Friday, October 29, 2010

My Nu Answer 4 Everything

The world is becoming one big code and the only way to survive is to be a code breaker. The use of abbreviations, acronyms and initialisms is almost viral in our world. You find them in written communication, texts, emails, business nomenclature, government agencies and marketing campaigns. Everywhere. THNQ Google for making code breaking simple. You can look up the meaning of any new or otherwise unknown "word" and survive to live another day.

Abbreviations are useful. For example, shortcuts make texting EZ and quicker. They also can make texting a bit irrit8ing for those of us over the age of 25. Luckily for me, I don't text with many serious (read young) texters so I've mastered the few shortcuts that pass between my fellow texters and me (OK, luv, u, Thx, b4, Y, R, 4, etc.) Nothing too difficult to decipher there.

The governnment and military are famous for their use of acronyms and initialisms: NASA, AWOL, IED, IRS, FUBAR. We all know these. Their use is meant to save time and create communication efficiencies. This approach works and I have found a new abbreviation that I plan to use in my own life for the very same reasons. I learned this new term from the commanding officer of the military base that is adjacent to my neighborhood.

As an aside, this commanding officer, an Army Colonel, is a very impressive person, clearly knowledgable, intelligent, driven, well-spoken and a woman. Let me just say something that I normally don't say which is OMG! I'm not going to harp on that last fact. I come in contact with lots of impressive women everyday so that's not a big surprise.  I just didn't know the commander of our little military installation next door was female and I was quite happy to learn that she was. Good on her!

Anyway, she used a term that I am adopting as my own right now. It is a multi-use term and I think it will come in quite handy everyday for me. My new answer for everything is "OBE" (just say the letters; don't make a word out of it). OBE means "overcome by events," according to my favorite new military commander. She used it in reference to a project that was FUTR (flying under the radar) so to speak and had somewhat gained a life of its own by virtue of the events that seemed to propel it forward without much clear planning. So much easier to say OBE, don't you think?

Well, I can think of a myriad of uses for OBE in my civilian life. For example, if I am ever stopped by one of our law enforcement officers and asked why I was speeding (and possibly breaking one or more secondary laws), my new answer will be, "I am sorry officer but I was OBE." My overwhelming events in that situation would likely be screaming children, too many volunteer commitments for which I am late, and general poor planning.

I will happily use OBE when my primary care practitioner questions my continued refusal to take calcium (an apparently wise idea for women around my age). The conquering events in this case will be my aversion to horse pills and the nausea that follows taking them.

OBE will come in handy too when I get down on myself for not finishing projects such as photo albums and baby books. OBE is clearly an appropriate reason for these things not being completed, even if I am just saying it to myself.

OBE works in just about any situation where you fall short. Like when I burn the garlic bread (as I do frequently) while preparing dinner, I can plead OBE.

You try it. I bet you can find lots of situations where OBE is your best defense. Here's another for me, why is this my first blog post in more than nine days? OBE people! The events of life are getting in the way of me blogging about it. Maybe next week things will slow down a bit. LOL!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Ain't Ain't a Word Either

I pride myself on my writing. The world is filled with a multitude of writers far better than I, but I think I am pretty decent at it. I also fancy myself a stickler for grammar. My parents and a few English teachers along the way impressed upon me the importance of proper language and the wisdom found in a Harbrace handbook. Remember this old friend?

I still have my copy from 1985. I should pull it out and refresh my memory a bit. A good friend and avid reader of my blog recently brought to my attention a grammatical error that I have been making frequently in many of my blog posts. Seems I have been making one particular mistake alot.
To make me aware of my erring ways, my friend sent a simple email saying only this:  "a lot".
To which I replied, "?????"
To which she replied, "alot is not a word."
My friend pointed out that while she really enjoys my posts, my use of alot was more than she could stand, being a grammar stickler herself. I understand her pain. It drives me crazy when people do Stuff. Like.This. For. Effect. since this breaks all manner of grammar and punctuation rules. But I get that the blogging world is a whole different place than English class so I let it slide and just quickly read on to the next properly punctuated blog post section.

It seems I use alot frequently. I also use a lot almost as frequently. And my friend is right; alot is not a word. I knew that at one point in life I am sure. But as a blogger, I had forgotten.

I perused several of my old posts looking for alot and a lot and I found them both. Their appearances have no rhyme or reason and sometimes they even both showed up within the same post. I'd like to blame my use of alot on my Southern roots and call it a colloquialism. So I will. I use alot for effect. And sometimes I use a lot for another effect.

I am glad my friend brought this to my attention. I like knowing the right way to do things. I don't know that I will use alot anymore, at least not without consciously thinking about it...
a lot. And if I do, that ain't all bad, is it? Afterall, It's Just. A. Blog.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


It's Tuesday and rainy but I am happy. I'm still thinking about our weekend. We camped last weekend at Assateague Island State Park. It's an oceanfront park so you camp right on the dunes and hear the waves crashing as you sit by your campfire. Aside from the 20+ mph winds making the mid-60's feel like the high-40's, the weather was perfect. The skies were blue and sunny. The cooler temps made the campfire that much more cozy and the mosquitoes completely absent. But enough of me trying to explain it all to you. These pictures tell a much better story.

The temperatures didn't keep the kids from getting in the water.

And running in the surf.

But they afterward had to bundle up for protection from the wind.

The east-facing beach chairs were a perfect location for watching birds make their Southern migration.

When it was too cold to get back in the water, we made long shadows on the sand.

And hunted for mole crabs.

The beach is such a happy place; it makes brothers hug.

Back at the camper, this Assateague wild pony was waiting for us. And he hung around all weekend.

Our first sunset on Assateague looked like this.

The next morning just before sunrise, I spied a pod of dolphins traveling near a fishing boat.

And I waited long enough to witness this spectacular sunrise.

I'll say it again, Ass-aaaaaaaah-teague.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Scholastic Chicken

It is Scholastic Book Fair time at our school. The kids always are so excited when the Book Fair comes to town. Most of their excitement is focused on the wacky pencils, silly erasers, and other non-book gadgets that are sold alongside the books. But hey, it gets them to the Fair and they do usually come away with a book or two as well as a cell phone shaped eraser or Ipod shaped pencil sharpener. Don't we all need one of those?

The students are not the only ones excited about the Book Fair. Believe it or not, Sticky Chicken begged to go to the Fair.

"Ba-ba-ba-ba-book!" he clucked. Or maybe he said, "Ba-ba-ba-ba-bock!" But I interpreted it as "book" so off the Book Fair we went.

I know what you are thinking...chickens can't read. Well if that is the case, what then would be the explanation for there being so many poultry-centered books? Just look at the selection of books geared to chickens:

A rollicking trip through the barnyard

Just right for the emerging reader

A heartwarming bedtime story

An "eggsilarating" manual on writing

Sticky Chicken was thrilled with so many books for the fowl set. He likes fiction but also has an appetite for facts and information. He's been asking questions lately about his beginnings so this next book gave us a perfect way to introduce the subject and have "the talk" with him.

During "the talk" it came out the Sticky is an evolutionist and wanted more information on that subject. So we went down his evolutionary path and he was a bit surprised to find he evolved from dinosaurs.

While Sticky clearly has an intellectual side, he is as normal as any kid. He's into typical kid things and he has his heroes.

Sticky said that this moment was almost as good as actually seeing Justin on TV.

And Sticky couldn't stop talking about kissing Taylor's book.

Just like all the other kids, Sticky was excited about the non-book items at the Fair. It is obvious by this moment I caught when Sticky met up with some other birds in a waterless hot tub.

Sticky's Book Fair experience ended with a hands in the air moment, a clear "Yes" vote for the Book Fair.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Friday Night Lights - It's Not About the Football

So I lived my little Friday Night Lights fantasy this past Friday night. We, the family, went to our local high school football game. I had not been to a high school football game since Fall of 1984 and that was for my own high school during my own senior year. If you will stop doing math for a few minutes, you can read how my evening played out.

First of all, it was a perfect football night. Look at the sky just moments before the band started playing and the teams ran out on to the field. This could be Friday night in Dillon, Texas...

Shortly after, the band came out and got into formation, ready for the team to explode through the big paper sign. I have a soft spot in my heart for high school bands. I was a band geek. Reminds me of one time when we were at band camp...

But anyway, back to the football. I'm not going to mention anything about scores or who won or who got their booty handed to them. None of that really matters.

Like on Coach Taylor says on FNL, "Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose."

One team definitely had much clearer eyes, fuller hearts and higher score than the other team. But that didn't matter, especially to these guys.

I must say that I don't remember so many shirtless athletics supporters allowed at the game back in 1984...

The Patriot, with his jersey on, was working it with the drum line.

The drum line was my favorite part of the night. They performed a cadence on the track at the end of half-time. These kids are very accomplished percussionists. Their rhythm was infectious. Remember the picture of the shirtless mass? They were cheering for the drum line, not the football team.  I myself was swept away by the drum line's performance and nearly slipped into a raucous solo chanting of "yo mama, yo daddy" followed by a  bombastic "who dat talkin' 'bout beating TJ, who dat? who dat?"  But I restrained myself and held it all in. It wasn't easy. But I was thinking of my kids, my husband and my good name.

After the drum line ended, we left. There was no 5th Quarter party for us as we had to get to kids to bed. In retrospect, the evening was nothing like FNL the show. I don't even think there is a band at East Dillon High. Budget cuts, I guess. And I have no insight into the personal dramas that I am sure were playing out behind the scenes all around us in the stands, on the field, and in the locker room. That's the part of FNL I like best. In case you don't know, FNL is just a soap opera set around a football theme. Did you really think it was all about the football?

Sunday Schooled - Blog Books

Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.
Eleanor Roosevelt

I mentioned in my post on Friday that I had printed my blog in a book. Several commentors asked for information on what service I used to print my book and any tips I could share about the process. I am very happy with my book and do have some thoughts on the process and of course I am glad to share. But first, here is my lovely book.

I used the online service Blog2Print! I had searched online and found several other websites that offered blog printing. The product offerings between the various sites appear to be very similar in both price and options. I ultimately decided upon Blog2Print! because a fellow blogger and family member at From This Side of the Pond had printed hers with this service and she was pleased. I don't like to do a lot of product research myself and I trust her judgment. So, decision made.

There are a few tricky bits to the process of taking your blog to print that I learned along the way. I'll walk you through some of the process so you don't have the same frustrations that I did. The first step at Blog2Print! is to select your blogging platform. Blog2Print supports Blogger, TypePad, and WordPress. After selecting your platform, just type in your blog's web address and your blog is accessed. That step is easy.

This next step requires some forethought, which I did not have when I created my original blog book. I should say here that I ended up printing the second version of my blog book not the original. The original had a few problems. Here's why. The first option you are to choose for your book is the date range or post range that you want included in your book. Here's the screenshot of that step.

You can either select a specific date range or all posts. Under either of these options, you can further filter the content by including only selected labels. For example, if I wanted to have a complete blog book of my Sunday Schooled posts from the beginning of my blog time (January 2009), I would choose my date range from 01/01/2009 to present and then filter by my "Sunday Schooled" label.

Easy? Sure. But not if you are like me and like to change your mind. If you change your mind later and wish to expand the date range to use or which labels to filter by, you can NOT change this in the existing book you have created. You must start all over again with a new book. I confirmed this via a live online chat with a nice Blog2Print tech support person.

You can remove certain posts from your book but not add to the range you originally chose. In my situation, I originally chose a date range to include my entire blog. Then I changed my mind to print my blog by year. Since I started my blog in January 2009, I thought it would be a good idea to print an annual blog book with nice, neat date separation. My book, including many 2010 posts, was already created when I had this brilliant idea so I would either have to remove manually post-by-post over 80 posts (that's 80 mouse-clicks) or start a new book.

It's really not a big deal to start another book if you are just at the beginning steps of the process. But if you have gone through the rest of the process, think you are done and preview your book only to think you'd like things a little bit differently, you have just wasted a lot of time and are about to redo a lot of work.

If you have to create a second (or sadly a third) version, they are likely all named the same darn thing and show up that way in your account. The only distinguishing feature between the versions is a date stamp of when you last updated the book (which is likely the same date since you are likely just trying to get this thing printed and done in the middle of the night so you can finally go to sleep). You can delete books from your account so it's nice that you can hide your mistakes.

I'm spending a lot of time on this one issue but it is the first step in creating your book and I do think you should be forewarned. So the moral of my story here is to carefully consider which dates and posts you wish to include in your book. Do you want an annual book? Do you want only a book about family-related posts? Do you want to include only posts with photos? These are the questions that keep me up at night and I am hoping to preserve your night's sleep.

Once you have carefully considered the span of your blog book, the rest of the process really is easy. Here are some of the options you can select:
  • whether to include comments in your book
  • order of posts (oldest to newest or vice versa)
  • hardcover or softcover (with a myriad of choices for each)
  • cover & back photo
  • whether to include a table of contents
  • a personal dedication
There is one other option that I found very important. This is the Page Template style. Your choices are "Snapshot" or "Compact". Snapshot is an exact picture of your blog posts as they appear on your blog. So however your photos appear around your text online is how they will appear in your book. Compact style is one which the photos and text are rearranged to use fewer pages. I initially chose Snapshot because it's my blog you know and I don't want anybody else changing it whatsoever. But then I saw how many pages (and dollars) my Snapshot version required and decided that it was okay just this once for somebody else to make a few minor decisions about the format of my blog. And actually, the Compact template looks a whole lot better in a book form than the Snapshot template did. Since I have lots of photos throughout my blog, the Compact style was able to weave the text around the photos nicely rather than in a vertically linear, blog-style format.

The best thing about my blog book is flipping through the pages and remembering posts and photos that I had literally forgotten. My blog is about my life, my family, my photos and my sense of humor. The little life moments that make it to my blog are preserved, but on my blog, I rarely go back and reminisce. Now that I have my glossy hardcover chronicle of our life circa 2009, I can relive those silly, funny, at times stressful but wonderful days again and again. I can't wait to print 2010!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Friday Fragments

Friday Fragments...little snippets from the week that are just too good to not share.

New idea for implementing cardiac health stress tests:  Forget the treadmill. In the new version, test subjects are merely required to manage school and afternoon activities for minimum of two elementary school-aged children while maintaining a certain quality of nutritional intake for the children, insuring the homework is completed and the children's levels of Vitamin D are restored daily. For the efficacy of the test, one of the children will be made sick during the testing period. For best results, test is best implemented during the week of the Scholastic Book Fair of which test subject will act as co-chair for the duration of the stress test. If the injected radiotracer, comingled with fire, shoot from test subject's ears, maximum stress capacity has been reached. Step away from the test subject.


I had a garage sale a few weeks ago in which I attempted to sell two GhostBusters Halloween costumes, complete with inflatable Proton Pack and Neutrino Gun, all in mint condition. My asking price was $5 each. No one bought them. I saw the exact new GhostBusters costumes on my recent trip to Party City (the store, not the fictional town where I wish I lived) for $29.99 (Neutrino Gun not included). Hey, garage sale people - how's your regret level now??? A little non-buyer's remorse naggin at you?? I thought so.


I started reading "Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett. With all the hype about the miniseries and the book, I couldn't resist. I am burning through it and am on page 47. At my current rate of a page and a half per night, I should be finished with the 983-page tome by August 2012. That pace may seem a bit slow but it is no indication of my interest. I am riveted for the entire page that I read each night. As for the half page, I find I have to re-read it generally each night as I think I fall asleep before I actually stop reading. So realistically, I may not finish until Christmas 2012...


I am on the hunt for hedgeapples. Any of my local readers have access to them? I'll come and get them.


We are headed to our local high school football game tonight. I will be living my own little Friday Night Lights fantasy...


I printed my blog in a book. My husband has been encouraging me to do this for several months and I finally did it. I received my book yesterday and I LOVE IT! In case the internet goes down in flames, all of this verbal gold in now preserved!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sunday Schooled - Yay! Rah!

Back when I was in middle school it was called junior high. Actually, that's not entirely true. They changed our junior high to middle school at the beginning of my seventh grade year. Ours was the last sixth grade class to grace the halls of our town's elementary school. It took us all awhile to get used to calling it middle school.

In middle school, we wrote notes to our friends and signed them "LYLAS" (Love You Like A Sister). Then someone came up with "LYLASFE" (LYLASForEver) so we added a time stamp to our sisterly love. If you really loved someone like a sister back then, you might even write them a personal "cheerleader" in one of your notes. Don't remember what a cheerleader is? Here's an example for my friend Buffy:
B is for Best Friend
U is for Unforgettable
F is for Funny
F is for Friday night Fun
Y is for You Go Girl!
Yes, my best friend back then was named Buffy. She's still a friend and she might be reading this now so be nice with your comments. I don't specifically remember writing a cheerleader for Buff, and if I didn't, this one is long overdue. So, Yay Buff!!

Anyway, we didn't know what else to call those little poems of praise so we called them cheerleaders. But I have come to find out some thirty odd years later that there is another name for them. In language arts circles, they are called "acrostics". I learned this from my second grader when he came home with a language arts assignment to write one about another student in his class.

Who reallys cares what these things are called? It doesn't matter. What is interesting is that this situation highlights the fact that back in the day, we weren't taught to the depths that kids are being taught today. I am sure we did acrostics in school as part of the curriculum. In fact, I know we did. But I don't think we, the students then, were given as much information as they, the students today, are. I had never heard the word "acrostic" before my second grader said it. Just like I didn't know the word "rubric" before he came home with it.

It's a challenge for a parent to keep up sometimes. I always knew my kids would end up being smarter than I am. I just thought it would happen when they got their PhDs, not while they were in elementary school.  Go Boys!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Perfection in the Patch

Happy October!

This beauty is growing in my teensy tiny backyard garden. It's the only thing that really grew well this year. The strawberries only amounted to a handful. The tomatoes were sad and few. The cucumbers were dry and shriveled. I don't know how the watermelon would have been. Some thing ate them all before they were any bigger than tennis balls.

But the pumpkin! Look again at The Pumpkin! If we stretched the vine out straight, it would go on for feet and feet, travelling at least to the end of the drive. You would think a vine of such length would be very prolific in its crop. But strangely, we only have The Pumpkin.

He's far bigger than a basketball, perfectly round, consistent in color and unblemished. A real choice pick. Folks have come to blows in pumpkin patches all over the U.S. over pumpkins of this quality. Lucky for us, he's in our yard and not some other pumpkin patch. And if we time it just right, in a few weeks The Perfect Pumpkin will be The Perfect Jack-O-Lantern....