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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Highlights of 2011 and 2012 Predictions

photo credit: www.beardlife.net

Highlights of 2011



I was engaged to the most lovable man in the world in the mountains of Colorado at the tail end of 2010. We’ve had a wonderful year together. While we haven’t made any wedding plans yet, we look forward to being married. (He resembles the picture on the right. Love you Drewsky.)


On July 1st, I became a homeowner! Well, technically a condo owner. I love my new home. It has been fun selling my old things and finding new things for my place. It gets cozier day by day.

Drew and I were laid off for three weeks in July due to the state government shut-down. We used the time to camp in the northwoods of Minnesota and Wisconsin. We enjoyed spending time on Madeline Island and hiking around various waterfalls. Drew even took me camping for a few days on an island in a very secluded lake in Lake Superior National Forest. We enjoyed getting burned, unsuccessfully attempting to fish, scaring each other with ghost stories and reading to our heart’s content.


In August, we were fortunate enough to spend a week in a cabin on a lake in northern Wisconsin. We spent a week with my Uncle Leon, who found endless joy in teasing TJ and Drew about their lack of fishing skill. We enjoyed four-wheeling, cooking, water-skiing, wakeboarding, sunset boat rides, playing games and again, scaring each other with ghost stories. I actually scared myself so badly that I had to sleep with my big sister for "protection". I’m 25.


In September I started Graduate School. In October Drew and I went to Key West. Being the blonde that I am, I did not realize that October is the rainiest month in Key West as well as hurricane season. We did have one nice day and we were able to jam a lot of activity into one day. We jet skied around Key West, went snorkeling and kayaked around mangrove islands. We also took a ghost tour and learned of some of the very, very strange stories associated with Key West. (Don’t believe me? Google: Carl Tanzler. Warning: not for the light of heart or children.)

We enjoyed some time in Duluth this fall and spent Thanksgiving with Drew’s family. Drew spent his first Christmas with my family which involved him being coerced into playing Santa; he did an outstanding job. (For those of you who have seen Santa Clause is Coming to Town, you can agree that Drew was born to play the role of Kris Kringle...)

Drew and I would like to start a new tradition this year. We are going to make predictions for the coming year, 5 years from now and 10 years from now. Then each New Year’s Eve we can look back at our old predictions and laugh. I’ve started putting mine together and thought I’d share them here.

Here goes nothing!


2012 Predictions


Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson will break the hearts of twihards everywhere when they split in 2012.


The Euro will not dissolve, despite the dire predictions of economists everywhere. (Let's hope I'm right about this one...)


President Obama beats a Romney/Pawlenty ticket in 2012 by more than 5 percentage points.


Mallery will announce that she is pregnant summer 2012. (-:


30 Rock calls it quit after its sixth season. Jack and Liz do not end up together. Avery never makes it back to the United States, she is stuck in North Korea for the remainder of the program.


The Office surprised everyone with its very popular seventh season despite the absence of Michael Scott, and will move along into its eighth and final season in 2012.


Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise will split.

JK Rowling will announce that she is publishing a new book.... fingers crossed! Similarly, Stephanie Meyer will announce that she is going to write a fifth Twilight book about the Cullens taking over the Volturi.... (We can only hope right?)


Ironically, the Biebs really will impregnate someone.... maybs?


I'd like to make Fashion predictions but the other day I spent 20 minutes looking around in an area of what I thought looked like hip clothing when I heard a sales lady call the section "granny chic."

Well, that's all for now. Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

This is my Godfather Leon "Le Le" Luker.

He passed away yesterday. I'm in the middle of graduate school finals and I can't focus on studying so I thought I'd spend a few minutes to write about Leon.

I think one of the hardest things is switching from present tense to past tense.

I've been very spoiled. I have a large family and we see each other far more often than most families I know. We are a passionate, affectionate, emotional bunch and we love each other so much that it is hard to express in words. We spend a week together on a lake up north every summer. Every year we get together on Christmas Day and over the years as our family has expanded, our Christmases have gotten livelier and livelier. Whiskey, wine, family, friends, kris kringle gifts, visits from Santa, sarcastic jokes, loud laughter, spirited games of scrabble, children running around, multiple dogs dressed up in Christmas outfits and food, (oh the glorious food!), fill our hearts and bellies. Truly, it is hard to explain how blessed I am. I have one of the most loving, giving and supportive families (on both sides, but this post is about my mom's side) around.

Leon was the oldest and the oak tree of the family. We leaned on him for support. He rarely, if ever, took sides in an argument and always sought to keep the peace and bring the family together. He rarely missed a family function. (In fact, I can't think of any he missed off the top of my head.) He was always there to help you build your cabin, build a fence, put up a deer blind, whatever. He brought my grandparents endless comfort, help and friendship. He took time to talk to each of his brothers and sisters on an almost daily basis. In many ways he was the quintessential family man.

Growing up, I think I took my Godfather for granted. I thought every little girl had an uncle that doted on her and held a special place in his heart for her. Le Le loved kids, he loved everyone for that matter. He wore his heart on his sleeve and I think that most of my family feels they had a special bond with Leon. Even though he was my godfather, I know most of my cousins probably felt like they were Leon's favorite... he went out of his way to make everyone feel loved and special.
When someone passes, often those left behind feel regret, sadness over things left unsaid and a sense of unfinished business. I can say with full confidence that no one feels that way about my Uncle Leon. Every time he saw you, he let you know exactly how much he loved you. He hugged you, kissed you, made a sarcastic remark, patted your butt and told you how good you looked. I know he is at peace, and I too am at peace. He left behind a legacy of love, those he loved and those that loved him. Really, what more can you ask of life? So many people loved him, and he loved them with such an intensity that I know that love transcends the bounds of this world. He is undoubtedly watching over us and wishing we would stop shedding tears on his behalf.

He loved to give us girls a hard time about boys. For my cousins who didn't have the privilege of introducing a boyfriend or girlfriend to Leon, you can sleep a little better tonight. He absolutely loved giving our significant others a really hard time. I know he scared the PANTS off some of the boys I introduced to him.

While I know he is a big soft teddy bear, he could sure put on a good "mean facade" to let a boy know not to mess with his girls.

Most of my cousins have fond memories of hunting and fishing with Leon. While I did "fish" with Leon, I usually just got my line stuck on something or in a knot. My family and I have an understanding that when I go "fishing" with them, I am really just looking to catch a tan and read on the boat. Similarly, I do not have any hunting stories with Leon. I did help him put out bait, build blinds and look for wildlife, but I am one of those people that should never, under any circumstances, attempt to shoot a gun. Someone would definitely wind up with a missing something or other. Leon loved the outdoors. He was at peace in nature. If you ever went on a four-wheeler ride at dusk with Leon, he would spot every single deer, racoon, rabbit, eagle, etc along the way. He could find deer where most people would see nothing (people like me, ahem).

In my family, we have a tradition of singing around the campfire. Leon had a beautiful voice, a voice for radio. He loved the evenings when my mom played guitar while we sang family songs around the campfire. Everything from "Lukers from Van Dyne" to "Trinidad". We loved it when Lele sang "Big John".

This is the first death of a loved one I've experienced in many years. I forgot how much it hurts. I am comforted by the fact that Leon lived such a full, joyful life. He was surrounded by family that loved and cherished him. He spent most of his free-time in nature, his personal heaven.

He is now without pain, fishing and hunting to his heart's content. He's probably playing some football too, a sport he hasn't been able to play in many years. (Like many men that excelled in sports and enjoyed physical labor, his bones and body were riddled with arthritis, aches and pains.)

Leon, my Godfather, thank you for loving me. Thank you for making me feel special. Thank you for setting an example that the rest of us should follow: to live each day to the fullest and to give each goodbye like it might be your last.

Oh and LeLe, just one last favor? If you could pull some strings with the Big Guy upstairs to help me ace my finals, well... let's just say it'd be just one more reason I'm indebted to you. I miss you. I love you. I wish you were still here.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

First Day of Graduate School

Well people, it is finallly here... The long awaited, greatly anticipated and highly dreaded first day of graduate school.

So far, tears have been shed multiple times. Lingering fair traffic on Snelling threw an early curve ball at me, leaving me trapped between two semis for about an hour on the 8 mile drive to campus.

I'm so nervous I couldn't sleep, I can hardly eat and I am horrified that I selected the wrong elective.

I keep reminding myself of the Margaret Meade quote: "A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

So... as I sit here, 45 minutes early for my first class, I'll be focusing on that quote... and repeating the phrase from The Little Engine That Could, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can....

a;dklfad;lkja;djk! Wish me luck!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

In case you missed these articles... here they are!

“It’s crazy what’s happening in America today: We’re having an economic crisis and the politicians are having an election — and there is almost no overlap between the two.” Thomas Friedman, Obama, Tiger, Golf and Politics, NYTimes.com

A quick look at the crazy state of U.S. Politics through my favorite articles from the past week (I’ll put the links here but provide a brief summary in case you aren’t in the mood to read):

Warren Buffet wrote a very intriguing piece which is ultimately calling for tax reform to end tax loopholes that favor the interests the wealthy and politically connected corporations: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/15/opinion/stop-coddling-the-super-rich.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=buffet&st=Search

Jeffrey Miron, Harvard Professor wrote this follow up: http://www.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/08/16/miron.buffett.wrong/index.html?hpt=hp_c1

The top portion suggests that emphasizing the super rich distracts from the real issue at hand: tax reform. The bottom portion of the article outlines seven key areas of reform that would be most beneficial to the economy. One of my favorite suggestions he makes involves cutting back on excessive licensing requirements, fees and exams that make it extremely difficult to enter numerous trades from hair styling and medicine to real estate and medicine.

I appreciate that both sides of the argument can agree on one point- tax reform. It is time to for tax reform, reform that does not exhaust the middle class, while boosting revenues simply by taxing the wealthy proportionate to their income.

Then, Stephen Colbert creates a Super PAC , Americans for a better Tomorrow, Tomorrow. His PAC is legal, well-funded and currently running ads in Iowa. As Mark Feldstein of the University of Maryland says so poignantly, “He is taking advantage of loopholes to set up an organization that is not a legitimate political action committee, if there is such a thing, to make the point that the current system is a form of legalized bribery. Try making that point as a member of the mainstream media and holding on to your objectivity.”

My favorite little morsel in this article is the fact that Colbert’s commercial tell Iowans to write in Rick Parry, the “a” standing for American and IowA.

For more info, read the article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/22/business/media/stephen-colberts-pac-is-more-than-a-gag.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1

Here is a link to the commercial: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qulpucVacM8&feature=related

Meanwhile, Republicans have sold their soul to the Tea Party resulting in a field of equally absurd Presidential candidates and a lot of confused, disheveled and bewildered GOP Republicans.

The surprising piece of all this is that President Obama has actually had a solid plan throughout all of this craziness that has gone almost entirely under the radar. The Grand Bargain offered trillions in cuts, including Medicare reform, as well as revenue creation. Under normal circumstances, most GOP members would have been out of their wits with glee at such a right-wing proposal from the President. Saddled by the “no new taxes” demands of the Tea Party, the Grand Bargain was taken off the table. Instead of standing up for himself, the President seems to be taking the high road. As it turns out, Americans love the sucker punch drama Republican propaganda has to offer. They would rather obsess over balancing the budget (after all they have to balance their checkbooks) than bothering to study the actual ramifications of widespread cuts during a recession with no new revenues.

I am hoping President Obama is just biding his time until it is actually time to begin campaigning. Hopefully, he is focusing on the economy rather than focusing on an election that is still so far away.

For more on this, this article is a pretty good read: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/24/opinion/friedman-obama-tiger-golf-and-politics.html?ref=opinion (By now you’ve noticed I am biased toward the NYTimes).

And the final article that caught my eye this week: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/23/opinion/nocera-how-democrats-hurt-job-creation.html?_r=1&ref=opinion The only positive that can come of a country obsessed with balancing the budget in the middle of a recession, when fiscal policy is really our only remaining weapon and it is ultimately proving worthless, is that regulation like the instance cited in the article will be cut back.

I wanted to put these out there, a grab bag of articles offering perspectives from various sides of various issues. I’m just trying to encourage anyone that happens across this blog to educate themselves on the issues plaguing our economy and our policies. If more Americans took time to remember what they learned in Econ 101, or what they learned in high school history about the Great Depression, or even if they recalled lessons about "compromising" and "listening to their neighbors" from elementary, we might find some common ground to begin building a foundation for the future.

p.s. Okay, I thought I was done, but here is one more about some of the options the Fed has to try to ebb the recession using monetary policy since fiscal policy is essentially off the table. http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/24/how-much-more-can-the-fed-help-the-economy/

p.p.s. Please remember, I am very open to all beliefs, opinions and candidates. I know I tend toward certain ideals and ideologies, but I like to consider myself open to any and all ideas to move the United States and the environment toward a healthier future. (-: This is my olive branch! I can't figure out how to get rid of this underline... (-:

Monday, August 22, 2011

Food for thought... well actually a lack of food for thought

Tonight I met with two students preparing to take the Graduate Records Exam, a test required for most Graduate programs. These two young men moved to the United States in November of 2010 from Libya. We briefly chatted about the changes in Libya that have taken place over the past year. They were prohibited from learning English prior to their arrival to the United States.

While I waited at the coffee shop, I ordered them each a cup of coffee. I was thoroughly embarrassed when they arrived and explained that they couldn't eat or drink until sunset because they are currently observing Ramadan.

I asked them a few questions about Ramadan, including the health implications. They told me that Ramadan is healthy for soul; when the rich feel hungry throughout Ramadan, they remember that there are many poor people suffering from hunger and starvation every day.

Their response humbled me and I sat there in silence for a minute as I reflected on the many Americans that might benefit from feeling, and truly considering, what it means to go to bed hungry.... including me.




Thursday, August 18, 2011

I Heart Fad Diets

Bonnie claims that her favorite bloggers are "witty and simple." I can't help but wonder if Bonnie, the girl that made up an entire book- plot, characters, cover, illustrations and all- just to avoid reading a new book, actually follows blogs... but that is neither here nor there.

So Bonz, witty and simple. Hmm....

I can't promise wit but I can promise simple. I want to discuss my relationship with fad diets.

I've dated fad diets on and off for many years.

First there was Atkins. Atkins and I had a great 2 week fling. I looked great with Atkins, but I just wasn't willing to make a long-term commitment to Atkins and neither were my arteries. So after the two weeks, I went to the senior prom and left Atkins for carbs.

Then, I met the South Beach Diet, which is basically Atkins but a little fruitier and with some occasional whole grains. South Beach and I are still good friends.

Next, my mom tried out LA Weightloss. On LA Weightloss you have to eat cantaloupe and beef jerky for a whole day once a week for cleansing purposes. Drew- you thought I just loved the cantaloupe/beef jerky combo... but now you know the truth!

In college, I decided to take a few notes from the wrestlers in my life. I brushed my teeth whenever I was hungry. I lived on water and avoided pickles. I even cut holes in garbage bags and wore them underneath my sweatshirt when I went on morning runs. (I had to run really early so no one would hear the swooshing of the garbage bag under my sweatshirt! haha)

This year I tried out the Healthy Figures Diet, which was one of the oddest diets I've dabbled with. On Healthy Figures you can only eat lean meat, eggs and 500 calories a day; BUT you can eat UNLIMITED sugar-free jello, sugar-free popsicles and pickles! I mean, how awesome is that?

Three weeks ago I signed up for Weight Watchers online. Turns out... that only works if you actually count your points every single day and stay within your daily point allowance...

If only exercise wasn't so much work.
If only wine wasn't so wonderful.
If only fad diets worked!


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Amanda meets the internet

Over the past few weeks, I have finally joined the world of the internet. After refusing to purchase internet on the grounds that I would rather spending my time reading (cough, see: poor) I have finally taken the leap and joined the wonder of the world wide web.

Now, don't get me wrong. I went to college. I've typed papers on the computer for years. I was emailing and IMing in my teens and I even have facebook. I even thought that I was extremely proficient. I mean, I knew more than my parents and grandparents, and I was able to get by without letting on that I didn't know the difference between Firefox and Safari or MySpace and Twitter. Alas, over the last two years the veil has been lifted and my friends have seen the truth. I'm a troglodyte living in a modern world.

Refusing to be yet another self-righteous, nostalgic luddite, I decided to grit my teeth and give this whole thing a chance.

I started out, childlike and shy, only opening up my computer for a few minutes at a time, then turning it off quickly in angst. Then, I began watching youtube. One video led to the next. How can you not click on a video of a man dancing with a tiger or a baby playing the mandolin?

Then... it happened, I discovered craigslist. This initially began as obsessive searching for things I would never have use for, then it evolved into searching for jobs that might help me earn an extra buck. Next thing I knew I was posting anything and everything for sale on craigslist: a desk, sofas, coffee tables, old winter jackets, and even services. (No no, not those kind of serices. Come on, get your mind out of the gutter people!) I tutored a few people, booked a few weddings (I am a vocalist) and even sang at an assisted living for $75.

I was really getting a hang of this internet thing.

Then, my naivete got the better of me. I nearly fell prey to a common craigslist scam twice. In the past two weeks, I have had two checks FedExed to me in the amount of a couple thousand dollars. The first was issued for my services as a "secret shopper" and the second was someone I was supposed to provide tutoring services for. Fortunately, my charming fiance stopped me before I made my way to the bank and I have assured him I will no longer give out my address unless I am absolutely positive I am not providing my home address to a scamming criminal. Ahem.

By this time I was feeling pretty good and I decided to go where I had never gone before... BLOGGING! I joined a site, goodblogs.com, where you were paid $20 if you made it to the top blogs page. I twisted the arms of my friends and family to please, please, please read my blog so that I might finally make it to the ever elusive top blog page.

After weeks of posting, arm twisting, begging and cajoling, I finally had a decent following- only to learn that goodblogs was broke! All my hard work for nothing.

So here I am. Blogging where normal people blog. Where I should have come first. I am new to the internet, new to blogging and new to blogspot.com.

I was thrilled while creating my profile to see that the number of times my profile had been viewed had jumped from 2 to 6 while I was editing and saving my blog... only to realize that it updated every time I viewed my own profile.

I hope I'll pick up a few readers other than my mom and my fiance... but if I don't, I guess I'll just virtually talk aloud to myself.

That's all for now, Amanda

p.s. I love you Mom! Thanks for supporting me in all my ventures... even the silly ones like blogging! (-: