Thursday, September 30, 2010

Visions of Fridays Dance in My Head

I think I've said before that I like Thursdays as a general rule. I find them akin to Christmas Even where you know the 'big day' is next but the anticipation of that is almost as sweet as the actual day of Christmas itself.

In this case, the 'big day' is simply Friday. While we still have to work on Fridays, they're like the reward at the end of the week. Things are a little more relaxed. People talk more on Fridays. The day goes by quickly, mostly because I have a lot of meetings on Fridays for some reason.
As not a huge fan of meetings, I don't mind meetings on Friday afternoons, particularly when they involve my boss. He's very easily distractable and clearly has a case of the 'wanting to escape early and start the weekend off right.'

So, pretty much, in a way, Fridays are part of the weekend because you know how matter how rough they are, there are two beautiful days of freedom just beyond the rise.

Today was a good Thursday. I had a couple of meetings which weren't too bad. I find that I tend to doodle a lot more in some meetings than others. Doodling, for me, is almost like meditation. I have to doodle in order to listen. As my pencil sketches odd designs and things on the page, my mind is listening to what people are saying.

Today, my doodles were off odd things. I drew a superhero who was an owl, two large evil looking pumpkins. Then I attempted to sketch a piece of corn. I don't mean the sweetcorn you buy in the supermarket, it was the type of corn that looks like wheat, that they make into flower. In England, when you see a corn field, there's no sweetcorn to be found. Instead it's rows and rows of green or golden sheaves, depending on the month, waving in the wind.

This is the corn I grew up with. My older brother used to go off to the corn fields to get up to mischief with his friends. They'd play in the fields, hiding from one another when the corn was high enough. When it was harvest season, they'd use the haystacks made from the dried corn stalks as objects in which to dive.

In our art classes, we'd have to draw pieces of this corn, capturing each kernel just right. Nowadays, while I remember in my mind how it looks, my pencil can no longer remember how to sketch it. It was sad. I used to know how to nest each kernel so it actually looked like corn. Now it looks rather bloated and more like a Christmas tree.

I was a little worried about this, whether it meant I was losing some of my Englishness. I compensated by making sure I could still remember how to make the pound sign. I don't mean that crosshatch thing you see on phone keypads, I mean the UK monetary type of pound sign. Fortunately, I could without any thought at all.
Thus, my meetings passed quickly. I like it when that happens. Doodling is good for making sure you're not so bored you start visualizing stabbing people in the eye with your pencil.
In addition to my meetings, we also had cake. I'm not a big fan of cake but today I was in the mood for a piece. My piece had plenty of frosting on it and clearly, I was in the mood for that more than cake because I realized that I'd slowly eaten all of that and left part of the cake. That's unusual for me. I'm not usually a cake eater at all.

I also had a meeting with the man who interviewed me last week. I was offered the job I interviewed for. At the moment, I'm 98% sure I'm ready for the change since the salary and benefits package met my requirements. All I need is the formal offer from the company which I'm supposed to get tomorrow.

The prospect of this change is both exciting and a little scary. I like this new company. People there seemed genuinally to like their jobs. Having been involved in a series of candidate interviews for a programmer position we have at work, I've had the chance to be on both sides of the interview process over the past two weeks. You can tell when someone is genuinely excited about their job. I don't think many people in our company are. In this new company, three of the four employees have been there over ten years. That says a lot.

I may change my mind but it's a lovely feeling to go into my Friday with this opportunity on my mind. It will help me focus on my current job and truly decide if I want to leave or whether the new opportunity is too great to pass up. I suggest the latter but I want time to sleep on it and make absolutely sure it's the right thing for me.
For now, I have that and the pleasure of it being Friday tomorrow. The weekend is wide open at the moment with no firm plans. It will give me plenty of time to do some serious thinking so that, by Monday, I will know for sure.

Then again, I have several meetings tomorrow. Maybe I should use those as my thinking time instead.

We'll see how it goes.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Autumn Walks

It's different walking the dogs in the autumn. It's a whole different world out there to the world of the summer that was here just a couple of weeks ago.

The streets look different in their covering of leaves. Now that the calendar has officially changed seasons and Summer has decided to take a step back from her steady heat, hot sun and dry earth, the leaves are falling with a vengeance. The pavement is covered with them and as we walk along, the crisp crunch sounds under our feet.

The puppies, of course, are in heaven. They like to stick their nose in a pile of leaves and then lift it back up vigorously and with a tilt. This sends the leaves flying in all directions. Better yet, Rory has taken to divebombing piles of leaves if she has the space and the speed. It's rather cute. She usually manages to shake off the leaves that are clinging to her fur after a few steps down the street.

Sookie tends to be more thoughtful about it. She waits for Rory to explore leave piles first and then when Rory's done her thing, Sookie has a good sniff.

Autumn also means that people are spending a little less time outside in the evenings. It gets dark much earlier now and so we have to walk earlier. There are still some people outside, starting the process of clearing the dried up flowers from summer or sweeping their driveways free from leaves but, mostly, it's a lot quieter than it was during the summer.

We still see a few neighbours but not as many as we did. It's been ages since I saw Larry the Potential Serial Killer. I don't mind too much because he was always a bit odd but it makes our walks a little more solitary when we don't see anyone.

What we are seeing is squirrels. There are squirrels galore on our walk. Our favourite spot to see them is what I have deemed the "Mothership." This is a giant oak tree in someone's garden in which at least a couple of squirrels can be found gathering their acorns for the winter. The ground beneath the oak is messy with squashed and flattened acorns, whole acorns, twigs and leaves. There are even the leavings of squirrels who clearly decided to sample the wears before gathering food for the winter storage.

Naturally, Rory and Sookie go balistic at the sight of the squirrels. They still have yet to figure out that dogs can't climb trees, even when said dog is in pursuit of a squirrel. I'm just glad I have sturdy leashes and harnesses on the hounds because otherwise, I'd have lost them to the Mothership days ago.

The other thing that's different is that the neighbourhood is starting to look decidedly adorned for Halloween. Ghosts, witches and black cats are popping up all over the place. They hang from porches, lampposts, shepherd's crooks. There's a problem with the black cats, I'm finding. While my puppies are adorable and can be quite crafty and sneaky, they're not always the brightest. Thus, they have yet to figure out that the black cats aren't actually alive. The worst are in a garden just down the street. They're just the silhouettes of the cat. They're lifesized. To a human, they're clearly not real. To a puppy well...I imagine since they haven't had that much interaction with cats, they do look real. They clearly look real enough to merit my dogs going into hunting mode. This means that the leash suddenly goes taut, their ears go up and they're poised, ready to make a dash for it. This has now happened several times. They've yet to learn that they're not real.

I don't really mind. It makes the walk fun and I quite like having a pattern. I do like seeing all the decorations popping up. I have yet to wind my own garland of silk autumn leaves around my little lamppost in the front garden and my little scarecrows aren't outside yet. This weekend I hope to add my own festive display to the others in the neighbourhood.

I think I'll avoid black cats though. I can only imagine the constant chaos if the puppies were to see them.

It's bad enough with the squirrels.

Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Conversations With Our Old Selves...

Have you ever looked back over a span of your life and wished you could have a conversation with your [X] year-old self?

Tonight I did that. I was scouring my shelves for a notebook in which I could jot some ideas to inspire my latest novel and I came across one in which I haven't written for years.

For a while, I went through a phase where I asked for notebooks and journals as gifts. As a result, I have an eclectic collection that is emblazoned from everything from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," to a cute toddler dressed in fairy clothing.

Tonight, I pulled out a random notebook. In it, I found a "journal" entry from 1999. I say "journal" because it's clear, back then, I intended to keep track of my life. Unfortunately, my attempts were from New Years' Eve through New Years' Day of that year. After that, there's a couple of blank pages and then a list of "Why I'm grateful I moved to Los Angeles."

It reminded me that I'm fond of lists. Sometimes it's nice to see things in black and white, even though life is rarely that simple. Today, for example, I was told that the job for which I interviewed could be mine. It's going to be offered to me on Thursday when I meet with my interviewer to discuss the compensation package.

It seems so simple. I've been miserable at my current job and thus, this new one should be a blessing in disguise...right? And yet, as I stated yesterday, things things are never that simple. Just as I found a lifeline out of the office that has caused much of my misery over the past year or more, I was offered a lifeline within that office. My boss finally recognized that I had aspirations and hopes. It only took two years.

So now I stand at a crossroads. Do I dive into an unknown future or do I sit, comfortably, on the present past?

The nice thing is that it may be simpler than I'm making it. The new job may end up being of a salary that is too low for me to contemplate. It may offer the hope of commission-based earnings but the base salary may be too hard for me to contemplate in the bill-owing reality of my world.

Or, it may be hard. It may be a job I feel suited for and the salary may be comparable to mine. In which case, my dilemma from yesterday of the devil I know vs. the devil I don't may be relevant.

It's hard to tell. Yet, tonight, when I came across my list from 1999, I was reminded of the simplicity of life. In 1999, I was 24 years old. I had recently read "Bridget Jones' Diary," and so I wrote without pronouns. I wrote feverishly, spilling the secrets of my singleton status as though the diary were my wine-saturated best friend.

I had written the entry on New Years' Eve, 1999. It turns out, I went to see a movie, specifically, "The Talented Mr. Ripley," with my best friend, Saz. I had a good time. Yet, I was clearly searching for the meaning of my life. I was clearly contemplating a move to L.A., a digression from the Midwest to the West Coast. I was contemplating writing a screenplay. I had written, in my own words, "Probably should write a screenplay or something. No point in saying I'm a writer if I don't write."

That was more than 10 years ago. These days, I've been to L.A. and back. I've gone through my resentment of the Midwest and turned, full circle, into being grateful for the simplicity of the Midwest.

I did write a screenplay. I wrote several. Then I wrote television scripts. Then I wrote novels.

Three major feature film scripts, seven television scripts and nine and a half novels later, here I am, back in the Midwest. I think I can safely say I'm a writer, even if my book sales don't agree as much as I wish they would.

It's interesting. Once you get to a certain age, you stop living life minute by frenzied minute. Life slows down and yet speeds up at the same time. You start noticing the small, simple details of life and yet you realize they start passing you by more quickly than they ever have before.

It's been just over ten years. In that time, I've grown from being a dreamer to being a realist. The dreamer in me still exists. I still hope that sales of The Reluctant Demon will increase, that people will realize it's worth the time, even if it has no deep level of significance. It's fun. I still dream that the right person will stumble upon my book or, even, this blog and realize I'm an imprisoned talent trapped in a mundane life.

And yet, the realist speaks louder. The realist has realized that while the dreams are important and even necessary, the reality of now. I may dream of being respected, famous, quoted and respected but, in reality, I exist. I have a house which makes me concrete. I have puppies, which makes me responsible. I write fiction, which makes me creative. I have a job, which also makes me responsible.

I think back then, in 1999, I was still young enough to believe that it was ok to shoot for the stars. These days, I see the stars and look at them with a fondness. I've been there, in a way. I did manage to get the idea to write a novel. I finished that novel. I enjoyed that novel. Then I wrote eight more.

When I step back, I can see that the mere fact that I finished one novel is an accomplishment. I forget that sometimes. In my life, I've always been consistent. In school, I worked hard and got good grades. It was expected of me. In life, it's been expected that I'll make my own way and not rely on others. That, too, is expected.

Sometimes, it's hard to remember that the things that come easiest to us, come hardest to others. Those that know us come to expect that greatness, even "decentness" is an everyday thing. For me, I look at the novels I've written and I see only a series of stories, of characters, of events that are tied together only because I created them. I forget that the simple act of creating them isn't as easy as it seems to me. Once I wrote one book, the rest seemed to be simple.

Then I look back at the journal entry that I wrote on 12-31-99 and I see that, back then, the mere idea of even one novel wasn't even a seed in my mind.

It's amazing how life changes. Some people plan it. Others take it as it comes. Me, I try to plan it but I'm willing to change course if it feels right. In 1999, it seemed right to move my life across the country, 2000 miles away. It seemed right to want to think about writing something.

These days, in 2010, I'm back in the place I abandoned- the autumnal world of the Midwest. I thought about writing and I did it. I wrote about a character who was a hacker and, because I like to be thorough, my research led me to a career in software.

And, so, here I am. I wonder, if I could talk to my Bridget Jones inspired self, whether I'd tell her anything different. Would I change the course of our lives, just to live for another dream?

It's hard to say. Because, when I look back at that Captain Monkeypants' aspirations, writing was my dream, moving across the country was my dream. I accomplished both.

Life is a series of nested dreams. I think it's up to us to decide if we should look at it as a whole, a horizon of unaccomplished wants or as a series of successes, of small conquests that have helped us keep moving forward.

I think it's safer to look at the small conquests. That way, we allow life to keep us flexible. It allows us to go with the flow rather than resolutely say, "No, I won't have that."

It also allows us to deal with life when it says, "No, you shan't have that," even when we think we should.

All in all, I think I'd talk to my ten-years-ago self and tell her that it's ok to have dreams. It's ok to try to accomplish them. If we fail, so be it. If we succeed, power to us. It's about the trying that counts.

And we did that. We're doing that. That's what makes

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Devil You Know vs. The One You Don't

Today, it is rainy. It's the first real rainy day we've had in a couple of months. This morning, it was much darker than usual when I went to work and it was quite late before daylight showed up. The rest of the day has been dim and grey.

It was the kind of day where staying home in my comfy clothes, curled up with a book and doing a little writing while preparing something warm and comforting for dinner like beef stew or roast chicken.

Instead, I went to work and appreciated the rain from there instead. Lately, work has been insanely busy. My boss offered me a slightly more elevated role at work last week. Coincidentally, the offer came the day after I had a job interview which I had stupidly scheduled on my cell phone while standing within hearing range of our president's office. That's the problem with having a cubicle and not an office: There's just no privacy.

The thing is, the job interview last week got me excited. I think it went well. It was for a much different job than the one I have now although related to computers and software. I thought I did well at the interview and I left feeling cheerful and upbeat that I might soon be able to escape the office and the politics of my current job.

Then my boss dangles a carrot in front of my nose and though I won't hear from the job interview until tomorrow, my boss's offer is already making me have second thoughts. He's finally offered me more responsibility in a capacity I've been wanting for a while. He's dangled the carrot of a possible pay raise.

Yet what I think it comes down to is that age old argument of the devil you know vs. the one you don't. The people at the office where I had my interview seemed really nice. They seemed happy. They seemed to like their jobs. The only thing I could have seen as a potential issue is that the salary is metric based meaning part of my earnings would be based on commission.

That scares me. Sometimes I have to scrape by with my bills as it is. The idea of making less with only the potential to make more is a little bit worrying.

And yet, it would be a new place.

But...yet it would be a new place. As I've mentioned several times, I'm a creature who likes her habits. At this current office, even though I spend my share of days wanting to slap a bit of duct tape over certain people's mouths and visualizing stabbing them in the forehead with a pencil when they annoy me, it's comfortable. When I get to do what I enjoy doing, I really like my job. It's only when it slows down and I have to scramble to keep busy that I dislike my job and then I start paying attention to the pettiness that exists around the office and the seeing what others have vs. the stuff I don't have.

But when it goes well, I like my job. I like several of my coworkers. For better or for worse, it's my home away from home.

And, besides, given the changes I've had to roll with since I started working at the company- sales, mergers, moves, etc- I feel like I've earned my battle scars and I belong there.

Then there's the enticement of a new opportunity. Who knows what that would hold? It could change my life.

Well, the nice thing is I don't have to make a decision. I may never have to make the decision if I end up not getting the other job. In a way, a small part of me hopes that happens because having to choose is always hard. The rest of me likes the idea that there could be a way out to new opportunities.

I'll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, I think I'll enjoy my rainy evening and drown myself in some bad TV.

Sometimes, that's all you really need, anyway.

Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Off to the Dachshund Races!

It's really autumn. Finally. For days, summer has been refusing to relinquish her hold. We've had 94 degree days and 78 degree nights. Then, suddenly, autumn decided she'd had enough and suddenly the temperature dropped to a pleasant 72 degrees and the nights are chilly enough that a jacket or, at least, a thick cardigan is necessary.

Overnight, the leaves decided to start falling and now there are large piles of dried leaves all over the garden, even though we don't have any trees. They come from our neighbour's sycamore tree. I actually don't mind. I like the leaves because I love autumn and they're a symbol. The puppies love the leaves because diving in the piles gives them great pleasure. They emerge from the piles dripping with dried leaves but a happy wag in their tail.

This weekend was when it turned from summer to fall and it was the perfect time for it to happen. As I mentioned, it was the weekend of the annual Street Fair in my parents' town. It's supposed to be crisp during street fair nights and it was fantastic autumn weather for it on Saturday night.

It was actually my second time at the fair that day. My mother and I went up at lunchtime. I'd decided that I wanted to see what went on at the "Weiner Dog Races" because I happen to own a pair of rather speedy dachshunds who can move like the wind when either a) prey, b) squeaky toy or c) food is being offered to them.
Well, I have to say, the Dachshund races were absolutely hilarious. For one thing, I didn't realize that there were so many dachshunds around and, for another, it's nice to see that my own slightly quirky dogs are actually pretty normal for dachshunds.

They had three different heats- the puppy, the girls and then the boys. The very first race was between two rather small pups. The announcer called "On your marks, get set and go!" and then...
Nothing. The poor pups stood there. Then one of them decided to high tail it out of the little 'track' (which was really just a lightly fenced area in a car park that was probably less than 20 feel long and ten feet wide). That dog did NOT want to race. Fortunately, she was returned to the track and after a period of a few minutes, was finally enticed to her waiting owner at the other end by the offer of treats.

It was my first ever spectatoring of such a sport. In a nutshell, the dogs are taken off their leashes at one end of the little 'track' and held by a friend or owner until the "GO!" is sounded. Then the dachshunds are supposed to race to the opposite end where their owner awaits.

Some of the dachshunds got it. Some of them didn't. There was more than one that, bewildered, blinked and just sat down at the starting line. Others decided to run far away from their owners and make a break for freedom. Then there were the dogs that actually could run and they even ran in the right direction.

My favourite of the dogs was a girl named Pixie. She had a very large fluffy toy of which she was clearly very fond. All her owner had to do was show her the toy before backing up to the finish line and Pixie was ready. She had a very continuous, determined little bark that did not stop until the announcer said "Go" and then she ran for her toy. Her barking was so comical, I just loved her. She came in third, overall, I think.

My other favourite dog whose name I unfortunately can't remember, I called "Doughnut Dog." He was a dachshund whose toy was a large squeaky doughnut. Doughnut Dog was spastic. When he wasn't racing, his owner tried to hold him. Most of the other dogs were placid and quiet and sat quietly either on their leash or in their owner's arms. Not Doughnut Dog. He wriggled, squirmed, whined, yipped and finally yelled. His owner clearly had a very hard time holding his dog. When Doughnut Dog raced, he was a spaz but he was fast. When he and Pixie went head to head, it was a battle of the spazzy dachshunds and it was hilarious to watch.

There were other dachshunds who raced well. The overall winner was Fonzerelli. He was a fast little dappled dog who didn't seem to have quite as much personality as some of the other dogs.

What I did like was hearing the names of the other dogs. The most obvious choice for a dachshund's name for some owners seemed to be based on their colour. There was a Goldie, a Sable, a Brownie and a Suede and various other dogs whose names were very much suited to their names. Then there were the ones whose owners clearly had fun naming their dogs. My favourite was Leder Von Weinerstein. Yes, that was his name. When he showed up to the starting line, he was a tiny little wire-haired dachshund who seemed far less impressive than his name. There was also Reesie Weinut Butter Cup. Nope, didn't make that one up either.
Reesie did well until the finals in which he decided that he was going to switch owners and ran for another dogs treats instead. He didn't place in the top three, sadly.
Overall, it was just a fun thing to watch. Dachshund owners love their dogs and it was pretty clear that there were some other spoiled dogs there who might rival my own. The dogs seemed to have a fun time too even when they were making a break for freedom.
The rest of the fair was a lot of fun. I did get to ride the carousel again this year with my niece and we got to play the games. I also got to ride the ferris wheel with my sister, the newly registered nurse. We thought it'd be fun. Then we went up and got stuck. It looked rather a long way down and we both had a momentary attack of the, "WHAT WERE WE THINKING!" 's. Still, in the end, it turned out to not be that scary and, in fact, was a lovely way to spend a crisp autumn night.

This year, the fair seemed to be much better. I think, maybe, it was just my attitude towards it. I wasn't attempting to try to remember why I'd loved it so much as a youth but, instead, looked at it with my adult eyes and saw that it was a nice way to spend time in a small town on a lovely autumn day/night.

And I got to see dachshunds race. Next year, I think Rory and Sookie might be competers. I think if I managed to get a squirrel or a rabbit for them, they'd win without a doubt. However, I might have to use something a little less alive like, say, cheese.

All in all, the fair was a great way to spend the first official weekend of Autumn. I'm going to keep my eye out for other 'harvest festivals' and that sort of thing. They're just a great way to appreciate the beauty of fall now that she's finally here.

Happy Monday!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Pumpkin Cookie Potlucks

Tomorrow is Friday. That is always a little like having a present at the end of the week. I don't know anyone who doesn't look forward to Fridays, honestly. Unless they're people who don't work from Monday through Friday and have weekends off but, even then, they have their own Friday even if it isn't actually Friday.

My Friday is looking good. We have a barbecue/potluck at our president's house tomorrow at lunch. We all have to drive out there. Afterwards, a group from the office are going to play paintball. I had originally planned to play paintball. I quite like a bit of organized violence. However, it's supposed to be in the 90's tomorrow. I don't find the idea of running around in layers of clothing (for protection) that appealing in that kind of heat. Thus, I backed out of the paintball. To my immense delight, our president, in a strange fit of office generosity, made an announcement that those who weren't playing paintball could go home after the potluck. Thus, I get tomorrow afternoon off.

I don't even mind the idea of a slightly awkward office barbecue. This time, I decided not to go gourmet with my offerings. Last time, people were a bit afraid to try my trio of salads because they weren't your typical midwestern potato salad/macaroni salad type of fare. This time, I'm baking iced pumpkin cookies. Yes, I said baking.

As I've said before, I find myself as more of a cook than a baker. I think you're pretty much one or the other. I like the flexibility of cooking. You can throw in some extra ingredients as you go along to enhance the flavour. With baking, it's precise. You have to get it right before it bakes. Otherwise you're left with a bit of a disaster.

Still, I thought I'd give the iced-pumpkin cookies a go. They're actually a cookie that my former roommate used to make in the autumn. They're quite easy but very delicious. I'm not sure if they'll turn out or the Luck of the Monkeypants will strike and they'll turn into disastrous little bullets but I'm giving it a whirl anyway.

I think I followed the instructions properly. The only hitch I had was discovering that while I was busy trying to be a precise baker, the puppies had somehow found some of my underwear and were running around the back garden with it. They were having quite a lovely time. Since I tend not to like my neighbours to see my underwear, I had to retrieve it. I'm not that much of a prude but I live next door to Dog Whisperer and his rather creepy way of just staring makes me reluctant to let him know that my underwear of choice is Halloween themed.

Yes. Now you know a rather embarrassing personal fact about me.

Still, the cookies are baking. They smell rather nice. The puppies no longer have access to my underwear. I'm just waiting to find out if the cookies are going to be a success or a failure.

I'm hoping that if they turn out, people will actually eat them tomorrow. There's nothing worse than attempting to make something tasty so that people will enjoy it only to find out that someone else's strawberry pretzel casserole or store-bought chocolate chip cookies are far more popular.

If not, I'll try to steal the cookies back. Is that bad etiquette, do you think? I never know whether you're supposed to take your leavings home with you if you go to a potluck at someone's house or you leave them there for the host and family to eat. I have no idea. I don't like to be rude but, on the other hand, if my cookies are nice, I might quite like to take them home. I supposed I should see how they turn out first.

Still, even if they don't get eaten and I do have to leave them there, I have the reward of having the afternoon off. I'm heading to my parents' again since it's the annual street fair and this year is the 100th anniversary. I'm hoping that I get to hang out with my niece again. We had fun last year.

In addition, I have to congratulate my clever little sister who managed to pass her nursing exam, the NCLEX. She's now officially an RN. I am a very, very proud monkeypants. I have a congratulations gift for her. It also occured to me that I should give her some pumpkin cookies.

Of course, there might not be any left.

Or they might not turn out right. I suppose I should go and find out.

Happy Friday and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Muddled Days...

Do you ever have weeks where everything feels like a muddle? For me, these are weeks where my house needs cleaning but I don't have time. The table is cluttered with mail that should be sorted, the floor is messy with dried leaves that the puppies have accidentally brought in from outside by getting them stuck to their fur and even when I do the dishes, the kitchen cries out for organization?

This is one of those weeks. I haven't had time to get much done in the evenings and I'm feeling like my house is just one big jumble at the moment. My desk at work is also cluttered and just my general feeling towards life is that it's a bit complex at this present time.

I don't know why. I'm using my ever ready excuse of the change of the seasons. It's not quite autumn yet. Even though tomorrow marks the official first day of fall, it's going to be 90 degrees. It still seems like summer has her hold on us. Until she lets go, we're stuck in a pattern where we feel like it's wrong to use the air conditioning because it shouldn't be necessary and yet without it, we swelter. It feels odd to wear summer colours when summer is over but our autumn clothes are too heavy for the current weather.

It's just hard to dive head first into autumn when it's clearly not ready to be autumn quite yet. Fortunately, we are supposed to get some crisper weather next week but, for now, it feels a bit muddled.

Which, I'm thinking, is why I feel a little muddled. I've realized that, as a person, I tend to like things to be organized. I'm not fanatical about it but I like things to be simple and tidy. For example, let's take ice-cream. I find that two components are about as much as I like in my ice-cream. Mint Chocolate chip, rum raisin, vanilla, raspberry ripple…that's as complicated as I get with my ice-cream. No Rocky Road or Chunky Monkey for me. I don't really like to combine things; I think that's it. I like my salty on one side of the plate, sweet on the other. I'm one of the few folks who doesn't like salty-sweet combinations very much. I don't like to dip Oreos in milk. I'd rather eat the cookie then drink the milk.

So, you can see why I don't like this combo summer/autumn thing that's going on. It's got me in a muddle. It's either summer or autumn. Right now, the weather feels like summer but the world around me, both nature-made and human-made is ready for autumn. The clothes are in the stores, the scents and foods have crossed over seasons. It's just hard to embrace it when it's not in the least bit autumnal in temperature outside.

I suppose it's why I was always grateful to escape to the Midwest for Christmas when I lived in L.A. While it was a nice novelty to sit outside after Christmas shopping in 75 degree weather on the ocean, it never felt right. Christmas should be snow covered and cold. It should not be balmy and warm with palm trees and flowers blooming. I'm sure it's dependent on what you're used to. Me, I'm used to it being snowy and cold on Christmas.

What I'm trying to get at is that I think my current state of muddle is rather due to the fact that I can't define it as autumn or summer. It's a weird hybrid. I'm not big on hybrids. I like things to be what they are. Hybrid cars are ok but that's only because they're cute, quiet and nifty. Also, since I don't understand automotive engineering, I find hybrids to be rather magical and anything magical is ok by me.

But you get my point, right? We're still in transition of the seasons and so I'm feeling trapped in the middle. It's hard to move forward but we can't move back. This explains my state of muddle. My subconscious doesn't know what to do and thus, it's not doing anything. We're caught in a state of stasis. It's peculiar.

Perhaps if I clean my house and tidy my desk, I'll feel better. I've still been feeling like I'm missing something in my life though that feeling has been a little better lately, especially when friends have told me they understand exactly how I feel.

Still, for now, I'm sitting in a state of muddle. I need to move forward and embrace the autumn. Yet it's still 90 degrees out there.

Maybe I'll wait until it cools down. Autumn…where are you?

Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Fickleness of Time

It's only Tuesday. This week already feels long and we're not even over the midpoint yet. I'm not sure how that happens. Time should be a measured thing. It should be something that's consistent and whole. It is, technically, the same amount of time and yet...don't you think time moves faster sometimes than at others?

I find that it moves faster on, say, Saturdays and Sundays than it does on Mondays and even Tuesdays. Perhaps we all have our own personal time conversion systems. For example, an hour on a Saturday is the equivalent of, say, four hours on a Monday. Thus, within two hours on a Saturday, I've passed an entire Monday.

Everyone's different but I do guarantee that everyone's time conversion system works in a similar fashion: The time on a weekend is less than or equal to that of a workday.

This system explains so much. It explains how we can reach noon on a Saturday and feel relaxed and laughing. We can glance at the clock and be shocked that it's already noon. We can check our internal calendars and say, "Wow, really? I can't believe time went by so fast!"

Yet, you take the equivalent on a Monday and by noon, we feel exhausted, beaten and ready to put our heads in the sand. Time doesn't move slows to a snail's pace. We start looking forward to the elusive weekend. Friday never seems that far but, yet, it's still days away.

I've said all along that the time on a weekend flies far quicker than it does on a weekend. Technically, logically, it's the same time. And...yet...if you're stuck doing something you don't want to be doing vs. that of something you do want to be doing...time moves at whatever pace it wants to.

Still, time could stand still. I note that time only stands still for really happy occasions or, more common, unhappy ones. Time freezes on our memories like a photo whether it's for a good memory or a bad memory.

In my case, I tend to rely more on memories than I do on photos. I have friends who are all about cameras and photography. I admire them this hobby. I also benefit from it as I get prints from their experiences. Yet, for me, my memories are not etched into the printout from an HP Laser Jet printer or from the photo booth at Target- they're etched in my mind. I love to have photos of my family on my desk or in my home yet, really, I rarely look at the photos. Instead, I close my eyes and recall the interactions and memories I share with them.

Thus, the really impressive moments in life are frozen in my memory. The really bad ones are too. Time freezes for these moments. They remain forever stuck in your mind. Songs, smells and tastes bring those moments back to you. No matter where you are and what you're doing, sometimes all it takes is to hear a certain song on the radio and suddenly time is frozen again. No matter how much time has passed, no matter what memory it was, it's there...there's no denying its attempt to recapture that moment of your life.

Clearly, I'm feeling reflective this week. I think with the changing of the seasons, that's a natural response. Time's measure remains the same but our measure of it remains influid...untrackable. While I long for the scent of autumn leaves, we're currently still stuck in summer's hold. The humidity builds, the heat remains and the leaves on the trees remain frozen, as though their own sense of time is no longer reliable.

Still, tomorrow is the midpoint of the week. The weekend is not far beyond. As my young cousin reminded me, we shouldn't wish time to pass but we should hold onto it as best we can.

And yet, it seems much harder to remember that on workdays, doesn't it? The weekend is so much easier to capture.

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Ode to Autumn

Well, we never did get our rain last night. Our next chance is on Wednesday. Our gardens in my neighbourhood could definitely use the rain. The ground is parched. The grass is a dry, brittle, sun-bleached yellow. The lawns themselves haven't grown more than a fraction of an inch in weeks and the only thing that is growing is that rough, imposter grass that is actually a weed. The stalks stick up every so often but aren't noticeable that it's worth mowing.

It's been warm again. This week, we're supposed to get back up to near 90 degrees. The air is heavier than it should be.

And yet, there's the unmistakeable feel of autumn in the air. It's hard to describe but it's just a change in the way the air feels. Even with the heat, there's an underlying crispness that creeps in just a little. It's the smell of changing seasons. With the long, hot, dry summer, the trees are already surrendering their leaves and the first leaf fires have already burned. When I drove to my parents, the corn harvest was in full swing. The fields are full of farmers driving their harvesters through the rows of corn, reducing the people-high stalks to nubs of hollowed yellowness. The rogue leaves from the corn, along with the dust, fly through the air so that when a gust of wind blows, for a moment, the dust cloud becomes an imposing, alien substance, floating in the air.

The fall festivals are starting, along with the corn mazes. Home gardeners are advertising pumpkins on roadside signs instead of corn and strawberries as they were a few weeks ago. Everywhere, the perky bright shades of summer have been replaced by the oranges and browns that symbolize fall. Decorative strings of silk autumn leaves wind their way around gateposts and porch posts and scarecrows sit on hay bales staring out at passersby.

In the stores, the produce section has stopped being full of summer squash- the green zucchini and yellow squashes- and are starting to sell butternut squash, acorn squash and spaghetti squash- the squashes of the autumn seasons.

Then there are the apples. Nowadays, there's always apples to be had in stores but this is the time of year to really buy apples. These are the apples that have been recently picked, not kept in storage because they're out of season. There are so many kinds of apples to choose from. Then there's the apple cider that goes along with the fruit.

The stores are full of Halloween candy already. Some brave stores already have neighbouring aisles filled with the reds and greens of Christmas but still, the oranges and blacks of Halloween are the most prevalent. The enormous bags of trick or treat candy tempt those with a sweet tooth and the zombies, vampires, witches and spiders that universally symbolize Halloween are everywhere.

In short, Autumn is almost here. By the calendar, it arrives on the 22nd but on all accounts, it really seems to be here already. It's waiting in the wings, letting summer finish out but its influence is already all around, whether or not the calendar agrees.

For my part, I can't wait to break out my light sweaters, to put on my boots again instead of sandals. I can't wait to have to make a decision about whether it;s cool enough to need a jacket or not.

Most of all, I can't wait until its crisp enough to sit outside on an autumn night with a mug of hot pumpkin tea in my hand, smelling the smells of the season and knowing that this side of the world is winding down, ready to slow down for the colder days.

I love autumn.

Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Battery Recharging Weekends....

It's already Sunday evening again. I'm sitting here, writing this as storm clouds are rolling in overhead. I'm hoping that means we're in for some rain since we've still be thwarted in our precipitation for nearly a month- aside from the odd short shower or two. It's possible though that the rain may drift over without falling as seems to happen so often lately.

It'd be nice to have a little rain, to curl up on this Sunday evening in front of the TV while the puppies play on the floor. Chances are I'll do that anyway but the sound of the rain on the window always makes it better.

It would be a nice way to end a lovely weekend. It seems that some of the best weekends are those which don't really have any plans. In my case, I headed home to my parents but didn't have too much in mind.

I ended up getting to spend some quality time with my parents and to help my sister study for her national nurses test- the NCLEX- which she takes on Tuesday. Listening to her respond to my quizzing, I have absolutely no doubt she'll do anything but pass but my sister is a worrier and extremely talented at doubting herself. I think once she sits down at the computer terminal to take the test, she'll get in the zone. Until then, moments of panic are rushing at her as so often happens when you're faced with something rather scary.

Still, even with those moments of panic, we managed to have a fun time studying. We were focused on drugs. I would look up the drug in the reference guide she provided and she would attempt to tell me what the drug was far and much more detailed information about it. While she rattled off jargon like she was born speaking it, I couldn't pronounce half the words. I find lipid-reducing medications rather hard to pronounce. Actually, most generic drug names are hard to pronounce.

Equipped with junk food and pumpkin ale, we had a fine study party. My sister proved she knows her stuff and I got to learn fascinating things about drugs. I'm curious about Ambien, a drug for insomnia whose side effects include hallucinations, sleep-driving and 'abnormal thoughts.' More than anything, I'm curious about the abnormal thoughts. That could mean a lot, couldn't it? And by whose standard are they judging the thoughts? I mean, me, for example, have quite a few thoughts that others perceive to be abnormal. I mean, when you're sitting in a meeting and suddenly wondering what would happen if a homicidal jack-in-the-box popped up, that's a little abnormal...right? And yet, that's my thought process. Needless to say, Ambien fascinated me.

I think my sister is in good shape. I can't wait for her to be done with it. I think she'll feel that magnificant sensation of having a weight lifted off her shoulders as soon as she's done and she gets home that evening. Send happy thoughts here way Tuesday though, if you don't mind. I know she'll appreciate it.

Aside from the studying, I did very little at my parents' except relax with them and keep an eye on the puppies. My parents have two nice ponds that have fish in them as well as a plethora of frogs. Rory has decided that she likes to frog-hunt and managed to get rather wet a few times while persuing the frogs. She never caught one but that didn't stop her from plunging her face into the water and coming up with sticks, leaves and rocks. Sookie, meanwhile, nonchalantly stood by, letting her sister do the wet, dirty work and then proceeded to snatch the retrieved sticks, leaves and rocks from Rory. She's sneaky, that Sookie.

All in all, it was the type of weekend I needed. It was the type of weekend that lets you recharge your batteries. Things at work haven't been going spectacularly lately. I'm feeling more and more like no matter what I do, nothing is going to change in my favour and it's hard to deal with the politics. I've spoken to my boss, our current president and also our president who will take over when our current one resigns in December. I still don't feel hopeful that I'll be given more duties that will make me feel useful. I mean, on Friday, my boss told me a large chunk of my job will soon be obselete and then he said, "So what do you want to do instead?"

That wasn't a question I was anticipating. It also wasn't a fair one. I'm very low on the totem pole at work and for my boss, who currently is second in command, asks me to define my own job, I think that's a little unfair. While I like having a say in my work, I do need to feel like I'm there to be useful to my company and I can't help but think it's not my responsibility to figure out what I should do to earn my salary. I mean, sure, I am a self-starter. I am an independent worker but I like a little guidance at first. I did manage to give my boss a couple of potential responsibilities but I admit, I'm a little afraid that this means my job isn't as secure as I'd like.

I was worried on Friday. Then I went to my parents and, as always, my mother had wise words of wisdom. She reminded me that it's just a job. I've said that in my blog before, several times. There have been periods when I fully believe that and while I do the best I can in the office, I don't worry and I don't get caught up in the politics. Then something happens and I stupidly forget that attitude and I start to get caught up in it. I need to step back again.

It is just a job. It's the means to support my writing, my puppies and my horrible Bejeweled Blitz habit. It's the way to support my need to need to splurge and buy fancy cooking ingredients like Maldon Sea Salt and quail eggs.

It's just a paycheck. Sure, it'd be nice to feel that satisfaction in my work that I've felt in other jobs but, for now, this is where I am in life and I can't let it bring me down. Maybe things will improve at this job, maybe I'll have to keep looking for another job elsewhere but for better or for worse, this is where I I need to just let the annoyances of the office roll off me. I've done it before and I can do it again.

So, even though the weekend is winding down, I feel fine about it. Battery recharging weekends can make you feel like everything's better by the end. In my case, that's definitely true. All it takes is some good family time and being reminded of the important things in life. I got that out of my weekend.

And if even looks like the storm clouds might be yielding their rain to the earth. Things are looking up.

Happy Monday!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Mediocrity of Movies

I used to see a lot more movies than I do these days. For a while there, I was a movie junkie. I'd go to the theatre to see anything that appealed. I used to love the temptation of the popcorn-infused air, sitting down in a cool, dark theatre and just losing myself in the movie. Granted, if I didn't like it, I wasn't exactly quiet about it afterwards but I still enjoyed the movie-going experience. Many times, I enjoyed the movie.

These days, I still love the movie-going experience. It's just that…well…the movies just don't seem to be what they used to be.

Saying that, I probably sound like one of those crotchety old ladies who sit there and say "things ain't what they used to be." Although, for the record, I never use the word "ain't." Also, while we're on the subject, I will never, ever say, "where you at?" I hear that far too much in person and on the television and, let me tell you, the secret English teacher inside me wants to grab the utterer by the ear and give it a good tweak. That is NOT proper English and no amount of repeating it will make it so.

I digress. What I'm saying about movies is, well, that…mostly these days, they seem to suck. I find that I'm rewatching old favourites because most of the newer ones I've watched just aren't…good.

I know it's not just me. My family and friends are all finding the same thing. These days, if someone asks me if a film is good or not, most of the time the highest praise I can give it is, "it didn't completely suck."

There are some exceptions. I enjoyed "Inception," this summer. It was interesting. I think I liked it even though it's the type of movie that makes you feel like you have a perpetual expression of "Huh?" on your face. My inner 'geek' enjoyed "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World." But I couldn't say it was actually good. Aside from that, well, I can say that there hasn't been a movie in a while that has captured me and made me want to rewatch it again and again. Thinking back, the last movie that completely enchanted me was "Across the Universe," which I still contest was brilliant in its creativity, casting and level of enjoyability.

Yet…I haven't seen anything remotely that entertaining in quite a while, not at the multiplex and not on DVD. Well, not new on DVD anyway.

I just don't feel like they're making good movies anymore. Most of the time what Hollywood thinks is good is not what we, the paying moviegoers, think is good. The top grossing film of the year/summer was "Toy Story 3." I have no doubt it was good. I liked the other Toy Story movies but when it came out, I didn't feel like sitting in a theatre filled with kids and I never did find a time to go. That's my fault. I know. However, not everyone likes animated movies so even if that is the best movie to come along in a while, try convincing someone who doesn't like 'cartoons' that it's worth a watch.

Yet the other top ten movies of the year include "Twilight Saga: Eclipse" which has a built in audience and given the base material, stand little chance of actually being good. It also includes "Iron Man 2" which I admit, I enjoyed but it lacked the comedy and humanity of the first movie.

For the most part, when I see a film these days I feel like there's always a 'but'. As in, "it was a good film…but…"

It may be just me but I think when Hollywood has resorted to either remaking "classics," like "The Karate Kid," or Americanizing foreign movies that really didn't need it ("Let the Right One in" and "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo") or, gasp, making movies based on board games: "Battleship," "Candy Land," and a variety of other Hasbro-themed upcomers- I don't think it is just me.

I will say, however, that of all the 'board game' movies, I wouldn't be surprised if "Battleship," at least, is decent. It's going to be directed by Peter Berg who is the creator behind the fabulous TV show, Friday Night Lights. I think that has to be one of the best shows on TV. It's one of the most poignant and realistic ones too. He manages to take a one minute scene and do more in that than most do in ten minutes.

TV, in my opinion, is the new 'Hollywood.' That's where the creative minds are, the storytelling, acting, direction and all the other nuances that go into making a TV show something to which it's worth committing. While there are duds, there are actually good shows, shows you can talk about with people the next day and spend a while discussing. I think with the economy being what it is, people are staying home to watch their large 'small' screens because they can't afford to see it on the movie screen. The smart people in Hollywood know this. They're the ones looking for the next TV phenomenon. The non-smart people in Hollywood are making movies like "Knight and Day," and "MacGruber."

I guess the point of this blog is that I feel like Hollywood has stopped seeking greatness and has embraced mediocrity. Even the Oscars this year…I thought "The Hurt Locker," was a good film but it wasn't the type of movie you want to put in your DVD collection and watch on rainy days the way you might do with "The Godfather," "American Beauty," or even "Forrest Gump." It wasn't a mediocre movie by any standards but it also wasn't Hollywood.

I'm hoping that Hollywood starts to get better. I'd love to be able to describe a movie as "awesome" again. I'd even settle for, "it was good!

Instead, we simply have, "It was ok." "It was watchable." "It didn't completely suck."

High praise indeed.

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Cartwheel like No One is Watching...

I did a cartwheel in my back yard today.

This may sound like an odd thing to say or, for a 35 year old woman, even an odd thing to do. Yet it was a beautiful day outside, the grass was clear and appealing and I suddenly had an urge to do a cartwheel. I've had the urge before but usually don't give in. Today, I did.

I have never been graceful at acrobatics and today proved no exception but in a simple flip of the body, memories of childhood returned. There was a time when girls couldn't resist turning cartwheels whenever there was enough grass. It used to be something my friends and I just did. It was a natural reaction to clean grass on a summer's day.

Then I began to think harder. When, exactly, did we stop turning cartwheels? When was that magical line in life created that made us stop just going with our instincts to do backyard gymnastics and made us start questioning whether we should do them?

I can't even remember how old I was. I just know that it happened one day. It was most likely the same time that standing still, closing my eyes and just spinning to see what would happen stopped.

As a child, I always loved gymnastics. It probably began with a somewhat bad biography-film of Nadia Comaneci, the Romanian gymnastics darling of the late seventies. I used to want to be Nadia. I wanted to walk and twirl on the balance beam, to do a flip on the thin strip of covered wood and land gracefully without falling to the floor.

I tried. I was in gymnastics at school. I never did very well but I enjoyed it. It didn't really help that we had one of those stereotyped gym teachers who liked the 'pretty' girls and since I didn't qualify, he gave me no extra time at all. My biggest problem was fear. I couldn't get past the idea of what could happen if I landed wrong or if I fell. I could never do what the best athletes do- not worry about the consequences, to just do it.

Yet I still believed that I could. If I worked hard enough. If I got books from the library. If I watched the gymnastics on television. If I just worked hard enough, I could do it. I could do anything.

This belief stayed with me long past my gymnastics phase. I was a ballerina at one time, believing that I would someday dance en pointe, gracefully lifted into the air by my partner. There was always something, some passion that would ignite me to want to become something. Another time, I wanted to be in the theatre, hoofing it up, singing and dancing on stage.

I never remember anyone killing my childish dreams of gymnastics glory by saying I couldn't do it. I don't remember my parents laughing at me and saying that it was stupid to want to be a gymnast. Now I look back, I have a feeling that, instead, they smiled benignly and let me live out the dream until I got tired of it, which I inevitably did. My parents, instead, lived through years of my hiding in my room, dancing and pretending I was going to audition for "Cats". I tried to hide it but I'm sure they knew.

Through my life, there have always been dreams. As a child, they were dreams of the future. Nothing was unattainable. I still turned cartwheels as if no one was watching.

Then…I started thinking people were watching. That they would think I was stupid. That I was making an idiot of myself. I think, perhaps, that is when I stopped turning cartwheels.

I didn't stopped dreaming about the future but my dreams became tainted with a side of reality. I started the awful process of worrying what people think. This, as anyone who worries too much about what others think knows this leads to an unpleasant low level of self-esteem.

It doesn't matter though, whether you worry about what others think just a little or you worry about it a lot, you worry about it and it allows self-doubt to creep it. In can be as simple as someone noticing your coworker got half an inch snipped off her hair whereas you just had four inches cut off and you coloured it and no one noticed at all or it can be a downward spiral of feeling like you'll never be good enough for anything, that everything is a waste of time because you're just not good enough.

It all begins with that tiny, insignificant moment in life where you do something and instead of being uninhibited with the carefree airs of youth, you stop and wonder if someone is watching.

It all starts there. It's the moment where you stop doing cartwheels because they're not very good cartwheels and someone else with you is doing them better or you stop because you don't see what the point of doing cartwheels is or you stop because someone tells you to and you listen.

Once that moment hits, it's no longer to turn cartwheels as you did before. It's as though it's become something other than harmless fun.

I'm using cartwheels as a metaphor, of course. But you knew that. I think what I'm trying to say is that there was a time in life where the sky was the limit, that dreams were never impossible and that it was still possible to be anything. I was lucky enough to have parents who never quelled my dreams but let me find my way to them. They aided me as best they could but mostly, they let me live out the journey from conception to realization (whether actual realization or the realization that the dream was nice but it wasn't really for me).

Yet I let the self-doubt creep in when I turned that final cartwheel. I cared too much what people thought and I let it drive me. I still believe that dreams are possible but as adults, it's harder to remember that than it is as a child when reality has fewer boundaries and there are less obstacles to overcome.

I've still tried to follow my dreams as an adult but it's harder to drop everything and change direction when you have responsibilities. I'm trying to make my dreams of becoming a bestselling writer come true. If I was still the wide-eyed, believing child I was, I wouldn't doubt that it was going to happen. I'd still be sitting in the corner, scribbling stories about snails on scraps of paper, writing stories about how the sheep got its fleece and knowing that it was only a matter of time before I was doing book signings and admiring the thousands of copies of my book I saw in stores every day.

As an adult, I wish to be that hopeful, that the scars of reality and piles of rejections haven't made me wonder what I'm doing with my life. Don't get me wrong, I'm still trying. I still want that dream. Being a writer is one of the few dreams in my life that has stayed with me without changing since I was a child. It's just that nowadays, I realize that there's no magic wand to wave, that things don't just happen. I have to make them happen. I can't sit and wait for someone to find my work and say, "by golly! What an undiscovered talent! I wish to make you a bestselling author."

Though I admit, that would be rather nice, wouldn't it? Things like that only happen in fiction, I think. If they happen in reality, they don't seem to happen to me.

Yet, I haven't given up on dreaming. I am trying to work my way back across the obstacle course that sprang up when I started caring what other people thought, the day I stopped turning cartwheels.

So, today, I did a cartwheel. I don't care if anyone saw me. I don't care if it was more of a pathetic kick and spin than a genuine cartwheel. It was the way I always did them.

For a split second, it was a return to the days of my youth where I didn't care what people thought. I did what I wanted to do because I felt like it. There were no voices in my head telling me that it wasn't a good cartwheel, that it was a silly thing to do.

And then I realized that this was the matter precisely: There were no voices in my head telling me not to do it.

It just proved that all along, the voice that has held me back has been the one that has spoken loudest has been mine all along and I chose to listen.

I can't promise I won't still hear it but I can promise that I will try not to pay as much attention to it. If I forget, I'll just go turn a cartwheel. If it's raining, I'll close my eyes and just dance or spin until I get so tired, I'll flop down on the floor and pant like a puppy that has played too much. If it's snowing, I'll make a snow angel in the snow, kicking my legs until the snow is a flattened, diamond surface beneath my feet.

Or, if it's every day, I'll follow my dreams as if they can come true.

Happy Thursday.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Pea Eating Dogs...

Today was one of those super busy days that whizzed by so fast that I almost didn't remember to look at the clock. This is always a good thing. It also seems that the next week or so will continue to be like this, a fact for which I rejoice. There's nothing worse than having to try to find something to do at work. I can always find something but it never feels like it's something that matters. I like to matter in my job, no matter how insignificant the work is that I do.

As usual though, I did have time to run home for lunch. It's sort of a mandatory thing given that I have puppies that need to go outside to do their business. I love to go home at lunch for this reason too. Sookie has made it her habit to greet me with lots of excitement and kisses as soon as she's freed from the crate. Rory, of course, runs straight for the backdoor. I still can't figure out if she just wants to start her rabbit-sniffing immediately or she has a small bladder. Given that she wakes me up almost nightly at 4 a.m. to go out, I think it might be the latter. She doesn't stay out long enough on the chillier mornings for it to be more than a quick piddle in the garden.

If you don't know what a piddle is, you can look it up in a British slang dictionary. It's also know as a tiddle or a wee. Yes, we have odd slang. I find it endearing.

Anyway, in addition to be greeting with an adorable amount of enthusiasm from Sookie Sue today, I also made an alarming discovery that my dogs love peas. Not just like them, they actually fought over them.

You might be wondering why I had peas at lunch. If you know me, you'll know that it's not abnormal that I eat odd things at lunch. I tend to eat leftovers. Last year, I made fresh peas with mint for dinner. I had a lot left. They make a decent lunch along with a twice-baked potato. I had a lot of peas left and I couldn't eat them all. Rory, as usual, was trying to see what I was eating. Whatever I am eating seems to be fascinating for the pups. They're very good and don't try to snatch or jump up at me. More than anything, they just want to smell what I have. Their smelling is our seeing, I believe. Once they've smelled a sample, they decide if it's worth looking adorable for in order to try to secure a taste.

This happened today with the peas. Remembering that I've seen peas in canned dog food (in that 'country stew' flavour that they make, I think), I figured it wouldn't do any harm to let them try it.

Well, let's just say, one pea wasn't enough. They just kept wanting more. They actually tried to snatch each others peas.

I found this fascinating. You just don't think "dogs" and "peas" in the same sentence. Well, not the kind of peas you eat, anyway.

It endears my dogs to me. As a Brit, I think it's in our blood to eat peas. They're just a staple. When in doubt, make peas. We eat them frozen. We eat them fresh. We even eat them mushy. We like pea soup. We like pea salad. We just like our peas.

I actually have two friends that don't like peas. I've never understood this. Peas are the most inoffensive vegetable I can think of, honestly. They're tiny. They're cute. They don't have a huge flavour but one that just enhances a meal.

I suppose everyone's different, I suppose. Taste buds differ. This is why I don't like sour cream or tarragon. I really want to like tarragon. I keep trying. I just don't like it. Sour cream, on the other hand, is just not going to happen.

Sometimes it's not about taste, it's about texture. I'd love to like shrimp and scallops. Yet I can't get past that feel in my mouth when I eat one. I just can't do it. I've tried. I like the flavour of shrimp but just can't deal with the texture. I have friends who can't eat fruits with teeny seeds, like strawberries and figs. Now me, I love the seeds. I find figs to be one of the most perfect fruits ever. They're sweet but tangy, firm but soft and have a delicious crunch. I have friends who can't eat peaches 'cause they're 'furry'. I enjoy the furriness of the peach far more than the nakedness of a tangerine.

I think I should top talking about fruit. If you didn't know I was talking about fruit, that might be a bit of a risqué paragraph if you had the mind of a 15 year old boy which, honestly, most of us do at times.

Anyway, this babbling is all a result of the fact that my dogs seem to love peas. It surprised me. It surprises me more that both dogs liked peas. Normally, it's Rory who's my little 'goat' and Sookie is my picky eater. Rory likes blueberries, peaches, strawberries, apple and peas. She's also been known to enjoy a bit of cabbage and cucumber. I find it cute. I never give her too much, just a taste. She lets me know if she likes it.

If you're still reading, I appreciate you staying with me. I've decided recently that I have the capability to babble about anything in writing. It may not be completely factual but I do aim for entertaining. Hence the fact that I can take a single, teeny event like my dogs eating peas and turning it into a blog.

I'm not sure if this is a skill or a problem. Oh well. At least I'm writing…right?

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Dachshunds Bill of Rights.

I have dachshunds. If you read my blog regularly, you'll know this. If you stumbled upon it, well...welcome.

The reason I'm stating again that I have dachshunds is that having been around a lot of dogs in my life, these long little dogs are a breed unto themselves. If you're thinking of getting a dachshund, there are certain things you should know. Many of these things you can find online or in books that talk about the personality and temperament of the breed. However, there are some things you won't learn unless you either get your own dachshund or you talk to someone who has one.

The thing with dachshunds is that they're stubborn. This you will read everywhere. What you won't read is the Dachshund Bill of Rights that I'm about to give you. I should say this is the "Dachshunds 'Expected' Bill of Rights" in that you don't HAVE to agree with it. Just know that the dachshund in question will do what he/she wants to do anyway so you might as well know what you're in for.


1. Dachshunds do not like to be cold. Most of all, dachshunds do not like a cold nose. If his/her nose is cold, he/she will find the most convenient source of heat from which to warm the nose in question. This often means you. They especially like it if you're in a bathrobe or under a blanket. It is their right to usurp said blanket or bathrobe.

2. Dachshunds will sleep on the bed with you. It is their right. It is also their right to burrow under the covers. Do not try and stop them. They get rather crabby if you prevent them from burrowing. They will then use you as a source of heat. They also like to lie horizontally across the bed. If you do not have enough room, your dachshund will not care.

3. Dachshunds are the master of the pitiful whine. They also have enormous sad eyes. If you give in once, you will always give in. They want you to give in. This is why they end up sitting up on the couch and sleeping in your bed. They also manage to make you feel guilty for punishing them, even if they deserved it.

4. If you let your dachshund up on the couch, it is his or her right to take up as much room as they want. If you get up for a moment from the couch, you will return to find your dachshund has stolen your spot but still somehow managed to occupy his/her old one. They are long-bodied dogs and they know how to use that to their advantage.

5. Dachshunds are always hungry. You can feed them and feed them and they will still want more. Be careful not to overfeed them. They will try anything once but they may not like it. This does not mean you shouldn't offer them the same food in future. They might have changed their mind. Also, though you know you shouldn't give them 'people food', they want it. Badly. They especially love sausages, bacon, chicken and anything from the meat family. However, they have also been known to enjoy fruits. And vegetables. Also, dachshunds might look small but when they stand up on their back legs, they have quite a height. This means they will try to steal from your table. Beware.

6. Dachshunds dig. You can try to stop them. You can try to make them a digging spot. You can try to encourage them to dig somewhere else so it isn't so visible. This will not work. Dachshunds will dig where they want to dig. You can try to stop them but the minute you turn your back, they will dig a hole. Soon, you will have lots of little holes in your lawn. Fight back if you like but after a while, you'll realize that it's better in your lawn than under your dianthus, roses, marigolds or tomatoes. Dachshunds do not care what is above their digging spot. They like to dig.

7. Dachshunds like to collect things. They will find rocks and sticks from places you never imagined. They will collect piles of them around the holes they have dug. When you go to mow your lawn, you will find their collection. Beware. This habit is not good for lawn mowers.

8. Dachshunds are scent-hounds. They can smell extremely well. When they catch the scent of a squirrel or rabbit, nothing else in the world matters. They will hunt and track that scent until they are dragged away from it. If you are walking your dachshund and they scent a bunny or squirrel, you will know it. The leash will go tight and you will have to hold on. If they actually see a bunny or squirrel, you will need to hold on very tightly. Dachshunds also do not understands that birds can fly and squirrels can climb trees. Thus, they, too, will attempt to fly or climb trees. Both will end in a very dismayed dog who would be content to stand there until the squirrel or bird came back.

9. Dachshunds like to go for walks to smell things. They don't really know the meaning of the word exercise. That is just something that is a by-product of smelling. If you take them for a walk, they will let you know when they're tired by simply sitting down. You might have to accidentally drag them before you realize they're done. Dragging a dog in public is not good. If your dachshund has really had enough, you may have to carry him or her for the duration of the walk. The dachshund will then sit comfortable in your arms as you attempt to arrange his/her long body for comfort. However, if they smell something, they will then wriggle and you MUST put them down.

10. Dachshunds don't understand boundaries of any kind. This may be a physical boundary such as a fence or human-enforced boundary such as, 'don't steal food from the table.' They see both types of boundaries as a challenge. If a dachshund smells 'something' on the other side of the fence, they will somehow manage to fit through the tiniest hole or gap in order to try to get that 'something'. Make sure your fence is dachshund proof. Once they find a hole, they will use it until you stop them. For human-enforced boundaries...good luck with that. Dachshunds tend to be willing to endure the punishment in order to reap the benefits of the crime. When it comes time for punishment, see #3.

In exchange for following this bill of rights, you will receive love, kisses, cuddles and devotion from your dachshund. Unless they don't feel like giving it to you. Or they smell a squirrel.

Just kidding. They're the best dogs in the world, in my opinion. Each one has a very specific personality but it's worth every minute. I think every breed has its quirks and every human is drawn to a certain breed. It's just my luck I get drawn to a stubborn quirky one.

Or maybe it's not luck at all.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Runaway Sookie!

Well...the weekend is almost gone...again. I hate that it goes so fast but I know I'm not the only one who feels that way.

As a whole, the weekend was quite nice. There were moments of stress and panic but, for the most part, things went well.

Weather-wise, it was mostly a beautiful weekend. We had a bit of rain on Saturday morning. It was enough rain to send the garage-salers under shelter but it lasted maybe ten minutes at most. When it was was done. The sun came out, the ground swallowed the fallen precipitation and it was as if it never happened.

Sadly, my garden is not happy about this. My garden is thirsty. I water it bi-nightly with a hose/watering can but it's not enough. It's crying out for a rain that doesn't want to fall. When it does fall, the ground is so dehydrated that there's not enough moisture to satiate it.

We still wait for our rain, even with the meager shower we got yesterday.

Still, as far as garage sale-ing goes, it was a pretty good morning. I didn't buy too much but I did manage to score a set of four salad plates, new in the box ($1) and a set of four dinner plates, new in the box ($2) by designer Tracy Porter. I estimate I got at least $50 worth of plates there. They're also really pretty so I will use them rather than e-Bay them. I was pleased, to say the least. I also got a garden gnome ($2), a Julia Childs cookbook ($.25) and some Avon pumpkin spice bubble bath from my Avon-Lady-Who-Is-Also-My-Next-Door-Neighbour. All in all, it was a good garage sale day.

As a whole, though, the day was not as relaxing as I'd have liked.

I was woken up by Ms. Rory Wrigglebottom at 4 a.m. She needed to go out. I humoured her. We went back to bed. At our normal weekday 6:03 a.m. wakeup, Rory woke me again. I ignored her until 6:45 a.m.

By this time, she'd progress from gently nudging me with her face to full-on, sitting on my head and bathing my ear with her tongue. This meant she really needed to go out. I finally sighed and let her and Sookie outside. Since this tends to happen every weekend, I've got into the habit of cracking open the back door, letting the pups out and then going back to bed to doze until they're ready to a) come back to bed or b) to have me get up with them at a reasonable hour.

This didn't happen. Instead, I went back to bed, as normal. Then I heard Rory yipping. Normally, it's Sookie who yips so I was a little surprised. I gave her a few minutes to settle down. Still she yipped. Concerned, I got up to see if she was ok.

Well, it turned out that Ms. Sookie had found her way under the garden gate and was running in the road, trying to find squirrels. Needless to say, I was no longer sleepy. I threw on some clothes and went to try to catch her. By this time, she was quietly waiting by the gate, ready to come in.

I was furious but also relieved. I knew, deep down, that all she wanted was a bit more freedom but I couldn't help being upset that she'd 'run away.' Also, I was relieved that no cars had come down the street.

After that, I spent quite some time securing the gap under the gate so a repeat escape wouldn't be feasible.

Silly Captain Monkeypants.

I came home from garage sale-ing, let the pups out only to hear Rory barking. Again.

Yep. Sookie was out. Again.

This time, I was both furious and upset. I managed to catch her and bring her in, much to the bemusement of the neighbours.

Why is it that it's so upsetting to have a scene like this witnessed? To my neighbours, it was an amusing scene of escaped dog. To me, it was a completely relieved scene of me managing to coax my dog to safety before one of the many bargain-hunting garage sale-ers didn't see her in the road.

Needless to say, I went to Lowe's, bought a few paving stones and finally succeeded in securing the escape routes.

It was not a fun day. I'm just glad Sookie is fine. I'm sure I over-reacted but, at the same time, she's a sheltered pup who doesn't know the danger of a high-speed motorist.

Sunday was better. There were no escape attempts. In my efforts to try to entertain Sookie in case she was trying to escape out of boredom, I took her to the local state park. She, Rory and I walked 2 miles around a pretty lake on a beautiful autumnal day. It doesn't get much better than that.

I think the walk worked. Since then, the pups have been fighting sleepiness. I think that tonight, they might sleep well. I know I will.

It's been a busy weekend. As always, it wasn't quite what I planned. But I can't complain.

It was still a weekend.

Happy Monday!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Near-Autumn Walks and Such

Today was a busy day at work. These are good days because not only do I feel like I'm actually doing something and serving a genuine, actual purpose but it also makes the day go by very quickly. It's nice to look at the clock and realize that a couple of hours have passed instead of, as on a normal day, glancing up very frequently and wondering why barely any time has passed.

In addition to it being a nice busy day, it's also another, cool autumn-day. Last night, I slept with my bedroom windows open and I woke up chilly under my light bedcovers. If I knew the coolness was going to stick around, I'd add another blanket to my bed but I know it's supposed to warm up again. Besides, I have two dachshunds on my bed who provide me with a little extra warmth so I really don't need it.

Of course, I'm aware that I'm actually the one providing the warmth to the dogs. I'm not that delusional that I think they're trying to do me a favour. This can be evidenced by Rory burrowing under the covers after having a little groan.

Rory groans a lot when she's sleeping. If you so much as touch her while she's in 'sleep-mode', she makes this rather adorable groaning sound. If she stirs in the night, she groans. If she's annoyed about being disturbed, she groans. You get the idea.

Thus, last night, I half-heard her groan in my own sleepy state and then I felt her try to find a way under the covers. She couldn't seem to find a way in and she started to get upset so I ended up lifting the covers up so she could warm up. Sookie, meanwhile, rather cutely just snuggles up with me so that we woke up almost nose to nose. There is a reason why I call her my 'teddy bear dog.'

Since it's cooled down, it means the weather is highly amenable to taking walks with the dogs. They've started actually responding to the word "Walk" and so when I say it, they sit by the door, waiting. They didn't used to do this. They used to hide. That was when I used to put on their adorable but rather fiddly and complex little pink harnesses. Now they're bigger, those harnesses don't fit and they have much more comfortable ones that require a mere slipping over the head and stepping into it in order to get it on.

We try to take our walk before Larry-the-Potential-Serial-Killer comes home from work. It's riskier to walk by his house on nice evenings. It's also harder to get away if he does entrap us in conversation because I can't necessarily use the, "I need to take the pups home because they need to drink water," excuse that I use when it gets hot.

Still, we haven't seen Larry in a while. Well, we haven't seen him to talk to him. We did walk and see him in his garden but, fortunately, he was engrossed in picking tomatoes and he didn't see us. It probably helps that I walk very quickly and I also try to remain very, very quiet so he doesn't hear us. I'd like to think the puppies know we're avoiding him because they certainly seem to walk faster.

For the most part, walking with the pups in the evenings is a pleasure. It's beautiful weather, I'm getting exercise and we can explore the neighbourhood. The only part that isn't so much of a pleasure is the squirrels. I can always tell when Rory and Sookie see a squirrel because suddenly, my arm feels as though it's trying to be disconnected from its socket and the leash goes very, very taut. I'm trying to teach the girls that they cannot, in fact, climb trees and follow the squirrel but they still attempt to do so until I remind them who's the boss by giving them a stern tug on their leash.

Squirrels are their new bunnies. We have quite a few around our back yard. Having discovered the source of the hickory nuts- which is a tree in Possibly-Joe's front yard- I'm no longer alarmed at finding hickory nuts around my house. The girls like to try to chew them but the nuts are so tough, they can't break the shell. The squirrels, however, have taken to sitting on the fence or up in the trees and chewing on the nuts. You can hear the "tchhk tchkk tchukk" of their teeth as they chomp the encasement for the nuts. It falls to the ground and leaves quite a mess, rather like a human who throws their trash all over the place and doesn't pick it up.The puppies have learned to recognize the "tchhk tchkk tchukk" sound. The minute they hear it, they go into obsessive-crack-junkie-mode and they attempt to locate the source. The squirrels are far craftier than the rabbits though. They can climb trees for one thing and they're also much quicker. The puppies have been thwarted on more than one occasion as they attempt to catch a squirrel for playtime.

There's no doubt about it, with the chill of the night air and the increased number of nut-harvesting squirrels, autumn is almost upon us. Give it a couple of weeks and we'll start calling the hot days "Indian Summer". For now, as summer is losing her hold and giving way to autumn, we're in that pleasant transition between seasons where you never know what each day will bring. While I'd rather it stayed cooler, there's something about not knowing which show itself tomorrow that's rather nice.

It's just nice to be surprised sometimes.

Happy Friday and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Waiting for the Rain to Fall...

itIt's another beautiful autumn-like day out there again today. Last night, when I got home from work, we had the hope of a storm. The sky had clouded over, the wind had picked up and then, in the far distance, a rumbling of thunder.

I got excited about that. We haven't had rain in over three weeks. That is not an exaggeration. The ground is dry and cracked. The grass is yellow and brittle. My plants are all drooping even though I water them regularly. Every day I listen to Frank Marzullo and the Fox 19 Stormtracker Weather and hope he says we're going to have rain.

Yet, even when he does, it doesn't rain. I know that's not Frank's fault but I like blaming him anyway.

The storm last night was a storm. For a few moments, lightning whipped across the sky and we had some cracks of thunder that were so earsplitting and loud that Rory, usually unafraid of storms, whimpered and came running over to hide between my legs.

Then it began to rain and I went outside to let it fall on my face. It smelled as it always does after a long, dry period. The smell of dust floats up into the air, the asphalt from the road adds in its acrid odor and the whole world just starts to get wet.

Only in our case, then it stopped. We had maybe two minutes of rain altogether. It was if the storm came, decided it was bored and it just stopped.

I was disappointed. I think the puppies were too. In spite of their aversion to baths and, also, getting their paws wet, they have no problem frolicking in the rain. They usually come in, soaked and I have to grab them to towel them off so they don’t attempt to dry themselves on the carpet or, worse, the couch. Of course, as soon as they see the towel, it becomes less of a drying instrument and more of a tug-of-war toy.

So, we never got our rain. Instead, we got a couple of hours of searing heat and humidity before the evening air came and miraculously cooled everything down. Yesterday, it was 93 degrees. Today, it's 78 degrees. I'll take today's weather in a heartbeat, even if the rain never came.

Frank Marzullo said we might have rain Friday night and Saturday. I don’t mind the Friday night rain but Saturday is our neighbourhood's annual garage sale day and I was planning my tour of the sales to hunt for bargains. It's no fun if it's wet.

Still, I think we need rain more than I need more cut-price bargains. Yard sales are a little like having a couple in a grocery store. You don't really need the item you're looking at but since you have a coupon and you're saving so much money, it seems like a crime not to buy it. Never mind that the item will sit in your pantry for ages before you either have to throw it away or try it and realize that you don't like it. This is probably why I have umpteen packets of Lipton Rice and Sauce in my pantry. These days, I prefer to make my own rice rather than the packet mix but when I bought them, it seemed like a good idea.

Yard sales are the same sort of thing. I have several items that I got for less than a dollar that I now wonder what possessed me to buy them. I bought these little candleholder/mini urn things that I thought would look nice with some tapers in them. Well, tapers didn't fit and I couldn't get them to stand up in the holders even by melting the bottom of the candle and trying to use the wet wax as a glue in the candleholder. I finally gave up on the candles since they were so precariously balanced that every time I'd bump the table upon which they stood, they'd fall over.

The candleholders are now, slightly inexplicably, on top of my microwave, sans candles. This means they're also in front of my breadbin. This means every time I reach for my bread from the bin, I knock those stupid candleholders aside. Reason says I should just move them and I keep meaning to but it's just one of those things I never seem to either remember to do or get round to. If I hadn't felt compulsed to buy them for 25 cents at a yard sale, I wouldn't have this problem.

Thus, if I do end up going to the sales on Saturday, I must practice better restraint. Now I've lived in my house for over a year, I have less need for decoration and items to make my house look more cosy. It's quite full already. I really don't need any books although the lack of need will mean nothing if I come across a sale with a good book selection. Books are my biggest weakness. I know that I don't really need any more but I like to have books. Books are the friends that always have time for you, as long as you have time for them. They let you curl up with them and get lost in their pages and let the realities of life slip way for just a few minutes.

Still, maybe I'll make a pledge to only buy books that I really think would benefit my collection. Of course, if it rains, this might be a non-issue since books won't be for sale in the rain and, if they are, they'll turn into a sodden mass which makes them significantly less appealing.

But that's the coming weekend, not today. For now, Frank Marzullo says that it's supposed to be cool, sunny and lovely for the next couple of days.

As much as I want rain, I can live with that.