Sunday, February 28, 2010

Bye, February!

So happy to be bidding February farewell! Although it means the end of the Olympics (I have not watched this much TV in a long time), it also means good things are coming!
  • 31 days to Chicago grrrls weekend
  • Daytona Bike Week is in full swing. I'm living this vicariously through more than half a dozen people.
  • Warmer weather! It looks like March is coming in like a lamb. Is that good or bad? Time will tell. My propane tank gauge is slowly inching down...65%...55%...45%...34%....
  • Time to get back on the horses. Went for a great ride in Flag Springs yesterday with Janet & her husband. The new mare was simply incredible. I love her! Too bad she's not mine.
  • I now have five days to write a bang-up freelance article on a local restaurant. What began a month ago as a leisurely timeframe has suddenly become a looming deadline, due to what I can only call unforeseen circumstances.
  • Gardening time -- I got to work in the greenhouse last week and really enjoyed it. My green thumb is beginning to itch. Time will tell if I can keep up the flowerbeds in MY yard when I spend time working on other people's gardens. We'll see if that is inspiring or tiring.
  • 31 days left on my Lent resolution. Brenda kindly reminded me that chocolate is not part of my diet.

That's what I'm looking forward to this month. Can you say Spring Fever?

Friday, February 26, 2010


The voiceover on the McDonald's commercial that has been running for the last two weeks says: “So now you don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to eat like one.”


Chicken McNuggets?

(Full disclosure: I love their french fries. On the rare occasion I eat fast-food french fries, it’s a sure bet they’re from McDonald’s).

No disrespect to McDonald’s , but are we really supposed to believe these elite athletes really include McDonald’s in their diet, especially at the Olympics? Granted, many of the athletes are guys barely out of their teenage years and with unstoppable metabolisms, but still. To me, it’s the calories and fat content that make a McDonald’s meal Olympian.

Maybe they just eat the salads.

No – in one commercial I’ve seen over and over again, McDonald’s claims their Chicken McNuggets are the most popular menu items. Is it possible to have wickedly low body fat, chiseled muscles and a powerful heart and still indulge in these high-calorie, mega-fat delicacies?

A six-piece serving of Chicken McNuggets is 276 calories (I was surprised, too) and has 17 grams of fat, a heart-stopping 42 milligrams of cholesterol and 600 milligrams of sodium, which is one-fourth of the RDA.

I can understand needing calorie-dense foods because of all the energy athletes burn off, but surely there are better choices? Food, which is their fuel, that will give them optimum energy, not weigh them down & clog their arteries?

McDonald’s Olympic connection dates back to 1968 when they airlifted hamburgers to the athletes in Grenoble, France, because they reported being homesick for McDonald’s food.

Lest my readers think this is a McDonald’s-bashing post, let me say I have a lot of admiration for how they give back to the Olympic host countries. For Vancouver, they have teamed up with several charities, including the Rick Hansen Foundation, to fund three Legacy playgrounds. These playgrounds are tailored for children with disabilities so they can play alongside their peers and families. What a great thing to do – I personally know how a disabled person can feel alienated from others.

Google and didn’t give me any solid answers when I tried to find out what’s standard for athletes like sculpted Lindsey Vonn, rebel Bode Miller, lightning-fast Apolo Anton Ohno (an amazing 2.5% body fat) or tiny Kim Yu-Na. Of these three athletes, I somehow have the feeling only Miller would indulge in a McDonald’s meal or two.

I did find out, via, that there is a 400-page International Olympic Committee manual that outlines the cultural and dietary requirements for athletes from the 85 nations represented at the Olympics. Imagine the variety: pad Thai with cod, shrimp sumai (whatever that is!), custom seafood, pork, chicken and beef dishes made at action stations. Who needs a Big Mac when you can have that?

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Wild Life

No, not that kind of wildness. Although I did have a great time at the Threads, Bread & Red gathering this weekend.

Hoping that it will help spring be on her way a little faster, I've been doing some spring cleaning and the usual furniture rearranging that comes along with it. (Gotta get that dog hair out from under the couch and behind the desk....) I don't like clutter, but the way my house is set up gives me limited options for rearranging.

I think I hit the jackpot this time. I created a little "reading nook" (no pun intended) in one corner, by a window. It gives me the best of both worlds: a cozy place to sit and read either an actual paper book or my nook -- and look out the window at the creek across the road once in a while. Plus, Baxter can snuggle up on the chair's ottoman and look out the window to his heart's content.

That dog has great eyesight. Today, he started barking and staring at something outside. I could not figure out what it was. Just when I was about to give up on figuring out what the invisible visitor was, three deer walked across the creek.

That's about as close as I can get with my camera. Not a bad view!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Life ain't fair

Whether it’s in sports where .01 of a second means the difference between a gold medal or going home empty-handed, a contest where it’s all about wowing the judges, or simply getting the guy, life doesn’t always turn out exactly the way we want it to – no matter how much we prepare, plan or strive.

This week of Olympics has put athletes in a national spotlight. With cameras everywhere and millions watching all over the world on live television, Vancouver’s the world’s stage. There’s a lot of pressure -- so why are we surprised when at least one athlete cracks under it and puts on a show of poor sportsmanship?

For one thing, the Olympics Oath, which athletes take, albeit indirectly, at the opening ceremonies:
"In the name of all the competitors I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them, committing ourselves to a sport without doping and without drugs, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honour of our teams."

The Olympics oath has been around since 1920 – plenty of time for each country to drill the idea of the true spirit of sportsmanship into its athletes. Apparently, Russia feels it is exempt from that part of the oath. The 2014 Olympics could get rather interesting.

For sure, victory is sweet – and nowhere is it sweeter than at the Olympics, which athletes have prepared for over a lifetime.

Winners collapse on their backs, kicking their ski-strapped legs in the air like a little kid, give an interview with a million-dollar smile and tears of joy, throw their snowboard in the air or simply raise their arms and turn their eyes heavenward, basking in the spotlight. Winning a gold medal -- even silver or bronze – is a lifelong dream for many athletes.

Losing is…well, it sucks. Whether it’s peewee t-ball or Olympic figure skating, it’s just not fun. Call it character building or an opportunity to learn from your mistakes, call it whatever you want, it’s not something anyone sets out to do.

But being called a sore loser is even worse than the actual losing itself. It negatively brands someone for life – perhaps more than winning a medal.

Nowhere else in the Olympics has bad sportsmanship been more evident than in figure skating. The drama seems to follow this sport everywhere – from the Tonya Harding spectacle of 1994 to Yevgeny Plushenko’s ongoing dissing of Evan Lysacek and the men’s figure skating judges over the past 24 hours. (Plushenko is definitely out of the running for the Pierre de Coubertin medal for exemplary sportsmanship.)

Sure, we may not always agree with the end results – whether they are through subjective judging, mistakes (our own or someone else’s) or just plain bad luck. Sometimes, you’re handed a win you know in your heart you didn’t really deserve. Other times, you see someone else succeed when you thought it should have been your turn.

But – regardless of whether you’re on a local or international stage – shouldn’t you win with class and lose with grace?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


--Madeleine L'Engle from The Weathered Heart

I, who live by words, am wordless when
I try my words in prayer. All language turns
To silence. Prayer will take my words and then
Reveal their emptiness. The stilled voice learns
To hold its peace, to listen with the heart
To silence that is joy, is adoration.
The self is shattered, all words torn apart
In this strange patterned time of contemplation
That, in time, breaks time, breaks words, breaks me,
And then, in silence, leaves me healed and mended.
I leave, returned to language, for I see
Through words, even when all words are ended.
I, who live by words, am wordless when
I turn me to the Word to pray. Amen.

I love that. Since today is Ash Wednesday, I thought it was fitting. This blog is a departure from my regular writing fare. I don’t want to come across as preachy, I just want to share something I don’t usually put “out there” in the public eye.

When you think of Lent, what’s the first thing you think of? I think many of us automatically think of giving up a food, whether it’s chocolate, Starbucks or meat.
However, there’s so more to Lent than giving up a favorite food or an ingrained habit. It’s also about doing something to be closer to God (maybe praying more or making reading the Bible more regularly) and even giving time or money to a charitable organization.

This year, I’m giving up something for the Lenten season. And since Lent isn’t about broadcasting or bragging what you are giving up or doing, I’m not sharing it on the blog.

Forty days without something you love may seem like a long time. But that’s really the point, isn’t it? Discipline. Self-sacrifice.

I contemplated “giving up Starbucks” as a commitment but ditched that one because in reality, I only go to Starbucks about once a month. Of course, there’s always an excuse why you (or I) “can’t” give something up.

I made a list of potential sacrifices, and it made sit back and think because I truly came up with a “valid” reason why I couldn’t give up this or that. I finally settled on something that would require a conscious effort but would not be at the peril of others (trust me, you don’t want me to give up my coffee).

So there it is: 40 days of reflection & change. I’ll leave you with one last thought that is my favorite quote of today’s Lenten lessons:

“God doesn’t want my chocolate. He wants me.”

Monday, February 15, 2010

Going for the Gold

The boys of winter are here! I’ve been enjoying the Olympics coverage since the opening ceremony Friday night. If you missed that show, you missed one of the best ones (personally, I liked the innovation, learning opportunity & intimacy of this ceremony over the one in Beijing). I would not want to be the coordinator for 2012’s ceremonies, as each opening ceremony seems like an impossible act to follow. Vancouver’s director did a great job by going in a different direction instead of trying to top Beijing.

The opening ceremonies captured nearly every emotion on the spectrum, from grief over the (overexposed) death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili; the awe of watching Johnny Lyall snowboard down an anonymous Canadian slope and then through the Olympic rings in the stadium; disbelief that kd lang was barefoot while singing “Hallelujah;” fascination at the imagery in the visual floor; to the confusion on the faces of Wayne Gretzky and Steve Nash as they waited for the cauldron columns to rise from the floor.

Since then, I’ve been glued to the television, watching the coverage as much as my schedule allows. My favorites so far are the moguls and snowboarding on Cypress Mountain.

I love the interviews and profiles that pop up throughout the coverage. Some are better than others, but each serves to show how hard each athlete has worked to get to Vancouver, sometimes including odds they have overcome or obstacles that have nearly prevented them from competing. Others not only provide inspiration for the athlete in all of us, but also give us a glimpse at what inspires the athletes themselves. I’m jealous of Matt Lauer. Being able to interview athletes like this in an Olympic setting would be a dream job for me. (I wonder if NBC would provide me with an interpreter!)

Right now, I have an eye on the television, waiting for the snowboard cross final to air. Unfortunately, I accidentally saw the medal results online, so I know who wins. I’ll have to be a little more careful not to check any of the news outlets tomorrow!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

New Etsy Product

I've been working on a "secret" craft project this winter. Friends have raised their eyebrows at the amount of beads and craft wire I have been buying at Michael's and Hobby Lobby, trying to figure out just what I am doing.

These horseshoes were Christmas gifts to a lucky few people and now hang (hopefully!) by their doors, bringing them good luck. No one horseshoe is alike, and all of the horseshoes are recycled. (Aka used!) Some are dented, some are rusty, and some are bent. Each has its own character and is ready to hang on your wall or above your door & bring you good luck.

I'll be listing these in my Etsy shop soon -- unless they are sold before then. Prices vary & depend on the materials used. I can also do customized colors if you have a color scheme in mind.

Happy Chinese New Year!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

February Blahs

It happens every year: February Blahs. I don't think it matters what part of the country you live in, everyone's susceptible to them.

I'm no exception: I've been struck down by "The Death" (as my chica Sara so lovingly called it) for about two and a half weeks. I finally dragged myself to the doctor today and came home with a Z-Pack and a new supply of kleenex and Nyquil. I'm hoping to feel like I belong back among the living soon. The weather is going to warm up for the weekend and I need a hefty dose of Vitamin D.

We've had more cold weather and snow here than is usual for Missouri this winter. I'm certainly not complaining, as I missed the worst of it by spending six weeks in the Arizona sunshine.

But! The weather forecasters are teasing us with temperatures in the forties as early as tomorrow. Surely, spring can't be terribly far away, can it? We need some color other than brown and white around here.

The neighbor's goats are popping out. (What's that called, anyhow? For horses, it's foaling, calfing, for cows.... Oh YEAH, kidding. That's the cold medication fogging my vocabulary.)

And I spied this in one of my flower beds the other day:

Yes! The daffodils are on their way!

The tulips can't be far behind. (Here, I cheated -- this is a photo from 2009.)
Soon, the dogwoods will be blooming, and winter will be forgotten. So, hang in there!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Snow Day

One of my favorite things about relocating from central Minnesota to southwest Missouri is the fact that the snow that falls on "snow days" is gone fairly quickly. Sure, it turns into m-u-d, but the temperatures are much more mild than Minnesota. (The temperatures are supposed to dip into the low teens tonight, but we won't talk about that.)

Today we had a gorgeous snowfall. And the best part was that it was warm enough to melt the snow almost as quickly as it fell.
Peaceful, no?
Well, it was, until Baxter went crazy. Apparently, there was something outside that wasn't supposed to be there. Two-legged or four-legged, if you don't belong on my property, Bax will give you the what-for. I looked out the window, and something was creeping down the road:
Fella was not happy to see me. (I left a very put-out Baxter in the house when I went out to investigate.) It looked like a young raccoon just going for a stroll. When he saw me, he scooted up to the safety of a tree.

I thought he was kinda cute. But my friend Joyce, whose husband got in a dueling match with one last summer (Jaime, just hand over the hot dogs next time!), and neighbor Alisen, who lost a duck recently to one of the neighborhood predators, disagree with me.

Must run. House is on!

Friday, February 5, 2010


Happy Friday! It's a gray and dreary day here, but I can't complain -- it could be cold and dumping feet of snow. Besides, I finally got a Christmas present last night. My long-awaited nook is here! For a bookworm like me who lives out in the sticks, it's the perfect gadget. I can easily go through one novel a week. Two if I stay up late reading or don't have a freelance writing project to work on.

Having the nook means I can buy new releases online for a fraction of the price, download & start reading them -- all on the same day. No more driving 40-some miles (that's one way, folks) to the nearest bookstore or blowing the budget ordering books online.

My bookshelves are overflowing & now I won't spend as much money on books -- or need to find a place to store them. The nook stores up to 1,500 books, which is a few more than I own.

I haven't even had the nook for 24 hours, and I am hooked. Once you figure out what you're doing, it's easy. Their instructions could be written better, but I figured things out after a few false starts. Whoever wrote the inserts that came with the nook needs to rewrite them. Wonder if I could send my suggestions to them? (Just kidding.)

The display is really cool -- if you're thinking, "Well, I could just download the FREE e-reader software and read books on my computer," think again. The nook's display is a trademarked E Ink that is as close as paper and ink as you can get without actually being paper and ink. There's no glare or backlight like with a computer screen, so your eyes won't get fatigued.

I did (and still have) a glitch when it comes to registering using my home wifi. Barnes & Noble goofed up on that front, as there are a lot of complaints online about this. Apparently, the best way to register your nook is to go to the brick & mortar Barnes & Noble store and access their AT&T 3G wifi. I'm curious to see if I will be able to order books via my home wifi once I register. If not, it's not a big disaster because you can still side load via your PC. In layman's terms: you can purchase the e-book on your computer and download it to your nook via a USB cord.

I'm still not giving up reading "real" books -- after all, with my klutziness and accidental swims, I'm defintely not taking my nook to the pool or in the bathtub.

So if I don't blog over the next few days, it's because I'm absorbed with my new toy!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Here's Your Sign

It's no secret that I'm a news junkie. I always have been, but keeping up with the news really became a habit in college because of the random news quizzes that popped up in my mass communications classes. Now, years later, with online newspapers and blogs galore, I can read to my heart's content and satisfy my curious mind.

And then there's Facebook. Today a friend put up a link to a website I've never seen before -- -- and the blog that came up had me both laughing and scratching my head.

If you watch the news at all, you might be somewhat familiar with Westboro Baptist Church and Fred Phelps of Kansas. No? Don't feel bad if you don't recognize the name. You'll probably recognize it once you read about their activities.

This self-proclaimed "church" (despite their name, they are not affiliated with any mainstream Baptist convention) is notorious for its protest activities, hatred of gays and stomping the American flag. Not a laughing matter, especially when you consider their anti-American activities include picketing funerals of soldiers. The list goes on. And on. You name it, Westboro and Phelps will probably protest it. They supposedly have a $250,000-a-year budget for their protests. And a law firm to deal with the ensuing lawsuits.

But here's what made me laugh. Last week, the group went to San Francisco to protest at Twitter headquarters and quite a few other San Francisco landmarks, including the Golden Gate Theatre. They got a little more than they bargained for from the great people of San Fran -- counter-picketing that was just as subtle and sane as theirs.

Westboro's signs are, well, hateful:
(Do you really want to know what a "bitch burger" is? I'm afraid to Google that one.)

The lovely folks of San Francisco countered with signs like these:

Yeah. The Donuts one is my favorite! It made me giggle.

Where were these folks when we discussed First Amendment rights in Mass Comm Law? I would love to bend Ellen Mrja's ear about this one.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Groundhog Day

Punxsutawney Phil has spoken from Gobbler's Knob: Six more weeks of winter! Do we really put our weather-predicting faith in a rodent (Marmota monax)? And one named Punxsutawney Phil, no less? (Yes I had to look up the correct spelling -- my college journalism professors threatened a failing grade on any project that misspelled a proper noun. That threat still lingers in my subconsciousness whenever I write or type out someone's name or a city. Don't ask me to pronounce it, though.)

Groundhog Day seems to bring up North vs. South feelings -- by this time of year, northerners are remembering why February can be the cruelest month, while southerners are enjoying their balmy 70-degree days and hoping they can last as long as possible.

But back to putting our faith in a rodent. Over the last 114 years, Phil's seen his shadow 99 times. However, his accuracy is about 40%, according to the U.S. National Climatic Data Center. This would earn him a failing grade at any educational institution in the U.S. But still we hold our breath every February second. And most of the time we cringe at six more weeks of winter.

If PETA could get its way, Phil would be replaced by a robot twin. Seriously. That doesn't seem quite as cuddly as Phil.

And for my Alaskan friends: They don't celebrate Groundhog Day there. No. Thanks to a bill Sarah Palin signed in 2008, they celebrate Marmot Day. Which technically is still groundhog day because a marmot is part of the same family. They tried to be different, but didn't quite make it.

So are you disappointed there's still six weeks left of winter? Or do you go by a different sign, such as Daytona Bike Week, spring break or (gasp!) the actual weather?