Friday, October 31, 2008

Not Smarter than a 6th Grader

I went to my son's science fair this morning. He's in 6th grade. The entire class - every student - had a presentation of a famous person that they were depicting and sharing info about. I was amazed at what I didn't know.

Did you know:

  • Isaac Newton was pulled out of school to help on his family's farm? (Sorry...but his parents just weren't paying attention)

  • Jane Goodall became interested in chimps from a chimp doll that her Dad gave her as a child?

  • When Charles Darwin set out for the Galapagos Islands, he thought he was going to be gone for 2 years - ended up being 5 years?
  • The inventor of "Barbie" named the doll and Ken after the names of her two actual children? And she invented the artificial breast, as she was a breast cancer patient?

OK...neither did I. Now I don't feel so bad.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Hog Heaven

Earlier this week, a group of us from work were asked to partake in an off-site "team building' exercise. Normally, I don't get too excited about these sort of things (because they don't usually live up to my expectations), but when I heard we would be cooking, I was jazzed!

The place was called The Art of Entertaining in Madison. There were about 20 of us, and at one point in the day, we broke into four teams and had an Iron Chef competition.

We had to use a table of ingredients to come up with a spring roll and dipping sauce that would be judged on taste, originality, and plating. And we had to make enough for everyone else to taste. We only had an hour. This 'foodie' was in hog heaven!

Half of our team worked on the filling for the spring roll, while the other half worked on several different dipping sauces. We had the time to come up with about four different flavors to determine which would go best with the roll (a spicy mex filling with black beans and veggies).

When the decision had to be made, my sauce was chosen. I called it "Cinnamon Kiwi Salsa". wasn't actually a dipping sauce. but my teammates loved it. Fresh diced tomatoes and kiwi, honey, cinnamon, and a slight dash of pomegranate juice. It was delicious if I do say so myself.

Well, we didn't end up winning the competition. We lost to a surprisingly delicious dessert spring roll that was filled with 'air' (don't ask). But, as we've all been taught, it's not whether you win or loose, but how you play the game. And we were playing to win, so it was a bummer all around. Seriously, we had a blast and made some great dishes.

So, all I have to say is, if Bobby Flay ever does a Throwdown with spring roll know where to find me.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Litmus Test

ABC has a test at the below address to see who's campaign statements, McCain's or Obama's, you agree with most. They don't tell you who made the statements, of course, but a statement made by each candidate on the same topic (economy, immigration, judiciary, etc.) will be side by side. You just pick which statement you agree with and, after selecting all 13, you'll find out which candidate's philosophy you support.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Spontaneous Human Combustion

Have you heard of the urban legend of spontaneous human combustion (SHC)? If not, SHC refers to the belief that the human body sometimes burns without an external source of ignition. There is much speculation and controversy regarding SHC, for it is an unproven natural phenomenon.

I was nearly a victim of it last night.

At 3:00AM, I woke up out of a dead sleep, feeling like I was about to self-combust.

The fact is, I have high triglycerides - a genetic gift from my parents that keeps on giving. My sister actually has it, too. A few years back, I had some blood work done and discovered that my triglycerides (the soluble fat in your blood) was sky-high. My doctor said to try to get it under control with exercise and diet, or I would need to go on prescription medication.

So I began asking around about this condition (I work for a pharmaceutical company and had the luxury of knowing a few cardiologists). Come to find out, a common vitamin (niacin), taken in high doses, can actually have a dramatic effect on reducing triglycerides.

But here's the catch - high doses of niacin cause flushing (and I don't mean the kind associated with Montezuma's revenge). I mean the kind associated with hot flashes. An intense and temporary 'burning sensation' that occurs over your entire body, starting from the top of your head and works it's way down your body, slowly. Trust me - it's quite miserable. Ask any post-menopausal woman. Stop the snickering. Which is why most people opt for the persription medication rather than niacin.

But, it's better than being on prescription meds my whole life, so I started experimenting and taking niacin a few years ago. And it worked! Within a few months, I got my triglycerides down to normal range.

But I wasn't as consistent in taking niacin as I should have been. I recently had a check-up and my new doctor recommended taking a different kind of niacin. He had some samples and gave me a handful to take at night, right before bed.

I have been taking these for about a week and experienced no side effects or flushing. Until last night. It was, by far, the worst reaction I have had in years. The good news: it only lasted about 30 minutes.

So, as spontaneous human combustion is wrapped in speculation and controversy, I offer up the best and most logical explanation.


(Do not take doses of niacin over 100mg without first consulting with your physician)

Friday, October 24, 2008


"What is that?", you say.

That is the Native American word for pumpkin. And I intend on using it in conversation between now and October 31st, so don't give me that look.

How about some lesser known facts about pumpkins and Halloween:

  • The pumpkin is actually a fruit, and is from the same family as melons and gherkins (I love that word! I'm using it this week, too)

  • The word 'pumpkin' comes from the French explorer, Jacques Cartier, who referred to these large fruit as "gross melons". In his native tongue, that translates to 'ponpions', which is where we get 'pumpkin'.

  • Pumpkins are indigenous to the western hemisphere and were completely unknown in Europe before Christopher Columbus' travels.

  • Halloween is actually based on an ancient Celtic holiday known as Samhain (pronounced "sau-en"), which means "summer's end", and was used to honor those who had passed away (I know this comes as a disappointment to all my wicken and ultra-conservative Christian friends - sorry).

  • Americans spend an estimated $6.9 billion annually on Halloween, making it the country's second largest commercial holiday (ashamedly embarrassing, but true).

I love Halloween! I always have. I love dressing up and being someone or something I am not. I enjoy the process of picking through the choicest pieces of candy from my sons harvest of the night, often disguised as carefully checking for 'razor blades and needles'. And ask my Mom...I have always got a thrill out of scaring the snot out of people. It's a rush. Similar to riding roller coasters...but much shorter.

Okay, I gotta run. I need to carve my isquotersquash.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Things That Make Us Go, "Hmmmm...."

  1. The TV show "Lost"
  2. Teenage hormones
  3. Peter standing outside the boat
  4. The origin of fruit flies
  5. Unconditional love
  6. Falling gas prices
  7. Vice Presidential choices
  8. The human body
  9. Dreams
  10. The things a dog finds appetizing

(in no particular order)


I had the day off yesterday...and was down. Maybe a case of 24-hour depression. Nothing serious, but I could tell something was off. Couldn't put my finger on it, though. I thought maybe I was just having an off-day. I don't know if you noticed, but I didn't even blog. As the day progressed today, I snapped out of it. I got my mind around things of work and seemed to spring back.

Then, today at work, I did an on-line personal strengths assessment for a team-building exercise a group of us are doing next week. It's from the book called, "Strengths Finder 2.0". As I was taking the assessment (which is suppose to identify what I'm good at), it hit me. I know why I was off yesterday.

The day before yesterday (Sunday), I went and practiced with an improv group that invited me to give it a try. The anticipation was palatable. I was looking forward to this. This kind of stuff makes me feel alive. It's the little things in life, isn't it?

The 3.5 hours of practice went well at first. My creative juices were flowing and it felt good. But as the evening progressed, I could tell I was running out of those juices. My creative "umph" was waning. I was as creative as a paint-by-numbers by the end of the night.

Hindsight is a gift.

It donned on me today that I was focusing on my weaknesses, rather than seeing my strengths. (If Chris were reading this, he would know exactly what I was talking about).

I was mentally going over every missed opportunity and dead spot. I was analyzing each situation and coming up with options that I should have said or done. I was comparing myself to others and my own expectations...and that's always a bad idea. I never measure up. I didn't spend any time analyzing the scenes I thought I did well.

Don't we always do that? It's so much easier to find our faults than recognize our strengths.

So I'm letting it go. It's in the past. So I choked a few times on Sunday but that doesn't define me for the future...or define who I am.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

You're Not Me

I spent the day with my oldest son, Gavin, today. We went to the Renaissance Festival. On the way there, we were talking, and I asked him what one thing stresses him out the most these days. He said he is still trying to adjust to our recent move to Cincinnati. He then turned to me and asked if I had adjusted to our move. I paused, confidently nodded, and said, "Yes...but you're not me".

I had an email exchange a couple days ago with a long-time friend of mine about politics. It was clear to me where she stands, based on the emails she was forwarding. I respectfully (I hope) replied to one, and although it was never discussed between us, I feel she thinks we are in opposite camps. That's OK with me, because that's not the point.

I could share a dozen more stories like this...stories that highlight the differences between me and those around me. Even those that are closest to me (and not excluding stories of differences in faith-issues).

I have realized, regretfully, far too late in life, that there is tremendous value in diversity. I actually seek it out now. It enriches me and hopefully makes me a better person. I painfully admit that this change only really started occurring in me a couple years ago. It's like a slow awakening.

I remember spending so much time and effort either looking for those people who were just like me, or trying to convince those to see things my way. I was actually arrogant enough to think I had the right answers...and depending on the topic, the only answer(s).

There is something very liberating about letting go of the self-imposed responsibility to set others 'straight'. Your journey is very different from mine. I know I don't have all the right answers for you, as well as the presumption that I do. And it is that last point that has made all the difference.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The BIG Holiday

Are you as fed up as I am?

I was in Sam's Club last week and saw Christmas decorations and wrapping paper out already. I almost screamed. It's not even Halloween! For the past 20 years, I say every year that the Christmas advertising starts earlier every year. I believe it's true. Even if it is earlier by a day or two than last year, it's creepin' up.

Do you remember the days of celebrating a holiday, one at a time? Do you remember as a kid looking for a Halloween costume and not getting lost in the artificial trees? Those were the days.

Nowadays, from the first of October to December, it's like one big holiday. And that's my proposal. I'm wasting too much energy getting so upset about the ever-increasing Christmas shopping season. I think we should just set the expectation that from September 1st through January 1st, we celebrate "Thanksgivoween".

Wouldn't that be so much easier? One set of decorations. One big school break. Not to mention an entire new line of Hallmark cards. No more changing the house decor from one holiday theme to the next. I can envision pumpkin snowmen and turkey-drawn sleighs (besides...that's way more believable than flying reindeer).

So, in the spirit of simplicity and less stress, I wish you all a very Merry Thanksgivoween!

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Were you hungry at all today?

I mean...really hungry?

I doubt it. But if you were, you were likely only a few steps away from satisfying your hunger. You had a few dollars in your pocket and the choices were endless.

Not so for many around the world. Here are the statistics:
  • An estimated 923 million people in the world go hungry.
  • In developing countries nearly 16 million children die every year from preventable and treatable causes. Sixty percent of these deaths are from hunger and malnutrition.
  • In the United States, 11.7 million children live in households where people have to skip meals or eat less to make ends meet. That means one in ten households in the U.S. are living with hunger or are at risk of hunger.

If you weren't aware, today was World Hunger Day. I only learned about it because I happen to be listening to NPR this morning. They were sharing how so many people in the US are on Food Stamps (28 million). I wasn't aware, but food stamps provide about $5.00/day/per person for food. Can you imagine getting through the day on $5.00? Me neither. Which got me thinking...

Jess had to run out tonight, so it was just me and the boys. So I loaded them in the car and headed for the grocery store. I decided to combine a teaching lesson with a bit of fun. On the way there, I explained to my boys about Food Stamps, World Hunger Day, and how it must feel to live on only $5.00 a day.

When we got to the store, I gave each of the boys (and myself) a $2.00 pre-loaded card and told them to shop for their dinner (the equivalent of the dinner portion of $5.00/day).

The only rules: They had to buy nutritious food (not $2.00 worth of candy or cookies, although I was really tempted as well), and they had to try to maximize their $2.00.

What a great experiment! Understand, my kids, like yours probably, have never shopped for food. It has always been a luxury, a given, an expectation at different times of the day. But tonight, they had to shop for themselves. I was amazed and what they were looking for, how critical they were of the items they were considering, and how much they could buy for $2.00. And it took them quite awhile to find nutritious food.

At the checkout, here is what we had:

Gavin: 1/3 lb. fillet of shark (on sale) and a small can of mixed vegetables = $1.73
Eliot: 1 package of oriental noodles with shrimp dinner and a small can of beets = $1.98
Dad: 1 can of "Spam-like" meat, a package of dirty rice mix, and a small banana = $1.83

I was most amazed at what my boys learned from the experience. Here are a few of the things they shared with me:

  • All the really inexpensive stuff was the most unhealthy; most of it was junk food
  • We couldn't afford any brand name items
  • It was really hard to try to find affordable food, and enough of it, for a meal
  • It was really hard to find anything fresh

Shockingly, my kids loved the experience. They got more out of it than I was hoping. In fact, they both said we should do this once a week so we don't forget what hunger and poverty is like. They made me proud.

What did I learn?

That we are incredibly blessed and have far more than we need. That I need to be outward focused more than I am. That feeding the hungry is part of Plan A.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Power of "No"

I am dying at work. Everyday, I juggle my time between meetings, phone calls, emails, and the occasional "drive-by" visit to my desk. I'm managing, but some days it feels like I am breathing through a straw. And I have to make this quick, because I have a meeting in 20 minutes...

To some extent, this has been thrust upon me. But I need to take ownership for some of it, too. How often do we shy away from saying, "No"?

There is great power and freedom in being able to say "No". It's a liberating word. It almost takes no effort at all to say (go ahead...try it), yet I would bet that most of us rarely say it when we most need to. I'm talking about those of you, like me, who feel an unspoken obligation to stick our fingers in all the holes in the dike...especially if no one else is willing.
Well...I say, "No". I am no longer going to spread myself so thin that I'm doing everything alf-hassed. I'm only going to sign-up for those things that I am passionate about, that bring my joy, and that I'm good at. I want to bring value, rather than a warm body.

What do you say? Are you with me?

Was that a "No"?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Here We Go... it's taken us awhile to get into the whole "blog-o-sphere", but here we are. Better late than later. And I have to admit - there is something a bit narcissistic about blogging. Don't get me wrong. I'm not knockin' it. I'm as narcissistic as the next person. But it will be interesting to see who really cares about what we have to say.

Maybe that's why I have always had a hard time journaling. Everyone always says, "You really should journal", including Jess. But I have never had any success. I have started, but usually stop writing shortly after the first couple entries. It's all so one-sided. No input. No dialogue. So blogging is my compromise. I'll occasionally jot down a few ideas or thoughts that are running through my head, but I would like some input every now and then. Let me know what you think...about what I think. Call me out. Agree. Disagree. LOL. Something...
So this is the start of our social experiment. Life is deep. Hold our hands and let's jump in together!