Thursday, July 31, 2008

Finished (I-pod) - Water for Elephants

Wow. Good. I was nervous about the potential for animal cruelty because that's a really hard thing for me to hear about, and it was present, but it was handled in a way that didn't make me want to quit reading. That was a good thing, because this was a well-written, lovely story.

You never know who you are meeting

One of the things I inherited from my Daddy is my ability to talk to anybody, in pretty much any situation. So sometimes I do, and sometimes I hit paydirt.

I want to know people's lives. Their story. Their history. How'd they get here? What do they do? What do they read? What have they seen? Basically, I am nosy. But more than that, I'm interested in what people have experienced and what I can learn from that.

Well, BOY did I strike it rich during our vacation in St. Croix.

After arriving @ Cottages we soon met our "vacation neighbors" Enrique and Totty. I met Enrique swimming out in the water. He told me about the pieces of Delft pottery that wash up on the beach. (see related posts). Later he schooled me on the history of Cottages; the owners, the managers, it's somewhat tawdry past - very interesting. He told me a little about himself and his wife - that they are originally from Cuba, but fled Castro and have been in Pennsylvania since 1960. They come to Cottages every summer for 3 months, and have for 20 years. (I told Jason and I wanted to BE one of the people that went somewhere every summer for 20 years. I just think that familiarity and history with a place is so cool.)

Anyway this conversation already had my interest very piqued. The "fleeing Castro" thing seems so mysterious and secretive. But I wasn't quite sure how I was going to approach grilling this man for more info.

Later in the week, Totty invited us to Enrique's 81st birthday party. In attendance were Enrique, Totty, their granddaughter, Paul, the manager of Cottages and his parents, who are the owners of Cottages, a couple from Germany, and a few other guests. It was an eclectic group and conversation was flowing. At one point Enrique asked what I did for a living I think, and I said I was an auditor for the government, and that seemed to really start the conversation in the direction I wanted to go.

In the three and half hours of the party, that point of commonality (we were both auditors/ accountants for the government) led to stories about how Enrique played baseball against Castro in college and later they attended law school together and were part of a revolutionary group trying to improve conditions in Cuba. How he had to flee Cuba when Bastita took over (though I wasn't sure about why that was until the next day). How he came back to Cuba when Castro took over and was Castro's first appointee, in January of 1960, to Director General of Taxation and Revenue. About how he fired something like 1100 of 1130 revenue agents in the first month he was in that job because the corruption was so blatant. How by October of 1960, he and Totty had figured out that Castro was nuts, and had to flee again. How this time, there was no way they were getting approval for "safe conduct", and they had to be smuggled out of the country with their 4 young children by the Brazilian ambassador and various other helpful people. About how they felt sitting in a boat in the harbor for hours and hours because the gov't wouldn't let the boat leave, wondering if they were going to suffer the anger of a madman. How Castro grew up on a farm, was an illegitimate child of the owner of a large sugar plantation and the cook, and the whole story about how that situation had to be worked out for Castro and his brothers to be able to go to school. About the Cuban missile crisis. About the Kennedy assassinations. About whether Barack Obama was going to be allowed by the CIA to become President. About whether or not we landed on the moon.

One of the things Enrique said made me wonder. I think I was asking him if there was ever any point that Castro actually did mean well. Did want to do what was best for the Cuban people and improve conditions there? He said yes, definitely! When they were in law school and working to change the government, that was the whole point. He said something like "I was blessed by birthright and had an obligation to the people, but Castro had a passion for change." (ok those weren't the exact words but something like that.) I wasn't sure what he meant, but Paul told me the next day that Enrique's grandfather was the 3rd President of Cuba and that they owned sugar production facilities galore. That's also why they had to escape Batista - they were an "old school" government family and Batista wasn't ok with that.

The point of this story? People have lived through, fought, and endured things that I can't even fathom. To have even a 3 hour conversation with people like this is a treasure. And thanks, Dad, for the gift of gab.

Neighborman comes home from the office

So my neighbor had his Mom bring him over today when he got home "from the office" because he thought I'd like to see the ensemble that he put together for today's crime-fighting ("My teachers let me fighted the bad robots.") My camera's battery is dead, so I took the picture on my phone which sort of sucks. Let me give you the details:

  • Camo shirt, Camo Shorts
  • Speed racer Helmet
  • Hot Wheels sunglasses
  • Bike flasher
  • Sheriff's Badge
  • Rainbow suspenders to hold up the tool belt which holds:
  • a clamp, a hammer, a little screwdriver, a screw, and a small jet plane.
  • Galoshes

The other day he was on his way to the park with his Dad. I asked him what he was going to do there? Swing? Slide? No, he says. "Play hanging games like they have at my office."

I'm hoping he's talking about some kind of jungle gym...but since the "office" seems so full of bad guys and evil robots, I can't be sure.

Thow'd off

So, for the past 16+ years I have examined credit unions for the federal government. I can say that although it may SOUND boring, it's anything but. I'm somewhere different all the time, and always faced with a different challenge. Now if you know me, you know that I can tend to be a bit....passionate? Dramatic, some would say? Over-emotional, some may add? I can't deny it. But it is one thing I really can't be at work.

I have cried 3 times at a credit union (well, due to something work-related, anyway). The first time was my first year on the job. The manager was this little old man and he was SO mean to me. I kept asking for stuff he didn't have, and he finally just started flinging papers at me and yelling. I packed my stuff up and left, and held back my tears until I got into the hallway of the building. However, he chased after me to apologize and saw me crying. Then he started crying, and told me that he had rescued a kitten and had been bottle feeding it for days and it had died the night before.

It taught me a lot. Mainly, that people's reaction to what I'm telling them or asking them many times has nothing to do with what I'm telling or asking. An important lesson for anyone, but especially for someone who is generally delivering negative news.

Time # 2 actually had nothing to do with the credit union, it had to do with the other examiners I was working with. Let's just say they were all having bad weeks (lives) and leave it at that. I ended up SOBBING in the bathroom for an hour. (OK granted, this was pre-zoloft.)

Time # 3 was this past Tuesday. The President of this credit union showed up to our meeting 2.5 hours late, told me she only had 20 minutes, I said (LITERALLY) like 5 words, and she jumped my case for 20 minutes about things that were patently untrue, in front of my supervisor, and the manager of the credit union. I maintained my composure until I was behind closed doors with my boss, but then I couldn't hold back the tears.

Whenever I start to tear up, I think of the heartfelt words of my cousin Kristi who, on my wedding day, took my hand, patted it and said "Don't really aren't a pretty cryer."

There weren't very many tears and thankfully my boss knows better since he knows what work I've done there, but still...totally embarrassing.

Anyway, it's been a shitty week. This woman is obviously "thow'd off" but her outburst sort of threw me off track too. I'm having a hard time getting my work momentum going again.

Please remember: Federal Examiners have feelings too. We are from the government, we are there to help. :)

Finished (on cassette in car) - My Sister's Keeper

I'm about 1/2 way through the book and I really like it so far. Hard to put down. However, (there's always a however) it distracts me when authors write from a child's perspective but don't change their language or rhythm at all. A 13 year old girl does not have the same vocabulary, tone, or language pattern as a 50 year old attorney.

Just saying.

FINAL THOUGHTS: WOW. Cried for 16 miles after this one.

Amazing experiences

  • Seeing Crash Worship @ Tipitina's on Halloween. Torches. Naked women painted gold. Sprinkler system activating. Naked people climbing and dancing in the trees in the neutral ground after an impromptu parade led the entire group of attendees outside @ midnight.
  • Spending the evening on a beach in the Caribbean at the 81st birthday party of the twice escaped Cuban exile Enrique Menocal, his wife Totty, their granddaughter, and various close friends and listening to their stories.
  • Dog-sledding in Colorado with my husband.
  • Hiking Hurricane Ridge in northern Washington state.
  • Riding the ferry across Puget sound.
  • Riding the ferry across Elliott Bay to Bainbridge Island and walking around and having dinner by myself at a place right on the water.
  • Attending a speech given by Timothy Leary (yes that one) which I thought was going to be about LSD but was actually about how the internet was going to change the world. This was in like 1991 or 1992 when we barely even HAD internet.
  • Going to Disney World by myself two different days while I was in Florida for work.
  • Going snorkeling in the Caribbean with my husband.
  • Hiking the Lands End/ Coastal trail starting @ Sutro Baths in San Fran. (twice - once in a trippy sort of mood) Almost fell off the continent, was miraculously saved by expensive hiking boots purchased in Seattle that were well worth the $. Lost one boot to a rogue wave while resting feet @ beach, but boot was rescued by Carl.
  • Laughing my ass off sitting on a street corner in China Town (San Fran) with Carl when I discovered that my lipstick had melted and leaked all over the inside of my purse.
  • Seeing Pearl Jam (totally sober, even) at Tad Gormley Stadium with Travis in New Orleans in like July or August right after it rained all day and was about 100 degrees with 100% humidity. Finding the perfect spot just off to the side of the mosh pit by myself with a perfect view of Eddie Veder. That frozen lemonade on the way out that was too amazing for words.
  • Marrying my husband.
  • Swinging at the park down the street from my house @ 1am one morning with Charlotte and Carl and a train came by and we snuck into the cemetery.
  • Going to Memphis to see Green Day @ the Antenna Club.
  • Any day spent walking around a city by myself with a MapEasy map (New York, D.C., Seattle, San Fran, New Orleans, Denver)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Crazy things

Be sure to check out the most recent "crazy things I've heard" items on the list blog. They are sure to make you chuckle.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Things I don't like

When people staple things without straightening the papers first
Temporary twisted wire paper fastening devices
Really cold fruit
Fake blue coloring in the water in fountains
Touching unfinished wood products such as chopsticks
Hearing people bite their fingernails.
Hearing people chew
Wood-encased carbon-based erasable writing utensils
Mopping floors
When people choose to take a job or a responsibility and then are lazy about it
Listening to somebody shake cups of ice
When "PEOPLE" put CD's in the wrong CD case.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

In progress (non-fiction) - making wire and bead jewelry

Whatever I can check out of the library, plus I bought 1 guide book and a beading magazine. I'm trying to figure out what to do with the things I found while snorkeling in St. Croix.

No picture of the dog because she's terrified of the flash

But this cracks me up - my parents' dog picks out the pieces she wants to eat first and spits the other pieces on the floor. She will eventually eat them, but only as a last resort.
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My Daddy's sense of humor

One of the vignettes on Dad's model railroad.


When I got to McComb yesterday my Mom and Kristi had already gone shopping and bought CUTE matching flip-flops, so Kristi and I dashed to the mall @ 8:40pm to get me a pair too!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Things I hope to find this weekend - updated

I had hoped to find these things the weekend of June 6 while I was in Boulder, CO.

Father's day present for Dad - didn't find anything cool. Ended up getting music and books later.
Thank-you gifts for R&N H. and Grandma & Grandpa - didn't find anything cool. Thinking now about making pop-up cards/ art.
A new purse - didn't find anything. Still using the $14 purse I bought on clearance @ Kmart.
Chain/ strap/ something to put on my phone and keys so I'll quit losing them in my purse - didn't find anything usable. Thinking now about making something.
Earrings - Didn't find anything. Found some on St. Croix I want but haven't convinced myself to spend the $ yet.
Cool art - I did see some neat art, but nothing I was really motivated to purchase or attempt to try myself.
Serenity - Found a bit, mainly on the drive back when I pulled over to look out over a beautiful view of a farm.
Inspiration - Not really. Found some on St. Croix, though.

Annie B Freeman's Fabulous Traveling Funeral

The idea of this book is great. Woman dies, and afterwards her best girl-friends (most of whom don't know each other) receive packages in the mail. Annie has planned a trip for them (purchased plane tickets, rented cars, reserved hotel rooms, etc.). She wants them to go together and scatter her ashes is several different places around the country.

The writing is, well, distracting. There is virtually no character development. Oh, we hear the "facts" of each person's life, but that's about where it ends.

I can't imagine I'd ever read anything else by this writer. The shallowness of the story that could have been really fantastic has left too bad a taste in my mouth.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Date with my cousin

Every year right around my birthday, DCI (Drum Corps Int'l) holds one of their preliminary "summer games" here in Louisiana. It's always a great birthday present to myself. I idolized the kids in these corps when I was in high school and college, you know, being the bank geek that I am.

Luckily for me my cousin Kristi was a band geek too. We twirled rifle together all through high school. She's one of the few people in my "circle" that can really appreciate this sort of thing like I do.

Double lucky for me, this year the competition was in Lafayette, which is where Kristi has settled after tiring of her jet-setting lifestyle dancing in New York and LA. So, I twisted her arm to go with me. OK, I didn't have to twist TOO hard :)

It was awesome. Our seats were on the 50 yard line 8 rows up, and there wasn't anybody crammed right on top of us. We got to see 10 corps, some new, some old, some that I drooled over in high school and college (The Cadets for example). Some quick highlights from each, in order of appearance: (Not too much because you'll be able to youtube them soon I'm sure.)

Teal Sound - Pretty colors, percussion has some cool instruments like a fabric turban.
Boston Crusaders - Quads! Quints! NICE throws with the rifle! Doppler effect with horns. Guardwork was Sick.
Blue Coats - Cool 2 sided flags. Awesome sound. They sing in one part! Cool sound effects. Complex Marching.
Carolina Crown - LOVED this show. Beige uniforms look awesome. Sound awesome. Guard awesome. Percussion awesome. Kristi and I both loved this one best.
Cadets - Guardwork awesome as per usual, double flag throws, 6 ariels. However, I was so distracted by the lame little "play" that I didn't really GET to concentrate on the rest of the show. Apparently it was good because they won over Carolina, but only by a very small margin.
Colts - Very neat "New York" show. Great equipment for the guard. Percussion had different whistles and things that made it sound like New York traffic.
Glassmen - Thier's was a fun circus show with different guard costumes, balloons, and at one point they had some of the guard with tiger and leopard print flags and others of the guard with whips like trainers. Very cute!
Spirit - Pretty. Kristi was quite concerned that the drum major was going to fall off the podium. At one point she said "Oh look they have blue drums" and I thought she said "Oh look they all have boob jobs."
Crossmen - Fun show called "Planet X". They sounded GREAT. At one point the guard twirled giant X's.
Blue Stars - They twirled bicycle wheels! Then hung them on flags to make the guard look like they were RIDING bicycles, then they had these crazy flags with big handles @ the ends, and then the spun/threw bicycle wheels to each other. Fun!

The best part of the night was hanging out the Kristi, geeking out about the same things, and trying to make the most of her living close to me again. We already have our tickets for the cinema broadcast of the quarterfinals in August!

P.S. Does anybody do REAL rifle work anymore? We saw some great throws, but NO spinning.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Vacation schedule

Saturday: Arrived in St. Croix. Realized that one of the bathing suits I bought for the trip still had the stupid security doodad on it. Swam. Snorkeled. I drove to the grocery (on the left side of the road woohoo!) and Kmart to get another bathing suit. Drank Rum. Ate next door @ beachside cafe. Met some of the other people staying @ Cottages by the Sea. Swam until almost dark.

Sunday: Had brunch (banana rum french toast) @ Beachside Cafe. Swam. Snorkeled. Drove rental car to K-mart, car broke down on the way from there to the grocery store. Pulled off the road. Walked to gas station to call a cab. Caribbean cabbie on the phone couldn't understand my southern accent, and I couldn't understand his creole/ west indian one. I was trying to tell him "Centerline Road" but he thought I was saying "Cinnamon Road". Had to give phone to store manager so the cabbie could find us. Bought a coconut from a Rastafarian selling them in the parking lot of the gas station. He whacked it open for me with a machete so I could drink the milk with a straw, then whacked it in two so I could get at the coconut meat. Went back to Cottages w/ out going to store, but we already had PB&J and fruit so it was all good. Swam. Snorkeled. Finally found a snorkeling mask that fit my face. Began my obsession with finding pieces of Delft pottery in the sand from ballast dumped by the Danish boats in the 1800's. Met our neighbor Jackie.

Monday: Took replacement rental car (we got upgraded to an SUV for our trouble woohoo!) to the grocery. Took Jason by the tattoo shop to meet the guy (Jessie) to see if he wanted to do the tattoo. Ended up driving to Christiansted to just see what it was like, rode all around the northeast side of the island (we were staying on the far west side). Realized for sure that the people on St. Croix drive like maniacs. Cooked out on the grill w/ Jackie. Jason and Jackie had steak, I had bar-b-que tofu. It was GOOD.

Tuesday: Jason drove himself to the tattoo shop to talk to Jessie. Swam. Snorkeled. Drank Rum. Cooked out hamburgers w/ Jackie. Had the obligatory "vacation blow-up" with Jason.

Wednesday: Allowed my "Don Smith" genes to take over and drove myself all over the west side of the island down crazy little roads because they looked interesting. I meant to just go up the coast, but there was a sign that said "rainforest" and who can resist something like that? Those roads were INSANE. Windy, steep, narrow as HELL. I couldn't see the road ahead of me more than about 20 feet because they were so curvy and because there was so much foliage grown up on both sides of the road. The only "rainforest" I actually got to see was from the occasional break in the foliage because the road dropped off on one side about 100 feet down a cliff. Oh and P.S. these were two-lane roads and I also had to remember to drive on the left. The road was paved (as badly pot-holed as any other road on St. Croix), and then badly graveled, and then dirt, and then there would be the entrance to some giant estate, and then paved again, and then dirt again, and then a Rastafarian with 4 kids in the back of the truck, going hiking or broken down or who knows what. And I didn't turn around because I kept thinking "It's an island, right? How long can the road be? I'll hit beach eventually, right?". And sure enough, about 2.5 hours and 100 miles later (twisty, very twisty) BOOM I was in Christiansted again.

Didn't I take a MAP? Oh yes, I had a map (worthless). Luckily I lived in New Orleans long enough to understand that some maps SAY that roads do things they don't actually do (like CONNECT to some other road or allow you to cross a canal, for example). So, I take maps with a grain of salt. Plus I wasn't on a schedule so I was content to wing it. I am very glad that I didn't break down, though, because the breeze didn't get too far through all that foliage and it was about a million degrees out there. I still did not see ONE IGUANA despite everyone's insistence that they were running "ALL OVER THE ISLAND EVERYWHERE".

Jason and I made up. Swam. Snorkeled. Found some pottery. Attended Enrique's 81'st birthday party w/ the owners and other guests @ cottages. Kept Enrique and his wife Totty up until 11:30 pm because I couldn't stop asking questions. They have had QUITE an amazing life.

Thursday: Jackie, Jason, and I drove to Christiansted to take a boat-ride out to buck island to do some snorkeling. Beautiful. By the very end of the boat ride I was getting queasy, but I was fine once I got into the water. It was so amazing. Will post about what all we saw later. The sand at buck island was like no sand I've ever seen or felt - it was so soft - like powdered sugar or something. We got back to Cottages about 2 and I should have stayed out of the sun, but I couldn't stand it and I went snorkeling again. Ate dinner @ Blue Moon Cafe in Fredericksted. Jason ordered his pasta "Hot". We live in Louisiana. We do hot. Well, this was AS HOT AS THE DAMN SUN. They made it using some sort of west indian sauce that had scotch bonnet peppers in it. I took two tastes and I think my mouth is still burning. The food was good, though.

Friday: Jason went to get his tattoo. I dropped him off and went to the botanic garden, and then to Christiansted to do some shopping. I didn't buy anything, but I did find a bracelet, earrings, and ring that I'll be coveting for awhile. (I'll post about it later I'm sure.) Swam. Snorkeled. Ate our last dinner @ Beachside cafe.

Saturday: Swam. Snorkeled. Packed up and left for the airport around lunchtime. Had a pretty uneventful trip home. Dogs were obviously well taken care of because when we got home they were like "whatever".

Friday, July 4, 2008

Empire Falls - Done

Done. Really liked it. Would read something else by this author.

Previous posts re: Empire Falls
I am still reading this book. I brought it with me to Colorado, but I've been working until about 6:30 every night and when I get back to the hotel I basically veg out in front of the TV and play room escape games.

I'm about 1/2way through it, and I'm enjoying it. This is still my favorite quote:

"Elijah Whiting, now nearing one hundred, had not succeeded in killing his wife with the shovel, nor had he recovered from the disappointment."


Jason and I are jetting off in the morning for a week in paradise. I've been threatened with bodily harm if I attempt to get on the computer, so until Jason falls asleep on the beach and I can sneak to the internet cafe, I'll be incommunicado.

Christmas in July

It's hot as hell outside so I thought I'd post some things that would make you think of roaring firesides and wearing sweaters. Just kidding, I just found these pictures while organizing files. Link to album on right.

Digital Scrapbook moment

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Waiting room chit-chat and a big book purchase

It was a family reunion in the hospital waiting room while my Dad underwent his hip replacement surgery. My Mom, my little brother, and I were there, of course. My Dad's sister and brother-in-law drove from Slidell. My Mom's sister who lives in Jackson was there, and my Mom's brother and sister-in-law drove up from McComb. The activities director from my parent's church also came up. Despite our general nervousness, we quickly fell to a discussion in which we could all participate -


I'm blessed to come from a family of voracious readers. We compared notes, and as a result I decided to pick up 5 books that I've been meaning to read. Late last week I went on and ordered them in audio format to put on my ipod.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Just flipping through Baton Rouge's "premier" local monthly magazine...

In an article about how you should develop your own "secret family language" so strangers won't listen in on your conversations:
" My daughter and my knowledge of French is so weak that French is not a good choice for us."
Really? Is English?

Now here on page 36 is a recipe for "Watermellon slushies".

And in an article about discovering how great the magazine is:
"I may even learn where to buy that bikini I saw on the was cute and looked like one I had ions ago."
I agree, you seem to have lost some "ions"...

Which reminds me of one of my all-time favorite jokes:
A little ion walks into a bar, crying. Asks the bartender "Have you seen my electron? I think I lost it here". Bartender says "Sorry, no. Are you sure it's missing?" Little ion says "Yes! I'm positive!"

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Bionic Daddy

I have a bionic Daddy! Well, partially anyway. My Dad had a hip replacement last Monday. I spent the week in Mississippi trying to help as much as possible (without looking at anything icky - I get queasy you know). He did SO great. He was up walking on his walker the second day. We went home on Wednesday. The physical therapist that came to the house yesterday said he was doing as well as someone 10-15 days post-op! He was even sweet when Mom and I had to wake him up every 10 seconds to get him to put a pillow under his leg. He tosses and turns in his sleep like nobody's business.

Say little prayers that he continues to do well, that this will result in a significant decrease in pain and significant increase in his quality of life. Also say little prayers for my Mom. Now that he's feeling better she's the one that's going to have to try to get him do what the Dr.'s say.
This is my Dad's leg in traction. I'm sure all that know him will be SHOCKED at what's playing on the television. (Fox News)