Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Crummy Church Signs

This is very entertaining. I tend to think these kind of church signs are pretty silly too. To have many in one place made for good entertainment on a slow work day.

'Tis the season ... PART TWO

I really love this perspective.

Christmas is a strange season. When you're a child, it is a season of presents. When you're young, it's a season of parties. When you get your own home, it's a season of preparations. But when you get older, Christmas changes color drastically. Suddenly, out from behind the advertisements and big dinners, through the haze of old carols and soft candles, past the dazzling altars and sumptuous crib scenes, we begin to see what Christmas is really all about. Christmas is about finding life where we did not expect it to be. Every year of life waxes and wanes. Every stage of life comes and goes. Every facet of life is born and then dies. Every good moment is doomed to become only a memory. Every perfect period of living slips through our fingers and disappears. Every hope dims and every possibility turns eventually to dry clay. Until Christmas comes again. Then we are called at the deepest, most subconscious, least cognizant level to begin to live again. Christmas brings us all back to the crib of life to start over: aware of what has gone before, conscious that nothing can last, but full of hope that this time, finally, we can learn what it takes to live well, grow to full stature of soul and spirit, get it right. There is a child in each of us waiting to be born again. It is to those looking for life that the figure of the Christ, a child, beckons. Christmas is not for children. It is for those who refuse to give up and grow old, for those to whom life comes newly and with purpose each and every day, for those who can let yesterday go so that life can be full of new possibility always, for those who are agitated with newness whatever their age. Life is for the living, for those in whom Christmas is a feast without finish, a celebration of the constancy of change, a call to being once more the journey to human joy and holy meaning.
--Sister Joan D. Chittister

'Tis the season ...

... for sickness.

After stubbornly going about my business, thinking my head cold would pass, I went to one of those immediate care centers on Sunday morning. (Well, immediate is their word, not mine. I watched almost a whole Mass on the TV there while I waited for about an hour.) After a couple nights of not sleeping well and a fluid-filled ear adding to the already congested pressure in my head, I decided some antibiotics were in order. Thankfully, the nurse practicioner on duty Christmas Eve agreed. She gave me a prescription for some, along with a some heavy-duty cough medicine that made me oh-so sleepy. I was thankful for some down time in my parents' comfy recliner.

... for new board games.

Well, OK, not new. But new to me. We played Settlers of Catan with my Aunt Carolyn and Uncle Jerry, who, by the way, always introduce me to great board games. Plus it's always good to visit with those relatives.

... for my cute niece.

Yeah, it's always that season. But watching her open presents was great. She got a little confused with "for" and "from." For example: "Milla, that's from Kristin and Greg." And she took the present to Greg. "No, it's for you." So she paused, and then sit down to open it. "It's mine?" she said with excitement. Then she opened it, and acted really excited about everything she got, much of which involved Dora the Explorer.

... for basketball.

Friday night we took a detour of sorts on our way to Louisville, and went to the UK-UMass game in Lexington. We bought the tickets from one of Greg's former Lexington roommmates who has season tickets. They weren't bad seats. I've sat more in the rafters than the second-level endzone seats we had this time. AND no one sat in front of us. For anyone who has sat in the steep bleacher seats way up in Rupp Arena, you know having extra room in front is a blessing.

... for hanging out with family.

I was glad when Cassie and Zac got into town late Sunday night. OK, so I was already asleep, but I was glad when Christmas morning came and they were there. We had a good time hanging out and playing the pop culture trivia game. The Taylors smoked the soon-to-be Schladers the first time, but they were on their way to beating us when it was time to eat.

... Christmas movies.

We watched the classic "A Christmas Story" and the quirky "The Family Stone." With my sickness, we didn't make it to the movies like I like to do for the holidays, but I suspect we'll see "We are Marshall" soon. There are others, I'm hoping to see: The Good Shepherd and The Pursuit of Happyness.

... for extended holidays.

I may be at work today, but the celebrating isn't over. We're going out to the in-laws house tonight to do Christmas with them. Then it's on to Nashville this weekend for some football (Yes, Kentucky is going to a bowl game and the Titans aren't so bad!) and more time with the in-laws.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Pooping peasant popular in Spain

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) -- The Virgin Mary. The three kings. A few wayward sheep. These are the figures one expects to find in a traditional Christmas nativity scene. Not a smartly dressed peasant squatting behind a rock with his rear-end exposed.

Yet statuettes of "El Caganer," or the great defecator in the Catalan language, can be found in nativity scenes, and increasingly on the mantelpieces of collectors, throughout Spain's northeastern Catalonia region, where for centuries symbols of defecation have played an important role in Christmas festivities.

During the holiday season, pastry shops around Catalonia sell sweets shaped like feces, and on Christmas Eve Catalan children beat a hollow log, called the tio, packed with holiday gifts, singing a song that urges it to defecate presents out the other end.

These traditions, in the case of the caganer dating back as far as the 17th century, come from an agricultural society where defecation was associated with fertility and health.

While the traditional caganer is a red-capped peasant, more modern renditions have gained popularity in recent years.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Meet Cooper; Go Titans

This is Greg's cousin Maya and me with Cooper at the annual Taylor Christmas party. Instead of drawing names we did the Chinese auction where people pick gifts with the option to steal someone else's.

Here's the story: I picked a gift that turned out to be a really cute pink and brown purse. I knew Peggy was going to steal Maya's holiday platter thing with cute candy cane-striped serving knives. I predicted that would spark a chain-reaction of Maya stealing my purse. So I had my eye on Cooper ... and the Essential Day Spa gift certificate that was tucked inside his jersey. All of that unfolded just as I predicted.

Meanwhile, the guys were having a separate gift exchange. I took Cooper to meet Greg, who quickly responded with, "It's Bevo." Um, no, it's Cooper. See, I didn't know the real University of Texas mascot was Bevo. Turns out (according to Maya) that somebody has a copyright on Bevo so some Texas merchandise is Cooper. I'm fine with that.

Seriously, as long as it isn't that other orange UT. Yes, I prefer the burnt orange. Afterall, the western UT is Vince Young's alma mater. I admit, I wanted Matt Leinart. But I guess I should be pleased with Vince Young's rookie season. We seriously thought the Titans might have a chance to get the first NFL draft pick ... but they aren't that bad, thanks to the former Texas quarterback.

OK, so what if the Titans defense scored THREE touchdowns and the offense only had 99 total yards in Sunday's win over Jacksonville. A win is a win. And we were there, wearing T-shirts in 73 degree weather in mid-December. That's weird. But seriously enjoyable.

And Cooper was still there when we got home.

Two takes; same story

This ran on Dec. 8:

Woman, children escape house fire

Staff Report

HAZEL, Ky. — A Brandon Road home was damaged in a fire Thursday night.

Calloway County Fire-Rescue responded with 27 firefighters and nine trucks at 11:12 p.m. Thursday. CCFR Chief Greg Cherry said they were on the scene 4 1/2 hours.

Cherry said the two-story, wood-frame house sustained heavy damage after the blaze started in the kitchen. The woman and three children who lived there made it out safely.

Calloway County Sheriff’s Department, the Calloway County chapter of the American Red Cross and West Kentucky Rural Electric Cooperative also assisted at the scene.

THEN this ran on Dec. 16:

Mother, family witness true meaning of holiday season following house fire

Staff Writer

Charlene Martin may have lost her Brandon Road house and everything inside in a fire last week, but it’s what wasn’t inside that counts.

Martin and her three children — 13-year-old Derek, 11-year-old Travis and 5-year-old Calen — all made it out of the blaze safely late Dec. 7. And they since have experienced an outpouring of support from their neighbors, church and the community.

“Even with the fire, I’ve never been happier,” Martin said. “There’s such a high level that I care for my kids, but it’s beyond what I can describe. I didn’t have time to be scared because they were safe before I could feel fear.”

They made it out safely, thanks to the oldest. Derek made sure his brother and sister were awake when he heard the smoke alarm sound and then knocked on his mother’s door. Everyone was outside by the time Calloway County Fire-Rescue arrived not long after getting the call at 11:12 p.m.

“I asked Calen what she remembered,” Martin, 36, said. “She told me, ‘Bubba Derek helped me. He put me in his hands and took me to the truck.’”

The family gathered outside with nothing other than each other — and Martin’s cell phone. When Martin didn’t awake immediately after Derek knocked, Travis tried again.

“They knew to go out,” Martin said. But they didn’t go out alone. “They both were little heroes.”

Martin told Calloway County Fire-Rescue the night of the fire that she thought it started in the kitchen, but since then the fire investigators have determined an electrical shortage upstairs caused the blaze. Martin considers it even more of a miracle they made it out alive because investigators said the fire had been burning for a long time before anyone noticed. While some of the structure is still standing, the insurance company considers the house a total loss.

The 80-year-old two-story, wooden-frame house was the Brandon homestead. Many of her neighbors are part of the local history there.

“Everybody around me, it’s their house,” Martin said of the home that has been hers for the past 2 1/2 years. “You’d think I didn’t belong, but they’ve treated me like I do.”

Once everyone evacuated, the family went over to a neighbor’s house, where Martin noticed a familiar backpack sitting in the floor. Turns out Calen had brought the clear backpack over to play with the neighbor’s granddaughter and had mistakenly left it. Inside, Martin saw the pink Bible she’d gotten her daughter several years earlier.

“You can’t tell me this isn’t a miracle and God didn’t save us,” Martin said.

Take, for instance, the fact all the children were sleeping in the living room, despite their mother asking them a few times to go to their rooms. Many nights they all sleep in their mother’s room, but that night was different, thankfully.

And, by the grace of God, others have helped.

Volunteers from Calloway County chapter of the American Red Cross responded the night of the fire, giving the family financial assistance as well as other necessities. Since then, someone else anonymous paid the bill for the family pet Snowflake and her two kittens after recognizing the cat at the veterinarian office. The Lions Club is getting the boys new glasses and South Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church took up a special collection. And the local fair board is “adopting” the children for Christmas.

Temporarily, Martin and her children are living in a migrant house Terry Orr owns.

“I’m just thankful for everyone,” Martin said.

Daughter Calen had to resume breathing treatments for her asthma following the fire and the family dog was treated for smoke inhalation — both measures Martin considers minor in the big picture.

The children spent the weekend with their aunt and uncle in Bardstown. While there Calen started a journal of words and pictures — and her mother noticed the young girl remembering the most precise details.

Martin wouldn’t have wished this situation on her family or anyone else’s, but she’s thankful she’s taking with her an important lesson that is more valuable than her CD collection or anything she owned.

“Keep your family safe, and remind them constantly how much they mean to you. Verbalize it, but even then they might not know how much. You’re also reminding yourself,” Martin said. “I always told my kids I loved them. I thought maybe excessively. But you can’t be too excessive.”

Friday, December 15, 2006

today in my world ... one version of my life

Many times -- including a couple times in the last couple days -- people allude to me being everywhere. I'm talking in a professional sense here. Sometimes I do feel like I am everywhere, but most of the time I realize it comes in phases and I carve out enough time for myself at home.

Anyway, today was a good example of how I try to balance the personal and professional sides of life, and I thought I'd put it out there in case anyone is interested.

6:14 a.m. Woke up one minute before my annoying alarm sounded. I say annoying, but there's not really anything especially annoying about my alarm. I just before to wake up when my body is ready to wake up.

6:50 a.m. Arrived at work. I can do this so quickly because I live less than a mile from work and I took my shower the night before in an attempt to have a few more minutes of sleep. After clocking in and starting my computer, I checked my blood sugar and took the appropriate amount of insulin to eat my Quaker Breakfast Bites (strawberry) and drink my O.J.

Between getting to work and 9:30 a.m. or so I wrote a story from the city council meeting I covered Thursday evening, typed up some police log entries once the different agencies faxed or e-mailed me their activity logs and proofread the obituaries. My phone rang a few times. I responded to a few e-mails. (OK, I took two friends' quizzes ... We have a bit of a trend right now.)

After all that, I returned to a story I've been working on just as I've had time. That's the beauty of feature stories.

About 10:15 a.m. this guy R.J. who recently retired after many, many years working in the pressroom brought in some of his famous peanut butter balls. I didn't wait long before indulging myself. Hey, I took some extra insulin.

Answered the phone more. E-mailed more. Put some meeting dates on my 2007 calendar that I'm so excited about starting to use soon. (I'm not wishing my life away ... I'm just excited about the calendar.)

11:48 p.m. Met Greg at Quizno's for lunch. I was craving the crab chowder in a bread bowl. Seriously, whoever thought of bread bowls was a genuis in my mind.

12:40ish p.m. Ran some Christmas-type errands. Went to Wal-Mart, Hibbets, MSU Bookstore, Post Office, Walgreens and Jean Marie's. Then I dropped off some holiday trail mix to some police and fire buddies.

3ish Returned to work. Gathered my stuff to cover Gov. Ernie Fletcher's town hall meeting about the projectd $279 million budget surplus. It was scheduled to start at 3:45 p.m. They were late. That's politicians. After the event, I had a brief interview with the governor. Ended up finishing around 6.

(Oh, and while there, the new MSU president caught me off guard with something he said. It was one of those moments I couldn't tell if he was joking or not. Turns out he was. Man, sometimes I'm too serious.)

6:10 p.m. Went to Mr. Gatti's. (Seriously, this restaurant is not as good at the Gatti's I went to as a kid in Louisville. I tolerate it because Greg likes it.) Some guys who are playing poker with Greg tonight ate with us.

7:15 p.m. Back to work to write story and fulfill my monthly duties of putting together Saturday's paper. I'll be here for awhile. So back to pages I go.

I'm glad every day isn't like this, but I'm glad that some are. The variety that some times becomes a balancing act is one thing I like about this job. This weekend is more going from one place to the next: Take graduation pictures. Watch UK-UofL basketball game (GO CATS!). Stop by a wedding shower. Go to big Taylor Christmas party. Then it's off to Nashville for the Titans game on Sunday. It's fun stuff, but I'll also looking forward to hiding out in the basement on Monday afternoon (which I usually have off to make up for days like today) and working on some scrapbook projects.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Pop Quiz!

This is pretty entertaining. I took one friend's quiz and then I made my own. See how you do!

Now, I'm going to get to work ...

once in a while, once in a blue moon, people will surprise you

My mother's maiden name is Maloney. I have four sisters, eight nieces and five nephews. I like coffee ice cream, single malt Scotch and occasionally a good cigar. I fly fish, I cheat when I do the Sunday crossword puzzle and I don't dance in public. My favorite color is blue. And not that light blue. Indigo. The Sun Also Rises? Favorite novel. The Clash? Favorite band. This tiny little scar by my nose?  That's why I don't ride motorcycles anymore. And I live in that trailer! And all this land is mine and I have no idea what I'm gonna do with it!! That's it, that's all you've earned. For now. The rest ... Well, the rest you'll have to take on faith. -Derek to Meredith in a first-season "Grey's Anatomy" episode. Yes, one before we even knew Addison existed.

Yes, they've been keeping me company again. This time while I scrapbook some Christmas presents. I'm much more productive with them around. They inspire me -- in some twisted way.

(OK, it's random thoughts from here on out. No theme or anything ...)

So yesterday I was wearing a short-sleeved shirt with a long skirt and no socks with my shoes. Seriously, it's mid-December. Um, yeah, this is weird weather, even in Kentucky. Today I'm once again not wearing socks. As if you need to know these details of my life.

What's the point of an automatic soap dispenser? I used on at Murray State yesterday. It really seemed pretty unnecessary, especially because the faucets weren't even automatic. If I were to choose which automatic features to have in a bathroom, I would definitely choose automatic flushing and water. Soap? Not so much. It's really as pointless as the signs that direct people to wash their hands.

When I got in my car this morning, the odometer said 33,303. Neat. I like 3s.

(But, hey, it's the little moments that make up our lives.)

At the end of the day, faith is a funny thing. It turns up when you don’t really expect it. It’s like one day you realize that the fairy tale is slightly different than your dream. The castle, well it may not be a castle. And it’s not so important that it’s happily ever after – just that it’s happy right now. See, once in a while, once in a blue moon, people will surprise you. And once in a while, people may even take your breath away. -Meredith Grey in that same episode

Monday, December 11, 2006

this weekend ...

Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion's starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there -- fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge -- they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling you'll find that love actually is all around. --from "Love Actually"

... Greg and I went to see "The Holiday" on Friday night. We went to the late show, which involves staying out later than we usually do. It was fun and I loved the movie. Feel-good romantic comedy that had moments that reminded me of "Love Actually," one of my favorites. In fact, I was so in the mood to watch another feel-good love story (stories, really) with a touch of Christmas cheer that I watched "Love Actually" on Saturday afternoon. OK, anyway, back to the movie at hand: I really liked Jude Law's character and the way he was with Cameron Diaz's character.

... I made some good progress on a some sports albums I'm scrapbooking for some moms. Give me a couple more hours in my empire, and I should be good to go.

... It had been awhile, so we got together Saturday night with Jaclyn and Bryan to play CSI and dominoes. Simple entertainment.

... I took part in the local annual tradition of Tour of Homes. Four houses are decorated for the season and opened up for people to walk through. It's all sort of weird to me. I really like wandering through them, thinking about what I would love to have and realizing what I have no interest in. I look at the decorations and sometimes I dream and other times I keep moving to get beyond the clutter of people and things. Houses say a lot about people. Sometimes these big houses don't looked lived in, and I wonder if the people ever feel cold. I want to be comfortable. I wonder if my house -- a hodge podge of what I want it to be and what it is -- says that about me.

... I also went to back-to-back parties on Sunday afternoon/evening. First up was Michael's 30th birthday party. (Surprise!) Then it was on to our church party. I came home from that with a really ugly ballerina doll on this stand thing (although it wouldn't stand up). Gotta love white elephant gift exchanges. (But, hey, we got rid of some random CDs that were just taking up space and a pewter frame that has been in a box since we got it as a wedding gift!) Without hestitation, the oh-so lovely doll went straight from my car to the trash can. Never even made it inside the house. Poor thing.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

love, love love

"... One healthy little giggling dribbling baby boy
The wise men came, three made their way
To shower him with love
While he lay in the hay
Shower him with love love love ...

I have a personal holiday tradition that involves buying a Christmas CD to add to my collection. In college my friend Cara and I loved "A Very Special Christmas 3." Not only did he feed our Dave Matthews obsessions but there were some great takes on some classic songs.

Now, it not only helps me enjoy the season, it quickly prompts me to reminisce. I'm really glad I found it at Wal-Mart yesterday for $9.72. It's a great variety, to say the least. See for yourself:

"I Saw Three Ships" by Sting
"Christmastime" by The Smashing Pumpkins
"Children Go Where I Send Thee" by Natalie Merchant
"Santa Baby" by Rev Run & The Christmas All Stars featuring: Mase, Puff Daddy, Snoop Doggy Dogg, Salt 'n' Pepa, Onyx & Keith Murray
"Oi To The World" by No Doubt
"Blue Christmas" by Sheryl Crow
"Christmas" by Blues Traveler
"Oiche Chiun (Silent Night)" by Enya
"The Christmas Song" by Hootie & The Blowfish
"Ave Maria" by Chris Cornell with Eleven
"Christmas In The City" by Mary J. Blige featuring Angie Martinez
"Santa Claus Is Back In Town" by Jonny Lang
"Christmas Song" by Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds
"Christmas Is Now Drawing Near At Hand" by Steve Winwood
"O Holy Night" by Tracy Chapman
"We Three Kings" by Patti Smith

Last night while watching UK finally put away Chattanooga in basketball, I wrapped some Christmas presents -- totally one of my favorite holiday things to do -- while sitting in front of the gas-log-heated fireplace. And I had "The Christmas Song" in my head.

"... So I'm told, so the story goes
The people he knew were
Less than golden hearted
Gamblers and robbers
Drinkers and jokers, all soul searchers
Like you and me ...
Father up above, why in all this hatred do you fill
Me up with love, fill me love love love ..."

--Dave Matthews

Monday, December 4, 2006

watching the weekend

It was one of those weekends with fun things going on but enough down time to appreciate the fact it was a weekend.

We watched UK recruit A.J. Stewart play at the annual HoopFest, a showcase with some of the best high school players. (Well, OK, we actually watched 3 1/2 games with the one that brought us being the last.)

Stewart's team -- Arlington Country Day in Jacksonville, Fla. -- was impressive. The final: Arlington Country Day beat Our Savior New American School of New York 101-39 with its starters not playing the entire second quarter and surely not much of the fourth. (We left a bit early, certain the game was under control!) Stewart's teammate Gabriel Charley had nine 3-pointers (the most ever at the event) and the whole team was just athletic and fun to watch.

Tubby Smith was there -- fresh off a disappointing loss to UNC -- to watch Stewart. I sure hope he didn't plan on recruiting any of New American's 7-footers who couldn't handle the ball.

Then last night we watched the GAC Country Christmas at MSU. Steve Azar, Julie Roberts, Bucky Covington, Deana Carter and Blue Country (from right in picture) performed an informal acoustic set of their hits and then a couple Christmas tunes each. I really liked the set up and the way they all interacted rather than just each of them doing their own thing. There was an intermission between the two sets to give the stage crew a chance to bring out some Christmas decorations.

Steve Azar was by far the most polished performer. Blue Country was an entertaining pari. With her pretty voice, Julie Roberts had a sweet personality too. Deana Carter sounded good too. And Bucky Convington (who was painting cars a year ago before going on American Idol) just had himself a good time, which was entertaining to watch.

Friday, December 1, 2006

How do you tell when you're out of invisible ink?

These make me laugh. I've posted some before, but getting them in my inbox is a nice break in the day. On to the Steven Wright humor ...

I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize.

The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.

OK, so what's the speed of dark?

If Barbie is so popular, why do you have to buy her friends?

What happens if you get scared half to death twice?

Why do psychics have to ask you for your name?

A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking.

Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.

The hardness of the butter is proportional to the softness of the bread.

To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; to steal from many is research.

The problem with the gene pool is that there is no lifeguard.

a happy gust

Christmas spirit blew into my life -- literally, really. Usually on Fridays I wear jeans, but today I knew I was covering MSU President Dr. Randy Dunn's first day on the job so I dressed up a bit. Well, my skirt comes down near my knees and I'm wearing black boots. I couldn't find a close parking spot, so I parked down the street from the president's office on campus. I don't mind walking, but my skirt kept wanting to blow up. I kept it from doing so while thinking about how the temperature dropped about 40 degrees in 24 hours. That's crazy.

But the coldness makes me remember it is indeed December. Christmastime.

I've been listening to Christmas music and thinking about what presents I want to buy and what I want to say in my annual letter. My Christmas tree has been up for almost a week, but this morning -- with a big gust of wind -- I appreciated the season for what it is.

Happy first of December. Happy Christmas season. Stay warm.