Friday, December 29, 2006

New Beginnings

My horse Rhodes Point now belongs to someone else. He is legally someone else's property. This is not as morose as you might think. He's got it pretty good, in a home-for-life setting, but with the added benefit of a right of first refusal should he need to be sold. (If that happens, we will have to hold an auction/fund-raising campaign so that I can buy him back!)

Leasing him in August was a good move on my part. Firstly, he has not been purchased by his lessee, so he was good for her in that he pressed her to make a decision on her future (and in my own opinion, she has made a wise choice!).

Secondly, it gave me time to get used to not having him around, and understanding that he would and could still be well attended, as well as enjoy being an athlete in a top-notch training setting.

I am in the process of writing an essay that he has inspired, and will eventually share it, but for now I think song lyrics are best descriptive of how Rhodes came into my life, and how I will never forget him.

"I'll Remember"
-- Madonna (of course!)

Say good-bye to not knowing when
The truth in my whole life began
Say good-bye to not knowing how to cry
You taught me that

And I'll remember the strength that you gave me
Now that I'm standing on my own
I'll remember the way that you saved me
I'll remember

Inside I was a child
That could not mend a broken wing
Outside I looked for a way
To teach my heart to sing

And I'll remember the love that you gave me
Now that I'm standing on my own
I'll remember the way that you changed me
I'll remember

I learned to let go
of the illusion that we can possess
I learned to let go
I travel in stillness
And I'll remember
I'll remember

And I'll remember the love that you gave me
Now that I'm standing on my own
I'll remember the way that you changed me
I'll remember

No I've never been afraid to cry
AND I finally have a reason why
I'll remember
No I've never been afraid to cry
And I finally have a reason why
I'll remember
No I've never been afraid to cry
And I finally have a reason why
I'll remember

Thursday, December 28, 2006

CTLLRS: Update

Wow. I didn't realize this picture would be so small. I just spent at least 10 minutes utilizing my mad Photoshop skillz and am "fresh out" of ideas on how to make it bigger, so just pretend like you have a really good view of these Cars That Look Like Rollerskates (CTLLRS). Update: Just click on the picture if you want to see it enlarged.

After last week's insurance industry safety findings, I broke up with the Toyota Yaris. Last night while tricking researching online, I got really interested in the all new Volkswagen Rabbit. I have always liked these, especially when Cricket on "The Young And The Restless" had the convertible Cabriolet version ... and don't act like you don't remember because you know you do ... it was when she and Danny had to drive around because Nina had kidnapped her and Phillip's baby, and it was the very beginning of cell phones and Danny was all, "Cricket, press 'SEND' on the phone button ..." you know you remember.

Anyhoodle, these might be the top-3 contenders. The VW appeals only on aesthetics and brand trust, despite the fact that I have no VW experience, and one part of Schwynn had a Passat that he wasn't totally thrilled with. The Honda Fit wins on safety, economy, and price, as well as brand trust. The Scion appeals too, mostly as it's a bridge between the Yaris and the Mini Cooper that ultimately I love but quite frankly, I am too cheap to step up to (they're kind of expensive).

I must begin test driving to determine what I like. Surprisingly, there are dealers right here in Tuscaloosa, so I think I know what I'll be doing the weekend after next!

Which one do you like?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Mi Familia es Su Familia ...

So the is the troika. The trinity. The progeny of two very fun, special people. L-to-R: Travis, Julie (MSJ), Robby.

This year MSJ had the great idea that instead of the siblings swapping gifts we'd just go have lunch - just the three of us. It was a fantastic idea and we were pretty sure it was the first time in at least 20 years that the three of us had been alone together.

I had an awesome Christmas with my family on the coast. Despite eating an unlimited amount of trans fatty acids and sugar, I managed to gain only .5 pound. Howevz, my face looks like I'm 16 and all breaking out before senior portraits. I returned home yesterday a righteous man and got my grocery store on last night.

I will keep it up through the weekend but should mention that I'm going back to the coast for Firepalooza on New Year's Eve, which is the family celebration in our field. There may or may not be a signature cocktail, and I am sure there will be more tempting food. I do much better foodwise when I exist inside my lair, but it's OK. A few extra calories are good for you ... gives you more to burn.

3 day week! Woo hoo!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

MSJ Turns ThirtySomething ....


I was totally asleep this a.m. when I posted and didn't even think to give a shout-out to MSJ, whose birthday is today. I am out the door right now in order to make it to her birthday party tonight.

MSJ is my hero.

She made big hair big.
She made skipping school and Spring Break fun!
And even though she once adorned a pile of dog poo with freshly blooming wisteria and convinced me I was a Prince and should sit on my throne (I was like 3 or 4 so what did I know?), I will freely admit that if she did the same thing today I would probably fall for it.

Because she is my hero!

I love you girl! See you in a few!

Reach Out Across The Globe ...

Y'all ... the world is SMALL!

I have had an internet e-pal for the past few years (2 or 3, maybe more, who knows, when you're happy you don't count the time!) who resides in New Zealand.

She is a delight. She has sent me a NZ care package filled with delicious chocolate - chocolate the likes of which we do not see here in America; it's chocolate that makes you tickle in your special place, but I digress - and I made her a saddle pad for Christmas last year. A little factoid about me you probably didn't know ... I have fundamental skillz on the sewing machine.

Anyhoodle, without going into ANY detail, let me just say my company owns property in New Zealand. (That was pretty innocuous, no?)

And in the course of emailing, guess what? My friend knows our company, and is in a work role that has some symbiosis. I rang her yesterday and we spoke "live" for the first. time. ever.

It was momentous! She provided some fantastic counsel and guidance on an issue, and in return she only requested a recipe for Red Beans & Rice. [I have promptly fulfilled her request with a recipe from "Calling All Cooks," that looks pretty easy to prepare, and I'll share it here. If anyone has other recipes, please send them to me so I can forward them onto her.]

After reading Keith Ferrazi's book, "Never Eat Alone," I am even more aligned with his thoughts on networking. You create a network based on your "content." My friend and I know each other via the horse world, which is our "content." That our paths have crossed in this professional capacity is coincidence, but it just goes to show you never know who you'll meet, and it's always a good idea to call on those in your network when you need answers, because you never know who they might know ... and so on!

Am leaving today for Mobile for my holiday with my family so I wish you all a fantastic celebratory weekend and will catch up with you on Wednesday.

Red Beans And Rice

1/2 c. chopped onion
1/2 c. chopped green pepper
1 clove garlic
2 Tbsp. margarine
1 (16 oz.) can red kidney beans
2 c. cooked rice
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper

Saute onion, pepper and garlic in the margarine until tender. Remove the garlic. Add remaining ingredients: simmer together 5 minutes to blend flavors. Serves 4-6.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

It's All An Illusion ...

You know, a picture is worth 1000 words.

Somewhere online I saw a YouTube posting of the infamous Courtney Love/Madonna encounter at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards.

I was gobsmacked over some of the comments on the blog, like, "Wow, Madonna looks so young!"

Considering she was 37 then, I guess it would be really shocking for a younger person who wasn't "plugged in" to her awesomeness back then to interpret the Valley of The Dolls Gucci look she was rockin'.

Me? If you think I didn't rush right out and score the boy version of this smokin' Gucci outfit, you'd be wrong, but I digress ...

The past 10 years have really flown by. There are times when I feel my mind, perception and energy still live there, and there are times when I almost refuse to believe I was even alive then.

Still, it's fun to look into the faces of people you're aging with. They seldom appear old to me. And it's not until you break out the photo/video vault that you're reminded of the dewy-eyed innocence of youth.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Me and Abs ...

(Disclaimer: shallow, self-absorbed post follows.)

Right, so, I am like pissed off at my abs. There, I said it. Pissed. I'm pissed off that despite all the work my results are only "meh."

I finally told them that I was evaluating their performance and they were being placed on a 60-day plan, with weekly evaluation, and that if they did not step up, they would be let go. And when I say let go, what I mean is surgically enhanced.

Except, while doing some research, it would appear one cannot exercise for six weeks after having abdominal liposuction. I'm pretty sure I could go crazy if I couldn't exercise so, instead, I am just going to keep up the muscle-building, fat-burning protocol and see what I have to work with on March 1.

If anyone has any secrets they wish to share, I'm all ears. Right now I workout 4x a week with weights, do my cardio 5-6 days a week, and am pretty righteous on the food front. I don't know what else to do. I mean, it would be counter-productive to develop a meth habit. Who wants to be all ectomorphic skinny when your skin looks like pizza and you have no teeth? Yeah, uhm, no thanks.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Cars That Look Like Roller Skates: II

I made progress in my quest for a car that looks like a roller skate by actually visiting two car lots yesterday. It was a gorgeous day here in TTown - bright blue skies, mid-70's, totally NOT Christmas weather but, still, a lovely day to car shop. Especially because the lots were closed and I wasn't harassed by car salesmen.

"Mista Johnson, what will it take to put you in this car today?"

This is the Toyota Yaris, which is the littlest of the CTLLRS. It's really little. Fortunately someone had forgotten to lock the liftback of one Yaris and I was able to climb through, unlock, and sit in the driver's seat. Despite being really little, it actually has lots of headroom, etc. I really sorta like it.

I also looked at the Honda Fit, which has been a favorite from online research (it has a lot more safety features and, as such, is about $4K more), and will return to look again when I am closer to making a decision.

I own a Honda Metropolitan II scooter that I drove for the last year of my life in Little Rock. I LOVE it, but alas, it lives at my father's down in Mobile as the traffic here in Tuscaloosa is insane and I am not brave enough to drive it over the river. Otherwise, I'd be totally getting my Earth Friendly on.

What I did learn from driving it was how practical I am when it comes to vehicles. I like efficient, and cheap! This is very unlike me because practical is not a word most conjure up when they think of me. Compulsive, out-of-control, hot mess? Sure, I hear those all the time. But never practical.

Window shopping is fun. Hopefully I'll get to go "for real" shopping in the next few weeks.

Friday, December 15, 2006

I Hope You Dance ...

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder,
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger,
May you never take one single breath for granted,
GOD forbid love ever leave you empty handed,
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean,
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens,
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.

I hope you dance....I hope you dance.

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance,
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Livin' might mean takin' chances but they're worth takin',
Lovin' might be a mistake but it's worth makin',

Don't let some hell bent heart leave you bitter,
When you come close to sellin' out reconsider,
Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.

I hope you dance....I hope you dance.
I hope you dance....I hope you dance.
(Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along,
Tell me who wants to look back on their years and wonder where those years have gone.)

I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean,
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens,
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.

Dance....I hope you dance.
I hope you dance....I hope you dance.
I hope you dance....I hope you dance..
(Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along
Tell me who wants to look back on their years and wonder where those years have gone)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Never Eat Alone

Keith Ferrazzi published this book about networking, "Never Eat Alone," in 2005. A friend and colleague in Atlanta did some regional publicity work for the book. He'd met Keith at the same International PRSA conference where we met, in New Orleans, in 2003.

Earlier this fall at a meeting with my boss and her direct reports, she charged us with a 2007 initiative to improve our networking skills. Now, I will put my neck out there and say I am ahead of the curve where those skills are concerned, but once the charge had been made, there was some difficulty defining the "next step" to get there.

I popped up with Keith's book and originally we thought we might get him to come speak/workshop. He was cost prohibitive so the corporate trainer and my boss worked out a practical solution and bought everyone a copy of the book and today we're doing a big training session based on it. Sort of a "book club" for the work environment.

I will say that I have really enjoyed reading the book. Many of Keith's tips are practices I've used without being coached, and as best as I can ascertain, networking isn't the thing - honest, pure communication and a genuine interest in helping others is. If you approach it from this angle, your network grows exponentially.

This book reads very well, not like icky business text, and I highly recommend it!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Blurred lines ...

I am pretty sure the phenomenon I'm experiencing - difficulty discerning reality and dreams - is the result of too much stress, too much work, and living alone.

It really is beginning to freak me out, though.

I have always had a very vivid dream life. I dream in color, and my dreams are often very premonition-y. Throughout the day I will be hit with these images and memories that are somewhat akin to stage lights being turned on in a theater.

If I think about it too much I can either convince myself that I said certain things that I did not say, or did things that I did not do.

The past two mornings I have awakened at 3:30 - 4:00 a.m. for no reason other than anxiety/worry. This is not good. I know it's the stress of work and holidays and critical decisions that is getting to me. I don't feel like I'm on the verge of a breakdown, of course, because quite frankly I am past all that. It's not worth breaking down over.

I just feel lost inside this big expanse of noise and motion. But instead of fright I tend to marvel.

Is this the definition of madness?
Will Bigfoot ever break through him Crazy and just have normal day where he perform task, read paper, eat food, relax?

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Beautiful Star of Bethlehem

Behold! My inner-Scrooge is taking a sabbatical. I have experienced the first rumblings of Holiday Glee. Why? I do not know. I have yet to buy a gift, but I do have them all identified and this makes me happy.

My mother and her three sisters sing in our little community of Tanner-Williams as a quartet. They aren't all hitting the VFW circuit or anything. It's more like, "And now a very special guest appearance by the Lee sisters ..."

Anyhoodle, my favorite Christmas song beyond "Ring Christmas Bells" which I love to croak out Edina Monsoon style when I am doing a gallop, is "Beautiful Star of Bethlehem."

The Lee Sisters performed it last weekend at the West Jordan Baptist Church, which means they are in practice and tuned for a special encore performance at our family Christmas gathering scheduled 12/23. I have requested it and cannot wait to hear them sing it. They really are pretty good.

I love to watch and hear them sing because I know the history they represent - nearly 70 years of it - as I was very close to my grandparents and they told me all of the stories. When they are on stage I don't see them, per se, but a tapestry woven from a multitude of thread that represents them individually, as well as sisters, as well as our family. It truly is a gift, but better than any present I could receive under a tree.

In case you don't know the lyrics, here goes:

Oh Beautiful Star of Bethlehem
Shining afar through shadows dim
Giving the light for those who long have gone
Guiding the wise men on their way
Unto the place where Jesus lay
Oh Beautiful Star of Bethlehem shine on.

Oh Beautiful Star of Bethlehem
Shine upon us until the glory dawns.
Give us a light to guide the way
Unto the land of perfect day
Oh Beautiful Star of Bethlehem, shine on

Oh Beautiful Star the hope of light
Guiding the pilgrims through the night
Over the mountains till the break of dawn
Into the light of perfect day
It will give out a lovely ray
Oh Beautiful Star of Bethlehem shine on

Oh Beautiful Star the hope of rest
For the redeemed the good and blessed
Yonder in glory when the crown is won
Jesus is now the star divine
Brighter and brighter he will shine
Oh Beautiful Star of Bethlehem shine on

Monday, December 11, 2006

Cuz A Mississippi Girl Don't Change Her Ways ...

So last week I got all busy and just couldn't get my blog on. Howevz, I'm back! Back with a newly-found zest.

I have a cousin who is a soulmate, mentor, and general life guide. She accepts my crazy and is not scared to challenge it, and as such a visit with her is always cathartic.

She is the reason I moved from Alabama to Little Rock - she offered me a job and it really did change my life! - and leaving her in Arkansas was VERY hard on me.

Fortunately it didn't last too long as she herself moved to Holly Springs, Mississippi, just a few months later. For those of you who don't know, Holly Springs is about 30 minutes from Memphis, down Highway 78. I have no idea why it's there but I do know it's a very cute, quaint little town.

And I know this because this weekend I drove over for a visit at the new property and under-construction barn, and spent the night and "absorbed" my dear cousin! It was great to know I'm just a 2:45 drive (closer even than going home to the coast), as I envision frequent interaction as "we" build out her farm.

It did me a lot of good to physically go to her home, mostly because I now know where to go when I need to have a breakdown, or just when I need to letdown.

She fed me a good ol' breakfast yesterday morning and sent me on my way, and I have been Happy Happy Happy ever since! I don't feel as alone as I was feeling there for a while, and I have a great sense of peace about the fact that we've turned the page at the same point and are both actively writing new chapters that will always intertwine.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Not Ready To Make Nice

Here's the thing about Gwyneth Paltrow ... her greatest strength is her greatest weakness. I find this to be true with everyone and everything.

Gwyneth, as seen in this photograph, exudes poise, class, breeding, darling. She's just very lovely and I, for one, think Estee Lauder scored a major coup by hiring her to represent what I might think is "Beautiful," but could also be "White Linen," or "White Coochie Powder," I don't know - as you know I seldom watch television but I did happen to see this ad last weekend and I remember thinking, "My God, it's Gwyneth in black and white on a schooner in the Carribbean ... yes, I'll take two please ..."

And the truth is, if she is sincere in her explanation of a recent misquote, the third time in the past few years that she has spoken out publicly against America whilst overseas, (and not that this matters but I actually do believe her as I know how the press works - much less the foreign press - and unless you have full copy-approval prior to publishing, there's almost no way a story will get reported accurately: I was once profiled in a magazine and when the story ran I marveled at the fact errors it included), then I feel she probably is getting a bum rap.

People kind of want to hate Gwyneth, and she does make herself an easy target. I mean, c'mon, she is second-generation successful Hollywood and she got her role as Wendy in "Hook" because she was babysitting for Steven Speilberg. Her biggest challenge in life has probably been breaking up with Brad Pitt, perusing books like "How To Give Your Baby A Name That Equates To ASS," and figuring out which sort of macrobiotic lunch she wants her chef to prepare.

To bash on the American work ethic is probably harder to stomach coming from her, because the underlying perception is that she's never been in a place where work is the only salvation she has from poverty and uncertainty.

Still, I do agree with her comparison between European and American cultural differences. The truth is, one only needs to have exposure to global society to understand how different we really are. I once had a friend come to teach a riding clinic for me in Dallas. He is a New Zealander who was residing in England at the time. As we were driving through downtown Dallas - four lanes of traffic, me on my cell phone, smoking a cigarette and scrolling through my Palm - I glanced over and saw him somewhat wide-eyed and looking a little shakey.

"What's the matter?" I asked.

"I always am overwhelmed when I come to America," he said. Then he pointed out the obvious in a very casual way and it really did sit me back and make me think.

America is the only place where we work and exist at such a frenetic pace, then find the need to read publications like "Real Simple," or go on retreats to reconnect with the obvious.

I defend Gwyneth's right to free speech and I would encourage those doing the skewering to have a few conversations outside the US, work with someone from a different culture, then re-read her comments. They're not entirely off-base.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Keep The Muscle, Lose The Fat

"Avalanche is sullen and too thin
She starves herself to rid herself of sin
And the kick is so divine when she sees bones beneath her skin
And she says, 'Hey baby can you bleed like me? Come on baby can you bleed like me?'"

- Garbage, "Bleed Like Me"

I have a little tendency to want to starve to lose fat when the truth is, building muscle burns fat. And to build muscle we must eat, and we must eat the right things.

For most of 2006 I have been righteous on eating right. This means I've nearly eliminated sugar and refined flour products from my diet and eat a lot of lean protein, whole grains, and vegetables and fruit.

And still, still this PermaBelly v.2.0. However, since my Energy found me again and I have been back on a workout bender, I have 100% confidence that I will emerge the victor and at least succeed in camouflaging PB20 by rebuilding my chest and shoulders and arms. I did atrophy a little during the past few months and that was never the goal. The goal was to redistribute.

I read recently that the best thing you can do for your workout is to pay specific attention to your legs/quadriceps, as they're they largest muscle group on your body. The more you exert them, the more fat your body will burn to rebuild them. And it's this exercise, really, that diminishes your PB20 and not so much the abs/crunches, though they're certainly useful for building core strength and defining the rectus/transversus abdominus.

And with that, I'm off to my back/biceps day. I know I've been talking alot about fitness lately, but I cannot communicate how great it is to actually have the strength to exercise. I have been pretty zapped the past few months.

photo credit: "A Cafe," artist: Zach Taylor

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Love What You Do; Do What You Love

When I say I like snakes, what I mean is they're tolerable and OK. And I only like them if they're non-poisonous and not really into constricting me into a mass of broken bones so that I slide down their hatch with relative ease. "Mmmmmm, tasty!"

However, I read this story and was really wigged out. It's hard for me to recognize the tragedy, though, since I feel like everyone involved was aware of the risks. It's sort of like the death of Steve Irwin, or many of the upper-level three-day event riders who have been killed while competing.

Every time I leave the start box on the cross-country phase at a horse trial I say a little prayer that both myself and my horse will come home safely. Of course I want to jump around clean, as I am very competitive with myself. (Not a surprise to most who know me.)

But the respect for that danger zone, I think, is what heightens my senses and gives me an edge to make good decisions that correctly answer the cross-country jumping questions in a safe and efficient manner. I have a healthy respect for the risk, and I have a confidence that my skills are proficient enough to eclipse it.

We all know there is inherent risk in anything done to an extreme. I suspect this man, through his work, has done much to contribute to the understanding of the cobra, which is common in Thailand and Southeast Asia. As Tim McGraw sang, he "lived like he was dying," and that is a great way to thrive.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Oh How I Hate Spyware ...

I am totally in hate with any sort of malicious software.

A message to "online marketers ..."

It is my computer, that I paid a lot of money for, and it is not fair for you to fuck it up with your little tracking bullshit just to know you might get me to buy one more t-shirt from the Gap. I have now spent money to download software that, should I ever be able to locate you in your little secret lair of maliciousness, I will ask you to refund, in addition to $10M for pain and suffering.

This shit's on.