Thursday, April 29, 2004

Derby: Two days left...

All the famous people have been coming to town this week.  Or that's what I'm told: I hear them on our local radio stations and read about them in the newspaper.  At this time of year, we begin to see limos in abundance, and all the media people ask all the famous people the same question: "What's your Derby pick?".
I won't even make a joke about asking people from out of town what their Derby pick is, because EVERYBODY ALWAYS asks EVERYBODY ELSE what their Derby pick is.  Even strangers on the street.  Because you never know, someone might have the inside scoop and make this year's Derby a happy one!
(Okay, every Derby is a good one, and always exciting.  But it's a fact, the ones that you remember most fondly are the ones in which your horse wins it.  For me, it was Winning Colors in 1988 and Charismatic in 1999.)
Here are some different ways of picking your horse for the Derby:
1. Dosage index, Rasmussen factor, tip and finger sheets - these are all scientific and insider tips that usually...don't really work.  Either a horse fails the chart and wins, or, in the case of Charismatic, it made the chart on dosage but the experts all said he wasn't good enough, and he still won.  I guess these horses didn't know they were supposed to lose!
2. Go to the dawn workouts at the track - I've never done this, but many people do and swear by a horse's good workout.  Doesn't work.
3. Know an owner or trainer and pledge your allegiance to them by betting their horse.  Works as well as anything else.
4. Pick your horse by the name or the colors. Most normal, non-fanatical people do this. This also works as well as anything else.
5. Close your eyes and hit your program with a pencil.  Whatever it lands on is your horse.  I HAVE BEEN MOST SUCCESSFUL WITH THIS!
I'm going to go look at the post positions now...

Tuesday, April 27, 2004


When did it become decided that we are the way we are?
What if we just refused to be what people expect us to be, and instead be what we want to be? 
Maybe more later on this, it's just a thought...

Sunday, April 25, 2004

My 2nd favorites: the list

I'm turning my assignment in on time now, some of these really gave me trouble.  Now I'll go do my real homework that's due tomorrow...
John's Weekend Assignment #2: Describe your second-favorite of the following:
(Here's my Disclaimer: Second favorites may change at any time as tastes change and people grow up.  That said, here is my pretty juvenile list:)
The Shawshank Redemption
This was a hard decision, but I'm basing this on the number of times I've seen it.  And nothing can top the last 20 minutes of the movie.
I'm a reader and it's very hard to pick favorites when I love them all.  Ask me any day my second favorite and I will tell you a different book.  Today I'm going to say
Dolphin Island by Arthur C. Clarke
Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Once More, With Feeling.  We listen to it the most because it's something my daughter and I both enjoy. 'Under Your Spell' is my favorite track, 'I've Got A Theory' is hers.
School teacher:
Mrs. Graham, 2nd & 3rd grades.  I'll never forget how caring she was.
Ice cream flavor:
I'm not a real ice cream fan, and I hardly ever eat it, but...I like Reese's Blizzards from Dairy Queen.  Does that count?
Sports team:
Chicago Cubs - It's probably Wrigley Field that does it for me.
Comfort food:
The thing I make most often after peanut butter & jelly?  That would be KRAFT Original Macaroni Cheese.
Celebrity crush:
Ed Harris.  You know why.  He's ED HARRIS.
Cartoon character:
Lilo from Lilo & Stitch.  She's so cute, and she loves Elvis.
Way to relax:
Playing the piano.  You forget all your worries and just play.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Ode To My Neighbors

My neighbors across the street have been remodeling their house for the last few months, and it is turning out gorgeous.  I stepped out on my porch a while ago and watched their TV for a few seconds - they have big picture windows all the way across the front of their house now and we now have a great view of their giant widescreen TV.  I can almost see it flickering through the windows of my house, it's that big.
All kidding aside, and besides the fact that they let us watch their TV, I'm always struck by how lucky I am to have neighbors like this.  They are quite possibly the best neighbors, anywhere, ever.  I'm very lucky, let me tell you...
One day it had snowed 20 inches here in Louisville.  I was coming home from work early in the morning, and GOT STUCK TRYING TO GET IN MY DRIVEWAY.  It's been documented, I'm a bad driver - I had no idea how to get unstuck.  I go back and forth, back and forth...suddenly I see a figure come up beside my car.  It's Johnnie with his shovel.  He's a hero!  He digs, and digs, and digs...and finally I get out of the street and all is well.
I used to leave my headlights on all the time in my old car.  Johnnie would come over, open my car door, and turn them off for me.
Johnnie's husband, Dwayne, is who my daughter goes to when she's fundraising.  He always buys a ton of stuff from her, and says, "Whenever you're selling something like this, always come to us, we'll buy whatever it is". 
One time I had a box sitting on my front porch.  I wasn't home.  Johnnie and Dwayne were.  They saw a stranger come up to my porch, grab the box, and take off down the street.  Johnnie (and please don't do this at home) takes off after the guy and confronts him a couple of blocks down.  Johnnie: "I saw you take that from my neighbor's porch, I need it back!"  The thief: "Oh, did they want this box?"  Johnnie retrieved the box from the thief and kept it for safekeeping until we got home.  I couldn't believe Johnnie did that, he could have been hurt!  But he did it anyway.
The list goes on.  I can only hope that I've been as good a neighbor to them as they've been to me.  It's so comforting to know that they're there, watching over me... that's what being neighborly is all about. 
We all need to watch out for each other like this. 

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Goodbye, Gray Zones

I hadn't recovered from our the days went by, I became more and more tired.  I had finally entered a new floaty state of exhaustion by Wednesday.  I fell asleep at stoplights, in a meeting at work, and in class Wednesday night. 
So I went to bed early Wednesday, and slept for eight hours last night!  Who knew the wonders that a good night's sleep can do for your disposition?  I should do this more often!
My daughter left her Lizzie McGuire CD in my car, and of course I listened to it all the way to work today.  It's so great, full of innocence and's all about experiencing the moment and taking chances.  You know, living.  It made me wonder about my own life.  How am I living?  Am I experiencing the moment and taking chances?  I don't think so.  I do a lot of stuff, and have a lot of interests, but I'm not experiencing any moments.  Everything is a blur, anymore.
I remember my first kiss.  I was 16 years old (late starter, I know).  It was springtime, outside at Iroquois Park.  I remember the time of day, the exact location in the park, everything.  My romance with the boy soon ended, but he'll always have a special place in my heart. 
It's just telling how I remember this so vividly.  In my mind, life seemed to speed up after that, through other relationships and experiences, to my present long-term attachment.  (I can hardly ever talk about my boyfriend in here because he would be mortified. He's taking my word that I won't discuss him, because he doesn't even go online, usually.)  But the speeding up is the same for everything, first kiss, first day of work, first day of school...
I don't want to be speeding up.  I don't want my life to be a blur.  I want to be able to wear gold instead of yellow!  (Well really, I stick with black, but you get my point... .) 
I want to experience every moment like it's the first time. 

Monday, April 19, 2004

More Chicago Notes

I can't ever seem to start writing until I'm exhausted and incoherent from lack of sleep.  It's very interesting.
The most beautiful thing we saw on our trip:
How to choose? I think that by far the most beautiful thing in Chicago is the LAKE.  Impossibly blue and, to the eyes, as big as the ocean, it's hard to look away from it.  And sometimes there's fog in the distance and you can't tell where the water ends and the sky begins. The trip is worth it for the view alone.
The other beautiful thing is the "American Windows" by Chagall at The Art Institute of Chicago.  Stained glass, more blue, and light, and hints of reds, pinks, greens, yellows.  It's just wonderful. How did I go to Chicago twice before now and miss this?
The best moments of our trip:
For me?  The tour guide dropped us off at the RainForest Cafe and uncharacteristically gave us more time than we needed.  My daughter and I seized the moment, ditched the restaurant as quickly as we could, and ventured out on our own. It was only an hour to ourselves, unscripted, but it was the most fun we had all week. It was like playing hooky, and I got to go to Walgreens.
My daughter says the best moment was getting back to the hotel every night so she could lay down and watch TV.
It's the simple things...
The prize for the strangest thing we saw:
Goes to the big ugly black spider we saw hanging from the top of the building, outside the window on the 103rd floor of the Sears Tower.  How did it get all the way up there?  Everyone else was excited about it...while I was just happy that it was outside, not inside.
2nd place goes to the 6th grade girls' rendition of "Amelia, Amelia, Amelia". 
The new favorite tourist thing that we've never done before but definitely want to do again:
That would be Medieval Times. I've always held out on going there because I thought it would be cheesy.  And it is!  But great fun, as well!  Where else can you get a great meal and front row seating to jousting and some great Buffy-worthy fighting?
The one thing I need to work on:
Where did my money go? Gift shops should be outlawed for people like me who have no sense of self-control when it comes to buying pencils and postcards.  I think I have about 200 dollars worth of pencils and postcards still left to unpack.
My daughter is much smarter than me, she spent all her money on stuffed animals.  At least she has something to hold!

Sunday, April 18, 2004

10 things

I missed this weekend's assignment by an hour, maybe I can get an extension on my homework because I was out of town... here's 10 things (I'm too tired to even fathom doing 25 things right now)...
1. I had my jaw broken in four places and wired shut for six weeks the summer I was 15.
2. I started taking college classes at 16 years old and I didn't graduate until I was 27. Now I'm going back for my second degree.
3. I once broke up with somebody on his voicemail. I'm not proud of it, it's one of the worst things I've ever done.
4. I gave birth to my daughter via natural childbirth, no drugs. It's not that I didn't want the drugs!, but I made it to the hospital almost too late, and definitely too late for painkillers.
5. I am a very bad driver.
6. I lived in Germany for three years as a child.
7. I play the piano.
8. I am a card-carrying member of the Planetary Society.
9. I've been dating my boyfriend for eight years but I've known him for 17 years.
10. I am a Christian. My goal is to live up to His example of love. I often fail (emphasis on often) but I'll never stop trying.

Chicago working backwards

We got back from Chicago late last night, and I'm still exhausted. How long does it take to get over a trip like this?
We had dinner in Indianapolis on the way home. The experience there made both my daughter and I feel a lot better about the trip. The two of us sat down at a table alone since her six classmates were sitting with each other, and, as usual, they hadn't left any room for her.  We had just been there a couple of seconds, though, before the girls noticed where she was and shoved a bunch of seats together and called her to sit with them. 
I was so thankful to see it, and trying hard to get over my resentment of the fact that they could have done that the whole trip, instead of the last day. I had really taken everything a lot worse than my daughter had. She is the eternal optimist and always ready to forgive and forget.
So, my daughter deserted me, and I was stuck eating dinner by myself, but that was okay because she was happy.
Then I hear someone say, "Are you eating alone? Come sit with us!". I look over and it's one of the other mothers from my bus, at a table with her son and his friend.
I had seen and heard this woman, Allison, talking on the bus for the last four days, and she was by far the most intimidating person of all on this trip. Older, beautiful, self-confident, and loud - totally opposite from me.
With trepidation, I sat down with her, and we talked through supper. And to my surprise, she was absolutely approachable and nice. Not only that, but she had a lot of the same concerns that I did about the trip and how the other kids were treating her child. And also the same concerns about not really knowing the other people on the trip, and the same relief that the trip was almost over!
(Anna: I was thinking of you as I was talking to Allison through this dinner, and how right you were.  This person wasn't intimidating at all once I talked to her, but very nice and normal.  Thank you again!)
As for the last leg of the trip home, Derby Time struck again.  I-65 was closed for THUNDER OVER LOUISVILLE, the nation's largest annual fireworks show and the official kickoff of the KY DERBY FESTIVAL.  The fireworks show is held over the Ohio River.  That's the river we have to cross to get back to Kentucky. 
With I-65 closed, we backtrack our way on the Detour to get on I-64, where traffic was at a standstill.  So the bus got off the interstate and drove through the back roads to get back on I-64 at mile marker 1, which is the last entrance to the interstate before it crosses the river.
So we get on the Interstate and are soon stuck on the bridge over the Ohio River, which is where we happen to be when the fireworks start.
And that's how we got great seats for the 40-minute fireworks extravaganza, keeping the kids and adults close to the windows, and the conversation on the bus soon limited to "OOOH...AHHH...OOOH...AHHH".
The tour guides insisted that they planned it that way, hour delay and all.
I'll write more on the trip next time, working backwards. I am so happy to be home.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Midnight in Chicago

I brought my laptop along just in case I had time.  My beautiful girl crashed asleep as soon as we got back to the hotel tonight.
Going on a four-day field trip with a bunch of middle school kids (average age: 13) has been all kinds of fun so far. 
That was a joke.
I'm separate from the other parents, and I'm not quite sure why.  I have my theories.  A lot of it is on purpose, on my part.  I tend to hold people at arm's length.  I've always been a loner, but lately it's been rather extreme. 
Also, this is a small, private, Christian school that my daughter goes to.  The other moms are, for the most part, older than me and married, and they have short coiffed hair.  I feel massively inferior and different on this trip.  I was a mother at 19, I've never been married (though I have been with my boyfriend for eight years now, which is a very long time and I've heard the "when are you getting married" thing about a million times now), I haven't had short hair since eighth grade, and I don't usually wear pastels. 
Being separate has never bothered me before.  But now, I see my daughter going through the same thing with the other girls that did come on this trip.  I'm watching her, and she's separate from them.  And it really bothers her.
And it makes me feel terrible, because it has to be my fault. 
Chicago is such a great city and I hate to be feeling like this while we're here.  I don't know how to fix it, or if it can be fixed.  It's times like this, when watching her heart be broken is breaking my heart, that really makes me feel the loneliness of being a single parent.  I wish I didn't have to worry over this alone.
Hopefully Friday will be a better day.  We'll be visiting some of our favorite places, and I'll try harder to keep her company so maybe she'll forget that she was on the outside.  It's always about good memories.  What else will you have when it's all over?  This will be my mission for her for the rest of this trip.
I'll try my hardest.  Good memories.

Monday, April 12, 2004

What am I doing?

I'm sitting here instead of being constructive.  I'm leaving for Chicago in 36 hours, and I haven't even started our packing. 
I know exactly why I'm nervous about this trip.  Usually, I'm traveling in my car, and I have control over what I'm doing, or else I'm traveling with some other responsible person.
This time, it's just me.  I'm traveling with my daughter, on a bus to Chicago, with some other students from her school, for a field trip.  Essentially, it's just me and her.  Very few people she knows are going on this trip, and I'll only know some of the people in passing. 
(This is how you get scammed into agreeing to a trip like this.  Your lovely 11-year old daughter comes home in September soooo excited about this middle school field trip to Chicago.  And EVERYONE'S GOING!  And she can't possibly be the only one not to go.  And you will ruin her life if she's left out of this.
So you agree to go.  And you send lots and lots of money in, and bake hundreds of brownies for bake sales.  And then she mentions her two best friends aren't going.  And you say, "Oh, who is going, then?"  And she mentions maybe, oh, five people from her class are actually going.  Everyone else had dropped out long ago.  Because they knew better.)
It's really simple.  I'm terrified that I'm going to forget something essential and I won't have my car to go and buy it from Wal-Mart.  And I'm extremely nervous about the fact that I won't know anybody.  Who will talk to me?  (Interject my daughter: "I'll talk to you, Mommy!".)
I've been to Chicago twice before and it's a really wonderful place.  I'm sure once we get there I'll be feeling better about the situation.  Wouldn't it be cool if we could just skip over the apprehension we feel sometimes, and get right to the thing?

Saturday, April 10, 2004

It's Derby time...

I had to go to an Easter egg hunt at 10 this (Saturday) morning.  I'm rushing, rushing, run out to my car, tear down the street, around the corner, up the street, and...stop.
The road is blocked by some kind of race.  I go around a different way and it's blocked there too.  I manage to make a huge backwards square in a way that's not blocked and finally get to where I'm going.

This happens to me every year, and signals the advent of DERBY TIME.  

I live in Louisville, KY, home of the Kentucky Derby.  While most people know about this horse race, most people probably don't know that this city throws a huge three-week party up to the start of the Derby, consisting of festivals, chow wagons, walks, runs, a balloon race, and a huge fireworks display.  There is also no school on the day before the Derby (Derby Eve). The Derby is the big thing here.

I really love this city, it's beautiful.  I didn't always live here, because I was an Army brat and moved around on the average of every 1 to 3 years growing up, in the US and in Germany.  I was very thankful to settle back down here when I was almost 13 and I've been here ever since.  I've lived in other beautiful places, cities with castles and 1000-year histories, but there's really no place like home.

However, for three weeks every year at this time, I'm kind of slightly frustrated being here, when I deal with the inconvenience of living in the South End of Louisville, where Churchill Downs happens to be, and the roads are closed down ALL THE TIME.  

When I was working nights a few years ago, I got off early one morning and actually had to leave my car parked a mile and a half away, and walk home.  Culprit: the mini-marathon.  And I don't even want to talk about OAKS day, when for the past two years my exit off the expressway on my way home from work has been blocked, and backtracking my way home has taken an extra hour.

And I guess I'll stop complaining, because I wouldn't trade the inconvenience for anything... since along with it comes the excitement of being in the middle of something really great!  

This city wouldn't be as charming without all the Derby craziness.  It's springtime, and the trees and flowers are blooming, the drabness of winter is being painted over with greens and pinks and purples, and my city prepares to put its best face forward to the world who watches us for two minutes every year.

And there's lots of helicopters.

Wednesday, April 7, 2004

Yours, Anne

I first read Anne Frank when I was in middle school, I think everyone did.  I loved Anne, she was my friend.  I've reread her diary several times in my life. 

Then last semester I took a class on Holocaust literature. I didn't know that the Holocaust was going to be the subject matter, because the class was labeled only as Writing About Literature.  It was a surprise. 

I started out with Elie Wiesel's Night.  I didn't make it through the first chapter without crying, and that set the tone for my state of mind through the entire semester.  

Night was the first real glimpse I had ever seen of the concentration camp.  I don't know how it affected other people reading it for the first time.  All I knew was that my dear friend, Anne Frank, encountered these unspeakable horrors after she and her family were arrested from their Secret Annex.  The horrors of the death camps had become personal.  

Anne, of course, never got to write her testimony about the camps.  I had to read someone else's for it to become real to me.

The point of this is, my 11-year old asked for some books from her school's book fair this week.  I let her have two that she wanted and I added one I thought she would like, entitled Yours, Anne.  It's kind of a mini-biography/synopsis of Anne's life and writings, geared toward young girls.  It's a really good book to start with for background.
I was looking through the book last night, and by the time I got to the last two or three chapters, I was crying.  Hard.  I finished the book and went to kiss my daughter good night and she was completely alarmed by my face.  I explained nothing was wrong, I was just crying from reading her new Anne Frank biography.

Hopefully I haven't scared her off from reading it now.  I obviously haven't yet gotten over the five months of intensive study of the Holocaust from last semester.

I hope I never get over it.

Monday, April 5, 2004

It's not working...

It suddenly hit me today that I'm not prepared for our trip next week. I can't seem to get my mind around the fact that I have a million things to do to get ready.  This week is a very bad time for another one of these sit-on-the-bed-and-don't-move episodes.

I'm too tired to do a proper entry tonight. You know how when you get really tired you close one eye, and then the other, and so while you're looking at the monitor your head keeps tilting back and forth? 

Or is that just me?

Venus is on the other side of the Pleiades now, it's quite exciting.