Schnizzlefritz…

 “Sie sind eine Scheiße Kopf!”

This was the first useful sentence I learned in German and I learned it while attending a Parochial school by Frau H., who was German through and through. I can’t say I’m proud of that fact, but it’s a sentence that has served me well over the years and has come into play again this week.

I normally try not to complain about the “unfairness” of the universe. After all, life is not fair. However, the mother bear tends to get her knickers in a knot when her cubs are treated unfairly and then the German starts to fly.

And this does center around German.

You see, my youngest daughter has taken four years of German in high school. Four. Not two. Not three. Four.  She’s president of German Club this year. And yet, she cannot “letter” in German.

Why?

She asked the teacher about it and was told previous club secretaries haven’t kept track of the points members have earned. And as a result, there is no record as to whether or not she has enough points to actually receive her academic letter.

Huh?
 

Far from fair.

Apparently lack of planning on other’s parts are causing the “emergency” on her / my part.

The inept record-keeping has affected not only J, but another senior as well.

Begin brouhaha.

She asked to see the criteria that has to be met so she could try and accompish getting her letter jacket. The teacher was unable to locate it.  Then she was told the criteria was the same the French teacher used.

Interesting.

The French teacher retired from the school then returned to teaching at the same school a few years later. She’s an excellent instructor and I’m very fond of her.

I had the French teacher when I was in school.

I earned my academic letter in French – Mon dieu!  (And another in journalism.)

I don’t imagine Madame S. has changed the criteria overly much from all those years ago, but it’s possible, I suppose.

So here I sit contemplating a blitzkrieg – much like the Nazis did in WW2 or a Schwerpunkt to achieve success.  (Yes, on top of learning German from die Frau, we also learned much about German warfare as she lived through that horrible time in history.)  

Either way, I believe my cub WILL get her academic letter and I will get to retire back to the den to hibernate the rest of the winter.  

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From the Bookshelf…

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” 

– Marcus Tullius Cicero – 

I’m sitting here this afternoon sick as a dog. (Though I wonder what that expression really means.)  I didn’t feel like working on my book today because my concentration is shot to hell and the trips to the bathroom are frequent.  So, I did what any good writer does, I read.  I wanted to take a second though to catch you up on some of my more recent reads.

Because life has been a little stressful lately, comic relief is necessary.  So when I stumbled across “Girl Walks Into A Bar” by Rachel Dratch, I knew I was in for a treat. 


You may have seen her on Saturday Night Live. This former cast member put pen to paper and wrote a fabulously funny midlife memoir about dating and becoming a mother when she was 44 years old. 

She talks about her “high school methods” of birth control and breaking the news to her boyfriend.  I have to say, breaking that news isn’t a fun moment and her recollection of the story is totally relatable. 

I also got an “insiders” look at Hollywood and, just as I suspected, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. 

* * * 


Another great read with characters that spring off the page is “Gone: A Novel” by Cathi Hanauer. 


It’s a pretty quick read.  I got to see inside the minds of both the main characters, Eve and John.  The book is a modern take on marriage and finding one’s self.  I can’t say it’s the “best” book I have read, but it does show some of the trials and tribulations of marriage and family and coping. There were a couple of sagging parts and there were some nutrition / health related subplots that were a little weird for me and I can’t place my finger on “why.” Maybe it was the tone that was used? Maybe that’s just me. My only real concern was the ending appeared a little abrupt, but overall, it’s worth the read. 

* * * 

Finally, I’m reading an old / new favorite – “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” by J.K. Rowling

I came in late on “Pottermania” and didn’t have the opportunity to read the books before seeing the movies. I know, I really should have been shot. 
However, my darling husband bought me the hardback boxed set for my birthday and I devoured them each at least two or three times. However I keep coming back to the last two – “…the Half-Blood Prince” and “Deathly Hallows.” 

It doesn’t matter how many times I read them, I find something new inside.  As a writer, I appreciate her pacing, turn of phrase or visualizations.  Quite remarkable and quite inspiring. 

For those who have NOT read any of the Potter books… for the love of all that is good in the world – do so. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. 
So as I take yet another break to head to the loo, I just wanted to pass on the latest  on the bookshelf / Nook and hope you enjoy the reads as much as I do.   If you’re reading something really good, please share. I want to know… What’s on your shelf? 

The First Fifty

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter – it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” 
~Mark Twain, letter to George Bainton, 1888

I am a writer.

I wrote my first story when I was seven years old.  It was a page long and not well written, but I knew then the power of the pencil and Big Chief tablet.  My father, the story-teller, seemed to like it and he tucked it away saved it for a rainy day.

When I was twelve, I began forming the idea for a story that was much longer and more detailed, but I didn’t have the life experience to emotionally connect to the characters. So the characters went on a vacation to Europe for a few years.

I tried to write the story again in high school, but I got “busy” with friends, social activities and writing of another form – journalism. I learned the craft of the who, what, where, when, why and how.  Pieces of craft started coming together and I discovered what I thought I knew, I didn’t really know. So I practiced writing for the school newspaper, song lyrics, poetry and other things that would expand not only my mind, but my style.

After high school came college and then “life.”  It’s trite, but life gets in the way of our plans. So, the Pulitzer in journalism, which I was sure I was going to win, went by the wayside and in its place came a husband, two beautiful children, a few dogs and an assortment of adventures that adulthood brings.

My characters though were growing tired of Europe. However, I wasn’t ready to bring them home, so I created a new bunch of characters and tried writing a story in a genre that was more mainstream and “accepted.”  I use the word accepted because at this point, I had my own demons to battle and I wanted to write a story my family would “approve” of.  It was a hard story to write. There was no emotional connection to the characters and frankly, the story fizzled in a big way. It’s still two-thirds done sitting in the attic collecting dust.

Because of more life changes and other events, I quit writing. I stopped journaling, stopped doodling poetry, and I stopped everything including reading. I went through a personal winter and the soils of my soul needed some time to just lay fallow for a while.  Several seasons later, seeds were planted when I started reading again.

A writer must read.  We get inspiration from what others have written.  You see, a writer is zipping along a good book and then BAM! A word, a turn of phrase, or something else catches our eye and the muse within plants a seed. Further reading waters and nurtures the seedling and before you know it, you have a field of ideas and you just have to harvest them.

After a long and barren winter, I would have to thank too many writers to list that inspired me to pick up the pen and write again. But gone was the notion I had to write to please anyone, but myself, my worst critic. 

My characters rejoiced. They finally came home from their long hiatus and I discovered something about them. They were well-rounded and flushed out from their adventures and living life abroad. They had matured and become more than I had ever dreamed of. Their story isn’t torture to write, it’s in a genre I love and most importantly, I finally found my “voice.”

The first fifty pages are done and some re-writes have already been completed. After all, being a writer doesn’t mean that you slop down some words on paper and submit them. You take what you have written, rewrite them until they are crisp and then rewrite them until they are razor sharp. As a friend told me once, “the writing is easy, the re-writing is a bitch.”

I wanted to share this achivement today because I didn’t know if this day would come. But in being true to myself, it has. I look forward to what the next pages have to offer, what my characters are going to do next and when I get to write the final words that will close out this novel.

Fifty down – a few hundred to go.

Today I realized…

I AM a writer.

About The American Dream

“Life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement” regardless of social class or circumstances of birth…
– James Truslow Adams 1931 –
(Photo of million dollar property in Malibu.)

When we think of achieving the American Dream, we often think of those who have accumulated material goods – as the dream is often embodied by home ownership or fancy cars or fashion. We might think of those who have risen the career ladder to prominence in a company or business. The American Dream is that of freedom of choice and abundance regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, or class. It often challenges the “aristocratic norms” of the rest of the world whereby only the rich or well-connected are granted access to luxury.

I did a search and approximately 77,000 euros is the same as $100,000 US dollars. I wanted to use this figure to see if the American Dream of home ownership is attainable in other parts of the world. Are we as spoiled as I think we are? Or should I say, am I as spoiled as I think I am? Could I buy a house roughly the same as mine elsewhere?
My ancestry is French / Belgian and Slavic. So I wanted to see if I could buy a home today for about 77,000 euros that would compare to my home here in the states.  I started off in Kosovo and Montenegro. Kosovo was a bust. Montenegro netted some interesting sites. And just for the record – renting had a lot more options. However, back to the search.
There was one place that sort of intrigued me. It was right on the water and had a view of the Adriatic sea. Who wouldn’t enjoy that? Located in Risan, it has one floor with two bedrooms, bathroom and open plan living room/kitchen leading on to large terrace with storage room. The ad says “good opportunity to enhance with a second level and enough space to accommodate a swimming pool on 500 m2 of land.” But there are no interior pictures. However… it was interesting to look at.
It’s not the 3 bedroom 2 bath I have now. It’s also missing a 2 car garage. And… the square footage is 85 square meters. In short… it’s about 914 square feet – about the size of the first house we lived in when we got married. I’m not a fan of that small of space. However, the land around it more than makes up for that. Not enough to buy it.
Then I made the trip, as it were, to France, the options were more abundant thoughout the French countryside. Prices ranged from 55,000 euros on up to whatever your heart would want to pay. However, it was very difficult to find a detached residence with 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms that didn’t require a serious amount of renovations (at least on the website I was looking at) to bring them up to the standards of which I have been accustomed.  (And now I’m sounding snooty, snobby or American?)
All things considered, America is a newer, more modern country.  Europe, Asia, and other parts of the world have a deep rich history dating back thousands of years.  We have the Native Americans, whose history we have pretty much obliterated, and that’s about it. The reason I bring this up is when I look at other countries and their homes, they take pride in the fact that a residence may be a couple of hundred years old.  Our entire country is only a few hundred years old. Their idea of a fixer-upper is definitely not what Americans would equate with a fixer-upper. 

The oldest house I could find for sale (at this time) is a 1720 Cape Cod style home for $1.25 mil. (Gasp!) And then again, it’s been refurbished through the years to add a second bathroom, central heat and air conditioning, etc. So… it’s not “original” though it’s apparently kept much of it’s original “charm” and character.

In looking at this house, I have to ask… why do we modernize and aim for “luxury?”  Why do we keep upgrading and changing things? I’m sure part of it is “comfort.” We want to be warm. We want to have indoor plumbing, electricity and all those things that make the universe in which we live a better place to be. But when I compare this little house Cape Cod style house to the truly historic homes in foreign lands that don’t have the central heat and air, have one bathroom and have kitchens that make my counter space look like it’s enough room to cook for a squadron of soldiers, I have to wonder why things are the way they are both for myself and for others.

The American Dream… a quest for growth, prosperity and freedom… and in ways that are really hard to define – definitively American.

Political Advertising and Other Woes

“I see in the near future a crisis approaching; corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.”

Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 21 1864

This morning on the way into work, I heard Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way.”  I was instantly transported back to the Clinton election campaign and became somewhat nauseous. It’s not because of Clinton himself, though I’m not a fan nor supporter, but because he took a good song and ruined it for me.  I hate it when good songs are used for whatever purpose and then become associated with something else that have negative connotations in my life.

Because of this song, I began thinking about this Presidential election and politics in general.  I’m not as knowledgable about politics as I should be – probably because my stomach churns when I think about the muck and the mire that makes up the election process.

One of the biggest problems that irks me is the PAC/ SuperPAC campaign spending / donation process. I don’t quite understand how all of that works. I read up on wikipedia to get an idea and I’m still confused to be quite honest. However, something caught my eye and made me heartsick.

As of February 2012, according to Center for Responsive Politics, 313 groups organized as Super PACs had received $98,650,993 and spent $46,191,479. This means early in the 2012 election cycle, PACs had already greatly exceeded total receipts of 2008. The leading Super PAC on its own raised more money than the combined total spent by the top 9 PACS in the 2008 cycle.[72]


The 2012 figures don’t include funds raised by State level PACs nor funds raised by national level non-profit groups that pool “soft-funds”. Spending by non-profits, also called 527 organizations, exceeded $500 million in the 2010 election cycle with the two largest organizations being the Republican Governors Association $131,873,954 and the Democratic Governors Association $64,708,253 [73] Spending by the 527 organizations for the 2012 is expected to be double and much will be derived from donors kept hidden from voters.[74]
I understand to run an election campaign, it takes money; however, wouldn’t it be a refreshing change to see someone do it without spending millions of dollars on television ads – there are all sorts of new media ideas out there that aren’t as costly? It makes me sick because all of that money is being wasted on blue sky – which is what advertising is. And why all the bashing? Why not tout what you can do, your accomplishments and all of that? Just once I would like to see a positive campaign run by a politician. 
Most people do not like negative political ad campaigns. And frankly, most people are so sick of political ads by the time  the election comes they don’t want to see another one.  And the cost of these ads is astronomical – especially in tightly contested states.  By election day, Romney and Obama campaigns and other independent groups will have spent about $1.1 billion on television advertising in 2012,  with $750 million already allocated in the handful of states likely to determine the outcome of the contest — Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin according to Kantar-Campaign Media Analysis Group estimates. Florida tops the list, with more than $150 million spent by both sides so far. Is that not assinine? (Thank you Yahoo for that info.)  
There are many different ways to get your message out to people that spending that kind of money isn’t as “vital” as it used to be. These politicians need to find a campaign strategist that is able to think out of the box and use new media as well as traditional branding to cut costs and put out a more positive message. 
I think people are smarter than the political machine gives them credit for. I think most decide early on who they are voting for and only a tiny slice of the pie is actually up for grabs.  The politicians would be better served focusing on the debates, their credibility and what they really have to offer than wasting millions of dollars on an uncertain number of votes.  

Your vote matters… if you don’t vote – you have no say in anything that happens. You don’t even have the right to sit and bitch about how this country is being run.  On election day, get out and vote. Many people have given their lives so you can cast your ballot. I’ll be there at the polls. Will you?

“My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. “

John F. Kennedy

The Edge of Space

If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. 






Chuck Yeager was the first to break the sound barrier and today Felix Baumgartner wants to be the first to break it with the human body, limited by nothing more than the suit he wears to protect himself from the biting cold on his way back to earth from the edge of space. 

I am writing this as Felix is on the assent into space and is about 34,000 feet in altitude. The concern at this point is the jet stream – winds that can clock over a hundred miles an hour.  The jet stream flows across this tiny blue planet until about 45,000 feet. 

Since he’s up in the jet stream, you might be wondering if Felix is sharing jet space with planes at cruising altitude, but alas… no. This is a good thing.  I would hate to think Felix would be the victim of a fly by hit and run.  The FAA has placed a no-fly zone in place for today’s launch. 

I’m hoping the rest of this goes well… after all, Felix has dared to cross limits that man hasn’t crossed before. Maybe if we all did something like this once in a while, the world would be a much better place. 

If you are interested in watching the rest of launch, the hang time and the fall from the edge of space, here’s the link for you.  Take care… 

Felix Baumgartner

PS…. if you missed it… it was pretty awesome. He made the jump from over 24 miles above Roswell, NM (where all things Extra-Terrestrial seem to occur) and broke at least one record, if not more, in doing so.  A pretty darned good day. I wonder what’s next on his to-do list. 

Rockin’ the Veggies!

“Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” – Albert Einstein –

My youngest daughter is seventeen – you might remember seventeen, the age at which all things are possible.  She’s working out what she wants to do in the future and figuring out who she is. She’s really quite amazing and watching her go through this process is quite eye opening and I wonder if my parents took the amount of time I spend studying her studying me.

One of the things she has done is decided “enough is enough” and started improving her diet and getting in shape.  She is working out and has gone vegan, eating no meat / animal products and is working really hard to go raw vegan. 

As a result of her dietary changes, I have had to learn a lot about veganism and vegetarianism and other isms I didn’t know a thing about .  So before I go further, lemme give you the short version.

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Ovo-vegetarianism includes eggs but not dairy products and  Lacto-vegetarianism includes dairy products but not eggs.

Ovo-lacto vegetarianism (or lacto-ovo vegetarianism) includes animal/dairy products such as eggs, milk, and honey. (This is the most common type of vegetarianism in the USA.)

Veganism excludes all animal flesh and animal products, including milk, honey, and eggs.

Raw veganism includes only fresh and uncooked fruit, nuts, seeds, and vegetables. Vegetables can only be cooked up to a certain temperature.

Fruitarianism permits only fruit, nuts, seeds, and other plant matter that can be gathered without harming the plant.

Sattvic diet (also known as yogic diet), a plant based diet which may also include dairy (not eggs) and honey, but excludes anything from the onion or leek family, red lentils, durian fruit, mushrooms, blue cheeses, fermented foods or sauces, alcoholic drinks and often also excludes coffee, black or green tea, chocolate, nutmeg or any other type of stimulant such as excess sharp spices.

Buddhist vegetarianism (also known as su vegetarianism) excludes all animal products as well as vegetables in the allium family (which have the characteristic aroma of onion and garlic): onion, garlic, scallions, leeks, chives, or shallots.

Jain vegetarianism includes dairy but excludes eggs and honey, as well as root vegetables.

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Wow…  that’s a lot to learn, but even more to practice. Like I said, she’s vegan and going raw vegan, but not completely there yet.  Like I said, I’m proud of her. Through the working out and eating right, she’s lost a bunch of weight and is gettting in shape. Her goal is to eventually run a marathon. I can’t say I’ll ever run a marathon, and honestly, I don’t want to. But I do want to run in the Susan G. Komen 5K next year. She’s just one of the inspirations I have for doing so.

My mother had breast cancer and has been cancer free for more than five years now. It had spread to her lymph nodes and she had to have some of those removed.  Fortunately, it hadn’t gotten bad enough that she would have had to have a mastectomy. She and several other people I know are other inspirations to make the run. I have to do my fair share of getting back into shape, but there’s no reason why I can’t … except for excuses. Lots of excuses.

As I look further into vegetarianism and getting back into shape myself, I may decide to modify my diet.  I don’t think I’ll ever go vegan. I have to face it – I’m a Texan and I love a good steak. However, I believe I can morph more that direction and definitely eat more of a natural / vegetarian lifestyle and less of a processed foods lifestyle and make it work.

More on that as I make the change for the better… and again… I just have to say – I’m really, really proud of youngest. Rock on, girlie!!!