Monday, September 14, 2009

A Little Night Cruisin’

Last evening my family and I sailed the night skies…..or the next thing to it; we traversed the back roads of Howard County in a convertible.

We love living in suburban Kokomo. Our neighborhood is quiet, tree-lined and inviting, yet just down the street we have almost immediate access to some of modern society’s most agreeable and useful destinations; Outback Steakhouse, Walgreen’s Pharmacy, Marsh Supermarket, Dunkin Donuts, Applebee’s, and, most notably, Starbucks. It is, in the immortal words of Hannah Montana, “The Best of Both Worlds”. Ahem.

However, Terrace Meadows has one drawback – a big one. When it comes to stargazing (an activity we Burtch’s hold dear) our view of God’s handiwork is well, limited at best and abysmal at worst. We can see approximately ten stars from our backyard.

We decided on this impromptu trip to the periphery of our North Central Indiana county last night because:

1. We happened to have Nana’s PT Cruiser in the driveway.
2. The night was exceedingly clear.

That rare and advantageous combination propelled us (one of us already in her jammies) out the door at about 10:00 p.m. laden with jackets, quilts, and an air of unrivaled expectation.

As we drew further away from the city lights, the sky morphed into something three-dimensional instead of the pathetic, flat affair that lies above our house. At one point Julia commented, “It’s like being in space”, and she was right; it was rather like riding in the cockpit of the Millenium Falcon. I almost felt like we were going to be attacked by an Imperial Star Destroyer or leap into hyperspace at any minute. I could have ridden until sunrise.

All good things must come to an end, however, and our time soaring under that sparkling canopy did too. But when we returned home it was with a renewed sense of awe at the vast, mysterious and spectacularly beautiful universe in which we live.



…..and speaking of stars, I give you an excerpt from my favorite childhood poem:

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod (Dutch Lullaby)
by Eugene Field (1850-1895)

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night
Sailed off in a wooden shoe---
Sailed on a river of crystal light,
Into a sea of dew.
"Where are you going, and what do you wish?"
The old moon asked the three.
"We have come to fish for the herring fish
That live in this beautiful sea;
Nets of silver and gold have we!
"Said Wynken,
Blynken,
And Nod.
The old moon laughed and sang a song,
As they rocked in the wooden shoe,
And the wind that sped them all night long
Ruffled the waves of dew.

Friday, September 11, 2009

CARS THAT NEED TO BE PUT IN THEIR PLACE

Have you ever noticed how cars often seem to mirror their owners’ personalities? No? Well let me give you some examples…..

Red sports cars are typically driven by pushy, competitive buttheads that have to be number one. I mean, they cannot tolerate one single car being ahead of them, thus they are continuously changing lanes in the all-important quest of being in the lead. It doesn’t matter that you are invariably going to end up at a stoplight next to them down the road. They passed you so they win. Aggressive driver = aggressive driving habits.

This is on my mind because I was tailgated by an upscale dark blue sports car this morning on La Fountain St., in front of Howard Community Hospital. I wish I could be more specific about the make and model of said vehicle but I can’t. All I can say is that it looked vaguely European. (Sorry, but I have an appalling lack of interest in all things automotive. I grew up in Indianapolis, and I have never been to the 500-Mile Race, which apparently is the greatest spectacle in racing. Not because I never had the opportunity, but because I never had the desire. If I did go you can be sure I would take along a good book).

Anyway, this car looked expensive. Not just expensive, but actually stuck up. It was undoubtedly driven by a doctor. No offense intended to MD’s, but it was a luxury sports car, being driven in an overbearing manner and turning into a hospital parking lot in Kokomo, Indiana – you do the math.

It wasn’t just the tailgating, which really, really irks me; it was the whole demeanor of the car. Yes, this car had a demeanor. It thought it owned the road. It was out to intimidate other cars because it thought it was better than them. This was seriously one bombastic automobile (that one was for you, Edie). Arrogant driver = arrogant driving habits.

When the car abruptly switched lanes to turn into the hospital, I had a feeling it was as much to get away from us peasants in our ‘common’ rides as it was to get where it was going.

So……could I be reading too much into this? Is it possible that this was simply a doctor in a hurry because he was due in surgery? Of course it is possible. But I don’t believe it for a minute.

Alas, my fine, upstanding friends (whom I will see this Sunday in church) I guess the ultimate point of this blog is so that I can make a public confession….*deep breath*….

I really wanted to ram that car.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

SHADES OF GREEN

Let’s be honest…. Indiana is lacking in the scenery department. Before you get all defensive on me, my fellow Hoosiers, let’s just review a couple of facts:

Indiana has no ocean (no, Lake Michigan does not count).

Indiana has no mountains (no, Brown County does not count).

I am not sure that this bothers everyone. It bothers me. Deeply.

Or at least it used to…. Allow me to explain.

Perhaps my feelings can be traced back to my childhood (as feelings often can). Every year upon return from vacation, whether it was from the pristine, white beaches of St. Augustine, the multihued phenomenon of the Grand Canyon, or the lofty Black Hills of South Dakota, my Mom would say flatly, “I feel like throwing rocks at Indiana”.

By the time I reached my twenties, I had decided these shortcomings in my home state were grounds for relocation. About that time I visited Acadia National Park in Maine. As I sat on that rocky shore, staring out at the frothy white breakers of the Atlantic, the wind tossing my hair and singing a song in my ear, I knew I had found my way home. When I got back from vacation I wrote to the Bangor Chamber of Commerce about the availability of graphic design jobs in the area. I was all set.

But it was not to be.

Life intruded on my plans to escape lackluster Indiana. Life in the miraculous form of marriage, family, children, and cherished friends; my roots in Indiana now run very, very deep, and I thank God for that.

I also now recall something else my Mom used to say – “Indiana is kind of pretty in its own way”.

Indiana does indeed have its own kind of beauty, and never is it as apparent as it is in the month of September. It is a green place; every shade imaginable is represented in the lush vegetation of its parks, fields, and suburban backyards.

Grass green, emerald, moss, olive, pine. Aquamarine, jade, lime green, apple green and chartreuse. Tea green, sea green, and asparagus green.

Beautiful.

And sometimes when the cumulonimbus clouds pile up on the horizon, the effect is an awful lot like a mountain range. Sometimes I pretend it is.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

PC CPR

Last week I was called upon yet again to bring my PC back from a near-death experience.

I suppose our computer is getting up there in computer years….it is going on three after all. A real geriatric. If it was a person it would be eligible for social security and/or a scooter from The Scooter Store.

The first year our digital marvel performed flawlessly. It had speed, endurance, and a high-speed broad-band connection which enabled us to surf at will. The sleek 14-inch flat-screen monitor was an objet d'art.

Unfortunately…….our real-time virus/spyware protection expired and my well-intentioned husband decided we could do without it. Wrong.

Apparently there are some evil computer nerds out there who have nothing better to do with their time than to invent viruses to unleash upon cyberspace. In my opinion these people are the unadulterated scum of the Earth, right up there with terrorists and serial killers. They deserve some sort of cruel and unusual punishment.....like spending eternity watching “Flo, the Progressive girl” commercials or listening to Britney Spears music. Ahhh, sweet, sweet retribution.

At first I had a false sense of security. Really, of all of the computers out there what made me think ours would get infected? That was really kind of self-centered wasn’t it? Gradually things did begin to happen, although nothing too serious at first…..the speed began to decrease, we started getting random errors, and our once proud PC developed an asthmatic wheeze.

Things got worse. One morning I turned the computer on to a repulsive blue screen with nothing but miles and miles of meaningless coding. Mommy. Another time there was a virus masquerading as, of all things, an ANTISPYWARE program. It kept launching itself every few minutes or so and began blocking access to my favorite websites, especially the sites that might offer help in such a situation. Nasty stuff. There were times I literally became the lady on the Geek Squad commercial who erupts in panic and begins to arbitrarily pound keys and yell “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO” at the top of her lungs. Yes, that happens in real life. Don’t pretend like you have never been there because I know better.

What I have learned is this: you just have to stay calm and perform CPR on your PC. Now by CPR I mean stuff like doing a ‘system restore’ and going back to the ‘last known good configuration’. The problem is that these items are located in the frightening underbelly of the computer in a place where no person without a computer science degree should venture. There are no pretty ‘Windows’ color palettes here, just stark a black background and digital hieroglyphics. Definitely not for babies or wimps.

However.... if you love your PC like I love mine, you will be willing to take the risk.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

THINGS THAT SPARKLE (OR HOW MY DAUGHTERS HAVE MADE ME LESS BORING)

God really knew what he was doing when he gave me two girls.

Growing up I was the quintessential ‘girly-girl’. At age 4, I practically lived in my cousin’s hand-me-down gold tutu, spinning around the living room to “Swan Lake”.

Allow me to vent for a moment if you please….. For some reason, my Mom never enrolled me in ballet class. I have never quite forgiven her this lapse in parenting. Well, there was a brief stint when I was 12 – a deranged British neighbor lady decided to teach ballet in her garage. She tried in vain for six weeks to force my uncooperative limbs into painful and unnatural contortions at the barre, completely disregarding the fact that I was a beginner…. She finally told my Mom in despair that I exhibited no aptitude for ballet whatsoever, and that was that. Thank Heaven. However, deep down I just know that if my mother had signed me up at age 3 or 4 (with a qualified dance teacher), I could have danced with Baryshnikov with the American Ballet Theatre….well, probably not but I would be skinny and coordinated to this very day. So there.

Anyway….like most females, I have always loved beauty. As a child, that included ballet, girls with long hair, the rippling hoop skirts in “Gone With the Wind”, and anything that SPARKLED. I would sit mesmerized in front of a frosty window, drawn by the delicate snowflake pattern and glittering sunlight. I thought ruby red gazing balls were objects of breathtaking splendor. Nail polish was supposed to dazzle, otherwise what was the point?

Then…..I grew up. I decided things that sparkled were tacky. I traded my flashy, glistening nail polish for a more sophisticated matte or cream. Fabric with gleaming metallic thread was just not something that people with taste would consider wearing. Period. Rhinestones were reserved for the Peg Bundy’s of the world (Google that, you people under 30). I was proud to be the embodiment of ‘understatement’.

Then I had two daughters. Two beautiful, funny, quirky, sparkle-loving daughters; I can honestly say that because of them I have rediscovered the joy of things that shine. As I type this, I am wearing a deep golden nail polish, infused with a rich iridescence, and I am overcome with happiness.

Thanks girls, I had forgotten…..

Friday, August 7, 2009

SO SUE ME........

I detest chocolate.

Okay, just kidding; that is a little extreme. I just wanted to get your attention. But………I really don’t love it all that much. I guess that makes me an anomaly among women.

I was thinking about this earlier as I was consuming a bag of – are you ready – Limited Edition COCONUT M&Ms. They are still the familiar, colorful-shelled little candy treats they have always been, but this variety has a hint of coconut flavor.

I was practically salivating with anticipation as I tore open the wrapper; for the moment all my mind was focused solely on a single concept. Coconut. Coconut, in all its milky white glory. These were definitely going to be the pi├Ęce de r├ęsistance of M&MS.

Except….

My first thought was “Wow, this is good…..but it would be WAY better without the chocolate”. I actually forgot for a moment that M&Ms have a chocolate center. That was my moment of epiphany.

Women are purported to worship chocolate, right? It's programmed into our genetic code or something. It is supposed to be our go-to fare when we break up with a boyfriend, get laid off from a job, have a fender-bender or break a nail. So really, just where do I get off being apathetic to chocolate?

It seems like whenever I encounter a female friend who is having a ‘day’, she will look at me and say conspiratorially “I would kill for a piece of chocolate right now”, incorrectly assuming that I wholeheartedly share the sentiment. I usually smile blankly and nod in feigned agreement.

You see, when I am upset and am seeking comfort, I turn first to Haagen Dazs’s Sticky Toffee Pudding. If that is not available, then I will welcome anything with cinnamon, vanilla, caramel or brown sugar (or better yet, a combination of ALL of those delectable ingredients). I have been this way since I was a child and I am not going to change now.

So…at the risk of losing the respect of women the world over….or at least the two or three who might actually see this post, I am declaring my independence and stating out loud what I have always secretly felt:

Chocolate is just OKAY. Yeah, I went there.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT SATURDAY

Saturday morning…….it’s incredible how much promise two simple words can contain, and how a good night’s sleep can heal a person of a bad attitude.

It is August 1st and unseasonably cool here in North Central Indiana. It is supposed to rain, but not until later this afternoon. As I sit at my computer, a fragrant breeze drifts in from an open window, as well as the enchanting sounds of children playing on the trampoline.

My 16-year-old has apparently decided to climb to the uppermost branches of a Maple tree rising above the trampoline, much to the consternation of 4-year-old friend Nadia. I was touched at Nadia’s concern for Nelleigh’s well being, thinking she was simply afraid that Nelleigh would fall; however, when doe-eyed little Nadia came inside and voiced her worries to me, it became clear that she was particularly worried that Nelleigh would fall on her! I had to hold back my laughter as I reassured Nadia that Nelleigh was an expert tree climber and would not be coming down until she was ready.

Well, it sounds like the whole gang is coming inside in search of chocolate. I better go see what I can come up with…

Friday, July 31, 2009

PITY PARTY

All week long I have had a recurring mental image of a small ship at sea, just a dot against the imposing wall of water out in the vast North Atlantic. Somewhere in the midst of the phone ringing, daughters arguing, a middle-of-the-night power outage, and the absence of my favorite cat, it has occurred to me....

I am the Andrea Gail and my life is the perfect storm.