Thursday, May 31, 2007

Hold Me Closer, Tiny Dancer

Ainsley had her first dance lesson last night. I promised her that she could give them a try since she has been going around the house imitating Genevieve from Barbie and the Twelve Dancing Princesses all spring.

The dance studio we're sending her to requires each Kinderdance student to wear a pink leotard, pink tights, and pink ballet shoes. So she was all decked out in her pink dance gear, hair pulled into a little bun, looking like a little dancing angel.

I didn't get to watch any of the dance lesson as parents are not invited into the tiny studio, but she demonstrated pointing one toe and then the other when she got home. Apparently this was the focus of the first lesson, and she told me that she was very good at it.

If she really likes it, I guess we will keep her in lessons next school year. I don't want to be one of those parents driving her kid around to a dozen different activities every week, and I don't want Ainsley overscheduled before she even starts 1st grade. We already have her working her way through the Swim America program at our gym, but I guess if she continues to love dance, we'll have to add that to our weekly schedule. At least I can work out while she does these things; the overzealous moms I see watching, analyzing, and sidelines-coaching every move their kids make during lessons or practices give me the heebie-jeebies. And the girly gossip crew that crammed into the claustrophobic waiting room across from the dance studio last night completely wasn't my scene.

But at least for now, dance does seem to be Ainsley's scene. It was so precious to see my little tomboy flitting around in a pink leotard with a little short skirt. And if it helps her to grow up to be more coordinated than her poor mama, all the better.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

20 Pounds in Two Weeks and Other Desperate Measures for My Upcoming High-School Reunion

Yeah, that snuck up on me. The end of the school year has had me so stressed and the month of May has gone so painfully slowly that I was taken aback last night when I realized my 15-year high-school reunion is 10 days away. Argh. I really need more time if I'm going to lose the 20 pounds I've put on since June 6, 1992. Better get going on that celebrity starvation diet if I'm going to be the skinny minnie I was back in the day.

Oh, who am I kidding? I am eating a pack of peanut M&Ms and drinking a full-sugar Coke as I write. And I was too skinny in high school. I needed a little of this weight (aren't I great at rationalizing?) And people won't really care, will they? People won't be talking about each other's weight, will they? Will they? (Crickets.) Oh, alright, I'll cut down on the carbs next week and maybe drop 5. But that's it! That's all the work I'm doing on myself because I'm just not that shallow. Except that I will be using some brush-on overnight teeth whitener. But that's it! Just the 5 pounds and the tooth bleach. Wait, I also bought some gradual self-tanning lotion. So it will just be those three things. But that's it! I swear!

But if I'm being completely honest, I must confess that if I had more disposable income, I would have, um, enhanced certain female assets a long time ago. And fixed my overbite and had the bonding that hides the Letterman-like space between my two front teeth redone. And get manicures and pedicures. And do something about the spider veins that popped out on my legs during my pregnancy. And maybe have a little peel done to erase the scars from past breakouts.

Okay, so I just made myself sound like Quasimodo. ("She gave me water!") I'm really not so bad. I have a few good features that haven't changed much in 15 years. Most days I have nice hair. My mom, in a typically motherly search for something nice to say, always tells me she likes my eyebrows ("They make you look like Kirstie Alley!") And my husband has always liked my smile (overbite and all.) I'm no Angelina or anything, but I'm not really an Extreme Makeover candidate, either (though in their last season they sent out a call for cancer survivors and librarians, and having hit the jackpot of being both, I filled out an application and got a response back asking for both a head shot and a body shot in a swimsuit or underwear; the latter picture didn't get sent but was the inspiration for me joining a gym.)

I think every female high-school member of the geek squad wants to show up at the reunion as the ugly-duckling-turned-swan whose entrance makes the cheerleaders gasp and earns a drunken proposition from the captain of the football team . It's not going to happen for me, and that's OK. I wasn't the homeliest chick in my class, and wasn't the reigning beauty queen, either. I fell somewhere in the middle. And I still do. I'm that average-looking girl who can clean up well and with the right clothes and makeup and a good hair day, can approach a soccer-mom kind of almost-hot-ness. And since I'm so damn charming, intelligent, and warm (stop laughing!) my looks don't matter so much.

Oh, hell, yes they do. Where are my tweezers? That stray hair on my chin isn't going to pluck itself.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

I Came, I Ran, I Was Mediocre

Jason and I ran the Kicks for Kids River Run 5K Saturday. It was my first 5K since last May when I ran my first one ever. I was better prepared for this one, and in better shape, so it was more fun. However, it was also a lot larger and more competitive than the last one I did, so even though I improved on my prior time by a hair under 2 minutes, I still finished right in the middle of the pack (those of you who know my alias can search for my results here--just look for me somewhere in the 31-minute-and-something finishers.)

It was fun, and thinking about how 4 years ago this month I was undergoing chemo puts it in perspective--how can I be disappointed with a mediocre finish when I couldn't even get out of bed some days 4 years ago? And I ran the entire length; that's always my goal. But it's a little demoralizing to get passed by 60-year-old men, 12-year-old kids, and women pushing toddlers in jogging strollers. Besides meeting my run-3.1-miles-without-stopping goal, I suppose I should be proud that I sheared 2 minutes off my last time and that I didn't injure my achilles tendon and need weeks of physical therapy (there's a reason why it's been a year since my last 5K.)

Jason was disappointed with his run but still smoked me. He still finished higher among the males than I did among the females. Being disappointed with his time will just fire him up to kick butt at our next run, the Racing to Read run to benefit Kenton County Public Library. It will be hard for me to improve on my time as I think I just had an exceptionally good day at the River Run, but there is one incentive the Racing to Read 5K has that may have me sprinting to the finish line...

Pancakes from First Watch will be served in the parking lot after the race.

Monday, May 28, 2007

I Will Remember You

Where I'm originally from, Memorial Day is called Decoration Day and we honor all those we've lost, not just the brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. I grew up with Decoration Day being a time to visit our family plots and set flowers on the grave sites, telling stories about our departed to try to remember and honor them.

Today I want to honor some people I've lost, some of whom have grave sites too distant for me to show my respects in any material way.

Today, I remember:

1. My dad, with whom I had a stormy relationship throughout most of my youth, but who became my touchstone in the last decade of his life.

2. Mamaw Herd, a true Southern lady who could mix batter with one hand while using the other to load and fire a BB gun at stray dogs she felt were getting too close to where I was playing on the porch. She taught me how to crochet, and she made the patchwork quilt I nap under. She was my favorite person as a kid.

3. Papaw Herd, a protector and healer of small creatures. He had a healing touch with sick youngsters and stray animals and once nursed an orphaned flying squirrel back to health and kept it for a short time as a pet. He also helped my mom to get me through pneumonia when I was 6 weeks old and cried at my first birthday because he didn't thinkI would live to reach that milestone.

4. Martin, the grandfather I never knew.

5. "Mick", my husband's wonderful grandmother, the best cook I've ever known. She made pecan pull-aparts that made grown men cry. Every break from college, she had Jason call me to find out what I wanted her to cook me for dinner (and it was always her chicken and dumplins.) More than anyone else in Jason's family, she welcomed me as one of her own.

6. Steve, my husband's stepfather who we lost entirely too suddenly and too soon. He had a huge heart, and had no reservations about marrying a divorcee with six children. He provided for Jason and his brothers and sisters as though they were his children. A neon artist and sign-maker, his works can still be seen in the tri-state area. And man, could he throw a party.

7. Christine, my sister's friend who bought me the cancer survival handbook Love, Medicine, and Miracles when I was sick and put a wonderfully inspirational note in it about beating cancer. A year later, her breast cancer returned and within weeks she was gone. She was young, athletic, and a true fighter, and her death was very hard for my sister and I to accept. Her words of inspiration comfort me nevertheless to this day.

8. Jessica, the student in one of my freshman English classes my first year of teaching who died in a senseless car accident in the last weeks of school. The only thing harder than seeing her young face in a casket was teaching in a classroom with a tragically empty desk the rest of the year.

9. Brandon, the husband of a friend I met through my high-school buddies, and the first person my own age whose visitation I attended. He left behind a pregnant wife and did not live to see his only child, a son, born.

To all these souls, may you rest in peace. You will never be forgotten.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Letter to a Sweat Hog

I wrote the following letter by hand during a break from a workshop last Friday and found it in my car this morning. After you read it, you'll see that they don't call me Cranky for nothing.

To the guy who hogged the leg press last night at the gym:

Hi! You probably don't remember me, but we both worked out yesterday afternoon. See, Thursday is my designated lower-body workout day, and I couldn't help but notice you because of your, um, affinity for the leg press machine.

I know our gym is currently replacing some of their equipment and that all of their old weight machines were moved out of the weight room downstairs, and apparently you are a leg man. Hey, no biggie. I like to work on my legs, too. We all were having to do our resistance training upstairs in the circuit training area yesterday, and there are only 3 leg-centered machines up there. So we were all sharing the limited equipment. All of us, that is, but you.

I like to start with the leg press, but you were using it when I arrived. So I moved through the rest of the circuit, keeping an eye on you and your favorite machine.

Not that I needed to keep an eye on you. I could hear you quite well throughout the circuit what with your grunts and groans and exclamations of muscular distress. You also startled us all with the occasional curse at the end of a set. I have to admit that I felt a little embarrassed for you, dude. Keep that in the bedroom next time.

The entire 20 minutes I worked out with weights, you stayed on the leg press. You lifted with both legs. You lifted with one leg. You did calf flexes. You made it your own personal Bowflex. And that's not cool.

After you were finished tying up 1 of only 3 leg machines available, I had exactly one minute left to finish my workout before I had to retrieve Ainsley from swim lessons. And of course, you had not wiped your 20 minutes worth of sweat off the machine before you left it. I want to thank you for that.

In closing, I just want you to know that being a gym-equipment hog just ain't right. Sure, you got a great workout, I guess (not sure why you're so obsessed with your quads, but whatevs), but the rest of us (and there were several of us working through the circuit, doing a few reps on each machine, giving you dirty looks when we had to skip past you and your beloved) got a little slighted. I know, I know, there used to be more machines downstairs, and there will be brand new equipment this time next week, but I've dealt with your type before. Some of y'all like to claim a machine and live on it.

Please be considerate. Be aware. Share. That's all I ask.


A Cranky Librarian Just Trying to Get Fit

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Mind Frack

Yeah, so how 'bout that Lost last night? Was that a complete mind-frack or what?

I have that out-0f-sorts, invasion-of-the-body-snatchers feeling today that I get whenever I have experienced a major change in my life. It's like I don't feel like myself because some known entity in my life that I have gotten used to and have taken for granted has suddenly gone away or changed. I have my favorite TV show to thank for this disorientation today.

At the first commercial I turned to Jason and said, "I think this is future Jack, not past Jack." So it wasn't a huge surprise when Kate showed up. But it was weird. It's like it became a different show last night.

And soooo many questions. Is Naomi's boat for good or evil? Will it be their rescue, or were they taken off the island later and under different circumstances than what we saw? Who went home, and who stayed? Can the island ever be found again? Who was in the coffin? What about the bodies Naomi claimed to have discovered? How is Kate not still a fugitive?

I still stand by my theories posted earlier about the island and immortality and the true nature of Jacob and the natives. I've yet to really think about how our vision of future Jack fits into my analysis. But I still hold that Jacob and the natives needed help from Locke (and maybe Jack, too, since he feels like his life has no purpose post-island) to leave the confines of immortality and go into the light. I felt last night that Ben sees his ultimate role as protector of the magic of the island, and he knows if anyone leaves and tells what they saw then the island and its powers can be exploited. He also realized last night that without his followers, he is nothing. In our world, Ben would be a misfit and loner. Most of the decisions he's made and the lies he's told have been to keep himself and his followers on the island to maintain his status as a leader and to protect the gifts of the island.

Maybe Jack went against the island's (and Jacob's) wishes by leaving before Jacob and his people were released from the immortality granted them by the island (Mikhail's Michael-Meyers-like refusal to die last night led credibility to this theory.) Maybe Jack was destined to help Locke take out Jacob, and since Locke is no leader despite his spirituality and deep connection with the island, it was to have been Jack who takes over the protection of the island and a new order of inhabitants. Perhaps his sad life is a karmic retribution for his not fulfilling his intended destiny.

Or maybe Cuse and Lindelhof just want to make our heads spin.

I have a lot to mull over between now and February 2008. Until then, Losties.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Here's What I'm Thinking About Lost...

Okay, so check it out. I've been thinking about writing up my thoughts and theories on Lost for a couple of weeks now, but it makes me have little wiggles in my tummy. It's one thing to spill my guts about things that have actually happened in my life, but another to go out on a tropical, fictional limb and try to explain my thoughts on everyone's favorite cult TV show. There really isn't anything earth-shattering here, and there certainly are some things I still can't explain. But here goes.

The island is a healing island (this we already know.) Like Claire's and Rose's psychic said, there are some places on our earth that have magical, healing powers. It could be because of the special electromagnetic properties of the island, or it could be that those properties are a result of something larger that also causes the healing. But it doesn't matter. Anyone who comes to the island becomes healed to the point of being immortal.

I don't think there are any true "native" inhabitants of the island. I think over the centuries, the magnetic pull has brought ships off course, crashed planes, etc. and brought people there. I think the "natives" we've seen, led by Richard, crashed there centuries ago (probably on the Black Rock slave ship.) They've been there so long they have become "native" in their own minds. Here's where I go a little out there: I believe Richard and his people are no longer able to die of natural causes. The only way they can die is to be killed. Though the island brand of mortality does have one catch. More on that later.

But I don't think they were the first to crash there. See, I think the island's healing properties are not nearly as strong now as they were centuries or even millenia ago. It's wearing out, so to speak, and we haven't seen the full healing powers the way they used to be. I think Jacob is the island's oldest inhabitant, and like anyone else who has been there for a very long time, he is indestructible by any disease or old age. In fact, I think Jacob has been there so long and form a point when the island was so powerful that he has evolved into something not entirely corporeal. He is of both the natural world and the spirit world. That's why only someone like him, someone who believes in the spirit world and also has one foot in it, can hear or see him. Locke did. Ben never has. He's been faking it and taking advantage of Richard's group's relative naivetee.

I think Richard's group has only a limited grasp of the island's powers. Maybe they believe they've landed in a sort of purgatory, a spiritual halfway house they must endure as punishment for their sins. They've never understood what Jacob and the other island spirits (I think Smokey is another manifestation of someone else who has been there so long he/she is no longer completely bound by the physical world) are, but have been worshipping those presences in a cult-like hope for redemption and escape from what they see as prison. I don't think Richard has really seen Jacob, either, but I think his group have witnessed Jacob's and Smokey's powers and respect and worship them in a fearful, old-testament way.

Enter the Dharma Initiative. Somehow (and I'm not really sure how, yet) they learned of the island's properties. Maybe not the healing, but they somehow figured out something not quite within the bounds of nature was going on there. So they began inhabiting and experimenting there, hoping not so much for a Utopia as for something very 2001: A Space Odyssey-ish. Remeber the monoliths in that movie? Those alien stepping stones on the evolutionary path that made the apes develop reason and made Dave a super-human spiritual being? That's what I think the Dharma people wanted to find. Something that would further the human race by making them...well, not so human. They were pretty close to figuring it out. I think maybe they were the ones to build that 4-toed statue; I've heard the pinky toe is something we will lose in our own evolutionary journey. It's symbolic of the Dharma Initiative searching for something that would take humanity onward. All the zoological experiments, the psychological and metaphysical experiments--it was all to see what the island could do. The Swan hatch and the numbers were meant to keep what they felt was the island's power source contained; maybe they knew the power was starting to fade and needed to be conserved. I see now that the Swan is a symbol of transition--ugly duckling into a beautiful, graceful creature. Harnessing the electromagnetc energy, they thought, would cause the ugly duckling of self-destructive, selfish humanity to turn into a swan of evolutionary brilliance. (I think the electromagnetic energy is a result of the island's power and not a cause, but I digress.)

They were getting so close to seeing the island's true power (immortality through healing, and transcendence through immortality) that Jacob got scared. He didn't want the power used and abused by a selfish world that wouldn't understand the burden of immortality. Enter Ben, himself smart and manipulative. So Ben helped the "natives" off Dharma and built himself up as a prophet of Jacob. And thinks went OK for a while.

But absolute power corrupted Ben absolutely, and Jacob didn't like it. The catch of the island's mortality I mentioned earlier, the inability of anyone on the island to procreate, caused the death of the one person who mattered to Ben, Annie. I think this is the island's way of keeping balance: if everyone was fruitful and multiplied, but was essentially immortal, the island would be overrun. So it keeps order by allowing only women who were carrying before their arrival to have healthy children. Ben became obsessed with this, and Richard's group, so desperate for a path to follow, followed him and began to help him search for a solution to this problem, thinking it might somehow explaing their existence and save them. Ben grew bitter, and overly powerful. This was not what the island wanted. It did not go with the natural order. The island allowed Ben to have a tumor. Or perhaps Jacob willed the island in its weakening state,to fail to heal Ben. Jacob is tired, the island is tired. Many want out. They want to be killed so they can move on toward the light or salvation and eternal rest. (Yeah, I know the island isn't purgatory, and that comment makes it sound like it is; I just think it has become purgatory-like for its oldest inhabitants. It's a metaphor; get over it.)

I also think the island is now allowing people to age (which is why Ben and the newer folks aged on the island, but Richard and group never have.) And a big part of my theory is that not everyone wants to be immortal. (I've read a lot of Anne Rice, and I always sympathized with her vampires who hated their immortality.) Mrs. Klugh wanted to be shot. Mikhail said, "Thank you," when pushed into the fence. But some of these "elders" like Mikhail are having a hard time being killed even by violence. Which is why he came back.

And that's why Jacob said, "Help me." Ben never really saw him, but Locke can. John walks the line between the spiritual and the physical because he has a special commune with the power in the island. The island and its spirits like him. Jacob is tired of immortality, but he knows he will be hard to "kill." But someone like John can send him to his eternal rest. He is the special one so many of them have been looking for. The leader into the "enlightenment" of salvation. (Thus the name, John Locke.) But Ben tried to keep that from everyone to preserve his own power.

I think our flight 815-ers will leave the island, but only after Ben is taken out and only after the island's most powerful inhabitants get what they want: release from immortality. It will be hard to make them see that this is what they've been waiting for. I think the island's powers will be used up and gone by that time, and it will no longer have the pull it used to. It will be yet another island among thousands in the Pacific (or is it the Indian?) and it will be forgotten. But there may be other places like it...the psychic hinted at that. And its powers may only lie dormant, waiting to start its evolutionary influence again...

OK, I know that's all weird. But it's what I've got. For now.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Greatest Hits

It has just been a horrible day around here. The kids don't want to be here, the teachers don't want to be here, and everybody is flat-out getting on everyone else's nerves. I feel like I'm in a pressure cooker, and some steam better start coming out soon or the whole mess is gonna explode.

Just a few minutes ago, I had a run-in with one of our resident crazies and after that, I need to find my happy place. In honor of last week's Lost, in which Charlie wrote out his life's greatest hits in preparation for what looked like his impending death, I thought I would take a stab at talking about my own greatest hits, those moments of my life I come back to again and again when I need a reminder that life is worth living.

Disclaimer: I am not going to go with the two most obvious moments, my wedding day or the birth of my child. Yes, those were amazing, life-changing events. But they were so huge that I wouldn't want to go back and live those days over again; they're too momentous. So let's look at the smaller moments of my life that brought me utter joy and that I would live all over again, Lost-flashback-style, if I could.

In no particular order:

1. The day Jason gave me my first Valentine's Day card. More so even than our first kiss or our first "I Love You", that moment (before we even started dating) represents the beginning of it all.

2. Crossing the finish line at my first 5 K last year.

3. When my favorite Centre professor called me during one of the final days of my college career and asked to see me in his office, and when I got there, the entire English faculty was in attendance to present me with the senior writing prize.

4. The Russian pin thing. When I was in the usher corps for the Norton Center at Centre, one of my first shows was the Russian Army Chorus. A guy came through my door after the performance had started and started taking pictures, a big no-no for that performance in particular since there were dancers on stage. When I went up to him to ask him to stop, he told me, "I no speak English" in a heavy Russian accent. I got the head usher who somehow explained to him that he couldn't take photos. The man was apparently a family member of one of the performers. After intermission, he came back in and reached for my hand. He took a lapel pin with Russian writing on it from his pocket and folded it up in my hand, saying something in his native language as he did so. That moment was one of just a few bright spots of my freshman year, living away from home and feeling very out of place myself.

5. The curtain calls at the end of every play or musical I did in high school or college. The final bow for Godspell, in particular.

6. Any morning spent snuggling in bed with Ainsley.

7. Walking the opening survivor lap at our Relay for Life.

8. My 80s-themed birthday party.

9. OK, one specific moment from my wedding: when all the Centre folk gathered around in a circle to sing "Friends in Low Places."

10. Sharing "The Circle of Life" (during the Lion King musical) with Ainsley.

Alright, those are my top ten greatest hits. What are yours?

T.V. Cancers

I haven't watched Desperate Housewives much this year. It lost a lot of its charm for me. But when I read that they were giving Felicity Huffman's character, Lynette, Hodgkin's lymphoma, I knew I had to start watching again.

And it's really eating at me today. I must say, as a Hodgkin's survivor, I am a little torn about how they're handling it.

I read EW's wonderful "TV Watch" columns to get me up to speed. So I knew going in to it that Lynette had sustained some kind of injury to her shoulder and the scans she had after the accident showed what the doctor thought might be lymphoma. I thought they would start with her getting a lymph node biopsy (usually an outpatient procedure, but still no walk in the park) and getting the dreaded news. But her story started with her on the phone very glibly telling her sister that she had Hodgkin's and saying, "If you have to get a lymphoma, it's the one to get." Hm.

That's very true. Really, if you have to have cancer at all Hodgkin's is a good one to get; it is very curable. The character's nonchalance about the whole thing during her conversation with her sister just didn't sit so well with me. I know Lynette is a strong woman who doesn't let anything get in her way, and who would rather walk on hot coals than appear weak or need help, but telling people that you have cancer, especially family members, can be the hardest part of having cancer. Even if you know deep down that you're going to beat it, and retain that optimism when you tell people you're sick, people usually don't react well to hearing the "C" word and don't let you off the hook as easily as Lynette's sister seemed to. No matter how steely your persona, telling your sister that you have cancer is going to be an emotional moment. Even if, like Lynette, your main purpose for spilling your news is to ask for money for your high insurance deductible.

Most of Lynetts and Tom's struggle last night seemed to be with the financial logistics of cancer treatment. We struggled with that, too. But what I didn't see, and wanted to see, was the elephant in the room of any cancer diagnosis: what if I don't make it?

Maybe the writers will address this next season. And we did get a great little monologue from Lynette's mom, herself a cancer survivor, about how the chemotherapy will take Lynette lower than she's ever been in her life. My favorite line: "You can fight the cancer, or you can fight me. You won't have the strength for both." It seemed to me, though, that Hodgkin's was not given its due respect last night. Yes, it is among the more curable cancers. But the 5-year survival rate is still not 100%. For the stage I had, it's not even in the 90-something percent.

People do die of Hodgkin's lymphoma. Even young, strong people like Lynette. Every so often, I do a Google search to find the latest updates on treatment and such, and inevitably I will come across a web page dedicated to someone lost to Hodgkin's. These stories break me heart; many of these people were young, and underwent treatment successfully once only to have the cancer come back.

Not only do we have to worry about recurrences, which are so much harder to beat, but the treatments themselves damage our bodies. The standard chemotherapy treatment for Hodgkin's can cause lung and heart damage and is associated with an increased risk for a particularly nasty flavor of leukemia. Adding radiation to the mix, like I had, means that heart disease risk goes up even more and adds a risk for both lung and breast cancer. Some risks aren't as deadly, but still life-altering; it takes a long time to get over the fatigue caused by such intense chemotherapy, and because Hodgkin's is essentially a cancer of the immune system, we survivors get sick more than our cancer-free friends and have a harder time recovering from even the common cold. Then there's the whole fertility issue; if you are a woman treated for Hodgkin's past the age of 30, it is very likely you will have early menopause.

T.V. cancers seem a lot different from cancer in real life. So many of the characters experience miraculous recoveries that sadly don't happen that often in real life. I think this is particularly true for breast cancer; it seems every T.V. woman diagnosed with it beats it. Because of this, I didn't think it was too big a deal when my sister's friend was diagnosed with it at a fairly early stage (this was before my own cancer.) Not long after I finished treatment, my sister's friend had a recurrence and only lived a few more weeks. She was 40 years old. Look at Elizabeth Edwards and Tony Snow; not even the famous are given happy endings when it comes to cancer.

Maybe I am being a little too harsh on the Housewives. Perhaps this is a setup to show how the very tough Lynette will be shaken by cancer. I hope so; when I watched regularly, Lynette was the character I most identified with. She admitted that dirty little secret that parenting isn't easy and broke down from the stress of trying to be the perfect mom. I don't think it would be fair for her to have that admission, but then breeze through Hodgkin's lymphoma as though it's no more serious than having gall stones. It would be a slap in the face to the thousands who die of this cancer every year.

And you know what bothers me the most? I am going to be glued to the television every Sunday night next season, watching how they treat her illness. Darnit.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Local Wine + Chipotle Chicks = A Darn Good Time

Ahh, we went to the Northern Kentucky Wine Festival last night and sampled a surprisingly good array of wines grown right here in our state. Most of them were sweet wines, which I am not as fond of, but we found an excellent Merlot that both Jason and I loved. We sampled multiple wines at five different booths, and I was in pretty good spirits (har!) by the end of the night. If I hadn't bought a couple of my favorite bottles, I wouldn't have much of a memory of the evening. But, oh, I do remember the Chipotle Chicks.

The Chicks are these two women from Falmouth (represent!), which incidentally is where Jason and I spent the first year of our married lives. They grow jalapenos and use them to create something they call the "Kentucky Chipotle". They let their peppers ripen to red and then smoke them with Kentucky hickory. Then they combine their chipotles with home-grown tomatillos and habaneros and make a great smoky hot sauce as well as a variety of salsas. The kicker? A habanero jelly that made me want to cry with joy (and heat.) They're a small operation now and aren't available at retail markets yet, so I just had to buy some of their stuff right there at the festival. And I may just have to make the 45-minute trek to Falmouth to stock up again when that runs out. It's some awesome stuff.

I am really proud of my state. Move over, bourbon and horses. Here come the Chipotle Chicks.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Urgent American Idol Update

Well, I was right. Farewell, Melinda Doolittle. You were a class act, and one of the best reality talent show contestants ever. I am sure your future holds great things; someone will be smart enough to throw you a record deal or a stint on Broadway.

Good luck, Jordin and Blake. As promised, I am through with AI. I'm tired of falling for a finalist (Daughtry, Jennifer Hudson) only to see them not make it to the finals. Heck, I'm still pining for faded 1st-runner-up Bo Bice. I guess what I am looking for in a recording artist isn't what the rest of American wants. And I am accepting enough to deal with it. But I am also accepting of the fact that my days as an American Idol junkie are over. Goodbye, AI. It was fun (sometimes) while it lasted.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

I Love You, Mindy Doo!

Even though I've been watching this season's American Idol, I hadn't yet been compelled to pick up the phone and vote. My favorite from the get-go has been Melinda Doolittle, with her flawless intonation and interpretation, but I never felt worried enough about her departure to ring her up some votes (that, and the fact that I try to get in bed early on Tuesday nights so I can stay up for Lost the next day.) Last night, though, she wowed me even more than usual and I had to give her some telephonic love.

And now I'm worried. I had a much easier time getting through for Miss Doolittle than I ever have for voting for an AI contestant. That may mean that not too many other people were voting for her and clogging up her lines.

Seriously, America. How do you not see that she is probably the most gifted vocalist to ever grace that stage? I really don't think the girl hit a wrong note the entire season. And no one "gets" the songs like she does.

I know Jordin is probably the most marketable, and Blake is very hip and innovative. But after watching Melinda put the smackdown on a Tina Turner song, I realized I so want to buy a Mindy Doo CD.

After placing about a dozen calls on her behalf, I told Jason that if Melinda Doolittle gets eliminated tonight, I will never ever watch another episode of American Idol again. Not that that matters; little old me not watching isn't exactly going to kill the rating of America's favorite show. But if other MD fans ban with me...

If you love Mindy Doo like I do, stand by me. And let's hope it's not necessary: maybe America will vote right and put Miss D. in the finals. One can only hope (and dial the digits.)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Month of the Spider

Okay, so apparently May is some sort of spider month and I just didn't get the memo. You've probably already read about the suspected spider bite I had last week. Then, Ainsley drew a picture of the two of us for Mother's Day where we definitely looked, if not spider-y, then certainly daddy-long-legs-y. Friday night, we saw Spiderman 3. And then there was last night...

You've heard of my arachnophobia, and I bragged about it getting better right here in these pages. Any progress I made got trumped last night by a veritable Shelob.

I pulled back Ainsley's shower curtain to get her bath ready and saw it lounging in the tub--a wolf spider as big as my hand. Not my palm; my whole hand. Of course, I screamed and froze. I knew immediately that this was a job too big for me and fetched the resident spider killer.

He laughed, thinking I had exaggerated its proportions. Rolled TV Guide in hand, he headed into battle, his trusty sidekick (Ainsley) at his side. That's when I heard it: "Good lord!" Ahh, validation that this was no ordinary house invader.

Ainsley bailed out, saying that she decided she's afraid of big spiders. Jason killed it, and told me later he had never seen a spider that big in his life (except on TV.) Every time he talked about it last night, he visibly shuddered. I don't blame him; that behemoth shivered my timbers, too.

I just hope this is the last of the spider-themed happenings at Casa de Cranky. I don't know if I can stand this being a trend.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Mother's Day

I didn't have a terrific mother's day. I got sunburned trying to get our mulching done, I had to fight with my pharmacy for the umpteenth time trying to get my flexible spending account card to work right with them, and we had to juggle cars so we could drop Jason's off at the shop for what could end up being expensive repairs.

But this morning as I was throwing together my lunch and getting Ainsley some juice, I saw the card she made for me in preschool. On the front is a picture she drew of the two of us; we kind of look like big spiders because she attached our arms and legs right to our heads. We look very happy, and Ainsley told me that she's smiling in the picture because we're at the park and she loves it when I take her to the park.

In a few days, my sunburn will fade, everything will be straightened out one way or the other with the pharmacy, and Jason's car will be working again. All the things that, in my mind, "ruined" mother's day will be forgotten. But that little card...that, I will keep forever.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Spiders, My Butt, and Other Truly Scary Things

I have this thing with spiders. I hate them. I am afraid of them. And I'm pretty sure this fear has come back to bite me in the ass. Literally.

Yesterday during my glorious mental health day, I decided to inspect the bug bite on my rear that has been making me crazy. This was neither easy or pleasant (few things are more horrifying than your own derriere in a mirror) but since this bite had been aggravating me for a couple of days and I was a little worried that something weird was going on back there, I had to take a look. I was worried that this wasn't just a mosquito bite, and I think I'm right on that: in the center of this bite, I think I see two little, red pin-pricks. I think those might be fang marks. And I think I know how it happened.

Sunday was too gorgeous to stay inside, so I played out with Ainsley in the very high grass before Jason came out to cut it. While we were playing, I looked down and saw a smallish spider crawling up my pants. I danced a little jig to try to shake it off, trying not to scream and look petrified in front of Ains. But he was a fast little booger and I never did actually see him come off my pants. I think my dance of terror may have shaken him inside my capri pants and thus, the bite. I shudder to think about it.

Believe it or not, my arachnophobia has gotten better. My mom loves to tell people how when I was a high-school senior she was awakened by blood-curdling screams coming from the bathroom one morning; she just knew someone had broken in and was stabbing me to death in the shower. As she sprinted in to my rescue, she noticed I was alone in the shower save for a small yellow house spider dangling from a single strand of web in front of me. I had turned around in the shower and come face to face with said spider, and was so paralyzed with fear that I couldn't get away from it; I just started screaming. She had to kill it for me. I am not proud of this.

For most of my marriage Jason has taken up the title "Spider Killer"; he gets summoned at all hours to kill 8-legged creatures that startle me in the bathroom or bedroom. But once I became a mom, that maternal protectiveness kicked in and I can kill most spiders in the house without assistance. I may still jump and squeal if one takes me by surprise as I enter a room, or if a really furry one gets in my path, but I am making progress. I just don't like the thought of one crawling up my britches.

And speaking of about Lost last night? The one scene in the creepy cabin with "Jacob?" EEEK! When the voice said, "Help me," I got chills. Kudos to Lost for the scariest scene I've seen on network TV since The X-Files. 'Cause even though I don't like being spooked by spiders, I loves me a good scary movie or show every now and then...

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

My Mental Health Day

Ahhh, what a day. I took a much-needed personal day today. I didn't think I would make it through the last month of school without it.

I planned this personal day a while ago; I wanted it to be the day after our last big 2-hour Relay meeting. The timing was great; last night's meeting...well, it could have been better. So it was a great night to come home and pop open a couple of guilt-free Dos Equises and watch American Idol. (AI is more fun, by the way, when you're drinking beer.) A weeknight buzz is a rare treat.

Then I got to sleep in a little this morning, go for a run, lounge around, and catch up on daytime TV. The commercials for daytime TV are definitely different than those for prime time. I had a few thoughts as I watched:

1. I must get some L'Oreal Dual Action Revitalift for eyes before my 15-year high-school reunion.

2. Wagon wheel furniture? Really? This is something you want to advertise in your furniture store? It reminded me of When Harry Met Sally when Billy Crystal has just seen his ex-wife, and he and Meg Ryan bring a gift to Bruno Kirby and Carrie Fisher, who have just moved in together and are arguing over whether or not they should keep Bruno's wagon wheel coffee table. Billy cracks and goes on a diatribe about relationships and their inevitable fall and how one day you wake up and you're breaking up and start arguing over who gets "an ugly, tacky, wagon-wheel coffee table!" And now there's a furniture store in my area advertising their wide variety of wagon wheel benches and end tables...

3. I know rheumatoid arthritis is a terrible and painful disease, but why would anyone be tempted to take a medicine that lists "lymphoma" as a possible side effect?

4. I still don't get the appeal of the Geico commercials. Even the caveman ones.

Any day where the most pressing issue I face before 3pm is the stupidity of commercials is a good day indeed.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Cat on a Hot Ceramic Stovetop

That damn cat. I had just gotten into bed last night when my mom called to tell me Scout jumped up onto a burner on her flat-top stove right after mom had taken a pot of soup off. She yelped and jumped down, and mom was convinced she had sustained serious injuries.

"She's not my cat anymore!" I wanted to yell into the receiver, but we both know that Scout will always be my cat. The only difference is she now lives at mom's house and doesn't recognize me anymore. But when it comes down to who is still resonsible for the cat's overall health and well-being, well, that'd still be me.

We had Scout trained to not get on our tables or our stove while we had her. Who wants to deal with cat hair and kitty butt on your dining room table? When she was a kitten we shook cans of pennies at her whenever she got on a counter or a table, and she learned. But it didn't take long for my mom to unlearn her.

I suggested future stovetop discipline in the form of a water bottle of a can of pennies.

"But I don't want to have to be mean to her."'s better for her to fry herself?

While mom was fretting, I told her to check Scout's paws for blisters. This is easier said than done since Scout thinks if you touch her paws you're getting ready to clip claws, but somehow mom managed to rule out blistering.

"Well, if you don't see any blisters, mom, and if you can get her to walk over to you, then I would say she's OK."

"Oh, she just jumped up on the kitchen table, so I guess she's alright."

Greaaaaat. Scout's allowed to get on the kitchen table. I'll be thinking of that the next time Ainsley empties her McDonald's fries onto the table and starts eating them.

I told mom to keep an eye on her and to call me back if she thought she had really burned herself or seemed to be in pain; when the phone rang half an hour later, just after I had dozed off, I was ready to throw on clothes and go to the kitty emergency room.

"I just wanted you to know that she jumped up on my bed and went to sleep, so she really is fine. I didn't want you to worry."

Gee, thanks, mom. Because hearing the phone ring at 11pm while I'm sleeping really puts my mind at ease. I'll be able to get a great night's sleep now.

I did manage to sleep, but darned if I haven't been worried about Scout all morning. I know I'll be calling at lunch today to make sure she's not limping around the house.

Once a kitty mom, always a kitty mom.

It's a Beautiful Day (Don't Let it Slip Away!)

It's raining out, but by God, I declare this a beautiful day. Here's why:

1. The Office was exceptionally funny last night.

2. Whitney Pastorek posted a Chart Flashback from 1982.

3. The Kentucky Derby is tomorrow, and there's a horse named "Cowtown Cat." I love to bet on the pony with the "cat" name. Plus, I make a mean mint julep.

4. We received the new equipment I ordered for our library. That means I get to play with new digital cameras today. I'm a geek, so this is fun for me.

5. State testing is officially OVER!

6. Relay for Life is finally beginning to fall into place.

7. Tonight is a "Parents' Night Out" event at Ainsley's preschool, which means for a small donation to the March of Dimes, Ainsley can eat dinner at the center while mommy gets to go to happy hour with the girls and catch up.

It's a good day, kids. Feel the love.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Snuggin' With Simba

I love The Lion King. More importantly, my daughter loves The Lion King. Until The Little Mermaid came out on DVD last year, Simba and company were her go-to video friends. Even after being introduced to Ariel and Prince Eric, she prefers the Lion King CD over all others on car trips. Hearing her sing her version of "The Circle of Life" is one of the great pleasures of my life.

So when we heard that the musical The Lion King was coming to town, we knew we had to make that Ainsley's first theatrical experience. Jason and I had seen if when it came to town 4 years ago, when Ains was just a baby. It remains one of my favorite memories--how do you not get a little choked up during the opening when all the animals come down through the aisles? It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.

We were a little worried Saturday morning. Our tickets were for the Saturday matinee, and that's the time of day Ainsley usually naps on weekends. We figured the excitement would carry her through. What we didn't figure was that she would be up and at 'em at 6:30 that morning.

I am happy to say that even though she was tired and very overdue for her nap, she did very well. Her eyes got so big during "The Circle of Life"; you could tell she was having a hard time taking it all in and knowing what to look at. During the first act, she was absolutely rapt.

During the intermission the eye-rubbing and crankiness started to set in a little, but the bird puppets buzzing over our heads as the performers entered to start the second act had her pretty entranced. She dozed off a little in her daddy's lap right before Scar and Simba fought, but woke up for the end. She got so excited during the curtain call when everyone applauded for such a long time--she didn't want to stop! That may have been her favorite part.

She has been sleeping with a stuffed Simba every night this week, so her experience must be sticking with her. Ainsley loves to cuddle with a stuffed animal; she calls it (and this is so cute to hear her say) "snugging." Her all-time favorite snugger is Lumpy, the adorable little purple elephant from The Heffalump Movie. He has to be under her arm at night or sleep just isn't possible. She gets that from me; rumor has it I slept with a stuffed animal by my side right up until we adopted our first real live animal when I had long been a married woman. My all-time favorite snugger is the baby Simba a thoughtful boyfriend (so thoughtful that I later married him) bought for me when I cooed over it in a toy store after The Lion King first came out in theaters. He's been washed and passed on to Ainsley. The last few nights when I've tucked her in she's had Lumpy on one side, Simba on the other. It's too precious for words.

It's a wonderful feeling when you share something you love with your child, and she loves it more even than you do. It feels even better than snugging with a favorite toy.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Steal This Book

I am so loving this book I'm reading, y'all. It's one of the best young adult novels I've ever read. It's called The Book Thief and it's written by an author I had never heard of, Markus Zusak. I picked it up from the cart full of new books that just arrived in my library (when a book order comes in, it's better than Christmas) as it was recommended on our school library listserv. It is absolutely wonderful.

It's hard to describe. The most remarkable thing about it is that it is narrated by Death. Yes, Death. And he's a likable guy--he's not evil, and he doesn't make people die, he just retrieves their souls when it's their time to go. The book begins with Death talking about his job and how he tries not to get involved at the scene of a death. Rather than paying attention to the grieving survivors, he observes the colors in the sky at the death scene. He can remember certain deaths by the colors he saw as he retrieved the soul. Despite himself, he paid attention to one girl who was present on the scene for three different memorable deaths. Something about this human girl drew him in. He began to observe her and learned that she is a "book thief." He tells her story.

And that's really what the novel is so far--the story of this one German girl living during World War II as told by Death. As you can imagine, Death is pretty busy at that time and place. It's historical fiction, I suppose, but because of the point of view, it has some gothic and supernatural overtones.

This book received several young-adult book awards this year, but it's not like most YA stuff I've read. It's really making me think.

So if you're looking for something different to read, pick this up (or be a book thief yourself.) If you read it, post your comments--this is one I want to share with someone and talk about.