Sunday, December 25, 2005

This is Duchess

She is our amazing wonder dog.

It is her 18th Christmas today. She is showing off her new scarf.

Through the wonders of the technology of my new digital camera, she would like to share her 18th Christmas with all of you.

Merry Christmas, from my dog.


Thursday, December 22, 2005

If only I had one easy payment of $149.95 for each of you this Christmas.

I love safety. Rule #1 for the Tyrant is Safety First.

So, imagine my delight when I stumbled upon the perfect Christmas gift for everyone I know. It's . . . the Ready Freddy. Check it out at

The Original Ready Freddy ™; The all -in-one solution for disasters and emergencies large and small. Over 100 individual items in a high quality ballistic nylon backpack. Ready Freddy™ is 100% battery-free and ready to use when you need it. Includes a 3-in-1 Emergency Light free!!

I especially like the suggested uses for duct tape ("For use with plastic sheeting to create seals on doors and windows"), and the rope with duct tape ("Many uses for this. Tie things down. Hold things up. Use with plastic sheeting to create a shelter"). Really, the options are endless.

Better yet, instead of me buying the Ready Freddy for each of you, if I could suggest just one small gift that you could get for the Tyrant this Christmas, it would be the Ready Freddy. Nothing says "safety first - stay safe, Tyrant!" like a backpack stuffed full of items to last through any apocolyptic catastrophe.

PLUS, it's very pretty, and comes with a deck of playing cards - you know, for those long waits in the fallout shelter after a nuclear event.

But, if the Ready Freddy is a wee bit out of your budget for lavishing gifts upon the Tyrant this year, might I also suggest this:

It would make me just as happy.

Have a Safe and Happy Christmas, y'all!


Monday, December 19, 2005

... I've decided (heavily influenced by The West Wing) that I need a contingent of advisors following me around all day everyday, helping me make decisions, backing me up, disagreeing with me, explaining things to me, and generally having my back when I do all the dumb things that I do.

Fashion decisions
What to eat for dinner
How to handle a conversation
Prep me for congenial small talk in certain party situations
Advice on who I should spend my time with
Directions to a restaurant
Wake-up calls

There are just so many areas where I could use the brilliance of a group of people who are much smarter than I am.

I'm not really sure how I've gotten this far without an advisory board, but I probably would be a lot further if I'd had six people making better decisions for me.


Sunday, December 18, 2005

The West Wing and Me
My latest obsession is The West Wing. I have just discovered the brilliance of this show, and I have Friends L and K to thank for this.

Friend L had been trying to get me to watch The West Wing for quite some time. He even went so far as to loan me Season 1 (after a stern lecture on the value of this DVD collection and the fact that he does not loan it out to just anyone) with the assumption that I would cave and watch it and love it. I didn't ask to borrow it. He had the confidence that just having it in my possession would win me over.

I resisted for a good month or so. One day I had nothing better to do, and I didn't feel like I could give the DVDs back to Friend L without legitimately giving it a chance, so I watched a few episodes (even though my initial plan was to hold on to it for awhile, then give it back without watching it and tell him I just couldn't get into it).

The first couple of episodes really did nothing for me. I have absolutely no interest in politics or anything remotely resembling politics. I also know little to nothing about government, how it works, who the people are, what they do, or why. The fast pace of the show stressed me out. I didn't know the people or the stories. I was prepared to tell Friend L that I was right. I do not like this show.

But then I watched a few more episodes. And now I have to admit that I am completely hooked and obsessed and in love with The West Wing. I am frantically trying to catch up, having learned that I am eight years late on this bandwagon. And now I plan to run for President one day in one of those electory-thingies that they do.

I cannot stop watching this show.

I don't have time to sleep enough on a normal day, but somehow I have managed to go through three seasons in about a month. Where has all of this TV-watching time suddenly come from? I do not know. Apparently President Bartlet and Friends have the ability to create time out of thin air.

And for that, I love them.

I do not agree with all of the politics of the show. But anyone who knows the show will know that the politics are not the point of the show. I am in love with Josh. I want to be C.J. I cried when Mrs. Landingham died. I cried when Leo died in real life last week.

It's like a weird fake family that I don't have. I should probably slow down my episode consumption before I start believing that these people are real and they are friends of mine.

I've been jotting down quotes from the show. There are too many good lines and quotes for me to keep up with. The writing on this show is brilliant. But here are just a few quotes that resonate with me. I won't go into why. And I don't remember which seasons they belong to:

The only thing you ever had to do to make me happy was to come home at the end of the day. - Jed Bartlet speaking to his middle daughter.

I don't always know the right thing to do, Lord, but I think the fact that I want to please you pleases you. - Leo quoting a monk. (I'm still trying to find the name of the monk)

The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels tonight. - Jed Bartlet speaking to a crowd about a pipe bomb that killed some college kids.

This guy's walking down the street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep he can't get out. A doctor passes by and the guy shouts up, 'Hey you. Can you help me out?' The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a priest comes along and the guy shouts up, 'Father, I'm down in this hole can you help me out?' The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a friend walks by, 'Hey, Joe, it's me can you help me out?' And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, 'Are you stupid? Now we're both down here.' The friend says, 'Yeah, but I've been down here before and I know the way out.' - Leo

I can't believe I have taken a break from watching Season 4 long enough to blog this much.

They'd better cancel this show soon. I show no signs of weakening my efforts to watch less of it. And someone may have to jump down in this hole with me and show me the way out and back to reality.


Thursday, December 15, 2005

My hair has looked really, really good lately.
I just need everyone to know that, and to be on board with it.

It's just really good hair.

I offer no apologies for it.

And in fact, I flaunt it.


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Dollar Store Delight
This is a new song I'm singing in my head right now, to the tune of Afternoon Delight.

Another secret of mine is that I love Dollar Stores. Not in the sense that I love to visit them often. But, on occasion great fun can be had at the expense of a Dollar Store.

A minor expense, that is. After all, everything is only one dollar.

I went to one such Dollar Store today. You know what I'm talking about. Those strip shopping center stores that boast that nothing in the store is priced over one dollar.

The beauty of the store I found today, though, is that everything was 99 cents! Ha! Not even a dollar! So great!

My goal was to locate and purchase my white elephant gift for my office party on Friday. I knew what I wanted and I knew a Dollar Store would have just what I needed. Even better that I found a 99 Cent store. I was saving money already, and my goal was to spend only about a dollar on the gift.


Of course, I can't just buy one thing at the Dollar Store. I always walk out with my hands full of several items. I don't really want to, but I can't help but look around. You can actually find namebrand stuff in there for one dollar. And the non-namerand stuff is just too funny not to look at.

And it's random stuff, which is the beauty of it. It's stuff you don't realize you could use until you see it there for only 99 cents. How could you NOT buy it?

Today, after spending 10 minutes in the 99 Cent store, I walked out with:
1. My genius white elephant gift.
2. A bag of disposable latex gloves that I use when I paint stuff.
3. A plastic drop cloth, which I also use when painting stuff.
4. A gift bag for my while elephant gift.

I only spent $3.73 for these four fabulous items (the gift bags were two for 99 cents and I only got one!).

It was truly an afternoon of Dollar Store Delight.


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Letter to the Local Phone Company
Dear Local Phone Company (you know who you are),
Every time I have to deal with you, I am sad. And mad. And frustrated.

I don't even have local phone service anymore, but unfortunately my church does. And therefore I am still forced to deal with you. On behalf of the church, and Jesus.

You send me a postcard telling me our savings plan will no longer exist. You offer that there is a new savings plan available. But you tell me you cannot automatically switch us to the new plan, and we must call within 30 days to make the switch. Otherwise we will lose all discount plans and our monthly service will cost more.

Why, then, can you take services and discounts away without our approval, but you cannot switch us to a new and comparable plan without our approval? You can increase the cost of our phone service without asking us, but you cannot help us save money on our phone service without our permission. This is jacked up.

I call and you are not helpful. I do not have our account number with me, and therefore you are rendered completely useless. I can refer only to the postcard you sent me that tells me simply to call you and you can easily and swiftly tell me of the new plan and make the switch for me. For a moment, I believe you.

You take down our phone number, my name, our church's name. You can verify these details of the account. Yet you put me on hold to see if you can access our account, and when you come back you say you cannot. You say I need three more digits added to the phone number that make up our account number. You say you cannot do anything for me until I have these three digits to access the account.

This is inefficient. This is frustrating. This is stupid.

I say I will call back later when I have the digits. When I do call later, your automated service tells me you are closed until tomorrow.

It is nearing the end of the 30 days, yet I cannot get cooperation from you. You are closed when I am available to call you. When I call and finally get a customer service agent who is actually available, I am told I do not have enough info to be rewarded with the help I long for.

If I cannot get you on the phone and able to access the account, our simple phone service will automatically become more expensive. I think this is your evil plan.

Local Phone Company, you taunt me. And I dislike you. Very much.


Monday, December 12, 2005

50,000 blog hits today
Not that all 50,000 of those hits were today.

But, it's kinda cool.


Sunday, December 11, 2005

Do you have goo on your leg?
The above is the Quote of the Day, courtesy of Phoebe #4/5.

I won't be able to walk tomorrow. I made it through my 5 miles this morning and I am super tired and already in pain. But I am proud of Team Phoebe and Friends today, finishing another White Rock Relay Marathon run for the third year in a row.

Once again, the Phoebes rose early in the cold, ran our respective legs, and finished with what may be our best time yet at 4 hours and 9 minutes.

Special props go out to two new additions to the team, Pheobe #1's dad and sister. They ran strong, had fabulous shirts to go with ours, and they made the day a success. Plus, we all scored lots more free stuff than usual, including:

1. Sweatbands (or snotbands, as they tend to function for me as I run)
2. A Texas flag on a stick
3. Minty fresh chapstick
4. A cup
5. Marathon Finisher t-shirts, even though none of us ran the entire marathon. They forced the shirts on the Phoebes who crossed the finish line, and really, it is rude to refuse a gift. Right?

I would also like to extend special props to Babs who DID actually earn the Marathon Finisher t-shirt. She unexpectedly ran the whole marathon and did it in an impressive amount of time.

Again I ask myself why I do this to myself. I don't run. I don't like to get up early. I hate being cold.

But then I remember that it's super fun and the Phoebes are awesome. And I will be there again next year.

Especially if there is more free chapstick.


Saturday, December 10, 2005

Even though I should be sleeping...
... because I have to get up early tomorrow and run 5 miles with Team Phoebe, I don't think I will sleep until I get some thoughts on the blog here.

Tonight was the annual Christmas party for my church community. We do this cool thing where we exchange gifts, but not White Elephant silly gifts. We pick something that has been meaningful to us throughout the year and we share the story of why it was meaningful when someone opens the gift. The first year we did it, I dreaded it and thought it was a dumb idea. But I quickly realized it's a really cool thing.

Every year, I never really feel like I say what I intended to say about the thing I bring. I get nervous. I'm not much for sharing in a group. I'd rather share here on the blog. But I love to participate in our Christmas activity. So I'm going to blog what I hope I said tonight, and a few extra thoughts.

I have to say, for the year I've had I'm in a surprisingly good mood for the time of year that it is. These past few years of Christmases have not been fun for me. I miss my sister a lot this time of year. And as different people come and go out of my life and participate in knowing me enough to share that space with me, it gets tough every year to not have those people who for whatever reason, aren't sharing it with me now. I feel really alone at Christmas. It's grief on top of missing my supporters who help me through it.

But, for whatever reason, I'm in a much better spirit this year. I'm not all decoratey, loving the holidays. But I'm not dreading getting out of bed every morning, either.

This was my fourth Christmas party with Journey. It's always a big success, a lot of fun, and a lot of really great things are shared at these parties. It's a great way to get to know each other.

What I've thought about this year is how the group changes each year, and especially how much it has changed since last year. I don't know, maybe it's part of my feeling old lately. But historically I don't stick to things for very long. I think my four years in college was the longest consecutive amount of time I ever spent doing one thing. So it's pretty cool for me to have found a church and a group of people that I want to stick with year after year. It's a special group and a special place.

I look at the group each year at the Christmas party, and I see my year with each of person. It's nice to have everyone in the same room. But it's sad to think of the people who aren't there anymore, who have moved on to other things. It's a full room, but it still feels a little incomplete.

This particular party feeds into my habit of looking back and thinking through things. I struggle sometimes with moving forward. Especially when I don't understand things. I re-examine. I wonder "what if". I wonder why. I hold on. Some of the people are all the same in the room, but things are very different. I sometimes don't like the way they are different. I miss the way things were, but I'm also glad for the growth experienced in how things change.

What I brought tonight for my gift was the LiveStrong wristband I wore for the 4 or so months I trained earlier this year for the disastrous 100 mile bike ride back in May.

I've hung on to this particular wristband for a few simple reasons. None of which have anything to do with fighting cancer (although I totally support that) or with my unhealthy obsession with Lance Armstrong and Sheryl Crow.

One, it symbolized all of the hardwork I put into training. It was a daily reminder for me to get my miles in, to eat right, to sleep well, to get up early and ride. It was a tangible representation of the goal I set for myself. When the band was on (and it pretty much never left my wrist for about 4 months), I was in training. And I really had to put myself "in training" in order to keep myself focused. Plus, being "in training" is fun to say at parties.

I also passed several bands out to friends and my parents to force them to support me in my efforts and to be on my bandwagon. Boy J hates jewelry but he wore his band for me. My friends were kind enough to humor me and wear the bands when I was around. I struggle with asking people for help, or for support. But the wristband was a way for me to bring people into my world into what I was doing and let them share in it with me. I think I was really surprised at the support I received.

And strangely, even after the ride, I came to see the band as a symbol of something good, even though the day of the ride was a complete disaster. I took the band off that day, but I kept it in my car where I could still see it everyday. It could easily have been something I never wanted to see again, because it was a tangible representation of another failed attempt at a 100 mile ride. But I found that more than that, it represented all of the people who supported me during my training, and during the day of the ride.

When I looked at it, I kept seeing everyone who asked how my training was going, or who was excited for me that I was working towards such a big goal. I kept seeing all of the people who encouraged me to keep to my diet, to get on my bike when I was tired. I saw the people who even joined in on my healthy eating habits with me. I saw my co-workers who made posters for me, and a ribbon to wear on my jersey to carry their support with me as I rode.

I saw the people who met me for dinner the night before the ride. I needed to carb-load, and some friends joined me for pancakes and pre-ride keeping my nerves calm and encouragement.

I saw the friends who met me halfway the day of the ride. They sat waiting for me much longer than when I told them I would probably be there. It took me longer to get there because my shoe had broken and I couldn't pedal very well. But they were there when I got there, and they waited with me at the rest stop while the SAG wagon man came to help me as best he could. They cheered me on as I left the rest stop, 45 minutes behind my goal.

I saw the two SAG guys who kept driving by every few miles to check on me. Each time they came up with something in their toolbox to help with whatever else had broken on my bike. They were so patient with me. They kept asking me if I wanted them to give me a ride to the finish line, and they encouraged me when I said I wasn't ready to quit.

I saw the guy in the Closer Car at the end of the ride. His job is to clear the course of riders when the allotted time to finish has passed. But instead of hurrying me home, he drove along side me, the last rider, to keep the traffic away, and he talked to me through the window of his car. He told me I was doing well. Encouragement, even though I was the very last rider on the course and it was long past time for him to get to go home.

I saw Friends A and C and Boy J sitting in the last car in the parking lot as I came across the Finish line, even though I had called them at least four times and told them to go home. They still waited for me. And they cheered when I got there.

That yellow wristband was a reminder to me, since that day, that people are good. I hung onto that band for so long and kept it out where I could see it because I have needed that reminder a whole lot this year. I needed to remember that people in my life are good, even when it's hard to see that.

I need to hold onto the good, because sometimes it's clouded by what hasn't been good. And that is not what I want to dictate my year, or my relationships, year after year. It is so easy for me to become bitter when I get hurt. But what I want for myself today, and going forward is to not let the hurt take away from the good. I've been blessed a lot this year by a lot of good from a lot of people. I don't want to lose sight of that or for those things to get lost in what hasn't been good.

So I wanted to pass that on tonight to someone else. Not that I don't need the reminder anymore that people are good. Because I do need it, everyday. Especially this time of year.

But I wanted someone else to have it so that I could tell people that people are good, and that people have been good to me. And it's best to focus on that when the rest doesn't make sense.


Bad movies
Last night I was in the mood to make fun of something on DVD. So, Boy J and I rented War of the Worlds.

I've heard a range of comments on this movie, from "terrible" to "scary" to "Katie Holmes is an idiot." And I really had no desire to see the movie in theaters or for any reason other than to make fun of it on DVD.

While in Bangkok earlier this year, Friend C and I were bombarded with an onslaught of War of the Worlds promotion. It was painted all over the concrete steps to everywhere we walked. Literally. Giant "billboards" were all over the ground everywhere we walked. From everything we saw during our time in Bangkok, War of the Worlds was the only movie coming to Thailand this year, and everyone needed to see it the day it opened.

I don't like Tom Cruise. I don't like Dakota Fanning. Anything named after a Dakota is just no good in my book. Why do we even have Dakotas? We should give them to Canada.

But, I digress.

There is no point to belaboring the point of how bad of a movie War of the Worlds is. But I will say this:

Germs? Seriously? The next time we get attacked by aliens, we'll just send out a kid with a cold to sneeze on them? That's not a war of the worlds. That's just idiots flinging boogers until the last booger finally kills someone.

Lameness that is absolutely literally out of this world.

And yet, ever-so-worthy of Make Fun of Something on DVD Night.

Thank you, Tom and Dakota.


Wednesday, December 07, 2005

My office has an Inclement Weather policy, which basically means that when the weather is inclement, we have the option of coming in late or going home early due to unsafe conditions out-of-doors.

Inclement has become a word that I like to use as often as possible because it's pretty much just silly, no one really knows what it means, and it's just a fancy way of saying "bad weather." defines "inclement" as:
1. Stormy: inclement weather.
2. Showing no clemency; unmerciful.

See? Even the dictionary just says what it is. Bad weather.

But really, for me today "inclement" means this:
1. The opportunity to leave work early and gain some extra daytime hours to watch more episodes of Season Two of The West Wing.
2. Part of my brilliant strategy to not work a full week's worth of work for any week during the month of December.

Last week I took a personal day. I can't tell you why. It's personal. (I love that joke)
This week I get an inclement weather part-of-day, and if all goes well it will be inclement again tomorrow.
Next week will be tough to skip out on any work. I don't have any planned time off or available random time off. I will have to get creative.
The week after next, I get another personal day and then Christmas holiday begins.


And . . . inclement.


Monday, December 05, 2005

The New Coolest Thing in my House
is THIS.

WARNING: Following is a fabulous photo essay of really terrible photos taken with my camera phone.

Yesterday, I spent most of my day making this new most coolest thing in my house. And by "making", I mean taking this . . .

. . . and doing lots of stuff to it to make it look nice.

It is a window taken from my uncle's house. I didn't take it. He gave it to me, along with two pieces of stained glass to go in it. The window is probably more than 50 years old, and I'd suspect quite a bit older than that. But I really don't know.

I scraped and sanded lead-based paint off of the frame. Then I removed two very old panes of glass - all while wearing this . . .

. . . to protect my lungs from lead-based paint dust. And, because it's sexy. I mean, really. How hot is THAT??

Plus I wore these handy blue doctory gloves that I acquired while my dad was in the hospital for his hip surgery (Thanks, Dad!)

Unfortunately, while trying to remove the very old panes of glass, they broke. There was sharp glass. And, there was one fatality.

But not to worry, I only lost the finger of the glove. My own finger was fine. And, I had more gloves. Purple this time.

I sanded. I painted. I put in two panes of stained glass. I glazed the glass. And in the end, it made this . . .

And I have deemed it the coolest thing in my house. It hangs above my couch. It is awesome.

Additional information about this adventure is that I once again amazed myself at my own "make it up as I go along" handy woman skills. I love feeling like I've inherited these traits from my Papaw and my dad, and my uncle who gave me the window frame. My Papaw had a woodworking shop. He made all kinds of stuff.

And being a huge nerd, I am now dangerously close to getting a work bench for my garage, since I keep doing these types of projects and my current work "bench" is the cold cement floor of my garage. I don't really so much build things, but I paint furniture. And I apparently now make window frames. It's a fun hobby.

The soundtrack for the adventure was (gmama will likely be the only one to appreciate this) Amy Grant: The Collection. I proudly and loudly played The Grant in the garage, singing at the top of my lungs and dancing while I worked. Laugh if you must. But, it was cold yesterday in the garage, so something had to keep me moving. And there's nothing quite like 80s Christian music. Amy and I made a beautiful piece of art that has not fallen apart, and has not fallen of off my wall.


Total cost to the Tyrant for this "new" piece of art: about $11. And, the satisfaction of making it myself and restoring something old to a new place of appreciation in a home.

It was the best Sunday ever.


Sunday, December 04, 2005

The best days ever
The best days ever are days that I can take off from work when no one else has the day off.

This rarely happens.

But it just so happens that I have a couple of personal days that I have to use before the end of the year, and I took one of them on Friday.

It's better than a holiday. When it's a holiday, everyone else is everywhere I want to be. This makes everything crowded. Things are closed. I enjoy holidays off from work, of course. But they aren't quite as restful as just a random day off.

And unexpected, absolutely pointless three-day weekend is the best weekend in the world. I'm actually somewhat rested and feeling ready to go to work tomorrow. I really don't understand that feeling.

Give me a day off when the rest of the world is still working, and it is pretty fabulous. It's like I own the town. I can run errands in the middle of the day and places are not crowded. The world is at work while I am at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.

I can watch bad daytime TV and I'm not even sick. I usually only get to watch Dawson's Creek when I'm home sick. It takes on whole new meaning when I can watch it in good health.

I can sit around in my pjs until noon knowing that everyone I usually see on a Friday is at my office working really hard. Even if I get a few calls from work, I'm still in my pjs. And I haven't showered, yet I'm talking to clients and co-workers.

I expected calls on Friday. But I got zero calls.

It was fabulous.

As was Bed, Bath, and Beyond.


Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The most frustrating 32 minutes spent in Target... EVER
I went to Target during lunch. I needed three things. If I have more than three things on my list, I have to actually write them down. Otherwise, I will forget all of the things.

The things for today were:
Trash can
Slippers that I saw were on sale in the paper

A new trashcan was the main goal of the trip. But I spent way too long looking at trashcans. First, I was disappointed by the selection. I mean, sure. It serves only the purpose of holding my trash. But, I use it everyday. It's out in the kitchen where people can see it. It needs to look nice and be functional. The trashcan that broke this week is a can I've had for more than two years. I liked it.

The only color they had today was white. Or a weird off-white. My current broken trashcan is a nice shade of blue. And I couldn't find the right lid to go with the right can. I finally found two that matched, but I wasn't loving it. Still, I picked it up and moved on to the next item on my list that I didn't write down.



I found the Bandaid aisle, but could not find the Bandaids I like. Flexible fabric, clear, sport, sheer, plastic, antibiotic, cartoon characters. Why are there so many kinds of Bandaids? When I finally found the variety pack of the right Bandaid texture (flexible fabric, if you must know) all of the boxes were smashed in, and I think a few Bandaids were missing from each box I picked up.

Why? Why do people do these things?

I finally settled on a box of Sport Bandaids. I just want the Bandaids to stay on me. I hate when they come off. The box promised the Sport Bandaids would stay. I will hold the box to this promise.

Then, on to the next item, trashcan and Bandaids in tow.

Uhhhhh...... slippers!

Never found them. And I needed to go back to work since I had spent way too much of my lunch staring at trashcans.

Then I decided I didn't like the trashcan after all. So I hauled it back to where I found it. I can't afford to purchase a trashcan I'm not going to like in a week, because then I will be stuck dealing with it for the next two years until it breaks. I would harbor resentment towards the can. We both deserve better than that.

So after 15 minutes in Target, all I had to show for it was a box of Bandaids. I decided I could use the Express lane to get try and get out of there quickly and back to my office.

Why? Because it is supposed to be "express" for a reason. Quick. Fast. Not slow.

There were three people in front of me in the Express lane. After I'd stood there for a couple of minutes without moving up in the line, I wandered over to check out some other lanes. But none of them offered a better option. So I went back to the "express" lane. Which still hadn't moved.

Then I figured out what was happening. The cashier was a trainee.

Now, I ask you. What is the logic of training someone at the Express lane? Do they have any possibility of being fast if they have no idea what they are doing? Trust me, I know. I was a cashier at a grocery store, and at Wal-Mart (yes Wal-Mart) in highschool. The Express lane is for the fast, efficient, and accurate cashiers. I was there a lot. I know these things.

But, this lady looked like she was having a hell-riffic day, so I tried to tell myself to be calm and chipper and give her a break. It was all I could do to hold onto that simple request of myself.

The girl two people in front of me asked for a gift receipt for three of the four items she purchased. This was a request that sent Express Cashier into a panic. She had no idea how to do that, or if it was even possible to separate the items on the ticket so that some could get a gift receipt and some would not get a gift receipt. I don't know why the girl could not have just asked for gift receipts, and then stopped talking. If she didn't need all of the gift receipts, throw them away. Don't freak out the trainee and waste everyone's time.

Meanwhile, the line is getting longer behind me, and there is still another girl in front of me. Express Cashier rings up all of this girl's purchases, then she grabs my box of Bandaids off of the conveyor belt and tries to add my Bandaids to the girl's purchases. The cashier hadn't sent down the separator thingy, and even though I had been holding on to the Bandaids so they wouldn't get mixed in with this other girl's stuff, she managed to try and mix it in anyway.

Then the girl puts her credit card in the credit card thingy, does all that is required of her to make the credit card thingy work, and then the cashier didn't understand how the girl was going to pay for her stuff. For some reason she kept asking the girl to outline the box.

Outline the box?

I decided I would use cash for my purchase. Of Bandaids.

I had now been standing in line for about 10 minutes, or what seemed like 108 days. Finally, it was my turn.

She took the box of Bandaids again, looked at me and asked, "Is this all you're getting?" And then stared at me as though I should have many more things that I would like for her to attempt to ring up for me, and she (as well as me) couldn't believe I had waited all this time for this one box of Bandaids. I wonder if she thought I was having a Bandaid emergency of some sort.

Of course, if I was having an emergency, I would have bled out by now. Waiting in line. Forever. To purchase Bandaids to cover my wounds.

"Yes, that's all."

I realized I came to Target for three things, stood in the Express lane for much longer than "express" would lead me to believe, and all I got was this lousy box of Bandaids.

I gave her a $20 bill, she hit some buttons on the cash register, the screen read that she owed me $0.00 change, and then she almost started to freak out again.

No, I did not purchase a $20 box of Bandaids.

I did the math in my head (she owed me $17.51) but didn't want to tell her for fear of embarrassing her. The guy helping to "train" her told her what to do, she did it, and I was finally on my way.

Until I went through the door and SET OFF THE ALARM.

You have GOT to be kidding me. THEY ARE BANDAIDS! Worth all of $2.49 that I paid cash for!

I walked back in (setting off the alarm again) and waited to be confronted by security of some sort. I stood there. Patiently.

No one came.

Really? Security? Alarm? Anyone hear this thing other than me? I could be really dangerous! You don't know! I could have stolen a TV! Right here! In my pocket! Please make me try to outrun you! Anyone??

I stood there for a minute looking and feeling really stupid as people passed me on their way out the door, staring at me. I gave up. I walked back out, setting off the alarm again.

No one came after me.

I made it home with the Bandaids.

They'd better stick.


Monday, November 28, 2005

I glued my fingers together

I think I was perhaps born for the sole purpose of entertaining people by being stupid, which I do every few minutes, all day, without ceasing.

One of my mom's favorite stories of me is the time I tried to glue the bottom back onto my sandal using Super Glue. I propped the sandal pieces apart, squirted way too much glue in between the pieces, then held the pieces together. Not only did I successfully glue the sandal back together and therefore save myself from having to purchase new sandals (I was in highschool and quite poor), but I also glued my fingers together. Completely together.

I would have gotten out of that mess a lot easier and quicker if my mom could have stopped laughing at me long enough to help me.

Tonight the lid on my trashcan broke. It is spring action. When you push the button on top, the lid pops up. Tonight, it did not pop. I picked it up and a spring flew off. Turns out the tiny piece of plastic that holds the spring onto the lid broke.

I decided I could totally fix that with some Super Glue.

Did I not learn my lesson all those years ago???

I got the glue. I squirted it. I held the piece in place. It stuck!

And so did my fingers. To each other.

Not nearly as severely as the last time I glued them together. They came apart easily enough. But many hours later I still have glue on my fingers. It's not "super" for no reason, I'll tell you that.

Anyway, I let the glue set on the trashcan. I put the pieces back together. And, the trashcan broke again. All that glue on my fingers for nothing.

It did serve one purpose. I touched my really hot oven rack (on accident) and I didn't burn myself. The glue formed a shield against the heat and danger.

I don't really recommend going that route. An oven mitt would probably be easier.

But, I glued my fingers together tonight.



PS: Looks like it's time for a trip to Target for a new trashcan.

I have never read this book. I have never seen this movie.

But, I am determined to figure out what the big deal is about.

I started the book about three weeks ago. I am determined to finish it.


992 pages to go.

If the book doesn't kill or bore me to death, maybe then I will attempt to sit through the entire movie.


Sunday, November 27, 2005

Free Jesus, a butter churn, and a window frame
What do these three things have in common? Thanksgiving.

My Thanksgiving was good. Of course, it wasn't quite the same as tacos in Costa Rica last year with Friend A. But, I'm glad to say my Thanksgiving was good this year. I spent it with my family. And, with almost all of my good friends, including the Small One who was home from NYC for a visit.

I drove myself the six hours to my Mamaw's house on Thanksgiving day. I have my issues with road trips, but truth be told, I enjoy this drive. It holds memories.

I've made the trip so many times, I no longer need a map. I just go. I know where to stop for food and gas, and where NOT to stop for food and gas. I know where the good Slurpees are, and where all the state troopers are. I know the speed limits for every small town between Monroe and Vidalia, and that being the white girl in a fancy black Jeep with Texas plates, I will absolutely get a ticket if I am caught in any of those small towns going one mile over the posted speed limit. Those cops are just waiting for drivers like me.

My favorite stretch of road is right after Bossier City passing Barksdale Airforce Base. It's an ugly stretch of road, and nothing special. But, I remember many family roadtrips past the base. We would always stare out the window hoping to see something cool and Air Force-y fly overhead. We rarely saw anything.

But, during one trip on our way home my parents spotted something flying over the trees. We pulled the car over and got out to stare at the top of the trees. And, this was the moment I learned the the Stealth bomber is not stealthy because it is quiet. A HUGE Stealth bomber came roaring over the trees, flying directly over our heads. It was a cool moment. And it was the last road trip we took as a family before my sister died. It was just a few years ago. That stretch of road is special. I still look for Air Force-y thing flying overhead.

I watch the road, too.

These six hours on the road alone are much needed solace and control of the volume around me before arriving to two days of nonstop loud. I sometimes wonder if my sister wasn't right when she used to tell me I was adopted. I still wonder how I fit in to all the chatty, outgoing, friendly people in my family. I love to be there, and I love each of them. But I am quiet, withdrawn, and it is usually all I can do to focus quietly on the room when my family gathers. I'm easily overwhelmed by all the activity and conversation.

It's amazing to me how families work. The differences - personalities, and all - yet there we are sharing special occasions and loving each other anyway. We find common ground.

This year there were just 7 of us, but no less than 37 conversations going on at the same time. As usual. The TV is always on, but only slightly loud enough to be heard for anyone who might be paying attention to it and can manage to decipher what is going on over the loud choir of voices and conversations. I'm pretty sure more stories were told to me than I actually heard, but not for a lack of trying to catch everything going on around me.

We even had a visit from my uncle, who technically speaking, is no longer actually my uncle since he is no longer married to my mother's sister. But, for most of my life he was my uncle. He still keeps in touch with my mom and my Mamaw, and truthfully, we like him better now. We love his new wife. They are family. They came by for Thanksgiving.

It was familiar. It was tiring. It was good.

Friday, my mom, my Mamaw, and I went shopping, starting with antique stores in the downtown section of Natchez. Downtown is mostly made up of abandoned buildings, some of which are starting to be rebuilt and refurbished. My mom or my Mamaw can remember what most of the buildings used to look like and what they were used for. "Antique Row" now consists of a few antique stores, most of which were closed for the holiday. I love wandering in this old part of town. Louisiana and Mississippi in and of themselves are like stepping back into time. But these old parts of a very historical city are fascinating to me.

I love antique shopping. I love old stuff. Old stuff has meaning and stories, even if I don't know what those stories are. In one store, I found some old window frames. For as long as I've lived in my house, I've been searching for the perfect thing to hang over my couch. I've never been able to settle on anything. I've looked a few times for old window frames that I could clean up and hang as something unique. I found some in this shop, likely from a local building that was torn down.

But my Mamaw told me that my uncle probably had something similar at his house. He collects things. Everything. You never know what you might find there. I decided not to buy a frame in a store. I'd see what he had, and I could come back to the store if he didn't have what I was looking for.

In another section of the store, I found a camouflage Bible. This I found to be extremely interesting. It was old, but not antique. First, do we want to hide Jesus? Camouflage Him? I think not. Second, I opened the cover to see how much it cost, and it said "free". I checked several other books and they were marked 25 cents. But the Bible did appear to be marked free.

I had to have this free, camouflage Bible.

But, I didn't want to leave the store with the only free piece of merchandise in the place. That felt a little weird to me. So, I bought an old metal maple syrup container. I thought it might make a nice trash can in my spare bedroom. I purchased the trash can, and I got Jesus for free. Seemed right.

Later, back at my Mamaw's house, she told me she wanted me to take her butter churn. She's had the butter churn for as long as I can remember. It was her mother's churn, and her mother actually used to use it to churn butter. My sister and I used to use it as a toy of some sort. I don't really recall how we played with a butter churn. But I do remember it was in my grandparents' old house (the one next door to where my Mamaw lives now), and the churn sat next to the desk which held the ceramic frog where my Papaw kept pennies and butterscotches. (How's that for a weird sentence?)

I imagine I played with the butter churn because it was close to the pennies and the butterscotches. It's all a kid really wants - candy and coins.

Now, the churn has come home with me. I won't churn butter. But it has stories and memories, and it is old and cool. And, it looks great in my house.

As we ate dinner Friday night, my Mamaw asked my uncle if he had any window frames and that I would be interested in them if he did. He did. My uncle is great in that he will do just about anything for anyone, anytime. He asked me how big the frame needed to be. I showed him some very exact arm-length measurements. He said to come over in the morning and he would get some out for me to look at. Which meant he would have the perfect frame picked out for me by the time I got there the next day.

We showed up at his house the next morning, and even though he was in the middle of chopping up a giant tree in his front yard that had been struck by lightning, he stopped to frame shop with me. He did already have the perfect frame picked out, much better than any of the frames I saw in the shop the day before. It had four window panes, complete with glass in the windows, and looked to be the perfect size.

Then, he offered me some stained glass that he just happened to have on hand. He showed me sheets and sheets of glass in a variety of colors. I picked two blue pieces. He cut them for me to fit two of the panes, wrapped them, stuck the whole thing in my car for me, and when I offered to pay him for the glass he said it was my Christmas present.

This thing I have been looking for to fit over my couch for nigh on two years? My uncle just happened to have it in his house. The window frame came from the bathroom window in his own, very old house when he redid the windows. So, now his window will sit in my house. It's old, and it has a story.

I came home with a few other Christmas gifts from my Mamaw. But the best ones were the free ones.

Free Jesus.
Free butter churn.
Free window frame.
Free time with friends and family.

A Happy Thanksgiving.

I am thankful.


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Only in Texas...
... can it be November 23rd, 80 degrees outside, sunny, and you see an Ice Cream Truck wandering the neighborhood.

Stay warm and have a Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!


Monday, November 21, 2005

This is what I've done tonight

Friend SJ, if I end up wanting to take over the government or run for president after a few more episodes, I blame you.


Sunday, November 20, 2005

Salsa on Maraccas
Last Sunday, I had lunch with the Phoebes.

This is not a photo of the Phoebes at lunch. It is a photo of our phinish last year.

Two years ago, Team Phoebe was birthed for the five of us to run the relay race of the White Rock Marathon. We ran it again last year, which qualifies it as a tradition. We named ourselves after Phoebe of Friends, who is our inspiration for running, due to the episode when she and Rachel run crazy in Central Park.

Phoebe #1 is pretty much a professional runner. She is super phast.

Phoebe #2 is also a runner. She runs the hills.

Phoebe #3 is me. I do not run. Except for this one day a year with the Phoebes. I am what is known as "the weak link", and my motivation for completing my 5 miles is that there is usually a Krispy Kreme donut waiting for me when I am done.

Phoebe #4 is also a runner, and she makes up for the time we lose during my leg of "running" (and by "running" what I do is basically wheezing, walking, wandering, and sometimes crying).

Phoebe #5 is our marathoner, and she phinishes strong for Team Phoebe each year.

This year, the Phoebes were in danger of not running. Phoebe #2 just had her tonsils taken out (which if you ask me, should make her run phaster because she is carrying less tonsil weight). Phoebe #3 hasn't exercised since the Great Bike Catastrophe back in May. Phoebe #1 is running with her dad and sister. And Phoebes 4 and 5 could run circles around all of us no matter what.

So, we decided we needed a Phoebe lunch to take the place of running.

However, somehow amidst salsa on maraccas and catching up on the lives of the Phoebes, it was determined that phour of the phive Phoebes will be running after all. We will join Phoebe #1 and her family. Phoebe #2 will be there to cheer us on. Phoebes 4 and 5 will split a leg of the relay. And somehow, Phoebe Me will take on my usual phive miles.

For the third year in a row, Team Phoebe will run.

Run, Phoebes, run.


Saturday, November 19, 2005

Genius.... EXPLOSION
My new favorite infomercial is the 70s Music Explosion CD set, featuring everyone's favorite 70s icon, Greg Brady.

The genius of this infomercical is severalfold, and deep on many levels:

1. It's not just a CD "collection", it's an explosion.
I mean, sure. It puts all of your favorite 70s music in one convenient 10 CD package. But as if that wasn't great enough on its own, they've gone and labelled it as an explosion, which takes it to a whole new level of excitement.

Think about it. What if everyday items and activities became known as explosions? Wouldn't they be more fun and exciting?

By itself, hours of billing paperwork at your average, everyday deskjob, are currently known as Greenbars. But call them Greenbar Explosion? Now paperwork is fun!!

Running errands during lunch? Boring. Errand Explosion? Awesome!

Going to the dentist? Painful and scary. Dental Explosion? Super fun!

Sitting in miles of a traffic jam? Frustrating and stupid. But a Traffic Jam Explosion? Ok, maybe not fun. Possibly a little dangerous. But still, far more exciting than just a plain, ordinary traffic jam.

In any case, more things should be named explosion. This blog entry? Not just a boring blog post. It's a Blogging Explosion.

2. There were ZERO pretty people in the 70s.
Seriously. The infomercials shows clips of each person or group singing the songs in this explosion. NONE of them are good-looking. Where did all the prettyness go? How on earth did ugly people get to become rock stars?

Case in Point:

Lobo singing I'd Love You to Want Me = not pretty (and he actually got his start in a band called The Uglies)

Dobie Gray singing Drift Away = not pretty

Jim Croce singing Bad, Bad Leroy Brown = not pretty

Bread singing Baby I'm-A Want You = not pretty

I think I've made my point. Not that each of these singing sensations weren't pure genius in their artistic-ness, and not to slight them as human beings completely worthy of explosion status. But, they just aren't pretty.

3. These songs are just GENIUS!!
Song titles to be found in this CD explosion:

(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty
(Hey, Won't You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song
Escape (The Pina Colada Song)
Billy, Don't Be A Hero
Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves
Disco Duck
Have You Never Been Mellow
(You're) Having My Baby
Indian Reservation (The Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian)

Plus 108 other songs that I've never heard of, but can certainly make fun of.

In conclusion, I am sold on this 70s Music Explosion. It's a must have. I would like someone to buy this for me for Christmas. If Greg Brady likes it, I will certainly love it.

The Explosion is available for six easy payments of $19.95.

C.T. Explosion

Monday, November 14, 2005

No Ma'am
There has been a recent overabundance of young people calling me "ma'am".

It happened today as I picked up a beverage from the QuikTrip during lunch.

"Will that be all, ma'am?"

It been happening a lot lately. I don't like it. I am too young to be a ma'am.

I am still young people. So why are all the other young people calling me "ma'am"?

I have two more months until I am 30 years old. Maybe 30 is the age you become a ma'am. I don't know. Frankly, I hope it's not.

But for the love, I ask at least until then...



Sunday, November 13, 2005

Love Languages
The Tyrant is about to ramble about her feelings. Check it.

So, today I finished reading The Five Love Languages.

I've been fighting reading this book because even though I am very much interested in books that will tell me how to fix my life, this one just seems like the next Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, which I have, but never read. I never jumped on that formulaic approach to solving relationship problems bandwagon. I can't stand that gimmicky, touchy-feely crap.

But, my personal commitment to books is that when people give me or loan me a book, I will read it even if I don't particularly want to read it. They are giving it to me for a reason, and they are thoughtful enough to think of me. So, I will usually read what you give me.

For example, Friend A told me once about a book that she thought might be good for me to read (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius), and my response to her was that if I happened to stumble upon the book and it happened to fall open and I happened to glance at the page, I would maybe read some of it. I didn't want to read it, but I didn't want to discourage her attempts to be nice to me and all up in my business.

She didn't take my hint, and instead she bought the book for me and wrote a note in it to the affect of hoping it would fall open and I would glance at a few pages. She's a sneaky little bugger sometimes, and she knew how to play me. About 10 months later, I finally finished it. She was right. It was good for me to read.

So, Boy J brought over his copy of The Five Love Languages, "just in case" I might want to read it sometime. He went through how it's an easy read, and he doesn't care if he gets it back, yada yada.

Another sneaky little bugger.

Anyway, it took me far less time to read this one than Staggering Genius. And now I can't stop thinking about it. I get from most people who have read it that it's a good book, some people even feel like it's a life changing book.

I didn't really get that. Probably mostly because I am almost 30 years old, and I will not let a paperback book that took me a week to read change 30 years of trying to figure out who I am everyday.

First, I felt guilty for all the ways I am letting down the people I love by not 1) knowing their love language, and 2) not speaking it to them. I don't do that on purpose. Apparently (as it states many times over in the book) most people don't know their love language or the love languages of the people they love until they read this book that tells them all about the love languages.

My number one beef with this book is that it reads like an infomercial, one success story after another, all coincidentally successful after reading this book. I mean, not a single example starts off with, "Hey, we read this book and we learned each other's Love Language, but now we hate each other even more and we wish we'd never read this book. I've never felt so unloved in my life!" They all read the book, learn the languages, and like magic their relationship issues are fixed and everyone lives happily ever after.

But, that's not to say that the book is without merit. I found a lot of positive things in it.

I think the key element to the book is that it teaches that relationships (dating, marriage, friendships, parents, even co-workers) take hard work to make them good. I think we all enjoy the friendships or relationships that are easy and fun. But to truly show love to people, and to let people love you, that takes work. It's time we all knew and accepted that. Stop bailing when things get hard. Work to make them good.

I also think the book does a great job of explaining the Five Love Languages, and pointing out that there are simple changes we can make to show people that we love them on a level that they understand. That's a really beautiful message. But I question whether there are only five love languages. That seems too simple to me. I'm not sure that Quality Time, Words of Affirmation, Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch sum up all there is to speaking love.

While the book states that this is not a manipulation to learn these Five Languages and speak the language that applies to each person you love in your life, I couldn't help but feel a bit manipulated. Don't get me wrong, I think it's great to learn how your husbands, girlfriends, best friends, whoever need to hear love from you. And in turn, let them love you the way you need to be loved. But the book makes it sound like if you learn these languages and learn how to speak them so that others hear them from you, there is no way a relationship can fail.

I think the book is about compromise, which I'm totally in favor of. I think it's about getting to know the people in our lives, and learning how to love them even when it is hard for us, or isn't convenient for us. After all, loving someone isn't really about us. It's about them. It's about what we can do for them to make them understand that they are loved. And maybe my issues with the book's presentation of the idea of Love Languages are moot points since my issues here are not "others" focused.

I am certainly glad I read the book. I love learning how to love people, because it is something I struggle with. Not actually loving people, but showing them that I love them, especially in ways that they need to hear it. I definitely need a lot of help in the area of relationships.

But, I can't pass off the book without some skepticism. I think I need to spend some more time with it. I'm very confused about one thing in particular.

I took the Discover Your Love Language test at the back of the book. As I read the book, none of the Five Languages stood out to me as my language.

Gifts? While I do enjoy gifts and I love when people buy me things, gifts are not that important to me. Consequently, I have a hard time buying gifts for others. I never know what to get, and I will agonize over what should be the perfect gift.

Words of Affirmation? Sure, I like to hear that I've done a good job, or that you love me, or that I'm hot. Some days, I really need just one person to say "I love you". And I absolutely need it. Many days it seems like I'm hearing only about the things I've done wrong, or the mistakes that show, and no one is telling me that I did 108 things well despite the one thing that went wrong that day. I do enjoy words of affirmation, but I wouldn't say it's my #1 language.

Acts of Service? Sure, it's nice when someone does something for me. I had a surprise lawn mowing several months back from some friends who saw that I could use the help. It was fabulous! But for the most part, I do things myself. I have to work really hard to let people love me by doing things for me. However, I'm pretty good at showing love through Acts of Service. I love doing stuff for people.

Physical Touch? This intrigues me. I love to be hugged. It speaks louder than words to me for someone close to me to hug me, especially when I need a hug, and even more so when I don't know I need a hug. But, I rarely ask for hugs. I feel like I'm begging for love to ask for a hug. But if someone hugs me without a prompt from me? Solid gold, baby. I'm also terrible at giving hugs. I am the queen of awkward hugs. I like to be touched. And I like to hug. But, I have to remind myself of that.

Quality Time? Interesting. I'm a hardcore introvert. 'Nuff said.

So, I took the quiz. If I'm going to make myself read this book, I for sure better get a love language out of it by the time I'm done with it. The max score for any language is 12, meaning that is your primary love language, the way you best receive love. I scored one 12 in ....

Quality Time.

Well.... that's interesting. Especially lately being in a phase of needing some serious alone time. And knowing that I pretty much invented introvert-itis. Which basically speaks to people as "go away."

But, as weird as it may sound, I think the book may be right about me. And that's the main thing I can't stop thinking about. A friend once told me that where you spend your time is what is valuable to you. I think there is a good deal of truth in that. At one time that was a truth of great peace for me. Lately, not so much.

Even being an introvert, I love when people spend time with me. Or better yet, when they let me spend time with them. I've had to learn that through (you guessed it) spending time with people who pretty much put themselves in my life and showed me what it's like to be with people.

I especially love one-on-one time because it means I get you all to myself for just a little while, and that was your priority for that time in your day. For a variety of reasons, I've been short on one-on-one time with people I love lately. I'm really missing it.

But the struggle I have with it is that I need alone time. Sometimes serious amounts of alone time. But I don't think I prefer that, is what I think I'm figuring out. Like, I want to be able to choose people, every time, given the choice of time with people or time at home alone. True, I value the time alone. I rest and regroup. And that makes me want to spend time with people. But the alone time counteracts my need to be loved through quality time.

And that, dear people, is why being an introvert is really hard sometimes. It's an inner conflict, all the time. I may want to be with you, but I can't. I may need you to spend time with me, but I can't. And when I'm feeling up for people, and I need you around, but you can't be around, it's a small window of opportunity for me to get that love that I need through Quality Time. And I think that feeds my feeling of being unloved sometimes. I'm working against myself.

So what do you do when you are an introvert who needs to be loved through quality time? And, what do you do when you are an introvert and the people in your life need you to love them through quality time?

I'm hoping the next book is What to do When you Can't Speak you own Love Language, and When You Can't Let People Love you With Your Own Love Language. I'm sure it wasn't included in the first book so that we would have to buy another book for the rest of the answers.

It's another informercial for another day.


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Um, wha???
Another entry in the never regular "Um, wha????" series of things that make no sense.

I love this stuff.

My last Atmos energy bill was genius. Not having anything to do with the amount of the bill. But the bill itself was pure genius.

It usually comes in a small envelope, approximately 8-1/8 size envelope. (side note: I work with mail everyday. Not at the Post Office. But these are the unfortunate details that are in my brain. I can tell you the size of envelope just by looking at it.)

Anyway, last month my bill came in a regular #10 envelope, on regular 8-1/2 x 11 paper. All standard size. It was different than usual.

As I looked at the bill, I noticed that Atmos was very proud of their new bill format. It said this under "Important Messages":

PLEASE NOTICE that you gas bill has a new look and format. Our goal is to present you with a bill that is easy to understand.

Wow, that is really nice of Atmos. I do enjoy easy-to-understand things in a clear format. Thank you, Atmos.

The "important message" went on to say this:

The revised bill includes your new Atmos Energy 19-digit account number. You will need this new account number when paying a bill, making a service request, or registering for our online....

Um, wha????

Did you just say... 19-DIGIT account number?

Sure enough, what used to be a simple 10-digit account number was now a 19-DIGIT account number. With FOUR hyphens in this number, ALL in random places. And not only is it MORE numbers than it was before, with MORE hyphens, Atmos has just told me to use it any time I try to pay my bill, or contact Atmos.

In addition to the account number, they have also now assigned me a CUSTOMER number, which is different than the account number. This is a 7-digit number located above the 19-digit number on my bill, in LARGE BOLD TYPE, with ZERO hyphens in the number. The 19-digit number is in much smaller type, without BOLD typeface, conveniently located underneath the customer number, my name, and my address, and directly above the meter number and the billing date.

So not only does my account number have more numbers in it, I now have an additional number connected to me in some way, listed on my bill, but it is NOT the number I am to use when doing anything regarding my bill or account. I have to use the hard-to-find, much longer, hyphenated number. There are actually no instructions regarding this new mystery Customer number anywhere on the bill. It's just there.

Why, pray tell, add another completely useless number?

I picture this scenario the next time I have to write out my account number on my check:

(not my actual account #)
62-934620187- (crap. scratch out the last three numbers) 620-430931 (crap again. scratch out the last two numbers) 26-0

I picture this scenario the next time I have to call Atmos for service:

Helpful Atmos Person: Can I have your address, for account verification?
Me: 123 My Street
HAP: And can I have the last 4 digits of your social security number?
Me: Four Numbers
HAP: And can I have your mother's maiden name?
Me: Yermom
HAP: And now can I have your 19-digit account number?
Me: zero, zero,four,two
HAP: No, not your Customer number. I need your ACCOUNT number. The longer number. With the hyphens.
Me: Where is that?
HAP: It's above the meter serial number on the top right corner of your bill.
Me: one,seven,dash,two,eight,eight,six,four,four,dash,zero,niner...
HAP: I'm sorry, did I hear a "niner" in there?
Me: Yes. niner,five,four,two,two,two,one,three,dash,three,four
HAP: Wait, what came after the ninth number?
Me: Niner
HAP: No, after that.
Me: Five
HAP: How many twos after four?
Me: What?
HAP: Let's start over. I don't think I got all 19 numbers.

Do we really think adding MORE numbers to anyone's account number is going to make anyone's life easier? I'm sure their data entry people are loving this as much as I am. Yes, let's INCREASE the probability of typing in incorrect numbers by adding more numbers, when billing is involved.

I can't even FIT 19 numbers on that little memo line on my check.

I just love that they explained how easy this new bill is for me to understand.

I don't understand.

And to this new bill I say.... um, wha???


Sunday, November 06, 2005

My latest discovery... that I can't watch Extreme Home Makeover for more than 10.8 seconds without crying.

Every time.

Change the channel to something else. Change it back.

10.8 seconds... and.... crying.

Every time.

I never watch it because I'm usually not home, and because I just can't handle it.

It's just too much.


How can it be well?
I haven't really wanted to blog about Kyle Lake. I don't have a strong personal connection to him or what happened, other than being close to several people affected by it, and belonging to a church community that is closely connected to Kyle's. I've read El Mol's blog, and loved it. It was great to hear from someone who knew Kyle so deeply. I read Winston's thoughts on it. I read Eric's thoughts, and probably relate more closely to his thoughts. I read Kerri's thoughts, and related more to her first post than her second post.

It's hard when these sudden unexplained, tragic deaths occur to not be reminded of all the other deaths that have touched me. I see similarities in the situation, and I think that's why I've thought about it so much. I easily obsess about death because it makes no sense to me, and it scares me. A lot. How are we full of purpose and meaning and breath one minute, then out of breath, unable to feel, touch, hear, speak, the next? Just, nothing. Done. I can't picture it. I can't picture not being able to feel, think, respond.

I can't help but think that even after I die, I will still have tremendous guilt for everyone left having to take care of everything I left behind. Dirty laundry, dirty dishes, bills to pay, things to cancel and finalize. I forget what a blessing it was to go through my sister's things after she died, just as she'd left them that morning, not knowing she wouldn't be back. Since then I've been wary of the condition I leave my house when I leave for the day. You have no privacy once you're gone.

But, I digress.

I didn't really know Kyle. I knew of him, and have spoken briefly with him a few times. But still, I was shaken by his death, and I have some scattered thoughts about it. I don't intend any of this to be wisdom or answers, or to presume any special closeness to the situation other than that it has made me think. It's just what I've thought about this week. My heart goes out to everyone who knew Kyle and is affected by his death.

I wasn't able to go to his funeral. But, Thursday I listened to the recording of it. At work. Not the ideal place for that, but I found it strangely comforting while I worked.

It was great to hear everyone speak about Kyle. It's amazing to me that people can pull themselves together so soon after such an unexpected death and talk about the one who has suddenly left us. It's the last thing anyone expected to be doing on Tuesday.

I love the stories everyone shared, and I loved that most of them were funny. It's so appropriate at a funeral to remember the fun times, and the humor.

But what I clung to most while listening to Kyle's service was Crowder singing It is Well with my Soul. We sang it at Journey last Sunday, too. I grew up with this hymn. I think anyone who has spent any amount of time in a traditional church is familiar with it. It's a beautiful hymn.

But I don't think I ever noticed it until I heard it at my Papaw's funeral almost 7 years ago.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It made me angry. No, it was most certainly not well with my soul to bury my grandfather. Six months later, it was definitely not well with my soul to bury my sister.

Now, listening to Crowder sing it for Kyle's service, is it well with the souls of everyone who really knew Kyle and called him a friend? His wife? His kids?

The thing is, I find great peace in this hymn now. It's one of my favorites. I don't think that it being "well" with my soul is about understanding why these things happen. I've tried to make sense of these things, and nothing about it makes sense to me. But I think the key is in the last verse:

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

We don't need it to make sense now for it to be well. And I think "well" will mean different things for different people. It means different things for me on different days, depending on how I'm dealing with any one particular thing. But it will make sense in the end, and that is something we can hold on to to make it well with our souls now. It's about faith and hope.

And yes, that is hard to think about and believe in when you are in the middle of what sucks and hurts the most. And sometimes even after time has passed. It is hard to grieve with hope.

I was told once that when we finish our work here on earth, it's time to go home. As though that's how God decides who is ready to go, and when. I'm not sure how much I believe that, or how much truth that holds. It sounds like someone's human attempt to make a simple explanation out of something that we will never understand until God sits down with us one day and spells out his logic for taking the people we love before we are ready for them to go.

But, I was struck by the words that Kyle wrote for his last sermon, that he never had a chance to give. They were spoken at his service, and posted on the UBC website. Not that his work was finished, but I wonder if he had any idea how profound these words would be. These are just a few of the words posted on the site that stuck out to me:

Get knee-deep in a novel and LOSE track of time.
If you bike, pedal HARD… and if you crash then crash well.
Feel the SATISFACTION of a job well done—a paper well-written, a project thoroughly completed, a play well-performed. . . .

If you’ve recently experienced loss, then GRIEVE. And Grieve well.
At the table with friends and family, LAUGH. If you’re eating and laughing at the same time, then might as well laugh until you puke. And if you eat, then SMELL. The aromas are not impediments to your day. Steak on the grill, coffee beans freshly ground, cookies in the oven. And TASTE. Taste every ounce of flavor. Taste every ounce of friendship. Taste every ounce of Life. Because-it-is-most-definitely-a-Gift.

- Kyle Lake

I don't know why we lost Kyle, or why in such a way as we lost him. But I know it will impact a lot of people, and somehow God uses that. I don't know why He does, and I don't know how He will. But I know it has me thinking again. It's made me angry. It just seems wrong to take someone so young. It seems wrong to leave a family in that way, it seems wrong to take such a close friend and brother to so many. It seems wrong to make Kyle a sudden news story, all over the country, not because of anything he did that day, but because of the way he died that day. And it seems so wrong to take someone while he was doing what God called him to do, in the very act.

But, somewhere there is meaning. A whole lot of people are thinking about Kyle and the life he lead, the example he set, the lives he touched, and why. But, I think it's fair to say that we'd rather do that with him still here. My heart is broken for those who will miss him everyday, every single day, beginning a week ago. They are left to grieve him and to do their best to carry on what he lived out so passionately everyday.

I don't know why we lost my sister, either. So young, in such a tragic way. I've been consumed with that thought again this past week like I haven't been in quite awhile. We kinda figured she'd be famous one day. She was just that type of person who lit up a room, Baylor student, loved everyone she came in contact with, funny, giving all of her stuff away to anyone who needed it more than she did. One day here and bringing life and love to those around her, then later that day all over the news because of the car accident that killed her. Not exactly the fame we figured for her.

There's more to her story, though, than her last day. Some of the last words she wrote in her journal, her last morning, were to God- "I want to see you." Maybe that sentence signifies that she had done all she could do here. I don't know. But, I do know that her last day wasn't the end of her story.

I hope we learn more from Kyle than just his last day. From everything I've been reading and hearing this past week, he had a lifetime of testimony (to use a straight-up Baptist term) that we can all learn from and carry on as we carry on.

That is well with my soul.

My prayers continue for everyone who loves and misses Kyle. Grieve well.


When did this happen?
Once upon a time, I could sleep til noon on a Saturday, spend the entire day watching bad TV in my pjs, then go to bed after a long day of absolutely nothing, and feel good about it. Something has happened and I've lost my ability to relax.

One of Friend A's goals used to be to make me more like her in the planning/busyness realm, and one of my goals was always to get her to relax more. Embrace nothing. I was good at not feeling like I needed to be doing something all the time, and she is good at making the most efficient use of her time to always be doing something. Almost like opposite ends of a relaxing/doing-too-much spectrum.

One day last year, I challenged Friend A in a lesson on doing nothing. We spent an entire Saturday in our pjs, nothing on the agenda, doing basically nothing. The rule was nothing productive could be done, and we couldn't make plans. We literally just sat in her apartment, doing stuff as we thought of it, and otherwise doing nothing. I told her she could make me leave at any time, but I wanted her to take a break from always having to do "something" and spend a day in my world where doing nothing comes easy, and is perfectly ok sometimes. She took it on and never asked me to leave.

We watched bad TV and movies. We played a game. There was napping involved. We left the apartment only to get food. Best part? We didn't even shower all day. It was truly a day of nothing.

Beyond the best part? We didn't plan it. Which was the beauty of it. We just both happened to not have to be anywhere or do anything that day. The opportunity presented itself.

It was a good day. For me. I think it drove her nuts.

Fast forward to now, and I've somehow turned into the activity-driven, must-always-be-doing-something person I've never really wanted to become. I think there is a balance somewhere, but I seem to have surpassed it and gone to the other extreme.

This weekend I decided to make it a "vacation" weekend. I've had too much going on lately. Full schedule, everyday, all day. For my own sanity, I decided I needed to remember what I was like when I could stop going 108 miles an hour and just chill for a bit.

I blocked off the weekend, made no plans, forced myself to have nothing important to do. It's been really hard. I'm surprised that it's so hard for me. Not that I was a lazy person. I could just turn on the "relax" mode with ease, and feel okay about having a day with nothing productive.

I've long since forgotten how to sleep in. My internal clock has me awake before 8am even on the weekends. Yesterday I was awake by 8am, so I decided to go ahead and get up. I made coffee. I sat in my chair. These are two of my favorite things that I still do on weekends, even when I've got too much to do. My main rule for this weekend is not to do any household chores. Do nothing that needs to be done. No errands. Just rest.

But even when I have TOLD myself to chill, these are the thoughts I wake up with:

I need to wash my sheets.
I need to vacuum.
I need to dust.
The yard needs to be watered.
I don't have any food. I need to go to the grocery store.
I still haven't mailed those souvenirs from Vietnam to my Mamaw. I can do that today.
What else can I do on the way to and from the Post Office?
I should probably finish getting my yard ready for cold weather.

It's like when I suddenly have some free time, I can't help but try to fill it with the things I haven't yet had time to do. I used to have no problem just sitting and being ok with nothing. Now, I can't sit still on the couch to watch a movie without pausing it to go get clothes out of the dryer.

I did give myself one project for the weekend, knowing I would not make it without something to do. I decided it was the perfect opportunity to paint the thing that my TV sits on. It's turned into a major project, but it is something I find relaxing. I painted almost all day yesterday, and I've finished it this morning. Now I wait for it to dry.

Of course, to do this I had to move everything off of it (TV, stereo, pictures, DVD player, etc.). Then I decided I needed to vacuum where it sits, since I haven't vacuumed underneath it in two years. I dusted everything that was sitting on it. And my living room is now a mess and all misplaced, waiting for the dry piece of furniture to go back where it belongs. I'll have quite a bit of cleanup and putting things back together later this evening.

I find all of this unsettling, to have everything so out of place. My TV is sitting on my dining table, which is in my living room for now. It just doesn't belong there.

But other than that, I am sticking to doing no work this weekend. I have laundry to put away. I need to vacuum the whole house, and dust, and do a million other things.

But, most importantly I need to remember that it's okay not to be productive 24 hours a day.

I slept til 9:30 this morning.


Saturday, November 05, 2005

I took the plunge
Well, I bought it, really.

It was another one of those things that every homeowner fears, and one of those things that no skinny white girl is ever proud of doing. We like to believe that we are not capable of such things.

I stopped up my toilet this week.

My first thought whenever anything goes wrong in my house is that it is the first sign that my entire house is probably about to implode, and that it is going to cost more money than I have to fix it. A simple toilet clog means that all of my pipes are about to fail, and blow up, and I am about 10 seconds away from another Money Pit moment.

Of course, then I stop being an idiot and I try to think of the practical, simple, cheap solution to the problem.

First, this happened on a weekday morning when I am trying to rush out the door to work. Nothing overflowed. The silly toilet just wouldn't flush, um, everything.

I am alone in my house, no one knows what is going on, and I am completely embarrassed that I have clogged up my toilet.

So, I pretty much have to leave it alone and go to work, after trying to flush it 108 times. I decide I am going to have to buy a plunger on my way home from work. I've lived here two years and I have never owned a plunger. I am pretty sure having to actually use a plumger might cause me to be violently ill.

Seriously, is there anything more gross than having to retrieve stuff that should already have gone down a toilet? I'm disgusted even writing that sentence.

But, I am a homeowner. I must take care of these things. If I must plunge, then plunge I will.

On my way home, I make an emergency stop into Walmart for a plunger. I figure I should be able to purchase a cheap plunger for about two dollars. But, I find that Walmart apparently only stocks fancy plungers that cost eight dollars. I'm thinking of those ugly red plungers on a wooden stick that seriously can't be worth more than 50 cents since it is created for the sole purpose of being in toilets. But all I find is a fancy white plunger that comes with a handy carrying case. When you twist the plunger around, it is hidden. So it looks like just a white stick sticking up from a white plastic bottom holder.

I guess it's for those people who would think to use the plunger as both a toilet fixing device AND a decoration.

Anyway, I get home with my fancy eight dollar plunger. I go to the toilet to see either what horrible thing awaits me after sitting there in a state of clog all day, or (I hope) to find that it has magically healed itself.

I try one last attempt to flush the toilet.

It totally flushes with no problem. Everything. Flushed.

So, what. It was like, tired this morning? Needed to rest all day? Sure, it's an old toilet. But it still has the one single important job of flushing everything that, um, goes in it. So that I don't ever have to admit to having stopped up a toilet.

I am a girl. We do not stop up toilets.

So now I have a brand-new, fancy plunger that I didn't use. I don't figure you can return a plunger to a store. How do you convince them that you didn't use it?

I might as well keep it. Someone may really clog my toilet someday, and I should be prepared to let them use my fancy plunger to un-stop it.


Sunday, October 30, 2005

The strangest things
I don't remember when I first noticed it. But since my sister has been gone, I've noticed that we have the same hands.

No, I did not steal this from that scene in Beaches.

I looked at my hands a lot today, just staring at them in light of some sad news. We try to comprehend things that don't make sense. We want to do something, and we do these things with our hands. But sometimes we can only stare at our hands, hoping they know what to do even though we don't know.

Hands are weird to look at. Mine aren't especially nice. My fingers are too long and skinny. Bony. My knuckles are big and ugly, from early arthritis and years of playing piano. My skin is dry especially now that the weather is cooler and dryer, and because I always forget to lotion them until I notice that they hurt from dry skin.

I remember my sister's hands being in much better shape than mine are now. I don't take particularly good care of my hands. Sometimes I'm pretty sure my hands have aged a lot faster than I have. They seem like old lady hands.

My sister's hands used to bug me. When she'd hold her hand out flat, palm up, her pinky and ring finger would never quite get flat, curving back a bit. I never knew that I'd noticed that, or that it annoyed me, until I noticed one day after she was gone that my hands do the same thing when I first hold them out flat. It's not annoying anymore.

It's comforting. Not so cheesy as to say it's like she's holding my hand, but more like her hand is in mine. It's familiar.

It's a little piece of her that is still here with me. Like my hair that is somehow now wavy like hers used to be, even though my hair never used to be wavy. Or her clothes that I still have and wear sometimes, mixed into my wardrobe, but that never seem to wear out or wear thin even though many of my own clothes only make it one or two seasons before wearing out to the point of un-wearable.

It's a reminder that those we love and lose are never really that far away, and they will one day be close again.

Sometimes I think of the strangest things at the strangest times. Today I noticed again that our hands are the same.


Saturday, October 29, 2005

Family is as family does
I'm almost finished reading Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver. I've enjoyed it.

In my church and circle of friends, we talk a lot about family, in terms of who is our family. We are kind of a mismatched, damaged, healing, strangely accepting and sometimes optimistic group of people who come from a variety of families and church backgrounds. I consider many of them family outside of my blood-related family.

But we all have different ideas of who and what is family for us.

Towards the end of Pigs in Heaven, I read a few paragraphs about family that I found interesting. The whole book is the story of individuals in a blood-related family who are struggling to find where they belong. The story is an interesting weave of the family they are born with, mixed with the family they pick up along their way in life.

The characters are not important to finding something in this section of the book:

"When the social worker asked Turtle about her family today, you know what she said? She said she didn't have one."

"That's not right! She was confused."

"Yeah, she's confused, because I'm confused. I
think of Jax and Lou Ann and Dwayne Ray, and of course you, and Mattie, my boss at the tire store, all those people as my family. But when you never put a name on things, you're just accepting that it's okay for people to leave when they feel like it."

"They leave anyway," Alice says. "My husbands went like houses on fire."

"But you don't have to
accept it," Taylor insists. "That's what your family is, the people you won't let go of for anything."

I don't have any brilliant commentary on this. But the idea of not accepting when people leave as a determining factor in who we consider family, I found this interesting. And kind of beautiful.

I haven't quite made it to the end of the book to see how that whole family thing works out for everyone in the book, but I do so like things that make me think. I thought I would pause for a moment and share about it.

I will probably have more thoughts on this later.


Seven Simple Rules
Admittedly, I am terrible at friendships and relationships. It's hard to understand how people are supposed to function together when I don't even understand people on their own most of the time.

Humans are quite baffling, in that we change. We change our minds. We change our feelings. We change our surroundings. Just when you think you are learning someone, things change. We find it hard to adapt to what changes.

But I like to think I have a few things going for me when it comes to friendships and relationships. I long for good ones. I will work hard at the good ones. I'm loyal. Once I consider you a friend, you might have a hard time unconvincing me of that. Listening, is another. I'm not a talker, which tends to make me a good listener. As cynical as I tend to be, I actually do care about people deep down.

And, I'm dependable. I will not quit or flake out on you. I'm like Chandler. Chandler's always there for you. He may show up a little late, but he'll get there eventually.

Sometimes I forget all of that, and I suck when it comes to friends. I get selfish, which pretty much ruins all of the good things I had to offer before I succumbed to all things selfish. But generally, I think I've got some of the bases covered in a world of people that make no sense.

I try to keep it simple. I don't require much from my friends. But here are the basics of what I try to stick to, all of equal importance:

1. Always be honest with me.
I don't want to be friends with who you aren't. I want to be friends with who you are. Even if it's not who I thought you were.

2. Laugh at me.
We have nothing in common if you don't find me funny.

3. Make me laugh.
Sometimes I need you to be the entertainer. And, I heal best when I am laughing most.

4. If I'm being an idiot, tell me.
Or maybe I should say "when" I'm being an idiot. Because I will be. In like, 10 minutes.

5. If you are being an idiot, let me tell you.
If you can call me on my crap, I get to call you on yours. And I love you enough to tell you before someone else points it out to everyone else.

6. Let me borrow your stuff, and dress me.
I have the fashion sense of a toothpick, all of your clothes are cooler than mine, and all of your stuff is better than mine.

7. Otherwise, be there for me when it matters.
I need you on the other end of the phone when I am brave enough to call. Stick up for me when no one else does. Or, see Rule #4.

Seems simple, right? I think if it was that easy, people wouldn't leave. The friends we thought were our best friends once upon a time would still be our best friends now.

Or maybe all we should really expect is #2 and #6, and the rest is too much to ask.