say it outloud and accept it. Therefore my place to run is at the number three spot, right in the middle, so the people before and after me can make up for my slow time.

Of course, the person who runs before me has an injured knee. She is literally crippled, and she will run better than I will. The person after me does not run, either. Yet she will run better than me, too.

And now that I have the Plague, I will take 'weakest link' to a whole new low, never before witnessed at a professional running event. Serious athletes will whiz past me, yelling at me to get out of the way. Small children will run circles around me, pointing and laughing as I'm panting and wheezing. Old ladies with walkers will kick me as they teeter by me, heckling and cackling ahead of me to the finish line.

The one silver lining to boost my enthusiasm to make it through my chunk of the race is that we had t-shirts made. We are Team Phoebe, inspired by Phoebe Buffay of Friends, in the episode where Phoebe runs. Our shirts are blue. Phobe is on the shirt. They are great shirts. I can tell you are jealous.

And, I've requested to have a Krispy Kreme donut awaiting me at my last mile. Near the ambulance would likely be the best place for that.

Even if I have to walk the whole way, I will do it proudly in my shirt, for the goal of a Krispy Kreme donut, after a hard week of training and suffering through the Plague.


Thursday, December 11, 2003

What I would have missed if . . .
I hadn't taped the Billboard Music Awards last night.

I love to watch awards shows. But definitely the best way to watch them is to tape them, then fast forward through them later. It takes much less time, allowing me to fit in more television viewing within a day (which is the most important thing in the world), yet you can still take in all the good stuff. Fast-forwarding gets you through all the lame speeches, the 'lifetime achievement' awards and tributes, and other useless stuff like that.

So, upon fast-forwarding through the Billboard Music Awards, this is what I noticed:

1. Too many Beyonce's on a stage at one time. Seriously. There were, like, 50 Beyonce's. Everyone was a Beyonce. It was creepy. I was scared I would wake up this morning and find that I'm a Beyonce.

2. The use of the word 'artistses', (as in, more than one 'artists'), in a sentence, spoken by a rapper dressed like a homeless guy but who undoubtedly makes more money than I will ever see in my lifetime. Aren't rappers supposed to be good with words? Shiznit.

3. Nicole Ritchie (of Simple Life fame, with Paris Hilton) cussing on stage. As she read the TELEPROMPTER (her cussing was scripted), which is set up to aid FOX censors to know when to bleep a word, they bleeped the words before 'f-ing', but not the actual word 'f-ing', which caused the bleep to completely miss the word it was supposed to bleep. She said it big and loud and everyone heard it. It was fabulously funny. Oops.

4. Outkast thanking the people who voted as they accepted their award. Of course, if they had paid any attention at all to Mandy Moore who had delivered a delightful speech just before them to tell everyone how the awards are awarded, they would have known that people don't vote. The awards are given based on sales and airtime. Thanking the voters is useless, as there aren't any voters. But then again, I don't pay attention to Mandy Moore, either.

5. Pink getting bleeped and blanked (they kept inserting a blank screenshot to hide whatever she was doing on stage that was unsuitable for network TV) way too many times for a song to be titled 'If God was a DJ'. That girl needs some prayer.

6. Britney Spears was nowhere to be found. Lip-synching or otherwise. I didn't quite know what to do with that.

7. Someone seriously must keep Sting in a cryogenically frozen chamber when he's not performing, or else he is animatronic, because he never looks any older, and you hardly ever see him unless he is performing on stage. He's rarely out in public, but he always looks good on stage. Hmmmm . . .

8. Chingy? I've never heard of this guy, but is that a name? And why isn't everyone in the world making fun of it? Is this a family name? Is his wife Dingy? Are his kids Bingy, Wingy, and Klingy? Is a stupid name what it takes to be famous these days? Because I can do that. Call me Floopy.

9. I'm sure it sounded like a good idea on paper to send Evanescence out to the neon sign graveyard for their performance, but after the first five seconds, I truly felt sorry for their rockin' song that came across as a low-rent, poorly filmed amateur music video. Think Phoebe's "Smelly Cat" music video, but with more bright lights and creepy broken neon signs littered about.

10. But best of all, two hours of Nick and Jessica, interspersed throughout the show as commentators. Jessica had bad hair, and they kept talking about how good they are in bed. It was strange, and made me slightly embarrassed for them. But I love them. I can't help it.

- Aspiring to one day be an artistses,


Wednesday, December 10, 2003

The Novel is Here
Well, not here, exactly. But a link to where you can read it is here. Be whisked away to the world of Lizzy Hated Pantyhose.

I don't know how long I'll keep it up online, so read it while you can. And please don't do anything silly like try to steal it.

It's not that good, anyway.

It's just for fun.

Enjoy it! I sure did.


Tuesday, December 09, 2003

So Sorry
I feel really sorry for whoever searched and discovered that my blog is listed as the first promising link here.

Welcome to my blog, but I'm afraid this won't help you much.

What an odd place for my blog to be #1 . . .


Where is my novel?
Yes, I know I promised to make my novel available to my adoring fans soon. And I will. I've set up a new blog, and as soon as I have the chapters listed on the blog, I'll post a link so everyone can read it. For awhile. I won't leave it up forever, but I do want to give my loyal readers a chance to read it.

One day, it could be a great classic, like War and Peace. Only much, much shorter.

And you can say you first read it for free. After which, you bought ten copies of it. Full price.

Stay tuned.


Monday, December 08, 2003

If you buy it and build it, they will come.
Part 1, if you buy it, people really will come. Part 2, if you build it, people will come and jump in it.

There are many good things about buying a house. One of them is that you become hugely more popular than you ever were before, just because you've now provided another large, and most importantly, free place for people to hang out.

During the four-ish months that I've been in my house, my social life has taken an odd turn for the busier. Not that I bought the house for that reason. But it's been an interesting side effect that I didn't expect. There has been a steady stream of people to and fro the house in the recent months, and that is a whole new world for me as a hermit. Most of it is unsolicited. People just like to come see me at my house. Maybe I'm some sort of phenomenon.

The oddest part to me is that I like it. Maybe people like the house better than me, so they enjoy opportunities to hang at my house, and I just happen to be there, too. But maybe, the house is a good thing for me in terms of going beyond my hermit shell, and in fact, letting people come hang out in my hermit house. It's kind of a good thing to let people into my world. So far.

Sure, I still have my moments when I just really need to be by myself at the house. Long stretches of social activity usually requires equal amounts of time to myself to recover. While I really like being with my favorite people, it's draining to me from my introverted personality perspective. But since I've had the house, I've noticed a nice change in that I'm comfortable having people around more than in the past, and I enjoy sharing my home with the friends and people who are kind enough to drive all the way up to see it and me.

Part 1, case in point: nary had I had my home for a month or so before it was volunteered to host my church's Christmas party. I was so flattered at the idea that I said yes without thinking too much about it. Then, I thought about it. Me? Host a big party? The idea was absurd, since as a hermit I've never considered the idea before, and I sincerely doubted enough people would believe that the party was, in fact, to be at my house. Having lived in small one bedroom apartments for the past several years, by default my places were not a fun hangout or even on the list of possible party places. When did I get so popular?

Then I remembered: it's the house. The house brings the people. Mostly, without even asking.

With a couple of months to get used to the idea of a house full of people, I put that time to good use. At first, I was cool with it. It was an honor, it would be fun, I was glad for the opportunity to share my home with my church.

Then, I got really freaked out. So many people! I am a hermit!

It's not a large house. And I have a track record of several years being severely not in the Christmas spirit. Is this a good idea to invite everyone I know over to participate in Christmas cheer? Can I even effectively host that many people without them all wanting to leave right when they get there? Is my house even any fun at all? Will my reputation as being extremely cool be tarnished once people see where I live? The list went on. Freaked out.

Finally, I accepted that the party was inevitably to be at my house. I came to a peace about it. And, I even got excited about it. I decorated, I cleaned, I mentally and emotionally prepared for a mass invasion of my home. All the work in the house would now be up for public viewing on a large scale. Would they approve? Would they laugh? Would they break stuff? Would I have to move again after the party?

But most of all, would they like and appreciate the pinnacle of my house/art projects, The Blue Loo? Would they understand the significance of this bathroom that nearly killed me during a week and a half of hard, manual, redecorating labor? The pain, the suffering, the before, the after? Blue Loo is the center of my home, the place where all things make sense. Would it be accepted? Would it stand up to the hype of folklore?

Saturday arrived, and I spent the day furiously cleaning the house. Floors, bathrooms, kitchen, everything. By late afternoon the house was ready for the masses.

Part 2 of the tale, within Part 1, involves what I have affectionately come to know as the Biggest Pile of Leaves Ever. In conversations prior to Saturday, it became known that I once again had a ridiculously large amount of leaves in the yard. From this stemmed more than one request for a pile of leaves suitable for jumping in. And, what the people demand, I give. I'm a hermit of the people.

I spent an hour in the yard bringing all of the leaves on the ground into one giant pile of leaves, more than suitable for jumping. Nearly five feet tall, and approximately twenty feet in diameter, this pile of leaves towers above all other piles of leaves.

It eats other piles of leaves for dinner.

At party time, people began to arrive. I had the 8-track player going with Andy Williams Christmas, which was another surprise hit of the evening. Who knew that in a world of mp3, CD surround sound, bigger and better stereos of digital sound quality, people would be fascinated by and thoroughly enjoying my Grandma's old 8-track player? Good thing I rescued it from her garage sale. Can you believe she was going to sell such a thing??

As the crowd increased at the house, the pile of leaves caused a big stir. People could see it out the window. They ventured out, looked at it, and were in awe at it's girth and presence. Then, it was leaf jumping time. Yes, folks, my friends came for Christmas, and stayed for leaf jumping in the dark, and the cold. Soon the giant pile of leaves was reduced to a much flatter pile of leaf rubble.

And it was fun.

Where else can you jump in a big pile of leaves? Nowhere but the Tyrant's house, where we are all mature responsible adults - until it's leaf-jumpin' time.

I bought a house, and people come. I built the Biggest Pile of Leaves Ever, and people jumped.

Blue Loo was an unbelievable triumph of intrigue, interest, and approval.

First big party at The Hermitage? Success.


Friday, December 05, 2003

Ok, where is my nomination?
Something is seriously wrong in the world if these two people are nominated for Grammys, but I am not.

And honestly, could you stand to listen to either of these two people reading on a tape? Are these the sound/quality of voices deserving a Grammy? I mean, when I think 'Grammy', I think fine musicians, and/or people with CDs that other people enjoy listening to, more than once. Could you listen to Bill Clinton reading, more than once? This whole idea just seems bizarre to me. Can you picture the awards show with Bill receiving his award, running on stage with thirty of his 'peeps', giving a 'shout out' to the fans, and thanking God for his talent to read out loud? It's just not making sense to me.

Not to mention, is reading all it takes to get a Grammy these days? Because let me tell you, I can read. I can out-read anybody, anytime, anyplace. Just give me a book. I'll show you.

I'm long overdue for a Grammy.


Thursday, December 04, 2003

Brightest Tree Ever
Clark Griswald has nothing on my Christmas tree. Hands down.

First of all, I am not in the Christmas spirit. I am trying to be, but I'm not. I haven't been in the Christmas spirit for the past four Christmases, and this year I am trying to be better about it. So far, not much luck on that. But I'm really, really trying.

My mom, Mamaw, and I did shop and purchase a few decorations for my new house this year. They are simple and tasteful, as I am not a fan of Christmas decorations in general. Something about green and red together has just never been appealing to me.

My motivation for being festive this year is that I am hosting my church's Christmas party at my house on Saturday. I figured if it's a Christmas party and other people are in the Christmas spirit, I might as well decorate and make it Christmas-y on their behalf. No need to inflict my bah-humbug attitude on everyone else's fun Christmas.

Don't get me wrong. I am very excited to have the party at my house this year. I'm very excited to have a few dozen of my favorite people crammed into my tiny house (ie: pretty much everyone I know all in one place). The Christmas party is always a fun time. But, try as I might, I'm still just not in the Christmas mood. It's a sucky time of year for me.

I've never hosted a big party before. I've never had the space, or enough people interested in being in my space. Now that I do, I'm a little freaked out, since I am technically at heart, a hermit through and through. I may have to go into hiding for awhile after the party to recover. But I am totally game for the adventure. It will be a major milestone for me. People keep telling me I'm an adult now that I own a house, so I might as well act like one sometimes. Grown ups apparently have nice parties.

So the past few evenings have consisted of decorating the house for Christmas. I carefully placed my Christmas-y things, setting the tone for eclectic Christmas cheer. I even bought a festive doormat. It's almost tacky, but not quite.

The big focus of the decorations is, of course, my tree. It's a tree I inherited from my parents several years ago when they graduated to a bigger fake tree. I put it up once a couple of years ago, and it was such an ordeal that I haven't had the energy to do it again since then. This year, however, I was ready for it. And I wanted to give the gift of my tree for the viewing pleasure of the people attending the party at my house.

The tree was packaged up with all of the lights my dad had purchased to go on the tree. Actually, he gave me the tree in the box not realizing he had stashed all of his lights in with the tree. The last time I put the tree up, I got a frantic call from him asking me if I had his ten strings of lights. I assumed he'd meant to include the lights in the box with the tree. But apparently he'd intended to keep that collection of lights for himself. Since my parents now lived several states away where he couldn't easily get the lights back from me, he wished me a Merry Christmas and enjoyment of his set of tree lights, then hung up the phone to head to Wal-Mart to buy himself some new lights for his new tree.

Now, my dad loves a well-lighted Christmas tree. In the year 2001, it was his goal to get 2001 lights on the bigger tree he'd purchased after bestowing the smaller tree to me. After several trips to the store to purchase more and more lights, he succeeded. It lit up the entire neighborhood. From inside the house.

Many a year I have sat and watched (staying out of his way, of course) as my dad strings out all of the lights and begins the major chore of lighting the tree. He has a special technique, which I am proud to say I've inherited in my tree lighting skills. He hates the process (as do I) but he loves the finished product (as do I). He weaves the strings of lights in and out of the branches, rather than just wrapping them haphazardly around the tree, so that they look embedded within the tree to create a solid array of lights, rather than a strand of wrapped around lights like a candy cane. It's a tedious and time consuming process. But the end result is a massive amount of lights creatively placed within the tree.

I did not realize what a major task this is until I did it myself for the first time with my inherited tree a couple of years ago. It took forever. There was cursing. It wasn't pretty. Until I was finished. Then I saw what I had created, and it was beautiful.

It also lit up my entire apartment complex. From inside my apartment.

Last night I again completed the lighting of the tree. It took an entire evening earlier this week to build the tree, limb by limb, branch by branch, placing and twisting each part of the tree to make it look real. It even leans a little like a real tree might. But once I had it standing tall and filled in with the fake branches, it was time for the lighting adventure. Last night was the night.

I already knew what was in store, having done it once before. It's a frustrating activity. But I'm proud to say that it only took about three hours this time. It's not a big tree, maybe seven feet tall, but my goal was to put at least eight of the ten strings of my Dad's lights on the tree. I want to make him proud, carrying on the family tree lighting tradition. I'd done it before. I could do it again.

And, it is done. It's a work of art. It is beautiful.

And it lights up my whole neighborhood. From inside my house.


Making a Bad Day Better
Yesterday was not a good day. However, two things made it significantly better, and kept me from having a breakdown in the middle of lunch.

1. For lunch, I treated myself to my favorite sandwich from the sandwich shop downstairs. Something about this sandwich just makes things seem better. Better, that is, until I get to the end of the sandwich. Unfortunately it cannot truly change my world for the better. But sometimes, I'll take what I can get and just enjoy my sandwich.

2. Last night, I was greeted by a surprise Nick and Jessica sighting on my TV. I flipped through the channels and stumbled upon the NYC Rockefeller Center tree lighting thing, and there they were, singing Silent Night. Of course, later they each sang a song from their respective CDs, which I'm pretty sure were not Christmas songs. But I didn't care. And I also may find them slightly annoying to watch while they sing. But again, I don't care. And since they are my new best friends, I have added their CDs to my list for Santa. Not because I like them singing, but because I owe it to them as my friends to support their music careers.

Between The Sandwich and The Simpson, I managed to survive the day.

Now I have to figure out what to do about today.


Wednesday, December 03, 2003

One of those days.
It's so great to come to work in the morning, only to be greeted with the news that I suck at my job.

I knew I sucked. But today was an excellent reminder that I suck in a big way, in case I forgot.


Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Shocked, but not necessarily awed.
Surprisingly, Diet Mountain Dew Code Red (with a rush of cherry flavor) isn't entirely horrible.

I don't like it. But since it's the only available caffeinated drink in the building at the moment, I will drink enough of it so that I can justify throwing the rest of it away without saving it for a later time when I may be in need of a caffeinated beverage.

Wait, I just discovered that the 'best by' date on it is Oct 27, 2003. Is that bad?

Code Red! Code Red! Mayday! Mayday!


Not Right
So, you drive a Hummer. A big, hulking, behemoth machine that really has no business on city streets unless we are under attack. It's manly, it's intimidating, it commands respect, it will crush you.

So, can you in any way rightly justify putting a Christmas wreath on the front grill of this monster vehicle? Is it acceptable to go out in public in your cutely, Christmas-ly decorated Hummer?

I don't think so. But I saw that today.

I was embarrassed for the Hummer. And it seemed embarrassed to be seen.

Thank goodness I drive a respectable, decoration-free Jeep.


Monday, December 01, 2003

A few more observations after giving thanks.
I had a lot of time to observe while in my Jeep on the highway, driving to and fro my holiday destination. Unfortunately I could not blog in the car, so I've had to make up for it today with excessive blogging:

1. I have to drink caffeine in order to feel like I am alert enough to drive safely for long stretches of time. I also hate to stop. I just like to get where I'm going. However, drinking caffeine makes me have to pee. Therefore the whole process pretty much falls apart about an hour after I've left my house. Even with the most careful planning, the bladder has a mind of its own.

2. Roadkill on the side of the road doesn't smell any better on the way home, after it's been there for a four day weekend.

3. Why is it that that I pass a cop every ten minutes along the highway, there waiting to catch me speeding, but when traffic is slow and I can't get around the slow cars to get up to speeding speed, and a 'Bubba' in a beat up pick-up truck is weaving in and out of traffic and driving on the shoulder just to be annoying, there is nary a cop to be found?

4. What do small town cops do when it isn't a holiday with that extra holiday traffic to keep them busy with speeding tickets?

5. I think the green highway sign I passed that said, "Hideaway, Next Right" pretty much gave Hideaway away.

6. The 20 mile stretch of road around Tyler, TX, that was conveniently torn up for construction and reduced to one lane each way, is not my favorite place to be in the dark, at night, in bumper to bumper traffic for two and a half hours, nearly sitting still in the Jeep. Thank you, highway construction people, for choosing holiday season for major highway roadwork.

7. Before getting to the construction zone, I passed the first warning sign that flashed 'Four Hour Delay Ahead'. The second warning sign said 'Possible Delays Ahead'. They were both wrong.

8. Halfway through the two and a half hours of standstill traffic (ie: the promised 'delay'), I discovered that I hate all of my CD's. I was forced to turn to the radio for distraction, to keep me from abandoning the Jeep and running naked into the woods, ruined by traffic insanity. I don't know why I would be naked. It just seems more dramatic that way.

9. After discovering the 'scan' button on my Jeep radio, I stumbled across a station that helped me with one of the greatest discoveries of my lifetime. It turns out that the theme song to Paradise Hotel, which I have previously awarded as the Worst Theme Song Ever, is an actual song by Eddie Money. Who knew 'scan' was so educational?

10. Radio out in the sticks near Tyler, TX is slim pickens. Thank goodness for DVD players in new SUVs. I was able to watch half of Beauty and the Beast thanks to the only slightly tinted rear window of the Expedition two cars in front of me. I have no idea what they were saying since I couldn't hear the movie. But I know the story well enough to love the part where the tea kettle and the candlestick fight for the love of the Beast, and they send Beauty packing back to her seven dwarves. I was almost sad when traffic started moving just as they put in Monsters, Inc. I've never seen that one before.

11. No question, Coca-Cola flavored Slurpees are the best car drink ever, and they never taste so good as on a roadtrip. Forget the plan, it's worth a bathroom break every ten minutes. Give me Slurpee.


Observations after giving thanks.
I had a lot of time to observe over the past few days. I live in a big city, so when I travel to spend time with family in Small Town USA, I have to take full advantage of the opportunity to explore and enjoy my nearly white trash, small town roots.

Here are some things I noticed throughout my Thanksgiving weekend adventure, while driving through an endless supply of small towns on the highway, and while spending time in the small town where the history of the Cynical Tyrant began long ago:

1. Big City:
Schools are primarily located on residential streets where the everyday speed limit is 35mph, and the School Zone speed limit is 20mph.

Small Town:
Schools can be found on the one main street in town, which is the highway, where the everday speed limit is 60mph, and the School Zone speed limit is 50mph. Apparently in small towns, kids are expected to run faster and dodge trucks across two lanes of highway, as opposed to City Kids who can nonchalantly meander through much slower traffic in friendly neighborhoods.

2. Big City:
If you talk like or are Darrah from Survivor you are in the minority and no one will be able to understand a word you say.

Small Town:
If you don't talk like and are not Darrah from Survivor, you are in the minority and no one will understand a word you say. In my case, while in Rome, USA, I revert to talkin' like the local Romans.

3. Big City:
Parking your car on your front lawn means you live in the ghetto, your front lawn is actually a parking lot at an apartment complex, or you are asking for a citation from your Home Owner's Association.

Small Town:
Parking your car on your front lawn is preferred over the driveway (if you have a driveway) so that the kids can use the concrete driveway to safely set off fireworks. The lawn parking method is also used to pack in as many cars as possible for people arriving for Sunday lunch. There is no such thing as a Home Owner's Association, and the town sheriff parks his car on the lawn, too.

4. Big City:
Eugene Levy (pronounced lee-vee) is a well-known comedy actor. Hilarity usually ensues.

Small Town:
You n' Gene go to the levy (pronounced leh-vee) for some good afternoon fishin'. Hilarity will likely ensue.

5. Big City:
Fried seafood is one of many kinds of restaurants all over the city.

Small Town:
Fried Seafood is the name of the restaurant in town. Never underestimate the power of fryin' stuff.

6. Big City:
People go to Wal-Mart on occassion to buy necessary items that can't be found at the mall. It's a quick trip, hoping you don't see anyone you know there.

Small Town:
People go to Wal-Mart because there is nothing else to do. Often. It's a social occassion. You'll see everyone you know there. It's a good day.

7. Big City:
Anything that can't be found at one mall can be found at any of the other 27 malls, each containing 150 stores, within a ten minute drive.

Small Town:
First find a mall, then hope the 11 stores inside have something resembling what you're looking for. If not, pile the kids into the truck and head north for an hour and a half until you find the next closest mall. Or go to Wal-Mart. That's where your friends are anyway.

8. Big City:
Too many stoplights are a nuisance, backing up traffic, making people late, annoying everyone.

Small Town:
The day they put in the second stoplight on the highway was declared a holiday, complete with a parade and many fried foods. Now the kids can get through that 50mph School Zone safely while the traffic stops to admire the new stoplight.

9. Big City:
Burning stuff on the front lawn would not only be a major fire hazard, it breaks all kinds of laws.

Small Town:
Burning stuff on the front lawn is the prefered method of ridding your household of many kinds of trash, leaves, and other debris. The sheriff has the biggest lawn fire on the street, next to the volunteer fire department. You'll often find the kids out front keeping an eye on the blaze with the family waterhose, while the adults are in the backyard, fryin' fish caught earlier at the levy, in a big vat of grease. Burnin' stuff works up a good appetite, filled only by fryin' stuff.

10. Big City:
Fast food is available for people on the go without time to cook. On any given street corner, you'll find at least seven fast food restaurants to choose from.

Small Town:
Fast food is a special occassion. People take a break from cooking seven course meals to 'eat out', choosing between the McDonald's that the town was built around, or the Pizza Hut across town. Often this is Sunday lunch. Good thing Pizza Hut has a large lawn for parking.

And finally,

11. Big City:
Camouflage is a novelty. It's trendy. It's hip. It accents a wardrobe item here and there.

Small Town:
Camouflage is a way of life. One of the 11 stores in the mall is likely a camouflage clothing depot. Think nothing of entire clans of people draped completely in camouflage, eating a fancy meal at Pizza Hut. After all, it's always hunting season of some kind, somewhere.

The best part of all this? It's family.

I give thanks.