Friday, December 21, 2007

Merry Christmas from a Hospital Bed

Sorry, I have been distracted this week.

Have you ever visited a relative in a hospital around the holidays? To see a niece or nephew, lying in a sterile hospital bed, looking pitiful, is a bad feeling. At Christmas time, being in a hospital is double-bad, because there are charities who come into hospitals at Christmastime and sing to the children. The music is beautiful, but it reminds you that this child is laying in a hospital bed, not participating in Christmas-type activities.

This child, anyone's child, doesn't feel well. Not a life-threatening illness, but an illness bad enough for a hospitalization and a few nights sleeping in a foreign bed.

I know, some will say that Christmas should be like other times of the year. You should love your neighbor all through the year. Yeah, I get that. But you know, at different times of the year, you can be more passionate about redemption (Easter), more passionate about re-birth (Christmas), and more about giving thanks (harvest celebrations, Thanksgiving).

So in a week of re-births, in anticipation for Christmas, I don't feel like writing. Actually, I am going to take off from work a bit early and sneak into a hospital room, and read my nephew a story. Or two. Or twelve.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Holiday Parties

I went to my first holiday party on Friday.

When I look at old Christmas movies, holiday parties seemed catered, the boss seems to have a secretary on his lap, and everyone is drinking some type of spirits. That's not really how my holiday parties are – oh, any my parties are in vibrant colors, not black-white-and-grays.

Oh, and I am not bashing black-white-and-grays. They are classic colors, and these colors can move one to tears (It’s A Wonderful Life), one to laughter (The Bishop's Wife), and one to confusion (The Horn Blows at Midnight). Okay, I have never seen The Horn Blows at Midnight, but since it is about big band trumpeter who falls asleep and dreams he is an archangel, sent to destroy earth, I figure it would confuse the heck out of me.

I wanted to say a few things about holiday parties.

Most of the holiday parties I am involved in are potluck, which is German for "bring too much damn food." If you think about it, you should just bring as much as food as you can eat, because if everybody brings what they can eat, then there would be no wasted food. Okay, bad suggestion because some people bring unpopular foods. Those people should volunteer to pick up something at a bakery.

Most of the food at a potluck is (1) high fat, (2) contains cheese, and (3) contains mayonnaise. What bothers me is that, at least at my parties, there are no fresh veggies, no other healthy alternatives – not just to snack on, but to cut the fat on the other goodies.

Oh, I also want to just suggest that if something is loaded with calories, it needs to taste wonderful. That means, please leave the partially hydrogenated cookies at home, or at least mark them so I can avoid them. If I am going to have to spend an extra two hours on a Stairmaster®, I want it to be for some wholesome, mouth-watering fat.

Small Talk
You know, I am not really interested in my company's potluck. I mean, I see these people all year long, and I don't want to think of what to say, to engage in small talk.

I sort of enjoy small talk at other people's work. By other people, I mean my husband, but it would be cool to just crash a party. Can you imagine crashing a party with the following?

Leesa: Holy crap, where is my husband. He is gone.

Woman: Who would that be?

Leesa: You know him. He is the only man who is not here.

Woman: Oh, you mean Fred.

Leesa: (thinking to self, poor Fred, you missed the party) Has he screwed you yet? That SOB.

Woman: Fred is sixty-something years old. You can't be forty.

Leesa: And yet we are married.

Woman: Oh, I had no idea.

Leesa: I ask again, has he nailed you yet?

Woman: Pardon?

Leesa: Has he fucked you?

Woman: I think not. I am his boss.

Leesa: That has never stopped him before.

Then I walk off.

You see, I can't make a scene at work. It is frowned on.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Short Leesa Christmas Letter

Wednesday, I wrote about Christmas (or holiday) letters. The blog entry was a bit snide, but I think it is worth a read if you have the time.

Today I would like to post a letter that I would like to receive.

Dear Family,

It is another year. I am sending this out a little early to tell you that you need to send Jed's presents to the state penetention. They picked him up again. He is completely innocent; he is just a little bit too trusting. He was holding a package for a friend, and it turned out to be marijuana. He told them it was not his, but you know, they did a drug test and he turned out positive. To date, I no longer make my famous poppy seed muffins. It was Jed's undoing and all.

With Jed being taken care of on the government's dime, I have had a lot more time to pursue some of my interests.

My primary interest is in wine-tasting. I have actually been interested in box wines for some time, and although I have my personal favorites (Black Box Wine), I have tried so many of them. The top shelf of my 'fridge is only wine now.

Little Jimmy, poor Jimmy, I have had to displace his milk. At first, he missed his milk. But you know, wine is just old grape juice, right? Jimmy has been doing a bit poorer in school – with his times tables and reading and stuff, but you know, he has less behavioral issues. So I call that a win.

Without supporting Jed's gambling habit, I have been able to put away a few bucks. It has been actually a bit nice. And you know, putting a few dollars in the purse brings more responsibility. I got Jimmy a WII – for educational reasons. Next year we will see if his grades will improve.

Me, I have had several nice men with which to spend time. And on an unrelated issue, I have been buying lots of pretty underwear.

Oh, and remember the box wines. I have started writing a book on the subject. The working title, is "Wine Appreciation Guide: Box Wines and You."


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Christmas Letters

It’s that time of year again, and I received my first Christmas letter today.

Yeah, Ho Ho Ho.

I am not a big fan of Christmas letters. Okay, the idea is nice. People who love you enough to send out a card also send information also send a Christmas letter, and if it is a well-written letter, everything is wonderful. But not many letters are well-written. By well-written, I am not talking about grammar, spelling, subject-verb agreement. I speak to content.

The typical letter I get from those who love me is filled with their yearly accomplishments. "Hey, we had a good year – bought me and my wife matching Lexuses." The first thing that pisses me off is that people should not be rich enough to ever need to pluralize the word "Lexus." Class envy aside, I really need to know that it was a really good year financially for someone.

Only slightly less annoyingly, are the letters that tout the kids. I love, kids, I really do. And I think kids do great just learning how to read, write, and deal with irrational numbers. But either the authors of these Christmas letters are exaggerating their accomplishments, or my relatives and friends' children are going to cure Cancer, the Riemann hypothesis, and discover that there was a second gunman behind the grassy knoll. Oh, and I know these kids. Yeah, they consume oxygen like the rest of us and convert it to carbon dioxide. That does not make them a chemistry wiz.

Next are the letters that laud other accomplishments. I am not going to put an award won at work on my resume' and you probably should not include it on your Christmas letter. Well, if you have won a Nobel Prize, don't brag about the prize. Just mention that you took a trip to Stockholm this year, posed for some pictures for a local event, and went next door to the Netherlands to hook up with a bunch of prostitutes (window shopping) and visiting the pot bars. That would be both entertaining, and informative (and we already know you won the Nobel Prize anyway).

Oh, then there are the wonderful Baptists that send their Christmas letters. Sorry, I know lots of good Baptists outside of my family. There is one, in particular, who think that all Catholic priests are pedophiles, and that I cannot go to heaven because I am not following in Christ's path (simply because I am Catholic). Their letters talk about all of their charity work, reminding us to tithe to a local Baptist church. Funny thing is that the father is racist, and I cannot reconcile racism with Christianity. The Baptist Letter, as it is known in my household, is special each year. We circle the misspellings and comma faults. Anything over twelve and we celebrate. We have gone out because of the letter three years running.

Next is the letter that explains how to have a more "Christ-ful" Christmas. It is along the same lines as the previous letter, though these two families don't automatically condemn one to hell because of their particular brand of Christianity they practice. How Christian of them. I have tried quantifying the contents of these letters, seeing if they are less boastful, more meek, but I just can't figure out how to do it.

Perhaps one of their brilliant children can come up with an expression to do this. It would surely make my Christmas a merrier one.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Uncomfortable Christmas Tidings

Christmas time means different things to different people. Long before I was born, people talked about the commercialization of Christmas. No one has really said anything about the commercialization of Thanksgiving. I mean, people aren't upset about turkey farmers making a few extra bucks in November. Or how cranberry bog farmers make most of their money in one week of the year. But on the fat man's holiday, people are concerned about commercialization.

When I think of Christmas, I often wonder about Mary, the mother of Christ. We don't know exactly how young she was, but she was probably a teenager. Joseph was a great deal older than she was, and here she is scared, pregnant and wondering, perhaps, if Joseph will stick around. I mean, really, how many guys would stand by their woman if they said they did not have sex and were pregnant? So when I think of Christmas, I often think about Mary. And Linus talking about Christmas.

Well, several years ago, I was talking to a friend between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and she recalled a very difficult time in her life.

You see, she was pregnant, a few weeks from her delivery date, and "complications arose." She went to see her doctor when the baby stopped moving. Well, the baby died – which she tells everyone, was a good thing because the baby would have had multiple physical problems after delivery. Still, understandably, she was crushed.

But that was not the worse part of the story. No, my dear readers, she still had to deliver the stillborn. So over the next few days, in the shopping malls, at the grocery store, wherever she went, people would comment on her baby and ask excitingly, "How many days?" or "Boy or girl?" or some other question about the baby. These were innocent strangers, happy to see an expectant mother, and their questions reminded my friend about her loss.

She stayed inside four days before the procedure, and the baby was buried by himself. Yes, some family-members questioned her. "After all, it was not really a baby." "She did not love it like one loves a baby." To this day, she will tell you she had three children, two a married with kids of their own, and her little boy Joshua is with the Lord. She chose Joshua because she had to be reminded that God is her salvation. She anticipated that she would have doubts, already cursing God after hearing the original news.

I was chatting with a woman in the UK named jeepster, who had a similar experience. In her own words, much more powerful than mine, follow:

I knew my baby had died long before I did anything about it. I went to see the nurse and told her that I hadn't felt the baby move and she listened for a heart beat, couldn't find one but told me not to worry!!! WTF!!!

I went home and kept it together in front of my husband and at work and all that was going through my mind was: If I tell someone, they will take my baby away from me. I was 7 months pregnant. Eventually, and It must have been 3/4 weeks later I just couldn't do it emotionally anymore. When she was born, she was all curled up in a ball. Like a baby bird that had fallen from the nest.

I had 4 miscarriages after Tegan and now I have two kids but I say I have three. She was very real, she had a beating heart, I held her, I had a funeral she is still with me.

Christmas is a joyous time, but there is also, for many, reminders of tragic events. And it can be a lonely time as well. I know so many people who have lost relatives around Christmas.

So when you are elbowing the pushy brunette while getting that last toy, elbow with care. She may be packing heat. No, no, that's not what I wanted to write. Be compassionate, think of others, and watch sappy Christmas movies.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Being True to . . . One's Restaurant

A few weeks ago, I was in a nearby city, and we were looking for a restaurant. Have you ever traveled to a city, where you were looking for a restaurant and you had no clue where to go?

Well, we were looking for a restaurant, and happened into an Italian restaurant. Well, the restaurant said so-and-so's Italian Restaurant. I had a picture of a guy throwing up a pizza to clue in those who could not read the words. There were red and white checkered curtains in the windows, matching table-cloths on the tables. It seemed like an Italian Restaurant.

We sat down, hubbie and I, expecting Italian food, and then opened the menus.

Here are some of the items on the menu:

Seafood – and not just calamari (Italian), but fried flounder, shrimp and other things;

Fried chicken – the least Italian food I can think of;

Quesadilla, and other Mexican dishes – er, not really Italian;

Gyros – yeah, Gyros, Souvlaki and the like;

Hot Subs and something called Hoagies (I think hoagies are a man's sub sandwich);

Wraps – I really don't know where wraps came from, but I don't think they are Italian.

I had a bruschetta appetizer, eggplant parmesan, a small (Greek, I think) salad, and some (American) red wine.

The point of this is not to tell you exactly what I ate that evening; that's just and added bonus. This Italian restaurant is not doing what it is supposed to be doing. I don't want to be able to get won tons at an Italian restaurant – a restaurant needs to be true to itself. A good restaurant, at least.

People are the same way. People need to be true to themselves. Let's say, for instance, I am an extravert, that I enjoy being around people. That I really like going out in public, chatting to people, doing my little social butterfly pollination by flitting from table to table.

I can't just not want to go out and have fun. Now, reading a good book is wonderful, especially if I am surrounded by a warm bath with bubbles. But for an extravert, people get charged with groups.

In high school, part of the ritual was to fit in. And in doing so, we were doing things that were not true to ourselves. We pretended to like movies we don't like, like people who were popular, like music that others like as well. But more than that, we kept secret parts of our lives that weren't so "cool". We kept secret . . . .

I kept secret the fact that I love reading, that I enjoy classical music, that I like corny movies.

Many people remember the good ol' days, when they were in high school. Yeah, I miss them too, but I enjoy so much about being an adult. One of the things I love the most is that I can be me, that I enjoy being me, and I don't really care who finds out that I love to read, that I love reading, that I like corny music.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Ranking Hot Girls . . . and Football Teams

Monday, I talked about decisions. I really enjoy the decision-making process. And not to beat a dead horse, but I want to continue talking about decisions. Oh, and if I was not clear on Monday, I am going to try and post on Monday-Wednesday-Friday. We will see if this schedule is more conducive.

Looks like it will be Ohio State and LSU playing for the national championship in January. The big BCS super computer algorithm thingie pumps out a couple of names and they play for the national championship. But it is not the best way – I mean, the ranking of teams is not the best way.

For such a complex analysis (20 to 30 teams that legitimately compete for the national championship, and most of them don't play but a few of the teams each year), a rank analysis is not the best approach to take, but we do it anyway. A better approach is to use the decision making technique known as paired comparison analysis.

Let me explain about paired comparison analysis, not using football.

Let's say we want to rank hot women. We have four contestants: Shakira, ~Deb, Britney Spears and Drew Barrymore. Our goal here is to rank these ladies from one to four in terms of sexiness. This example simplifies what I am writing about – with only four women, ranking may be easy enough because some people perform paired comparison analysis with small sets of data anyway. But I am just trying to illustrate the point.

One looks at Shakira and ~Deb, first, then asks the question, "which woman is hotter?" Winner gets a point. Let's say the answer is Shakira. After all, Shakira is the only women I know that have lots of men and women lusting after her. I wrote about it a long time ago. Shakira and ~Deb are both sexy and smart, but the edge goes to Shakira. Shakira also beats Drew Barrymore – she has a sexier voice, can dance better and is way smarter. Also, Drew looses points because of her association with Cameron Diaz, a woman who just looks goofy, while dancing or otherwise. I really don't know why men find Ms. Diaz attractive. Well, all beat Britney Spears. Some hypothesize that Al-Qaeda is trying to obtain a pap smear from Britney in their efforts to obtain a new biological weapon. Not saying it is true. Just a rumor at this point.

So the scoring may be as follows:
Shakira – 3 points
~Deb – 2 points
Britney – 0 points
Drew – 1 point

You rearrange to get the ranking: Shakira, ~Deb, Drew, Britney. So that is paired comparisons.

The last time I wrote about football, I went to the ESPN website, and ESPN started asking me questions: Which team is better, A or B. And it kept on asking me. Paired comparisons.

Well, they did this to basketball. Problem is, I knew/know nothing about NCAA basketball. Ohio State lost to an SEC school last year. That's about all I know. Well, okay, the ACC is really good, but since I don't like basketball (even though Georgia Tech is good), I don't follow it.

I know why they don't use paired comparisons in the coach's polls: coach's don't have the time to answer a bunch of questions. Plus, I think there is a lot of manipulations going on.

Me, I don't really care who wins the national championship: Georgia Tech is out of the running. The coach is gone. Boo hoo. Besides, another Big Ten team will loose to some SEC team again. Right? Isn't that's what's going to happen. Notice the three contractions in a row – I did that on purpose.

Perhaps something better would be to take the hottest women in the world, and have them pick a winner. Paired comparisons. I believe that these women are familiar with this type of analysis. After all, I have heard many men say, "Nice pair." I assume the comment has to do with this topic.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Decisions, Decisions

Have you ever heard someone say something like, "I have a decision to make. Do I continue in this marriage and try and work it out, or do I smother him with a pillow in his sleep." This is an example of one type of argument fallacy. I can't remember the name of the type of fallacy, but it is because the question has only two options: (1) work it out, and (2) smother by pillow. Well, we know that there are other options: (1) poison, (2) shot by firearm, and (3) defenestration (to throw him out a window, preferably a high one with alligators at the bottom of the building).

All joking aside, when someone looks at merely two choices, one necessarily limits one's choices. And having limited choices is not always bad. I mean, if I am crossing the road and an 18-wheeler is bearing down on me, I would rather only examine the first option that gets me out of the truck's way. Time is of the essence, and all.

But for many of life's choices, there are more than two options.

I had been thinking about quitting this blog, because I was looking at two choices, (1) continuing to write crap five days per week, and (2) quitting my blog.

You see, I have noticed that writing every day, every work day, is difficult. And, being difficult is not necessarily a bad thing. But it is difficult, and the end product is not so good. I mean, every once in a while, an entry is really good, but on the whole, the words are average. Vanilla.

Someone recently said that their ex called her vanilla, and she was pissed, angry. Vanilla is supposed to be such a bad word, but I enjoy vanilla ice cream. Eating ice cream with fruit does not hide the taste of the fruit or the ice cream. To be described as a person who is themselves but lets others be themselves too seems to be is good flavor. I sort of want to be vanilla.

Oh, back to me.

I was thinking of either quitting my blog or not blogging. Yeah, sort of tired of it, actually. Notice, dear readers that both choices were essentially the same? Well, if the choice was to quit blogging or to continue as is, I don't know what my choice would be. Both choices, to me, are not good choices. Not today.

But there is another option. Several other options. I could continue writing and smother my husband. That would be another choice. An even better choice (hey, I love him most of the time) might be to write three times per week, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Me, I want to find some really good vanilla ice cream.