Saturday, July 31, 2010

So Soothing

This is perfect sleeping weather. It's in the mid-80's during the day with low humidity and drops into the mi to upper 60's at night. (For my non-US readers, thats 30 during the day and 18 at night.) I turned off the central air on Wednesday for the first time in a month. I have fans going to keep the air moving but there has been a delightful breeze and I had to turn off one fan lest it get too cool in the house. I actually had to search for a blanket last night. I have been sleeping with just a sheet.

It started to sprinkle about 12:15 a.m. last night. As I was still up playing WOW, we had actually just finished killing Kel'Thuzad of Naxxramas and getting everyone in the raid an achievement or two or three, I put the windows on the Jeep. There was a line of showers north of me but it didn't appear they were headed my way. I tucked myself in for the night and started to drift off.

About 40 minutes later, I was awakened by the sound of rain. It was magical, really. There was no lightning and thunder associated with this storm. It was just a steady rain. I did have to get up and close, partially, the bedroom window as I heard it start to beat on the exterior sill. That means the rain comes from the south and has the chance to rain in. Don't want that.

I just listened. One of the best things about growing up on the farm was a summer rain. There was a tin roof over the porch where we ate and the sound of rain on that roof is one of the most soothing sounds I know. My vinyl-clad window sills are a hollow approximation of that sound.

Mija was with me at that time. I rolled onto my back and she climbed onto my chest for ear scratches. The combined sound of her very loud purr and the rain beats any 'white noise' I've ever heard. I was asleep in no time.

I awoke refreshed. The sun is out and it appears it will be a glorious day. There is a light breeze from the west. And the wonderfully earthy smell of a rain-kissed back yard is carried in on that breeze. This is the kind of start to a day that you know is going to be productive.


Beverage: Juice


Carole took the above photo. More of her photography can be found here.

Friday, July 30, 2010


I came home from work today to see this north of my house. The street has been torn up since early June. All the sewers were replaced. The sidewalk ends in front of that house visible on the left and the street has never, ever had curbs and gutters. On the right side of the road, a block north of me, is the Second Baptist Church and they have always had water problems when it rains more than 3/4ths of an inch over a day. Standing water is ubiquitous by the church.

The road's been torn up since right after Memorial Day. I don't remember reading in the local newspaper about the project but it doesn't really affect me as I go south to get to the office. It has cut down on vehicle traffic, however, which we welcome. This street is a short cut between the train station and Lorraine Road which takes one to Roosevelt Road, a main east west thoroughfare. After the commuter trains disgorge their passengers at night, cars would drive way too fast for the street to avoid traffic.

Then, right before July 4th weekend, there was a construction strike. For 3 weeks, there was no activity. Indeed, they came and got most of the heavy equipment off the job. While it was nice and quiet, it set things back. The strike was settled on the 21st but work didn't really return until Wednesday. It's nice to see them doing some patching but I have no idea when this will be finished.

I'll have to let you know how the street is when it's done.

Beverage: Juice


Listening, just listening.

Given the "meh" that I'm feeling of late, I haven't really wanted to do much of anything. This goes for the wash or the dishes. I have nearly finished reading the ghost book and I've gone through several magazines this month. But, beyond that, I have to force myself to do things and that includes playing the game I enjoy.

One of the most commented upon things about the Internet is how it turns ordinary, fine, upstanding people into insensitive jerks because they feel the anonymity of the Internet gives them a freedom to behave badly. It's called the "Penny Arcade theory", after the web site that drew a corresponding comic to illustrate this. Don't check this out if you are offended by language. I'm giving you the "G" rated version of the comic.

In this game, the "I don't have to be nice to you because you don't know who I am" mentality is on display in all its flamboyant colors. Social decorum often doesn't exist and while you may be the nicest person in your neighborhood when I'm face-to-face with you, put you behind a computer screen and allow you to manipulate pixels and you turn into a raving lunatic. Any sense of societal norms for behavior can go out the window. Some people pride themselves on their malicious and obnoxious behavior.

In my guild, I don't tolerate that. It's not that I think any of my guild members would hunt me down if I cursed and swore and generally treated them ill, I just can't. It's not who I am. I can't, even in a fake universe, be anything more than who I am. One of those facets is a good listener.

This became evident last night and it serves to make me aware of my life. I logged onto the game on a character that is only used to monitor the guild bank. That is all it does; clear, clean, rearrange, restock and sell items for the bank. Some people know that it's me behind the toon; some do not, which can lead to amusing exchanges. Within the span of 5 minutes, I had 2 guild members requesting private conversation with me. "Is this you?" When I assured one of them it was, s/he said s/he had to tell me some things because it could affect his/her play.

For the next 15 minutes, while I sat at my computer, I read two stories of personal anguish. I guarantee to my guild members that if they tell me something they want held in confidence, I do just that. All I will say is I sat there, asking questions and thinking, "Wow". It certainly was the proverbial wake-up call.

I have been feeling a bit of the "poor-me" syndrome. I'm frustrated with the inability to right my financial ship and how, just when I think things might get better, I'm slapped with something else that needs me to throw money at it in order to fix it. I'm getting tired of that. I would like to be able to do something just for me instead of delaying things because I have to pay the gas bill. It's just so damn frustrating. (Yes, I swore. In this context, it's appropriate.)

But when I fall into this "poor-me" pothole, to use a metaphor explored before, life has a way of saying, "Are you sure that's a deep hole?" I have nothing on what I was told last night. I have two cats who love me, a job, a house, food on my table, a wonderful daughter and amazing friends. I could afford to fix my car and it has to go back on Monday, but I can afford that repair, too. While I can't pay everything for the umteenth month in a row, it seems, I think I have found someone to help me organize things and get them on the right track. I'm trying. I have not given up. Some people in my guild, people I would never recognize walking down the street, have life a whole lot worse than me.

I provided some minor suggestions when asked but mostly I just listened. It kind of drained me, to read of the troubles people are enduring, slogging through. I realized that this is something I do well, just listen. Yes, I can be opinionated and insert my ideas where they haven't always been wanted. But, for the most part, I just listen. I came to understand that these people were confiding in me because the person that I have portrayed in this anonymous guild is someone they felt they could trust with truly intimate details of lives currently awry.

I don't have much to give my friends. I think about what I would do with a massive lottery winning. My family and friends would get some to use as they wanted. And I often wish, as I listen to the tales, that I could flip open the checkbook and write a check. When they are wondering how they can put gas in their car or buy school supplies or pet food, I wish I could ride in on a white horse and say, "Here's $1,000. I hope that helps." Instead, all I can do is listen.

I realized last night, sometimes, that's the best thing in the world to give.

Beverage: Dr Pepper


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Never order something because it's cute.

Pam took me to Steak 'n Shake on Tuesday after we picked up the car. Actually, I paid for the car and left it parked in the lot until after we'd had supper because the mechanic was on the way home after going to Steak 'n Shake.

Pam knows me very well. She knew that I would go home and not eat because I was stressed, even though I could pay for the car. I wouldn't exactly mope about but I certainly would stand in front of the open refrigerator and think, "I don't want to cook, but I should eat, but I don't want to." So, she kindly insisted we go for dinner.

We walked into Steak 'n Shake and this was on the table. Back last year, they were pushing these mini-hamburgers. Pam always orders the Frisco Melt but, on this occasion, she ordered the mini-hamburgers. They were a disappointment and she uttered the title of this post. Tuesday, I sat down, looked at the placard and thought, "Ooooh." But her original comment and her subsequent disappointment rose to the top of my thoughts. This is a manufactured picture. It can't possibly be decent.

I'm not that fond of cheese fries. The are very high in fat. But, after the 2 days I'd had, I decided I needed comfort food and fried potatoes, cheese and bacon are, most definately, comfort food. So, having made that decision, I perused the menu to find the rest of the meal. The next item to be considered was the shake portion.

They have a huge variety of shakes and it was difficult to pick, but I settled on the turtle shake. Finally, did I want a sandwich? Well, of course. Since I was already ordering something very high in fat, I decided the bacon double cheeseburger was out of the question. I considered ordering a salad but we had agreed on the drive there that, while Steak 'n Shake does have 3 salads on the menu, we don't go there for salads. I settled on the grilled chicken breast sandwich with no tomato and no mayo. I don't like mayonnaise and raw tomato. It wound up being a bun, a breast and a leaf of lettuce, which was fine because I was justifying ordering cheese fries with bacon.

The waitress was very nice and even laughed with us as Pam was in stitches across from me listening to my justifications for having bacon cheese fries. Here's my meal.

Pam had a double chocolate shake which was a chocolate shake with hot fudge on top. Mine was vanilla with hot fudge, whipped cream, cherry and pecan pieces. It was very good.

And, actually, the bacon cheese fries were good too, surprisingly good. I like Steak 'n Shake's fries. They have a good flavor to them. The sandwich was also good and the right compliment to the fries. The best part was that it wasn't that expensive. We ate for a bit over $20 for two of us and got food that hadn't been sitting under a heat lamp for an hour.

So, while you probably shouldn't order something because it's cute or because it looks very good in a staged photo, this turned out okay. I would recommend the bacon cheese fries to someone. But, I won't order them again for awhile. I need to let that congealed cheese work its way out of my system.

Beverage: Irish Breakfast tea


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

It's a mind-set.

I awoke this morning and just lay there listening to the jazz coming out of my clock radio. Sometimes, the morning DJ can be redundant in his choices. Today, there were quite a few "new" songs by the artists he favors and it was nice to hear those voices singing something unfamiliar.

I didn't want to get up. The stress of dealing with the car combined with a general malaise has me in a funk. I could, very easily, have rolled over and gone back to sleep, completely ignoring the inevitable "Where are you?" phone calls from work.

It occurs to me I need a vacation. In the 10 years I've been at this company, and, by company directive, I am prohibited from mentioning the name, I think there is exactly one year when I took all my allotted vacation time. We don't have a quantified sick time. If you get sick, take the time. Excessive sickness needs doctor's notes but they don't want you in the office if you're sick.

I'm rarely sick, knock on considerable wood. Yes, I have allergies, but I have learned how to keep them under control. My doctor knows that if I am in to see him, something is wrong that I can't live with.

I"m 'meh' right now. I blogged about this earlier. I should probably take vacation. There are those things called "mental health days" that my friends will indulge in but I do not. I have this mind-set that tells me, if I am healthy, I should be at work.

Jon and Amber are kind of on my case about my lack of vacation. I can't get away from the idea that a vacation is something you do. I don't have the funds to go anywhere. Why should I take time off when I'm not going anywhere?

I know that's me, equating vacation with going somewhere, but I'm not sure how to get out of that. I really could benefit from a couple days off but I have this enormous guilt about being at home when I could be working. I don't know how to shake this. I don't have money to do much beyond sit at home and just be. I'm very good at the "just be-ing" part. I know vacations are simply a means to get away from work and they are paying me to sit at home. So why it is that, if I'm home and well, I think I should be at work?

If I took time off, maybe this funk I'm in would leave. Any suggestions on how I can reorder my thinking?

Beverage: Earl Grey tea


It's amazing what you get used to.

So stopping is a good thing.

The brakes on the car are fixed. Brakes, oil change and flat tire came in at $388, which is $12 less than what I had to spend.

I picked up the car and Pam followed me to make sure everything drove well. Holy stopping point, Batman! I pulled out of the mechanic, drove about 200 feet and stopped at the 4-way intersection east of the mechanic. I merely had to tap the brakes and the car STOPPED! I mean STOPPED! Halted! Didn't go any farther!

I could stop before, but I would press the brake pedal down almost all the way. I know it's a gradual wear. Depending upon the amount and style of driving you do, you wear your brakes out slowly or faster. I didn't realize, until I got into the car last night with new brakes, that what I experienced wasn't right. I was stopping and stopping very well, thank you, so what seems to be the problem here? Given that I'm not on the road as much as I used to be, I probably won't need the extensive brake work for another couple of years.

Next repair is Monday. The water pump is dying and that has to be replaced. Fortunately, I get paid on Friday and can pay for that, but the next stress is what don't I pay to cover this?

I just tell myself that "it is what it is". I'm not going out of my way to be a deadbeat, life just tossed me some rocks instead of flowers. I have some cash to go get groceries and I can pay the most important bills.

It's not the life I wanted, but it's the life I have. That's what the luck journal reminds me. I think about people who have lost homes and I have experience with family who lost homes in the great Cedar Rapids flood. I still have everything and it could be a whole lot worse.

So, I stop and give quiet thanks for having frozen chicken breasts in a bag in the freezer even if, for the third day in a row, I forgot to take some out and set to marinating in homemade teriyaki sauce.

Beverage: Earl Gray tea


Tuesday, July 27, 2010


I come home to a cool house and welcoming cats after what has been a very intimately stressful day. While I shared what I'm going through, the self-imposed stress can't be shared. Every time the office phone rang, I wondered if it was the "You want to fix your car, it's going to cost an arm, a leg, a kidney and half of your liver". My boss always leaves early so I am at home now, waiting for that call.

I get the mail and there is a strange letter from Wynn/Encore resorts in Las Vegas. I open it and read it. This is beyond weird. The Senior Vice President & General Manager of the resorts informs me,
"I'd like to personally invite you to be among the first to experience the exciting new amenities at Wynn with this exclusive invitation to stay in a Resort Room at the following special nightly rates: From $109 Sunday through Thursday and from $199 Friday and Saturday. Also receive a Complimentary Upgrade to an Encore Resort Suite King at the time of booking based on availability. We would also like to help you make the most of your visit with two tickets to see the breathtaking aquatic spectacle, Le Réve, when you stay three or more nights."
To say I am quite amazed at the timing of this is a massive understatement. I have actually read everything on this letter twice, picked up and restrained Pilchard in my lap so when she launches herself off my lap in a "OMG! She's loving me and I don't want to be forcibly loved!" fashion, I feel it, just to be certain this is, in fact, real.

There is a P.S. "As our special guest, you may offer your friends and family a Resort Room..." I have a "special code" (Everybody say, "ooooh.") for the use of my friends and family.

Now, if you know me well, I should have warned you, because you have probably sprayed whatever tea you were drinking all over your computer screen as you let out a very hearty guffaw. There are some places I would love to see before I pass on.

Fife, Dundee and Edinburgh in Scotland
Stratford-on-Avon in England
Paris, France in April, if you please
Montreal, Canada
Washington, DC
Disneyland, California
the Grand Canyon in Arizona
the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor
New England in the fall

Notice, Las Vegas is NOT on that list.

I've been through there. When Carole spent a summer in Reno, Nevada, I flew through Vegas to help move her home. I could see the Luxor Pyramid from the airport. But just as flying through O'Hare does not constitute "seeing" Chicago, I don't claim to have been to Vegas by being able to sit in the airport on a hot August afternoon and see the strip.

I'm also not all that interested in actually going to Las Vegas. I have friends who have gone there and it just strikes me as an enormous money vacuum. When I have so little to begin with, why would I go some place where there is no return for me? I do like kitsch and the strange and silly and downright weird. But, as Carole knows, I also like rarified and intelligent. Both trips to visit her in Seattle included museums and nature and conversation and good food. Everything I've seen of Las Vegas says I would be overwhelmed by excess, bad shirts and too much neon.

I have no idea where they got my name. I have until December 29, 2010 (subject to availability, of course) to redeem this offer. I will hang on to it, file it in with all my other papers to be discovered when I do taxes come the end of January. You never know. If my life were to take a dramatic turn for the better, perhaps I would stumble upon a reason to go to Vegas for an adventure. Then, having a discount would be extremely good.

For now, I am left to scratch my head at the sheer wild coincidence of receiving this on a day when I'm struggling to figure out where money will come from to pay bills. I think this is called "black humor".

Beverage: Scottish Blend tea


It is what it is.

This will be something of a rant. If you are one of the people who responded to my Facebook post with what I am about to discuss, I am sorry if I offend you. I think you don't mean to not understand, but you don't and I'm going to try to help you understand.

The Jeep is not well. As I said yesterday, the brake light came on. They fixed the flat and did the oil change and then tried to determine why the brake light came on. They discovered there was no brake fluid. None. How I was able to continue to stop, they have no clue. I admit that the brakes felt a little "slow" but I also know that it's been awhile since I had any brake work done so I felt maybe things were out of alignment or something.

Secondly, there was little coolant in the reservoir. There had been a leak last year, but I had refilled the reservoir twice and it was fine. I do admit to not checking after April, but I didn't notice anything awry.

My mechanic flat out told me, even raising his voice at me, that the car was not safe to drive particularly because of the no brake fluid issue. Without knowing where the leak is, because he said it never just evaporates, they could not guarantee I would have brakes to get home or get back to them, even though they refilled the brake fluid. The master cylinder on the right side was rusted so they couldn't take that off to see if the leak was in there. They sprayed it with goop and hoped by today, they could get it open.

It was way after 5:30, by the time they explained the problems to me. I had no money on me for a taxi. I desperately wanted to drive my car, but felt that knowing what the problem was would make me really nervous. My mechanic is a good 6 miles from my house, but I honestly thought of walking home. I could have walked to Pam's, I realize, in the light of morning. But, last night, I wasn't thinking particularly clear. As it was, Debbie from the shop, gave me a ride home.

I have reviewed my finances, indeed, I did that repeatedly over the course of the evening. I have $400 in hand for repairs. Anything more would have to come on Friday when I get my paycheck. Anything more cuts dramatically into available funds to pay my bills. This then digs the hole deeper.

Several well-meaning friends have said, "Gee Deb. It's time for a new car." If you have been a long time reader, you are, or should be, aware that money is beyond tight. I have friends who know this all too well from their life situation. First of all, I would need a trade in. According to the Kelly Blue Book online, my Jeep would fetch me $2500. I have no additional funds, short of taking more from my meager retirement account, to contribute to this. Second, I cannot, absolutely cannot, have car payments. I missed paying my Discover bill this month. It got stuck in with a letter from a charity I would love to support, but cannot. Therefore, I have service charges and a double payment to make on that. I knew, at the end of last month, I couldn't pay it when I did my bills but I could have paid it on time later in the month, had I not screwed up the filing of my bills to keep things in order. A newer car is out of the question. Period.

And what do I do about just the run-of-the-mill life things? I was going to go grocery shopping. I can't. What if my car just simply isn't fixable? I can walk to work every day. It's a little over 2 miles one way. The "rules" for working here are that you must have a working vehicle. Would I lose my job because I am out a vehicle? Not likely, but I would be told to get a car as soon as possible. I would have to rent and that gets back to having no funds in the first place. It would be a bit before I could get a working vehicle and that assumes they would take the Jeep in trade. If not, I have to junk it and then can only spend what the salvage value is.

I know you mean well when you say, "Time for a new car", but you don't seem to understand the reality of my situation. Maybe my house of cards would have collapsed over the winter anyway, but 5th 3rd blew it all in back in October and knocked down in April what I had worked to repair. I have my last anti-inflammatory pill for tomorrow. I will be back to no money for the co-pay on the doctor visits. If my shoulder acts up, well, it acts up. I currently have kitty litter and cat food. They will be fed before me. I will go without. I need to scrape up some money to pay Zeke for mowing the lawn. Thankfully, he understands I don't want putting green looking so he only mows it when it gets shaggy. I currently owe him $50. I will pay him before paying someone else.

It is what it is. If I needed an impetus for stopping the paper, this is it. That money can be used elsewhere. Plus, a friend called last night and has offered to save her papers and I can get them once a week. My game, where I tried to lose myself and not think of things but failed last night, is paid up through October. I need to pay for Internet access so I can still play it so that is high on the pay priority. To say that I spent quite a bit of last night in tears is a slight understatement. Carole called with a car suggestion which we will investigate. She was upbeat where I was not.

"It always works out, mom." I wish I could share her optimism. I kept telling myself that worry wouldn't make anything better. I know this but it's impossible to keep that wolf at bay. Another friend suggested selling stuff I don't want on eBay. I would need dedicated help to get that going and the chances of me selling enough stuff to make it worthwhile are slim. I have a couple of other avenues to explore.

My water bill went up $1.40 per month and my house payment did its ever escalating climb due to higher taxes. That's an additional $59 a month, not to mention I skipped June's payment in an attempt to get caught up. I was able to get close, but not close enough. Now, I have that to make up. And because I can't pay everything on time, there are the service charges.

I don't splash this on my blog to elicit pity or even ask for help. It is what it is. I have learned to simply be in the moment. The worry that I won't be able to pay for whatever repairs they attempt is real but it is what it is. I will simply have to do the best I can.

Please don't tell me I need a new car. I need a lot of things. I'm really, really low on hope and optimism and if you can tell me where to find those items free, I would be grateful. I let my "luck journal" lapse back in May so I resumed that last night only to remind myself that in spite of things looking very bad right now, I do have small pieces of luck. The basement was 95% dry this morning. That is one good way to start out the day.

Beverage: Scottish Blend tea


Monday, July 26, 2010

There was some rain overnight on Friday.

A number of my friends have sent emails expressing concern about some "excessive dampness" that occurred over the weekend. Herewith are just a couple of photos taken off the Chicago Tribune's web site photo gallery of "overly wet weather" from the weekend.

Carole will recognize the spot above. This is the intersection of Main Street and Roosevelt Road just south of downtown Wheaton. To the right, is the former Hubble Middle School where she went to school. The Wheaton Park District's main street offices are to the left of the sign. There is a large grassy area, tennis courts and a football field here. My vet's office is 3 blocks north of this location.

It has ALWAYS flooded here when we get an inch of rain. I'm given to understand flooding has been a forever problem. With Hubble Middle School replaced by a new school in Warrenville, any development of the old school site is to include an assessment of flooding problems.

I awoke at 12:45 a.m. Saturday morning. Mija was upset by the noise and sitting in the bedroom window after bouncing about the bed. I could hear heavy rain on the roof. "Uh, oh," I thought. "Did I pick that stuff up off the basement floor?" I knew, from the sound, that I'd probably have water in the basement in the morning. My boss said he heard it at 4:15 a.m. There must have been more than one cell go through.

Come Saturday morning, the usual amount of water was in the basement. It was about 50% dry by last night.

So how much did I get? The report I read said 6.5 inches of rain. My boss said he read 7 inches. Since moving to the Chicagoland area in July of 1981, I have been through 4 of these deluges. I don't remember this kind of thing growing up. Flooding usually came from the spring snow melt, not from huge amounts of water coming out of the sky. It's possible I just don't remember rains of this nature for, as a kid, I may have been allowed to stand outside in it.

Whatever the rain totals, it created monster headaches for travelers on Saturday. I didn't go anywhere. No way am I going out when I saw on my computer news feed that sections of streets in Wheaton and Glen Ellyn were closed due to high water. I don't need to go gawk when others will do it for me. I did not know until yesterday, when I was reading the Sunday paper, about the Eisenhower Expressway into the city being closed.

Um...yeah. That's a good reason to close it. This is the elevated railway, called "the el" which runs alongside the Eisenhower. The area joke is "you can't get there from here". On Saturday, that was most certainly true.

I do have one very funny story. The cats are not happy that they can't go into the basement and lie on the cool concrete. It will be dry by tomorrow. On Saturday night, roughly 8:15 or so, there was a crash in the living room. Someone had knocked over the box fan I have running to keep the air circulating. Now, Saturday night is usually prime World of Warcraft night so I was online, with my guild, running a tough raid named Ulduar. Fortunately, we had just started and were getting assignments for the first boss when this happened.

I jumped up. Mija, who had been asleep on the bed, dashed into the living room and was met by a wet and angry black cat. There was hissing and Pilchard took a swipe at her. Mija retreated to the hallway while Pilchard dashed under the table. She was dripping. I grabbed a beach towel, threw it over her and carried this thrashing cat into the bathroom. In spite of hissing, spitting and much growling, I was able to towel dry her, check for injuries and then try to figure out what happened.

Judging from the wet footprints in the living room, kitchen and up the basement stairs and a small spot on the basement floor that appeared to have been sopped free of water, Pilchard decided the water in the basement did not exist and she jumped off the basement steps onto the basement floor. Once there, she discovered that water did, in fact, exist and she tried to get away from it, wiping out in the process. Because both sides and her belly were wet, she must have slipped and fallen a couple of times before reaching the steps and charging back up the stairs. She raced through the kitchen and into the living room, but the "wet brakes" didn't work and she collided with the fan, knocking it over, which was the noise I heard.

She sat under the table in the living room, giving herself a bath for at least an hour. I refilled my tea cup twice during that time and she was cleaning away both times. She had discovered that the airflow from the fan dried her fur a bit faster so she was near it.

All day yesterday, when I went into the basement to do laundry, they sat at the top of the stairs looking mournfully down into the basement. I am thankful right now, that I never got around to moving the litter boxes to the basement. That would have been a mess for sure. Pilchard is not shy about peeing on things if she feels the boxes aren't clean enough for her. I can't imagine what I would have awakened to Saturday morning.

Things will be back to "abby-normal" probably by Wednesday for sure. There is more rain predicted for later in the week, but we can hope it's just the usual summer showers and not the overturned bucket kind of rain.

And to those who are wondering, I don't have friends or family directly affected by the Delhi Dam breaking. If you have not seen the video footage, I recommend watching it. We try to control Mother Nature and she reminds us that she will always have the upper hand.

Beverage: Dr Pepper.

A life without newsprint

I have never lived for very long without newspapers. I just cannot imagine not having a paper every day even if I don't get to it that day. Some 12 years ago, I canceled the Chicago Tribune because I had very, very limited funds, no income and they couldn't seem to get their billing straight.

I lasted a month before taking advantage of the Daily Herald's new subscriber offer in the grocery store.

I know I blogged about this before. I'm missing papers, again. Last week, it was Tuesday and Saturday. Now Saturday could be chalked up to flooded streets so the delivery person couldn't get to my house. (That's another post, I promise.) But Tuesday? By my estimation, I'm getting roughly 90% of my papers in any one subscription segment. They have been good about extending my subscription based on missed days, but I'm really getting tired of emailing and calling about yet another paper I don't have.

So, yesterday, after discovering the flat and realizing I didn't have Saturday's paper, I emailed them again. This time I said that I have a bill for continued service and I am seriously wondering if it's worth it when, about every 3-4 weeks, I have to alert them to a missing paper. I have to consider if the money I spend couldn't be put somewhere else. Of course it could. I am thisclose to paying off one of my credit cards, thus fulfilling one of my New Year's resolutions. Send them the money I would have spent on the newspaper.

Yet, there are things I get from the newspaper that I do not get from online news. The Daily Herald has a very competent staff and they have covered some interesting issues. I learned how much of my tax dollars goes to fund vehicles given to city and school officials. I learned how much of my tax money has gone to buy out contracts of school officials. I learned about unsanitary conditions in outpatient surgical centers. There is a front page article about drug disposal and how drug abusers are going through people's garbage to find expired drugs which can either be consumed or sold on the street.

I wouldn't read this kind of material online. I'm old and prefer to have my news in front of me, in my lap where Pilchard can protest that I'm not scratching her ears, I'm reading. Penney used to do that too, jump up in your lap and smash the newspaper as you were reading it. Then she would settle down on your chest in an attempt to prevent reading. At 17 pounds, Pilchard gets your attention better than 9 pound Penney did.

Therefore, I am very much on the fence about this. Without a newspaper, I wouldn't have the access to information that I currently have. I wouldn't know about local events. I use newspapers to wash windows, to put under litter boxes and as packing material. Admittedly, those aren't reasons to keep the paper when the delivery isn't up to standards.

Without a paper, Pam only has to bring in the mail when I'm out of town. I also wouldn't have a week's worth of papers to read stacked in a pile on the floor in the living room. Without a paper, I don't have that expense. It's one thing I have been very reluctant to cut out of my life. But if I am looking at everything critically, maybe it's one thing I need to let go of until I get back on my feet.

Beverage: Dr Pepper


Yes, that is what that is.

I wanted to go to the store yesterday. I found this recipe for blackberry cobbler and it sounds so good, I want to try it. That means getting blackberries and vanilla ice cream because the chocolate chip ice cream I have just doesn't seem to, in my mind, go with warm blackberry cobbler. Plus, I'm low or out of other things.

I made my list, checked it twice, grabbed my shopping bags and backed out of the drive. Something felt "funny". And, as I headed south, the car didn't sound right. I turned around and drove back to the house, got out and viola.

Now, I pay for roadside assistance with my insurance. I have never used it. I thought about calling right away but I was concerned I'd be billed for changing the tire and for certain that's going to be more on Sunday than it will be today.

So, I called at 7:10 this morning. They promised someone would be there "within the hour". That hour turned into 2 and a half hours. When the guy showed up, it was a 10 minute change. We found there's nail or screw in the tire. It probably was a slow leak. Hard to say where I picked that up as I have driven onto a construction site within the last week. I have an appointment with my mechanic for an oil change and to get the tire fixed. I've been putting that off but this sort of forces the issue. I'm sure there will be other things discovered with the oil change, but at least I'll know what needs to be fixed and can save accordingly.

See, if I drove a passenger car, I could have done this myself. I tried, the very first time I got a flat on the Jeep, to change the tire. I can't do it. Those pneumatic screwdrivers they use just drive the screws on so tight, I couldn't loosen it. Plus, the jack I have doesn't inspire confidence. I used to have AAA but the price got rather expensive for what little service I actually need. I have, as I said, roadside assistance bundled into my insurance. There was no charge for the guy coming to change the tire and he said there would have been no charge for him to fix the flat tire. I could have gone grocery shopping yesterday.

The brake light came on at lunch today. The left turn signal isn't working and, of course, the wipers haven't been functional since April. But, until I win the lottery, it's gotta hang together.

Oh well, this is nice to know. It makes me feel more secure knowing that, at least for minor roadside emergencies, I'm covered.

Beverage: Dr Pepper


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Annoyance and Ewwww.

This time of year can be "insect" frustrating. I seem to have driven the ants from the house. I sprayed around some of the perimeter of the house, the part I could reach. I've walked the foundation trying to find the ant hills. If you disturb them, they move on their own and you don't have to spray. Because the cats don't go outside, I'm less worried about them dragging insecticide inside on their paws and then ingesting it.

The June bugs are gone but we're approaching the time of the evening moths, millers, we called them, come inside. The girls love to catch those. I just have to have more than one light on or I can get a cat on top of the keyboard when I least expect it. Generally, I'll catch it and toss it outside to prevent catastrophes of them leaping against something.

I haven't had many flies in the house this year which is directly attributable to the fact that these two don't go outside so the back door is not wide open waiting for a cat to come and go. The few times we've been outside, such as me cleaning out the car, they go back in when I'm done. Flies are hunted with the same verve as moths.

I'm not outside at dusk or dawn so I've not had problems with mosquitoes and again, without the back door standing wide open and the air conditioning on for the last 2 weeks, they aren't getting in the house.

What is happening is that baby spiders are hatching. You know those. Female spiders made egg nests at the end of last month and then died. The eggs are hatching into baby spiders about the size of the period at the end of this sentence. They send out a stream of silk and flow with air currents, landing wherever the silk catches hold. Your house can appear to be the cleanest place on earth and you'll still get baby spiders.

I get into the Jeep in the morning and a baby spider has created a lovely webbing from the steering wheel to the rear view mirror through the open window. (sigh) That's got to go. I'm taking a phone message and a baby spider lands on the note pad. (sigh) Crunch. I go into the basement to do a load of wash and baby spiders have hatched around the light by the laundry chute, dozens of them. (sigh) Crunch again.

What really irritated me was making supper tonight. I was outside in the heat and humidity and then stuck in traffic on the way home. I decided I didn't have enough energy to even nuke something so I was making a peanut butter sandwich. As I was spreading the peanut butter, a baby spider landed ON MY SAMMICH! Of course, it got stuck in the peanut butter. It was large enough to see but too small to effectively remove without crushing it. I had to throw the whole thing out.

I was playing the game tonight and one landed on the back of my hand. I do like spiders. If one is in the house, I try to catch it and toss it outside where they can work their spiderly goodness and eat noxious insects. I tried to shake this small fleck off my hand, but it stubbornly clung to my skin. Finally, I just smashed it.

In a couple of weeks, this will all be over and I don't have to deal with spiders until they start coming inside where it's warm in late October. I don't harbor ill will against them, I just wish they'd look where they are sailing. That was a great sandwich.

Beverage: Dr Pepper


It's just, "meh".

I've been wrestling with this for some time. It's a feeling, just a general feeling, but it has colored a lot of what I do.

I feel "meh". That currently cultural definition of "the blues" or "blah" seems to convey exactly what I'm feeling.

I've gone from the frantic "How will I survive?" of winter and spring to a "yeah, well, that's how it is" of summer and beyond. The new checking and savings accounts are up and running. I've used the online bill pay system and it's nice and I probably could see using that in the future. My expense check is not getting direct deposited into the new account and that's supposed to be resolved this week. Once everything is going to the new accounts, I can close out the 5th 3rd accounts, walk out the door and shake the dust from my feet. They actually worked with me to form a payment plan on my remaining credit so it doesn't impact my ability to eat. In fact, all but one company has been very good about the situation.

Bank of America refuses to put me in any kind of payment plan unless and until I give them a complete financial history with account numbers. I have to give them a list of everything I spend my money on during a month so they can "assess" which of their programs is right for me. Nope. We go 'round and 'round every week on this. I don't believe they need all that personal information and I have absolutely no guarantees it won't be accessed improperly or used against me. "You have my word, ma'am," is not enough. And they won't put anything in writing for me to look at what they have to offer. They will make the decision and enroll me. I realize these people are doing their job and parroting what they are being told to say, but am I alone in thinking this has red flags and warning buzzers all over it? BoA received millions, maybe billions, in government bailout money. I don't trust them as far as I can throw them.

So, they call and I tell them what I can do and they tell me that's not enough and I shrug and say, "Well, that's what I got" and they tell me the calls will continue until I pay some outrageous sum and I tell them that I will pay them once a month and it will be x and if I had more, I'd pay more. 5th 3rd finally came around and sent me information on their payment plans so I could assess what was good for me. BoA may never but I'm doing the best I can. I know that and I'm comfortable with what I have done.

I'm not blah about that. It is what it is and I can't change it. I had another article purchased yesterday so there's another $10 coming soon. I have 2 more to write. I'm working on the end of that guild novel, but I have hit a dry patch in words. I don't like forcing the words to come because they are never, ever as good as the words that just flow. So, I've set that aside for now. I need to get from the end of Chapter 14 to where I am now and I think that's at least 4 or 5 more chapters.

I'm seeing a lot of friends and family get engaged and start planning weddings. I listen to the excited tales of searching for reception halls and dresses and caterers and photographers. I'm happy for them and I wish their impending marriage is one for life.

I have several married friends going through rough patches right now due to job loss. I listen to the tales of frustration at the spouse and at life. I see my job getting busier; I have overtime in the next couple of days to get work done; and I hope my company's upturn in business translates into jobs for my friends. I listen. I ask questions. I make suggestions if it seems a suggestion on a different POV or something else to do instead of yell at one another is in order. I can't help thinking, "I know it's tough and I know there are days you just want them to hop into their car and drive away and never come back, but you have someone you love and you need to remember that." I come home to two cats and a stack of dishes or laundry and the absence of another human in my home.

It's not that.

And I don't want pity nor do I want people not to share things with me. I just feel blah. It's not the pothole that I talked of earlier in the month. This feels like this photo to the left. I'm driving along Interstate 80 in the early part of the salt flats. It's miles and miles of same.

I try to be open to whatever life sends my way. I want to "be in the moment", to use a trite aphorism. It's hard, some days, to force myself to do things I know I have to do. I don't want to balance my checkbook. I don't want to clean the tub. I don't want to wash the rugs. I sleep, a lot, it seems. Even the game is not as exciting as it was. I still like to play it, but everything is "meh" and I find myself getting irritated with things I shouldn't be irritated at.

I know that lifting myself out of the "mehs" is my responsibility. I cannot rely on anyone else to do that work. I need to figure out what I can do to raise my spirits and change it from "meh" to "yeah". So that's why posts have not been regular. I feel "meh" and, although I'm trying to do something about it, it's a struggle.

Beverage: Chocolate Hazelnut tea


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Late Night Reading

Mija and I have been reading at night. I log off the game earlier than I usually do, turn out the lights in the rest of the house, prepare for bed and grab the book. Mija follows me into the bedroom and curls up next to me, motor at full throttle.

This book is a very quick read. I finished the chapter on castle ghosts last night. It's the longest so far and contained the names of castles with which I was familiar and others I'd never heard of.

I've discovered that this isn't so much a "spine-tingling" book as a collection of stories. Unlike some other ghost books, it doesn't seem as if the authors have experienced any of the ghosts about which they have written so far. I'm a third of the way into the book. Maybe there will be personal experiences later, but this has been just a collection. Some ghosts I am familiar with, such as Major Weir and the ghosts of Glamis Castle. Others, such as the fiddlers who played for fairies and the black crab are new. I might have the book finished by the weekend.

One thing has struck me as quite curious in the write-ups of the castle ghosts. The male owners of the castles have been described, by and large, as being "cruel", "mean", "vicious", "hot-headed", "prone to violent temper" and usually often drunk. The wives were "long-suffering" and bore their husband's mood stoically and without comment. What invariably happened was the husband did something stupid which caused a haunting.

One man humiliated his wife in front of his drinking buddies by saying he'd sleep with the devil's mistress instead of her because she was so ugly. He became embroiled in an affair with what turned out to be a witch. When he figured out who she was and attempted to end the affair, she flew into his bedroom at night and strangled him. His ghost is said to haunt that room.

Another laird wanted to play cards and his wife and servants did not as his game playing was heading into the Sabbath. He flew into a rage and said he'd play cards with the devil himself. Yup, at that moment, a strange gentleman arrived at the castle and the two of them played cards until the a servant tried to peep through the keyhole and was blinded by a ray of flame. The laird flew into a rage at the servant eavesdropping but when he went to continue the game, the devil was gone and so was his soul. It is said sounds of raucous card playing is heard from that room.

I'm trying to understand if the unexplained phenomena of ghosts gives rise to the man being a horrible tyrant or if this is a magnification of personality quirks or if these men really were terrible people. Generally, the castle hauntings date from the 16th and 17th and 18th Centuries. This was a time of great upheaval in Scotland. I've encountered 3 stories that date from 1900 upwards and those are from the early part of the 20th Century. Was life abnormally hard on land-owners during the 1500 to 1800's or did they believe they could do whatever they wanted to those people who lived on their land, pledged them fealty or passed through? I just find it curious that most of the stories so far have involved men who are described in very poor terms. Maybe, as I read more, things will change.

So, that's what I'm doing before bed this week, curling up with a cat and a good book. Yes, I am sleeping well at night. No ghosts in my house.

Beverage: Mr. Pibb because Wendy's doesn't have Dr Pepper


If I didn't have cats.

I could be in Seattle right now.

The Texas branch of my company has a very large job in Seattle that they needed help with immediately. My boss thought Carole was still in Seattle so he came to me when Texas called looking for "a body" to assist them.

Daniel is there and it would have been absolutely wonderful to have dinner again at "Serious Pie". I still remember the pizza and that chocolate dessert and the fact that I found the place on the first try driving into Seattle all by myself when there was road destruction all around the restaurant.

But, Carole is no longer there. Texas wanted me to leave yesterday and hit the ground at 60 mph this morning. Well, calling me at 3 p.m. on a Monday does not give me much time to arrange my life and go. I would have been back on Saturday. There would have been overtime and a hotel near this road destruction project they are working on. It would have been nice to see Seattle again. It is a very lovely city and it would have been a fun time.

The problem is, I just can't up and leave with that little notice. Could I have relied on Pam to feed les chats with such short notice? "I 'might' be back on Saturday. Kthkbai." Am I too set in my ways to want a few days to make sure all the bills are paid and the paper stopped and my World of Warcraft guild prepared for several days without me? I don't have a lap top so my playing or even checking email would be interesting and probably non-existent.

Pam, who is our Wisconsin person and who has a husband and kids old enough they don't need sitters, was able to help out and is now in Seattle. That's great for her. She will make some good money and the office gets a small percentage of the fee. Plus, she gets to experience Seattle.

Monday night, I came home and wondered about just being able to drop it all and leave. I sat down in my settee in the living room. Mija demanded, very loudly, the treats I hand over when I come home. But then Pilchard, who was lounging on the cool concrete of the basement floor and refused to budge when I called her name, came upstairs and jumped into my lap and settled down. She looked up at me and, I swear, smiled. "It's good to have you home, mom."

I know it's frustrating for the Texas office when people can't just drop everything and help them out. Yet, sitting in my settee with the big black cat purring up a storm, I thought, I don't want to just drop everything and go. Even if I didn't have these two, I still want a couple of days to get whatever affairs I have in order. With these two, it's more important that I have the time to prepare to leave.

After all, if I'm going to be gone, I need to prepare myself to be without cat time. Wonder who misses whom more?

Beverage: Scottish Blend Tea


Monday, July 19, 2010

One Day Later

Yesterday was National Ice Cream Day. Ronald Reagen signed a bill in 1984 designating the third Sunday of July a day to indulge in this heavenly treat.

Well, I ate all the Ben & Jerry's I bought before the 4th. Yesterday was hot and muggy so I didn't want to go out to get any ice cream. So, I decided to celebrate today. After being out in the field and getting rather dirty and forgetting where I put my work boots this morning and nearly panicking and then walking into several fires that needed to be put out, I felt a swing by Dairy Queen on my way home was justified.

It's also the 25th year of the Blizzard. What an amazing coincidence! National Ice Cream Day AND Blizzard's birthday.

Now, it can be argued that soft serve is really NOT ice cream. I know I have heard, and probably made, that argument over the years. But it was a left turn into and out of Oberweise's store to get iced cream whereas it was a right turn into and out of Dairy Queen. When you're tired and you want to go home, what are you going to do?

I got a large French Silk Pie Blizzard. She gave me a senior discount. I almost laughed out loud. But that discount turned out to be enough that I didn't have to break my $20. There's something to be said for gray hair.

So, here's to National Ice Cream Day a day late. I took care of my chocolate craving for the week, too.

Beverage: Irish Breakfast tea


I just couldn't do it.

I had to go back to this job today. We have a couple of instruments at a very large public works project. Last Friday, I was there because it had been two weeks since installation with nary a word from the client. Both of the machines had lost power, which means they will get low on internal battery power and turn themselves off. If you are collecting data, this is not a good thing.

One of the instruments had been pulled from the job by a well-meaning employee who marched into the supervisor's office, instrument in hand, saying, "We found this and don't know what it is."

In neither case were we notified to come out and check the machines or set them up again. We kind of wondered, if I hadn't said anything, would they have let us know? Oh well, they are paying to rent the equipment and we'll bill them. They know the stuff has to be on power.

So we reestablished power on Friday and I came back today to get the data out of them. Both of them are in the "basement", if such can be termed that, if this huge facility. From where I stood to where these are, it's a two-story difference. No, there are no elevators or stairs.

It means I have to climb down ladders. You all know I have acrophobia, the fear of heights. I will, if absolutely necessary, force that fear into my boots. I had to when I installed these machines. Safety is paramount on these jobs and they had constructed a couple of ladders that, once I got onto the rungs and started down, made me feel reasonably safe. They take long boards of differing lengths and bolt them together with the rungs. These are, in turn, bolted at the top and at the bottom. These hand-made ladders have some give as you're climbing up or down, but they do not move. Although I'm slower than the guys on the construction site when climbing, they waited for me and even held this ladder just because I appeared a bit nervous. I felt even safer when one of the two-story ladders turned out to be a double ladder that was top and bottom bolted. I back onto the top rung and look straight ahead as I climb down. I look up as I climb up.

Last Friday, however, the only way to get to one machine was to climb down a two-story metal extension ladder. I watched the guy go down and that thing just bounced and swayed. I took one step onto it and said, "I can't. I'm sorry. This makes me really, really nervous." He just waved and we took care of the machine with me calling down instructions.

In servicing the machines today, I climbed down the home-made ladder with no problem. The extension ladder? Forget it. The guy who was with me patted my arm and said, "It's no sin to be scared. Even the safest people can fall." He retrieved my machine and put it back after I had serviced it.

I still feel a bit badly that I couldn't, for the life of me, convince myself to go down the ladder. I could see that it was tied off and anchored, but it was just too high. Generally, we don't climb ladders to begin with because our job is in the basement. This was a very rare occurrance.

I'm very glad these guys were understanding. I don't know how I would have managed had I been shown the ladder and told, "Climb down and take care of it. We'll be back in 30 minutes."

Beverage: Irish Breakfast tea


Friday, July 16, 2010

Reviewing a productive day - 5 days later

I was quite productive last Sunday. I got up earlier than I am wont to do when I don't have to be anywhere. It's been hot and humid so the AC is on, even though I keep it at 78-80. I figure 78-80 non-muggy degrees is sufficiently comfortable for me AND the cats. Anything lower is a waste of energy.

My first completed task last Sunday, before the day got hot was to bag up two more containers of yard waste. This is left over from Carole and David's visit. I have not felt like going out and shoving more branches into containers. Now, I need to go get yard waste stickers so these can be taken to the curb and the last little bit, which you can see on the ground behind these two can but put in cans and taken to the curb.

When that was done, I fixed my driver's side seat in the Jeep. It's the original 1997 seat and, quite naturally, has started to split and crack in places. It's still incredibly comfortable, as Jeep seats go, but even the seat cover couldn't hold it together. All I can say is, "Red Green would be proud." I have to wash the seat cover. I hit a bump and spilled Dr Pepper all over me and the seat cover and then didn't put the windows up when we got a half-inch of rain three weeks ago. I thought about taping the other seat so they match, even though the other seat has no cracks.

Then I sprayed the yellow jacket nest in my storage shed. I'm really the kind who understands these insects' roll in pollinating crops and killing pests. They are not as efficient as bees because they don't visit the wide variety of plants that bees do. Yellow jackets are attracted to sugar so they will pollinate nectar producing flowers but also go after soda cans and tree sap. They are really aggressive when disturbed and can sting repeatedly.

I had a small nest in the corner of the deck which I was able to dislodge with the broom. This one, being in the shed, had to be killed so they would go somewhere else. I can't get things out of the shed if I have to worry about a nest. Nests are used just once, so those gigantic basketball-size nests you see are maximum size and are a one-year thing. That's 10 to 15,000 yellow jackets. I hosed it down with flying insect killer. I need to look this weekend to make sure it's inactive and then remove it.

The final task I actually finished last night, which prompted me to write up this post. I have this corner of the hall that had a poster which wouldn't stay up on the wall. I drew a sunflower some years ago, when I was in therapy. I liked the image and framed it. It had hung in this corner for awhile but the hanger on the back of the poster frame kept falling out. I didn't want to replace the poster frame. It's lightweight and perfect for the drawing.

In the 3M furnace air filters that I buy they include these picture hanging strips. As I always buy air filters and then try to remember to change them every 3 - 4 months, I have received well over a dozen of these little packages. I finally decided this was the perfect picture to try to hang using them.

First, you have to wash the wall with rubbing alcohol and then attach one side of the strips to the wall. They don't recommend you put these on wallpaper. This is paint so, in theory, if I go to change the picture, I can remove these without damage to the wall. They tell you to attach the hangers to the wall and let them set for an hour. Okay, I attached the hangers to the wall, matched up another set and attached that to the back of the frame and let them sit, intending to come back in an hour and hang up the drawing.

Well, if you know me, you know what came next. I got distracted by bright, shiny something else and didn't get around tuit until last night after a Great Lakes SEE meeting. I picked up the poster, matched the hangers with each other and pushed each one onto the ones on the wall. There was an audible "snap" when they were together. Viola.

So far, so good. It seems held to the wall very nicely. The poster frame is lighter weight than something with glass would be at this size.

I think this weekend, I'll tackle some sorting. I've been in a bit of a pothole and actually accomplishing things helps me see a bigger picture.

Beverage: Dr Pepper


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I decided to be honest.

Thanks to that "No Call" list, the only calls I get now are from charitable institutions I have helped in the past. If you've noticed, within the last couple of years, the calls have become more aggressive. I know they feel if they keep you on the phone long enough, you'll agree to give them money just to get rid of them. I feel badly when I have to turn down charities I have helped in the past, but when you can't pay your utility bills on time, there isn't anything left over to give them. I have one charity I support, Best Friends Animal Society, and they haven't received what I usually send. I just don't have the cash.

Remembering that the person on the other end of the phone is working, I try to be courteous. "I'm sorry. I have no extra cash," doesn't seem to be effective anymore. "I am in the middle of supper," brought the response, "Well then, I'll be brief." What? I have marked that group. If I get extra funds and can spread the wealth, then Special Olympics, the American Cancer Society, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the DuPage County Sheriff's Association, might get something. But I don't have extra.

I tried the comment, "If you can find someone to fix the [insert part] on my Jeep for free, I'll send you the money I would have spent to get it fixed." So far, no one has said they know someone and that doesn't stop them from trying my patience with "But we will take just $30 for disadvantaged veterans."

I know it's really, really tough right now for charities to make any ends meet. It is a thankless job to sit in a room and cold call people asking for money when I'll bet a full 90% of them turn you down. But the aggressiveness of some of the callers is getting to me. "Please don't call me again. If I have extra money, I'll contact you." isn't working either because of the loophole in the "No Call List". If you have consented to have a company call you, they still can, although they are supposed to remove your name if you ask. I've found that asking doesn't always translate into doing.

Last night, however, I found a tactic I think is going to work. I decided to be honest. All this week in my World of Warcraft guild, we've been attacking dragons. There are a lot of dragons in the fake world so planning a whole week where every day, we take on a new dragon was fun. In fact, there are so many dragons, we can't do them all in a week.

Last night was a double dose of dragon bosses. We did one event called "Obsidian Sanctum" with the final boss named Sartherion. It's not that difficult an encounter for us anymore, if you run in and kill all the dragons. But, there are ways to make the encounter harder. The main boss has three minor bosses that give different abilities if left alive while you kill the main boss. We decided to try leaving 2 of the mini-dragons up while fighting Sarth.

Unfortunately, we didn't have enough people come onto the game last night to do that. There is however, what's called an "Achievement" for killing Sarth with only 8 people. The usual compliment is 10. We had 8, so let's do it.

We are involved in killing some of the other dragons that inhabit Sarth's chamber and the phone rings. I almost ignored it but decided it could be important. It was a charity call. I said I was busy and the guy says, "Well, I'll be brief." I think that's what did it.

On my computer, I have voice software to communicate in real time with members of my guild when we do events like this. They were talking in the background as I'm on the phone. I know this guy could hear them. Shouldn't it sound as if I have company? Why would you want to keep someone on the phone if they have company? I said, "Look I'm in the middle of killing trash mobs. I can't talk." There was silence and I hung up.

We are about to engage Sarth. I have a couple people who have never done this and some people who need refreshers on how the fight goes. Phone rings. Another charity. "Mrs. Mon-tag-guee?" Dead giveaway that you aren't someone who knows me. "I can't talk. We're about to engage Sarth and I have to explain the fight to the other hunter. Goodbye."

I know they have to keep tabs on what the outcome of the call was. I just wonder what was put by my name. "She was fighting with a hunter?" I am going to continue to use this tactic when they call in the middle of my gaming. Oh man. There are some fights that will sound exceptionally weird. My luck, I'm going to get someone who is also a WOW gamer. "I can't talk now. We've got Icehowl down to 30% and half my raid is gone." "Oh wow. Did he smash them against the wall?" It still doesn't mean I'll have any money to give them, but the conversation would be interesting.

Beverage: Irish Breakfast tea


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

She likes them, too.

I was trying to decide which tee shirt to wear to the office today. This was not the one I chose. I came home and Mija had decided it was hers. OBD is my favorite Scottish group.

Beverage: Dr Pepper


The Philosophy of Potholes

A friend of mine from World of Warcraft is going through a rough patch. The love of his life is going to school 6 states removed from him. They aren't going to marry until she has finished her Masters and has a job. A worthy goal. He's in a job he marginally likes, no, tolerates, because it provides for the necessities; beans and franks, gas, rent on an apartment, Internet access and health insurance. He has decided that going back to school to follow an interest he has will, in the long run, yield the kind of happiness and security he seeks. He's taking steps to get into the program he wants and will pick up a few classes this fall at a local community college. The program he wants will mean quitting his job and moving to a new climate in a state 4 states north of where he currently lives. It will mean going from an 8 hour drive to see his mom and brother to a 12 hour drive. He will be closer to his love as she winds down her degree.

Sounds good, right? Sounds like he has a road map for where he's going, right? On the surface. Underneath, he's so very unsure about everything. He has a deep, abiding belief in God and how God is leading him. It's just that the human side which does not like surprises and wants to be in control of the situation sees so many missing pieces in the above scenario that he has made himself sick.

Conversations with him have me philosophical about my own life. My road, particularly of late, has been anything but smooth. It's easy to see the road only and not the life around the road. I know I fail at that but I try. I was giving him this image in the hopes that it helps him. I can't take credit for this. I learned it when I was in therapy as my marriage fell apart. My wonderful therapist, Nancy, had developed this theory. I have found it holds true the more mileage I put on my life.

These are the stages of dealing with what life offers you. I offered this last July, but in an abbreviated form.
  • You walk down the road and fall into a deep, huge pothole you didn't see and can't get out of.
  • You walk down the road, see a huge, deep pothole ahead. You fall in and can't get out.
  • You walk down the road, see a huge, deep pothole, try to avoid it, but fall in and can't get out.
  • You walk down the road, see a huge, deep pothole, try to avoid it, but fall in, yet get out.
  • You walk down the road, see a huge, deep pothole and avoid it.
  • You walk down the road, see a medium-size pothole, fall in but get out.
  • You walk down the road, see a small pothole and trip over it.
  • You walk down the road, see a bump and wonder that you ever thought it was as big as the road.
  • You walk down the road admiring the view.
If you've followed me since before October's financial fiasco, you can probably see where I've been on the journey as I deal with the potholes. Yup, I fall in. I can fall in, a lot. There are times where I don't feel I can get out. But, in the end, it turns out that what I thought was a huge, horrible hole from which I would never emerge, was a bump in the road.

That's what I've laid out for him. Right now, I would say he sees the pothole and sees it as a wide expanse of black. He could get around it but he's scared he's going to fall in and not get out. If he falls in, all is lost and this course he has charted out for himself gets lost. From my point-of-view, he's looking at a baseball-size hole in the road and I'm wondering why he's staring at it.

It's hard, when you're struggling with things, to see them as bumps, blips or baseball-sized holes in your road of life. When you're struggling, everything gets magnified. I can spend hours in the bathroom crying over what is perceived to be a road-sized pothole simply because I've hit a rough patch. To be sure, there are stretches where your road is not a 6-lane, concrete surface devoid of cars where you can floor it and test the limits of you. There are days when it resembles the road to the left, muddy, wet and nearly impassible. How can I go on when it's like this?

The best advice I can give him, and me, is that this is temporary and there is beauty to be found in the mud. As much as I know all of this, things happen that skew my perspective. The pothole is not the blip in the road you see. It's a whale of whopper, feet deep and impassible. There is no way around it! Why can't you see that? I'm just going to sit here until someone fixes it.

I told him that it's okay to wallow. It's okay to feel sorry for yourself. Get it out of your system. I don't know when it was, maybe some time in April after the last problem with my checking account and the $74 overdraft fee, but I woke up one morning and realized that these were just baseball-sized holes. I do my best and go on. I fall in or trip over them, to be sure, but they aren't deep and I can get out.

He will be fine. He has a plan and a direction. Maybe he should look at the sides of this pothole in which he finds himself. There might be something interesting on the walls.

Beverage: Irish Breakfast tea


Monday, July 12, 2010

A musing on work.

On Sunday, I spent the morning doing chores before it got hot. (Another blog post ahead.) I showered and was sitting in the home office in my underwear, posting those three posts you can check out below. Perhaps that is too much information for you but it's vital to this post. The curtains are drawn on the office windows. Actually, the "curtain" consists of a rather large beach towel. I have vertical blinds I have always been meaning to install, but that requires the windows be scraped and repainted which means the adjacent wall should be redone which means I should pull down the wallpaper that is nearly 20 years old but that means I need to move things out of this room and into Carole's old bedroom but that room needs to be redone before I do I keep a beach towel over the office window immediately adjacent to the computer.

I see boots and jeans on the deck and my neighbor raps smartly on the back door. Oh lord! I quickly grabbed a polo shirt and shorts from a drawer, pulled them on and answered it. "I hate to bother you, but could you give me a ride to the Harley dealer so I can pick up my bike. It needed a tune up and my family's not home to give me a ride. I'll give you $10 to give me a ride."

It was 12:25 p.m. Why is that time important? Well, I have developed a minor ritual on Saturdays and Sundays. I log onto my World of Warcraft account and defend the "honor" of my Alliance faction leaders from an assault by a group of Horde, the other faction.

That I am lousy at this part of the game, there is no doubt, but I have grown to very much enjoy my futility. And, people from the other side recognize me. Yes, this doubles my chances of dying spectacularly, but I don't care. It's fun. All this excitement and mayhem gets started at 1:15-1:30 p.m.

I hesitated for just a second. Would I be back in time? It's a neighbor. I'm home. I'm really not doing anything of a life or death matter. I'll drive him. I can offer my resistance when I get back. I know the route the Horde takes. I'll catch up to them and maybe pick off the low levels I know travel toward the back.

It was an excellent decision. Carole babysat for his girls. His oldest is a sophomore in college, studying journalism although she's leaning now toward Human Resources. His youngest will be a senior in high school and wants to join her sister at DePaul University in Chicago. "It's so expensive," he said. "I kind of wish they'd have picked some place cheaper to go or that they'd have worked a couple of years before getting into college."

I caught him up on what Carole is doing now; still with JC Penney and back to managing a department after a couple of years as the assistant manager. He worried that his girls won't be able to get a job when they are done with college. "Look at me," he said. "I'm a laborer. I've dug ditches, mowed lawns, worked construction. I've been at the same warehouse job for 32 years. I've seen 15 upper managers, 8 middle managers and 5 supervisors come and go in those years. I got no degree, but I got a job and I'm willing to work. Too many people want it handed to them; big house, big car, big salary."

When I meet people for the first time and mention I have a daughter who works retail, often the comment is, "Oh my gosh. I could never do that. Retail is awful." I used to manage a wan smile and then would change the subject. Now, I look at them and say, "Well, if people like my daughter didn't work retail, who would sell you your underwear?" There's a pause as this sinks in and then there are some attempts at back pedaling, but I'm not afraid to press on with this line of thinking. "Retail may appear to be an awful job, but without those cashiers working check-outs, you won't be able to buy your underwear, your food, your cat food. Think about it."

The culturally running joke is, "My [insert child's gender] has an MBA from Harvard." "Oh really. Is he [or she] in management?" "Yeah, they are the front line in customer service. 'Would you like fries with that?'" We all laugh at the thought of someone actually working fast food. But if they didn't, who would? When you drive across the country, you expect the fast food restaurants along the Interstate to be staffed just waiting to sell you food and beverage so you can continue along your way. Yet, we make fun of those people asking if you want fries with that.

The company that picks up the garbage and the truck drivers who haul garbage to transfer stations don't get a lot of good press. Yet, what if you had to take your own garbage to a dump? Some people do, but what if everyone in the City of Chicago had to figure out how to take their garbage to a dump because there were no people to work garbage collection?

There was a student, a saxophone player a year older than Carole at her high school. He was a very introspective young man, extremely gifted and very bright. I chaperoned a jazz festival where he was the soloist. There were three of us moms and, at dinner, we saw this young man sitting alone. We decided we'd sit with him. Talk turned to what he was going to do after high school. He said he wasn't certain. "I don't know, but what I do know is that whatever I do, I will do it with pride. Every job has merit."

Every job has merit. I find myself thinking more kindly of other workers, even, gasp, telemarketers. I don't agree with some decisions which have impacted me directly and there are decisions made by people with jobs which I feel are flat out wrong. But I try to remember that every job has merit. You can be deliriously happy making $500 a month as well as making $5,000 a month.

My ultimate point in all of this is to ask you to stop putting down that teenager behind the counter who asks if you want fries with your meal. Stop complaining about the garbage truck in the way on your morning commute. Quit belly aching when you get to the office about the frazzled gal behind the counter at your coffee shop, trying to juggle four orders and the woman in front of you who is fishing in the suitcase she carries for a purse for 29¢. If there weren't people willing to do those jobs, you wouldn't get your morning coffee, fries with your meal or the detritus from your life hauled away.

Think about it.

Beverage: English Breakfast tea


Fleurs Préférées

Starting your week with a little French...

A couple of my favorite flowers are in bloom at this time of year and they are in my garden. I've mentioned before that my absolute favorite flower is the lilac. Never mind that, technically, it's a flowering shrub. Those are flowers and they smell and I love that smell. But you can't really walk into a florist and ask to send me a dozen lilacs.

I'm not that fond of roses. They are pretty but too many times I had roses sent to me when there should have been an apology offered. In talking with other women, that's a theme. A guy thinks he can avoid dealing with the problem if he sends a dozen roses. We silly women fall for it a lot of times, too, and the problem goes unresolved. So, roses aren't one of my favorite flowers.

I would have to say after lilacs, I like to receive Stargazer Lilies.

This fine specimen is in the front garden by the mailbox. I don't remember when I planted it. Some years, it looks kind of straggly. This year, it's beautiful.

I have always loved the dramatic colors on this Asiatic lily. I also like the scent. It's quite spicy. I think it smells like Noxema face cleanser, a bit of a menthol tinge to it.

I possibly would melt at a half dozen of these delivered, but I'm thrilled they like my yard.

My next favorite flower is the daisy. These Shasta Daisies are interspersed in the pseudo prairie.

We had daisies on the farm when I where I grew up. We mowed them once in the spring and then mom made sure we left them alone the rest of the year. We always had cut daisy bouquets on the table. When I got married, I had daisies in the bouquets.

A guy I used to know asked me what my favorite flower was. I made him guess because no one guesses any of my top three. I was floored when he said, "You like daisies." I had not told him. He said it just fit with who I am. I'm not sure I understand but it's a nice thought. I should cut some of my daisies for the kitchen table.

I come home and I see these flowers and I smile. Every life should have flowers in it.

Beverage: English Breakfast tea


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Prairie posies

I walked out to the street to retrieve today's paper and noticed my pseudo prairie is in full bloom. I need to do some weeding at the bottom of the photo but everything is doing very well. I should expand this patch, move everything back another foot or so. That would be less to mow, more natural habitat for butterflies. Plus, it looks good.

I'm pleased to see the rattlesnake master in the middle of the purple coneflowers. I'd like to see that expand a bit and I think the space just isn't there, which means expanding the patch.

There are lots of black-eyed susans this year. Last year was kind of sparse.

It's nice to see something I started years ago flourishing.

Beverage: Scottish Blend tea