Monday, February 28, 2005

Did I Ever Tell You...

about the time I saw an angel?




remind me to tell you the story sometime.

Friday, February 25, 2005

PSA (Public Service Announcement)

Yesterday I had a non-cancerous small growth, what my PA called a tumor, removed from my upper back near the spine. This is the third non-cancerous growth I have had frozen off my body. Although it is something I would rather not have it is also something I am glad can be removed quickly and with little pain. I never was one who sunbathed that much when I was younger because I didn't have the patience for it. I think I can count the number of times I did on one hand. I did grow-up in a town that is one mile above sea level and spent a lot of time outdoors as a child and that may have contributed to this. I don't really know and so it really doesn't matter.

I am writing about this because skin cancer is such an easy thing to treat and people still die from it. A friend of my mother died from skin cancer when he tried to treat it with an over-the-counter cream and waited too long to see a doctor. I remember seeing the sore on his face and knowing, even though I was only fourteen, that something was seriously wrong. He died after the cancer spread to his brain.

So if you find something on your body that wasn't there before go see a doctor. If it is pre-cancerous or cancer you can have it removed right there in the doctor's office. The doctor can either cut it off or freeze it off. I chose to have mine removed by having it frozen off because I figured it would be quicker. Don't let the doctor tell you it doesn't hurt or you will only feel a sight stinging sensation because that's a lie. What it feels like is touching your finger to a just blown-out match head. It burns but is bearable.

If you would like more information about skin cancer you can go here.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Car Talk

Last Saturday my husband asked me if I wanted to go with him to look at new cars. He had decided it was time to get a new one for safety reasons and had been checking car brands online. Now, my husband is not a man who makes decisions lightly so I know he had been thinking about this for a long time before he mentioned it to me. But once he makes up his mind he is ready to follow through, which makes him the only person I know who takes forever to quickly make up his mind.

He had decided to look at a Honda Accord and a Toyota Camry. A town about 100 miles to the north of us had both a Honda and a Toyota dealer so we drove up there. On the way we talked about what we wanted in a new car and came up with the following things:

1. Side impact airbags in addition to front ones.
2. Quiet interior
3. Six CD changer (me)
4. Leather seats (him)
5. Power windows and doors
6. Cruise control
7. Anti-lock brakes
8. A/C

Then we discussed why we want each thing on the list:

1. Side impact airbags- Increased safety since almost all of our driving would be highway along side large trucks.

2. Quiet interior- Since almost all of our driving would be highway along side large trucks. Also safety because noise is tiring.

3. Six CD changer- Increased safety since almost all of our driving would be highway along side large trucks and I cannot make myself stop and pull over to change a CD.

4. Leather seats- Easier to clean than cloth seats.

5. Power windows and doors- Because we can.

6. Cruise control- Since almost all of our driving would be long distance and for safety. Less tiring.

7. Anti-lock brakes- Safety.

8. A/C- Since almost all of our driving would be highway along side large trucks. Also safety because noise is tiring and so is heat.

We agreed on 1,2,5,6,7,8 and compromised on 3 and 4. He would get his leather seats and I would get my 6 CD changer.

We went to the Honda dealer first and found out how different things are in a small town. The salesman gave us the car and let us take it for a test drive without getting any information about us or looking at our driver licenses. After we brought it back he gave us a more expensive version of the car and again let us take it for a drive alone. Next we went to the Toyota dealer but the salesman there was not as trusting and came with us on our test drives. He was also what I would call a bit of a goofus and what my husband called an idiot. We liked the Camry better but they did not have the exact car we wanted so we told the salesman we needed to think about it and that we would call him after we got back home.

When we got home my husband called the salesman and asked if they could get the car we wanted with the options we wanted. If so, what would they ask for it? The salesman would have to call back. Twenty minutes later he called back and said yes they could get the car and told us how much it would cost. My husband told him he would call him back. Ten minutes later he called the salesman and made an offer. He explained that this offer was his one and final offer and for the salesman to check with his boss and to call back with a yes or no answer. Twenty minutes later the salesman called back and started talking. My husband said all he wanted to hear was yes or no, did they accept his offer? The salesman told him they had a major misunderstanding because my husband had got the cost of the car wrong. Since the salesman had been the one who told him what the dealer wanted for the car and was now was telling him that he (my husband) was the one who had made a mistake my husband got angry. He again asked whether his offer was accepted and again the man would not answer yes or no. My husband said goodbye and hung up.

I was not surprised by this outcome because each time my husband spoke with the man the less respect he had for him. He wanted a straight answer and this man was incapable of giving one.

On to plan B. My husband called two dealers in Denver and told the two salespeople he talked to what he wanted. A half-hour later one salesperson called back saying he had the car we wanted and my husband made an offer. The dealer accepted the offer and my husband drove to Denver that night and bought the car at the price he wanted, which he found out was $175 dollars more that the lowest price the car dealership was willing to accept. They did try to get him to pay more by asking him if he wanted to participated in the sales promotion they were having right then. All he had to do was write a check for $1000 and they would give him the car for $3,000 less than the sticker price. My husband laughed and said no since his offer really was $3,000 less than the sticker price. The salesman had the good grace to shrug and say he wouldn't be doing his job if he hadn't asked.

So now we have a new car.


Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Photos Of Amsterdam (10)

Brown murky water
Black duck quickly paddles by
Yellow boat slumbers
-Colleen Shannon

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

I Wish It Were Summer


My husband and our nephew. That little boy is in his second semester of college now.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Boy Named Sue

-Shel Silverstein

My daddy left home when I was three,
And he didn't leave much to Ma and me...
Just this old guitar and an empty bottle of booze.
Now, I don't blame him cause he run and hid,
But the meanest thing that he ever did
Was before he left, he went and named me 'Sue'.

Well, he must o' thought that is was quite a joke,
And it got a lot of laughs from a' lots of folk.
It seems I had to fight my whole life through.
Some gal would giggle and I'd get red,
And some guy'd laugh and I'd bust his head.
I tell ya, life ain't easy for a boy named 'Sue'.

Well, I grew up quick and I grew up mean,
My fist got hard and my wits got keen.
I'd roam from town to town to hide my shame.
But I made me a vow to the moon and stars
That I'd search the honky-tonks and bars,
And kill that man that give me that awful name.

Well, it was Gatlinburg in mid-July
And I just hit town, and my throat was dry.
I thought I'd stop and have myself a brew.
At an old saloon on a street of mud,
There at a table, dealing stud,
Sat the dirty, mangy dog that named me 'Sue'.

Well, I knew that snake was my own sweet dad
From a worn-out picture that my mother'd had,
And I knew that scar on his cheek and his evil eye.
He was big and bent and gray and old,
And I looked at him and my blood ran cold,
And I said: "My name is 'Sue!' How do you do! Now you gonna die!"

Well, I hit him hard right between the eyes,
And he went down, but, to my surprise,
He come up with a knife and cut off a piece of my ear.
But I busted a chair right across his teeth
And we crashed through the wall and into the street
Kicking and a' gouging in the mud and the blood and the beer.

I tell ya, I've fought tougher men,
But I really can't remember when,
He kicked like a mule and he bit like a crocodile.
I heard him laugh and then I heard him cuss,
He went for his gun and I pulled mine first,
He stood there lookin' at me and I saw him smile.

And he said: "Son, this world is rough,
And if a man's gonna make it, he's gotta be tough,
And I know I wouldn't be there to help ya along.
So I give ya that name and I said good-bye.
I knew you'd have to get tough or die,
And it's that name that helped to make you strong."

He said: "Now you just fought one hell of a fight,
And I know you hate me, and you got the right
To kill me now, and I wouldn't blame you if you do.
But ya ought to thank me, before I die,
For the gravel in ya guts and the spit in ya eye
Cause I'm the son-of-a-bitch that named you 'Sue'."

I got all choked up and I threw down my gun
And I called him my pa, and he called me his son,
And I come away with a different point of view.
And I think about him, now and then,
Every time I try and every time I win,
And if I ever have a son, I think I'm gonna name him
Bill or George! Anything but Sue! I still hate that name!

Now, that's a girl's name. What's all the fuss about this?

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Photos Of Amsterdam (9)

Standing on a corner watching all the girls go by
Standing on a corner giving all the girls the eye

Brother you can't go to jail for what you're thinking
Or for that woo look in your eye
Standing on the corner watching all the girls
Watching all the girls, watching all the girls go by

-Standing On The Corner, written by Frank Loesser

Thursday, February 17, 2005

I Can't Wait To Be Forgotten

I gave my husband The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection for Christmas and last night we watched The Cocoanuts. The movie was made in 1929 and shows how surprisingly primitive early talkies were. It seems like once sound came in Hollywood forgot how to make movies for a while . This movie was one of the two Marx Brother movies made at the Astoria Studios on Long Island. The Brothers filmed during the day and then rushed back to Broadway to do their stage play Animal Crackers at night. This film is so old the video quality of some scenes is terrible and the sound quality poor. In fact, the sound is so bad I was sure all the music was being played on tiny instruments by an ant band.

Since the movie is a film version of their play of the same name it is very stagey. It has fine examples of horrible acting courtesy of a man named Oscar Shaw. It has the worst songs Irving Berlin ever wrote. It has the most awkward dancing you have ever see in a show not put on by The School For The Terminally Clumsy. And it had the Marx Brothers. I haven't laughed out loud at a movie in a long time. I loved the word play. I loved the look on Harpo's face each time he walked away from the table when he heard someone start a boring speech during the dinner party. I loved hearing the "Why a duck?" routine again. I loved Groucho's scenes with Margaret Dumont; who was never quick enough to catch all the insults he hurled at her.

Then there was Kay Francis. Most people have never heard of her but she was a big star in the thirties. The Cocoanuts was her first movie. It is said her career went into a decline when Warner Brothers signed Bette Davis. After this the studio's focus was on Davis instead of Francis. Turner Classic Movies had a Kay Francis Month and ran several of her films. I managed to see three; Jewel Robbery(1932) with William Powell; Trouble in Paradise (1932) with Hebert Marshall and Miriam Hopkins; and King Of The Underworld(1939) with Humphrey Bogart. In all she played a smart, breezy, sophisticated woman who could handle anything; just the kind of parts Bette Davis played. By 1946 her movie career was over.

My life? Well, I get up at a quarter to six in the morning if I'm going to wear an evening dress on camera. That sentence sounds a little ga-ga, doesn't it? But never mind, that's my life...As long as they pay me my salary, they can give me a broom and I'll sweep the stage. I don't give a damn. I want the money...When I die, I want to be cremated so that no sign of my existence is left on this earth. I can't wait to be forgotten."
-From Kay Francis's Private Diaries, Circa 1938

Trailers for three Kay Francis movies from Turner Classic Movies:
Jewel Robbery
Mary Stevens, MD
King Of The Underworld

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Wal-Mart, How Do I Hate Thee?

...let me count the ways.
-Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Wal-Mart sucks. No other way to put it. I read a BBC report this morning about Wal-Mart and was surprised to see it was the usual "Wal-Mart is good- no Wal-Mart is bad" overview of the company. It makes sure to mention that Wal-Mart did $284 billion in sales last year. A company doing that kind of business must be good, right? Not in my view.

About six years ago a Super Wal-Mart came to the larger town 30 miles to the south of us promising to bring more jobs and money into the community. Now, what Wal-Mart failed to explain (or the city father's ignored as visions of dollar bills danced in their heads) was that the jobs they brought would be minimum wage part-time jobs and that when Wal-Mart uses the word "community" they are talking about their store. Wal-Mart has always kept prices down by paying employees as little as possible and keeping their work week under 30 hours. If you are not a full-time employee at Wal-Mart you are not eligible for company benefits. These low wages affect the customer.

I shop at the Wal-Mart south of me once or twice a month. The only reason I do so is to buy fresher produce than I can get in the small grocery store in our town. Each time I go through the check-out line at Wal-Mart there is a new cashier operating the cash register. After six years I should be seeing the same faces but I don't. People don't work for them very long. How can they and support their families?

The BBC wrote,"...whenever a new store is opened in the US, critics claim small businesses and local jobs are lost." This is true. Since the Wal-Mart was built two grocery stores, two department stores, and a shoe store have gone out of business in the town.

Wal-Mart advertises itself as a place with bargain prices. This may have been true at one point but no longer. Over the last six years I have watched as the quality of the products Wal-Mart carries drop lower and lower along with their prices. The towels they sell are thinner, the wall paints are now some brand I have never heard of, and the tools are made of cheaper metal. There are quality name-brand products but the prices are not any less than any other big box store. Cheap products at a cheap price is not a bargain.

I shop at Wal-Mart because (figuratively speaking) they are now the only store in town. I make sure to buy as little as possible and to take advantage of every trip to Denver by stocking up at Kings or Safeway before I head home.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Photos of Amsterdam (8)

As you can tell I find doors interesting. Doors lead to other lives and until you enter you can not tell what that life may be like. Sometimes you can hazard a guess. What do the set of doors in the last photo tell you about the person who lives behind the second door from the left?

Friday, February 11, 2005

Am I There Yet?

The whole point of being alive is to evolve into the complete person you were intended to be.
-Oprah Winfrey

I want to thank my sisters and Blue Witch for the supportive messages they left in the comment box of my New Year's Resolution post. It was very generous of you. But I do think I owe some of you an apology. I have been writing about mundane, unremarkable things for the last four or five months and the other day I feel I kind of sucker punched you. That was not my intention. I do not write to show other people how horrid my childhood was because, all in all, it could have been worse. There were some intense, scary moments and those are the memories that get burned into your psyche. Some are so intense they get locked inside you only to emerge again when you talk or write about them. At least that is the way it is for me.

I find that by looking back and writing about my life I am figuring out the way I look at life in general. Figuring out how I perceive life helps me to evolve into the person I want to be. So, what have I learned so far?

1. That I am loved. I somehow felt this even before I was born. I think that is why I have always known my parents loved me even if they did a bad job of showing it by their actions or words.

2. That children are hostages to their parents lives. In that I mean they have no control over their own lives and there is nothing they can do about it.

3. That once you are out of your parent's house you are responsible for your own life. How it goes from that point on is up to you.

4. That when my parents woke-up each morning their first thought wasn't, "Humm, how can I f++k-up my kids today?"

5. That I don't have to forgive my parents for the things they did or didn't do. All I have to do is accept the fact that what happened did happen and that I can't change it.

6. That no one in the world is better than me. Other people may have fame, money, talent, brains, looks, or power. None of that makes them any better than me.

7. That we are all here to learn from each other. We do this each time we share our stories or opinions. This is what I like best about being a member of Blogland.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Photos Of Amsterdam (7)

The area my sister lives in is a housing project built in the late 1920's and early 1930's. It is kind of like Levittown in that it was a planned community. Only it was built twenty years earlier, consists mostly of apartments buildings and is built completely out of brick. One architect designed the lay-out of the buildings and the streets then allowed other architects to design the "look" of the building fronts. One way each made "their" buildings unique was in the design of the doors and entrances.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

New Year's Resolution

I was looking at some of my old entries and I noticed I've been holding back in my writing since I came back from my summer break. Most of my writing has been what I would call neutral. When I have written about things that mean something to me I've only skimmed the surface of what I've wanted to convey. I wondered what had changed. Now it seems that when ever I start to write anything I feel like I am boxed in and unable to express what I really want to say.

I have finally figured out my problem. When I came back from my break I realized people were reading my blog. I know, it sounds stupid since I've always known that people were reading it just by perusing the comments but I did not understand what that meant until I came back.

It it like the time I went skydiving. I knew before I decided to do it that skydiving meant you put on a parachute and jumped out of a airplane. I knew what it meant when I got into the airplane and we started rolling down the runway. I knew what it meant when we started climbing up to the jumping out point. I knew what it meant as I watched one of the other jumpers dive out the open cargo door at 5,000 feet above the earth. But seeing that made me really understand what skydiving meant. It meant I was going to jump out of a perfectly good airplane and fall hundreds of feet while wearing a parachute and hoping to god it would open. In that instant my understanding of what skydiving was went from the abstract to the concrete.

Well, I have gone from the abstract to the concrete in understanding the fact that people are reading my blog. I have gone from seeing a mass of undefined "people" to seeing that individual persons are reading my blog. Real live people are reading my blog; family, old friends, new friends, and people I don't even know about yet. By reading what I write here you can get to know me bit and that thought is frightening to me. If you get to know me then I become visible and I have spent my life trying to be invisible. Invisible because that was the safe thing to do. Anything else was dangerous for me and those around me.

I first learned that being invisible was good by being around my father when he was drunk. My father was a happy drunk at the beginning of a drinking spree but then, at some point in the process, turned into a mean one. The problem was you never knew where that point was. He could laugh in delight one minute and the backhand you across the face in rage the next. When he reached the mean stage becoming invisible was the only safe thing to do. Becoming invisible meant not attracting attention to yourself in anyway-baby bird in danger time.

Later I learned that being visible would cause pain for my older sister. My sister had some sort of learning disability in a time when doing badly in school still meant you were not trying hard enough. I hated report card time because, although I would get praised for my grades, my sister would get a whipping for hers. I would sit on my bed pressing my hands against my ears as tightly as I could trying not to hear the sound of my father's belt hitting my sister's body, or her screams and sobs, or him repeatedly asking her why she couldn't get good grades like me. I was in mental agony, wanting to do badly in school, thinking that might help my sister, but at the same time not wanting to get the whippings myself.

But even if I did get a whipping I knew my father would not whip me as long or as hard as he did my sister or my brother because my parents had done the one thing that, in some ways, is almost as bad for a child as rejecting him or her. They made me their favorite. My father showed this by not hitting me as much as he did my brother and sister's, praising me more, and remembering my birthday a couple of times after he had finally left us for good. My mother showed her favoritism by making me the responsible one after my father left. When I was younger I felt a sense of pride whenever she would say I was the responsible one. By the time I was fifteen hearing those words make me cringe. All they did was drive the wedge between my siblings and I deeper. So at a young age I learned that doing anything that drew attention to myself only brought anger and pain.

Blogging is a aberration on my part, something I would not have done if I had not gone to Spain. I started it for myself not even thinking about who or if anyone was reading it. When I realized people were reading I subconsciously became worried that by writing about anything I felt the need to write about (becoming visible) I would somehow be placing myself or others in danger. There were times when my need to express myself overcame my fear but for the most part I have been keeping a low profile.

But things are going to change. This year my New Year's Resolution is to stop trying to be invisible. It's time to toss away an old coping mechanism that has turned into a crutch. I can stand on my own two feet now.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

Participated in that Great American Cultural Ritual know as Super Bowl Sunday this weekend. Went to a Super Bowl Party, ate way to much, drank a little, watched the game with dwindling interest as it progressed. Super Bowl games are notoriously anticlimactic. Critiqued the commercials, wondered what Michael Douglas and Sir Paul McCartney were doing in the half-time show. Also wondered how much facial surgery each one had done since each turned sixty. Note to both, it is not normal to look "younger" after you turn sixty then you did when you were twenty. All in all a very good day.

Friday, February 04, 2005

This Little Light Of Mine

...I'm gonna let it shine.

Ossie Davis died today. The world is a little dimmer.

Things I Learned This Week

Proof - a number that expresses the alcoholic strength of a liquor

1.0 Proof- Non-alcoholic beer

2.8 Proof- Maximum Strength Robitussin

10 Proof- Most American beers

48 Proof- Sam Adams' Utopias MMII (world's strongest beer)

53.8 Proof- Listerine Antiseptic

198 Proof- A drink distilled from potatoes produced in Estonia in the early 1900's.

200 Proof- Not possible. At this level the alcohol starts pulling moisture from the air and diluting itself down to less than 190 Proof.

McDonald's Milkshakes- Are not made with milk. I don't know what they are made with and I don't think I want to know.

What Social Security Numbers Mean- The first three numbers are like Zip Codes and tell you which state issued the card. The next two numbers are called "group numbers" and used to divide numbers in the same "zip code" into smaller blocks- the lower the number, the earlier you got your card. The last three numbers are "serial numbers" and run consecutively from 0001 to 9999 in each "group number."

How Much Wood A Woodchuck Could Chuck if a Woodchuck Could Chuck Wood- 700 pounds of wood. But a woodchuck can't chuck wood because a woodchuck is actually a groundhog. British trappers could not pronounce the Cree Indian word for groundhog (wuchak) correctly and called them woodchucks instead.

What "Sea-Monkeys" Really Are- Brine shrimp. The eggs lie dormant until put into water and they then "come back to life." Very popular with children until they found out they died after a month.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Getting Off The Grid

In December my husband started talking about getting off the grid. By this he meant getting rid of the phone, the TV satellite, the computer, the credit cards, and the newspapers. We would keep our e-mail addresses and use the computer at the library. We would stay connected to people through e-mail and snail mail. We would have the radio for news. We would pay for everything by cash or check.


I pointed out that he could not even stop watching the television every day so how was he going to live without the other things on his list of things to get rid of? He said he didn't need to watch TV and that we could have it disconnected at the end of December. I said OK. A few days later he came back and said he was wrong it couldn't be disconnected until the end of January because the football playoff games were in January. I said OK. At the end of January I said I was looking forward to not having a television starting in February. A few days later he said the television would not be disconnected until the end of February because the Super Bowl was at the beginning of February. I smiled and said Ok.

Earlier this week my sister called and asked if I was coming to Denver this weekend. I said yes. She then asked if my husband wanted to come since they were having a Super Bowl party on Sunday. I ask him and he said yes. Yesterday my husband told me that since we were going to Denver for the Super Bowl we didn't need the satellite hook-up anymore and he was thinking of calling and having it disconnected right away. I said OK. Today he told me the satellite will be disconnected tomorrow.

We have now unplugged one thing from the grid. That is as far as I am willing to go.

Update: I guess the satellite is going just in time. I just spend five minutes watching Juggling Championship 2004 on ESPN and I am ashamed to report that I now know what a single, a double, and a triple mean.