Sunday, May 31, 2009

Oh Darn!

I was supposed to go to Iowa today to attend niece Amber's graduation from high school, Dubuque Senior High, to be exact. But, on Friday, when my mom called to explain the events of Sunday, the first thing out of her mouth when I answered the phone was, "Gad you sound awful." This is a running theme now for two weeks and it doesn't seem to be getting any better. My other niece, Christina, is pregnant with her second child and although the doctor says I'm not contagious, who really knows. I seemed to be better, except for my voice, on Saturday. But when I went to bed, I spent a good hour coughing. I simply could not lie back and get to sleep without a huge coughing fit. April has pointed out that laryngitis and the coughing I've been doing are very bad for my voice. The coughing fit sealed my decision.
I called mom this morning and, although she's sad because my sister and brothers would be at the house with Amber for dinner tonight and it would be nice to have everyone in one place at one time, I'm making the best decision. It's a good 4.5 hour drive to Iowa, too. The day is simply gorgeous, beyond pleasant, and I would have loved the drive. Take the windows off the Jeep and just enjoy. I would have shown up tired and who knows what being run down could lead to, in addition to possibly giving everyone else what I still may have.
Carole called last night and she's better than me, but still not 100%. Her doctor told her it was a combo of cold and allergies, but she just wonders since her, Chad and I have the same symptoms.

OH DARN--Can't go to Iowa.

OH DARN--Carole's still sick, too, with whatever this is.

Well, it's a simply marvelous day so let's see what we can get done. I decided to tackle a long dormant project, darning socks. So, I amassed my socks, my thread, my scissors, my tea (Blackberry Sage) and my lunch, which consisted of cut strawberries and sat down on the deck to work.

There are 15 pair in that stack. "But Deb, wouldn't it be just as quick to buy new?" Well, yes it would and Carole gave me three lovely pair for Mother's Day. I wouldn't have to spend any time fixing heels or toe holes. But there's still so much life left in these socks that to chuck them, even to give them away to whatever Veteran's group calls next for donations, just doesn't seem right to me. Besides, I'm being green. :D
Now, dear reader, you need to know that I really don't know how to actually "darn". It was a skill my mother was always going to teach me because she darned socks all the time in the 1960's. I remember her sitting on the sofa watching Ed Sullivan with socks to darn.

Essentially, I sew shut the holes in the heels and toes. These are my Chicago socks. I have socks from San Francisco and Seattle, too. My way of fixing them has held me in good stead all these years. So, I sat on my deck drinking tea, eating strawberries and sewing socks.

OH DARN--pseudo-darning at its best!

Rascal came up on the deck at one point just to say, "Hi" and to sit by me for awhile. She was accompanied by...
It's kind of blurry, but you try asking a mad cardinal to stand still. I think he was just yelling at Rascal because Rascal got too close to some nest somewhere. I don't know where it is and I'm certain Rascal wasn't going after any cardinals. Rabbits yes. Cardinals no. Still, it was very humorous to be sitting on the deck scratching ears and hearing the angry chirp of a male cardinal in the trees.

OH DARN--mad cardinal yelling at the cat.

So, now I sit updating my blog and it would appear I sunburned my legs. They are slightly pink. I'll have to lotion them up in a bit. First real outside of the spring/summer/fall season, too. Oh well.

OH DARN--minor sunburn.

Tomorrow, I will go to the doctor and find out why I still don't have a voice and what can be done about this wracking cough. I was taking the day off anyway to come back from Iowa at a more leisurely pace. This will work out for the best.

Beverage: Blackberry Sage tea


Saturday, May 30, 2009

Reflection on a drive

Hmmmmm. Didn't post yesterday. I thought about it, but that's as far as it got. 
It was busy yesterday. I had to go back into the city to finish servicing some instruments at the University of Chicago. But that didn't turn out well as my contact was unavailable. He's always said I never have to call first and has, on one occasion, been slightly irritated that I called him first before leaving the office. "No no. I'm always around. Just call when you're 10 minutes out." Um.....and if he has an emergency to handle, which he did yesterday, that left no one to let me into the instrument locations until noon. As this was 9:10 and the only thing I had to do in the city, that's not an optimal time frame. Oh well. Back to the office. I have bids to get out anyway.
It was a beautiful morning yesterday. Clear, sunny, with a calm lake. I drive north on Lake Shore Drive and am reminded why I like living here. 

This was taken last year, in August, I believe, but the same view was had yesterday. Chicago is a very dynamic city. There is always something to do here, even if I don't take advantage of it. It's also very pretty. For all his smarmy-ness, Mayor Daley has seen to it that Chicago retain landscaping that befits a major city. There are planter boxes in the center of boulevards. There are parks everywhere. To the right is the Museum Campus area where the Field Museum and the Shedd Aquarium share a large open space of green. 
The first time I came to Chicago, with my family in 1973, Lake Shore Drive ran between the Field Museum and the Shedd. You accessed either via a tunnel under LSD. This tunnel was well known as a place for street musicians, gangs and "Oh lord! What's THAT smell?" One of Mayor Daley's first big urban projects was to relocate northbound Lake Shore Drive west of the Field Museum and turn the former street into a large green area. 
I think it's the lushness of life in Chicagoland that keeps me here. I have no family here. And, realistically, with Carole happily ensconced in the Seattle area, no real reason to stay here. But I love 4 distinct seasons. I love visiting my friend who lives near Wrigley Field. I love the museums, the music, the potential, if you will. And that is what keeps me here. 
Blue skies. Warm sunshine. Green grass. A chance to drive with the top down and the wind in my hair. I gotta get rid of this cold.

Beverage:  orange juice


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Say what?

I've been, as is said in the Grinch, "puzzling and puzt 'till my puzzler was sore" about what happened to me today at a Dunkin' Donuts along Halsted Street in Chicago. I had to download data from my equipment at the University of Chicago Medical Center. But I had a 1:00 meeting with a client off Adams in the west loop area. I like this guy. We do a lot of work for his company so he is going to get personal service. We went over his job and it's huge. My eyes sort of bulged at what they are going to be doing and then, "Can you get me a price for your services tomorrow?"
I best go look at this job.
You also need to know that I have been battling a cold for almost 2 weeks. I got sick in the evening of the 15th and this virus has taken it's merry old time leaving my body. I have not had any semblance of a normal voice since the 16th. Last week, it could have been described as a dump truck dropping a load of gravel. This week, please find the person or persons who stuffed a bag of cotton balls down my throat. On more than one occasion at work, when I answer this phone, "This is Deb.", there will be a pause while the listener tries to decide what to say to acknowledge that maybe he or she is just not sure it is me. "Gad, you sound awful!" has been the usual response.
What does one say to that? I've taken the tact that humor is probably best and I generally say, "You should hear my singing voice." I sound much worse than I am but you know people are thinking, "What in the sam scratch is she doing at work when she sounds this awful?"
Anyway, the cold is breaking up in my head so breathing is now through the nose instead of my mouth which was drying out my throat which just aggravated the cough. I still have the cough until such time as my brain dries out completely and I can get into some very nasty coughing fits. I bruised my lungs and ribs last week so each fit is greeted with trepidation because I am now well there. I don't want bruised ribs again. But there is the voice or lack thereof...
And it was with this voice that I pulled into a parking lot to get a large hot tea from Dunkin' Donuts. I missed lunch. I had to wait for Melissa to be free to let me into the rooms where I have equipment to service so there was not time for lunch and making the 1:00 meeting. I can live without the occasional meal and, in reality, everything still tastes somewhat like food flavored cardboard. (I'm finally cooking the brats I got on Sunday. Once I got them home, they just weren't appealing.) But pushing fluids I will do and, for $2.50, I can get a large tea with two bags that will make my throat feel better.
The other thing you need to know is a section of Halsted is considered a mecca for gay and lesbian people. You know you're in this section of Chicago by the rainbow markers at street corners and by some of the merchandise available for sale in shop windows, not the stuff you see at Target. I don't particularly care "which team" you play for, just treat me nice and I'll treat you nice.
So, I bark out my order to the cute young gal behind the counter. She asks if I want cream or lemon or sugar, to which I croak, "No, thank you." The gentleman next to me turns to me and says, "Oh my god. I applaud you. You are so brave." He gives me a thumb's up as the gal hands him his mocha grande coffee with skim or whatever long-named coffee-flavored water beverage he was getting at Dunkin'. He pays for it and says, "I am going to remember you wow."
Okay, now this is bordering on the surreal. All I did was order a large hot tea, just 2 bags and water. What is he talking about? Since it was just the 2 of us at the register, I have no one else upon which to pawn my confusion. So, I just shrugged, paid for my tea and went back to the Jeep. He's waiting outside.
As I approach the Jeep, he comes up to me and says, "I know this is really none of my business but I just have such a deep reaction to what you did. How long have you been female?"
This is one of those moments where I really wish there were cameras to capture reactions. The look on my face must have been priceless. You need to know, dear reader, that I have a wonderful composer friend who has done the whole gender change with surgery. I know all about the process. I know what's involved and I read and exchanged a lot of letters during her "becoming" who she felt she really was supposed to be. I admired and still admire the courage it took to do everything she did.
But the look on my face gave everything away. He backed away with a horrified look on his face. Fortunately, the gods or God was smiling on me and chose that precise moment to give me a coughing fit. As I quickly set my tea down on the Jeep fender and fumbled in my pants pocket for an errant cough drop, I motioned that I wished him to stay for a second. He began muttering, "I am so sorry. Oh my god, I am so sorry. I am incredibly sorry. I am so stupid. I am so sorry." Once the coughing was under control, I said as kindly as this voice would allow, "It's okay. I'm not offended. We will chalk this up to my horrid cold and I'll have a funny story to tell my girlfriends." I looked down at my cup of tea. "Maybe I am brave for drinking Dunkin' Donuts hot tea at the temperature they serve it. Tea shouldn't be served this hot. Have a good day now." And I got in the Jeep and drove away.
It is a humorous story. Is my voice really that bad? This incident gives rise to thoughts about initial perceptions. We judge each other so quickly on that first look, that first time one opens one's mouth. Poor guy probably went home or to his next destination feeling like the bottom of a taxi cab. Maybe I am brave, but not in the way he thinks. I thought, for an instant, about a hug to show I felt no animosity toward his gaffe. But it would have been hugely awkward.
There are a lot of ideas and blog posts to be mined from this experience. Where do I go next?

Beverage: hot English Teatime


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Too many ideas

So I'm chatting with Jessie today before the arrival of my new computer shuts things down. She was working on a Quality Control Manual and needed some grammar advice. "You know what you should do?" she asked excitedly. "You should have a grammar question with an answer every week. People like me would learn something."
I'm flattered that Jessie thinks I can impart some knowledge of grammar to the general world that reads my blog. I'll admit it has appeal. I like language. I like falling into words and using them to say what I want to say. Humpty Dumpty said, "Words mean exactly what I choose them to mean, no more and no less." I try to be precise, but, as friends have noticed, when I get angry, my sentences become clipped and I am very likely to use language as a sword, cutting a broad swath of verbal destruction through conversations and communications. I tend to retreat into the language I love and surround myself with big words because I know what they mean and I know how to use them.
I belong to a group called SPELL, Society for the Preservation of English Language and Literature. If I were to do such a weekly column, I would have no farther to look than their bi-monthly newsletter, Spellbinder, for my ideas and the answers with which to justify a position. But do I want to hector you about your language?
We've got the Gray Watch going. I could recount the dates I've had as I have struggled to find even a movie companion. Some people know of the sordid details. Some do not. Without naming names, it could be at once hugely funny and, at the same time, exceptionally tragic.
I have entertained (and then discarded) the idea of weighing in with my political views. But I want all my friends, even those who disagree with me on some political positions, to feel welcome to post without fear of inciting a flame war in my comment thread. And really, you get enough political discourse shoved in your face every day, let's not find it here.
I am thinking of a thoroughly unobjective sampling of chocolates from the various chocolate shops in the Chicagoland area. Now there's an idea we can sink our teeth into.
And I've thought of lifting an idea from Jessie's blog from early this year and taking a photo a day. But what if the photo is of phlox and I'd rather discuss what idiot tosses their cat out at night where there are raccoons, opossums, foxes and vehicles just waiting to pounce on it. Plus, it shows up on my deck and looks in my back door and upsets Rascal tremendously. Tonight's cat was a new one for my yard and Rascal was asleep on my bed so I was not treated to a hissing angry cat.
I have a feeling, as I wander down this road I have found, I won't lack for ideas. I can always gripe about the weather.

Beverage: Tail end of a mug of English Teatime, cold.


A new day has dawned

Finally, I am in the 21st Century at the office. My new computer arrived today. It took Jon 15 minutes to set up and then another 10 minutes to get me access to the Internet because the firewall didn't recognize the new computer. I got everything new; mouse, keyboard, hard drive and a large 19 inch monitor. I have the largest monitor in the office. I went from 8.5 x 11 to this. Suddenly, things are all over the screen and nothing is clipped.
BUT.....I don't have some things I have taken for granted. We use Thunderbird for our office email. I had Yahoo Messenger. Both require Administrative rights to do a final installation.
And this is a Dell with Microsoft Office on it. My system software was so old all the pieces of office were scattered across my desktop. It's going to take me a bit to get used to things being in new places.
Gone, however, will be what I experienced this morning; log on, Thunderbird, email, on email to read, email and click "Reply, wait....................................... you get the picture. Maybe now I can have a couple of programs running at the same time without the computer freezing. What a concept.
Yes, it probably could play WOW and no, I don't think I'll load it.

Beverage: Dr. Pepper


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Gray Watch

I made the monumental decision to go gray. I have colored my hair since my 40th birthday. Increasingly, I disliked the 2 hours out of my day that it took to color it, although I always liked the results afterwards.
Then, back in February, I got my usual haircut and realized I had about 4 inches of gray hair and it really didn't look that bad. It struck me that I could go completely gray and be very happy with the result.
There is the ongoing rhetorical debate about how a guy can go gray and look distinguished while a woman goes gray in the same time frame and looks old. Gray is who I am and I have decided to embrace who I am which means embracing my gray hair. My stylist says I'll be gray by Christmas. I think it might be sooner, but we'll see.
So, once a month, I will post a photo of my hair with the current gray visible. We'll call this gray watch and we'll see just how long it takes to grow out the faded brown into the silver gray. Right now, I have an inch of gray.
No tea for this post: Dr. Pepper.


And the heat is still on...

Here is it, the end of May and I still have the heat on in the house. Granted, it only comes on after 8 p.m. and kicks on only sporadically, but it's May for pete's sake. It should be always above 60 at night, not 52, like it was last night.
I have a small space heater in my office and that's on, but it tends to be on all year 'round. When the AC finally kicks in, it gets really cold in my office in the morning. In the winter, the big windows to the southwest leak like cheesecloth so I have to have additional heat.
It's also gray and overcast and rainy and I have a headache.
The heavy cold is breaking up. You all know the feeling. I'm going from the completely stuffed head to the not stuff head but it's draining so I'm coughing again, a lot, and it's random and it can be debilitating. That's probably why I have a headache, the sloshing of the brain when I cough.
I have nothing to do at work today, nothing. I could clean a bit in my office. I do have a proposal to write and a report to UPS, but that's it. I have letters to write. Yes, I still write letters because, even in this technological age, I have friends who appreciate sitting down with paper and words and cups of tea and reading what I have been up to. I actually thought of bringing some of my magazines to work so I could wear down that pile. I probably could. Tomorrow, I have to go into the city and visit one of my projects, but, for today, I sit...and sit...and sit...

Tea flavor: English Teatime and I'm out so I have to nuke some water. I'll make Lady Grey. It's a good thing I have no snacks in my desk. I'd be eating out of boredom.


Monday, May 25, 2009

$182.67 and I forgot bananas.

So it's Memorial Day and I was up until the weeeeeeeee hours. You know you should go to bed when 1) the cats think you should be providing the morning feeding and 2) that's that annoying robin you hear every year singing in the neighbor's trees. Yeah, yeah, I didn't get up until...well...I'm not telling. Dishes are in the sink because I'm out of spoons and I read all the errant newspapers in the pile. (Hey Carole? Catalani made $306,000.) And I'm paying for the lateness with dry eyes just when they were 98% healed. I'm thinking this getting old business is not for wimps and sissies.
Explaining what I was doing up at that hour requires being able to insert photos into these posts and, for the life of me, I can't figure that out. (JESSIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!) That will come and will explain why I know several of the people who will, no doubt, publish random comments of the kind I adore and will explain a good bit of what I do with myself.
Random note: I added a link to my daughter's blog and to April and Perry's blog at the side. Carole said she was, "Scared" when I sent her the link to this blog. When asked why, she responded, "Because you're joining the technology age, invading my internetzzzzzzz." And in learning all this new stuff, I am effectively tossing aside 17th Century British poetry. That's a whole 'nother blog post.
But, as the dishes soak, I'm trying to clear off the kitchen counter so I can bake cookies. I bought the missing ingredients for three kinds; butterscotch, chocolate chip and peanut butter. As I have been so sick, I have only barely done any sort of kitchen maintenance so the stacks just got taller and taller. I have this craving for brats or hot dogs which necessitated the store run. When I started looking through the freezer and fridge, I realized, dang it, I'm out of a lot.
It's just me and the cats and they don't eat much people food, although Rascal ate some of my dry Cheerios last night. I have to share MY Cheerios with this cat now? I had not gone to the store since the first of May-ish. I went to visit Carole and I've been sick, so I cleaned out things rather than buy stuff that would just sit. (Promise you won't look in the vegetable or fruit drawers. I'm getting there. Kthksbai.) I'm out of toilet paper, kitty litter, pasta, cereal (including the aforementioned Cheerios-best cereal on the planet), cough drops, orange juice, hot dogs, brats, bread (How can I have the 10 p.m. pb sammich?), butter and the all important Lean Cuisine Butternut Squash Ravioli.
I was going to go to Whole Foods, but, the more I realized what I really wanted, I wound up at Dominicks. Increasingly, the mainstream groceries have organic foods on their shelves although Dominicks NEEDS to stock Bob's Red Mill Scotch Oats. I'll have to go to Whole Foods for that. So, I can choose to be lower on the food chain in terms of my eating even if it's chips and hot dogs.
I get home and unpack my 6 bags of groceries and realize I have no bananas to go with my Cheerios. I think it's because the organic bananas were not available and I made a conscious choice to not buy conventional. Oh well, Whole Foods will have organic bananas. Time to refresh the Blackberry Sage tea and wash the bowls and silverware. To quote Christopher Robin, "Tut tut. It looks like rain."


Sunday, May 24, 2009


So, as I lay in bed trying to fall asleep, the subject of friendship crossed my mind. To my left, at shoulder height, lies a purring cat, Betsy. Betsy hasn't been well and I could be facing "that" decision this year. But, for the moment, she's happily purring to my side.
Then Rascal is down by my feet and while she's not purring, I know she's happy to be sleeping with me.

Furry friends. Faithful friends. Fabulous friends.

Lately, however, my "friends" have been medicine.

I realized this week, that I hadn't had a cold in about 14 months. This would explain why I didn't have anything but allergy meds in the medicine cabinet. As luck would have it, scrounging under the sink for something else, I stumbled upon a large bottle of cough syrup and another bag of cough drops. As I coughed so hard last Sunday and Monday as to bruise my rib muscles, this discovery was thrilling.
Now, one week later, I still have the annoying cough. My voice has recovered some so that people don't flee in terror when I talk. It's time to take a shower and venture out into the world to buy groceries. I know I have to pace myself or I'll be flat on my back asleep and snoring by 3. If someone wants to come weed the flower beds for me...........

No tea, at the moment.

And a shout to Sheila who got the reference in the earlier post.

Per Wikipedia:
English as She Is Spoke is the common name of a 19th century book credited to José da Fonseca and Pedro Carolino, which was intended as a Portuguese-English conversational guide or phrase book, but is regarded as a classic source of unintentional humour.


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Whoooooo Are You?

'Tis a line from Lewis Carroll's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland". The caterpillar asks it of Alice and she bursts into tears trying to figure out the answer given the world in which she finds herself. I decided I best answer the question myself so, when you stumble upon this little blog, you can figure out if you really want to continue reading. There's a "gadget" I can add where I can profile myself, but it's the stuff you only give out to get coupons or to census takers. It doesn't really answer the "Who are you?" question.
Middle-aged and totally gray, is a good start. I have cats. I drink tea, duh. I also drink Dr. Pepper and hot cocoa and Scottish beers.
I own a house and have a wonderful daughter whom I am very proud of.
I have a B.A. in English (as she is spoke, and extra credit if you know from what I lifted that) with a minor in Art. I wanted a minor in Art History, but my college lacked 3 courses to offer that.
My favorite color is royal blue and my favorite flower is the lilac. I grew up on a farm in Northeast Iowa and, around Memorial Day, the lilacs below my bedroom window would bloom. I would fall asleep in the window to that wonderfully heady smell.
I have lived in Chicagoland since 1981, which is the longest I have lived anywhere. But, I have come to realize that "going home" will always mean going back to Iowa.
I am a chocoholic and I love classic jazz. My favorite song is "April in Paris" as sung by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong on the Blue Note release, "Ella and Louis Together". (Last cut, too, by the way.)
I currently read Terry Pratchett's "Discworld" books. I have a long way to go. He's written something like 30+ and I've read, maybe 8 or 9 of them. "Thud" is the current book.
My father's family was from Scotland, Dysart, to be exact. We are "Thomson" over there but the "p" was added in the 1830's. We don't know why. I belong to the Clan Thompson Society and run the clan tent at the Illinois St. Andrew Society's Highland Games in June. My mother's family was Czech and German and we are less certain from where they emmigrated.
I tend to have a warped sense of humor, a fact you will see upon these pages, the more I add to them.
There's more to who I am, but this is a start. My cup of tea is empty which is a signal that perhaps I should be going to bed. I've had a cold for a week and it doesn't get better if I stay up late.


Bon Jour! Wilkommen! Hiya! Hello! Welcome!

Current tea flavor: Assam

Okay, here we go. I'm jumping into the vast world of cyberspace with my own blog, working without a net here and not having a large knowledge of all things web-ish. Point, click is my speed. Don't try to get me to edit Html. Been there, failed miserably.
But I was reading the blog of a good friend (jessietwopointoh) and she redesigned her site. I thought, "This looks sort of easy. Could I do it?" I asked her to help me and , the result is what you're reading.
What will be on these pages? Well, pretty much what I think about, read, experience, see, know, the same stuff every other blogger writes about but from my POV in this universe.
I can't thank Jessie enough for helping me get this set up. She even suggested the title. I drink tea like some people drink coffee. So, this is a work in progress, a large work in progress. You'll be needing to check back often to see what I ruminate on and what design and colors and bits I add and take away.