Friday, November 30, 2007

My New Tattoo: Session 5

Today Kathryn worked on the neck of the dragon. This consisted of work on a small portion of my ribs and most of my side.

Today was another day of pain.

Yes, it's a tattoo and it's painful, but I felt like it really really hurt today. Not as much as the last session (see Session 4 notes), but definitely no room for any pleasure of any kind whatsoever.

I endured but I did more wincing. I will probably look like a 50 year old when this is done, the creation of wrinkles I put on my face from all my grimacing.

Today Kathryn shaded the scales of the neck of the dragon. This is like having a pencil, crayon, marker, and filling in blobs of circles. So, imagine taking the pencil and swirling it around on paper -- a small little blob that you fill in. This is what Kathryn did WITH A NEEDLE. And it burns. And it hurts. Like having a scab on your leg, then taking a needle and scribbling on the scab.

Why do I endure this? The pain is nothing compared to the pleasure of looking at this magnificent, unique, piece of art on ME. You know, if you don't like tattoos or don't get it, I can't convince you of how amazingly cool and amazing it is to see this on your body.

And I'm getting more than I even imagined. I knew I wanted a dragon but to see Kathryn's version of it on me...wow.

The ironic thing is that people in the shop stop in and tell ME how beautiful it is. Like - hey, you have a beautiful tattoo. But the artist is right there drawing the amazing piece of work on me. *I'm* not the one that is supposed to say "Thank you for telling me my tattoo is amazing"...it should be "Tell Kathryn what a wonderful artist she is".

And she is. She is fitting this dragon on MY form. If she even could replicate this on another person, it would still be different because she would fit this on their form. She is truly an artist of the finest form. I am privileged to have her use me as a canvas.

Now, I enjoy two weeks of recovery and then the vicious cycle starts all over again.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Hilltop Hideaway: Day Seven

I'll have to start with the end of Day Six. Last night we got snow! Yes indeed. Not flurries, but just a ton of snow blowing sideways and sticking to the deck. We were just so excited to finally see snow while we were here. The cherry on the top of a great ice cream sundae.

I also got a hold of Scooter's dad. I saw Scooter laying atop some wet towels (from Brenna's bath) right outside the door that none of us could stand it. We got a hold of the excited pup and got the number and I called. A fine gentleman who knew exactly where we were (at the top of Yellow Daisy Lane) and drove _his_ diesel truck up this way to get Scooter. Scooter knew who he was right away and jumped right into the back of the truck.

Today we hit Black Friday, unintentionally.

Uncle Phillip left for his plane trip back to Dallas and the rest of us hit downtown Boone again. Of all places, the Western Wear Store got me hooked so everyone abandoned us, except for me, the girls and Tim, our mountain driver.

Great, great store. Too full of merchandise. I'd take one thing out of a rack and there would be no way to put it back. I found about ten coats I could have walked away with happily *if* someone had said "Pick any ten coats and they're on me". I did walk away with one and that'll keep me happy for many years.

We then hit Old Navy, our one Black Friday store. I picked up a few things there and CJ decked herself out with some hip stuff. I picked up a nice pink coat for Brenna too.

It's been a blast. I have fallen for Boone, Valle Cruces, Banner Elk and Scooter. This has been one of the best vacations I've had ever. And to add family members into that, well you know, best vacation /= family. And I have had a blast with family.

I'll miss this place but I'm grateful to have been here and done that. Tomorrow, though, is our journey back into the high, fast, busy life we live everyday. I guess I'll just have to strive to make my high, fast, busy life less so and make more of my time feel like a vacation.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Hilltop Hideaway: Day Six


Happy Thanksgiving!

We have had a great one here in these mountaintops. I didn't have to pick up a finger to do a thing -- Tim, Grandma, and Aunt Judy did all the cooking.

And boy, what great cooking they did. We started off with sausage gravy and biscuits.

Oh wait. I did pick up a finger to cook eggs for me, Judy and the girls. But that was nothing compared to the gravy we had. One of our favorites at home.

Anyway, the best part of the day...okay, the second best part of the day, because I have to say that the best part was sitting down to the Turkey Feast, but the SECOND BEST PART of the day was when our new dog friend paid us a visit.

I greeted Scooter (finally looked at his dog tag) with open paws. What a beautiful pup he is. That would be him in the picture on this post. And boy, that dog shore is sweeeet.

First thing he did was jump up on me and showed me that he trudged up the muddy mountainside to get to us.

I just KNEW Sccoter would come back. I'm sure I posted that the day I met Scooter, right? And he did. And he was so happy to see Toby and Brenna. They have been playing the entire day. Toby is worn-the-fudge out -- tongue just hanging out -- but he's having a blast.

And then there's one dog out there barking. I just knew it had to be Scooter but when I came out to see, it was my dog Brenna! You, the reader can't comprehend what a surprise that is because you're not around Brenna, but Brenna is not a barker. She's not deaf either, because she responds to us when we call her, or come home, or make any other kind of noise. She just does not bark. But around her new BF Scooter, she's a barking bitch.

So they played forever and when we finally let them in, Brenna stank like the stankiest dog ever to show up on earth. Which meant: I had to give her a bath.

I had my Sunday best on (for Thanksgiving dinner) so I decided my best bet was to strip the top half off and bathe her that way.

Brenna is not a small dog but fortunately, I've got some strength (hahaha)...in terms of being more beta to her gamma. No matter how hard I try to be the alpha dog, Tim seems to take that role when it comes to our dogs.

Anyhoo, I was able to get her rinsed...and the odor was horrendous. I have no idea what the heck she rolled in -- and I don't really want to know -- but god almighty it is nasty.

So I got the Suave Kid's Shampoo on her. And I could see her twist a little bit. You know, the precursor to the big shake? This was a great sign to grab the shower curtain and cover myself with it before the big shake happened, ala "300" style. I was successful 2 of the 7 times she did the big shake.

Whatever. So I'm going to smell like a wet dog. At least I'll have a cleaner dog who can stay indoors with us tonight. And she'll need to tonight, because it's going to snow. Well, a 20% chance of snow...

So I thought I had a good plan: strip the top half of clothing items off, cover myself with the shower curtain like it was a gladiator shield, and then just hurry the f**k up and get this dog rinsed and cleaned. Well, my shoes aren't waterproof and the tile in the bathroom gets slippery when wet so TWICE I almost fell into the tub of shitty water trying to get the damn dog cleaned. Which meant I strained my back, because if you've never bathed a dog in the bathtub, then you don't realize how hard it is on ye old back.

But I got it done and now she's as clean as a dirty whistle. And I had to get out of my Sunday best into post-turkey feast clothing. I guess it made for a good excuse to get into my comfy clothes.

But Scooter? Well, she's still right outside. She looks right inside at us, wagging her tail happily...waiting for anyone to come out and join her.

She played with CJ earlier. Mi-Mi came running into the house screaming for me. She said "Mommy! Come outside!! Scooter knows how to play fetch!" And sure enough, CJ would throw a stick and Scooter would retrieve it, then drop it right back in front of CJ. CJ would repeat this scenario over and over and over. I think at least 30 minutes.

Well, Scooter is right outside the window now, looking in, with that very stick sitting right between her legs.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Hilltop Hideaway: Day Five


Tim and I went for another run down the mountain today. Going down is not a problem. Coming back up, well, that's enough to make an old runner like me recite a few expletives.

It's not just going up. But going straight up for a long time. And I can't catch my breath. And I can't recover fast enough from the heavy breathing, so the only way to start running is just to run while you're catching your breath. Not 'fun' but still, a fun thing to do for someone who likes to run. :-) Oh, and Tim beat me both times we ran out here...bastard.

Toby, Joey and Judy's dog, joined us for our run, along with our dog Brenna. They both did really well, once they got 'ran over' by me a couple of times.

It's been great having Brenna out here. She's gotten along well with Toby, despite the fact that Toby is constantly trying to hump her (and he's fixed).

She's been off the leash and during our run, she ran alongside of us. Well, "run" is what I was doing. The dogs look like they're walking.

So we ran further out than last time and passed our new doggie friend, who was hooked up on a dog run. But he happily barked some hellos to us and I thought he was probably really jealous that he couldn't join us for our run.

On the way back, however, Toby and Brenna decided to pay our dog friend a visit. Dog friend's house, however, is on an upslope of the mountain, so it's not easy to get to them. Calling them back didn't work either. Well, Toby did come back. He's slightly older and more mature than Brenna, so he came right back to me and quite happily too. I don't think I can forget the look that dog had, running up the gravel path to me.

And by the way, this took approximately 10 minutes or so? And I was still trying to catch my breath, although we hadn't even started up the mountain.

Brenna would not come back. Not only did she not come back, she did not respond to Tim's calling. It's as if her name wasn't even Brenna!

So we left.

And Toby followed through and ran with us back up the mountain. He was a great dog, though, and made sure to keep his scent on every other tree limb to make sure Brenna could figure out how to get back. But she *is* a city dog, so I worried a little bit. Well, I worried about her _after_ I finished my run. During the run, there was little worrying to do except worrying about passing out since I wasn't getting any air!

She never came back on her own and so Tim and Joey got in the truck to go get her. Tim said as soon as they started down the hill, he could see over the 'cliff' of our path, to the really steep part of the road, our dog booking like crazy up the hill. So essentially, she was on her way back after her romp with our new dog friend.

We ventured back down the mountain that afternoon, this time in a motorized vehicle. I thought it would be nice to see what Banner Elk looked like. Judy joined Tim, me and the girls and we took 194 South to Banner Elk.

It's funny, when you think "south" you think, towards heat and Florida. You know, down. Not 194 South. This took us on a beautiful scenic route UP another part of a mountain. Way up. We just kept going up and up and up. We passed by a sign that said "bus stop ahead" and I wondered, where do the kids stand for the bus? There isn't even room for two vehicles to go both ways on that road, let alone a wide bus and kids. But somehow, these mountain people manage.

Tim was getting worried so he stopped to ask someone that had an art shop (when the mountain finally flattened out). He said the old man said, to the question of where Banner Elk was, "four miles ahead, you can't miss it". Four miles, up in these here mountains, feels like forty miles...

We found it, just like the old man said and boy, what a quaint, pretty mountain town Banner Elk is. We found a conglomerate of shops and restaurants and decided to park and make that our destination.

We ate at a cajun place - isn't that a hoot? A cajun place in these here mountains?

I opted for the most cajaun food of all, chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes, cream gravy and fried green tomatoes. Wow. It was greasy and tasty. But I kept it in check and ate about half of it, which filled me like crazy.

We then roamed the hood and I found some good buys on interesting mountain stuff.

On our way back, we took a different route that was less treacherous. We passed through Beech and Sugar Mountain. We could see a lot of the homes and condos we can see from our own mountaintop.

We stopped at a world famous General Store in Valle Crucis. What a great store. The building is old and full of really great old and new stuff. Well, mostly new stuff, but it looks old. The floorboards tilt to one side and it's wide with another whole other story.

The picture on this post is one of the first things I saw when I walked in. And I almost left without picking up a slab of mountain butter...

Coach Bubba

I registered for Coach Bubba's 20km today.

I ran this race this past February. It was tough -- and at one point I thought I was going to pass out or hurl -- but I had determination to do it.

It was my first race of the year. But more importantly for me, it was my first race since August 12th, 2006, when I came down with my mysterious illness which kept me inactive and ill 24/7 for months.

So there's a sentimental attachment to this race for me (btw, I made the goal time I set for myself at Coach Bubba's).

So I'll run it again next year but this time, my goal will be to run and train a little easier. I am not going to attempt to beat my time from last year. In fact, once I sit down to figure out the numbers (and I've started because I have my training plan laid out), I'll pick out a goal time to finish and it will be very, very non-competitive.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Hilltop Hideaway: Day Four


The day started with a beautiful cloudy scene across the mountains. The clouds envelope the mountains and makes it look like we're overlooking water.

It was grandma's birthday so what did she do for her birthday? She made breakfast. And boy, it was yummy. And the aroma of breakfast emanated throughout the cabin. It was wonderful.

Chocolate and biscuits was the specialty. Course, I never heard of this until I married Tim, but it is a common breakfast theme in my family now, so to have the homemade version was nice.

Then we ventured into the city of Boone. Or is it a town? Whatever it is, it is nice. I love Boone. We passed through Appalachian State and I can now see why students are attracted to this college and its town.

I had a blast shopping through Boone's downtown shops. I picked up a couple of hats - one stylish, the other, made for Boone-ites. I picked up some great outfits and best of all, a couple of bumper stickers:

The only Bush I trust is my own.

and

The truly educated NEVER GRADUATE.

After my shopping adventure, we hit a gem mine where CJ picked up a lot of colorful rocks.

The evening ended with another bonfire outside and me and Uncle Phillip had a nice time chatting away, just the two of us.

I tend to be more of a loner around family, so this is a bit unusual for me.

Time seems to move slow out here. And I like that. We're all just shocked, looking at the time, thinking it must be midnight and it ends up being 6:45.

Ahhhh...the mountain life...

Monday, November 19, 2007

Alternative Music

I have listed some of my very favorite albums in previous posts. I have mentioned that I am not like everyone else, who likes to say "I like a little bit of everything". NO, that does not bide with me. And even if it did, you know, it's kind of annoying to repeat this cliche. AND IF YOU DO IT, IT IS A CLICHE. EVERYONE SAYS THAT...let's try to be different, okay?

Whew. I got that off my chest.

My husband has taken a wrong turn somewhere. He's enjoying country. Besides the worst bands ever to hit air time on the radio, Creed and now Nickleback, country sits way up there on the list of things that brings blood to my ears.

However, he has brought home a CD that has blown me away.

It is not country.

It is, however, blue grass. And blue grass I can take. O Brother Where Art Thou brought to the 80 (of the 80/20 rule) some fine, fine music. And it sort of reminds me of music my dad enjoyed. Which technically, include country, but country then is not what country is now, IMO.

For instance, I love Johnny Cash. And I'm going to be cliche in another sense, I loved Johnny before Johnny became hip. Thank you Dad.

So, blue grass I can take and when Tim came home last weekend talking crazy about this great blue grass band he heard at Sam Ash, I didn't give it too much thought. I did think it was nice that he bought their CD, after hearing them sing in the store. But he was going on about their harmony and how great they sound. Again, I listened but not really.

On the road to our mountaing getaway, however, he had the CD playing. Wow. I was immediately blown away. Beautiful voices from the women and the harmony, wow. True art and you know, listening to this just really puts into perspective the true art form of music, lyrics, harmonizing with your group, and just being able to sing WELL (no disrespect, Britney).

The band is The Wells Family and the album is Someday Soon. A quick look at iTunes shows that it is not available there and on Amazon, well, it's nearly $30 bucks since it's not really 'out there' for the masses.

The album cover looks like something from the 60s. But when you hear the songs, I will be astounded if you aren't blown away.

Cry, Cry Darlin' will bring tears to your eyes, not because of any of the lyrics, but because her voice is too beautiful.

We listened to these songs several times during the drive. But once we were close to home, Tim sprung a doozy on me. The Wells Family covered The Reason (by Hoobastank) and wow! Again, just beautiful. I love the song by Hoobastank. The lyrics are pretty good. But to hear this version, I have found my new favorite version. Their version blows the original away.

I don't listen to just anything. This doesn't mean I have better taste than anyone else, but it does mean that it takes more than most folks to like something. The Wells Family gave, and still gives, me instant gratification.

Goose Me

Being in this little cabin in the sky is too cool. Literally.

There is not central heating (or AC, which means nothing to me right now) in this hacienda. There is one big beautiful fireplace and a propane wall heater to keep the main part of the cabin heated. There is nothing up in the loft and it is very warm up there (remember what rises, from science class?). There is a stand alone radiator in the bedroom and fortunately, a wall heater in the bathroom. But that's it and although this place isn't huge, it's still not a lot of heat compared to what technology in the 21st century has for heating households.

BUT, unbelievabley for a very cold-proned person like me, I haven't been complaining.

First, the weather has been really wonderful. It's been around the 50s in the day and then at night, it does dip down to the 30s.

But I would never know it.

On our most comfortable mountain bed has a nice goose down comforter. Hey, I have one of these at home too...but it sure doesn't feel like this one.

This one just sets on you. And it's heavy so it sets on you and doesn't move. It's like a big hug. And thus, total warmth because essentially, I am being held all night by this wonderful blanket.

I've gotta take a loan out and get me one of these things when I get back to Raleigh...

Hilltop Hideaway: Day Three


Today was a bit quiet on the frontier. Although, I think we all are getting a little cabin stir crazy.

It was cloudy...but in these here mountains, that means *we* are in the clouds.

And then there was rain. Like for 2 minutes - a total downpour - and then it stops. Or you can see it rain right next to where it's not raining. Pretty darn cool.

It was hard not having to go here and then get this and figure out what to do next. Just sitting and not having anywhere to go or anything to do, well, that *is* a vacation. Although, I must say, I did do some net stuff, but stuff I don't normally get to do...

Aunt Judy made a nice batch of chili that just created the most amazing aroma in this nice little cabin. A roasting fire, clouds surrounding us like "The Fog", and a big bowl of hot chili. Yummy.

Then we broke out the Wii and enjoyed watching everyone go crazy with it. It's been awhile since I've laughed so hard -- just tears running from my eyes...

And that's about it for today. Not much to write home about, but to have this many people together in one cabin...and not just people, but family? We're not the Cleavers, so it's pretty darn amazing that we are all enjoying ourselves...

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Hilltop Hideaway: Day Two


Today we went down the mountain for supplies. You would have thought we were stocking up for a trip to an alaskan island that would soon have little access to the world. We not only got our Thanksgiving supplies, but we got more...

It was nice to see how the mountain path looked going down. It was just as scary. And then going back up was still daunting, but at least this time we knew where we were going. Tim admitted that the first time, there was no telling where 'the road' would take us...as in, keep trucking and then woops, we just went over the cliff. Or -- how the hell will I turn this truck around to get back down?

Anyway, the view this morning was amazing. I am not kidding: we are on top of a mountain. We can see Grandfather Mountain from here -- a big prominent and unique rock jutting from the top of another mountain in the distant.

It is quiet. And peaceful. And plain beautiful. And having family here, at least on the paternal side, makes it even more amazing.

I don't have internet access, but Tim does. Of course, he is always mobile, subscribing to Sprint wireless everywhere. I had written about three blog posts on my macbook and tried to figure out how to get those posts on Tim's machine so I could actually post them. I did get a wifi connection on the mac, but I had to stand on my head, with my left hand on the ground and even with that, I lost the connection because I took a breath...

So now, I'm doing Day Two on Tim's PC. My background music come courtesy of Tim's two brothers, who are playing drums and lead guitar. Tim is munching away; he was on the bass. So yes, Tim packed up every musical equipment he owns (sans the piano) and equipped our little cabin in the sky with it. It's pretty darn cool...

I did take a little run down the mountain. I dragged Tim along since I didn't want a bear to eat me.

It took approximately 6.26 minutes to run from the top of our mountain to the part that starts going uphill...not necessarily the bottom, but pretty close. That's about 1/3 of the time it takes to DRIVE down the mountain. And it was great! I could have ran longer but first, Tim thought it would take a really long time to go back up and two, I heard a dog barking further away that brought me to a slow halt (it's hard to abruptly stop coming from the top of a mountain).

I love dogs. I have almost always had dogs in my life. But I don't like OTHER dogs chasing me down while running or on a bike. As a child, I fell off my bike with a dog chasing me...luckily he didn't eat me, but I have been traumatized ever since.

So as soon as I heard the dog barking at us, I asked if the dog was running towards us. Tim said yes and I thought, mountain people aren't going to have electric fencing...

So I grabed Tim and tried to play calm. But as soon as I saw the dog - a pretty big, puppy-looking, yellow lab with a collar and tags (assuming rabies), I knew he wouldn't eat me.

And he didn't. In fact, the dog ran PAST us as we started back up the hill. Show off. He ran ahead and turned around like, what are we doing now?

And this dog was the prettiest dog. He ran with us all the way back up the hill, about 400 meters from our cabin when Tim said "Let's run back down". I thought he was yanking my chain...being sarcastic because, well, running back up did not take us 6.26 minutes.

So we turned around and went back down. Which felt GREAT. Running downhill, on a mountain, is AWESOME. I loved it and felt no pain -- except where my fresh tattoo burned like crazy -- and was having my runner's high. The dog had it too because he joined us. Tried to show us a shortcut by running straight down the side of the mountain, which is at a 89 degree angle, and then ran back up it. I did some dog interpretation "Come over here! Check out where I buried this one guy..." and then he ran back up the side of the mountain and I thought, here's where I buried the other guy...

So we made it back close to where we met the dog and turned around to go back up. The first 200 felt great and easy. Once I stopped for a walk break my legs turned to rubber...and my heart raced and my lungs were screaming.

But we did it and with a little more than 200 meters left to the cabin, Tim said let's kick it! Kick it was me running behind Tim trying as hard as possible to _appear_ as though I was kicking it, but running straight up, well, it's not that easy to go any faster than I did. But I didn't stop and I made it, using every last breath I had in me.

And the yellow lab was greeted by Toby, a male boxer from Uncle Joey's side of the family, and Brenna, of course, our boxer. Brenna actually took to our new running buddy, which was pretty funny because she's been running away from Toby since he got here. I would too if some dude kept trying to hump me. But the yellow lab seemed to be more 'her type'.

Man, I wish I had gotten a picture of that dog!

Tim and his brothers took him back home. I heard that the dog loved their company so much that when they drove off, in Tim's big ass truck, he ran and jumped into the bed of the truck.

This may not sound unusual, but *I* cannot even push myself up to sit on the back of the truck. It is about 4 feet off the ground. And the dog cleared it!

Philip, Tim's younger brother, eventually had to walk the dog back to his house and put him on a leash that was somewhere out there. I expect to see that dog back here soon though.

But day two has been amazing. I've become quite the fire whisperer - making sure the fireplace keeps going and the wood keeps a burning. Now don't think I am becoming someone who lives off the land. I still need my Harris Teeter and of course, my TV...

...and Tim's PC to get my blog going...

Book Review: The Almost Moon by Alice Siebold

I really, really loved The Lovely Bones, Alice Siebold's debut novel. Yes, it was a dark genre of storytelling, but what a great storyteller Siebold is. The book was mesmerizing and sad. But I was so taken with the narrator of the book, and of course, her creator. How could one person think of such a thing to write about?

Well, I was excited when I accidentally found that Siebold's second novel would be coming out (and it did). That would be this one, The Almost Moon.

I also thought of some of my best girlfriends, who I knew read or shared my enjoyment of The Lovely Bones and I contacted them, to see if they would be interested in forming a book club and use this second novel by Siebold as the first read for the club. All were in agreement, although a couple of them were wondering if they could make the time to do it. Nonetheless, in the end, we ended up with a full crew sans one (who is getting married) and afterwards, we are taking on another member.

But back to the review.

I thought it was again, another well-written book. I liked Siebold's dark side portrayed in the book again. I know it's been panned by critics, but the fact that she has a writing genre that is sad, depraved and without hollywood's happy story-lines (or endings) (which I compare to foreign movies, that are also a comparable art) is greatly admired by me.

It's hard to judge a novel that follows a hit, a UNIQUE one at that. Remember the movie The Sixth Sense? The movie, to this day, blows me away. M. Night Shyamalan was a genius to come up with that and he hasn't, according to the critics, mastered the artistry he did with The Sixth Sense. But he has stuck to his own thing and gives us pretty decent movies. I've enjoyed all of them, but probably not to the degree that I enjoyed The Sixth Sense. This is where I would agree with critics on The Almost Moon. But I did like it and found Siebold, again, full of talent in her storytelling.

This one, I must say, was unusual but in so many different ways than her first novel. The main character, Helen, well, she is mucked up. And she's mucked up because her mom and dad were. And the book takes the reader from the present, to the past, and back to the present. We really get to know Helen and how she became who she became. We want to scream at her and ask her what the hell is she doing? But we, at least ME, keep reading to find out what she's doing next.

I enjoyed her book despite her having panned reviews. I also was delighted, that after ordering a book off Amazon's marketplace, I received what appears to be a signed copy of her book, in paperback (which is not available as of today), aimed at a preview for, I am assuming, reviewers.

Anyway, I look forward to reading more from Siebold. She's my M. Night Shyamalan of novels.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Hilltop Hideaway: Day One


We are spending our Thanksgiving in the mountains this year. Tim picked out a cabin back during the summer and boy, did he pick a great one.

We are in Banner Elk, NC, just a hop, skip and a long ride straight to the top of a meandering, narrow, leaf-covered, gravel path.

Tim loaded up his F350 with everything but the kitchen sink. The drive from Raleigh was nice. Seeing all the colors of the leaves on the trees – mah-veh-lus. Who said the drought caused our trees to not have a beautiful color change this year?? (Hint: the brilliance of meteorologists).

Anyway, once we got closer to Boone, I started describing the surroundings to the girls. "Look at the mountain house", "Look at the mountain car", "Look at the mountain rock". When I saw a few pretty black cows, one which was black and white, I said "Look at the mountain animals" to which Mi-Mi promptly replied "Ooooh! Pandas!" When we passed some horses, nicely covered with those blue blankets, or 'horse jackets', Mi-Mi said, a bit silently, "look at the reindeers".

Boone is really beautiful. The buildings all look very mountain-like. Wendy's is in a building that looks like it belongs in the Swiss Alps. We still didn't stop there to eat, but it looked much better here than it does in Raleigh.

We wanted to grab some food to-go and take with us to the cabin. I wanted something local and by luck, one of the landmarks in our written directions to the cabin was The Ham Shoppe. Literally, this deli is at the corner of an intersection. One could make a right turn onto the road, or make a deeper sharper right turn and ta-da! You're at The Ham Shoppe!

Such a quaint little building. We got some looks from a couple of folks...maybe locals, I can't tell yet. They looked normal. But, I'm not sure if you know how hard it is to park an F350, but worse, there ain't much room between the deli and the road.

I loved the place immediately. I am NOT a sandwich person. But I fell in love with this place upon entering. A nice young girl explained the 'menu', which is pick your own sandwich: make your own by selecting the things you want, or selecting a custom sandwich, which may be hot or cold. The girls picked their own and I had to decide among the special selections they have on their 'cold' menu. Here are a couple of their signature sandwiches, in this hick mountain town:

Valle Special – Lean roast beef topped with Swiss cheese, fresh spinach, tomato, crisp bacon, and our secret cheese spread.

The Hawksnest – Piled high with our honey baked ham, spicy capicolla and smoked provolone with mayo, fresh lettuce, tomato, red onion and our blend of oil and vinegar.

I opted for the Valle Bleu, which was turkey breast topped with crisp bacon, fresh spinach, tomato and our secret blue cheese spread. I chose pumpernickel for my bread of choice. Wow! This was the best sandwich I have ever had. Fresh ingredients was a fact – the juiciest tomato slices and the greenest, cleanest spinach I've ever seen between two slices of bread.

While we were ordering, an elderly man came up to chat with the kids. I asked him, as I perused the side dishes, if he recommended anything. He said he recommended them all because they're all made fresh by his wife and her own recipes. I couldn't resist that statement and tried the pasta salad. Again, really well-made. Not sweet, not tart and I could see fresh dill in it. Perfecto. I also grabbed a couple of ginormous brownies. Well, one is a fudge brownie and the other is a magic square. Something with a graham crust, melted chocolate chips, and coconut topping. I can't wait to try it.

So if you are ever in the area of Boone, or more specifically, Valle Cruces, NC, you MUST pull a sharp right turn onto the gravel road that sits in front of The Ham Shoppe.

Once we grabbed our sandwiches, we were off to our cabin in the sky. And I mean, WAY UP TO THE TOP.

I had to lie to CJ and state that the cabin was really not at the top. She got extremely scared. And so did I, but being the freaking mother, I had to act like e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g i-s h-u-n-k-y—d-o-r-e-y.

The road to this hideaway is pretty freaky. And we were instructed to follow the road to the end, which is the TOP of whatever this is (a mountain, perhaps?). And the road is not a road, but a very thin path that looks smaller than the trails that I run at Umstead. And yet, I'm in a fat F350 on this road that would freak me out if I were running on it – straight down on one side and I'm not really sure what was on the other side.

On top of a thin road, it is very windey (how is that spelled? is it even a word? windey, like winding, not like whoosh). And the turn radius of this truck is na-da. At one point, the gravel was covered, and I mean COVERED by the fallen leaves, so it almost looks like the path ended.

So I was worried how we were going to get back down if we somehow made a wrong turn.
But we made it and being on top is like, well, being on top of the world. GORGEOUS, breathtaking, serene. Just plain smoking beautiful. I've got a lot of pictures that I hope to add soon.

For now, it's peaceful in this rustic abode. The radiator is going. It's not too cold yet. The fireplace is crackling and I'm blogging on my macbook with the most amazing views surrounding me.

I just hope no bears come to visit.

Friday, November 16, 2007

My New Tattoo: Session 4

I have a new face from all the wincing I did at this session. This one, by far, has been the most painful experience I've ever had. Maybe child birth is beyond that but since the pain is still fresh in my memory, mainly because I can feel it every second of the day, this one is right up there.

This session first involved another fitting. The drawing she did for this one are of lava rocks and clouds. This ended up across the bottom of my back, right where the 'beer coaster' tattoo belongs on 90% of girls out there. I was thinking, well at least it's BIGGER than a beer coaster...

Anyway, the one she did without me standing in front of her didn't work out. So she spent about 30 minutes re-drawing it while I sat comfortably playing Bejeweled on my handy PDA that I brought with me. Once she finished and positioned it, she was content, as was I...but she's the artist.

She got it placed and then I had to position myself so that she could get to that area relatively easy. That position involved sitting on a chair, with my feet on another chair, and I'm bent over with my back to her. This was actually comfortable but she clued me in to the fact that at some point, my legs will most likely fall asleep. That didn't happen, other than trying to rearrange my legs so that it was comfortable.

Today it would be the outline and filling the outline in. “Smoothing it out” is what she calls it. No problemo.

Once she starts – I wanted to cry. Painful is an understatement. Maybe I said that before, during my first tattoo session. But I was wrong. That was painful, this IS painful. I don't know how I endured it. I wanted to scream. On top of that, because it was my lower back, I had the anticipation shudder. You know, when you know something is about to touch you on the back and when it does, it sends shivers up around your back? Like your back is doing the wave? Not good, I'm sure for Kathryn, when you're drawing with a needle.

The pain is like searing, hot, burning, scratches, deep inside the skin. And then you go over it again. That's what it feels like. I felt like I was going to pass out. My face remained in a scrunched look, with me wincing and squinting every muscle in my face. Like a gas tank on empty, I found religion and prayed for the pain to go away.

And it did. Kathryn finished the outline and notified me with 'so we're finished with the outline, now I'll be smoothing it out.' Really? Can we just take a break and we'll do that in two weeks? Well, that's what I thought...I didn't say it out loud. After all, I am asking for all this.
So when she started the smoothing, I was back to feeling pretty good. The pain was not bad and actually, I was back to how it felt two weeks ago, the Zen-like feeling of the needle puncturing your skin. Okay, I wrote it like that for shock effect, but it doesn't really feel like that when it feels good. At least, not to me.

So I could relax and I was no longer responsible for doing the wave.

We had to modify one position – something that was lower on my back, which actually felt like it was my upper ass. She said, this is going to sound weird, but I need you to bend over this chair and have your ass up in the air. I wanted to tell her that I hear this all the time but I didn't feel like small talk.

That position needed only five minutes of holding (thank buddha). And then it was back to the rest. Again, feeling fine until she hit the left side of the butt and back and then it was back into REAL PAIN. But that took only about 10 minutes and we were done with that session.

During this one, though, I thought: how the hell am I going to endure the rest of this part of the tattoo? She still has to put more color and gray wash in this area. I seriously contemplated some kind of muscle relaxant. I just couldn't find my yoga breath to take this pain. I started counting, first to four, then to eight, then to five and wrapping back to four. That actually helped but my vision was of being in my car and heading home. Kind of like when I run and look forward to the end, when I am done.

Less than a day later, I'm still in pain. A mere accidental touch/scratch of it sends shock waves throughout my body – blinding pain – and I think I'm going to pass out. What some of us freaks do for fun...

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

My Favorite Album: Shout at the Devil by Mötley Crüe

I was reminded of this album when "Ten Seconds to Love" played on the radio (XM) the other day. *This* particular album was my first venture into 'metal'. So this particular album is not speed, but it is pretty heavy and by far the heaviest put out by the Crüe.

None of this would have happened for me if it were not for MTV. "Looks that Kill" came on and I was hooked, line and sinker. This would be the start of my never-ending lust for Nikki Sixx.

I was in Homestead, Florida when this album came out. A freshman at Homestead Senior High. What a hell hole that place was. Years ago, Tim and I were in Homestead (before Andrew destroyed it) and I kid you not, I could NOT find my old high school (which is in Florida City, *not* Homestead). That just goes to show how hard I've tried to block that part of my life out...

But I met and wanted to marry Mötley Crüe. I would wait up until 2AM, watching MTV and waiting and waiting and praying and praying for "Looks that Kill" to show up again. I'm pretty sure, if you can believe it, this is before the VCR era. Wow. I'm really old.

I bought the cassette tape at the Base Exchange (Air Force brat). The first thing on Side One is "In the Beginning", narrated by Vincent Price. This thing scared the shit out of me. And then once "Shout at the Devil" came on, I thought "oh shit...I am going straight to hell".

"Looks that Kill" was still a good song, but now that I had the cassette, I could fast forward to other greats, like "Too Young To Fall in Love", "Helter Skelter" (i didn't know that was a remake), and "Ten Seconds to Love".

Mainly due to my infatuation with this album and most importantly, Nikki Sixx, Mötley Crüe remained my favorite band throughout high school. This, despite the fact that no album ever lived up to this one. Too Fast For Love was another favorite, but nothing that ever came out after Shout gave me the sound that entranced me like this one. In fact, they all sucked. But I still proclaimed loyalty to them. So much so that every one of my yearbooks has an ode for me for the band.

Now, they are a memory of what was important to me as a teen. Vince Neil, well, he jumped the shark a long time ago, but manage to do it again when he had plastic surgery on national television. Mick Mars has done well to remain under the covers, or maybe I just don't keep up with him to know what's going on. And then there's Tommy Lee, who's managed to make a star of himself outside of the band.

Nikki Sixx, while I still think is hot, is your typical egotistical rocker...more a has been now. What I wouldn't have done, as a teen, to marry Nikki Sixx. Now, it would never work...primarily because I'm not a buxom 20-something-year-old -- you know, the old, has-been rocker type.

They Like Me! They Really, Really Like Me!

Well, at least one of them does.

This would be one of the fourteen girls that I hang out with two days a week. I have teamed up with two other women to coach these girls into running a 5K in December. This is my second season of coaching (see previous post "Girls Rule" and I love it.

This program is not just about helping these girls learn how to run a 5K, but it teaches them tools to deal with peer pressure, empowerment, and all those other bad things that hit girls between the ages of 8-14.

So, as one may imagine, over time, we get to know these girls pretty well. For me, this season was moving a little slower for me, as far as feeling a connection with any of them. It hit me this past week though.

Last week, I came to Girls on the Run (GOTR - the name of the program) in a really frazzled state. I was dizzy, having trouble remembering names, those darn brain zaps. I spoke of this around the girls, because I told them that I wasn't sure if I would be running the half this past weekend.

It's funny, because sometimes you don't know if they're listening. Not just to this particular story, but anything that we try to teach them.

Well, except for the time we talked about drugs, one of our most important modules we instruct. We spoke about the dangers of illegal drugs, like marijuana, as well as other things, like alcohol and cigarettes, that may be presented to them at their age...what they need to know about it and how to say no. Last season, this was one of the most talked about modules with the girls.

In fact, my oldest, CJ, who is doing GOTR at another site, jumped right into a conversation about drugs and alcohol when she went over that module. I LOVED it. I loved the opportunity to talk to her about something like this with HER initiating it.

But apparently, other parents within my group of 14 were not as thrilled. Can you believe it? Maybe you can and I'm really that liberal of a mom...but I'm not that egotistical, so I can't believe any parent, with 'children' this age, would be upset that role models (i.e. coaches) would provide them tools that would help them (hopefully) not give into these peer pressures.

One parent mentioned being bummed that the word "marijuana" was now in her daughter's vocabulary. Well, I was there when the word was brought up and she knew this word already.

Another said if we had planned to teach any sex education, that she would make sure to keep her daughter from that particular day. BTW, we're not teaching that *and* an overview of the program is provided early in the season -- so technically, none of this should be a surprise.

Anyway, I digress big time.

Back to me...

Last week, I mentioned my dizzying feelings of the day. This past week, when our training was almost over, one of the girls asked me if I was feeling better, if my dizziness was still bothering me. That one 'thing' of her asking me this blew me away. I sensed that she was a bit uncomfortable asking me, like it was a big secret and yet, she asked me in such a casual way with a lot of heart.

Mind you, I love all these girls. As I mentioned before, I think I get more out of this than they do. I hear and empathize with their emotions and their excitement. It's a great age range, right before learning how clouds really aren't puffy soft pillows and yet, reciting literature and history tidbits, as if it were 2+2 (I'm still planning to get a History for Dummies book).

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Dexter's Laboratory

This is not in reference to the fabulously genius cartoon. One of my favorites in a list that includes Spongebob Squarepants and naturally, The Simpson's.

But I would be referring to a fabulous non-cartoon show called "Dexter", which airs on Showtime.

It's now in it's second season and has made a great second season storyline for Season Two, which is pretty creative after an amazing Season One.

If you haven't seen Dexter, or have not even heard of it, the gist of the show is that Dexter is a serial killer. Not just any serial killer, but a serial killer who works as a blood expert for the Miami Police department.

And like no other serial killer, he kills the bad guys. Not because he actually has a heart -- he doesn't -- but because he is a psychopath who grew up with a father figure that knew he was a psychopath...and who instructed him to kill bad people to fulfill his serial killer ways.

The show stars Michael C. Hall, who was one of the many great characters in the stupendous HBO series, Six Feet Under. Michael C. hall showcases amazing talent, to go from a very believable gay funeral director (in Six Feet Under), to a stoic serial killer in Dexter. And BTW, if you didn't know, Michael C. Hall is a Raleigh native.

All the other folks in the series are awesome. Dexter's 'sister' (he is adopted) is a detective for the Miami Police department. She annoys the hell out of me but I like her. Just sheer great acting and writing to develop such a character that could make me dislike her solely based on her neurotic 'personality'.

Lauren Velez and David Sayas, of another amazing HBO series, Oz, are also on the show, working in the Miami Police department, as the lieutenant and a detective (respectively).

The show is sick. It is not for the faint of heart. If you could watch Oz, you may be as mucked up as I am and are able to watch Dexter with no problem. If that's so, give it a try. I'd say start now, but if you want to start from the beginning, find Season One and catch up. It's gone beyond 'getting good'.

Great UnExpectations

Thursday after the girls' gymnastics, we decided to head over to Blinco's Sports Bar, off of Glenwood Blvd.

I wasn't expecting much. We had dined there years ago, way before kids, when it was located at Quail Commons, off Falls of Neuse. I don't remember much except that there were no fried mushrooms on the menu, the one item I recall wanting when we went there. But I don't remember it being bad...but we never did go back.

A year or so ago? Blinco's moved to the empty spot off Glenwood, near the intersection of Glenwood and Duraleigh. In the back of my mind, I had thought about giving it a try. Maybe the menu was expanded, different?

So Thursday we did just that. I was skeptical because I wondered if there was a reason why I had not been back. And then there were the folks we saw walking in, which were, you know, the stereotypical Sports Bar types.

It was seat yourself, which we did. Well, the girls did and we followed. We picked up some Dinner menus and there were like, six items on there -- all big meal items: steak, fish, etc. Uh-oh. We are going to have to leave. Where are the sports bar items?

Then our waitress came by with menus and explained those were the dinner _entrees_ on the menu we were looking at. Much better. The menu, menu, had typical bar fare: nachos, wings, mozzarella sticks. And then there were burgers, sandwiches and other dishes. She explained the specials, which sounded great...and Thursday apparently is their Italian night.

I opted for the sausage, peppers and onions with tomato sauce over spaghetti. I prefer a different noodle but the waitress explained that the sausage is made in-house and that this dish was one of her favorites. Tim opted for nachos while CJ had wings and Mi-Mi had mozzarella sticks.

My meal came with a salad. Very nice presentation with actual greens and no iceburg (plus shredded carrots and red onions). Wow. A sports bar knows how to serve a real salad! "I was impressed" number 1.

We were going to have a glass of wine each. She recommended a great table wine that was a blend. Two glasses we say and she asks if we want a bottle (good waitress). We can take it home if we can't finish it. What? Are you being sneaky...? And she explains that as long as it's corked, it is legit to take it home. So we get the bottle.

"I was impressed" number 2, 3 and 4. Number 2: waitress recommends a good wine; Number 3: we can take the bottle home; Number 4: waitress is good, pleasant, and cute.

Our dishes arrive. Presentation is nice. I take a bite of sausage, tomato sauce and pasta. YOWSA! A sports bar made this? It was delightfully good. I am not a huge outside-of-my-spaghetti sauce kind of person. Actually, I only like my homemade sauce or my mom's. Everyone else makes sweet sauce and I can't stand sweet tomato sauce. Blinco's actually had a non-sweet, warm tomatoey sauce. "I was impressed" number 5.

The sausage was amazing. Very good and the thought that it was made in-house brought on "I was impressed" number 6.

I tried the nachos and a cheesestick - both were good too. Mine, though, was the best at the table. Tim ate the rest the next day.

So, give Blinco's a try. I was so not expecting anything this good. I'll have to go a few more times to decide if it's as good as our first try, since we weren't expecting much and yet, we were surprised at how great everything was.

Book Review: If You Want Me to Stay: A Novel by Michael Parker

Wow. This book was powerfully heartbreaking. It was difficult to read for two reasons: one, the writing style was narrative. Not unusual, but the narrator was a 14 year old boy who spoke in long, rambling, without punctuation, sentences. Once I got into the rhythm of the narration, I could adjust, well, to a degree. There were many times I had to re-read the sentence to be sure I understood what he was saying.

But I admired such writing. How difficult it must have been to write this but so freaking creative. I enjoyed the writing style immensely.

I enjoyed the characters. Well, there are some unsurly ones here but I won't reveal who they are. This is a must read, although, if you can read without your soul breaking apart, then, I don't know, something's wrong with your soul.

Which leads me to the second reason why it was so difficult to read. It is a sad story. Gripping, to a degree, but ultimately, it just pulled my heart strings and I ached for the characters. I didn't cry, so to describe the sadness is hard. It's not a big that makes you boo-hoo, but a story that just leaves you with lingering sadness for these people.

Extremely well written. I don't read the classics, at least not since I was forced to in high school. But this would rank up there.

Friday, November 02, 2007

My New Tattoo: Session 3

I was back in the "chair" today. It's been four weeks, since we canceled a session in between.

It was great to be back. Driving to Ninth Street feels comfortable to me now. I find this part of Durham like a 'second' home. I love Raleigh, but Durham comes up behind there. Well, I love Greenville (NC) more, but out of the Triangle...I just don't know why the hell anyone would choose Cary over Raleigh, Durham or Chapel Hill.

Anyway, even though I was five minutes late (I called and notified them I would be), Kathryn was busy with another client. This gave me time to flirt with the new cute guy.

I must've looked like Miss Corporate Woman. At least that's what I thought to myself. Slacks, pinstriped shirt, dress boots...walking comfortably into the tattoo shop. The dude I passed, smoking a cigarette, when I walked in came in after me and asked what I needed. I explained and he provided the necessary paperwork for me to fill out.

He asked "So what are you getting today?" I thought to myself, he must think I'm here for a butterfly. I told him I was here for another session with Kathryn for my dragon. He responded well with "wow, cool". But when I showed what I had so far, he was agog, which I love. I can't get enough of that reaction.

When I met with Kathryn, she said she was going to doodle on my back. She had a change in the angle of the dragon, so she hand 'doodled' it on my back with a blue sharpie. When she finished and I looked in the mirror, my back was COVERED. Now *I* was agog.

After doodling on me, she takes saran wrap and covers me then redraws the stuff on the saran wrap. These are her notes for how to build up the drawing.

Again, I didn't need to strip down to my nothings...just topless with bra. She started on my back. As soon as she began, I was in tattoo-zen-land. *This* is what I love about tattooing. The dull pain that feels good and just de-stresses every thing in me. To top it off, what the fk would be playing? Metallica -- the good stuff: Kill 'Em All, RIDE THE LIGHTNING, and of course, Master of Puppets. And Justice For All too. I'm telling you all, this was an amazing experience. Even now, I can feel the energy drained from me (and it's 11:30 PM). Serenity.

I could sense that Kathryn was also in the zone. I would ask her something every blue moon. Do I need to move? Anyone every fall asleep during a session? You know, the usual banter... Other than that, it was total silence for 1 1/2 hours.

During the last 30-45 minutes, however, the needle was alongside the side of me, by my ribs. Ouch is an understatement. More like "Oh fucking hell. This shit hurts!" I was squeezing my eyes shut in pain. My foot would jerk up out of a natural reflex from the pain. I thought I was going to pass out. Why can't the Zen come back????

Rachel came in (I didn't hear the sneaky girl) and I heard Kathryn ask her what time it was. Ten to six. One in a half hours of being in 'the zone'. Kathryn couldn't believe it either. We took a short break and she went at it for another 15 minutes and then we were done.

Wow. The work was primarily on the dragon's head. It is amazing. Incredible. Outrageous. I just keep falling in love with it with every session.