Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Monday, December 29, 2008

2008 Wrap-Up

All in all, 2008 was a good year for us. Sure, our 401(k)s lost about 35% of their value. We’re young, though, and still have good jobs with good companies - which is very much something to be thankful for. And, well, a few things didn’t happen that we would have liked. As every good sports fan knows, though, there’s always next year.

We did enjoy a lot of great entertainment and travel in 2008, so in the spirit of the good things that happened in 2008, the list below lays it out (in no particular order) as best can be remembered. A couple of accomplishments are listed, but, yes, mostly it’s entertainment and travel. We have a good life. (Oh, and please note I realize all of this is superficial. This is not meant to be a list of the truly wonderful things in our lives like family and friends.)

Got It Done:
Paid off credit card debt
“New” car for Dave

Travel:
San Antonio, TX
Charleston, SC (x2)
Hollywood, FL
Tarpon Springs, FL
Durham, NC
Birmingham/Huntsville, AL
Hilton Head, SC
Whitney Alone: Minneapolis, MN
Dave Alone: NYC (x4), Tampa, FL; Chicago; Miami, FL

Books Read:
Atonement* – Ian McEwan
Born Standing Up* – Steve Martin
Twilight*, New Moon*, Eclipse*, and Breaking Dawn* – Stephenie Meyer
The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway
Our Town – Thornton Wilder
Eat Pray Love – Elizabeth Gilbert
Tender is the Night – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis
Empire Falls* – Richard Russo
The Great Gatsby* – F. Scott Fitzgerald (3rd reading)
Sarum – Edward Rutherford
I, Lucifer – Glen Duncan
Wicked – Gregory Maguire
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – Tennessee Williams
Until I Find You – John Irving
The Second Coming – Walker Percy.

Concerts/Shows:
Reckless Kelly* at the Variety Playhouse (x2)
Reverend Horton Heat* with Nashville Pussy (Variety Playhouse)
Atlanta Symphony* with Joshua Bell (Copland, Barber, and Bartok)
Atlanta Symphony* free show at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater
Atlanta Symphony* Christmas Concert
Harry Connick, Jr.* (Cobb Energy Center)
Les Miserables* (Fox Theater)
Eddie Izzard* (Cobb Energy Center)

Movies (Theater):
Wanted*
Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
Atonement*
Dark Knight*
Twilight* (x3)
Quantum of Solace* (x2)
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Tropic Thunder* (x2)
Iron Man*
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button*
Burn After Reading*
Sex & The City
Run, Fat Boy, Run
Max Payne
Wall-E*

Movies (Rented):
Simpsons Movie
Forgetting Sarah Marshall*
The Happening
Death at a Funeral*
August Rush
Last King of Scotland*
Penelope
Maybe Baby
Green Street Hooligans*
Vantage Point
The Bank Job
Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show*
Fool’s Gold
The Lookout
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Pride and Prejudice (miniseries)
Mr. Brooks
Balls of Fury
Enchanted*
Gone Baby Gone*
Tristan and Isolde
Night at the Museum
Once*
Shoot ‘Em Up
Day Watch
Tender Mercies
Lars and the Real Girl
Eagle Eye
Trainspotting
Miller’s Crossing*
Sweeney Todd

CDs Purchased (mostly bought used):
What is Beat – The English Beat
Rumours – Fleetwood Mac
Perfect Symmetry – Keane
Catalogue of Generous Men – Modern Skirts
Greatest Hits – Rick Astley
Reckless Kelly was Here*, Bulletproof*, and Wicked Twisted Road* – Reckless Kelly
Use Your Illusion I – Guns and Roses
The Delicate Sound of Thunder* – Pink Floyd
We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things* and Mr. A to Z – Jason Mraz
On a Clear Night* – Missy Higgins
Golden Road – Keith Urban
Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace –Foo Fighters
Viva la Vida* and X&Y* – Coldplay
Crowded House*, Woodface* and Together Alone – Crowded House
Audioslave – Audioslave
Born on a Pirate Ship – Barenaked Ladies
All the Love You Need – Big Head Todd and the Monsters
Charlie Brown Christmas
Safe Trip Home – Dido
Twilight Soundtrack
Sweeney Todd Soundtrack
True Romance Soundtrack
The Apostle Soundtrack
New Miserable Experience – Gin Blossoms

* highly recommended (If it doesn’t have an asterisk, that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it.)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Weekend

The weekend was busy but very very fun. The place was amazing - Twelve Atlantic Station. It's the third hotel we've stayed in because of an Imedex function that didn't feel at all like a hotel. Friday night started with the party mentioned below, and as you can tell, it went on for a while. The dj at the main party was fantastic, so I was on the dance floor most of the time. When we weren't dancing, we were either eating, drinking, or Dave was busy winning enough in gift cards for us to buy a 40" Toshiba LCD TV on Saturday morning.

The afterparty - where I continued drinking, having moved on to champagne - lasted until about 3:30am.

We woke up about 9am, and I was surprisingly not very hungover. I didn't feel great, but the only real issue was a splitting headache that went away after about four Advil. However I was completely exhausted, so the rollerskating plans that Stacy and I had didn't actually happen. I took a nap, and then Dave and I went to dinner and a movie with his sister and brother-in-law.

Longhorn, as usual, was great. The Day the Earth Stood Still, on the other hand, even in IMAX, was just ok.

I know I promised some pictures of the new do, so they are below - along with some other pictures from our trip to Florida a couple of weeks ago.


Packing to leave for the party. The hair's a mess, but well, that's what I like about it. It doesn't really matter when it's a mess. As a matter of fact, that's kind of the point.


The view from our hotel room at the holiday party - looking East.


Looking West


Bedroom at Twelve




Kitchen and Living Room


I don't know what I was thinking with all that make-up. All I can say is that I was in a hurry to get to the party ...


Surprisingly early in the evening.


Not surprisingly, this is later on in the evening.


This is me slightly hungover, so the hair isn't exactly as it should look, but you probably get the idea. And this is definitely the picture that shows the new color the best.



The Westin Diplomat - Hollywood, FL



This one's for you, Stacy


The pools from a balcony at the event center


newest tattoo

Saturday, December 20, 2008

12:19am

1 glass of wine
$750 AMEX gift cards won in drawing = new hd lcd tv, most likely
5 jack and cokes - strong because the bartender liked my new haircut
1 glass dropped on the floor and shattered - yeah, that was the last j&c I had
afterparty in room 420 - seriously ... on our way.

piictures tomorrow - or sometime later

Friday, December 19, 2008

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year or ...

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender neutral, celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.

I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling, and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2009, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great (not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country or is the only “AMERICA” in the western hemisphere), and without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith, or sexual preference of the wishee.

By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms:
-This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal.
-It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting.
-It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for her/himself or others, and is void where prohibited by law, and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher.

This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year, or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher.

(full disclosure: I did not come up with this; it was stolen from a coworker)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

New Hair

Well, it's been a while since I got anything tattooed or pierced, and I needed a change. So, it ended up being the hair.

Until I can get a decent picture posted, you'll have to just imagine me with Sharon Osborne's hair (yes, color and cut).

No, I hadn't planned it that way, but it turns out this is really the best possible comparison.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The things we learn

It amazes me that after 33 years on this planet, I learn new stuff about myself all the time. It puts things in perspective and has made me realize how much other stuff there is to learn and that I never really will get it all. I don't have a problem with that; it's just interesting to realize and understand.

So anyway, what have I learned about myself recently?

I don't like Santa songs. I do love Christmas music, and started to realize this year that I prefer the more religious Christmas songs. So I initially thought that maybe I've become less of a fan of the secular songs, but that's not it at all. I really love many of the non-religious songs. What I generally don't like, though, are the Santa songs. For the most part, they bug the daylights out of me.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

So much for more quiet

Last night was another birthday gathering. Tonight is more Christmas shopping. Tomorrow night - friends coming over, Saturday night - symphony, Sunday night - Christmas tree, Monday night - haircut, Tuesday night - soccer (scratch that; Tuesday is a concert), Wednesday night - 7pm work meeting, 18th - free!!!!!! (so far), 19th - party, 20th dinner with family, 21st - family day. I mean, seriously, this is just ridiculous. But I wouldn't not do any of it.

I still want to blog some stuff during all this; I've been reading such great books lately. But I can't make any promises.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

I really do

want to blog, but it's just been crazy around here. I should have something new up this week, though. Tomorrow and Thursday should be a little quieter (more quiet?).

Monday, November 24, 2008

Twilight

Yep, we went to see it this weekend, but we waited until Sunday. While I didn't really want to wait, we did because Dave was out of town until late Saturday night. Turns out this was a good thing. If the conversation and giggling (and cussing) during Sunday's matinee were any indication, Friday would have been an absolutely miserable experience. As it was, I was cracking up half the time, listening to the little girls behind us.

I really enjoyed the movie, but it was impossible to watch it "objectively" - as if I'd never read the book. I was constantly thinking about where it was going and how it may be different, so I'll be curious to see if I watch it differently next time, now that I know what changes they made from the book to the movie.

The cool part is that there were a few things that would likely have been missed, or at least not as fully understood, by those who haven't read the books. And I can see why people who haven't read the books wouldn't necessarily enjoy the movie on its own.

I'm really excited for the sequels, though, because I'm sure they've learned a lot from this one and will do even better next time.

Also, the Harry Potter trailer was awesome.

Monday, November 10, 2008

No Upcoming Appointments

What a wonderful phrase to see on the phone. No upcoming appointments. Aaahhhhhh.

Tonight is all about packing up for six days in our favorite town.

So far, there are only two things scheduled for this trip.
1 - Quantum of Solace Friday afternoon
2 - Georgia vs. Auburn at Home Team on Saturday with great friends who we don't see nearly enough

The rest is wide open, but likely to include trips to a few fantastic restaurants, some beach time, and plenty of relaxing - maybe even some history.

Words can't express how excited I am about this trip. So I'll just leave it at that and talk to y'all when we're back in Atlanta.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Empire Falls

So, when I finished reading, I kind of skipped right over any mention of Empire Falls. This was a great book that I read pretty quickly and very much enjoyed. The author writes with beautiful insight. Some of my favorite quotes:

"There was much to be thankful for, even if the balance of things remained too precarious to inspire confidence, so on nights like this one his life seemed almost ... almost enough."

"People were just themselves, their efforts to be otherwise notwithstanding."

"She was pretty, smart, shy and full of fun without knowing quite yet how to express this latent side of her personality. Neither popular nor unpopular, she wore unfashionable clothes at her mother's insistence and somehow intuited, as certain remarkable young girls will, that there were worse things than not being popular, that life was long, that she would one day have perfectly adequate breasts, that in fact there was nothing wrong with her ..."

"I mean, what if we assume our relationship to God to be one thing, and it's really something else? What if there's something central to the equation that we're leaving out? Maybe, like children, we assume ourselves to be of central importance, and we're not. Maybe the inequities that consume us here on earth aren't really the issue."
"So feeding the hungry isn't important?"
"Not exactly. Maybe it's important, but not quite in the way we think. Maybe, to God, it's our way of expressing the 'something else' that passeth beyond all understanding. Something we aren't meant to understand."
"Nonsense." Miles grinned. "I understand your grandmother perfectly, and so do you. You're trying to make a mystery out of selfishness."
Father Mark chuckled. "Yeah, I guess. She was a mean, self-centered old harridan. Still, we're attracted to a good mystery. Explanation, no matter how complete, isn't really that satisfying ..."

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Twisting and Turning

Lately my head has been spinning all the time. I’m not eating much, even though I’m hungry all the time (because I’m not eating much). Well, it seems that I’m only not hungry when I have food in front of me. I haven’t been like this in forever, not to this degree. Yeah, I always go through my little pensive times. But they only last a few days, and they’re pretty mild, and spread apart. So far now, it’s been almost a week, and there’s not an end in sight. And I just had a shorter one less than two months ago. I hope that writing this all down helps get it out and keep it out.

The thing is that I don’t really know what to write down. I don’t know exactly what it is that has me twisted up. Well, I know what it is, but I don’t know what the solution is – what to do about all these questions in my head, not even how to answer them. In the past, when I’ve been this twisted up, it’s been pretty obvious what was going on, but not this time. Well, there are plenty of things on the horizon that could obviously be causing this, but they are things that have been on the horizon for a year – work stuff and trying to start a family. So, why now? That’s why I don’t think it’s those things, specifically.

So, what is it, then? As I’ve been thinking about all this over the last few days, one philosophical conversation keeps popping into my head. And, yes, that question is related to the things that have been coming for some time, but it’s also beyond them. So the question is this: “Why do we have this internal battle between living a life of passion and a life of comfort? Can we happily live both?” I honestly feel selfish and pampered even asking the question. In most people’s lives, there is only enough to get by every day, to struggle just to make it, never mind the luxury of asking “why?”.

But here I am, clearly with enough comfort in my life to ask that question. Why?

And while I’m doing this, I’m feeling incredibly guilty, because I shouldn’t be doing this right now. I should be doing other things. But my brain is nowhere else. I tried to distract my brain from this all weekend – dinner out, dancing, football game, soccer game, dinner out again, concert. And it’s still there – just under the surface of everything else.

Why?

Why?
Why?
Like an irritating three year-old child.

This is what mid-life crises are made of, right? One day you wake up, and there you are, in a life you built one decision at a time, and a life in which you are happy, but somehow there’s something missing. And can a couple of weeks of vacation every year really fill that void – no matter how exciting the vacation is? How you can you live the life of passion you crave without destroying the security you need? Is that possible? Can a couple cool vacations really do the trick? Honestly, do I just need a vacation?

But, damn, I’m only 33. Is it really time to be having this internal crisis? Well, yeah, it is, because I don’t want to have this crisis later. I want to make a decision to live a life of passion, in some way or another. I feel so boring. I’m so sick of being boring.

Or am I just bored? I shouldn’t be. I have a good life – a GREAT life. I have a husband who I love immensely, and who loves me so much more than I can even comprehend sometimes. We have a nice house in a nice area. I work for a good company with wonderful people, where I am well-paid. We want for nothing essential. Sure, there are luxuries we can’t afford, but there are plenty that we can afford. I am painfully aware of all of this. Am I just paranoid that one day I’ll wake up, it will all be gone, and then what will I have?

So where does this desire come from? That was the original question running through my mind this weekend. Are we just conditioned from watching too many movies (and reading too many books) that a passionate life is the best way to go, and that the mundane is nothing to be desired? But really, why in the world would someone want to be Romeo or Juliet? Why would someone want to be James Bond, or to be with James Bond? But we do, don’t we?

Or someone does – the artists, the writers who create these stories. Are they pushing their own desires onto us, where we swallow them whole and think of how woefully short our own lives have come up? Or, is that a load of crap, similar to The Tyranny of the Mustard – oh how awful life is in a society where people struggle from having too many choices? Oh, it’s such a burden. Woe is me. Those terrible Hollywood people make me want things I wouldn’t otherwise desire.

I guess you can see where I’m going here. I don’t think that it’s Hollywood’s fault, or Ernest Hemingway’s, or Stephenie Meyer’s, Ian Flemming’s, or Jimmy Buffet’s. I think there is something in all of us that longs for the passion and the drama and something that needs safety and security. Most of us choose to live our lives in the comfort most days, and then we go to the movies or read books or go on vacation to meet the need for the passion and drama. But what if that’s not enough? How do you even know if that’s not enough? Where and how do you personally draw the line between the two? Is the line always moving? My line sure seems to be moving right now. It’s bouncing back and forth like a freaking Geiger counter.

And what if some of the things you want are in direct conflict with each other? How do you decide then? How do you know which one you’ll regret most if you choose not to, or are somehow not able to, do it? What if your head tells you one thing, and your heart another? What if you go for one, miss it, and then the other is also out of reach?

Ugh, this is so fucking self-indulgent. So fucking American.

I hate myself for even thinking all this, much less writing it down and putting it out for everyone to see. But somehow, I need to do this, too. Hopefully, it will help me move forward and focus on the things I should be focused on right now.

I know what I’ll decide. Because I’m so damn practical – always so practical.

But will it be enough? If not, what then? And if it is, for how long will it be enough?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Well

As if illustrating the last post, I finished the second book - New Moon - last night/this morning. 300+ pages read between 9:30pm and whenever it was that I finished.

I think I'll wait a couple days to start the next one.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Little Obsessions

So, I’ve recently discovered something about myself. Like America in 1492, it was already there, but this is the first time I’ve put it all together and come up with a theme.

I get what I have decided to call “little obsessions”.

I don’t know if anyone noticed that the last book I had up on Shelfari as “I’m Reading Now” was only up there for four days. If anyone did, y’all are visiting my site more often and paying more attention than I thought. If not, well, I’m not surprised – after all, it was only four days. That being said, the Twilight series is my new little obsession. I’ll get into the books a little more in another post I’m sure, but what has fascinated me is that I’ve actually identified this within myself.

What’s also interesting is that I went for a long time without any little obsessions, and in the last year or so, I’ve had a few. I don’t know what the gap was all about, but it’s been so much fun to be back in that mode. I don’t really know how healthy it is, but it is fun.

You see, when I was in high school, I would become quite smitten with certain boys, and I think it’s the relationship in Twilight and its similarity to my own thought processes at that time in my life that helped me make the connection between those obsessions and the less personal obsessions I get now.

There is a certain sense of life I feel when I’m focused on one thing, and strength that I feel when I can almost rid myself of thoughts of the subject – almost – just enough to do other things. (This all sounds so creepy when I write it down.) And maybe “obsession” is the wrong word; I guess that’s why I’ve added “little” to the front of it.

Anyway, in the past (frankly, all the way back to elementary school), it was generally boys. I’m sure there are any number of my friends and family who can attest to the 5-10 lb weight loss I experienced at the beginning of a smitten time. (I wonder if Dave remembers me losing weight at the beginning of our relationship.)

But sometimes it was also movies – usually with cute boys – and books (I read a lot of It while walking between classes in high school). Now, though – and I’m sure Dave will be happy to hear this – it is movies, music, and books. Sometimes, it’s even spreadsheets – which will not surprise Dave one bit. Because what I’ve discovered is that this little obsession tendency also carries over into projects that I work on. For instance, I’m typing this when I should be doing any number of other things. But getting this out is all I can focus on, now that I’ve discovered it.

So, I read Twilight in four days – starting on Saturday night through to Tuesday’s lunch – which for me is really fast. Every spare minute (and some that weren’t exactly spare) was spent reading. I started the second book last night, and am already 225 pages in. I read 10 pages in the parking lot while I waited for Dave to join me for lunch today. I’ve found myself wanting to skip out on tonight’s workout and tomorrow night’s happy hour (I won’t) because I want to find out what happens next and spend more time with these characters. I’ve found myself thinking about it as soon as I wake up in the morning, ready to read more.

It’s that little tidbit that triggered the realization for me. Very recently, I’ve woken up thinking of other things, too – specifically, certain songs running through my head. And that’s when it hit me. I get these little obsessions again. And I like it. It’s an interesting feeling, and it reminds me of how I felt when I was younger. Those were really amazing times – everything I felt was so tangible, if that makes sense.

So what are some of my recent little obsessions?
- Twilight, and now New Moon
- The music of Reckless Kelly
- Lost in Translation
- Atonement (the movie, more than the book - though the book was fantastic)
(yeah, I know, sometimes I’m such a girl)
- Any song on my “pensive” playlist
- How in the world I’m going to successfully make some planned major changes in the next year (OK, this one’s not so little)

Next thing I know, I’ll be keeping my journals again – yes, plural. Each journal has its own specific purpose. Ugh. Like I said, it sounds insane to actually type this out.

Drought Schmought or: How We Learned about Irony Through Habitat for Humanity

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to volunteer at a Habitat for Humanity build site with some coworkers. The following post is an account of our day, as posted on my work intranet blog.

As many of you may or may not know, Georgia is in the middle of an historic drought. About this time last year, our governor was on the steps of the capitol praying for rain. Since I was able to shower this morning, we clearly made it through what was at the time a 90 day supply of water. Frankly, though, things haven’t gotten much better over the last year. It’s just that with some other things going on, water supply doesn’t seem to be quite as important (I mean, newsworthy).

With such a drought, one would expect that rain really not need be a consideration when making plans. (May I use this moment to define irony? Irony: Incongruity between what might be expected and what actually happens.)

When Karen sent out the invite to participate in a Habitat for Humanity build on October 24, there was a big response. We had a group of 15 ready to go, not thinking about weather at all. Why would we? October in Georgia is beautiful – my favorite month, actually – and this would a great way to lend a helping hand.

As our volunteer opportunity approached, though, we found out that our location no longer does Friday builds. We could go to the same site the following Saturday (I would be out of town), or a few of us could help clean up and do touch-ups after the inspection had been done – paint here, a couple nails there. They only needed four people, so Dianna, Missy, Werner, and I remained in for the adventure.

On the Monday before, Dianna mentioned that the weather was supposed to be awful on Friday. I shrugged. If it was, we’d live, and the chances are really slim that we’d be getting any real rain anyway. As the day approached, we realized that the forecasts were looking more and more accurate. It was going to be cold and rainy (cold by Georgia standards, mind you). Oh well, we’re only cleaning up houses after they’re done, so it’ll be just fine.

So, on Friday morning, Missy and Werner went straight to the site, while Dianna and I met at the Habitat office at 7:30am – in a downpour. It seemed like the entire .58 inches we got that day came down between 7 and 10am. When we went to the door, the guy told us that it was ok if we didn’t want to go. Well, we hadn’t driven 20 miles already to turn around and go home – um, I mean, work.

So he gave us directions to the site and we took one car over there – where Missy and Werner were waiting.

We saw the house we’d be working on and found another volunteer and our host. He kindly informed us that there wasn’t much work to do, it was all outside, and if we wanted to go home, it would really be ok. We all agreed to stay.

As it turns out, our impression about the work we would be doing was entirely wrong. When they said cleaning up the site, they meant the construction site, not inside a finished home. So, here we were, five volunteers (four in raincoats, one in a windbreaker, and one without gloves), moving piles of construction debris from in front of two houses and a building site without a house (and inside yet another house) to a dumpster, in the pouring rain.







Unfortunately, I didn’t get a good “before” picture, but the debris piles were about 10×5 feet across and three feet high – taking a couple hours to clear. And just when we thought we were done, we asked if there was anything else we could do. We hadn’t moved the piles of rocks and concrete that were alongside the debris piles, but we could if we wanted to. They weren’t to go in the bin, just about 25 feet over to the next home site.

I actually thought this was kind of funny, “Hey you! Move this big pile of rocks from here and create a big new pile of rocks over there!” was how I heard it in my head.









The rain had slowed by this time. Poor Missy was soaked to the bone (she was the one wearing a windbreaker and had actually left a little earlier), and then we were done. Werner, Dianna, and I headed over to Waffle House to grab some food (veggie egg white omelet with a waffle, pecan waffle, breakfast sandwich, and hashbrowns – scattered, smothered and covered. Yum!). Dianna and I headed back to the Habitat office, and then we headed our separate ways.

All in all, it was a blast. I also suspect it wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun if the day had been 67 degrees and sunny. At least, that’s what I’ll keep telling myself.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Readin' and Writin'

So, the book I'm reading right now is inspiring me to write ... a novel. In spite of being educated in the ways and appreciation of writing - journalism and English - I never felt the need or desire to write a book. Non-fiction? Sure. Poetry? You bet (let's just forget how awful my poetry was).

But something about Richard Russo's style has me thinking about things in a new way, and as I read Empire Falls, I'm thinking of places and stories in my life that could be told. It doesn't hurt that Empire Falls seems very much like the town my family is from, so the parallels are obvious.

The other thing that helps is that I've always thought I couldn't write a book because I couldn't come up with a plot. I'm just not creative in that way. Well, so far, there isn't really a plot to this one (I admit, the book probably isn't for everyone). So far, it's just a beautifully told story about a man's life that is sad, but very sweet.

I'm not saying that I'll sit here, write a novel, and get it published. When would I even have time to do that, when I can't even find the time to blog every day? But it is interesting that for the first time, with as many books as I've read over the years, this one in particular has changed the way I view things around me, and has changed, to some degree, my internal monologue.

Maybe I'll just start with my journal.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Effing Election

As a fellow blogger said, I'm over this election. He's still undecided, and so am I, but I'm getting closer and closer to making my decision.

The prospect of a fully democrat-ruled government scares the begezuz (how do you spell that, anyway) out of me. It worked terribly when the party that I mostly agree with had all the control, so the thought of the democrats with that much power is downright terrifying. Because of that, I was leaning towards McCain (over Bob Barr) for the sake of a split government.

However, the longer this campaign goes on, the closer I am to voting for Barr, even though doing so could hand Georgia (and the election) to Obama.

I just don't know if I'll be able to bring myself to vote for the "lesser of two evils" even if that means voting my conscience sends the greater of those two evils to the White House.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Could the rumor possibly be true?

Search for Yuengling in Georgia on Google and you get tons of results saying, "It's coming." This has been going on for years now - one of the results is from 2006, and there are more from earlier this year saying we'd have it "in a couple months." But, no, it's still not here.

I have reason to be hopeful, though, because today I heard the most specific rumor so far about Yuengling in Georgia. A friend and coworker has told me that The Derby will begin serving it on October 27.

I wait with bated breath.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Quote

... do look and tell me, if you can, that there’s any greater evil than the transformation of individuals into the lurching, self-congratulatory mob?
-- I, Lucifer
Glen Duncan

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Music

Having $50 in birthday money, an hour to kill, and a CD Warehouse close by is a recipe for going somewhat over budget:

Missy Higgins - On a Clear Night
Audioslave
Jason Mraz - Mr. A-Z
Crowded House - Together Alone
Rick Astley - Greatest Hits
The English Beat - What is Beat?
Barenaked Ladies - Disc One: All Their Greatest Hits (1991-2001)
Crowded House - Woodface
Gin Blossoms - New Miserable Experience
Barenaked Ladies - Born on a Pirate Ship
Fleetwood Mac - Rumours

(Notice how I buried the guilty pleasure CD in there?)

The cool thing about buying used CDs is that I don't feel bad about buying an entire CD for one or two songs. A few of these fit that description nicely. I absolutely love the song "Where I Stood" off the Missy Higgins album, and I love her voice, but have no idea what the rest of it sounds like. Same goes for the two Crowded House albums.

As for the rest, they are either albums where I love every other album I have by the artist, and therefore, trust the band enough to pick up one where I know few songs (Barenaked Ladies' Born on a Pirate Ship and Jason Mraz), or I figure I can't go wrong with the greatest hits, or I know most of the songs and have wanted to buy the CD for years (Gin Blossoms, English Beat, and Fleetwood Mac).

I also ended up with the third in our "movies not about Christmas that happen during Christmas and are therefore awesome Christmas movies" collection. The first one was Love Actually, and then About a Boy. Now we have Just Friends. Chris Klein's scene where he sticks his head through the curtains and says, "Would you two like to join us in a carol to celebrate the birth of our Lord?" is worth the entire $5.99 price.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

pet peeves

- people who have a blog but don't use it. ok, i'm half-kidding, but i had to at least reference my absence.

now for the real inspiration for this post: restaurants that don't list their standard salad dressings in a conspicuous place (like near the salad section) on the menu.

i can't say that things have been crazy, but we have been busy, and there just hasn't been much for me to write about lately. at least, there's not anything i'm willing to share right now. yeah, i know that's cryptic, and no, i'm not pregnant. there are other things in the works in our lives, though, and i'm very happy about them. it's just not yet time to share. i should be able to share more in a month or two.

Monday, July 07, 2008

A Theory

Dave and I were driving down the road a while back (well, Dave was driving; I was riding), when we heard an REO Speedwagon song on the radio. I commented that I love them and would love to see their concert this year. They're touring with Joan Jett, who also opened up for them in 1985 (I think that was the year) at the Omni, which was my first concert. Dave said the combination didn't make sense to him; Joan Jett seemed like an odd, somewhat heavy, opener for soft rock staples REO. I was offended, because I know that REO Speedwagon was a rock band in the 70s and early 80s - before Can't Fight this Feeling.

So, I filled Dave in on my theory. Just about every band will eventually end up on soft rock radio.

You see, about 15 years ago I heard "Like a Virgin" on Peach 94.9. I was a bit surprised then, but over the years I've simply come to expect songs never intended for the softer stations will likely end up there.

Dave respectfully disagreed with me, citing bands like Metallica and other, heavier bands. OK, sure, I'll give you the fact that Tool and Slipknot probably won't end up on an AM Gold compilation anytime soon.

But Dave just looked at me laughed Saturday when he caught the refrains of “Sweet Child O’ Mine”, stopped scanning, looked down, and saw 98.5 on the digital read-out.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

A Rigistered Voter's Civic Duty

From June 17th through 23rd, I had the privilege [ahem, obligation] to serve on a jury in the US District Court for the northern district of Georgia. Crimes tried in federal court are different than most, and generally limited in nature - money laundering, counterfeiting, drug trafficking, tax evasion, and other federal crimes. Civil cases are also tried in the district courts.

Even getting called for jury duty in district court is different than for county court (yep, I’ve served on a local court, too). You are sent a summons with a juror number and phone number to call every day for two weeks. Each night, the system will tell you whether you need to show up for jury selection the next day. Six days into my 10-day time frame I thought I was home free, but it was not to be. On the night of Monday, June 16th, I was told by the lovely lady who recorded the message who knows how long ago, that I was to report at 8am the next day.

Now, when it comes to a daily commute, I’m spoiled. I live six miles from the my job in Roswell, and during the summer, this drive takes only 15 minutes. I had no clue how long it was going to take me to get downtown, much less find a parking place and make my way to the right building. I got up on Tuesday, and left the house with about 50 minutes to get to my destination. I knew this was not enough time, but I couldn’t seem to make it out the door quickly enough that morning.

I got stuck in our legendary Atlanta traffic, but it was moving faster than I expected. Maybe I would make it, after all. The directions I had were very detailed, and I made it to a parking spot at 7:55. I made my way up to the street level, and looked around. No building I could see seemed to be the Richard B. Russell Federal Building. Uh-oh. I wandered around for a few minutes before I walked into the Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center (or something like that) and asked a security guard. Turns out I was a couple blocks away (I found out later that I could have gotten straight into the right building from that lot; I just went the wrong way). I made my way over to the right building, and made it up to the jury room on the 22nd floor by 8:10. The administrator was just starting to call the roll; I had made it just in time for my name. I didn’t feel too bad once I realized that five people hadn’t even bothered to show up.

It was strange, though, because there were only 10 of us. We were directed to the courtroom for Voir dire. This is the fun part where they ask the prospective jurors several questions that help attorneys select the needed jurors from the pool. They asked lots of questions about favorite TV shows (House, Scrubs), hobbies (Soccer, Cycling, anything outdoors), kids (nope), friendships or acquaintances with police or people in the legal system (yes, but it won’t affect my ability to render a fair judgment). These were just the up-front questionnaire, and then the follow-up questions covered more detailed questions about said favorite shows, especially if those favorite shows were CSI or Law & Order, belief in whether we felt a witness testifying under a plea deal could be trusted, opinions of the Drug Enforcement Agency and the current US drug laws.

So I was listening to the questions as one by one, people were standing up to give more details about their feelings on the various situations. When they asked about our feelings on the current US drug laws, I sheepishly stood up. I told them that I have disagree with the fact that marijuana is illegal and think that it has some benefits that haven’t been fully explored, simply because it’s illegal. They asked if my feelings about marijuana extend to other drugs like cocaine and methamphetimes. I said that it doesn’t. (Spoiler Alert: If I’m asked the follow-up question again, I’ll have a different answer. And that’s not because I want to get out of jury duty, but because this trial further opened my eyes to the futility of our “war on drugs”. The definition of insanity comes to mind.)

After I sat back down, the pastor sitting next to me nudged me and told me that they were searching my car.

After the questions, we were sent back upstairs to wait for the decision.
About 20 minutes later, we were called back down to the courtroom, and three names were called. Clearly, since I’m writing this, mine was one of them. And, clearly, since there were only three of us, the rest of the jury had already been chosen.
We were sent to lunch (at 11am) and told to report back to the jury room at 1:15. I went with my two new cohorts, Marion and Katherine, to lunch in the cafeteria – which was surprisingly tasty with lots to choose from.

We made our way upstairs again, and were then escorted into the jury room where another 11 jurors were waiting (total - 12 jurors and two unidentified alternates). This would be our new home until the trial was over. Our courtroom security officer – US Marshall McCoy – was stern, but very funny (physically, he reminded me of Ernie Hudson from Ghostbusters). Marshall McCoy instructed us that if we ate downstairs during our trial, we would need to eat in Jury Room 3, and that if we saw any of the attorneys or witnesses from our trial, they won’t say anything and may not even make eye contact. We were told absolutely not to get on the elevator with anyone from the trial besides other jurors. We all wore juror stickers so we were easily identifiable.



Once we got our details from Officer McCoy, we were escorted into the courtroom for the beginning of the trial. Unlike the county courthouse of my earlier trial, this federal courtroom was exactly what you would expect after watching legal shows and movies. It was cavernous, lined with wood paneling, a granite wall behind the judge with a giant seal of the district court. It was much more modern than I expected, though, with recessed lighting and white noise pumped into the jury box during conversations at the judge’s bench.

Opening statements assured us that this was a trial about “drugs and money” from the prosecution and, of course, that the defendant was innocent from the defense. Then we got our first witness, a police officer from Oklahoma who had, in 1998, stopped our defendant for speeding, and then found several bricks of marijuana upon searching the car. The defendant later pled guilty to a drug charge. Fifteen minutes, maximum, and the officer was on his way back to Oklahoma. All I was thinking at that point was, “They flew him in from Oklahoma for that?”

There was some conversation at the bench, and we were told that we’d have to come back tomorrow because the translator hadn’t been scheduled for today.

I decided to take MARTA the next day, since the courthouse is 30 miles from my house, and the train station only 10 or so. Maybe I could save a little gas money, and have a much more relaxing trip downtown. Well, since I hadn’t done this before, I had no idea when to leave. And surprise, surprise, this time I arrived at 9:25, late by five minutes, only five minutes before court begins. I walked in, and Officer McCoy told me with a big grin on his face that he was about to come looking for me. I knew that in spite of his smile, he was serious, and I certainly wouldn’t do that again. I arrived no later than 8:30am any other day during the trial - for the 9:30 start time.

The second day was filled with witness testimony from someone deeply involved in a huge drug ring in Atlanta that was busted in the fall of 2005. “Gordo” spoke only Spanish, and his translator stayed at the witness stand with him. He was surprisingly charming at times, very quiet, and answered all the questions he was asked. In what seemed the most boring way possible, the prosecution asked him about his experiences and role in this organization from April through September, 2005. He confirmed that he recognized the defendant and that the defendant had stopped his tractor trailer at one of the organization’s locations in August 2005 and loaded almost a million dollars into the truck, hiding them amid pork shoulders he was hauling to Mexico. According to the witness, the defendant had done a few similar pick-ups before, picking up money - but never picking up drugs.

“Gordo” never shifted his eyes, and seemed to be telling the truth. The defense confirmed with him that he was hoping for a lighter sentence, which was why he was here testifying. But at the same time, the defense counsel confirmed with the witness that he was only telling the truth. It seemed an odd confirmation from the defense, since he was testifying for the government side, but it would become clear later.

As we moved through the trial, the prosecution called several government agents involved in the sting operation that nabbed this group. It was a huge operation involving the DEA, local police, and Georgia State Patrol. We learned a lot of interesting things about how these sorts of operations (both on the police and criminal side) are orchestrated and run, commercial trucking procedures, and what not to do at traffic stops. We saw pictures of the $785,000 found in the defendant's truck (vacuum-sealed in food-saver bags), and were even shown some of the cocaine seized in other parts of this bust – a couple of large bags and still more in "bricks".

This was a huge organization, and the larger bust was headline news nationally. Our defendant’s role was even mentioned in that short piece on CNN.com.

The defendant was charged with conspiracy to possess cocaine with the intent to distribute and conspiracy to launder money with the intent to commit unlawful acts. In the big picture, it was an interesting and exciting trial, but inside day-to-day, it was excruciatingly boring. The minutiae of what attorneys can and can’t ask, what constitutes an expert witness, and how witnesses can and can’t answer is just unbearable.

After several days of testimony by more law-enforcement folks, the prosecution rested its case. Then the defense rested its case without defendant testimony or calling any witnesses. We were told that we would need to report Monday for summations, jury instructions, and deliberation. We were almost done!

So, we arrived on Monday, and sat through the summations. The government painted the picture of this organization – the people involved, their processes, how much cocaine they were bringing into Atlanta on a regular basis. They even used PowerPoint with a circle graphic of how the drugs start in Mexico, come to Atlanta, then the money goes from Atlanta back to Mexico. (It was a very different circle graphic than I’m used to seeing at work, that’s for sure.) They were clearly trying to tie the defendant to the drug operation and the conspiracy to distribute cocaine.

The defense attorney was up next and gave his summation. The prosecution went through their rebuttal, and then the judge gave us our instructions. I think it was about 10 or 10:30am when we got the case for deliberation. When we made it into the jury room, Officer McCoy asked two of the jurors to leave – the two women with whom I was selected on Tuesday. They were the alternates, and since deliberations were beginning, were no longer needed. I have to admit that even though I could have gone home earlier, I’m glad I wasn’t an alternate. I would hate to sit through all that, and then not be a part of the decision and not even know what happened.

As we started deliberations, we discussed picking a foreperson. We decided that if anyone wanted to volunteer, we’d be ok with that. Otherwise, we’d have to nominate someone and vote. The woman sitting next to me said she’d be willing to do it, and we all supported her decision. “A.” was now our foreperson. One decision down, two to go.

From there, we decided to anonymously vote on the first count, just to see where we stood. We found a flower vase in a cabinet, and everyone voted. While “A.” counted, it was actually pretty tense. It seemed to go back and forth until we had the initial total on count one – conspiracy to possess cocaine with the intent to distribute – four guilty, one undecided, and seven not guilty. As we started to discuss the count, we discovered that we were all probably leaning the same way on the second charge. So we decided to take a vote on that one.

As our foreperson read the votes out, every one was the same. We had 12 “guilty” verdicts on conspiracy to launder money with intent to commit unlawful acts. Ok, two decisions down, one to go. When it came down to it, there really was no question that he was taking the money to Mexico, and that he knew it was illegal. He never showed his stop in Atlanta on his log books, but it somehow took him 12 hours to get from his last stop in South Carolina to the Georgia/Alabama border. He also had $785,000 hidden within a load of pork deep inside his truck, and the seal on the back of the truck was broken. This one was clear.

What was a bit fuzzier, though, was his involvement in the conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine. I guess I should say that upon the initial vote, I was one of the "not guilty" voters. My reasoning was that in all of the recorded phone calls, documents and witness testimony, our defendant and the drugs were never mentioned together. As a matter of fact, the witness from the organization had specifically said that the defendant never had anything to do with the drug side of the operation; he only dealt with the money.

But there were still four people who thought he was involved, and another person who was undecided. As we started discussing, it all came down to the definition of conspiracy, along with our understanding of “knowing” and “unknowing.” We all basically believed the same thing, but needed to come to an understanding about what the charge of conspiracy to possess cocaine really meant and what the prosecution had proven.

We also realized that without the definition of conspiracy, which the judge had read to us in our instructions, we wouldn’t get anywhere. We asked the judge to send us the charges and definition of conspiracy from the transcripts. When we received the documents, we read and re-read them, we read them out loud, and we passed them around for anyone to read for themselves. The definition seemed to contradict itself, mentioning in one place that the defendant had to do one thing knowingly, but could be a part of the conspiracy either knowingly or unknowingly. It seemed absurd.

We knew that the government's argument was that simply being one part of the circle made our defendant party to the entire cocaine operation. They defined it in their summation as being on the defense in football, and never actually scoring touchdowns (outside of turnovers), but still being a part of the larger goal to win the game.

Honestly, we all realized that the defendant most likely knew the money he was carrying was proceeds from drug sales, but we kept coming back around to a few things. First of all, he was never arrested carrying any drugs (as part of this operation). Secondly, in all the phone calls he was a part of, cocaine was never mentioned – not even generically referred to as drugs. Yes, they spoke in code most of the time, but even the code words for drugs weren’t used. And, then there was the sticky situation about burden of proof. The government had to prove that he was part of this conspiracy. Clearly, they thought they had, but as we reviewed the definition, we felt like they had to prove that he at least knew this money was from cocaine or drugs. That last point of proof and the inclusion/placement of “knowing” in the definition of “conspiracy” is what it really came down to.

In the most beneficial scenario to the defendant, he was simply a guy with a truck who was paid to carry some money in his load to Mexico. He didn’t know the big picture, and he didn’t ask any questions. We all felt that wasn’t really the case.

One juror in particular was adamant that the defendant knew exactly what was going on. But had the prosecution proven that he knew? Most of us didn’t think so. From the evidence that was actually tied to the defendant, the money could have been from anything illegal – not necessarily drugs.

We debated some more, and then at 12:30 were told to go to lunch – where we would not be able to discuss the case. We ate quickly.

At about 1:10, we headed back upstairs to continue discussions, but it seemed we had said all we could say. We decided to take another vote, just to see where we were.
As “A.” unfolded each piece of paper – not guilty, not guilty, not guilty, innocent – the tension grew. I realized I had butterflies in my stomach. She started unfolding and reading a bit faster – not guilty, not guilty, not guilty, not guilty, not guilty, not guilty, not guilty. And then finally, as she unfolded the last piece, I think we all held our breath – not guilty. There was a huge sigh, and we let the judge know that we’d made our decision.

The lawyers came back from lunch at 1:30, and we entered the courtroom to give our verdict.

As the court administrator read the verdict, “On the first count of conspiracy to possess cocaine with the intent to distribute, we the jury find the defendant ‘not guilty’.” I watched the prosecuting attorney’s eyes bulge. Then, “On the second count of conspiracy to launder money with the intent to commit unlawful acts, we the jury find the defendant ‘guilty’.” There was a sigh from the prosecution table, and big smiles and high fives from the defendant and his attorney. I speculate that the defendant expected the guilty on money laundering and had only hoped for not guilty on the drug charge. I also wonder if the prosecution hadn’t originally offered a plea deal that included some lesser drug charge, so he actually “won” by taking this to court.

We were dismissed, and we quickly gathered our things, heading downstairs to the parking lot and the MARTA station. It was strange to peel off one-by-one from these people with whom I’d spent the last five days – knowing that together we’d had an impact someone’s life, and that we’d most likely never see each other again.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Weekend Festivities

As most of you know, Dave and I have gotten involved over the last few years in "multi-sport" competitions. In most people's minds, the term multi-sport refers to triathlons, but there are also duathlons (two sports, usually cycling and running); adventure races which involve any number of activities like running, paddling, orienteering, and cycling; and other kinds of races that involve more than one discipline. Dave's been doing this for years, and finally got me to run my first duathlon in 2006 and first triathlon last year.

Over the last year, I've relayed a couple more races and done one more sprint triathlon on my own. Yesterday, though, was my new favorite race - Muddy Buddy. Muddy Buddy is a pretty short race - 6-7 miles, depending on the course - run by teams of two who leap-frog each other biking and trail-running, trading the bike at various obstacle points throughout the race, ending with a team crawl through a giant mud pit.

I entered with a co-worker, and as the race approached, we got more and more excited. Thanks to Dave, who unfortunately couldn't race this time around, Danielle and I had a name - the Pale Riders - and even an awesome logo.



Danielle’s husband and oldest daughter also came along for the fun.

The race began at 7:30am, and we arrived (in the rain) at the Georgia International Horse Park in Conyers at 7 with our bike. The only thing we had left to do for preparation was pump up the tires. Simple enough, right? Hah! If you think so, you clearly have never raced with Dave and me - two of the three original members of Team Lightning Rod. That name derives from our propensity to have "issues" during race weekends. Previous examples include arriving to a race without a bike, leaving for another race without running shoes, and arriving at yet another without bike shoes.

As I mentioned, yesterday, we arrived with flat tires, but did at least think enough ahead to bring the pump. One of my tires has had for some time now, a slightly bent valve stem. It's always been annoying, but never a real problem. Well, yesterday, it was a real problem. No worries, Dave has a spare tube in the bike box. Dave changes the tube, pumps it up, and away we go. POW! and a puff of powder comes from the tire. Hmmm. It seems the new tube was a bit old. The race has now begun, but luckily, Danielle and I are in a later wave. We send Danielle and her family on to get a place in the line at start, while Dave changes the tube back to the old one, and manages to successfully pump up the original tube. We really are on our way, now.

Welcome, Danielle, to Team Lightning Rod.



Danielle read the race course description ahead of time, and found that the second leg is the most technical from a biking perspective, so we agreed that she would start on the bike, and I would run first. Riders start first, and then runners follow, so at 8:40, the riders were off. Shortly after, we runners began. With the early morning rain, the course was pretty nasty. (I won’t complain about the rain, though, because it cooled things down significantly.) We were all pretty nasty even as the race began. The course, though, was beautiful as we wound in and out of the woods, up and down hills, through wide fire roads, and across narrow, rocky single-track. I arrived at the first obstacle about 17-18 minutes in, which was a group of two-by-fours about three feet off the ground that we had to cross like a balance beam. After finishing that, it was on to find the bike, which we’d marked by tying colorful bandannas around the handlebars and seat post. Others were much more creative with all kinds of markings, but the bandannas did the trick, and now we know some other things we can do next year. As for my first bike leg, I had to walk the bike up a red-mud, steep embankment early on, but stayed on the bike the rest of the way – including some rocky up-hills and fun, speedy down-hills around other bikers and runners.

Danielle was waiting for me at the second obstacle which was a pyramid of two-by-fours with instructions to over/under the first and second boards without touching the ground. Then climb over the top. Danielle had already done the obstacle, and just needed the bike. We traded, she was on her way, and I completed the obstacle and started my second run.

At this point, I was thrilled to discover that mountain biking and trail running use completely different leg muscles. Each changeover was a welcome relief.

The biking and running parts all started to blend together, but the obstacles were all very different. Each time I had the bike, Danielle was waiting for me at the end of that leg. I think that says something about my biking speed, for sure. The third obstacle was a rock wall about eight feet high. We had to climb over the wall, and come down the other side on a cargo net. Rock walls are fun, but there is certainly added difficulty when your legs are already fatigued and shoe treads are filled with red clay.

The fourth obstacle – we were getting close! – was a giant inflatable wall (15 feet?) covered in a cargo net for climbing the front, and a slide on the other side.

I had to do a little walking on the last leg, but as I realized I was getting closer to the end, I pushed a bit, and started running – slowly – towards the last checkpoint where Danielle and I would meet up. Racers have to go through the mud pit together. Our shirts were bright pink, and Danielle was easy to spot as I rounded the corner. We approached the pit that starts with yet another cargo net. But this time, you have to crawl under it to get to the edge of the pit. The pit is surrounded by 10x2 boards, keeping the mud in, and over that first board, we climbed. The mud was a bit deeper than I think either of us thought it would be, and as we put our hands in the mud, it came up to our elbows. We both just looked at each other, eyes wide, with nervous grins on our faces. Here we go. I couldn’t tell you how long the pit was, but it seemed to take forever. Every few feet, there was a cord to crawl under. I was too tired to keep holding myself up, so at the first cord, onto my belly I went. Danielle had enough strength left, though, to keep herself up. About halfway through the mud, I started feeling every single rock and pebble at the bottom of that pit. By the last few feet, I was pulling myself through the mud by my arms, because my knees and ankles were so scratched and bruised. I was moving so slowly! Soon enough, we were out, holding hands, and running across the finish line.



We stopped to get a post-race photo,



and then Danielle was off with her little girl to run the “Mini Muddy Buddy” – a few more obstacles and another mud pit!

The end of the race includes free beer for all the racers, but we hadn’t brought our IDs with us. We know now for next year, though. What I would have given for a post-race PBR at 10am!

The final “stage” of this race is the clean-up. We all made our way to the stations of hoses to rinse off. We rinsed off and all headed back to our cars, still pretty wet and gross, but loving every minute of it.

It turned out that in spite of this race’s short distance, I was completely exhausted afterward. Dave and I stopped to grab some bbq for lunch, and then went home. I showered, for real this time, and went straight to bed for a lovely two-hour nap. Then I spent the rest of the day on the couch.

We’re already excited for next year’s race and want to get a big group together. Let us know if you’re interested in joining the Pale Riders/Team Lighting Rod for next year’s Muddy Buddy!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Beautiful Sight

This is one of the most beautiful things I've seen in recent memory. OK, that's overstating it, but I'm very very happy with seeing



Sure, there is one other credit card with a balance on it, but the card above was by far the biggest piece of debt we had a year ago, and now it's gone. It feels good.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Said in our house

After dinner, I noticed that my shirt didn't actually cover my whole stomach. Before I knew it, "I'm fat, I need to hurry up and get an excuse," came out of my mouth.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Heavenly Sight

1. One of my most favorite things is the view on my phone/calendar that says, "No Upcoming Appointments."

I had that screen on Saturday. Lovely.

2. Another favorite is clean bedroom carpet - I mean really clean. Dave fixed the vacuum cleaner today, so I could vacuum our bedroom. Then, once that was done, he was kind enough to steam clean it. I don't think our carpet has been this clean since we bought the house. Again, lovely.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Freaking out a bit

I was just checking in on my facebook page and noticed that one of my coworkers has updated her pictures. Now, I know that this particular coworker and I have lots of acquaintances in common. She went to elementary school at a feeder school for my high school. I thought I knew all the people we had in common, though. So, I was not prepared for the shock when I saw the one friend we share on facebook - the person from whom I was inseparable between the beginning of 10th grade and about halfway through senior year. I'm still freaked out. I can't wait to ask my colleague about this tomorrow. I wish I could call her right now.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Turtle in the Yard

Here are a couple of pictures of the turtle that found its way into our yard today.





Click on the second picture to check on the spikes on that tail!

Maybe a running theme

Ha, I've said that before. But we'll see.

Two Things I'm excited about this weekend:
Going to see Sex and the City with Mom.
Yep, I'm pretty stereotypical. I absolutely loved the show, and can't wait to see the movie. I've heard a couple of spoilers, and hope they were only decoys. I've tried to stay clear of reviews and info because I love surprises.

I'm also excited to have the hubby back safely from Chicago.

I know this was a blog about just two things, but there are some other good things going on. I'm so happy that my grandparents have decided to move into a senior living community very close to our house. This will be the closest to my grandfather I have ever lived, and I can't wait for them to move down here in August. I'll be able to see them all the time.

Also, while I was typing this, I heard a commotion just outside. When I went to check it out, I had to come back in and get the camera. There was a 6 inch (or longer) snapping turtle in our front yard that a family had spotted and was trying to move to safety. I'll have pictures later.

Gotta run to dinner.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Better than expected

This is one of my favorite phrases, and my life used to allow me to say it more often than not. Lately, life's been kind of "eh". I can't complain, but nothing really better than expected.

With that said, this past weekend beat expectations by a mile, and I had some high expectations.

First of all, I crushed last year's time in the triathlon by more than five minutes. This actually inspires me to train, because if I train, I can't even imagine what I could do.

Secondly, I loved Indy 4, loved the theater, and loved the food we ate before the movie.

Thirdly, we loved the theater so much that we went back the next night and saw Iron Man. Guess what. We loved that, too.

All in all, it was an amazing weekend, spent with my adoring husband and two of his best friends, who were acting - pretty much the entire time - like American Monty Python rejects. That is a compliment.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Two Things

There are two things in particular that excite me about this weekend. In reverse order:

2. The triathlon that I haven't really trained for, but I somehow feel more ready for than I did last year. We shall see.

1. Indiana Jones & tKotCS here.
- VIP Balcony
- Leather (assigned) seats
- Over 21
- Yuengling
All that, and still only a few bucks more expensive than a regular evening movie in Atlanta

Saturday, May 17, 2008

What do I consider a perfect day?

Sleep late
Lunch with Grandparents in Dahlonega on a beautiful, breezy Spring day
Shopping for, and finding, new soccer gear
2.5 hour nap
Sushi dinner
The last -- :( -- episode of Moonlight (one of our guilty pleasures)
A bottle of pinot noir
Watching Bridget Jones Diary in bed

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Traveling again

Well, we're headed out of town again, and again, to one of our favorite places. We really are so lucky to live the life we do.
This time, we're going to Tarpon Springs, FL. My mom and step dad are already there, and then we're bringing Dave's parents along, as well. Of course, the pup's going, too. There will be about a one-day overlap when we'll get to hang out.
I'm also very excited about our day of deep sea fishing on Monday, and hope to have lots of great pictures to share when we're back.

In other news, all of a sudden (well, not really, but it will seem so readers), I am on an exercise kick. In the new year, which - I promise - was a coincidence, I started taking an early morning spin class about twice a week. Having grown bored with that routine, I've taken a bit of a hiatus in favor of getting in shape to run at least 5K. When I'm comfortable with that distance, I'll get back into spin at least once a week along with some regular running. And, finally, I've also asked a former teammate about playing soccer again.

Things both personal and professional are starting to move along, and it feels great; the holding pattern was getting really old.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Up to what?

Well, this weekend, I've dealt with a lovely cold. Not too bad, but enough to keep me from running or getting out much. I've done an awful lot of laundry, though. But yesterday, Dave and I did get out for something I've been waiting on for quite a while.

New York's Metropolitan Opera
has been simulcasting its Saturday matinée performances in movie theaters since 2006. When I heard that La Boheme was a selection this season, I was determined to go. While Madame Butterfly was the first opera I ever listened to in its entirety, La Boheme was the first (and is still the only) that I own. I have only ever listened to it, though. I was thrilled to see it for the first time - performed by no less a company that the Met.

I was also curious to see what the parallels are between Puccini's La Boheme and Jonathan Larson's Rent - one of my favorite modern musicals.

Stunning it the only way I can describe it. Dave does a better job than I could, though. If you're interested in a more detailed description, jump on over to his post on the subject.

I will echo something he says, though. If you enjoy opera or symphonic/orchestral music, take advantage of the opportunity to see one of these productions. It's well worth the afternoon and the price.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Pics and misc stuff

In kind of an odd place lately - if you haven't noticed. We've gotten a long way in a couple of big projects - house makeover and debt reduction (they may seem mutually exclusive, but they're not) - and it's strange. I should be happy, thrilled, with how much we've done over the last five years. And, yes, I am, but I'm also getting more and more anxious about both. I think it's that we can really see the light at the end of these tunnels, and I'm just waiting for something to come up to thow a big old wrench in both of them. Probably in one fell swoop. Sorry to be such a downer.

I had a weird day, today. A friend was in the running for a job, and was unceremoniously dumped from the process. I get business decisions, and I get that things come up; I'm not angry with anyone in particular, but I'm furious with the way things happened and environments where someone cannot be told honestly why they were pulled from an opportunity at the very end.

Oh well. I promised some pictures from recent travels. Another disappointment. Damn. There aren't any that I particularly love in the recent batches. That's unusual. I've posted some that'll illustrate our trips pretty well, though, considering the fact that the crop wasn't all that great this time around.


Does the Obama poster image creep anyone else out - just a little bit?
Check out the shot of the boat in the marina at Isle of Palms. Couldn't resist that one.












Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Redundant - must get a thesaurus

Wow, I just realized that the last post was ridiculously similar to the post before. Sorry about that. I told you before that I really haven't had that much to say lately. Well, there you go.

Flying here, driving there

March has been kind of crazy. First, I was in Boston, then we were in San Antonio, and finally, the trip to our favorite place was lovely.

Pictures from two of the trips coming soon.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Yep

I know I haven't posted in a while. The thing is that I haven't really been that busy. Well, we've been traveling a lot this month, so that will be my excuse. But really, I've been very unfocused and haven't really had that much to say.

We're off again tomorrow for the Easter weekend. Back to our favorite place - Charleston.

Perhaps I'll have stuff to share when we're back. There are some pictures from the recent travels that I could post. Just have to get to it.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Belated Post

We got a "new" car a couple of weeks ago. It's to replace Dave's 1995 Honda Accord that has 194,000 miles on it. The old Accord is actually running just fine, but it's certainly time to get something that we a)can fit four+ people in comfortably and b)aren't ashamed to claim is our car (ashamed is too strong a word, but I can't think of the right one). And just because we're so adventurous, we got a 2004 Honda Accord. At least this time it's got a V6. Oooh.