Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A discussion of tomorrow's (potential) COLD SNAP...

I love that North Texas is now bracing itself for a "Wintry Blast". We currently have a small army of sanding trucks standing by...

It totally cracks me up. The mere idea of winter sends many of my fellow Texans into a panic. It is likely that there will be school closings tomorrow - simply because a possibility exists that winter weather may or may not rear its cold, icy head in the wee hours of the morning. How ever will we survive? If plants cannot endure the potential for frost, how can we be expected to? Better stock up on canned food, toilet paper and beer!

Now, it is conceivable that I find all this so amusing because I spent ten years living in the north east (where winter is more of a way of life, rather than a freakish phenomenon). I learned how to drive during the Blizzard of ’96 in Maryland, survived four winters in Syracuse, New York (where the snow is deep and the chill bitter, yet no one has ever heard of a “snow day”), and even lived to tell the tale of the Presidents’ Day Blizzard in Washington, DC. So, panicking simply because it is expected to drop into the mid to upper 30s doesn’t really alarm me at all. Call me crazy…

On the other hand, it does bother me to no avail that I live in a place where it frequently goes from the mid to upper 70’s (i.e. today) to highs hovering just above freezing (i.e. tomorrow). That seems a bit much.

That said, though, I do derive a lot of pleasure from watching everyone freak out over temperatures falling below 32 degrees. I have a vivid memory of being in Syracuse and breaking out the shorts and flip-flops during a 35 degree “heat wave” one March. It’s certainly different now that I live in Texas. I now shiver if it drops below 65. Sad, I know. How quickly our bodies forget! In college, we kept our apartment at a toasty 56 degrees all winter long. We’d watch TV on the couch while wearing our hats, coats and scarves to counter the effects of the winter wind. Yes, we were inside, but our apartment was a little…uh…drafty. Despite a thorough job taping plastic up in front of all the windows, the wind could not be stopped. Luckily, with every gust the plastic would inflate, giving fair warning to all couch-goers that a chilly blast of air was heading our way. Brace yourselves, dear penguins…

Speaking of Syracuse, they have the most amazing snow removal system in the world. No kidding. I’ve never seen anything like it. The roads are all clear and salted within an hour or two of any winter weather event – even the back roads and side streets. They have it down to a science up there. Now, if only someone could convince them that an elevated highway (that goes from four lanes outside the city to two within the city, and makes sharp 90 degree turn) in an area that expects an average of 112 inches of snowfall a year was, say, a bad idea they’d be well on their way.

Washington, DC, though, not so much. Snow falls there and the entire city shuts down. Your street may or may not be cleared before summer hits and the snow melts on its own. This is okay, however, because it isn’t like you have anywhere to go. All the schools are closed, work has been cancelled, the metro can’t run – heck, even the government gets the day off until the snow situation is rectified. It was days like this I was really happy that I owned a PlayStation. Otherwise I’m sure I would have gone stir-crazy.

At least in DC there WAS snow. In Dallas that rarely ever happens. Once, when I was four, it snowed and I spent hours trying – desperately – to make a snowman. This was much easier said than done and required most of the snow in the neighborhood to complete. When I was finally finished, I had a snow man that barely made it up to my waist. Pathetic, but true. Even worse: he melted before dinner.

Don’t believe me?...Here, these old photos tell the entire tale (hold mouse over images to see my commentary):

Here I am starting ‘Operation Snowman’…

Hours later, my progress is minimal (please note that, somewhere along the way, I’ve changed pants and enlisted the building expertise of my baby brother)...

Because Mr. Snowman is starting to melt, I’ve relocated him to the shade next the bushes.  Please take notice of the picture’s general lack of snow (not to mention the overabundance of brown grass).  Oh, the trials and tribulations of trying to build a snowman in Texas…

Ironically, despite a decade up north, I have yet to see a white Christmas. I have always come home for the holidays, and – as already established – it doesn’t do a lot of snowing down here. Maybe one day I’ll get a chance, but I’m not holding my breath that it’ll happen while I am still living in the big-D. My chances are probably better to be eaten by a Great White Shark while swimming in White Rock (and WHY would I EVER go swimming in there?! Ew!).

My consolation prize, however, is that I get to watch a winter-weary Texas work itself into a frenzy over the mere possibility of a brief dip below freezing. With any luck, DISD will overreact and close for the day (DISD closes, the museum closes), and I’ll get to sleep late. What a wonderful mid-week treat that would be! Totally unnecessary, but a nice idea nevertheless.

Stay warm, my babies...!!!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Yet another History Lesson compliments of Deals-the-Dork (and her trusty US history "Quote of the Day" calendar)...

After the last one, I know everyone out there was eagerly anticipating the next installment! So, without further ado, here ya'll go:


- “We fight not to enslave, but to set a country free, and to make room upon the earth for honest men to live in.”
- Thomas Paine, “The American Crisis,” 1777

- “To model our political systems upon speculations of lasting tranquility is to calculate on the weaker springs of the human character.”
- Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist, 1787-1788

- “Let Americans disdain to be the instruments of European greatness. Let the Thirteen States, bound together in a strict and indissoluble union, concur in erecting one great American system.”
- Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist, 1787-1788

- “If you complain of neglect of education in sons, what shall I say with regard to daughters…I most sincerely wish…that our new Constitution may be distinguished for encouraging learning and virtue. If we mean to have heroes, statesmen, and philosophers, we should have learned women.”
- Abigail Adams, in a letter to John Adams, September 24th, 1774

- “Government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection and security of the people, nation, or community; of all the various modes and forms of government, that is best which is capable of producing the greatest degree of happiness and safety, and is most effectively secured against the danger of maladministration.”
- George Mason, Virginia Bill of Rights, June 12th, 1776

- “The freedom of the press is one of the greatest bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained but by despotic governments.”
- George Mason, Virginia Bill of Rights, June 12th, 1776

- “What is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?”
- James Madison, Independent Journal, 1787

- “It is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order.”
- Thomas Jefferson, The Virginia Act for Religious Freedom, 1786

- General Nathaniel Greene has been considered one of the more underrated military minds of the Revolutionary War. Apparently, his talent caused him to be called into service against his personal desires. When word reached him that Washington wanted him to become commander of the Southern Department of the Continental army, Greene wrote to his wife:

What I have been dreading has come to pass. His Excellency George Washington has appointed me to the command of the southern Army. This is so foreign from my wishes that I am distressed exceedingly…How unfriendly war is to domestic happiness.


- If you were a man living in colonial times, chances are you’d most likely be wearing a wig. Wigs were made of animal and human hair and came in a variety of colors and styles. Soldiers of the day generally wore a “Ramilee Wig”, but other popular styles included the “Sunday Buckle”, the “Campaign Wig” (often worn by travelers), and the “Major Bob”. A “Minor Bob” was also available for the thriftier wig wearers of the time.

- On the day that the Continental Congress voted to declare independence from Great Britain (July 4th, 1776 for you history-impaired types), King George III wrote the following in his diary: “Nothing of importance happened today.”

- Later, of course, King George III felt the loss of the colonies sorely. He remarked in 1782: “I cannot conclude without mentioning how sensibly I feel the dismemberment of America from this empire.”

- Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were never very close (despite the fact that they were two extremely influential men of the time) died mere hours apart on the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence (that would be July 4th, 1826 for those of you who are mathematically-challenged).

- The Pennsylvania Evening Post became the first daily newspaper in the United States in 1783.

- An estimated 10,000 Blacks fought in the American Revolution, many doing so as a way of gaining freedom from slavery.

- By 1782, many colonists who had remained loyal to the British Crown decided that America was not the place they wanted to call “home” anymore and began to leave. Where did many of them go, you ask? Canada.

- The role of the “Drummer” in the army was critical. The sound of the drum could be heard regardless of whether the troops were at camp or at battle. Soldiers listened for the various drumbeats transmitting major orders (when to march, fall back, fire, etc.). Without the drum, the soldiers would not have had the tactical information they required to stay organized during battle.

- The “Badge of Military Merit”, more commonly known as the “Purple Heart”, was established by George Washington in 1782.

- New Jersey is sometimes referred to as the “gateway of the American Revolution”. It was the geographical center of the colonies at the time of the war, and more battles were fought on New Jersey territory than in any other state during the Revolutionary War. (“Gateway of the American Revolution” is a much cooler slogan than “the Garden State”, but no one ever asks me…)

- Dr. Benjamin Church, the first head of the American Medical Corps, holds the somewhat dubious honor of becoming the first American traitor in 1775.

- Wives and children often elected to leave home in order to follow their husbands and fathers around from battle to battle. They were so pervasive that they became recognized as a part of the military, entitling them to proportional rations: ½ rations for wives and ¼ for children. However, it was understood that if you accepted the military’s food, you were subject to military discipline.

- “The Ladies Association” was the first organization created by women during the Revolution. Their aim was to raise money for General George Washington’s army. It was so successful and well known that it achieved the moniker “Washington’s Sewing Circle”.

- During the Revolutionary War a number of intrepid women disguised themselves as men in order to fight for America’s freedom. One such woman was Deborah Samson of Plympton, Massachusetts, who enlisted with the name of “Robert Shirtliffe” in October of 1778. She fought bravely and was wounded twice, but her identity went unchallenged until she was treated for a “brain fever”. She was eventually awarded a pension and land for her part in the war.

- In 1766, an organization called “The Daughters of Liberty” was formed. It was a very strong union of women who often used boycotts as an effective way to establish change.

- Benjamin Franklin and Dr. Benjamin Rush together formed the Society for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage in 1775. It was the first such abolitionist group.

- Those out there entering midlife (ahem…RR, JLR, AM and Trevor) owe the availability of bifocals to Benjamin Franklin, who invented bifurcated glasses in 1766.

- Recycling has always been a part of American culture, going back to the frugal colonists. Old clothes were given new life with the help of a tradesman called a “milliner” (i.e. someone who would take apart and remake clothing). Girls, often as young as eleven, would begin learning the trade as apprentices. Since it was important to the trade, milliners would teach the apprentices other skills such as the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic.

- It took at least four men to fire a Revolution-era cannon: two to load, one to stand ready with a burning fuse, and another with a finger over the touch-hole to inhibit any spark from igniting the gunpowder prematurely.

- George Washington never had a set of wooden dentures. By the time he was President, his dentures would have been made from cow’s teeth. Later, Washington contracted a prominent Philadelphia dentist to make him a set of teeth from a hippopotamus tusk. However, no matter how much better they looked than the cow’s teeth, the hippo dentures caused so much pain when worn that Washington had to resort to taking painkillers.

- Although none of them were paved, roads ran contiguously from Boston, Massachusetts, to Savannah, Georgia by 1776.

- A flag with thirteen white stars in alternating rows of three and two, against a deep blue field, marked the location of General Washington’s headquarters, wherever he was during the war.

- In addition to the death toll of American soldiers, 4,435 colonial civilians are listed as casualties of the American Revolutionary War.

You feel smarter already, don’t you! :P

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Things that make you go Hmmmmmmmm...

Someone pleeeeeeease explain to me WHY
Mr. Plastic Cow needed to be anatomically correct?!

I have it on good authority that local museum stores who sell these cute, barnyard animals spend hours going through each box and cutting off the...the..."the offending appendage"
(lest they be sued by alarmed parents).

Thankfully, such an "endowment" is limited to those plastic creatures of the bovine persuasion.

Monday, November 13, 2006

"Your next-door neighbor is not a man; he is an environment." - Gilbert K. Chesterton

I think I’ve mentioned before that my next door neighbors are a little...ahem...“white-trash”. That said, they are very, very sweet people, and would probably do anything to help me out in a pinch (within reason, of course). Whenever I go out of town, they watch my house, park cars in my driveway (to make it look like I’m home), etc. They have all of my emergency contact information, and I am confident that it will be my next door neighbors (not my parents, siblings or boyfriend) who will first sound the alarm should I ever go missing or something of that nature.

Because they are such sweet people – and so protective of me and my belongings – I don’t get irritated when, say, the wind blows the trash from their yard into mine. Or when I discover “Mr. Toolson” wandering around my backyard at 10 PM, “just checking on the progress of the landscapin’ project”. I honestly believe that they have my safety and wellbeing at heart. True, they are a bizarre bunch, but harmless. Completely harmless.

Anyway, “The Toolsons” never cease to fascinate me. I really should start a BLOG to track nothing else but their odd behavior. Seriously. They crack me up, and give me loads of stories to tell. However, seeing as though I hardly have enough time to update this BLOG, I’ll stick with giving everyone periodic updates on what's going on next door.

Speaking of which, I hope you enjoy the following “Toolson Tidbits”:

Incident #1:

As I mentioned in THIS POST the daughter-in-law of Mr. and Mrs. Toolson is pregnant with her second child. However, despite the fact that she was already showing in early July, “Jane Doe” still hadn’t been to the doctor by Labor Day. When I asked her about this, she shrugged her shoulders and told me that it wasn’t a big deal. After all, she was only in her first trimester.

“First trimester,” I exclaimed! “But you’re already so big! Are you sure you’re not further along?”

“Well, that’s what the doctor thinks,” Jane Doe explained.

“I thought you said you hadn’t been to the doctor, yet.”

“I haven’t, but I called one on the phone. He thought I sounded like I was only in my second or third month.”

“Oh.” (I wanted to say something super sarcastic here, but bit my tongue. She’s sweet, but not-the-brightest-crayon-in-the-box, if you know what I mean. It would only confuse her if I asked what the difference in sound was in a woman three months pregnant versus six.)

“He thinks my due date will be in late February or something, which kind of sucks. I was hoping that this one would be born before the New Year, so I could get a tax benefit for having two kids.”

“Bummer. Did you tell the doctor that you haven’t had your period since last February or March?”

“Yeah, but he still thinks I’m only a month or two along.”

“Maybe you should get a second opinion? I don’t think you’re supposed to start showing until second trimester, and you are definitely showing.”

“Well, he’s the doctor. I’m sure he knows what he’s talking about.”


As it turns out, I only had to wait about a week for “Jane Doe” to finally go to the doctor. Apparently, it didn’t take long for him to discover that she wasn’t in her first trimester at all (duh!). Yeah, she was in her sixth month (which, incase you are keeping track, is the last month of the SECOND trimester). So, “Jane Doe” will be welcoming baby #2 (a girl) into the world sometime in mid-December. Looks like she’ll be getting that tax write-off after all…

Incident #2:

A couple of days after I returned from Africa, I ran into “Mr. Toolson”. This is the conversation that transpired:

“Oh, good! I was hoping to run into you today,” exclaimed “Mr. Toolson” as he ran towards me.

“Hi! Is everything okay,” I inquired?

“Oh, sure. I just wanted to get something off my chest.”


“I owe you money from 8 PM last Thursday until 4:30 PM last Friday.”

“For what?”

“Well, I didn’t pay our electric bill again last month and they turned the power off. So, I called with my bank card number, but they couldn’t get anyone out to turn the lights back on until the next afternoon. So, I plugged into your tree right there and ran extension cords across the driveway so we could have electricity. I would have asked first, but you were in Africa.”


“You’re not mad, are you?”

“Oh, no. Not at all. I’m glad I could help. I’m just trying to get a mental-picture, that’s all. You must have one long extension cord!”

“Actually, no. I just hooked about 15 of them together. I even ran one line up the stairs, so we could watch TV in the bedroom.”


Incident #3:

I returned home one night to find the Toolsons cooking on the grill underneath their carport. At one point, “Jane Doe” walked calmly outside with Jet (her 18 month old son). She waited patiently while Mr. Toolson and I finished our conversation before very matter-of-factly announcing that the stove in the kitchen was on fire.

It was at that moment that I first noticed the flames on the other side of the kitchen window.

Later, after the fire was put out, Mr. Toolson asked “Jane Doe” why she waited so long to tell him about the blaze. Her answer: “Well, the stove catches on fire all the time over here, so it didn’t seem like something important enough to interrupt the conversation over.”

Incident #4:

Last Monday I returned home to discover that someone had run over my front yard and walkway with their car. Two of my solar lights were shattered, a couple of my landscaping bricks were cracked into several pieces, a strange “dent” was visible in the bark of my pecan tree and one of my sprinklers heads was laying in the middle of the driveway. Thank goodness I had turned the sprinkler main off the day before (because of an unrelated sprinkler issue in the backyard the previous afternoon). Otherwise, the broken sprinkler head would have sprouted some sort of geyser.

Anyway, while I was cleaning up the mess, I was approached by my across-the-street neighbor, “Mark”. Everyone in the neighborhood knows “Mark”, and if you are patient enough “Mark” will tell you everything he knows about the people in the neighborhood. He has lived on the street with his parents for his entire life, and loves to make new friends. If someone new moves in, “Mark” will most likely be the first person on the block that they meet. He’s like the unofficial neighborhood “Welcome Wagon”.

Now, “Mark” is in his mid-fifties, but has the mentality of someone around the age of eight or nine. I’m not saying this to be mean, but because “Mark” is mentally retarded. So, when I heard “Mark” call out my name (he thinks my name is “Let’s Make a Deal, Gamble”) and saw him walk (he normally runs) across the street with his head down (it’s normally up with a BIG smile plastered from ear to ear) – I knew something was up.

“What’s up, Mark?”

“I dunno. Not much. Your light’s broke and you can’t fix it?”

“Yeah, it’s broken. Not a big deal, though. They weren’t expensive. Do you know what happened?”

[Mark looks at me and hesitates…] “No.”

“It’s just so weird. It looks like a car drove up and hit my lights and tree.”

“Oh. Yeah, it does look like that. I bet that’s what happened. Car hit the tree.”

“Well, I hope everyone is okay.”

“Yeah. Me, too.” [Mark hesitates again…] “I got a secret. Promise not to tell?”


“Well, you know [Jane Doe’s] mother?”


“Well, she’d had one-too-many-beers or something. That’s what my dad always says when my brother has too much to drink – one-too-many beers. It looked like she forgot which driveway was which. She drove right up and hit your tree. There is a dent in her car, too. She was real mad. She screamed real loud. I can’t believe she didn’t tell you. I don’t think she even told [Mr. Toolson]. She smelled bad. Don’t tell that I told, though. I don’t want to be a no tattletale or nothing. It’s just that she broke your lights and didn’t tell you or say ‘sorry’. That’s not right. It was just an accident. Nobody means for an accident to happen. You just say ‘sorry’ and it will be okay. She should have said ‘sorry’. It’s good to be honest.”

“Thanks for telling me, Mark.”

“Okay. I’m sorry about your lights. They were pretty at night. Don’t tell nobody I told.”

“Alright. I won’t.”

“Maybe she’ll tell you later? I hope so. Just don’t tell her I told you first. It was just an accident. She didn’t mean it.”

“It’s our little secret, Mark.”

Anyway, I’ve never heard about “the incident” from the Toolsons, so I’m guessing “Jane Doe’s” mother never told them about it, either. Plus, the solar lights were cheap, so it wasn’t a big loss. The most expensive thing was the sprinkler repair, but the sprinkler guy was so amused by the tale of the drunk-driveway-sprinkler-hit-and-run, he just threw that in for free.

I guess I now know why Benjamin Franklin once said:

“Love thy neighbor, but don't pull down your hedge.”

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A public service announcement of sorts...


Just incase you ever run into me and I am…

A) …not wearing eyebrows,
B) …wearing eyebrows that have been partially smeared or rubbed off,
C) …wearing eyebrows that are obviously askew and/or the wrong color (i.e. drawn in with pink lipstick or something equally as ridiculous),

Please tell me. Don’t be concerned about sparing my feelings. I won’t be mad. Promise. I’d rather you let me know, than allow me to continue walking around looking like an idiot (in public, no less)!

I mean, really…I have alopecia. I don’t have eyebrows. I’m learning to deal with it. So HELP ME maintain some semblance of facial hair. Even if it is purely cosmetic and serves no purpose other than making me feel “normal”.

Case in point: I went to the mall with my boyfriend and sister on Sunday afternoon. We walked around for almost two hours. However, it wasn’t until I was trying on a sweater at Banana Republic (and caught a glimpse of my face in the changing room mirror) that I noticed – much to my own shock, horror and dismay - my complete lack of eyebrows. Because I almost always carry a backup eyebrow pencil, I was able to rectify the situation right then and there. I’m sure the dressing room attendant didn’t recognize me as I walked out – that’s how much of a difference having eyebrows makes (like Clark Kent’s eyeglasses, but not).

Because I am neurotic, I started a mental slideshow of all the people who had seen me sans eyebrows and/or had given me a funny look. This took several hours, and only added to my I’m-so-embarrassed mental state.

I did not waste any time waiting to confront my before-mentioned boyfriend and sister. I wanted to know (and understand) why they both failed to mention the situation to me, say, earlier. I had already decided to give them the benefit of the doubt. After all, they see me all the time without my eyebrows, so it was possible (unlikely, but possible) that they simply hadn’t noticed.

However, it didn’t take long to ascertain that they HAD BEEN AWARE of my lack of eyebrows. Not only that, but they HAD BEEN AWARE for quite awhile. Both had separately considered telling me, and decided against it. Apparently, they were, “too worried about hurting my feelings”. Instead, they elected to watch me parade around the mall facially naked.

Some friends they are! Boo!

Just so you know, I’m the kind of person that will tell you if you have spinach in your teeth, a giant booger hanging from your left nostril, etc. Any temporary embarrassment that comes with the initial disclosure of something like that is nothing compared to the feeling you get when you discover the infraction on your own…later…and wonder aloud: How long have I been walking around this way? Oh, why didn’t someone just tell me?!

Plus, how awkward is it when you return to the group/table/party WITHOUT the spinach in your teeth or the booger hanging from your nose?! Everyone around you is now thinking something along the lines of, “Does she know WE knew? If she asks, I’ll just say I didn’t even notice. She’ll know I’m lying, though – there’s no way you could ever miss that thing!”

Yet, oddly enough, neither my boyfriend nor my sister (despite the earlier “eyebrow confrontation”) noticed that I had put my eyebrows back ON until well after we left Banana Republic. I like to think that they were blinded by guilt…

Sunday, November 05, 2006

In honor of "All Saints Day"...

Yes, I am one of those people who dresses their dog up on Halloween. Stop judging me! I passed out $60 worth of candy in under two hours - somebody needed to be in costume (and it wasn't going to be me)!

Plus, how cute are they?!:

Gypsy Kitty was a pumpkin and Haskell was Dracula...

They aren't looking at me because the doorbell just rang.  Everyone wanted to pet them.  I even had several repeat customers (not for more candy, but to pet the dogs-in-costume again).  Now several kids in the neighborhood know my dogs by name!