It’s an onomatopoeic day

2012.12.14.onomatopoeiaI do love a bit of onomatopoeia. But I don’t like experiencing it first-hand. Achoo!

Of course, since I’m home, snuggled under my duvet, experiencing the agony of a cold, there is a lot of onomatopoeia going on.

I’m sneezing: Achoo!

I have a runny nose: Sniff, sniff

I’m drinking soup: Slurp

I’m cat-napping: Zzzz

And I’m complaining: Grumble

But I’m sure that I’ll be better soon. And then I’ll be laughing (haha) once again.

A case for the interrobang

2012.09.24.interrobangToday is National Punctuation Day in America—a day to celebrate the amazingness of punctuation. Today also marks the start of Social Media Week—a world-wide event looking at social media’s impact on modern-day society. To that, I’ve decided to combine both celebrations into one post by making a case for a very social media-ish bit of punctuation: the interrobang. I mean, who wouldn’t want to read a post about the interrobang‽

An interrobang is a non-standard form of punctuation that combines a question mark and exclamation point all in one adorable little bundle. It was first conceived by Martin Speckter in the 1960s for use in advertisements, but it never caught on. The idea was that it could be used when asking a question in an excited manner, expressing excitement or disbelief in the form of a question, or asking a rhetorical question.

As I’m sure many users of social media—and social networking sites in particular—have seen, the use of multiple question marks and exclamation points at the end of comments and posts is standard all over the Internet. And whilst exclamation points are often overused these days (guilty!), they do help to convey a bit of emotion and meaning when communicating electronically. And when you’re trying to convey disbelief or sarcasm, sometimes it becomes necessary to use two bits of punctuation at once. Right‽

At the same time, social networking sites—specifically Twitter—limit the number of characters allowed for posts, meaning that brevity must be used. But with brevity, meaning can sometimes be lost.

When you combine the need for multiple punctuation marks to convey meaning and the need for brevity, it only makes sense to double-up on punctuation. You agree, right‽

And so, I make the case for the interrobang. I think we need to celebrate this little guy and give it the revival it deserves. We need to embrace its aesthetics. We need to revel in its ability to convey meaning and intent. And why not start today‽

To use it, you can enter the codes or you can copy-and-paste from here [ ‽ ] or your computer’s character map. Just make sure you use it!

Now, go spread the word, OK‽

New digs

Today is moving day! Which means I’m kind of busy. Which means just a short post to share a video tour of the new digs. I had meant to do that last night, since I did a walk through of the place after work yesterday, but video editing issues meant that I didn’t get around to it. Video editing issues also mean that you don’t get a tour of the master bedroom, but I figured that’s OK since that’s my personal space.

But, I have to go haul stuff down to the car now. Talk to you soon!

A step toward the future

I’m working on a big step toward a happier future. Well, I’m working on several big steps at the moment, but there’s only one that’s a certainty at this moment.

And in this bag is a little something to celebrate that step. It’s from my amazing friend, Rebecca, and I can’t wait until I get to take it out of the bag and admire it.

But what is it and when do you get to see it? Well, I can’t tell you what it is (or what the step is) but I can tell you both of those things on September 14. Deal?

In the mean time, isn’t it a pretty bag? And it’s flocked, too.

Now… back to preparing for that next big step because there are lots and lots of little steps in between now and September 14!

Found things

I like shiny things and pretty things and interesting things. And often, as I’m walking down the road, I’ll stop to pick these little things up. In fact, when I’m on an outing or holiday, I almost dedicate myself to finding something shiny or pretty or interesting. Then, when I get home, I pile them all up in a pretty container.

I began collecting little tid-bits when I arrived back in Scotland last summer and kept them neatly pilled on a dresser in my bedroom until I found a bowl that would work to hold them all.

The bowl doesn’t have much in it at the moment: A couple of marbles I’ve found when out-and-about; some sea glass from Aberdour; a shell from Seaton Carew; a couple of pebbles from my recent visit to the Highlands; and a couple other random finds.

By the time the bowl is full, I imagine I won’t remember the story behind every little pretty thing. But that’s OK because I’ll still be able to look at the overflowing contents and I’ll know that each of those things brought me a bit of joy once, and together they’ll serve as a reminder that—no matter how grumpy or sad I may be at times—I’ve led a pretty happy life, filled with moments of joy.

Each pebble, shell, marble, or random tid-bit represents a bit if joy. And it makes me happy to know that I have a bowl that is slowly filling up with more and more moments of joy; joy that was found when I didn’t even know I was looking for it.

Sing a song

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved to sing—or hum or whistle or la-de-da. Now, I’m not saying I’m any good at it, I’m just saying I love to do it. And, often, I find myself doing it without even thinking about it. Yes, I just break out into a tune. (In a very out-of-tune kind of way.)

I sing in the shower. I hum as I type. I whistle as I walk down the road. Sometimes I sing, hum, or whistle a song, other times I just make it up as I go along. (But since my new job is in an open-plan office, I need to be very careful not to break into song at my desk!)

Most people talk to themselves; I sing to myself. A song when I’m alone in my flat might go something like this:

Oh, oh, oh. I think I might be hungry.
La-de-da. I wonder what’s in the fridge.
Oh! Look at that! There are lovely, lovely grapes.
Washy-washy lovely grapes.
How I love you, lovely grapes.

I know—my lyrics leave something to be desired!

I used to sing conversations with my foster daughter, too. She quickly learned that the more she complained that I was embarrassing her, the more I’d sing! (And the louder, too!)

I sing when I run. Or at least I try.

And I sing as I walk to town. Only I’m well-aware that I might look crazy, so I am sure to peek over my shoulder every-so-often to make sure no one is within ear shot. I hum as I walk through the shops (as softly as possible) and I la-de-da or whistle in the shops, too. And most of the time, I don’t even realise I’m doing it!

Yes, I am that kind of crazy.

But I wonder if I’m alone. Do you sing/hum/whistle in public? And are you always aware that you’re doing it?

(K)impossible

This is Kim. Kim Possible, to use her full name. She began her life as a McDonald’s Happy Meal toy way back in 2003 and has been serving as my office power back-up since August 2004.

You see, in August 2004 I started working in a Downtown Seattle skyscraper—on the top floor. And my then-five-year-old nephew, Adrian, was concerned about my ability to get out of the building in the event of a power failure. Anyhow, he felt that Kim would be a useful tool for me because her jetpack lights up giving off a little red glow.

So, in his five-year-old wisdom, if the power went out and it was dark, I could use Kim’s glowing jetpack to find my way to the elevators to get downstairs. You know, because the elevators would still work in his mind. Yes, he was a very sweet kid to have given me his toy. Heck, eight years later and he’s still a very sweet kid!

Anyhow, since leaving my job in the States last year, Kim has hung out on a window sill at home, watching over me as I worked on my master’s degree. But today, she made her way to her new home on the desk at my new job. I’m sure she’ll like it there!

A poetic starter

Since I turned in my dissertation draft yesterday, I’ve decided that I am going to take a week’s holiday to rest and unwind before I have to start working on edits for the final version. So, in between now and July 31, I am on holiday! Which basically just means I’m going to go and do fun things for the next week.

And that started today with a trip to Edinburgh.

Way back in May, my cousin Rita was in Scotland as part of a tour group and we spent a day in Edinburgh together. Only two of the things on her list of ‘things to see’ weren’t open (or planted) that day. So I promised her I would return on her behalf. And I decided to start my holidays by following through with that promise!

The first stop was the Scottish Poetry Library. Rita is a librarian, and had been excited about the idea of seeing the place. I don’t know if I would have gone without her prompting, but I’m glad I did because it’s always fun (and educational!) to do new things.

If I’m completely honest, I’m not really ‘into’ poetry, but there are a few poems and poets that I like—mostly because they make me giggle. (Yes, Shel Silverstein—I’m talking about you!) So, today’s goal was to randomly(ish) find something I liked. To do that, I picked out books the piqued my interest—either by their title or typeset—then I flicked through them.

And just as I was about to give up, I tried one last book and I finally found what I was looking for! I know it’s short, but it made me smile very much, and that’s what poetry should do!

A Cat Called Slumber
by Adrian Mitchell (found in ‘Blue Coffee’, pg 63)

In the middle of the night appears
My day-shy tabby with collapsable ears
And I stroke her ears so those ears collapse
And she purrs to say that she loves me, perhaps…

After the library, I wandered over to Princes Street Gardens to have a look at the Floral Clock which was being planted when Rita was visiting. But, I’m pleased to say, it was fully planted—and fully working—when I arrived today. Apparently, the theme is London 2012.

Anyhow, it was a successful trip into the city. And the weather was fabulous which just added to the enjoyment of the day. In fact, the weather was so fabulous that I left the house without an umbrella or a jacket and didn’t regret it once! And better than that, it was so fabulous that I bought an ice cream and sat in the gardens for a spell before catching the train home. Bliss!

I wonder what the rest of my holiday week will hold …

Listening for the phone

When I was in high school, my sister (I think?*) wrote a poem that went something like this:

Lonely, all alone
by Celeste Mills*

Lonely, all alone
Listens for the phone
Listens for a call
From anyone at all
Listens for a ring
Saying anything
Lonely, all alone
Listens for the phone

Anyhow, I’m not sitting around in some desperate ‘please someone call me because I’m all alone’ kind of mood, but I am desperately wishing that my phone would ring.

In fact, for the past month I have been checking my landline to make sure that 1) it’s still working and 2) I haven’t missed a call. And I keep checking my mobile for the same reasons. And, if I’m completely honest, I may have called one from the other a couple of times just to be sure.

Yep, I’m desperate for my phone to ring. Mostly about jobs and interviews and stuff (mostly). But it’s been ever-so silent. So, here I sit. Listening for the phone. Even though I know that I’m not getting a call about a job interview on a Friday night.

* I keep forgetting to ask my sister if, in fact, it is her poem and I couldn’t get in touch with her today when I decided to write this post. And I’ve tried to search for it online to see if it belongs to someone else but can’t find it. If you know who wrote it please let me know so that I can give credit where it’s due (and so that I can apologise for this blatant act of copyright infringement).

A door to nature

Over the past few months, I have realised just how much I miss having my very own front door; a door that I can open up to the great outdoors.

You see, for most of my life I’ve lived in detached, single-family homes. Homes where external doors opened to nature—not a stair case that led you down a flight (or more!) of stairs to yet another door. For most of my life, I’ve been able to walk out my front door and sit down on the porch or in the garden and soak in the sun. I could sit there sipping my coffee in the mornings—or my cocktail in the evenings—whilst surrounded by Mother Nature’s design.

But now, I only have windows to open to nature. If I want to sit outside and enjoy my morning coffee, I have to walk down several flights of stairs. And even then, I don’t have a private garden; I’d have to sit on the front steps of my building.

It is actually a hard adjustment to make. Much harder than I would have thought. In fact, I think that not having that easy access to nature has added to my feelings of gloom at times. I mean, there is something that lifts my spirits when I’m outside and when I’m feeling low and can’t find the energy to go into town, I miss out on the fresh air nature would provide. Certainly, I don’t think that a door to nature is the cure for all that ails me, but I do think that it would help. At least a little bit.

This realisation has led me to the decision that, if I find a job and get to stay on in Scotland, I will need to find a new place to live. Somewhere with a private garden. Somewhere with a door that takes me directly to nature. Somewhere that I can sit outside and relax after a hard day’s work—or cool down after a long run. Now, I just need to find a job so that I can start looking for a new flat!

Yes, a door to nature. That’s what I want. And a job.

Toenails

I went back-and-forth about what I should post today and for a brief moment, I even thought that I might not post at all. But then I remembered that I promised I’d post more—in part to prevent myself from withdrawing from society all together. So, I’m posting about my toenails.

So, here’s the deal. I’m a runner. I’ve been a runner since I was in high school. And for years and years and years I had people tell me about how they’ve lost toenails from running too much. Apparently, it really is a problem with distance runners. But it was never a problem I had.

Until after I ran the Inaugural Homeland Half last May. Yep, a few weeks after that run, I lost a toenail—my pointer-finger equivalent on my right foot. Really. My toenail was so damaged that it lifted away and eventually fell off. It was so weird. I blamed it on the fact that I’d not trimmed my toenails prior to the run, rather than the distance I ran.

And then, I ran the Loch Ness Marathon. And after that, I noticed that the pointer-finger equivalent on my left foot was a bit loose—but unlike that first toenail, this one had a new nail growing underneath. Of course, at the time I had dark red nail polish, so didn’t also notice it was also slightly darker than normal. But when I took off the polish, I noticed that not only was that toenail dark, but my big toe on my right foot had a massive black spot on it, too.

Eventually, the nail on my left foot fell off, giving way to the new (but not yet completely formed) nail. But the big toenail on my right foot just sat there with its dark spot. And sat, and sat. Then, after a while, I noticed there was a ridge on top of the toenail which I soon filed down to even out the surface.

Now, there is a new toenail growing underneath, but the old toenail is still firmly attached. And this means that I have a dual-layer toenail on my big right toe. It seems that I have about ¼ inch of old toenail to grow out before this rectifies itself. But as my toenails tend to grow very slowly, it might not be back to normal until my next marathon. Which means, I risk going through this whole toenail trauma all over again.

And that’s basically today’s post: An overshare about the condition of my toenails because of my running insanity. I guess the good side, however, is that 1) no one but me really sees my toenails; 2) my red polish habit masks any deformities; and 3) I’m not likely to talk about this topic again.

(Admit it: Sometimes you wish you never stopped by to see what I had to share!)

Counting my chickens

A couple of weeks ago, I sat looking at my eggs. They were held in separate baskets and they looked so pretty; so promising. And, as I do, I began to count them.

Now, I am old enough—and should be wise enough—to know that I’m not really meant to count those eggs as chickens, but I still counted. I mean, I didn’t figure they’d all hatch, but I’d hoped for one successful chicken out of each basket of eggs. More than that from any one basket would have been too much to handle anyhow.

But then something happened and the eggs began to fall out of the baskets; one after the other. (OK, I tossed a few out, too, because they weren’t the sort of egg that I liked.) And before I knew it, all of my baskets were empty and I was left with nothing but a pile of broken eggs at my feet.

I’ll admit that I cried over some of those eggs like they were spilt milk. And I even considered calling in all of the king’s horses and all the king’s men to help repair one of them, but it seemed like a fruitless task. So, now I guess it’s time to grate some cheese and chop some mushrooms so that I can attempt at making an omelette with all of these broken eggs.

There’s a farmers’ market in town tomorrow. Maybe I’ll stop by and get some duck eggs since chicken eggs don’t seem to work well for me.

Memory sparks

Triboluminescence is awesome! It used to entertain me as a child and it still entertains me as an adult. Or, to translate into Plain English: It’s awesome when you crunch on a Wint-O-Green Life Savers and it makes sparks!

That sounds like a random statement, doesn’t it? So let me back up so that you know how I got here.

Several weeks ago I bought a pack of minty Polos from a vending machine. As I popped the first one into my mouth, I was instantly reminded of how we used to enjoy WoG Life Savers as children because of the sparks.

So I posted my random memory on Facebook and enjoyed the back-and-forth comments from friends who 1) always thought it was an urban myth; 2) recalled with joy making sparks of their own; or 3) asked what Life Savers were (they’re America’s answer to Polos).

And then Mom offered to send me some.

And they arrived with an Easter parcel a few weeks ago.

And tonight, I finally broke the bag open.

And I went into the bathroom and closed the door (with the lights off).

And I chomped on a Life Savers.

And I smiled. A lot.

Now the challenge will be to not eat them all so that I can share them with my friends who never had the joy of making Life Saver sparks as children. But I bet they’ll enjoy making them as grownups!

How about you? Do you remember making Life Savers sparks when you were a kid?

Blocked: How you can help!

I have loads of things I want to write about. But I can’t. Some of them need to wait until ‘the right moment’ and others need more refinement in my head. Others are just these random things that I kind of want to share but I don’t really know if they warrant sharing.

But I want to write something for you. Partly because writing makes me happy and sharing my thoughts with the ethers really is a great ego boost. (I’ve always been up front about the fact that this blog serves to boost my ego!) Of course, I also want to write something for you because I think that some of you really do want to read what I have to say. I don’t quite know why, because most of what I have to say is a bit silly. However, our relationship is that I write; you read. That’s how this thing works.

And so, I need your help! I want to know what you want me to write about in the coming days. To that, I’m soliciting your opinions and questions. This is your opportunity to ask me anything you want. (Overly personal or insulting questions may not be answered.) You can ask me to give my opinion on a specific subject or to write a list of my top [however many whatevers]. You can ask me to write a poem about your favourite [blank] or to follow up on a post from the past. You can even set a challenge for me to do and blog about.

Basically, any reasonable topic request will be granted.

So, let’s hear from you: What do you want to hear from me?

Paper bird of happiness

When I boarded the bus today, I was met by a pretty little origami crane that was perched on the seat next to me. It had been made with someone’s bus ticket and it looked very much like it was there for someone to find.

I picked it up and held it in my hand, marvelling at not only how well it was made, but at how such a silly, simple little thing could bring me so much happiness. I wanted to take it away with me but I felt that someone else might enjoy a smile, too. Then I thought that I’d take it to the library with me and leave it for someone to find there. (Even though I really wanted to keep it for myself.)

As I sat admiring the little bird, a very pregnant woman and her wee boy boarded the bus and sat behind me. The boy was in a bit of a fussy mood and his mum was trying her best to brighten his day. So I turned around and showed him the pretty bird and asked if he’d like to have it. His face beamed when his mum said that would be OK.

Of course, that meant that I was left without a bird. But, thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I was able to find instructions to make my own. Maybe I’ll practice a bit and one day I’ll be good enough to leave pretty birds behind for others to enjoy.

Whisky hearts

Normally, an empty whisky bottle means a cork without a job. But not today. No, today I decided to rescue the cork from my empty bottle of Glenmorangie and carve it up a bit with my pocket knife. (A tool that every good redneck always has on hand.)

I didn’t have any ink pads (sadly, my craft supplies couldn’t make the journey to Scotland with me) but I had some cheap markers that I thought would work as a pigment, and I think the results are a success.

OK, I know it’s a bit silly and childish, but it entertained me. And it means that I have a pretty little heart-shaped stamp to add to my slowly-growing craft box. I think I’ll save up a few more corks to make some other shapes, too—stars, dots, horse shoes, etc. I don’t know what I’ll do with them all, but they’ll be a bit of rainy day entertainment at the very least.

(Other ideas for cheap and easy craft ideas are always welcome!)

Chinese jacks

Today’s post is a random memory and a bit of a musing about Chinese jacks. So, let’s go!

Chinese jacks, for those who don’t know, are these awesome little plastic ring things that kids would clip together in the 1980s for playing, well, Chinese jacks. But we’d also use them for Hopscotch markers and necklaces or other bits of jewellery.

They were fun and bright and silly. All of the sorts of things I love. We had loads and loads of them when we were kids. Some were pastel, others were bright, and others were neon. There were even translucent ones. I remember sitting there clipping them together in little sets, or stringing them together as chains and bracelets. But what I don’t remember is what happened to them. Where did they all go? Have they been thrown away after all of this time, or are they somewhere at my folks’ house, stashed away in a box?

I guess that’s it. I don’t really have much more to say about them, I just thought that I’d let you know I was thinking about them.

[Note: This video is not meant as an endorsement. I have no relationship with the company portrayed and am not in a position comment on them or their products.]

Of course, this all reminds me of those plastic charm necklaces we had back in the 80s, too. Yeah, they were, like, so awesome. Like, you know, totally radical, dude.

I wonder what today’s kids will reflect on when they’re my age…

Ode to a St Patrick’s Day Martini

What’s that? The Martinis! Facebook page is running a poetry competition? Well, how can I resist that?

The entry request was simple: “Let’s see who pays attention… Comment on this status with an original St. Patrick’s Day poem about Martinis!, and we’ll pick three winners to post as our status from now until Saturday. The poem status that gets the most likes will win 3 mini shooters! GO!” [See the full thread here.]

And I entered. And just so that I have more proof than Facebook that I’m the original author (you know, for when this poem becomes famous) I’m sharing it here, too! (Yay!)

Ode to a St Patrick’s Day Martini
by Just Frances

Martini.
Vodka.
Dirty.
Filthy, really.
You bring me joy.
You warm my heart.
I love you.
And your olives.
They’re green, you know.
And that fills the bill.
So long, green beer.
Hello, my lovely,
Deliciously dirty,
St Patrick’s Day Martini.

Pinching pennies

As I walked to the bus stop today, I stooped to pick up a two pence coin. It took two seconds—tops. But it made me smile for several moments. It also got me thinking more about the stigma some people put on the act (art?) of picking up loose coins found on the ground.

Then I started to think about the money I’ve found recently and I smiled even more as I realised just how fast it adds up. Then I started to do more maths. My initial calculations were based on a one-second retrieval rate which would equate to a time value of £36 per hour. (I’m not the only penny pincher who thought this was a fair rate, though I also found an argument for the paltry value of £2.40 based on a 15-second retrieval rate.)

However, I had a re-think and decided to give a two-second average retrieval rate because sometimes you do need to step out of your way for collection. So, I propose that picking up pennies found on the ground has a time value of £18 per hour.

And that’s assuming you only ever find pennies. But I quite often find silver coins, too. (Evidence: 11¢ find; Nickel find.) And sometimes, I even find paper money! So a two-second stoop-and-scoop can be far more profitable!

But for the maths, let’s stick to pennies and the two-second pick-up rate. If we accept the £18 per hour value and attribute that to a full-time job, you’d be on an annual salary of around £37,400.

Which makes me wonder: Why is there such a stigma to picking up pennies? I mean £37,400 is nothing to sneeze at when you realise that the 2011 median income was £26,200 (USA 2010 median: $26,364).

[Note: If you’re picking up American or Canadian pennies, the maths are the same; just swap out the £ symbol for a $ symbol.]

How about you? Are you a penny pincher? Do you smirk with glee at those little bits of glimmering money? Or maybe you’re not driven by the monetary reward. In that case, maybe you can think of pennies as a small gift from the universe. Or maybe coin-hunting can be that kooky way to bond with your family. Or if you’d rather, you can just walk past the coin and let someone like me pick it up. That would be OK, too!

YouTube trails

I decided to spend the day on the couch in an effort to rid myself of my latest cold. (Two colds since the New Year? Well that totally sucks!)

Anyhow, a lazy day like that tends to lead me down silly little YouTube trails. (Honestly, some of my time online was legitimate research for my dissertation. Really.)

It started with an intentional search for Peter Kay’s lipdub of Is This the Way to Amarillo? and quickly descended into all sorts of strange follow-ons. And since you’re here, I’ll share some of the highlights with you!

As I said, it began with a bit of Peter Kay. (Which always reminds me of Paul.)

And that, for reasons unknown, lead me to search for the Macarena.

Suprisingly, the Macarena didn’t lead me to the Chicken Dance, but rather to Suzanne Vega. (By way of Mony Mony. You had to be in my mind to follow that leap.)

Of course, that lead me to one of the saddest songs from my childhood…

Which lead me to a song about butterfly kisses…

And butterfly kisses make me think of my friend Joe, which makes me think of Shakespear’s Sister.

And thoughts of Joe bring me to thoughts of Paul. It’s a full circle… (This was our first dance at our wedding.)

Don’t you just love the randomness of YouTube trails?

Random thoughts: Simple pleasures

Random thoughts—Week 3: List 31 simple pleasures; pick one and write about it.

Last year I was challenged to write a list of 30 things that made me smile and I imagine that this list may include a few duplicates, but I will try to keep those to a minimum.

  1. Finding coins as I’m walking down the road
  2. Unexpected postcards (heck, even expected postcards!)
  3. Lunch with friends
  4. Internet chats and phone calls with my nieces and nephews
  5. Dirty Martinis
  6. Seeing children skipping down the road
  7. Skipping down the road (yes, even as a full-grown woman, I do that sometimes!)
  8. Hearing a favourite song on the radio
  9. Watching a favourite movie on television
  10. Long soaks in a hot bath
  11. Finding my favourite [whatever] on sale
  12. Smells that rekindle a happy memory
  13. Running
  14. A well-cooked steak (that would be medium-rare, thank you!)
  15. Riding on carousels
  16. Playing on swing sets
  17. The feeling of the sun on my face
  18. Flirtatious encounters with cute boys (even when I know I’ll never see them again)
  19. A quiet night in with some jazz, red wine, candle light, and a good book
  20. Sleeping in on a Saturday morning after a long week at work (or school)
  21. Finding a ‘new’ vintage handbag that I love—and can afford!
  22. Watching (and listening to) a massive rain storm—complete with thunder and lightning
  23. Seeing my friends happy and giddy with excitement
  24. Waking up dreading going to work, only to realise it’s the weekend
  25. Walking barefoot in the grass or on a sandy beach
  26. Gravy style popcorn
  27. Picnics in the park
  28. Finishing a craft project
  29. Weekend city breaks to fantastic places
  30. Finding an out-of-the-way pub that sells great beer—but that no one knows about!
  31. Hugs and kisses from family and friends

Now, I know that I’m meant to write about just one of these things, but it would seem that I had a fantastic opportunity to combine a few in one. So, here’s a wee story about something that happened when I was in Cambridge this weekend:

I woke up early to go for a run on Saturday (No 13). And after the run, I had a bit of time to waste waiting for my running partner (who’d gone off for a longer trek!). So, as I waited, I found myself (literally) skipping (No 7) over to the playground where I plopped myself down on a swing (No 16). And as I swung, I noticed some shiny things on the ground below. Sure enough, those shiny things were coins—33 pence worth of them (No 1)!

Of course, the weekend also included Nos: 3, 12, 17, 23, 29, 30, and 31. And loads of other simple pleasures that didn’t make the list.

Oh! And be sure to check out Rebecca’s blog to see what she wrote for her topic this week!

Random thoughts: Top 50 no-gos

Random thoughts—Week 1: List 50 things I’ll never do.

  1. Climb Mount Everest
  2. Compete in a sport professionally
  3. Give birth (sadly…)
  4. Celebrate 50 years of marriage
  5. Eat monkey brains (but in general I’m up for trying new/different foods)
  6. Become a nun (but I wanted to at one point in my life)
  7. Go deep-water diving
  8. Have cosmetic surgery (unless, of course, I’m in some horrific accident and need to be repaired)
  9. Buy an iPhone or iPad
  10. Commit suicide (Don’t worry! It’s never been an option or thought!)
  11. Buy a brand new car
  12. Participate in an ultramarathon
  13. Have lasik surgery
  14. Drink tequila shots out of someone’s navel
  15. Be a space tourist
  16. Pierce my nose
  17. Sail the Seven Seas
  18. Join a nudist colony
  19. Ride a barrel over Niagara Falls
  20. Drive drunk
  21. Juggle knives
  22. Watch Battlestar Galactica by choice
  23. Drink Gin and Tonics
  24. Go on a shooting safari
  25. Run with the bulls
  26. Follow the ‘5 Second Rule’ outside of my own home
  27. Back down on a running disagreement regarding my pro-Oxford comma stance
  28. Have a pet monkey
  29. Play golf in a lightning storm
  30. Abandon my faith
  31. Ridicule someone for their faith (or non-belief)
  32. Declare the certain non-existence of extraterrestrial life or Bigfoot
  33. Participate in past-life regression
  34. Cheat on my taxes
  35. Wear an ‘I’m with stupid’ t-shirt
  36. Give up carbs
  37. Become a vegan
  38. Quit Facebook
  39. Cook (or eat) liver
  40. Not vote in an election I’m allowed to vote in
  41. Be ashamed of my nationality
  42. Rob a bank
  43. Drive a train
  44. Drive blindfolded
  45. Turn by back on my family
  46. Wish and hope for bad things to happen to other people
  47. Deny my small-town, redneck roots
  48. Pretend to be dumb
  49. Betray my friends
  50. Be normal (bore-ing!)

OK, wow! That was really hard. And I admit, I’ve really done some reaching on these. Further, I admit that I didn’t put loads of things up that I thought I might ‘be forced to do’ at some point in my life. That said, I can’t be 100% certain that the future won’t bring some strange reality that sees me being forced to rob a bank, drive a train, and betray my friends. But I imagine that if my life got to that point, we’d be facing some apocalyptic disaster or that my friends would be staging a massive intervention!

(Here’s hoping my next random topic is easier!)

Heads will [not] roll!

Hey! Guess what! It’s ‘Share a Random Memory for No Reason Other Than It Popped into My Head Day’! Aren’t you glad you stopped by to read such rubbish? Sure you are! So here goes.

I was seven or eight years old, playing down at the ponds around the edge of the neighbourhood. I remember we were catching tadpoles. Then these older kids came over and started talking to us. They told us that we should be careful because there was a killer on the loose. So far, there weren’t any children missing, but you never know.

We didn’t want to believe them, but they pointed up to the hillside as proof. They’d just come down from having a closer look. Those weren’t all rocks, you know. The one right there in the middle? Well, that’s the decapitated head of an old lady. They told us not to get too close because there were bugs all over it. Plus that, the killer might be watching.

I remember being brave and telling the kids I didn’t believe them. But at the same time, I remember thinking up an excuse for why we needed to go home right then and there.

Oh, I was frightened. But I wasn’t going to let those big kids know that. Instead, I told my Daddy what they said.

Now, I don’t know if he knew from the start the whole thing was a joke to scare us little kids (probably) or if he really thought it needed investigation (less likely) but he had us take him to the ponds (which might have been big puddles, in hindsight) to show him where this head was.

As we stood on the edge of the water, Daddy went in for a closer look. Then came back and told us that it was definitely just a rock.

::Phew!:: Thank goodness for that!

Sorry, I can’t really remember much more about the story. I can’t even remember who I was with that day. Oh, but it reminds me of another water-based memory. Maybe I’ll share that with you one day, too. In the mean time, feel free to share a random memory of yours with me!

Random thoughts: A challenge

Two weeks ago I shared a post that was determined by random. It was a great way to find some inspiration for writing and the randomness of it all entertained me. When I was talking to Rebecca today, we decided that we’d have a bit of fun with the format and see if we could help inspire each other with a bit of randomness. And so, we’ve created a new game.

Here’s how it will work: There are 346 writing prompts over at CreativeWritingPrompts.com. We will use Random.org to randomly select a number then we will send the corresponding prompts to the other person. We’re picking numbers for each other so that we keep ourselves honest—and to make it that little bit more fun.

I imagine that we each have different reasons for wanting to try this challenge. My reasons are simple: I want to be challenged to write about things I might not write about. I hope that it will help me improve my writing skills as well as my creativity—and I hope that it will force me to write about things I might otherwise shy away from.

Oh! And I’ve already been given my topic for this week: List 50 things you’ll never do. On the surface it sounds easy, but I’ve learned with lists that anything past 10 is difficult! So, I guess I should start thinking about the things I’ll never do.

And with that: Let the challenge begin!

[In the spirit of the topic, the photo with this story was the photo that came up in my random photo block (look to the left) when I went to create the post. It’s from Thanksgiving 2011.]

Like the back of my hand

How many times have we been told that someone is so certain of their directions because they know the place like they know the back of their hand? For most of us, I imagine the answer would be countless times.

Personally, I don’t know that I’ve ever said it—mostly because I think it’s a stupid saying. But if I’m honest, I’ve always wondered just how well I ‘really’ know the back of my hand.

Well, today (yes, I’m bored!) I decided to see just how well I know the back of my hand. And—lucky you!—you get to see the results.

I chose my left hand because that’s the one with the most stuff on it. To start with, I traced my hand onto a piece of paper then I allowed myself a few moments to study my hand. No more than 10 seconds or so. Next, I placed a glove on my hand to ensure I wouldn’t cheat.

Then I began to sketch a map of my hand. (This was a bit difficult with a glove, but I wasn’t going for perfection.) I decided that I would include major veins, freckles, specs, and scars. Then I decided to add approximate locations of joints and knuckles.

The results? Pretty bad, I think—especially if I plan to use the memorisation of my hand as a correlation to my abilities to give directions!

For starters, my knuckles are actually further back than I drew them. (The other finger joints seem close enough.) Next, my fingernails are not drawn at representative sizes. Moving on, the veins are wrong. The main one (the Y-shaped one) is fairly close, but the other two I have shown are pointing in the wrong direction in relation to my fingers. Oh! And there are a couple of veins that seem to have been missed out all together.

Then there are my freckles. OK, the two large ones in the centre are pretty accurate, but there are four others on the back of my hand that (whilst very small) went completely unmapped. Oh, then there’s this little red spot on my thumb that’s been there for years but isn’t actually a freckle. Apparently, it’s nearly on top of my thumb’s knuckle, not toward the thumbnail!

The scar I have shown actually curves the other way. (It’s not that noticeable, either.) Also, I failed to make note of other small scars.

So, do I know the back of my hand very well? No, not as well as you’d think, given it’s been attached to my arm since before I was even born!

How about you? How well do you know the back of your hand?

Fun, all wrapped up

I started this post a few weeks ago with the intention of talking about how Starbursts have changed since I was a kid. But I never got around to finishing it because I didn’t really know what I could say on the topic, other than how awesome the new wrapper design is.

Then my sister posted one of those Facebook saying photos that read ‘Chocolate doesn’t ask silly questions; chocolate understands’ [Semicolon was my addition] and I realised that there is a great difference between my love for sweeties and the love that many women seem to have for chocolate.

You see, I almost feel like chocolate is meant to be a sophisticated, grown up sweet treat. And, sadly, it’s one that seems to cause great amounts of guilt for some women who consume it. But, chocolate seems to have a bit of a philisophical slant to it, too.

Take, for example, the same sister’s love of Dove chocolate bits. Inside of each wrapper is a message of hope, encouragement, or inspiration. Or some other such grown up mumbo-jumbo. Or these silly little quotes she likes about how she’d kill for chocolate or that the perfect man is one who brings chocolate.

Really, it’s enough to make me sick. Too much chocolate is just, well, it’s just not awesome.

But my sweeties of choice? Well, they’re pretty cool.

First, you’ve got things like LoveHearts and Conversation Hearts where each piece of candy has silly messages written right on them! Like: Call Me; UR Hot; My Boy; Cute Stuff; or I’m Shy. I mean, that’s a great way to flirt with a cute boy. Right?

Then, you’ve got awesome things like Laffy Taffy. Now, Laffy Taffy is fun because each wrapper contains jokes! Really funny ones, like: ‘What’s an owl’s favourite subject? Owlgebra.’ (Hilarious, right?)

And of course, there’s Starbursts. (Sorry, UK folks, they are not OpalFruits now. Adapt and embrace the change.) But the cool thing about Starbursts is they’ve re-done the wrappers! I mean, for years kids had fun with the wrappers. For example, do you remember in junior high school when it was said that if you could unwrap a Starburst in your mouth (with your tongue) it meant you were a good kisser?

But now they’ve added a bit of fun-for-all-ages to the wrappers! Yes, on each little piece of candy there is an opportunity for some silliness. You might be instructed to say ‘red lorry yellow lorry’ ten times fast or you might be asked to play air guitar (or air sax or air drums) or you might be told to try to touch the tip of your nose with your tongue. Or maybe you’ll be instructed to sing a song or hop on your left leg.

No, with each piece of candy you’re not given some valuble insight on life’s great mysteries. Instead, you’re given the opportunity to be silly; to have some fun; to laugh; to recall your childhood.

OK, I know that people think my candy preference is rather childish (certainly, by adulthood we’ve moved past these silly kiddie candies, right?) but I enjoy them. Partly because they taste yummy, but partly because they make me remember the simple pleasures in life.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, my wrapper has just informed me that it’s time to make a shadow puppet…

Blank slate; inspiration sought

I’ve spent the last couple of hours searching for inspiration. For what, I don’t quite know. I’ve found lists of daily adventures, blogs meant to inspire you to write a book, and all sorts of things that would make a prostitute blush. (Sadly, that happens with Google searches sometimes!)

In the end, I found the inspiration I was looking for in the hall closet. Yes, I was inspired by a piece of light-weight cardboard that sat peeking out from the top shelf.

Or at least I found just enough inspiration to know that I want to use it as the base for a collage. But I don’t know what the theme of the collage should be.

And that’s where you, Dear Reader, come in. Yes, I would like to hear your ideas of what to place on the board; ideas of a theme or a medium to use; ideas of anything, really.

So, what do you think I should do for my collage? Feel free to give multiple suggestions, and I will let you know what I’ve decided to do once I’m fully inspired!

[Here’s the blank canvas. It measures approximately 16.5 x 9.5 inches. Or 9.5 x 16.5 I suppose, depending on the final orientation.]

A random letter

Today, I decided to let the Internet decide what my post would be. So, I went to Creative Writing Prompts to pick a topic. But I wanted it to be a bit more random than that, so I visited Random.org to pick my topic number. And that number was 109. The prompt is to write a letter to someone I feel I need to spend more time with.

I went back and forth over who to write to, because I spend as much time as I can (or want) with most of the people in my life. (Well, geography gets in the way sometimes, unfortunately.) I finally decided to write to someone I really do miss; someone I really do wish I could spend more time with; someone I really need to spend more time with.

So, here goes!

Dear Happy Frances,

You have been on my mind a lot lately, and with each passing day I realise just how much I miss you. I remember when we were inseparable; when we spent nearly every hour of every day together. But now, it just seems that we’ve been too busy to hang out.

I know that the last couple of years have been hectic, and that for a while we weren’t even on speaking terms, but I guess I thought we were growing closer again. Only now it seems that we’re letting the busyness and craziness of life get in the way of our friendship again.

But the thing is, I don’t want our friendship to fizzle. I want us to grow close again. I want us to be inseparable again. I want you to spend more time with my other friends, too, because I know that they love you just as much as I do.

So, if you’re up for it—and I think you are!—I’d love to talk about how to find more time for each other. What do you say?

Lots of love,
Frances

Got milk?

If you’re American, you may not realise that milk is a very important part of British culture. From the 1946 School Milk Act (an addendum to the Education Act 1944) to Margaret Thatcher, Milk Snatcher and from breast milk ice cream to the order in which one adds tea and milk to a mug, milk seems to be more than just another beverage.

Which is what this post is about: Tea. Or rather, milky tea.

In the states, coffee tends to be the hot beverage of choice. And not that instant stuff, either. Tea drinkers are a minority group. And then, they’re more likely to want honey and lemon than milk. Oh, and if people do want to lighten/whiten up their coffee or tea, they’re more likely to use half-and-half, not milk. (And then there’s the non-dairy creamer group, but this isn’t about what Americans do, so we’ll just ‘skim’ over that. Skim. Get it? No? Oh, well. Never mind …)

In the UK, however, tea is the winning beverage. It’s very much a part of the culture (more so, I think, that coffee is part of American culture) and it seems that more people use milk here than don’t. I don’t; I drink my coffee strong and black with no sugar and I drink my tea medium and black with no sugar.

And here’s the problem: Since I don’t use milk (with the rare exception of baking or a splurge purchase of sugary breakfast cereal) I never have the stuff in my fridge. Which is OK until someone comes into my home. You see, as part of the UK’s tea obsession, it is customary to offer guests in your home a cuppa. And I’m pretty good at doing that. But the moment I say ‘Would you like a cup of tea?’ I find myself remembering that I can’t offer them milk for that tea.

The first time it happened, I was lucky because the friend in question (whilst a bit confused as to my lack of milk) was happy to have Earl Grey tea instead—which apparently doesn’t require milk as vocally as black tea does. The next time it happened, I was lucky enough to have the smallest little drip of milk left over from something I baked the day before. And when everyone came over for Thanksgiving, I made certain that I had milk on hand. Of course, I was then a bit cheeky and let my guests add their own milk and sugar so that I didn’t over (or under) do it.

Which brings me to today. I’ve been having a bit of trouble with the hot water in my flat, so a workman came around to fix it. Now, I don’t know if you’re meant to offer workmen tea, but it seemed rude not to, so I did—since I was making myself a cup of coffee anyhow. And the moment I asked I regretted it because then I had to follow that up with ‘Oh, but I don’t have any milk.’

And my no milk meant that he changed his order to a cup of coffee instead—black; two sugars. I didn’t think it was fair to keep him waiting whilst I made a cafetier of coffee, so I grabbed the instant stuff (that’s not an insult here as it is in America) and fixed a cup for him. With no milk.

I wonder if it’s socially acceptable to offer guests shelf-stable milk for their tea?

So, tell me how you take your tea or coffee. Or better still, tell me what your views are in regards to serving tea or coffee to company!

Substitutiary locomotion

Back in the day, kids’ movies were pretty gosh-darn awesome. So much so that (I think) they’ve survived the test of time. Movies like Pete’s Dragon (one that my sister and her kids watch regularly) and all of the Hayley Mills movies. And then there’s things like Mary Poppins, The Apple Dumpling Gang, and a long list of Disney’s theatrical animations!

In fact, just the other day, I was walking in town and caught myself singing Brazzle Dazzle Day. Then when I woke up this morning, I saw my sister’s Facebook posts from the night before—yes, they just watched Pete’s Dragon again! Then, when I looked to see what movies were available on the BBC’s iPlayer, I was giddy with excitement to see Bedknobs and Broomsticks (which I’m watching now)!

So, my wish for you is that you have a brazzle dazzle day thinking about the childhood movies that bring you the most joy.

And I wish for you the gift of substitutiary locomotion so that you can veg on the couch watching those movies, all the while casting spells so that you don’t need to walk to the kitchen to refill your snack bowls and drink glasses!

Gorillas and cheese

A post about gorillas and cheese? Did I mean grilled cheese? Have I gone mad? Well, yes, no, and probably would be the answers there.

So, why am I talking about gorillas and cheese then? Well, because as a blogger I like to use headlines that make people smile. Funny and punny; interesting and intriguing; relevant and informational. Rarely will I use some random, un-connected post title, because the title should be part of the story. And, if it doesn’t lead back to the story, it’s just a waste of words.

I bet you’re really dying to know how gorillas and cheese fits in with this post now, aren’t you?! So let me tell you more about this gorillas and cheese nonsense. (Here’s a hint: It’s not about gorillas or cheese, it’s about email.)

Generally when I write emails, I want the subject line to be informational. If I want a recipe from my mom, the subject might be ‘Navy Bean Soup Recipe?’ or if I need to send travel details to dad, the subject line might be ‘Travel itinerary; Dec 2011’ or if I’m sending an email to my entire family to let them know I’ve arrived in Scotland, the subject line might be ‘Greetings from Sunny Scotland’.

But what about those back-and-forth emails with friends? You know, the ones where the emails are like modern-day letter-writing. I mean, ‘Hi’ and ‘Hello’ are kind of boring subject lines.

And this is where I get to have a bit of fun. I figure subject lines are kind of like starting off with a joke.

Sometimes, I like to find a funny way to tie in the main message (Sean Connery is [not] gay) but other times, I like to use something completely and totally random (The coconut milk made me do it). And other times, I like to open with a compliment (You have a beautiful smile).

My favourite subject lines are ones that make me smile. I got one from a friend a while back titled ‘My big toe is my second toe’. The main email had nothing to do with toes, but there was a post script that explained that he was trying to out-do me in weird subject lines. I laughed. And I also realised that I don’t send as many emails as I used to and that I should fix that.

And if I were to start a list of fun subject lines for future emails, it would include the following:

  • Do you pack your lunch or take the bus to school?
  • Is this the party to whom I am speaking?
  • Elephants eat bananas
  • Polka dots cure curiosity: Read the story here!
  • One million, four hundred thousand, nine hundred, thirty & 12/100

How about you? Any random email subject lines that you’ve used or received or now want to create? After all, email should be fun!

(Funny, I’m now thinking that I want a grilled cheese sandwich for dinner.)

[The post image is of Salvador Dali’s The Persistence of Memory and is displayed here under the Fair Use Doctrine.]

If the shoe fits

I’ve been experimenting with footwear since my return to Scotland. Yep, it’s heels for this redneck, if you can believe it.

I admit, it’s a bit tricky at times because I still wobble a bit (and that’s with fairly short and chunky heels!) but I’m getting better and I almost feel like a semi-pro! But the biggest bonus is that I feel good! I know it sounds silly, but the dress code here tends to be a bit smarter than the homeland for everyday wear, and I feel good when I am dressed up that little bit more.

But that’s not the point, so I’ll move on now.

The point is that my feet are suffering! They don’t hurt but they are suffering. You see, I’ve always worn sensible, well-fitting shoes without heels. And that meant that I’ve always had pretty feet. Well, not so much as a child because I insisted on wearing shoes that were too small because I didn’t like shoe shopping. Not that I like it anymore now. But I digress. Again…

Back to the point: The bottoms of my feet are starting to get a couple of spots with not-so-soft skin. And I need to figure out how to fix that, whilst still wearing pretty shoes. And since I can’t afford professional pedicures at the moment, I’ll need to figure out how to fix it on my own.

For starters, I am using a heavy lotion before I go to bed, covering my feet with socks as I sleep so as to not get the bedding all lotion-y. I am also spending a bit more time making sure my toenails are trimmed nicely.

But the biggest solution, I imagine, is going to be finding the right shoes and the right inserts. And that, sadly, means shoe shopping. (I think I know someone who can help with that!)

Of course, the other solution would be to return to my redneck roots and just wear casual trainers everywhere.

Music to launder money by

There’s an ice cream van that comes around the neighbourhood most evenings around 6:30. When I first heard the magical music, I smiled as I realised that I could grab my money and run down to buy a frozen treat if I wanted. Oh yes, my inner child was oh-so-happy.

Then, one night, the music came on and I mentioned it to Rebecca. And Rebecca then mentioned that ice cream vans are sometimes used as a way to launder money. And hair salons launder money, too, apparently. (And in a quick search, I’ve learned that ice cream vans have been known to sell smuggled cigarettes, too!)

Now when I hear the melodic vehicle I still smile—no longer with naive innocence, but instead with the wryness of knowledge.

But here’s the deal: If it’s true, am I breaking the law by knowing aiding in criminal activity by purchasing a Cornetto? I mean, I don’t want to risk a criminal record over a lousy frozen treat.

Another light bulb moment

Today my Dad gave me a quick call on Skype to tell me that a parcel arrived for me (I’ve had my post forwarded to the folks’ place) and he wanted to know if he should open it. The parcel was from my utility company and it seemed strange that they’d be sending me anything other than an electric bill, which I get by email anyhow.

So I had Dad open it and as he did so, he mentioned the label on the side saying something about my ‘CFL have arrived’. Odd, I’d not ordered any CFLs. What are those anyhow? Oh, wait! It’s all coming back to me now.

About three years ago I sent away for free compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) from my utility company and promptly forgot about it. But sure enough, once Dad got that box opened, there were eight brand-spanking new CFLs nestled inside for me.

And that means that whilst the energy company might be keen to get their customers to use energy efficient light bulbs, they are not very efficient with sending them out!

I’ve declined Dad’s offer to send them to me, even though I know that he’d do it in under three years’ time. Instead, I’ll let my folks use them. You know, so that they can say I’ve brightened their lives.

Playing make believe

Avid readers of Just Frances will remember that I shared my thankfulness for ‘make believe friends’ this past Thanksgiving. Well, it seems that my sister, Celeste, shared that story with her make believe friends at the same time. And one of those friends became a regular reader of my blog after that. Dawn began offering support and friendship through my blog and even found me on Facebook.

Well, this week Dawn is in Seattle as a tag-along spouse whilst her husband attends a conference. So she’s meeting her make believe friends in real life—and Celeste and I were first!

It really was interesting to meet with someone I’d only known online—but it seemed easy and very comfortable. Of course, I felt at ease with Dawn before meeting her, so that probably helped!

Now, not only was this Dawn’s first trip to Seattle, but it seems that it was Celeste’s first for many things, too, because she’s never really been a Seattle girl. So I was in tour guide heaven!

Our first stop was Starbucks #1, then we wandered across to Pike Place Market where we enjoyed the various booths and free samples—and watched with big smiles as they threw fish. Then, of course, it was down to Post Alley to stick our used chewing gum on the gum wall. (Really.)

Next up, we wandered along the Waterfront where I purchased a loaf of double sourdough bread from the Alaska Sourdough Bakery before we popped in to Ye Olde Curiosity Shop to see the mummies and three-headed pigs. (Really.)

Of course, all this wandering around made us hungry, so I had to introduce the girls to Dick’s Drive-In on Broadway. We all enjoyed Dick’s Deluxes, fries, and root beer, and then we were off to Volunteer Park where we enjoyed a walk around the conservatory and were pleasantly surprised to see a fantasy medieval-y battle group playing. Even better was that some of the players took time to talk to us about their group. (Really.)

Anyhow, it was a good day out and I’m glad to have gotten the chance to meet Dawn in real life.

Check out photos from the day here.

And check out a video from the battle people here!!

Specky four eyes

A lot has changed since I got my first pair of glasses nearly 30 years ago. (That’s glasses as in specs, not drinking vessels, to clarify for my UK readers.) Back then, ‘big’ was normal for glasses. Back then, my frames were massive and wholly dependent on my parents’ budget. (And they were wise enough to insure the suckers, too!) My frames remained rather large throughout the 1980s and well into the ’90s.

In the mid- to late-90s two things happened: I got my own insurance and I learned that, despite my extremely strong prescription, I could wear small frames. Added to that, my optometrist’s office offered specials for ‘buy one pair; get one 50 percent off’ which meant that I could, for the first time in my life, have sunglasses! Eventually, I found myself with several pair because my prescription didn’t change for a few years but my insurance kept paying for new glasses each year.

Ah, with all of those new, smaller glasses the world never looked better! [Pun intended.]

Anyhow (slowly getting to the point) I was long-past due for a new prescription so I went and had my eyes checked a couple of months ago and am now (finally) getting around to ordering glasses I can see through!

But thanks to insurance cuts (Only $150 for hardware? That’s madness!) and my imminent unemployment and future starving student status, I decided against getting new frames. Instead, I’m just updating the lenses in my last two pair of regular frames and my sunglasses. This way I have a spare pair of specks should anything happen to the other. Plus, since my new (soon to be former!) optometrist offers 30 percent off the cost of 2nd and 3rd sets, my total out-of-pocket expense is just $65! Which is about $85 less than I had budgeted, so I that Kindle with 3G is starting to sound a bit better…

Wait. If this post is about ordering three pair of glasses, shouldn’t the title be “Specky eight eyes”? Oh well, I’ve always said I was rubbish at math[s].

Oh, and I know I’m not showing you photos of the glasses, but I figured that you’ve been seeing the current ones (red frames) and the sunglasses for the last year+ of this blog and if you’ve looked at older photos (pre-November 2008) you’ve seen the others. And you’ll get to see them all again and again and again so you don’t need to see them now. (Yay! Can you feel the suspense building?)

What the hook?

Moving 6,000 miles away means finally clearing out drawers that have long been left cluttered. It also means finding things that you vaguely remember maybe once having for a specific purpose, but can’t quite remember what that purpose was.

These 10 “S” hooks are a perfect example of that. I can almost remember maybe having purchased them for something. But it’s like a ghosted memory of nothing. They’ve sat in top, right-hand drawer of my bedroom vanity for more years than I can remember. My guess is that they were in that drawer when I first left for Scotland 10 years ago!

So, why do I have them? What could they have been for? I don’t know!

But please tell me this: What would you do with them? If they were yours, how would you use them? Any suggestions of how I could use them? Because right now, I’m thinking they’ll just get tossed in the Goodwill pile.

Of course, I’m happy to pack them up and mail them to the person who gives me the most interesting or entertaining use for them, so please feel free to share your ideas!

Ten things

Reminder: I’m moving servers later this week and will lose most of my subscriber information. Please click here for more information on re-subscribing! Now… on to the story!

It’s another list day. Yay!

Today’s list is 10 things I’ve not done in more than a year but that I am going to work hard at doing in the next 12 months. So here goes!

  1. Go for a bike ride (Last ride: Autumn 2008)
  2. Plant something (Last planting: Tulip and crocus bulbs in England; March 2010)
  3. Eat BBQ burgers and dogs (It’s been 2+ years which is too+ long!)
  4. Go to Scotland (Last trip: Feb/Mar 2010)
  5. Travel out of state to visit friends* (Last trip: October 2009)
  6. Go to a fair (Last fair: September 2006)
  7. Get a haircut (Last cut: February 2010**)
  8. Buy a fiction novel (Last purchase: April 2010)
  9. Go camping (Last trip: So long ago I can’t even remember!)
  10. Buy a new gadget***

And may I just say how difficult it was to create this list? At first I thought: Just 10 things? No problem! But the problem is that so many of the things I’ve not done in the past year+ are things that I have no intentions of ever doing again! I mean, it’s been more than a year since I last changed a tire, but I don’t plan on changing one in the next year. Nor do I plan on chopping fire wood or making a pinecone wreath.

How about you? Do you have a list of 10 things to share? And if so, how easy was it to create?

* As in to another state within the USA—not as in out of the states, which I’ve done as recently as December 2010.
** Yes, really. More than a year ago. That’s about normal for me. What do I care? It’s just hair.
*** OK, in fairness I bought an iPod Shuffle sometime last summer. But with gadgets, a month is like a year, so I’m really jonesin’, man!

Foto fun

This will be a short post, Dear Reader, because I am very sleepy and am going to be early. But I wanted to let you know that I’m having a bit of fun on Facebook in April by way of a Photo Scavenger Hunt.

The group is open to the public (well, as long as you have a Facebook account) and we’ll be posting a list of 20 items for you to ‘find’ with your camera throughout the month of April.

So go log on to your Facebook account (do any of us really log out?) and like Photo Scavenger Hunt today!

Nighty night, boys and girls!

Hopscotch

Like most kids, I played Hopscotch growing up. It was a great game and really only required a piece of chalk. And since they used blackboards in schools back then, chalk was an easy commodity to come by!

I think we mostly used rocks as our markers. But for a while Chinese Jacks were in style and we used them. They were lighter than the rocks and they didn’t tend to tumble around which was cool.

Anyhow, I don’t know about you but I can’t resist a Hopscotch court. It doesn’t matter if I’m in casual gear and sneakers or in a suit and heels—I hop.

And hopping makes me happy. So I’m putting a piece of chalk in my handbag and I’m going to start making Hopscotch courts when no one is looking because I bet that I’m not the only grownup who must hop.

And I bet that most grownups would smile if they saw a Hopscotch court appear outside of their office—even if they didn’t hop.

I wonder where I’ll put my first piece of graffiti…?

The laughter woke me

I don’t think I’ve slept through the night since Paul died. I’ve become a very light sleeper and am woken easily by common household sounds or by a dream that just seems all too real.

Being woken by dreams is far worse than being woken by noises because the dreams are normally bad and I wake up in a terrible fright, or they are surreal and I wake up confused or worried about some strange symbolism.

Last night was different though. Last night I was having a slightly surreal dream where I’d just moved into a new house and was excitedly decorating the interior. Then one of the new neighbours stopped by to start complaining about the way I’d displayed the house number and about some of my flower choices in the front garden.

All of the sudden it dawned on me that I was living in one of those terrible communities that has covenants!!

I explained to this new neighbour that I hadn’t realised that was the case and he was very disgusted by the thought that I wouldn’t want my house to look exactly like all of the other houses.

Well, that got me thinking out loud about all of the lovely things I wanted to do to the house and that I was certain I’d be able to get a waiver or community approval for some of my fantastic ideas. And as I continued I could see the look on this horrible man’s face turn to fear. So I kept making my ideas more outrageous which got me giggling.

At some point in the dream, everyone but this man was giggling which got me giggling so much that I actually woke up laughing. Yes, my laughter in my dream woke me up!

It was weird because I’ve never woken up by laughing before. Crying, shouting, and screaming—yes. But laughing? That’s a new one. But I suppose if you’re going to have a restless night, you may as well laugh about it!!

100 random things

My friend posted a list of 100 random things her daughter wrote about herself out of boredom and I thought I’d give it a shot and create my own list. So, if you’re not already bored, this should help…

100 Random Things about Just Frances

  1. I am the preantepenultimate Cook Girl.
  2. I enjoy showing off my vocabulary skills.
  3. I cringe when I see incorrect grammar, spelling, and punctuation. But I only correct errors when I’m being paid to do so. [To clarify: I generally correct the errors in my mind, but only tell people of the errors when I’m paid or otherwise requested to do so.]
  4. I think that demonstrating the ability to change a vehicle’s tires and oil should be a compulsory part of passing a drivers’ license test.
  5. I wear glasses and will never get eye surgery because I like that the glasses obscure the fact that I don’t wear makeup.
  6. I’m a distance runner. (Well, I dabble in the sport at least.)
  7. I am Catholic.
  8. I joined the school cross country team because the coach asked me after church in front of my dad and the priest. How could I say no?
  9. I have never felt at home in my hometown.
  10. I am proud of my small town red neck roots.
  11. I found my true place of belonging in Scotland nearly 10 years ago.
  12. I am returning to Scotland later this year!!
  13. I am rubbish at math[s] and I don’t care.
  14. I am correct handed (also known as left handed).
  15. I believe that there is a conspiracy in the works by right-handers who are jealous of us amazing lefties. Even pens are made with righties in mind! (But not all of them!)
  16. I have hazel eyes that are more on the green end of the spectrum, but wish that I had truly green eyes.
  17. I pretend to be happy even when I’m sad.
  18. I can’t fake tears; I’ve tried.
  19. I am dyslexic. (Yet I edit things for a living. Ironic!)
  20. I had speech therapy as a child.
  21. I am the co-inventor of the term SUBS Syndrome and hope that one day the term is widely used to describe the condition of sudden, uncontrollable bursts of sarcasm.
  22. I honestly believe that the media is helping to perpetuate ignorance in our society. The biggest culprit being the “news” media.
  23. My master’s degree will be in media and culture, so I’ll get to do a lot of research on this very issue!
  24. I once sang on stage with Pat Benatar who was opening at the Gorge Amphitheatre for the Steve Miller Band. Really. True story.
  25. I’m a little bit country and a little bit rock-n-roll all at once.
  26. I like candy, but I could live without chocolate.
  27. I love to fly!
  28. I prefer the aisle seat on airplanes.
  29. I say a prayer asking God to guide the hands of the crew and to keep us safe in our journey; and I ask that if His plans don’t include our survival that He comfort our loved ones. I do this for every take off and landing because something compels me to.
  30. I try to order low-sodium meals on the plane and drink lots of water so that I’m refreshed and non-puffy when I arrive. I even wash my face 2-3 times on long flights to/from the UK. I think it helps the jetlag. But that might not be true.
  31. I can’t decide which movies I like better: The Godfather series or the Monty Python movies.
  32. I have polycystic kidney disease. It’s a genetic condition with no cure. But some smart people are working to find a cure!
  33. I have a blood disease called idiopathic thrombocytopenia purpura. Even the haematologists who study it don’t know much about it. Which sucks for me.
  34. Despite my medical maladies, I think I’m mostly healthy.
  35. I dream that my doctor will one day say “To live a long and healthy life you must eat lots of good steak and salty, deep-fried foods, drink lots of wine, and smoke.” Of course, if I hear those words I know it’s time to find a new doctor.
  36. I cry myself to sleep at least once a week.
  37. I recently ended a friendship that I didn’t want to end. I’m sure it will be one of the reasons I cry myself to sleep over the next few weeks.
  38. I haven’t slept through the night since Paul died.
  39. I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever sleep well again.
  40. I thought that I was ugly growing up because one of my sisters told me over and over again that I was. (Funny, we all look alike!)
  41. I thought that I was stupid growing up because a couple of my teachers said I was.
  42. As an adult, I’ve learned to love myself and know that I’m good looking and intelligent.
  43. One of my Paul’s friends told me that I’m a great person and I’ll find someone new when I’m ready—but that I’d have better luck if I’d dumb it down a bit. (Said person has likely never been married for a reason.)
  44. Several of Paul’s friends have become my friends and I don’t think I could have survived the world without him without them.
  45. I didn’t go on my first date until I was 20 years old.
  46. I married my first true love.
  47. We were a month shy of our 4th anniversary when he died.
  48. I try to be happy and enjoy life because I know it’s what Paul wants for me.
  49. I sometimes think that I’ll meet someone new and fall in love and get married again and I know that Paul would be OK with that. But I can’t be bothered to date because no one is good enough for me.
  50. Thinking that no one was good enough for me is what gave me a reputation for being an overly-picky dater in my 20s.
  51. Being an overly-picky dater meant that when I did land a man, I got the best one on the market!
  52. A stupid woman once told me that the reason I can’t have kids is that God thinks I’d be a bad mom.
  53. I have been a foster mom for a little over six months now—so at least the State of Washington thinks I’d be a good mom!
  54. Paul and I planned to adopt two adorable children before he died.
  55. Sometimes I’m heartbroken that I may never get to be someone’s mom.
  56. I have 17 nieces and nephews and 2 great nephews.
  57. It irritates some of my sisters that their children want to be so much like me.
  58. I’ve had green hair. And pink, purple, blue, yellow, orange, jet-black, and bleach-blonde. Sometimes multiple colours all at once!
  59. My favourite colour is green.
  60. My first car was a 1978 Ford Granada.
  61. My friends and I sanded it down, primed it black, and then painted a big yellow smiley face on the hood and flowers and peace signs all over the body. It was awesome.
  62. I passed my driving test on the first try.
  63. I taught Paul how to drive.
  64. I’ve taught some of my nieces and nephews how to shift gears. (But please don’t tell their moms!)
  65. I have a fascination with butterflies and have since I was a young child.
  66. I have a butterfly tattoo.
  67. I played clarinet in the school band.
  68. I am training for the Loch Ness Marathon.
  69. I am a Pisces.
  70. I was born in the Year of the Tiger.
  71. I don’t believe in astrology stuff.
  72. I will be 37 years old on Monday.
  73. I don’t really like to make a fuss about my birthday.
  74. I have read dictionaries and encyclopaedias for entertainment since I was in junior high.
  75. I don’t like romance novels because they make me uncomfortable.
  76. My friends think I am a prude.
  77. I try never to use profanity because I think it’s vulgar and shows a lack of respect. (But sometimes it slips out in a heated moment of upset.)
  78. I taught myself how to knit and crochet but can only make basic things like scarves and afghans.
  79. I like root beer.
  80. I don’t really care for Coke or Pepsi.
  81. When I was in my late-teens and early-20s, I’d hang out at the local 24-hour diner with my friends drinking coffee and eating cheesy fries with ranch dressing. It was awesome!
  82. I am considered a computer and gadget geek by my family and friends.
  83. I love Doctor Who, but I hate SciFi.
  84. I define SciFi as anything I don’t like.
  85. I always like to have the best gadgets in the room. Sadly, some of my new friends are gadget geeks with better incomes so this is hard to do now.
  86. I love my family.
  87. I am going to miss my cat, Schrodie, so much when I move to Scotland.
  88. I am going to miss my family so much when I move to Scotland.
  89. I used to have Mork & Mindy suspenders (braces) when I was a kid and I wish I still had them now.
  90. I loved Weebles as a child. They were awesome they way they weebled and wobbled but didn’t fall down!
  91. I always wanted tassels on my handlebars when I was a kid. But not so much that I got them as an adult.
  92. My favourite toys growing up were a telescope, a microscope, a rocket kit, and an electric circuit board kit.
  93. I don’t like gold-coloured jewellery.
  94. I like dirty martinis with extra olives.
  95. I drink my coffee strong and black with no sugar.
  96. I am excited about starting grad school in September.
  97. I am afraid that I am ruining myself financially by going to grad school.
  98. I am convinced that going to grad school will fix me emotionally and mentally.
  99. I am excited about my future for the first time since Paul died.
  100. I feel guilty for being happy about this new life, even though I know Paul would be happy for me.

Wow! That was hard! Are you still reading? You deserve an award for that!!

Edited to add: Since folks have been asking where/what their award is, I feel it’s fair (OK, not fair but cheap) for me to say the award is knowing me that little bit better. Sorry it’s so lame! (But thanks for reading!)

Catch a falling star

I was standing in the kitchen making dinner when my foster daughter asked me if I’d ever heard the song “Catch a Grenade” which prompted me to ask if it went something like this:

[Sung to the tune of Catch a Falling Star]

Catch a gre-e-na-ade;
Don’t put it in your pocket;
Never throw the pin away.

Catch a gre-e-na-ade;
Don’t put it in your pocket;
Save it for apocalypse.

And another verse or two before I gave up. Then she sang a verse or two of the actual song. Her version of the song wasn’t as good as mine.

But here’s the thing: She has never heard the song Catch a Falling Star. Never. She didn’t recognise the tune at all. It was a sad, sad moment. But she knows it now. And she’s not happy that I’ve been dancing around the house singing it at the top of my lungs since after dinner. I’m embarrassing her, apparently.

And here it is for you to enjoy on this lovely, starry night. And if it prompts you to sing and dance in front of your loved ones, that’s a good thing!

La-de-da

Don’t you love it when you’re sitting there minding your own business and all of the sudden—completely out of the blue—an old camp song pops into your head?

Me too!

But I sure hate it when there’s no one to share it with. So, I’m just going to share it here. If it weren’t for the fact that I’m already snuggled in my jammies for the night, I’d consider sharing via a YouTube video post, but you don’t need to see me in my jimjams and you probably would prefer not to hear me sing!!

Yay! for camp songs!

La-de-da

Romeo and Juliet,
On a balcony they met.
Scram you guys, I’ve got a date.
Shakespeare’s comin’ in a Ford V-8!

[Chorus]
La-de-da
Pop pop, fizz fizz
La-de-da
Pop pop, fizz fizz
La-de-da
Pop pop, fizz fizz
La-de-da, la-de-da, la-de-da-da-da

Pepsi-Cola came to town.
Coca-Cola shot him down.
Dr. Pepper fixed him up.
Now we all drink 7-Up.

[Chorus]

Henry Ford was a grand old man.
Took four wheels and an old tin can.
Put ’em together and the darn thing ran!
Henry Ford was a grand old man.

[Chorus]

Coccydynia

Remember how I told you I went cross country skiing last week and didn’t fall once? Well, I wish I had fallen once, because it was the second fall that caused current state of coccydynia.

The first two days after my coccyx injury were spent driving; often on compact snow and ice making for a very bumpy—and sore—journey home from my holidays. The next two days were spent relaxing at home. Still sore, but not as sore as I’d been. And slowly, I began to forget about my injury.

But the problem now is that I am mostly pain free. Which means I forget about my poorly tail. Which means I keep standing up without thinking about it. Which means that I am causing myself more pain.

I’d planned to go for a training run this week to prepare not only for my marathon but for the Freeze Your Fanny 5K. But now, instead of worrying about freezing my fanny, I’m complaining about a pain in it.

Yes, this post is all about the pain in my arse.

And that picture, if you wondered, is me pointing to my fanny the first time I ran the Freeze Your Fanny 5K in 2008.

It’s all about the unicorns

My foster daughter has this habit of saying “Guess what?” without giving any further clues or context. In the beginning, I would ask for hints or detail, but she would just demand that I guess. And there is no way I’d ever come close so I started to just make up guesses.

So when she says “Guess what?” I reply with things like:

You were on your way out to the playground at recess when this herd of pink unicorns came careening down out of the lentil fields right toward you and your friends. And just moments before they impaled you with their silvery horns, flying monkeys swooped down and picked you up with their teeth then flew you to a rainbow where you could sit safely whilst the herd passed by. Afterward, you were able to slide down the rainbow and land safely on a bed of marshmallows.

Or:

You were sleeping soundly when all of the sudden a troll with purple hair woke you with hushed tones and told you to hop on to his unicorn so that he could ride you to safety because there was a dragon outside your bedroom window who was going to kidnap you and take you to the Land of the Firebreathers where you would be forced to repair all of the broken claws and scales that the dragons got when they were fighting the evil orgs who ruled Swamp Kingdom.

And she just rolls her eyes and lets me know that the thing I was supposed to guess was that some kid at school broke their fingernail or something.

But it won’t end there. No, after she tells me what I was meant to guess, she then lets me know that, in fact, there are no pink unicorns (don’t be silly!) and that dragons don’t need someone to repair their claws and scales because (of course) they have special regeneration powers that mean they fix themselves.

Anyhow, my unicorn-based guesses are getting more creative. But they are also turning up in my adult conversations these days. Oh well. Folks already knew I was crazy, believing in unicorns fits right in with my current residency in La-La-Land.

YayDay! countdown

Yay! It’s just 89 days until YayDay!!

YayDay! is one of my favourite days on the modern calendar. It’s a self-created holiday that I’ve been celebrating since I first began working proper office hours. (Which was better in Scotland where my day ended at 4:30 instead of the typical American 5 o’clock stopping time I have now.)

But what you really want to know is what YayDay! is all about.

Well, YayDay! is the cold, dreary winter day when the sun doesn’t set until after 5. And this winter, that day is Monday, February 7, when the sun will set at 5:01 p.m.—one minute after my work day is over. (Which is just two weeks before my birthday, when sunset will be at 5:22 p.m., if you wondered.)

Yay!

I don’t know what I’ll do to celebrate this year. In the past, celebrations have included going out for dinner, enjoying a bottle of Champaign at home, or heading out to the pub. Last year I wasn’t really in a celebratory mood so simply marked the day by remembering past celebrations with Paul. I’m open to suggestions—no matter how silly!

Your YayDay! might not be the same as mine because your location will determine your sunset times. So check out the US Naval Oceanography Portal’s website to find your magic YayDay! [Not in the USA? Check out this site instead.]

Clay play

As part of my on-going mission to relax and find a bit of silly joy in life, I broke open a box of coloured clay this evening. I didn’t do much with it today, but I’m inspired now and have a great idea for some fun time with my foster daughter this weekend.

I’m sure you’re totally excited to see what we might create so here’s a wee flower to tide you over until I have something more artistic to entertain you with. Yay!

 

“The Earth Laughs in Flowers”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Feeling dotty

I’m still struggling with the sadness that came over me yesterday. Not in an “I’m still sad” way but in a “Big episodes of grief really wipe me out” way. So I decided I’d take it easy and doodle for a bit after dinner.

The evening’s doodles are really more dottles; which is about right since I’m feeling a bit dotty today.

Which makes me smile because dotty is a British slang term for mentally unbalanced, eccentric, or amusingly absurd—all terms that could be used to describe me most days.

Just a doodlin’

I love to doodle. So today, as I sat waiting for a meeting that took forever to get started, I found myself doodling a bit. The meeting’s theme of social media use seems to have come across in my doodle, too.

Of course, thinking about doodling makes me think of one of my favourite songs from childhood, The Doodlin’ Song by the Statler Brothers. So I’m sharing the song with you. Yay!

Copy bird

In the evenings, you will quite often find me and the kid in the living room not talking*: Her on the love seat reading or drawing; me on the couch crocheting, blogging, or—most recently—sketching and drawing. And you can bet that at some point she will come over and start snooping at what I’m doing with great curiosity.

After she goes to bed, I will sit and continue my evening’s project for a couple of hours and by the time I wake up the next morning, I’ve almost forgotten what I was working on the night before. But not the kid. No, the kid will ask several times as we’re getting ready to leave the house if she can see what I’ve been working on. And when she finally gets to (after, of course, she gets ready for school) she is full of enthusiasm for what is, at best, mediocrity at its most average.

I’m always so pleased that she enjoys my creative outputs, but it never truly dawned on me how much impact I have on her until this weekend. As I sat working on my silliness coursework she came and looked over my shoulder and commented with awe at my water painting before asking if she could break out her watercolours and do some painting of her own.

To the left is my painting. To the right is the kid’s.

  

I am flattered and humbled. And a little afraid to think that there is another child who’s life is being impacted by me. (I think I do OK. I’ve yet to completely screw up any of my nieces and nephews at least…)

* It sounds like we just ignore each other, but we don’t. By this time, we’ve endured a 30-mile drive from town home where we chat, chat, chat. Then we enjoy a nice, home-cooked dinner at the table where we chat, chat, chat some more. Then, we chat when she goes to bed, right before our prayers. So we talk. Just not at this point in the evening.

A bit sketchy

I signed up for The Sketchbook Project a few weeks ago. It’s a great art project from the Brooklyn Art Library where thousands of sketchbooks will be exhibited on a cross-country tour at galleries and museums. After the tour, they will all be part of a permanent collection at the library where they will be available for the public to view.

My sketchbook arrived in the post a couple of weeks ago, right in the midst of my gloom, so I’ve only now started to work on it. I chose the theme “Make Mine a Double” and decided that I would use it to practice my real-life sketching and drawing skills. (Skill seems like an extreme exaggeration, but my hope is that each page finds me improving so that maybe at least the last sketch will be done with skill.)

My first sketch was (of course) a martini that I enjoyed after the kid went to bed last night. My second sketch was a cup of coffee yesterday morning. I’m not sure what my next sketch will be, but I hope it’s an improvement on the first two!

Check out my work in progress here or click on the Silly tab at the top of my blog!

And remember: The show is coming to the Pacific Northwest and I’ll be going. So if any of my amazing fans want to go to the exhibit with me, I’ll be sending out a reminder as we get nearer June. Yay!

On a happier note

To counter last night’s less-than-happy post, here’s something I’m super happy about!

First, the background:
Just as I was starting to remember how fun it was to draw, a friend in Scotland sent a note about participating in an online art course called The Art of Silliness2. So I signed up thinking it would be fun. And it was!

[Side note: The course finished last week, but I must admit I’ve fallen behind in my silliness because of my sadness. I am pleased to say that I am starting to be silly again, however, and will be posting the rest of my course work for you to mock very soon. Yay!]

Anyhow, at some point during the silly course, I noticed an advertisement for The Sketchbook Project and decided that it looked fun, too. So I signed up for the project with the theme of “make mine a double”. But I was a little sad because the tour didn’t include my neck of the woods.

But then, happily, today I got an email from the organizers announcing the addition of more stops on the tour and it includes Seattle! Yay!

So for my lovely friends and family in the lovely Pacific Northwest, you can head out to the Form/Space Atelier art gallery June 10-12 to check out my awesome sketchbook (and the awesome sketchbooks of many others who are likely more talented than I am!).

For my amazing friends who live elsewhere, you can check out the tour map to see if the show will be coming to you, too! And more dates and locations will be added, so keep checking!

Yay! I’m going to be part of a traveling art exhibition! This makes me super-duper happy!

My favourite things

As part of my effort to take back my lunch time, I’ve spent today’s lunch break composing a little ditty on my laptop just for my awesome readers; who are also some of my favourite things. (Yay! for awesome readers! And yay! for reclaimed lunch breaks. And yay! for whatever else you want to celebrate today!)

My favourite things
as interpreted by Just Frances*

Shiny new gadgets and hooker-red nails
Cool vintage handbags that come in the mail
Pretty red sports cars and fun silver rings
These are a few of my favourite things

Movies with mobsters and friends who are so dear
Martinis and pizza and pretzels and good beer
Acting quite silly and playing on swings
These are a few of my favourite things

Books about grammar and good punctuation
Laughing and smiling and Scotland vacations
Songs that are happy, that I like to sing
These are a few of my favourite things

When the clouds come
When the tears sting
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favourite things
And then I don’t feel so bad

• • • • •

[NOTE: Apparently, my laptop is still set to UK English (not proper American English) from working on school application stuff and has therefore insisted that I have favourite things, not favorite things. And I’m totally OK with that!]

* I’m sure you’ve figured it out, but this is to be sung in the tune of “My Favourite Things”. If you need a reminder, here’s a link to a rendition by Pomplamoose. Yay!

Crafty chick

I’d like to tell you that I’m completely over my blue mood, but that would be a lie. I have, however, been having an enjoyable weekend despite it.

My original plan for yesterday was to have a relaxing afternoon at the spa, but since the kid’s plans got cancelled, so did mine. So instead, the two of us went into town to pick up some craft supplies and to paint some ceramics at Wild @ Art. We ended up spending most of the day out-and-about but it was quite enjoyable. In the evening, we both worked on our silliness worksheets and after she went to bed I re-learned how to use watercolor paints.

Today we were going to spend some time doing some crafts together, but instead she abandoned me to go play with her friend. Which is cool because 1) kids should spend time playing with other kids and 2) I got some time alone after all!

So, instead, I’ve spent the morning coloring silly little picture frames and baking banana bread. Soon I will start making lunch (fried egg sandwiches, anyone?) then a big pot of split pea soup to re-stock the freezer.

The best part about getting all of this done so early in the day? There’s still plenty of time for an EastEnders omnibus and maybe I can even get started on my new Ian Rankin novel. Oh… and maybe I can even sneak a nice, long soak in the tub into the day somewhere. Yay!

Relearning the art of childhood

A while back I picked up a piece of bond paper and a box of crayons to illustrate a silly little image to go along with my goals posting. A few days after that I grabbed a couple more sheets of paper from the printer then borrowed my foster daughter’s colored pencils to illustrate each individual goal. By the time I was done I realized how much I missed drawing and coloring—despite the fact that I’m not the artist I imagine I am.

That enjoyment led me to purchase some nice drawing paper and a set of 72 colored pencils and a little carrying case for all of my new art supplies. Since then, I’ve found a lot of pleasure in sitting on the couch drawing and coloring. And in recent days, I’ve been drawing and coloring even more thanks to the way-fun silliness course I’m participating in.

All of this has made me realize that I really like to be artistic and has made me start to think about all the other forms of artsy stuff I used to do as a child. Which brings me to the point of the post: Today I purchased an inexpensive set of water color paints and a cheap little box of modeling clay. My first attempt at a water color painting is really quite rubbish, but I enjoyed re-learning how to use the paints and am excited to do some more.

With a bit more practice, I’ll be ready to go out and paint the amazing sunsets on the Palouse. In fairness you might not be able to identify the painting as a sunset when I’m done, but as long as I’m enjoying my childish fun, it doesn’t matter what the end result looks like.

So I’m still feeling a bit down, but at least I can multitask by being miserable and happy at the same time.

Yay for painting!

Hump day haikus

The Squeen, in her most noble and wise ways, has declared that: “Wednesdays, today and forthwith and here-on-after, are haiku Wednesdays.” I’ve thought about posting random things related to haikus (including actually writing my own) in the past but haven’t actually done it. And so now, by royal proclamation, I feel it’s time I address the issue.

I have a love-hate relationship with haikus. I love that it forces the writer to think in a pre-defined pattern, but I hate that school teachers throughout the western world (unintentionally?) don’t explain what that pattern is. As a child I was simply told that a haiku is a three-line poem consisting of a first line with five syllables, a second line with seven syllables, then a third line with five syllables again.

But the reality is that a haiku is meant to contain 17 moras (in the 5/7/5 format) which are not really the same as syllables. Now, I will admit that in the English language we rarely discuss sentence structure in terms of moras, but I feel that this is something that should still be brought to the attention of young minds.

Another thing I love about haikus is the seemingly obscure connections between lines. They are vague and sometimes challenging—especially to young school children. I remember being told to write a haiku (with three lines of 5/7/5) that told a short story or gave a description of some random object of my choice. Which was fun because it was a bit challenging to pick just the right words to get the 17 syllable cap right.

But the reality is that a haiku is meant to consist of a seasonal reference (a kigo) and a cutting word (a kireji). It is true that the English language doesn’t have a direct equivalent to the latter, but that doesn’t seem like a fair reason to not at least explain this difference.

I guess that my love is that haikus are fun and challenging (yes, I find challenging to be fun).

And I guess that my hate is that while western school teachers seem keen to explain that haikus are a form of Japanese poetry, often combining the writing lesson with a lesson in traditional Japanese art form such as gyotaku (fish painting, basically), they neglect to fully give the lesson in how true Japanese haikus are formed.

I suppose that I wish I’d been given the full lesson as a child, which could have included how haikus in English evolved and are their own writing form—distinct from what’s found in Japan but certainly rooted in the culture and history of the original haikus.

But maybe when you were taught about haikus, your teacher went into all of this with you and so you’re at a loss to why I’m whining. And that’s OK.

Anyhow, as a reward for reading this far, here are the two haikus that I wrote today by orders of The Squeen as part of my silliness course, which are meant to address items in my medicine cabinet, which is more of a drawer than a cabinet, but let’s not split hairs…

Fall is in the air
Wood smoke making my eyes dry
Ah,
Visine, my friend

Summer is fading
Factor thirty nearly gone
Cat Crap is ready

And here’s a bonus one just for Just Frances readers:

Autumn is awesome
And Just Frances is awesome
And her readers, too

God’s Eyes

On the drive home from the airport Friday evening, I started to think about Ojo de Dios (God’s Eyes). I don’t know what brought the thought to mind, but I’m sure it was a winding road of completely unrelated subjects. (A regular journey in my crazy little mind.)

By the time I got into town, I realized that I really wanted to make a God’s Eye. And luckily, I had almost all of the supplies needed: Yarn, scissors, and hands. Of course, I was missing the ever-important supply of popsicle sticks. So I needed to travel to the next town to purchase a box of popsicles.

Sadly, the kid managed to lose all privileges for the whole of the weekend which meant that she couldn’t help with the chore of excavating the sticks from their frozen prisons. Which meant that I needed to eat two popsicles after she went to bed on both Friday and Saturday nights* so that I had the required four popsicle sticks for today’s crafting time.

After the kid was finished with her chores (her room is amazingly clean now!), I got dinner started (homemade beef stew), we had lunch, and I did my chores (working on my personal statement for graduate school), we sat on the couch together to make some God’s Eyes. Of course, this was after I spent some time online re-learning how to make them since I’ve not done it since I was the kid’s age! (Wow! That’s 25 years ago!)

If you’re wondering, this is all a part of my life goal to be blissfully happy. Doing these simple little things is enjoyable and I’m finding that the more crafty stuff I do, the more I seem to smile, which is also why I’ve just signed up for the Sketchbook Project. Look for more on that soon! And don’t forget to check out my coursework from my online class The Art of Silliness2, too!

* She knew this was happening and was disappointed but also knows why and accepted this fact with very little argument. She managed an entire weekend of removed privileges along with extra chores with very little argument as part of our “every action (or non-action) has a consequence” lesson plan. I’m a mean foster mommy, yet she’s an amazing kid despite it!

Fancy hotels

Faithful readers of other rubbish I’ve written since Paul died will remember the struggle I had the first time I found myself having to travel to Seattle for work on my own. There was something very wrong about staying in a 5-Star hotel without Paul.

Before he died, Paul would travel with me when I went away for work. We’d stay in a fancy hotel, go out for a fancy dinner, then sit in the hotel lounge drinking martinis in our best “la-de-da” fashion. The next day, when I was in meetings, Paul would take advantage of the hotel’s gym and swimming pool facilities. Depending on my schedule, we’d meet for lunch and/or go shopping. It was truly wonderful!

I remember my first stay in a fancy hotel for work after he died. It was so difficult; I felt so lost. My second work trip was a bit easier, but still had its challenges; my third was a bit easier still. And now, I’ve created a whole new fancy hotel routine that includes relaxing on a big fluffy bed and ordering room service.

Tonight finds me in Seattle at The Westin. It’s a fantastic room—though not as big and flash as the a-MAZE-ing room I stayed at in Edinburgh a year ago—and the view of the city is truly breath-taking. (If you like the view of downtown Seattle with the Puget Sound behind.)

I looked at the room service menu and was very unimpressed so instead, I’ve ordered a pizza from Pagliacci —something I’ve not done since Paul and I lived in downtown Seattle so many years ago. And wouldn’t you know it? They also had Thomas Kemper’s root beer, too! (Yum!)

So, here I sit eating pizza, drinking root beer, and working on today’s homework assignment for my online silliness class. It’s relaxing and enjoyable. I can’t believe how much easier this hotel stay is than that first one without Paul about a year ago. Though I still wish Paul was here to enjoy a dirty martini at the lounge downstairs.

Being silly

Right, I promised a more cheerful post the other day and I’m pleased to say that I don’t even have to be fake cheerful! You see, a few weeks ago my friend in Scotland sent me a link for an online art course called The Art of Silliness2 and yesterday was the first day of instruction. Yay!

I sat on the couch last night to start working on my warm-up exercise (a short story) and the day’s first proper assignment. My foster daughter is often interested in what I’m writing and drawing in the evenings and I’m (almost) always happy to show her. When she asked about last night’s projects I told her about the silliness class and she very plainly let me know that I am already the silliest person she knows and that she didn’t think I needed a class to learn how to be silly.

Ah, bless…

Anyhow, I am looking forward to spending the next month being that little bit more silly than normal. I promise not to bore you with all of my course work* via daily posts, but I will scan them as I go and include them on my “Silly Page” linked at the top of Just Frances.

* To be clear: This isn’t to say I won’t share some of my assignments, it just means I won’t blog about all of them.

Art?

I wish I was an artist. You know—a really good one. I wish I could draw things with ease and make them look pretty. In my mind I can see myself standing there with a paint palette creating these amazingly-beautiful landscapes or amazingly-accurate portraits. But in reality, I’m actually quite rubbish. Not only that, but it takes a lot of time to create that rubbish*!

But I enjoy using crayons and colored pencils, so I tend to just kick back on the couch and draw swirly things. And even they aren’t all that great, as you can see below. Now mostly I like this, but the top center(ish)-right-hand side has a really out-of-place looking swirl that I feel ruins the whole thing. However, creating this little piece of art kept me entertained for two evenings, and now I’m sharing the results with you! Yay!

(Sorry, this is what happens when you have no cable, a load of colored pencils and paper, and a state-of-the-art color scanner. Expect more silliness in the future. Especially since I’m going to take an online class on The Art of Silliness2! Yay!)

* I know I draw “OK” things and am not looking to have my ego bolstered here. I’m not embarrassed or ashamed of my ability, it’s just that my imagination has a very different appearance than reality!

Just a quick trip

So there I was in line at the British Airways counter at SeaTac. With me were three of my five sisters and their kids and a wanna-be sister (that’s you, J.D.) and her kids. (For those counting, that’s 13 people.) I was the only one of the group with experience traveling overseas, so I was the spokeswoman for us. Or maybe that was because I’m bossy and controlling. Either way, I was the leader.

I start handing passports over to the nice woman behind the counter and all of the sudden I realize that mine is dog-eared. Now, this panicked me. I was very upset about having a not-pretty passport so asked her to begin processing the information for the other 12 people in my travel party whilst I popped over to the instant passport printing machine. I took all of three minutes to get my new passport and it was fab! I even managed to include my signature green on the information page. It was an extra $10 for the customized look, but well worth it!

Once back at the counter, we finished the check-in process and made our way through the security lines. In front of us was David Tennant. We struck up a conversation and he was pleased to learn that he was speaking to Just Frances of Internet fame. So pleased, in fact, that he asked for some pens. Left-handed ones to boot!

Before I knew it we were on a plane bound for Heathrow. It must have been the shortest flight in the world because within moments we’d landed and were heading through immigration before heading to the train station. I’d really wanted to fly up north, but the romantic notion of train travel carried by my travel companions meant that I was out-voted. So instead, we took a long and boring train journey to Scotland; my companions pointing out every old building and spray-paint-dotted sheep along the route. (I think I was smiling secretly as I recalled my first train journey in the UK.)

Finally, we arrived at Waverly Station in Edinburgh and made our way to my friend’s amazing country house – which was only about a two-minute walk from the station.

As the rest of the group got settled into their rooms for the night, I sat there visiting with my friend who was preparing to make me a cuppa tea. We were having a great little chat when all of the sudden the kettle started whistling.

At the same time, my alarm clock started to go off. Yep, it was time to re-enter reality and go to work. Oh well. Maybe I can return to my lovely conversation tonight. After all, it’s not fair that everyone else’s holiday was cut short when I awoke from my dream.

Back to school

Way-hey! Tomorrow is the first day of school. I’m totally excited! I’ve got my backpack packed, my pencils sharpened, my way-awesome binder loaded with college-ruled paper, and my protractor tucked neatly away in a little pouch.

I can almost smell the construction paper and paste wafting through the halls. I can almost taste the overly-processed, barely recognizable as food, lunch waiting for me in the cafeteria. I can almost hear the laughter of happy children on the playground…

Oh, wait. It’s not me who’s going to school tomorrow. It’s the kid. Darn!

Yep, the kid starts 6th grade in the morning. Middle school. Wow. It seems like less than two weeks ago that she came into my life…

Oh, wait. It was less than two weeks ago!

So, for those wondering how I’m getting on with the kid – we’re getting on quite well. I think that she’s both excited and nervous about starting middle school tomorrow. She totally loves her awesome new backpack. It’s purple and it has a butterfly. Cool. (I must admit to liking the butterfly motif myself, but I’d rather it in green.)

For those wondering about my own back-to-school plans – they are still in process. I can’t send off my applications for autumn 2011 until after the 2010 school year begins, but I am working on them now. I promise. My goal is to have everything ready for my applications before the end of September. I promise. Really.

Happy back-to-school season to all!!

Stick it ‘n lick it

I really like candy. Especially candy that comes on a stick. Candy on a stick is great fun because of the added bonus of using your hands to eat – a feeding style that is dear to my heart. You name it, I love it! Suckers, lollipops, Tootsie Pops, Dum·Dum·Pops, Drumsticks, Chupa Chups, Sugar Daddies… oh, the list goes on and on!

Before getting to the main point, though, let’s just get the Tootsie Pop stuff dealt with. First: How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop? Well, it’s either three or ‘the world may never know’ – depending on which answer from the 1980s-era commercial you want to believe. Second: The whole Indian shooting a star on the wrapper legend. But I’ve already written about that one, and you can read about it here.

OK? Ready to move on? Great!

I want to talk about the “Eww Factor.” Yes, that’s right, this post is really all about the eww factor.

Am I the only one who finds it a bit odd that there is an exception to the rule that says to keep your food in your mouth? Instead, we find it acceptable to carry on a conversation whilst holding a saliva-covered piece of confection in our hand. And at some point, let’s be honest, some of them get pretty icky looking – especially the ones with ooey, gooey fillings.

I mean, no one would tolerate me removing a chunk of half-masticated steak from my mouth then holding it on my fork for all to see during a conversation. So why is it acceptable to do it with a Tootsie Pop?

I don’t know if there is a real point to this post, but I would love your views on why it’s acceptable – or even your views on why it’s not acceptable.

Thoughts?

NOTE: No matter how disgusting I think it is, I will continue to suck on my lollipops – in public or not – because I can. Until Emily Post tells me otherwise at least.

An illegitimate, homeless transient

I was born as a homeless transient, living in hotel rooms on the road for the first couple weeks of my life. Added to that early start, in the 1980s it was discovered that I was actually an illegitimately-born child. In fact, most of my sisters were illegitimate, as well.

That is a completely factual statement, however misleading it may be.

My father’s new post in the United States Marine Corps saw the family leaving California for Texas. Between the time that the family’s home in California was vacated and I was born, my parents and my two older siblings (for obvious reasons, not my younger siblings) took up residence in a long-stay hotel. Shortly after my birth at Camp Pendleton,* we vacated the California hotel and hit the road for Texas.

That answers the homeless transient part of the statement. Now on to my illigitimate birth.

My parents were married at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Cle Elum, Washington, in June 1969 (the same church I was married in nearly 36 years later). Their wedding was performed by Mom’s cousin, a Catholic priest. Their first-born daughter entered the world about 15 months later. About every two years another daughter was born. But here’s the catch: Mom’s cousin didn’t actually file the paperwork with the county until the sometime in the late 1970s, after their fifth daughter was born.** Meaning that, technically, they weren’t married.

And there you have it. From an illegitimate, homeless transient to a successful, university-educated world-traveler. Who knew!?

(Did I mention that I work in the public relations industry? Yep, it’s all about the spin, babe!)

* It should be noted that shortly after my birth the hospital was demolished. I like to think that it’s because they realized that never again would the building see the birth of such an amazing individual. And being as the building would never be able to top such an event, they decided to build a new hospital. It was the right choice.

** The timing may be a little off so whilst it is known that their sixth (and final) daughter was legitimately born, there is still a question as to if their penultimate daughter was born before or after their marriage certificate was filed.

Free coffee!

I’m holding a contest and you should totally enter to win FREE COFFEE! Yay!

Why a contest*? Because I stopped at Starbucks on my way home this afternoon and experienced an amazing act of kindness and really want to pass on my joy.

Here’s the story:
I decided to stop in at Starbucks for a cup of Refresh tea to break up my journey home. I grabbed my laptop and headed into the shop. I’m standing there waiting to order when an older lady in front of me turned and said “I’m buying your drink today, so go ahead and place your order.” In my shock, I looked behind me thinking she must be talking to a friend. But no, she was talking to me.

She explained that seeing that my pretty floral dress matched my floral laptop sleeve made her smile and she wanted to do something to make me smile in return. I tried to protest but she wouldn’t have it any other way. Figuring my drink was only about a buck-sixty, and that it really would make her happy to buy it for me, I allowed her to do so.

I mean, how wonderfully-kind was that? It was nice enough to just have the compliment of making someone smile, but then to get a free drink out of the deal? 100% awesome!

It got me thinking that the simple act of buying someone a cup of coffee can totally turn a plain day into a sprinkles-added day.

So now you know why, let’s talk about how!

How do you enter?
Answer one or more of these three questions by leaving a comment on this post.
[Comments left on Facebook do not count, sorry.]

1) What’s your coffee order and why?

2) What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever witnessed when at the coffee shop?

3) What’s your favorite ‘random acts of kindness’ story?

When is the contest over?
Entries must be received by 10:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time on Thursday, August 5th.
[That translates to 6:00 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time on Friday, August 6th, for folks in the UK.]

What do you win?
A $25 or £20 Starbucks gift card.
[NOTE: This assumes the winner is from America, Canada, or the UK. If you don’t live in one of those places but still want to play, we’ll figure out some way to get you free coffee in a currency you can use for roughly $25USD!]

Who can enter?
Anyone! You don’t have to ‘really’ know me. This can be your first-ever visit to my blog. Doesn’t matter. But you can only enter once.

How will the winner be determined?
The names of entrants will be placed in a hat and one will be randomly selected by Schrodie. OK, that last part is a lie. One will be randomly selected by me.

So, get busy answering one or more of the questions for your chance to get some free coffee!

* To give full credit, the inspiration for doing a contest at all came after reading a friend’s blog where she gave away a gift card to celebrate a great accomplishment in her life.

Ode to the Beach House

An Ode to the Beach House
by Just Frances

Oh Beach House, Beach House
Your lovely views of the Columbia River gorge entice my senses

Oh Beach House, Beach House
The serenity you offer brings joy to my heart

Oh Beach House, Beach House …

Right, this is silly. Who has time to write silly poems and stuff when the river floats are inflated, the skies are blue, and the girls are ready to hit the water?

Yay for Girls’ Weekend at the Beach House.

Cold theory

So I’m sitting here drinking a proper beer with my sister and brother-not-in-law, JohnnyO. (JohnnyO is drinking Bud Light, which is almost proper beer, so that’s OK.) A question of if my beer is ‘ice cold’ turns the conversation to the ridiculous ‘cold activation’ sensor-thingy on the side of a can of Coors Light. [I’m shuddering at the thought of drinking said beverage regardless of the temperature.]

Anyhow, being one of those people who must find an answer for anything, even if it’s made up, I had to answer JohnnyO when he asked “What’s up with that?” with complete disdain in his voice.

And here’s my theory:

You know those people who are really dumb and hold Roman Candles in their hands whilst the fiery balls of flaming sulfur fly into the sky? Or the ones who stop at the gas station because their car is a bit noisy then grab the muffler to see if it’s securely attached to the car? Or the woman (or man) who checks to see if the curling iron is hot enough by wrapping their hand around the barrel? You know, the people who end up at the Harborview Burn Center for skin grafts causing them to lose sensation in their hands?

Well, I think that those are the people Coors is marketing to. The people with no feeling in their hands. And who like cheap, crap lagers. And need a way to tell if it’s ice cold.

When I rule the world, I will make certain that my Drinks Tsar makes eliminating Coors and other icky lagers* a priority.

* Icky lagers are to be defined as those un-liked by me as well as the lucky person who gets to be Drinks Tsar.

I SCREAM!

My nephew and I enjoyed a nice picnic dinner before spending two hours hiking Kamiak Butte last night. We’d decided before the trip that we would treat ourselves to ice cream after we were done. We’d also decided that licorice ice cream would play a role in our double-scooped treats. We were so excited about this that on the descent we kept repeating ‘black licorice’ in silly voices (pretending, of course, that it was the trees encouraging us to have licorice ice cream).

I can’t begin to explain how distraught we both were when we got back to town and saw that the shop had closed 20 minutes before. It was truly devastating. The kid tried his best to console me with the promise that “we can get ice cream tomorrow instead” but it just didn’t help fill the deep sadness I felt inside… (OK, I may be gilding the lily a bit there, but really I was bummed about this.)

So, to make up for yesterday’s let-down, we decided to have ice cream for dinner tonight. Two scoops, thank you very much.

I had licorice and cherry cordial for my two scoops. The boy, in his most boring-est way, had two scoops of licorice. I don’t know why he didn’t want two different flavors other than he’s weird. But that’s OK. So am I!

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!

SUBS syndrome

This is something I posted on RyanCentric years ago, but as it’s been mentioned by a few “old” friends recently it made me realize that most of my “new” friends won’t know that I suffer from SUBS. Well, they may know, but they don’t realize there’s a name for it. So, I’m re-posting!
———————

I would like to introduce myself as one who suffers from SUBS syndrome. Well, I guess I don’t really suffer from it, but the people around me sure suffer from my affliction at times.

SUBS is a condition first named with the help of my friend more than a decade ago. We’ve had it all our lives; we just never knew what it was. Though our findings are not published, and would likely never be recognized by any professional journals, many people have been self-diagnosed since our first announcement of the condition.

But just what is SUBS?

SUBS: Sudden Uncontrollable Bursts of Sarcasm
SUBS is a generally genetic condition but is often highly contagious. Those who are not affected are often times left in a stunned condition, as they have no clue what is being said around them, nor do they understand the reason for laughter. At times, they may feel as if they are being teased or picked on by SUBS carriers, though that is rarely the case.

At the present time, there is no known cure for SUBS. Some people are able to control their outbreaks when the situation calls for it; some are able to go into remission for hours or even days at a time. But SUBS is one of those things that are simply ingrained in the inter-workings of the mind.

I am a member of the SUBS community with a genetic disposition to the condition. The genetic line runs heavily through my family on both my maternal and paternal sides. As with most cases, SUBS affects every member in my family. Even my young nieces and nephews are showing signs of the condition. There is no getting through a conversation without someone’s SUBS showing through.

Thankfully, most of the people I know suffer from SUBS, as well. In fact, SUBS is how I met Paul while I was living in Scotland. Him being British and all, he never expected that he would meet an American who could understand sarcasm and wit. If only he knew what he was getting himself into!

I am not ashamed of my condition. No, in fact, I am very proud of it. I get the jokes. I get the puns, and I totally get British sitcoms (well, almost). I love a funny little one-line zinger. Even more so when most people around don’t understand what was said.

Don’t be ashamed if you, too, are afflicted with SUBS. Share the laughter! Share the joy! Maybe your little bit of sarcasm will infect someone else. Oh what a happy day it will be when the whole world is dripping with satire, repartee, and irony!

Very fishy

I started this post thinking it would be about my love of (obsession for?) fish-n-chips but couldn’t stop myself from going on these little tangents about other fish-related thoughts and memories. So instead, I’m just going to share some random fishy tidbits with you.

  • I love fish-n-chips. I always liked it as a kid, but after moving to Scotland and having a ‘proper’ fish supper, I grew to love the stuff. (In Edinburgh, you get your chips with salt-n-sauce – yum!) It’s become somewhat of a joke with my in-laws and UK friends. And if you wondered, the best fish-n-chips in England come from Seaton Carew; in Scotland they come from this little chippy near Haymarket in Edinburgh.
  • During Lent, my mantra is “Fish on a Friday” because during Lent Catholics don’t eat meat on Fridays. I think it used to be every Friday of the year, but it’s been changed in accordance with Canon Law 1253 or Vatican II or something. [Note to self: Research this issue a bit more so that you know what the heck you’re talking about.]
  • When I was a kid, grandpa would point out colorful fish to us – just as he did with my mom and her siblings. “Look! Over there! A purple one is over there on that rock smoking a pipe!” Or some other such silly thing. And I’d look. And I’d be frustrated that I couldn’t see the fish. But every once in a while, I’d say I could see it, too. Grandpa was a funny, funny man. I like to think I got some of his sense of humor. After all, my jokes are just as “baaadddd daaadddd….” (Yeah, it’s a real knee slapper if you knew Grandpa!)
  • Quite often when I think about fish, I find myself saying “Fishy, fishy, fishy…” in a funny voice. I blame the Python Boys and their Find the Fish sketch.
  • “Back in the day” I used to go fishin’ at Hanson Ponds. I remember grabbing my pole and tackle then walking up to Victory Sports for some bait before heading over to the ponds. I don’t remember catching many fish, but I still remember it being fun. I don’t think that I’ve gone fishing since I was in my late-teens or early-20s. I wonder if I would still enjoy it…
  • And, finally, I’m a fish! Well, I’m a Pisces anyhow. I don’t really pay attention to all that hooey, but I guess some people really do believe in it.

Yes, I am well-aware that this is an extremely pointless post. But it’s my blog and I rule the roost on my blog. Yay me!

I like peanut butter

When I first began this blog, I jokingly commented that: “The content will be all over the place. You may visit one day and see a 1,500-word essay on why I think creamy peanut butter is better than crunchy and the next day there may be some random quote from some random song lyrics that I like.”

Well, today’s the day you get that 1,500-word essay and some random song lyrics all in one!

Peanut butter used to be just one of those random foods that I kept in the cupboard. As a child, it was a common lunch ingredient. On occasion, Mom would put it on celery for us to munch on – with raisins. Or maybe the raisins were enjoyed at friends’ houses. I can’t recall. I think we mostly had creamy peanut butter growing up. It was purchased in these large tubs – which is what you do when there are six kids (plus random friends coming and going all the time). Adams brand, maybe?

As an adult, I always kept it on-hand for making “no-bake” cookies. Some days, I would enjoy a big spoonful of the stuff just because I wanted something to eat and didn’t know what else to have. I rarely made PB&J sandwiches, but I used to make toast with peanut butter and a drizzle of honey. Sometimes I’d add raisins.

It wasn’t until moving to Scotland that I realized everyone in the world didn’t grow up on PB&J. Paul seemed to almost turn his nose up at the stuff. He found it strange that I would always have a jar in my flat – and even stranger that I would eat it straight from the jar. He just wasn’t interested in the stuff.

About a year after we got married, Paul found himself in the kitchen looking for something to snack on. He found the jar of peanut butter and decided to give it a go. That small jar that would normally last 2-3 months was gone in less than two weeks. He was addicted!

Soon, I found peanut butter becoming a normal grocery purchase – and no longer the smallest jar, but the medium-sized one. And no longer creamy (my favorite) but crunchy. I still maintained my peanut butter habits of 1-2 spoonfuls in a month’s time, but Paul was going through 1-2 spoonfuls a day – sometimes more!

When we’d go to my parents’ house, he could often be found in the kitchen “testing” their peanut butter to make sure it hadn’t gone off or something. It got to be such a (funny) quirk that one year, Santa brought Paul a jar or peanut butter and a plastic spoon. And he started eating it right away!

Eventually, Paul realized that his addiction was getting out of control and he cut back drastically. I think part of it was because he knew that he needed to set a good example for the kids we were planning to adopt and eating straight from the jar wasn’t a good lesson to teach.

You know, I don’t think I’ve eaten peanut butter since Paul died. For some reason, I don’t seem to buy it anymore. Maybe because he’s not here to ask me to; maybe because he’s not here for me to make no-bake cookies for; or maybe because it’s one of those little mental foibles where I will always connect peanut butter with Paul and I’m just not willing or able to deal with it right now. But I digress…

OK! OK! What the heck is this all about?!

Well, it started because “Peanut Butter” by The Royal Guardsmen (Snoopy vs. The Red Baron album) came on the iPod today.

But I just can’t keep this up any longer so it won’t be a 1,500-word essay after all (yes, I hear you cheering that fact!). I’m including the lyrics to the song to help pad it out though.

Oh! And why do I prefer creamy peanut butter to crunchy? Because I once had crunchy peanut butter that either had a very very stale bit of peanut in it or a tiny rock and it chipped my tooth. With creamy, never have to worry about that.

Peanut Butter
The Royal Guardsmen
Snoopy vs. The Red Barron

There’s a food goin’ around that’s a sticky sticky goo
(Peanut, peanut butter)
Oh well it tastes real good, but it’s so hard to chew
(Peanut, peanut butter)
All my friends tell me that they dig it the most
(Peanut, peanut butter)
Early in the morning when they spread it on toast
(Peanut, peanut butter)
I like peanut butter, creamy peanut butter
Chunky peanut butter, too

C’mon now, take a lesson now
(Peanut, peanut butter)
Open up your jar now
(Peanut, peanut butter)
Spread it on your cracker now
(Peanut, peanut butter)
Chomp now
(Peanut, peanut butter)
I like peanut butter, creamy peanut butter
Chunky peanut butter, too

Well, I went to a dinner and what did they eat
(Peanut, peanut butter)
Ah-well, I took a big bite and it stuck to my teeth
(Peanut, peanut butter)
Now everybody look like they got the mumps
(Peanut, peanut butter)
Just-a eatin’ peanut butter in-a great big hunks
(Peanut, peanut butter)
I like peanut butter, creamy peanut butter
Chunky peanut butter, too
I like peanut butter, creamy peanut butter
Chunky peanut butter, too

Wear your hair in bunches

Following up on last Friday’s pigtail challenge, here’s a fun little song I have to share with you. I’d never heard it before meeting Paul, but each and every time I’d put my hair in pigtails (that’s bunches for my UK followers) he would sing this song in a funny little voice. And, of course, that means every time I wear pigtails I think of this song and every time I think of this song I think of Paul. But then, most things make me think of Paul so that’s not a surprise!

Happy Friday!

(Oh, and if you wondered, all of this came up because I had my iPod set to random play in the office today and this song came on.)

It’s a party for your head

In honor of the lovely Flik’s 13th birthday tomorrow, I am holding a party for my head* this evening. Oh yes, I am! And I dared – or rather,  DOUBLE-DOG dared – the young (er, I mean, nearly-adult) Flik to do the same.

Flik and her friends, being good sports and loving a good party, took the dare. (It should be noted that Flik doesn’t like to wear her hair any way other than down and in her face. Otherwise, the dare wouldn’t have been needed.)

Happy birthday, Flik! I love ya, luv!

*It is a well-known fact that pigtails are just about as much fun your hair can possibly have. So much fun, in fact, that it’s like a party for your head!

NOTE: After writing this piece I decided to check out one of my favorite word-geek sites and was humored by the last paragraph on the entry explaining the etymology behind double-dog dare.

Free Tootsies!

I enjoyed a raspberry flavored Tootsie Pop after dinner this evening. And for a special surprise, it was an Indian wrapper! Yay!

I don’t remember when I first heard the urban legend about the infamous wrapper that depicts an Indian chief shooting a star with a bow and arrow. But the rumor was that if you found one you could redeem it for a free Tootsie Pop. Admittedly, I never tried this, but I have heard stories from people who insist that their neighborhood Five and Dime honored the tradition.

Though Tootsie Roll Industries claim to never have offered such a promotion and, presumably, these Five and Dimes did so taking the loss themselves as a gesture of good will – and in the hopes of creating loyal customers for tomorrow a the cost of a measly two-bits today.

But still, each time I open a Tootsie Pop with an Indian shooting star I smile… and make a promise to myself to go buy an extra one. Because, obviously, it’s a sign that I deserve it.

Egg-tastic!

Twice a year, an old urban legend is told about the possibility of balancing an egg on end during the spring and autumn equinoxes. It always gives me a giggle because, whilst it is possible to do it, it has nothing to do with the tilt of the Earth’s axis and its positioning to the Sun but rather is possible any day of the year – if someone has enough patience.

Tonight I watched The West Wing season 4, episode 20 (“Evidence of Things Not Seen”) where C.J. Craig tries to convince Toby Ziegler and Will Bailey of this possibility. Which, of course, means that I spent about an hour trying to balance an egg myself.

As evident by the photo, I did manage to get that damn egg to balance on end. But I must confess, it was only after I reached for a tube of lip balm sitting on the table. After sweeping a thin line of the balm on the bottom of the egg it balanced with ease! And it’s not even an equinox!

It’s the fuzz, sans fuzz!

I live in a small town of 650 people. The nearest “city” is nine miles down the road with a population of around 1,100. The two municipalities share three police officers between them. When I first moved here I noticed that there was an older cop car that was always parked at the edge of one town or the other, right near the highway where the speed limit changes from 55 to 25 miles per hour through town. And in that old cop car sat a very large stuffed bear wearing a mounty-style hat. Paul and I joked that our local “fuzz” really was a pile of fuzz!

For the past several weeks the car has been parked at the north end of town, just as it was yesterday morning as I drove by on my way to the homeland to see my folks. But instead of a big stuffed bear, there sat a real, honest-to-goodness person! Yes! A cop was sitting in the cop car. And it made me laugh as I wondered how many people have sped past the car “knowing” it was just a stuffed animal all this time. I also wondered how many poor souls the cop would get in his fun little speed trap.

Much to my delight, on my way back into town there sat the cop car – real cop included – once again. This little switch-out makes me smile. But then, I am always certain to slow down when I get to town so don’t run the risk of meeting the fuzz in person!!

Remember folks: Spring means speed traps! Slow down!

McKean’s

McKean’s Drive-In is the local burger joint in my hometown and is a true institution. When I was in school several of my friends worked there – as did I when they needed the extra hands and I wasn’t already working my waitressing job at the truck stop down the road.

In my 20s I would go down on a Friday night with my good friend and his daughter and the three of us would pig out on McGuire Specials, deep-fried mushrooms, onion rings, and milkshakes (make mine pineapple, please!). I’d pop in from time-to-time on my own, too, for a to-go order.

Because Paul was a vegetarian, we never went there – and I got to thinking about it a few weeks ago and realized that it had been 6 or 7 years since my last visit. Which got me thinking about the delicious goodness I was missing out on. So, I posted something on Facebook about it and before I knew it, old high school friends from around the state were on board for a McKean’s Meet-Up.

And so, yesterday I made the drive from the Palouse to the homeland to meet for McGuire Specials. Before lunch I went to cheer on two of my young nieces who had spent their Saturday at a math competition – and ended up kidnapping the 12-year-old afterward to take her for lunch with us.

All together there were eight of us there in the small dining room in the back. My favorite set of twins spent a bit of time reminiscing about their time working behind the counter for “Ammonia Amelia” before our conversations turned to very silly reminiscing about everything under the sun. After lunch, four of us planned to meet at the Brick in Roslyn for a quick beer. Dropping my niece off at home along the way, she remarked that she really enjoyed the whole group – but was certain to point out that we all acted like children!! (I think that this was a compliment though!)

Once at the Brick, my favorite twins, a good friend from high school, and I continued the visiting and laughter for a bit before everyone had to go their own way. (Which included me and one of the twins finding our way to a bar in Cle Elum for a few more beers…)

I think that we all were reminded that the homeland isn’t too far from where we all live now and that there is no reason that we can’t meet up for lunch a little more often. We’re thinking that our next gathering might just be that slumber party that was mentioned on Facebook. (Maybe the niece was right: We really do act like children!)

Jokes we thought were funny

Paul and I liked to say things that were 100% accurate, but would easily be taken as meaning something completely different than the truth. The reactions we got from people made us giggle.

  1. My first wife/husband…
    We would drop that into a conversation quite randomly as in “My first husband used to own that CD.” People who knew me (or thought they knew me) were always shocked thinking that I’d been married and divorced without them ever knowing – when in reality, Paul was the first husband I was talking about.
  2. A woman in your condition…
    Paul loved to say this within earshot of my family and friends! “A woman in your condition shouldn’t be mowing the lawn,” would be a normal situation, and it was generally because I was meant to be resting/taking it easy because of an illness – not because of pregnancy. But you know what people were thinking…
  3. I’m in love with a married woman/man…
    When friends would gather and start telling their deepest, darkest secrets, I’d pop in with “I’m madly in love with a married man.” Oh, the looks on their faces when I went on to talk about spending weekends away with this married man!

Yeah, we were so weird…

And don’t worry, I will come up with more ridiculous things to say to make me giggle. It’s what I do.