Sunday, December 31, 2006

Being Merry and Bright

I've enjoyed the holidays this year. Low key, laid back, spent primarily with my parents. No pressure, getting to do whatever we've wanted to do, great meals, lots of laughs. I sure missed seeing Matt, Shana and the girls - especially those little girls - but I've felt fairly peaceful and have (thankfully!) avoided any serious holiday blues.

I'm happy to report that apparently the gifts I gave Macy and Ruby were big hits. I gave Mason Grace a toy horse - who she named Strawberry - about 18 inches tall, with all of the accessories and acoutrements she needs. That little imp has loved horses from day one. I also got her a doctor's kit that I'm sure she will turn into a vet's kit to keep Strawberry healthy. Ruby Kate got a little baby doll with bottles, a bassenette, and a high chair and I guess she just loves it all.

It's always fun to get presents, whether you're 2 or 39. Even though we said we were only going to give each other one gift each, it didn't seem to turn out that way. On the fun factor scale, the karaoke machine dad gave mom was the biggest hit. Mom and I put on some fantastic shows, for sure. I found a website that sells karaoke cds for .99 cents, so anticipate we'll have quite a collection before too long. We're going to become those women who have their "signature" songs and we will be BENT if someone else sings them. I think I'm going for Delta Dawn...or maybe the theme song from The Jeffersons. Oh yeah...

I'm loving a few gifts that were given to me. I was totally tricked on one gift - when I opened it I saw it was a lovely James Avery wooden box so I naturally became quite animated, assuming it would be holding an equally lovely piece of James Avery jewelry. I hadn't guess it would really have a necklace made out of paper clips and green tape found in an antique store inside! That one got me pretty good. Thinking that was the end of the joke, I was thrilled when later on I opened another box that turned out to really be the James Avery bracelet I have been coveting. Love it! Completely surprised.

I also received a righteous collection of Archie and the Gang juice glasses. They are so sweet. From the ages of about 10 until 15 I was addicted to Archie Comic Digests. Mom would let me get one just about every month and I would devour it, primarily while eating cereal in the morning before school. Archie in my left hand and my spoon in my right hand was how it went with me and Archie.

Jelly came in these vintage glasses in the early to mid 1970's and I'm now the proud owner of 6 of them. Apparently there are 12 in the series, so I'll be on the look out for others, for sure. Groovy.

My stocking was full of good stuff, too, but I think my favorites would be the stubby hammer and my magnet with Jesus saying "You must be guilty of something".

As I look down at my feet, I'm reminded that one the greatest presents I've ever received was three years ago when I got Dot. Who knew that I would find my dog at the Brownwood, Texas pound for $20, which I was refunded when I submitted proof that she got her shots!

I'll take down the tree tomorrow and Christmas will come to an end. So on this New Year's Eve, I wish all of you and yours a happy, healthy and special 2007. And peace on Earth, good will toward men...

Friday, December 29, 2006


One of my coworkers gave me a little bottle of Asti champagne for Christmas. Last night I stuck a straw in the bottle and drank the sparkling wine, wishing I had about three more of those little guys. I do love champagne.

I spent my 22nd birthday in France, living in the small town of Chambery, boarding at the home of Madame and Monsieur Michelle Lefebvre. They were nice people, older, fairly well-off and just about as stereotypically French as you can imagine – they loved their cheese, their crusty bread and their wine, they were slightly aloof, and they just knew that their country was the most beautiful in the world.

For the most part, I enjoyed living in their home but it was frustrating not being able to have many meaningful conversations, given that I spoke only basic French and they spoke no English at all. We spent many a dinner conversation speaking very slowly, drawing pictures on a small chalk board and playing charades all in an effort to tell the most basic of stories. Sometimes it was too exhausting and we would just eat quietly.

Every now and then, one of their grown children would visit for the weekend and they spoke excellent English. Acting as interpreters, they helped the Lefebvre’s and me communicate in more complete thoughts other than “good morning” and “good night”, which helped us bond more closely.

Back to the evening of my 22nd birthday.

Madame Lefebvre made a wonderful French country dinner of lapin aux prunes (stewed rabbit and raisins in wine – truly divine) with crusty bread and wonderful cheeses. And the red wine was flowing.

Actually, the red wine flowed freely every night for Monsieur Lefebvre…and it drove Madam Lefebvre to distraction. On about his fourth glass, she would begin tsking him and by the time he uncorked the second bottle of the night, she was full-on chastising him. Knowing that I didn’t understand much French, I guess she felt like she could say these things in front of me. But he would just do that thing that ALL French people do – make that noise with their mouths that sounds like a combination of a pop and a harrumph – and dismiss her as he downed his next glass of the grape. By the end of dinner his nose and cheeks would be bright red and he would be looking less dour and more jovial.

Madam Lefebvre enjoyed her drink, as well, but she would dilute her wine half and half with water, which I found odd. I wasn’t much of a drinker then, so I rarely had wine, usually sticking to water.

But on my 22nd birthday, I was having some wine and we were enjoying a pleasant night. They were trying so hard to make me special and we were all working to try understand each other. Monsieur Lefebvre had Madame Lefebvre in stitches because he was playing a very animated game of charades with me, trying to get me to fully understand his Albanian war story he was telling me (he was some high rank in the French military back in his younger days).

When we were well into the course of the evening, from out of the blue, Monsieur Lefebvre looked at Madam Lefebvre and said, “Helene….le champagne!”. She looked at him with surprise and he repeated, even louder this time, “Le champagne!” And he pounded his hand on their beautiful rustic table to emphasize his point. She had this look of comic disbelief and amazement on her face when she replied, “Non, Michelle, pas le champagne!; Non, non, non”. He just looked at her with this crazy little schnokered grin and said, “Si. Le Champagne!”. There was a moment of silence as the two just stared at each other, then Madame Lefebvre relented with a tiny, coy Mona Lisa smile and said, “Une moment, c’il vous plait…”. She got up, left the table and I saw her walk down the stairs into their root cellar.

I was so confused. Obviously, I knew that all Michelle had said was “The champagne” and those two words shocked Helene.

As I saw Madame come up from the cellar with a bottle in her hands, it began to make sense. She was holding a big, black, beautiful bottle that was covered in dust with cobwebs stringing off the neck. She was cradling it like a baby. This was obviously a prized bottle of bubbly that they had been saving for a very special occasion, like the wedding of their first daughter or the christening of their first grand child. I can totally understand Madame’s concern about Monsieur wanting to pop it open in honor of the odd American girl living in their basement!

When she placed it on the table, she said, “Michelle…Lori….le champagne!”. But it sounded like this…use your best PePe Le Peu accent… “Meeeshell….Lowreee…..le champania!” She had a big smile on her face and Monsieur Lefebvre stood up, clicked his heels and saluted! That rendered them both helpless as they were caught up in a huge case of the giggles.

They had been saving this bottle for years. For who knows how many years. They took great pains in explaining this champagne to me….telling me about the vineyard and the grapes and what made it so extraordinary…and I only caught a tiny bit of what they were actually saying, but I knew it had great importance to them. I was in such awe. I so wish I could remember the vintner, but alas, I don’t.

Monsieur fondled that bottle as if he was caressing his lover’s thigh, before he finally popped the cork. It made a big pop and Madame Lefebvre clapped and he poured us all a sparkling flute full. They handed me my glass and they each took theirs, then Monsieur Lefebvre took my other hand, lifted it to his lips and gave it a little kiss before saying, “Bon Fete Mademoiselle Lowree. Avec pleasiere…”, then Madame Lefebvre, who was just beaming at me, said “Salute Lowreee” and we clinked our glasses and drank the wine.

It was delicious.

Even with my unsophisticated pallet and general dislike for wine at that time, it was delicious. I have nice memories of sitting at that table well into the evening draining that big bottle of champagne and trying to tell stories.

I was honored that they gave me something they prized so much. Even though it had originated as a tipsy gesture from Monsieur, I could tell that in the end they were pleased they had shared this special part of the French experience with me.

Here's to the Lefebvres of Chambery, France!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

The humor of public humiliation is the gift that keeps on giving, isn’t it? Thanks to the beauty of You Tube and such, you can capture and share an awkward moment for everyone to enjoy for years to come. There are some real classics out there.

Here is a video that has made the rounds on the internet showing various moments of embarrassment, poor judgment, and some good old fashioned stupidity, all set to a little musical soundtrack. It’s not the funniest I’ve ever seen, but some of them are pretty good.

Lord knows, the soundtrack accompanying the public gaffs of my life would be a multi-CD box set. In my mind, the song accompanying the following story is always Javert’s suicide lyrics he sings just before jumping off the bridge into the swollen river in Les Miserables. A fitting tribute to a moment when I just wanted the earth to open up and swallow me whole.

I was in college and my best friend Steve, and I, had tickets for Les Mis to see the original international cast that was traveling through Denver. Gary Morris played Jean Valjean and his liquid smooth voice and crystal clear amazing tenor range held me mesmerized throughout the entire production. I was enthralled by the performance and it didn’t even matter to me that I had to sit through the three hours with my head perfectly vertical because if I leaned back at all I would knock into the sloped wall that was right behind me. We were, quite literally, in the last row of the enormous Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

For what we lacked in good theater seats we made up for in presidential parking. Steve had scored a perfect parking spot directly in front of the theater. As we left, there were still hundreds of people milling around the stage door near the main entrance when we got in the car to leave.

But Steve’s car wouldn’t start.

He drove an old beater and it just couldn’t get going that night. As luck would have it, we were parked facing the direction we needed to drive and the street was slightly sloped downward. Steve figured that there was enough of an incline that if we got the car rolling, he could pop the clutch and get it started, after which he would make the block and come back around and pick me up.

Sounded like a fine plan…until he asked me to help him push the car. Granted, I’m a big, strong girl and all, and could have easily broken spindly little Steve in two, but for the love of Broadway, I was all dressed up for the big show, wearing white from head to toe!

After enough cajoling, I finally said I’d do it. I went around back and pushed from behind while Steve pushed from the driver’s side door. We needed a break in the on-coming traffic so we waited until they were at the stop light just a mere half a block behind us. On Steve’s mark we start pushing like he-men since we had only a short time before the light would turn green again.

We got the car out into the middle of the street and it started to pick up speed. With the agility of an antelope, Steve leapt in the drivers seat and I continued pushing from the rear of the car.

Then, at the exact moment that Steve popped the clutch, started the car and roared away, the elastic in the waist of my skirt broke and my skirt fell completely to the ground in a millisecond.

Because I was pushing the car, I was running, so to avoid tripping over the skirt that was now at my ankles, I instinctually leapt out of it…and one shoe…and kept moving forward as I slowed to a stop about 10 feet from where my skirt and shoe were laying on the street behind me.

I was standing by myself in the middle of the street basically naked from the waste down.

That’s right – I was not wearing undies - only nude colored nylons. Because my skirt was a white flimsy material, I didn’t want underwear showing through so I just put on those nylons that have a “panty” at the top, but let’s just say that they don’t offer much coverage and they leave very little to the imagination.

It’s like time stood still because I was in such shock.

There were HUNDREDS of fans waiting at the stage door not twenty feet from me who erupted into applause and cheers. The red light had turned green so there were two lanes of on-coming traffic HONKING with their headlights shining right at my naked bottom half. I was truly a deer caught in headlights. I hobbled as quickly as I could on the one shoe that remained on my foot back towards my skirt that was laying in the dirty street like a puddle of white foam. I grabbed the skirt and shoe as cars WERE MAKING THEIR WAY TOWARD ME. They didn’t event let me get to the sidewalk!

I finally ran/hobbled to the side of the street, holding my skirt and shoe in my left hand, frantically waving my right hand from front to back as I was indecisively trying to shield both my naked front and back girl parts right as Steve rounded the corner to pick me up.

As he drove toward me, his eyes popped out of his head like they do in cartoons when there is an “AH – OOOOO- GA” horn blasting in the background. For a moment I feared that he might just keep driving.

Steve had been so focused on pop-starting the clutch that he hadn’t seen any of this going on in his rear view mirror. He left me for two minutes to make the block and drove up to find me naked in the street waiving my shoe around and screaming “OHMYGOD”! I can only imagine what he must have thought at the sight of it all.

Luckily he stopped, and I jumped in COMPLETELY MORTIFIED. Horns were still honking and people cheering as we drove out of sight. Because he’s like that, Steve honked his horn as we were driving away and held his hand out the window in the thumbs up position.

I was so stricken and Steve was laughing so hard that it didn’t dawn on my for about fifteen minutes that I still hadn’t put my skirt back on. I somehow managed to do so even though I had to clutch the waistband where the traitorous elastic had broken.

My only wish is that we had video taped the moment so that strangers could share my humiliation by posting it in their blogs!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Start Spreading The News....

I’m a big fan of Dooce’s web site. She’s a great writer and her humor rings so true with me. Dooce’s entry about her recent experience with a New York cab driver made me laugh hard because it was so familiar.

When I graduated from high school mom and dad gave me a trip to New York. I was beyond excited having never been there before, and I had so many romanticized images in my head of what New York would be like. Having only been out of Helena, Montana for two years, living in a suburb of Denver, I was pretty naïve and green as a gourd when it came to the big city and traveling.

Mom came with me. Landing at La Guardia was awesome, flying over Manhattan, seeing Central Park and the Statue of Liberty from the sky. I was so excited.

We somehow managed to find our way to one of the shuttles that took us from the airport to Grand Central Station. My memories of that shuttle ride over the bridge are kind of muddy because I was so excited as we arrived at the giant train station.

With the clarity of hindsight and experience now on my side, it’s easy to say that mom and I were so dumb. Dumb in that innocent, country-come-to-town kind of way. We knew that our hotel, the lovely St. Moritz, wasn’t too far away, but with all of our luggage, our general anxious excitement, and not being sure where we were, we thought it would be better to take a cab and just get settled in our room before adventuring out and walking the streets.

Outside we were immediately approached by Archie Bunker, the original Yat from Brooklyn, who basically grabbed our suitcases and told us his cab was “right over here” - he’d get us where we needed to go. As we approached his “cab” we saw that it was really an old, woodie station wagon like the Brady Bunch had. Hmmm… Mom and I sort of looked at each other with suspicion, but because those were the good old days when we were sweet and polite and our mid-western sensibilities would have precluded us from ever being rude to someone, we just got in.

Dumb, dumb, dumb. Even WE knew that New York cabs were supposed to be yellow! But we got in Archie Bunker’s station wagon and headed off.

The guy was nice to us, acting as tour guide pointing out Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s and other notable landmarks, for the 6 BLOCK RIDE to our hotel. Literally, we could have walked so easily, but who knew we were that close!

Archie Bunker pulls up ACROSS from the hotel entrance – not near the door like the YELLOW CABS were doing – but across the way, basically in the middle of the street. Then the guy says, ever so non-challantly, "that will be $40 A PIECE PLUS BAGS." What? It took a minute for this to soak in. We had only gone 6 blocks and this extortionist wanted $80 PLUS A TIP from us! And these were 1985 dollars! This was a virtual fortune and a huge portion of our fairly limited budget! I was panic stricken. Poor mom tried to protest, but Archie Bunker all of a sudden turned into JOHN GOTTI right before our eyes and repeated, less friendly this time, that it was $40 A PIECE PLUS BAGS. Mom sort of gulped hard, gave him the money, we jump out and had to pull our own bags out of the trunk as Archie Bunker SPED OFF back to rip off other poor, gullible saps who just stepped off the boat.

We had been had. We hadn't been in Manhattan 10 minutes and had already been ripped off!

There was a garbage collectors strike in the City during our visit, so we had to take our lives into our hands, cross the street with our bags, and work our way around the ENORMOUS pile of garbage in front of the door before finally getting inside. At long last, and what felt like $50 in tips later, we made it to our room and were so relieved to just be out of the hustle and bustle that we sat there kind of shell shocked for awhile.

Then the righteous indignation started to flow. I was SO MAD at that guy and I went over and over what I SHOULD have said to him and what I WOULD have said to him and how can he live with himself preying on innocent victims and what a jerk!

We eventually managed to let it go enough to venture out and start exploring the city. In the end, Mom and I really did have fun. We took in Broadway shows, we went to China town, we walked thousands of miles, we visited the iconic landmarks, we ate at a real New York deli, we bought trinkets that said “I heart NY”. And wherever we went, there were one million people there with us. Seriously, I have never been around so many people in my life. All pushing and yelling and honking and looking dour and rushing from here to there and the garbage piles stinking… It was a lot to soak in.

We knew it was time to head back to middle America when a very chic looking woman wearing all black and oversized sun glasses ran into mom, then told her to “watch it.” Poor June Cleaver, aka Alice Holliday, had reached her boiling point and could tolerate rudeness no longer, so she blurted out in her best Texas accent, “WELL SCREW YOU!” I was in convulsions laughing so hard because that was a very non-mom like thing to say.

I got off the plane wearing one of those Statue of Liberty hats that made everyone in the terminal laugh. I may have been the quintessential tourist but I learned a lot during that trip, and I would just DARE any Archie Bunker cabbies to try and screw me over now. I’ve traveled a long way into Bitterandjadedville since those days and I can definitely hold my own against the crustiest of New Yorkers. Maybe Dooce is right when she said it’s New York’s fault. YOU MADE ME THIS WAY!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Who Am I?

A person I admire lists as his interests,
“Foundations, nonprofits, philanthropy, aesthetics, architecture, cognitive science, cultural polemics, ethics, existentialism, hiking, jazz, linguistics, logic, mathematics, media literacy, movies, outsider art, philosophy, postmodernism, physics, quantum mechanics, religion, rhetoric, science, semantic theory, and truth.”

I feel so utterly and completely inadequate.

First of all, I had to look up “polemics” – the art or practice of disputation - then I had to look up “disputation” – debate – before I understood that particular interest. And I have to admit I’m not totally sure I understand what outsider art is, and quantum mechanics equals hocus pocus magic, as far as I’m concerned.

For quite some time now, I’ve been bothered by the fact that I don’t have any real interests any more. I mean REAL interests – the kind of interests to which you dedicate your time, your energy and your passion. The kind of interests that help define you as a unique person, offer refuge and relief, and feed your soul. The kind of interests that act as magnets and draw you in to a place that you can’t wait to reach because you’re happy when you are there.

I’ve become rote. I think I’ve even become….kind of boring.

Now there are certainly things I like to do: walking and playing with my dog, browsing through antique stores, going to the Last Stop, and watching movies. But over the course of time, I seem to have lost my drive to delve into things more deeply. I think I got too caught up in work, then I got caught up in a big life-changing move, then I battled some depression, then I came around again but in the process of adjusting to the last few years of my life, I have disengaged a little bit from anything interesting.

I admire those people who are truly dedicated to their interests. Whether it’s bridge or golf or ballroom dancing or video games or playing an instrument or running or WHATEVER – while it might not be something I’m into, I want to feel that passionately about an activity again.

Reading. Traveling. Digital photography. My computer. Gardening. Art appreciation. Listening to live music. Healthy cooking. These are the interests that intrigue me the most right now, but I need a cosmic kick in the pants to delve in and really experience these activities as daily parts of my life.

This has all been brought on by this time that inevitably rolls around every year. The time when I begin the process of making New Year’s resolutions.

I really love the IDEA of starting fresh in the New Year – it’s a symbolic time when I feel like I can reverse the negatives in my life. But I’m usually unrealistic, or overly ambitious, and am lucky if I stick to something through the month of January.

So this year, I’m taking a new approach. Rather than say I want to lose one hundred pounds or exercise one hour every day or something equally painful, I want to go positive and say that I’m going to explore my interests in 2007 and look for those things that capture my heart and soul. I want to really ENGAGE in life again, in ways other than work.

I’m not quite there, yet, in terms of my resolution, but this is the general idea. Maybe I’ll discover that I, too, like cognitive science and semantic theory, but chances are it will be something closer to scrap booking and yoga.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Too Much Time On My Hands

Hey everyone, turn up your speakers and watch me do my SPECIAL ELF DANCE for you!
Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Grizzly Man


I did not sleep well at all last night and I’m still edgy today because I watched Grizzly Man before going to bed. I absolutely loved it and I absolutely hated it. It’s going to be one of those films that lingers on my mind for quite awhile.

Warning: spoilers ahead.

This is filmmaker Werner Herzog’s take on grizzly bear “activist” Timothy Treadwell and his friend Amie Huguenard who were killed in October 2003 while living among grizzlies in Alaska.

My bottom line critique is this: I LOVED what Herzog did with this film, and I ultimately had to sympathize with Treadwell. NOT because he was eaten by a bear – because COME ON he totally deserved that - but because he suffered from some kind of personality disorder that rendered him so detached from reality that he was a socially crippled freak. I felt deeply sorry for him. But the hubris of this guy is maddening and you just want to shout out, “You stupid, stupid, man! Are you for real?”

The pure beauty of the film footage that Treadwell himself captured over 13 summers of living with these bears is some of the most stunningly beautiful, raw scenery I have ever seen. I doubt anyone has caught more amazing grizzly footage, ever. For that glimpse into the wilds of Alaska alone, this film is worth the rent.

But the most interesting part of the story was watching this man’s decent into madness as he loses track of what is real and what isn’t. Treadwell abandoned society for a life of “acceptance” from creatures that are incapable of judging or criticizing him. Yet he basks in the glory of the “fame” that his lifestyle brings him from the real world, which is why he is making a movie, always worried about his looks, and is often-times obviously “acting” when in front of the camera. Unfortunately, Treadwell mistakes the grizzly bears indifference as acceptance, and falls in love with them because he’s convinced they love him, too.

Werner Herzog narrates the film and I felt like this line of his said it all, “And what haunts me, is that in all the faces of all the bears that Treadwell ever filmed, I discovered no kinship, no understanding, no mercy. I see only the overwhelming indifference of nature. To me, there is no such thing as a secret world of bears. And their blank stare speaks only of a half-bored interest in food. But for Timothy Treadwell, this bear was a friend, a savior.”

Treadwell’s humanization of the bears was his ultimate undoing. I agreed with one of the guys interviewed on the film – I think the reason the bears put up with this lunatic living and interacting so closely is because they sensed he was “not right”, or retarded. Seriously, I think they tolerated Treadwell because he was such a crazy anomaly. It wasn’t until a relatively unknown bear entered the scene that the light bulb went off in this massive creature’s pea brain that said, “Wait a minute…this lunatic is FOOD.”

You don’t see, or hear, the footage of Treadwell’s death, yet the way Herzog communicates these events to the audience is just as powerful and upsetting as if you had seen these gruesome sights.

So this film has really moved me and I can’t stop thinking about it. Through Treadwell’s interaction with grizzly bears, Werner Herzog shows that this film is really about the inadequacies and insecurities of human nature. Fascinating stuff.

Watch the film’s trailer here.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


Our Feliz Navidad-themed office Christmas party will be next week and I’m serving on the planning committee. One of my colleagues had the good idea to have a salsa contest during the event, so I’ve already borrowed a recipe from a friend and I’ll enter her really good salsa for all to enjoy.

But this process got me thinking about different contests I’ve entered over the years, and how I never win.



Granted, I’m not a super competitive person at heart (which is why I was ultimately such a bad athlete!), but it’s true that I really don’t win contests. Cooking contests, costume contests, talent contests, artistic contests…nope, don’t win ‘em. Oh, I’ve placed in the top 3, or so, but the elusive #1 spot seems to escape me more often than not.

Mortifying case in point – my fifth grade spelling bee. YES, I KNOW that this happened 28 years ago but IT STUCK WITH ME, okay?

It was the final round of the competition and it was just me and Brenda Hudson left standing. I had strategically eliminated my competitors by accurately spelling such bombs as “vacuum” and “bazaar” – oh those double vowels didn’t fool me.

My final word? METHOD. That’s right, method. The thought bubbles were exploding out of my head, “METHOD? NO WAY! WAY TOO EASY. THIS MUST BE A TRICK! METHOD?” After my allotted time to mull over whether or not this was some cruel joke that involved a silent “e” or a sneaky “a”, I decided that the word really was as easy as it seemed as I kept repeatedly sounding out the word in my head. So with the smirk of a confident fool, I ever so calmly, and a little too loudly, stated, “Method. M-E-TH-O-D. Method”.

Oh, I could taste victory and I could feel the Jim Darcy spelling bee championship trophy in my clammy hands, when the judge asked me to repeat the spelling. So again, I said, “Method. M-E-TH-O-D”. Method.” Oh, it must have sounded so glorious that he wanted to hear its melodic tones again. The judge’s surprised words finally pierced my thought bubbles when he said, “Uh, Miss Holliday, “TH” is not a letter. Please have a seat. Miss Johnson, please spell Method.”

That’s right, folks, I had said out loud, not once, but TWICE, the imaginary letter “TH”, pronouncing it just like those letters sound when used in a word. When this slowly dawned on me, as the entire student body was wildly cheering for Brenda, who had managed to spell the word using letters from the actual English alphabet, all I wanted at that moment was death, D-E-A-TH, death.

Oh well. It might have been a little bit hard to live down since I was such an anal retentive perfectionist as a kid, but in the big scheme of life, I learned that everything is relative and little did I know then that I would certainly lose MANY more competitions in MUCH more embarrassing ways in the future.

But I’ll save the story of 10th grade cheerleader try outs for another day.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

When Next You Visit Oklahoma City

I attended the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce annual meeting today. They hosted a very nice luncheon and program, my favorite part being the highly polished “This is Oklahoma City” production piece. I mean this was super high glossy if there ever was such a thing, and they made living and working in OKC look like it rivals that of residency in Paris, France. I give them credit for a wonderful job.

While it has taken me a long time to adjust to life here, I’m becoming more and more appreciative of OKC. And Oklahoma City really does have some nice world-class offerings that may surprise you, and counter the expectation you might have of what life is like in Oklahoma. We have a beautiful art museum, top-notch restaurants, a thriving arts scene, cool sports teams, and a western and Native American heritage that you can appreciate at beautiful museums and the historic stockyards.

However…I did laugh out loud when looking through some of the destinations highlighted in the 2007 Oklahoma City Visitor’s Guide published by the Chamber and given to all of today’s meeting attendees. Here are a few places you should add to your itinerary when visiting OKC:

The National Museum of Telephone History
The World of Wings Pigeon Museum
World Organization of China Painters Museum

Come for the world-class rowing races at the new Chesapeake Boathouse on the Oklahoma River….but stay to discover the REAL story of how your hand-painted periwinkles made it on to your Royal Doulton China!

I guess it’s true when we say that there is something for everyone here in OKC.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


It goes without saying that this time of year brings back holiday memories.

One of my favorites is thinking about my brother Matt’s performance in Helena, Montana’s Grand Street Theater’s production of Amahl and the Night Visitors when he was about 9 or 10 years old.

Amahl and the Night Visitors is one of the sweetest stories ever. It’s a short opera, only one hour in length, composed by Gian Carlo Menotti, and the score contains some of the most beautiful music you will ever hear. I am no great fan of opera, but this little one-act piece is wonderful – it’s funny, a little bit sad, and sweetly tender.

Oh here…let me tell you about it!

Basically, this is the story of a young shepherd boy and his destitute mother who live a poor life somewhere near Bethlehem. Through a funny series of events as Amahl is accused of lying about seeing an enormous star in the sky, there is a knock on the door and it is the three wise men following the star to Bethlehem to see the baby Jesus. The mother is shocked beyond belief. The three kings need to rest for a little while before continuing their journey. From there the story unfolds with funny scenes of the village people (including the cop and the Indian – HA!) coming over because they don’t believe that kings are in Ahmal’s house.

Amahl is crippled and the heart of the story is when, through his faith in what the kings are telling him, he offers his cane to them to take to the baby Jesus, and that unselfish act cures him. HE WALKS….HE WALKS…. HE WALKS (oh, if you could just hear the big, fabulous music in my head as I’m singing HE WALKS…). In the end, Amahl and his mother sing the most beautiful duet that has ever been written (if it doesn’t bring a tear to your eye, you’re not human) and they decide that Amahl can go with the kings and deliver his crutch to Jesus himself. Oh my gosh, it’s the story of how faith, charity, unselfish love and good deeds can work miracles! Miracles, I tell you!

Grand Street Theater is a fabulous community theater in Helena, Montana. People seem surprised when I tell them about Helena’s artistic community. It was thriving when we lived there. Thriving with top-quality artists who had trained and performed all over the world. There was something attractive about the “artistic compound” that was Helena that kept vibrant theater, choirs, symphonies, orchestras and other ensembles beating at the heart of the town’s social scene.

Matt was such a cute kid at that age and very talented. Mrs. Luebeck encouraged mom and dad to have him audition for the part of Amahl and he won the part over some of those kids who had been doing theater their whole young lives. This was Matt’s first role and he was perfect. His voice – and the voices of most all little boys before they break – was so clear and sweet that it would break your heart. Matt lived his normal, school-going little boy life by day, and by night he and mom would go to the theater for rehearsals and then a 6-week, or so, run of the show. That’s a lot for a kid so young. But he was great and that whole cast brought the house down every night.

I was a bit of a hanger-on and liked to go back stage with mom and Matt to see what was going on. Most of the cast were nice people, some were definitely free spirits, some were freaky, but most were artists and this was their gig.

One guy in particular, one of the kings, seemed to like me a lot. He was really, really tall and fairly young – maybe just recently out of college – and had a beautiful voice. I would always get uncomfortable around him because I noticed he was always seeking me out, he would stand a little too close, ask me if I was going to be at the cast party after the show, and that kind of thing. I would always get flustered, shy away and get out of those situations quickly because *giggle* he was a BOY and I wasn’t very confident when it came to talking to BOYS.

Little did I know he was flirting with me. I was too young and too stupid to understand anything about that, but this guy must have thought I was just being coy because he kept at it. Then, as chance would have it, one week day during the run of Amahl, my little school choir went to sing our Christmas show at the bank downtown and wouldn’t you know it, “the king” happened to be in the lobby. I gave him a little smile and a wave and he gave me a smile and wave and he got real close to the risers to listen.

Everything seemed fine until we were introduced as the Helena Jr. High Choir. It was then I noticed a look of concern crossing his face that quickly turned to panic. When we were finished singing, he came running up to me and didn’t say “hi” or “good job” or anything – he just blurted out, “How old are you, anyway?” When I said, “12”, the poor guy turned completely ashen and I thought he was going to faint. Hey – it’s not my fault that I was 6’ tall and had boobs when I was 12. It was his fault for assuming I was older!

From that point forward that poor guy ignored me like the plague at the Amahl performances. Don’t you know how mortified and pervy he must have felt when he realized he was flirting with a 12-year old?

One post script to the Amahl story always makes me laugh. They took a bunch of publicity photos of Matt in character and the folks kept one of the LIFE SIZED photos of Matt hobbling on his crutch. It was a very good picture but kind of funny to have this 5’ cardboard Amahl in the basement. One night some time later, we thought our house was burning down (a story for another time). Dad was gone so it was just mom, Matt and me. Mom started barking out orders for us to get out of the house and we snapped to it. And the ONLY things that mom grabbed before running out of the house was a photo album that was under the coffee table and the life-sized picture of Matt as Amahl. I can only imagine what the volunteer firemen thought when they pulled up into the driveway.

Anyway…if you ever have the chance to see Amahl and the Night Visitors do yourself a favor and give it an hour of your time.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Java Jive

I just ordered some PBS Blend coffee from Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, and you can too by visiting their web site.

This is the first product endorsement, licensing arrangement PBS has ever entered into, and I suspect they are going to take quite a bit of flak for this foray into what many perceive as commercialization. Some critics believe this deal threatens to undermine the rationale for taxpayer support for PBS. But since federal support constitutes less than 13% of PBS’s annual budget, lawmakers on Capitol Hill have long encouraged PBS to find creative ways to raise funds. So our new PBS President is stepping out and putting our loved and trusted brand on some organic, fair trade certified coffee.

I agree, it’s a slippery slope for a non-profit, public/private institution like PBS to get into the endorsement game. Today it’s coffee, tomorrow it’s wine, the next day it’s luxury automobiles. There is money to be made in licensing agreements, so how do you balance between staying true to the non-commercial nature of the brand, and selling out? I guess we’ll all find out. Just look at what the Children’s Workshop has done commercializing my beloved Sesame Street. As I have mentioned before, is there anything you can buy that DOESN’T have Elmo or one of his SS posse gracing the product?

But then I put on my fundraiser’s cap and I think, “Absolutely”. PBS must start thinking differently and trying new, creative ways to raise money or we’re doomed. To compete on the digital, new media playing field we have got to have money and raising money in the traditional ways just isn’t cutting it anymore. No one wants any more pledge drives!

While the terms of the deal with Green Mountain Coffee have not been disclosed, I trust that the PBS brass have cut a good deal so I’ll do my part by ordering a bag of beans every now and then.

Now, I did have to laugh and seriously roll my eyes at the elaborate description of the PBS Blend coffee:

“It’d be easy enough to enjoy this coffee simply because of its story – a great partnership, a compelling origin – but in the cup this coffee has its own story to tell, and it’s eloquent in the telling. It begins with aromas of cedar, bountiful Mexican chocolate and subtle tropical florals. It continues with flavors of walnut, ripe plum and raisin, and more cocoa. Its finish is warm, resonant and sweet, with notes of caramel and a slightly piquant, nutty twist.”


I admit I have the most unsophisticated pallet in the world, but I think one has to work HARD to detect wood, flowers, fruit, chocolate, caramel and a nutty twist in their cup of coffee!

I do love PBS and I am willing to bet that a lot of hard work and soul searching went into this business deal, so let's belly up to the coffee bar and help our favorite network out. Let’s see where this thing goes.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Measure of a Man

I am bursting with pride today. Literally bursting, for today marks a grand occasion. My dad, Ron Holliday, is retiring and today is his LAST DAY ON THE JOB! It is so strange and wonderful to think that dad’s career? C’est finis! From this point forward he will get to enjoy an ease and peace that he has earned in spades.

But what a career it has been! As a dementia-stricken Mom Jo said in the letter she wrote to the telephone company when she was requesting that her service be disconnected, “…and don’t try and find me. My son-in-law is very powerful.” (I’d give ANYTHING to know what “crazy” file that letter ended up in.)

But as my good friend Plato said, “The measure of a man is what he does with power”, and it seems to me that Dad strove to use his power for good. Through his efforts he preserved natural sanctuaries. He saved beautiful land for future generations to enjoy. He built the infrastructures that allow people to be a part of nature – to hike, float rivers, water ski, camp and all of that fun stuff that puts us in touch with the land. He restored historic places and cultural sites. Through it all he saw and experienced some of the most beautiful places on the planet. He became a master politician, managed huge budgets and was a great leader.

But all of these lofty accomplishments came through the toil, sweat and stress of doing battle as an administrator. Taking the beatings. Doling out the punishments. Defending the troops. Challenging the bullies. Managing the relentless grind. Reasoning with the unreasonable. The really, really hard stuff that can take its toll.

Being the State Parks Directors for Montana, Colorado and Texas certainly made dad unique among his peers and gave us, his family, plenty of fun things to do when we were growing up. Those memories will be stories all on their own.

Later in Dad’s career when he switched from State to County administration his moniker as “The Master of Disaster” really took hold. As my other friend Dr. Martin Luther King said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Again, I am most proud that dad’s leadership was never stronger or more convicted than during those challenges he had to face with Columbine High School, sex offenders, and a weak and divisive board.

I think it is highly symbolic that the capstone to Dad’s career was his integral involvement in building a huge, state-of-the-art hospital and medical complex. That just seems fitting for this man to build a lasting institution that will help so many people.

I love these pictures I’ve posted today. They were taken in 1975 when dad was named Montana State Park’s Director. It was his first big job (of what would eventually be many) and he was young, eager and ready to take it on. I look at this picture and all I see is youth - and a FANTASTIC white patent leather belt. I was 8. Matt was 5. Mom was 29. Dad was 31. Lordy that seems like a long time ago! (Mom made the sign in the picture above that is hard to read in this picture. It says, "Home of Ron Holliday, New Montana State Park's Administrator!").

My ramblings today are not meant to sound like a eulogy. In fact, it’s anything but! This is a celebration because while Dad has had a great career, he is more than ready to retire, move home to the Last Stop and live the life of his own design. He will be busier, dirtier and happier than he’s probably ever been in his life and I am thrilled that every morning he and mom get to wake up and call their own shots. SCREW THE MAN!

My brother Matt, the awesome rock star, was planning to perform at the send-off party Dad’s coworkers threw last night, and his big closer was going to be, “Take This Job and Shove It!”, which I’m sure brought the house down.

As he said himself, I’d be surprised if Dad sees 5:00 at the office today because he is, OFFICIALLY, a free man.

I love you, Dad. Congratulations on a job well done.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

And I Wonder Why I'm Single

Monday, December 04, 2006

Dot Would Win Miss Congeniality

Okay. I fear that I am beginning to sound like one of those crazy spinster ladies who loves dogs just a little too much, you know what I mean? The kind who dresses the dog in little sweaters every day, uses her special baby voice to call the pooch “my widdle cuddle wuddles” and uses only the best sirloin when preparing the puppy’s meals. So in case you’re wondering, I haven’t reached this point….YET. Just ignore the fact that I do have a tendency to put hats on Dot and I use a pretty distinct baby-talkesque voice when addressing her.

But while I manage to keep it in the realm of reality, there’s no denying that I do love dogs. They didn’t earn the title Man’s Best Friend on a fluke, you know. It’s a proven fact.

So I’m a real sucker for watching dog shows on TV. I LOVE them. I love watching the dogs, the obsessive owners and handlers, the overly serious judges, the completely over-the-top gayness of the commentators and the pre-produced video stories about wonder dogs that do amazing things that bring you to tears. Good stuff.

“Best in Show” couldn’t be a better movie because it totally captures the goofiness of the dog show extravaganza.

This past weekend was the annual AKC/Eukanuba National Championship and I watched every minute of this 6 hour canine love fest. This was a 2-parter and required me tuning in both Saturday and Sunday night but heck…I was home, wasn’t I? (But I’m really NOT one of those crazy spinster ladies who doesn’t have anything better to do on a weekend… ).

The best part? I was right - I actually picked the dog who would be Best in Show! I’m very seldom right about anything, but out of the 100+ dogs I saw in the competition, from the first minute I saw this guy I just knew he was going to win. Plus, he was on Saturday night, so I hadn’t yet seen the dogs that would compete on Sunday. But I just had a feeling and I am shocked that I was right.

He is James – the English Springer Spaniel. The picture on this post is him, although not a particularly good image because you can’t see his whole body. He has the most beautiful, shiny coat I’ve ever seen and he just had a confident, kind demeanor about him that was undeniable. I just fell in love with this guy, and so did the judges.

And I think Dot agreed with me. Dot was pretty calm throughout the show until – I kid you not - the toy poodle pranced around the ring, and then she went absolutely super nova and wouldn’t stop barking at the TV until that poodle was out of sight. Seeing that guy touched a nerve in the Dotopotamus and she was having none of it!

For the record, I also thought the Tibetan Sheep Dog and the PBGV were adorable… both of who, I might add, made it to the Best in Show round. I am good!

"And to think", as Buck Laughlin said in the movie Best in Show, "in some countries these dogs are eaten!”

Saturday, December 02, 2006

You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch

Dot's Christmas cheer was completely exhausted during her holiday photo shoot.

Never a fan of having her picture taken, this shot captures her true feelings...and makes me laugh.

Ba Humbug!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow

It is beautiful in OKC right now. Sunny and snowy. One of my very favorite combinations.

It wasn’t so sunny yesterday when the storm was in action, but it was fun to get a hefty snow fall.

Work and school were called off for most people yesterday and today, but I went ahead and came in because I had a bunch of stuff to finish. It has been pretty empty and quiet in the halls, but my boss has been here so it’s given me some time to spend one-on-one with him, which is a rarity.

I wish I had brought my camera today to take pictures of the snow in our courtyard at work. It’s really pretty.

Dot was pretty funny this morning romping up and down the street, crashing into the foot-high snow drifts along the sides of the street. There were about 6” of snow on the lawn that she busted through like an Alaskan sled dog.

It must be my Montana/Colorado roots showing, but I love the snow and I think it makes winter, winter.

Granted, I’m FINE with not living in the 250” of snow that dad said they received in Breckenridge last year, but a few inches in Oklahoma City is just right!