Friday, April 30, 2010

A Life in Shreds

You know how it is when you clean. One thing leads to another to another to another to "Oh, I should take care of that." It is thus at my house as I spring clean in anticipation of Carole passing through next week.

I have two rooms completely clean and am working on a couple more. It may not be as spic and span as I would really like but, to do that, I should have started in February. The house feels cleaner.

One thing that didn't get done was the storing of records. I keep things for 10 years and then they get tossed. Some things, I've been told, can be pitched after one year or two years maximum. I verify any credit/debit card charges on the monthly statement and then the receipt could be tossed. Could be in 1985. In 2010, not without shredding. Call me paranoid but shredding documents, paid utility bills, medical prescriptions, anything really, that has an account number, my name and address on it just means there's nothing for some criminal element to find when I put out my trash.

As part of my cleaning, I'm also shredding. I had not sorted the paperwork in, I'm embarrassed to say, 2 years. I found a couple of items that could have gone on my taxes for 2008 and 2009. Yes, yes. I know I can file an amended return, but when one item was a $35.00 donation and the other was a $50.00 donation, I don't think that's going to result in much more than pennies being returned to me. My real estate tax bill came today and, this year, I started a file folder "Taxes 2010" for things like that and any donations I can possibly squeeze out of my budget.

And I'm shredding. The shredder is currently taking a break as it got a bit warm, but the results of 45 minutes upon coming home tonight are above in the recycling can. There is still a stack on the table in the living room. Pilchard likes to lie on the stack. It will be done tomorrow, in between baking and cleaning.

There is something slightly liberating, too, in shredding all this. Shredding represents a change in outlook and attitude. Clean out the old and move on with life. I'm vowing to be better about filing. No more stacking the stuff. I have files for everything and that's where it has to go. I got paid today. I paid bills. Everything is filed and the shredder waits for the next batch.

Beverage: English Teatime


It's about perspective.

I was listening to WCDB on the way home from work last night. Brian O'Keefe was delivering the news. The Cubs lost but the White Sox won so there was a discussion of whether the glass was half-full or half-empty. Mr. O'Keefe had a very interesting take on that discussion.

"I don't see it as half-full or half-empty. It's about the size of your glass."

That is quite profound. I hadn't looked at things from that perspective. But, it ties in with what I contemplated earlier.

It really isn't about whether the glass is full or empty. It's about your perception of it. You could have all the things in the world and still be woefully unhappy because you perceive your cup as empty. 8 ounces of tea overflows a 6 ounce cup and doesn't fill a 16 ounce glass.

Learning to be content. That's what it's about. Learning to see that what I have is enough for what I need. It's about seeing that the cup I have is full. Occasionally, it won't be. That's just how life is. But it is full most of the time and I am learning to be happy with that.

Beverage: China Black tea


Can Your Car Do This?

I love my Jeep.

Beverage: China Black tea


Thursday, April 29, 2010

A near D'oh and a very much YAY!

It's Thursday and, in the wee hours of the morning, I get delivery of milk and water. If it's been a restless night, I have heard the delivery. Pilchard sometimes sleeps on the table against the window so I wonder if she see the delivery. She's caught the eye of the pizza delivery guy. "Oooh nice cat!"

Anyway, I don't need milk right now but with Carole coming next week, ice cream would be nice. It's so hard to decide from the myriad of flavors, what would be nice to have in the freezer. As I have whittled the stored bottles out of the fridge, I find that I'm down to ice cream toppings, a lot of ice cream toppings. Why do I have 2 bottles each of caramel and butterscotch? There is, as you would expect, only one bottle of chocolate and it's about half gone.

I made, back in November, a chocolate ginger spice cake, sliced it and froze it. In the clean-up after baking the cake, the scent and taste of the little bit of batter left in the bowl made me wonder what I was thinking when I decided to try this recipe. Now, frozen and unthawed, it is delicious. I top the cake with one of the toppings and a dollop of whipped cream. It's rather rich so I can only eat one slice at a sitting. I did think ice cream would be a nice accompaniment.

Carole has asked for Italian meatloaf for dinner one night. A cake with ice cream would make a nice dessert to go with this. I ordered two kinds of ice cream, Dulce de Leche and Chocolate Chip. I'll have to go through the recipes I have for the proper cake but even just ice cream with toppings and whipped cream would be satisfactory.

When you order ice cream, you get a bag with a container that holds dry ice. It used to be that ice cream was hand delivered. Your doorbell was rung whenever the driver happened to deliver to let you know ice cream was in the box and needed to be handled. But that method still didn't guarantee your ice cream wasn't soup when you got to it in the morning. They have insulated boxes, which had a wasp nest in it until I took care of that yesterday. That is only marginally better. This new method is far superior. It even lasts until noon because you left the house and forgot to bring in the ice cream.

Yes, dear reader, I forgot. At about 8:45 in the morning, my brain kicked the side of my head and reminded me that I had not brought the ice cream inside. I couldn't get home before 11:30 so I was expecting some oozing of the product. Nope. The ice cream was still hard as it sat in the insulated bag with the dry ice container on top of them. It is now safely inside the freezer for next week.

From there, I nipped on over to Subway. As I said, I'm cleaning and part of the kitchen was last night's task. I spent nearly 2 hours scrubbing. When I was done, the last thing I wanted to do was cook and mess it all up again. So, I had the last of the leftovers. This morning, I had toast. I must cook tonight since there's nothing to eat in the fridge but I'm on top of the dishes now. I decided I could afford, since I had a coupon, a trip to Subway.

Lo and behold, they have Dr. Pepper. Maybe your Subway has always had Dr. Pepper, but the closest one to me has not. Well, that just made my day. My meal was less than $5.25 and they have Dr. Pepper. Yes, it is the little things that make a day happy.

Beverage: um...see above


Feel that?

This is the construction going on outside the office. Sections of Roosevelt Road which runs past the building, are being cut out and replaced. The road has deteriorated quicker than expected. It's concrete and there are holes around the expansion joints and crumbling along the gutters. They did the middle two lanes last week and are now working right up against the office.

We can hear it and, on rare occasions, feel it. I set up one of our machines in Mike's office just to see if there's anything measurable. We were joking that we should complain, loudly, that the ground vibrations are disturbing our work. Lord knows we've heard hundreds of complaints from homeowners farther afield than we are.

It will be interesting to see what we get, if anything. This construction has made travel on Roosevelt problematic. "You can't get there from here" is a better description.

Beverage: China Black tea


Happy Music

Music hath charms to soothe a savage beast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.

--William Congreve

Such a familiar quotation, but it's true. What you are listening to says a great deal about who you are.

Everyone knows I listen to jazz. My parents listened to singers who have been given the moniker "crooners"; Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Perry Como, Bing Crosby. They grew up in the 1950's, when the solo jazz artist was in his prime. Swing's time had passed with the end of World War II. People listened to music. I remember my father, who couldn't carry a tune in a dump truck, singing all these jazz standards to the cows as he milked them. It doesn't seem at all a stretch to be a jazz lover now. "Lady What-ga"? Rap? Isn't that another term for knocking on something, like a door?

I fire up my iMac, turn on iTunes and let the music flow. I have a little over 5 days worth of music. In true collector form, there a number of tunes for which I have 4 or 5 versions, my favorite jazz standard, "April in Paris", is an example. My iTunes play list probably consists of 70% jazz in some form and the rest in classical, pop, celtic, folk, Christmas, movie music and other eclectic categories.

When I'm contemplative, there is nothing like Copeland, Mussorgsky, Grieg or Joshua Bell. I don't usually have music playing when I read because I find myself pulled towards interaction with the music when I have chosen interaction with the printed word. When I play World of Warcraft, the games sounds and musical snippets get repetitive, so I'll turn on my iTunes, set the sort for some category and let it go. In the summer, if I'm sitting on the deck, I'll some times crank up the volume on the computer, which sits right by the window, and pump Ella and Louis and Frank and Dizzy out into the atmosphere. The Beach Boys can't be beat for driving around Chicago with the top down on a July Sunday.

As I'm cleaning my house in preparation for a visit from my daughter, I've had 'happy' music on. Generally, this consists of peppy jazz, Count Basie and Duke Ellington, Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman with some Glenn Miller thrown in for good measure. But I also include my favorite Scottish band, Old Blind Dogs, in the category of 'happy' music. The skirl of the pipes, the bouzouki, the fiddle make a nice counterpoint to buffing windows, dusting pictures and door frames and sorting and shredding mountains of papers.

I was listening to WDCB, College of DuPage. Last night, I turned on the radio before going to bed, just to unwind. They were running promos of upcoming programs and this music came out of my radio in response to a promo for "Mountain Stage". It was peppy. It was bouncy. It was happy. Who is this? Pine Leaf Boys. Never heard of them.

So, this morning, I did some research. Oh man. I will have to find a way to get one of their CDs. I could play this music a lot. Give them a listen. Go to the "Media" tab and click on the videos. This is infectious music. I see they were at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago, the venue where Carole and I saw a lot of Old Blind Dogs. I couldn't afford to attend a concert there right now, but Chicago has a lot of free festivals during the summer. Maybe they will turn up on the venue for one of them. I'm thinking, like OBD, listening to them live is much more of an experience.

Tonight, I work on the living room. Maybe some Nat King Cole?

Beverage: China Black Tea


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

One way to stop spending.

(sigh) I decided to treat myself to Caribou Coffee this morning. There had been a coupon in the paper for $1.00 off a beverage and I was running late. It's been a good 3 1/2 weeks since I used the last coupon and that was for breakfast I could expense.

I got my 2 blackberry white chocolate chunk scones and ordered Assam tea. The gal behind the counter said they had changed their teas and Assam was no longer being offered. I looked and Irish Breakfast was gone, too. It seems others were removed from the menu but those were the two I ordered a lot.

In their place have come lattes, chai and what I can only term "designer" teas. They have caramel, vanilla, pomegranate flavors. What the...? Herbal teas are infusions made by pouring boiling water over something other than the leaves. I could see pomegranate and vanilla as you could use flowers, roots, bark even, to steep to make a tea. But caramel?

And what's with all the milk-infused beverages? Chai is milk infused tea, which is how most of the world drinks their tea. Spices are also added to the chai and those spices vary region to region.

Latte, is usually coffee with milk. Variants can include replacing the coffee with chai. But, taken literally, that means you have milk tea mixed with milk. Huh?

Whatever the case, I was severely disappointed in Caribou when I stopped. I got Darjeeling; that was still on the menu as is Earl Grey. The scones I like were still in the case but they were dry and crumbly, not moist as usual.

What I think life is telling me is that I no longer need to spend $5.63, with coupon, for breakfast. I have a tea kettle. It's a simple thing to turn it on when I hop into the shower or while I'm making breakfast. I have Huckleberry, green, Lapsang Souchong, chocolate hazelnut, Christmas spice, China Black, English Teatime and Scottish Blend sitting in the window sill behind the stove. If I squeeze the budget, I can get a box of Darjeeling or Irish Breakfast at the grocery.

I used to stop at Caribou once a week. They got to know me. Then October came and I didn't go for 6 weeks. That's kind of my frequency lately. Roughly every 6 weeks unless I knew I could expense it to a client. When you need to cut to the bare minimum, things like breakfast out must go. Still, it was a nice affirmation of me. Dunkin' Donuts makes good tea. Plus, if I add 2 donuts, the cost for breakfast there is $3.18 instead of the $6.53 without coupon of Caribou. But I don't need donuts and I have to get up earlier to get going if I want Dunkin' as it's the opposite direction of the office.

Therefore, the cosmos is telling me that breakfast is best eaten at home. I have the capabilities to make and freeze pancakes when can then be just nuked in the morning. Or dig out the waffle iron and make Mickey Mouse-shaped waffles. So many ideas. Coffee cake and my every popular muffins.

Goodbye Caribou. It was nice. Bring back real tea and not these "affected" drinks and I'll be back, not as much as I used to, but I'll come back.

Beverage: my last Caribou tea-Darjeeling


Friday, April 23, 2010

Cat 1 Toy 0

I found this when I came home from work tonight. And intact toy is at the top. Judging by the hair on the rug, I would say Pilchard got a wee bit excited in playing today. I'll toss the eyes so they don't get eaten and see if the feather becomes another toy. She wasn't interested when I tickled her nose with it. I must say I get a chuckle out of this.

Beverage: Asti


Well, it isn't usually on the menu.

I found this.

Britons believe the hills are alive with haggis

LONDON (Reuters) – One in five people in Britain thinks that haggis, the traditional Scottish dish made from the lung, liver and heart of a sheep, is an animal that roams the Highlands, according to a survey on Friday.

Commissioned by the online takeaway food service, the survey found that 18 percent of Britons believe that haggis is a hilltop-dwelling animal.

Another 15 percent said it is a Scottish musical instrument while 4 percent admitted to thinking it was a character from Harry Potter.

The survey questioned 1,623 people across Britain to see how well they were acquainted with traditional Scottish food.

Even 14 percent of the 781 Scottish people polled said they did not know what haggis was.

Beverage: Scottish Blend tea


Of course he still matters.

I agree, 100%, with this article from NPR.

Why Mark Twain Still Matters

Mark Twain Ernest H. Mills/Getty Images

A hundred years after his death, the writings of Samuel Clemens — better known as Mark Twain — continue to influence American culture and literature.

April 21, 2010

One hundred years after his death on April 21, 1910, "Mark Twain remains as central as ever not only in American literature but in American life," writes James M. Cox, a leading Twain scholar.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn have never lost their places as required reading in schools, and they remain templates for young adult fiction. Mark Twain -- the pen name of author Samuel Clemens -- is the great poet of America's longest river, while his quotes on politics and human nature enjoy a constant half-life as staples among speechmakers.

His deceptively relaxed style has had a profound influence on generations of American writers. "All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn," Ernest Hemingway wrote in 1935.

To examine his legacy and enduring importance, NPR spoke with Jerome Loving, a literature professor at Texas A&M University. Following previous biographies about Walt Whitman and Theodore Dreiser, Loving has just published Mark Twain: The Adventures of Samuel L. Clemens.

Most humor doesn't travel well across time. Why does Mark Twain still make us laugh, while the humorists who were his contemporaries have been forgotten?

Of course, when you analyze humor, you often kill it. But the best kind of humor is pretty serious, and his jokes go to the roots of human nature. It's humor that doesn't depend on its own time. It's universal.

Jim Smiley, in his most famous story ("The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County"), jolts you with his incongruity, his willingness to gamble about anything, even the death of the Parson's wife. With Huck Finn, there's all the hypocrisy he sees along the river.

Do you think he is mainly remembered as a humorist and genial chronicler of childhood, or do people have a sense of his dark side -- the darkness of his humor, as you mention, and the near-nihilism of his later works?

I think to the general public, he's remembered for his humor -- like a much more important Will Rogers. His fame rests on the nostalgic boyhood stories about the river, and the humor.

He himself had a problem with being a humorist, wanting to be a more refined kind of writer. His family, proper Victorians, wanted him to write more like Henry James or his friend William Dean Howells, and he tried. He wrote books with no vernacular language. His family thought Joan of Arc was his best book, and now it's his least read.

Can you talk about the importance of his style, which I think is what Hemingway was getting at in his famous quote that all American literature comes from Huckleberry Finn?

It's had a profound impact. It was Whitman that brought in the vernacular in poetry, and Twain did it for prose. The American language is kind of freed up by our literature, by Whitman and by Mark Twain.

We no longer looked back on the British for approval as we did for so long. Early in the 19th century, a Scottish critic said, "Who reads an American book? Who would want to?"

Mark Twain remains one of the most important writers on race and slavery. Can you speculate about what he would have thought about the election of Barack Obama to the White House?

I think Twain would have been very happy.

Huck is never against slavery, he's for the owner. He says, 'All right, then, I'll go to hell,' when he decides to help free Jim. After emancipation, we all want Jim free. In the book, only Jim wants Jim free.

It's such an under-the-radar way of writing about race. That book was thought of as a boy's book. Then he tried again with Pudd'nhead Wilson, which was seen as a funny book until the civil rights era of the 1960s. We really become more alert to Twain's more serious side in the 20th century.

Of course Twain knew blacks from the 19th century perspective, but he was very progressive. He contributed to the college expenses of two or three black students. One who went to Yale [Warner T. McGuinn] went on to become a mentor to Thurgood Marshall, so there's that connection.

In a way, it's a dream come true, from Jim on down.

I've never enjoyed reading Hemingway but his assertion that all American literature flows from Twain is spot on. When you read earlier works Emerson, Thoreau, Washington Irving, even the writings of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson, the language is refined, genteel. We can't imagine these authors dropping their "g's" or using slang. It took Samuel Clemens to capture how this country spoke and expose us and the world to the richness and texture that is our country.

When I look across the vast "Best Sellers" table at any large bookstore, I feel a full 75% of the books today will be asterisks 100 years from now. Can I tell you whom I think will be read and discussed in 100 years? No, but I'm fairly sure the dueling pundits won't be.

I have to think Twain would be very amused but rather thrilled that people still read what he wrote. In a way, "The report of my death was an exaggeration" is completely true. As long as he is read, he isn't dead.

"Truth is more of a stranger than fiction."

Beverage: Scottish Blend Tea


Minor Crisis Upcoming.

I saw that. Don't roll your eyes at me. This is serious.

If you have ever received a letter or card from me you know my signature style is to festoon the exterior with stickers. Witness the backs of the few Christmas cards I was able to mail this year.

Everyone knows the card is from me. I like to think I provide a wee bit of a smile in a day when you open your mailbox and you see this in with the catalogues and bills and solicitations from various charities.

I like having a variety of stickers. Hobby Lobby routinely puts stickers on sale 50% off and, over the years, people know to get sticker packs for me for Christmas. I'm just as thrilled to receive $10 worth of stickers as I am new socks, tea or underwear. Honestly.

This financial impediment has seriously depleted my sticker stack.

It's more important to get a container of peanut butter for sandwiches than it is to hit Hobby Lobby for discount stickers. Still, I feel sad because this very much is a part of who I am.

On the other hand, maybe you really didn't like receiving sticker covered envelopes so my running out will be a blessing to you. I have enough, I believe, to make it through summer. Perhaps, by then, I will have righted the ship, bailed the water and be steaming toward a better horizon.

Beverage: Scottish Blend tea


Thursday, April 22, 2010

What Is It?

I hope you can read this comic. It was in the Sunday paper on April 11th. It's the last panel that struck me. (Click on the panel to enlarge.)

I don't agree with Agnes' assertion. In fact, I don't even find it particularly humorous. I see Grandma's comment as an example of finding happiness in the little, ordinary, every day things of our lives. In this comic, Agnes and Grandma are poor and they make do with whatever they have. That, in and of itself, to me, defines a kind of happiness many of us can't understand.

I used to think more, more, more meant I was happy. I realized that I filled the hole in myself with stuff in an unsuccessful attempt to ward off unhappiness. Since that realization, I have struggled, unsuccessfully at times, to be sure, to find happiness every day. Witness the "Luck" journal now evolving into a "Blessings" journal.

What makes someone happy will vary day by day, minute by minute. I have tomato soup, my last can, simmering on the stove. I have tossed in a small handful of rice, frozen peas and carrots and some Bacos. The smell as my supper cooks is wonderful. I have one container of pot roast ready for lunch tomorrow. I have frozen chicken breast pieces I toy with cooking. I will have to cook them this weekend, but how.

I have two cats who came running to greet me when I walked in the door. The only bill I received today was for the car insurance which I can pay monthly which removes the need to come up with hundreds of dollars all at once to be insured.

Business has picked up. It's been downright crazy this week. We have everything covered and the potential exists that I will, once again, have to go into the field to cover jobs. This is a good thing. I am more hopeful that friends I have who are currently out of work will find gainful employment this summer.

So, while Agnes may claim that a pecan stuck in one's tooth is not happiness, I would say
"Happiness is where you find it."

I have a friend who I think is entirely too negative, even for what slings and arrows he has suffered in his life. I know, from experience, that you cannot change anyone unless they wish to change, but what I'm trying to get him to see is that it's not gloom and doom. Even when he has to confront a person he thought was his friend, there can be a blessing and a happiness, however meager, in the event. It might be something as small as the knowledge that this person can no longer poison your life because you won't let them or that the sun is shining on a brilliantly beautiful afternoon.

It really becomes, "Is the glass half-full or half-empty?" I try to take the tact, "It's not whether it's half-full or half-empty, it's can I get another?" Your take on all of this is probably, "Why is she drinking her Asti from an Elmer Fudd glass?"

Beverage: Asti


In The Post

I found the last digital flash card that I own for my camera. The one that died in the winter and the one that died today, are sitting on top of the chest of drawers. I hate consigning them to a landfill but I doubt that there is any place that recycles them. If there is, it probably costs more than I can afford to ship them off for recycling. So they will sit for a bit until I get the urge to pitch them.

I set up a couple of the photos for which I have blog post ideas and went to get the mail. This catalogue was in it.

I thought, at first, it belonged to a neighbor but no, the name and address are mine. I have no idea how I got on this company's mailing list for potential customers. I don't even order the office mechanical supplies. Into the recycling bin with you.

I am fairly positive this guy had nothing to do with my receiving this.

Beverage: Asti



I have this idea for a blog post. Although I will just type, I think the post looks better if I include an appropriate or semi-appropriate or maybe not appropriate at all photo.

I always carry my palm-sized Nikon Cool Pix camera with me. You never know when you'll see something which is inspiring, silly, phenomenal, beautiful or simply unique and worthy of a blog post. That happened this afternoon. I dig my camera out of my bag and go to take a photo and the camera says the card needs to be formatted. Well, I know that formatting the card is going to erase the two photos I have on it. But they are the kind of photos I can stage again so, okay, I'll format it.

The camera can't. So I plug the download card into my office computer and the computer says the card has to be formatted. Okay, just do it. Stop with the prompts. Um..."Windows cannot format this card."

I suspect this means the card I got with the camera many years ago is now toast. Yes, yes. I know Target sells these cards and I can get one with oodles (technical term there) of memory for peanuts. But I don't have peanuts, pennies maybe, but certainly not enough of those to pay cash for a new flash card. I have one more card. When it goes, I am out. I hope I can wring enough pocket change from the expense check coming next week that I can get a new flash card.

I guess this is the impetus for digging in the years of photos I have and firing up my scanner. I'm sure I can find some photos which, with a little editing, can work for blog posts. Hmmmm, where's that one of my family roasting hot dogs over a burn barrel?

Beverage: Water


Earth Day

It's been 40 years. Man, do I feel old.

But, as pundits and other news sources have pointed out all day, we have come a long way since the Cuyahoga River caught fire in Cleveland. I vaguely remember that event.

What I remember is the push, initially by people such as Gaylord Nelson, to get us to recognize the earth as a precious resource. This, from the dBusiness News, sums up Earth Day.

In Spring 1970, Senator Gaylord Nelson created Earth Day as a way to “force this issue onto the national agenda.” That first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, 1970. In December 1970, Congress authorized the creation of a new federal agency to tackle environmental issues, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

EPA was required to set criteria for National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) 120 days after the Clean Air Act passed and 150 days after EPA opened its doors.

In the last 40 years, EPA has ammended the Clean Air Act to set, and then refined, national air quality, auto emission, and anti-pollution standards. Standards have become stricter over time, with air permit limitations reducing emission limits. Stack Testing, following the EPA Test Methods, became a reliable and often required way to demonstrate compliance.

In the last 25 years, the Emission Measurement Center (EMC) of the EPA, Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards (OAQPS), has provided national leadership in furthering the science of characterizing and measuring air pollutant emissions. The EMC has produced nearly one hundred Test Methods for measuring air pollutants emitted from the entire spectrum of industrial processes causing air pollution. The EMC is the EPA's focal point for planning and conducting field test programs to provide quality data in support of regulatory development, producing validated emission test methods, and providing expert technical assistance for EPA, State, and local enforcement officials and industrial representatives involved in emission testing.

EPA has planned a celebration on the National Mall April 24 – 25 to commemorate this event.
It sort of struck me then and it still does now, that some of us have been recycling longer than Earth Day. It was a mind set. Victory Gardens of the Great War and of World War II never left some people's minds. I know gardening was a way of life when I was growing up. When my ex and I were able to afford a house, it had to have a plot of land for a garden. Although I don't garden as I used to, I sometimes think back to those times where harvesting fresh produce in the garden was the highlight of a day.

Recycling wasn't a word we used when I was growing up. You wore "hand-me downs". You used things until they couldn't be used again. It was just something we did.

Enter the heady days of the late 1980's. Disposable was everywhere and even those of us raised to buy cloth diapers and plastic pants because you could reuse diapers, succumbed to the allure of toss away and forget it. No more soaking in the toilet and bleach stains on pants. Diaper rash was cut down by the wicking away of moisture from baby's skin. Never you mind that these things are a layer in a landfill somewhere. If you didn't like something, out it went. If it broke, meh. Toss.

I would say it's only in the last 8-10 years that "reuseable" has become the buzz word. "Green" is not just a color, it's a way of life. We're still too much of a disposable society and we make too many things that can break within a year of their life. Why do people revere the Philco radios of yore? Not just because they were gorgeous pieces of furniture, but because they were built to last. My great grandparents had one. I'd give my eye teeth to have it now. I am not sure it would work but it was just beautiful. I remember it sitting against the west wall of the living room, next to great grandpa's enormous black wood chair.

So happy Earth Day to us. Every day should be Earth Day. Every day we should show reverence to the earth on which we live. Saint Elizabeth Seaton said it best. "Live simply so others may simply live."

As a side note: I did not take the above photo. It was taken by my brilliantly talented daughter. If you would like to see more of her nature photography, this is the link.

Beverage: English Breakfast tea


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Blessing or Just Luck?

A friend of mine, whom I know only from World of Warcraft, has been talking about how blessed he is.

If you know me very well, you know I have issues with the institutionalized church. I felt the flavor (Lutheran) where I happened to worship God let me down in a big way when I divorced. Carole and I were openly shunned by members of the hierarchy of that particular building. When I asked if there were any programs for people going through divorce, the Bishop of the church himself said there was nothing official. Ministering to people like me was left to individual churches. I was, pretty much, on my own. The Catholic Church has divorce groups for people and they don't let you partake of church sacraments if you divorce. The Lutheran Church seemed to just pat you on the head and say, "It'll all be better. Now run along and play."

Hence I have, for the last 10 years, wrestled with this notion of a God who even cares, let alone passes blessings my way. A lot in my life would support the notion of a God who is "up there", probably loves me, but is relatively inactive in my life. Now, I'm not looking for a "Dear God, please cure my pen pal of her cancer." Or even a "Dear God, I really need a parking space in downtown Glen Ellyn." I do pray, on occasion, for others. I rarely pray for myself. If you've seen the movie "Bruce Almighty", remember the scene where Jim Carrey sits down at his computer to look at prayer requests and there are something like 3 million of them, just from a 20 block area. It's overload in deciding which one to grant and which to deny.

In a way, I feel God is like that. He gets so many prayers every nanosecond of every day that my simple, "Please give Charly a reason to smile today" goes unnoticed. It's not that I'm mad at God. I went through that when my dad died. It's just that God is busy elsewhere; Haiti, China, Iceland, down the street, that my little prayers get swallowed up by the whole. And when life kicks me yet again, especially when I've given my best and my best isn't good enough, it's hard to feel there is any sort of activity between this God and me. So Jon's occasional "I am so blessed" statements always sort of rubbed me the wrong way.

I spent last month making a conscious decision to change how I viewed my luck or lack thereof. The $14 slim paperback book I bought last year came down to a perception issue. Lucky people see themselves as lucky and see set backs as simply different views of luck. It was suggested to keep a luck journal, the book at the top, and write down every lucky thing that happened in the course of a day.

This was a challenge on some days. I started out with one entry per day, something as simple as "I am lucky I don't have any other person living with me. I can eat what I want when I want, sleep as long as I want, shower when I feel like it on weekends and, essentially, do my own thing." The longer I did this, the more small items I found that I could classify as "good luck". I found myself filling a page with things. Who knew there were so many things one could feel lucky about.

The best thing to come from this experiment was the change in my attitude and here's where the notion of blessings comes in. I felt kicked in the teeth by the bank, stomped on, used. Yet, it is what it is and I can't change things. I have emailed the situation to my representatives and my attorney general and the Better Business Bureau. I no more hold the hope that they will do anything and, in my email, I did not ask for anything. I said I simply wanted them to know what's happened to me and how this is not, as far as this consumer is concerned, bank reform. To date, I have heard back from the BBB and the attorney general's office and those were standard, "Thank you for sending us feedback" emails. I was upset on the 14th and then I let it go. No good can come from stewing about it. I move on. I recognize my change of attitude as coming directly from forcing myself to see things in light of good luck rather than bad.

So when Jon mentioned being blessed on the 12th, I sort of dismissed his comment, mentally giving him a pat on the head, a lollipop and sending him out the door to play with his friends. But the next day, I went to Iowa to fix a machine and I could not get his comment out of my head. "I am so blessed." Just what the hell does that mean and why is it pestering me like a sliver?

All the way to and from Iowa, I thought and thought about this. It was a glorious day. "I was blessed" to be driving to Iowa on a day such as that. "I was blessed" to have the machine call in the first time. "I was blessed" to have a dollar to pay the toll to go over the railroad bridge in Fort Madison. "I was blessed" to come home to two cats who were very, very happy to see me. "I was blessed" to have wonderful jazz CD's to listen to out and back. I could sit in my settee and make an arm's length list of all the ways I was blessed. Maybe there is something to this.

Of course, the afternoon of the 13th, I rather hit a wall at full steam when I discovered the problems with my checking account. I came home and grieved. The next day, as we had a company function to attend in the evening, I was sent home at noon since there's no overtime being paid until the economy gets better. I channeled the anger into emails and looked at my accounts. I discovered my math wasn't the best (Why are you not surprised?) and I have a small bit of funds as a cushion in the account. It still doesn't make up for a $74 overdraft charge but everything is accounted for and I'm in the black. I found credit on one card and was able to fill my gas tank and get $10 worth of groceries which included kitty treats. That evening, at the event, I was asked to draw numbers for the cash door prizes and drew Rodney's number. While it wasn't mine, he can use the cash as much as I can and he had never won. That is definately a blessing.

My journal has gone from a "Luck" journal to a "Blessing" journal. I need to be reminded that when things appear bad, I have much that is a blessing. It can be as simple as a big black cat lying in my lap purring to as grand as my clan buying me a brand new tent and paying the entry fees so I can attend the Illinois St. Andrew Society's Highland Games this year. It's about perspective. Do I think God has his/her hand in this? Meh. Shrug. I don't really know. I just know that by actively looking for the blessings even in the most dour situations, I can think clearer and act accordingly.

I am blessed.

Beverage: China Black Tea


Friday, April 16, 2010

Front Door Smiles

Soon, the real thing will blossom.

When I was growing up, below my bedroom window was one of two huge Persian lilac bushes. They usually bloomed right before Memorial Day, right after school let out, just as the days and nights took on a summer tone. The heady fragrance of lilacs would fill my bedroom at night. I would take my pillow and dooze on the windowsill, just breathing in that scent. To this day, lilacs remain my favorite flower and favorite scent. I will go out of my way in May to smell a lilac bush. I don't care for the Miss Kim variety of lilacs as their scent is too spicy. Give me an old-fashioned Persian lilac's intoxicating fragrance.

There are times when I wish one could get lilacs to bloom all year 'round and you could walk into a florist in December an purchase a branch with blossoms on it. But that would make it as ordinary as anything else a florist sells. By keeping lilacs a 2 week explosion in May, Mother Nature assures me they are rare and meant to be smelled when they do show up.

There are buds on the bushes in my yard. Blossoms are coming.

Beverage: Ginger Ale


A Couple of Things I Like

It's been hard to find even a sliver of rainbow amongst all this rain but I'm trying. I've discovered a couple of things that I rather like.

I'll start with juice. I've been a fan of V8 for a long time. It's a tasty blend of vegetables and really is a good way to get those vegetables during the day. I like this small can size as it's easy to pack in lunches. I may drink tea or water during the day but a can of V8 is a great pick-me-up in the middle of the afternoon when I might otherwise want chocolate.

I'm not sure about pomegranate juice, however. I've had it on a couple of occasions and it's been kind of tart. Perhaps it was mixed with something but I wasn't very sold on drinking that. Plus the cost for pomegranate is far higher than plain old apple juice.

There was a coupon in the paper for a dollar off a 6-pack of V8 Fusion. That kind of coupon will make me look at something as a possibility. I enjoy having juice in the house so, why not. I can take the cans to work if I like the taste.

Yes, I do like the taste. Health food web sites will remind consumers that "high fructose corn syrup" is in some juice and that makes it no different than soda pop. That stuff may be "all natural" but it's an intense sugar and shouldn't be consumed in quantity. And just because it says 100% juice also doesn't mean it's 100% of the juices listed on the front. This juice lists apples and grapes first as do a lot of juices. Apples are cheaper to grow than blueberries so they are used as filler juice. It's juice, just not in the quantity you might expect by the name on the front.

Still, it's juice and it does contribute to my desire to consume more fruits and vegetables. I won't buy this unless I can get it on sale with a coupon. The full price cost does not justify having it on the shelf.

The other item I'm liking right now is this cleaner from Dow.
The big buzz word is "green" and you'd be a fool to underestimate the consumer's demand for more environmentally friendly products. This bathroom cleaner is witness to this. I like scrubbing bubbles. They get rid of the soap scum and the rust spots and make the bathroom sparkle. But they also cause my allergies to explode. I was down to a small amount of scrubbing bubbles and saw this on the shelf. It was cheaper than the scrubbing bubbles were with their coupon. I guess I can try it.

It's been great. I have to scrub a bit harder but it does exactly what scrubbing bubbles did. The label says no bleach, ammonia, phosphorous or dye. It does have a scent which still causes me to have to leave the confines of the bathroom and run the exhaust fan for an hour between cleaning the shower walls and the tub. If they could do away with the smell, I could clean my bathroom in one fell swoop without having to leave because I'm coughing. The fact that it was less expensive than a synthetic cleaner makes it doubly good. It did a very good job on my tub/shower. I just have the floor to wash now and the whole bathroom is clean.

Those are quite disparate recommendations but I pass them along to you.

Beverage: Ginger ale


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Ain't That a Kick in the Head

I was going to head out for lunch today and swing by the grocery to get cat treats. I hop online and check out my checking account.

I'm overdrawn.

What? I...I don't understand. I double, triple, quadruple check my numbers. I don't count on float. But there it was, last night. I was overdrawn.

Early Friday, I received notice that my expense check from my company had been deposited in my checking account. It showed up on Saturday as "Pending". It was not officially posted to my account until this morning. In the meantime, three checks went through and the last one bounced. I was socked with a $74 fee for being overdrawn. I have $38 in my account. That's it. Period. Where do I find $36 to cover what's coming? I guess I close my meager savings account, $53.66, and hope I do not have any kind of emergency. None.

A friend has told me to march into the bank and demand to know why they held my expense check. The email notice says it can take "up to" 2 business days to clear. Had my check cleared, this would not be an issue. I don't understand why it was posted this late. My paycheck is available the day it's deposited. The expense check gets held. I'm tired, so very, very tired, of fighting this battle again and again. This is not banking reform. $74 is not reform. From those of us with very little, much is taken. I don't feel I can ever, ever get ahead in any form.

A dear friend loaned me money around Thanksgiving to get away from this bank, to start anew. I have never told her, although she's quite savvy and probably knows it, that I used the money to survive. I needed gas and had no credit. "Well, I'll just take $30 of this for gas." I was out of food. "I'll just take $60 of this for food." Gradually, in spite of my best intentions, the sum she loaned me went to live on. Stamps, cat food, gas, me food. That's all. I never bought Christmas gifts or cards or ordered out for pizza. I sunk all my funds into trying to dig out and used the loaned money to live off of thinking it would get me ahead and I would be able to repay her loan and get away from my current bank once I got everything caught up.

It's a fallacy. The check that bounced is to a credit card company who has been very nice about working with me. You can imagine the fees that are going to come from that. I tried so hard and I feel kicked in the head. I think I have a little credit tucked away, credit I have rebuilt after shutting everything down in October. I can get my cats some treats. I was going to get garbage stickers once all the outstanding checks cleared. Can't do that.

I was going to do a post assessing my luck as it's been a month since I declared an attempt to change my outlook. I can't. Not today.

Beverage: water


A List

One of my curious friends asked what was in that basket of cologne in the post down below. I made a list.

The blueish purple box: Soir de Pairs parfume
1 big bottle Clinique Happy Heart
Jovan Musk
Davidoff Cool Water, 1 big bottle and 1 little bottle
Avon Vanilla Musk (white top bottle)
Norfolk Lavender Cologne
Smith and Vandiver Lilac Perfume
Bath & Body Works Tangerine Spice Body Splash
Bath & Body Works Peony Body Splash
Avon 5th Avenue
Clinique Simply
Avon Sheer Essence Perfume
Avon Apple Blossom
Avon Regence
Estee Lauder Youth Dew Perfume
Avon Moonwind
Avon Topaz
3 small sample bottles of Clinique Happy
1 small sample bottle of Clinique Happy Heart
Jessica McClintock
Avon Fragrance Pen-Pearls

Samples of:
Ralph Lauren Blue
L'Air du Temps
Armani Diamonds
Chanel Chance
Calvin Klein Truth
Calvin Klein Her
Calvin Klein Euphoria Blossom
Escada Into the Blue
Armani Code Sheer
2 Clinique Happy Heart
Clinique Happy
Escada Sunset Heat

Make up brushes and a bag of nail stuff, like emery boards, etc, that I got as a free gift when I bought my Clinique face items.

My senior year in college, I sold Avon. I lasted about 9 months and decided this was not for me. Now I wonder just how much of what I have you can still get. And where did I put those extra bottles of cologne I seem to remember I have but they aren't on the dressing table?


Beverage: Chocolate Hazelnut tea


You Can't Get There From Here.

Welcome to spring when daffodils, crocus, tulips and street cones blossom. "Street cones"? I don't see those in my Michigan Bulb Company catalog. You won't because they are those cones or barrels set out to close lanes on the street you just traveled over an hour ago. And why isn't there anyone actually working in the closed lane?

The road in front of the office is a main east-west arterial, Route 38. It starts in Dixon, Illinois and run straight east. For the geographically challenged, east of us is a rather large body of water called Lake Michigan. If it did not end at Lake Shore Drive, it would go straight into the lake about where the Shedd Aquarium stands.

It was completely rebuilt many years ago, from the sub-base to the new surface, from Ardmore Avenue in Villa Park to Nicole Way in Glen Ellyn. The Glen Ellyn part is concrete. It's falling apart. They have tossed asphalt patches in the holes over the years, but it's not survived very well.

Beginning April 8th, this section is to be fixed. The holes are to be squared and new concrete poured. New expansion joints will be added and curbs and gutters replaced. They are starting with the section in front of my office.

It was fine on Monday. Yesterday, I went to Iowa to replace a machine which wasn't working. This morning, I plan to be in early, to assess what I need to do since I was not here yesterday. The back up from where two lanes go down to one was 3 blocks long at 7:45 a.m. I sat through 3 light changes before I could make a left turn onto 38.

The other annoyance is that 5 years ago, we were told we could not park on the east side of our building. The buildings to our east were sold and that parking lot is owned and maintained by another entity. Our building owner owns the west lot. While the east lot has multiple entry and exit points, the west lot has one, off highway 38. If we aren't allowed to park on the east side of our building, getting out of our parking lot is going to be a joke and a half, particularly when they start actual construction of the street. Right now, it's simply cones closing one lane.

I sat through 3 changes of the light to make a left turn onto highway 38 to head east. Then I sat through 3 changes of the light a half-block from the office as people "merged" or blocked the intersection because others wouldn't let them merge, you know what I'm talking about. I finally said, "This is nuts" and made a right turn to go around the building. I'm parked on the east said. That's just tough. Until this project is finished, it's where I'm going to park.

Welcome to the season of road construction. Don't even ask how to get into Chicago from the west. Right now, you can't do it. I have to get kitty treats after work. I think I need Dr. Pepper after all this, too, assuming I can get to the grocery.

Beverage: Chocolate Hazelnut tea


She doesn't fit in a can.

This story came up on my Yahoo news feed.

Last US sardine cans being packed in Maine

Given that I recently discovered "pilchard" is another term for sardine, I thought it was amusing from my purely weird point of view.

It is a shame that these people will lose their jobs. I have never, ever developed a taste for sardines although they show up on food charts as being exceptionally good for you.

Maybe, maybe, if fish stocks can recover from our wanton overfishing of years past, perhaps these people won't be out of a job forever. We have the intelligence in this country. We need to put it toward inventing other industries.

But, that's a rant for a different post.

Beverage: Chocolate Hazelnut Tea


Monday, April 12, 2010

The Scent of Memories

A friend of mine asked me what kind of cologne I wear. I had to actually stop and think. I rarely go anywhere that smelling anything more than "clean" is needed. Plus, now that spring is here, I don't wear cologne on job sites. It's bad enough that washed hair attracts bugs seeking to "pollinate" what they think is a flower. I always laugh at the cutesy, over dressed, high fashion gal who has to wear a hard hat on a job site and then has to walk in her high heels to where the site superintendent is explaining the construction. She will start swinging at the bee or wasp that has taken a shine to her and get all upset at the "stupid" insect. Um...yes.

Still, there is something slightly magical about dabbing on cologne for a night out. Scent is a mood lifter, no questions about that. I have accumulated quite a number of mood lifters over the years and they just sit because I really don't have place to wear them.

I keep everything in this basket on my dresser. I decided to dust this area for the first time in more than a few months, just to see what I had in here. There are 2 bottles and 2 small tubes of scented lotion and 3 spray bottles of lavender scent that I should use to spray the inside of my clothes closet. That would help make the clothes smell fresh and force any clothes moths hiding in there to leave. Moth balls are not good for you even though we seem attracted to the smell. I guess they remind us of great-grandma's chest of sweaters.

As I removed the bottles from the basket, I remembered why I have it and where or when I got it. It was like walking through my past. I knew each fragrance and have a special memory for each. Some are more intense than others.

This bottle is "Wind Song". It was one of my grandmother's favorite scents. She would wear this and Estee Lauder Youth Dew. This is the bottle that was on her dresser when she passed away. You can see there is still a little bit left. It's not one of my favorite scents but I have worn it on occasion. She wore it only on very special occasions. I remember she wore it to my wedding and to Carole's baptism.

My mother still wears Youth Dew on occasion. For years, she would get a bottle of that every other year or so, at Christmas or her birthday or for Mother's Day.

Now why on earth, would I have a bottle of Mennen Skin Bracer on my dresser? My dad wore this. He would also wear Old Spice but my memories of him getting dressed up revolve around shaving, nicks and Skin Bracer. When he passed away, my sister took the Old Spice. I'm not that fond of it. There are other colognes I prefer on men. I bought this bottle of Skin Bracer and, when I missed dad, would give it a sniff. On occasion, I would put a few drops on my pj's. It was a comfort scent. It still is. It's a rather old-fashioned scent. I don't know any guy who actually uses this anymore, which is a shame.

I bought this for myself when I turned 50. See Play-Doh and I share the same birth year. I didn't realize that until I stumbled across a post in a blog detailing that fact. In the same blog was a link where one could purchase this cologne.

It does smell like Play-Doh. When you first put it on, it's kind of heavy, I think, with an overly chemical vanilla smell. Let it sit a couple of minutes and then give it a sniff. If you have ever played with Play-Doh, you will say, "Oh, yes!"

And, just to be clear, I haven't worn this except once, for a joke. When people would give me a sniff, you could tell they recognized the scent but could not, for the life of them, place it. I would wear it again, to the right event.

So, which one is my favorite? I don't know. My favorite flower is the Lilac and I have a bottle of Lilac perfume.

There's a small bottle of Avon Apple Blossom cologne. I don't think it's available anymore. It's a "happy" smell.

I have a bottle of Charlie and a bottle of Scoundrel. These were heavily promoted in the 1970's. Model Cheryl Tiegs advertised Charlie and actress Joan Collins advertised Scoundrel. Yes, I remember that. It's useless trivia and I will retain it. Just don't ask where I put my glasses.

I have several different bottles of Musk. That was all the rage for awhile, claiming that musk was closer to your original scent. Meh, not really. It strikes me that musk colognes are just a heavier scent, more woodsy, if you will.

The blue bottle is Cool Water. It's probably the newest of all of those in the basket, the samples notwithstanding. Carole and I attended a program for Mother's Day at a nearby Macy's when it was Marshal Field's. We were given this huge bag of scents and free stuff and there was a small bottle of the Cool Water body lotion. I really liked that scent. I used up the lotion and am left with the cologne. As it's a pricey scent, I'm not about to run out and get another bottle when I have other scented lotions to use up.

After all of this, I still don't have an answer for which one is my favorite. It's very much a choice based upon my whim as I'm getting dressed. "What do I feel like?"

So many memories attached to this small bottles. Lots of dust, too. I had to shake out the dust rag and then pound the basket on the deck to get rid of the clumps.
Now, if anyone has an idea what these unidentified bottles could be, I'd love to hear it.

Beverage: Scottish Blend Tea


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Low On Treats

To the left is all I have remaining of the kitty treats Val gave me when I adopted my girls before Labor Day. This container was filled to the top AND I had another 2 cups of treats in a paper bag.

Seven months later, I'm looking at maybe a couple dozen and then I'll wash this container out and find another use for it. I don't give them treats every day, every other day is the norm. Mija follows me into the kitchen at every opportunity to see whether meowing loudly and being underfoot will get another couple of treats out of me. Sometimes yes and sometimes no. Pilchard comes if I shake the container.

So, I'm looking for other treats they will eat for when these are all gone. I had a coupon for these: Buy one, get one free.
They like them although Pilchard has to see Mija eating hers before she will dive in. I'm going to need to go to the store this upcoming week as these are smaller and it's hard to measure out a comparable amount to both. I know they aren't, but I envision them sitting around after I've gone to sleep saying, "I got 6 pieces of treats. How many did you get?" "6!? I only got 5 this last time. I'm going to have to turn on the sobby meow in the morning. That is so unfair."

And, after 7 months of trying, the food dishes, today, made it to the kitchen.
Yes, they are underfoot and I know I will kick either the food or the water or both while stumbling about, bleary-eyed some morning. That is a lot of food in the dishes for them, but I wanted them to feel I wasn't skimping as this is a monumental occurrence. There is, no longer, a dish of food and a dish of water in the hallway. I want them to eat in the kitchen and they have adapted to a month of my working the dishes slowly down the hall, through the living room and into the kitchen. I'm hopeful of peaceful eating.

Beverage: China Black tea


Oh WOW! Fresh Air!

I washed a couple of throws which I keep on the seat of the settee. The cushion for the settee has long since been tossed. It was shortly after Shakespeare went over the rainbow bridge as he was mildly incontinent in his last months. But you need some cushion as the wicker is not the most comfortable seat without something. I have several throws I use. Because Pilchard sleeps in the settee and she's black and has lots of fur, well, you can see why I needed to wash them. I tossed a living room rug in too. I'll wash the other two rugs tomorrow.

I draped the throws and the rug over the deck rails and then sat down on the steps to just be in the sunshine. Curiosity combined with the wanting to be where I was lead to outdoor investigation. I'm sure the smells were incredible, too.
I sometimes wish I had their sense of smell when they stop and thoroughly sniff a location such as the back door. What is it they smell?

Now, these are not outdoor cats. They will never be allowed out of the house unsupervised. But they love to lie or sit next to an open window particularly when there is a breeze. We all do after a long cold, snowy winter. I have the house open and the cross breeze is delightful. So, as long as I am sitting here on the deck, I don't see a problem with allowing them outside for a few minutes to have the breeze in their face and the wind in their fur. They won't be allowed off the deck nor will I have the back door standing wide open as I did with the others. I don't need to comb any cockleburrs out of Pilchard's fur, particularly when we're still working on some mats at the back end.

They came outside, very tentatively at first. The smells had to be nearly overwhelming, but they both investigated the deck. Mija is a bit more daring than Pilchard. She walked around the deck, stuck her head through the slats and gazed into the back yard.

Yet, this tempts fate. If I do this often, how soon before I have a cat at the back door wanting to go out? They are scared of the outside, which is very fine by me. Even this bit could be too much for cats designated as "indoor". I have always had cats that came and went as they pleased. Thankfully, we were in the back quarter of the year when these two came into my life and letting them go outside was not a good idea as the weather turned colder.

As it warms up, letting them get the fresh air and sunshine of the outdoors becomes a temptation. I can't do it. They get fresh air via open windows and sunshine that splashes onto the floors. It's not unusual now to find Mija stretched out in a pool of sunshine or Pilchard's fur very warm from her sitting in the south windows. I can tell they love it, too.

If I knew I could train them to stay on the deck and go nowhere else, those Sundays upcoming when I can afford a box of croissants and a quart of strawberries for breakfast with my Sunday paper and a mug of tea, I'd open the door and let them be with me on the deck while I read. I'm sure they do not feel deprived by not being outside. Happy and healthy and, by extension, so am I.

Beverage: China Black Tea


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Oh help.

The one on the right is the phone I've been using since 2008, I think, maybe longer. It's the hugely popular Razor phone by Motorola. I liked it because it came in a variety of colors and was reasonably easy to use. It was a phone. All I need a phone for is to make and receive calls. I had to take Internet connectivity to start with but I canceled that after the initial 90 days because I don't want to surf the Internet from a screen that's 2 by 4 inches. Texting? HAHAHAHAHAHA. That's a running joke. Want to really aggravate me? Tell me to text you back.

The Razor was a very good phone. Once I learned how to use it, I even took a few photos with the camera even though I never could figure out how to send them anywhere.

My contract is up and the compartment on the back of my Razor has been bent so it doesn't hold shut anymore. I have it taped to keep the SIMM card and the battery covered. The screen is showing wear and it's getting hard to read. I have the internal light turned all the way up but, on these bright sunshiny days, I can't read the screen, at all. But I know the company is trying to cut down on expenses so I'll just suffer through until such time as I can't make phone calls.

Meanwhile, Mike and Jon's company cell phones have small problems with them. The screen on Rodney's phone breaks. So, Jon starts investigating phone plans and realizes we can save money by consolidating the various cell phone plans we got as people came to work for us, into one plan. That gets us new phones. I didn't say anything. Hey, I can still get and make phone calls. I don't need a new phone.

When Jon's phone comes, he shows it off, as guys are wont to do with new gadgets. My Razor sits on my desk so he picks it up and the back falls off. Ooops. Time for a new piece of tape. Aghast, Jon looks up my contract and discovers I'm out of the contract. I can get a new phone. We are all getting roughly the same model and we will all have Nextel direct connect. As we often find ourselves out in the field with a need to talk to someone, this is a great feature for us. I could have either red or black as my color choices. I had to laugh. It reminded me of the quote attributed to Henry Ford. "People can have any color of car they want so long as it's black."

So, my phone came last week. Jon charged it and then ported my number to the new phone. If you have my cell phone number, it's still the same. Now I have the wonderful job of moving all my numbers from the old phone to the new phone. The nice thing about having to do this manually is that I can look at all these names and decide I don't need his or her phone numbers anymore.

I've used the direct connect feature once, to tell Jon that I figured out how to use it. I took the charger home to make sure it gets charged particularly over weekends. I don't like the interface for organizing phone numbers, but I'm sure I'll get used to it. I'm about half-way through with entering numbers. I need to order a cell phone case. It's strongly recommended. I need to set up my voice mail box. I have a camera and a video camera. Wow. No, I am not thrilled. I'll never use it. I can't stand the ring tone so that has to be changed. I'm sure there are a number of wallpapers to make the picture look better. I have to find those.

It's always a learning curve with something new, particularly something like this. In another month, I'm sure I'll be using it like a pro. The best news is that we have saved close to $100 on our company cell phone charges and we will be more efficient with our time. In this economic climate, that $1200 a year is hugely important.

Beverage: Water


Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday to my mother.

She is a fantastic three quarters of a century young.

Beverage: Scottish Blend tea


National Tartan Day!

Time to loudly proclaim I am Scottish!

Beverage: Scottish Blend Tea


Saturday, April 3, 2010

Another Submission

I paged through 16 screens of potential article submissions on the SEED site and stumbled upon a "What Would I Do If I Could Do Anything" request. It doesn't pay much but it gave me a chance to think on this question.

Here is what I wrote...

I have always loved the English language. I love it's use, how some people can create an image in your mind just by assembling letters into words, into sentences and into paragraphs. I have always written, as far back as I can remember. I have a battered folder which holds a lifetime of ideas, undeveloped, and examples of early attempts at stories.

It's too easy to write a book these days. Walk into any bookstore and people with less developed thoughts than my cats have 350 page tomes with splashy covers sitting on the end caps of the aisles. Have your Warholian "15 Minutes of Fame"? There's probably a book deal in it for you.

I write. I write a lot. I write every day. I keep a journal. I have a blog. I maintain a web site where I post front page news for others to read. I probably have a book or two or three in me. But that's not what I would do if I could.

I would edit.

I would print out your carefully worded story, brew a steaming mug of tea, curl up on my settee with a cat in my lap, lick the tip of my red pencil and dive straight into your words. This subject doesn't match this verb! Red mark. You misspelled "misspelled". Red mark. Whoa. This dependent clause has been orphaned in this sentence. Red arrows. Red circles. Red "x's". Your manuscript would come back looking like it had a case of the chicken pox. You would probably curse my pencil, curse my tea, curse my very existence.

But I'm here to make you look good. I used to edit a small historical publication. Most of the submissions were in the form of memoirs, written by people with no formal writing experience. It was very important to preserve these memories but they needed a lot of help in teasing out the nugget of the memory. I told everyone who submitted material to expect to be edited; that no one was above the red pencil. I locked writing tools, as it were, with more than one author who felt his words were perfect enough to not need editing. A book, a short story, an article should be a journey from point A to point B. Yes, you can take a side trip to the zoo, but you should return to the trip.

My job, as an editor, is to let your voice shine. If your main story character never talks in complete sentences or ever says a full "-ing" ending to a word, it's my job to make sure you're consistent throughout your piece. A good editor can make you, the writer, sound like you actually do know this language you speak. I would catch your misspellings, your subject/verb gaffes, your dangling participles, your non-specific pronouns and make them right. We would argue, to be sure, that what you're saying and how you say it is functional within your piece, but, ultimately, we would make it the best it can be because you want to look your best on the printed or electronic page. I want you to look good because you represent something very near to me, language.

And it's this last point that hurts when I walk into a bookstore and see the latest "tell all". I page through, skimming the paragraphs and wonder if the editor was out to lunch or worse, out of sight. There seems to be this "I'm too famous to be edited" mindset which publishing companies have bought into. In 2 years, most of these books won't even be in the remainders bin. It's not only that their "author's" attraction was less than a nanosecond, it's also that the books aren't very good reads.

I did proofreading and Copy Editing for awhile. People wielding red pencils are low on the list of "keep around" when budgets get tight. Freelance proofreaders are everywhere and the competition is so intense that to get work, you have to price yourself low and hope you can take in by volume what you lack in salary. Eventually, I found a 40-hour a week job that paid me a salary; food over fantasy. I still write but I don't have the stress of wondering if I will be paid for the 8 hours I spent making this author sound good. I don't need to see my name above the title, below the title or anywhere on the front page. That's not why I would edit. I edit to keep the language flowing, alive, healthy. I would edit because language and communication are who I am.

If I could do anything, that's what I would do. I would surround myself in the word. I would make you sound good. I would buy 250 red pencils and lovingly suggest it's "too" and not "to" that you should use on page 15, paragraph 3, sentence 4.

We'll see. I found another request for how to make butter. I just started laughing. I need to do some research into where one gets the raw milk. Then, we'll see what I can do with that.

Beverage: Scottish Blend tea


I Know Where He Lives

Last Saturday, some of the neighborhood parents organized a large Easter egg "hunt". They used the lawns of three houses across the street and tossed the bright plastic eggs all over. You can see a lot of people turned out. Not all of these people live on my block. These were friends and family of the people who organized the event. It was windy and chilly but there was a lot of laughter.

I kind of miss doing that with a small child.

We used to hide the eggs in the house. As I'm not fond of hard-boiled eggs in the first place so we didn't do the colored eggs much. I'd just have to toss them because we didn't eat them. It is a waste.

When I was growing up, we colored eggs and mom would turn them into deviled eggs after we found them. Dad would take 2 or 3 deviled eggs in his lunch so there was never a worry they would spoil. The other benefit to plastic eggs is if one doesn't get found, you don't smell it in a few weeks. That is the worst. "What's that smell.....oh no."

We did Easter baskets and hid plastic eggs, usually inside because outside was chilly. Plus, the tradition has you finding eggs on Easter morning and we had church so I wasn't hiding eggs in the yard at 5 a.m. because we had to be to church for sunrise service. A cat would sometimes decide the plastic egg was great for chasing around the living room, particularly if the egg contained jelly beans or some small item that made it rattle.

So I watched, with a smile, from my doorway as parents and kids enjoyed streaming over the lawns gathering brightly colored eggs and I remembered Carole's giggles.

For those concerned that the Easter bunny might not make it out and about, I provide proof that he's just fine.

He's resting up.

Beverage: Scottish Blend Tea