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

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier

I actually finished this one several books ago but never got around to writing my review. Here it goes.

***Spoiler Alert***

This one really had a lot of promise. It's all how you end it that can make or break it and this one just lost it in the end. So terribly sad because it really had me going for awhile. I couldn't stop thinking about it, which is why I need to write this post.

First: there's a world of the almost dead. Not like zombies or anything but a 'middle' world, as in you die but you go to this other world and you live there until every single person in this world that has any memory of you dies. Then you're gone and whether you go to heaven or yet another world, well, no one knows.

And the middle world is just like this world. You can go to work, you can eat, you can hang out with your dead relatives. Although you may not know when you'll just disappear forever, you can estimate how long you'll have in the middle world, which will pretty damn long if you think about all the associations you could have in one lifetime.

In the middle world, there is no way to know what's going on in the real world. News only comes from those who are recent arrivals.

Second: there's life in the real world. We meet Laura Byrd, who is alone in a research station in Antartica, decides to go out on her own for help.

But we, the reader, soon find that it may be that Laura Byrd is the only life left in the real world. The middle world, or the City, first fills up with people who have been killed by a deadly virus called The Blinks, because of what it does to people's eyes. Eventually, we figure out that the virus was possibly an act of biological terror and planted in water supply that was used to manufacture coca cola (how did he get away with that?). So it hit everywhere, quickly. With no cure.

The book alternated chapters: first would be The City then the chapter with Laura. I was really into the chapters with Laura. I loved Laura. She was clueless to what was happening in the world around her and was just fighting to survive. Back in The City, the 'survivors' that were left all eventually figured out their only link was Laura...and that she was the only person left alive in the world.

I really didn't want that ending. I was hoping for a pocket of other people somewhere in the world that were alive. How they'd be able to save Laura, I had no idea. She was in fucking Antartica. I hoped that maybe she had a cure, or would figure out the cause of the virus (she worked for coca-cola and was there doing research on the ice for potential water supply for manufacturing). But her journey was to see if her fellow researchers were alive at a distant station (they weren't), then going to another station to call out for help (which was destroyed). This was the end of the hope for Laura, who had no way of transporting herself back to the fully stocked research station from the destroyed communications place.

And it ended with some weird sci-fi Laura as a light, walking through a desert or something, I don't know. It was just weird and didn't fit into the storyline. I hated the ending.

But up until that, it scared the shit out of me. And I found a new heroine in Laura. And then Kevin just blew it up and made it into something else. I mean, I _assume_ she died and so did everyone else in The City and we all (humans) became extinct. Really, I love a good indie, unusual, ending but this? Bleh.

Catching Up On DNFers

After a promising run of really fun reads, I had a string of books that I could not finish...WOULD not finish. They just sucked.  Here's a recap of those Did Not Finish novels.

***Spoiler Alert***

So Cold the River by Michael Koryta
I made it to page 241 of this 528 tome. I never really got into it and I'm not sure why I felt the need to keep forging on but I did. Bad timing too because I had no book for two days since the library was closed Thursday and Friday.

Basically, there's a guy, Eric, who apparently has psychic abilities. He used to be a cinematographer in Hollywood but got canned because he speaks his mind (cheesy) so instead, he puts family videos together, or shoots weddings, back in his hometown. At a family gathering where one of his videos is shown, he impresses a family member with a picture he put in, because his psychic ability managed to put in a meaningful picture that only that family member knew about. So she hires Eric to put together a video of her dying father-in-law for her husband. She pays him *a lot* of money and sends him off to the father-in-law's hometown, to gather memories of said FIL for the video.

There's water involved - mineral water in a bottle that FIL has kept for many years. The hometown is known for having this magic water that was sold as a cure-for-all back in the day, when elixirs like that were being touted. This bottle, however, is cold. Like abnormally cold. So daughter-in-law loans it to Eric to research while he's in FIL's hometown.

The bottle gets colder and colder and for some weird, unexplained reason, that becomes more and more prevalent in the book (unexplained reasons for doing things), Eric opens the frozen bottle and DRINKS it. Later, he drinks another bottle. That bottle does not freeze. But both bottles help relieve excruciating headaches that he gets. Why he gets these I don't know. I didn't read far enough and frankly, I couldn't give a shit.

There's also FIL's distant relative Josiah, who is a mean motherfucker. He doesn't like anyone snooping around about his family. Why, we don't know other than he's just grumpy all the time. Eric befriends a black dude who drive a Porsche who could've been in the NBA but instead, his brother went (that's how he got the Porsche) but he decided to pursue education and now a doctorate. He was looking into the FIL lineage and the name of the FIL matches the name of some guy who should be well over 100 years old.

Yeah. This story was going nowhere...slowly. I went to goodreads to read the reviews with spoilers and focused mainly on the negative reviews because I was pretty much fed up with the book. Nothing was going to make me like it. Reading the reviews made me realize I wasted way too much time on it.

American Purgatorio by John Haskell
I made it to page 132 of 264 (purely coincidental). The first few pages intrigued me as he writes that he "...was in the middle of living happily ever after when something happened." And that something is that his wife, Anne, went missing. And for 132 pages, he went looking for Anne.

But he didn't call anyone. He didn't call Anne's family, who they were supposed to see when she went missing.  He would stop and interact with people, stay at campsites, schmooze with women, on his journey to California (from New Jersey, where she went missing) to find Anne. This whole book (well, 132 pages of it) was like being drunk and reading words that made no sense. Or maybe being high and writing it, then waking up the next morning and re-reading what you wrote and going "What the fuck?" I went to the end to see if he found Anne. He did. It didn't make sense. I went to goodreads to find out what the fuck happened. She was dead. They both were. Apparently, when she went missing, they were both killed at the gas station in New Jersey and all those people he met on the way to California were dead too.  Whatever genre of novel this falls into? It's too deep for me.

Where the God of Love Hangs Out by Amy Bloom
I made a mistake when I added this to my "to read" list because this book ended up being a compilation of short stories. I don't like those types of books. I don't know why but I don't. I tried. I read one story; tried another but just didn't feel good about it.

The story I did read centered around two married couples who were long-time friends. But one from each couple (man and woman) were having an affair. Eventually, they would leave their respective husband/wife and marry. Then the husband would die and the woman would mourn his passing. That's it. All the details in between are just descriptions about how she feels about him, how he looks, how her kids don't condone the relationship, etc. The end.

The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian
This one started with a plane crash. The pilot is trying to land the plane like Captain Sully did on the Hudson River. But he doesn't and instead, 39 people die. The pilot, Chip, lives with the guilt and shame and his wife, Emily, decides they should relocate to an old Victorian house in a small town in New start over.

They soon find that most of the town becomes obsessed with their twin 10 year old daughters. This is where the problem starts: every party, social gathering, casual meeting these people show up to, the adults fawn over the twins and leave the parents standing alone. And the parents do not seem to find this odd at all.

Chip starts seeing dead passengers in his house, especially that of a young 9 year old. The dad (also dead) is really pissed off at Chip for killing him and his daughter and tells Chip how she has no playmates. So Chip feels bad and does what any dad would do: thinks about which twin to kill to keep the dead 9 year old company.

If this sounds the least bit intriguing to you, let me just say that when I went to goodreads to read the spoilers, there is a disconnect between Chip and his ghosts, the twins, and the townspeople...meaning, those storylines are apparently NOT connected. FYI: 197 of 378. I think that was just a hair off of being over a waste of time.

Twelve Things You Didn't Know

...About Me

With the holidays here, I thought I'd share in my joy by listing out things that bother me. Since November was the month of being thankful, and by golly, didn't we see enough of that shit on facebook? "Day 14: I'm thankful for my momma, poppa, granmomma, granpoppa, aunties and uncles, cousin It, blah, blah, blah"... Then there's Day 15, Day 16 and so on. Seriously? Jeezuz-fucking-christ. I read them just to drive myself batshit-crazy.

I'm sick that way.

This is probably insight to my OCD, or just my demented way of ruminating, which I do 24-7. Some of these list items are actual objects so instead of giving me coal for christmas, you can get me one of these things.

1. I do not like speeders in general but people who speed around school zones, neighborhoods, or in areas that have slow mph zones (<= 35) piss me off the most. I think cities can monopolize on this greatly by making quota *and* revenue by having police monitor school zones during school hours and just pick off each Richard Petty wannabe. There is lots of money to be made. I see it every day I drive to work and go through school zones.

2. The sound made by making the 'pfffft' with your lips. It irritates me as much as fingernails on a chalkboard does for most people (that also bothers me). I have to put my hands over my lips, rub them, or do something, to make the annoying, irritating feeling go away. I usually don't say anything out loud so that people don't do it again. I suffer in silence. Until now.

3. The smell or taste of peach flavored anything. Almost instantly, if I don't know a candy is peach flavored, I will know once my taste buds hit it and it's coming back out. I could be sitting with the President of the United States, at an extravagant dinner, and pop in the most beautiful piece of dinner "mint". Taste like peaches? It's coming back out and landing on the white linen table cloth.

4. Tailgaters - Not tailgating parties, although that seems weird but that's because I don't do it and never did. So what I don't know and don't understand just bothers me in general. This bothersome point relates to speeders. I hate people who speed behind me and then ride on my ass because *I'm* doing the speed limit. When I was younger and more obnoxious, I used to throw paper out of my sunroof at them. Or if they eventually passed me, I would shoot them with my finger gun and make "pow pow" noises.  Or blow kisses at them.  I had a lot of road rage back then. But I am recovered now.

5. People who talk in theaters - I will let them get away with it during the trailers but once the movie starts? I will tell you to be quiet. And I know one thing for sure: *I* wouldn't want anyone to tell me to be quiet. So that would piss me off. So why even talk during the movie? Why do people come to a movie to talk? It just doesn't compute. I am completely flabbergasted at this notion. Movie <> social interaction. PSA for the day.

6. The smell or taste of american tea. I don't know how you people drink that stuff. It smells awful. I've tasted it and it's been ingrained in my memory and, yuck. When I lived in Thailand, my mom told me to be careful about strangers. Of course, NOW I know what she meant, but back then, I was around elementary school age. She said that there were men that would kidnap little girls and would make them do things they didn't want to do. For me, at that age, I clearly remember thinking they would make me drink tea.

7. Being told that I look like Pocahontas. I probably look less like her now that my hair is short and shaved on one side :) but after the Disney movie came out, numerous, disparate people would tell me this over the years. I don't know why it bothers me but I point it to the fact that the first time it came up, it came from a person I thought was a friend who actually liked me but, as she told the story, it became apparent that it bothered her to watch the movie (Pocahontas) and be reminded of me. Plus, I felt like it was a bit racial, not in a bad way but in a I-know-a-brown-girl-and-I-see-a-brown-girl-in-a-cartoon-movie-so-now-they-look-alike kind of way.

8. Thankful posts. Can you get any cheesier than that? Seriously. If I was on top of my game, I would have done "what I would be thankful" posts (I'd be thankful if my kids would do their chores), or wrote shitty "what I'm thankful for" posts (I'm thankful that I hate thankful posts), or I'm not thankful for posts (I'm not thankful for George Clooney).

9. Fine point ballpoint pens. Why were these ever invented? It's like writing with your fingernail on paper. It just doesn't feel right and the line of ink is indistinguishable. Medium point is the way to go. This does not apply to felt tip pens, where fine tips, and extra-fine tips, are the bomb.

10. Bluetooth. Just not cool. Put this in the cheesy category. First: you look like an idiot walking around with that thing in your ear. Second: No one, especially me, wants to hear your idiotic conversation.

11. Phone calls. Don't call me. I hate talking on the phone. Unless you're my husband or one of my daughters, I absolutely have no desire to talk to you. I can't explain it but when my phone rings, I get anxious and pissy. If I don't recognize the number, I will not answer. If you don't leave a message, you will not get a call back. Texting? I'll text you all day. But something about actually speaking to someone on the phone makes me sick. I did get used to talking to my good friend Vikram. He was incessant...and insistent in talking to me on the phone. He knew about my 'disorder'. But eventually, I came around and he became one of few people that I would talk to on the phone because I could just hang up on him when I got tired of talking to him. And he wouldn't keep me on long, or rarely called. But one of the initial phone calls, before I turned, I told him "You're breaking up. I can't hear you. I need to hang up." He cut me off "Nah. Can't happen. I have Verizon. My line never breaks up."

12. Personalized plates that I can't decipher. I know some people probably make personalized plates for themselves but if I can't figure out what 82pst*b is, it will bother me. I will spend WAY too much time trying to decipher the code. Can't you just make it easy for the rest of us?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Big Leagues

Last Saturday and Sunday was our first swim meet with our year round swimming club. We decided that this year was the time to get MiMi involved in year round swimming. This involves up to three times a week swim practice and, of course, swim meets throughout the year.

The swim meet was at NC State's Carmichael Gymnasium, which has a natatorium - a really nice facility.  Probably very intimidating for a nine year old, who is used to a smaller pool, with snow cones being served and the aroma of burnt burgers in the air.

No, this was the big leagues baby. In the background in this picture is an electronic timer board that shows exact times, including splits, of each lane. The times are done by touch for each lane.

MiMi had six events: three on Saturday and three on Sunday.  Arrival times for both days was 7 AM, where they would have their warm-ups. This is not a big problem for MiMi, who is, so far, a decent morning person. This is NO PROBLEM for Tim, who gets up with the roosters (like 3:30 AM). But for the rest of us, this is not ideal. But for MiMi, I'd get up at any time and apparently, CJ was up for it on Sunday, which warmed my cold heart.

Saturday's events for MiMi were: 100 yard breaststroke, 50 yard freestyle, and an individual IM. Wow. In the summer league, all she has to accomplish is 25 yards.  So she was freaking out about going 50 even though the Wednesday before, there was a swim-a-thon and she had swam 133 lengths of a 25 yard pool.  Her coach told them all: 100 yards should feel like nothing after all of that, right?

After her 100 breaststroke, she told me that she felt like quitting (during the swim) because her legs felt like spaghetti. I told her that she did it and that's what counts...and that, that's what it _does_ feel like when you're competing: you work hard to run, swim, bike - whatever it is one is doing, and it usually feels like you can't make it but you pull through. And *that's* what is amazing: the sense of accomplishment to endure when you think you can't. Not winning.

She apparently DQ'd her IM. I don't know how or where and apparently, initially, her coach didn't think she DQ'd either as he said, after her event, she swam it cleanly.

She had _just_ learned her flip turns the week before and kept saying "I'm not doing a flip turn". OK.

But she tried during her freestyle and missed the wall so she had to get her bearings to get some oomph to get her last 50 going. Overall, I thought she looked great.

Day two was just as stressful for her. She had 50 yd back, 100 yd free and then a 50 yd breast. She DQ'd one of these - I think her back, as she attempted a flip turn and didn't get close enough to the wall. I saw the arm go up from the ref (or whatever they're called) and her coach turned to us and said 'she was perfect for every one of them during warm-ups'.

But for these two days, she cried and cried and cried. She was even more hysterical on day two than she was on day one. It was so stressful for everyone and I hated for her coaches to see her so upset. Of course, I hated her being so anxious that she put herself in a frenzy and, IMO, put herself in an anxious state while swimming.

I tried. I spoke to her telling her how much of a rock star she was. How she could swim this - she knows how to do the strokes. Treat this as practice. Just do the swim. Don't worry about how fast you are. Don't think about anything else, just swim.  You rock. You're a warrior.  Don't worry about your flip turns. Do what you're comfortable with.  Don't worry about DQs.

Tim did his own encouragement. The coaches did too. But it just wasn't enough to curtail her fears. And I get that. I really do. I know it's extreme butterflies and she just has to get used to this. I think it's hard for a nine year old to take this all in but it's something she can become accustomed to.

She is an excellent swimmer and has great form. She seems to enjoy it and she's attentive. I see her listening intently to her coaches where everyone else is horsing around. But, as I've already said to her, she has little choice. Our girls have to have a sport. Some parents 'force' their kids to do art, music, bible study, math, science, girl scouts. Well, this is what we 'force' our kids to do. You can think it's cruel -- although, apparently, it's OK for boys to be 'strongly encouraged to do football, basketball or soccer -- but whatever. In the case of MiMi, she likes it and like the other things I've just mentioned, kids will be lazy about it. They don't want to practice, they don't want to do any of that stuff (the average kid) because they'd rather play games, read or lie around and do nothing.

But how many of you think about how you wish your parents forced you to finish out your piano lessons, or do more sports, or whatever? Well, I wish my parents forced/encouraged me to be more sporty. I'm a late in life sports girl...although, I *did* play softball as a kid. But all on my own. I signed up because I wanted to. I went to all my practices on my own (lived in the Philippines at the time so I had to walk to the end of my subdivision, hail a jeepney to the Air Force Base ALONE, take a bus to practice and then, if my dad remembered, he would pick me up after work and take me home)...ditto for my games. I wasn't that good but man, I'm proud of myself for that and it shows, IMO, a lot of my personality THEN that I have now.

But how little time people have to play sports...especially girls. Not that I expect them to be professional players but how many professional women's sports are there?'s the time to play...and hopefully, enjoy it. But it's also a great way to learn self-confidence - another big thing for girls. And a great thing to keep in shape. And as a parent, I know it's the right choice and, as I told MiMi, when she becomes an adult, she can decide for herself if she wants to continue. But for now, she will do this and if that means we sit away from the coaches while she cries her anxiety out, then so be it.  But I'll be there rooting her on and supporting her all the way.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

In The Woods by Tana French

I'm a bit lax on my book reviews. I think I've missed the last three books I've read. Maybe I'll write about them. It's kind of hard to write about a book you've read weeks, months ago.

In The Woods was on my list for quite a while. It was released in 2008 and French has since published four more books in her Dublin Murder Squad series.

The book starts out very intriguing: in 1984, three children disappear in the Knocknaree 'wood' - why it's "wood" vs. "woods", I will never know. I know that Winnie the Pooh calls its woods the "Hundred Acre Wood"...  One of the missing children is found, battered, clinging to a tree, his nails dug into the tree, with his socks soaked in blood within his shoes.  He's catatonic and has no recollection of what has happened to him or his friends. His friends are never found.

Fast forward to present day, 2000-something. That kid is now a murder detective with the Murder Squad in Dublin. No one but his partner, Cassie, knows his history. But a new murder involving a 12 year old girl in the Knocknaree woods brings back those memories, and perhaps, the killer(?) of the event from 1984.

This is what In The Woods is about. Detective Rob Ryan, AKA the missing child Adam Ryan, deals with his past throughout this novel, plus the elements of this new murder. The partnership he has with Cassie is written amazingly. The reader (yours truly) can see this played out well in a movie.

While the novel is a bit long-winded in places -- I think it could have been condensed in many places but hey, I'm not a writer -- overall, it's quite good and I look forward to reading the next dublin murder case.

Let's Set The World On Fire

The morning after President Obama was re-elected, I said to Tim: "CJ was just ecstatic about President Obama winning".

"Good" he said, "she should be. It's her world now."

I loved these words...because it's true. And if you watched this wonderful speech that President Obama gave to his campaign staff, he essentially said the same thing.

Yes. Us older folks still need to participate and care about this great nation but, truth be told, we have less time in it than our younger counterparts. And my passion for ethical treatment of all people is for the next generation NOT to have to deal with the shit I have seen/heard.  The best way to erase racism, prejudices, is to educate and do away with antiquated laws and regulations that support that kind of issue.

According to this past election, 19% of our youth demographic: those between the ages of 18-29, came out to vote. And most of them voted for President Obama. According to The Sophian, Smith College's Independent Student Press:
“The research shows that young people are more likely to support LGBT rights, and the chance to vote for a president who repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, supports marriage equality and has done more for LGBT Americans than any other president is a huge deal and definitely brought people out to vote.” Rich also cited marriage equality, the legalization of marijuana, protection of reproductive and healthcare rights and higher education policies as possible reasons for young voters supporting Obama, as well as the Democratic party’s use of social networking campaigns.
From my own, very minute demographic statistical analysis, my youth surrounding suggests the very same. My teen writing group are brilliant thinkers, who are so much aware of policies and issues going on in the world than I ever cared to think about when I was their age. They are agnostic-to-atheist, so the religious overtones are a huge turn-off. They are huge supporters of LGBT issues and marriage equality, which again, knocks out the religious overtones.  They are strong women *and* strong women supporters (if they are men)...and it's hard to write/say that because it's not that they ARE strong women supporters because, I think we just live in a 'society' where we don't think like that. There just isn't this notion of a woman not making a decision for herself, or treated with respect in making decisions (and I'm being general, not specific to the political issues dealing with contraception and abortion).

The same goes for CJ and her circle of friends. They support LGBT, gay rights, gay marriage. CJ loves that Obama addresses young people. Tim said he came home one day and she was watching the President interviewed on MTV. *She*, on her own accord, *watched* an interview with the President on MTV. I mean, at 14, would I have wanted to watch the President interviewed anywhere? I'd like to say YES, that I was that intellectually motivated then, but I'm pretty sure I would have had my nose stuck in a Stephen King book.

And while these "kids" weren't old enough to vote in *this* election, they will be in 2016. And that's where progress comes in to play. Our nation is progressing: people like Tim and I, for whatever reason, walked away from the "traditional" beliefs our parents tried to instill in us.

Will our kids walk away from our beliefs? I don't think so. Our relationship, as I try so hard to convince Tim, is so much more different than what we have with our parents. I can't speak for Tim since I don't know anything about his upbringing but for me, my relationship with my girls vs. the relationship I had with my mom as a child is vastly different. My girls have the freedom to think for themselves and express it out loud.  They can disagree with me. There are times I wish I had what my parents had so I can shut them up and be right :). They can believe in god or not, although it's kind of hard to believe with an atheist in the house (Tim) and a now acknowledged agnostic (me) who continually blasphemes for pleasure.

But my dad was a "kids should be seen not heard" kind of guy. And Tim is far from that with his girls.  This clip of Sasha nudging Obama? That would be Tim. Because he _listens_ to his girls. He respects their voice, even when he disagrees.

But they also SPEAK to us, knowing they may get in trouble. And sometimes they do. But THAT is what we've taught them: to speak for themselves, think for themselves, even if it means there are consequences.

And it's what I see in most of my friends' upbringing. And I hope that is the future. Progress to making this nation, this world, a better place, free from the iron fist of assbackward beliefs of what "traditional" women were, what "traditional" marriage was, what "traditional" americans looked like, or what defined religion, in this great nation.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

You Prayed for This

For the religious right, you can take the election results - these in particular: recreational marijuana legalized in two states, same sex marriage approved in three states, a binder full of women (thank you Michael Moore for that line) elected into Congress, including the openly gay Tammy Baldwin, in one of three ways:
1. God does not exist.
2. Your prayers were answered.
3. Your fanaticisms have pissed the rest of us off.

Let me explain.

God Does Not Exist
You prayed and prayed for anyone but Obama. But Obama won? Hmmm...

Your Prayers Were Answered
You prayed and prayed for god to provide guidance. Obama won. Same sex marriage passed. A gay woman was elected. Todd Akin, Tom Smith, and Richard Mourdock - ousted. A record number of women - voted IN.

I said to Tim this morning: well, 'they' (the religious folk) should feel that god answered their prayers. "No, no, no. It doesn't work that way. It's the prayer that they WANT answered." Hmmm... I didn't think a god was supposed to work like that.

Your Just Pissing The Rest of Us Off
You all want so much to do good things. At least you SAY that but, IMO, you don't really DO that. If you DID, you would DO more for immigrants, for gays, for women, for all religions, or NON-religions (like atheists and agnostics), for the poor. Your constant barrage of moans and groans against gays, gay marriage, abortion, immigration, women's rights to choose, and human rights to choose to believe in a god, several gods or no god, is just beyond irritating. It's fucked up. I won't use the word condescending because it has no effect on _me_ anymore other than being as irritating as a mosquito. But you affect other people who aren't so "over" it as I am and THAT's what pisses me off. Leave your shit out of the rest of our lives.

So, there you have it. Pick one.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Canvassing for Obama

Last night, CJ, Mimi and I volunteered with one of my most favoritist people, Elizabeth, for Obama's reelection campaign and canvassed a portion of [scary] Cary.

I've known Elizabeth for many years and she is one amazing person. There are many things I can go on about her: she creates beautiful, unique jewelry, not only does she sell it, but she is part of the Carolina Designer Craftsman Guild and helps to set up its annual show, which is held Thanksgiving weekend.

She cooks WONDERFUL gourmet meals (my family and I have been treated to this and I expect more in the future), she MAKES handmade chocolates, some with her homestate Kentucky bourbon (Tim's favorites), and she is extremely, politically active. She is well-connected - but you never would know it because she doesn't brag or boast, nor does she do it to BE well-connected...she's just that way because of her passion for the things that I just mentioned above, and more.  She's just an amazing person, with a big heart, who has taken great care of her elderly parents, and once you enter her circle of friendship, you are warmly welcomed and FEEL like you are THE well-connection in her life.  I love her for thank you Elizabeth, for being my friend. You are such a wonderful inspiration to me.

So when I mentioned that another mutual friend, Sam, and I stopped by the Cary Obama campaign office and signed up as volunteers, she told me about her experiences canvassing. It sounded fascinating and she invited me to do it with her. We set up a date and last night was it. I invited CJ and Mimi, which amazingly, CJ ended up being excited about it.

We met at Five Guys to have a quick bite and fuel up before we hit the pavement. I was very happy to see how comfortable CJ was at talking, while very little, but she's usually not talkative at all with anyone outside her friends and us. She doesn't even talk to other family members. But with Elizabeth, she spoke right off the bat.

After our meal, we headed to the campaign office to find out what neighborhood we would be canvassing. There we met Cathy and she gave us the rundown of what we would expect, as we went to meet people. For those who haven't done this before, canvassing is targeted to registered Democrats and Independents who have not voted in either the last two elections and have not yet voted in *this* election (we have early voting in North Carolina). Or, more often than not, they are first time registered voters: 18, 19, 20, 21 year olds who were not old enough to vote in the last election.

We visit them, ask them if they are aware of early voting, where their nearest early voting location site is, and if they plan to support our President. We fill out a form that gives them the location details, the time to go, and a slate of Democratic party candidates to reference.

As I mentioned before, surprisingly, CJ had fun. That evening, afterward, I took her to Barnes & Noble to buy the CD of her choice as a reward for her great effort. In the car, she said it was the best day ever. She did say she didn't think she could do this by herself. I said 'because it would be scary?' She replied 'No, because I would be angry at anyone that said they were voting for Romney.'

Meeting people was the most fascinating part of this. I love people-watching, or interacting with people by observation. I think sociology or some type of psychology would have been a good career choice for me. Fortunately, I'm in that type of career now, somewhat.

The standouts for me:

Walking up to a house where a car with a "Parent of a marine" bumper sticker, ringing the door bell, then having the door swing open rather abruptly with a very muscular, young "marine" in a wife-beater stare at us bug-eyed. I mean, look at each one of us (all four of us) intensely. And he was the target. Elizabeth spoke to him about early voting. I was thinking: a marine. A new Jaguar, a new Saab, and a convertible in the driveway. I'm not thinking they are Obama supporters. And when she said: will you be supporting our President? I heard his mom from upstairs yell down "Yes! His mom and dad already voted for Obama!!!" He managed a bewildered look upstairs and stared back at us without acknowledgement or denial. He took our literature and stared back at us and I think he said thank you.

At an Asian family's house, I could see a young tween see us at the door. He didn't open it (good choice) and called for others. Eventually, I saw about four others come to the door. It took a second or two, then the door opens and an older gentleman asks, with about six pairs of eyes looking at us, 'can i help you?' Elizabeth asks if we can speak to "Jimmy", who is supposed to be 70 years old. The older gentleman says 'Um, there is no Jimmy here...I think you have the wrong..." and then a kid on the staircase in the background says "Oh, that's our uncle!" and then some murmurs and someone else says "No, that's our grandpa."  We learn that Jimmy is traveling back to China. But to go from 'there's no Jimmy, to he's the uncle, to he's our Grandpa', was pretty hilarious.

There was the guy in the empty house (just moved in? moving out?) who came to the door breathing heavily and in a panicked state. Did he just do something bad? Before Elizabeth could say anything, he said "wait, I need to get my baby." Um. Okay. He was gone not even 30 seconds and when he came back to us, there was no baby. He continued to pant, and just had this look of paleness and dramatic-ness that it took everything in me not to laugh. He stated he was an Independent and did not want to share who he was voting for. Fair enough. As we walked away, I told CJ and Mimi not to say anything until we got into the car but Elizabeth blurts out "I thought he was going to pass out or something!"

Lastly, we met an older middle eastern gentleman who greeted us with "who are you supporting" with his wonderful accent. I love those accents...and Russian ones too. ANYWAY, we said Obama and he said "Ah, you are safe with me." Great. I didn't know I was in any danger. Really, he was jovial so I didn't feel in danger but it was just a funny use of words. He chatted with us a bit - talking about how he couldn't understand there was still "red"...meaning people supporting Romney. It was just dumbfounding to him. But his wife and daughter had already voted for Obama and he and his son were voting Tuesday for him...and he is very worried. He was asking US, what do we think will happen. "It's very close. So please, make your vote on Tuesday. Every vote counts!" Elizabeth added "Take all your friends with you!"

There were others along the way. Anyone that we saw that supported Obama were happy to hear from us. We only met one house that stated outright they were not voting for Obama but we could sense from a few others, like drama-panting-where's-your-baby-man, that they were leaning right. But they were still nice to us and we had nice interactions overall. I would definitely do this again and it made me consider being more proactive in politics.

It was a great evening. The weather was wonderful. The company was wonderful.

I asked CJ: what is it that you like about Obama? The first thing she said was: "he likes gay people and is trying to provide equal rights for them". I loved that. One of our new favorite shows is The New Normal and the episode where the gay couple are in the department store and kiss, and a father with his family sees this and says something to the effect that they are setting a bad example in front of his kids, she literally was angry and pissed and yelling at the TV. That came from her heart and soul and it made me proud. I didn't do that. For you religious folks, your god did that. That is what comes with being a good person with a moral character.

One of the other things she said that I love love love was: 'Obama seems like he treats everyone like a friend, like you matter. If I met him, he seems like he would try to remember me. Like he cares about who I am. Like the time that girl couldn't remember her question during the debate, and he said to her 'you're doing fine'. But Romney, he doesn't seem like he would care to remember who I was.'

So profound and an amazing observation that I thought: wow. She summed him up exactly how I think about him too.