Walking Dead

I’m a committed person. Even if I don’t plan to, if I start watching a series I pretty much stick to it to the end. I have mixed feelings about Walking Dead, particularly this season. (But I will continue watching. They’ve got me!) I always record it, so I can watch commercial free. This season followed the gang who disbursed from the prison in different directions, after the showdown with the Governor, and the prison’s destruction. Some of them found each other, and carried on. But I have a few issues with this season:

What Happened to Beth? Sheesh! Nobody is even mentioning it! She was kidnapped and dumped in the trunk of a car that sped off. Daryl tried to follow on foot and track it, but failed and hooked up with that crazy bunch of homicidal red-necks. When Daryl finally re-unites with members of the original gang, he neglects to even mention what happens to Beth. Shouldn’t they look around for her? I would expect at least a SHOW of effort from Daryl. After all, he seemed a little sweet on Beth, and they bonded over moonshine. But I guess we’re going with the “Out of sight, out of mind” philosophy.

What the hell was that with Lizzie and Mika? This episode was the weirdest of the weird. I cannot imagine a kid thinking that walkers could be friends. Or that she would stab her sister to death so that she could re-animate. WTF? I guess they needed to get rid of those girls because they were boring so we just had Lizzie kill Mika and Carol kill Lizzie. Bam! End of story. Whaaaaa?

The worst Recon Team Ever One would think that after surviving a couple years in the zombie apocalypse, one’s natural suspicions would be heightened. And after surviving the governor, and other bands of murderous men, the team should know that there are a LOT of bad people around. Really, Rick? You’re going to scale the fence of Terminus and just walk right in? What about a few days of recon? What kind of idiot just walks right into a trap like that? I wasn’t surprised that Maggie and Glenn and the others did it. But I expected better from Daryl and Rick. So will we see Carol and Tyrese come to the rescue? Or Beth? Is she going to escape the kidnappers and return to rescue everyone? Seems unlikely. 

And now I have to freaking wait until OCTOBER to figure out what happens. Horrible!

 

 

Crash Positions!

We flew British Air to London for our Spring Break vacation. It was good. I got to be in the middle seat on both flights I’m sorry to say. But I handled the small space well, and didn’t go bonkers. We all tried to rest/sleep as much as possible on the way over, and we all watched movies on the way back. (That’s our policy on travel. When traveling EAST, we try to sleep and get on the new time zone right away. We fly as late as possible, landing in Europe and staying outdoors in the sunshine as much as possible and staying awake as long as possible. On the way west, we stay awake the whole time, hoping we can go to sleep at sometime near a reasonable bedtime.)

But here is the thing that annoyed me. We dutifully listened to the safety talk. And then I just laughed when they reviewed the crash position:  You know. You bend forward, with your head on your lap, sort of between your knees.

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Only that is impossible. You’ll notice that in the picture above there isn’t another seat in front of this guy  So this might work if you’re on the bulk head, or a miniature person.  The seat in front of me prevents me from doing this. My knees actually touch the seat in front of me. So if I begin leaning forward, my head just hits the seat. I even took a few minutes to try and see if I could curl up and make it happen. No dice. It looks more like this:

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except my knees are WAY closer to the seat in front of me that this guy’s are. Seems like a problem. Let’s have more damn legroom, airlines! Sheesh! Everybody wants it. And clearly, we need it. 

Americans are getting fatter and fatter. I was glad to be flying with my family. Nobody is overweight so we can stay within the arm rests. (Our legs flop all over though. They’re long. Not fat.) But I have been stuck flying next to a fatty whose blubber encroaches on my person and space. This is awful. And the airlines’ response is to make the seats smaller and crowd more of them in. This is the definition of crazy. 

 

Aside

We went to mass this past Sunday. Just 3 of us. We didn’t wake up our oldest because 1. He is 23 years old and 2. He claims to have gone to church enough to last a lifetime. Emma, at 12, seemed to accept her fate. Especially after I pointed out that she could go to church every Sunday for years and not catch up to her big brother or sister.

As I listened to the readings, the psalm, the Gospel and the amazing music from Dr. Carlin, I tried to sort out ideas about my faith that have lasted into adulthood. I aim to throw away all the superstition, mythology and that very sticky stuff (plaque) that formed me, and get to the root of my faith, and do a little spring cleaning. I ask myself all the time, “Why do I think that? Do I really think that? Am I supposed to think that? Where did that idea come from?” And often I have some assumption or belief that is still around from childhood-and often the misunderstanding of childhood that goes along with it.Here are some other things I’m sorting out on my Lenten journey:

God: I clearly remember being in the tub, quite small, and pondering God, timelessness and the universe. So how did we get saddled with the vision of God as a white bearded guy wearing a white robe? Trade out the robe for a red suit and you’ve got Santa Claus. (In my childhood opinion, he was God’s right hand man-riding shotgun through the sky) Change the white beard to a brown beard and you’ve got Jesus. I don’t think of God as male, and neither do most religious folk, but he sure is depicted that way. People think you’re nuts if you say God and “She.” and they roll their eyes. What is that about? Besides centuries of oppressing women, I mean. I guess we needed to qualify and quantify God-who is too big to imagine, and we got stuck with Santa. Who is kind of nice, after all. But, can we grow up already?

The Bible-(Which version?) Should be taken with a grain of salt. I am in the communications business and I can tell you there is a huge change in a document from version one to version 2001. All kinds of crap gets thrown in there by legal. And HR. And you’ve read stuff that was translated badly, haven’t you? Even without the language translation thing, the bible is confusing, contradictory, and puzzling. It contains history, poetry, fairy tales and calculated bullshit. There is some value in it, but don’t ever use it to make a point. Somebody else can use the same document to contradict you.

Virgin Birth-Really? In the first place, it turns out that THAT concept lives because of one translation into Greek. Most protestant bibles don’t use the word, virgin. But the Catholic bible turns on this.  In the second place, this is an old literary construct used to attract followers and show folks that this guy, Jesus, is the real deal. There is a Hindu god with the same miraculous virgin conception, don’t you know. I can hear generation 1 Christians from the PR team now,  “If that’s what the folks want to hear, then that’s what we’ll tell them.” Are there any adults who sincerely believe this? I am not sure many priests are even on board with this one. When questioned, they start to dance around the word “virgin” and it’s other spiritual meanings. But, this teaching does come in handy if you plan on oppressing women for centuries. Virgin=good. Sex=whore. Nothing in between. Makes it hard to achieve a powerful position in that set-up, yo!  Does it matter to me that Mary was a virgin? No. What matters is Jesus’ message. So, I’m ready to let this one go.

Lazarus, Jesus Walking on Water, Water into WIne-There’s a Hindu god who did these exact same things. Again, this is like the Virgin Birth, and designed as a PR effort to indicate to other cultures that this guy, Jesus? He’s the real thing! He can do what your god does, and then some! Does it matter to me that Jesus did these things? Again, the answer is no.

Prayer (Rosary, Stations of the Cross)-Growing up, prayers were either set prayers that we were tested on in CCD, recited from memory and by rote,(as fast as possible!) or they were abject pleas for help! While I am quite sure God isn’t up there with a big ole inbox full of requests that he either grants or denies, I DO think there is value in prayer, but I think my upbringing largely missed the boat related to meditation and contemplation, which are grownup forms of prayer.

Holy Water-Ever since I read about how much fecal matter is in the holy water, I do NOT bless myself with it anymore. And neither do my kids. We are okay. This is just superstition anyway. I still “bless” myself, “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” to get in the swing of things at church. It’s a nice ritual to prepare yourself for prayer and worship. I just don’t need to douse myself with fecal water. (People! Wash your hands! Can we make this any clearer?)

Communion Wine-While their isn’t fecal matter in there (supposedly!) there IS backwash! Gross! I’ll just take the paper wafer thanks, and worry enough about it being on the factory floor and handled by people there who don’t wash their hands! Gross!

Confession and Sin-I’ve never felt better after going to confession. In fact, I feel worse. This has always been so. But I still think there is value in self examination and a desire to improve ourselves, and tear away habits and thoughts that keep us from God. That is just what “Sin” is. I don’t like the Catholic idea that you can confess, say some prayers and keep on beating your wife and kids for a week, until you get another clean slate. This seems wrong. It is surely NOT what is intended with confession, I’m sure. It’s just what happens.

Jesus-A total rebel! He said that everyone is worthy of dignity and respect and value. Everyone. No exceptions. And we must treat all people well. This is revolutionary stuff. I like it! I still struggle with it. The struggle is good!

Whew! I’m tired. There is definitely more to explore here, but I think it might want to become a book. I could probably blog daily on this topic of faith and religion daily for a year, and not cover everything. Suffice it to say, that I’m trying to continue growing in my faith. And part of that is throwing out the rubbish, and tidying up. Easter is almost upon us! We will enjoy the rituals and I will probably wonder about them too. (Really? Bunnies? with eggs? WTF? The chocolate is CLEARLY meant to be Holy food. It feeds my soul after all….)

 

 

 

 

Ma Belleh

I deserve a gold medal. Never have I sustained such a draconian diet for so long. And I only grow more determined to lose it. A couple weeks ago on a quiet Saturday morning, I actually listened to an infomercial. You know that ad you see whenever you’re on the computer about “The 5 Foods You Should Never Eat to lose Belly Fat?” Well I listened to the whole thing so you don’t have to. Here they are:

  • Wheat
  • Soy products
  • Concentrated Fruit Juice
  • Corn
  • Margarine

I didn’t eat much or any of those things anyway, but good to know. In addition to being gluten, dairy and sugar free, I downloaded an app for my iPhone called “Lose It.” It has been actually enjoyable and empowering to use it. It makes all my NOT doing  something (eating) feel like I AM doing something. (losing weight) I’ve been quite religious for the last 2 weeks. I haven’t lost any weight really. I say “really” because it appears I gained 2-3 pounds but have taken it back off. So I’m holding steady at 5 pounds of weight loss over 3+ months. Pathetic, I know, but what else am I going to do? Anyway, about the app. It’s easy to start. You just indicate your weight, age, gender etc. and how much weight you’d like to lose per week. (I chose the maximum-2 lbs) and then it calculates how many calories you get per day. You can earn more calories with exercise.

My Lose it app gives me 955 calories per day. I figure if I screw up, that’s a nice margin for error. If I want to weigh 120 pounds I just keep my daily caloric intake to 1,200. In theory. This is all absolute bullshit once you’re in your 40s, though, I’m pretty sure. SO anyway, I have only gone over my limit once and kept under it every other day. And in total the last 2 weeks, I should have lost 4 pounds of fat. But I didn’t lose any. I didn’t gain either, so I guess that is something. I continue to think positively and imagine the fat melting away

Being this desperate, I also on a sad, early Saturday saw the ad for the “Tummy Tuck Belt.” If they weren’t so expensive I would buy them for my sisters for our weekend getaway. How funny would that be? Either that, or Sensa. I would definitely try them both though. Because I am that ridiculous.

We Could Learn a Lot from Churchill

Although we didn’t plan in advance to visit the Churchill War Rooms museum, we are very glad we did. We ended up there after we learned visiting Westminster would be impossible. This relatively new museum has been voted the best museum in London for the last 5 years or so, and it totally deserves the accolades. 

During WWII, when Churchill was the Prime Minister, he conducted business in a reinforced concrete, underground bunker. For years, he’d been warning anyone who would listen that this Hitler fellow was downright scary and had evil intents.  Loads of people thought Churchill was daft, but he prudently instructed someone to create an underground bunker where they could safely run the government, regardless of what happened. The bunker was completed just a few days before war was declared.

Churchill himself had a bedroom in the bunker, along with several top military aides. There was also a bunk room, for everyone else, to safely sleep in, during bombings or when necessary. It seems lots of the folks in the bunker worked 18 hour days regularly and would just work until exhaustion overcame them, when they would pop down the stairs into the bunk room. It must have been claustrophobic, almost nobody could stand straight up in there and it was especially creepy because it had no lights or heat or fans. So it must have felt like descending into a tomb. I can’t imagine how hard it was to fall asleep in those conditions. Of course, they knew they  weren’t 100% safe. It was just the best choice. So they just got on with it. Typical British stiff upper lip stuff.

The museum features all the rooms as they existed during the war. You can see the map room, radio rooms, communications apparatus, just everything! On VE day, they pretty much just turned off the lights and left. Like a little time capsule, all the papers cigars, detritus, cooking tools, pens, pencils, typewriters, teapots, and other office equipment were left as they were. Everything is there!

In addition to the war rooms, the museum has become a Churchill memorabilia mecca. Everything you ever wanted to know about one of the greatest leaders to ever walk this earth was there, including photos and videos and audio recordings, uniforms from his days as a prep school ROTC fellow, handwritten letters, even a model of the home he shared with his wife, Clemmie and their children. And of course all the press clippings, and newsreel footage. We particularly enjoyed the videos that were prudently recorded of men and women who worked with Churchill. It was So fun to hear from these women who signed the war secrets act, and whose mothers’ were concerned about them crossing the street, not knowing that their daughters were involved in very sensitive war work!

Me, being me, here is a list of some of the cooler things I learned about Winston. (We’re on a first name basis now.)

  • He was a huge polo player and fan!
  • He learned to smoke cigars when he was stationed in Cuba and never stopped. Some estimate he smoked 250,000 of them!
  • He drank half a bottle of champagne at breakfast. Even through the war!
  • He took a nap every day from 3:00-4:00. Even during the war. More on this later!
  • He allegedly drank whiskey all day long, but a secretary said it was mostly water.
  • When informed by a Muslim diplomat that drinking alcohol was against his religion, Churchill informed him that according to HIS religion he was required to drink alcohol every day! (Love his style! I think my religion is the same!)
  • During the blitz, he would often climb to the roof to watch. (His security detail must have gone bonkers.)

People were generally astonished by his napping habit. But the man worked 18+ hour days for something like 6 years. If you think for even a minute about it, you will see that nobody can possibly be productive all the time. A rest period–for the eyes, for the brain, is SO important. Sometimes you need to be able to stew and contemplate. The trouble is, it doesn’t look very productive. But it is absolutely essential. Napping was another habit Winston picked up from his time in Cuba.

He was truly a world hero and it was refreshing to see him as a real human. Newer museums don’t sugar coat things and Winston lost his fair share of elections, was on the wrong side of history on a few decisions, and suffered personal loss like we all do. But we all LOVED learning more about him and the brave British people who stood up to Hitler. If you are any where near this, you MUST go! 

 

 

Mah Belleh-The Battle Continues!

Well. I’ve been wheat, gluten and sugar free for about a month, and have only lost about 5 measly pounds. (I would curse but I gave that up for Lent! so there is really no hope or recourse for me.) I thought I might be the only person in the world to struggle like this.Everyone else I know who goes gluten free, immediately loses about 15 pounds. Leave it to me to be super special. So, I went back to the Wheat Belly resource, and discovered from this video that I might be among the lucky 20% of folks for whom dairy is a problem. Doctor Davis, who wrote Wheat Belly, advises that I go dairy free for a month. It’s the only way to get an answer.

So, people, it looks like I’m adding one more thing to my no-no list. It’s not like I eat a lot of cheese or dairy, but I DO like a bit of cream in my coffee, and I think the best salads have a sprinkle of cheese in them. When I make the occasional smoothie, I already use almond milk. (Of COURSE it’s unsweetened!) I don’t use sour cream on my gluten free burritos.But remember the French lady, yogurt breakfast? That is over! I’m back to eggs. Eggs or…………..well eggs. Not much else to eat in the morning from the breakfast selections that meet my growing list of dietary restrictions. Suggestions are gratefully accepted!

The good news, is that I AM less hungry since going gluten free. It could be the sugar, too, is resulting in fewer cravings since I’m eating virtually none of it. I am just not as starving and am more satisfied.  I’m also less gassy, since starting all this, which is nice and all, but frankly I’d rather lose ma belleh!

I DO have a Doctor’s appointment for an annual exam in 2 weeks. The WORST part of that is getting weighed. Those scales always have me 5-10 pounds heavier than my home scale. I sometimes day dream that the nurse weighs me and remarks, “Well, you’ve lost a lot of weight, Mrs Blackwood. Is that by design, or is something going on?” And I’ll say, “I’ve been trying so hard! No wheat, No dairy, No sugar!” And she’ll be all like, “Wow! You’re amazing and you look terrific! I wish all our patients were as disciplined as you.” And I’ll be all, “Oh, it really wasn’t too bad. I just had to lose this belly!” And I’ll walk out of there on air.

It keeps me goin’ folks. I’ll be sure and post when I’ve lost another 10 pounds!

Nerd Alert!

While in London we took a trip to see THE HARRY POTTER EXPERIENCE. Man, I love those books and movies! The books are absolute classic, and I have such fond memories of reading each one and waiting in anticipation for the next book, the next movie. We actually read all the books aloud as a family. Nobody was allowed to read ahead. There were many, many days when we all waited for the minute Daddy came home so I could start reading. We would all shuffle along together in a tiny herd, as I read aloud while daddy changed clothes, put away his brief case and went through the mail. Then he would read while I cooked dinner. Then I’d read again while he washed dishes. That is a sure sign that a book will stand the test of time, eh?

The Harry Potter Experience is the sound stage where they filmed all the movies. The kids and recurring characters and artists all lived there, off and on, for 10 years. The sound stage is now a museum, filled with sets, costumes, props, explanations about green screens, makeup, animatronics and tons of trivia. We soaked it up for about 4 hours, then had a really nice lunch. If you’re ever in London, and you ever liked Harry Potter, I can’t recommend this highly enough. Just GO!

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The cupboard under the stairs.

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The magical creatures were amazing. Part artistry. Part engineering.

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ImageWe loved walking down Diagon Alley. SO much attention to detail everywhere. Each wand box in Olivander’s, for example, was made by hand. ImageImage

The Weasley’s family clock started out as a regular clock but then got a magical upgrade.

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Conor and Emma worked on their wand craft.

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Death eater masks. Each created especially for each character. Artisan quality and attention to detail!

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We learned that as Professor Umbridge gained power, her costume got pinker.

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 The back lot was full of Privet Drive, the night bus, the giant chess pieces and other large set items. Also, you could get a snack and butterbeer, which I will warn you, is like a butterscotch slurpee. One sip, and bam! Diabetes.Image

 I loved these chess pieces. I would have bought a set, but they didn’t make a good looking one. Probably just as well, because I’m sure it would have cost hundreds of pounds! That gift shop is cray cray expensive!Image

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 The masks, makeup, and costumes were incredible! The whole special effects department was mind blowing. So many artists and engineers worked to create the world of Harry Potter. I loved the “give it a go!” attitude.Image

There were just loads of costumes. One series showed the attention to detail. Harry’s outfit grew progressively dirtier, and more ripped as the scene went on. Of course that meant making 7 different costumes. It was cool to see. Here are some quidditch costumes for different characters.Image

 The Burrow was full of all sorts of interesting magical props.

It turns out we took over 100 photographs here at HP. I only included a very few. You must go if you like HP even a little!