Note:

This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Book Review: each little bird that sings by Deborah Wiles

CJ and I picked this book up at the best bookstore ever, Quail Ridge Books & Music last year. Deborah Wiles came to promote her latest book, The Aurora County All-Stars and CJ picked this book for Deborah to sign.

It was CJ's first book author meeting. Her 4th grade teacher was very encouraging about having her students come out to the book signing. She loves these books, so we went and I thoroughly enjoyed Deborah's personality. It was then that I picked up a writer's journal -- something Deborah Wiles mentioned she has on her always.

I followed her blog for awhile and then she stopped posting to it at the end of 2007...mainly, a blog chronicling her book tour.

Recently, CJ has picked up on her book reading and what I mean by that is that she's reading more novels vs. little chapter books. I don't care what she reads as long as she reads for enjoyment, but to see her transform into a bigger, better book make me proud.

In fact, she recently finished Twilight in just three days. Twilight being the most BOOK, book, she's ever read. And she loved it. I have to remind her that I begged for her to read the book..an excuse for me to buy it so that eventually I could read it. I have no idea why I felt the need to push her for my benefit, but in the end, it worked out since we are all reading it. Except for Mi-Mi, who is screaming "I'm next! I'm next" after each one of us finishes the book. She could probably take it on with little help from us as she tends to read over my shoulders and does pretty darn good for a five year old.

But before Twilight, CJ finally read the book she bought at Deborah Wiles' book signing last year: each little bird that sings. She told me one day she had finished the book and I asked how it was and she said: sad. I asked if it made her cry and she nodded yes.

This is amazing to me because out of all of us Huffman's, Mi-Mi is the only one that shows her emotions. We are all pretty stoic in nature. I tend to show more emotion by crying at books, movies, commercials, etc. Mi-Mi does too, but I have no idea if it's because she's emulating me or because she really feels the tears (I'm going with the latter).

But CJ, out of all of us, is the least emotional person -- except when she gets mad. But movies do not make her cry. And when she said that this book had made her cry, I was stupefied. I had to read it.

I read it on the way back from our phenomenal trip to the mountains. It is sad in nature but light-hearted too. And at one point in the novel, the tears flooded and I pretty much cried all the way home. I stopped thirty pages short of finishing because it was just too intense...but I have to say, if you plan to read the book, give yourself a good three hours to read it non-stop because it really does build up and provide that overall "feeling" of the nature of the story.

It is a wonderful story. Sweet, sweet, sweet as can be. The characters are so heartwarmingly adorable. The story is richly fresh and pure. I don't know quite how to describe how enjoyable this book is to read -- to live in it's 259 page world was a great pleasure.

The protagonist of this beautiful novel is 10 year old Comfort Snowberger. Comfort lives with her family, who run the town of Snapfinger, Mississippi's funeral home. And death, while constant in this family business, is not a way to be sad always but to live life...and liver to serve.

We meet Comfort's family & friends: Declaration - her BFF, Dismay - Funeral Dog extraordinaire, Peach - her annoying cousin, Great-Uncle Edisto - a favorite uncle, Tidings - her big brother, and Great-Great-Aunt Florentine...among many many other wonderful people.

I don't want to tell too much of the story as I believe, the element of its spell would be broken if I breathed one word of it.

I had no idea what this book was truly before reading it and thus I became enraptured with Comfort and her story. I laughed. I got mad. I got very mad. I laughed. I hurt. And then I cried. And cried...and cried.

This year is a year for me to read multiple books by one author: Stephanie Meyers, Anita Diamant and now, Deborah Wiles...for there is no way I can not NOT read more of her books.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Book Review: The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

This is the book club pick for our December meeting. Again, not my typical book of choice: thank goodness for book club!!

It was a little difficult to stay on this book. I actually read about a chapter or two before I put it down to read Twilight. Fortunately, I read Twilight quickly that I didn't lose my sense of the book...but it was still difficult to pick back up as I wanted to read New Moon instead.

But I pushed through and started to find it pleasantly appealing during the last of the first part of the story and definitely peaked my interest during Dinah's story.

I still had to flip to the family tree to figure out who was who. There are too many sons and wives/sisters to keep up with who is who. At some points, I just say screw it and read on.

The narrator of this novel is Dinah, daughter of Leah and Jacob. For me, this means really nothing as I am ignorant of biblical stories. But apparently Jacob is a popular biblical figure and Dinah is not...or a random mention of her. Instead, Anita Diamant brings Dinah's story to life and we learn nearly every detail of her life.

Her story was extremely powerful. For the first 2/3rds of Dinah's story, there was a strong bond of womenship among her 'mothers': Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah -- all sisters and all wives of Jacob. Dinah was the only daughter of the whole family, and Leah's true daughter.

But the majority of the first of the book is the bond between these women, in the Red Tent, which is where women go during, well, that time of the month that only women can have.

We follow Dinah's mothers' introduction to Jacob and marriage. We then follow the births of all the sons and then Dinah, and then follow Dinah's youth and her bond with her mothers.

And then a violent twist that turns the story a good 180 degrees and nothing but horror and tragedy follow. It was an odd twist for me, from story so dominated by these women and Dinah's attachment to them, to basically Dinah walking away and never seeing this family again (something, sadly, I can relate to in my own life...but that's another story...and strangely, passed a dark cloud over my Thanksgiving fun that I found coincidental since I could find symbolism in Dinah's story to my own life).

The last thirds of Dinah's life passe much quickly in Diamant's story-telling than the first 2/3rds but is just as fascinating. I had thought this novel would be difficult for me to read and yet, I had no problems and was able to finish in just days.

I enjoyed it despite the bad timing: my hook on the Twilight series. A book I cannot stop thinking about and wanting desperately to read New Moon. But I didn't have to force myself to power over the words -- Diamant is an excellent writer and I noted that the best writers have me speaking thoughts in their language: Jane Eyre and Pillars of the Earth are a couple of examples of books that had me lilting to the language and intonations of the novel. This did the same and I look forward to reading her next novel on my From the Stacks challenge.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Hilltop Hideaway 2008 - Day Three and Four

Yesterday was spent entirely indoors. Well, the occasional outing for wood, by me, which is just outside the sliding glass door.

It was a pretty day. Snow of 1-4" was expected but we had intermittent dustings of it. It was pretty to see but none of it stuck around.

The wind gusts were pretty high though. The roof felt like it was going to blow righ off throughout the day. But I felt safe and secure and quite happy doing nothing but reading, surfing, doing crossword puzzles, and playing Wii with the girls. This is my kind of vacation! A great view, a small cabin, a roaring fire, and huddling down with my babies.

Today, Wednesday, we headed out to Boone to do some shopping on their main downtown drag We did this last year where I picked up some great outfits that I think I still have not worn yet.

The leather and rabbit fur jacket I picked up has been my main jacket of choice. It's fur around the collar, which probably doesn't excuse my unjust use, but it is my warmest jacket ever. There is a reason why Indians and Pilgrims used fur...not because it's beautiful but it keeps you warm...

This year our purchases -- MY purchases -- were made at one thrift shop and I bought the outfit 'off-the-rack'. A great tan dress with a tres cool green jacket, made by one of the shop worker's friend. It's not a winter dress, but with the jacket, it will work. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the way people dress out here. Mountain-like? I don't know, but it's very hippie-ish, which I feel is my calling.

CJ and Mi-Mi went crazy at downtown's Mast General Store (there's at least three locations in our area). They have an amazing candy section where you grab candy out of barrels and put them in a basket to be weighed. I had fun watching Mi-Mi just count out two pieces from nearly every bucket. I had to get some homemade buttermints and those rainbow covered chocolate mints that look like big peanut m&ms. Haven't had them yet but looking forward to it...

We had a great lunch at Our Daily Bread, a very busy deli off the downtown main drag. The servers there were beautiful: men and women. Ours was a perky blonde in nice tight jeans and tank top! I told Tim I wanted to wrap her up and take her home ;-).

The snow is pretty much gone with just a few shaded areas with a bit left. The weather is still very breezy but bright and sunny. It is the best. I love this place. If ever comes a time that I can afford to buy a second home, I would do my darnest to buy this hilltop hideaway.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Movie Review: Twilight

I *just* finished Twilight the book. I had to watch the movie after the book...had to, had to, had to. And since I have been talking about the book to my girls, they were excited to see it too. Even Tim was intrigued!

So we took a trip down to Boone and enjoyed a very light crowd at their theater.

I'll start with the negatives: the characters were a bit over-brooding than I related to in the book. There was a lot of embellishments to the movie that were not in the book. I didn't dislike it but I couldn't help critiquing it. I didn't expect it to be exactly like the book, but it sort of took a departure.

And overall -- not a negative or a positive -- it felt like it was on speed. There was a lot to the story in the book...the build up...the way we learned things about everyone...that was just sped through in the movie. But, hey, how do you cram 400+ pages into a movie?

I cringed thinking that this movie may have been too teeny-bopper for Tim. Surprisingly, we came out of the theater with him liking it a lot and thinking it was pretty cool. I had to make sure he wasn't just pulling my leg.

We then decided that we all wanted to be a vampire family. So Tim surmised that we do some googling, to figure out where we could find where vampires "hang out" and invite them to drink our blood, so that we could hang out anywhere and do anything and never age. Now doesn't sound divine?

Overall, the movie is really entertaining. The characters are not totally how I imagined them from the book, but I think they did a decent job with casting and they all did a decent job of putting this fabulous book to the big screen. But please, if you must, read the book instead/before/versus the movie.

Hilltop Hideaway 2008 - Day One and Two

Yesterday we spent the day in a nice toasty cabin. Once this puppy warms up, it is WARM.

But along with the fires burnin' in the cabin, we had some heat outdoors which melted most of the snow away. This is the meadow from yesterday's picture of the snow-covered meadow:


Oh yeah, so we went down the mountain once to hit Mast General Store, since CJ was getting a little stir crazy. It was okay for her to be a little stir crazy -- she took full advantage of the beautiful day and played outdoors for the most part.

She and Tim took Brenna down the mountain for a nice walk. They thought they saw Scooter the dog, as well as turkey tracks and wild turkeys. No, they didn't shoot one for our Thanksgiving dinner, even though it appears to be hunting ground...we passed a gentleman with a rifle when we first arrived at our cabin. He gave us a friendly, but stern, mountain-man wave.

I mentioned Mast General Store last year. The first picture in this post is straight from the store. This picture is from one of the narrow aisles of the store, which in this case, is the toy aisle:


Today we went down for a movie. After I finished Twilight and fell in love with Edward Cullen, I had to see the movie. Fortunately, my enthusiasm for the book and movie carried over to the familia, as they were very excited to see it too.

After the flick, we hit Lowes Foods for our Turkey Dinner supplies. Man, these people up here are soooooo nice. Is that the mountain people attitude? The lady at the register went into the spiel of what the Lowes Rewards card could do for us (we knew, but I gave her my ear anyway). She spoke to the girls; the bagger also spoke to us and both offered us help to take the bags out. And not in the 'we have to be nice to our customers' voice...all genuine, or very good acting.

This was the case when we previously stopped at a gas station for directions to the movie theater...well, at least according to Tim. A gas patron *and* the lady worker were both helping Tim with directions and boy, they gave very specific ones: right at the fifth light; right at the second light; left at the first light...and TA-DA!

It was about 3:30 when we headed back and decided to stop at The Ham Shoppe -- another hit from last year. I opted for another Valle Bleu, which is what I got last year. And yes, it was even better than I remembered.

And again: super nice folk. Perhaps they just enjoy touristy business and know how to treat customers. It's a rare find in Raleigh, I tell you that much...but maybe that's why that city is not on any "must vacation" list. BTW, the same old dude from last year grabbed our order this year. Nice to see him still alive. ;-)

We are now hunkered down for the evening. Uncle Phil is making us his fabulous Tex-Mex dip and we'll probably play Rock Band later this evening. It's windy and rainy outside -- perfect for hunkering down.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

I Love My Keyboard

Who knew one could be so loyal to a keyboard. Okay, maybe no one knew and no one would except ME.

I have had the same keyboard at work since I started there in October, 1996. My PCs have changed over the years (not many times, mind you) but I have been determined to keep this one.

I never really knew it was special until about three years at work, an acqaintence attempted to show me something and used my keyboard. He could not find the letters to type as he is a see-and-peck typist, not the "if-there-was-an-Olympic-competition-for-fastest-keyboard-typist-I-could-win" typist such as I.

That's when I noticed some of the lettering on the keys had worn off. My fast, hard-working fingers had worked the keyboard so much that I wore the lettering off. This is a marvel of pride for me and I am always, always tickled pink when someone comments on "where is the "e"???"

Mi-Mi had joined me at work, with CJ, a few weeks ago. I had meetings so I told her to "have at it" on my computer. When we got home, she told me that we needed to buy me a new keyboard at work because it was broke...she couldn't see the letters.

Overview of the best keyboard ever, complete with orange "#$%&" key and a picture CJ made for me many years ago:


The best keyboard I've ever had, up close:

Book Review: Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

I don't think I can add any kind of review of this book than any of the other masses of people who have read this. Well, I can by just speaking my own words, although it will probably sound like most other's review of the book.

WOW.

WOWEEE.

WOWEE WOWEE WOWEE!

My friend Kerry mentioned that this 498 page book was a quick read. Ha-ha, I thought to myself. She's a voracious (no pun intended) reader so a 498 page book to her is probably a drop in the bucket.

And now I know what she means. I finished the book in five days and while that is no record for me, the last 300+ pages were read yesterday. I had to FORCE myself to stop reading the book during the week...well, not really force, but my eyes shutting down to a snooze was stopping me from continuing.

And the entire time I read the book, sans the first two or three chapters, my tummy was full of butterflies, I had heart palpitations, and tingles up and down my arms. This is sort of the reaction I had to Jane Eyre, who also had a very strong male character...also named Edwards (I made this connection INSTANTLY).

And while this book is nowhere in the realm, IMO, of Charlotte Bronte's writing style, it did entertain me to no end and the pages flew by and the closer I got to the end, the sadder I got that the story would soon end.

Fortunately for me, I am a late bloomer to the series so I have three more to read that are ready and waiting for me. And there was a teaser at the end of Twilight -- a sneak preview to the next one, New Moon. I thought I could deal with waiting until I read the teaser and then I'm aching to get New Moon NOW.

I will summarize the story: self-concious teenaged girl falls for most-beautiful-adonis-"teen"aged boy who also falls back in love with self-concious girl. Of course, Edward is a vampire. And the girl is not. So this poses a problem.

But what is grand about this book is the building of their relationship, the development of their love. Although there was a little bit of the tumultuousness of Harlequin romance novels (I hate him, but I'm so attracted to him, but I hate him!) in the beginning, the rest of the novel rests on two teenagers falling deelpy in love with one another.

But Edward is dangerous in that he is "feral" and has animalistic instincts that could "kill" the relationship...yes, pun intended. He is overwhelmingly powerful that he must treat Bella (the teenaged girl) like a newborn baby. If he is truly himself, he would kill her instantly.

But on top of that, his animalistic senses has a strong attraction to Bella's scent and there is nothing more tempting than devouring her sweet tasting blood...something he can smell that drives him crazy...sort of like being tempted by any of your weakness for food products. For me, that would be a glass of red wine...

So there is this underlying theme of danger but with love behind it...make sense? Probably not to a majorit of the male species but for me, and I assume most women since this book is such a hit, this is the ultimate romance story. A dangerous man who calms himself because of his love for you...

And Edward does love Bella and the way he shows it is mesmerizing. Stephanie Meyer has his demeanor down perfect that I was constantly aflutter.

I know the movie is out and I certainly plan to watch it. But I'm so glad for this book and look forward to New Moon, which will have to happen after The Red Tent, my next book club choice. After forming an image of Edward in my head, I am slightly diappointed with the actor who is in the movie...even though Edward is only 17 in the book, he seemed much more older (and well,he really is, since he was born in 1901) that I really would have preferred an older actor that _looked_ a bit younger (ala 90210 world)...

CJ wants to read it next. I hope she can get into it like I did. Surprisingly, Tim said he wanted to read it next. I had been recapping the story to Mi-Mi and CJ -- loving Mi-Mi's reaction to my summaries because she would swoon, as I did. Not sure if this book will make Tim swoon but I'll be interested to hear his reaction to it.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

And We're Back!

We made it back to our cabin in the mountains. We spent last Thanksgiving here and a wonderful, memorable time. We hope to recreate that again this year.

Things looked a little different this round. Snow had hit Boone last week and although it wasn't a lot, the area was still covered in it which made for a beautiful entrance.

This is a picture of the meadow upon firt entering the area to start up the road to our mountain hideaway:


This is the road that takes us past Scooter's house...that IS Scooter's house in this picture:


And this is the road that takes us to our cabin -- the house in this picture is the last house before taking the turn at the end of this picture, which took us up to our cabin in fresh, untouched snow:


I got overly excited once I got here so I failed to take pictures of the cabin itself.

Once in the cabin, it was c---o---l---d. Our little cabin has no central AC or heat. Just a big fireplace and some heaters here and there. It took a good three hours to get this puppy warmed up: all the heaters were on, the oven, the stovetop, our jackets, socks and then some.

I had to deal with Mi-Mi's diva fit about her feet and toes being so cold. I put her in our bed, which has an electric blanket and put it on high. I sat on her feet and even laid on top of her, which caused a few giggles only to end up back in tears.

But once the house was nice and toasty, we remained toasty and comfy.

The water line was also frozen upon arriving. I had nowhere to wash my hands for my most anticipated snack: funyons. I poured the pup some water out of the fridge, which quickly froze into ice particles in the bowl...that is how cold it was in the house.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Those "Typical" Mornings

My morning today:

Mi-Mi! Time to get up!

[Eat breakfast. Fix bed. Comb hair. Get dressed. CJ takes shower. CJ gets dressed. Tim is all done and out of the house.]

Swing by Mi-Mi's room: MI-MI! It's time to get up!!

I see her smiling in her bed. She's lounging.

[Another 15 minutes go by...]

MI-MI. You need to get up.

[Another 10 or so minutes later]

< tears and crying >MOMMY! CJ pulled the covers off of me!!!!!

You need to get up.

waaaaa! but she pulled the covers off of me and I'm cold!

Well, I would have done the same thing.

[next scene]

I select a pair of pants and tell Mi-Mi: you should wear these. It's going to be cold today.

She says: i want to wear a skirt and a shirt.

I put the pants back and tell her okay.

She says "No! Jeans!" and darts for the dirty clothes pile.

She wore the jeans yesterday, which I normally could care less, but she's making it a habit to rummage through the dirty clothes to get the same jeans to wear. So I decide to make it a point and tell her "not the dirty jeans".

Tears. I DON'T WANT TO WEAR PANTS! I DON'T WANT TO WEAR PANTS! WAAAAAAAAA!

This goes on for about 10 minutes. I finally tell her: you do not have to wear pants. You can wear your skirt and shirt. Just please pick something.

BUT I WILL GET COLD!!!

Put on some tights then. You have some in your dresser.

I finally see a spark of recognition through those tears...tights...I remember those!

And CUT! We have a fully dressed five year old who will figure out a way to make Scene 3...the day has just begun.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Doctor's Diagnosis...

I had a follow-up appointment with my fabulous primary doctor.

I have seen this man for about a year and a half now. He's awesome. And he knows how much I love to run.

Today he asked me if I had run the marathon that was happening yesterday in Raleigh. I told him, as he talked over me about the traffic he encountered because of the marathon, that it was a 10K race. After he finished telling me about his observations of the people running, he said "so, what was the name of this marathon?"

So I explained that it was a 10K, to which he kind of gave me a look that signified that a 10K = marathon.

The most surprising thing was that he asked me about an Ironman. Whoa! Where did that come from?

He said it with a sparkle in his eye, along with "can anyone just do any ironman?"

I told him with the right training and preparation that yeah, anyone that puts time to train for it could do an Ironman. But I'm wondering why he skipped all the 'easy' parts: 5Ks, sprint triathlons, etc. and has asked me if a person like him could do an ironman. A person who doesn't run. At least, he's indicated to me that he's a person who is not that active.

He asked if I knew anyone that had competed in an ironman and I said I did. He got very excited and asked if he could have a name or two to contact. Of course, I gave him my coach's name :-)...since she rocks and has done an ironman and knows many, many folks who have completed ironmans.

I don't know if he will contact her but I have a feeling he will.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Old Reliable 10K Race Report

I am sooooo glad to be done with these long races. I don't know what I was thinking when I signed up for this one -- just two weeks after my half marathon, which was two weeks after my 10K in New Bern. Unlike some people I know, I'm not a well seasoned oft-run-races person...at least not with these lengths and with my recent 'push-myself-further-than-before'.

The weather was perfect for the run. Tim was running it too and his plan was to run together for a mile or two. Haha, I thought. His goal pace was a good 30+ seconds faster than my coach's goal for me, which wasn't my goal for myself. My goal was to beat my Old Reliable PR, set in 2004 at 58:18.

My warm-up went well. But once the race started (a good 20 minutes after it was intended to start due to moving the timing mats...?), I could feel that my legs were not keeping up with Tim, who was going about an 8:30 pace. I made sure he knew I was fine and kept a brisk pace.

There is nothing bad that went with my run today. It all actually went very, very well. My legs were not in pain, although they were heavy and sluggish. The weather was perfect and I enjoyed the run other than I didn't feel like pushing myself too hard. Just running it was 'hard' enough.

So mentally, I wasn't in game mode. But I enjoyed being able to say hello to the volunteers and having a couple of very cute, young guys talk to me :-). I think I was nice back.

I did notice that NOT being in the front of the pack allows you to run with the talkers, especially those who are the "running experts". Full of running knowledge of the do's and don'ts...but here they are, running alongside me, in the back of the pack...hmmmmm....

Tim did well, which I was very happy about. I enjoyed seeing him at the finish, waiting for me with a big hug. It was all worth it for that...and not sitting on the couch on this beautiful day.

Oh, I forgot: my watch results had me run 55:xx (I don't have my watch on me as I write this) which was close to three minutes faster than my results here in 2004. So despite not wanting to run this race, I did make my goal.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Book Review: The Curse of the Campfire Weenies and Other Warped and Creepy Tales by David Lubar

This book was recommended by my 10 year old. I don't ever turn down a recommendation from her.

This was a very cute book comprised of short stories. The stories are similar to plots out of The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock only _nicer_.

One spoiler example: Predators was about a young boy who surfed the net. His mother warned him of talking to 'predators' on-line. He was sure he knew how to tell the difference.

He befriends an on-line friend that is clear to the reader could be a risky "friend". Although the boy does not tell him where he lives, he does give information about points of interest that reveal to the "friend" where he lives. The "friend" takes advantage of it and asks to meet him in real life. The boy agrees. And when they meet...the "friend" tells him "i am not really 12 years old..." and the reader now knows, the "friend" is really a predator. But the little boy turns to the predator and says "i am...12 centuries!" and turns into a vampire and attacks the predator. Loved it!

But the coolest part was having conversations about the stories with CJ. Every morning she would come in to see where I was in the book and we would talk about what I read and what my favorite part was.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Catching Up On Them Beds...

I have a couple of mattress sightings from a reader (thank you Kerry!) that I am finally making the time to post.

And for those of you who find this ODD, well, it is. That's why I post them. But has it made you see more mattresses out on the road? This is not my original thought. It was my husband who had to point out the oddity of seeing mattress "drive" by our car more often than one would think. I mean seriously, how often do YOU buy a mattress? But you'd think, as often as we have noticed mattresses being self-delivered, that it would be common to buy one every other year.

But I have since noticed that there are much more odd pictures being posted out there...course, one can always check flickr but there are those who send tweets with just a pictorial of their day, like taking pictures of their lunches...so I'm not doing anything like that...YET :-)...but for now, I appreciate the fine art of finding mattresses on cars, or in the case below, on the side of the road...

This one is pretty funny. I have seen mattresses on the side of the road, like dumped, and have been meaning to capture those too. Kerry got this at the end of October:


And this one she caught this past weekend at the I85/I40 split, heading south:

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Stack 'Em Up!

I have an odd habit.

I love to books. I love to buy books. And I love to go to the library and get books.

And what usually happens is that I buy LOTS of books but end up wanting to read other books that usually, I end up getting from the library.

So, after completing the RIP Challenge, I stumbled upon another challenge that will help me break my odd habit: From the Stacks Challenge.

The rules of the challenge is: read five books that have already been purchased and sitting around waiting to be read (hence "stacks"). So no buying new books to read, and in my case, no checking anything out at the library either, but picking five of them and reading them...starting today (well, after I read the one I'm reading now) until January 30th, 2009.

My five picks:
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
The Last Days of Dogtown by Anita Diamant
The Devil's Bones by Jefferson Bass
The Bloodling by Joseph Wambaugh
Each Little Bird That Sings by Deborah Wiles

8-12-08 Note: I decided, after seeing my daughter reading the Deborah Wiles book, to replace The Bloodling with it. This was a book we picked up when Deborah Wiles came to QRB last year and she was amazing. I followed her blog for a bit until she pretty much said TTFN (ta ta for now). It's a book I had forgotten and since The Devil's Bones and The Bloodling are somewhat similar in genre (one is fiction), I have read Wambaugh before and know that I will pick that one up even after this challenge is over...


Ambitious for me but with the holidays coming up, I think I can do it.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Hey Bubba, Here I Go Again

I signed up for my highly anticipated Coach Bubba 20K. It'll be on February 21st. I have ran this one for two years now and despite the fact that I end up hating the boring end to this race, there is something really great about this race.

Maybe because it's a smaller race. I noticed that registration is limited to 800.

Maybe because the beginning is really nice -- running through Forest Hills, which is a nice, hilly, older neighborhood in Durham (next year, I am finding Michael Peterson's house...that is, if it's on the route).

Maybe because the local support is awesome. Lots of people show up to run and cheer us on.

And maybe because it is just fun. It is a challenge -- the distance being a hair shorter than a half marathon. The hilly start becomes a flat finish. But I always enjoy it and I'll be looking forward to running it next year with a few of my buddies...again.

Perhaps next year, I won't be left behind. :-)

Book Review: Firefly Rain by Richard Dansky

I wanted to get one more spooky book in before the end of October, or at the very least, start one before the end of the month and finish it close to it. This is the one I chose, which was on my list for the RIP Challenge.

This was a great pick as Richard Dansky is also an NC native: Morrisville, which is within the Triangle area that I live in. Do I have to repeat how much I like to support local? Yes, I do :-).

Firefly Rain starts off a little depressing for me. Too close to my own life, the main character leaves home and really, turns his back to his mom and dad with rare visits. I liken it to the little birds that learn to fly on their own and leave the nest (and that includes me). I can't say that this was a good or bad thing, but it certainly wasn't what I expected...to start a ghost story reflecting on my own issues I have with my own family.

Although the depressing parts eventually went away, unfortunately for me, the book did not improve.

Sure, there were ghosts but eventually, it becomes a very Rosemary's Baby kind of story...without Rosemary or the devil baby.

Dansky is a very wordy writer, writing sentences upon sentences of things about washing dishes, or putting them away, or walking into town. There just wasn't any reason to go on and on about the mundane things.

There wasn't anything too scary about this for me. Nothing stopped my heart, even when things happened. The build up was too much build with not enough up. I did not feel any connection to the main character, Logan (other than the beginning) and if anything, he started to get annoying to me.

I wanted to enjoy this. I really did. This book was part of my "support local", as Dansky is from Morrisville, NC. But there are some local folks that I just can't get into: Margaret Maron and Celia Rivenbark.

It's been awhile since I've had two good books in a row, on top of being able to read a book that really spooked me. Some parts of Duma Key gave me a scare and The Harrowing gave me a good scare. I am beginning to think I need to pick up some of my old haunts by Stephen King to see if I have the ability to get scared by books anymore! Salem's Lot perhaps...unless anyone out there has a good recommendation for a good scare...

For now, I am going to read a book recommended by my 10 year old, who said it's definitely my type with mystery and lots of twists and turns. :-)

Friday, November 07, 2008

This Is Why I Am A School Parent Snob

I am not a social person when it comes to my children's school functions/events. But I do like to support my girls' ventures and do my part *for them*. So I signed on to be a chaperone for a field trip to the NC Museum of Natural Sciences.

This was for CJ's class and so far, CJ is not totally embarrassed by me so she was pretty happy about me joining her on the field trip. A note that this is the THIRD time I have chaperoned field trips for her throughout the years.

Overall, the field trip went very well. I had five students that I "ruled" over ;-) and they were awesome. They stayed together and made sure I was within view of their eyeballs, as they ran fast ahead of me.

But before the field trip, I had to meet-and-mingle with the other chaperones...only two other parents volunteered...both mothers like yours truly.

They both seemed nice enough. As we left the school to head out to the museum, they offered me to ride along with them. I turned them down...my usual social self :-).

I asked if they knew if this was the museum with The Dead Sea Scrolls. And one of them said it was. I mentioned how I was hoping to see it and the reply was that it was pretty pricey. And why did she need to pay to see what she has at home? Uh-oh. A biblical reference. I am soooo glad I'm going solo over there...

So I get to the museum and see the two ladies. I join them, as they wait outside the museum for the buses to arrive. As I approach, I hear one woman tell the other woman about "Nehemiah". Well, I don't have to be a bible-thumper to know that this has to be a biblical reference. And it continued under the context of 'administration' of their life at home and with the church, like 'nehemiah'.

The conversation between the women continued along the same lines: how does she get one of her daughters to follow god's will? And prayer?

How she attends relationship seminars at her church with her husband.

How both of them were able to discover their will through prayer and it took awhile, but perhaps, the daughter will follow suit?

This went on and on. I spaced myself away from them, but was close enough to feel very uncomfortable. I could see peripherally that they would glance at me, but I gave them ZERO attention. I just stood there, sticking out like a sore thumb...actually hoping they would NOT address me and my religious views. Talk about being more uncomfortable.

They never did and in the end, religion did not become a part of any of our conversations throughout the day. We exchanged smiles, grins, raised eyebrows, etc. as though we were all on the same plane.

They were nice people. But this is exactly why I don't like to hang out with other people that I don't know, especially parents...

Thursday, November 06, 2008

My Spine Doctor

I heard some terrible news today about a teenaged boy who may have accidentally killed himself.

The morbid side of me wanted to read his obituary. But I can't do that without reading other people's obits. As I have mentioned before, I tend to read obituaries of the unknown (to me).

As I passed through many obituaries, I found this one on Dr. Stephen Montgomery: http://www.legacy.com/newsobserver/Obituaries.asp?Page=LifeStory&PersonID=119797268

Dr. Montgomery was one of several doctors I saw in late 2006.

On August 12th, 2006, I was hit with something that made me nauseous, dizziness, and chills. So awful were the symptoms at the onset that I could not stand and I had to rush back home from where I was (at the library). I hoped to make it the two mile ride home without passing out.

I made it. I ran up to my room as I overheard my girls tell Tim that "mommy doesn't feel good". I fell asleep and when I awoke, I had the most excruciatingly painful headache I have every experienced *and* my neck hurt like hell.

This pain, along with a 'vertigo' like feeling, haunted me for several months. I've mentioned this in several posts. This mysterious illness had me thinking that I was 1) going to die or 2) have a chronic condition where I would never be "normal" again.

I am so grateful that I have overcome whatever happened to me two years ago. And no matter how great I feel, any head or neck ache, dizziness, *anything* remotely close to the symptoms I experienced for three months in 2006, makes me concerned that whatever I had has come back.

I saw many doctors and had many tests, include two MRIs. One with ink; one without. I was diagnosed with Lyme's Disease, migraines, and/or severe degeneration of the c-spine. In fact, I was told that my neck bones appeared to be those of an 80 year old woman who was in a car accident.

Dr. Montgomery was one of the many specialists I saw in 2006 who tried to figure my puzzle out. He was a confident surgeon who took a look at my c-spine x-rays and explained that my neck appeared to look like any other 'average jane'. This would later be questioned by the Neurologist I would see soon after.

But Dr. Montgomery was an confident-but-a-whim-of-arrogance that Tim and I needed. This man was a spine surgeon and nothing that I was afflicted with was 'worthy' of his expertise.

This is my interpretation of my meeting with him. And it's not meant to be negative. We needed to hear from someone who wasn't just agreeing to 'just' anything. We needed to hear someone say, with confidence, that I wasn't suffering from something...instead of hearing 'it could be this' or 'it could be that'. He was one of the only doctors who would proclaim 'you are not my problem...you need to see another doctor'.

And I did.

And although the subsequent doctor couldn't pinpoint my illness, he was as confident as Dr. Montgomery, albeit a bit more 'tender' to my dilemma.

But without Dr. Montgomery, I don't think I could have figured out who or what I needed to do next.

Runner 'accidentally' runs 26.2 miles instead of 13.1

I am not sure how this happens because I am extremely and verily aware of my miles when I run...but it did...

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I Was Out Jogging And Then A Fox Crossed My Path...

I am sure you have read this by now but if you haven't, this one is pretty good. What would I do, you ask? I would have somehow managed to kill myself, or the fox, reacting with pure panic.

read more | digg story

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A Personal Message From Obama

Yes, we are on a first name basis. :-) And I thought I'd share my special e-mail I received from President-Elect Obama. He sent this message *just to me*:

Barack Obama to me
show details 12:56 AM (19 hours ago)

Cindy --

I'm about to head to Grant Park to talk to everyone gathered there, but I wanted to write to you first.

We just made history.

And I don't want you to forget how we did it.

You made history every single day during this campaign -- every day you knocked on doors, made a donation, or talked to your family, friends, and neighbors about why you believe it's time for change.

I want to thank all of you who gave your time, talent, and passion to this campaign.

We have a lot of work to do to get our country back on track, and I'll be in touch soon about what comes next.

But I want to be very clear about one thing...

All of this happened because of you.

Thank you,

Barack


And I hope you don't forget how Barack wrote to me and me alone, on his special night...the night history took place and became the 44th elected President of the United States.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The End of Political Campaigns...

Including mine :-). I'm quite happy not to have to post those seething anti-palin rants. I won't miss her but wish her family well.

I'm duly surprised that America has taken a chance with Obama. The irony for me is based on my cynicism of the American people. After all, we clearly voted for dubya four years ago.

My prediction early on was that Hilary and Obama had NO CHANCE. We were not ready for a woman president...or an African American president. And how wrong I was...we were >>this close<< to a woman president and now, we do have an African American president.

A sound victory, IMO, that the years of motivating the young and the apathetic could never do...which was to get them out to vote...and not just vote, but CARE TO VOTE. I find this monumental and I find that a lot of it had little to do with John McCain, but a lot to do with dubya and Obama.

My children, I think, will not realize the magnitude of this election...and I am glad about it. They are witnessing a woman running for the presidential nomination and then, one running for vice-president. And along with that, Obama running too and getting elected. This, I hope, is how they will see how the world is supposed to work and will carry this legacy with them into their lives.

I know it'll be near impossible to eliminate prejudices that my kids will soon learn about, but at least for them right now, they don't see color, gender and hopefully, sexual orientation, as anything to fear. And for the most part, is just part of the 'way of normal life'.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Kids Say The Darndest Things VII

On the drive over to a dinner date with Mi-Mi's best gal pals from pre-school, she said "Mommy, I love your tummy. It picked me to be your daughter."

And Now A Word From Molly...

I have found a "new" podcast that has made it to my "must" playlist.

Molly Wood is one of the hosts of Buzz Out Loud, which is AWESOME AWESOME AWESOME, to say the least. It's for the geeks out there that want to hear about the latest and greatest in technology, including new phones (Google's Android is discussed often), Netbooks (way cheaper than a Mac), and those great websites where you can see everything on one page...or NOT.

I also follow her tweets (I am a Twitter-Facebook-Podcast-Blogging addict that wants no cure) and saw a warning that she had posted a very opinionated political blog post. Hmmmm...what controversy could she stir up for me?

Actually, I was just looking to see who she was planning to support and what she had to say about it. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to read an awesome post criticizing the support of Proposition 8 -- which is on California's ballot to end same-sex marriage. I couldn't have written this any better, or as detailed, as Molly, but my passion is right on the money with hers.

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The Aftermath

So I had a great race yesterday and I don't know if the aftermath is a sign of how great it was.

PAIN. I am in a great deal of pain. Walking is difficult and taking stairs is even worse. I walk as though I am bow-legged at a pace that the slowest turtle could beat me.

My hips are what are killing me the worse. Legs are tight but the hips are paining me. I slept horribly last night as I could not get comfortable. And at one point, my left leg was killing me so badly because every move I tried to make, I had shots of killer pain come through me. So it took a good ten or so minutes to move that leg just so I could turn over to a different side to sleep!

No other race I have done has me end up with this much pain. It's as if I ran the frickin' marathon!

And then on top of that, my stuffiness is worse. I woke up in a sneeze-a-thon and my head is just reeling from the congestion. Let's hope it's the dreaded 'the-morning-is-the-worse-part' and it'll get better as the day progresses...

Sunday, November 02, 2008

City of Oaks Half Marathon Race Report

This race was my 'big' race of the year. I ran several throughout the year, but this is the one that I was striving for. I did a long race in February - Coach Bubba's 20k - so this was a good way to have another long race to end the year. Well, it's not really the end of my racing days, as I have a 10K this month and I am running a 5K with CJ next month...but those are fun runs. This one is *serious*. :-)

I was definitely well rested as I attempted to hold off an approaching cold. Well-rested also meant no running, or any other workout, since Wednesday. I tried to forget about the lack of activity and focus on the fact that I have been training for this for months and I had a lot of miles under my belt and that a few days off before race day was not going to hurt me.

I didn't have a restful sleep due to my excitement of race day. I got up around 4:45AM and got myself ready. Tim and the girls were up and we were out of the house at 6AM.

Traffic was pretty busy around the race. I convinced Tim to drop me off and not worry about seeing me start. The start is the easiest part, I told him. It's being able to cross the finish line that'll be tough...

It was a chilly morning: 45 degrees, I think. But I listened to my coach and wore shorts. If you run with me, you are probably gasping because, well, I don't wear shorts when it gets below...um...58 degrees.

But Tim agreed that a little bit of dealing with the cold was better than bulking up and getting hot. Boy, I was glad I listened because I was happy to have shorts while running. I had a long sleeve shirt over a tank and around mile 8.5, the long sleeve came off...so adrenaline and the rise in temperature on a beautiful sunny day had me feeling a bit on the warm side.

I warmed up but only for about six minutes. I saw some running buddies: Ed, Ying, Cynthia, Auleen and Candace. And then we were ready to race!

I forgot to factor in the crowd. It took a good two minutes or so to reach the starting line. And for the first two miles or so, I was still bunched up with the crowd. I did what I know I shouldn't have, which is run sideways to get around people. I figured out soon enough that I was just going to stop the sideways and run behind someone until I made them make room for me to pass :-).

I felt great for the first four miles. The first mile was a 9:23 pace, which was way out of range for what I wanted. The second mile I hit 8:50 and I felt fine about that. Coach B mentioned not going under 8:50. It felt good too so I felt like I was finding my groove. Until I got to mile three and I had an 8:37 pace. Whoops. I need to keep myself in check because I have ten more of these (plus a .1) to go.

Mile four had me at a 9:08 pace. I wanted to keep closer to 9:00, to break two hours and then some. Mile five was an 8:45 pace and I was approaching Peace Street from Glenwood. This was fine as $Bill and I ran this course a few weeks ago. I was really thankful for running this beforehand as I knew where all the hills and turns were.

Mile six had me feeling my legs...and my thumbs were up...I thought this was a little too soon for me to start feeling tiredness in my legs...I wasn't even halfway there yet! My pace was a slow 9:37. I feel really, really thirsty and my legs are still running on low. The water stop is just after six (or is it before? I can't remember now) but I grabbed some and went to a slower pace. This was one of the first bad parts of my race.

Reaching mile seven is on Hillsborough Street and at this point, it's dead straight for what seems an eternity. It was here that some guy with heavy feet came by me and it's at this point that I don't want to be bothered by people talking, heaving, panting, or running alongside the sounds of an elephant.

I try to distance myself a bit and he was still there. I would slow the pace down a hair to let him go off, but he would slow down. I didn't have much to pick up the pace to lose him so I gave up and decided that I needed him as much as he needed me. So I found a rhythm with his elephant feet and kept pace with him for about a mile. I think from the outside, it would have looked like we were running buddies...that's how close we were to each other. And the best part, besides the 9:13 pace that he kept me doing, even though I didn't want to run that pace? The best part was we said not one word to each other. We had a kinship that needed no words.

The water stop was here and I grabbed one, lost my elephant-feet-guy but saw him a few feet ahead. I even ran to catch up with him (I do not like strangers, so this is an unusual move for me...but you must see how desperate I was at this point). We ran a bit more together until I decided that I didn't want to keep that pace and that is when I said to him "have a good race" and slowed down.

Mile eight approaches the turn-around for the half marathoners...and the full marathoners head into the direction of Umstead. Even though I am dropping my pace, I am so thankful that I was not going straight. Good for them, those 26.2 milers, but damn, this was already a tough course and it's only going to get more tough for them. I thought of Frank and wished him well...

Mile eight pace was 9:13. Not sure how that happened because it's this part of the race that is the second worst part for me. It's at this point that I say to myself: this is my race, no one else's. I have to run for me. In other words: accept that I will not make the time my coach and I discussed. Just get through this. I know that I will break my 2:08 PR.

Mile nine is a 9:29 pace. I dug deep and tried to find a way to tune out everything and just finish this thing. I look straight down to the ground and tune everything to the left, right, and in front of me out. My mantra is now "1...2...3...4...1...2...3..." over and over. This goes with the rhythm of my feet.

At mile ten, I see Coach B and she's excitedly screaming for me to GO GO GO. I needed that and dug deep, stuck with my pattern and decided not to look at my splits anymore.

But I saved them so I can at least relay them: mile 10 is a 9:19 pace. This seems an eternity on Hillsborough Street. I notice that I pass Cynthia and the elephant-feet-guy. I hear him try to pace with me, I think, but I'm feeling 'in the zone' and keeping a strong pace. Mile 11 is 8:45.

It's during mile 11, running on Pullen Road, that I hear some very well-intentioned volunteers yell "you have only a mile and a half left!" Course, when I'm ready to be done, this sounds like forever so it didn't make me feel good to hear that I STILL have a long ways to go. The worst part was running a good few hundred yards and hearing volunteers say the same thing "you just have a mile and a half to go!" I wanted to yell "that's what they said back there!" And then I was trying to figure out if the first people were lying to me and it's at THIS point that I have a mile and a half to go. In retrospect, who cares? But at the time, I cared very much.

Mile 12 is a 9:01 pace and its UP. I'm tired of the UPS. It's either before or after mile 12 that I peek at my time and I'm at 1:49:49. Oh,if I can keep pace I can break two! But I'm going UP and I am just not feeling it anymore. I want to make it but I'm tired and ready to be done. A girl in pink that I've seen throughout the race is talking to herself, trying to cheer herself on. She says something to me, complaining to me, about 'this is no way to end!' and I give her a curt 'yup'.

We are back to where we started. The finish is close...just not close enough. I slow down. I know I have. I am almost there and I can't get my legs to pick up the pace. One guy says 'to the light and it's downhill from there'. He lied. It's to the light, then slightly up (not to the naked eye but to the runner's eye) and then there's a TURN, THEN IT'S DOWNHILL FROM THERE. See, I take everything literal...

And it certainly is down but I don't feel the rush or the adrenaline to push my pace up. I'm just letting gravity take it's course and looking for the finish. Mile 13 ends up being a 9:24 pace, so you can see how tired I was because that's a slow pace for going DOWN.

I pass no one going to the finish and quite a few sprint pass me to their finish. I see the clock and it says 2:02. I hear someone yell my name and I can't tell if it's Brennan or someone else. I don't know if I crossed at 2:02 but my watch had me at 2:00:26.

And while I am extremely happy with that time because the course was a tough one on my legs, I will be thinking about that last mile and wondering why I couldn't just push myself a LITTLE BIT MORE to break those :26 seconds...:27 seconds, to be exact.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

It's Lonely At The Top

The top being the "top" of my street.

I live in an older neighborhood. And when I say older, I mean, the people who started here are still here so it's more like a retirement community.

And I guess when you get to that age, you just don't bother with the younger generation anymore and don't 'celebrate' Halloween. Thus, my end of the street is filled with dark homes: lights out. No trick-or-treaters wanted here.

But that makes it difficult for our house because we LOVE Halloween. We decorate with as much scary stuff as we can. No happy pumpkins here:


And here's another shot with my presidential endorsement. Only scary if you are a McCain fan:


At night, this gets animated and illuminated. And we have scary sounds too.

One sidenote story: when we lived in our previous house, we had our shit set up so scary that one of the neighbors wouldn't come down because her daughter was too scared. I gave her a wave and said maybe next time! Have a good Halloween! She didn't get candy from me...chicken!

So this year, it was Tim's turn to take the girls out trick-or-treating and me to pass out candy. He had a great set up for me in the garage (our porch is missing). Candles, the scary tunes, and the fog machine. I did my best to dress up goth -- not a real costume but enough to make me warm and still somewhat in the Halloween spirit.

So off the children go and I wait for my victims.

And I wait.

And I wait.

And I notice that, my entire portion of this side of our street was dark. The house to the right of me had their porch light on, but NO ONE ELSE around us. So if one were to look down from either side of the street, it would appear that no one was available for Halloween.

I did my part and endured only EIGHT groups of visitors for treats. One of them even took a picture of our decorations. :-) I was satisfied that at least our visitors enjoyed a ghoulish treat for their candy but damn, we gots to get these retirees out of here or pump them up with some adrenaline...

No matter. We already have plans to make our house more "un-inviting" next year. Maybe word-of-mouth will get more deadly visits...bwaaaa-ha-ha-ha-ha!!!