Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Wish Lists

Last night my sister MaryAnne shared her kids' (ages 8, 9 1/2,and 14) Christmas wish lists. These lists say so much about each of their personalities. Brody, the 9 year old, is an outdoor enthusiast, Bridget, the 8 year old is the sassiest girl you'll ever meet and fully expects to get whatever she asks for, in life and under the tree! And Jessie, the teenager's list is just what you'd expect from any girl that age--No toys, just skinny jeans and Hollister tees.

They reminded me of my own childhood, writing letters to Santa and then putting them in the woodstove where they would float up the chimney, out into the night sky and blow to the North Pole where Santa would magically piece it back together to fill my wishes. Or so my mother told me.

If you're thinking of making a wish, follow these kids' advice and include whatever your heart desires. Santa just might take note:

A 9 1/2 year-old wish list:
1. Webkins Bear or Lion
2. Red Dirt Bike chest Pads
3. Red Dirt Bike Boots
4. Gold Kit (panning)
5. Animal Skinning Kit
6. Books
7. Wii
8. Knifes
9. Pup tent or a big tent
10. clothes
11. bow
12. Drum Set

8 year-old Wish List:

1.Christmas Brat doll Cloe
3.razer cell phone/camera phone
4.Wii for me
7.New Shoes
8.alarm clock
9.cds Bed Spered/plow+sheet+skirt
11. real make up not lil girl kind iteams items
14.don't give me so much candy
15. I know you are my Parents

14-year old list:

1. Clothes

Sunday, November 25, 2007


This afternoon as I headed to campus to study for my statistics class and officially say goodbye to Thanksgiving break, I got pulled over. As soon as I saw the flashing lights in my rearview mirror, I knew I had been speeding. I also happened to be talking on the phone, which probably didn't help my case. In my defense, I was talking to the director of the Iowa College Foundation where I volunteer my time as a College Coach to high school students. Yes, that last sentence is a shameless plug to prove that I am a good person in many ways, if not a prudent driver.

At any rate, I pulled over and reached into my glove box for my registration and into my backpack for my license. The funny thing is that, unlike the other few times I have been pulled over in my life (for speeding as well), my heart would race, I would get teary and begin pleading as soon as the officer walked toward my car. This time, however, I was calm. When asked if I knew why I had been pulled over (why do they say that? Are they baiting us? Hoping we'll say, "Ummm....because I haven't paid taxes in ten years? Have a warrant for my arrest in another state? Going 27 in a school zone?) I said, "Because I was speeding and talking on my cell phone while doing so?" Yes, exactly. I handed over my registration and he said that he was giving me a ticket because I passed two signs telling me the correct speed. I said, "Fair enough" and waited for him to write the citation.

In years past, I would have tried a combination of ignorant victim and used my feminine wiles to try to get a warning instead. But what's the point in that? I'm not a victim and I certainly don't want to be a cliche woman in distress. I was driving a Chevy Pickup for God's sake; I'm hardly a weakling. The only thing that makes me nervous is the thought of going home and telling my boyfriend, who works in the auto insurance industry, that our fabulous insurance rate is going to increase. I may need those feminine wiles after all...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Home for the Homicides

In the criminal justice system, sexually-based offenses are considered especially heinous, and therefore a television series highlighting such crimes should be aired over the Thanksgiving holidays. Wednesday night, as I sliced apples and spiced pumpkin for pies, TNT announced a Law and Order SVU marathon to air all day Thursday. Homicide for the Holidays? I am a huge Law and Order fan, and was excited at the prospect of 24 hours of Benson and Stabler apprehending sexual predators with the help of Ice-T. But as I watched the first episode (Benson goes undercover to catch a recently paroled rapist) it didn't feel quite like the holidays I remember from childhood, sitting at the table watching my mom make pies and homemade hot rolls. Ok, that part isn't true--we weren't allowed in the kitchen when my mom was cooking lest we screw up her perfectly-timed cooking schedule. She had not discovered the joys of Zoloft yet, so we didn't enter that room unless we were packing heat like Detective Benson. Aside from that, the holidays were lovely.

This Thanksgiving was the first in my new house with my new boyfriend and his family. I was up early, prepping the turkey while watching another episode of SVU. It seemed appropriate to watch crime on television as I proceeded with the blood-letting of a giant bird. As the relatives arrived and I pulled my first turkey out of the oven (it was perfect thanks to mom and MaryAnne's expert advice), however, I changed the channel to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. There may be heinous acts on this show as well--think High School Musical in Santa hats--but it's tradition. And I'm thankful for that.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

About that Chicken

As usual, I somehow managed to turn a simple roast chicken into a near mental breakdown. All was well on Saturday afternoon, watching football with my beau and his parents while preparing a lovely fall dinner of roast chicken, roasted brussel sprouts and mashed potatoes with pumpkin ice cream from our local ice cream shop for dessert. I trussed and salted the chicken and set the timer for an hour. One hour later my world caved in around me. I asked my beau's dad if he would carve the chicken and, in the process, he remarked that "this one must be a stewing hen!" followed by, "My dear, the blood has settled in the thigh and she's not done yet." What the hell does that mean? Stewing hen? Settling blood?

Immediately, I started spiraling in a self-loathing tornado. Tears pooled in my eyes much like the blood in the chicken's thighs. I swear if that chicken's head were still attached, she would have looked over at me and mouthed the words, "Yes, you fool, the sky is falling."I pulled my beau aside and whispered, "I have made this twice before and this never happened and now it's ruined when your parents are here!" to which he replied in his logical tone,"Honey, it's fine. We'll fix it," to which I replied, "It's not fine; it's ruined and now what are we going to eat?" Just then, his dad turned to me with his hands full of chicken entrails and said, "Well, here's part of your problem: You forgot to clean out the cavity and she's a big one!" His mom commenced with the chicken triage, saying, "I do this all the time" while she heated the undercooked parts.

I'm still standing in the middle of the kitchen fighting back tears while Kyle looks at me. I know what he is thinking but afraid to ask, so I answer his silent question, "Yes, I took my medication today. The pre-medication Sherri would have thrown the chicken in the garbage, run upstairs and flogged myself Medieval-monk-style." He smiled at me and at that moment, I managed to dosomething that I have just recently learned to do in the face of failures large and small: I stopped spinning, wiped my tears and shrugged it off, realizing that a four-pound undercooked chicken with bloody thighs is not the stuff that failures are made of.

Dinner turned out fine and I was reminded that while I may never shed all of my hard-wired, uptight, emotionally intense personality, I have learned to put things in perspective with a little pharmaceutical help and a partner to laugh with me.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


This is the first day of a ten-day Thanksgiving break. A break from class, teaching, statistics, research, and catching the bus. This semester has flown by and while I still have to do homework over the break, I am giving myself the weekend to relax and enjoy some simple pleasures. Watching E! News Weekend while drinking a pot of coffee (I didn't say I was taking a break from my caffeine addiction!), playing with my puppy, and, my favorite, pouring over my cookbooks for new winter recipes. Most of my girlfriends are fellow foodies, and I call on them when I have questions or need ideas. When I need a fabulous veggie idea, I call Sharri, Tenley is my go-to for simple dinners and fun appetizers, and Christian is my gourmet guru. Earlier this fall when a fresh chicken stared me down in the freezer, I called Christian for a recipe. Appropriately titled "My favorite simple roast chicken," this recipe reminds me that the most delicious things are often the most simple to prepare.

And it was! I was skeptical at first, thinking surely it needed garlic, onions, some other spice. But Christian, knowing my obsessive tendencies, admonished me to just follow the recipe and not mess with it! So I did. And it was perfect. Now, it's part of my repertoire and one of my boyfriend's favorites, which also says a lot since he is from the Midwest and considers chicken "vegetarian."

So, I'm off to pat and truss my chicken!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Puppy Parenting

Last spring, after years of dog allergies, I found the perfect, hypoallergenic puppy and immediately took him home. Before I became a dog owner, I was annoyed by people who would refer to themselves as "mommy" or "daddy" when referring to their relationship to a canine. A dog is a dog, not a human, and should be treated as such. But from the moment I took little Cooper out of his cage at Petland, he was mine. Perhaps it was the fact that he was half-price, or that he licked my face (another thing I swore I would never let happen!), but I loved him instantly.

Cooper and I take regular trips to Thornberry Dog Park, where he runs with other dogs under 18" tall. I let him off his leash and sit with the other "mommies" on a doggie play date. And, like moms whose children have opposable thumbs, the conversation centered on toy safety and potty training tips.

Last night, as he chased and sniffed and performed other dog rituals, I found myself watching and worrying. Do the other dogs like him? Why isn't Cosmo the Cockapoo playing chase with him? Why is he running along the fence all alone? Is he happy? I realized that I wanted him to be a cool kid on the playground, and to be cool involves being in the thick of the pack. For the next 45 minutes, I obsessesed over Coopers socialization. Surely dogs need validation from the pack to feel accepted and valued, right? Or, should I be proud that he is confident enough to run on his own, discovering all kinds of leftover scents along the perimeter?

Thankfully, before I obsessed any further, I looked up to see him engaged in a full-blown game of "Who's the Dominant Doggie?" I sat down and watched him play until he ran up to me, signaling that he was ready to go home. Good boy!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Facing my Failure Demons

It was a dark and stormy night. Millions of bloggers sat at their computers, fingers flying in stream of consciousness writing. They paid no attention to the raging wind outside because they had stories to tell, observations to share, rants to rant, and yes, posting photos of little Jimmy wearing his first real lace-up shoes for relatives far and wide to see. On this same night, I was also at my computer, but instead of writing, my fingers were frozen with fear. Were there ghosts on the keyboard? A trip wire in the motherboard? I ran from my computer and looked in all my closets, turned on all the lights, checked for burglars in the basement. Alas, the house was safe. I returned to my blank laptop screen and the chill returned. The demon wasn't in the house, it was in my head. And it was that old familiar ghoul: A big, hairy, googly-eyed monster that lurked in the back of my mind, whose only words were "You're a failure! MOOOUUUHHHAAAHAAAAA!"

What is so scary about writing a blog entry, you ask? Good question. A year ago, I started a blog as a way to process my emotional journey preceding the move to Iowa. I'd been through a psychological and emotional ordeal and needed to use my old stand-by humor as a way to make sense of it and move on. I enjoyed writing and shared it with my family and friends. And then, that pesky homework got in the way and I was immersed in school. I didn't have time to write and revise regular vignettes of my dating past and evolving present. So I stopped. Wrote nothing. Because if I couldn't do something perfect, I wasn't going to do it at all, right? And, what's more, I had determined that my blog was going to be a certain way and, again (notice the pattern, Dr. Rice?), once I start something, I can't change it. The same thinking that had threatened to destroy me a few years ago was rearing its ugly head in even the most mundane tasks. My sisters and friends kept encouraging me to "just write something," but what if it turned out like my childhood journals that I destroyed ten years later when I read them and thought I was stupid? What if, horror of horrors, it wasn't good enough? The other part of this frightening mindset is that I couldn't tell anyone my fear that my blog was a failure. I was lurking in the shadows of my own self-defeating attitude. And that, my friends, is the scariest part of all.

Last week I had the good fortune to see a dear friend and confidant and she asked about my blog. She is one of those friends with whom I've shared absolutely everything. I finally admitted that I was afraid to be a blog-failure. Once I said it out loud, I realized how silly it seemed. Who was I going to disappoint? A blog is basically a diary. I don't have a national circulation; there are maybe five people who read it besides me, and half of those are relatives. So, here goes: I'm saying BOO! to my inner self-doubt and will use this blog as I'd orginally intended--to chronicle my journey toward getting my PhD, living with the love of my life, and housebreaking a puppy. And that's not scary at all.