Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Lazy Day Redux

It is 10 a.m. I am sitting here in my pajamas.

I didn't get up terribly early today. Probably because we watched four (count 'em, 4) episodes of 30 Rock last night, then watched some football. I didn't get to bed til late. So here I am, lounging around, having finished the paper and the crossword.

Gary is so much more motivated than I. He's been up for hours and has completed an online training course for work. Now he's getting the roaster oven ready to prepare our turkey.

I need to run to the store (never made it yesterday) and mail a package (once again, didn't get that done). Though I did, in addition to all that laundry, dust my bedroom yesterday.

Tonight, our plans include supervising a passel of pre-teen and teenage girls (we've become the party house) and just hanging out - not sure if we'll watch movies or just see what's on TV. Maybe haul out some board games. We will quietly ring in the new year, whch is just fine with me.

Here's to 2009. May it be a good one.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Lazy Day

So far today, I've done five loads of laundry.

And ... that's pretty much it. OK, so I read the newspaper, did the crossword, played some Wii, washed my hair. Not very impressive, huh?

But this is what vacation is about. Gary attempted to install new memory in our computer; we got the wrong kind, so it is on its way back, and once the correct version arrives, we'll be in business with a much speedier computer.

In the spirit of total laziness, I am considering ordering pizza for dinner tonight. For the moment, I plan to curl up on the sofa with a book.

Days of leisure. Loving it.

The days in between

The time between Christmas and New Year's is one of my favorite times of the year. Gary is off work, the girls are on vacation, and the five of us have time to just lie back and enjoy life at a leisurely pace.

We spent a couple of days visiting Gary's parents in Missouri. It feels like stepping back in time - nothing much changes in small-town Missouri. We visited his grandmothers, saw his sister, and did family duty. Though it's never enough for his parents - I always sense an overwhelming sadness that we are not there more often, that we don't call enough or write enough. I also feel that no matter how often we were to call, it would never be enough. And we will likely never live nearer to them than we do. Thus there is this pervading wistfulness that always permeates the visits.

(And there's the lack of bathroom space, not enough hot water, the uncomfortable futon that Gary and I have been relegated to, the cot that Alison sleeps on ... but this is what we have to do. Thank goodness I took David Sedaris along to keep me company.)

Today, Sylvia's best friend from Houston is in town and will spend the day with us. We have a few small errands to run, but other than that, the day is ours. Guitar Hero? DDR? More time with David? Movies? Lots of options.

I promised the girls a trip to Indianapolis, so maybe that will be on the agenda for Friday. We are all armed with Christmas cash, so it sounds like a fun day.

And there other plenty of other fun things on my agenda for today: Laundry, groceries, running the vacuum. Sounds like a party, huh?

I think I need to get hopping ...

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas with the kinfolk

Greetings from Nowhere, Missouri. This is where we travel on the occasional holiday to see Gary's fmaily. They have never, ever visited us over the holidays. They have a routine they enjoy, and it has never varied.

It's their choice. I wouldn't mind if they would spend one holiday with us while the girls are still all home. They have one more year; I dobut it happens.

So this year, after Christmas, we drove south. Here we are, hanging out, doing ... well, not much. Watching a lot of television - but not to worry, as I brought a book and my knitting to keep me busy.

In the meantime, here is one of my favorite Christmas memories, from my college years. Happy Christmas, everyone!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

It's been the merriest of Christmases around here this year. For me, anyway - I can't speak for others.

We've had quite the ritual of parties and get-togethers over the last several days. All have been wonderful, and all of them have made my cooking dinner seem redundant. Thus, I have not cooked. No wonder the past six days have been so much fun for me. All of the events have involved good friends, which is equally wonderful.

Last night we went to the 6.30 p.m. service. We chose that time because it was the only one offered. I personally like the 11 p.m. service, but our church did away with that this year. Which is OK with me for a couple of reasons, one of which is the ability of my children to attend church that late and still be pleasant; it is late for the 10-year-old. There are other reasons as well, but we'll leave it at that.

It was a lovely service - very traditional, lessons and carols. I really enjoyed it; I wonder what others thought. Not to worry - I'll hear all about it.

Today was quiet, just the girls and Gary and me here at home. We were a little subdued - we did not spend tons of money or buy lots of extravagant gifts. Which, once again, is OK with me - big presents and blowing lots of money does not make the holiday any brighter. Our girls got what they wanted (we now have Guitar Hero IV, which, Alison assures me, is far superior to Rock Band. I will have to take her word - I have never played Rock Band). Sylvia has a Nintendo DS, Maddie has an iHome, and Alison is getting a new phone.

Gary and I got small stuff - some new sweaters (which we chose in Indy on Tuesday - great sale prices at Keystone at the Crossing, in all those lovely stores we lack here in Lafayette), CDs, that sort of thing. Nothing pricey (unless you count my new skillets - a gift to us from the dog, who seemed horrified that we have not yet updated our cookware). We figured that with a new kitchen and new appliances on the way that lots of pricey gifts seemed unnecessary.

So we've hung around today, played with the kids, just enjoyed the day. Tonight we are eating fondue. Maybe watching some new DVDs. Mostly, just enjoying being with one another. And reflecting on how very lucky we are to have such great kids, each other, stable employment, and no debt.

Merry Christmas, all. And to all a good night.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

Having a headache is no way to spend Christmas Eve. But apparently my head did not get this message and does not know that today is an inconvenient way to spend my day.

So I haven't wrapped gifts; I have not made cookies. I have lain on the sofa and napped, hoping this pounding would subside.

Mo dice. It's a bit better, but I am not ready for tomorrow. Sigh. I'll get it together somehow. But wow. This is a drag.

The snow and icy rain have given way to slightly warmer temperatures, but it still feels very cold outside. Brrr.

It's end of the year time. We get lists on the best TV of the year, the best movies, the most interesting people, the must-have music. I am listening to David Bianculli on Fresh Air talking about the best television of the year. As a television watcher - a discriminating one - I love that my favorites are on his list: The Daily Show, Pushing Daisies, Mad Men, 30 Rock. I need to check out Dexter and Friday Night Lights. Rachel Maddow got a nod, but not Keith Olbermann - and I understand why. (But I still love Keith.)

Alright, then. I need to get myself together. I have gifts to wrap, a party to prepare for. We've had a week of fun parties - we threw one for Gary's section at work and have attended a bunch of others. It's been fun - I love hanging with my friends. I see a year of more parties in my future; when our renovations are done we will take advantage of our new space and share it with our friends as often as we can.

I should be more Christmasy in this post, I suppose. I am feeling the holiday spirit - truly, I am. I am home with my husband and my three daughters; how can I not feel that way?

And I can share those feelings later. For now, off to wrap gifts.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Oh the weather outside is frightful ...

And I do mean frightful. Truly wretched. It took us 2 1/2 hours to drive home from Indianapolis today (a 60-mile trip) on very slippery, very treacherous roads.

But my iPhone works again. That's what matters.

No more tonight - we are just home from the annual country club Christmas buffet, so I am full. And giddy. Must go put on pajamas and take it easy. Much to do tomorrow. Presents to wrap. Cookies to bake. And another party - after four solid days of parties. Tis the season, you know.

I love Christmas. All is calm, all is bright. Later, peeps!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Snow and cold and wintery weather

It's funny how 22 degrees F can suddenly feel warm.

When you compare 12 to 22, it really is just that much warmer. So I am not complaining today. Nor will I complain the rest of the week, as the temps rise a bit every day.

Today I had to scrape a thick covering of ice off my car. I'm thinking we need to re-claim our garage. I have given the contractor permission to store stuff in there, but we are going to have to come up with a different arrangement - I am done with scraping.

Cold. Ice. Window scraping. Yet I am not hating winter. Because winter is necessary, a time for the earth to regenerate, that time for the world to turn, the winds to change. And it's all good with me. Because it is how things must be in the circle of life.

And aren't I all calm and zen about life these days. To be honest, yes, I am. It's how I am at this point in my life.

Alison's choir concert was Sunday, and Maddie's was Monday. Sylvia's is Thursday. I could - should - write more about the choir and music program here. And I will. But for now, I am just enjoying seeing my girls perform. Enjoying the time of year, the goodwill that abounds.

Even though I have a list as long as my arm of things to do. Gifts to buy, to wrap, to ship. Cards to address and mail. Cookies to bake. A house to clean for a party. The list goes on and on. Tomorrow I am shopping; Friday I will clean house. Somehow, this will all get done.

It always does, you know? So why stress? I"ll save my energy for something else.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The glory and the horror

I love Target.

I wonder what it is about shopping there that is so enjoyable. All I can say is, their brightly colored Christmas decorations just make me happy. I love the table-top Christmas trees made of bells, in bright blues, pinks, and greens; I love their party ware. I love the holiday handtowels and kitchen accessories. If I had unlimited storage space (and, perhaps, unlimited funds) I would redecorate my kitchen and bathroom at least weekly with those fun items.

I prefer Target to Wal-Mart hands down - I will gladly pay the price difference to avoid stepping inside that store, with its feel of "no price is too low" and the general impoverished mentality. Call me a snob, but I can't stand it. I know, Target is still a big box, and I'm not so sure those places are good for the local economy. But at least Target puts its energy into good design. It's still bargain shopping, but you feel so much classier about the $10 you've saved.

That said, today, Target sort of freaked me out:



Who is this woman? Is it just me, or is she a little scary? Why the manic intensity?

(I think she looks scarier in person. Trust me.)

I am no advertising expert, but I did graduate from the University of Missouri, which has an advertising major, and I have watched two entire seasons of Mad Men. If this image was designed to encourage me to shop at Target more, then it has not had the desired effect. I wanted to run, terrified, from the store.

I'll likely need to stay away for a few days. On second thought, maybe Wal-Mart is a better bet - at least I go in knowing they are crazy.

Only 13 shopping days left - are you ready?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Errands and tasks and other minutiae

I've spent much of the last two days trying to figure out just what is up with our computer. My IT guy hasn't been much help - unfortunately, he has another job that consumes most of his energy, so by the time second shift rolls around, he's not much good.

Thank goodness for the laptop. And for the fact that my IT guy has access to a printer at his primary employment.

So, the Christmas cards should go in the mail today. Or by tomorrow at the latest. Tonight I have a book club meeting, so I am making dessert today. Must run to the grocery store. And do laundry. And tidy up. And get another kitchen estimate.

Did I mention that our power was out yesterday? They had to bury our backyard power line, so the whole house was without. I left for the day, thus no laundry, no running the vacuum.

This is the excitement that is my life this week - errands, tasks, getting stuff done. And I told Gary he could have his section from work over for a Christmas party - this is his job, though not written into the job description. I don't want to make his work my entire social life (we generally don't), but he should have his people over. Which will entail lots of cleaning, but he'll help me.

Plus, it's good for people to get the "before" glimpse - they will appreciate the "after" so much more.

Must run - much to do.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

This and that

There's a bad word forming on my lips. I'm afraid if I say it out loud, it will leave a bad taste in my mouth. Maybe if I type it, it won't seem so foul:

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich

Yuck. And yuck yuck yuck. I am just so disgusted I can barely see straight. This is the lowest of the low.

I mean come on - Bill Clinton just wanted to get laid. That seems pretty tame, right? Nixon was a bit more distasteful - subverting the political process and all. But trying to profit by selling a Senate seat? Offering bankruptcy help to the Tribune Company only if the writers/editors who were critical of Gov. B get fired?

Truly shocking. You know, he ran on a platform of reform following George Ryan. I'm sure the irony is lost on very few. And at least Ryan put a moratorium on the death penalty on his way out.

Yuck.

*****

Parents at Jeff High School: When you park illegally and block traffic, just because you turn on your flashers, you are still parked illegally and still blocking traffic. Just so you know.

*****

I like to put a letter in with my Christmas cards. I know - some people hate them. Me, I actually enjoy them, look forward to them. I think they are so much fun to read, to hear about the lives of former classmates and neighbors, friends I don't get to see as often as I would like.

I try not to be too braggy - I'm not going to write about the parts of the year that were overly challenging or sad, but I also don't try to pretend that my kids are the best and greatest and most amazing - I think they are pretty terrific, but realistically, other parents might see it differently. So my letters are upbeat without begin overbearing. Or so I tell myself.

I've made them shorter over the years, more truncated - because really, who wants to read about every detail of our lives? Gary has an aunt who writes two full pages - front and back, 8 1/2 x 11 - and it is a bit much ("... and on the third day of RAGBRAI ..."). She told us last year about how she had created her very first power point, then she offered to send copies for those who were interested. (And part of me wanted to ask her for it, though I'm not sure why.)

My letter has been written not once, not twice, not thrice, but four times already. Stupid computer. Or more accurately, stupid Microsoft Word. I cannot for the life of me figure out what the problem is - I cannot save anything. Nothing. Nada. I finally switched over to Gary's account, and it appears to be working.

But then I couldn't e-mail it, because the file was too large (I guess the photos are making the file huge). And I can't print it out, as I need new ink for my printer and didn't get around to getting any today - I was at Best Buy yesterday, but sadly, I could not remember exactly which of the 95 types of HP cartridges I need.

Gary said he'd take it to work on his memory stick. By the time you get one, read between the lines - there is a decidedly non-Christmas-like message buried in there, born of the frustration I felt as I typed out those words and placed those photos repeatedly.

Happy Holidays? You know, even with all the computer nonsense, it still is. There is a happiness that pervades my very being.

So computer troubles, be gone! It's the holiday season, and I will not let the Microsoft trolls get me down. Instead, I am going to curl up with my book and a mug of hot cider. The cards may not be in the post, but I am sending out lots of positive vibes.

Let me know if you got yours. And not to worry - there are plenty more on the way. Even with Gov. B and his shenanigans.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

NIkolaus

Nikolaus came!

He always comes - he always finds us. Nikolaus never forgets.

We were first introduced to Nikolaus in Germany. Early in the morning of Dec. 6, Nikolaus comes to the homes of all German children and leaves gifts in their shoes. If the shoes are clean. He leaves chocolate and nuts and clementinas and a little gift of some sort.

The first year we lived in Germany, we did not know about this tradition. I answered the phone that morning - must have been a Sunday - and it was my friend Susanne, telling me about Nikolaus. I had read about this tradition but didn't even think about it for my kids. No worry, she said - if we would put the shoes on the porch, Nikolaus was on his way over (driven, I presume, by her boyfriend, Carsten).

And sure enough, the shoes were filled with goodies. It's a moment of kindness I will never forget.

This year, Nikolaus found the girls again. It's a special reminder of our time in Germany.

And another way for the girls to cash in.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Happy on Friday

I'm tired. But in a good way.

I met with two kitchen designers today, and got prices from both. And I'm thinking I can go with the one I really want - the custom cabinet people. I know they're expensive, but they are not that much more expensive. Their prices are really not that much more than the other place. And their prices include installation. Not to mention so many cool features.

I am a convert.

Spent the evening working the holiday art fair at church. It was good - great food, lots of amazing art, and, naturally, got to visit with friends.

And I'll be back there tomorrow. I think I'll go to bed now.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Cookies and test scores and resale and ...

I was reminded today of why I do not take my kids' things to the local resale shop. I generally just donate everything to Goodwill and take the tax write-off. But when I noticed that we had a perfectly good, barely used winter coat that Sylvia has outgrown, I figured it was worth a shot.

I know they are a business; I know they have to make a profit. But I could hear the discussion - they figured they would list the coat for $25. Thus they offered me: $10. No thanks - I'll just give it to Goodwill. (And they wouldn't even take the other jacket, for no reason that I could see.)

I know, they have to make a profit. They can only take name brands that they and their customers will recognize (even if it's a store that is well known in major metropolitan areas and not so popular here, with our small-town mentality). All the same, I'd prefer to just donate to Goodwill rather than have them pick through and offer a pittance for these items - I do not need the money, frankly.

If I had the patience I could do better on eBay. But who has the time? I'm better off frequenting Goodwill.

*****

I was Target today. That would make my fifth trip to Target this week. And I think I have to return tomorrow.

*****

ISTEP scores are in - our annual state-mandated standardized test. I am not a big fan of the standardized test. But it's the system we're in, so we have to persevere. I'm not too worried - my children always test well. But I do feel for other kids and families, kids for whom this test is not an accurate indicator of how they really learn or of their capabilities.

I was sent a code to use to log in and find out my girls' scores ... except that the Website is experiencing "technical difficulties." Guess I'll have to wait another day to find out whether or not the passed - or, to be more accurate, which level of commended they got. Which isn't really saying much - the tests are a bare minimum, so the kids should ideally pass easily. None the less, I think there are problems inherent in the system. Wish I could solve them.

*****

My kitchen smells like ginger and cinnamon. Mmmm. Too bad it doesn't look as good as it smells!

December mornings

Every morning this week, after I have put Sylvia on the school bus, I have sat in my living room. I just sit, sipping my tea, listening to the last few minutes of Morning Edition, staring at the Christmas tree.

It's still dark enough outside that the tree lights cast a glow over the entire room. The snow is visible through the window, and I can see the headlights on the cars as they drive down the street, headed both downtown and away from town.

I have great hopes for this room, none of which has been realized yet. The paint color on the walls is not a problem, but the carpet needs to go (just haven't had the energy to pull it out). We need to repair one set of bookcase doors and have doors built for the other side. We need to buy slipcovers for the blue chairs and new end tables. And we need to get rid of the track lighting, which hearkens back to the '70s a bit much for my taste.

At first glance, the living room seems small, smaller than our other ones. But it really isn't. On Cooper Street and Ninth Street, the living room and foyer were not separate, so there was no wall dividing them, giving the illusion of more space. On Owen Street and Ashland Landing, the room was almost exactly the same size, but there was no fireplace taking up an entire wall.

It truly is a lovely room. One entire wall is the fireplace, with oak bookcases built in on either side. They should have leaded glass doors (there are leaded glass windows above them), and we will have those repaired/replaced. The front window is huge - nearly floor to ceiling - and the entrance into the family room is framed by two giant oak pillars.

Even without any changes - with the furniture we already have, the carpet rather than wood floors - the room is very cozy. Perhaps it's the addition of the Christmas tree; perhaps it's the piano that is being used to fill the house with holiday melodies.

Perhaps it's just my frame of mind. That life is warm and secure here in the cold of the oncoming winter. I feel surrounded by wonderful friends and ready for a holiday season where we celebrate miracles and promise and the hope of peace.

Whatever the reason, it makes me look forward to those mornings by the fireplace, when I can relish the peace and quiet of our home and feel the magic in the air.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Whew

What a day - incredibly productive, yet it feels that everything did not get done.

As usual. Who ever gets their entire to-do list done in a single day?

Wait. Don't answer. There is someone out there more productive than I.

I worked out, paid bills, ran to the post office, to Target, to the grocery store. The line at Target was much longer than the post office, where I was in and out - go figure.

I am supposed to be baking cookies right now, but I didn't read the part of the recipe that said, "refrigerate over night." Ooops. I can bake them later tonight, or in the morning. I need to take them to church tomorrow, but I probably don't have to take five dozen. So even if a few get done, I should be good.

I just need to read the recipe more closely next time.

I put up our third tree yesterday - just one to go. Maybe tomorrow. If I can fit it in around meeting with the kitchen guy, helping at church, and the 101 other things that I need to do.

But that's tomorrow. Tonight, I'm all set. I have dinner for the kids (I'll be at book group) and everything is caught up.

Enjoy the snowman picture - yet another of my favorite ornaments. This one is a gift from my parents, from somewhere in South America. Alison dropped him and he sustained near-fatal injuries in his youth, but he seems to have recovered well from his reconstructive surgery.

Here's to many happy years ahead for the little snowman.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

My Favorite Things

Today, I felt inclined to snap photos of some of my favorite Christmas ornaments. Just some - I have so many that I love for various reasons.



Maddie made this little snowman at preschool when she was just 2.



Alison made this bell at the same preschool. It is part of an egg carton covered with tin foil.



One of those school ornaments, this one with Maddie's school picture. I have them from each of the girls.



A glass tree that we purchased from the UU holiday art sale. They have the coolest ornaments there - I'm sure we'll pick up one or two this weekend.



A little Christmas tree by Sylvia, also made at preschool when she was 2.

These are the items that make our tree special - every year when we set it up, we oooh and aaah over these and many more. People can have their themed trees with coordinating ornaments; I'll take my girls' handmade pieces any day.

Christmas is a truly a magical time of year.

Be Still My Heart

I know, I know - I am in a committed relationship. 20-plus years and all that.

But. I am still human. There are other men - lots of other men - lots of attractive men out there.

There is my high school music crush:



Glenn Tilbrook, he of Squeeze. Vocalist, lead guitarist, and half of the songwriting duo extraordinnaire, Difford & Tilbrook. Looks and talent and the early '80s - quite a combination.

Then there's my favorite leading man of '80s movies:



The totally under-rated Aidan Quinn. Those eyes. Loved him in Desperately Seeking Susan, the ultimate '80s movie; then he starred in The Handmaid's Tale - great movie, even better book (Margaret Atwood). He earned a lot of my respect when he starred in an HBO movie with Sissy Spacek about Sherry Finkbine. And he's on wife No. 1, which scores him extra points for sure.

My love of current events and commentary leads me to this guy:



Anderson Cooper. Smart, from a family with a pedigree. I know - I am so not his type ... but a girl can dream, right? It's totally harmless. Besides, gives Gary the right to swoon over Rachel Maddow. I should dock him points for not being more honest, but the fact that he has embraced his premature greyness gives him extra credit.

And then, in totally embracing my inner geek, let me say this is what really makes my heart do flip-flops these days:



Oh. My. God. Keith Olbermann. He's smart. He's got that voice. He's all left-wing and radical, and he gets so inflamed and angry-like when he gets into something he finds completely outrageous, like Sarah Palin. I am inexplicably attracted to him. And then I found out this: Not only is he single, but he is ... Unitarian. He is, without a doubt, the sexiest man on television.

Which I can say - my husband is not on television. He's kind of like Keith Olbermann here at home, just without the intense self-righteous anger. Or the glasses.

Sigh. Thank you, Keith, for making my evenings just a little brighter.

Roses and Remembering

Gary brought me flowers yesterday.



Roses. Not just because I love them (I do). But because they are the same flowers he brought me on our first date. Dec. 1, 1984 - 24 years ago.

I almost hate to point out how long ago it was - I truly don't feel that old. To be fair, I was very young - practically a child.

I remember a lot about that evening - I have a photo of the two of us, and the dress still hangs in my closet. Much of what I think I remember is likely not accurate - the mind plays tricks and what you think happened gets revised as the years take their toll.

I do know that I did not see myself out with my future husband. I was out with someone I quite liked, who was witty and funny and charming. It took quite a long time before I knew it was the real thing. Which is OK, because we were young.

But somewhere, my instincts told me to stay with him. I did. And I'm glad.

I could never have imagined, all those years ago, that over two decades later, we would spend the evening eating carry-out Chinese food, with our daughters, then hanging out in front of the fire in our 120-year-old house that is under construction.

The best endings come as a surprise.

*****

And, now, back to the present.

Roof trusses are being installed today - today! We should have a roof by the end of next week. After that, work will speed right along. Roof, then wiring and HVAC, then walls and windows. I get absolutely giddy just thinking about it.

The kitchen guy called today, and he will start putting some numbers together. This is, naturally, the big stumbling block with the whole kitchen: $$$. Makes me nervous.

Much to do - must bake cookies, get dinner started, get geared up for a meeting tonight, finish putting up the other Christmas trees. Not a dull moment.

But I'll leave you with an image of the quintessential 1960s Christmas tree: The Evergleam. I even have the original box, with the fake bow. Just gotta find a color wheel and we will be all set.

Monday, December 01, 2008

'80s Flashback

One of my favorite songs, by one of my very favorite bands. Second only, maybe, to Elvis Costello. (Which is OK - he produced East Side Story, sings one of the verses of Tempted, and sings back up on this song. See if you can guess who is singing with him.)

I remember seeing this video on Video Jukebox on HBO. This is before MTV, back when HBO used Video Jukebox to kill time between features. Wow. Things have changed, huh? I don't think MTV even plays videos anymore - hasn't for years.

Sigh. Isn't that Glenn Tilbrook just the cutest thing? My 16-year-old self is swooning.

The LP Dilemma

What to do with all the LPs?

It's part of being alive when we are, as the LPs ended and the the CD generation began. We grew up amassing tremendous collections of record albums, only to replace them with compact discs.

Mostly, the vinyl sits and takes up space. We rarely play them - at present, we don't even have our turntable set up, and even if we did, I'm not sure we would play them very often. But I can't get rid of them - where would they go? There are no more used record shops, no one collecting them, so they would likely end up in the garbage.

Gary and I (more Gary than me) were huge collectors of albums. He had a quite a stash when I met him. We have about 4 1/2 lineal feet of them. The issue is just where to put them. If we used them often, it would be worth having a book case or some sort of storage. But we don't, and while I want to keep them around, it's tough to dedicate so much space to items so seldom used.

Today, I unpacked them from the boxes where they've been sitting since July, taking up an entire corner of the family room (I needed the space for the Evergleam). I put them on the bottom shelf of our living room built-ins; it works for now, but it is not ideal.

Unpacking them was kind of fun - it took me back (way back) to music I was into oh, so many years ago - Game Theory, Let's Active, my Squeeze collection. And I learned a little bit - I did not know we (Gary) have a copy of Best of the Doobies.

For now, the records are put away. But the problem isn't really solved. I need a real solution. I'll be measuring bookcases, or talking my husband into dusting off his table saw.

While I hum, "Takin' it to the streets..."

Sunday, November 30, 2008

'Tis the Season

Stupid movers.

I have not sent in my moving damages report; I knew that I needed a chance to go through the Christmas decorations before I could say with any degree of certainty just how much has been broken/lost/mistreated.

Today we hauled out the Christmas decorations. I had time - the next couple of weekends will be busy - the girls were free, and we figured the time was right.

For reasons best explained by others, the movers took it upon themselves to repack some of our decorations. Not all, just some. Which means that some were packed badly (the Weihnachts Pyramide is broken); some were packed stupidly (they reorganized my boxes). I hate opening a box that says "Christmas," only to find that it is full of 17 unrelated items, one of which is vaguely Christmas-themed.

There is no sign of some of the holiday greenery. But I'm guessing it will turn up. Or the missing greenery will make its way into my damages claim.

We had a lovely afternoon, listening to Dean Martin sing Christmas carols as we assembled our various and sundry decorations. I was hesitant to get all this stuff out. I remember way back when, all our decorations fit into two boxes. Well, not anymore. We have way more than we need, and it is all organized so poorly (thanks, Allied). Plus our house is such a mess - where to put all this stuff? Next year will be better.

But the time is upon us, so we have to celebrate. So up went the tree, up go the decorations.



Maddie hung the star on the tree. (Dig the '70s track lighting behind her - no, we have not done a thing to the living room yet.)



Alison and Sylvia made pumpkin bread. Look closely at the ugly kitchen - its days are numbered.



Here are our German Rauchermänner - little smoking men. You light incense inside them and they smoke. Adorable - they are handmade and come from Ergzgebirge. Sehr niedlich!



The stockings are hung by the chimney with care ...



And here's the tree, in all its glory. I am debating whether or not to put up the other (gulp) three trees. Is one not enough? I knew a guy in high school whose family had 45 trees - 45? To be fair, many of them were small, table-top trees. And it was kind of cool - it was their schtick, so to speak.

But wow - I am having a hard time dealing with four. We would like to do the three-story Christmas tree (a tradition started by someone who used to live in my neighborhood, since abandoned because they moved. But we have the perfect house: Three windows in the front of the house, three stories, all in a row.) But if I do that, then must I use all white lights (so as to achieve the desired effect)? Then what do I do with the red lights and those decorations? And it still doesn't solve the problem of where to put the Evergleam - I just don't have room ... is it any wonder this season causes so much stress?

For now, we will settle for one - I'll think about the others later. Later - this is my mantra. Deal with it later.

So, later. That's when I'll be back. Happy Holidays, all!

Let It Snow!

It snowed last night!



Not a lot, but enough. We awoke to a world of white, a veritable winter wonderland.



(Well, winter wonderland by the standards of those who were exiled to warmer climates for three years.)



Not sure if you can tell, but the snowman is on the diving board. We are affected with seasonal displacement disorder, apparently.



We bought boots and snowpants yesterday. How fortuitous is that?



Snow. I am loving winter. Check back with me in March and see if the answer is the same.

(Hi Gale!)

Commercialization

I flipped on the news Thursday night and was treated to a story on how others spent their Thanksgiving. The folks in question were camping out, in the parking lot of Best Buy in Indianapolis, ready to cash in on big savings on laptops and flat-screen televisions.

Happy Thanksgiving.

It's hard to imagine how the lure of bargains on electronics, no matter how tempting, can take the place of celebrating this holiday. Thanksgiving, in its quiet way, is one of the holidays I like best. With no particular religious affiliation, all Americans can take part. And it involves no gifts, no decorating, no over-indulgence of the commercial kind.

(Sure, it involves food - and a lot of it - but you can whip out a basic Thanksgiving turkey dinner without breaking the bank.)

Most importantly, the holiday, to me, is about being with family and friends, about remembering how fortunate we are, and celebrating this life we are so lucky to have. I can hardly imagine giving all that up to save a few dollars on shopping.

I did not grace the step of a single department or big-box store on Friday. I went antique shopping with my BFF, but otherwise enjoyed the day at home. I refuse to participate in the crass commercialism that has encompassed the day after Thanksgiving.

Which isn't to say I am anti-shopping - far from it. I'll do my share, but I'll do it on my own time, in my own way. It won't be at any hour before 8 a.m., and no frenzy will encompass me. It will be all about Christmas cheer, something I've plenty of.

25 shopping days til Christmas. In case you're counting.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thankful

So Thanksgiving was two days ago - it's never too late to pause and reflect on all the various reasons I have for being grateful.

In so many ways, I lead what appears to be a charmed life. I have a wonderful husband - we have been married for 20 years and still get along great - and three smart, beautiful daughters. We have fantastic friends and family who would do anything for us. We have a lovely home (sure, it's under construction, but it will be stunning when it's done). We have financial security and are essentially debt-free (unless you count the mortgage), and I have the luxury of being choosy about when or if I go back to work. Truly, life has been very, very good to us.

All the little annoyances - people who make inconsiderate comments, the pesky aggravations of everyday life - rather than getting worse as I grow older, these minor distractions are having less and less effect on me. I've learned not to worry about other people so much and to assume that the problem is theirs, not mine.

As we enter the holiday season, I know how truly we lucky we are to have so few real needs - we do not lack for health care, do not worry about how we will send our daughter to college. And after the election in November, I have real hope for the future of this country. The transition will be peaceful, which is not something to be taken lightly.

Thankful. Indeed.

Monday, November 17, 2008

So Many Books, So Little Time

For once, I actually read every book I brought home from the library. It's much like going to a fantastic buffet - my eyes are usually much bigger than my actual capacity to read, and I end up checking out way more books than I can possibly finish in the allotted time.

So today, back I went, ready for more reading material. In the interest of full disclosure, I should probably point out that the books I read were half-mindless fare. But I am a big believer in junk reading, as long as it is alternated with more worthwhile selections. Reading could never be bad (though there are a lot of bad books out there).

I am thrilled to be living near a good library again. The library nearest us in Houston was part of the local community college. It was a nice facility, but the fiction selections were limited. Here, I am just blocks from the county library. I usually walk, but today I had other errands to run, so I stopped on my way home and picked up a pile of stuff with which to occupy myself. I got a book club pick (Eat, Pray, Love - heard it is terrible, but I'll read it for the group), a David Mamet novel (didn't know he had written any novels - hope his prose reads differently than his plays - !), American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld (very anxious to read this), and two others that fall into the "light reading" category that I am not going to mention.

I have a list of books I intend to read that is longer than I imagine I will be alive. But it's good to have goals, huh? And more books are always being written. Plus, there is excellent children's literature that I like to have a look at, and books I like to re-visit.

So what am I doing here? Exactly - my comfy chair awaits!

Back To The Real World

It is cold outside today. But not for me - I am toasty and warm inside, enjoying the encroachment of winter. And the fireplace is so enjoyable, especially now that the odor of gas has dissipated since I remembered to open the fireplace. I know, I know - stupid - but it's a new (to me) fireplace; our old one, in Houston, was ventless or something and did not require opening.

Live and learn. Fortunately without disastrous after-effects. You know, like asphyxiation.

I am wondering how long my enchantment with winter will last. Right now, it isn't *really* cold - in the mid to low-30s. Quite bearable, especially when I drive my car. The mini-van may not be the coolest car in the world, but it does have seat warmers.

The hot chocolate, the cozy days by the fireplace, the wardrobe, my beautiful new coat (it's longer, but short enough that you can still see my boots and the bottom of my skirt - trés chic), right now, it is all delightful.

Check back with me in a month. Or three weeks.

****

This weekend was such fun - never a dull moment here for me. I'm making up for what felt like a social drought over the past couple of years. Friday night was a coffee house concert at church. Huge crowd - we were at capacity. As with most events at church, it was great - good music, good food, great people.

Then Saturday, it was off to Chicago with JoAnn and Barb to see Jersey Boys.

I love Jersey Boys - as I said when we saw it last winter, it is like Sopranos meets boy band. Great music but a compelling story, complete with tons of F-bombs. Fun stuff. Barb and I wanted to stand and dance ... but somehow, it just didn't feel right. And after that usher yelled - and I do mean yelled - at the women who wanted to snap a shot of themselves in their seats way before the show started, I was not feeling bold and daring - I think he would have reduced me to tears.

(I mean really - I understand the ban on photography during the show. But in their seats? Quarter of an hour before curtain? Wonder if he was a real Jersey Boy, the way he hollered.)

It was a totally satisfying day, complete with the waiter at dinner comping our drinks. Not quite sure why he did that, unless he is smart enough to know he has that power and that he will then rack up a huge tip (which he did). He's clearly too smart to be a waiter for long.

Then yesterday I attended the Jeff High School production of Beauty and the Beast, starring (well, not starring, but featuring) my own daughter, Alison, as a member of the chorus.

Jeff has an excellent music/arts program, so the show was, as expected, very good. The kids who played Belle, the Beast and Lumiere, in particular, were very good. The set was lovely, as were the costumes. The show sold out both performances.

There is a family in town with kids the same ages as mine (well, they have a slew of kids; they have a kid everyone's age). They are the type of family who tends to think their kids are a little more important, a bit more talented, more loved, more special than others' children.

This family exists in every school - trust me; we all know them. So their kid has a very small part - important enough to get a bio, but small. So, in the bio section, who has the longest bio? Longer than Belle, the Beast, than any of the seniors in the production? Of course.

And for the record? No one wants to read about every activity you've ever been in - it's a brief bio. That family is something else. And it's not just my opinion - trust me. I've heard others' whispers.

But I won't let that affect my enjoyment of the weekend. The show was great, and Alison did well. She seemed to have a great time.

Now it's Monday - back to normal. The fantasy is over, but I can lean on it when the week turns into drudgery. Which it will. Where is my enchanted castle when I need it?

Friday, November 14, 2008

It's 11 a.m.

And here I sit in my pajamas.

It's raining outside, perfect day to do ... well, not much. So far today, I watched my two-hour CNN special on Jim Jones, then spent an hour reading the paper, eating breakfast, and completing the crossword puzzle (12 minutes today - perhaps due to my reading one clue as "squeak" rather than "speak." I need those reading glasses more than I think some days.)

In eighth grade, a friend and I decided it would be fun to memorize the Greek alphabet, putting it to the tune of "Nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina in the morning" ("Alpha beta gamma delta epsilon zeta eta theta .... "). Might seem like a colossal waste of time. Unless you're in the eighth grade. Or your crossword puzzle clue is "Greek letter after sigma."

Must run some errands today, in preparation for the coffee house at church tonight. Must hope not too many kids show up, as I was only able to line up one babysitter. Must hope the rain slows down so my basement floor dries.

Must get dressed.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Equality 2008

Note from the choir booster club, seeking help for the upcoming musical: "We need Dads to help disassemble the set - Moms can help with light work ... need Moms to help with costumes."

Maybe it's just me, but aren't we past sexism in work duties? So I very nicely wrote a response to the parent, acknowledging all her hard work, but posing the question; I think that in 2008, we owe our daughters more than that. She wrote back and said she is just repeating the requests she gets from the director.

So it's an institutional problem.

Nothing changed. I didn't change her mind, and I doubt she says anything to the director. Though you never know. And I do believe that every time she writes, types, or reads those requests in the future, she will think twice about sexist language.

Small satisfaction, but sometimes, progress is slow, and educating people takes time. Just like those people who use terms like "uppity blacks" and see nothing wrong with it; they have to be taught their racism, and sometimes women need to be taught just how they are helping perpetuate unequal treatment.

There is certainly hope with the next generation; my daughters will benefit from that, anyway.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The approach of winter

I bought my children winter coats over the weekend.

This may not sound noteworthy. But you have to take into consideration two facts:

• They have not worn winter coats for the last three winters
• I have never purchased coats for my children in a store

Living in Texas, winter coats were not a necessity. It got a little cold for a very short time, and a heavy jacket was sufficient. Usually all they needed was a sweatshirt. And they all had heavy fleece jackets, which worked just fine. We did not travel north in the winter, so it worked out just fine.

Except that we all actually did miss winter time. The clothes, the cold, the evenings by the fire - we are excitedly anticipating all of it.

Especially new coats - my girls are all about anything new. But can you believe I've never, ever purchased heavy coats in a store? I always, always relied on Lands End catalog, which has a heavy-duty coats for kids in a rainbow of colors and a variety of styles - short, long, hooded or not. They worked out great - the coat rack at our church or the girls' preschool was always full of them.

But we've outgrown the Lands End look, at least figuratively. We are now all about style. So off to the mall we went.

Alison and Maddie found coats fairly quickly. They were reasonably priced - well, reasonable by my standards, as they do have to wear them every day, and they'll wear them for at least two years. They both seemed happy, and there was a big sale.

We had to head to the children's department for Sylvia. She found the right size, though there are concerns that she might outgrow it. I figured we can suffer through - until I paid for it: $25.99. At that price, she can have a new one next year if she needs one.

(I got a new coat, too; 50 percent off. It is lovely. I'll debut it in Chicago over the weekend.)

So the girls are warm, and they are stylin'. The fireplaces are working, so we are all read for the cold.

We think. We may have forgotten just how brutal winter can be.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Whee on the Wii

My abs hurt. This is what I get from using the Wii fit, the hula hoop game.

I noticed that I am much, much better at the hula hoop if I go to the left. Me, too, said Maddie, while Sylvia prefers to go to the right.

Maddie and are I both right-handed; Sylvia is a leftie.

Just worth a note.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Lazy Blogging

I feel lazy today. So here's your lazy day blog.

1. Were you named after anyone? Not really. Though I think my dad liked that song, "Get along home, Cindy, Cindy." Fantastic.

2. When was the last time you cried? I cried the other day, as Sherri Shepard described what the election of a black president said to her son; I cried when I read the article about the former White House butler. I get teared up watching Obama tell his little girls they are getting a puppy. But in the interest of full disclosure, I cannot talk about the movies The Rookie or Rudy without my emotions taking over.

3. Do you like your handwriting? Actually, yes. I think under analysis it would stand up for me - strong, not too uptight, but organized with a touch of style and class.

4. What is your favorite lunch meat? Patrami. Hands down.

5. Do you have kids? Three beautiful daughters.

6. If you were another person would you be friends with you? You know, I think I would. I would certainly give me a chance - I am all about giving people a shot these days.

7. Do you use sarcasm a lot? You need to ask? We'll just say, um, yea.

8. Do you still have your tonsils? Yes.

9. Would you bungee jump? Not sure - I did go rappelling once. It was a-maz-ing.

10. What is your favorite cereal? I don't generally eat breakfast cereal. But if I did, it would be Grape Nuts.

12. Do you think you are strong? Physically? Below average. But I can be tough when necessary. Mentally? Above average.

13. What is your favorite ice cream? Bem & Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie. Haven't had it in months.

14. What is the first thing you notice about people? Well, if I see them in person, what they look like. How can you help it?

16. What is the least favorite thing about yourself? Right now, my lack of organization and motivation. I'm blaming it on the ongoing construction. Come January, my life will be totally different.

17. Whom do you miss the most? Family and friends who live far away.

18. Do you want everyone to send this back to you? Well, I'm not sending it out, so not sure how to answer. Feel free to answer in the comments, or in your own blog.

19. What color pants and shoes are you wearing? Blue jeans, tennis shoes.

20. What was the last thing you ate? Drank some hot chocolate. Does that count?

21. What are you listening to right now? NPR, All Things Considered.

22. If you were a crayon, what color would you be? I always liked Cornflower in the box of 64. Right along with Carnation Pink and Pine Green. I have an untouched Collectors' Box, along with eight retired crayons, from 1990. My kids know better than to dare use them.

23. Favorite smells? Clean laundry, baby powder.

24. Who was the last person you talked to on the phone? The idiot at Wells Fargo Bank. She was decidedly unhelpful.

25. Do you like the person who sent this to you? I stole it off a blog I read. I don't know that person, don't even know much about her (she's a new sub). But sure, I like her.

26. Favorite sports to watch? My daughter playing soccer.

27. Hair color? Blonde. Of course.

28. Eye color? Blue with green.

29. Do you wear contacts? Yep.

30. Favorite food? Wow. Seafood, probably. Good pasta dish. For dessert, Tiramisu. Made at home - I have a great recipe (thanks, Helen!)

31. Scary movies or happy endings? Happy endings. But a good suspense movie is always good. I like good writing, happy or otherwise.

32. Last movie you watched? Don't even remember - probably Religulous.

33. What color shirt are you wearing? Tan.

34. Summer or winter? Summer. But back here in the Midwest, I am savoring all the seasons. Change is good.

35. Hugs or kisses? Both.

36. Favorite dessert? Tiramisu. I jumped ahead and already covered this.

37. Hot or cold beverages? Cold; very cold. Unless they are supposed to be hot, in which case, I do not care for tepid drinks.

38. Favorite room in your house? I love our family room, but I also like my little office. I love the new master bathroom, love our bedroom, and am totally looking forward to our new kitchen. OK - basically I like the entire house. I wonder if our little sitting room upstairs will be my favorite. I can see that.

39. What book are you reading now? Random Family. But I need to start the book club choice, and soon.

40. What is on your mousepad? Plain blue. But it's a quality mouse pad. I am all substance over style.

41. What did you watch on TV last night? 30 Rock, The Office, and Kath and Kim. Yea, I know. We watch a lot of TV.

42. Favorite sound? Good music.

43. Rolling Stones or Beatles? Beatles. Not a big fan of the Stones. Sorry.

44. What is the farthest you have been from home? When we lived in Germany, Germany was our home. But I felt far away.

45. Do you have a special talent? Good question. I think I have some talents, but they're not really out of the ordinary. I do a great load of laundry. And I can load a dishwasher like no one else.

46. Where were you born? Lincoln, Nebraska. Lincoln General Hospital.

47. Least favorite household chore? I hate them all equally - I don't like to discriminate.

48. Most precious object on your computer desk? I guess the computer. Or my iPhone.

49. A special possession? A ring from my grandmother. Bracelet from my mother. Jewelry from my husband. An antique high chair that my mother gave me. Dresser from my great-grandmother. But as special as these items are, it's all just stuff. People are what matters.

50. How many e-mail adresses do you have? I have three or four, but I only use one. More than one is too much trouble.

Have a great weekend, all!

How far we've come

From the Washington Post:

History through a butler's eyes
For decades, Eugene Allen, a black man, toiled in the SHADOWS of the White House. Soon, he'll see another black man serve — but in the nation's SPOTLIGHT

By WIL HAYGOOD Washington Post
Nov. 6, 2008, 11:42PM

WASHINGTON — For more than three decades Eugene Allen worked in the White House, a black man unknown to the headlines. During some of those years, harsh segregation laws lay upon the land.

He trekked home every night, his wife, Helene, keeping him out of her kitchen.

At the White House, he worked closer to the dirty dishes than the large desk in the Oval Office. Helene didn't care; she just beamed with pride.

President Truman called him Gene. President Ford liked to talk golf with him.

He saw eight presidential administrations come and go, often working six days a week. "I never missed a day of work," Allen says.

His is a story from the back pages of history. A figure in the tiniest of print. The man in the kitchen.

He was there while America's racial history was being remade: Brown v. Board of Education, the Little Rock school crisis, the 1963 March on Washington, the cities burning, the civil rights bills, the assassinations.

When he started at the White House in 1952, he couldn't even use the public restrooms when he ventured back to his native Virginia. "We had never had anything," Allen, 89, recalls of black America at the time. "I was always hoping things would get better."

In its long history, the White House — just note the name — has had a complex and vexing relationship with black Americans.

In 1866 the abolitionist Frederick Douglass, sensing an opening to advocate for black voting rights, made a White House visit to lobby President Andrew Johnson. Johnson refused to engage in a struggle for black voting rights. Douglass was back at the White House in 1877. But no one wished to discuss his political sentiments: President Rutherford Hayes had engaged the great man — it was a time of high minstrelsy across the nation — to serve as a master of ceremonies for an evening of entertainment.

In the fall of 1901, another famous black American came to the door. President Theodore Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington, head of the Tuskegee Institute, to meet with him at the White House. Roosevelt was careful not to announce the invitation, fearing a backlash, especially from Southerners.

Started as 'pantry man'

Before he landed his job at the White House, Gene Allen worked as a waiter at the Homestead resort in Hot Springs, Va., and then at a country club in Washington.

He and his wife, Helene, 86, are sitting in the living room of their Washington home Her voice is musical, in a Lena Horne kind of way. She calls him "Honey."

The couple met in Washington at a party in 1942. He was too shy to ask for her number, so she tracked his down. They married a year later.

In 1952, a lady told him of a job opening in the White House. "I wasn't even looking for a job," he says. "I was happy where I was working, but she told me to go on over there and meet with a guy by the name of Alonzo Fields."

Fields, a maitre d', immediately liked Allen and offered him a job as a "pantry man." He washed dishes, stocked cabinets and shined silverware. He started at $2,400 a year.

There was, in time, a promotion to butler. "Shook the hand of all the presidents I ever worked for," Allen says.

"I was there, Honey," Helene reminds him. "In the back maybe. But I shook their hands, too." She's referring to White House holiday parties, Easter Egg hunts. They have one son, Charles, now an investigator with the State Department.

"President Ford's birthday and my birthday were on the same day," Allen says. "He'd have a birthday party at the White House. Everybody would be there. And Mrs. Ford would say, 'It's Gene's birthday, too!' "

And so they'd sing a little ditty to the butler. And the butler, who wore a tuxedo to work every day, would blush.

"Jack Kennedy was very nice," he goes on. "And so was Mrs. Kennedy."

"Hmm-mmm," she says, rocking.

A state dinner
He was in the White House kitchen the day JFK was slain. He got a personal invitation to the funeral. But he volunteered for other duty: "Somebody had to be at the White House to serve everyone after they came from the funeral."

The whole family of President Carter made her chuckle: "They were country. And I'm talking Lillian and Rosalynn both." It comes out sounding like the highest compliment.

First lady Nancy Reagan came looking for him in the kitchen one day. She wanted to remind him about the upcoming state dinner for German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. But she told him he would not be working that night.

"She said, 'You and Helene are coming to the state dinner as guests of President Reagan and myself.' "

Husbands and wives don't sit together at these events, and Helene was nervous about trying to make small talk with world leaders. "And my son says, 'Momma, just talk about your high school. They won't know the difference.'

"The senators were all talking about the colleges and universities that they went to," she says." I was doing as much talking as they were.

"Had champagne that night," she says, looking over at her husband. He just grins: He was the man who stacked the champagne at the White House.

Colin Powell would become the highest-ranking black of any White House to that point when he was named President Reagan's national security adviser in 1987. Condoleezza Rice would have that same position under President George W. Bush.

The butler remembers seeing both Powell and Rice in the Oval Office. He was serving refreshments. He couldn't help notice that blacks were moving closer to the center of power, closer than he could ever have dreamed. He'd tell Helene how proud it made him feel.

Gene Allen was promoted to maitre d' in 1980. He left the White House in 1986, after 34 years. President Reagan wrote him a sweet note. Nancy Reagan hugged him, tight.

Interviewed at their home last week, Gene and Helene speculated about what it would mean if a black man were actually elected president.

"Just imagine," she said.

"It'd be really something," he said.

On Monday, Helene had a doctor's appointment. Gene woke and nudged her once, then again. He shuffled around to her side of the bed. He nudged Helene again. He was all alone.

"I woke up, and my wife didn't," he said later.

The lady he married 65 years ago will be buried today.

The butler cast his vote for Obama on Tuesday. He so missed telling his Helene about the black man bound for the Oval Office.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

I Can See Russia From My House

I should lay off old Sarah P. She's been beat up enough, and now she's gone back to Alaska, back to her day job, fresh off a defeat. She is no longer hurting anyone.

For the record, I don't think she cost McCain the election - he chose her, so that was his decision. Plus, he was following the incredibly unpopular W, which sure wasn't helping anything. And then that tricky economy sneaked in - blaming Palin is not really fair. She cost him some votes, but neither made nor "breaked" this one.

But this one I just can't resist: Word today is that Palin did not know the countries in NAFTA, did not know which countries make up North America.

Nor did she know that Africa is a continent, not a country.

(I'm not even going into the further revelations on her shopping. Except to say: Wasilla Hillbillies.)

Still think she was qualified?

Uh huh. I thought not.

Winter creeps in

So much for our beautiful summer-like weather. November is pushing its way in, slowly, leaving pleasant fall temperatures firmly in the past. Today was still in the high 60s, but the rains came this afternoon.

The brilliant leaves show up in vibrant contrast to the grey skies. My desk sits in front of a bank of windows, and I can still gaze out on the gold, orange, and scarlet.

This has been a particularly lovely fall, with vivid colors everywhere I look. Maybe I'm just more cognizant after living in Houston; maybe I'm just a romantic. Who knows - I am reveling in fall in the Midwest, loving every minute.

I am just a Midwesterner at heart.

The rain would not really be a problem if I didn't have a crew of workers digging a foundation in my back yard. After the months of anticipation, they have officially begun our addition. The deck is gone, pavers dug up, and there is now, outside my back door, the beginnings of a gaping hole. With any luck it will soon be filled with concrete, on top of which will appear a frame for a 10'x26' two-story addition.

We've been living here since July, feeling as if we are in limbo - no bedroom for Maddie, so much stuff that can't be put away, extra furniture shoved wherever there is room. Now, it is as if we can see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

Soon we will have an actual bedroom for Maddie (well, her room still exists, but only about 4 feet of the room). Slyvia's room will be bigger, and we will have a small guest room (in the fashion of a sleeping porch off Sylvia's room - she will be able to use it when we do not have guests). Once Maddie is vacated from the third floor, we will have our game room back.

And most importantly, we will have a brand-new kitchen. We will have all new appliances, a breakfast bar, an eat-in area. We will get a new half-bath and a small sun room area. New floors, cabinets, countertops, bathroom fixtures, and better lighting.

It is exciting.

So, today I've had to listen to the sound of a jackhammer just outside the kitchen door. But it hasn't bothered me a bit. There are no steps from my back door to the yard - we have to go around to the front. But these are minor inconveniences compared to what lies in store - it will all be worth it.

Small sacrifices.

Once again, I am feeling good. I need to get busy, feel as if I am accomplishing more than learning about presidential history (today it's Jimmy Carter).

I'll deal with that tomorrow. I need to get ready for Family Math Night.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Getting out the vote

When you work 14 hours, it's a long day. But when you're doing something you believe in, it's worth it.

Even if it requires getting up at 4 a.m.

I'm not much of a morning person. I would really prefer to stay up really late and sleep in. But most of the time, life doesn't work that way. Yesterday included, when I had to report for my day as an election judge at 5 a.m. Let me tell you, the 4 a.m. alarm is not an easy way to awaken. Though truth be told, I'd been awake much of the night anyway - I tend to have restless nights when I know I have to get up extra early and don't dare oversleep.

I was given the job of programming voting cards - not the most challenging task, but necessary. And I didn't have to answer hard questions or defer people to supervisors or tell them their registration wasn't valid - all those bugs were worked out before they got to me, so I merely programmed their ballot, gave them simple directions, and sent them on their way. And I got picked to assist voters, so it was win-win-win.

The day went incredibly smoothly. Most amazing was that we were not busy. At all. There was a line already when I got there at 5, anxious types who were anticipating huge crowds and long waits. By 6.30 the polling place was hopping, and I got a little nervous. I was afraid we would get so busy I would forget to vote, so the minute I saw a lull, I jumped in line.

I needn't have worried. Once the 6.30 rush ended, that was it. We were steadily busy all day, but there was never a wait or a crowd again. Not for the entire day. We thought lunch time would get busy, then we assumed around 5 would be busy. At 5.59 p.m, we had two or three people voting and another checking in.

Apparently, the early voting push was successful. Those people waited up to 45 minutes to vote.

Heh.

I assisted a few elderly voters, which was quite satisfying (even if I had to help them cast votes that I never would have). Most people were upbeat and very excited.

My co-worker started to drive me crazy. As I said, we were not busy, and there were three of us programming ballot cards. So on several occasions, people did not know which one of us to choose. She turned it into a competition, trying to be the first to attract the voters. Which was fun, but she had to be so vocal, saying, I got it! or This one's mine!

Whatever - I started to just sit down and wait unless there were two or three people headed over at once. I don't need to play silly games. I only compete when it's important. You know, like in Mah Jongg. Or Halloween costumes.

We had about 2200 people through the vote center yesterday. Many, many of them were first-time voters; many of them were young, but some were older. They would shyly admit that this was their first time, letting me know they were nervous or unsure. I told them they were fine, that the touch-screen machines are very easy to use, and they could always ask for assistance.

Mostly, I was struck by how empowering it must have felt for many of these people - young people, especially young black men, voting for the very first time. People who must have felt that their vote was meaningless until now. Suddenly they found a reason to be involved, validation that the American dream is real and does apply to people like them.

I don't generally watch The View anymore, but I watched a bit today. And Sherri Shepard told of looking at her son, and letting him know that from now on, he can aspire to anything he wants. Those dreams really can come true. Barack Obama has broken that barrier, and he has proven that in America, truly, anyone can dream of being president.

It was a historic day. I was glad to be part of it, even in a small way.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

What A Night

I've been up since 4 a.m., and it is now after midnight. I was on my feet nearly all day, working 14 hours as an election judge.

I'm exhausted. But in a good way. And I had to stay up to watch some of tonight's historic events unfold.

It's been quite an evening, and I am filled with emotion as I watch the Obamas and Bidens on the stage in Grant Park. It's now time for bed, but I will go to sleep feeling very satisfied.

I am so encouraged by the direction this country is headed. I wish great things from this Obama presidency. What a great time to be an American.

Monday, November 03, 2008

ON the edge of promise

It is beautiful here. Just beautiful. Sunny and in the 70s - the weather is just fantastic.

I feel great. Fabulous. Life could not be any better at this moment.

I am spending today being very low-key. I did some laundry, tidied up a bit after the maelstrom of activity around here over the weekend. I am thinking about attending the Go Blue party downtown tonight, but I know I need my sleep.

I have to report for duty at the polls at 5 a.m. Gulp.

In the spirit of relaxation, I finished watched LBJ on American Experience. Johnson certainly knew how to work the system, and I'm sure he was something else in person - an old school politician who didn't mince words, who wanted his own way.

His legacy is overshadowed by the quagmire that embroiled him; Vietnam was not what he wanted to be remembered for. It wore him out and took him down.

But he did so much good that is overlooked, enacting legislation for:

Head Start
Clean Air and Water legislation
Educational programming
School lunch program
Medicaid
Conservation
National Parks
Highway beautification
Urban renewal
Public television
Consumer protection: truth in labeling, packaging
Auto safety
Housing
National Endowments for the Arts/Humanities
Civil Rights

It is a reminder of why I affiliate myself with the Democratic Party. When Lyndon Johnson described his Great Society, he saw a country where all children had quality of life - medical care, food, education, good jobs, access to all the need.

And I figure if the government can provide this, then what could be wrong with that picture? Yes, it costs money, but what else is money good for? Using it to help others seems like a worthy goal. Frankly, wanting to hoard it for your own use seems slightly selfish. I know, I know, you worked for it. But what is wrong with giving back a little bit, even if it's not by choice?

I know, some people will say that sounds like socialism. And maybe I'm just idealistic. But frankly, I don't see what's wrong with that. Using extra dollars from the wealthy to help the less fortunate - why is this a bad thing?

And it is easy for me to say - while we may not be in the very top echelons of income earners, we are high enough. And I do not mind knowing that some of our hard-earned money will not go in the bank for us, but instead, to help others who need it more.

It's radical, I know. But as people, we have a great power to do good. And I think we will be judged not by how the wealthiest among us lives, but by how we treat the least among us.

Today I saw George Stephanopoulos on television. He said that should Barack Obama win, we will be seen by the rest of the world as a place where truly anyone can grow up to be president. Personally, I think it will do much to repair our image, one that has been damaged by the Bush years. I am truly excited about the possibilities to come with this new era, and we will all benefit from the wisdom of this man.

I see great things ahead. This is why my spirits are lifted today. Tomorrow will tell, but wow, it is a great time to be an American.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Tricks and Treats

I admit it: I love Halloween.

I love wearing costumes, dressing up and acting silly. I like decorating my house, handing out candy to all the neighbor kids. I like the orange lights, brown and gold leaves, black cats, and jack o'lanterns. And while I respect those that don't celebrate Halloween, on some level, I just don't get it. I know plenty of people who are good people, good Christians, who have lots of fun with this day. I don't get how it is blown out of proportion - it's just fun.

But I have to respect others' opinions.

This year was a very fun Halloween. I got to dress up not once, but twice. And I chose the costume that was the most fun this year: That's right, I was none other than Sarah Palin.

It may not have been the most original choice, but it was certainly worth a laugh. (How could it not be? There was sooo much material to work with!)

Last weekend, at the Ninth Street Hill party, I was one of three. We were dubbed The Palin Sisters.



Angie, on the far left (you'll never, ever see those words together - she is actually a Republican), carried her gun and moose, and she brought with her The First Dude. What a riot - he was decked out in snowmobile gear. I didn't even recognize him. Carol, on the far right (again, doubt you ever hear that again), had John McCain with her. (He kind of got forgotten over the course of the evening - we figure McCain is used to that by now.)

But me? I had the best accessory: My pregnant teen age daughter, Bristol. She was a huge hit. Carol had jokingly suggested we do that (she, too, has a teenager), not knowing that I already had it planned. She was concerned it might be a bit too much - Helen laughed, saying Carol didn't know me well enough - nothing is too risqué for me - ! It totally worked, because the three of us shared the prize for best costume. The traveling trophy is sitting on my mantle piece; in February I'll pass it along. Alison won the best non-costume for her Bristol, but she had already left, so they gave it to Gary - but he was wearing a costume, so he was not sure how to take it. No matter - we have two trophies on display.

I reprised the look last night, when JoAnn and I hosted a Halloween party, using our house as the haunted house. We invited mostly people from church, and it was so much fun. Great costumes, lots of karaoke, and a backyard fire for those fleeing the karaoke to enjoy.

Here I am with my date, Joe the Plumber.



And here I am with my friend Gale. Sarah and the Goth - a duo you won't likely see again.



We voted on best costume - I got the most votes (yay!) but think I should have shared the title with my fellow Sarah, Kitty, who was carrying a gun (nice touch). Here we are with the deranged Goth (though she was only deranged last night - I think it's all in the company you keep.)



Other winners included Prince Valiant (the blonde wig was too much), the One-Horned, One-Eyed Flying Purple People Eater, the Die, the Genie, and the Kayakers. Sylvia was collecting the votes and managed to snag a third-place prize for herself (she was an adorable gypsy - who wouldn't vote for her?) And an honorary shout-out to my partner in crime: Mustard, who came with her date, Ketchup.

What a fun night - I'm thinking we'll make it an annual event. I'll even let JoAnn use my house again. We do know how to throw a party.

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 31, 2008

All Hallow's Eve

It is the perfect night for Halloween. Today has been sunny and warm - in the low 70s - so tonight will be just cool enough to feel like fall, but warm enough to not cover up any fabulous costumes.

I have two sick people here at our house - Gary and Alison are both home with some sort of little illness. Lucky for Alison she isn't 10 years old, and she knows it. She has plans tomorrow night, so she isn't missing out on any big fun.

Sylvia is heading out with a friend and Maddie has a friend over - they have donned costumes and are sitting on the porch greeting our trick-or-treaters, so Gary and I are free to sit inside and watch Season 1 of 30 Rock. Not the most exciting Halloween on record, but Gary isn't feeling good, so for this year, it will do.

Plus, the real fun for us comes tomorrow night. I will spend tomorrow cleaning house then spreading around my fake cobwebs .... something about that does not sound quite right.

Boo!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

With liberty, justice, and opportunity for all

So. Last night, I skipped out on LBJ in favor of current events.

(I am working my way through the four-hour American Experience on Lyndon Johnson - fascinating stuff. But I don't have just tons o' time - certainly not a four-hour block of uninterrupted time, or even two two-hour blocks. So I watch as a I can. As with all American Experience programs, I am loving it. I feel as if I will soon be a PBExpert on all the twentieth-century presidents - based on the info I glean from two-hour documentaries, anyway. But surely it's all I really need to know, right?)

Caught a bit of the CBS News, where Katie "I Lack Gravitas" Couric continued to ask her "presidential questions." Which would be fine if the questions had any substance. But she asks about trivial nonsense: What's your favorite movie? Favorite book? When's the last time you cried? What do you want written on your tombstone?

And these help me pick a president how? I am not looking for my new best friend - I don't care what movies the like or what the prefer to do on vacation or how they met their spouse. Ask what they are going to do about real issues.

And for the record, lame answer on the book, Obama. Saying the Bible is your favorite book sounds like pandering to me. Nice also-ran with Toni Morrison, but come on, who reads the Bible for fun? That answer should not be allowed. And nice choice of For Whom the Bell Tolls by McCain - I love Hemingway, and it did seem a particularly fitting choice for McCain, and he did a nice job of explaining why.

However, I don't vote based on reading preferences - we're not forming a book club together.

I tuned in to the Obama show later, which was OK (very inspiring last five minutes). But after that, I caught a bit of John McCain on Larry King. Then I got to hear the experts analyze both the Obama show and McCain's interview on CNN. Which, frankly, is better than watching the real thing - I love to hear the experts' take on what they've seen.

I know, I'm a geek. And I'm probably one of only 2 percent of the American electorate that loves this crap.

Later, just before going to bed, I flipped the set back on and caught a few minutes of Keith Olbermann. Apparently, the newest pundit on the rounds is none other than that noted expert on, well, everything: Sam "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher. They showed a clip of him espousing his views on Israel, of all things. Get serious - what does this guy know about Israel? Can he even find it on a map?



Maybe he can he turn all this into a country song. Because, that's right, he now has an agent who is scouting out book deals and trying to get him a country recording contract.

The United States really is the land of opportunity. And crazy.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Inspiration

Out of curiosity, I tuned in to watch Barack Obama's 30-minute television ad tonight. I chose CBS, though I believe it ran on about five other networks.

Whether he runs it is pretty much beside the point as far as I'm concerned. Republicans and those who do not support Obama will criticize him for doing it, criticize its content. But I figure it's his right - he has the money, and those who aren't interested can turn the channel or turn the television off. Plus, if McCain had the money, he'd be doing it, too.

Frankly, most of it was just OK. He talked to families around the country who have financial problems, job concerns. He talked about his mother, his background, his children, his life. It was nothing I hadn't heard before - and I was busy with other things, so I didn't pay that much attention.

Until the end. The part where he spoke live, from Florida. And that part was inspiring. Truly amazing.

Obama is a brilliant man. He grew up without money, a middle-class, average existence, and this is what he has become. He managed to attend the best schools and he has really made something of himself. He is incredibly charismatic, very gifted, and he is using his talents to try to make the United States a better place. When he speaks of the rest of us helping one another, trying to do the right thing, I know he is the person I want leading this country.

I don't for a moment think John McCain is a bad person, but I am concerned about the way he has abandoned his principles out of blind ambition. I am bothered by his lack of judgment in choosing an unqualified running mate (and for those who just *love* her, I would like to know if you seriously think she is capable of leading this country). I - and apparently most of the country - simply do not think he is what the United States needs at this time.

(And on a side note, I am hardly alone there - a contingent of noted conservatives, including David Brooks, George Will, Kathleen Parker, and David Frum, have all spoken out about Sarah Palin's anti-intellectual leanings and the dangers they see in her. Should McCain lose, there will be a battle for identity of the GOP, and many are concerned about Palin trying to grasp a leadership role.)

Obama's speech tonight, although short, moved me, once again. He's an inspiring leader, and I'm refiguring my Sunday to see if I can find time to get out and knock on doors, convince voters to get out there and support this candidate.

It's an exciting time to be an American. I am so pleased that my children get to see this - and I'm looking for good things to happen.

From errands to work to business casual - all in one post

Today was a day of running errands.

Not my favorite thing to do - I'd much rather be home, spending my day leisurely doing what I want to do. But today, I had to get out, take care of some miscellany. Yesterday it was groceries; today, I think I hit everywhere else in town:

• Staples, where I purchased a replacement ink-jet cartridge (magenta) so that we can print in color once again. Plus I picked up an added detail for my Halloween costume - something I can actually use later (how cryptic can I be??).
• Bed, Bath & Beyond, where I returned an item that I picked up last week - a whole $3.20 will be credited to my VISA.
• TJ Maxx, where I returned two sweaters I picked up and decided I don't like - $42.78 back on the card.
• Brief stop at Camille's, where I met Gary for lunch, since he didn't come home tonight.
• Target, where I returned the extension cord that did not work with my outdoor Halloween lights - $6.41 credit. I then proceeded to spend an additional $40 when I purchased paper for a bulletin board I'm helping with tomorrow at church and Halloween candy.

My last stop - but perhaps the most important - was City Hall, where I picked up our building permit. Talk about a mirthless crew - that office was about the most joy-free spot I've seen in a while. Those people are sullen.

Which led me to reevaluate my need - or shall I say, desire - to go back to work. I have finally come to the conclusion that I am going to wait for just the right job. I am not going to stress about work. I really haven't been, anyway. I've sent off a few resumés, even had a couple interviews. And the one interview I had felt so stifling - I am not going to spend my days locked in an office without windows doing a job I am not crazy about just for money. Lucky for me, I have that option. But while I still have children at home, I am going to hold out for my dream job. Life's too short for anything else.

Gary is home from his evening at Purdue - a Cat VP was speaking, preceded by a reception. The invitation said "business casual" - which, apparently, meant suits or ties - Gary and one other guy were the only two without jackets. The other guy wore a polo and khakis - which, to me, is truly the definition of business casual. Gary ran into the guy who lives behind us - he was formerly the principal of the neighborhood grade school and now works for the Purdue Credit Union, a sponsor of the lecture. He also talked to our state representative, who is also our neighbor. She was wondering which house we live in now, and when she finally figured it out, she realized we have several Democratic signs in out yard. She asked Gary if we would put out a sign for her - well, sure, he said, but it seems kind of unnecessary - she is running unopposed! Well, yes, she admitted, others need the help more - !

I should also not my fascinating meeting last night at Planned Parenthood, where I met with the newly forming community action board, and ran into, again, my new best friend, LC. LC is from a fairly prominent local family, and after playing Mah Jongg with her, I now see her all over the place. We are apparently now friends - and I think she likes me. I've mentioned her before - she is a formidable woman, kind of scary. She is also very well-connected. And I am kidding - I know she likes me, as she extended a personal invitation for me to attend the Temple's art auction next month - and I think I probably will.

So, on tomorrow's agenda? Helping on the bulletin board. And nothing else.