formerly Diane's Addled Ramblings... the ramblings are still addled, just like before, and the URL is still the same...
it's just the title at the top of the page that's new

Friday, October 31, 2008

So, You Want to Write a Book...

November is National Novel Writing Month. Did you know that? I'd heard about it somewhere (and thought it a bit odd, truth be told), but I looked it up and found out there's a real organization sponsoring this event! Check them out at Their goal, as far as I can tell, is to get as many people writing as much as possible for a month. You sign up and commit to writing a 50,000 word (175 page) novel between November 1 and November 30. They don't care how crappy it is, just that it IS! It's all about the deadline, baby! I find I work best under deadlines... I totally suck at directing myself to do anything within sensible time frames, so I figure I'm going to give it a shot. There's an idea that's been rolling around in my head for a while and this might just force me to put something down on paper... errr... on computer screen. Want to join me? If anyone would like to sign up, do it and let me know! We can be writing buddies!!

Oh, PS... their website is INCREDIBLY slow today (hopefully not always)... so be patient.

Lifesavers and Life's Work...

Seven years ago, I was hurting. Struggling. Sad. I was holding it together, but just barely. Every ounce of positive energy I had was poured into my little girl, just two-years-old at the time. I was still grieving for my dad, who died when I was pregnant. I was married to a man who didn’t have any idea (or interest in) how to provide emotional support and who was absent most of the time, busy with work and school. I finally broke down and admitted I needed help and I did two things which truly saved my soul.

The first thing I did was seek out a wonderful therapist to help me deal with the grief I’d tried to ignore for two years. The second thing was to find something for myself; something that would be just mine; that would separate Diane from Mommy and Wife. I signed up for a writing class at a local college. The class I wanted, however, was cancelled, and since I had to find one offered on the same night (my husband was only available to watch our daughter one night a week), I settled for a ‘journaling’ course. I didn’t expect to get a lot out of it, as I figured everyone knows how to keep a journal, right? But I soon came to understand that the Universe was smiling down on me the day I put my name on that class roster.

The course was taught by an amazing woman named Maureen Ryan Griffin. Maureen quickly became my mentor, my coach, my friend. What I love about her is that she doesn't try to teach you how to write. She teaches you how to find your voice. When I met her, my voice was gone... or I thought it was. She showed me it was only hiding... cowering in the dark, sad and sick. She showed me how to bring it into the light; she helped me to heal it. And in doing so, she helped me to heal.

In the last seven years, I’ve taken many of her classes and I've left every one feeling energized, motivated, positive, at peace, and reconnected to myself, my creativity, and a larger community of like-minded creative people. The feeling is… immense.

But... I moved away… and Maureen wasn’t willing to leave her family in Charlotte and trek five hours north with me just to make sure I got my ‘fix’ (go figure!). I try to plan visits to Charlotte around her classes but it’s not enough. I miss the classes… I miss her… and I miss me – the me who exists and writes and thinks and lives in her seminars.

A while ago Maureen and I talked about how maybe I should start a writing group here; how maybe I should offer classes similar to hers. I’ve been a corporate trainer; I’ve taught classes to adults for years; I write professionally and though it’s of a technical sort, words are what I do. And I know how her classes make me feel. I want to – and believe I can – do something that will make other people feel that way... I want to do something to help other people to find their voices. And I think maybe I need to do it.

When I was thinking about my bucket list and finding my life’s work the other day, I was thinking in big terms – big all-encompassing career-changing terms. But I realized I don’t have to make massive changes to do something rewarding. My current work actually suits me. I help people; I use my inherent talents and honed skills; I make my own schedule; I get to work in my pajamas. OK, so, it’s not always terribly challenging or creative or completely fulfilling, but I’m not prepared to give it up. Yet.

Taking that first class seven years ago saved my soul. Maybe facilitating classes is just what I need to feed my soul. And isn’t that what ‘life’s work’ is supposed to be about?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Write On!

I was so excited to get this award from Ronda (my new best friend!) over at Ronda's Rants. It means a lot to me (a whole lotta lot) and I owe Ronda big thanks. BIG THANKS (yeah, more like that). I have to pass it on, and I shall, but I want to give it some thought first (when you actually see the smoke, you'll know I'm done). And now you'll have to excuse me, as I'm going to go and scribble something.

Out of the Mouths of Tweens...

OK, I’m breaking my ‘no political crap’ vow once more. But it’s worth it, I promise. This little discourse took place in our car this morning on the way to school…

Radio Guy: This is the first election in which both candidates are seated Senators.
Ry: What does that mean?
Me: That both candidates are currently members of the Senate.
Ry: Isn’t it that way every election?
Me: No. Some candidates were never Senators. Some were Governors, like Clinton. Several years ago, a private citizen ran. Bush was… ummm… what was Bush? Oh yeah, he was Governor of Texas.
Ry (very seriously): No he wasn’t, Mama. He was just a dude. Remember? He was the idiot Texas is missing.

After I cleaned the tea off my steering wheel I made a mental note to explain bumper stickers more clearly.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I Write Because... (Kathy tells me to!)

Yup... it's that time of the week. Kathy at Mama's Losin' It issued her writing prompts and I chose, 'I write because...'

I write because I believe in the infinite and unassailable power of words – to connect, to affect, to express, to entertain, to disturb, to discover, to educate, to enlighten, to excite, to incite, to soothe, to solve, to illuminate, to inspire.

I write because I have things to say and the words which flow from my brain to my fingers are usually more eloquent and clear than the words which flow from my brain to my mouth.

I write because I have an instinctive need to express myself creatively and writing is the only creative endeavor at which I have any inherent ability.

I write because I inherited the role of ‘storyteller’ from my father and my words are how I honor his memory.

I write because it keeps me connected to the people in my life.

I write because it keeps me connected to me.

I write because I love, because I loathe, because I’m joyful, because I’m angry, because I hurt, because I heal, because I’m confused, because I understand, because I think… because I live.

I write because I can.

I write because I must.

I write because I breathe.

Holy Crap, That's Funny!

I've stayed away from posting any political rants here, even though I'm a fairly (and by 'fairly' I mean 'colossally') opinionated person. I just wanted this to be a different sort of blog. Anyway, though I don't consider myself a member of any party, it probably wouldn't be difficult to figure out what side of the political fence I sit on if you read my blog. This election has disturbed me (lots of us, I know) beyond reason and I've been horrified at how the campaigns have been conducted; at the lies and misrepresentations told (and believed); at how the real issues have become so convoluted that they're barely recognizable anymore. Explaining this process to my 9-year-old in an objective manner (which I always try to do) has been unbelievably difficult.

HOWEVER (committment to avoiding political crap be damned), my friend Mel sent me this photo the other day and I burst out laughing. I'm not posting it to offend anyone (well, the conservatives out there, anyway)... I just think it's a riot. You do have to have read Harry Potter to understand it. If you haven't, trust me when I say that both comparisons are spot on (though I think the Umbridge/Palin reference is DISTURBINGLY apt)!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Those Billy Goats Got Nothin' On Me...

This is an email I received tonight from someone I went out with once... over a year ago... and never again... because it was possibly the worst first date. E.V.E.R... for reasons too numerous (and awful) to name. (My commentary is included… natch)…

Dear Dianne, (Note the misspelling of my name… also note that he had to spell it correctly in order to send the email, as my email address IS my name.)

Hey, long time huh? (Oh, would that it could have been longer.) How have you been? (Great… ‘til now.) I’ve been thinking about you alot lately. (Really? I’d completely obliterated you from my memory... 'til now.) That was a great dinner we had at Red Lobster. (Yeah, ummm, we ate at Luigi’s.) You looked soooo pretty that night. (Noooo, that wasn’t soooo ‘pretty’… that was soooo ‘shocked’ and soooo ‘horrified'... I just cover well.) I remember thinking you looked so much better in person than your pictures (I remember thinking you weren’t even IN your pictures) and you were so funny. (Yeah, that would be me, drunk.) It was a great date. (Riiiiiight… were we even on the same date?) Anyway, I know you said you’d rather be friends (I was being kind... what I meant was I’d rather eat glass than ever speak to you again) but I was wondering if you’d like to try the whole date thing again? (Only if it doesn’t resemble a date… or a thing.) I'd really like to see you again. (I'd rather poke myself in the eye with a fork.) Let me know! (Sure thing… right after I throw up.)

Love, (Oh no, he did not!)

Troll-Guy (OK, so he actually wrote his real name, but Troll-Guy is much more appropriate.)

And here is my response…

Dear Troll-Guy, (OK, so I actually wrote his real name… I think. Uh oh… let me check. Whew! Yes, I did.)

Thanks for your email. (And by ‘thanks’ I mean ‘why are you stalking me again?’) It’s nice to know someone's been thinking of me. (Someone... but not you... 'cause now I feel like I need a shower.) I appreciate the invitation (and by ‘appreciate’ I mean ‘I’d rather chew my own arm off than go out with you’) but I’m sort of taking a break from the dating world. (Well, from dating Trolls… in Troll World.) Thanks again. (And by ‘thanks again’ I mean ‘never contact me again… ever… as long as you live… under that bridge… in Troll World.’)

Diane (Note the correct spelling of my name… ‘cause, well, I know how to spell my name.)

I Am...

During my regular early-morning, random blog stalk, I came across a post I really loved, generated from a writing prompt. Though I copied the directions for the prompt, I (stupidly) neglected to bookmark the page (and of course I can’t find it again). As such, I can’t give credit to the blogger. So if you happen upon this post and know where the prompt came from, please let me know! Thanks!

Tell us who you are, what’s inside, where you’re from. Share your memory fragments, those visions in your head, those figments that make you, you. What bits and pieces formed your whole? Are you whole? Tell us.

I am from pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.
... from porch swings on muggy summer evenings.
... from Jiffy Pop popcorn and toasted marshmallows.
... from bagpipes and 'Billy Don't Be a Hero'.
... from unlocked doors and good neighbors.

I am from hard work never hurt anybody.
... from soldiers and patriots.
... from swings and see-saws and skinned knees.
... from narrow-minded viewpoints and broad horizons.
... from firefly lanterns and rain on a tin roof.

I am from stop crying or I'll give you something to cry about.
... from stand up for what you believe in.
... from Red Rover and tag, hide-and-seek and kick-the-can.
... from musty libraries on rainy afternoons.
... from hand-knitted sweaters and penny loafers.

I am from money doesn’t grow on trees.
... from beer and smoky barrooms and weekend-long cookouts.
... from dreamers and from grounded in reality.
... from do as I say, not as I do.
... from stray dogs and stray people.

I am from campgrounds, mountain lakes, and battlefields.
... from faith and faithlessness.
... from betrayal and loss and great pain... and from great love.
... from strong men, resilient women, and funny, funny people.
... from lost… and found… and lost again.

I am from still searching for home... still searching for me.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Where Is That Damned Bus?!

Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite. Or waiting around for Friday night or waiting perhaps for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil or a better break or a string of pearls or a pair of pants or a wig with curls or another chance. Everyone is just waiting... Dr. Seuss

Have you ever had one of those moments when you feel like you're just waiting for your life to change... or start? When you feel you're just biding time? When you realize (painfully) that you're not doing what you want to be doing? That you're not doing what you should be doing.. and I don't mean laundry or dishes or cleaning the garage... I mean your life's work (if only you knew what your life's work was supposed to be).

I feel like that often. I feel like that today. I'm really scared I'm going to wait for that bus we call 'life' for so long that I'm going to get bored and fall asleep at the bus stop and it's going to come and no one's going to wake me up (because what does anyone else care if I miss the bus?) and I AM going to miss it and then I'm going to find out that the next bus broke down five miles away and then they'll just suspend service to my stop and I'll be stuck. Right here. Where. I. AM. Now.

That would not be good.

It's time to revise my 'Bucket List', I think. I had one long before the movie came out but I got busy with laundry and dishes and cleaning the garage (well, not really that last bit... mainly because I don't have a garage) and doing work that is SO not my life's work, and I tucked it away (you know, so I could read it later... on the bus). After I saw the film, I dug it out... but I tucked it away again (the bus was taking a long time and I was busy with my non-life's work again).

But today, TODAY I'm going to write a new Bucket List (and if you don't know what a bucket list is, it's a list of things you want to do before you kick the bucket). I am. And THEN I'll finish the laundry and the dishes and my non-life's work. Damn it.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Light in the Dark...

Only guard yourself and guard your soul carefully, lest you forget the things your eyes saw, and lest these things depart your heart all the days of your life. And you shall make them known to your children and to your children's children.

This verse from Deuteronomy is carved into the marble wall in the Hall of Remembrance in the Holocaust Museum in Washington. I visited the museum a couple of months ago and knew that I wanted to make known what I saw there to my child... and so I took her today. Being there hurts my heart and I wrestled with the idea that Ryan might be too young to appreciate the message... or face the horror... and when I was there last, I saw few children her age. But she is mature for nine, so I took a chance. And I'm glad I did.

We started with the childrens' exhibition, Daniel's Story, which is excellent. It's a very visual and hands-on telling of the Holocaust experience from the viewpoint of an 11-year-old Jewish boy. She took it all in, quietly and thoughtfully. We moved on to the main exhibit after that. The details of the history were too much (and too complex), for her to process, as it covers 1933 to 1945, but the details weren't what I wanted to focus on anyway. We walked slowly through and I pointed out various things to her, including the photos of the non-Jewish people who were also targeted by Hitler. She realized that although I would have been 'safe', given my whiter-than-white heritage, she, with her dark skin and Hispanic and Native American blood, would have been someone Hitler considered inferior. That generated wide eyes and a look that went from disbelief to horror to anger. It's not something she'll soon forget... of that, I'm certain.

Afterward, I asked her how she felt about what she saw. She told me she was sad and so sorry for the people who suffered and died just because they were born Jewish. She said it didn't make sense to her and it made her so angry. I told her I was glad she felt that way because that's how all good people should feel. I explained that there are still people, people in the US even, who believe Hitler was right. There are people who are so angry and afraid of anyone who is different from them and that sort of anger and fear can cause people to do awful things to one another. And I told her that's why I keep saying that we have to live our lives unafraid, embracing diversity, exhibiting tolerance, expressing love... we simply cannot live in the same dark place where so very many people live today.

I wanted Ryan to finish The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (a book about the unlikely friendship between a Jewish boy and the son of the Commandant of Auschwitz) before our visit to the museum. She did (last night, under the covers, after she was supposed to be asleep!). On the way to DC, I asked her what message she took from the story.

She answered, "That people learn how to hate and fear. Seems like those people can learn to love, too, if they just have someone to teach them."

Well. That's what I call a light in the dark.

And here she is... my little light in the dark (and her proud mom).

Friday, October 24, 2008

Bless You!

Ryan has a cold or sinus thing right now. She alternates between being stuffy and drippy (though she whines equally for both). This morning, she was reading on the way to school when a HUGE sneeze just flew out of her.

Me: Good heavens! Bless you!
Ry: Oh man!
Me: What?
Ry: Ewwww. Now I've got a bunch of choo on my book.
Me (after I stopped laughing at the 'choo' comment): Ummm... that's MY book.
Ry: Oh. Sorry.

I hate cold season.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Oh Yes, She Did...

Customer service today sucks. It really does. And it’s so frustrating. I am the nicest customer you would ever want to meet. Seriously. I’ve worked in service industries my whole life, since I was 12 and I waited tables in my parents’ restaurant. I was a corporate trainer for a long time and a district and operations manager for a retail company, too, so not only have I worked the front lines, I’ve trained the front lines. And I took that job seriously. I believe in service - in good service. I believe in rewarding it... I tip big, I compliment people when they do a good job, and I let managers know when I’m treated well. I truly believe everyone should work at least one year in a restaurant or retail job in order to fully understand just how hard those jobs are. I know I’ve never forgotten what it’s like to work my butt off for next to no money, waiting on rude cretins who think people in service positions are sub-human. It’s why I’m the nicest customer in the world.

But every now and then I meet a customer service ‘professional’ who actually is sub-human. And when that happens, I don’t handle it well. I don’t handle it well at all.

I was seriously craving a Diet Coke today. Though I gave it up a couple of months ago, I sort of fell off the wagon when I was in London. I haven’t had many since I got back but today wasn’t a great day and I just needed one, you know? So I drove through a burger place on my way to pick Ryan up from school and I ordered a medium Diet Coke… as usual. It took forever to get it, which aggravated me, as it was all I ordered. Normally I taste my drink before I drive away so I can get them to fix it if they made a mistake. I didn’t this time, so when I realized I had a regular Coke, I pulled into a parking space and went in. The girl who waited on me was talking on her phone (which is probably why it took so long to get my drink in the first place)… Strike ONE. She saw me and actually turned around to finish her call… Strike TWO. I excused myself (yeah, like that should have been necessary) and she turned back around, rolled her eyes, and told the person on the other end of the phone to hold on… oh yeah, Strike THREE.

Me: Hi (still actually trying to be my normally pleasant self). I ordered a Diet Coke and I got regular.
Her: (Looking put out) No, you ordered regular.
Me: Ummm… no, I ordered diet.

Now, at this point she should have just said, “Sorry. I’ll get you a Diet Coke now.” But she didn’t. Oh no, she didn't.

Her: (In a snotty ‘you must not have heard me’ tone) Ummm (yes, she mimicked me)… no, you ordered regular (emphasis on the ‘regular’).

Oh yes, she did. You know how you can feel ‘it’ rising? Yeah, ‘it’ rose.

Me: OK (deep breath here… ramping up). Look… Sweetheart (and you know how you can say ‘sweetheart’ in a very not nice way? Yeah, that’s how I said it). I am 43 years old. I have been drinking diet soda since I was 13. In 30 years, I have never ordered a regular soda. EVER. I hate regular soda. I cannot drink it. I haven’t had one since they invented TAB, which was long before you were born. I did not order a regular Coke today. I ordered a Diet Coke. I know this because I have ordered a diet soda EVERY DAMNED TIME I have ordered a soda for the last 30 years. You, Sweetheart (yes, the not-nice way again) made a mistake. I don’t know whether you didn’t hear me, or you pushed the wrong button on the register, or you’re just stupid. And you know what? I don’t care. I know what I ordered. I ordered a Diet Coke. And I want my Diet Coke now. And we both know that you’re going to get me my Diet Coke whether you believe you made a mistake or not. Because that, Sweetheart (yup, not nice) is the way it works.

Then, without another word, shooting me a look that said she SO wanted to swear at me (or punch me in the face), she grabbed my cup, dumped the regular soda out (spilling a lot of it on the floor), and filled it with Diet Coke. And I watched closely, just to be sure she didn’t spit in it. On my way out I got out my cell phone and dialed the owner of the store, whose number was posted on a sign that said, “Excellent customer service is our goal! Let us know how we’re doing!” Naturally, no one answered. Yeah, customer service today sucks.

Thank You, Ronda... Thank Thank You, Ronda!

I got this very cool award from the lovely and wonderful Ronda over at Ronda’s Rants. Though she lives in Florida now, she’s going to retire just down the road from me! I can’t wait 'til we can do lunch! Now, this award dictates that I list 6 things I love and then pass it on to 6 people... I can do that!

Things I love…

1. My baby girl, my fuzzy boy, and my family – chance AND chosen
2. Words… writing them, reading them, connecting with people via them
3. Camping and being out in nature… it’s the only time I completely ‘unplug’
4. Kissing… the long, slow, deep, curl-your-toes, all-night kind
5. Rain… being out in it… coming in from it… it’s all good
6. That connection you feel when you meet someone who just ‘gets’ you

And the wonderful people I’m passing the award on to?

1. Protégé at Life, Work and Pleasure… she’s amazingly creative (and eloquent) for a scientist!
2. Mel at Bodie Oracle… she’s not weird, she’s gifted (well, she IS weird but we just tell her she’s gifted to make her feel better)!
3. Kendall at Confessions of an Odd Duck… I wish more people were ‘odd’ like him!
4. Shanna at Smiles, Miles and Trials… she’s just so cool and SO creative with her finances… I’m in awe!
5. Jen at Red Cup Mom… she’s so honest and straightforward and she totally cracks me up!
6. Miss Caught Up at Caught Up In Life... I just found her and I'm totally living vicarously through her now!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Just One Dance...

It’s that time again! Kathy over at Mama's Losin' It has assigned her weekly writing prompts... I chose, I would walk a mile for…

A mile’s not very far, is it? I walk/wheeze a bunch of them every day… sometimes as many as 6… sometimes (like this week, when I’ve been feeling run-down) only 1 or 2. So I guess, since it seems a fairly insignificant distance, I’d walk a mile for just about anything.

As such, I’m going to change the prompt to this:

I would walk 1,000 miles for…

Now that’s more like it, don’t you think? A thousand miles… that’s a crapload. That would take effort… time… heart… commitment… really good shoes. Am I right? Yes, I am.

So… I’d walk 1,000 miles for… a dance. Yup… just one dance.

You see, when I was little, I used to stand on my dad’s feet and he’d dance me all around the living room to Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett or big band music. I can see us in my mind’s eye perfectly… arms outstretched, my little hands in his big ones, struggling to keep my balance, both of us laughing. When we danced, I felt special and loved. And I was. I was his girl. He was my hero.

I didn’t inherit my dad’s skills on the dance floor, however. It became painfully clear as I got older that I have no internal rhythm. My brother, who is completely deaf, moves better than I do. It’s sad, really. I couldn’t even take aerobics classes, as I couldn’t sort out the moves properly. When the instructor went one way, I invariably went the other, which caused me to bump into other students. Often. (They didn’t actually ask me not to come back… but they were thinking it, I know.) No rhythm, I tell you. So dancing is not something I do. Ever. And though I’m certainly not above making a fool of myself (and I do so with alarming regularity), I simply cannot bring myself to be that much of a fool.

All that being said, I did muddle through the father/daughter dance at my wedding. It’s tradition, after all. But my dad teased and laughed at me and how awkward I was. I (lovingly) told him to shut up… and then I stepped on his foot… again. So when he asked me to dance with him at another family wedding a few years later, I said no. He asked again. Again I refused. I wish I’d known that would be my last chance.

When my dad was very sick, with no chance of recovery, I saw the movie Hope Floats. There was a scene where Sandra Bullock’s character visits her father, who has Alzheimer’s, in his nursing home. He recognizes her briefly and holds his arms out, asking for a dance. She flashes back to when she’s a child, dancing on her daddy’s feet, just like I did… just like so many little girls do. At that very moment, as I sat there sobbing in the dark movie theatre, I realized I would never dance with my dad again. And my heart broke.

So, yes, I’d absolutely walk 1,000 (or 2,000… or 10,000) miles for one just dance. I’d forget that I have no rhythm… I’d ignore my lack of grace… I’d put my hands in his... I'd rest my head on his shoulder… and I’d dance with my daddy.

Fourth of Fourth...

I got tagged again today but in a different sort of way (yeah, I'm a poet ;). My friend Protege assigned me the task of posting the 4th picture from my 4th photo folder and telling you about it. I was reeeeally hoping it wasn't a picture of something weird or embarrassing.

OK, yeah, a little weird, maybe (shut up, Mel!). Anyway, this is me, obviously, and Georgia, my cousin David's little girl, about 3 years ago (when my hair was shorter and... ummm... less lightened by the sun... yeah, that's it... less SUNbleached... yeah... we'll go with that). The picture was taken in England... in my cousin's restaurant, actually (OK, shameless plug here: Galloway's in the charming village of Woburn... for amazing food, ambiance, and hospitality, book Galloway's for your next evening out! Advertising is expensive, you know... every little bit helps!).

Anyway, my friend Mel came with me that trip to visit my family (and she fell off her shoe AND the curb and sprained her ankle and made me lug her 5,000 suitcases through train stations and airports... wench). ANYWAY, as you can see, Georgia's a gorgeous little girl, full of spunk and attitude, and I loved hanging around with her. Oh, and Mel killed Georgie's pet spider. Needless to say, she hasn't been back to England with me since. Geez.

I'm tagging Mel for sure... and anyone else who'd like to join in :)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

It's STILL All About Meme...

I got tagged for another meme by Kendall over at The Odd Duck. Kendall might just be the loveliest man on the planet (aside from my Heinous, of course ;) and he gives me hope that there are still wonderful single men out there (even if I do have socks older than they are). Anyway, at his request, here are yet another 6 random things/habits/quirks, all about moi (don't fall asleep!). I’m supposed to tag 6 more people, but I’m going to leave it open… if you want to do it, do it… but tell me so I can read all about it!

1. Though I work from home (all by myself) now, I used to manage loads of people, and I had a reputation for being intimidating. I never understood it, as I always thought I was pretty easy-going.

2. I have lived in 2 countries, 4 states, 8 cities, and 15 houses. I’m still searching for home.

3. I love public speaking. Tell me I have to give a speech in front of a room full of people, and I’m a happy camper. This is extra odd considering how shy I was as a kid.

4. I love big bodies of water and I really love to swim, but if I’m in water where I can’t see the bottom, it totally wigs me out. My imagination takes over, I hear the Jaws music in my head, and I have to do the mad splash for land.

5. If I don’t like you, I simply cannot look you in the eye. I never realized this until my mother pointed it out a while ago. And it’s true. I just can’t do it. I’m big on eye contact as a rule, too, so it’s incredibly awkward and (I’m told) it makes people very uncomfortable. But I can’t help it. The only other time I can’t look a person in the eye is when they’ve hurt me and I don’t want them to see how much.

6. When I stay alone in a hotel, I always check under the beds before I go to sleep (just in case that damned monster followed me from home).

PS... did you notice I finally figured out how to include a link?! It only took me 3 months. Yeah, I'm THAT quick.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Old Grumpy...

We called him Old Grumpy… and with good reason. He was the most miserable old coot I’d ever met and I had the displeasure of seeing him a lot. Every day at 3:00 he’d come into the cafeteria-style restaurant where I worked while I was in college. He’d make his way through the line, never speaking, pointing at what he wanted; he’d pay without a word to the cashier; and he’d sit in the dining room, silently eating his meal.

Between the lunch and dinner rushes, 3:00 was obviously not busy. I’d use the time to fill salt and pepper shakers and wipe tables down, so I’d be moving around Old Grumpy’s table as he ate. No one liked to wait on him… there were audible groans when he walked in the door. But I was stuck with him, so I sort of made him a project... not out of the kindness of my heart, I'm sorry to say, but because I was always up for a challenge. My goal was to make him speak to me… or at least smile. My dad used to say I could hold a conversation in an empty elevator and I put my small talk skills to the test with Old Grumpy, let me tell you. I’d flit around, chatting away, telling him about my day, my classes, anything that popped into my head. I was lucky if I got grunts or nods in response. He never spoke. He never smiled.

Then Old Grumpy stopped coming in. I noticed, of course, and I was surprised when I realized I kind of missed him. After a couple of weeks I was actually worried, but I knew nothing about him – not even his name – so there was no way to check on him, to see if he was OK.

After about a month, he returned. I was really happy to see him and told him so. I didn’t expect that anything had changed, so you can imagine how shocked I was when he spoke… when he asked me to sit down at his table! I sat, wondering what on earth was coming next. And I’ll never forget, not for the rest of my life, what did.

He told me that all the times he’d come in to eat had been between visiting hours at the hospital. His wife, to whom he’d been married for 55 years, was dying of cancer and he told me he had to leave the hospital every day because he needed a break – from the sadness, from the anger, from the feelings of helplessness. He said there were days when the only smile he saw was mine and that he'd found himself looking forward to seeing me… to hearing my stories, my laugh. Tears welled in his eyes when he explained that he'd stopped coming in because his wife died. Then he collected himself and added that because he felt the need to thank me for being a bright spot during such a dark time, he'd made a special trip to the restaurant that day.

When he finished speaking, I was crying. Typing this, 23 years later, I’m still crying. That day, tears flowing freely, I hugged him and said good-bye... and I never saw him again. But I have thought of him often. So very often. I expect I always will. I hope I always do. I count him among my greatest teachers… and the lesson he taught me among the most valuable I’ve ever learned.

Philo of Alexandria, who lived 2000 years ago, has been credited with saying, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Truer words were never spoken.

The Ep-i-tome of Embarrassment...

My daughter, Ryan, said something last night that made my mother’s eyes widen. It wasn’t anything shocking or inappropriate (though that certainly happens sometimes)… it was something about how horror-comedy combo movies don’t make sense to her because they’re of completely different genres. It was the word ‘genres’ that got my mom and admittedly, it does seem a rather odd word for a 9-year-old to use… though not really for Ryan. She has a massive vocabulary, which she utilizes to its full capacity, and has since she was very small. She’s not being pretentious; she just loves words, which I find very cool, as I obviously do, too. Her father uses as few as possible (and usually the same annoying ones over and over and over), so I’m glad she got that quality from me.

In addition to having a big vocabulary, Ryan tends to pronounce even big words correctly. I'd like to say she gets that from me, too, but I can still remember seeing that ‘Hey Vern, know-what-I-mean?’ commercial on TV about 17 or 18 years ago (with that idiot actor, Jim Varney)… do you remember it? He was advertising some product, which he deemed ‘The Epitome of Excellence,’ except that he pronounced ‘epitome’ the way it’s spelled and not the way it’s supposed to sound. I was dumbstruck when I realized that ‘ep-i-tome’ and ‘epit-a-mee’ were the same word! I mean, I always knew what ‘epit-a-mee’ MEANT, I just didn’t know it was spelled ‘epitome’. I guess I just skimmed over it when I read it (I probably ought to have looked it up, eh?). Anyway, that realization wasn’t one of my prouder (or more intelligent) moments and my friend Mel still goes into hysterics when she reminds me of it (which is more often than she really should, given the things I know about her).

There was ONE word Ryan mispronounced when she was small, though. And even though it wasn’t a big word, it was a BIG mispronunciation. Lordy. It happened when she was just about a year old. We were in the bookstore and since she wasn’t quite walking yet, I was carrying her. As we were browsing near the kids’ section, she spied a giant wooden cut-out of Beatrix Potter’s frog, Jeremy Fisher, hanging from the ceiling. She did the bouncy thing in my arms that really little kids do when they get really excited… and bouncing and pointing to the frog, she says (at the top of her lungs… which is still her normal mode of delivery), “Mama!! Look!! FUCK!!! FUCK!!!”

Everyone in the store turned to look at my very loud, very foul-mouthed baby. I said (red-faced and just as loudly as Ryan), “Yes, Ry, that IS a FROG. A big FROG.”

More bouncing and pointing and “FUCK!! FUCK, Mama!!! FUCK!!”

I have never, ever left a Barnes and Noble so quickly in my life.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

If You Can't Spell It, Maybe You Oughtn't Do It...

I overheard this conversation between Ryan and the dog this morning (OK, so I’m using the term ‘conversation’ loosely)…

Ryan: What’s the matter, buddy? Looking for Mama?
Sundance: …
Ryan: She’s just in her room changing.
Sundance: …
Ryan: Oh, don’t worry, she’s not metamorphosing. She’s just changing her clothes.
Sundance: …

It cracked me up… first, that she even went there, and second, that she got the word right (I had to look it up to be sure). I think I could use a little metamorphosis right about now. I’d like to spin my caterpillar self up in a cocoon and stay there for a few weeks, emerging as a beautiful butterfly. Of course, with my luck, I’d probably get eaten by a crow… or end up splattered on some SUV’s windshield.

Yeah… maybe I’ll just stick to changing clothes. Sigh.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Heartache in 216 Pages...

I just finished (and want to strongly recommend) a book called The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne. The movie was playing when I was in London last week but I didn’t get a chance to see it, so I grabbed the paperback up at the bookstore before I left. It’s short and SO worth a read, though I’ll warn you that if it affects you the way it did me, it’ll leave you heartbroken and profoundly unsettled (not always a bad thing methinks).

The Holocaust has always interested (and, of course, horrified) me. I visited the Holocaust Museum in DC recently and last week I saw an exhibit about it at the Imperial War Museum in London. This book tells the story of that period through the eyes of two 9-year-old boys who become unlikely friends… one is the son of the Commandant of Auschwitz and the other is a Jewish prisoner at the camp. The book is billed as ‘a story of innocence in a world of ignorance’ and though I found it in the adult section of the store, I'm guessing it was written for a much younger target audience than I represent (which doesn’t change its worthiness, as anyone who regularly reads quality kids’ books will tell you). Ryan will be starting it tomorrow, as I'm planning to take her to the Holocaust Museum next weekend and I think this story should be required reading prior to a visit there.

I’m hoping the movie will be released here on DVD soon. Though I don’t normally watch a movie if I loved the book, I expect this one will measure up. I hope it does. Anyway, if you opt to read the book (or if you already have), let me know what you think!

Friday, October 17, 2008

It's All About Meme...

I got tagged for a meme (as in, ‘let me tell you about ME! ME!’) by my pal Heinous today… so now I have to come up with 7 random/weird facts about me and then make 7 of you do the same.

1. I was supposed to be named Sharon but my dad heard the song, ‘My Diane’ on the radio just before I was born… so now I’m me instead of her.

2. I have visited 2 psychics in my life, 10 years apart (and just for fun, really!), and they both told me I’d be married twice and have 2 kids – a boy and a girl. Since I already have the girl and I know I’m not (“not” as in “no way in freakin’ Hell”) shooting any others out, I find dating men who have one son mighty appealing… not that they’re the only men I date, but there’s a part of me that figures they have a better shot than the others… you know… cosmically speaking.

3. I can spit through my two front teeth. Far.

4. I once walked through a very elegant and very expensive restaurant with 6 feet of toilet paper stuck to my shoe. Now I never (ever) leave a public restroom without checking for trailers.

5. I have more close male friends than female friends.

6. I can’t sleep with any part of my body hanging off the bed… because I am certain the monster who lives under my bed will grab me and drag me to his lair during the night.

7. When I realized my marriage was truly over, I threw my wedding ring into the Catawba River. It was cathartic and symbolic and it made me feel immeasurably better.

OK, that’s 7 things. I’m tagging Mel, Protégé, JeepGirl17, and Shanna. And yeah, I know that’s not 7... sue me.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I Wish Someone Had Told Me...

Another writing assignment from Kathy at Mama’s Losin’ It…

I wish someone had told me to go home. I wish someone had simply said, “Go home for Thanksgiving, Diane, because Christmas will be too late.” But no one did. I wish I could have said good-bye… and I’ll miss you… and I love you. He knew… I know he did. We had a bond… I was his little girl… so he knew. But I wanted to sit by his side and hold his hand and say those things out loud, just to be sure. But I didn’t. I wish someone had told me. But no one did.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I'm Baaaack...

Hello all! I've returned from sunny London, also known as 'Scaffold City', after a 21-hour travel day (ugh). I got some sleep, though, and feel semi-human now. Sorry about not posting when I was away, as I promised I would, but I was busy pretty much 100% of the time. And I realized that blogging, for me, is a solitary act. I can't do it when there are other people around. And I was never alone the whole 10 days, except at bedtime (sigh) and then I was just damned tired. Anyway, here I be.

So... my trip. First, I have to say that I envy people who can sleep on planes. And by 'envy', I mean I could gouge out their eyes with a fork. They totally piss me off because I totally can't sleep (or even doze for God's sake) and when you're on an overnight flight, that really just blows. I get all itchy and twitchy about 3 or 4 hours into the flight and I can't sit still but there's nowhere to go except the bathroom (and I have issues with bathrooms on planes) so I sit there, miserable, trying to watch a movie or read until they bring me more food or we land. And in the end I always get there bleary-eyed and incoherent, after about 24 hours of being wide awake. It blows, I tell you... blows sheep caka.

BUT, all that being said, I get there... and then it's good. This trip, my friend Alan came with me (and that's just friend, not friend, wink wink... he's engaged... and not to me). Anyway, it was Alan's first trip to the UK, so I got to see London through fresh eyes, which was cool. As I mentioned, scaffolding was prevalent, as every major building in London was being worked on (seriously wrecked photo ops, let me tell you). I'm assuming they're getting ready for the Olympics in a couple of years (as it'll take them that long to get all the work done that needs doing). Anyway, I saw a lot of stuff I'd already seen (like Saint Paul's and the Tower of London and the Eye and Stonehenge) and a few things I hadn't (like the Imperial War Museum and Greenwich, where I straddled the Prime Meridian... which is not as exciting (or dirty) as it sounds). We saw a couple of comedy shows (love, love, LOVE English comedians) and ate some good food and drank some good booze. I usually over-do the boozy bit (and have to come home to dry out) but not this trip... well, except for one night that involved a lot of pints of Carling and a couple of shots of this lethal Danish liqueur (after which I remember N.O.T.H.I.N.G.). I think Alan was a bit shocked at how much beer and wine gets consumed on a consistent basis (my friends are delinquents) but I think he just enjoyed the spectacle some nights. And speaking of spectacles, we discovered that the Brits are watching our election coverage as closely as we are (and yes, they are as appalled by Sarah Palin as the rest of us).

I realized that the tourist trade in London is still alive and well, regardless of the world's economic situation or the fact that the dollar is in the toilet. God, there were a lot of people with cameras wandering about. I actually love to figure out where people are from just from visual clues. The Tube is a great place to do this (I'm going to stereotype here, which I really hate as a rule, so forgive me, please). Americans, in general (me included, probably), tend to look as though they've just escaped from the pages of an LLBean catalog... we definitely dress for comfort rather than style. Europeans are all about the style, but often appear (at the risk of sounding rude), well, a bit dirty... or maybe 'unkempt' is a better word. Asian tourists, bless their hearts, always appear to have dressed in the dark... they never match... they're a cacophony of color and pattern. I do love me some people-watching, though... it's one of my most favorite things. It's why I never mind airport lay-overs... I watch people and try to sort out their life stories based on how they interact with each other. I like to think it's the writer in me that does it. But the truth is, I'm just plain nosy.

Anyway, it was a good trip. I got to hang out with my boys (you met Hugh via photos when he visited in August, and Colin and Todd are my other London cohorts... and yeah, that's just cohorts and not cohorts, wink wink... we're all just friends... I really need to find some men to actually date, now that I think about it). Our trip home on Monday was uneventful, except for the fact that I sat behind a farter, in front of a kicker, and beside a loud-talker (though in his defense, he had to talk loudly in order for his very deaf parents, who were seated in front of him, to hear him). Luckily, I had a really good, really long book to keep me occupied.

Photos are down the left side... if I can ever get the slideshow function to work, I'll post more. Hope you all had a great week! I'm looking forward to getting caught up with everyone!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Platform... errr... Concourse 9 3/4 Awaits...

Tomorrow morning I’m London-bound for 10 days (and no, sorry, there’s absolutely no room in my suitcase). Well, actually I’m Dulles-bound in the morning… then Charlotte-bound in the afternoon… THEN, around 8pm, I’m (finally) London-bound. Anyway, YAY!

I do love me some London… it’s one of my favorite places in the world. I love the UK in general, truth be told, and having been born in Scotland, I’m lucky enough to hold dual-citizenship. I have dreams of moving back someday (and depending on how this damned election turns out, ‘someday’ could come sooner rather than later!).

Anyway, London is my primary destination this trip. I love how busy and interesting and vibrant the city is. I love the architecture, the history, the culture, the diversity, and the people. I love the museums and the restaurants and the pubs (especially the pubs!). I don’t, however, love how expensive it is (and the fact that the dollar is in the toilet certainly doesn’t help). But that’s the trade-off, I guess. I go as often as I can, to hang out with my friends and family. This time a friend from home is joining me, and that’s always fun, as I like to see familiar sights through fresh eyes. I’m also taking my ‘puter and I’ve packed the little cord thingy that allows me to move pictures from my camera to it, so I’ll post from there!