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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

You Say You Want a Resolution...

Well, ya know...We all want to change our ways.

Okay I'm going to hell for that one.

As you might have guessed this post is about New Year Resolutions, or rather it's not. I'm not big on them to begin with and I do believe that like most humans, I've never actually stuck to one.
I suppose I could go with the usual; lose weight, stop smoking, save money...
I'm already losing weight on doctors orders and if I obsess over the last 25 lbs it simply won't come off. I'll likely make 200 more attempts to quit smoking but if I think about it I'll sabotage myself. And as for money, I'm not even going to pretend to be optimistic about my chances of paying off my debts.
Rather, I've decided to focus this year on the things that I can not change and why they don't bother me. Or at least why they shouldn't bother me. So let's get the nit-picking started!

1. My Crooked Teeth
As far as crooked teeth go, mine aren't that bad. I've got a pretty obvious snaggletooth on the left up there, and a couple of chipped and filed down canines. I've never actually put a lot of thought into it until a dentist commented on them a few years ago. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a bit offended, and I'd also be lying if I said that I didn't get a wee bit self conscious about my teeth after that. But have you ever seen anyone with artificially straight teeth? It's frightening! I'd rather have my goofy grin than look like a Geico caveman or that guy who used to sell motivational videos on infomercials.

2. My Schnozz
We will actually reference this picture for many of my flaws because despite them, I happen to think I look cute in it, so there! And just for the record, the not so ironic mustache that I'm rocking isn't on this list seeing as it is something that I can get rid of and do regularly. I've just been lazy and cold and channeling my inner artist.
Anyway, as you can see my nose takes up 90% of my undersized head (see flaw #3). Though it was enhanced by a few tumbles I took as a child, genetics were already working against me before I got that bump you see on the bridge. I admit that yes, I have obsessed over this in the past. I clearly remember one Thanksgiving day that my brother set up the video camera to record dinner and the whole family laughing when we replayed it because the angle of the camera had me in profile. But I've never considered the possibility of a nose job. I had two friends who have had them (one was necessary, she had horrible sinus problems and talked like she had a cold all the time, the other was a stupid, stupid insecurity issue that actually gave her nasal problems) and just seeing the bruises afterward scared the crap out of me.
I'll keep my schnozz, and delight in the fact that it only makes my Alan Rickman impressions that more believable.

#3. My Tiny, Tiny Head.
As a young child I was very skinny and long with a big ol' pumpkin sized noggin. I ambled about looking like a lollipop until I was about 10 or so then I grew into it. Then I just kept growing. By the time I reached adulthood I was nearly six feet tall, no longer thin, very broad shouldered, yet I still had the same head that I had when I was 5. Most people have a forehead, I have a three head. Maybe a two and a half head. What's more, my tiny facial features are smooshed up together right there in front. I'm the polar opposite of a Bratz doll, yet just as freakish and alien. But that's the cool part: I look like an alien.

#4 My Gray Hair
Okay, so there's only about 10 strands and yes, technically I could change that with a $5 bottle of Miss Clairol, but the can of worms that would open is not worth it.
From the ages of 12 to 30 I never saw my natural hair color. I've had every color of the rainbow on my head at one point or another and just about every rebellious haircut known to man, and many that I just made upon the fly (these usually involved alcohol and dull safety scissors). I decided enough was enough and I'd keep my original color for a while. Then one day I was looking in the mirror and saw a silver thread stuck to my hair. I tried to brush it away and it wouldn't move. I picked it from my hair and realized that it was attached. I actually got excited. I want gray hair, but only if it grows in nice, like a single white shock ala Lily Munster, or all white like an evil villain. If it grows in salt and pepper or steely gray I'm totally going old lady blue.

#5 I Am Blind As A Bat
You see those glasses up there on my head? That means that I totally could not see anything more than 6 inches from my face when I took that picture.
I do wear contacts, but since I got prescription sunglasses I've been lazy about wearing them during the week. I refuse to entertain the thought of Lasik until they find a way to do it without slicing into the eye while the patient is still conscious.
The upside: Objects wearing glasses may appear smarter than they are.

#6 I Am Not Naturally Photogenic

But this doesn't bother me in the least. Why? Because I have a digital camera and I can take 100 photos and simply delete the embarrassing ones before anyone else can see them. Yes, the photo above, which I am calling a "bad" photo of me because of my shiny huge pores and Prince cira Purple Rain 'stache, was the best of about 30 bad pictures. Do you think I'm going to share everything with the world? ;)

So a Happy New Year to all of you and may you love everything about yourselves no matter what. And please, PLEASE be careful out there if you are planning on partying. Be safe!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

First off I would like to say Happy Holidays to everyone and I hope that your day is wonderful!

Second, I would like to say that I am not someone who dreams of a white Christmas, but it seems that we have one none the less.
This Picture was taken at about 5pm Christmas Eve:
I'll now remind everyone that I live in Texas and that it was 70 degrees yesterday.

I'm very grateful that work was extremely slow today and I was able to leave early. Otherwise I would have been driving through this and I'd likely still be on the road six hours later rather than writing this.

So at long last it is Christmas and for my last Christmas story of the season I'd like to share the gifts that Jason and I made for each other this year.
Our first Christmas together was not even a month into our relationship so we didn't really do presents, but our second Christmas was also our first as husband and wife and that was the year that we started our tradition of making presents. That year we each made one set of chess pieces for the other so we had a complete, yet stylistically different set. Last year we each built a game for each other. This year we each made a work of art.
Jason actually made five different and completely awesome works of art:

This picture was made with wood dye and pourable plastic. He made everything, including the frame. This photo does not do it justice at all.
The photo below is of a wooden box with a light inside. On the light is another piece made with the plastic and green nylon fibers from a duster:
Melted styrofoam on plywood, again, the picture doesn't do it justice:
Oil paint that has been heated and cracked. Again Jason made the frame as well:
I'm beginning to think this one is my favorite, that is if I had to choose. It's a drinking glass filled with styrofoam and plastic on a base of sculpted foam with an led light:

By comparison I slacked. I'm rather proud of the box I made though. I chose the sheet music lining because Jason is a musician (an extremely talented one at that):

I'm a hack artist and fancy myself more a craftsman so I went with a kaleidescope:
Actually, I made two because I wasn't sure how either were going to work. It's impossible to made wooden tubes:
A view through the scope:

Next year, we have decided, we are going to pick something that we can work together on. The secretive nature of these gifts has been a lot of fun, but we tend to see very little of each other during the holidays because of them.

Now go carve your roast beast, deck your halls and may your day be merry and bright!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Additional Information Supplied By Dad

I was talking to my father the other day about the stories that I've been putting up here and he gave me some amusing information to add to them.
From the story about the Christmas socks where I mentioned my little brother's voice activated truck: At that time my two brothers shared a bedroom and my oldest brother frequently talked in his sleep. Apparently he would speak loud enough to activate the truck, which would wake my dad from a dead sleep.
I do not remember this but my bedroom was down the hall and my parent's shared a wall with my brothers' room. I do however remember a doll that my sister had called "Baby Boo-Hoo" that would cry if its pacifier fell out of its mouth. I shared a room with my sister at the time and would frequently wake up to Baby Boo-Hoo crying for her mama because my sister had shifted enough for the pacifier to fall.

From yesterday's elf story: My father supplies that my sister also had an irrational fear of her dolls coming to life and attacking her while she slept. I do vaguely remember this part only because I remember one highly amusing night when my sister would not calm down. My mother had come to her wits end trying to pacify my sister and decided to take an alternate route which involved saying "Oh my gosh! What's that in your closet?"
Before my sister could scream my mom opened the doors, pulled out a couple of dresses on hangers and proceeded to hum the Star Wars Cantina song and wave the dresses around as if they were dancing.
It worked, my sister was cracking up, I was cracking up, my brother had come in to see what was going on and was cracking up. I'll wager getting us back into bed was a disaster though.
So if anyone wants to know where I get my smart ass from, it's hereditary.

It's Not Christmas Until Someone Gets Sick

Around my house there has always been a tradition that no one really likes at all. In fact we've strived to avoid it, but it just keeps happening.
I am of course talking about the tradition of someone, and sometimes many someones, getting sick just in time for Christmas.
Now truth be told, I actually have had the more unfortunate affliction of having had a cold or sinus infection that took away my sense of taste on many a Thanksgiving, which I deem far worse. But I've had my share of Christmas crud as well.
When I was one year old I had the measles which was a direct result of the MMR vaccination. Fortunately I was too young to remember and this information comes from my mother, as well as faded snapshots of tiny me with a lumpy, sad face.
A year or two later (again, well before true memories began to develop) I had apparently eaten an entire box of cherry cordials at my grandmother's house and spent Christmas night alternating between throwing up and sobbing to my mother, "N-no more Ch-chocolates ever!" I apparently forgot saying this very soon after the fact.
Of course later in life there was another incident of over indulgence, this time in the form of far too many screw drivers and stupid coffee with Irish (the half and half essentially didn't sit too well in a stomach full of citrus acid).
But it wasn't just me.
One year when my youngest brother was about 2 years old he got into the anisette cookies at my family's Christmas eve party. Although he was acting extremely silly, no one actually expected that a two year old who acted like a drunk was actually drunk. My mother, who spent the night holding my brother over the toilet, claims that he smelled like a hobo on a cheap ripple bender. What's worse is that all day Christmas he seemed fine, but later that night mom was holding him over the toilet again. She suspects that he may have squirreled some of the cookies away in his pockets for later consumption.
I can't be certain, but I think at least one of us had chicken pox on Christmas.
My father has a great story about how he came down with double pneumonia on Christmas because my mother and grandmother needed him to take them Christmas shopping. Neither had a license at the time and he was already sick, and in his own words; "I got to go to the hospital only after the shopping was done." Priorities, dad, priorities.
This past week Jason has had to take the cat into the vet for an upset stomach, and one of the dogs in for a cut on her lip and a cortisone shot. I am hoping that the this spares the two legged family from any further disasters.

So is this just my family or has this happened to you as well?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Sinister Elf

This is a terrible tale of Christmas terror! (oooooooooo!)


I have been googling for weeks to find a picture of this little guy:
I had hoped that my mother still had him somewhere but she claims he has finally met his demise. For all I know, this is the very ornament that plagued my family for years. This was the only picture I could find of him and it was on an auction site.

My mother claims that she purchased the elf ornament at one of those in home gift catalog parties that were popular in the 70's. You know, like Tupperware and Party Lights and those parties that sell items that are shipped in discreet brown paper packages?
My sister claims the elf fell through a portal from hell.
We had had this ornament for as long as I can remember and it never really bothered anyone until one year when my sister was about 12 or 13 and she decided that the elf was evil. I don't remember how it came up, but I remember her walking over to the tree, declaring him evil and popping him out of his pine cone with intent to toss him in the trash.
The following day the elf was back in his pine cone, staring off into space and clutching his harp.
"Hey Shannon, I thought you were going to toss the elf."
"Holy $#!& I told you he was evil!"
Again she took him from the tree and tossed him in the trash.
And again, the elf was back on his perch the following day.
Several more attempts to rid us of the cherubic spawn of Satan produced the same result.
My sister eventually decided it was useless and that we were all doomed. She stopped trying to destroy the elf and he lived among us for many years to come (well, with the exception of that one year that, inspired by Sweet Valley High, I convinced my mom to let me decorate the tree in all blue and silver ornaments. I wish I was joking).
Was he truly a powerful force of evil?
Was he a misunderstood and benevolent guardian angel?
Or was he simply a slightly dated and off beat ornament that a teenage girl might have felt sorry for and rescued from the trash every night?
The world may never know*

*until they read this post, that is ;)

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Gift of Warm, Dry Feet



When I was ten my family moved into a house on the same street as my grandmother. It was a dead end street that became a steep hill about half way up. Grandma's house was close to the bottom of the hill and ours was at the very top. Having grandma's house so close was great seeing as grandma had HBO (which was a very big deal back then in the age of Star Wars and Fraggle Rock), a microwave, and spoiled us in the usual grandmotherly way.
Looking back, this was a sweet deal for us, but not so much for grandma, who worked the third shift at IBM and probably did not appreciate being woke most every day at 3pm because we didn't want to walk up the hill to our own house where we would have to do homework and eat vegetables. We wanted microwaved pizza rolls, string cheese and afternoon cartoons. Plus in the winter she would drive us up the hill rather than make us endure what felt like a sub-zero hike up Mount Everest.
Christmas was pretty convenient during our five year stay in that house. After the novelty of our presents wore off (This typically took 5 to 10 minutes for my brothers, maybe a whole half hour for my sister and I) we children would be shooed off to grandma's house where our parents would meet us once they cleaned up the ribbon and wrapping paper carnage (and likely had a cup or several of strongly brewed coffee).
Now, to be honest, I know that we were not the richest family, in fact at that point I think my dad had just started the job that put us into middle class, but I never once felt that my Christmases were lacking. We all had piles of presents and stuffed stockings. And while mom, dad and "Santa" would bring us lots of toys and games and the occassional package of undies, grandma would usually get us each one over the top gift.
Sadly, I'd be lying if I told you that I remembered all of the gifts that my grandmother gave me (with the notable exception of my very first pair of Jordache jeans). But I will always remember the voice activated RC truck youngest brother once recieved, if only because we had to endure him yelling "LETS MOVE IT NOW!" at the top of his lungs nonstop until the blessed day the batteries died.
On one particularly cold, wet and snowy Christmas, after the lasagna had been eaten, grandma handed out our presents. Each of us had an identical puffy package. We ripped into them with childish glee and each pulled out a package of socks. White tube socks to be precise.
Grandma and our parents both braced for responses that might have ranged from a polite, yet disappointed thank you to a not so polite temper tantrum.
I don't think anyone was expecting our somewhat unusual, yet genuine reactions.



"SOCKS! YES! THANK YOU GRANDMA!!!"


All of us ripped open the plastic packages and kicked off our shoes and pulled on the heavenly cotton-poly blended tubes of warmth.
For what ever reason, whether we lost them, destroyed them or simply had not done laundry, none of my siblings nor I had any clean socks to wear so we simply went without (much to the embarrassment of our parents). Which of course meant that all the way down the hill we had snow hitting the bare flesh of our ankles and packing into our shoes.

We had foiled the plan.

"Well, I guess you won't be needing these."

Our "real" gifts were Christmas cards with a crisp new $50 bill in each, which was awesome...

But so was having dry, warm feet.





Sunday, December 13, 2009

Well No, He Doesn't Sparkle...

But his name is Bela, which is kind of like Bella* right?
Tis the season and as such, I'm going to dedicate all of my blog postings for the next two weeks to telling amusing stories of my family's holiday antics ala Gene Shepard.
So how does Mr. Lugosi fit into all of this?
I'm starting with a very recent story. So recent in fact, that it happened today. You see, somehow over the last 15 or so years of my life I have become a reluctant collector. This comes from having unusual tastes, friends with unusual tastes, and many, many geeky friends who do in fact collect things such as dolls (excuse me, action figures) and movie/TV show related items.
It started out innocently enough when, as a fresh faced 18 year old out in the world for the first time, I snagged an extremely part time position at a local movie theater. One of the last free standing, single screen theaters at that! Any movie posters and reels of film trailers that were passed up by the full time staff were mine for the taking.
One poster in particular started the collecting "craze."
The Nightmare Before Christmas.
No one had paid much mind to House of Cards, Bleu, or any of the other "art film" posters gracing the walls of my apartment, but then I acquired The Nightmare Before Christmas and suddenly my birthdays were full of gifts in homage to not only that film, but to most everything Tim Burton or those of his darkling ilk made.
Then one day I bought a Star Trek Barbie and Ken set, then a Breakfast at Tiffany's Barbie, and suddenly I was collecting dolls. Not just any dolls though, only collectible, stay in the box dolls that were slightly off beat.
Fast forward to the last 5ish years of my life when I realize that I have far too many dolls suffocating in their plastic packages. I've given many away to people who I trust to to give them to their kids, who will take them out of the boxes, give them punk rock hairdos and love them in the destructive way that only a child can. I thought about ebay and Craigslist, but to be honest, I didn't want the headache of trying to sell these things only to end up with a couple bucks.
So today I rounded up the remaining toys and headed out to the Toys for Tots drive at the local Toys R Us.
I walked up with a full garbage bag, lawn sized at that, to the two marines in dress uniform and their eyes bulged a bit.
"Is everything in here new?"
"Well the boxes have never been opened, but some I've had for years."
I handed over the bag, and I think that for a minute, one of them was going to thank me for my generosity, when the other pulled out the top box, a Bela Lugosi as Dracula 12" collector series doll, beautifully done in black ans white. I then got a puzzled look.
"Um, vampires are very in with teenage girls." I gave my most winning smile and walked as casually back to my car before they went through the rest.
Here is a list of donation items that I remember off hand:
Nosferatu 12" doll (same series Bela came from)
James Bond 12" doll from Dr. No, complete with guns and Martini shaker and glasses
12" James Dean from Rebel without a Cause
12" Outer Limits character from episode The Sixth Finger
John Stewart Green Lantern action figure (which, seriously, someone bought me because I though that the fact that his name was John Stewart, like, the Daily Show host, was funny. I didn't know anything about the comic beyond that)
Crazy Harry Muppet action figure
A Goth Girl Bobblehead
Mr. Spock 7" action figure

I just made some aspiring fanboy's Christmas extra special.

*Please note that I have never actually read the Twilight series or seen any of the movies.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Believe It Or Not I'm Flyin' A Plane!

Okay you were supposed to read the title to the tune of the theme song to The Great American Hero, which was a television show in the 80s that was far less memorable than the theme song.
Ahem...

Anyway...

This is me!I have to say that flying an airplane was the coolest, yet most terrifying thing I have ever done in my life.
Originally I was scheduled to have my lesson at 9am on Saturday, but we ran in to some slight complications. Like the plane not starting. It was below freezing and there was a bit of ice and frost on everything. I was told to return at 2pm, when it was supposed to warm up a bit.
Of course I would pick the coldest day of the year to have a flying lesson!
Before finding out that the engine was too cold, Bob, the instructor, went over the basics including how to operate the rudder, how to get into the cockpit without falling off, and why none of these gauges shown below are really important at all (okay they are, but they weren't at the time. It made sense somehow):
I wasn't prepared at all. I had been under the impression that I'd be learning a lot on the ground. I was wrong.
All of the lesson was going to be in the air.

We came back at 2pm.
Hooray! The engine started.

And then it stalled.

But it started again.

I admit that at this point I was a little freaked out and asked Bob if this was going to happen in the air as well. He said no. I wasn't sure that I believed him.

This is the airplane, a Diamond 20 or DA20 (link has a lot of technical info on flying these) or "a popsicle stick with a cockpit" as Jason called it.
Mr. Airplane has a slightly bored expression.

My first hands on lesson was how to taxi the plane to the runway. The rudder is guided by left and right foot pedals with brakes at the top. I was told to follow the yellow line. It seemed easy enough. Not really. Trying to drive with ones feet is a lot like playing THIS GAME. I was swerving all over the place.
Bob got us off the ground and handed over the controls at about 1600 feet, and told me to bring us up to 2000 and level off. Once again this was easier said than done. I've played a lot of video games in my life, and while I may be well prepared for the impending Zombie Apocalypse, I never did have a knack for any of the flying games. Or driving with a joystick for that matter. The slightest touch would send us up, down, right or left and every gust of wind was like a category 3 hurricane. Did I mention that I just ate lunch? I didn't get sick, but I admit that my stomach was more than a little queasy during the flight.
Despite the sensitive controls it seemed that when ever I was supposed to be making a turn I had a hard time getting the nose going in the right direction and could not get used to being nearly sideways for some of the turns. I'm pretty sure anyone listening in was having a laugh as I was apparently channeling Keanu Reeves (woah!).

The further I get from the experience, the more I want to do it again. Who knows, maybe I will. But I've got to work on the "look."

Pilots don't wear pea coats* and dollar store Jackie O. sunglasses.
*I think that's the navy actually.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Warning; Scattered Thoughts Ahead

We're supposed to get ice tonight.
This is Texas. This is not supposed to happen!
Okay, who am I kidding, we've had at least one ice and snow day a year since I moved here from the land of the ice and snow. Ugh, did I really just quote Led Zepplin? Did I really just do it on purpose? And while listening to Blue Oyster Cult, on purpose.

I'm slightly out of sorts.

Seriously.

I had a week off of work and it turned me into the laziest person on the planet. I was supposed to finish all of my Christmas presents and I'm not even half done.

I did make this amazing little wonky tree out of dowels, pvc pipe and leftover holes from a hole saw cut:
We've decorated it, but I haven't taken a picture yet. It's about 4 feet tall with the 'star.' It's very Charlie Brown Christmas.

So I've moved on from Blue Oyster Cult to Pink Floyd, a much better choice. My favorite band of all time, actually. Though perhaps I shouldn't be listening to "The Wall" as I've been having very vivid nightmares lately.
Listening to music is distracting. I'm not the kind of person who can do two things at once. But I felt that 2 weeks was too long to go without a post, and at the same time I really need to go through this pile of terribly old and scratched compact discs to see what can be salvaged.
There's also a pile of materials on the table next to me just begging to be turned into something worthwhile.

In completely unrelated news; Saturday I am going to learn to fly.

No, I'm not going to take a bunch of LSD and jump off a building.

I am actually going to learn about and possibly fly a light body aircraft.

This was the other anniversary gift that Jason gave me and I am just now getting around to/getting the courage to actually take the class. It's something that I've always thought that I wanted to do. Well, always at least ever since I got over my crippling fear of flying that I had until my early 20s.
Jason is going to take pictures from the relative safety of the ground. I'll post them here. Wish me luck!