Thursday, May 28, 2009

Nasty for No Reason

This year, I got turned on to a new cooking show. "Hell's Kitchen" with Gordon Ramsay. The chef is known for his in-your-face leadership style. This picture above is a familiar sight. I bet he's probably calling someone a "cow" or "stupid." They're familiar phrases on the show.

I like this show. I like the creativity that comes out of the kitchen. However, the meanness makes me cringe. I know that's what makes this show so popular, but I can't understand why our society is so fascinated with being mean. Kindness as a rule of thumb has been traded in for "the meaner, the better."

I've seen a lot of this lately in my own life. I'll admit, for the past several years, I was a pretty dreadful person. Choosing to live in a state of misery and putting down anyone else who seemed happy. Sarcastic cut-downs. Snide, rude remarks masked as a joke. Looking back, I just hate it.

But the wonderful thing is that in the past nine months, I've changed. I have a wonderful person to share each day with. My family is the best. I have an easy-going, caring roommate. I have my old friends, but I've also made new ones. I'm involved in a local church and starting to dip my hands into a few ministries. I'm happy. Seems pretty simple, huh? But considering I'd done everything to keep happy an arms-length away, it's remarkable and new in my life.

I'm also realizing some people won't understand your happiness. Sometimes people prefer you miserable. Some people will call you "cow" or "stupid" (in more or less words), but you've got to just keep cooking.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A quick rise — and fall

When you get in from a day on the lake, there are two things you will inevitably feel. Hunger that borders on starvation. And an all-over physical wipe out. Even if you don't ski. Even if your toe never even dips into the water. You'll feel a whole new kind of pooped.

That's how I felt Monday night. I had to talk myself into showering. Sleeping in my swimsuit was beginning to sound reasonable, too. No worries, I did shower (against my deep-rooted desires not to). Around 10:30 p.m., I slid my legs under the covers, adjusted my pillows and drifted off to a state of zen.

It's a pretty good bed. Lots of fluffy stuff to make it cozy — Baxter not included. My bed is also on risers. I like for my legs to dangle when I swing them out in the morning. Plus, older homes don't have much closet space — at least not in my portion of the estate. I have tons of books, journals, photos, etc., and the only storage spot is under my bed. So, risers, much like these pictured below.

Around midnight, in a deep state of sleep, my bed collapsed underneath me. It's bad enough to be startled from your sleep by a loud noise. But the noise combined with the fact that I was physically falling scared the living (insert expletive here) out of me.

I took a few deep breaths and rubbed the sleep from my eyes to realize the riser right behind my head had given way. Now what? My two options were: a.) clear out everything from underneath the bed and remove the other three risers. b.) sleep lopsided.

It was after midnight and in my dazed condition, option "B" sounded more reasonable. There wasn't much sleep going on. Mostly just holding on and hoping I didn't roll down the incline and onto the floor.

I bought new risers yesterday, but I've yet to completely relax in my bed or dare to rollover.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Surf's Up

(Enjoying fun in the sun with my BFF's finace, Marcus)

If someone were to ask me to describe the perfect weekend, this weekend would have been spot on. We spent Sunday and Monday on Cross Lake, which holds a special place in my heart. I grew up on the lake. My family took the boat out most weekends — weather permitting — and it's always been something I loved doing.

But there's another reason I've been looking so forward to lake weekends — because I missed out on a lot of them last summer. Almost every weekend, Ty would call and ask me to go out on the lake with him. While I did go one time, there were handfuls of times I said no. Why? Because I'm an idiot. I missed out on so much fun and spending time with such a wonderful person that I haven't been able to resist kicking myself over it a few times.

Self-kicking aside, I love seeing Ty so happy. The lake is definitely one of his favorite places, too. The guys take turns surfing the wake behind the boat. It's a relatively new water sport that you don't see many people doing just yet, but it's amazing to watch. They make it look easy, although I'm certain that is not the case.

For the most part, the rain held off and we had an excellent time on the water. I didn't burn, and believe it or not, I actually got in the water for a swim. The picture below is one of my favorites. The sun is out and Ty looks so happy. It sums up our perfect day.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Long Weekends and Longer Lines

As my birthday gift from the state, my license expired. Things have been a little busy, so I finally marked out an entire morning to go sit at the DMV. In Bossier, of course. The Shreveport DMV is the worst. However, the good news is I recently got my hair done, which upped my chances of having a decent photo until 2013.

I wasn't looking forward to it, but I started to get a really bad feeling about things when I pulled out of my driveway. I turned onto Fairfield, a man pulled out in front of me (I didn't honk or make any gestures or anything) and he still flipped me off. I repeat — HE flipped ME off. I did nothing wrong.

I took a few deep breaths and kept trucking. The DMV wasn't too horrible. A simple two hour visit, waiting on the red number to blink A027. I got out of there with a new license and a late fee charge. I thought you had a 30 day window to renew. It's actually 10 days, so hustle people.

After a morning at the DMV, I'm even more excited about the long Memorial Day weekend. Tonight (after a baby shower), we're going to dinner for Marcus' birthday, possible drinks to follow. We're considering Mudbug Madness. And we're definitely going out on the lake Sunday.

I haven't been on vacation since the Fourth of July. I haven't even had a day off work unless it was because I was sick. This long weekend is a God send, and I'm going to savor each moment.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Bonnie and Clyde Give Me The Willies

Before we dive into today's topic, I would like to point out two tiny tidbits.

  • I got back the Envoy last night. She's looking better than she has in years. New stripe, new running board, the side panel has been secured to the passenger-side door, the bumper was repainted and a new inspection sticker. Oh, and it got a bath. After driving the big white diesel for a week and a half, I'm having trouble readjusting to my smaller vehicle. My goal is to stop taking such wide turns sometime this afternoon.
  • I worked out so hard last night, I nearly yacked. We ran about three miles, then went inside the house to do our "Love Your Legs" DVD. About five exercises in, my stomach felt icky. LJ said that's what high school football players feel like and that she wasn't worried. I'm glad I was on yearbook staff in high school.
On to my blog post. In my recent post, "Camden Weekend," I hit on a topic I would like to further explore — my childhood fascination with Bonnie and Clyde. In the story, I mention how my grandparents had a book about Bonnie and Clyde on their bookshelf, and each time I visited I would look through the book until I was too scared to continue.

In the center of the book, there was an illustration of Bonnie and Clyde's bodies, a dot marking each spot where they were struck by a bullet. They weren't heroes to me, although some people saw them that way. I just couldn't understand their crimes or what made them that way. It was such a raw evil that it was impossible to wrap my head around it as a child.

My grandparents had a great story about Bonnie and Clyde. My great-grandparents lived on an old highway that ran from Louisiana up through Arkansas. It was a rural area and most people passing through were friendly, including one young couple whose tire went flat just down the street from my great-grandparents house. With no other means of assistance, my great-grandpa helped change the couple's tire, sent them on their way and went inside the house for dinner.

My great-grandparents listened to the radio as they ate dinner. In the middle of their meal, a news report turned my great-grandpa white as a ghost. Bonnie and Clyde were reported in the area and considered armed and extremely dangerous. My great-grandpa had changed their tire, completely unaware that the friendly couple was actually the most infamous killers of his time.

Can you imagine? Coming face-to-face with that kind of evil and not knowing until after the fact?

The Times is doing a four-day report on Bonnie and Clyde, which sprung my fascination back to life. Check it out. Seventy-five years later, it's still very interesting.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Cheesus, What's Wrong With People?

Perhaps we can consider this the latest sign of the times. Meet Cheesus, the Cheeto shaped like Jesus. That's right, our Lord and Savior, who could manifest himself though a wide array of miracles and wonders, chose to come in the form of a Cheeto. I always knew he was a humble guy.

I watched an interview this morning about Cheesus. All very interesting as the couple explained how they were eating a 99 cent bag of Cheetos. The woman who found Cheesus prefers to pour a few in her hand and snack on them in that manner, just FYI. And there Cheesus was, praying as if he were in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Enjoy this video: Chessus Loves Me

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Camden Weekends

(Kicked back, enjoying a weekend in Camden, 1984)

When I was a little girl, I would often visit my grandparents in Camden, Ark. It was a small town where my grandparents once ran a restaurant. My Memaw was a superb cook. Chicken and dumplings. Beef stew. Fried chicken, homemade mashed potatoes and turnip greens. She made meals that stuck to your bones.

During these years, my Papaw was never in good health. He was confined to a chair. And my first task once we piled out of the car, was to run inside and give Papaw a big hug. He was a sweet, tender grandpa who quoted scripture to me and said long prayers before dinner.

I can remember one incident in particular. Papaw had been praying for what seemed like an eternity and Memaw finally chimed in, "You've already thanked God for everything from the covered wagons to the astronauts landing on the moon. Can you just thank him for the food already?" She was funny like that.

Needless to say, I loved these visits. It was a house of mystery and intrigue. There was a storm cellar in the backyard. Living in Louisiana, I'd never seen one of those before, and going near it would always result in the same story. The time a tornado ripped off my grandparents' roof and they lost, among other things, the original Barbie doll, which would be worth lots of money these days. The storm was so bad, Bill Clinton paid Camden a visit. Standing in my grandparents' front yard, my Memaw told him she appreciated his visit, but she wasn't voting for him.

During the weekend visits, there were several things I would always do. I would always try on my mom's sequin majorette uniforms. They swallowed me whole, but I felt like a million bucks — sparkling from head to toe. I would always let my Memaw paint my nails, but only after she finished painting the nails of her black poodle, Goober.

I would always spend hours playing with the preacher's kids who lived across the street despite the fact that they were mean and horrible. I would always sneak the Bonnie and Clyde book off the living room's bookshelf and look at the scary pictures in the middle of the book (more on this later).

I would always walk with my brother up the street to the Piggly Wiggly and get a prize. I would always make my Uncle Steve, who lost part of his thumb on a camping trip, do his magic trick that made part of his finger disappear. I must have been quite naive considering part of his finger was actually missing.

They were the greatest weekends. It was a time before everything got very complicated in my life. I always knew what to expect. Sometimes, I long for days like that. Days where you know exactly what's coming, and it's always something good. Days where your only responsibility is to play with the kids across the street and "be nice." Days that ended with Memaw's fried chicken.

Grandparents' houses are curious places. When you're a kid, you don't question the quirks because they seem normal. Despite all the wacky events, the home of my grandparents (both sets) is one of the safest feeling places I've ever been.

Share your wacky story with me. I know you've got one.

Monday, May 18, 2009

My Big Wheel

Since the Envoy went in the shop last Monday, I thought you guys may be interested to see what I've been driving in the meantime.

Here it is. Ty's four-wheel drive, four door, diesel engine Dodge Ram. Honest to God, it's way too much for me to be sitting behind the wheel. I've done a lot of riding around in this truck, but not a lot of driving. It freaks me out a little when I pull up next to a school bus and I'm sitting eye level with the bus driver. It's so loud, when I pull up to any fast food window I have to turn off the engine. And don't even dare to wear high heels. You'll break an ankle trying to step out of this beast.

I know I look ridiculous. Like my grandmother, who can hardly see over the dash of her Lincoln Town Car. Mrs. Whitney Harper, my roommate's mom, stopped by the house the other day just as I was climbing out of my loaner truck. "Stephanie, it just doesn't really suit you." I completely agree, however more importantly and all style points aside, I'm fortunate to have not injured any small people or animals in the past week. I can't say the same for curbs and low-hanging tree limbs. I've creamed a few of them.

My dear, sweet boyfriend is loving every minute of this. Especially since I've managed to steer it around town without any minor accident reports being filed (knock on wood). The guy fixing my Envoy says it will be ready at the end of the day. That's good news for me. My birthday present will soon be ready to roll, and I can't wait to be sitting a few inches closer to the ground.

Friday, May 15, 2009

They Go Nuts for Squirrels

In the past month, Catherine and I have started filling up the bird feeder in the backyard. I love nature and birds — not so much the boring brown ones. However, our dogs also took notice of the explosion of wildlife in our yard.

Say you're walking through the kitchen. Maybe you want something from the refrigerator, or perhaps you're going to retrieve a load from the laundry room. Well, that's your mistake because if you go anywhere near the backdoor, the dogs go nuts. Our sweet, loving pets turn into 10-pound savage beasts.

Now, what happens when (God forbid) you actually open the backdoor? Move out of the way because the dogs are on a mission to catch a squirrel. Nevermind the fact that our suburbanized pets, who are too good for everyday rawhide bones and only eat the most expensive Dingo varieties, wouldn't know what to do if they actually caught up to the squirrel. But they give it a good chase, and I thank God for making squirrels such fast creatures.

So, after the chase ... the dogs stand watch. Squirrels daring to enter our backyard get one of two things. A stare down from Riley as she creeps slowly closer and closer to the fence. Or the blood-thirsty relentlessness of Baxter. I also thank God for making squirrels so smart.

I took the picture below yesterday. Baxter was roaming around the fence wondering, "Where the heck did that squirrel go?" All the while, the smart squirrel is sitting at the top of the fence laughing and saying to himself, "I'm right here, stupid" (You may have to click on the photo to get the full effect).

One of my former co-workers has a pet squirrel that lives inside her home. I always thought that was a little crazy, but I'm starting to understand why.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Tuesday Night Bunco

My roommate said it best: Bunco is the ultimate sign of getting older. The game involves absolutely no skill other than basic counting. It's a game conducive to gossip. For those of you who are not members of a Bunco group, the picture above is not quite accurate. Their drinking glasses are way too small. Unless they are actually shot glasses, and if so, I want to know if that group needs a sub.

So, our Bunco group got together last night. Nancy was enforcing an '80s theme. If you didn't dress up, you didn't win any money. Of course, I dressed up. I had the hair of Kelli Kapowski.

And the makeup of Cyndi Lauper.

Smokin' hot in my navy Keds and glow-in-the-dark pink lipstick. There was just one problem. Other than me and LJ, no one else really dressed up. There were a few sideponies and maybe a scrunchie or two, but that was it.

We were short on people, so we didn't even end up playing Bunco. Instead, we sat around the table, dressed like fools, drinking wine and beer and telling stories. It was the best game of Bunco never played.

These girls are so much fun. I left with my abs hurting from all the laughter. I'm glad I joined this Bunco group, and I'm glad I've become friends with these girls. In August, we're all taking a boat trip together with our guys, and if last night is any indication of the fun we'll have then I can't wait.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Limbo of Getting Older

My stepmom gave me a card for my birthday that said, "You're at that interesting age — somewhere between knowing where it's at and wondering where it went." There's a lot of wisdom in that card even though there's a picture of a fat baby on the cover. Not sure how that comes into play.

It was a little sad to think about getting older. I'm creeping up on 30. I don't care about the number necessarily, it's more of the realization that life moves awfully fast. However, I did feel somewhat better about this getting-older limbo when my grandparents gave me a card that said something about me growing up to be intelligent and charming. I can handle that.

It's a difficult adjustment when you start to fall into the getting-older limbo. For instance, Friday night's birthday festivities included dinner at the Cub followed by drinks and terrible singing at Tiki Tavern. It was fun (see below):

My dad and Ty even sang a duet. But one thing was different: we left before the bar even closed. Normally, we'd stay at Tiki until they made us leave and then catch a ride downtown for more partying. We left at 1:30, which definitely marked the latest night for me in many, many months. I believe this to be a symptom of getting older.

I thought the next day would be better. We were going to Walt and Nancy's house for the annual crawfish boil. It started at 2 p.m. ... old people thrive this time of day, so I knew I would be OK. It was fun (see below):

Walt (left) cooks some of the best crawfish I've ever tasted. That's the back of Lane's head to the right.

Lots of people showed up.

The crawfish were huge. Not just a few, the entire batch looked like baby lobsters. Michael and Laura Johnson show them off for you. As the night continued, the guys did what they normally do. Walt and Ty got out the guitars and began to serinade the group.

Time moved quickly and before I knew it, it was passed midnight. Old people do not stay up this late and neither do I. We called it a night considering I had to get up at 6 a.m. and be at the church by 8:30.

I can't say much for Sunday. I was a complete waste of flesh and bones. Perhaps, this is best illustrated through Maverick the Yellow Lab. Exhausted.

This is the getting-older limbo. You still like to have a good time and stay up late with friends. You're just naive enough to think you're still young enough to do it.

Friday, May 8, 2009

You Can Find Me in the Cub

In my world, few things can top a 6 oz. filet and au gratins from the Cub. And I'm often surprised by the number of people who have never tried it. Talk about missing out.

One of those people happens to be LJ. I don't know why she missed out on all the times we've eaten there. Chalk it up to bad timing. But we're about to change her luck.

For our annual best buddy birthday celebration (our birthdays are three days apart), we're going to the Cub tonight for dinner. It should be a real treat. Her fiance (that's weird to say), Marcus, has never eaten there, nor has our good friend Nancy. So we'll have three newbies seated around our table of 10.

There should be lots of wine, laughs and full tummies by the evening's end. And maybe even a little karaoke.

Happy birthday to us!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Envoy is Getting a Facelift

I love my Envoy (the one pictured above is not mine, but it's close). I've had it several years, and I'm committed to driving it until the wheels fall off because of its fabulousness. There are lots of great features: heated leather seats, wood grain, automatic windshield wipers, little sprayers on the headlights, duel driver/passenger a/c controls, a Bose sound system and On Star. Plus a voice recorder so you can tell yourself to get milk on the way home and actually remember. I've only used this to record funny moments.

There's also some stuff guys like. For instance, air shocks. I had no idea my car had air shocks until Ty told me. I said, "Yeah, it's also got an air compressor in the back." He said, "Yeah, that's for the air shocks." I said, "Actually, that's for inflating my pool raft."

However, the Envoy hasn't had the best of luck lately. A few months ago, I lost a running board in an accident with some tire tread. My windshield had an encounter with a rock or two. My tail light is out. My small stripe down the side is faded and cracked. And part of the side panel has sprung loose and is just dangling. Not to mention, my inspection sticker is out of date by about a year and a half.

I've been overwhelmed with the work needing to be done, so I've done nothing. Even though the inspection sticker would have been a great place to start.

So, as Ty and I were driving down the road yesterday, he says, "I'm going to need to borrow your car for a couple of days."

"OK, when do you want it. She's all yours. Why though?"

"I'm going to fix everything that's wrong with it for your birthday."

"Awesome! I guess you know if you don't do it, it will never get done."

A few minutes later, Ty asked me if I was hoping for something more romantic. I said, no. He's done romantic. For Valentine's Day he gave me a gorgeous Konstantino necklace from Clarkes — far exceeding my expectations. So, I'm excited about my practical gift. It may not scream "romance," but it definitely says commitment. He takes such good care of me.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Things That Are Worse Than Jury Duty

I received a peach card in the mail telling me I had a certified letter from the Civil Department waiting at the post office.

I feared what that meant. My overly optimistic roommate said, "Maybe someone wants to give you money." My realistic tendencies felt something more negative coming on. I was right.

I've been summoned for jury duty. It's a first for me. I'm wondering how to get out of it. Should I fake having very extremist views? My boss says all I have to do is tell them I'm a journalist and I'll be instantly dismissed. Something about journalists and thinking too much.

I'm trying to think positively about my summoning. So, I'm listing three things I consider worse than jury duty.

1. All of this freaking rain has flooded my car. The interior now smells like curdled milk. Or, as I told Ty on the phone: "It smells like an egg fart." I'm sorry, that's pretty gross. He laughed though.

2. Someone at my office pronounced swine flu as swine-E flu. I explained, swine and in pig. Follow up question: "What is influenza?" And no, we were not playing Jeopardy.

3. This hairdo. That's what he gets for calling me Steph-fro. I always hated that. Who's got the fro now?

My Best Friend's Wedding

I was standing in the kitchen of my former home, talking to my former roommate, when my phone buzzed in my pocket. I saw it was LJ and turned it to silent. I had just gotten off the phone with her. She and Marcus were grilling. I would call her back. Then she text me. I ignored that too, not wanting to be rude to my present company. When I left about five minutes later, I pulled out my phone to see what the text was about. We talk and text constantly throughout the day, what could be so urgent? It was a picture of her left hand wearing an engagement ring. How could I have missed this call of all calls?

I have to say, I'm over-the-top excited for my best friend and her guy. They've dated for what seems like an eternity. She moved to where he lived. She moved back home. He moved back home to live where she lived.

It's been a long time coming and there's much to celebrate about this union (how's that for a scary marriage term?). So, Ty and I went to visit last night after LJ and Marcus made all of their phone calls to friends and family. We popped open a bottle of champagne and got down to celebrating. It was such a fun night. To see this girl gush is something special. She's not a gusher.

We talked about their first date and first impressions. I can remember what LJ was wearing and, in typical LJ fashion, she spilt chocolate ice cream on her shirt. I can remember conversations about her first impressions of Marcus from his Myspace page, "He looks sporty."

There is a lifetime of memories to come. And I couldn't be happier for my best friend.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Can I Get a Witness?

I came home for lunch and this was parked across the street. The "Tool of God Truth Seeker in Christ" mobile. Honestly, I'm all for Jesus (Really, I was once a summer missionary). But, Mr. Fix It needs to tone down his Christian messaging. The back of this work truck/van/bus says something about hammering and the Holy Spirit. No kidding. It looks like an ice cream truck that should be playing Kirk Franklin.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Monday Meeting

Monday. It's the least liked day of the week. For most of you, I don't have to explain it. So long Saturday and Sunday. It'll be a while before I see you again.

A case of the Mondays.

But why? Simply because we're back in the office? Or because the weekend is over?

I really, really don't mind working. I think I'd be bored otherwise. But what's with the Monday blues?

I finally diagnosed my problem today. Every morning, I come in and check e-mails, send replies and eat my English muffin in the seclusion of my office. It's my quiet start to the day. I need about 30 to 45 minutes to gear up for what lies ahead.

But Monday doesn't allow me that freedom. We have staff meeting each Monday at 8:30 a.m. My gears are all go and then my process is stopped for about an hour. I return to my office to a mediocre, cold muffin. It's a drag.

I think Monday staff meetings should be against federal law.

What gives you a case of the Mondays?

Bun in the Oven

I'm at the age in my life where most of my friends are married and beginning to have babies. I love it. Only because babies grow into kids, and I really love kids. They're so little and funny and it's entirely unintentional.

It's unfortunate that most of these pregnant bellies don't live near me. My friend Sarah lives in Savannah with her husband, Devin. And Ty's sister, Mandy, lives in north Arkansas. For these girls, it's probably a good thing. The last time I saw Sarah, I actually talked to her belly. I never thought I would be that person, but seeing one of your oldest friends with a baby bump will do strange things to you.

Even with miles in between, friends and family get to play a part in the pregnancy through blogs and baby bump pictures. This is Mandy's picture below (please don't kill me for posting this, Mandy). Of course, she's in athletic gear. Being the super fit gal that she is.

I think my anticipation grows with their bellies. I can't wait to meet them both.

Friday, May 1, 2009

They Grow Up So Fast

I don't have kids, but on some level I feel like I know what it's like to love your child. I have a little brother. He's about 10 years younger than me. This is what he looked like as a little person. Adorable. Lugging his big golf bag out onto the golf course even then.

This is what he looks like now. The one on the left (in case you can't figure it out). He'd kill me if I called him adorable today. Even though he is still adorable to me, I'll call him handsome. Taylor went to prom last weekend. I can hardly swallow the fact that he's in high school, but prom? Taking girls out on dates? Driving? 17 years old? When did this happen?

It seems like yesterday Taylor was crawling across the floor. Drawing with a green crayon all over the walls of his bedroom. Giggling as his toy Boggle wiggled in his hands and shook his entire body. It's all hard to imagine that time has gone by so quickly. He's still a sweet kid — although 17 comes with its own dose of teenage behavior.

Maybe I can handle prom. But college. I'm not ready.