Sunday, December 30, 2007

Great photo

This is of my youngest niece. There is something so expressive in her eyes.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Crouching tiger, hidden Dexter

What is it about cats and Christmas trees?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

O Tannenbaum

We love our Christmas tree. Both Doug and I can stare at it for hours. Not only is it pretty, it's full of meaning. Most of the ornaments tell stories, are a part of our history. There's the Surfing Santa, which we got when we went to Hawaii. And the Disney ornaments from our trip there. The ornament from Mark Twain's house in Connecticut and the Santa from Kansas City. Speaking of Kansas City, there is a KC Chiefs ornament, an Arkansas Razorbacks ornament and, of course, a football Santa ornament. There are the ornaments Auntie M gave us, the one Gary & Tom gave us and the one Cindy & Greg gave us. Our tree might not make Decorator's Quarterly, but it is full of love.

Actually, at least during Christmas time, the house is decorated with love and stories. From the myriad of International Santas to the pine nativity scene that was my grandfather's, our Christmas decorations are our family history.

It's funny, but when I remember the Christmases growing up, I remember the traditions and the decorations. I had this green felt stocking with a little girl on it. I wish I knew where it was so I could hang it today. I remember playing with baby Jesus in our manger scene and mom's band of angels. I remember the elves my grandmother made. But it wasn't limited to our house. I would go to Mrs. Goolsby's house and was fascinated with her Nutcracker and this wooden tower that turned when lit by candles. I'm still surprised we don't have any of those, but the ones at the stores look cheap -- not the craftsmanship of what I remember.

We hate to think of our parents passing and I know it will be years. But I do hope mom will leave her Christmas decorations to me. That way I can look at the Santa she made in grade school as it hangs on my tree and remember how mom also liked to have the traditions of Christmas and the tree.

The mysterious case of the disappearing mouse

If you think you have someone on your list that's tough to buy gifts for, try finding something for a cat. Dexter is 12 years old and in that time has received maybe three toys that he likes. Then again, what do you expect, he is a cat.

Yesterday he received a leopard-patterned mouse with refillable catnip. This actually interested him. Or at least the kitty version of crack did. He went wild with the mouse, until, of course, he got bored (he is a cat, after all).

Last night Dexter was on the bed and I was playing with him with the catnip mouse. He who usually likes to stay at the edges of the bed, was actually between us. After awhile, I got bored playing with Dexter (because he is cat). I placed the mouse on my nightstand, read for a little bit, then turned off the lights and went to bed.

This morning I decided we should play with Dexter for a bit, so I went to grab him and the mouse. Only the mouse was no where to be found. I searched the nightstand, behind the nightstand, next to the night stand, and under the bed. No mouse. Doug wondered if the dogs got the mouse, but I figured they couldn't because it was behind the clock and if they had, there would be mouse guts all over the bedroom. I figure that Dexter climbed on my nightstand in the middle of the night and stole his mouse. Why? Because he's a cat.

Nine hours later and the mouse has not been found. I've checked out Dexter's usual haunts and there is no sign of a mouse. The mouse is gone. As for Dexter's other Christmas toy, this thing that looks like a it has a fly fishing lure at the end and spins, he's totally ignored it. It will spin around him, hitting him in the head, and he doesn't move. He is, after all, a cat.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Eve 2007

It's been a pretty quiet Christmas around here. Doug's parents are dealing with snow in northern Missouri and my family is going to have its gathering on Saturday. We opted to celebrate by ourselves.

Last night Doug and I went to Karen & Tom's, our friends who live in a log cabin in Dripping Springs. Each Christmas Eve they have their family, friends and any Christmas stranger come to their house for a celebration. It's always a fun time, with everyone trying to outdo each other on funky gifts and hidden meanings written as clues on the presents. There is always a lot of laughter and good times. Doug felt right at home, as he got a roll of toilet paper in his stocking (a gift his mom used to give).

We also got dance lessons last night, as Manda, Karen's teenage daughter, was showing everyone how to do Soulja Boy. The video is a little squished, as I filmed it vertically and when I turned the frame, it sized things. Guess I still need to work on the video capabilities of my camera.

Monday, December 24, 2007

2007 in review

Love those folks at

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What do you want for Christmas?

I cringe when I get asked that question. I guess I have to admit that I am difficult to buy for. Problem is, I want very little, or what I do what you either can't buy or it's too expensive. I think my friend CJ was right in her post about Christmas.

I want someone to come makeover the house, a la Queer Eye. I want someone to lay new flooring (assuming Doug and I could ever figure out what we want). I want someone to tell me exactly what to plant where in my front yard and help in giving the yard some curb appeal. I want a new couch -- one that is not 13 years old and getting frayed on the arms. I want not to feel rushed all the time.

I want photo collections of when we were growing up. I want family heirlooms that remind me where we came from. I want something thoughtful and artistic that reminds me of you every time I look at it. Our house is full of stories and I want you to add to it. I want a letter telling me how much you care.

I want classes -- things that will further develop my interests. I want some good books. I want a weekend getaway; even a day trip will do. There are so many places in central Texas I haven't been to. Don't ask me if I want to go, just tell me that we are going. Invite me to a great restaurant I haven't tried before. Discovering new, unusual places is the great fun of eating out. Invite me over for dinner. That's where memories are made.

I hate to admit this, but gift cards aren't for me. I may never tell you this, because I don't want to hurt your feelings, but most of the time they go unused. I think I was born without the shopping gene, because I really despise shopping. When I do go, chances are I forget the gift card.

The places I like to shop, at least for things for me, are local quirky places and festival/markets. I'm much more likely to use a gift card from Blue Moon Glassworks than from Kohl's. Even then, most of the material I buy at Blue Moon is used in a gift for someone else.

So yes, I'm difficult to buy for. But the things I want can't be bought. This Christmas I want the gift of you.

Monday, December 17, 2007

You know you're in Austin when...

  1. You own both formal and informal tie-dye
  2. Your summer shoes are your Birks, and your winter shoes are your Birks...with socks.
  3. The food at the company holiday party is all vegan, organic, soy free, wheat free, dairy free…
  4. You drive on Airport freeway for an hour before you realize that you are never going to get to the airport
  5. Your next-door neighbor has polka dots painted on their lawn.
  6. The mayoral candidate wears a silk thong, leather bra, and really needs to shave.
  7. The streets and freeways all have more than one name.
  8. You know that anyone wearing pants in November is just visiting from Ohio.
  9. You keep a list of companies to boycott
  10. Your hairdresser is straight, your plumber is gay, the woman who delivers your mail is straight and your Mary Kay lady is a guy in drag.

From the Mix 94.7 Happy Hour show.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Apple for the teacher

With yesterday's graduation, the semester is officially over. This week I received a couple of very thoughtful emails from graduating seniors. This is the reason I teach.

I also wanted to tell you that you are truly an inspiration and excellent instructor. You carry yourself in a professional manner, teach others how to utilize their PR skills, while still exercising your own. I learned a lot this semester. If I hadn't had this class I would have know from books what to do, but would have never had hands on experience. My learning style, as well as many others, application is vital. I'm not trying to be a kiss up, since I'm graduating, but wanted to tell you myself....not through the school... Thank you dearly!

I really want to thank you for everything. I know you've thought about going back and working for a PR firm full time, and I know you are probably great at that, but I don't know what I would have done without a teacher like you during my college career. You are the only teacher that has taken the time out to get to know me on a personal level, and I'm really grateful for that. I've learned a lot of valuable information throughout your classes, and I'm excited to use it all in the real world. You are a great teacher, and I really look up to you.

These comments are some of the greatest Christmas presents one can receive.


Yesterday was the first time I attended graduation as a faculty member. Honestly, it's not because I wanted to, but because I HAD to. Although I knew from my own experience that Texas State runs pretty efficient graduation ceremonies, I still dreaded because other graduations I've been to where they go on for two hours, you don't know anyone but one person, and the speeches are boring.

Yesterday changed my mind.

It started in the gym, where the students and faculty gathered pre-ceremony. "Ms. Quackenbush!" the students yelled as they came up to me all excited with hugs and post-graduation plans. One student's company finally started conversations about permanent employment, while at the same time he is interviewing with another company in LA. Another student secured a position as a flight attendant with a major airlines. She wants to travel a few years before settling down to job in PR. Others were just excited school was over. I had to laugh at one student who has yet to learn how to fix a tie. Actually, that was several students, because no one could help him. "They should teach this in class," he mutters.

It was also good to chat with other faculty. With varying schedules, we don't see each other much. We can laugh and joke. Dave Nolan, walking beside me in the processional, tells me, "don't fall" as we are going down the steps, then proceeds to speed up, so I'm almost jogging to keep up!

Our department sits on the front row, facing the students. We are positioned so that the students have to walk past us before they go on stage. If they see me, my students wave, shake hands, give a high five or just hug me. "I'm so proud of you," I whisper. Some of these students I've had since I first started teaching and now they are graduating. Others, I may have just me this semester, but they taught me as much as I've taught them. It's bittersweet to see them all go.

The ceremony is over 75 minutes after starting. Not bad. I'm glad I went. I was very proud to see my students graduate. I wish them all the best for their future.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Christmas nights, Christmas lights

Last night was the perfect Christmas night. Doug and I went to my faculty Christmas party in San Marcos, arriving home about 9:30. The weather was so great -- in the 70s -- that we decided to go for a little spin. We piled the dogs in the back of the convertible, put the top down, turned on the Christmas tunes and drove around looking at the Christmas lights. We saw some really pretty displays, and some really fun displays, and it started getting us in the Christmas spirit. It was really one of those simple pleasures in life. I can't think of a nicer way to spend a Christmas evening than enjoying the lights and the night with the ones you love best.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Grinch

Today is the 50th birthday of the Grinch, at least according Book People, which is throwing party today in his honor. One of my most memorable Christmas event was when my elementary class did "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" with various students acting out different parts. I actually had one of the biggest roles -- I was a reader, meaning I read a section in the book while the other students acted it out behind us. In fact, from the 6 or so readers, I had the longest, and the last, section to read. The night of the play, one of the other readers was a no show, so I had to read her part too. The spotlight was on me!

Doug was laughing when I told him this last night. I couldn't remember what grade I was in -- maybe fourth or fifth -- so I called mom to ask her. Not only did she not know, she didn't even remember this. One of the few things I remember from elementary school, and one of my favorite Christmas pageants (and the only one where I was featured), and my mother didn't remember. Go figure.

Anyway, ever since that year, whenever it was, the Grinch has had a special place in my heart. Here's to you, Mr. Grinch -- happy birthday!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Mr. Sam would be livid

I started my career in the marketing departing of Wal-Mart (SAM'S Club, actually) at the corporate headquarters in Bentonville. It was just four short months after Sam Walton, known to all of us as Mr. Sam, passed away. I was there for three years, until 1995, and you could still feel his influence in everything we did.

I knew things had changed by the time we moved to Austin in 2000. The evening we moved in we ran to the nearby Wal-Mart to get something we needed. Gary, a friend of mine from Wal-Mart days, was with me. As we stood in line, we looked around. With one glance, Gary said, "Mr. Sam would be rolling in his grave if he could see this now." I agreed.

It's only gotten worse, which makes me sad, as I am still a shareholder. Below is from a friend of mine in San Antonio. Not only is this not the Wal-Mart way I knew as an associate, heads would have rolled. At the very least, Mr. Sam would come back and haunt them.

Anyways, so he gets back from Hollywood Video with his movie, and bam, I get sick. I have to go get some medicine immediately. At this point its 11:20 p.m. and Im not sure what time HEB closes. I know that Walmarts are 24 hours (supposedly) so we go to the closest one (in the ghetto). Karl wont let me go in by myself, so he comes with me and gets himself a Hungry Man T.V. dinner and a few odds and ends. This lady comes on the loud speaker and the only coherent part of her announcement is 11 minutes.

Anyways, I get my medicine and we get in one of the three only open cash registers lines. There are about 15 people in each line and Im thinking this is ridiculous. So, I go ahead of Karl and get my medicine and then the cashier says, "Im sorry, it's midnight and we cant take any more customers." What do you mean you cant take any more customers??? His stuff is on the conveyor belt thing, his debit card in his hands and you are turning him, and about 20 other customers away??? Besides, that wasnt no 11 minutes. By the time we got in the store, got our stuff and got in line, that was all of 5 minutes (if that). If Michelle wasnt so damn slow of checking people out, maybe everyone in line would have made it through no problem.

"Im sorry, she said no more." Well thats bullshit. Turning people away. They need to have someone at the door telling you that they are closing and you have all of 5 minutes to get your shit and pay for it... not get your shit and get in line, but to hand over the cash for it. And thats another thing, there were still people walking in to the store after midnight and not a one of the employees at the front, looking through the bags said a damn thing. Have the deceny to tell people they are wasting their time.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Is she smarter than a fifth grader?

You have to wonder about those Carolina girls. First, Miss Teen South Carolina proved she wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed. Now, Kellie Pickler, an American Idol finalist from North Carolina proved that not only is she not smarter than a fifth grader, she's not even as smart as a third grader. However, it makes a funny video.