Monday, September 26, 2011

Gotta Get A Fix!

 Oh, snap! Look what's back on Publix store shelves! (AND it's on sale this week. Woot!) This stuff is like crack to me. On one hand, I'm SOOO happy to see it in stock already. On the other hand, it seems a bit too early for a holiday-ish flavor.

I don't care... I'm gettin' me some!

Oooohhh yeah, Baby! That's the stuff!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Preparing to Become a Temporary Spud

Gonna be watching a lot of TV in the next two or three weeks. The fall season is upon us, with new episodes and new shows. CBS starts it off for us tonight, with the return of How I Met Your Mother and Two and a Half Men. I don't know how long I'll bother to watch the Men... I'd kinda lost interest in it a season or two ago... but I'm looking forward to seeing how they kill off Charlie and bring in Ashton Kutcher's character. Not a big fan of Kutcher's either. Angus T. Jones (Jake) and Conchata Ferrell (Berta) are the best part of the show these days if you ask me.

After all the "Tiger Blood" and "Winning" hoopla and the rest of Charlie Sheen's mental meltdown craziness this summer, it was nice to see him last night on the Emmy Award show, looking sober and healthy (though a bit too thin). Kudos to him for wishing his former cast members success with the show. I kept waiting for the sucker punch, but it looks like he was actually sincere. Bless his heart, maybe he really has gotten himself together.

Photo: Mario Anzuoni / Reuters

Speaking of the Emmy Awards, the nominees for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series stole the show with their pageant finalists gimmick. High-larious! And did you catch Martha Plimpton in that lineup? She looked absolutely STUNNING in that gorgeous dress! She's come a long way since The Goonies!

You go, Martha!

AP Photo: Chris Pizzello

Martha in "The Goonies"
Warner Bros. 1985

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Alright now!

Maybe it's just me, but every time I see a bottle of Sweet Leaf Tea, I think of the classic 1971 Black Sabbath song of the same name. It makes me giggle a little bit because part of the tea company's logo is a cartoon of the grandmother of one of the founders. And then Mr. Remarkable Monkey and I will start doing the song: "Dah nah... nah nah naaah... nah nah! Dah nah... nah nah naaah... nah nah!" I gotta wonder if Grandma Mimi has ever heard the song.

   And then I wonder if the founders actually DID name their company with that song in mind. Seems plausible, considering the idea was born while one of the founders was living on a sailboat in the Florida Keys. Sounds like a sweet leaf kinda lifestyle to me... and one WOULD probably experience frequent cravings for a quenching beverage if partaking of THAT kind of sweet leaf often.

I checked out Sweet Leaf Tea's website, and it seems like a cool company. And their bottled tea isn't bad, although the southern girl in me prefers fresh brewed.

"Dah nah... nah nah naaah... nah nah!"
That song will be in your head all day now.
You're welcome.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 Ten Years Later

Photo from webcam.
Photo credit: Craig Ruttle. From website.
Has it really been 10 years since the 9/11 attacks? On one hand, it seems like only yesterday. On the other hand, it seems like a lifetime ago. I saw images of the memorial park at Ground Zero today... with the two square waterfalls in the footprint of the towers, etched with the victims' names. It struck me as beautifully simple and elegant at first. Then it occurred to me how the water cascading down into the footprints of those buildings seemed reminiscent of the towers perpetually collapsing. Maybe that's what the designer intended, so we'd never forget how so many lost their lives there. As if anyone could.

Like just about everyone who was over the age of five or six at the time, I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing at 9:03 a.m. that Tuesday morning 10 years ago today. I remember noticing what a beautiful day it was here that morning... warm but not very humid, with a cloudless deep blue sky. I was sitting at my desk at work, when a coworker came in and said "Did you hear? A plane crashed into the World Trade Center." When the second plane hit the towers, we all knew it was no accident. My first thought was "Bet Osama Bin Laden is behind it."

My second thought was "Oh shit... my mom and her husband are traveling back from a trip to Italy today... I know she's coming through New York to Chicago (they lived in Illinois at the time)... Is she safe?" I was relieved to learn a short time later that the flights that hit the twin towers originated in Boston, so Mom wouldn't have been on them. Then I started wondering if she'd be able to to get home at all, since flights were being grounded after the third and fourth crashes at the Pentagon and the field near Shanksville, PA. I had no way to reach her... she didn't have a cell phone at the time, and I doubt it would have been on if she had. It wasn't until much later that day when she called me from home that I learned for sure she was safe.

Here's where it gets a little freaky... they flew into New York City very late the night before, and were supposed to have flown on to Chicago that night. There was a problem with the connecting plane, however, and all the other flight crews were already at their max allowed hours. So the airline rescheduled them on a 9:00 or 10:00 flight to Chicago the next morning and put them up for the rest of the night in NYC. When they brought the passengers back to the airport at around 5:00 a.m. the next morning, my mom explained to the ticket agent that they'd been up travelling for more than 24 hours and asked if she could bump them to first class. The ticket agent said, "No, but I can get you on an earlier flight." So instead of the 9:00 or 10:00 a.m. flight, which probably would have been grounded, they flew out of LaGuardia at 7:00-ish the morning of the 11th. My mom told me that as they took off and flew over the city, she glanced out the window and said "Oh look! There's the World Trade Center!" Little did she (or anyone) know that a plane like theirs would smash into that landmark less than two hours later.

As she and her husband flew from NYC to Chicago that morning, they were blissfully unaware of the events unfolding that were fundamentally changing our country. When they landed in Chicago, they grabbed their bags, picked up their car and started the 3- or 4-hour drive to their home. They were listening to CDs on the ride, and only turned on the radio when they got close to their town. That's when they first heard the reports of the attacks. She said they thought it was a hoax, like Orson Welles' famous "War of the Worlds" radio drama. It wasn't until they were home and saw the news on TV that they realized it was real. That's when she called me. I can't tell you how glad I am that she was on that early flight instead of a later one.

I also found out later that my cousin was in NYC that day for a meeting that was to be held in one of buildings in the World Trade Center compound, though I don't think it was in one of the twin towers. She and her group of coworkers were among the masses who walked across the bridge to New Jersey after the attacks. I don't know if she was still in the immediate area when the towers fell. If I remember correctly, she was stranded for several days at the NJ home of her company's president, along with the rest of her group, until she was able to arrange transportation back home to the Carolinas.

While I feel fortunate that I lost no loved ones in the 9/11 attacks, I think we ALL lost a little piece of our souls that day. It's still difficult to accept that there is such barbaric evil in the world... that a handful of human beings could so willfully and callously inflict such immediate and horrific damage to other human beings. It would have been terrible enough just to have flown the planes into the twin towers... I don't think even the perpetrators foresaw the subsequent collapse and the exponentially increased trauma it caused, though I'm sure they WOULD have planned it that way if possible. And on top of the grief I felt already, I was sickened at seeing the joyous street celebrations by some Islamic groups in the Middle East at the news of our tragedy.

Because of this act of terrorism and the cruel celebration of it by a few Islamic extremists, Muslims everywhere now seem to be looked at with suspicion and distrust. I think that's a shame. I don't think it's right to judge an entire group of people by the act of a few. The truth is, ANY group that has the potential to spin off extremist factions can be just as dangerous and deadly as the 9/11 attackers, and have been in the past. There's the homegrown Oklahoma City and Atlanta Olympics bombings, perpetrated by our own citizens. Centruries ago, Christians had the Crusades and later the Spanish Inquisition, and even today have been responsible for deadly bombings of women's health clinics and the murder of gays because of their differing beliefs. The Nazis committed genocide based on racial and cultural differences, and the KKK lynched and brutalized others based on race. Since the beginning of time, history is full of examples of man's inhumanity against man, motivated by nothing other than differences between groups. I wonder if it will ever end. I know that in the long run, things never turn out as the perpetrators of such terrorism hope for. We, as Americans, were NOT beaten by the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

People are resilient, and I still believe mankind is mostly good. So why all the unnecessary bloodshed? It seems the basic principle of every major religion essentially boils down to the Golden Rule of "treat others as you would like to be treated". Why can't we all just do that?

The Dalai Lama once said, "Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible."

He also said, "Love and kindness are the very basis of society. If we lose these feelings, society will face tremendous difficulties; the survival of humanity will be endangered."

I don't personally ascribe to any organized religion, but I have to wonder what the world would be like if everyone was Buddhist. I can't imagine that terrorists and hatred could exist in such a world. It's a beautiful thought.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Time Marches On

My grandma had a birthday a few days ago. She's the only grandparent I have left. She turned 90-something I think... 95? 96? I can't remember. Which is probably okay because I don't think she remembers which birthday it is either. In fact, I'm not sure she was even aware it WAS her birthday. Dementia is gripping her tighter and tighter these days. But I knew it was her birthday and I thought about her.

I haven't seen her in more than a few years. She lives in a small town too far away for me to visit with any regularity. It takes an expensive plane trip and a fairly long drive regardless of what airport I'd fly into. And although it makes me feel sad (and a little guilty) that I haven't seen her in so long, I also wonder if maybe that's not such a bad thing. It's difficult to watch someone you love deteriorate and succumb to age (or any other illness or disease). I miss my Gma terribly, but the only benefit of not being able to see her often is that in my mind, she's still the vibrant, sassy woman I've known all my life, and not the increasingly frail and addled old lady who recently had to move to a more comprehensive care facility.

My Gma is a pistol, for sure! She was always independent-minded, brash and outspoken. She took very little sass, but could dish it out with the best of 'em! She's always been quite a fine, strong Southern woman. I'm lucky to have inherited some of her traits, even a few of the quirkier ones... like vocalizing random odd noises (kind of my own personal sound effects) and not being able to sit still without jiggling a foot or leg. She seemed pretty fearless to me, and self assured. That's how I'd like to remember her. Might be harder to do that if I saw her often in her current state. Although I WILL go and see her if the opportunity arises, because I love her and miss her.

Another loved one chalking up a big-number birthday is my beloved dog Hobey. We think his birthday is around Labor Day, and he's turning 11 this year. He's still a pistol himself, though he's showing more and more signs of age as well. He's a big dog, so 11 is pretty dang old! But he's really healthy and we're doing all we can to ward off senior canine issues. We're fortunate that he's in such great shape! He seems much younger than he is.

But there are times when I can't help but think of the inevitable... that one day in the not-to-distant future, I'll have to say a final goodbye to each of those two loved ones who are so special to me. I try not to dwell on it. I know it's part of life, although it's one of the saddest parts. You can't stop time... it just keeps flowing forward no matter what. So I try to enjoy my dog while he's here and in good health, and I think of my Gma often even though I can't visit and she probably wouldn't know me if did. And just like everybody else, I sometimes have to remind myself to appreciate each day as it comes. Time won't wait for you to catch up.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

It's not about the swag, but...

When my mom was undergoing treatment for breast cancer a few years ago, I formed a team to participate in my area's Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 5k walk event. I figured I couldn't really do much to help my mom aside from giving her emotional support... I couldn't take the chemo and radiation for her, couldn't make her cancer disappear, couldn't snap my fingers and make the situation go away... but I COULD raise a few bucks for breast cancer research in her honor. Thanks to some fabulous teammates, our team ranked pretty high in fundraising for our event. If I recall correctly, I think we were number two, and one of our members was number one in fundraising by an individual. (We were all so proud of her!)

I haven't done it again since then, so when a good pal told me she was thinking of forming a team for this year's Making Strides event and asked if I'd be interested in joining her, I immediately said "Hell yeah!" She got the team registered last week, and thanks to a few crazy generous donations (Mom, Dad and a wonderful angel who wishes to remain anonymous) I've already exceeded my fundraising goal of $500. Woohooo! I'm thinking I should probably bump my goal a bit higher, considering there's still over a month and a half until the event. I'd LIKE to raise a gajillion dollars, but times are tight these days so I'd settle for $750 or $1000. Take THAT, breast cancer!

Anyway, I was looking at the sheet from the American Cancer Society that lists the "awards" for individual fundraising. You know how it works... depending on the amount you raise, you can choose a plastic cup or a tote bag or some other kind of tchotchke emblazoned with a pink ribbon and the event logo. It's a really nice thing for the ACS to do, but what the heck do I need another plastic cup or tote bag or tchotchke for? Don't get me wrong... I'm not in this thing for the prizes... but if you're gonna bestow awards in appreciation of the participants' fundraising efforts, why not make it something really useful instead of just a souvenir? And I had an idea for that...

You may recall that I've recently discovered Nordrostm's incredible lingerie department, right? Nordstrom's, that magical place where you can find just about any size bra you could ever need IN STOCK! (I love them.) But their bras are not inexpensive. So as an optional alternative to the pink-ribbon-emblazoned souvenirs, wouldn't it be cool if the Making Strides folks could work out a partnership with Nordstrom, and offer gifts cards worth $5 for every $100 raised that could be used in their bra department? Just think of the great PR it would be for Nordstrom, AND it would bring shoppers into their store. I think it's a great idea. But maybe it's just me.

At any rate, it won't happen this year, so I guess I'll just enjoy my plastic cup or tote bag. Like I said, I'm not participating for the awards anyway. My greatest reward is just knowing I've done a small part to help fight breast cancer. And to be fair, it really IS a nice-looking tote bag.