Saturday, December 25, 2010

Missing in Action

I have been missing in action.... will be posting "Unplugged" in a short time to update my fans about life without internet or TV.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The People Upstairs

Disclaimer: I recently moved to an apartment after living in a house for nearly five-years. We have met wonderful people and strangely, there is more of a sense of community here in Building Six compared to our old street where we never even spoke to one set of neighbors. Well, they never spoke to us. I think it had something to do with our "Eve was Framed" bumper sticker and they run a summer bible camp.

There are a few characters that I will share about in the future. But know this... I love my neighbors. The people who moved in upstairs are really very nice, and I'm sure perfectly normal everyday folks, but you be the judge. Feel free to weigh in with your findings.

Our new neighbors moved in about two months ago. A husband and wife with two kids arrived from Corpus. Our first impression was watching the husband lift a television, not a little one, more like a 48" TV by himself out of a pick-up truck like he was lifting a laundry basket. He has a set of dumb bells on the patio and looks like the kind of guy you want on your side.

Exhibit A:

Being our normal "sitting on the patio" selves, we introduced ourselves. Our neighbors are named Bonnie and Clyde. No, not really just Bonnie and Pete. Okay, many of us have "Normal Names" in Texas. For instance, my friend Eligia goes by Cindy or another guy I know is named Alejandro but goes by Alex. No big deal.

We learned that Pete and his dad own a BBQ place. I seem to have neighbors who are related to BBQ joints. Our last neighbor, a truck driving, ex-rodeo guy grew up on the BBQ circuit and would be out at his grill in all kinds of weather and all hours of the night. We didn't mind, there was always the scent of charcoal and wood chips wafting in the air and he would tap on the door and say, "Hey, try a little of this." My husband learned to master ribs and brisket just from mowing the lawn or chatting.

Evidence B:

Bonnie and Pete do not seem to work. Sure, he is supposed to be scoping out potential locations for a new restaurant. Like Austin needs another BBQ joint. We don't see them during the day, but we do visit over the patio rail in the early evenings, or see them up at the pool during our late afternoon swims. We assume that the BBQ joint supports the people upstairs.

Evidence C:

So now we have upstairs neighbors after a few months of vacancy. No real complaints about noise really. Sure the AC system has a line issue that used to wake us up in the middle of the night every time the neighbors' AC kicked on but now it is white noise that helps us stay asleep. We all drop stuff by accident or washers go off balance now and again, but no loud music or screaming.

But all of a sudden on the weekend nights, I would shut off my reading lamp at say 10:30 or 11:00 pm and as if by cue, I would hear thumping, running, and well sliding of objects over my head. One weekend of disturbed sleep went by. You know, the kind of sleep that just when you drift back to sleep you are awakened. It used to be by a hungry infant, but my kid is almost ten and has thankfully been sleeping through the night for some time now. I just don't do interrupted sleep very well now. Okay, I never did interrupted sleep well, who am I joking?

It was Labor Day weekend so I wrote it off. Friends had come to town to visit, no one had to go to school or work.

The next weekend rolled around and again, the same thing. I would wake up literally saying, "WHAT THE F*@%?" My husband Paul eventually got up and said "I'll take care of this" and returned with the broom and pounded on the ceiling. Quiet for 15 mins, another doze and then again, Thump! Ththump! Bump, Slumph! Now he got up, let the dog out and noticed that all the lights were on upstairs.. it was 2 AM. He walked up the stairs and knocked. After a few minutes the door was answered after he spent several minutes listening to the familiar sounds of... XBOX Live. It turns out the 13 year old was playing a live action game but it was 2 AM.

But wait..... the TV is in the living room, not in the Master bedroom. So just what is up with the people upstairs?

Conclusion A: My upstairs neighbors are laying low. They moved from Corpus because the heat was on and Austin is a place where everyone can kinda just blend in. Each night they are up to various illegal acts like packaging hot electronics or running a sweat shop and those are the footsteps of children working through the night manufacturing knock-off Dooney & Burke purses.

Conclusion B:

"Bonnie" and "Pete" are in witness protection. They cannot work since it may put them at risk. The kids are just a cover. The "friends" that came to visit are actually their handlers, making sure that their cover hasn't been blown. During the day, Mr. and Mrs. are testifying in a sealed hearing in Washington DC during the day and are flown home every evening. They can only be themselves after dark and they are a family of acrobats from Ringling Brothers Circus and they know who killed the bearded lady.

Ringling Brothers circus poster - "aviary...Image via Wikipedia

Conclusion C:

My neighbors are just normal people who let their kids stay up way late on the weekends.

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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Guaranteeing personal religous freedom

As I've mentioned, I live in the buckle of the Bible Belt and I am increasingly alarmed in the direction my country is moving. Our foremothers and forefathers came to this place so that they would not be persecuted for practicing their religions the way they believed. I've been visiting a great site that I found while looking for famous quotes about religious tolerance.  Please visit:

I hope the following excerpt will remind people about who we are, or at least who we should strive to be during these frightening times.

"Religious freedom is theoretically guaranteed by the first sentence in the Bill of Rights -- the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

However, like all rights, they have to be rigorously enforced. In this case, they must be defended against two main groups:

Those who wish to convert the U.S. and Canada into theocracies in which only one religion is supreme, and most activities become either compulsory or illegal. These groups attempt to restrict or eliminate all religious expression and action other than their own. To see what this is like in the real world, consider the lack of freedom in Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Those who wish to eliminate the right of individuals to express any religious belief in public.

The first phrase of the First Amendment is referred to as the establishment clause. It has been interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court as erecting a wall of separation between church and state -- a phrase lifted from a letter by Thomas Jefferson to a Baptist group. Jefferson was a firm believer in "the wall." He regularly refused to authorize presidential proclamations of prayer, thanksgiving and related religious matters. He felt that such proclamations were the responsibility of religious institutions, not of the government."

Please visit:

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Who is reading my blog???

I'm loving the nifty new Stats tab on my Blogger Dashboard! Kinda wild that I've got a growing audience in South Korea and Brazil. If you are reading this post or have read any of my posts, please enter a comment (you can even enter it anonymously) and shout out your country.

United States 498
South Korea 17
Brazil 11
Canada 8
Germany 2
Israel 1
Mexico 1
Taiwan 1

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day

Labor day was planned. If I did not go into labor naturally, I was to be induced on January 9, 2001 so my doctor would be available, he was going on vacation. I had my birth plan, we went to Lamaze and I was ready. Or so I thought. That day, getting ready to check in, I was having second thoughts, like some how I could delay being a mother. I was happy being pregnant.

Motherhood. This is the place where I learned what unconditional love is all about. I was scared I wasn't going to be able to get pregnant. I was an "older" woman (read mid thirties) who was finally ready for the next phase of my live, motherhood. My doctor told me all was in order and to come back in six months if we didn't get pregnant. And viola, we got pregnant in four months. Once I got past the agonizing fatigue, I actually enjoyed pregnancy. My body was doing all this amazing stuff. I don't remember the actual date or how far along I was, but that moment when I first felt that movement, I was awestruck. I was the bowl and someone was squishing the pasta around on the inside! Yes, I loved this new life growing inside of me, but this unknown life was still a stranger.

The pregnancy was all normal until that blood sugar test. I had to go back for what seemed to be a never ending series of icky sugary stuff and vials of blood. It was confirmed. I had gestational diabetes. I changed my diet, no sweets for me... no ice cream and pickles. At this point I wasn't allowed to indulge in the pregnancy craving myths. Small portions multiple times a day but that wasn't enough to change the blood sugar levels. I was prescribed insulin. Thank the goddess that my husband had been an LVN in the army. He gave me shots multiple times a day for close to three months. But it was all good. I was not a happy camper testing my blood several times a day. But I did it out of love.
We checked in to the hospital around 4 pm to be induced. We, how silly, it was just me who was going to be induced. I wanted to have that text book natural childbirth but I was hooked up to a monitor since my pregnancy was considered high risk. Cervidil applied and told to just wait. Around 10-11 pm contractions began and around 4 am my water broke.

Women are amazing creatures. I don't remember so many parts of my labor. All I know is that I went to that primitive place that all mothers go. Having a doctor is nice, but labor is natural and our bodies truly know what to do if we allow it.

I'm told that I began the pushing phase at 3 am. I'm told we used a crouching bar. I faintly remember the ten minute contraction that brought the whole maternity ward into my room. One minute I'm huffing oxygen and the next I'm asking who are all these people and is the baby okay? I don't remember the "crouching bar" or the name of the woman who said, "Push right here."

Around 10 hours later Dr. Chuckles (the subject of another blog, but really the most amazing Dr.) told me I could have an epidural to get some rest or we could move to a C-section. Doc told me think about it for a while. Doc and my husband left the room. And again, I'm told that ten minutes later I proclaimed, "Get it out of me now!" Still not unconditional love.

I was told I could stop pushing now. Really? Just how do you stop the most natural, conclusive action to a contraction? I cursed like a sailor and my Dr. held me down for the spinal. I apologized profusely. My husband told me he could see all my insides and Dr. Chuckles said something like, "Oh, the baby is looking up at the stars. No wonder!" Then it happened, unconditional love made that first noise, kitten-like cry.  "You have a son!" proclaimed Dr. Chuckles. Poof! I was staring into the eyes of our Padric and unconditional love was born.
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Friday, August 20, 2010

Do you know how hot it is? No, how hot is it?

Sounds like an Abbott and Costello routine but there have been too many days of 100+ degree temperatures and counting here in Austin TX.

I posted this on my old blog last summer when we had 56+ days of heat over 100, and that is not even mentioning the heat index. Since we are now over 10 days, I thought it would be appropriate to share again.

I listen to our local NPR station each morning on the way to work and now I say in unison with Burton Fitzsimmons, "A 20% chance of rain today and temperature likely to reach near to 102 degrees." Now the 20% chance of rain means that it may rain somewhere in the state of Texas for 5 seconds and the 102 does not include the real temperature with the heat index. Next, I wonder aloud, "Remind me why I live in Texas?" and I never seem to find a solid reason.

Don't get me wrong, Texas is "interesting." I don't want to offend the people I've met, so let this serve as an apology in advance. One thing about Texas is that the people are friendly here. You can usually spend 30 minutes talking to a complete stranger about... you guessed it, the weather. (Don't even think of mentioning politics here, you'll likely to be hit with a rectangular object with a five-letter word embossed on the cover, but that's another blog note...) Most of these conversations start in a line for something and begin with "I remember one (insert season) when it was so (insert cold, hot, wet, dry, strange).

Now Texas is big about everything and Texans are happy to tell you that things are always bigger here. So this means that if its summer, temperatures can be triple digits. There is only one place in Austin one can stop the boiling of your blood: Barton Springs. The water is below 68 degrees year round.
I told someone in NY it was 104 degrees the other day and she said I could bake bread. I haven't tried that yet, but you can melt butter and fry an egg. If it really rains, there are flash floods, I never heard of a place with more low water crossings and the fools who attempt to actually drive their car through it to get home. If its dry, the ground gets so hard it cracks and the red ants go insane searching for water. Did I mention the hail storms? Out of nowhere a hail storm will kick up and the hail is anywhere from the size of quarters to the size of baseballs, yes my car was pounded by baseballs and I was nowhere near a baseball stadium. Sure, we get tornadoes too. I've only had to sit in my closet once this year and yes, the sky turned an eerie shade of green.

Oh, and I here tell (don't you love my Texas speak?) that since it is so dang hot, "they" are predicting a wet fall, as if this brings any relief? We'll have several days of car accidents as the oil in the roads seeps to the surface, followed by more days of accidents since Texans do not know how to drive, much less drive in the rain. And if we're lucky a wet fall will be followed by a wet winter which means icy roads. Did you know that Austin has like only a dozen trucks that can actually sand the roads?

See, you really can spend 30 minutes talking about the weather in Texas.
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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

And the Winner is.....

Thank you to those who participated in my fun and games! We have taken a poll here at the Daley household and the competition and debate was fierce.  I know the anticipation is driving you mad but please be sure the winning results were protected by our guard cats, Poly, Ester and Snips, under the bed with all the other prized possessions.

My desktop rat friend now has a name,Fräulein Frederica Fancy Rat. Congratulations go to Kimberly, (visit her blog and the Lady of our ring, Babes in Blogland.

Kimberly, contact me with your address so I can send the "Pink" prize!

From time to time I will do this again, everyone needs an excuse to get crafty!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

All is Quiet on the Blogger Front or Work is Hell!

I know I've been missing from action for bit, but work has been all consuming. Sherman said, "War is hell" so I will take creative license here and say, "Work is hell!" Thanks history buff husband for the quote and encouraging to write my rant. Its cheap therapy after all.

I come home brain drained and play those silly games on Facebook. Something always has to be harvested, built or iced and the best part is that I don't have to "tally" "feedback" or "submit" a damn thing. Now if only those millions of Mafia Wars rubles were real.

Seriously, I'm in the weeds at work. Ever have one of those days, weeks (or dare I say a month?) when for every case you close you seem to get two more? If I was waiting tables, I'd be rolling in the tips.

I feel like I'm a treadmill going no where fast. If I was on an actual treadmill, I would have burned millions of calories, but nope, my butt continues to enjoy that "I sit in a chair all day" spread. I've been at this job for close to seven years and let me calculate it, that would come out to be gaining about 7 pounds a year!

Have I mentioned that I really thought that I'd only be at this job long enough to go through paid training? Now I'm "an old timer" and people know who I am and ask me how to get into my department. Simple, someone has to move away to work on a mission, get fired, or die. For my company, I'm well paid but when you compare it to the real world it can be insulting.

I don't have a clue who works in the other departments anymore, those chairs are twirly chairs and before you know it know it the chairs spin and new faces appear. The good thing is that I can nod at the other "old timers" with that "same shit different day" attitude and laugh quietly at the fresh happy people who will be beaten down by the man in no time at all.hhhhh, I feel better now.

Monday, August 2, 2010

For Thea

My best friend passed over four years ago and I wrote this several months later. My sister is still with me and I hear her laughter on the wind and feel her supportive presence in my darkest hours. A day does not pass when she is not in my thoughts. She is free and she still calls me, like good friends do.

Star, Anthea (Breeze) Padric Summer 2001

Grief, it engulfs you... at first...a blow to the soul
So long it has taken me to put the feelings in order just to
How do you catch up on nearly five years in twenty minutes?
How do you say goodbye, when you've just said hello?

"Star, you came. You are here!"
How could I not?
It was for the both of us.

For me... to see your smile and hear your voice again, old friend.
I did not, could not let you go without telling you that
I love you...

Love between women is unique.
We bare our souls,
Share our dreams and
Fight the good fight.
So many memories crash through my mind.

I told you to leave, to do what your heart told you, you said I gave you strength
Again, I told you to go, even though I knew a wedge would be driven.

You helped me heal and trust again... so many times
I want to crush herbs in the little room, to play the same song over and over gain, to dance under the moon, to go for wild rides nowhere, to sit under the tree at market

To make that promise
Never let a man come between us... and keep it this time.
Five lost years...I feel robbed.
I grieved then and I grieve again.

"Kisses like butterflies" you said then and
"More now" before you crossed over.

A light has gone out in the world.

Yet, I hear you, like always.

Connectivity, Sisterhood.
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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Fancy Rat... Revisited

I feel like Julie in Julie & Julia! One of my followers sent me a gift. Granted, the follower happens to be my mom but she is my biggest fan!. I opened the box my mom sent with glee.  No, I'm not at sleep away camp but boxes from mom bring good books, little surprises or even clothes!

Mom sent three books: The Girl Who Played With Fire, Shanghai Girls, and Engaged Buddhist Reader. Yep, my mom is way cool: eclectic, inspirational and funny. She also sent three shirts because she knows I never go shopping for myself. I used to shop but that was in the before times and the subject of another blog entry. Gently tucked away in tissue paper was the piece de resistance! I did take French in High School but I also took Spanish so I don't speak either one but can understand just enough to go out to eat.

Behold, my very own fancy rat, dressed for her very special day!

Lovely purse and a nice diamond ring!

Laughter to near tears engulfed the household. My son said, with a smile from ear, "Mom... its a fancy rat, just like that crazy lady from work!" Ahhh, so true but this is only one fancy rate, it truely is  cute and doesn't require a cage or food!

Note the lovely tiara!
This fancy rat will be sitting on my desk on Monday morning! And now dear readers, here is an opportunity for you to participate! Name the fancy rat and you will win a real prize.*

Silly rules: Participation is required. You may enter as often as you like. No more than one entry per day. All name suggestions become the property of She said This and That. The winner will be selected by the Daley family and announced by August 15th, in honor of my mom's birthday.

*If you wish to win "the prize" you must include your favorite color and if you are allergic to any fiber.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Blogging Dilemma

I've been investigating on ways to improve my blog and I have a dilemma. The key advice I keep coming across is to stick to one subject. My problem is that my life is multi layered. Another tidbit was to keep your paragraphs short. Really? Is this paragraph too short or two long?

I'm a "working mother." But nearly every woman I know has worked outside the home, or works her ass off at home or will work outside the home again. I have interesting views on working and being a mother which I have yet to explore in my blog, but it is a topic on my "To Blog" list.

I work for a large corporation in customer service. Yes, I spend 40 and sometimes plus hours on the job. I encounter things that vary from the ridiculous to the sublime. I've only tickled the surface of working for "the man."

But I am also a wife, married for eleven years. I am the proud parent of a single child. Just these two areas of my life give me enough material to write for ions. Both have their challenges and rewards that I think are worth sharing.

And I am an activist with a strong political voice. Perhaps many will not champion my causes, but I agree to disagree.  

How can I chisel down to one area of my life? Should I even try? My dear readers, I would love to hear from you on this... really, get to commenting.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Tales from The Service: Seriously, You Can't Make This Stuff Up...

The truth is stranger than fiction! Seriously, I couldn't make this up... even if I tried. Please note that I have only edited company identifying information but this is an actual complaint where I had to provide a written response:

"I purchased a tool box from X. Both latched broke. Being a "Tool", I asked for a replacement. They replyed that it was not a hand tool. The tool box is carried by hand an is a tool as defined by Websters dictionary, "an instrument or apparatused used in performing an operation or mecessary in the practive of a vocation or professional/" The tool box is sold int the tool deptment. The product is carried by hand. Therefore it is a hand tool."

I don't remember the customer's name but I'm sure it ended with a "Y" like Jimmy, Bobby or Tommy and most likely he was from West Virginny, Mississippi, or possibly Alabama.

The following is what ran through my head as an immediate response:

"Dear Mr. Jimmy, Bobby or whatever your name is:

We have reviewed your complaint and due to the fact that you failed to quote the dictionary correctly, there is no possibility that we can attempt to assist you. In addition, please return to elementary school and you will see that computers have this nifty feature called (drum roll please...) Spell check. When you decide to get some 'edumication' you may return to our store. "

Of course I had to write a friendly letter stating that we regret if Mr. Jimmy, Bobby or whatever his name is, misunderstood the definition of hand tool, but we stand by our decision that he is not entitled to a replacement, exchange or a refund.
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New Design

I thought I would add a little zing to my blog. Please let me know if you like the new look. Want to see something different? Miss something from the old design? Please comment and I'll see if I can figure out how to edit the html code on this nifty template I found while surfing. Ah the Internet where you can find just about anything for free!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Dear Me,

Dear Me,

1984... you are 20. I still see you when I look in the mirror. Now softer, more gray, wiser. If only you knew what I know now. Seriously, I would not change a thing. Your are the eternal optimist, a dreamer an adventurer. You are on on the verge of discovering who you are. Really... don't second guess yourself so much. Sure, you will get bumped and bruised along the way, but that truly builds you into the woman I am today. Hold tight kiddo!

You will go on to earn that college degree a little later and in the process you will find your political voice. You will lead, meet women who will be your sisters forever and some will have a profound impact on your life. They will teach you that the personal is the political, that you are a goddess. Your mentors will fall from the pedestals you placed them on, but sisterhood is powerful and true.

You will rise and fall like the tide where love is concerned. But you will find love. The old adage, “You'll have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince” is actually true, why else would it be an old adage? You will fall in love, crash and burn. But you will rise again like the phoenix from the flame because you are a survivor. Those with whom you share true love will be loved across many lifetimes, for once you truly love, it cannot be undone. Try as you may to cut those bonds, your love is eternal. You will learn that true love is not fallen into. That is a crazy ride that may pulse with adrenaline, but you will eventually fall, which includes pain and scarring. Love is something that is built over time upon a solid foundation of true friendship,

I have only one request, and it is that you keep doing what you're doing because our path, maiden...mother... crone is one we travel together. I am mother now, and you are always with me because I see you smiling back at me in the mirror every day.
Love me

Monday, July 5, 2010

Write a Letter

I heard a marvelous tidbit on NPR the other day how a young blogger, in her twenties, asked her older blogger friends to write a letter to themselves when they were twentysomething and give their most important bit of advise... something they wish they knew when they were in their twenties. I feel awful that I can only remember the young woman's first name, which I think was Lisa. I guess that means I'm more than twenty.

I thought it would be interesting for my followers to do the same. Yes, my postings tend toward humor, but be as serious or not, as you want to be. I will be posting my own letter within a week. So sit back and really think about this. If you do not want to post your letter in the comment section, or feel the space is too short, please feel free to email it to me ( If you don't want any of the information posted, please just let me know, I will respect your privacy.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


I have to admit that I was giddy with delight when those little faces began popping up. I sang, “I've got Followers!” to my family and actually did a little dance. Then I got to thinking...

The term “followers” has a bizarre ring to it, particularly for those of us who live in Texas. Remember that group of “followers” in Waco? Does this mean that I should build a compound and claim a tax exemption?

Followers actually reminds me of that elusive cult-like group call the Travellers. After all, I have an Irish last name now and perhaps we can all learn Shelta together as we caravan from town to town.

Photo courtesy of Irish Aires News

But seriously, not to offend my new followers, but isn't following someone kinda like stalking? Will the literary paparazzi come banging on my door demanding more blog entries, stealing photos of me without makeup? Wait... I don't wear makeup, but no one should see me before my first cuppa coffee in the morning.

Hmmm, this being followed is serious business. So if you know a way I can cultivate more followers, drop me a line. And if you are just a lurker, you can comment anonymously.
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Sunday, June 6, 2010

I Knit

Knitting isn't what it used to be. Have you walked through your favorite craft store lately? Or even visited your LYS (local yarn store)? Inviting colors and textures await you. Wool, washable wool. Bamboo, linen, alpaca, cotton and more.

I taught myself to knit. My mom has said she taught me when I was little, but I don't remember. I came upon knitting because a series of events in my life left me unraveled. I literally had to find something to do with myself so I could sit down and do anything that required me to focus outside myself ... to do something to occupy my trembling hands. Back then the Internet only offered a smattering of knitting sites compared to today where you can spend days browsing... finding supplies, instruction, patterns and blogs.

I was browsing, looking for a how to knit website and came upon Tom, a kind faced man who was willing to share his knitting knowledge with the world. Regrettably, his site has disappeared. I printed out his instructions and static photos (hard to believe, but true, there wasn't really any video online yet). My equally neurotic friend and I went to a now non-existent shop and a kind gray-haired lady helped us select our very first needles and yarn. We sat for hours trying to figure out how to cast on with our friend, Tom. We mastered the long-tailed cast eventually and we were ready to knit, and knit and knit (purl came later).

The click-clack sounds of the needles became soothing music for my shattered and bruised psyche. The repetitive motion became my meditation. I finally felt as though my unraveled life could be knit back together again. I carried a knitting bag with me everywhere. If I needed a quick fix, a moment of calm or reassurance that my life could be “normal” again, I'd sneak off at work to the bathroom, or find a corner during my lunch hour.

Slowly, my first variegated purple wool scarf emerged. Wrapped around my neck, I still wear my “purple heart” with pride. It reminds me that I survived and came out the other end of my first clinically diagnosed depression. So if you are Tom, thank you for helping me save myself.

My "Purple Heart" Scarf

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Bag O'Friendship

So you arrive at work early, isn't it always early when you have to go to that place? Anyway, A co-worker wags a zippy bag of something yummy and asks, "You want some?" Your coffee could use a companion... your sedentary spread begs to differ. Okay, just a little taste. Yum. Your pal now tells you, "Its Amish Friendship Bread and I'll bring you a bag of starter tomorrow with directions." Easy peasy. I can read and I can actually bake, which means you read all the directions.

Next day a zippy bag of whitish ooze sits politely by your keyboard and you dutifully carry it home and proclaim, "We'll have tasty Amish bread in ten days." Each day you squish or mush the bag, letting out the extra air (this stuff is fermenting away), and finally you get to feed it. Several more days and you're ready to give out several bags of your own mushy stuff and yes, bake it up.

My only problem is that I forget about baking until 10:30 pm. My husband ran out earlier to get the large box of instant vanilla pudding for the recipe. However, I forgot I need both baking powder AND soda. No box in the frig and any baker worth their salt (pun intended) knows you can't skip an ingredient. I'm texting my neighbor anxiously awaiting a reply, I'm cracking eggs, measuring cinnamon, salt, etc. Then, I find myself standing stunned in the kitchen. I was supposed to separate out those pesky "friendship" starter bags! I am not a good friend :(

The instructions basically tell me I'm shit out of luck... the starter is only available from an Amish person. What? Remembering that I live in Texas, I realize that the my chances were rather slim to find an Amish or Mennonite community, particularly after 10:00 pm.

So, what I do know of the Amish (or was it Mennonite) is that they had a farm stand in Homestead Florida. There you could purchase the most delectable, scrumptious strawberry shake. While slurping it down, you could purchase wholesome and amazing breads (dilly, a family fav), pies and veggies. I don't recall seeing anything that resembles Amish Friendship Bread. This particular group migrated from the North for strawberry season. Yes, the men and women were dressed in their plain garb, nearly all had blue eyes and were polite and soft-spoken. I doubt they would give any of their recipes away on a photocopied sheet. Besides, would they really use a box of instant vanilla pudding in any recipe?

So where did this recipe come from and why was I feeling like a bad friend? After dumping the less than friendly bread batter down the sink and cursing in an unAmish fashion, I remembered that I killed a Bag O'Friendship in the past. I am not destined to bake a bag of mush. But my curiosity was peaked and a quick visit to my friend wikipedia revealed, "There is no reason to think that the sweet, cinnamon-flavored bread has any connection to the Amish people although the name is taken from them. According to Elizabeth Coblentz, a member of the Old Order Amish and the author of the syndicated column 'The Amish Cook' true Amish Friendship Bread is "just sourdough bread that is passed around to the sick and needy...The instructions distributed with Amish Friendship Bread typically omit instructions on how to prepare starter from scratch, and frequently claim that the recipe is a secret "known only to the Amish".

Now I feel better. None of my friends are sick or needy at the moment. I guess its an omen and I'm off the hook.

BTW: Here is a recipe for a starter that I found on the Internet. And I thought the Amish did not embrace technology.

1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast 1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C) 3 cups all-purpose flour, divided 3 cups white sugar, divided 3 cups milk


In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Let stand 10 minutes. In a 2 quart container glass, plastic or ceramic container, combine 1 cup flour and 1 cup sugar. Mix thoroughly or flour will lump when milk is added. Slowly stir in 1 cup milk and dissolved yeast mixture. Cover loosely and let stand until bubbly. Consider this day 1 of the 10 day cycle. Leave loosely covered at room temperature.

On days 2 thru 4; stir starter with a spoon. Day 5; stir in 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup milk. Days 6 thru 9; stir only.

Day 10; stir in 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup milk. Remove 1 cup to make your first bread, give 2 cups to friends along with this recipe, and your favorite Amish Bread recipe. Store the remaining 1 cup starter in a container in the refrigerator, or begin the 10 day process over again (beginning with step 2).

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The case of the Fancy Rat

Just what would be your first reaction if you were to ring the doorbell of person to provide them with a service and they answered the door with a rat perched upon their shoulder? Upon entering the residence, you would note that there were several more rats skittering about the home. The homeowner goes about her business as if nothing is unusual?

Well, our poor service provider did his job and left as fast as his big feet could carry him. He told his manager that our customer had unusual pets and notes were made to "the system." This mention of rats, like a bad game of "telephone" evolved into a rat infestation and before you know it, unsanitary or unsafe working conditions.

Rats? Who keeps rats as pets? One would think they might be raised to feed the huge bald python living in the basement. Or perhaps they weren't rats, but hamsters? Nope. These are special rats, fancy rats. When this complaint rolled across my desk I asked myself, "What the hell is a fancy rat?" I opened up the Goggle machine and was amazed at just what I found.

From our dear friends at wikipedia:

"The fancy rat is a domesticated brown rat (Rattus norvegicus), which is the most common type of pet rat. The name fancy rat derives from the idea of animal fancy or the phrase, "to fancy" (to like, or appreciate)... 
"Fancy rats have their origins as the targets for blood sport in 18th and 19th century Europe. Specially bred as pets since then, fancy rats now come in a wide variety of colours and coat types and there exists several rat fancy groups worldwide. ..."
Really? Bloodsport?  I just had to dig deeper and found that there is an American Fancy Rat and Mouse Association homepage. I found rather a disturbing history article by Nichole Royer that states due to an "...excess in the rodent population led to a rather unusual sport. In Victorian England, great numbers of wild rats were captured for use in rat pits. This pastime was particularly popular in London and involved placing a large number of rats in an enclosure with a dog. The dog would then proceed to dispatch as many rats as possible, and the one who killed the largest number in the shortest time was declared the winner. Bets were placed on the dogs and large sums of money exchanged hands at these establishments."
Was our customer running a rat ring in her country home? Would we divulge the dirty secret and would our unsuspecting customer make the headlines?


Did this person keep rats as pets? Okay... ferrets, hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, but rats, with the long hairless tails? Yep. My customer calmly told me it was her husband's rat. When asked if she had more than one rat, she wanted to know why that mattered. The good news is that domesticated rats "pose no more of a health risk than other common pets. For example, domesticated brown rats are not considered a plague threat, while exposure to wild rat populations could introduce diseases like Salmonella into the home. While fancy rats are subject to different health risks than their wild counterparts, they are consequently less likely to succumb to other illnesses prevalent in the wild." Thanks again to wikipedia. I could tell my company with reasonable certainty that no one would be exposed to the plague!

Because I couldn't leave well enough alone, I learned that these fancy rats are bred for the coloring of their coats and are companion pets. YES! Rats as pets! Would you believe there are siamese points, dalmations, and cinnamon rats to name just a few. You don't have to search for yourself, people dress them up and take pictures.
Okay, Okay, I knit and I found this to be kinda cool in a weird knitty way!

I had to convince our customer that "fancy rats" were not your typical pet and ask her to kindly have them and any "signs" of rats out of sight before any service provider would return. After hours, yes hours of telephone conversations with our customer who made outlandish allegations she was being discriminated against for her pets just like "those people" but she needed her appliance so she relented and agreed to put away her pets, just like we would ask the owners of dogs to do.

By the way, just who are "those people?" Ahhh, I feel another Tale from the Service... customer service that is..

Monday, May 31, 2010

Stories from the Service...

I plan on writing a book or going on a comedy tour to share amazing but true stories from my worklife. The book might be titled, "Tales from the Service."  If you work where I do, please do not disclose who I work for because I'm not allowed to disclose "proprietary" information. If I get a book contract, they can sue me but in the interim, I need the job! LOL!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

New Blog

She said this and that... is a place for me to put those thoughts that rumble around my head. Like many women today, I wear many "hats" and have less than the wanted time for myself. I work for a large retailer resolving escalated consumer complaints, I'm the mother of a nine-year old boy, and married for 12 years on June 19.

The job is a source of angst, humor and my income.

My son is truly the best thing I have ever accomplished in my life. He is smart, makes me laugh every day and taught me what unconditional love is all about.

My husband is my best friend. Really? Yes, really. We navigate life together, not always agreeing but there is a deep respect and love at its foundation.

She said this and that... will be an exploration of my "hats" and I invite those who find this to add their experiences and ask questions.