Fourier Analysis is a mathematical tool which can do a number of things: separate out signals from noise; help identify patterns or trends in data; filter out all unwanted data and focus on a single signal; use approximations to make generalizations; make approximations of real world signals (think electronic music); combine harmonics to get a stronger signal. That's what I'll be trying to do here!! Won't you join me with your comments?

Friday, August 31, 2007

15 Links to Help Change the World

One of my favorite bloggers is a bit frustrated with the world she is currently dealing with and complained about the lack of sites where she can read about people who are trying to improve the world. I have a number of sites that I visit that do talk about efforts to help the world that I will be writing about in a future blog. But for this week's Friday Fifteen, I thought I would share with you some sites where YOU can make a difference.

For my last "round" birthday, I requested and received a number of donation gifts that made me feel I was "giving back" to the world. And at my girls' school they also have various donation drives where they give to charities, but in a specific, visible fashion. I include these sites here, along with others that have similar aims. Almost all of these sites also include a gift card (some via email) or a newsletter, poster or some other small token that you can send to the gift recipient.

So here is my list of links that allow you to help make the world a better place, one gift at a time...

1. Trees for the Future This is a great gift for a class or school, or for anyone concerned about the environment. As part of the funds that the PTA gets from the recycling of old paper, we go the next step and actually purchase trees. The last time we raised over $100 we were able to purchase a forest! Along with the certificate, the recipient gets regular newsletters and materials that can be used in class for a lesson on reforestation projects. This is also a great site to use as a resource for school reports.

2. Care for the Wild International I have not yet found an equivalent site in the US, but this UK site also will send materials and gift certificates to the US for a slight charge. What I love about this site is that you can choose the animals that you want to "adopt". DD1 is really into dolphins and fierce animals, while DD2 is more into the cuddly -looking favorites. And don't forget rhinos and elephants!. Don't forget to figure that you must convert from British pounds to US Dollars, or you may end up spending more than you planned.

3. Oxfam International Located in a large number of countries in the world, this is a fantastic site for families. Not only do they have donation gifts at every level for almost any occasion, but their sites are full of information about various projects all over the world. Great resource for school projects as well as a fantastic gift site. I received a number of presents from here for my last birthday (chickens, a can a worms, a goat, ...)! Check out their "Unwrapped" section!

4. Project Concern International Focused on prevention of disease, famine and clean water, this site has a number of different projects that might speak to a family's special interests. Check out their "Gifts of Life" Catalogue.

5. Changing the Present Especially for those interested in agriculture and education projects with values from $10 to $150. This site also has information about the tax deductions you can get with your donation.

6. International Child Care As the name implies, this site is focused on projects for children. It even shows how $0.25 can help to feed a child. Great use of children's allowances where they want to make their own contributions.

7. Educate the Children Focused on the women and children of Nepal, this is a great choice for a family that wants to put its focus on a specific country.

8. Heifer International You might have heard about this site on the Oprah show. It involves the gift of a calf or goat (or other livestock) that allows a family to feed itself.

9. Universal Giving Focused on education, you can donate a school, computers, education for one child etc. gifts start at $10.00.

10. Carbonfund Want to offset the carbon impact of a party, wedding or event? Or even just ease your conscience and offset your own carbon footprint? This site allows you to calculate your impact and to contribute to a fund used to plant trees and other activities to compensate for carbon output. Great was to educte kids about our environmental impact.

11. Humane Society Want something closer to home? This site is for the Franklin Humane Society in Michigan. It has a number of different gifts that allow for the care and feeding of animals at the shelter. But I'm sure your local shelter has some similar kind of set-up, even if it isn't online. Even if you can't care for a pet in your home, you can still show your love of animals in this kind of donation.

12. Global Giving This site has a number of different projects and allows for selection by region, topic, project, or donation level. Great variety of projects and levels to choose from.

13. Alternative Gifts International Want to see what you can get for the price of a take-out meal or a pedicure? A great variety of projects with cost comparisons that bring the message to heart.

14. Network for Good Similar to many of the other sites, but with "gift baskets" associated with specific projects including familiar charities such as Habitat for Humanity, Red Cross, etc.

15. One World is Enough And if you really want to give a gift that someone can hold in their hands, these fair trade gifts ensure that a good portion of the sales price goes to the craftsperson. Some great ethnic clothing gifts!

Happy Weekend!!

If you want to visit other Friday Fifteen entries, check out this site!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Day at the Beach

I look up from my magazine and scan the the waters near the beach for my girls. I spot them jumping in the waves, chest-deep in the ocean. The waves have carried them further down the shore so that it stretches at my heartstrings to have them so far away. I watch them at play, wondering that they can stand the cold North Sea waters. I remember splashing and playing just as they do, but then it was the warm Texas Gulf. I could not bring myself to join them today, barely getting my feet wet before running out of the cold waters. But they were born in this country and this is their "native shore". I consider going down to call them back closer to me when DD1 looks over at me and sees me watching. She waves her arm at me and I wave back. DD2 looks up as well and cannot see me from this distance. DD1 points and she too waves and I wave back. The tension on the heartstrings eases and I give them their freedom.

A short while later they decide to come back. I watch them, seeing them from a distance as I don't when they are close by. DD2's legs are almost as long as her sister's despite their two-and-a-half years age difference. And DD1's legs are almost as long as mine! Her figure is starting to develop and I am shocked to notice once again just how lovely she is. They are growing up so fast. Suddenly a wave a panic washes over my heart and grabs me by the throat. I realize in only a few years, I will not be able to watch them when they come to the shore or go out with friends. Then there will be boys and smoking and drugs and... No. I stop myself. I can't worry about those things now.

As they come towards me I pick up their towels to hand to them to dry off. But no, they don't want the towels. The both throw themselves down on the warm sand and roll around in it like puppies until they are covered. They proceed to play "sand monster" and take turns burying each other in mounds of sand, then rising up and chasing around. I admonish them that they will not only have to rinse off before they get back in the car, but that they will have to rinse off outside at home before they can come in and bathe!

And then I sigh with relief and think to myself "There's still time."

Monday, August 27, 2007

The "Perfect" Aphrodisiac

Nod to Soccer Mom in Denial whose SOS inspired this Monday Memory!

My husband is German-Italian. I like to think I got the best of both worlds (and I really do at times!) This means he loves food by definition, and of course Italian food is very high on his list. So, shortly after we were married, I decided to try out my Mother's recipe for Italian Spaghetti Bolognese (tomato meat) sauce. As she learned it from an Italian lady when she was living in Baltimore, I was pretty assured it would be authentic enough to be a big hit. So I spent the afternoon chopping up fresh ingredients.

I was feeling pretty confident shortly after I started cooking as the delicious smells had my new husband coming up from behind me while I was cooking to nibble on my neck and steal something from the cutting board. Midway through the preparations, my Daddy called and I bragged to him that I thought I had found the perfect aphrodisiac to use on DH!

Dinner was a great success! Wine and candlelight set the atmosphere, a lovely fresh salad and loaf of French bread the accompaniments. DH ate two very large helpings of spaghetti slathered in my sauce. He raved about it. He kissed me lavishly as he helped to clear the table, and I promised to meet him on the couch as I finished putting the food away. I was terribly pleased with myself. My Mom's recipe was now my own and it appeared to be living up to its earlier promise!

I finished up quickly in the kitchen, slipped into the bedroom to put a little more cologne behind my ears. And went to the living room to join my lover on the couch.

He was sound asleep. With a very satisfied smile. No amount of nuzzling could wake him up or arouse him in any way. I had to finally resort to a hard shake and a very loud voice. He woke up enough to give me a big hug, thank me for a lovely dinner, and head off to bed. I quickly joined him with my hopes still not completely dashed, but he was snoring before I finished getting undressed!

Throughout our 19 years of marriage, this recipe has been one of his favorites and it has had the same effect. Every. Time...

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Finding My Way Out

This is Part IV of my series for Soap Opera Sunday (go to these links for Part I, Part II and Part III). 'Twas Brillig and WalkingKateastrophe have inspired a lot of writers to share their stories of love, passion, drama, heartbreak, frustration and various learning experiences. Why pay for romance novels when you can find such thrills and entertainment every Sunday when you check out their links?

I'd like to thank all my nail-biting readers who have left such supportive comments about my story. Yes, it is cathartic. Yes, I did survive it and am living a great life now. And yes, I hope it will provide some sort of inspiration or warning to others who are living their own personal hells. At the time I was going through this, there was no Oprah, and no women openly telling their stories. And to those friends who are reading this and learning about it for the first time, I haven't been hiding anything, but it's just not something that usually comes up over coffee. I have a past. We all do. But I don't let it define me.


And then he kicked me. Hard.

I'd like to tell you that this was the worst thing that ever happened during this marriage. I'd like to leave out that my ribs were broken. I'd like to brag that I got up and kicked him in the privates and walked away from him for good. But I started out being honest, and I can't make up the ending I would have preferred.

You should know that BF was over 6'3". I am only 5'2.5" (a half inch is important at my height!). Needless to say, he was a lot bigger than me. But I somehow threatened him when I would stand up to him. And something in me made me continue to defy him. Which only made things worse. So the times when he would lose control, I knew I had pushed him, and later when he would apologize, there would always be the caveat that I had somehow brought it on myself. Somehow, though, I just wouldn't change.

But while this is a story about what led me to this sad situation and how I eventually got out of it, I don't want it to be a chronicle of the abuse. It has been important to me to examine why I went so far off the track I had set out upon, and I have been glad to share that. But there is no advantage in listing the degradations, the fights, the hurts, the damage. What is important for me to tell you is that despite all he did to me and tried to do, he slowly lost control of me. And I eventually found myself again.

I did start back to college, arranging to work parttime at my office job. At first just sitting in on classes I had once taken. And then I took some of the required courses in English and History that would apply to any degree. Despite BF's sabotage, and efforts to distract me, my grades were good and I was encouraged. And 3 years after my accident I actually got the courage to pick up on my Physics coursework and work toward finishing my degree.

The evening before one of my midterm exams, BF picked a fight with me that led him to belittling me and humiliating me and eventually raping me (though in Texas, a husband cannot technically "rape" his wife). I got very little sleep, curling into a corner on the floor of our bedroom. I did not stir when BF left for work, but I was aware that he turned off my alarm. As soon as he left the house I quickly showered and dressed and headed off for school early. I first had a Mathematics exam. I didn't struggle with the answers, but I finished the test without any feeling of confidence or relief.

I then went to study quietly outside the class where I was to take my Physics exam, when my adviser passed by. He spoke to me and asked if I had time after my test to drop by his office. I made it through the exam on autopilot. I didn't think I knew anything and entered my adviser's office expecting that I would be asked to change my major. Instead, he told me that the Astronomy professor was looking for some lab assistant's to teach the Astronomy labs 2 evenings a week and asked if I was interested.

I was so relieved and surprised that the tears came without warning. I told him that I was afraid that I was failing the Physics course and would not be able to continue it as my major. He asked me to wait for a moment in his office and left the room. When he came back 10 minutes later, I had composed myself, and he said he had spoken to the professor of the course I was taking and they had quickly glanced over my test paper and he assured me that I had nothing to worry about with respect to my grade in that course. He then proceeded to call the professor of my Math course. He told my professor he was just checking up on my grades and then I hear him joking with my professor, "No, whatever grade she gets does not mean she will be changing her major to Math! Okay, I'll tell her." When he got off the phone, he told me that I also did not need to worry about my Math grade and that I was invited to talk to my professor about making Math my degree "minor" which meant taking a couple of extra courses. So then we were back to the offer of becoming a lab assistant. I told my adviser I would get back to him.

I stopped off at my Mom's before I returned home, and she had a card for me. It was a belated "Valentine's Day" card that had been sent to her address. It was from my friend who had been at the Air Force Academy. He had graduated and finished his pilot training and was interested in knowing how I was. He knew I was married but said he wanted to meet my husband and hear what I was doing. He left a phone number for me to call at his new station on a base near Phoenix, Arizona. I went home and did not mention anything of the day's events to BF.

The next week, BF said he had the opportunity to start doing some night shifts at his work, which meant some extra earnings. I then told him about the Astronomy lab position that would allow me to earn some money as well. The hours would fit around the part-time office work I was doing and not interfere with my school. BF was not really thrilled about the position, but could see some advantages to me working more hours. I know he was thinking it would have a detrimental effect on my schoolwork.

But it didn't. I used the excuse of going to the university to help pack up the telescopes as an opportunity to do some of my Physics homework in the office space that I now had access to as a lab assistant. My course work thrived, and I loved teaching in the lab sessions. I often found myself out in the middle of the park in pitch darkness, surrounded by football players and non-science majors who were struggling to complete their coursework. I loved telling the stories of the various myths surrounding the names of the constellations and sharing the tricks for finding the pictures in the sky and remembering the names of the stars. I could easily answer all the questions about the phases of the moon, and the life cycle of the stars. And though it was dark, I felt on center stage with a great spotlight where I could "show off".

I soon became one of the most popular assistants and the evenings when I was on duty became the most attended. I was then asked to train other lab assistants and was given the nickname "Mom", not because I was so much older, but because I was married and therefore not subject to the flirting attentions of many of the male students. Also I was so confident and assured in what I was doing, that the other lab assistants and Physics majors looked to me for advice. I thrived on their respect and was determined to do whatever I could to keep it. And it changed how I was feeling about myself.

Finally, towards the end of the semester, I made a call to my friend in the Air Force. We had a long chat and he was so glad to hear from me and was pleased to hear I was finishing my degree. He was very supportive and promised to come by for a visit and meet BF the next time he was in town visiting his parents. We went on to talk about other people we both knew, including my old boyfriend I had lost touch with. He said he was going to look him up and would mention that I said hello. I told BF about my conversation later, and that it was all platonic and that I was glad to be back in touch with an old friend. I could tell that this did not go over well.

Scientists have determined with various kinds of tests that the brain is not wired to be able to think positively and negatively at the same time. This became the main struggle in my life. I was becoming more positive about myself and getting back to thinking that way, but at the same time BF was trying to manipulate me and continually making me feel bad about myself. How I kept my sanity at this time I don't know. It did leave its mark on my confidence for a long time. Even today, I have self-doubts that make it hard for me to accept compliments and to bask in my accomplishments.

My finals were coming up, and as I was determined not to have a repeat of the drama that had occurred prior to the mid-terms, I spent all the time I could at school doing my studying there. Still, one evening when I came home, BF was livid, raging at me and accusing me of all sorts of infidelities. I kept quiet, and when his anger threatened to explode into physical violence, I walked out of the house and got into the car and drove away. I drove around for a long time, not knowing where I should go. Eventually I returned to the house to find it dark. BF had gone to bed. I snuck in quietly and went to sleep on the couch. BF left the next morning without waking me. I woke myself in time to get ready to go to my test, and when I went to get into my car, I could not find my keys. I searched all over. I called BF at work, but he was not around. I was frantic as BF had the spare set on his key chain. Finally I called my brother who was able to drop me off at school. I made it in time for my tests.

When I was ready to go home, I called my Mom and she came and got me. I told her that BF and I were fighting and I asked to stay the night with her. She was happy to have me and did not ask any questions. When BF called later she told him I was there and convinced him that it was better to leave me alone and that she would drop me at home the next day. I came home in the afternoon to find BF was getting ready to go do an extra evening shift. After Mom left I tried to talk to him and he slapped me across the face with the back of his hand. He then pulled my car keys out of his pocket and dropped them on the floor. The look on his face made me realize that I did not want to be home when he came back.

Suddenly, I felt all alone. I had to get away. I quickly put together a small suitcase of clothes and what cash I had managed to save up. But I was not ready to tell my Mom about what was going on in my marriage. I no longer had any girlfriends or anyone I could stay with. I did not want to impose on my brother and his new wife and baby. I just needed to get somewhere and think. But where to go?


Friday, August 24, 2007

Google Fun!

Google Earth now has an upgrade which is literally "out of this world" . With this upgrade you can now cruise the heaven from your home/desktop computer. Now supernovas, galaxies and all sort of celestial phenomena are only a mouse click away.

The upgrade is ‘Sky in Google Earth’, and it
can be downloaded free of charge with the newest version of Google Earth. Now in just a few seconds, anyone can view over 120 of the most popular Hubble images. It is fairly simple to operate with drop-down menus and zoom features that are typical of Google Earth.

But this blog is my usual Saturday Silliness, so here is a bit of silly Google Fun. In addition to their Google Earth, there is also a website Google Moon. This is also a really cool website with the landing sites of all the Apollo missions indicated. Any of these features can be clicked on and viewed up-close. The really fun part (show this to your kids!) is when you choose to zoom in really close to see what the moon looks like at the highest definition!

Happy Weekend!!

15 "DaddyBlogs" worth a visit

When I was organizing my bookmark folders, I realized that among all the "Mommy- blogs" that I read almost daily, I also have a number of "Daddy-blogs" that I also check out regularly. While I times the "testosterone levels" are a bit overwhelming, I still enjoy occasionally getting a view into their different perspectives. What is funny is that very few of these guys have "blogrolls" so it seems that they aren't interested in linking, etc.( I don't believe it as every good blogger wants to share their thoughts!) As I have recently come across a number that caused me to giggle or gasp in admiration, thought I would share them for this week's list:

1. & 2. The View From Here and Real Dads, both by the (in)famous Gunfighter, as macho as they come with his crime-fightin' self, he's a real softie at heart and a conscious and concerned father. The first blog he addresses many other topics than fatherhood, but his family still makes it into this blog on a regular basis. The second is an unabashed celebration of fatherhood.

3. Dad Gone Mad I sympathize with this guy's wife in a lot of his blogs. I read his male perspective and know that she is just shaking her head in frustration. But it does make for a good laugh, especially his solo-Daddy adventures.

4. My Grimm Reality The flip side to Leslie's My Mommy's Place , Dave's blog often tells the same story but from his perspective. You just know that if they don't manage to drive each other crazy, they have a fun marriage! He also does some great takes on fatherhood.

5. Greg's Random Bits Often more about his personal views than family issues, but still he demonstrates a middle-aged father's perspective on a number of issues.

6. View From the Cloud Another Dad's perspective on life, this time refreshingly G-rated, with the effects of the defective X-chromosome that make it so funny for Mom's to read.

7. Riley Central Not only a Dad, but also an elementary school teacher, Damien's better half also has a great MommyBlog Party of Five.

8. Chocolate Makes It Better You gotta love a guy who uses this as his blog tittle! It let's you overlook the swearing!

9. Dadcentric Not just one, but a group of Dad's. Makes for a real wide range of topics especially as they seem to try and one-up one another (as men do...)!

10. MetroDad A serious NYC-er, which means his world is several dimensions away from anything I've ever known. But his angst and frustrations are still things I can relate to and he is funny!

11. Where boys Fear to Tread A stay-at-home Dad's perspective. Most of his comments are from other Dad's, many of them only 1 or 2 words! Viva la difference!

12. Pirate Papa A true anarchist with some interesting views. At times the "pirate style" can be a bit over the top, but it's still a good read!

13. An Open Letter writes an open letter to his son Michael. Touching, funny, slice-of-life moments. (I started journals to my daughters years ago along the same lines, but didn't get past age 4 with either of them.)

14.Dad Daily is a social network where a number of Dads submit blogs. It is generally pretty G-rated and has different member groups. What I like best is the variety of topics that are written about.

15.DadLabs This site has various videos by Dads. Some are really hilarious and a level above YouTube as there seems to be little men like better than playing with their high-tech toys. It's nice to know that even SuperDad has his troubles!

As I often just lurk and don't comment, a few of these fellas may be surprised at their inclusion here. If they check Technorati then I have just outed myself (Hi guys!). Or if you visit and leave a comment, tell them I said "Hello"!

For other Friday Fifteen lists, please visit links available from this site:

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

School Days, School Daze...

One of the things that I miss this time of year is shopping for school supplies. Now I know that most of you American Moms are groaning at this and would happily allow me the "pleasure" of shopping for your kids, but you must understand, I have never gotten to do this!! My kids were both born in the Netherlands and most of their supplies were available at the school. The most I ever got to do was to supply a new backpack or upgrade a lunch box!

I remember very clearly the great anticipation the week or two prior to the beginning of the school year. My Mom would try to arrange to take me shopping separately from my brothers to get the dresses, shoes, etc. (We didn't get to wear jeans until I was in high school. Heck, girls did not get to wear pants until I was in junior high! And yes, I know, I am dating myself here!) Then the big shopping trip to the supermarket where the lists were posted for each grade. Traipsing up and down the aisles to buy our packets of construction paper, Elmer's glue, No. 2 pencils, etc.

The big treat we had was to be able to pick out a new ring binder in the color we wanted. In those days, you did not have a picture or motif on the cover, but for an extra cost you could get one with a plastic cover that had an opening at the top. Ostensibly, this was to put your school schedule or calender or something useful in. But of course we all put the favorite pictures of pop stars (David Cassidy and Bobby Sherman were some of the favorites in my day!) or if you had a hobby then pictures of horses, rabbits, cats, ballerinas, etc. would decorate your front cover. As I got older, it was hand-drawn, colored "Peter Max" declarations of "your name + boyfriend's name", accompanied by daisies, stars, hearts, etc. I loved getting a new ring binder!!

When I was in grade school, the other excitement was a new box of Crayola crayons. There was nothing like the smell of a new box of crayons, and then the first time you got to color with them was magical! I was always very careful with mine as I did not want to break them, unlike many of the boys in my class who seemed to break all their crayons the first week of school.

I also remember being asked by one of my classmates in 3rd grade if she could borrow my crayons as her mother had not yet purchased all her supplies. Wanting to make friends, I happily loaned my new box. When it came back, I was horrified to find that she had broken my blue crayon. My favorite, new, bright blue crayon (not dark blue which was only used for drawings of night and storm clouds, etc.) No, the crayon that I used for the sky, for flowers, for the sea, for rivers, for bluebirds, you get the picture. And after only a few days in school, I was going to be forced for the rest of the year to used a broken crayon for almost all the pictures I would be drawing. Needless to say, our friendship was short-lived!

But I digress. What I want to convey is that I miss the excitement that comes with preparing for the first week of school. My kids do not seem to share it. They are dreading the start of school. They don't want to talk about it. They don't want to sort through clothes and determine what "school clothes" they need. They don't need pencils or crayons or scissors, glue, etc. We have never bought a pack of construction paper. Their crayons are dumped unceremoniously in a plastic box and it does not matter that they are broken and not sharpened. Many don't even have the paper wrapper on them that says the name of the color! And the brand "Crayola" has no meaning to them.

I have a confession. Last year, we happened to be visiting in Texas when they had the "Tax-Free" weekend that is used to encourage "back-to-school" shopping. My kids did not need any school clothes or shoes (and besides our luggage was already getting close to the overweight limit). But I could not resist strolling down the "school supplies aisle" at the local supermarket. And I just had to buy a couple of boxes of Crayola crayons. Of course, my kids did not need them last school year, so they remained in my supply cupboard. But this year, when they have started back to school... (Wheeee!!!)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Don't You Remember...?

This is the third part of a continuing series (Part I, Part II) I am doing for Soap Opera Sunday, sponsored by the beautiful 'Twas Brillig and the fantastic Walking Kateastrophe. Please visit them for more stories to make you laugh, cry, worry, commiserate, reminisce, live vicariously and enjoy reading.

Just a response to those who commented on my last SOS entry. I wasn't "clever" in noticing the books were not consistent, I was imagining myself every month of the year in that hellhole, and trying to see if we closed for holidays so was checking out Thanksgiving and realized there was no November. I wasn't clever, but I do believe I had a guardian angel on my shoulder! Now get out the tissues...


Many of you reading this can probably see what is coming. At the time, I could not.

Back in the busom of my family, I was determined to overcome the setback of the move to California. After two weeks of staying with my Mom, we found a cheap apartment and furnished it with the castoffs from various family members. I went to work as a hostess in a local restaurant, BF usually drove me there and picked me up. He found a job as an assistant manager at a fast-food restaurant. We settled into a typical young couple married existence.

The abuse started slowly, and I didn't really recognize it. It began with comment like "Don't you remember...?" and would involve incidents or things that I had said shortly before or shortly after my car accident. And no, I didn't remember. But BF came up with such convincing descriptions of what had happened or what I had said, that I would nod and agree and store it in my mind as one of the "missing pieces". That the pieces did not really fit with the rest of my memory I just ignored or didn't realize. But they were crucial to the control that BF was gaining over my life.

For instance, when my mother was asking about when I was planning on going back to college and finish my degree, BF chimed in with "Don't you remember, last Thanksgiving you were talking about dropping out? You said that the courses were too hard and you were tired of studying. You didn't seem to think you needed to get a degree in order to get a good job. And besides you were making really good money as a waitress."

My mother looked at me in shock and I said, "Oh yeah, I don't know if I want to go back right now Mom, I'll think about it."

My Mom pressed on, saying, "I'm sure your adviser would be able to help you get started again. I know your accident has shaken you up, but you could start out slow".

"Yeah, maybe," I said.

BF said, "But you were talking about dropping out before your accident, remember?"

I didn't, but I was so sensitive about not remembering I just said, "Well, we can't afford it right now anyway and I don't want to think about it right now." My Mom dropped the subject.

Or on a couple of occasions, he was late picking me up. I waited outside the restaurant patiently.Once,after an hour, as the restaurant was closing, I went in to call him. He wasn't at work. I called home. No answer. I finally called my Mom, and she came to pick me up. I said goodbye to all my co-workers as they were leaving, assuring them that my ride was coming. BF arrived at the same time my Mom did. He was full of concern that I had not called him. But I thought we had agreed that he would pick me at the regular time, which was always the same. And it was just after his work shift and was on his way home. So there was no reason for me to have called him. But he insisted that is what we had agreed, ending his argument with "Don't you remember?" I was angry and embarrassed that this was happening in front of my Mom, and apologized to her for calling, admitting my mistake. BF then hugged me and said he was glad I was okay because he had been worried. But if he had been so worried, why hadn't he called my work? I checked the next day, he never called. But I let it go.

And so it went. Didn't I remember I did not want to talk to my best girlfriend from high school because we no longer had anything in common? Didn't I remember that I was still afraid to drive a car so there was no need to worry about buying a vehicle for me until I overcame that? I couldn't "remember" where I had left the checkbook, so it was better for BF to handle all the finances and he would give me money when I needed it.

My Dad dropped by one day and took me out to a parking lot. He stopped the car and got out and told me to slide over behind the wheel. We took it slow and after a while moved out onto the street. After an hour I was even driving on the highway. I wasn't afraid. I'm not really sure I had ever been. But at least this was not something BF could argue with. So plans were made to buy a car for me. But BF spotted a Dodge van at one of the car lots we visited and decided that I could have his car and he would get the van. When I was not very enthusiastic about this idea, he insisted that I practice driving his car to get the feel of it. It went okay, so this was the plan.

The next day he went to the dealership to start the process of buying the van. As we didn't have a lot of savings, he would have to get a loan. Two days later he got a call, and learned he could not get the loan as he had no credit record. He was furious. The next day, he left without telling me where he was going. He later returned driving the van. He had traded in the car for the van. I was in tears. What about a car for me? He said that I could drive his van and drop him at work sometimes. But we tried. I couldn't drive the van. I had learned to drive a standard car, but was more familiar with an automatic. I could not get the seat close enough to be able to work the clutch properly, and kept grinding the gears. It was not at all comfortable and BF got very impatient with me. I burst into tears again. What about a car for me? He turned on me in a rage. "What's wrong with you? This is a great solution and you just aren't happy? Why can't you understand? You used to be smart? I guess you just aren't anymore."

There it was. He was right. I didn't understand. I did used to be smart. But now I was "damaged" and I didn't deserve anything better. All my own self doubts, as well as those that BF had instilled in me came crashing down. I felt so low and worthless and I just couldn't fight him on anything.

Looking back, I find it interesting that my brain itself was healed a long time before my "mind" was. While I no longer had the memory lapses and was able to think and reason and make decisions for myself, I didn't. I accepted what BF said about me and gave him almost total power over my life. Yes, he was over a foot taller than me and probably outweighed me by about 100 lbs. But he had never graduated from high school while I was only about 3 semesters away from finishing a science degree. However, I let him make me think he was smarter than I was and more capable of making all the decisions affecting my life. And whenever I stood up to him or argued with him, he would get angry and I would be bullied and humiliated into going along with him. Or, if I did something he could not change, I would end up paying a very dear price for it in some way so that I often regretted my defiance.

And so we went along as we were. I got a different job, this time as a waitress at a restaurant that was not too far away from where we lived. The work was hard, but I made good tips and it was a friendly place. When BF failed to pick me up on occasion, I walked home. He would show up later and not say anything about it, as if this is what we had agreed upon.

About a year after we had moved back to Texas, BF changed jobs and started working as a maintenance man at the university that I had been going to. I went with him on days I wasn't working, hanging out at the library or the student center. And the inevitable happened, I ran into my old adviser. He bought me a Dr. Pepper and we talked about what had happened. He was sorry to hear that I was not planning to come back to finish and made a suggestion that I had not considered. "Why don't you just audit a couple of courses? You just sit in the class and listen to the lectures. If the professor lets you, you can do the homework and even take the tests. If it is too hard for you, then you'll see that and there won't be any record of it. I can even talk to a couple of professors for you and you might not even have to pay any fees, just go to the class and see if you are still interested." I told him I would think about it and get back to him. But of course BF didn't think this was a good idea.

I then had an opportunity to get a job working in an office full time. But I couldn't take it because I couldn't always count on BF to bring me and pick me up on time. I mentioned this to my Dad in passing. He showed up the next day to take me to a car dealer friend he knew. There was a very nice car on the lot that I really thought I would enjoy driving. But again, I only had a limited amount of money saved up from my waitress tips and we did not have any real savings in the bank. But I did have a good credit record, so my Dad encouraged me to apply for a loan, and even offered to co-sign for me if I needed it. I got the call the next day, that my credit was approved and I did not need my Dad to cosign! I called my Dad and he came and drove me to the lot and we picked up my new "wheels". BF was not yet home, so I drove over to the office where I had the job offer and talked to the manager. He said I could start next week and even agreed to let me leave early on the days when I needed to work at the waitress job in order for me to give a 2-week notice.

When BF arrived home from work that evening, I was full of news and very proud of myself. I had worked out a budget on how to pay off the car loan and the monthly insurance out of the new full-time salary I would be getting. I would still be bringing in more than I had been waitressing. I thought he would be pleased.

He wasn't. He was furious. How could I make such decisions on my own? What kind of a wife was I? Did I think how it made him look? How was I going to be able to work full time and take care of the house? I couldn't even keep on top of all the work at home just working parttime. Etc., etc., etc. He worked himself into a full-blown rage and was stomping around and yelling. I tried to calm him down and grabbed one of his arms. He shook me off with such force that I fell down. I got mad and said something to him in anger, I don't remember what it was. I do remember looking up at him as I was trying to get up from the floor. His eyes were black with anger. His face was rigid in a grimace of disgust.

And then he kicked me. Hard.

Wanna Laugh...?

I love language jokes. And this one tickles my funny bone on so many levels tht I just have to share!

A Spanish teacher was explaining to her class that in Spanish,
unlike English, nouns are designated as either masculine or feminine.
"House" for instance, is feminine: "la casa."
"Pencil," however, is masculine: “el lapiz."
A student asked, "What gender is 'computer'?"
Instead of giving the answer, the teacher split the class into
two groups, male and female, and asked them to decide for
themselves whether "computer" should be a masculine or a feminine noun.
Each group was asked to give four reasons for its recommendation.
The men's group decided that "computer" should definitely be of
the feminine gender ("la computadora"), because:
1. No one but their creator understands their internal logic;
2. The native language they use to communicate with other computers
is incomprehensible to everyone else;
3. Even the smallest mistakes are stored in long term memory for
possible later retrieval; and
4. As soon as you make a commitment to one, you find yourself
spending half your paycheck on accessories for it.
                            (THIS GETS BETTER !)
 The women's group, however, concluded that computers should
be Masculine ("el computador"), because:
1. In order to do anything with them, you have to turn them on;
2. They have a lot of data but still can't think for themselves;
3. They are supposed to help you solve problems, but half the
time they ARE the problem; and
4. As soon as you commit to one, you realize that if you had waited
a little longer, you could have gotten a better model.
    The women won!!.
And if you haven't seen it, then for a great laugh go and visit the up-and-coming new You-Tube star who also happens to be the first winner of the "Blame" Award. In accepting and displaying her "Blame" bling, she made a hilarious video that surpasses any Saturday silliness I could come up with! Check it out!!

Happy Weekend!!

Friday, August 17, 2007

15 Kid-friendly Space/Astronomy sites

I know, you're probably a wee bit tired of all the space stuff I blog about, but I am passionate about Space/Science/Astronomy/Physics, hence my blog title. So no apologies here, you should have known what you're getting into!! Here are only 15 of my favorite Astronomy/Space sites that are especially kid-friendly. Check 'em out!

1. Solar System Coloring Book This is a 13 page coloring book in PDF format, with pictures and associated information on the Solar System. It covers the Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Asteroids, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto and Comets. Learn about the Solar System and color all its planets at the same time. Ages 6 up.

2. Nine (Eight) Planets Solar System Tour A multimedia tour of the Solar System. My favorite place to start with kids in the astronomy classes I teach! Warning, they can spend hours at this site, I know because I have! Ages 8 & up.

3. Astronomy for Kids Not as extensive as #2, but some fun simple explanations. Under the "Your Page" section, kids can email questions that are answered online. Ages 6 & up, but should be able to read.

4. Greatest Photos from Hubble Space Telescope Some fantastic photos!

5. Astronomy Photo of the Day Every day a new picture. Every day something new to marvel at!

6. Kids Astronomy A little bit higher level but has some fun games. Ages 8 & up.

7. NASA's Kid Site Of course NASA also has a special site for kids and it has great activities, games, contests and info about upcoming launches, etc. Great for budding scientists and astronauts! Ages 8 & up.

8. Starchild for Young Astronomers Another NASA sponsored site, with two different levels. Ages 8 & up.

9. Imagine the Universe! A NASA site for older kids. Ages 14 & up.

10. Space Kids Yet another NASA site, but a bit more technical and science oriented. Ages 10 & up.

11. Amazing Space Along with a short video monthly guide to features in the night sky (mentioned in this blog) this site also offers homework help, simple science experiments and investigations, and great games. Ages 10 & up.

12. Astronomy Unbound More of a site for experienced computer users, but worth the effort for those with a serious interest. Ages 10 & up.

13. Zoom Astronomy Various activities about the Solar System Ages 8 & up.

14. ESA for kids The European Space Agency's kids site. Not as extensive as NASA's but tells about European satellites and activities. Ages 8 & up.

15. BBC Science & Nature: Space In the great BBC style, another site to spend hours exploring. Again for experienced computer users, but some fun games. And the other links on the site to the Science & Nature sites are also great. Ages 10 & up.

What? That's 15 already? Oh well, will save the rest for another post!! Have fun exploring!

If you want to visit other Friday Fifteen entries, check out this site!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Placing the Blame!!

You know the ones we're talking about. Those bloggers with their memes, interviews, contests. You can't stop thinking about it. You keep on entering, or modifying your entry. You think about something else you want to say. You add to what you've written or submit another entry or find yourself tagged yet again for another meme. Or maybe it's a quiz that you can't stop taking. Or a post where the comments are fast and furious and you can't stop checking on what else someone else has said. Suddenly, you find that this whole theme has taken over your thoughts while riding or driving, your quiet time when you should be working, your dreams at night, your blog! We (a self-appointed committee of like-minded bloggers) decided it was time to give credit where it's due and have developed this very special "Blame It On THIS Blog!" Award.

The rules are simple.
1. Sometimes we all want to blame someone. If you know of a deserving blogger, please submit your nomination and reasons for placing the "Blame" to the Award committee: Jenn-in Holland, Soccer Mom In Denial, Jami and myself. No one wants to be "Blamed" for everything, so please limit your reasons for nominating to specific and deserving instances where "Blame" should be given. Recipients of the "Blame" will receive this cool button

they can display on their blog along with their "Mea Culpa" at their own convenience. The Award committee wants to remind all bloggers that they should not be discouraged if their nominee does not get an award the first time as there is plenty of "Blame" to go around and at any future time it may be deservedly placed!.

2. Anyone who has received the "Blame" is also free to pass it on to another blogger, once!

We hope all recipients of the "Blame" award will accept it in the humorous spirit in which is has been conceived!

And now to announce the recipient of this first award, jointly and unanimously determined by the committee:

Yes, Leslie had the brainstorm of "Haiku Buckaroo..." which took over our blogs and comments and literally drove us all crazy (along with many in our vicinity) over the last few weeks. I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this "Blame" and am proud to pass it on to her. (Hope she learns her lesson, but it doesn't look promising...)

Congratulatios Leslie, show your button with pride.

Got anyone else you think deserves the "Blame"? Let us know!!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Wedding Day!

Seems like weddings are the theme of a number of blogs I've been reading, and I should encounter yesterday's heaviness with something light and fun, so here's my Monday Memories story of my wedding (the one I remember and the only one that I think counts --see Soap Opera Sunday for an explanation!)

As DH's parents would not fly to the US if we had held our wedding there, instead I decided to have our wedding in Germany in the town where he grew up. We then would have our honeymoon in the US and have a party with my friends and family. So this is what we did. My parents were more than happy to travel to Germany, and I had friends from the UK who came over as well and an English good buddy (male) that I had met in Munich who spoke passable German and was willing to be my "witness". DH's sister was his witness, and the rest of the wedding party was made up of a couple of his friends from college and their spouses and one of his friends from Munich. As his friends were young couples there were also a couple of young children present. So it was a nice little group that we met up with at the civil service office where marriages are performed. Our ceremony was held late in the morning and we all went afterwards to a nearby restaurant in a park for a long lunch with the traditional speeches and wedding cake. This ended in the early afternoon and then the entire party, minus children, met up for an evening boat cruise along the Rhine river.

The cruise was a standard tourist boat that ran on a regular schedule. We had purchased tickets ahead of time to ensure that we would have space on the boat, thinking that it might fill up and not wanting anyone left out. When we arrived a bit early at the boat, it was to learn that the captain was thinking of cancelling the cruise as there were only 3 other passengers who were booked. I was on the verge of tears, dressed still in my pretty wedding dress, looking radiant and DH in his finery, and all our guests slowly arriving. DH went to talk to the captain and insisted as we had already purchased our tickets and no one had informed us that the cruise might not go ahead. I'm not sure what pressure DH placed on the captain, but I know he was not interested in getting the reputation of ruining a bride's wedding day, and brides are considered to bring luck, so crisis averted!

It was lovely, and very special as we really had the whole boat to ourselves. We took over the dance floor and the DJ was happy to respond to our requests so we had our "bride and groom dance" and I danced with my Dad and my parents were able to put aside their differences long enough to dance together once. They even had a quiet chat together at the back of the boat and I joined them later to hear my Mom ask my Dad, "Did you ever imagine, when she was born, that 30 years later we would be on the Rhine river in Germany watching the sunset?" It's a memory I will always cherish.

As the cruise ended, no one was really in a hurry to leave. I went up the gangplank in order to help encourage people to get off the boat as the crew were looking a bit surly. DH was at the back, helping make sure everyone had everything and gathering up some of our wedding presents. And suddenly, DH's brother-in-law decided to kidnap me!

I should explain, in Germany, a bride on her wedding day is considered something very precious and a great treasure. So it is the new groom's duty to stay by her side all day and demonstrate his ability to protect her. If he is at all negligent in his duty, the bride may be kidnapped by any member of the wedding party and held for "ransom". In general this is more of a tradition in southern Germany, and customarily the best man is given some clue as to the bride's whereabouts, and many others in the wedding party are in on the "crime" so that when the bride is found, usually at a local pub, the ransom is the bar tab that has been run up by all the participants. If the groom is not quick, this can be a pretty steep bill!

So, my new brother-in-law (BIL) bundled me off into a cab with me yelling (playfully) "Help! Help! I'm being kidnapped!" Now the complication here is that this was not planned. It was a spontaneous act by BIL who took the opportunity when he saw it. And as his wife was the "Best (Wo)Man", he figured she would know he was going to his favorite pub which was near to her parent's home. The other complication is that my friends and parents were not aware of this tradition and were upset that they did not get to say goodbye. My Dad was angry and ready to call the police, and it took a lot of explaining and translating to finally get everyone to understand and calm down. When this was done, almost everyone in the party decided to help look for the bride, so they headed off in great spirits.

Now the old downtown area next to the Rhine, in walking distance from where the boat was docked, is known as the "longest bar in the world" as it has literally miles of bars, cafes, and pubs lining the pedestrian area and sidestreets. We are talking over 200! But that did not deter our merry band. They quickly got into the routine of entering a bar, pub, etc. as a group, announcing their quest loudly to the enthusiasm of the establishment's patrons, and of course everyone had to have a round to toast the groom and wish him luck! After about the 6th bar, DH was able to convince the rest of the party to stay put while he made a quick search on his own.

Meanwhile, remember, I was put in a cab, which means I am not within walking distance of downtown! No, we were a rather long cab drive away in a cozy pub where everyone knew my BIL. But, BIL had left his wallet with his wife, so I got to pay the cab fare! He assured me that his wife would know where he was going and that they would be there soon. So I settled into a corner booth near the window, kicking off my shoes (as my feet were really tired) and holding onto the balloons that had been decorating one of the wedding presents. And every time a taxi would pass I would wave the balloons up and down in front of the window to signal to my "rescuers". My BIL was enjoying his status at the bar of the bride's kidnapper. An hour passed and no one came. I looked down and the bar's pet Saint Bernard was ambling away with one of my shoes in its mouth. After recovering my shoe, I convince BIL to make a call to the parents home and see if anyone was there. Sure enough, my parents-in-law had arrived home and were very upset because DH was still looking for me and everyone else was still with him. BIL told them where we were and DH finally called and spoke to him. DH convinced him to bring me back to the rest of the party as there were too many people to try to put into cabs to where we were. So I paid the bar tab (ransom), and the cab fare back downtown where the party was breaking up as the bars were starting to close. I kissed my parents goodnight and finally DH and I were able to head to our hotel for our wedding night.

I still remind DH, on occasion, that he is not my boss and does not own me as I paid for my own bride's ransom. It serves to keep him in line at times!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

A California Adventure

This story is part II of a continuing series I am doing for Soap Opera Sunday, sponsored by the beautiful 'Twas Brillig and the fantastic Walking Kateastrophe. Please visit them for more stories to make you laugh, cry, worry, commiserate, reminisce, live vicariously and enjoy reading.


Why didn't some one stop me? Wasn't it totally obvious to anyone who knew me that this was a train wreck about to happen? Probably it was. But like with a train wreck, there was little anyone could do and they all knew it.

You see, even at 19, I "knew" it all. I was confident and smart and determined and strong-willed and had already proven in a number of instances that I could get what I wanted. So everyone just knew better than to try and talk me out of something that I had already set my mind to. No one really understood I wasn't in my right mind. And everything happened so fast that I think everyone was in shock. But I had already been living away from home for over 2 years and my brothers were both a handful. So my parents had enough to worry about and figured I would be okay. They had never really had to worry about me so were not used to thinking about how wrong this whole situation was. My Dad, bless him, did sit down and have a serious talk with BF, but they ended up laughing and telling good-ole-boy stories and so nothing came of it. My Dad told me many years later that he knew that even if this was a bad idea, I would eventually get my head on straight and get myself out of it. No one had any idea of how bad it would get before that happened.

This was only 3 months after my accident. Although I was, for all outward appearances, "recovered", and the memory lapses were less frequent or I was able to disguise them better, I still cannot remember much about this time. I have one strong memory of sitting in front of my closet, surrounded by boxes and a big trash bag, bawling my eyes out and feeling utterly desperate. You see BF had insisted that I get rid of all of my old love-letters, mementos, pressed flowers, old boyfriend pictures, etc. Ostensibly this was because we were moving and had to pack all our worldly possessions in a small U-Haul trailer. But he was not happy with me packing these things into boxes to store at my Mom's. He was insistent that I make a clean break for the start of our life together. While this seemed like a reasonable declaration of devotion and mild jealousy, it was actually just part of a pattern of controlling me and cutting me off from everything and everyone I had ever loved or who had loved me.

So I remember reading through some of the more precious declarations of affection from several special boyfriends. My first "real" love was prolific and poetic and it took hours just to read through his letters. But I could not bring myself to just throw them away without one more look. So there I was on a long lonely day, while BF was at work and taking care of various errands, reading, crying, wailing, reading more, and throwing away. I was also required to do this for the letters from my girlfriends. In fact, I had to dump a whole scrapbook I had made of my high-school years, keeping only the few photographs. I managed to put them and my high school yearbooks (containing all the messages from friends and schoolmates) in a box of books I was leaving behind at Mom's. I even hid a few tape-recorded letters in with some other music cassettes. By early evening, I had been alone for the longest period of time since the accident. I was emotionally exhausted, had filled 2 trash bags, had 2 boxes of things for my Mom's and no real shred of my past other than a few photographs of my family was to accompany me on my adventure to California. This was how I spent the day before my wedding.

I have no memory myself of the wedding, but have some "created" ones of me in the white halter dress I had worn the previous year to "Senior Day". It was a simple ceremony with just a few family friends, but none of my own, held at my Mom's house with a Justice of the Peace. In Texas, in 1977, you were of legal age at 18. You could drink, vote, sign a contract, get married, serve alcohol, sell cigarettes, etc. In California, most of these "rights" did not kick in until you were 21. BF was 20. I was 19, turning 20 the next month. The only way we could take care of one another while moving to/living in California was if we were married. I guess this was the argument that convinced my Mom about this as it kind of made sense. I can't tell you about the wedding night or much of anything leading up to the move. It is all just a kind of mixed blur of loading boxes and saying goodbyes. I did not know when I would be coming back.

One incident stands out in my mind. It must have been the evening before we were to leave for California. We went to see BF's grandmother who lived 40 min. away. I had met her once before, but she had not really bothered to speak to or notice me. She was a fairly wealthy old widow woman living in a very nice house with a housekeeper. BF and his Mom had told her of all the plans and she had even been invited to our wedding, but did no choose to come. So we came to have dinner with her and say goodbye. She spent most of the time crying and telling BF how it broke her heart to let him go and how her daughter had also made a mistake by marrying young and she hoped he would recover from it without too many problems. The only time she even deigned to speak to me was to inform me that her will was set up in a trust so that no spouses could get control of her daughter's and grandchildren's inheritance and I should just forget about expecting to benefit from anything. What a wonderful "welcome to the family" that was.

So we were off on our grand adventure to build our new life in California. I have a few nice memories of the trip. The Grand Canyon was spectacular. The Petrified Forest seemed like an alien landscape. The drive across Death Valley made me realize how appropriate it was named. California did seem like the promised land after that. Lush and green and lovely. I had an uncle and his family in San Pedro, but BF was anxious to get settled so we went directly to his Mom's place. She lived in a beautiful mobile home community near Ontario, California, about 40 miles East of Los Angeles. She lived with her "boyfriend" (BF's parents were divorced when he was very young) in a "double-wide" trailer that had a guest room for us.

The day after we arrived, we went to see this wonderful restaurant we were about to start managing. I don't know exactly where it was, but it was not too far away in a fairly rural area. Restaurant is not really the right term for it. Cafe might be a better term. Salmonella Haven is what I termed it in my mind. While we had looked over the accounts and it seemed as if this was a really going concern, when we arrived, after the "lunch rush" apparently, it was to find two customers finishing up their coffee, and the owner and his wife were "clearing up" (cleaning is not a word that could or had been used in that place for a long while).

This business was located right next to a very large stock yard. Its main customers were the truckers hauling cattle. Breakfast was served starting at 5AM. As the only eating establishment in the area, it did a booming turnover in eggs, coffee, and toast. Lunch was less busy, which was probably a blessing for the poor waitress/wife who looked run off her feet. The menu was limited as there just was not much call for anything other than simple truck-driver fare in large portions. The "added bonus" was the living quarters that came with the establishment. It was right upstairs with a great view (and unobstructed smell) of the miles of cattle pens and feed lots that surrounded it on all sides.

I won't describe it any further, as it was just one long, horrible, nightmare with goulish details at every turn. Shortly after we arrived I went to the restroom. The restroom. Only one, no male & female. Used by all of the customers who frequented the place. Truckers. I could not even throw up in that toilet. I just grabbed the sink to steady myself, turned on the water and splashed my face, and caught a glance of myself in the mirror and had a moment of clarity that I had not had in months. Every fiber of my being was screaming "No". I could not take it. Not the smell. Not the flies (I didn't mention them, use your imagination, it defies description). Not the accumulated grease and grime. There was no amount of money you could pay me to stay there.

BF, his mother and her boyfriend were busy chattering away with the owner who was bragging about how this was such as great business and how reluctant he was to sell it. As he said those words, I got a glimpse of the look on his wife's face as she stopped wiping down a table to look up at her husband. She was horrified that he might not want to sell and she would be condemned to continue the drudgery that she was in. She then caught me looking at her and a pained expression passed quickly over her face before she turned back to her work.

I don't remember the conversation I had later that evening with BF. I remember a lot of crying and shouting. I remember him getting so angry he turned pale and stormed out. His mother came in later and told me I was crushing his dreams. I told her that if this was his dream, she had failed as a mother to inspire him to improve himself, but that what I had seen had qualified for me as a version of hell I had not dreamed of and did not aspire to. I was eloquent in my righteousness. Mother-in-law's boyfriend joined the conversation trying to show me the books, going over 6 months of accounts to show that this was a "goldmine". I glanced at the papers and immediately noticed that while there were six months of accounts, it was not a continuous period. I pointed this out.

The conversation stopped while they looked at the figures more closely. BF came back and they all got on the phone with the realtor. Later that evening they got the figures for the entire year. It seems the business has some seasonality to it. Only in the months where there were auctions and stock were being transferred did the restaurant do any business. The months in between there were almost no customers. So there was no real income for 4-5 months of the year. Something that had not been fully disclosed, but was stated in the fine print somewhere.

So suddenly all talk about buying a restaurant was dropped. Now we had to think about getting jobs and a place to live. But we were "underage", so could not work in any place that sold alcohol. This included the pizza business where BF had most of his experience. Our choices were limited to McDonalds and other fast-food establishments, with all jobs paying only minimum wages and little or no chance of tips. After 3 weeks with only enough in my savings for airfare home, I informed BF that I was returning to Texas. BF's Mom was urging us to stay, saying she she knew of a place coming up for rent in the mobile home community and there was a groundskeeper job available there that would be perfect for BF. I told BF could come or not, the choice was his, but I was going "home". In a week's time we had again packed up a U-Haul and were headed back to Texas.

I don't know why I said he could come with me. I guess I had barely mustered enough strength to stand up to BF and his Mom about the restaurant and then moving back to Texas. I was suddenly coming to grips with the fact that I had gotten married and I hadn't even really thought about it. I was in a state that did not regard me as an adult, though I had been supporting myself already for 2 years. I had just celebrated my 20th birthday, and no one had even noticed until after a my Mom called congratulating me. I was lonely and confused and for the first time in my life I felt like I had really screwed up something. I had failed. And I was coming back home with my head down and my tail between my legs. I guess I wasn't ready to admit that my marriage was a failure as well.

So when BF decided that his best options were probably also in Texas, I did not object. I was relieved that I was not returning alone, and besides he was a nice guy and seemed to really love me, so maybe it wasn't so bad.

It wasn't then. It was later...

European Heaven & Hell

For today's first "Saturday Silliness", which replaces the "Sunday Funnies" I had started here and here, I continue my attempt to share with you some European humor and give you one of my favorite jokes about Europe. For those of you who have traveled here and are familiar with the stereotypes, you will really understand how funny (and true) this is. Others can hopefully appreciate some if not all of the characterizations.

The Difference Between a European Heaven and a European Hell:

In a European Heaven-
  • The French are the cooks,
  • The English are the police,
  • The Germans are the mechanics,
  • The Italians are the lovers and
  • The Swiss organize everything.

In a European Hell-
  • The English are the cooks,
  • The Germans are the police,
  • The French are the mechanics,
  • The Swiss are the lovers and
  • The Italians organize everything!

Happy Weekend!

Friday, August 10, 2007

15 reasons to Look at the Night Sky During August

1. The warm summer nights make for great viewing. Just bring along the bug spray and a blanket to lay on!

2. The most prominent summer constellation is Sagittarius, the Archer, which in the Northern Hemisphere is seen in the southern sky . Look for the group of stars which seem to form the shape of a teapot.

3. When you are looking at Sagittarius, you are looking towards the center of the Milky Way Galaxy.

4. If you are fortunate to be in a "dark sky" location (meaning little or no light pollution from cities, highways, etc.) then you might notice what appears to be "steam" rising from the spout of the teapot. This is what is known as the Milky Way, the dense band of stars that are part of our galaxy.

5. To the right (West) of Sagittarius is the constellation Scorpio, the Scorpion. This is one of my favorite constellations to spot because it looks so much like its name. If you don't have many trees or buildings blocking the SW horizon, then you should be able to see the tail of the scorpion curled around about to sting! The bright star about where the heart or back of the scorpion would be is Antares and should have a red-orange color. Its brightness and color are similar to how the planet Mars appears in the night sky.

6. Looking up from the South towards overhead, you will see a very bright star. This is Vega in the constellation Lyra. It is one of the brightest stars that we can see.

7. Have you spotted Lyra? Now look to the left (East) about 40 degrees and a little above this star, and you should see another very bright star. This is Deneb in the constellation Cygnus (the Swan, which looks like a cross).

8. Look straight down from this star and you will find another bright star, Altair, in the constellation Aquila (the Eagle).

9. The 3 bright stars Vega, Deneb and Altair make up what is known as the "Summer Triangle". It is not one of the 88 official constellations, but has been used by sailors for navigation in the past.

10. If you want to try spotting a deep-sky object, go back to Sagittarius and look for the small triangle which is the teapot's lid. To the left of the top star in this triangle is a small "fuzzy" object, which looks almost like a cloud. Closer inspection with binoculars will show it is a cloud made up of stars. This is known as a globular cluster. (Use this term to impress your friends!) Whereas most of the stars we see in constellations only appear close to one another, in a globular cluster the stars really are close together. This deep-sky object is one of the brightest and one of the few we can see with the naked eye. And astronomically speaking, it is relatively close, only 10,400 light-years distant (that means it takes 10,400 years for light from this object to reach our eyes!)

11. Jupiter continues to be bright during this month, and appears as the "first star" in the southern sky after sunset. With a small telescope or strong binoculars, you should be able to see a couple of its moons!

12. If you can stay up late, Mars rises in the East after midnight. But the best view of it is early in the morning when it is highest in the sky. Look for a reddish-colored "star" that doesn't twinkle.

13. If you were not able to see the Delta Aquarids last month, my favorite meteor shower is coming up this month. This is the Perseid meteor shower. This shower is caused by the debris or dust from multiple visits of the comet Swift-Tuttle which has been left behind in the path of the Earth's orbit. As this debris enters the Earth's atmosphere, the dust burns up in streaks across the sky that we call meteors. It seem that the meteors are all coming from the constellation Perseus. Best viewing starts tomorrow night, Aug11-Aug14 and it should be spectacular as this year the moon comes up very late on these prime viewing dates.

14. For those of you living in the Americas, Australia and eastern Asia, you have a real treat in store on August 28th. This is the date of a lunar eclipse. Look at the moon during the eclipse period (this will vary depending on your location, but should be announced in the newspaper or on TV), and you should notice that the southern (lower) half of the moon looks brighter than the northern (upper) half. This is because the upper part of the moon passes deeper into the Earth's shadow, while the southern half will still receive light filtered through the Earth's atmosphere. There will not be any real boundary between the lighter/darker areas, but it might appear that the lighter area has a reddish tinge.

15. There is a new episode on "Amazing Space" which shows most of this information and more!

Wishing you fine summer weather, clear dark skies and happy viewing!!
If you want to visit other Friday Fifteen entries, check out this site!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Important Space News!

Late yesterday afternoon, NASA launched another space shuttle, STS-118. Now I know a lot of news has been about Barbara Morgan (the elementary teacher who was a back-up for Christa McAuliffe) who is finally getting an opportunity to go up in space after a delay of 20+ years. She will do some in-space teaching, but not a lot which is a real shame. Especially in light of the recent news about American test scores: US eighth graders in 2003 ranked 14th in math (just beating out Lithuania's kids) and ninth in the world in science, making it difficult for us to continue considering ourselves world leaders in this field.

Still, Ms. Morgan is performing a vital role in operating the robotic arm which will be used in helping assemble new components being added to the International Space Station. If you happen to catch any of her reports from space, be sure and give a thought/say a prayer for those former colleagues of hers who lost their lives on the last Challenger mission.

This shuttle mission starts the ramp up of an ambitious schedule of launches where the primary mission is to complete the assembly of the space station. The second mission after this one (scheduled for launch in December) will (finally) see the implementation of the European and Japanese lab modules which will enable the station to do a large number of space experiments which have been on hold for many years. The ISS assembly is supposed to be completed by 2010.

This will then mark the retirement of the space shuttle. I think of this as the bad news. It means that the US will only be able to get its astronauts to and from space by "hitching a ride" on a Russian Soyuz rocket. This will be the case for at least five years until the first flight of the new Orion crew exploration vehicle in 2015. We can only hope that this loss of US space flight capability will be only 5 years.

The good news is that the number of women participating in the space program in various functions is now so high that it is almost taken for granted. It's considered no big deal! I think that's awesome, but I also think it is a bit of an accomplishment, so I just want to point out some things to cheer about:

In October, NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson will take off on a Russian Soyuz rocket to become the first female commander of the international space station. It's planned that 2 weeks after that, Pam Melroy will command the next shuttle assembly mission. These days, according to NASA Administrator Mike Griffin, when you look at any of the shuttle flight crews and their support teams, there's a "plethora" of women engineers, pilots, operators and technicians including working members of the flight team and in many cases senior members of the team. Griffin also has a woman deputy, a woman associate administrator for aeronautics and a woman deputy associate administrator for science. Women are working at all levels of NASA these days and it is hardly ever commented on. Isn't that just how it should be?!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

8 interesting things (Meme)

I was tagged some time back for this meme. I am not really a "player" and most of my blogfriends have either already played this a number of times or not players either. So I am being arbitrary and refuse to tag anyone. (Maybe this is why my sandbox is so empty?!). But as I am in the current mode of disclosure on "Soap Opera Sundays", I thought I would go ahead an play this meme. It is supposed to be "8 interesting facts about yourself". I'm not sure if these are really interesting, but I consider them "chinks in my armor". For those of you who know me in person, you may be in for a few surprises (eg. I am not all that perfect and I actually know it!)

1) I overuse my favorite punctuation mark, the elipsis mark(...) which I use to signal a pause or a deliberately unfinished sentence. It just seems to fit how my brain works...!

2) I am on my second marriage. First one was when I was 19 (first indication that I wasn't in my right mind) and the wedding was held 3 days after the decision to marry was made (second indication), and was immediately followed by a move to California where I was not legally an adult (this was one of the reasons we decided to get married). The real proof however that I was not in my right mind is that it occurred while I was still suffering from the after effects of a double concussion and was not completely over the traumatic amnesia that came with it. For full disclosure, see this post!

3) The first marriage I was a battered wife. For full disclosure of this, watch for an upcoming "Soap Opera Sunday" post!

4) I have a phobia about spiders. I'm talking the screaming terrors. I have learned to remain relatively calm around "Daddy long-legs", meaning that I can stay in the same room with them as long as the room is not too small, the door remains open, and the spider doesn't move. Otherwise, like my reaction to all other spiders, I run terrified and screaming. My pulse rate shoots up so high that it is a wonder I don't go into fibrillation on the spot. The adrenalin aftershock following an encounter is so strong that I will literally shake uncontrollably. I cannot even stand to look at pictures of spiders. And I consider it a feat of real bravery that I was able to read aloud "Charlotte's Web" to my daughter's class, though admittedly it was only one-two chapters per week! I have not and likely will not see the movie.

5) I have fibromyalgia. It took years, countless doctor visits, enough blood samples to satisfy a vampire, and serious thoughts of suicide before I ever got a diagnosis. But there is no cure and few medications that help. Only relief I have found has been in regular, controlled, exercise, 3 times a week, 3 hours a session. But when I am in a "flare" I can hardly move which leads to a vicious cycle.

6) I have not been exercising regularly due to a cycle of flares (part of the reason I started blogging). At times I can hardly move and even typing is a struggle. This week my left hand is acting up and I can't believe all the typos (please forgive those I haven't caught).

7) When I am struggling with the pain, depression and tiredness that typically accompany a flare, I sabotage myself even further with my eating habits. I'm just too tired and lethargic to cook and resort to fast foods, junk foods and even drive-thru. And I supplement these with Coca-cola (can't get good Dr. Pepper here) and chocolate in various forms. I know better, but at times am just out of control and don't care. It just hurts.

8) As a result of no regular exercise, #7 above, and the fluid retention that is another symptom of the disease, I have gained over 5 kilos in the last 3 months. I may actually weigh more than my husband, but please don't tell him that. But the good news is that I have made a start at exercising again, am eating better (hubby has cooked the last week) and I hope I can get back into my routine.

So that's fulfilled (somewhat) my meme obligation with the exception of passing it on. As I said, I am not a good player. But if you want to play, even if you want to do a modified version, then consider yourself tagged! Let me know if you are playing and I will link to your post!

Monday, August 6, 2007


For those of you new to this blog, the "Soap Opera Sunday" series I am currently writing relates to events in my life 30 years ago. This "Monday Memories" series involves events from around 20 years ago that have lead up the current ex-pat chaos that is my life these days! The other days of the week I blog about more current issues, thoughts, etc.

My grandfather joined the US Navy during WWI when he was 20 and served as a "Fireman" who helped stoke the steam engine on the USS Alabama. His son, my uncle, was drafted into the US Army in WWII and served in various parts of Europe. My father was 4F due to a bad break in his arm which limited some of his mobility so he could not join his brother and friends who were serving. During the Allies' big push into Europe, my grandfather listened to the radio every evening after working on the farm. Finally he could not stand it any more and after a conversation with my grandmother, who agreed that she and my father could take care of the farm, my grandfather went to the nearest Army recruiting station to sign up. While the recruiter was polite, he tried to explain to my grandfather how important it was that farm production be kept up and that this was a vital war effort. My grandfather said that was already taken care of and he wanted to serve like his older son was in the European theater. The recruiter smiled and said that because of his health that the Army could not take him. My grandfather promptly offered to arm-wrestle the recruiter who was obviously not going to take up the challenge with a man who had been doing manual labor in all the various Texas weather conditions for the previous 20 years. Finally the recruiter admitted that it was due to my grandfather's age. "What about my age? You can see that I'm perfectly healthy and fitter than many of your younger recruits." The recruiter agreed, but said, "Yes, sir, but your teeth..." My grandfather already had a partial upper dental plate. But he was adamant. He replied, "Son, I want to go over there and shoot the Germans, not bite them!"

Needless to say, he was not successful in his attempts to join up.

Flashback 19+ years ago
When I was planning to get married, my father was concerned as to how my grandmother would feel, especially as his Dad and brother had both been in service during wars with the Germans. He finally got the courage to broach the subject with her and asked her how she felt about me marrying a German.

"Well," she replied,"I've got one granddaughter married to a Brazilian, I've got a grandson who has turned Mormon and married a Chinese gal, I've got another grandson who is married to a Mexican gal, and a granddaughter who is married to a Yankee. I guess another foreigner in the family is not gonna hurt anything."

Its good to know that my husband was not considered any more "foreign" than a Yankee or a Mormon!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Hydroplaning while in Life's Fast Lane

This is my first entry into "Soap Opera Sunday", courtesy of 'Twas Brillig and Walking Kateastrophe. I caution you dear readers, it is a bit heavy compared to my usual fare. If you don't want heavy, go to one of the other SOS entries, I'm sure you'll find something more to your taste. And come back here for Monday Memories and a bit more light-hearted look at my life. But if you are sticking with me, get out your popcorn and tissues for (Cue deep voiced announcer) Soap Opera Sunday (Cue music, fade out)

I was well on the road to success, working to finish my junior year of college, very good grades, majoring in Physics with a minor in Math. I was in great physical shape, having succeeded in earning a nomination as one of the first women to the Air Force Academy. I turned it down, but it was great to finally achieve something I had been working towards for so long. When the US Guv'mnt finally realized that women could be an asset and not a burden in their precious military, I was two years further in my college career and NASA had already determined to use more civilians in its astronaut corps. As I wanted to be a scientist and not a glorified bus driver (pilot), there was no reason for me to continue along the military path. I was breaking through enough barriers in the science world. My paying jobs were teaching in the astronomy labs and working as a waitress for a pizza restaurant chain. The waitress job paid pretty well when you included the tips I could earn.

My "love life", at least what one has at age 19, was basically on hold. My serious high school love had moved back East to college 2 years before and had decided he needed to focus on his school work and not a long distance relationship. Our mutual best friend was at the Air Force Academy and was disappointed I was not joining him but interested in eventually taking our friendship to another level since the way was now open. I was dating several guys, none really seriously, but one more for convenience. He was a manager at the restaurant chain where I worked and occasionally would call me in to fill in for one of his waitresses. As we shared a lot of the same hours and even worked sometimes at the same restaurant, it was convenient. Especially as my school load was pretty heavy and I did not really need romance or complications. Good-buddy sex was fine, even if it wasn't so good.

This was how my life had been going for a couple of months. Then on a cold December morning I was asked to open up a restaurant that was a half-hours drive away. It wasn't that early, but there wasn't much traffic on the road. However, the temperature was just above freezing and in Texas you get a condition on the roads known as "black ice". The night temperature drops so that the humidity freezes out of the air and covers the road. However, the black road surface is still warm and melts the frozen water drops back to water which then fills all the cracks and leaves a thin film. As the temperature drops further and the road heat radiates away, the water freezes in some patches. But it is not everywhere and it is not obvious. The first cars traveling over the road hit a surface where there is absolutely no traction. The highway department had made an effort to reduce this phenomenon by carving grooves in the highway. But it had not yet gotten around to re-carving the surfaces that had seen repairs during the summer.

So you see the set-up. I in my station wagon, traveling only 40 mph on the 65 mph highway,leaving plenty of space between myself and other cars, thought I was being safe. I did not see the ice. My only consolation is that many other drivers that same day did not see such patches. Ambulance drivers had a very busy day. Now the rest of the story is not something I "remember", but something that is created from memory flashes and from what has been pieced together by the police and eye witness accounts and what has been told to me by others.

I was traveling in the far left lane on the three lane highway. The road grooves ended just before an underpass. My car hydroplaned when it hit the ice. The back end fishtailed to the right. I let off the gas and steered into the swerve, just as I had been instructed in driver's ed. I got the car under control in the middle lane. Almost. There was more ice and the car continued with the rear end swinging around to the left in a slow circle. It crossed the remaining lane of traffic and continued in a sideways slide until it hit the third bridge support on the right hand side. The car hit the concrete pillar so that it left an impression of the tire and fender paint that could be seen for several years later. The impact tore the car completely in half, separating it at the firewall. The engine and front end of the car went around one side of the pillar, then continued back across the highway coming to rest in the fast lane. The back end of the car, with me in it, continued around the other side of the pillar, sliding along the shoulder of the highway and at some point ejecting me out of the front door so that I landed on my back in the gutter at the side of the road.

I was apparently conscious the whole time. When witnesses ran up to me to see if they could help, I was lucid enough to give my name and my Mom's phone number as well as my work's number and boyfriend's (BF) name and number. The ambulance had been called. I do remember looking up at the faces peering down at me and realizing that they thought I was going to die. I don't remember being in any great pain but I was very cold and soaked to the skin. This is one of the last memories I am sure of for the next 3 months. No one else was hurt in the accident. The ambulance arrived and medics checked me out carefully. I did not have a scratch, though I was bleeding from some places where my hair had been torn out. I was obviously going to have some bruises, I was very cold and likely entering shock. But I had no broken bones, I was coherent and conversing with them, I had no obvious internal injuries, my blood pressure was good, and they had six other calls lined up after me. I did not want to go to a hospital that was an hour's drive away from my Mom's house. My BF had been reached and was on his way. The police were on scene and agreed to let me stay in their car. I was released with the promise to go immediately to my own doctor (who operated from a small hospital in the town my mother lived in). The ambulance team went on its way to the next emergency.

I waited in the car with the police who were filling out the accident report. Apparently when the were asking me questions I got upset and started crying, asking if I was going to get a ticket! I had never had a ticket and was very distressed. One of the officers said that since I had not done any real damage to the bridge and no one else was involved and it was clear that I had not been speeding, he did not see any reason to cite me this time, but I had to promise not to do it again! It must have been rather comical as by then the first tow truck had arrived to remove the front end of my car and sweep up the debris. There was some conversation with the tow truck driver who asked how many had been killed in the accident. I know these guys must have had a great laugh out of my worries about a ticket as they were only too ready to share the story with BF when he arrived.

When he had been called he was only told that I had car trouble. My Mom could not be reached and my work was told I had been in a car accident and would not be coming in. BF arrived to see the back end of my car being towed away. He was only too ready to take me to the hospital when he finally realized I was safe in the police car. He drove me to the town where my Mom lived and by then I really was in shock as I could not tell him where we were or where to go anymore. My brain had started to swell and I was not able to communicate any more. Somehow he found the clinic and they rushed to get full body X-rays. Apparently it was only in the hall outside the X-Ray room that they realized I smelled like gasoline. I was stripped naked in the hall, rubbed down with some sort of cleaner, and put in a gown. It happened so quickly that BF was surprised at the brisk treatment I received from the two nurses and X-ray technician. But of course this was a hospital where people were on oxygen. And the gasoline soaking into my skin was also not healthy!

No broken bones, but my skull had a slight fracture and evidence of at least 2 concussions! And lots of bruising all over my body. But not a scratch! Later when we looked at the car, there were chunks of my hair wrapped around the window crank in the back seat. I should tell you I was not wearing a seat belt (a lap belt for that age car). It probably saved my life, on of the rare instances where a seatbelt was not a help. The steering column had been shoved up to within 2 inches of the front seat. Although I was thrown around inside the car and ejected out of the door that had been popped open, I had not been pinned by the steering column to the car seat, my legs were not crushed along with the floorboard, and in truth I was lucky to be alive, lucky to have no worse injuries, lucky in so many respects.

But luck does have its price. I had a serious short-term memory loss. I did not know BF, I knew friends and family but only scattered memories of the prior 3 months. I did not remember the apartment I lived in or my own phone number. And every day I woke up I did not know where I was or why I was there. Needless to say I was kept for observation for a few days. And then I caught pneumonia and was very seriously ill before the doctors realized it. My only real memory of the hospital was looking out at my mother through the plastic of an oxygen tent and hearing my own breathing making rattling sounds in my chest.

After a week I was "ambulant". But I could not be left alone. I still had serious memory problems and was easily confused and frustrated by the world around me. The doctors said this was temporary and would slowly improve, but there was little more than time that could provide the healing. I guess I should say something about my family situation. My parents were divorced, in fact twice from each other (a separate Soap Opera blog in itself). My mother was in the middle of writing her thesis for her Masters Degree in English as well as holding down a full-time job. My two brothers were in their junior and sophomore years in high school. There was no one "home" to look after me and I could not be left alone.

So BF volunteered to look after me. He moved into my apartment (it was cheaper and better than his), and I went to work with him, sitting in the restaurant reading books and magazines (I think). One time when we were at the apartment together, I went to take out the trash and got lost. You need to realize it was a very small apartment complex, only 20 units. But I could not find my way back and could not figure out what to do. So I just sat down and waited. Eventually BF came looking for me. As you can see I was in bad shape. I resigned from the university. Even thought my grades had been excellent, I could not remember the classes I had been taking. I had notes and papers in my handwriting, but I could not recall any of the lectures. I did not even recognize the teachers, with the exception of my guidance counselor whose class I had the previous year. It was very strange and rather sad. But everyone thought I would be back within a year.

But life's hydroplaning was not over for me, as I was to learn a couple of months later. You see BF's mom lived in California and she had come across a "fantastic deal" on a restaurant that was for sale. She was willing to put up the funds for BF to come and run the restaurant. I should tell you more about BF. While he was born in Texas, he had lived from a very young age in Hawaii. He had never graduated from high school. He had read one book in his life and that was "Jaws". He was a 6' 3", well built, friendly, easy-going, nice guy. Everyone liked him and he had been in the restaurant business for 4 years, even managing a pizza restaurant in Guam. His big dream was to run his own restaurant and here it was being handed to him. It was not something he could pass up. So after 10 days of discussion and long distance phone calls, he decided to move to California.

By this time, I was better, but was so dependent on BF that I could make no decisions on my own. I did not drive, but then I no longer had a car. I went everywhere with him. I had not been alone since my accident. And after a few incidents of getting lost and confused my whole confidence in my abilities to do anything was non-existent. I was not the same person I had been prior to the accident. I no longer had any conversations with friends. I saw no classmates and only a few colleagues from work who had known me before. At this point I should have had some sort of therapy, but it seemed like I was coping very well. What I did not know is that BF was keeping a lot of things from my Mom, so she was unaware of how dependent I was on him. She was also so busy with my the teenage crises my brothers were in and her own pressures from college and working as junior high teacher. She did not know what was going on with me. No one did.

So it came as a great shock to her when I showed up at her school at lunch to announce that I was getting married and moving to California. This was on Monday. We got married on Wednesday. We moved to California on Saturday....