Thursday, September 30, 2010


This would look so good on me...

It costs ONLY $150,000.00, and only 8 are made each year.

Yes, I would give up my Jeep to tool around to construction sites in this.


Here's the link to the story.

Beverage: Tea (I used up about 3 bags that were on their last cup.)


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

3 out of 4 ain't bad.

I clipped Pilchard's claws tonight. This involves cuddles, ear and chin scratches, ears going back in suspicion and then laying her over onto her back and trying to convince her this is a good idea.

She's getting better, really she is. She didn't struggle until I started on the right back foot. I got the left front paw and the left rear paw clipped with soothing words and the "straight-jacket" approach. She just simply couldn't move.

I got 2 of the 4 rear claws clipped and she decided she'd had enough. There were growls and a couple of attempts to get away. I was able to grab and restrain her and get those last two clipped. Just one bandage tonight. This is an improvement. I'll wait until the weekend to do the right front paw. Yes, she gets treats after being subjected to this indignity. She holds me no ill will. She's actually asleep next to me right now.

Beverage: Dr Pepper


The start of fall 2010.

I got a few apples at my mom's when I visited over the weekend. Her husband has a couple of trees that he lovingly cares for. The apples are ripe and I found a nice selection on the ground.

This is the time to ratchet up the baking. I love the smells produced during this time of year. Plus the produce seems designed to be heartier than blackberries and will last longer in the fruit and vegetable drawers before I have to say, "Well, that's nicely composted" and walk it out to the compost pile. I'm sure you all know that the reason those drawers are in the bottom of your fridge is to help you get a jump on compost.

I decided on applesauce to start. I dumped the bag out on the counter and started washing the apples. One of them had a stowaway.
He was gently removed and put outside on one of the milkweed plants.

Once that was done, I set about peeling, coring and chopping up the apples. They are nicely juicy and have a tangy aroma. I brought 15 back with me and decided, after seeing how much I had when cut into chucks, that I needed to turn some of them into something else. I have decided on Autumn Apple Cheesecake. I have to go to the grocery anyway on Saturday. I'm out of some staples. I'll pick up a couple packages of cream cheese and make myself a cheesecake. I can freeze the slices and have cheesecake for dessert for awhile. In theory, it's brilliant. I just have to find my springform pan.

The 11 apples I chose to chop reduced to this. It's about half of a Dutch Oven's worth. I set the heat to low, put a lid on the pot and just let them cook. There was enough water in the apples already that I didn't need to add extra water.

I cooked them for 45 minutes and then checked their consistency. They weren't quite reduced to sauce at that point. I got the potato masher and smashed some of the bigger pieces and cooked the apples another 30 minutes. The smell! Oh the smell of cooking apples! No added sugar or cinnamon at this point. Just apples simmering over a low heat.

One hour and 15 minutes later, I had applesauce. It's a bit chunky, but I like it that way.
I added some sugar and cinnamon to taste as the apples were a bit tangier than I like. I've made two nice freezer containers full of home made sauce. This tempts me to buy more and make more sauce. Come winter, there is nothing more comforting than warm applesauce on a cold day.

Now to cook the acorn squash!

Beverage: Dr Pepper


Almost over

The joke around here is that we have two seasons, winter and road construction. I actually think there are three; winter, road destruction and road construction. The middle season is very short and usually involves barrels and barricades and moving 4 lanes of traffic onto the shoulder, particularly between the hours of 6 and 9 a.m. or 4 and 6 p.m.

I had to go into "the city" on Tuesday for a meeting to look at a job. Going in was the usual stop and go but coming out...
Most of the route from the point where the Eisenhower Expressway meets the bridge that crosses the Kennedy Expressway out to the 'burbs has been resurfaced. There are a few spots left to do but it's a wonderful drive. I was back at the office within 40 minutes. For those who know, the board at the Post Office said "13 minutes to Mannheim". It was just that.

I know this was paid for with stimulus money and there is a huge debate about whether sinking billions into infrastructure actually created long-term jobs, which is what we need right now. I know that people with whom I'm acquainted with in the construction industry were grateful for the money as they could hire more workers, many of whom had been laid off for 9 months. I also think, for those of us who have to spend our time driving on these roads, making the commute a nicer ride is a good thing. Yes, to the left you see ubiquitous stopped in-bound traffic. Still, when the road is clear and it's a smooth ride back to the office, your frame of mind is that much nicer.

Beverage: Dr Pepper


Some days, delivery is best.

After driving 4 hours from Iowa to Wheaton on Sunday evening, emptying the car, tossing a load of very muddy clothes into the washing machine, sorting the mail and doling out lots of ear scratches, the idea of supper rose to the top of my consciousness.

I was too tired to cook.

So, I review my meager finances and discovered that I could order pizza for delivery but I had to be very careful about what kind. Checking out the Domino's web site, they have a special for one large pizza with any toppings for $8.99. This is a good deal. I have had pizza for lunch for 2 days now because a large is more than enough for me and for leftovers. I had money for a tip. I don't add the tip to the debit card if I can help it. One of the drivers, when I handed him the tip, blurted out, "Oh thank you for cash for the tip. I don't have to claim it as income." Well, technically, I think he does, but I understand his sentiment. It's worth it to me to have it delivered.

I like Domino's pizza, at least the one I usually get; sausage, bacon and cheddar cheese. I think the real fun of ordering from them is

It's pretty accurate. By the time the order gets to #5, I know my pizza is about 10 minutes away. Add a beer and this is a great supper. Even Mija seemed to think so although, once given a sniff, she decided that cats really don't like pizza.

Beverage: Blackberry Sage tea


Monday, September 27, 2010

No spill! What a concept!

My mother and I spent Friday morning and early afternoon last week, visiting the relatives who don't move anymore. They are in the same place all the time. It was a very overcast day with a chill wind from the west.

By the time we had catalogued everyone in the Monona City Cemetery whom we came to find, we were cold and hungry. We headed over to a local restaurant for lunch.

"Can I get you ladies something to drink?" the waitress asked.

"Hot tea!" was our unanimous reply. She returned with Lipton green tea and this mug teapot set up, one for each of us.

I have one of those. Mom gave it to me for Christmas many years ago.

I have never seen this set up used in a restaurant before. It's great. You fill the top with hot water and make a cup of tea in the mug and you easily have 3 cups right there. Of course, mom asked if I had used my mug/pot combo lately and she just laughed when I said, ", but at least I do use it."

Other restaurants should adopt this. It beats, hands down, those silly little metal pseudo-teapots with the flapping lid that never pour straight into the cup. I think they are designed to pour most of the hot water onto the table while missing the cup. I can see you shaking your head, "Oh yes!" Those should be melted down and used for soda cans.

And yes, the waitress was amused that I took a photo of the teapot.

Beverage: Scottish Blend tea.


You gotta try this!

I'm not one to heartily endorse a product. I figure my tastes are not your tastes. But if you like tea, you might want to give this a try.

I'm not a fan of herbal teas. I want my tea to be dark and robust, although I have a green "gunpowder" tea that I like. This is not leaves. This is bark and peels and spice. Oh my is it good.

My one quibble with it is that for me to get an adequate flavor of the apples, cinnamon and cloves, I have to steep the bag for about 4 minutes. I reuse bags 3 or 4 times before I feel the leaves have given up all the tea they will and then I recycle the bags. I found that the second cup from a bag was not as strong, even letting it sit in hot water for a full 5 minutes. This is, at least for me, pretty much a one cup per bag tea. That's kind of expensive.

Still, after being rained on all day on Saturday, sitting in a tent as the temperatures hovered around 55 and enduring the rise and fall of a cold northerly breeze, a mug of this went a long way toward warming me up. I do recommend this, but be aware, you'll go through it rather fast if you like it strong. Now I need to get some cider this weekend.

Beverage: Scottish Blend tea


One week to wait.

I suspected I would encounter rain as I drove last Thursday from Wheaton to my mother's in Iowa. I was more than a little nervous. If the rain predicted was actually to pass, I would have to pull over and just wait things out. Rain-X can only do so much and no, I don't have the wipers fixed yet.

As it happened, the rain gods decided to go easy on me and I didn't actually get into wiper-able rain until a half hour from her home. Then, it wasn't a constant shower. It was intermittent and I know the roads very well. I could continue trying to peer through the raindrops.

I made it. This was the view through the windshield as I pulled into the drive. I get a bonus this year and the first thing it will be used for is to fix the wipers. I will make sure it's in the bank account before scheduling the trip to the mechanic.

Beverage: Scottish Blend tea


I remember that.

Last week, when I was working those horrendous hours in an attempt to get this project done, we had a spate of warm, even hot, weather. I had to run to the photo store around 4:30 p.m. When I came out of the office, where I'd been since 8:00, there was a smell that stopped me in my tracks.

I've blogged about smells before; the memory of lilacs outside my bedroom window, for instance. I had not smelled this smell in decades and instantly, I was transported to my grandmother's back yard in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I smelled Penick and Ford.

To someone outside of the immediate Cedar Rapids, Marion, Iowa City, Hiawatha, Robins area, that name probably doesn't ring a bell. To those who lived in this section of Iowa, that name conjures up the smell of sugar and starch cooking at the plant along the banks of the Cedar River between 4th and 16th Avenues, southeast of downtown. When the wind was right, the whole north side of the river had an aroma, sometimes foul, but you could easily identify it as coming from the processing plant. Molasses, corn syrup, corn starch, corn sugar and animal feed was made in Cedar Rapids. Quaker Oats also has a processing plant to the immediate northwest of downtown. That's a completely different smell, trust me on this.

Now why the suburban Chicago air should smell of corn syrup is beyond me. The wind was out of the west but there's nothing remotely near the office which would produce such a smell. I found myself standing next to my car inhaling the air, the smell and longing for a simpler time when I hadn't been yelled at to get an impossible project done in a day.

Later in the week, I had another memory check as I drove to Iowa for a weekend. When I left Wheaton, it was 88 degrees. The wind was out of the south southwest at a brisk 30-35 miles per hour. As I drove through the country side, the smell of the harvest arrived on the wind.

It's hard to describe what that smell is. There is a crispness about it as well as a slightly burnt tinge. The corn and soybeans are ready to be harvested and the smell is almost of burned paper. One could say the heat of these early fall days, when you're reminded that summer is past, roasts the corn and soybeans on the plants. It's a hot smell, but so very, very Iowa.

As I drove west, I ran into a line of rain. I could see it on the horizon, dark clouds with tendrils of rain. I skirted 90% of it but ran into it about 30 minutes from my mother's. Combine the smell of hot soybeans and corn with the earthy smell of an early fall rain which will drop the temperatures about 40 degrees in 2 hours and it's a heady mix. Again, I found myself inhaling deeply and not being able to come up with adequate words to describe what I smelled. I remembered the fall days on the farm as the harvest was coming in.

Of course, everything now is viewed through a prism of nostalgia. Life was just as hard as it is today. We had less creature comforts, but just as much stress, albeit, of a different sort. I remembered sitting on my grandmother's patio on warm summer evenings, watching the fireflies illuminate the back yard. I remembered walking through the freshly harvested corn fields while pulling my red wagon picking up the stray ears and tossing them in the wagon to be fed later to the pigs. Dad paid a penny an ear, which doesn't seem like much, but an hour's work could yield 50 to 75 cents, a goodly amount to an 8 year-old back when candy bars were a nickel.

The smells, as disparate and unifying as they were, reminded me that no matter how stressed I was, standing and smelling brought a peace to my troubled soul.

Beverage: Scottish Blend tea


Thursday, September 23, 2010

What a way to start a morning.

So I get to sleep in this morning. I have a couple days off now and I am looking forward to some simple time without a lot of stress. I was up late last night, web surfing and talking with friends knowing the alarm was turned off. Now, Ms. Motor might wake me up but Mija knows I'll just roll over and go back to sleep. Is there anything more comforting than a purring cat?

But, at 6:25, the neighbor's dogs go nuts. I went from sound asleep to wide awake in a minute.

I have no idea what they were barking at. It doesn't matter. They bark at anything that comes within their field of vision. They have lived next door to me for 4 years and the barking has grown worse. I take my recycling to the curb, they bark. I walk back to the house, they bark. I know when the mail is delivered. I know when kids are walking to the bus stop north of my house. I walk to my car to drive off to work, they bark. They bark when I come home. When I came home at 10:30 on Monday night, after that long day at the office, they went nuts.

Now the owners of the dogs do the highly effective, "Buddha! Shut up!" form of quieting them. I know dogs bark. That's what they do to signify their territory. There is a degree of barking that can't ever be trained out of a dog. I accept that. But after 4 years of seeing me, you'd think they'd get the idea that I'm not out to get them so they don't need to bark. I'm a non-confrontational person and I don't relish the idea of approaching the neighbors because of their dogs.

Yet another reason I have cats and not dogs.

Beverage: English Breakfast tea


Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Autumn arrives around midnight tonight. I don't really need a calendar to tell me that. The leaves have started to change on the cherry tree. They were green over the weekend.

Beverage: Coke


28 hours over 2 days

That's how much I worked the first two days of this week. I came very close to pulling a "Jennifer Aniston" from the movie Office Space, on Tuesday. If you know the movie, you know the reference.

In the early part of the year, we bid on an inspection job. It was a series of homes, 3 businesses and some parking and storage lots. Giant projects aren't uncommon for us and this wasn't, at first look, going to be that much of a problem for us to do. We exchanged emails with the client after we knew we had been awarded the work, but never got a go-ahead to do the inspections. Doing parking and storage lots required permission from various businesses and one government entity for us to be on the properties taking photos.

Suddenly, in July, we had to get down there and do inspections as well as send out certified letters. We scrambled and while Jon and Rodney walked the ground, I banged on doors to hand out letters explaining what we had to do. Letters were hand delivered to the businesses. One home owner and one business called for inspections. I did those.

August. The client wants an accounting of inspections. Once provided, I stressed that two businesses, including one directly affected by the project, had not responded. "Okay, we'll handle it," came the reply.

August 26th. Meeting. Again, I provided our contact log and we went over what we had to finish. I explained that we had no permission to be on some of the property and we do not just boldly wander onto land. The client said he would get permission.

September 3rd. I am informed I have an inspection of one business at 10 a.m. on the 8th. When I get there to do that inspection, I'm told the other business is expecting me "before 5:15" that day. Um...

I got the interior and exterior of both businesses done on the 8th but had to come back to photograph and video tape the storage yards and parking lots. I finished all field work on the 13th. The next day, the client demands all inspection materials in his hands by Friday, September 17th.

Now, transferring video tape to DvD isn't that difficult other than you never know how many are ahead of you. The photo shop we use is wonderful in getting our stuff done so the videos were done by Thursday. I had to process 1,077 digital photos, labeling each one. Then, according to the job specs, the "owner", or the person paying for the project, required 4x6 glossy of all photos. Each photo had to have a label on the back with a) project name, b) contract number c) date and time of the photo d) location and cardinal direction if necessary for identification purposes e) name and address of company doing photography and f) photo number. Our client requests 2 copies for himself, one he will keep and the other goes to the owners of the properties which were inspected. This means, I have to label 3,231 photos, by Friday, when I have to identify the originals first.

I stayed late every day last week and worked Saturday morning. The photo shop got all my photos done by Monday at 11:00 but, as I was going through one of the batches, I discovered 30 photos missing. So that CD was dashed back over to them and they got it done by Tuesday at 10:15. Monday noon, I had one inspection done and was nearly done with another. Our client rep, who can be really snotty to us, claims I promised him everything on Friday, which I did not. I said the DvD's would be ready but he wanted the whole thing.

One of my office co-workers who had been out of the office all of last week, comes into my office mid-morning on Monday and demands to know why I didn't process any of the office email. I have stacks of photos on my desk. I have finished labeling all the DvD's and I've redone the contact list in an "acceptable" format for the client. I have finished printing and labeling one inspection and was starting on another and he wants to know why I haven't dealt with the office email. I looked at him and said, "And when am I to do that?" "I was gone all of last week. When I'm not here, it's your job to do that." I gestured at my desk and asked if he was going to help me get this project out the door. "I don't have time for that. You have to learn to multi-task," and he turned and left my office.

Now, I have worked for this company for over 10 1/2 years. Never once have I been told I can't multi-task. I have been told to stop multi-tasking because I tend to have four or five things going at once. This time, while I opened up the emails to see if there was anything supremely urgent, I didn't deal with anything because I have a job to get out of the office. To say I was offended is an understatement.

It didn't help that the boss came into my office to ask how things were going and we miscommunicated. I answered the question he asked, but the question he asked was not the one to get him the information he needed. He promised the client the project would be dropped off on Wednesday morning around 9 a.m. Then, when I said I couldn't get the whole thing done, he screamed at me to "stay and do the work".

Needless to say, although I stayed until 10:30 on Monday night and went in early on Tuesday, my sleep was fractured. I awoke in tears a couple of times and, when I did get up, I began planning on what to do when I quit that day. I would wait until they all left and then stop working on this project and clean everything out of my office. I would leave my cell phone and office keys on the desk of the "You need to learn to multi-task" with a note that said, "Multi-task this." I would contact my boss' boss and tell him I was quitting and I would write a confidential letter to the owner of the company. I would tell them exactly what I do and why this was the final straw. Then, today would be spent filing unemployment forms and polishing my resume. I had this all planned out. Mija and I had a long talk as I got dressed for the day. She can be so talkative some times.

I was working away as people staggered in for the day. Jon was very helpful and made a couple of suggestions for the labels which helped automate the process further than what I was doing. Jon's been very helpful through this. Rodney hasn't been in the office but he let me vent Monday night which probably kept me from just sitting at my desk crying. Then the boss walked in and said, "Look, this is too big for one person. (Oh really? Did Captain Obvious tell you that?) I'm going to get my son to come help you." Mr. "You need to learn to multi-task" came into my office and, while he did not apologize said, "Don't answer the phones. I have them. I'm really busy but describe what you have to do and I'll see what I can do to help." He got lunch and he volunteered to drive the finished product to the client this morning. The boss' son was a huge help and I realized I didn't have to do the whole thing. I just had to produce what the client could take to the owner today. The rest of it can be finished next week.

Bottom line, I finished last night at 8:30 p.m. I went home and collapsed. Pilchard climbed into my lap for ear scratches. Mija has been extra snuggly at night. I didn't sleep very well last night trying to thing of every way the client would say, "This is unacceptable". The boss told me to go home at 12:30 today. When I got home, I had lunch and dozed off on the settee. I realized I'm exhausted from the stress and worry so I took a nap, a good 90 minute one. My left hand has been in pain all day from what I think is carpal tunnel due to the repetitive nature of making the labels. The nap has made the wrist feel a lot better. Thank goodness it's my left hand and not my right. Rest and not using it should make it better.

So, that's why you haven't seen posts from me. I am taking a couple days off. I'll try to post some while I rest. We'll see.

I still have a job and two people perhaps understand that I do a lot of stuff in the office that no one knows about because it never gets to them. I handle it. It's my job. Screaming and disrespect get you nothing. I would prefer an apology. It's a hard thing to do, to say, "I'm sorry I said what I did", even if you believe someone needs to learn something. There are ways to handle this. More jobs came to the office today including one large one I'll be looking at on Tuesday. I have earned 2 days off and you can bet I'm taking them with relish.

Beverage: Coke


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Ordinarily, I wouldn't touch this.

It's not the best photo in the world because of the lighting. I didn't want to use a flash to attract attention to the fact that I was photographing my gelato at the coffee shop tonight.

Why photograph my dessert?

This is mint chocolate chip gelato. So? I usually decline mint chocolate anything. I think it's an awful thing to do to chocolate, combine it with mint. I'm not a fan of mint.

But Melody bought me dessert while we were listening to her hubby play guitar and unless you know you're going to have a physical reaction to food, it's really impolite to decline. You eat a little and then say, "Oh gosh. I didn't realize I was so full." Manners. My momma taught me.

This was good, very good, surprisingly good. It was green, something you can't see here, with little flecks of chocolate chips in it. The mint was not overpowering and there was no metallic aftertaste as can happen when you combine mint and chocolate. No one was more surprised at how smooth and luscious this was than me.

I will still view mint and chocolate combinations with a very skeptical eye, but I might be less likely to turn up my nose at them now.

Beverage: Irish Breakfast tea


Marty Eastman in Concert!

Marty is a friend of mine. His son, Niles, went to high school with my daughter, Carole. He is an exceptionally good guitarist and writes and arranges his own music. Carole and I have been friends with the Eastmans for over 10 years now. It's amazing to think we have known wonderful people like them that long.

Tonight, Marty sang a variety of songs in the blues and bluesy folk tradition at a local Wheaton coffee shop, La Spiaza. The concert started at 7:30 and there were 5 of us in the audience, including the guy behind the counter. Around 8, more of their friends arrived and, by 8:15, there were a dozen of us enjoying the music.

There were a lot of things going on in Wheaton tonight so there weren't more of their friends in attendance, but, you know, that made the night special. Even if you count the performer amongst your friends, where there are a lot of his or her friends in the audience, you can feel as if they are too busy recognizing everyone to say, "Hi! Thanks for coming." The shop is small and a dozen people filled almost all the tables.

La Spiaza is well-known in Wheaton as a great place to hang out. I've been there on a few occasions, to meet people or to hang out between events. It was the perfect venue for a bluesy folk concert where you could put your feet up, say hello to people you knew and watch the looks on the faces of the kids who wandered over from Wheaton College to get gelato who realized they were in a room where the average age was older than their parents.

I'm very glad I went. It's a slightly rainy evening and, remember, my wipers don't work. But, it's 2 miles to downtown Wheaton and I know all the streets. I got there before the rain and left after the rain. I had a lot of fun. Marty is very funny and the stories he tells about how he got the inspiration for some of his songs are hysterical.

So, when he plays the House of Blues in Chicago, I can say, "I was there when he played La Spiaza."

Beverage: Irish Breakfast tea


Friday, September 17, 2010

I really want to go to this.

I don't have cable so I have to watch the efforts of Jon Steward and Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central the day after. If ever you wanted examples of how to use language, via hyperbole, sarcasm, metaphor and doublespeak, to poke fun at us, these two are at the epitome. There isn't a cow that is sacred and, in punching those "cows", I like to think they show us our foibles and maybe get a few people to think. Love them or hate them, the sharp, sharp writing on each show characterizes a love for language and a willingness to explore every territory. Cross the line? Of course. But that's what pundits should be doing.

It was with increasing excitement that I watched the announcement this morning about Jon Stewards "Million Moderate March". You can read about it here but please do yourself a favor and watch the 11 minute announcement.

All the hyperbole and laughter aside, Stewart is making what I firmly believe is a point lost in these troubled times. Discourse and dialogue are almost dead. We don't engage each other in conversation to find out how we feel about issues. We drag our soapbox to the corner and scream, "Are you listening to me?" It's not about finding common group anymore. It's about "my way or the highway". You accept my position or you're garbage.

I tend to bury my head in the sand when it comes to politics. I probably shouldn't. There are things I believe and support and there are things I don't believe and won't support. It's just that by taking a stand in this current political climate, you risk having people less informed scream obscenities at you. I just don't care to be exposed to that.

Steward is right, I think, in stating that 80% of Americans want it to just go away. I think a majority of us are tired of the screaming at each other from both sides. We may take what the Glen Becks or the James Carvilles have to stay to heart but we're tired of being yelled at. We'd really rather sit down with one another, have some coffee, tea and a slice of cake, and decide whether the military needs another plane. We're used to making compromises in our lives and we can't understand why we can't all just get along. It's okay to have diverse opinions. We learned that when we were founding this country. But we also learned we can't go ahead if we're being pulled at both sides.

I remember Dr. King's March on Washington and the subsequent marches using the National Mall as a platform for rhetoric and fervor. "Ooooh, that might be fun to be a part of," I thought, but never really wishing for a 15-hour bus ride to stand for 3 hours and listen to speakers. This, however, makes me wish I could. "Restore sanity" is a nice idea. If it would get people talking to one another, that's what would be extraordinary.

Then again, maybe that's too much to ask for a country so divided.

Beverage: China Black tea


Go without?

Perhaps you've heard about the small college in Pennsylvania that prohibited Facebook and all forms of social media this week. It was part of a grand experiment to see just how intertwined such technology has become within our lives.

I'm not going to decry the use of social media and the web. After all, I have this blog and I have a Facebook account. I've become quite adept at maintaining both. I don't use Twitter and don't really have a desire to learn it. I can, as witnessed by my Facebook posts, limit myself to a few characters to express what I'm thinking. Twitter just doesn't strike me as something I want to do. My lack of blog posts of late is not due to a lack of material, but rather a lack of energy in wanting to post.

I'm going to reminisce on life before social media. My friend Patt wrote in a letter last fall that she wondered if I would continue to write my long missives, which she thoroughly enjoys taking onto the screen porch with a cup of tea, now that I have a blog. I have to admit that I use this form more frequently than I do the printed word. And my printer wasn't working. I updated the software and bought new toner but I haven't tried the printer since. It's on the list of things to do.

I used to pour myself into my letters. A friend passed away 5 years ago. Before he died, he sent me a box containing all the correspondence we had maintained over the 10 years I knew him. I was flabbergasted. I still have the box in the basement. At some point, I will sit down and reread the letters. I knew him during a time of great upheaval in my life. I'm certain I will find insights I didn't see.

I had a college friend who, when we graduated and I moved away, saved all my letters for a period of 2 years. She said she loved to reread them because she missed the long conversations we used to have in the lounges after classes.

I remember, as a teenager, talking for hours on the phone with friends. It is a right of passage to monopolize the current "popular" form of communication. Of course, when I was a teen, the idea of a computer sitting on a desktop or carried within one's hand, was something out of Disney's Future World or Star Trek.

I do pause to wonder how people communicated in the 18th Century, when this country was first founded. How is it that communication between colonies when telegraphy wasn't even dreamed of, became united under a common goal when the "mass" media consisted of words printed on paper, words which were hand set, letter by letter, in rows by trained apprentices. Today, we ponder the death of the printed word, as evidenced by the demise of newspapers and brick and mortar bookstores in favor of pixels being arranged on a screen.

How did people feel watching their family members board a boat for this place called "the New World" or "the United States of America", knowing that letters may never come from them again? Unlike our ability to send an instant message to my friend, Amber, in Melbourne, Australia, my ancestors, who climbed aboard the British Bark "Sterling" in Dundee, Scotland, were leaving everything behind. A letter written in New York upon arrival three months after setting sail, might not make it back to Coupar, Fife, Scotland. There were no guarantees.

We have become dependent upon the immediacy of communication. Witness the swarm of correspondents around a news event and the demand for information when it unfolds. We were content, 40 years ago, to wait for news on the assassination of President Kennedy even though we were anxious and fearful simply because it's what we knew. A potential attempt on the Pope's life has people demanding to know the names, ages, addresses, motives, favorite beers and color of socks of the alleged perpetrators NOW, not tomorrow. I'm sure it makes gathering evidence harder when an area is swarmed by people wanting to know information that can't be released lest it jeopardize an investigation. And, in saying, "We can't release any information", people immediately assume there is something to hide.

I think, sometimes, unplugging myself for a week would be a wonderful idea. I have become more in touch with one of my brothers and a niece than I had previously because they don't write letters. I have connected with friends in ways I probably wouldn't have had we been limited to what came through on a piece of paper.

But I am old school and I do miss curling up with a cat and a cup of tea and poring through letters. I have to be one of the few people who enjoys the Christmas letters sent even if some of them come off as bragging. At least I know what you've done with your life in the past year.

So, go without? No, I don't think so. Social media sites and the web are too intricately linked to our lives now. I think it is very good idea to step back, step away, step down and reconnect to who you are as a person without the cell phone attached at the hip and the computer attached at the fingers.

Beverage: China Black Tea


Word of the day

At first glance, it would seem this word is a classic example of doublespeak. You all know doublespeak. It's inescapable. We don't lie, we use "categorical inaccuracies". Someone isn't fired, they enter "voluntary severance" or are "downsized". My favorite is "pre-owned".

When I ripped off Monday's word and came upon the above as Tuesday's word of the day, I was rather taken aback. I count on my Word-a-Day calendar to expand my language. Indeed, it has given me my favorite word, "obnubilate". I felt this word was tasteless and encouraged the obfuscation of statement rather than clarity.

But then I got to thinking. "Bromance", "Chillax" and "Wardrobe Malfunction" have been added to the Merriam Webster dictionary this year. (1. A close relationship between two men; 2. A word used to ask someone to calm down and relax; 3. The exposing of an intimate part of the body due to the failure of an article of clothing. You're welcome.) The English language is hugely flexible, embracing words of all types. That's what makes it so ubiquitous and the choice for communication. Our language's pliability makes it ideally suited for new words or the mashing together of old words to become a new one.

While I will continually advocate for clear and concise speech, "disremember" has a place in the lexicon. I doubt it's going to be hugely popular until some comedian or politician uses it. It sounds like a willful act. Perhaps it's all in the context as so much communication is. "I disremembered my pants" sounds more plausible than "I disremember what happened on the night of July 18th".

I am reminded of a quote from Alice in Wonderland.

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, "it means what I choose it to mean - nor more nor less."

Beverage: China Black tea


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Who remembers?

There’s a road I’d like to tell you about, lives in my home town
Lake Shore Drive the road is called and it’ll take you up or down
From rags on up to riches fifteen minutes you can fly
Pretty blue lights along the way, help you right on by
And the blue lights shining with a heavenly grace, help you right on by
And there ain’t no road just like it
Anywhere I found
Running south on Lake Shore Drive heading into town
Just slippin’ on by on LSD, Friday night trouble bound
And it starts up north from Hollywood, water on the driving side
Concrete mountains rearing up, throwing shadows just about five
Sometimes you can smell the green if your mind is feeling fine
There ain’t no finer place to be, than running Lake Shore Drive
And there’s no peace of mind, or place you see, than riding on Lake Shore Drive
And there ain’t no road just like it
Anywhere I found
Running south on Lake Shore drive heading into town
Just slicking on by on LSD, Friday night trouble bound
And it’s Friday night and you’re looking clean
To early to start the rounds
A ten minute ride from the Gold Coast back make sure you’re pleasure bound
And it’s four o’clock in the morning and all of the people have gone away
Just you and your mind and Lake Shore Drive, tomorrow is another day
And the sunshine’s fine in the morning time, tomorrow is another day
And there ain’t no road just like it
Anywhere I found
Running south on Lake Shore drive heading into town
Just snaking on by on LSD, Friday night trouble bound

I suppose it really dates me to say that I remember when this song was a hit. I found the lyrics on the Internet but I would dispute some of the words. Still, it's close. Three years after it was released, my family and I came to Chicago for the first time and drove Lake Shore Drive. I remember being thrilled to finally be on the road that the song discussed. The song always, always pops into my head when I get to drive LSD on these beautiful early fall days.

Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah, a medley of their hit.

Beverage: Irish Breakfast Tea


Monday, September 13, 2010

The things I see while working.

So, last Wednesday, I have to do this inspection of a trucking company. We're walking around the building where truckers check in to drop loads or pick up loads. On the south side of the building, we saw this moth. With the camera I was using, I could get a good close up. This really doesn't tell you the size of it. It was at least 3 inches long. I know you don't believe me so here is a side view of it.

Those are standard 8 inch tall concrete blocks on which it's resting. This should give you some sense of the size of this.

The guy from the company who was walking around with me said, "Ewwww. Gross!" and one of his co-workers was going to smash it. I thought it was beautiful but I didn't have time to pick it up and move it.

I spent a couple hours pouring over moth photos online but I have no idea what kind this is. Unlike the milkweed caterpillars of August 14th, I have no frame of reference for beginning a search. "Big moths" didn't really yield anything helpful. Finding this on the side of a building and not against, say a tree, doesn't help me in narrowing down a search for kind.

I like these kinds of serendipitous finds when I'm out and about. There is so much of life that goes unseen because we are focused on the task. I wish I could have brought this bug home so I could see what, if anything, it turned into.

The other thing I thought of was, I don't want something this large in the house. Mija loves to chase the millers and moths that fly in at night. It's bad enough when 10 pounds of cat land in my lap as she's chasing something three quarters of an inch long. What if she were chasing this?

ER Nurse: So how did you get all these scratches?

Deb: Well the cat was chasing Mothra through the house...

Beverage: Coca-Cola


Does this take a professional?

I need some advice here.

This is the driver's side window in the Jeep. See how the zipper has "popped"? This presents a large problem. I would like to unzip the window on these lovely fall days, but I can't get the zipper to work through the pop. I've got two places on the windows where this has happened. The other side effect is that cold air and moisture comes in.

Should I take some WD40 and spray the zipper? Would that help? Any other suggestions? As the zipper has popped in two locations, should I maybe ask my mechanic for a referral to get the zipper replaced? The wipers have to come first so I'll just tough this out, but I'd like to know if someone can suggest a decent fix that doesn't cost me an arm and a leg.

Beverage: Dr Pepper


Working toward Christmas

I am ready for the next step in a moderate "Do-it-yourself" Christmas. I purchased the paper, it's a heavy artist's watercolor paper, for the cards. I got the envelopes, on sale. I found the linoleum block and the design is drawn on that block. I even bought the printer's ink and it's a royal blue. I'll leave you to guess what the design is going to be if I'm going to be printing in blue on white stock. I also cut the paper into card size. Some cards will be a bit smaller than others but they will all fit in the envelopes.

The next step is to start carving the linoleum block. I have to print, on the inside of the cards, the holiday wishes. Once the block is carved, I can start printing the cards. I thought I had saved the other block I did. It said "NOEL" on the front and I printed some in green and some in red. I can't find the block anywhere so I must have tossed it.

When it gets down to printing, I will do that on the kitchen table. The cats aren't allowed on the kitchen table so I don't have much worry about them hopping up and stepping into blue printer's ink. While it's water clean up, you want to come help me grab Pilchard with her hairy toes and hold her while I wash kitty feet? Didn't think so. Preventing them from jumping up is better than chasing a cat with blue feet through the house.

Beverage: Dr Pepper


Another reason I live here.

We've had a spate of days that make me love where I live. Fall is fast approaching and these kinds of days, where the highs are in the mid to upper 70's or low 80's and the nights are in the mid to upper 50's or low 60's, are glorious. I've been fortunate to have to be out and about.

My route on Thursday took me north and south on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago.

The day was perfect with puffy clouds, a light breeze and warm temperatures. If I hadn't had so much to do, I might have considered playing hooky for an hour and just sitting by the lake.

In all the frenzy over how we came to be, how life originated, I think there is some credence to life beginning in the oceans and then coming onto land. Although there are a lot of cities and towns that spring up in an area which is a natural crossroads, I grew up near one such place, I think people gravitate to areas where there is water. It's not just that there is a convenient source of drinking water, but I think there is an affinity that's in our genes to be in the presence of water. I think we're attracted to it. We live next to water. We live on water. We play in it. We derive food from it.

I sometimes think about moving away, getting away from the hub-bub that is metropolitan life. I've remarked before about considering retiring next to the Mississippi River. There is an example of wanting to be near water. In spite of the potential for flooding, we park ourselves next to running water. It's soothing and, in the case of Lake Michigan, ever changing in view.

If I lived closer to the lake I probably would, like so many others, spend more time just being by it. I love to watch sunrises over the lake. Watching the lights of the city come on is just magical as you stand on the deck of one of the boats that offer cruises of the lake. I remember sunrises and sunsets along the Mississippi and the few times I've gone to the ocean, watching either the sunrise or the sunset over the ocean has been a highlight of the trip.

Yes, there is something about water that draws me in.

Beverage: Dr Pepper


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Labor Day in Milwaukee

Sometimes, my job is just fun. Even though I had to get up at 5 a.m. and be out the door and on the expressway north by 5:45 a.m., I got to see a very cool event.

These two smoke stacks used to be part of a large building at what was the Milwaukee Road's headquarters in the Menominee Valley between downtown Milwaukee and where Miller Park, home of the Brewers, is located. When the railroad ceased to exist as a corporate entity, chunks of land were developed as train tracks were removed and buildings demolished. I don't know what building these were attached to. I just know that they were slated for implosion.

There had been talk of saving them, but deterioration due to the elements combined with their size made the cost prohibitive.

Demolition was supposed to be in July, but various factors served to push it back to Saturday, September 4th. Everyone was beat but we were contracted to provide our support services so at least one of us needed to be in attendance. Three years ago, a smokestack from the old Ovaltine plant in Villa Park was demolished on a bright September afternoon and neither Rodney nor I could attend that one. So, I volunteered to be here as did Rodney. He was on the ground and I was on the bridge.

The only complication was a 30 mph wind out of the west. Those of us on the bridge were told to move either left or right of the location opposite the stacks lest we get covered in dust or something get caught by the wind. Below are a few of my photos.

In the end, it lay down exactly as they planned. Clean up of the street took roughly 30 minutes. I came home and took a nap.

It was a great way to start the holiday weekend.

Beverage: Grape Juice


Another day, another drive

We've been so busy lately I've been out in the field. We had bid on some bigger jobs that seemed to go nowhere and then suddenly, "Hi, we need your part done yesterday." Plus, we've had a lot of small jobs come in that need on-site work done. These are jobs we didn't bid on and didn't know about until the phone rings and we hear, "HELP!"

The upshot is that here I am, last Thursday, heading into Chicago to do some video taping because no one else is available to do it. I had spent Tuesday in Chicago but then a faulty battery prevented the video camera from working. Wednesday, I was in south suburban Thornton, which is 10 miles from the Indiana border. Friday, I went back to the Thornton area and I will have to be back there on Monday morning to finish this large project.

Paperwork? HA! That's that pile, off to the left there. Read my emails? Not until I stagger into the office and maybe remember to do it before I leave, otherwise, it's done the next morning.

My face got sunburned on Friday. I had sunscreen and I did apply it, but I became focused on what I do and didn't reapply. It was quite red Friday night and my nose is still pink. This is, however, my first sunburn of the year. I'm proud of that.

What I hope, is that the upturn in business that we see is an indication of an upturn in business everywhere. I have friends, going on 2 years now, without a job, who have one foot in despair while trying to keep an upbeat outlook. It's very, very tough for them. It really makes me wish I could do something other than wish for good luck.

Being out in my car working means that I will see a brief upturn in the finances. I get a mileage check for the miles I drive using my car and my semi-official move to being in the office actually managing the office means I don't use my car for work. This is good in one respect in that lord knows I've had to sink some funds into it just to keep it working. But it's not good when I could certainly use the extra funds to pay down debt. As I was all over the place this past week, there was overtime and mileage. This will be good at the end of September. Maybe I can take another baby step forward.

The other good side is that the weather has been extraordinarily wonderful lately. The temps are in the upper 70's with the lows in the upper 50's. There is mild humidity and it makes having to walk a parking lot with a video camera so tolerable. The rain is not to arrive until Wednesday and, by then, all my field work will be done and I won't have to drive between the drops because the wipers don't work.

With this kind of weather, even stuck in Chicago construction traffic doesn't bother me.

Beverage: grape juice


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Feeding the cat

It was time to empty the Lucky Cat Bank.

I mentioned last year how we got this bank from the Japanese pavilion at Epcot Center at Disney World. There was some lore with it. A white cat with the raised paw was to signify luck. You were to feed the cat but not count the amount of money you fed it. By this anonymous method, you watched the amount of your change grow.

I couldn't get change to stay in the bank anymore as the interior contents were up to the slot at the back of the head. Originally, the bottom hole was covered with green felt. But that had to be removed in order to retrieve the coins in the bank. And we discovered quarters don't come out easily, so a groove had to be carved in the bottom hole and quarters had to be turned on edge and pulled out. So, the only coins in the bank are pennies, nickels and dimes. When you don't spend them, however, eventually, they add up.

I emptied the coins from my wallet. That's the pile to the right containing a few quarters. Then, I peeled the tape off the bottom and started shaking out the contents.

It turned out to be a goodly amount of coinage.

All of this goes into a bank Carole and I made over 10 years ago, right about the time her dad left us. We were feeling very low and wondering how we were going to make any ends meet, let alone pay the mortgage and utilities and provide for the few things she needed in high school. We decided we needed some symbol, something to rally around as emblematic of how we weren't going to be beaten down.

It's a heavy cardboard heart-shaped container. We decorated it and I used a quote from Shakespeare's Tempest Keep. Prospero says it in Act 4, Scene 1.
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd tow'rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on
; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
I used this quote to remind us that as long as we had dreams, we were good. There are days when I don't believe my sentiments, but, for the most part, I have held to this. As long as I can dream, I am good.

I have emptied this container three times since we made it. All the times were in preparation for a vacation. I don't empty it until the lid won't sit on it square anymore.

It's about half-full now. Buried under the coins are a few dollar bills I added back in June. I try to resist the urge to fish them out. I can't remember when I emptied this last; I might be going on 2 years now. With a debit card in my wallet, I rarely carry cash about, although I have been doing that in an effort to keep track of where my cash goes. If all I have to spend is the $3.00 in my wallet, I'm going to think three or four times about buying that overpriced bottle of soda.

I have no clue how much was contributed to the dream keeper. That's as it should be. If I remember correctly, I've turned in $117, $98 and $86 in coin and bills.

Remember how saving your loose change was something everyone did? You walked into a home and pretty much everyone had a change jar. My friend Terry had a jar that she and her hubby filled with pennies. It was dubbed the "Pennies for Paris" jar. They turned it in and put the proceeds into a fund to go to Paris. I remember her saying it wasn't much every time they turned it in, but it certainly added up.

It may be an anachronism to save one's change. For me, however, it is a reminder of how far I've come when I can put a couple handfuls of coins into a dream.

Beverage: Scottish Blend tea


This is just wrong.

So I'm going through the coupons in the Labor Day paper and this ad is in them. It was one of three different ads inviting you to stock up on libations as football season has started.

That's fine but the beverage in the center of the ad. That's...that's Guinness! Guinness beer. Brewed in Ireland since the 18th century. Not really available in the US until 1980's. Guinness; the beer people ask if you "chew it" instead of drinking it. Until Belhaven and other Scottish beers became more easily available, I drank Guinness because I like a beer with flavor.

A coupon good for a dollar off?

This is too much. First, they start canning it. Canned beer does not have the same flavor as bottled beer.

Then, you slap on the side of the can, some nonsense about needing to keep this beer cold. Guinness is NOT served cold. It is best served at "cellar" temperature. This advice comes from when keeping a new batch of beer from going bad meant keep it in the cellar which was a constant 55 degrees. That's not chilled and certainly not cold.

To me, this is distressing. It seems Guinness has "dumbed down" their beer. In the never-ending quest for money, they have stooped to that wholly American lure, the coupon. Guinness isn't for everyone, guys.

Will I use the coupon? I saved it, but I have been trotting over to Binny's Beverage Depot when I have the funds, and buying Scottish beers for they have an ample supply. So, I don't know if I actually will buy some Guinness or just recycle this bit of paper with the rest of the newspapers.

It seems sad to me. Guinness is as mainstream as Coors, who had a coupon in the flyer. I think I'll open a bottle of Old Engine Oil and toast to a time when Guinness meant rare.

Beverage: Water


A remnant of summer

Over Labor Day weekend, I finally made the Southern Blackberry Cobbler recipe I've had stuck to the fridge since seeing it in the paper in July. Blackberries were still available. It calls for a single crust pastry for the top. Rather than make pie crust myself, I thought I'd just buy the pie crust sticks I remember being available in the freezer at the grocery.

I couldn't find them. So, I bought a pie crust, thawed it and tried to get it to fit across the top of the pan. You can see the result was less than smooth. Do they make pie crust sticks anymore?

The end result, warmed in the microwave and topped with french vanilla ice cream was heavenly. This recipe is definitely a "keeper". I finished the last bit last night, for supper, instead of eating the hamburger and cottage fries I'd made on Tuesday. We're so busy and I'm so tired, I'm choosing convenience over cooking.

I still have some ice cream. Guess I need to look into apple crisp or cobbler to use that up.

Beverage: Water


Friday, September 3, 2010

An anniversary.

Today is a special day. It was one year ago today that two wonderful ladies joined my household. Mija and Pilchard have been a delight after the initial month of getting to know me and the house. I have enjoyed showing them the outside, for a very few moments, and bugs and a basement and all sorts of hiding places and room for each cat to really carve out a place of her own. Wednesday night and Thursday morning, Pilchard exhibited her hunting skills and caught 2 more mice, which is not a really good thing. By the time I got to the mice, they were deceased but I still can't figure out where they are living or how they are getting in.

I have learned their personalities. Mija is my lover cat and has me trained very well. She follows me into the kitchen any time I go there and demands to know what it is that I have because she's certain it's something she wants. Beyond treats, neither one eats people food. Mija sleeps with, next to and on me. She has the loud motor and is very talkative. She's not much of a cuddler except at night and in the morning. She loves ear scratches and follows me around, mainly to see if treats are involved in what I'm doing.

Pilchard is the diva. She chases Mija through the house and starts all the fights I have to break up. She comes into the bedroom and meows when I don't get up to suit her. She has settled onto my pillows as long as I'm willing to provide scratches but she never lasts more than 5 minutes. When I am at the computer, Pilchard lies on the table next to me, periodically looking up and meowing. At night, after work, I sit down to read newspapers or a magazine and she demands my lap and scratches. She more of a cuddler than Mija although she doesn't linger beyond 10 minutes.

They dislike thunderstorms and come to me for reassurance if the weather gets wild. They both like looking out the windows and will spend a bit of time on the deck if I'm out there. I have to watch it because Pilchard will try to get off the deck. She's got a small voice and motor. It's funny to think that such a tiny "meow" comes out of such a big cat.

It's been a rough year for me. Two things that keep me going have four legs and a tail. I know I would have been more depressed had I not had these two to love. Yes, I have more scars from trying to clip Pilchard's claws. She really does not like that, but we can come to an "understanding" mainly because she can't get away. She's also got some mats that are resisting being combed out. They have both learned my footfalls on the deck and they don't run when Pam comes to feed them. They do take off when I say, "Ooooh, where are my kitties? I want some cuddles." "Nope, nope! She's got that tone in her voice. Run!"

After a long day, all I have to do to destress is spend 20 minutes giving ear, head or chin scratches. Nothing beats coming home and saying, "Where are my girls?" and having two bright faces in the living room waiting for me.

Beverage: China Black tea


Thursday, September 2, 2010

It's about respect.

I've been composing this blog post since Saturday when an event I wasn't expecting, moved me in a very unexpected way.

A marine from Wheaton was killed in Afghanistan last month. Lance Corporal Kevin Oratowski died while on patrol. His family is a member of the church I still have membership with, but I did not know them. He was 4 years behind Carole so the chances that they were in youth group together are slim.

His funeral was held on Saturday. I had received word from my pastor about the funeral but, as I didn't know the family, I didn't file away, in my head, the particulars. I got up and went about my morning and then decided to drive to Hobby Lobby, which is east along Roosevelt Road. I was headed back, intending to stop at Dominicks for groceries and I noticed, at major intersections, policemen getting out of their cars and putting on their safety vests. This would be indicative of them needing to stop traffic for something. I couldn't, at the time, remember what.

As I came up the hill towards the grocery, I saw the flashing lights. As I was in the right lane, I instinctively slowed, unsure about what I was seeing. There were two police cars and a fire truck. They were moving rather slowly for an emergency. As the distance between us shrank, I realized it was the funeral cortege. Behind the fire truck were at least 20 members of the Patriot Guard, the Daily Herald said they were the Warrior Watch Riders. Then came the hearse and then another 8 riders and the rest of the procession.

I was pulling into the parking lot, which was a good thing because I didn't realize I would be so overcome with emotion. The procession passed slowly, going about 30 miles an hour down the hill, heading east. I parked and watched, tears streaming down my face. Even now, as I type this, 5 days removed, it's hard not to cry.

I didn't support the war in Iraq and I don't support continued action in Afghanistan. I have been told, by people who know, that I would be "astonished" at the numbers of people, of organized groups, who hate the United States with such a passion that they would attempt to attack us. While I do believe this, I also don't believe we should be the world's policeman and we certainly shouldn't be attempting to impose our form of government on people who can't understand it or make it work. What works here, and we all know we use the term "works" loosely, isn't suitable for everyone else.

But, the military was this young man's choice for his career. We need people willing to provide for our security, both at home and in lands far away from Wheaton. While I don't agree with where he was sent, I strongly support him and others like him. They provide a guarantee that I can sleep at night and only have to worry about the mosquito in the bedroom.

I came of age during Vietnam. My hometown had one son killed in action there. I heard a number of stories of how hard it was to integrate back into civilian life when you were returning from a hugely unpopular war. I think, as a nation, we have learned our lesson in how we treat our military veterans. It's about respect. Those returning must be respected as we respect anyone else. They are doing their jobs.

I hope, as the procession headed to the cemetery, many more people stopped, like me, and wished some peace for the family. I hope people paused to reflect on what it means to have people willing to give their lives so we can play football on Saturdays and grouse about taxes.

Beverage: Huckleberry Tea


At what point should I worry?

Carole called last night.

"Please don't be worried mom, but, if the hurricane is going to hit us, we're going to David's parents' in Virginia."

This is where Earl was at 9 a.m. this morning. I heard that hurricane watches have been posted for Massachusetts. Well, Connecticut is right below Massachusetts. If Earl goes straight north, the northeast will have a wee bit o' weather.

I have friends in Florida and in 2004, when Charly and Ivan and Jeanne wracked the state, I worried about them. I have worried about my daughter when December 2008 was one of the snowiest on record for the Seattle area. They don't know how to handle the amount of snow they got. I never thought I'd worry about a hurricane.

She knows I'm going to worry. She knows I'm going to watch this storm with more interest now and wonder how she's doing. No amount of "Please don't worry" stops a mother from worry. I have friends in North Carolina, in Virginia, in Maryland, in New Jersey and in Pennsylvania. I am concerned about them, but there is something different when it's your child.

Beverage: Huckleberry Tea


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Resolutions, failed and kept

One hundred twenty-one days left in the year.

It's September already. The summer was a blur. I've not been in the best of moods, grappling with an ennui I recognize. It seems to have settled in and I find myself preferring to just sit or sleep, rather than stay in touch with friends. "Wouldda, couldda, shouldda" has the siblings "can't" and "won't" with them.

So, I look at my resolutions, crafted back in the snowy start to the year, and I'm assessing how I'm doing.

Read a book a month. I have completed 4 books but the remaining 8 for a full year, aren't going to be read. Still, this is a mild success since I hadn't really read books at all last year.

Read a magazine a week. This is a definite success. I finished 6 magazines last month. I have chosen not to renew Mac/Life so that's not even coming in anymore. I gave them an additional try after I said "no more" and the one magazine I received was filled with iPhone and iPad stuff. Not all of us have this technology and it's a waste of my money to pay for something not useful to me.

Write a friend a real letter once a week. Abject failure. I'm writing, but it's not letters.

Add one more fruit or vegetable to my daily diet. This is a mild success. I read an article a month ago that said one of the problems with getting people to incorporate fruit and vegetables into their diet is that they cost so much more than chips. I'll attest to that. As much as I like fresh fruits and vegetables, they cost much more. And if you would prefer to buy local or organic, add 10-15% to the cost. I try to plan for that in the budget. I do try to have frozen on hand if I can't afford fresh so that I'm eating fruits and vegetables. Why don't people like peas? Just because I put them in everything...

Pay off one credit card. I am really close on this one. $150 and it will be gone. I have decided I will not use this card the rest of the year in the goal to get it paid off. Their minimum monthly payment is ridiculously low and that could entice me to stretch it out, but I'm not going to. It's an important mental victory for me to not have a bill from them every month. It's probably going to take through the end of the year as I try to make the income stretch, but it's going to be gone.

Pay for everything with cash. Successful except for gas and a few minor emergencies. And I bought that purse at Penney's. As we approach the massive gift giving orgy that is Christmas, it's going to be tempting to whip out the plastic. I'm going to do my level best to resist. I was able to use my salary to pay all but 3 bills yesterday. Those 3 will be paid next week. It's coming. It's a glacial pace, but it's coming.

Not stay up past 11:30 on work nights. This is mostly successful. I think I have done a decent job of telling my subconscious that "You are getting sleepy when you see 11:00 on your clock". I have, actually, been in bed by 11 lately. I am positive the ennui I feel contributes to that, but I have been sleeping much more soundly of late and I'm sure it's because I'm not going to bed at midnight and expecting to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 6 when the alarm goes off.

Finish a craft project. Abject failure. My friend, Jessie, posted her craft projects to her blog and I had a huge twinge of "I have so many I want to finish". And then I wandered the aisles at Hobby Lobby thinking, "Oh I could use that to do this". Plus, I cleaned out the storage unit in the basement that holds my sewing patterns as well as cleared out two boxes that had junk in them. I found stuff I had forgotten I had but I found all my printing supplies. I just need the linoleum blocks and the ink and I can make my cards. Will I get beyond that? Who knows. Those steps in organization were huge on their own. This weekend, I'm off to Dick Blick Art Supplies for the linoleum block.

Don't get down on myself. 50-50 is about the best I can do here. I'm not plagued as much by the above "wouldda, couldda, shoulddas" as I used to be. I recognize the pothole for what it is. I can still fall into it or even stand in it, but it's not the gaping sinkhole from which there is no escape that these things were in the past. I wish I had someone I could hang around with, to take off and do stuff with. The loneliness gets to me. I've learned so much about myself this year, so much that makes me stronger. You'd think I could learn to be my own best company. When I'm standing in the kitchen, eating Cheerios out of the box, you know I'm glad there's no one around to "tsk tsk" at me. And yet, that would be rather nice.

I've learned not to pity myself. I've never had a use for pity anyway, but I would do the "oh, woe is me" even privately. I allow myself to feel bad and to be sorrowful and sad. Things aren't the way I would like them. But then, I force myself to sit down and write in my "Luck Journal" and I am reminded that I do have good luck and I can make good luck for myself. Life is what it is.

So, the end summation is that, while I have clearly failed in a couple of areas, I have succeeded in others. I am happy with the path on which I find myself. As I head into my favorite season, I am excited at what that season may bring.

Beverage: water