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.