Friday, January 28

Seriously slackin'

Holy cow - I've got a follower! And it isn't my mom!

OK, admittedly I know my follower. And he is an incredible writer who I love and admire. But what a cool feeling to see that show up! I didn't want to be my own first follower. Would be a little too much like the people who still have "Tom" as their friend on Facebook. Or was that myspace?

Been a long time since I posted. It's been a long week. One of my tasks is tax filings. So this week, in addition to regular workload I had the looming deadline to get quarterly filings, annual filings, W2s and 3s and 1099s and a bunch of other numbers and letters. The bright spot for the week has been the continued functionality of my hot tub. Remarkable how much better that makes my days. The downside this week was slushy snow that kept me away from my beloved hot water on Wednesday. However, despite the lingering ice - I returned to my Nirvana on Thursday night. I could not be deterred!

My mind races when alone in the hot tub. Without a computer, tv, radio, phone, text to distract me...all I can do is think. In that brief span of time I bounce from debating my purpose on Earth; to singing to myself; to editing myself; dreaming; planning; fearing; doubting; praying. It will be nice to have company in the hot tub sometime soon.

69 minutes to Saturday. I'm contemplating staying up so I can drink a Coke. I've resisted all week. Could I pretend to be living in New Brunswick? Then it would just be 8 minutes now. Well, perseverance builds character. And that's a worthy goal.

Still on the road to becoming a better person.

Monday, January 24

A Taste of Heaven in Hot Tub Hell

It is small, it is old, it has been broken down for over a year...but it is mine and there are no payments due on it. Except for the huge debt I owe to the man who made it work again. If you want to hear the back story of my adventures with the hot tub - read older posts below. Suffice to say - tonight, at the perfect temperature of 103 degrees, I sat in my hot tub. I sat there quietly. No need for bubbles or high speed jets. Just a Pisces in warm water contemplating her place in the universe. And it is a happy place to be.

Now I am off to take a shower (ummm...I hadn't shocked it yet because I didn't want to waste chemicals on water that might be pouring back onto the ground... And I actually thought I was out of chemicals. Sorry Gordon, I assumed you had taken them. But really they were up in the corner.) I can't wait to visit it again! But for tonight - it was just me and the stars and the warm water. I couldn't be happier if I was twins.

Some people can identify problems. Some can identify who or what is to blame. Then there are those rare people who see a problem and just fix it. You know who you are. Thank you.

Sunday, January 23

Coke, Rude Folk and Ashton Kutcher's Butt

Random thoughts from tonight -

Saturday. Coke Day. Well-deserved tonight!

Today was also try to fix the damn hot tub day. I have a hot tub. It is small. It is old. It was a craig's list find. But when it works, I sure do enjoy it. The hot tub has now been broken for over a year. Don't get me wrong. It was full of water and circulating and for a long time I even fed it very expensive chemicals. Heater wasn't working. Actually, first the heater kinda went nuts. Temps were very erratic. Kept having to reset the high-limit switch. So then it stopped working.

No matter how nice jets are...without the hot's just not the same. So my brother was going to fix it...he has the skill set. Not the time though. And I understand! He works a lot. And has a family. And so I tried not to nag him. Enter SuperCG! My best friend - with MAD skill sets. So he fixed the heater, and then the thermostat, and then the pump broke, so he replaced the pump (after doing all the research, too) and then the motor froze up, so he got that freed up. Then a glued joint in the plumbing broke. So then I cried. Just a little. So then he replaced that joint and defrosted the pump. Well then when doing the final tightening on the connections...well then another break in the plumbing. Some sort of union. I won't wander off on a tangent right now about plumbing part names and all the sexual innuendo...but I would like to reserve the right to wander off on that tangent some time.

So after one trip to Lowe's and two trips to spa supply store (hey fella - why don't you just buy one of these new beauties on the showroom floor?) for repair parts...frozen hands and an entire is together. And heating! It's currently up to 59 degrees!! Ahhh....

So then we went to dinner at the new Dahlia. Other than the fact that SOMEBODY needs to actually RUN the front of was a great experience. The kitchen has it together. And I think that the rest will smooth out. We stood and waited for a table for about 10 minutes. Then when a table opened up and we sat down - a patron from the bar informed us that they had been waiting for that table. Really? We took their places at the bar and waited for another one. But really, patrons shouldn't have to be having that discussion. Dude was rude. Let's have the staff control the seating so I don't have to get into ANOTHER bar fight at the Dahlia. (yeah....I have. and was at the Dahlia.) (come to think of it - might have been the same guy)

But then to smooth off the rough edges of the day: Coke and popcorn - at the movies. Saw No Strings Attached. Liked it a lot. The only thing better than Ashton Kutcher's butt would have been Mark Wahlberg's chest...but it was a good movie all the same. I'm a sucker for a romantic comedy. I know. Some of you respect me a little less.

Thursday, January 20

The Little Red-Haired Girl

Thursday is a long day. It is almost always a long day. Work (which, of course, I love...but still...there is effort involved....) and then the Thursday after-school program JIFF (which, of course, I love...but there can be a LOT of effort there!) and then choir practice for an hour and a half ( know...). Tonight there was the addition of handbell choir practice. I love it - but somebody is mistaken when they assume I can read music :)

So - Thursday nights - I need a reward. Almost every week, it ends at the local ChickFilA. Which I love, no effort involved. The crew at this CFA (Candler's Mountain Road) is perfection. I know mistakes must sometimes happen - but they've never happened to me. I mean NEVER! And the the staff is friendly and efficient. Tonight I was served by the team of Ramona (love that name) who took my order. And then at the window by two great young ladies - one of whom I must call "the little red-haired girl" (Charlie Brown reference). She has made the effort to learn and remember MY name - why on Earth can't I remember hers?? She asked me one evening if I was listening to Harry Potter (which I was) and since the latest movie came out - she has asked if I've seen the movie yet. Which (strangely) - I haven't! I don't know why - but the opportunity didn't arise. I'm hoping that she doesn't get into trouble for taking extra time when I come through!

I think that the franchise operator would understand. She and many other members of that crew have built a relationship with me. I actually drive MILES out of my way to go there on Thursday nights. But it is always such a great experience! Anyway - if anybody knows the little red-haired girl - tell her I said thanks! It's what gets me through a long Thursday.

Embrace the moments.

Tuesday, January 18

Catching Up...

I had the best intentions when I started this blog - I was going to write every single day like my friend Chuck Taylor (his blog - The Smoking Nun - is my absolute favorite!). But life gets in the way sometimes.

Since Friday when I wrote at length about bad restaurants and good...well...we enjoyed the Stoney Badger Tavern so much - we went back Friday night!! Took my sissy for one of her rare nights on the town. Nephew Jack was at a party and so his mom cut loose and joined Carl and I for an evening out. The hardest thing about an evening with Denise? Deciding what to do!! We considered about 6 different movies but couldn't come to an agreement on which movie, what time or which theater. So we decided on drinks and light fare at the Badger. The food was still great. I even tried an onion ring! They are not nearly as scary as I thought. Who would have thought it? What will I try next - snake handling?

On Saturday the Fearsome Foursome of Carl, Carl, Denise and Chris worked at the church. And I'm not kidding when I say that it was a great day! Yep, pulling communication cables through dusty ceilings, testing and organizing sound gear, cleaning the molding around the sanctuary, redistributing the hymnals and pew Bibles. It was really a lot of fun! I absolutely love to watch people with skills like electrical, plumbing and carpentry work - it is like watching an artist create. Watching the process of making the connections on the communication cables was like poetry in motion. And it is astounding to watch these 8 or 10 tiny little wires be arranged into the right order...and when I asked how he knew what order they were supposed to be in...he rattled off something like "oh it's just white/brown, brown, orange, white/orange...the basic 69874.4B configuration" (um...that's not real, folks...don't try to do it that way) Ummmm...sure. Reminded me of Marisa Tomei's character in My Cousin Vinny, "that would be 4 degrees from top dead center." By the end of our work, things were labeled and put away, and we have lightning fast communication to the web from our sound desk. That will make it much easier for our webmaster to be able to upload the services to the website!

Then to home for some lovely meatballs and Coke!! Saturdays are great! And I even remained social and played a rousing game of Uno with Karen, Denise and Charlie (who cheated...but still lost?).

It was a great weekend - especially since I have been trying hard to choose to embrace moments. Obviously the Coke and meatballs were one of the moments I embraced - but a few others: Denise's laughter, Carl's raised eyebrow, Dad's chuckle when we realized that during the cable pulling we were both answering Carl's request for someone to pull cable in the fellowship hall...apparently at the exact same moments with the exact same answers!, Jack's relief when I determined that the sound problem he encountered Sunday morning was an equipment, not an operator error, Megan's smile when she read her birthday card.

Embrace the moments.

Friday, January 14

The Sip

So...continuing to work on kicking my Coke habit. And I've been really good (even if a certain person has a hard time believing that)! We've been super-busy at work and there have been the usual stressors: weather, mechanical issues and the delightful folks that seem to believe we are sitting around with our quarter-million dollar trucks just hoping that they will call so that I can send someone to immediately shred their 2 boxes. Sort of a demented version of the classic show Taxi. Of course, that would make me Louie. I don't think I look too much like Danny DeVito...but, as usual, I digress.

On Tuesday - after one of these typical days - Carl came out from the warehouse with a frosty can of Coke. And I asked for a sip. And it was granted! And it was delightful. I don't think that was cheating too much. After all - I DID fully embrace and enjoy the moment. And that may be what it is all about.

Speaking of enjoying and embracing an experience - had dinner at a new restaurant in town last night. I just wanted to have dinner before choir practice and since (as usual) my dining companion refused to choose a place, I tossed out 3 choices: sushi at Kings Island, the stupor buffet at Hibachi whatever, or...and in searching my mind for a third choice...I happened upon the thought of this new place. It took FOREVER to open (remodel of a failed restaurant) and I wasn't really convinced that it would be anything special. So far that location has been Cedar Street (good), Boodles (good for awhile then eh...), JT McWaynes (good for a couple weeks then bleh...), Claytons (rebirth of a burned down restaurant - good but kept being mysteriously closed) and then was a combo of Jazz Street Grill (a great restaurant that had to move to escape the encroachment of Walmart) and Mudpuppys (sports bar - never was a fan). I still mourn the loss of Jazz Street and the chef/owner Walter. But that seemed to fail on some sort of management thing.

So - went in not knowing what to expect. And it was AWESOME! Great service, Great menu, Spot-on execution. I will admit that I am hyper-critical of restaurants. I think it is because I know what it takes to make one stand out - and some of the things are simple. And I am not afraid of giving honest feedback to the restaurant management. Real constructive criticism - with suggestions. Not just answering the "how are enjoying your meal tonight?" with "it's fine" - and then telling everyone I know that it sucked. And I'll give them more than one try - everybody can have an off night/day. The thing that drives me completely bonkers is when there is a great menu: the food sounds great, the combinations are creative, the descriptions draw you in. And then they can't execute. There was a restaurant that closed not too long ago - their specialty was unique and creative breakfast/grill items. Open 24 hours a day 6 days a week. They failed me over and over. I loved the concept, loved the menu. Every once in awhile there would be a spark of potential - only to be snuffed out by failure. Out of juice, warm beer, coffee maker broken (seriously? Go get a Mr. Coffee from CVS until the main one is repaired - this is a breakfast place!!!), never did they have their "signature dish" when I wanted to order it, and they never, never, never got a biscuit on the plate that was good.

I don't forsee that being a problem for the Stoney Badger Tavern. Super-knowledgeable staff helped us pick a beer from the list of about 30 draft choices. Then we had the most incredible appetizer - Badger Balls - luscious cheese balls with a marinara that was more of a tomato chutney. Followed that with a Crab cake on buttery croissant and a side of handmade potato chips. And the remoulade that came with...holy cow. Equally good on the crabcake, chips and my pinky finger. Carl had an upscale version of a cheesesteak sandwich and waffle fries that were so perfect...incredible texture and perfectly seasoned. And then...peanut butter pie. O. M. G. Carl literally (and I do mean literally) licked the plate.

I was late to choir.

I didn't care.

Tuesday, January 11

Cranky Folks Testing Me!

So - we got some winter weather in the great Commonwealth of Virginia. And it seems to have iced over the hearts of some people. I'm not sure how the drivers can remain patient and kind when folks yell at them for (among other things today): parking near their car (but within the lines and in the proper lot), coming a day early (because there was ice in another part of the state) and for not having time/space for an extra 1500 pounds of paper.

The phones were no happier at the office.

But for every cranky pants...there was either a positive call (at least someone who understands why ice might disturb routes) or at least an amusing tale for the office. Is there a full moon that nobody told me about?

Usually this would drive me to the warehouse fridge for a Coke (and a smile!) - but today I just had a few orange Skittles and tried to remember that we are not delivering transplant hearts. And now cozy in my house - with soup on the stove and love in my heart - it fades in importance.

I will try hard to remember that tomorrow when the wackos come out again. And to recall that Coke Day is coming!

Sunday, January 9

Coke and Meatballs

So - yesterday (Saturday) was Coke Day. And I resisted having any Coke until dinnertime. Which for me was meatballs. Which I dearly love. The Cokes are out on the porch now - keeps them out of sight, out of mind - and so the Coke inside the little bottles is already bitterly cold. And then over ice - it was the most refreshing feeling to have that first swallow. And the second one was also pretty good! By the end of the glass though...well, no, that was also still good.

Unlike the Unsatisfying Coke Friday - when I was so disappointed in my beverage experience. This one was really worth the wait. And I will look forward to the next Coke Day with equal delight.

You see, it isn't so much about not drinking Coke. Obviously there are worse vices in the world (and I have a couple of THOSE). To quote some random wisdom from my youth, "at least nobody drinks a Coke and beats their kids". Okay, to be fair...that quote was not about Coke. I think that was pot. My mis-spent youth...

It is about actually appreciating the Coke if I'm going to drink it! I was asked by a friend how many Cokes I used to consume in a day. I figure it averaged out to 5 or 6. How many of those was I really conscious of whether I enjoyed it or not? Maybe 1. And that was probably the first one of the day - when I swear I could feel the rejuvenating power surging through my veins. The rest of was just mindless consumption.

So - I'm not so much giving up drinking Coke...I'm trying (trying!) to give up mindless consumption. I'm now going to to thoughtfully consume some potato soup that Mom made. And I shall endeavor to appreciate the experience. Including appreciating the fact that I didn't have to make it. Maybe first I should go fold her laundry. Seems like a fair exchange.

Saturday, January 8

In Anticipation...

Today I have decreed will be a Coke Day!! I was tempted to have one at lunch. Went to lunch today at the Depot Grille after my nephew Jack's basketball game. Great game. I'm going to have a freakin' heart attack at one of these dang games. His team - The Sixers - did not win, but it was a great game! And Jack hit a 3 that just went SWOOSH. It was sweet.

So we went to the Depot - love their sauteed mushrooms. And then Jack and I split a Chocolate Lava Cake which was excellent. So - I thought about a Coke then. But then I was afraid that I would decide that was going to be it for another week. You see - I haven't exactly decided if it is one Coke per week or Coke one day per week. Either one would be a real accomplishment for me. Trust me. So - then I decided that the resulting potential guilt feelings might ruin see... I may be over-thinking it. Too much navel-gazing?

Where was I? Oh yeah - so I'm having Coke tonight. And I think I will also have Meatballs!! Which is one of my favorite foods. Sushi, Coke and Meatballs... If I needed another name for my blog - that would probably be it. Or maybe I'll form a band?

Anyway - more random thoughts later.

Thursday, January 6

Savoring Sushi

Well - if a certain person reads this blog...I'm going to be in BIG trouble. I've been cheating on sushi friends again. But when the boss wants to go have gotta do it, right? And when he wants to go again 3 days later...that's not my fault, right?

Perhaps I'm rationalizing again.

But I must say - IT WAS AWESOME!! There are several places in Lynchburg that you can go get sushi - including Kroger. But if you really crave sushi - it must be John John's creations at Kings Island. And I was lucky enough to eat there twice this week (so far!).

I remember my very first piece of sushi. It was about 10 years ago and I was at lunch with my sister Denise and my buddy Phil Hinkle. Denise and I were there for the awesome lunch buffet but Hink chose to wait for sushi. While we chowed down on the great Chinese food - he patiently awaited the arrival of his lunch. And then when he heard I never tried sushi before - he shared a piece of his Rock and Roll. Eel and cucumber topped with avocado. And the idea that you needed to throw the whole thing in and eat it at once? Seemed too much. Like jumping off a cliff. What the heck was I going to do if it was dreadful? But I jumped - and it was NOT dreadful. And then I had another piece dipped in a sauce of wasabi/soy. And I got that little rush up my nose that only sushi aficionados will understand. By the third piece I was completely hooked.

I have eaten sushi in many cities, many restaurants, many settings. All are good. There was only one time that I didn't eat a piece of sushi that was ordered. Sea urchin. Hmmm....that just didn't smell right. Truth be told - I really now prefer my tuna raw. Even rare is too well done. And even though I KNOW that the whole mixing wasabi with soy sauce is not far nobody has threatened to throw me out of the restaurant. I like a balance between the taste of the sushi (which is sublime) and the rush of the wasabi (which is like a roller coaster). I love the whole experience.

It usually starts with the group (my "club" the Royal Order of the Baby Octopus) debating how many and what kinds of sushi to order. We order in a couple of waves so that we can get started faster! Then there is the patient waiting for the artist to do his work. The arrival of the platter is greeted with proper reverence - oooohhs and aaaahhs. Then the decimation begins. Wasabi and soy sauce blend to each eaters preference (mine is a light tan liquid - Carl's is the consistency of wallpaper paste). There is some battling for the soy sauce bottle (I do not share very well). The first piece is chosen. For me it almost always the Spicy Scallop Roll - which is neither very spicy nor does it resemble any scallops I've ever seen. I always kiss my first and last piece. OK - I'm odd. You knew that.

I could have felt guilty today for eating sushi (twice) without my sushi pals. But I decided that guilt was not useful. So instead - I savored the experience. And today - I ate my annual baby octopus. This reconfirms me as the High Empress of the Royal Order.

But will it count if I didn't eat it with the group? As High Empress - I say yes.

Two days till Coke Saturday. Then I can savor THAT!

Wednesday, January 5

You knew Hamsters were going to be involved...

A very nice young lady - who I've never even met - made a request via her Dad. She really wanted Tater Tot Tuesdays to be their special thing. I wasn't that attached to the name, I just always liked the idea. So the concept of the blog remains the same...but the name has changed.

And seriously - you knew that the hamster in the lounge chair wasn't going to be the only hamster involved for long. So - I introduce the new name with this short post. Welcome to The Beaten Hamster. That ought to raise even more questions and eyebrows than TTT did!

Have a good day friends!

Tuesday, January 4

Tater Tot Tuesdays? What?

I wasn't even sure myself why I decided to call the blog Tater Tot Tuesdays. Perhaps that will be revealed to me in a session of navel-gazing. But here is what I know so far:

#1 - my goal for 2011 (and should be for the rest of my life) is to become a better person. I know - so many of you are asking yourself "how could she possibly be a better person?". No - in all seriousness...the most fatal flaw is believing that you have none. And believe me - I actually know that I have flaws. Big and small...serious and silly...real and imagined. So - I know I've got stuff I can work on.

#2 - the first thing I decided to do was kick my addiction to Coke. Only the first thing I realized was that there was a side effect to deciding to have only one Coke-day per week...I was also going to learn to appreciate that event.

#3 - so that led to the fact that I know I perform best under some cloud of accountability. I started taking my contacts out because my best friend told me to stop abusing my eyeballs and then I got encouragement and positive feedback when I was struggling through forming that good habit. So, I decided to blog. Even if nobody but me reads this - I am more likely to be good. Blogs need I thought of nifty phrases that I like. "you may be right" "tru dat" "don't participate" and "that's what she said" didn't really fit.

I like alliteration and a facebook friend had often mentioned that this Tuesday or that Tuesday was a "Tater Tot Tuesday" and I liked it even without knowing what he meant. For me - it was the idea that you could give up fried foods except for once a week when you would have tater tots. Or Coke. Really appreciating the special treat of a favorite food/event/vice...

Because I'll tell ya - I'm totally looking forward to my next Coke (Saturday this week maybe?) and I promise I'll really savor it this time.

Turns out that his Tater Tot Tuesday is a chance to eat lunch ( lunch!) with his daughter. And that is the coolest thing. He doesn't think that she'll be into it for many more years...and so he really savors them now. My the best part of life. Taking time to be in the moment. And sharing a tater tot (or a Coke) with someone.

Navel-gazing complete for the day. In order to re-balance my mind...I'm off to watch "Toddlers and Tiaras"! Yeah...not.

Sunday, January 2

One Screw

Disjointed thoughts are running through my brain. It is hard to focus them enough to even come up with a title for today's post.

Discussion this morning of resolutions made me think of Lent. Lent is one of the first times I tried to give up Coke. I made it about 7 hours. I told you I wasn't good with self-denial. In the Methodist church it has depended upon the church/pastor/teacher's influence in any given year how much importance was placed on the concept of giving something up for Lent. Some years I was encouraged to add something positive instead of giving up something. I didn't have the best role models for giving up things for Lent. My great grandmother (I've been told) always gave up going to the movies. Well - she'd never been to the movies in her life. I had a friend whose mother gave up smoking - except on Sunday (which she indicated was some sort of free day) when she smoked like a chimney.

I think that the idea of adding a good habit could be as positive as deleting a bad habit. So I'm going to try to balance my changes this year between kicking some bad habits and learning the art of follow through on developing some good ones. Today I started laundry, carried dishes to the kitchen and sat down to write this post. All of them could have gotten lost in my usual habit of procrastination. That's the key obstacle to me becoming a better person - I've got to learn to just do something instead of doing it later.

I have one friend who has incredible follow through. If he says he will get something done - he does it. Then. On the other hand - I have a light over my bed that will occasionally fall down upon my head because I never got ONE screw and a screwdriver to prevent that from happening. TODAY - right now in fact - I am going to put a screw in that bracket.

And now I have a title for the post. Whatever will tomorrow bring?

Saturday, January 1

Unsatisfying Coke Friday

Ok - so last night I had to bartend the New Year's Eve opening night Gala at the Renaissance Theatre. It makes for such a long day that during that brief hour between work and more work - I decided that it would be a good time to have my weekly Coke. Just to keep me going.

But since I was so overwhelmingly tired and somewhat unmotivated to go on to my next task - I don't think that I really enjoyed it! Ah and learn. I shall do better next week. More planning so that a treat is really really a treat!

Once the event starts rolling - I enjoy it. It was a great to see some folks who I only see New Year's Eve. At one point during a quiet moment (we get a little down time when people go in to watch the play!) I thought to myself that the end of my year of self-improvement and navel gazing will probably be in the same place it started. After all, I've been bartending this event for about 7-8 years is likely that I'll be in the same place 12/31/11. Wonder what that post will be about...

New Year's Day is a great time to assess where you are in life. Lots of people make resolutions and I hear the gym will be crowded next week. I know that I have a great job, awesome friends and an incredible family. Other positives include a roof over my head, no car payment on a car that runs (276,000 miles! Go Honda!), and I hear that my sister is bringing rolls to lunch! Stuff to work on includes too much debt, several addictions to evil foods and a tendency to spend time dreading things that I've made a commitment to do. If I've made a commitment then I KNOW I'm going to follow through - so why waste energy dreading it? That's something for the change pile.

Well - my brother, sister and their families have arrived for lunch. I'm going to go enjoy their company. And a cup of coffee. Going to be a long time till my next Coke. But I will survive. I think.