Wednesday, April 30, 2008

April 2008

Here we go!

Barry, Dave. Dave Barry's History of the Millennium (So Far). New York, Penguin. 2007. * 208 pages. I heard a coworker mention that she was reading it, and I love Dave Barry, and I've always loved his year-end reviews, and so when I saw it at the library, I got it. Hilarious, hilarious stuff. He even gives a quick catch-up of sorts for the other stuff that happened before this millennium. You know, like the Romans and whatever. And in case you were wondering, he wisely skips 2001 all together.

Brockmeier, Kevin. The View from the Seventh Layer. New York: Pantheon, 2008. 267 pages. (Autographed by the author! Whoop!) I love his writing, even when I don't love his characters. He tells great stories. And he does so in such a way that when he starts reaching and reaching (like the one about the town that decides to become completely silent and comes up with technology to do so in an amazingly short amount of time), you just keep nodding your head, waiting for more. Because it's a story. You just enjoy them. And I did.

Browne, Jill Conner. The Sweet Potato Queens' Book of Love. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1999. 213 pages. (Also autographed by the author! Yay!) Because much of this book is narrated by all of the SWQs, all of them protected by the alias, 'Tammy', I always imagine that they're pronouncing "love" the ways my sisters do: "LUH-ve." I'm not sure why they do this, other than that it's funny. Anyway, the book is great. It's like hearing from your crazy aunt every now then, the one who does and says the stuff you want to bust out with, but usually do not. God bless outrageous behavior. This is also the book that explains how Jill Conner Browne became THE Sweet Potato Queen. Awesome stuff.

Fforde, Jasper. Thursday Next in Something Rotten. New York: Viking, 2004.* 385 pages. Things actually happened in this novel (as opposed to the one before this one, which I got a little bored with), so much so that I couldn't really keep up with it. This was probably due to the time travel and oncoming apocalypse and something to do with really hardcore-sounding croquet matches. And cloning. Don't get me started on clones. But it's restored my faith in the Thursday Next series, which means I'll be checking out the next 2 books at the library.

Lewis, C.S. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. 1950. New York: Scholastic, 1987. 186 pages. Oh.....I'm not sure how I can go about saying this. I was disappointed. There. I hadn't read this since I was 10 or 11 and there were some things that jumped out at me that didn't at the time. Like the part where, even though Lewis initially began writing the series as a present for his goddaughters, he couldn't stretch his fictional horizons enough to allow girls in battle. Just to paraphrase Aslan, "War is very ugly when women are brought in." But it's okay otherwise? Even when a 14-ish age high king is leading the troops? Even when it's okay for Lucy's 6 or 7-year-old character to have the magic bottle of medicine, that she gets to drag all over the battlefield and use to tend to horrible, maiming injuries sustained in up-close battle? Sound familiar? Book of Acts? Timothy? No? Okay. I thought it was weird enough when they gave her a dagger for self-protection. She's already proven she can't be left alone, or she'll wander into magical worlds in separate dimensions. Or just get cornered by wolves. This is what happens when you try to be sensible in fairy tales. I'm still totally finishing the series, though.

--. Prince Caspian. 1951. New York: Scholastic, 1987. 186 pages. Even if I hadn't planned on reading through the whole series, I would have had to review this before going to see the movie (who's excited? This girl! Does anyone know why they gave Caspian a weird accent, though? If I have to hear Cody imitate it mockingly one more time, I'm going to hurt either him or the TV.). Hey, you know how in the commercials, you see Susan being brought in like a sniper as she shoots her arrows at some castle as a griffin or a dragon or huge eagle or something flies her down closer? Yeah, that doesn't happen in the book. She and Lucy hang out with Bacchus and his minions while Peter and Edmund advise Caspian on battle strategies. But it's okay! Aslan's there and it's mostly just feasting and dancing with trees. Huh? What? Exactly! The book was good, but I can see why it was combined with The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in that horrible, awful British series that we probably still have tapes of somewhere. Goodness. As far as crazy battle scenes go, the duel between Peter and the false king is boring. The parts where they figure out they've been unexpectedly been yanked back to Narnia, re-discover old treasure, and have crazy journeys are far better.

Currently reading: Gilbert and Gubar's Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination and C.S. Lewis's The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Feverish Ramblings

No, really, I think I have a fever. My sinus problems are about to take over my whole body.

  • As I sat through my cousin's homeschool graduation this weekend, I realized that being around other homeschoolers (however strange they may seem) makes me want to have a couple of kids and teach them at home until at least middle school. Yes, I know what I said last week about momness and home education not really being up my alley, but shush. I think I'd be so great at it! Really, just hush. You know I wouldn't wear jumpers.
  • I was also thinking during my cousin's graduation that she seems much more polished than I was at that age. And better at applying make-up. She's an accomplished young lady (and one of the few people I know deserving of the title), and I know she'll do great in college. I'm also really excited for her that she lost her baby fat before she was 21. Man, my face was chubby. And I had braces. And I was terrified of life. So, yeah. Cassie at 18 > Jen at 18.
  • I have cookies. Mine. Alllll mine. Okay, some are Cody's as well. He did make them after all.
  • I am going to Memphis in May this weekend. Surprisingly, I haven't started packing yet. Maybe I'll start tonight.
  • Yesterday, I got my allergy shots, and the nurse didn't warn me before she did my left arm. You have to understand, this is over twenty years' worth of tradition just gone when a woman who, in addition to mouth-breathing kind of like a cow, just jabs me in the arm without even pinching up the skin first! (At least, I don't think she pinched the skin. I'm a little numb in the upper arm area.) Normally, a nurse, says "Okay, you're gonna feel a stick/pinch/something." but this time, no. Just BAM!needleinthearm. I almost cried and wanted to call her horrible names. When I left and she told me to have a good day, I just said "thanks" instead of my usual "you too." I'm glad I don't get her very often. And yes, it was the molds shot. It still hurts right now.
  • I'm very pitiful.
  • I also realize that I enjoy whining about the things I don't like about my life sometimes, even when it would be easier (and far better) to work to fix them.
  • I haven't knitted in a while.
  • Your constant need for reassurance is wearing on me.
  • I've been waiting until Cody is at Spanish class to develop my film because I hate dealing with his dislike/grudging tolerance of pictures (taking them, developing them, paying for them, sharing them, putting them in photo albums). I'm sure this is healthy.
  • I drove all over I-40 this weekend by myself and loved it! My taste in music is spectacular and my car's gas mileage makes me want to weep for joy. I never thought I would love a car again the way I do this car.
  • Work has also been wearing me down quite a bit lately. It's nothing actually work-related, just some silly, personal, office politics kind of junk that I don't deal with too well because of my dislike of drama, lack of interest, and I'm still too immature to just try to focus on work and rise above this kind of junk. And because I don't have an office with a door I can shut. If you've made me laugh in the last few weeks, thanks. I'm very glad you did. Sorry I've seemed a little hysterical at times (you probably didn't even notice a change, did you?).
  • My pathetic, little, blue phone kept giving me problems, so a few weekends ago, my dad offered to let me use an old one of his. We stuck the SIM card in and everything's great, right? Mostly. There's a little blue dot that's always showing up on the screen, and since I don't have an owner's manual, I don't know what it means. I probably broke something. Also, I don't know how to change the ringtones. Sara helped me set my standard ringtone ("Freebird"), but my siblings and mom still have specialized songs and I can't change the alarm ring from the standard "Cingular Melody" that I tend to sleep through. Bonus: because this was Dad's phone, "Hey, Good Lookin'" plays whenever Mom calls, but not Cody. (In case you were interested, I get parts of "Black Betty" for Sara, and "This Cowboy's Hat" by Chris LeDoux for Levi.) Yessss! I don't know what's going to happen when Laine calls me, but I look forward to it.
  • Even though I've been feeling kind of sick-ish, I'm going walking tonight. I've been having problems falling and staying asleep again, so I need to try to burn off a little more energy (that I didn't know I had) before bedtime. I've been feeling cagey lately, which usually results in my lashing out at Cody--literally. He is a pitiful, beaten-down, shell of a man.
  • April's book list will be up tomorrow.
  • Anything on your mind?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Cody is funny

I like happy lists and Cody makes me laugh. So here's a list of hilarious things he's said at any given time. Sometimes these things come out of nowhere and sometimes they're in response to hilarious questions. I'll provide the context, depending on whether I feel like typing or not.

  • He probably didn't invite me to his wedding because he hates you.
  • Oh, you wanna hear something interesting?
  • Oh, so you wanna hear something disgusting?
  • Oh, you wanna hear something funny?
  • Oh, so I heard the most horrible thing today (then proceeds to tell me something horrible I didn't want to know, especially when it's smack in the middle of a nice conversation about something like someone's cute niece, or what I had for lunch, or a letter from my grandma)...
  • So funny story: I rented Walk Hard and Nancy Drew (I can't believe I remembered you wanted to see that. I'm so proud of myself.) and went up to the thing and the guy looked at them and was like, "If you have kids, you shouldn't let them watch this one [Walk Hard]." and I said, "Oh no, Nancy Drew is for my wife." and then he just kind of gave me this look.
  • Oh my gosh, the bread's baking. I feel such a sense of accomplishment!
  • Isn't this so exciting?! (Usually with regards to a new recipe.)
  • I don't think I want to learn how to hold a chicken.
  • (Waves hands in an exasperated fashion) Look, I don't know what I'm doing, okay? Just...gah!
  • Jen, no. Stop. Jen! Jen! Jennifer Renee Short, that is disgusting. You are just....I'm going to go over here and get some broccoli. [sighs] I wish you liked peas. (I made a joke in Kroger. He felt it was inappropriate. I also don't like peas.)
  • Can I pick up hitchhikers if you're riding with me? (Answer: I'd rather you didn't.)
  • Moms give me bad looks when I hold your hand at the mall. It makes me feel bad. (I never noticed the looks.)
  • I told him we'd get him drunk. (No, he didn't really. This was in response to a joke I made about Jeff, Cody, and Spencer going to the Prairie Home Companion show this Saturday and making a manly road trip out of it. When Jeff pointed out that Spencer was only 17, Cody replied, "I know. It'll be cheap!" Cody doesn't really drink by the way, or contribute to the delinquency of minors. That's what makes it funny.)
  • She looks so sweet, like she's going to bring you a plate of cookies that she made for you. (He wasn't talking about me.)
  • She looks cute in that picture. (Again, not talking about me. We were watching a news feature on the Eliot Spitzer prostitute chick and they showed a picture from her myspace profile.)
  • If you ever got pregnant, I would be so scared. Not because we were having a baby, but because you couldn't have caffeine. I mean, I'd be concerned about having a baby, but I think you'd just turn into some kind of monster if you couldn't have caffeine. I'd fear for my safety.
  • You know, I think you just need to cheer up. (We were about to go to my grandmother's visitation, he'd somehow stepped in gum and gotten it all over my purse, and he had done something to my order at Wendy's that made me unhappy. Laine and Levi stopped breathing until I burst out laughing. Still one of my favorite memories.)
  • You know I'm not joking about making jerky on our back porch, right?
  • Someday, if we ever have a house with a basement, I want to make cheese. Wouldn't that be great?
  • That is so, so hurtful.
  • Look, it's not like I listen to Radio Disney all the time. I don't know why people make it sound like it's all I listen to. Sometimes, when I have a hard day and I feel stressed, I like to listen to it because it plays positive music. It's very uplifting.
  • Ah, peroxide. So much fun.
  • We could make cheese if only I could we could find a cave.
  • Did you know you could rent caves?
  • It's going to be too humid to try to hang strips of raw meat behind our apartment. That's upsetting. I'm disappointed.
  • She's happy. The only thing that could possibly make her happier would be peanut butter.
  • This is such a good day.
  • So, I was reading The New York Times today, and I read an article that was talking about what you need to do to make the best chocolate chip cookies in the world.
  • Oh, that's [pauses, shakes head], that's unfortunate.
  • This is the prettiest pie I've ever made. You should take a picture of it before we cut it.
  • Come on! I'm mature for my age (after I'd turned him down for a date. He was 19, and joking. Somewhat. I think.).
  • It was bound to happen, Jen. I had to be right some time. (I'd lost an argument about the location of the Arctic Ocean. Dang it.)
  • Yeah, it's because I'm hot.
  • You looked really hot. I wasn't sure if I could say it at the time (time = our wedding day. I apparently looked hot in my wedding gown. Just what I was going for!).
  • Aren't you excited about canning?!
  • Oh yeah, Jen and I were probably gonna get out there and shake our groove thing.
  • Oh, thank God! I thought that thing had been on your back this entire time and I was just now noticing it! (About a mosquito bite on my shoulder.)
  • Yes, I do hate your pictures.
  • You know, I don't know if it's because I don't get out of Arkansas enough, but these mountains look amazing.
  • I know! I've been working on growing some of that arm hair for 12 years! (After the Grill Incident.)
  • Whatever, you know I'm hot.
  • That's hot.
  • Don't you want to make pickles?!
We have amazing conversations.

More importantly, how do cults affect fashion?

So it looks like the Associate Press is doing satire now, right? Wrong? Oh dear. I read it this morning. As always, knee-jerk responses will be in italics.

Polygamist clothing has roots in 19th century and 1950s

For a society accustomed to the likes of Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, the images of the women from the polygamist compound in Texas are almost shocking in their understatement: Ankle-length dresses, makeup-less faces, hauntingly uniform hair.

And while no one would accuse the women of making a fashion statement, the pioneer-style outfits are a rare example of how in an age of overexposure, modesty, too, can give pause.

The puff-sleeved, pastel dresses worn by the women in the sect are a combination of original 19th-century wear and 1950s clothing that was adopted when the church took a conservative turn, according to Janet Bennion, an anthropologist who studies polygamist women. Probably one a pretty depressing job.

The dresses are meant to show modesty and conformity: They go down to the ankles and wrists, and are often worn over garments or pants, making sure every possibly provocative inch of skin is covered. Funny, they never took this tone when writing about the Taliban. Yup, I said it. Just because they're not blowing people up doesn't mean I can't make comparisons. These are scary men, oppressing women and children and probably other men. This way of life doesn't sound too great for men, either. These people are not a joke.

John Llewellyn, a polygamy expert and retired Salt Lake County sheriff's lieutenant, says the women cover themselves "so that they're unattractive to the outside world or other men."

The appearance of unity through uniform dress, however, can belie the jealousy that often arises when the women - who might all look alike to an outsider - find themselves in competition with one another over the affections of the same man, Llewellyn says.

The clothing is also stitched with special markings "to protect the body and to remind you of you commitment," Bennion says. She declined to go into detail about the stitchings because she said it would be an infraction against the community - a fundamentalist sect that broke from the mainline Mormon church, which disavows polygamy - to talk about their sacred symbols.

Pastel colors evoke femininity and don't come across as bold or strong, says Bennion, a professor at Lyndon State College in Vermont.

Then there's the question of the elaborate hairdos.

The women never cut their hair because they believe they will use it to wash Christ's feet during the Second Coming, Bennion says. A Biblical quote says a woman's hair should be her crowning glory. The Bible never said anything about 'haunting [seriously?!]' uniformity.

The bangs are grown out and rolled (but usually not using a curling iron, because that would be too modern
[Again, your tone seems blatantly unprofessional.]). There are sausage curls on the sides and often braids down the back.

The exact history of the hairstyle is unclear, but it is reminiscent of the Gibson Girl image of the 1800s. It's a pre-World War II look, exaggerated with the pompadour, Llewellyn says. Chloe Sevigny's character in the HBO show "Big Love," about modern polygamists in Utah, has mastered the 'do.

Celebrity stylist and salon owner Ted Gibson thinks it gives off a "homely" impression.

"It says 'I don't really care very much. I really don't have time to worry about the way that I look, because I have 20 children,'" Gibson said. "'He's going from wife to wife to wife, so why should I look any better than the other ones?'"

Okay, this response gets its own paragraph. Is he joking? First off, did they really consult stylists for this article? The stylist's response is going to be any different from the average American watching the news footage, saying, "Ew."? Really? Secondly, I've really got to wonder what kind of a stylist ol' Gibson is when he talks about women who have never had a haircut as not having the time or interest in caring for their appearances. Do you know how much hair you can grow in a lifetime? Me neither, but I know it's a lot. And with lots of hair, comes lots of upkeep. And you can bet your sweet styling tools that anyone who truly believes her hair is her crowning glory is going to get pretty vain about it and spend some time on it. And, as a general rule, when a woman feels neglected by her husband (or whatever) she's probably going to try harder at everything--having kids, raising kids, cooking, dressing a certain way, etc.--to win back his attention, regardless of how used to playing second or third fiddle she must be. Plus, this totally goes against the Llewellyn quote a few paragraphs up.

Still, it's not outlandish to imagine the prairie look influencing today's styles, given that trends can come from unexpected places, and Sevigny is known as a style-setter. She creeps me out. You can already find blouses with high necks and ruffles in stores, and puffed shoulders on short and long-sleeved shirts.

Prairie skirts are in fashion this season, while dusty pastels and neutrals are being introduced to offset trendy bold colors and patterns. Wait, what? Why? Why would dusty pastels come back? Is there some kind Golden Girls line of clothing that I didn't know about? Are these people just making things up?

Long hair is also on its way back in, preparing to replace the currently fashionable bobs, Gibson says. Buns never go completely out of style, according to Gibson - he often gives celebrities a half-up-half-down 'do, essentially what we're seeing in the photographs coming out of Texas.

But for the most part, the looks that arise from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints are likely to stay there.

On her blog, the fashion editor of wondered if the spotlight on the Texas raid would make otherwise innocuous pastels unsavory, given their dubious association with polygamists. I already thought pastels were unsavory, as I associate them with the Amish (love their idea of community, faith, and peace; hate their stance on clothes and education), Easter, and general shrinking violetness.

"Unexpected perversion? Right-wing fads?" Susan Cernek wrote. "Sounds like a good Halloween costume ... or Marc Jacobs Spring '09."

Allison Berlin, founder of Style Made Simple, doesn't expect FLDS-inspired fashion to go mainstream.

"Women don't actually want to look like that," she says. "I can see the Brooklyn hipsters rocking a French braid, but not in a serious way. Maybe ironically." This almost triggered my gag reflex.

Apr 21, 11:22 PM EDT

So, I've been thinking about this compound for a while and seeing it in the news and I just never really know what to say about it, even though I wanted to say something. At first, authorities removed all of the children, which was odd. Then, a day or so later, the nightly news was talking about the mothers being upset about being removed from their children, which was supposedly extraordinary because they raise their children in groups. Um, yes, if federal agents come and take children from their parents, most of the parents (whether they've done something to deserve this or not) would become very understandably upset. Parents are like that. It's not typically worth a whole news segment. But, then was something about the way the anchors were talking about these women, like they were sheep or some other kind of docile farm animals. When they talked about how it was hard for these mothers and children to be separated, they sounded like ranchers talking about weaning season. While I'm certainly creeped out beyond description by this group's actions (real or alleged) and ideologies, I thought this seemed a little over the top. But then they started talking to some of the mothers as they were talking to the press and I was blown away by how much like sheep they seemed. So vacant. So stunted.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this. But I've always felt uneasy about any group that gets so insular that a fear of anything different takes over things that range from kind of trivial, like dress or hairstyles, to the incredibly important, like what makes up a family and how to raise children and how to worship and what to believe. And I think the federal government has waded into too big of a mess where they may not belong. I'm not sure what the point of the DNA testing is--some of the polygamist practices have gone back a few generations, meaning the results will probably be hopelessly mixed up, regardless of how much they're tested (at taxpayers' expense). What will be done if this whole mess is sorted out, anyway? Will they order these men (by the way, are they tested the DNA against the children's mothers, or fathers? Has anyone heard?) to pay child support for their 20 kids? Will these mothers submit to a government that they think is some kind of instrument of evil and take weekly classes and let a social worker visit them a prescribed number of times in order to get their children back? Will public officials ever be able to give some kind of informative statement at the dozens of press conferences we have yet to see that goes beyond the lines of, "These mothers and children want to be together. This is a totally new situation for us to deal with and we don't have a very clear idea of what we're doing"? I'm also uncomfortable that this whole mess is now some kind of entertainment and some people watch all of this and the first that comes to mind is whether all of this will affect next year's spring lineup. As if I didn't dislike the news enough already. I'm scared of this group, and of the responses they elicit from others. All of those people doing what a select few tell them, dressing alike, and having the same hairstyles... Glad we're not like them.

Go to work! Bring a friend!

So apparently, today is take your [some kind of child] to work day. I didn't know until I read this article. It was an okay article, but even better (for the most part) were the responses to it. My parents never really observed the day because 1) we usually only pay attention to holidays acknowledged by Hallmark, and 2) we were pretty much already doing it. Mom is/was a stay-at-home ("home" and "car" are interchangeable terms here) homeschooling mom, and Dad is/was a sales representative who traveled a lot when he wasn't working in his home office (translation: taking over flat surfaces somewhere in the house). The article asks if the original idea of taking only your daughter was sexist, which I didn't really care about. However, I did realize that Dad took Levi on a whole lot more business trips than he did with us. When we went with him, it was usually for the sake of going out of town. When Levi went, he worked convention floors, wore a dress shirt with the company's name on it, and chatted up potential customers. I would get bitter and whatever, but I'm too bored to articulate a diatribe. I'm also pretty sure the rest of us never wanted to go. I can't speak for Laine or Sara, but I don't like talking to people, I don't like science or chemistry or business, and I don't think Dad and I wear the same shirt size (I also refuse to observe his 'button the collar buttons' rule. It's caused quite a rift between us at times, let me tell you). At least I have a working knowledge about the footsteps I'm not following. So this is what I've learned by accompanying my parents to work. A lot. Nearly ever day.

Motherhood and sales are probably not for me. Both require a lot of budgeting, driving, scheduling on the fly, and interacting with people. I dislike all of those things.
  • Budgeting. I can do this. But I'm not inventive about it. At all.
  • Driving. I can do this. I don't like it. I don't like long trips or very short trips. I get irate running errands just because it takes a while to get all settled in the car, and then 30 seconds later, you're getting out. This is why I'll take the first parking spot available that's half a mile from the store (seriously, especially in good weather), rather than search for a parking spot. There are few things I hate more--one of those things being riding with someone searching for a parking spot. Make it stop! And as for long trips, well, I just don't travel well. Make it stop, too!
  • Scheduling. I can do this. It's the rescheduling that gets me. Yes, I know I do it a lot and it probably frustrates you. And yes, I can usually adapt to unexpected schedule changes (or pretend to), but I don't like uncertainty. Sometimes, I don't even like the freedom of a flexible schedule. Right now, I'm in a job with a pretty rigid schedule. And I love it. I leave my home and return to it at the same time every weekday. Of the year and a half I've worked here, I've worked exactly 1.5 days on the weekend. There were also a few overtime incidents, but I was told about them in advance and they never stretched long into the night. Ever.
  • Interacting with people. Both of my parents' success in their vocations has (in varying degrees) rested on their ability to cultivate relationships of trust and goodwill with people, sometimes even strangers. Um, no. To have my livelihood depend on my friendliness and interpersonal skills would be like.....I don't really know what to compare it to, but it doesn't matter because anyone who knows me is probably laughing too much to finish the sentence. I also don't really care for talking on the phone, especially in a chatty sort of way (I can't believe I was deemed the perkiest receptionist in the organization's recent history at my last job. Man, I'm good. Not really.), and again, I saw a lot of that and knew it probably wasn't for me. I get anxious and interrupt.
But anyway, it was a somewhat amusing article with amusing comments. Okay, some of the comments were ugly, so now you've been cautioned. Some of them also made the valid point that some parents can't or shouldn't take their child to work (psychiatrists and cops made the list), but I still think it's a good idea for you to tag along with other people to their jobs or bring someone with you to yours regardless of their relation to you, their age, or whether or not it's the 'right' day (seriously, why was this not scheduled during summer time when kids aren't doing that school thing? Isn't attendance some kind of law or something?). I've gotten to see bits and pieces of what friends and family do for their jobs at times, and it's always helped me understand a little more about them when I have a mental image of what they do all day and where they are. Plus, as an unexpected bonus, doing this can sometimes provide an ego boost! Just a couple of weeks ago, my parents were in town and after we had lunch, I showed them my office and was able to really explain what I was doing with the scanned acts of old sessions. As I was leading them around the law library and introducing them to people and showing them the computers I work on, I realized that I'd never felt more important. If only I can get them to bring Dallas....

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Pictures of not quite everything.

Let me tell you what I went through to get these pictures! Okay, it actually wasn't that big of a deal. I stopped by Wal-Mart (I swear, I'm really trying to just get pictures there. I know I could film developed elsewhere, but I want it done in an hour [it's really difficult to lose someone's pictures in an hour. Given two days, though....] and I hate Walgreen's photo center. Hate.), parking very far away so I could stretch my legs and not waste a lot of time looking for a 'good' spot. I wait in line behind some confused elderly woman and give out my information, etc. and go home. I look in my purse and realize that I have given over an unused roll of film and that the used one is still in my possession. I call Wal-Mart's photo lab and explain what's happened. The woman there tells me my film has already been run through. I ask if I have to pay for it. She says I do not. I hang up and reheat some leftovers because I'm hungry. I go back to Wal-Mart (parking far away), turn in a new roll of film to be developed, and go back home. I do lots of housecleaning things, go back to Wal-Mart (parking far, far, far away), and get my beloved pictures. Then I go home and am too tired to walk on the treadmills in the work-out room. So, here are the pictures!

Oh, and Kayla.

Part of Cody's project for Spanish.

So we went by Barnes & Noble a couple of weeks ago, and American Princes was playing right out there on the sidewalk.
Children were fascinated by them.

This is Spencer's birthday cake.
White cake, white icing.

I assure you, it looked way more frostbitten in real life.

The reason for eating outside in such frigid (mid-fifties to low-sixties) weather is in the pinkish shirt. You have to watch out for her...and her love of the deck.

Julie is saying something interesting.
Randy is thinking about how he'll make Mrs. Dicy eat Christmas dinner on his deck for revenge.

Cake again!
Yes, this is a Community Bakery cake.

And this is some of the most difficult packaging ever.

This is a game of dominoes and a very large dog.

This was taken by Sara.

The very large dog isn't really sleeping.

Mozart's paw is nearly the size of my hand.
And he outweighs me.
And he's about 5 months old.

And he's still got some teething issues.
This is Mom's hand.

Sara and Mo.

Not pictured: Dad's birthday face, the amazing (not really) pie I made him, his presents, Mom's face, me with Kevin Brockmeier (my facial expressions were a little too hysterical and red for photographing, so I passed), and, uh, lots of other people's faces, our seed-planting adventure, and Cody's dinner of....something special he made on the Sunday of the literary festival.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Science of Sleep Live!

Okay, I went to Catholic High's Battle of the Bands on April 6th. And after waiting through 5 other acts to see Spencer's band, what did I do? Well, I didn't get closer to the band to take pictures, that's for sure. This was partly because I'd lost feeling below the waist from sitting on those horrible bleachers (so that's why people stand up at sporting events!). It was also because I allowed my fear of teenagers to control me, which was stupid. I told myself that I didn't want to embarrass Spencer, but that's a lie, too. He doesn't embarrass to easily, and really I don't care. But anyway, I sat far away and played around with aperture depth, which didn't turn out so great. Oh well. Here we go:

Picture 1
Either Dylan is waving to his mom, or trying to distract us while they're still trying to set up some things.
Yes, the pink blur behind him is a cape.
Spencer is behind the drums and speakers.
Picture 2
Okay, here's all 4 of the members of The Science of Sleep.
I actually kind of like this one because the bluriness is fun.

Picture 3
Here's where I just went ahead and used the flash.

Picture 4
Here's Cody, Spencer, and Mrs. Dicy afterwards.

Not pictured: my awesome iron-on letters t-shirt (which I'm currently sleeping in because it's soft), the band's fans (of which there were many), or the Guitar Hero competition (good riddance).

Next time, I'll get right up front and be in the way and stuff.

Arkansas Literary Festival: Saturday

Hey, you 'member that time I went to the literary festival about a million years ago? Or maybe a couple of weeks ago? Anyway, I have pictures (that have been posted on facebook, but not here) from Saturday afternoon when we went and saw Jill Conner Browne, THE Sweet Potato Queen, speak.

I'm so glad we didn't go to another session after this. There was no possible way to top the experience.

Here are my copies of The Decameron and The Sweet Potato Queens' Book of Love.
Excellent purchases, both of them, but guess which one I've already read.

It was a long line to get our books signed by THE Sweet Potato Queen, and I got bored.
As we stood in line, I noticed this.
It's been a while since I've seen a good, someone's-face-on-someone-else's-back tattoo.
Some queens (I think in more than one sense of the word) from Arkansas' Hogs and Kisses chapter of the Sweet Potato Queens.

Kayla, staying excited in line with her schedule of events and her book.
Did you notice that it's different from mine?
This means we can trade!

Seriously, it was a very long line.
The SPQs have a very loyal following, and there were so many people in line that we were blocking the entrance to the Darragh Center and neither the speaker nor the attendees could get in there.
So they moved us outside.
Here is Kayla with Jill Conner Browne, THE Sweet Potato Queen.
She wore her "travel hair" to come see us.

This is me with Jill Conner Browne, THE Sweet Potato Queen.
I'm a dork.
She graciously signed everyone's books and chatted a little with each person.

Also, we saw her husband, The Cutest Boy in the World, but I didn't take a picture of him. He was standing over to the side, visiting with an older lady who was too weak to stand in line so she sat in a chair while her daughter got both of their copies signed. He seemed very nice and was actually quite attractive.

I should have taken a picture of the independent book sellers and publishers in the West Pavilion. It was a beautiful sight.

Just catching you up a little bit

Um, let's see...there's not a lot going on here.
  • I went to White Hall a couple of times and attended some bridal showers. I
  • saw friends and family and even some friends' families, which was great.
  • Cody baked bread and cookies, which was also supergreat.
  • I've been reading The Chronicles of Narnia before I go to bed at night (it doesn't stop me from dreaming about looking up references or not fixing my hair before Alana's wedding, but I don't want to move a TV into the bedroom) and I'll probably finish Prince Caspian (book #2) tonight.
  • Grandmother's in our region of the state right now, and Mom brought her to see our apartment Sunday. She liked it, we had a nice visit, and Cody sent them home with bread and cookies.
  • Also, the succotash and corn fritters experiment went pretty well Friday night! I think it's going to be a repeat meal.
  • We still have no air conditioning. Oh well. No one's gotten heat exhaustion just yet.
  • Cody only has a few more weeks of Spanish II. Keep your fingers crossed.
  • It's warm enough for me to hang laundry out on the little back porch area we have.
  • I'm planning on developing some film tonight.
  • There will be pictures tomorrow!
  • I just realized I didn't do photo blogs from Saturday of the literary festival, or the battle of the bands.
  • There will be more blogs here in a few minutes!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

This and That

  • The glorious nuptials of Travis and Alana will take place in exactly one month!
  • I got an email from my ex-boyfriend letting me know that he may have to have joint-replacement surgery on his shoulder. He is three months older than I am. When I think about all of his problems with his joints and all of Cody's defining characteristics, it hit me a moment ago: despite everything I've always thought, I may have a thing for older men. Much older men with falling-apart joints, gray hair, talk-radio preferences, etc..... I'm concerned for myself (and for Nate--please keep him in your prayers. He said he'd find out more next week).
  • We got a new water cooler in the break room.
  • I wish I was going camping but I'm not. More specifically, I wish I wanted to go camping. The desire to do so left me some time last week. Maybe later?
  • I want to visit my grandparents in Oklahoma very soon.
  • Last night I cut up a baby watermelon and ate half of it this morning. I love watermelon.
  • I love cutting up fruits and vegetables.
  • Cody was going to make succotash and corn fritters last night, but there were time constraints. So we had tortellini instead and rescheduled the experimental event for Friday night, when he will also be attempting rhubarb pie. Rhubarb is in season, by the way.
  • Cody is going to make the best Southern grandma ever!
  • Someday I will find the perfect balance between the number of hours I sleep and the amount of caffeine I consume. I will not swing from giddy elation to rage-filled crying jags in a ten-minute span, nor will I walk away from great conversations and interesting events with the numbed apathy of a dead person. This will also be the day I get a haircut I like, find the perfect pair of jeans, accomplish every item on my daily to-do list, and get through a conversation without a bad joke or slip of the tongue. I know these things are impossible, but I like hoping for them.
  • I live in constant fear of mispronouncing simple words.
  • I still haven't bought the most recent Hanson album. I don't know why.
  • My allergies are making me feel like my head got beat up from the inside. As a result, I'm feeling (and acting) pretty stupidly. I can't believe I drove myself to work. This week's allergy shots got a little ugly.
  • When I woke up this morning, I thought it was Friday. I was so dismayed to find out it was Thursday.
  • I need to start taking multi-vitamins again. I have the gummy bear kind and everything.
  • I would like to know what you're thinking right now.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Q & A

Because everyone loves Dad (really, who wouldn't?), I got some nice feedback from his birthday blog. When I posted it on myspace, I titled it, "There are no pictures of cows in this?!?!" because I was aghast at having forgotten to put any pictures of Dad (or anyone else) working with cows even though I have a few available. But I was too tired to go back and fix it (and I'd already had problems with some other pictures and was scared of changing too very much), so I just acknowledged the shortcoming and went on with my business. Then, yesterday, I got a comment that was so long that it pretty much deserves its own posting:

"This is so awesome. But it left me with so many questions!

What kind of cows?

Were they doing the Hokey Pokey?

Does he really have bees? Or, did he take up fencing. The kind with swords, not the kind that goes with cows.

Proof? Proof that he walked you down the aisle?

Who is Mr. Craig? And What adventures? Why haven't I heard of "The Adventures of Messrs. Craig and Short"?

Did they fall at the same place and time?

Was he telling Dallas to get away from his coffee?"

So here we go!

What kind of cows? Hereford, Brangus, and Gelbvieh. (There may have been others, but those are the breeds I memorized. And I still had to check the Internet to know how to spell 'Gelbvieh.' It's been a while.) Here's a cow-calf pair of Gelbviehs.

Were they doing the Hokey Pokey? No, Cody was just playing the music (that cover of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" by IZ) before the wedding while Laine was taking a break from pictures, and she and Dad were just kind of grooving and the photographer caught it. They're also singing.
Does he really have bees? Or, did he take up fencing? The kind with swords, not the kind that goes with cows. He really and truly does have bees. Around 5 years (?) ago, my parents thought it would be fun. So they got a hive, which only Dad can check because Mom is insanely allergic to stings. I always thought the bee suit outfit was pretty great, so I took this picture. Snazzy, eh? Now they have two hives!
Proof? Proof that he walked you down the aisle? Not funny. Wedding pictures, and how I could afford very few of them, make for a sensitive subject. Nonetheless, if this wasn't so small and you could see Dad's face, you'd know this was a pretty cute picture. We had a lot of fun that day!
Who is Mr. Craig? And what adventures? Why haven't I heard of "The Adventures of Messrs. Craig and Short"? Mr. Craig is, quite simply, Mr. Craig. We met him about a million years ago at the county fair and he's a cowboy/ranch manager/lots of other things. Our families have done lots of 4-H stuff (he and my mom were co-club leaders at one point) and cow things and looking after each other's kids things. As for The Adventures of Mr. Rick and Mr. Craig, we don't have time. Or space. And they can never be explained to people's satisfaction. They usually involve gas stations, horses, embarrassing kids (Dad's kids, Mr. Craig's kids, some random kids--it doesn't matter) and their wives and traveling--and all that traveling entails. They actually get to go to some conventions together now because of business, which means they get to eat out a lot together. One of the more hilarious stories (the details of which escape me) involves them stopping somewhere and taking pictures of each other on a horse (which they conveniently had right there in a trailer they were hauling) in front of some sign and someone felt the need to threaten to call the police if they didn't get off the property--and take the horse's manure with them. Really. They still like to laugh about that one. Also, Dad is laughing in this picture because Mr. Craig is telling me to take the picture from his shoulders up so that his enormity won't show (he's not just husky--he's a huge, great big man) and Dad can tell by my voice that I'm lying when I said, "Okay, sure." Do you notice how he looks like he and Dad look like they're the same height even though he's a few feet behind Dad? Yeah. Great. Big. Man.
Did they fall at the same place and time? No. Sara had shoulder surgery (like I said, it was a rough summer), and had mostly stopped needing her sling by the time Dad had his incident, but she thought it would be fun to take a picture of them matching. Dad doesn't look like he's having that much fun in this picture, but that could be because he's incredibly drugged and still doesn't feel that great. We humor one another a lot in the pursuit of good pictures.

Was he telling Dallas to get away from his coffee? Probably not. With Dallas there's no telling what's going on. All I can say for sure is that those two gentleman are probably having a strange conversation about strange things, Dallas is going to give a little laugh in a few seconds, and Laine is about to pop her right wrist.
So, Amber, I hope this can satisfy your curiosity. Although I know I didn't fully explain the Dad and Mr. Craig adventures very well, there's not much I can do about that. For one thing, just about anything they do counts as some kind of adventure, even if it's just driving and talking. For another, they're best when told by Dad or Mr. Craig.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Dad's birthday blog

Today is Dad's birthday. He's 52.

Since I've known Dad pretty much forever, at least my whole life, I've got lots of good things to say about him.

  • He lets us steal his hats. Even when we drooled on them (if only I had to access to pictures from our toddler years!), and even now.
  • He baptized all of us. Even Cody!
  • Even though Mom was the major ride-along driving teacher, Dad was the one to dispense tips on things like how to haul a trailer, how to turn while hauling a trailer, and how to park a trailer. I never used these tips, but I remember them pretty well. I'm sure they'll come in handy some day. He also made sure we always knew to be especially careful when it had just started raining. I don't remember why, but I think it has something to do with the oil on the asphalt and the water not mixing.
  • He made me feel comfortable about less than perfect teeth. I had chipped teeth since I was a toddler (never stand up in the bathtub kids, especially after your grandma tells you you shouldn't), and after they were replaced with pristine permanent teeth, I promptly had a bike wreck. I scraped my face and a front tooth. Dad was at home at the time and had to try to clean me off, stop me from crying, and get me to open my mouth. He made the mistake of showing me the damage in the mirror, causing me to cry harder and maybe (I could be remembering this wrong. I was 7.) yell out, "I'm ugly!" I was distraught. He convinced me that I would be fine. And after the tooth was fixed and I messed it up by eating some kind of hard caramel candy, he convinced me I would be fine if it didn't get fixed again. And lest you think that he was just doing this because he was tired of paying for my dental misadventures, let me assure you that he led by example. He's had crowns fall off, caps fall out, and during one spectacular fainting spell, he passed out and shattered his top front row of crowns. Fortunately, his busted lip was so swollen it blocked most of the damage. He had an....interesting smile. Mom never let me take pictures of the missing teeth episodes, but Dad was always willing to smile for us. I'm sorry if you never got to witness it firsthand because it's all been fixed. At least we have similar coffee-stained smiles now.
  • Speaking of coffee, we have Dad to blame/thank for my caffeine habit. We are coffee fiends together! And sometimes he likes to have some of my Mt. Dew.
  • He's a pretty positive guy. When he was unexpectedly laid off at the beginning of the summer one year, he broke the news to us and then brightly pointed out that he would have to use up all of his vacation days for cattle shows, of which there were many that year.
  • He is an excellent cattle-fitter, sheep-fitter, and chicken judge.
  • Whenever he uses my camera, he puts the strap around his neck without being told.
  • He still pays for stuff. I know I sounded really shallow just then (or probably before that), but my parents have always wanted to help us if they were able, and I'm usually never more grateful for that, or more amazed, than when a dozen or so of us will go out to eat and Dad will tell the server that it's all on one ticket.
  • He set a pretty high standard on how husbands should be. Even though Cody and Dad may seem pretty different at first glance (mostly because they're pretty different), Cody's got a lot of the qualities I've always enjoyed in my dad...mainly that he almost always lets me have my way, makes good (greasy) breakfast food, is kind, patient, forgiving, loving, and hilarious; and is gray-headed. I'm joking about the last part. And that husbands should totally carry wives, for no real reason whatsoever. Again, I really wish I had some old pictures on hand.
  • It would appear that he's generously passed on his amazing metabolism to some of his kids. I am eternally grateful.
  • He enjoys my awful sense of humor.
  • He is just about everyone's friend. He's a very friendly, outgoing, jovial guy. It weirds me out. But he's always made an effort to get to know all of our friends and keep up with them.
  • He made sure that we grew up to be loyal Razorback fans, in spite of the fact that none of his children really considered attending his alma mater.
  • He's an involved parent. It goes without saying that most homeschool parents are pretty involved to begin with, but ours have always liked to take it one step further by chaperoning. Oh yes. Dad accompanied Levi and a few other kids from our youth group on the Wilderness Trek in 2006, which led to a week without showering at high altitudes that put a lot of pressure on your arthritic joints while surrounded by teenagers. He literally kept a few of the skinnier teenagers from blowing off the top of a mountain. Other examples of being an involved parent:
    • Sara loves horses, so Dad took her to the track. Not in a neglectful, "I'm going to the track and dragging my kid with me" kind of way. It's done in a more, "Hey sweetie, let's gamble and watch the horses and make a day of it!" kind of way. It's turned into their yearly tradition and they love it.
    • Let me just mention the livestock shows again. There have been hundreds. These are where 'vacation' days go. He did not get to relax on these trips, but he and Laine, Sara, and Levi had a great time. And sometimes Mom. And very rarely, me.
    • Dismantling household appliances. I don't think I learned anything from those times, but I enjoyed myself.
  • Dad and I don't exactly have a lot of common interests. I kind of already knew that, but when I was trying to give an example of involved parenting with me it was hard. Mostly because as a teenager, I wouldn't go anywhere, participate in any activities, or really do anything. However, he's always been willing to buy me fruit pies and Mt. Dews and listen while I ranted about everything. He also listened to a lot of my music, which I realize now, was probably kind of miserable for him. Oh Semisonic.....ha! There were some things we enjoyed doing together, mostly stuff along the lines of working in the yard and culling chickens. He still admires my yarn purchases, rejoices with me after finding a good book, and we both enjoy taking pictures.
  • I was trying to think of any crazy talents. All I could think of was his really efficient chicken processing set-up in the back yard, and his ability to grab his own rib cage. (Levi and I can do it, too. Let us show you some time!)
  • He wears cowboy hats. This is an endless source of entertainment for some people. For us, it just means he's made it a little easier to spot him in a crowd. Even in a sea of hats, we can recognize his anywhere.
  • Bottom line: Dad is great. He's one of my favorite people. He's a nice man. And smart. And taller than I could ever hope to be. Old people, children, and most animals like him. We love him. You should wish him a happy birthday. And, because he'll let me, I'm putting up a ton of pictures. Happy birthday, sir!

With me (this is my blog, after all). Dad and Laine dancing.

Braving the wild with Levi.

Taking the proper precautions before checking on the bees.

With the very famous Dodge.

With me.

I didn't mention earlier that he's a great puzzle-builder.

With Cody.

With Mr. Craig. They have adventures together!

You know those faces.
After the Falling Incident.

With Dallas. And Laine. And his coffee.
With Robert. And winning.

With Mom.

Graduating Levi.

Sharp dressed man!


Friday afternoon:
  • Go home, leave the to-do list in my purse and crash. Completely. I actually cried because I was hungry and didn't know what I wanted to eat, but I knew I wanted it then.
  • Read/nap in bed while Cody made beans and cornbread and bacon (I requested the bacon).
  • Watch TV/read.
  • No laundry, no list-making, no knitting, sewing, gift-wrapping, dusting, loading the dishwasher. Nothing. It was actually kind of hard to make myself do that. But I relaxed, and was able to fall asleep without having to lie in bed for an hour or longer.

  • Sleep in
  • Gather up tax stuff (I'd gotten almost all of it together the day before, but had forgotten one form. Great.), go to the restaurant, and do our taxes online on Cody's mom's computer.
  • Find out what Spencer wanted for his birthday (I'm not going to embarrass him with a birthday blog. Plus, he's an in-law, and it's much easier to this for immediate family members).
  • Go to Barnes & Noble. American Princes was playing. Like, right in front of the doors! Odd. They sounded good. Buy a gift card for Spencer.
  • Go to Starbucks. Buy a gift card for Dad.
  • Go to the grocery store. Buy food for ourselves. And part of Dad's present: pecan sandies now come in these little snack packs! I thought it was hilarious, and that Dad might enjoy taking his favorite cookie with him everywhere. We also picked out a card for Spencer and somehow lost it before we got to the register (Cody checked the receipt after we got home and couldn't find it). That was a shame, because it was a High School Musical card that played music.
  • Unload groceries and immediately pour drain cleaner into the bathroom sink. It only took the entire bottle and several minutes of running superhot water, and the drain finally works again! Thank goodness.
  • Cody checked the mail. Letter from Mamaw Myrtle!
  • I made a pie. I baked for the recommended period of time. Last year, I tried to make Dad a pecan pie for his birthday. I stuck it with a knife after it had baked for an hour and it came out gooey. So I baked for another half hour. It was so hard that we had to stab it with a knife to stick a candle in there.
  • We went to the Bennett house to celebrate Spencer's birthday. He was in fine form because he'd celebrated his birthday by taking the ACT that morning. Um, woo hoo? We ate a ton of Mexican food with cake and ice cream. It was a lovely time. Lots of visiting. Lots of laughing. Lots of eating. Lots of making fun of each other. Good, good times. Happy birthday, Spencer! He's 17, now.
  • We watched TV while I made Dad's birthday card (he'd requested a homemade birthday card and a Starbucks gift card. The cookie idea was all me.) and wrapped his present. I love decorating wrapping paper. In case you missed it, they said the musical guest for the May 10 show would be MY MORNING JACKET!!! Shia Lebouf will also be hosting, but I don't particularly care.
  • Sleep in again. It was glorious and peaceful beyond description.
  • Go to Romance. Give Dad his presents and pie. Cody changed the oil and rotated the tires on the Saturn. I played with the dog. We caught up on a lot of stuff. We watched Dad and Sara and Chad fight while playing dominoes. Twice. They looked at my pictures. I had planned on volunteering to weed a little in the flowerbeds, but it was cold. And windy. Freezing cold. Birthday blog for Dad will be posted soon.
  • My pie was declared to be.....not as bad as last year's. I realized this morning that we forgot to light candles and sing to Dad! Oh dear.
  • We took home another gallon bag of pecans. It took us a year and a half to get through our first one. (My grandmother has a pecan tree. She picks and shells the pecans and bags them up for her kids and grandkids. One of the things that made me feel especially married [aside from Cody giving me the pick of the radio presets in his car as a wedding present] was the fact that Cody and I got a bag of pecans, all our own.)
  • We went home. I showered the dogginess off of me--he likes to put you in his mouth--and went to bed.
  • Mozart update: he's doing very well in puppy class. He probably weighs about 115 pounds (he's surpassed me now), and when Dallas last measured his height, he was around 20something inches at the shoulder. He likes to put your hand in his mouth, which tickles a lot. I wouldn't let him do with my feet, though. Boundaries, dog. Boundaries. I took pictures.

So here we are now. It's cold, I'm at work, my house is a mess, and I can't clean it tonight because I'm going to something at Cody's school because he put together some kind of display. And, like I said, there will be a Dad blog later.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Cody's birthday party!

Cody's birthday party pictures!

We went to his mom's house the day before his birthday for a birthday dinner.
They're digesting and watching T.V. here.
There was so much digesting to do!
I made that cake.

And then we pretty much set it on fire!

We sang at him.

And then the cake was enjoyed by all!

With milk.

Mingling in the kitchen.

Posing in the kitchen.
It's not like we have a wide assortment of afghans in the living room that would make lovely backdrops or anything.

I'll just say it: Cody got way more presents on his birthday than I did.

His meal-a-day cookbook, opened to his birthday.

(Note to self: find out if there enough pictures of Cody putting stuff in front of his face for a whole blog post.)