Note:

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

Monday, November 28, 2011

Another Writing Exercise

I ran across this one via my goodreads email, alerting me that one of the authors I follow had posted a blog post. The author has a writing exercise, named Story Weekend, which requires a story to be written about a subject matter she proposes.In this case, Most Memorable Shopping Trip. The story had to be true and less than 100 words. While writing a true story was more up my alley, writing it in 100 words or less was not.

Oh. And no foul language. That was not good as I was going to make that my "signature" move.

I managed to pull it off. I do this a lot when I tweet, cutting back my words and substituting acronyms or symbols for words to condense my tweet into 140 characters or less. In this case, however, it didn't seem appropriate to use acronyms or symbols.

This is the story I posted:
My daughters and I were at a local mall. I allowed my 12-year-old to go browse alone; my 8-year-old stuck with me. I decided to eat at The Cheesecake Factory. I anticipated a long wait. Instead, we were seated instantly. However, I was missing my tween. I left my 8-year-old at the table to search for her. Once found, she was excited. “I got you something!” Instead, I greeted her with exasperation. We walked back to the restaurant in silence. Later, she showed me the mug she bought for me. I will always remember how ashamed I felt that day.
This happened a few years ago. I had the brilliant idea of surprising CJ with a lunch break at The Cheesecake Factory. After MiMi and I window shopped, I decided it would be a good idea to get into "line" for the big wait for a table. But luck (or bad luck) was on my side and we ended up getting a table right away.

CJ was shopping solo so I had been texting CJ about where she was, how we were heading over to the restaurant, then a text about being seated. No answers.

I was getting annoyed. My number one rule is that she needs to make sure that she responds to my texts so I know where she is always. So after annoyance, and more waiting at a much-loved table at The Cheesecake Factory, I started getting scared.  Was she kidnapped?

So I was freaked. I told MiMi that I was going to see if I could see her from the restaurant entrance, that faces into the mall. I didn't want to leave MiMi all alone but I wasn't going to be long. I walked out, angry and nervous, searching for CJ.

I found her. She was walking towards me. Her face lit up when she saw me. She was excited. She lifter a bag and said "I got you something!" Instead, I was pissed. "I have been texting you!!! Where have you been???? We've been waiting for you at the restaurant!!!"

We walked back in complete silence.

We had a very awkward meal. But I can cool off quickly and I could tell CJ was feeling bad. I asked her what she got and she showed me all of the things she had purchased. Then she handed me the bag that she had excitedly shown me earlier. I opened it up and found a mug. A mug she read at the store and thought of me. It was the sweetest thing I had ever received from her and I felt instant shame.

In fact, I still feel shame when I grab that mug for my coffee. And that's OK. It reminds me of how awful I was. I had made that moment stressful by going to the restaurant, then getting a table, without CJ. It wasn't her fault (we later discovered her phone had inadvertently shut off).

Fast forward to now. When we hit the malls now, I make sure she knows where I am and she does the same. Constantly. Like every store. Or every moment ("I'm in the checkout line!"). A memorable event of a different sort.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Different Type of Exercise

One of my goals that I made for 2011 was to take a creative writing class. I wanted to have that down by November, so I could participate in National Novel Writing Month. That obviously did not work out for me for 2011, so I'll try again in 2012.


I did look for classes. I was really looking for something, perhaps through the city programs, or some kind of evening course through the community college system. But I couldn't find anything.


Really. I. Did. Not. Find. One. Class.


These may be word of mouth things that are part of  smaller writing clubs, so hopefully, those of you reading this and live in the Raleigh area, may know of something that I can look into next year.


But even if there were something available, I doubt that I could have made the time. But it's nice to think it could have happened.


I recently started "Stumble Upon"ing stuff. Holy cow. That site (well, the app on the iPad/iPhone) is friggin' (a word I heard my trouble teen say in a sentence the other day...wow. Wasn't that a shock to my ears.) incredible. I am addicted.


One of my interests I added was "writing". 


You know how those types of sites list out different things you would be interested in? But actually don't optimize to them? Well, surprise surprise. This one did and one of the things I stumbled upon was this site's Creativity Boost #3: Dictionary Excursion.


Essentially, the point is to find six words in your trusty old dictionary, following their directions. I used the one I had most of my life (I love words, hence, I love dictionaries). My dad brought me my old dictionary to me last year. Isn't it beautiful?

And a note about books vs. cloud-ware: while I love my Merriam Webster dictionary app, this book holds sentiment. The pages are folded from the pages I leafed through as a kid. I wrote this in the cover, when I first got it.


Some things just can't be saved into the cloud and bring so much emotion and memory to a person.  In 50 years, no one will remember the words I looked up in my dictionary app, but this book will still be around (hopefully), with my handwriting, and my own trail of words that I looked on when I was young.






Back to the exercise: The last word is randomly chosen by you (or me, depending on how you want to read this). My words were:
acidify





as though
 
beneficence





chambray




Cambrian (Which I just realized that I don't even have in my story! I suck. It was in the original...oh well. Novice error.)






and ciré.






The challenge, besides writing a story with an obscure subject (for me) in 250 words or less, was putting the first three words in the opening paragraph. Once I did that, I couldn't figure out a better way to use them in a different sentence.


Of course, I about peed in my pants, I was so happy about challenging myself to this creativity exercise. And, OF COURSE, I haven't written anything but these blog posts (and documentation, emails, announcements, complaints, etc.) for the past X many years. Nothing relating to fiction.


To say the LEAST, I am rusty. I attempted this exercise in three forms written, and one form in my head. I bagged the initial story and re-purposed some of it - mainly the first paragraph (which is the hardest to form, based on this exercise), and created the final product. I was not happy with it as it's not what I had intended when I was excited about the exercise.


So I decided that I wouldn't give it a big reveal. The site actually wants writers to post their final story in the comments. Oh no way was I going to do that! I wasn't going to embarrass myself. This would be something that I could look back on and go "hey, it was the beginning of getting back into my creative mind...it's OK". Even though I would laugh at my "old" self's poor writing style.


But then I decided not to be a chicken shit and post it. I made up a whole new user name, so that I could be disguised. Then I posted it. And then I spent the rest of the evening, flushing in embarrassment and regret.


But now that morning has come and gone, I'm a bit over it. It's not great. But it's also not easy to fit the words I had into a story 250 words or less. And that was the challenge. I did it. Good or bad. I came up with a story, using these mainly obscure words, in a matter of an hour. And as a logophile, I learned some new, cool words. I also learned a lot about Cambrian names, as I originally decided to use a Welsh name in this...but I couldn't pull it all together and I just became a bit anal-retentive about it.


It's amazing how glued one gets to a name. I started with Nessa but the idea came to use a Welsh name. So I found a name that I misspelled: Annwyn. I found that to be too unrealistic but decided to shorten it to Wyn and then explain that Annwyn was the Welsh name for "beloved". It isn't. And it was Annwyl. And by the time I discovered this, I was set on Wyn. And that is why the first story was bagged, as the whole point was "in name only" (my subject being "nominal"). So, I hate the title. It should be "In Name Only".


One thing I would like to add, most of all, is that I was inspired by my crew at QRB Teen Writing Club. I know ElfArmyWrites would especially love this type of exercise, so I decided to 'come out of the closet' for her, for Danny, for Emily, and the rest of those wondrous creatures that never cease to amaze me...besides my daughters.


So here's what I came up with:
Sisters in Name Only
“Don’t you look lovely today?” Only Wyn could acidify a compliment as though I would believe her. Wyn: the epitome of beneficence.
I was in my favorite chambray button down with a pair of jeans. I loved how I looked up until I met up with Wyn. Wyn was in a white chiffon blouse that clung to her like ‘drapings’ on a Greek goddess. She wore a pair of black cire pants. All together, she looked like a fashionable business woman.
“Why thank you Wyn. As usual, you are overdressed.” We were going to the fucking movies. Who else would see her in the dark?
“Dress to impress! That’s what I always say. You never know who you might meet and first impressions mean everything.”  “To you” I thought to myself.
“I’d rather be comfortable, thank-you-very-much. And besides, who the fuck am I going to meet at a theater?”
“No one that’s going to be impressed, that’s for sure.”
“Whatever.” I noticed Wyn rolling her eyes at that. God she annoys me. How did we even come from the same womb? I swear, one of us was switched at birth and ended up in the wrong family.
And yet, I oblige my sister and accompany her to the movies.
And what do you know? She actually meets someone that’s impressed with her. Some dimwit beefcake that was in the popcorn line, leaving me to sit alone, at this stupid ass movie that I didn’t even want to see.
Bitch.









Friday, November 25, 2011

Gobble! Gobble! Gobble!

We had a very enjoyable Thanksgiving this year. It was just us: me, Tim, the girls, the twins, Brenna and the cat.

With all the running around that Tim and I do every day, it was nice not to have to run anywhere. This year, I didn't even run the Turkey Trot. CJ was quite happy about not having to do that this year.

I did have to run out and get ingredients for stuffing. Somehow "we" missed getting those ingredients for Turkey Day. But thank god for commercialism: Food Lion was open.

CJ was busy in the kitchen after lunch, preparing our dessert: Mississippi Mud Pie. She claims that she made one of these before; I just didn't remember. But she is an amazing baker and cook. She takes after Tim and my mom and pretty much puts things together on her own. She can watch someone put together a recipe and make it (like in Home Ec at school), then come home and recreate it without a *written recipe*. Wow.  The part she does take after me is if it doesn't come out visually like she likes it, it's ruined. Well, I used to be like that when I was a young and up-and-coming cook but now, I'm like 'fuck it'.  Kids can do that to a person...

MiMi was not happy about seeing the turkey in the fridge. At one point, she exclaimed "how could you have this right in front of my face?" To which I thought: does she want to eat turkey this year? Are we going to let her throw her vegetarianism away NOW? But I realized, it had nothing to do with wanting the turkey; it was her fury of seeing a dead animal in the fridge.  She said to us, at one point during the day "I want tofurkey next year."

During dinner, MiMi wanted to talk about what we are thankful for. She even wrote it up, which was so adorable. It reminded me of ME as my dad would tell me that I wrote up thanksgiving prayers to read before we ate. Isn't that so sweet and ironic of me?

Anyway, she threw it away and I found it...so it's a little dirty to say the least, but you can see what she wrote out: Family, Pets, Food, Shelter, Candy, Bed, Cookies, Soda, Clothes, TV, computer, stuffed animals, and toys. Ending with "Told at the Thanksgiving Table". :)

We went around a said things we were thankful for. In my list, I thanked George R. R. Martin for writing such fabulous books. I saw CJ roll her eyes. She's really not into him becoming her next dad...

CJ had been searching earlier in the week for Planes, Trains and Automobiles (PTA) to watch. She found Home for the Holidays, one of me and Tim's all-time favorite holiday movie. It was endearing to know that she was looking for it to watch as a family, as I thought she just tolerated watching this. We watched PTA last year and she remembered that as well, which also made me quite tickled that she wanted this to be a tradition.

Unfortunately, it was nowhere on U-verse. Not even on the On Demand movies to pay for. It wasn't on Netflix either. But fortunately, Tim's Xbox came to the rescue and the movie was available there. At one point before the movie, CJ said "Um. It's rated R...?" I was like 'yeah. that's weird.' And then as we approached one of the most hilarious scenes ever in the universe, I realized why it was rated R.





The evening ended early. We were all pretty tired; some more than others. Those are MiMi's feet hanging off the end of the couch. Her head is right next to Ricky, under the blanket.

And while I thoroughly enjoyed our thanksgiving here, I truly hope that next year, we'll make time to go back to our hilltop hideaway in the mountains.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Why Didn't Anyone Tell Me?

Earlier this week, $Bill sent Tim and I this email:
Do either of these plans appeal to you for Saturday?1.       Meet at Royal Bean and do the Art museum path2.       Meet at Crabtree and run the trails – I did a 4.5 mile loop this morning, it was really nice.
Tim said it was up to me, to which I replied:
I like either too. Crabtree would be best for me since I haven’t been running regularly and flat and slow would be preferred…
$Bill's reply:
Ok so 8AM at old reedy creek and black creek. We can do the 4.5 mile loop I did this morning. I’ll probably get there early and do 2-3 before you guys show up. I wouldn’t say it’s flat, but I’m sure it will be slow 
Ah. I read Crabtree as meeting at the mall and taking the "trails" that shoot out from the mall. It was an odd suggestion from $Bill, since the week before, we ran Shelley Lake, taking one of the paths that head out to the mall...

So I thought I had it all figured out. But apparently, I was still dinging out since I woke up this morning thinking that we would be meeting $Bill back at Shelley. Fortunately, I got ready earlier than usual and figured out that we were driving into Cary instead...just be feeling Tim's annoyance of me not being ready to go right away.

We make it just in time and I am trying to figure out how far I want to go. I start walking up the hill to start the firetruck trail when Tim and Bill go the opposite way. Oh. We are running _Black Creek_ trails. Hmm. I don't remember that being in the email...

I tell them that I am planning to go my own pace and that they could go their own way. Tim laughed and said something about keeping up with them or I'd get lost. Huh? Why would I get lost on Black Creek?

Then they both turned onto the TRAIL trails...the bike trails...the single-track, roots-and-leaves abound trails.

OHHHHHHHH! You meant THESE trails! I was totally clueless about where the hell we were running.  And then at some point, I asked how long "we" were planning to run. Apparently, and as you can see above, he already told us the entire plan...and I just never put it all together in my head.

But quite honestly, what a great run. There's nothing better than running. I miss it. I haven't been doing a lot of it. A nice looooonnng break. This may end up being the first year in a long time that I have not run, nor trained, for any race.

And while I'm not ecstatic about that, I am actually OK with it. I don't know if I'm ready to get back into the race game yet, but I am glad to get back out and do something.

There's something to be said to get up and go out for a four mile run (last week)...with only superficial running stints through the week (mainly, running with the girls during Girls on the Run).

And there's something to be smug about getting up and running in 28 degrees. The weather screenshot is from my iPhone just as Tim and I headed out to meet Bill for the run. And to top it off, I couldn't find my favorite fleece jacket to wear, that is more a security blanket for me with the cold vs. actually keeping me warm (but it does).

We warmed up fairly quickly so the cold didn't bother me. The run through Umstead woods was wonderful. This was only my second time doing this particular trail and I never did the more than a couple of miles. We passed by a couple of deer, I think one stag and two uni-cyclists. Man, I wish I had my phone so that I could take a picture of that for this post.

It certainly was far from flat...and Bill reminded me that it was slow. But it didn't feel slow. And Tim passed the test for actually caring about my well-being since I almost stumbled and he had immediately stopped (he was ahead of me) and turned around to help me. I didn't fall. I said I was fine. And I said that it was a Wow moment, to see him actually care about me.  To which he replied: I just didn't want you falling on me.

Here's the route. It's not quite as spectacular as the Apple logo the guy from Tokyo did, but I think I'll start posting these from now on.

 And our elevation:

When Kids Text

I love texting.

I am a much better communicator that way. I am not fond of phone calls, much to the dismay of my family...especially my mom. :)

I understand. But it doesn't change the fact that this is my favorite way to communicate. And my favorite texts come from my kids...especially MiMi.

Here is the recent exchange.

The first one, dated November 18th, was a random tweet she sent me. She does that. I didn't see it until much later. I couldn't delete it. I just like to look at it several times a day.

Then today, I texted both of the girls to ask them if they were awake. That's where her "I am" starts and the rest, short but sweet, makes me smile and laugh...and makes my heart glow.


An Apple A Day...

There are some of us who are just so passionate *and* creative.

No, I am not talking about myself. But I can be, or so I'd like to think so.

But I read this article that @Minervity tweeted and I loved it.

At least for me, I love seeing the route I made during my run. It's just some weird fascination to see what kind of 'lines' you made when you run. This guy took it even further and made a route as a dedication to Steve Jobs. It's fitting, IMO: a geeky, techy thing to do, running...being healthy, a passion for Apple and Steve Jobs.
The article can be seen here: http://www.bitrebels.com/geek/apple-logo-created-with-gps-as-tribute-to-steve-jobs/.

Superfluous

This word and I first met way back in the days that I was a contractor at IBM.

I was up in a third floor lab, with my co-workers. I had entered a bug report the day before. What it was about, I don't remember anymore but I do know it was a big deal with me and my cohorts. At least to me it was. And then I made it known to the rest of my peers.

The next day, the bug had a reply from the developer. I still remember the scene: me telling everyone I got a reply, about 3-4 of my pals circling around me as I read out loud the response.

I was reading it very carefully, then started getting excitedly annoyed, so my voice was louder, my reading faster. And as I just went through the script, animatedly I stopped at the developer's use of the word "superfluous".

"What the hell does that mean?"

It was an interruption to my annoyance.

"How do you even pronounce that word?!?"

"SuperFLEWus?" Was one response.

"SuPERfuhlus" was another.

There was no help. And then me and superfluous became fast friends...it becoming one of my favorite all-time words that I didn't know how to pronounce.

Back before online audio-dictionaries, I would look the word up and see this:
soo-pur-floo-uhs
or
su̇-ˈpər-flü-əs (Seriously? How does one interpret that for pronunciation?)

It was a word I wanted to put on my license plate...but I prefer to keep my word spelled out as close to its natural occurrence as possible, and in NC, we have up to eight characters we can use for our personalized plates. S-1 U-2 P-3 E-4 R-5 F-6 L-7 U-8 O-9 U-10 S-11. Not going to fit.


The word came back up the other day, with two of my co-workers. I said "superFLEWus".  My friend responded with "You mean suPER-fluh-us?" 


Yeah. That was it. A reminder that I still had no idea how to pronounce my favorite word.


But now I do.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Random Act of Kindness

I made a new friend today. And I don’t even know her name. And I met her in a way that can only happen to me. We shared the same quest for Chicken Noodle Soup in the lunch line at work.

The soup was being prepared. A small group of us waited with baded breath for it to be delivered. At the same time, an education ‘fair’ was taking place across the way. I was waiting by the to-go soup bowls when a woman came up and said ‘I might as well get my cup ready’ and selected her bowl of intent. “I should do the same” I reply.

“I love their chicken noodle soup” she says to me, to which I agree. And then we chat. She tells me how she was roaming through the education fair. I asked if it was worth going to (which is a ridiculous question since it was in my building, on my floor. It takes 30 seconds to walk to it and maybe 15 minutes to circle around without talking to anyone). She said she got some neat stuff and proceeded to show me the contents of her bag: some free pens, a free cool-doo-hickey thing that I was like “Oh I need to grab one of those! I hope they don’t run out while I wait for the soup…but I’d rather not miss out on the soup than leave my place in line to grab that!” She laughed; we laughed.

She then left me and I found a co-worker and we chatted a bit. I started seeing more of my soup line compadres leave in my peripheral…and then the soup came out and I ran to it (I was a foot away) while chatting with my co-worker. I wasn’t going to mniss out on my soup.

And then suddenly, the woman appears again. She says “I grabbed you one of those thingies and pen. I didn’t want you to miss out on it.”





I don’t know how I can relay how momentous a moment that was for me. I didn’t know this lady. We bonded over soup. She heard me get excited, in the 10 minutes of our conversation, about one thing. And she remembered. And she left the soup line to go get one…just for me. Sure, it’s a silly thing but seriously, for someone to do that for no other reason than just to do it? It is special to me.

And that’s how inanimate objects become so sacred. And little moments like this: those unexpected, odd, random acts of kindness.

I learn from these type of people.  The guard gate at one of the entrances to my work waves avidly to everyone that comes through in the morning. We all know who she is. They all wave but she is enthusiastic and has the biggest, kindest smile you could ever hope to see every day. It was, and still is, one of the best parts of my day is getting that greeting. So what do I do? It doesn’t matter what entrance I come in on, I roll my window down (rain or shine), turn my radio down, and give a big wave out my window with a loud “Good morning!” or a “Have a good one!” I don’t know if it makes _their_ day, the way she makes mine, but it doesn’t matter. I know how she made me feel and I strive to do the same for anyone else.

And now I have another role model to follow.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Normal

As I have posted before, I have weird issues where my hand goes numb. I have chronic neck pain that I think causes the TIA-like symptoms I get, including the numbing of right hand.

Along with that, I also have the left shoulder pain which actually prevents me from sleeping on my left side. WTF is wrong? I have no clue but the bicep area tends to feel bruised...constantly. So it's not just the shoulder.

Last week, after a fun hour or so of wallyball, I was feeling sore. The usual. But I noticed that my right shoulder seemed to come up with a throbbing pain. I coached Girls on the Run, got home, and had to turn around and head to teen writing club. Man, I wasn't feeling great before heading for that one. The pain was excruciating but I couldn't let those writers down and I wanted to be there for them.

And I managed to pull through without 'feeling' the pain, as I was more enrapt with the topics of conversations and the readings of their stories. But I had to head back and cut the evening shorter than usual...and when I got home? Arrrrggghhh!

I was in so much pain that I felt like crying. But I didn't. I just sat in agony...shifting as much as possible to try to get comfortable. Nothing worked. I took some pain medicine...nada. At the peak of this pain throb, the toes on my right foot would quiver. I knew something bad was going on...

Tim managed to find an old prescription for a muscle relaxant that I had, so I took a couple of those before nighty-night time. It didn't help me while I was awake, trying to get to sleep so I would stop feeling the pain...begging for sleep so I could sleep through it.

I woke up the next morning: no more pain. Still tender but I was much better. I took two more muscle relaxants and the rest of the day became a bit of a blur.

My new doc recommended a nerve study...so I was set up to have an EMG done...which I had today. Basically, the doctor sticks a needle in different places along my hand, arm and then neck, and analyzes whether I have anything abnormal. My hope that a pinched nerve would be discovered to explain my mysterious hand-numbing spells.

Alas, this would not be the case. My left arm is 'normal'. My right shows signs of mild carpal tunnel syndrome. And my neck? Nothing. His recommendation was to treat my pain...I'm sure through PT and pain medicine. I am OK with that but sadly, I would have liked to have had a diagnosis.

It's sad when people suffer pain stemming from "something" and it can't be diagnosed. I mean: I certainly don't want to have some sort of disease or illness...truly, I do not. But when NOTHING can be determined to be a cause to the pain effect, it's frustrating because I can't stop doing whatever aggravates it, or I can't do something to help it, or find a specific doctor to take care of it. I am just in pain limbo.

When my neck is greatly agitated, say looking up a lot (like painting ceilings or walls in my house), I turn into a mess: I fell nauseous, my head and neck feel so fragile that I think it's going to break off, I get a headache and just an overall yucky feeling all over. IT SUCKS.

But I've been living with it for years and my only hope is that one doctor, or two, will come along and come up with the right mix of drugs, PT, surgery, whatever, to help me cope with this mentally and physically.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin

Book four is done. And now the road to the end is in sight: only one book left to read. To say I'm sad about that is not an exaggeration: I would rather read all of them and stay in this world until it ends. But alas, I must wait for my man George to put the pen to the page, the page to the press and the press to the book...

***SPOILERS  SPOILERS  SPOILERS***
A Storm of Swords was one of the most amazing books I have ever read. It was chock full of action and suspense and major major surprises (the Red Wedding, the 'birth' of Stoneheart, Joffrey's death) so I could not WAIT to find out what the hell happened...

...and wait I must do.

This particular novel, while it touched on the world after all that happened in A Storm of Swords, it is told from a slew of brand new characters. Well, not all new characters. We still see through the eyes of Sansa, Arya, Brienne, Jaime and Cersei, but we also meet people from the Iron Islands: Asha and Victarion Greyjoy, brother and sister to Theon -- who was the ward of Eddard Stark and 'killed" Bran and Rickon (he didn't really). The Greyjoys are fighting to rule the Iron Islands...

We also hear from characters in Dorne, where Oberyn Martell, the Red Viper, is from, and where Princess Myrcella (Cersei's daughter) is being held.

So there is much chaos in Westeros, despite the fact that there is a King: King Tommen who, at 8 years of age, took over the throne after his older brother Joffrey was poisoned at his own wedding. King Tommen has married Joffrey's widow, Margaery, who is 16.

Of course, Tommen is not really ruling...his evil, conniving, slutty mother Cersei has made herself Queen Regent. But secretly, she is ruling as though she were the Queen. She feels that she makes a hell of a Queen but she has greed and ill-intent in everything she does and wants. She is just like the evil queen in Snow White except we can read the craziness that goes on in her head. She appoints a weak council to do her bidding. She puts papers in front of Tommen to sign without really explaining anything to him and thankfully, at the very end, this ploy of hers turns and works against her. It is one of the sweetest moments in this novel that reprieves me from the excitement of A Storm of Swords.

Brienne of Tarth has made a promise to Jaime (and Lady Catelyn, when she was alive) to find and save Sansa Stark. Sansa has escaped from the wedding-that-killed-Joffrey and is in hiding. Who helps her? Petyr Baelish - a low-born man who grew up with Catelyn and her loony sister, Lysa. He has an undying love for Catelyn but also, a vendetta to become a successful Lord, despite his low-birth. Throughout the series, Petyr is very sultry with the young Sansa and is actually the plotter behind the death of Joffrey and then saving Sansa from the uproar. For now, Petyr has Sansa disguised as his bastard daughter Alayna, as he continues to figure out how he can take the Eyrie, the castle in the Vale.

We read a lot about Brienne's travels. She goes all over Westeros on little clues of finding Sansa. She stumbles upon the story of The Hound and a Stark daughter seen together...and figures out that it wasn't Sansa but Arya, who almost all have believed to have died.  Brienne is an amazing character and one that I fell in love with. She reminds me of Eddard Stark in her loyalty and doing what is right. She's also a tortured soul as she is not pretty, she's big like a man but yet, she is still a woman and women knights are not really around nor _wanted_ during these years.

She appears to be hanged towards the end of the book...after being almost beaten to death by Rorge, an old foe from the previous novels. She is captured and brought to Stoneheart, who happens to be the dead-brought-back-to-life-but-still-dead Lady Catelyn. Stoneheart calls her an oathbreaker and believes she aligned herself with the Lannisters (Jaime, specifically) and hangs her and her companions. I don't think she's dead because she yells out something...and while we don't know what that is, I think it's "Arya" since she is now the only person that knows Arya is alive.

Jaime Lannister, as evil as I believed him to be, has also struggled with doing good vs. following the evils that his Lannister family has brought to Westeros: Cersei being the douche that she is, his father Lord Tywin bringing on the Red Wedding, and then his brother the Imp for killing their father. But he truly respects Brienne and gives her a sword, Oathkeeper, made of valyrian steel -- the creme de la creme of any metal to be forged into a sword -- to find Sansa Start and keep her safe. We also learn how Jaime loves Cersei, more than any brother should love his sister, but also realizes how fucking looney his sister really is...and how much ass she's been giving to the entire male population...

Arya has left Westeros and traveled across the great sea to Braavos. There, she resides at a temple where people go to commit suicide and throws out all her material things to learn and follow the ways of this temple. She is told to live amongst the people of Braavos, so she can learn the language and their ways. She is to stay in Braavos until she learns three new things, to which she comes back and reveals the three new things...then she goes back out again. She is no longer Arya but Cat of the Canals, where she sells shellfish for a fisherman.

She has a chance encounter with Sam Tarly, who is on his way to the Citadel to study to become a maester. He mentions Lord Snow of the Wall but either she didn't understand that Lord Snow was in fact her brother, Jon Snow, or she didn't care to have Sam know who she was. I can't believe it was the latter.

We don't know what is going on at the Wall, where Bran and his companions are...other than we know they are alive and well and Samwell Tarly knows that they are OK and near / or at the Wall.

Tyrion is MIA in this entire novel. All know that he has killed his father but he is nowhere to be found. Many think he and Sansa are together but there is zero clues (that I picked up on) about his whereabouts in this novel.

We also have no Daenerys in this one. We left A Storm of Swords with her settling into a city to make it her own before she heads to the Iron Throne to claim her stake. Samwell is the only person that knows that she is what the prophecy fortells: that she is the rightful ruler. Well, he tells some folks at the Citadel but we know nothing about Daenrys' life in this book. She is still considered a myth: a queen with her dragons.

The very last chapter of the novel is titled "Meanwhile, Back on the Wall" and it ends up actually being a 'letter' of sorts from Martin, explaining that he had written so many people into this novel that he had to put a stop somewhere...and this is what A Feast for Crows became. I assume A Dance with Dragons will have the characters that I have  missed and some questions will be answered (and more will be formed).

The only problem with his letter? Which I loved so much, BTW...such a personal note for fans of his books...it was endearing. But he writes:
Tyrion, Jon, Dany, Stannis and Melisandre, Davos Seaworth, and all the rest of the characters you love or love to hate will be along next year (I devoutly hope) in A Dance with Dragons...
Read "next year". He signed this letter in 2005. A Dance with Dragons came up this past summer...five years later. I can't wait that long for book six!!  I simply can't!!! And then i have to wait how many more years for book seven???

I have to believe that he is finished...and just hasn't put all the pieces together for finalization. Yup. That's what I'll go with...

Sunday, November 13, 2011

I am introducing a new type of post. Well, not exactly a new type but a new category for posts. A clip from The Daily Show. It may come weekly, or perhaps daily (I doubt it; I can't seem to get my daily blog posts in) but there will be a recurring theme of posting my favorite clips from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

The show is smart and hilarious. I watch it, when I wake up early enough (which isn't early, BTW), while I get ready for work in the AM. And there are clips that are just worth watching over and over again, as well as sharing with my limited viewership. 

This one is more on the poignant side. I thought about posting the Rick Perry bit but the show ended with this and I thought it would be apropos to emphasize this fucked up mess than Rick Perry's third agency he couldn't remember, so that we don't forget that there are other powers that take advantage of the system...and it's not just politicians.

Good riddance. Just a little too late...but better late than never.

What an Oxymoron

A gay republican. Or a black republican. Or better yet, Herman Cain. Seriously. WTF is that guy thinking? That he actually has a chance to clinch the republican nomination for president? OMG. It is stupefying to me. I don't think I will ever understand why any gay or minority would be a republican. That's like the boat washer trying to get into the Yacht Club, or a skinhead trying to join the black panthers, or...well, you get my drift. They may ACT like you are accepted. BUT YOU'RE NOT.

Whatever, whatever. The republicans can HAVE HIM. Before the sex scandal, he was a douche bag anyway. How do these people get any power? And continue to exploit it? It just makes me realize more and more how derogatory our political atmosphere has become. There are no true saints - yes, I know. Politician <> do-gooder. I am not that naive but come on, do we really have to accept that? It's fucking INSANE the shit that goes on right in front of our face and we do nothing.

I saw this clip awhile ago but I have to share it. It's just obnoxious and while his skin color is not white, the words coming out of his mouth is stereotypical.

A New Ball Game

We have entered a new year of club volleyball.

Last month were tryouts. We decided that NC Elite, the club that CJ played for last season, would be the only place we would have her tryout at. Last year, we tried out at two places: NC Elite and that other one with the too-crazy-for-me van parked in its parking lot. We were fortunate enough that CJ made it on to NC Elite and we had a great season with a wonderful coach and wonderful teammates.

This year's tryouts went a little differently. CJ was trying out for the 14s teams and there are four of them, in order of most competitive to competitive: Black, Cardinal, White and Silver. I, I mean, *we*, wanted to make the White team. This one had a couple of out-of-state tournaments that CJ was excited about going to. But overall, we just wanted to make a team. There seemed to be a lot of girls trying out this year and even though there would be four teams (vs. only the two 13s teams last year), that meant only 40 girls would make a team.

The problem with a parent watching their child tryout? We only see the bad.

Well, that's not entirely true. 

We see the good and we sigh with relief. Yes! That's the way to do it!

And then the one fuck-up you do see and it's like "ARRRGGGH! WTF is she doing?! She knows better!"

And my stomach ends up in knots and then again, all i see are the mistakes. Of course, when I see CJ, I'm like "great job!" But because I live vicariously through her with volleyball, I want her to excel. But what I want and what she's capable of are not quite in sync.

Volleyball tryouts span two days. On the last day, nothing happens. No offers, nothing. Last year, they had pulled CJ aside and made their offer. This year, we would have to wait for a phone call.

It didn't take long. That afternoon at home, CJ got the phone call. I had her answer...I was making dinner...soooo excited. Her face was lit up. I hear a male voice on the other side and CJ looks at me, puzzled, and says out loud "Silver". awwww...I think. She wanted white; *we* wanted white. She looks at me again and asks "what do I say?" And I know she doesn't want to say yes because she wants to be on white. But it's the same club and I know, if the offer is for silver that they are not going to turn around and make another offer for the white team. So I tell her "say yes!" and she walks away and does that.

But she is not happy. And when Tim shows up, I tell him while CJ curls up on the couch and cries.

And this is when I enter the five phases of grief, in a matter of minutes. I am cooking dinner at this time, while CJ mourns her loss in the living room.

I walk from the kitchen, to the living room, usually with a knife or something in my hand:

[Acceptance] It will be fine. At least you made a team! Remember, some girls won't even make it on a team. 

Walk back into the kitchen, chop up something, walk back into living room:

[Anger] Screw them! they don't know what they are missing! you will be the best damn volleyball player on the silver team and then they will WISH they put you on the white team!

Walk back, chop, think, come back:
[Bargaining] Maybe we should consider another team? I can look at that wacko place that we went to last year and you could try out there?

[Denial?] Maybe they'll call back and offer you a white slot? Some of the girls are trying out in multiple places so if they don't fill all the white spots, maybe you'll get a call?

Depression was just how we felt. And so silly as she fricking MADE IT ON A TEAM!

Regardless, acceptance took place...especially after Tim told me to leave it alone and stay in the kitchen and cook dinner.

This was Sunday, October 23rd. 

On Tuesday the 25th, I had a voicemail message from the coach for the white team. She said exactly what I mentioned in one of my many rants on Sunday: a spot opened up and CJ was their first choice to fill the slot for their white team. Would she be interested in joining them?

Ha! I called that coach right back and left her a message of acceptance...before I said anything to Tim or CJ. How pageant-mom is that? 

I, of course, let Tim know and waited, impatiently, for CJ to get home so I could give her the great news. When she finally texted me that she was home, I asked her to call me...and I gave her the news. Her voice was ecstatic, she was excited and happy. So was I! And I was like "See! Didn't I tell you this could happen????" expecting her to give some words of gratitude, or anything....but instead, I got silence. "Hello? Are you OK?" and she says to me "Do you have to ruin the moment?" That's my girl.

So the new season of volleyball is beginning. They have already practice a few times but the practices begin this week, which means Tim and I will be playing man-to-man combat: Tim takes CJ to volleyball while MiMi and I finish out our Girls on the Run gig, which happen to both take place on the same days.

Our first tournament will be in January and unfortunately, will take place while we are in the Philippines. But there will be many more and I am looking forward to having my tummy be tied up in knots...again...and again.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin

This book is really book two of the Song of Ice and Fire series. But I didn't blog about it right away and once I finished book three, I wanted to blog about that one first since it was fresh in my memory. I just hope I can relay this book as best as I can, trying to keep the third one from blending into this one.

This was my true endeavor into the world of Westeros. Game of Thrones was basically a book that followed the tv series...well, the other way around, of course :). But for me, I watched the series then read the book. I pretty much knew what was going to happen but, even better, I got to know the characters from the inside, something a tv series could never do.  But with A Clash of Kings, I was entering new territory. I would not know what was going to happen.

And it was great. We have the same cast of characters, minus the dead one (RIP Eddard Stark). We are introduced to two new POVs: Davos Seaworth, AKA the Onion Knight and Theon Greyjoy, who was Eddard Stark's ward.

While Davos is new to the reader, Theon was introduced in GoT. He was reared with Bran, Robb, and the rest of the Starks, including Jon Snow...despite the fact that he was actually a young boy taken hostage. He was treated as one of the Starks and even fought alongside Robb during two battles. But no matter how one can be treated fairly, greed of power and respect still get to the heart of many a man...and Theon was one of them.

He decides he wants Winterfell and storms it and takes over. Bran, Rickon, Hodor, and two unique children of a trusted comrade, Jojen and Meera, manage to escape Winterfell. Theon, however, has two peasant boys killed, beheads them, tars the heads and mounts them on the walls of Winterfell and claims they are Bran and Rickon. News makes it to Robb, Sansa, and Catelyn. Eventually, Theon is captured by yet another crazy MFer and we hear nothing from him again...

Tyrion Lannister is heavily focused in this novel. He is great. Smart, with a bit of a heart but not enough that he won't kill if necessary. He is sent to King's Landing to be the temporary Hand of the King until his father, Tywin, is done with commanding the battles and can return to take the role himself.

And Tyrion gets to work and is able to make allies with other kingdoms by marrying off Cersei's children: Joffrey is now set to wed someone else, so in that sense, Tyrion has saved Sansa from Joffrey's brutality. The other children are also promised off, much to Cersei's dismay.

Stannis Baratheon, the late King Baratheon's brother, stakes claim to the throne. He works with a witchy woman, Melisandre, who worships a different god than most of the people of Westeros. There is definitely a magic and supernatural feel to this woman and her ways...in fact, Renly Baratheon, Stannis' younger brother, who also wanted to lay claim to the King-ship, is slain before a big battle between the two houses. A mysterious shadow comes in, as he is dressing for battle, and kills him with two people in the room.

So basically, all of Westeros is in a state of chaos.

And now for some great quotes...the first is between Tyrion and Varys, the Spider. Tyrion has just made Baywater the Commander of the City Watch and has thrown the horrible Janos Slynt under the bus and is sending him to the Wall. After Slynt is escorted away by Baywater, Varys congratulates Tyrion on the episode...they drink wine...Dornish wine...and Tyrion responds to Varys with his wicked wry sense of humor:
Varys filled a cup. "Ah. Sweet as summer." He took another sip. "I hear the grapes singing on my tongue."
"I wondered what that noise was. Tell the grapes to keep still, my heard is about to split..."
Another humorous quote, this one from Dolorous Edd, a man of the Night Watch. He and Jon Snow, and others, are sent to rummage through houses in an abandoned village. After their commander, Old Bear, says he wishes 'old bones could talk' as they looked a skulls beneath a weirwood:
"And who's to say the bones wouldn't lie? Why should death make a man truthful, or even clever? The dead are likely dull fellows, full of tedious complaints -- the ground's too cold, my gravestone should be larger, why does _he_ get more worms than I do..."
And one more from Tyrion, as he approaches the Maester Pycelle, an older man who has served the king for 80 years. A spread of food is set out and he pontificates to Tyrion:
"In these sad times, when so many hunger, I think it only fitting to keep my table spare.
'Commendable,' Tyrion admitted..."I take a different view. If there is food, I eat it, in case there is none on the morrow."

Saturday, November 05, 2011

My Mantra Experience

Tim and I thought we were going to have a date night when we had both girls slated to have sleepovers with their respective BFFs. A change of plans for MiMi had her with us for the evening, so we decided to eat out to help ease the pain of the changed plans. Our choice? Well, it was based on restaurant.com's big $3 buy for a coupon. A new place in downtown Raleigh: Mantra.

As you may know, MiMi is a vegetarian. Sometime earlier in the year, we introduced her to Indian cuisine, which she loved. So we decided to try this place out...because I, too, LOVE Indian food.

I attempted to make reservations, since their website had a spot (to opentable) to make a reservation. Well, that didn't work. But I thought: who in Raleigh would go to a upscale Indian place anyway?

Well, apparently, enough to make the hostess ask us if we had reservations...and when I said no, she made a very cute pouty face. I did mention that I tried but their website was not linking up with opentable...and I don't know if that did the trick, but she made an effort to find us a table for three.

Do I need to mention how absolutely cute, in a very sexy way, the hostess was? ArooooArooooArooo (emulate "Just Jess", aka Zooey Deschanel in New Girl checking out hot guys).

Well, it wouldn't have been very pretty if she had told me we could NOT be seated. But we were and we were lucky and not-biblically-but-aesthetically-blessed with another beaut, our waitress.

I started off with a Pomegranate Somras, which was so alcohol-filled that I was instantly tipsy before the first sip. Let me just say: they don't skimp on the booze and they make a mean drink. I was quite happy with the bartender...

We ordered pulao, daal mantra, garlic naan and a crab wrap. The food took a bit - not too long of a bit - but when it came, it was divine. Every bit and morsel was so delicious. MiMi enjoyed the pulao immensely, while I worked on the crab wrap, which was extremely spicy for an 8 year old who doesn't like spicy food (it was her choice on the menu).

The food was excellent, our waitress was 100%, the hostess was cute but definitely, her and the male white dude up at the front with her were a bit on the uppity side (at least she was hot; if he gave me any shit, there would have been a different review)...but the price is most definitely the "downtown Raleigh dining" price range. Regardless, MiMi seemed to enjoy it and I am happy to have her enjoy such ethnic food.

I would go back for the food but not the price...but maybe the pomegranate martini.

Mantra Indian Cuisine & Bar
116 N. West Street
Raleigh