Hollah! Mada'in Saleh

Hike, sweat, climb, repeat. 

Our weekend girls camping trip* to Mada'in Saleh, a pre-Islamic archeological site in Saudi Arabia, was amazing! (A-MAY-ZING!).

*These are not words I've ever used together. Or separately. 

I've seen photos of the ancient city of Petra carved into the rocks in Jordan, but the Nabataean civilization existed further south, into the Al Madinah region, and became Saudi Arabia's first UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Though I lived in Southern Alabama for over ten years, I'm reasonably sure being outside when it's 117 degrees Fahrenheit surpasses any heat index I've ever felt. And when you think you couldn't possibly get any hotter? Throw on a black polyester abaya to hold in all your body heat from the neck down.

Watch my movie trailer:  Mada'in Saleh. 
Trust me, there will be way less sweat involved this way.



I'm fascinated with hoarders, and can't help but notice similarities between us: older, white women with a lot of cats. I'm oldish, white, and have taken in nineteen cats since my divorce in 2004. Technically only an average of 2.3 per year, but perhaps gaining status as crazy cat lady is a preliminary step?

Anxious to change gears, I threw away all my favorite things (including that awesome Eddie Bauer goose down comforter - why?) and took in a homeless, abandoned border collie. She  was lonely and needed her own puppy (you can't teach old cats new tricks, afterall), but I'm drawing the line there.

Two cats, two dogs, and maybe I could just replace some of my stuff.


As the flames rose to her Roman nose

I was actually proud of myself for remembering the bag of African Violet potting soil in the kitchen when the gas grill caught fire.

I was probably 35 the first time I ever used a grill, which was a relic left by the people who rented my house. The ignition switch didn't work, so I'd turn on the propane, grab a long-handled lighter and hope for the best. A successful event involved very little of my arm hair getting singed. During the 15 years prior, Ed would marinate, rub and grill, which actually proves you can have too much of a good thing. Steak again? Please let me make Hamburger Helper!

I believe I've been given a second (or third) chance after this recent blaze. Not that I have the ability or interest to change much, but I'll definitely return to my burning-dinner-in-the-oven roots, with the occasional smoke alarm on the side, rather than using fireballs.


Elevator Practice

For some odd reason, while in an elevator, I never seem to be able to remember which button to push to hold the doors open. This leads to some awkwardness after making eye contact with strangers, as they rush to get onboard, only to have the doors quickly shut in front of them as I accidentally and repeatedly push for the doors to close. I halfway expect some pumped-up, steroid-injecting, angry man to run down the stairs and confront me after I successfully arrive at my destination and attempt to exit. Which leads me to last weekend.

RB & I stayed in a condo in Panama City Beach, where we were fortunate to get free* concert tickets for Miranda Lambert (Friday) and Jason Aldean (Saturday). Admittedly, I'm not much of a  country music fan, but it seems rather elitist to write off an entire genre.

*Free is a relative term, since the resort charged an additional $160 for a damage waiver, reservation, registration and cleaning fees.

As holders of preferred general admission tickets, we were directed to the section closest to the stage, which would have been amazing if I'd known one song. I thought I did, but it turns out Carrie Underwood digs her keys into his pretty little souped up 4 wheel drive. Miranda should probably add it to her repertoire. Just sayin'.

We were enjoying the show, packed tight, when the angry man from my imaginary elevator scenario started pushing his way near the stage. He was saying, "Don't look at me.  Don't look at me." A gaping hole in the crowd opened up, as Steroid man ripped off his shirt, and attempted to fight the guilty man who apparently was brave enough to look at him. He was standing directly in front of me, with his beefy, overthick neck in view. I, of course, felt an overwhelming urge to thump him in the neck, but came to my senses when I remembered how painful broken noses can be.


Lost in Time. And Space.

The man behind the counter of the Enterprise car rental asked if I would be taking the vehicle out of the state. "Not on purpose," I replied flippantly. Who doesn't love a little foreshadowing in life?

I headed north in that Aveo, with the windows down and the radio blaring, across industrialized metal bridges and through Amish farmland, occasionally looking down at the stack of papers printed out from Mapquest before my trip. I drove for approximately three hours through the countryside and city, and that old metaphor about life being about the journey is true...though the destination was actually a necessity for work.

I never realized Pittsburgh, or Pennsylvania in general, was on my wishlist of places to visit - what a great surprise. Next time, however, I plan on being armed with a GPS. And maybe tickets to a Steeler's game. And possibly a driver - it's practically impossible to get bridge photos while negotiating traffic.


3rd Class Travel

During my flight to Pittsburgh yesterday, smooshed up against the window while sitting next to an overweight, short-limbed snoring man, it occured to me that the airlines should be charging passengers per pound of bodyweight. Or at least a surcharge if they can't be contained in the width of one seat.

As an ineffcient packer, I don't mind (much) paying for luggage, but if I'm being overcharged for my seat, I want to at least enjoy the whole thing.

All men are created equal, but some are more equal than others.


Fg = G (m1*m2)/(d^2)

I thought gravity was taking a toll on me, but at least I haven't simply fallen in the street without warning (or wind, rain, rhyme or reason). Recently, anyway.


Scare Tactics

I found my dentist a few years ago after eating nachos and breaking a molar on a Thursday night. Apparently, the Dentist Union prevents them from working on Fridays, but after about twenty calls, I found one willing to see me. I'm a model patient, flossing daily, drinking wine with a straw, and paying for appointments every six months, even when my insurance is particularly fickle about their portion of our payment plan.

How to scare your patient in 3, 2, 1...: my dentist walked up from behind, warning me not to be alarmed. Why? He'd had a face lift last week and was still recovering, with some major hematomas on his neck. He then proceeded to show me the stitches around both sides of his face, around his hairy ears, down his chin, and across the back side of his head. I nodded and checked out the medical wizardry, but it all looked like something that should be healing within the confines of his own home. He then explained that beauty was painful, but he'd be getting a breast reduction next. I can only hope my timing gets better.


Viva Las Romas!

My favorite place in Las Vegas looks a lot like Italy. Caesars Palace is a newer, cleaner version of Rome, with more glitz, gambling and palm trees. You can even find gelato.

I still prefer the ancient original, however, for the way it touches my soul. Senatus populusque Romanus.


Someone like Us

There may be several someone's like you, but there are none exactly like us.


Caffè Way

Always beyond considerate, RB took my car to the gas station last night to fill up, since I had to leave for Montgomery at 6 a.m. this morning. "Besides, you'll want to leave enough time to get lost on your way there." (which might seem funny, if it wasn't for the fact that members of my family consistently get lost in parking lots).

Apparently, he should also have reminded me to leave enough time to pick up a large coffee, then spill it over my new white linen shirt while fiddling with the lid. And I got lost.


Wonder by Wonder

I expected nothing less than spectacular from the Grand Canyon, and wasn't disappointed. Riding in a jeep with the sides off, drinking Corona and occasionally stopping to buy petrified wood souveneirs.

Life is, indeed, grand.


Public Prattle

I loathe public speaking. Detest it above all else. My face flames crimson, my vocal chords tighten and my mind performs a massive data dump. My dad Tony offered to send me/pay for a Dale Carnegie course once, but the discussion made my palms sweat. I'd rather visit the dentist and the gynecologist in the same afternoon. At a training hospital. And have the procedures televised.

Last month, I was volun-told to be our representative at the two week SHARP (Sexual Harassment/Assault Response Prevention) Course. I didn't mind the ten-hour days or the topic, and the soldiers were infinitely more interesting than my co-workers. Unfortunately, I'm now responsible for giving 3-hour blocks of training to approximately 80 people in our directorate, in groups of 15 at a time. Just thinking obsessing about it sends me into pre-stroke territory.

"Let thy speech be better than silence, or be silent."
~ Dionysius of Halicarnassus


Mo' money, time and cable

Not that I've ever had much of either, but I've definitely noticed money and time seldom co-exist in my world. Unemployed while living in Germany, I could have spent months skiing the Alps (if I knew how) or riding boats down the Rhine. Capital One's propensity to deny charges over my credit limit curbed my reckless abandon, however. Now? I have access to more funds, but work beaucoup hours with minimal vacation. It seldom leaves time for globetrotting.

It's occurred to me that blogging and actually having something to post seem to be mutually exclusive as well. Case in point: I returned home from my trip to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, armed with three cameras full of digital photos, only to discover internet and cable had been disconnected in my absence.

When Time Warner changed my account number a few months ago, then charged late fees because they didn't receive payment, I simply stopped paying. I refused to pay for the month that hadn't happened yet, or the reconnection fee. I'll call your bluff, giant corporate monopoly-holding bully.

It turns out six days of bluff calling and quiet introspection is all I really need. I called TW, out of curiousity, to discuss options, then upgraded to digital cable for my old school televisions. Now when I'm at work, I can record all the quality shows I'm missing.


Size Extra Medium

He's nifty! He's fifty! JOE QUINLAN

"I haven't decided - the fact that you're wearing Uncle Joe's t-shirt is either really cool or slightly morbid," I said to my dad Tony after he arrived in town, wearing my deceased uncle's shirt in the kitchen* during our impromptu family get-together last weekend.

*we always sit in the kitchen. I'm not sure why this is, other than the fact that it's closest to the refrigerator so the beer is more accessible. A more practical option might be to hang out near the bathroom.

My sister Tiffany chimed in, "I think it's really cool. Some of the kids in my school would wear the shirts, and it always made me happy when I saw them."

Celebratory shirts. Maybe the best way to feel closer to the people in our lives would be to steal their party clothes. If only my family had better fashion sense.


Days like This

Worse than flying to Tucson, taking a shuttle to a trailer in the middle of the desert in order to rent a miniature Nissan car with manual windows and no cruise controls, was losing the damn thing at the casino the following night. (At least I knew no one had stolen it.)



Despite the hail storm last weekend, spring is firmly entrenched in Southern Alabama. Life seems brighter with azaleas in bloom.

"If you've never been thrilled to the very edges of your soul by a flower in spring bloom, maybe your soul has never been in bloom.
-- Terri Guillemets



"I put my heart and soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process." - Vincent van Gogh

I've had two years to update my installation's Hazardous Waste Management Plan, hauling papers in a notebook around the country in order to be prepared for unplanned spare time or a missed flight (I've apparently had neither).

The first draft needs to be submitted this afternoon. Is the thrill of procrastinating so rewarding? Or is my plan that boring? Maybe I could call it a cliffhanger by skipping the last few sections?


Death Plan, Rev 002

Morbidly, perhaps, I've been overly interested in my own death for most of my life. Ready for a do-over at 42. Doesn't everyone have a top 5 of preferred demises?

1. free-fall over a cliff in a '72 Jaguar (while Cat Stevens plays in the background. Thank you, Harold and Maude).
2. drug overdose (minus the vomit)
3. airplane crash
4. mortal gunshot wound
5. electric chair (without the guilty verdict/jail time)

Over the years, I've come to the realization that this life isn't so bad and fear, instead, the possibility of surviving a medical calamity, destined to spend years paralyzed and dependent on others.

Though I've been taking blood pressure medication for two years, I apparently do not have a free pass from the professional, personal and financial stress I internalize. The numbers are still dangerously high, and frankly? The possibility of a stroke definitely ranks last on the death list.


It's a MoonPie New Year

Central Time Zone. Who wouldn't want to celebrate the New Year with a 600-pound marshmallow pie dropping from the sky? (Mobile, Alabama)

2011: the year of my favorite snack!

Although I'm a former Michigan Wolverine, I cheered for both University of Michigan and Michigan State today in their (separate but equal stompings) bowl games. Since both were scheduled at the same time, RB stacked a 2nd tv on top of the main one in the living room, where we spent the day in our own private Sports Bar, without having to start a tab.


Petite Peeve

Here's a New Year's resolution suggestion for annoying, clustering, clingy fools:

If you go to a matinée in a movie theater, where there are only a handful of individuals trying to eat their popcorn in peace, try not to sit next to another patron. Better yet, get your own row.

If you're at the gym, where there's a whole row of assorted cardio equipment, don't get on the elliptical trainer right next to someone. Branch out, give people their space. It's tough enough dragging my fat ass to the gym without having to share hot, sweaty air. Geez.



"In the depths of winter I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer."

-- Albert Camus


The ed is the beginning is the ed.

I saw an email in my inbox the other day, "Get rid of ED".

A little presumptuous, I thought, to assume I wanted to off my ex-husband. He's kind of large - wouldn't there be evidence? I clicked it open, only to discover Ed is more commonly referred to as 'erectile dysfunction'. The things you learn.

I had always heard that recovery time from a divorce is equal to half the time you were married, but a little rejection goes a long way: I'm ahead of schedule by about 2 years. My (non-ED) boyfriend and I recently celebrated our year anniversary and I did not even freak out. Not even a little. I've been through enough cheap, crazy, cheating, lying toads - I deserve this.



It may not be accurate or fair, but I've always lumped chiropractors in with the rest of my mom's special brand of medical quackery. Her purple power quartz may have helped with pregnancy and delivery, but I'm a scientist, for heaven's sake. I need facts and proof.

This year, though, has seen the birth of a fatter, stiffer and, dare I say, more open-minded version of my previous self. The other day, when I had to move my entire body to look at someone entering my office because my neck no longer turned left or right, it seemed more than a little inconvenient. Driving? I had become the old woman terrorist commuter, accelerating and hoping for the best when changing lanes.

My new chiropractor tells me that my back muscles have been spasming, which has caused them to lock and severely limit my range of motion. Some manipulating, jack hammers, and electrodes later, I was able to turn my head. He thinks I'll need 2 weeks of daily, aggressive treatment, but with a $25 co-pay each visit, we may need to cut it short due to my cheap ass frugalness.



*Patrick, at 1-1/2, with his cherubic little face, would screech 'motherfunk' every time he saw a chipmunk in the yard. He would get so excited, I never had the heart to correct him.

An interesting tidbit about chipmunks after they're caught by felines and dragged into the house through the cat door: they hide. They hide exceptionally well, squirrelled away in little cubby holes under the refrigerator or tv, or possibly in a bathroom cabinet, then never try to escape. They seem to be biding their time, waiting to die.


Electoral thieves

I voted the other day, for the first time ever, which I know is lame, but the only place one person's vote ever made a difference was on Survivor. Hopefully, though, in the future, I'll get picked up for more jury duty, sitting in a leather chair from 8-4 with a break for lunch, deciding the fate of a diabetic with a meth pipe in the van he borrowed from a friend. Count me in!

Patrick had a rough night after rocking his vote, when someone smashed the passenger window of his car, then stole his wallet. I looked online at the transactions and saw quite a party: fast food feasts, gas station splurges, some protein products from GNC....until I realized all this had occurred before his wallet was stolen. Never give your kid a credit card to use "in case of an emergency" because there are bound to be errors in translation.