Sunday, May 24, 2009

Pool Time

The pool is officially open.

The older two girls were gone, but Sylvia, Gary, and I went for the inaugural first dip. Though to be precise, I have to confess that only my toes got in - at 70 degrees, the water is a mite chilly for me.



Sylvia, however, jumped right in. She said she was freezing, but she loved it anyway.





I love summer!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Fame

I am wondering if America got it right.

American Idol, of course. I like Kris. I became a fan about halfway through the season, when I figured out who he was. He was a quiet contender, consistently solid. Then he pulled something out of his sleeve and became very impressive.

Yet I fully expected Adam to win. Adam has a charisma that is very unlike Kris's. He is a bit more boisterous, more theatrical. And there were weeks - several weeks - when Adam was clearly the best performer - the best by a mile.

And while I like Kris - and voted for him, because he was the underdog - I wonder if Adam might have been the better choice. I am concerned that a) people voted against Adam because the judges had virtually declared him the winner weeks ago and, more importantly b) there might have been a "Christian backlash" against Adam, for Kris, because of Kris's reputed ties with his church and concerns that Adam might be gay.

All that said, however, and America didn't lose either way. They are both talented, and Adam will go far, regardless of whether or not he won. Plus Adam and Kris are friends, which was obvious watching the finale. Which, by the way, was great (especially if you watched the recorded version - zipping through any boring parts). I loved seeing Adam with Kiss, and I really loved Adam and Kris with Queen singing We Are the Champions - what a moment. The two men really are friends, and it was fun to watch, knowing that either one of them would truly be a winner.

Champions, indeed.

*****

I am having a hard time giving a rat's ass about Jon and Kate.

To say I don't care sounds harsh. But I don't know them. And they are suddenly everywhere, those two with their marital problems and infidelity rumors. Which they are choosing to share with three million of their closest friends.

What I find most interesting about all this is her complaints about intrusion and how tough their life is. Yet they are the ones who invited the cameras in, who are using this television show and the exploitation of their family as a means of support.

You cannot invite the publicity in then complain that it is destroying your life - you can't have it both ways.

I don't watch the show and have no plans to. But it's hard to avoid the hype - it's everywhere I look.

Maybe those two need to turn off the cameras and lights (and yes, give up some of the cash), sit back, and figure out what is really best for their children.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Overheard

Bag boy at supermarket:

I watch Fox News - it's my favorite. And I watch it because it's the only news station that gives both sides of the story. All those other channels, they just talk about how great Barack Obama is. I watch Fox so I can hear both sides.


Saying you watch Fox News is fine - you have every right to choose your news source. But to suggest that they are, in fact, "fair and balanced" is to be naive. I am a big fan of MSNBC (Keith! Rachel!) but I do know they favor one side more than the other. And I'm OK with this because they do not pretend otherwise.

For people to watch Fox because they like the right-wing slant but to pretend the bias isn't there is disingenuous. At least admit what you're seeing.

Monday

Have you ever heard of anyone dumb enough to leave their contacts in all night? To just forget to take them out before going to bed?

How dumb must one be to completely space that? And have absolutely no idea that's why their eyes feel so strange in the morning, have no idea why they can't see?

Really, how stupid is that? I've been asking myself that question all day long.

*****

Sylvia was to have cleaned her bedroom yesterday. Went in at bedtime, and yikes! that room is a dis-as-ter. Crap everywhere. I asked her what was going on.

"It's an on-going process," she replied.

What a kid.

*****

Gale the contractor & friends are here tiling my back splash. I have a large group coming over for Mah Jongg later today. Let's hope these two activities do not collide.

*****

Many thoughts racing through my head, but no time to collect them. Instead, must start washing machine, must run some errands. Sigh.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Stuff That Bugs Me*

Stuff that bugs me? People who make up names for their family on their blog. They call their kids stuff like "Princess Zoot" or "Raspberry" or "Scudder." The spouse they call "Big Mama" or "The Wife" or "King Wa."

Feels contrived. You're writing about your family on the Interwebs. You really think that by giving them pseudonyms you're protecting their privacy?

(*Not a comprehensive list by any means - stay tuned ....)

American Idol: The Final Two


America, you got it right.

When Season Eight of American Idol started, my girls and I picked our favorites. We watched every minute of those auditions, seeing if we could pick out the winner.

We liked Danny and Jamar (and were so disappointed when Jamar didn't make it on the show); we liked Lil and Anoop and a few others that I can't even remember.

And when they named the top 36, I didn't even notice that kid named Kris Allen. I thought he was a total throw away, assumed each of those early weeks that he would go soon.

Then I started to listen to him.

When he did that James Taylor song early on, I took notice. Then he sang "Ain't No Sunshine," and I was firmly in the Kris camp. And that rendition of "She Works Hard For the Money" turned me completely around - this guy has some serious talent.

Did you hear what he did with "Heartless"? I didn't know the original, but I've gone back and listened and Randy was right - this is so much better than the original. Every week this guy blows me away.

Kris rocks.

Which isn't to say I don't like Danny and Adam. Danny is OK, but his schtick was sort of the same week after week - not risky, not that interesting, what with his drunken-frat-boy-at-ex-girlfriend's-wedding dance moves.

And Adam is good, no doubt. He has mad charisma (oh my god, I'm channeling Randy now ... ) and sings the hell out of everything. So he will be tough to beat - with good reason. For my money, though, I think Kris has more real talent.

It's a different type of talent, that's for sure - but one singer can't satisfy all of us. Adam may, in fact, encapsulate more of what people want in their American Idol. Which is OK by me - he's a talented guy.

But for me, it's all about Kris. He came out of nowhere and captured our attention. Whether he gets the title of American Idol or not, he's a winner.

Let's see how fast I can text in my votes next week.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

My day could have sucked so much more

It's a lovely crowd you see at the courthouse first thing in the morning.

But what can I say - I was part of that crowd.

I confess: I was there to pay a traffic ticket. Not one of my proudest moments. But you suck it up and do what you have to do, huh?

I tried, in vain, to avoid this trip. I read the ticket (OK, two tickets - but it could have been three) carefully, trying to figure out if I could just go in. Because the computer was not working, the tickets were hand-written (!) and hard to decipher. All I could read for certain was that 8.30 a.m. court date.

I even went online to try to pay. It appeared to be working, then timed out. When I went back, the option for online payment had disappeared. So I figured I had to go appear in traffic court.

So I did it. The ATM ran out of cash, so I was worried that I would run into problems paying. I was panicky - I could only find a 20-minute parking space, and the last thing I wanted was another ticket - and nervous (this was so embarrassing). And I felt so out of place in line - in ordinary jeans, I was dressed nicer than almost anyone there - I say almost because I thought I saw two prosecutors talking together, then realized the one woman was, like me, guilty of traffic violations (maybe just one in her case). "Appearing in court" actually seems to mean standing in line, chatting with the prosecutor, then being directed to a cashier.

So I went in to pay, with much chagrin (as if the cashiers really care), and to my surprise and delight, it said my online payment had gone through. I don't have to go to driving school. I could have been spared my humiliating trip downtown. And the whole thing took only 20 minutes, thus no ticket on my car. And, to top things off, when I got home, there was a message that my cabinet doors were ready at the glass place.

So, all in all, it could have been so much worse. Let's just hope it's a scene I don't have to revisit for a long, long time.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Happy Mothers Day

On Mothers Day, my girls (with a little help from their dad) make a big deal of properly fêteing me. This year, for example, they made me waffles for breakfast, took me to brunch after church, showered me with gifts (small ones, but gifts, no less), took a long walk downtown with me after lunch (to check out the new city art project), and let me lie on the couch and read while they unloaded the dishwasher and tidied the kitchen.

It does not get better than that.

But this year, I am thinking of my own mother and all I learned from her. Because clearly, had it not been for her example, I would be no kind of mother myself.

Years ago, in a book group, I read The Kitchen God's Wife by Amy Tan. The discussion that evening turned to what we didn't know about our mothers. In the novel, the protagonist's mother had a whole life in China of which her daughter was completely unaware. The hostess told a story about an event in her own mother's life that she only learned of through another relative. And it made us all think about how our mothers were full and complete women before they ever became parents.

Sometimes, that's hard to see - and not only as children, but as adults. We see our mothers as existing solely for us. We don't think about their needs, their desires, their dashed dreams. When we're small they don't even have names of their own (her name is Mommmy), much less ambitions or plans that don't involve us.

My parents were young parents - not uncommon at all for the early 1960s. They were married in their early 20s and had a newborn by their first anniversary. I am the second born, and even the third child was born while they were still in their grad student days - my dad was working on his doctorate at the University of Nebraska, they lived in married student housing, and my mother worked. Sounds hard, but they've both commented that those were happy times. And why not - they were surrounded by friends their own age, all in the same circumstances. Rather than complain about what they lacked, they celebrated it.

My mother followed my dad in his career - once again, not uncommon. She took care of us, but she also worked. She stayed home for a time after my youngest brother was born, and then, when he was about 2, she decided to go back to school to finish her degree. She hadn't finished when she was younger - once again, not uncommon. So when I started fourth grade, she, too, went back to school.

Mostly what I remember about those days is how unremarkable they were. Meaning, my life did not change a lot. She was a full-time student, but our lives were affected very little. She still seemed to do all the housework (I don't recall my dad helping out that much), did the shopping, the laundry, and cooked dinner every night (not a lot of eating out was going on). She had some night classes, yet I was still driven to piano lessons and girl scouts; my brothers had basketball practice and play dates.

Though I do remember her studying, spending hours reading and typing up her class notes in the office she had set up in the corner of her bedroom.

She even had time to help out at school - at my fourth grade class Christmas party, she was there, serving cookies and punch, handing out the favors - snowmen made of marshmallows, wearing tiny top hats, that I know she made. Thirty of them.

She made mostly A's. She finished her degree a few years later, graduating with honors.

I could share hundreds, thousands of anecdotes about the kind of mother she was. Some would portray her in a flattering light; some ... well, not so much. Like most parents, she wasn't perfect. But who among us is? We all have to figure out how to handle this job without any experience. We go on what our mothers taught us, be it good or bad, even when the children we get are so varied, and the times in which we live are ever changing.

She taught me, along with how to deal with my own children (results still pending on tha one), how to be a daughter, as I watched her deal with her aging parents. This is a task she did mostly alone, as both her parents were ill at the same time and she is an only child. She handled it by herself, watching four children while my dad finished up a year overseas. And if she complained, I never heard it.

She was my go-to person when I needed a paper typed. She was not always patient with me, but I think she tried. And when I can catch her in the right mood, she shares stories of when she was not always such a well-behaved child herself - stories that make me smile and do help me fill in the blanks as to what kind of person she really is.

But my very favorite thing about her? What I remember the most? It's when I left a book I was reading on the coffee table. It was a novel based on a movie I had seen. The story was not bad, really, but the novel did contain several very graphic sex scenes. I had left it on the table, and my mother read it. When she was done, she told me she had liked the story, found it very interesting. There were some scenes she didn't think were necessary, but in general it was good.

I could have been mortified that she knew I had read that. Instead, the message I got was that I never had to hide what I was reading. I never had to worry that I would be reprimanded, that I would get in trouble. She talked to me, let me know she had read it, too, and that it was OK. It's a message I never forgot, and one I've passed on to my own daughters.



I love this photo - my mother is on the left, then my dad, then me, my Grandma Dorothy, and my brother John. My mom is hard to see - the old photo is so faded after all these years. She isn't in a lot of our family photos - she always hated having her picture taken. But in this one, she is smiling. It doesn't show up well in this image, but in the original it is clear. Childhood, for most of us, isn't perfect. But it's reassuring to look back all these years later and be able to remember it this way - like the image in a faded photo, where all the disappointments have faded away, and only the happier memories remain.

Which is how I like to look back on the example my mother set for me, now a parent myself. I prefer to overlook the shortcomings and remember the positive things she taught me.

Happy Mothers Day, Mom.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Saturday

Today I took Sylvia shopping. Fun time - just the two of us.

Now I am painting Sylvia's room (well, at this moment I'm on a break). I am also listening to my book club book on CD. Icky stuff, all about Chinese foot binding. Shudder.

Then, later this evening, I am off to the Lesbian Garden Party with a group of very fun friends.

All in all, a great Saturday.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Spring

I've always loved the month of May.

I love the anticipation in the air - school is nearly out, the weather is getting warmer, the shorts and sandals begin to appear.

I was driving somewhere the other day, sun shining, car windows down, and I was reminded of this time of year when I was in high school, riding around with my friend Jami. She was getting ready to graduate; I was going to be in high school for two more years, but I vicariously enjoyed her senioritis.

College must have been fun, too, but I think I had way too much studying to enjoy the springtime. High school was ... well, it was another story. I don't remember feeling that stressed about school work.

This is what I remember about that spring:

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Keine Angst

I wonder if I blog better when I an angst-ridden.

Which, these days, is not the case so much. Generally, life is good.

Oh sure, this could change in a split second. But for the most part, life is good. So I am lacking much to kvetch about.

*****

Zinn guys are here fixing my cabinets. I don't think it is their last trip.

Today they are moving the upper cabinet to the right of the stove, which was not lined up quite as I had envisioned it. But no matter, as they agreed to change it. They made my in-door spice racks bigger (the first one held 12 spices - not enough) and changed the shelves to accommodate more spice racks. Now they will need to make a piece to cover up the top of the dishwasher.

One more step on the road to a complete kitchen.

*****

John Edwards has profoundly disappointed me.

Need I say more? He's hardly the last man who will turn out to have behaved very badly. But I expected more from him. He is smart - especially on health care and needs of the lower/middle classes. He showed such promise.

And he threw it all away for what? A roll in the sack? His career is over.

He's not the first, not the last. But still, I am sad.

*****

I've been looking through the pool catalog - lots of fun toys for summer. The girls have mentioned a slide; not sure if we need to go quite that far, but it's worth consideration, anyway.

Summer, come faster!

Saturday, May 02, 2009

This is my weekend?

I was up way, way too early for a Saturday.

But I had to get moving. We had a 4H cake decorating workshop bright and early. Then it was off toe ballet recital rehearsal.

Came home, did some laundry, went to Jeff High School antique show. (Bummer - didn't find anything that great.) Spent rest of afternoon tearing up living room carpet (aching back).

(And I'm now thinking of increasing my mandatory penalty for those who install carpet over hardwood floors.)

This evening will be spent at ballet recital. Gary and Alison will attend Maddie's concert - I went to the rehearsal last night, so I will have seen both. (Fun Friday night, huh?)

And as a late-night treat, we may go seem some friend of ours and their classic rock cover band. Good times; good times.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

And there's the stuff I should be doing but am not

I have so much I should be doing. Could be doing. My to-do list is a mile long.

So today? I started to tear out the carpet on our steps. Which is, technically speaking, on my list. But it's a little further down than some of the other, more immediate stuff.

Yet I'm glad I started it. We live in this 100-plus-year-old house with a beautiful oak staircase. And someone, in around 1985, decided that a runner of ordinary taupe carpet would appropriately accent this staircase? Try fast-forwarding 20 years. The carpet is so ordinary, so dated. And filthy - stained (who has taupe carpet in a house with kids and pets?) and dusty beyond dusty - I'm sure it was anyway, and we've been tearing out plaster and putting in drywall.

Yuck.

Oh - and people who install carpet over hardwood floors or stairs should have to do hard time. Pulling out all those little staples and tacks is a bitch. And my pry bar mars or gouges the floors on occasion.

My kitchen counter tops were installed yesterday. When (if?) all the little details get dealt with, I'll post photos. I should snap a photo of the awful carpet (I only got two-thirds of the way up; the steps turn so that's where I quit).

The electricians were supposed to come when they got rained out this week. They've never made it - is someone trying to tell me they didn't get rained out? I am finding that hard to believe.

Lazy

I should be tackling my to-do list .... this is the best I've got. Lame.

1, What color is your toothbrush?
Not exactly sure - white/clear and some color

2, Name one person who made you smile today?
Sylvia. She makes me smile every day

3, What were you doing at 8 am today?
Sighing in my quiet house - the kids were all gone and the day was mine

4, What were you doing 45 minutes ago?
Reading the newspaper, drinking tea

5, What is your favorite candy bar?
Midnight Milky Way

6, Have you ever been to a strip club?
Yes - did a story on a stripper for the paper once

7, What is the last thing you said aloud?
Bye! - to Sylvia

8, What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
Some sort of chocolate - Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie

9, What was the last thing you had to drink?
Tea

10, Do you like your wallet?
Yes. Birthday gift one year

11, What was the last thing you ate?
Bagel w/cream cheese. Hadn't had one forever

12, Have you bought any new clothing items this week?
Over the weekend - shirt off sale rack and new sandals. Very cute

13, The last sporting event you watched?
Gary had the Masters on, but I wasn't really watching

14, What is your favorite flavor of popcorn?
Kettle Corn

15, Who is the last person you sent a text message to?
Gary

16, Ever go camping?
Yes. But not for years. Hate it

17, Do you take vitamins daily?
Nope

18, Do you give to church/charity?
Yes

19, Do you have a tan?
In the summer time. I use sunscreen liberally, but we spend a lot of time in the pool

20, Do you prefer Chinese food over pizza?
Not necessarily. Like them both

21, Do you drink your soda with a straw?
Sometimes. Not at home. But I'm not drinking much pop these days

22, What did your last text message say?
Sent: Good news - I need some right now (after Gary texted me that the Audi is getting 24 mpg in the city
Received: The counters look great and the desk is very clear (he had just gotten home and was, apparently, impressed that I cleaned off my desk)

23, What are you doing tomorrow?
Running errands, house stuff, chaperoning a rehearsal for one of my daughters

25, Look to your left, what do you see?
My new kitchen counters through the doorway (sigh of happiness), bookcase filled with ... books

26, What color is your watch?
Gold/silver

27, What do you think of when you hear Australia?
John & Megs Phipps (friends of ours)

29, Do you go in at a fast food place or just hit the drive thru?
Rarely go.

30, What is your favorite number?
5 (Oh I've got 5 people in my family, and there's not a one of them I'd swap - from Sesame Street)

31, Who's the last person you talked to on the phone?
Gary

32, Any plans today?
Errands, pull out old carpet? Maybe ....

33, How many states have you lived in?
Five

34, Biggest annoyance right now?
I'm feeling very Zen at the moment. But there are always some people that bug me. We'll go with that

35, Last song listened to
Feeling Good

36,Can you say the alphabet backwards?
Probably not - why would I need to?

37, Do you have a maid service clean your house?
While I'm not working, it's hard to justify

38, Favorite pair of shoes you wear all the time?
Summer: Sandals Winter: Boots

39, Are you jealous of anyone?
Nope. My life is good

40, Is anyone jealous of you?
I doubt it. Envious, maybe ....

41, Do you love anyone?
Husband, three daughters, parents, brothers, friends ... yes

42, Do any of your friends have children?
Of course

43, What do you usually do during the day?
Currently, supervise remodeling, answer questions for the contractor, house stuff, kid stuff, read, write ... the usual

44, Do you hate anyone that you know right now?
Hate is a strong word

45, Do you use the word 'hello' daily?
When I answer the phone

46, What color is your car?
The one I drive: Black The title with my name on it: Silver (but I generously let Gary drive it)

47, Do you like cats?
They're OK. I'd let the girls get one if Gary didn't have allergies

48, Are you thinking about someone right now?
Gary and his allergies, my girls and their desire for a kitty

49, Have you ever been to Six Flags?
Yes. Last time there was awful. I'll never go back

50, How did you get your worst scar?
Fell in the house when I was two, cracked my head open on a corner. Bunches of stitches in my head. I think physicians have better suture technology these days

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Filibuster-proof Democrats?

Interesting. Though I've wondered about people whose political allegiances can be switched easily; on the other hand, moderate Democrats or Republicans do have a lot in common with the other party. And - though I'm sometimes skeptical - I suppose people can change.

I've always respected Arlen Specter; he has been extremely supportive of women's rights. Thus it's not really a huge surprise that he is switching to the Democratic party.

Specter intends to switch to Democratic Party
Posted: 12:04 PM ET
Specter announced Tuesday he was leaving the GOP.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Veteran Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter intends to switch from the Republican to the Democratic Party Tuesday, multiple sources tell CNN.

A Specter party switch would give Democrats a filibuster-proof Senate majority of 60 seats if Al Franken holds his current lead in the disputed Minnesota Senate race.

Specter, a five-term Senate veteran, was expected to face a very tough primary challenge in 2010 from former Rep. Pat Toomey, who nearly defeated Specter in the Pennsylvania GOP Senate primary in 2004.

Numerous Republicans are very angry with Specter over his recent vote in support of President Barack Obama's $787 billion stimulus plan.

Specter was one of only three GOP senators who voted for the measure.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Pondering

Anyone have any idea how many cookies I ate over the weekend?

Yeah, me neither. This could explain a lot.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Tired (Or, where did my Sunday go?)

Long day today. Not my ideal Sunday.

Spent the entire day at church. Really - the entire day. Some of it was optional, theoretically, but given some volunteer responsibilities I have undertaken, I felt obligated. So, I attended the Sunday service - wanted to, as I like Fritz, who did the lay-led service. We then stayed for the monthly potluck (where I sat and signed up people for church directory photos). Then attended a two-hour meeting, a wrap-up of the
Appreciative Inquiry process from earlier this year (this is the meeting I felt obligated to attend, seeing as I am joining a very important committee in the next month).

This meeting ended at 2.30. But we stayed at church for another two and half hours, this time for Maddie's flute recital.

It was such a beautiful day - and we spent much of it inside, listening to discussions of church issues (and if you understood the make up of our church, you would understand why this is significant - though it all went well) and music.

The music was nice, but two hours? Sigh.

I'm beat. But we have to go hang shelves in Sylvia's room. This part of the administrative "we" will be supervising. And placing books back on said shelves when they are back in place.

Believe it or not, I'm ready for Monday.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Ouch. But Better.

I stubbed my toe yesterday afternoon.

And I do mean I stubbed it. But good. I'm not sure if it's because I'm not really in the routine of wearing sandals. Or if I'm just a klutz. But coming around the corner in my bathroom, I caught my left foot pinkie on the corner and Wow, but it hurts.

Maddie giggled because she could hear me and the interjections coming out of me - none of which, by the way, was a curse word. Score one for me, as those spew forth in situations where they are much less warranted than this, which hurt like a son of a gun. Which I actually did say. And which invoked Maddie's afore-mentioned giggles.

(Maddie's room is next to our bathroom. I shudder to think what else she hears that might make her giggle.)

I lay on the couch for a while, talked on the phone, iced my poor toe, finished Eclipse (the third in the Twilight series - I am plowing through those books painfully slowly - they are totally not doing it for me - even the sex/angst parts are not that fascinating), and successfully avoided taking Sylvia to Target to buy a birthday gift (nice husband).

Then, after an hour and a half on the sofa, I managed to pull myself together - we had no children last night, so we had to do something. I hobbled upstairs, got dressed, and Gary and I hit the bar at the Hour Time for a pre-show drink.

I love how the Hour Time has held fast to its traditions, not seeing the need to update their theme or redecorate. What worked in 1989 should be good enough 20 years later, that should be everyone's motto. And I enjoyed feeling as if I were sitting in a ship's hull.

Didn't affect the quality of the drinks or the service, I must say - my Flirtini was great, and our server was very friendly.

Then we headed off to Sunshine Cleaning, which I loved (and stayed awake through, even though it was the 9.45 showing and I'd had a drink). Movie was great - the combination of Amy Adams, Alan Arkin, Emily Blunt, bloody details, and foul language was perfect. Absolutely perfect. Liked Steve Zahn, too.

Everyone should love Amy Adams. And if you saw Junebug or Miss Pettigrew Lives for Day, you do. She is talented. And can drop an F-bomb when needed.

Today, my toe still hurts. I don't think it's broken - I'm thinking it would be throbbing with pain, and it's not quite that bad (though close). It is swollen and sort of purple in places. But if it were broken, what would they do for me? Give me pain meds and tape it? I think I'll live.

Though I'm thinking this might be a good day to sit outside and read.

Friday, April 24, 2009

L'chaim!

I did it.

I made my way up to the elliptical. On the way, I procrastinated. Just a little. I hung Sylvia's jacket in the closet (it was on the hall tree, and I'm thinking that place will be bare of jackets for some time now - yay!). I brushed my teeth (didn't want to work out with bad breath). I removed my six-day-old nail polish.

But I made it up there (our elliptical is in the third-floor game room). For 30 excruciating minutes.

Music on my iPod helps (also helps drown out the phone, which will invariably ring once I get one there, and I hate the distraction of wondering who needs or wants what from me at that moment). Today's music of choice, music that moved and inspired and motivated me: Broadway.

I need to remove the jazz - it's just not fast enough to make me work. Dave Edmunds never fails; other artists, depends on the song. But for some reason, the strains of Topol and Fiddler on the Roof were doing it for me today.

While on the elliptical (for those 30 unbearable minutes), I had some time to think. And what I thought of, in my daily exercise-induced haze (not the endorphins that others drone on about - there is no euphoria in my torture), was that I want my life to be like a musical.

That's right. I want to break into spontaneous song. And dance. And for others around to not only stare at me as if I am crazy, but to join in. And know all the words and harmonies.

I want to dance in the street, to grab passers-by and have them join me in song. I want the lyrics of my songs to answer, or at least ponder, the problems of the world - well, of today, anyway. I want glorious music to follow me as I walk away with a skip in my step.

But I live in the real world, so I know this isn't going to happen. I can, however, enjoy the music in the background of my mind, knowing that even if others can't hear it, I am dancing through life.

L'chaim - to life!

Struggle

I read a bunch of blogs. Some are funny; some are dull. But I ran across this the other day:

I would like to lose about ten pounds.

Problem: Food. It is delicious.

Another problem: Exercise. It is less fun than you might imagine.


Truer words were never spoken. Or written.

Which leads me to my dilemma. I really, really do not want to hit that elliptical right now. Really do not want to.

Which is my I'm headed up to do exactly that.

Sigh. The things I do for my health ... oh, screw that. The things I do for vanity.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Elements of Style

Happy 50th Birthday wishes to The Elements of Style, the little book that all grammarians hold dear.

EB White, in 1959, took Williams Strunk's words of wisdom on grammar and usage and turned out this little gem. Strunk had been White's professor at Cornell University, but it wasn't until the mid-'50s that the book was brought back to White's attention. Thus he re-edited and re-released the book, which became a handbook for high school and college rhetoric students.

I am a big fan. But keep in mind that I am also a big fan of the Associated Press style book. Yes, I am a nerd. A nerd who finds reading about grammar and usage, about clarity and accuracy, the nuances of language, fascinating. Yes, you read that correctly: fascinating.

I enjoy the earlier sections of the book, where Strunk & White discuss Elementary Rules of Usage, such as "The number of the subject determines the number of the verb." I enjoy the reminders on how to make possessives or on punctuating appositives.

But my favorite section deals with Words and Expressions Commonly Misused. There are now entire Websites dedicated to such errata (and I frequent those as well), but the ones in this book are classic. How else does one remember when to use comprise as oppose to compose? Or the difference between nauseous and nauseated? The rule on when to use hopefully? fortuitous?

Ah, yes, antiquated language. But just as with any out-of-date book, value remains. Yes, there are now better books on grammar and usage; language has evolved over the last 50 years. Yet the basic tenets of good grammar remain the same. I'll always be looking for new tips on language. But I'll be keeping my Strunk & White on my desk - some things never go out of style.

Criticism

A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog entry on my other blog site that was featured. I didn't realize it was until I started getting comments. I usually get a few for every entry, from my little circle of readers. But for this one, I got hundreds. Literally - I think I got over 400 comments.

Many people agreed with me. And some didn't. Really didn't. Some disagreed with me in a very respectful way - and we became "friends" - others called me judgmental and other names I won't repeat.

Which is all OK. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. I wrote the entry in question (though if I had known it would have such a wide audience, I might have written it somewhat differently) but others had a very different viewpoint, and they were free to express that.

On this blog, I don't generate a ton of comments. (I also post very different entries - people I know in real life read this.) I also don't leave a lot of comments on blogs written by people I actually know. Partly because I tend to read them quickly and move on to something else, and also because unless they really strike me, I just don't feel that moved to share my opinion on someone else's writing. These are not professionals; they are not asking for my critique.

I'm ruminating on this because a blog I read sometimes mentioned getting snippy comments. Anonymous comments. And I'm wondering how I would feel about that. And how I would handle it. I have gotten the occasional odd comment here, from people I don't know. And you know what? They kind of sting.

I have tried to respond to their comments (this has really only happened a few times). I have not apologized, but I have acknowledged them and left a response. I have considered deleting them, but decided against it.

Their criticism is a little reminder to me that I need to think through what I say. I am, as we all are, entitled to my opinions. But I do need to make sure I have carefully thought about what I'm saying and need to be prepared to defend my opinions.

It has made me realize how tough it must be to write a national column. Anything you write will generate all sorts of comments - people will either like you or hate you, and they will not hesitate to let you know. Thus you make a lot of friends as well as a lot of enemies. And you have to develop a thick skin.

I'm not sure I'd be cut out for that. It's not personal, but it still can't be easy.

I confess, I have thought, a time or two, about leaving snippy comments on blogs. But I don't. I would have a hard time signing my name to something mean, and I am not going to leave unsigned messages. That just feels low and cowardly. At the newspaper, we always required letter writers to sign their name. Which makes me think twice before writing a letter to the editor - people will know I wrote it, so I had better be prepared to defend my stance.

This discourse is really a good thing. When people question you, or you know they may, you make certain you have facts to back up your assertions. You make sure to use logical arguments, that you have valid data on your side.

But with blogging? When it's a personal blog, where someone spouts off about their kids, their activities, their day-to-day life? My guess is, someone is still not going to like it. And may feel compelled to share that.

Criticism? Bring it on. I may not like it, but I think I can handle it. It's still my blog; these are still my opinions, nothing more. But maybe I'll learn something, even if it is just a little humility.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Terrorism, right here at home

It was ten years ago today that two teenage boys instigated what was then the biggest school shooting incident this country had ever seen. On April 20, 1999, we heard the news, saw the footage of the shootings at Columbine High School in suburban Denver.

We've talked of Columbine in the decade since then, pondering the lessons it taught us, worrying about our children, about the safety of our schools.

Yet as turns out, much of the lore surrounding that fateful day at Columbine is, in fact, not true. Journalist Dave Cullen recently released a book, Columbine, in which, through interviews with survivors, he debunks much of the myth surrounding the events of that day - myths about the perpetrators, the survivors, and what really went on in the school.

Among the myths - many of which continue to be spread:

• For example, many in the media initially reported that 17-year-old Cassie Bernall, a Christian, answered "yes" when asked if she believed in God and then was shot to death. She became a poster child for the Evangelical movement after her death. The incident was widely reported - in error. It was another student who, after she was shot, expressed her belief. She survived.

• The shooters, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, were not members of the "Trench Coat Mafia." The group was a non-violent student group, most of whose members had graduated, and to which Harris and Klebold never belonged.

• Harris and Klebold did not target certain groups of kids - Christians, African-Americans, jocks. They had not been bullied. They did not have a list of certain kids they meant to target.

• They did not even intend to start a school shooting, but instead wanted to bomb their school in what would be the biggest bombing after the Oklahoma City bombing of three years earlier.

• The date chosen was not because of the anniversary of Hitler's birth and did not have anything to do with their love of Nazi trivia.

• Both of the boys were not sociopaths. Harris likely was, meeting nine of ten characteristics. But Klebold was depressed, lonely, and suicidal - not psychopathic.

• The attack was not spurred on by Harris's rejection by the Marine Corps.

The incident was a tragedy; these incidents make me wonder - though not every day - if my children are safe in their schools, if there is something we should be doing, as a society, to help prevent these occurrences.

But it should be remembered for what it was, not steeped in a fiction it can't live up to.

Today, I was struck by the file photo of the woman who was reunited with her daughter - I could see the relief in her eyes as they embraced, as she no longer had to worry about the fate of her child, as she did not have to face that unspeakable grief. I feel for all those parents who lost their children that day. And for me, that includes the parents of the shooters. No matter what they did - or didn't - do, they did not condone those actions. And they, too, are victims; they lost their children, too.

Here's hoping we never see a repeat of that dark day.

Friday, April 17, 2009

50 Things

I have so much I ought to be doing ...

1. If your doctor told you TODAY that you were pregnant, what would you say?
We've had that taken care of, so there would be a lot of questions.
2. Do you trust all of your friends?
Yes. They have proven to me time and again why I should.
3. Would you move to another state or country to be with the one you love?
I have. And yes, I would do it again.
4. Do you believe that everything happens for a reason?
No. The murder of an 8-year-old by a neighbor is proof of that.
5. Can you make a dollar in change right now?
I think I could - I tend to carry a lot of change with me.
6. Which one of your Facebook friends do you think would make the best doctor?
Hmmm ... probably the ones that already are physicians.
7. Are you afraid of falling in love?
Too late. And no.
8. Ummmm ... there's no #8 here. Hmmm.
9. Is there someone who pops into your mind at random times?
Of course. Mostly people from my past.
10. What's your most favourite scar?
It used to be the one on my forehead, but it has faded over time.
11. What was the longest flight you were on?
One of those flights to Germany. Or Moscow.
12. What did the last text message you sent say?
Sent to Gary last night: "Are you tivoing?" I made Tivo a verb.
13. What features do you find most attractive in your preferred sex?
Physical or personality traits? The latter is more important. Intelligence, common sense, compassion, sense of humor.
14. Fill in the blank. I love________
My family.
15. What is a goal you would like to accomplish in the near future?
Get my house completely organized. I think it's a real possibility.
16. If you were to wake up from being in a coma for an extended time, who would you call?
My family
17. How many kids do you want to have?
I have three. I'm done.
18. Would you make a good parent?
I think I'm doing OK. I'm not without my weaknesses, but I'm sure I do better than some.
19. Where was your profile picture taken (Facebook)?
Which one? Some at the computer, some by family, others are cartoons.
20. What's your middle name?
Jane. I passed it on to Sylvia.
21. Honestly, what's on your mind right now?
Cleaning up the third-floor game room. Getting the dining room in order. Painting Sylvia's shelves. And so forth.
22. If you could go back in time and change something, what would it be?
I don't think I want to mess with it. Sure, there are things I should have done differently, but now, what's the difference?
23. Who would be the maid of honor in your wedding?
A friend - I have no sisters. But I guess if I got married again (which is not likely at the moment), it would be one of my daughters.
24. What are you wearing right now?
Khaki capris (yay spring), sandals. Loving it.
25. Righty or Lefty?
RH
26. Best place to eat?
There are so many. La Scala, Maize, Little Mexico II, Beo One for sushi.
27. Favourite jeans?
Don't even know what brand they are - I love them.
28. Favourite animal?
Our dog, Zoe.
29. Favourite juice?
Um, cranberry? I guess?
30. Have you had the chicken pox?
Yes, but I have no memory of it. I was small.
31. Have you had a sore throat?
I have a mild one right now.
32. Ever had a bar fight?
No.
33. Who knows you the best?
Either Gary or Helen. Sometimes JoAnn.
34. Shoe size?
6 to 7 1/2 - varies.
35. Do you wear contact lenses or glasses?
Both. Readers, too.
36. Ever been in a fight with your pet?
Hell yes. Stupid dog.
37. Been to Mexico?
Never. How sad is that?
38. Did you buy something today?
Oh yes - shoes for an event tomorrow night. Clinique bonus time.
39. Did you get sick today?
No ... this is one weird quiz.
40. Did you miss someone today?
I often do. Today is no exception.
41. Did you get in a fight with someone today?
Not so far. But the day is young.
42. When is the last time you had a massage?
I had a food massage today.
43. Last person to lie in your bed?
Me - Gary gets up earlier than I do.
44. Last person to see you cry?
Maddie, who chastised me for crying during a YouTube video. Sue me.
45. Who made you cry?
The afore-mentioned YouTube video, of Susan Boyle. That woman is amazing.
46. What was the last TV show you watched.
30 Rock last night.
47. What are your plans for the weekend?
Tidying up, painting Sylvia's shelves, a big gala fund-raiser in Indianapolis.
48. Who do you think will repost this.
I hardly have time to worry about that, and mostly don't care.
49. Who was the last person you hung out with?
Alison and Maddie.
50. If your significant other asked you to marry them TODAY, what would you say?
I would say yes - we do have three children together, after all ... seriously, he is just as fun as when we met. No regrets on that major decision - one of the wisest moves I've made in this life.

Voice of an Angel

Like the rest of the world, I am absolutely transfixed by the video of Susan Boyle. She is the Britain's Got Talent contestant who has taken the world by storm with her rendition of "I Have a Dream" from Les Miserables. (The video is no longer available for posting, but you can find it - it's a YouTube sensation.)

Part of me is bothered by the initial reaction, the "surprise" that someone who is not vain, not conventionally attractive, can sing like she does. And on the other hand, I am thrilled to see this woman shatter stereotypes about what we do or should like.

I can't believe that, with a voice like hers, she has remained in obscurity all these years. But not any more - she is on the way to something big.

All the best to you, Susan Boyle, as you remind us, once again, that beauty is not only in the eye of the beholder, but can be found in places likely and unlikely. We should never be quick to judge, and we should enjoy some things for what they are.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Honesty

Maddie and I were talking the other day.

You're too uptight about food, she told me. You always want to make sure we're not eating certain stuff. Stay out of the cookies for Sylvia's lunch, you tell us.

Well isn't that normal parent behavior? To be concerned about what you're eating? Not to mention, there is nothing worse than going to pack S's lunch and not having what I thought I had. That's why you need to leave the cookies alone.

Maddie, with very serious voice: But cookies are delicious. Breaks into huge smile.

*****

After Tuesday's field trip, the kitchen people came to measure for our counter tops.

[Aside: Yes - oh yes! We are down to those last few details - if you can call counter tops a "detail." It is frustrating that this major piece of the kitchen puzzle cannot be ordered in advance, but must be measured with the cabinets completely in place. But only two weeks. And the price was a steal - much less than I had anticipated for granite. It will be soooo beautiful ... )

Maddie looked at me.

You've been outside today.

Yes, I said, I have. I went on Sylvia's field trip and walked around in the cold, damp, windy race track.

Are you going to pull your hair back before the kitchen people come?

Um, no?

Oh.

Pause.

They will remember you as the lady with the hair.

Sigh.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Fourth-grade Field Trip

Parenting/school duties for this year are paid up.

Believe me.

I agreed - half-heartedly - to chaperone a fourth-grade field trip yesterday. On the agenda: The Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home to the Indy 500.

I'm not a big racing fan. In all the years we've lived in Indiana, I've never been to the 500 (though I did go to the Brickyard one year). It wasn't really on my list of must-sees. But hey, it was with Sylvia's class.

Arrived at school, and I was assigned Sylvia and two of her friends for my group. They are well-behaved girls, so I was good. I was given three wristbands and told everyone must wear a wristband.

Adults, too? Yes, adults too. Well, I only have three, for the kids.

Everyone needs one, I am told by Mrs. R, the teacher.

I repeat again, I don't seem to have one. Again, she says, Everyone needs one to get in.

I apparently need to be more direct.

Do you have anymore wristbands? I ask. I gave my three to my group of three girls (I feel the need to be very specific).

I'm not sure, Mrs. R says. We may have just the right number.

???

If you don't have a wristband for me - a wristband that is required for entering the museum - please tell me now, before I get on the bus for the hour ride down there, where I will be forced to sit on the bus or outside the museum. Please.

Five minutes later, Mrs. R hands me my wristband. Damn.

Overall, not a terrible day, but not terribly exciting, either. The day was planned so badly - you'd think we were the first school group to tour. Nope - this program has been in place for three years. Yet they had us walking all over that infield, back and forth, passing by where we had just been three or four times. I understand the need to stagger the groups, but could it not be done in a more linear fashion? I mean, come on - we walked from point A to point D then back to point C then to point F then back to point B - you get the idea.

And our docent, when walking us to Point X, took us up a path that had no gate, so we had to backtrack and walk way around to get to the door. Hello - do you have any idea what you're doing? I know she is a volunteer - very nice woman - but could someone have trained her? Given her, I don't know, some idea of where she was to take us?

I did learn what all the flags mean (Gary did not know what the black flag meant); and seeing the old cars was sort of fun, the evolution of race car engineering. The video on crashes was anti-climactic (come on, surely there were better ones to see).

(And the young guy who ran the video - OMG, Peter, it was a young you! He was like your twin.)

I learned about superstitions at the race; I learned which driver drank OJ rather than milk, and what year that was.

And it didn't rain all day, an added bonus. Cold as hell, but no rain - count my blessings. I dressed like most of the other parents - jeans, tennis shoes, sweatshirt, rain coat. One mother had on her nice pants, her high-heeled boots, her trendy coat with coordinating scarf.

I have that outfit. I have the pants, the boots, the trendy coat. But hello - we were walking around the Speedway in what could have been pouring rain. I didn't even really fix my hair for the day - why bother? And my feet were comfortable. So for one day, it was worth sacrificing the put-together look.

On the way home, I had to sit near the kid on the bus who meowed - like a cat - the entire way home. The fact that no one was acknowledging him did not seem to deter him a bit. Need I mention this kid was sitting alone?

Did I mention this is the GT class?

Sylvia and I came home and made hot chocolate. I told her thanks for inviting me.

Well, she said, I didn't actually invite you. All I did was hand you the note and permission slip.

OK.

But it's OK that you came, she added. Because then I know I'll be in your group and not get stuck with some weird parent.

I think I'm done with chaperone duties for this year.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Organizing and taxes

It's cold and rainy here today.

Sigh.

I've had my fill of rainy and chilly. I suppose spring is often thus - rainy and chilly and unpredictable. It just feels as if consistently warm weather should be on the horizon. Which it is - 60 on Wednesday, 69 on Friday. Warm weather, that is - not the consistent part. We'll be back in the rainy 50s next week.

I truly am a warm weather person. Though, as I've lamented, I do enjoy the winter, the change of seasons (a little something I learned about myself in my exile down south). But my love affair with winter was fleeting and has an expiration date.

*****

I have a million (truly - I don't exaggerate) things to do. Get Sylvia's room unpacked (she's moved in - yay!). Unpack my kitchen. But circumstances prevent me from getting this stuff done. Sylvia is doing homework. And contractors are installing the range hood. So no working in those rooms.

Plus I've had other stuff to do. Some laundry, some organizing. And taxes.

How did taxes end up in my realm? When we went through the division of labor, taxes clearly were relegated to Gary. I took laundry, shopping, the kitchen, cleaning, bills, the checkbook, and all other organizing for the girls. He got trash, the lawn, the cars, pests, and taxes. Yet here I am. To be fair, we use Turbotax, which means, basically, find the number on the form and type it in - could not be more idiot proof. Plus it goes through and checks your work. I did it last year, too, which was probably my mistake - we have documented evidence that I didn't foul things up, thus I have proven my competence.

What does a job well done get you? More work.

And the reminder that I should probably not go back to work - it would only end up costing us. We're better off with just Gary's salary.

I hear the washing machine beckoning.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Impending Completion

Today, I am less frazzled than yesterday. Actually, much less frazzled. Because yesterday was a mess, with the ins and outs of appliance delivery. Seems as if it's the sort of thing that ought to be fairly straight forward. But if you believe that, then you've never owned a home. In the world of home maintenance and remodeling, nothing is ever straight forward.

But by late yesterday, that was dealt with. The ancient, inefficient basement refrigerator we inherited, the one on its last leg, that was moaning and groaning and not keeping drinks cold (I quit keeping milk down there out of fear) is gone - hauled away by the delivery men, who didn't even grumble when I suggested the game of musical refrigerators, involving our narrow, creaky basement steps, they would be playing. (I even offered cash up front, which they refused - gave them a nice tip in gratitude.) In its place stands our the former kitchen refrigerator (I'd say old, but it's not that old). And now, sitting in the middle of the kitchen (because there is no outlet yet - that happens today) is our brand-new refrigerator. Our new stove is sitting just inside the back door, the oven hood beside it, in its box.

But the best part? Gale the contractor extraordinnaire installed temporary plywood countertops and our dishwasher. Which works (imagine happy dance to beat happy dances here). He also installed a temporary sink, which means no more leaning over the back-breaking laundry room sink to wash the dishes.

The electricians are here today, adding some outlets, installing some light fixtures. But not all the light fixtures - can't install the bathroom light until the vanity is in, and we have not purchased the light for over the kitchen table. But now that we've ceased needing the laundry sink, I can buy the bathroom vanity and mirror - we (the administrative "we" - meaning the electrician, for which we are footing the bill) can then hang the light, which must be centered over the vanity.

Whew. Just thinking about this exhausts me.

Carpet installers are also here today. Which meant last night we were furiously painting Sylvia's room. We couldn't start earlier because we had to wait for the walls to be completed. It's a delicate house of cards, this project, with each piece of the puzzle fitting so carefully with the others. We got Sylvia's walls rolled, the ceiling done, and much of the trim work done (though not all). The baseboards got one coat of paint, but the window and door frames still need to be painted, and the baseboards will need a second coat.

It's never ending, I tell you. Except that I see an end to some of this.

The kitchen is virtually done. I will order the countertops today, and it will be four to six weeks - depending on whether or not the slab of granite we choose is in stock, whether it's been polished. But other than that? Things are pretty much done.

Done! What a word. But I shouldn't say it too loudly - karma has been known to bit one in the ass when you least expect it.

Approaching completion ... that sounds so good.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

On today's agenda

I have a date to walk with a friend. Must finish painting Sylvia's room - probably need to buy more paint. Need to paint the woodwork, which is going to require some sanding, some prep work.

Bills to pay, maybe some groceries to pick up. Mustn't forget to return my Netflix so we can have a new movie this weekend. Tonight, must empty Sylvia's room - carpet installers come tomorrow a.m., so room must be empty.

Must drive Maddie to flute practice; on the way home, stop to order new counter top. We're going with the solid granite - a local place quoted us a price that just can't be beat. Yes, it's a LOT of money, but still, for this kitchen, it will be worth it. Considering the projected value of the house, anything less (other then Corian) would look as if we cut corners.

Must go to license branch and get Indiana plates for van. Tried this once, but needed the registration along with the title. Did you know you can get a ticket for driving around with expired plates? Even if they are only a couple days past due, and even if you really did try to renew them but didn't quite finish the task? I've heard this can happen.

Have a good day, all.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The good, the bad, the in-between

There are days when everything goes well; there are days when everything seems to go wrong.

Then there are day like today. When most things go well. Until - BAM - something goes wrong.

I could say, Terribly wrong. Horribly, awfully wrong. Except that really, in the grand scheme of things, this is a small thing. Small enough that, while I'm truly upset, I can also laugh. And Gary is helping me laugh.

So, rather than be all stressed and freaked out, I am going to pause and be thankful for having such a wonderful husband, such great kids and, really, a pretty good life.

With one or two little blips. Sigh - how would I know when things were great if I didn't have moments when they weren't?

Smart people do dumb shit sometimes. Wise words from my husband. Thanks, honey, for helping me put things in perspective.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The Price is Right

I grew up watching The Price is Right. Especially on summer vacation; it came on around 10 a.m., and we used to love to watch, to play along with Bob Barker and the guests on contestants' row.

I watched a long time ago. I remember when the show went from 30 to 60 minutes. I remember back before they used to spin the wheel. This was when Janice and Anita were the models; back before college kids used to play. The contestants back then were housewives. We played the Hi-Lo game, the one where you had to guess the order of the numbers in the price of the car - and there were only four - the mountain climber game.

When we would go to the summer movies, my friends and I would walk to the movie theater at the mall. We used to cut through Montgomery Ward, and in the furniture area, where they had bedrooms, dining rooms, and living rooms on display, we would play Showcase.

Growing up in the 70s - this is what it was.

I remember watching when the contestants would see the next item up for bid. It was usually a household appliance - a stove, a dishwasher, a washer and dryer. And I remember thinking, how anti-climactic (though I doubt I thought those exact words). I mean, my family had a stove, a refrigerator, a grill. How boring.

But I was a kid. I didn't get it. To me, all appliances were the same. Now that I am an adult, I totally get it.

All appliances are not equal.

Believe me, I get it. Especially as, in the course of the last six months, we have replaced every appliance we own. We celebrated our 20th anniversary by purchasing a new washer and dryer. Ours was 20 years old, and I think the washer had started to leak. When we moved, they left a set for us in the basement, and they were at least as old as the set I had - maybe older - and mismatched (the horror!). So we purchased a fancy front-loading washer and matching dryer. We loved ours in Germany, so we figured after 20 years of marriage, it was time to upgrade our clothes washing. The new machine uses less water, gets clothes cleaner, and is easier on the clothes, as they wash against themselves, not an agitator.

And most importantly, they look so cool. Too bad they are in basement where no one can see and enjoy them but me. And I do mean only me - no one else in my family has bothered to learn how to operate them. Gary says he doesn't want to spoil my fun.

Anyway.

In the last couple of weeks, I have purchased the rest of our new appliances. And, as I'm sure you know, all appliances are not equal. One can buy a stove for $250. But it won't be a pretty stove. It will be a barely functional stove - the kind you'd find in an apartment. For our remodel, I wanted a fancy stove - I really wanted a faux-industrial stove, but I wasn't quite up for spending (gulp) $7000 (my entire appliance budget plus some). So I settled for the Electrolux duel fuel range. It is not only beautiful, but highly functional: five burners, with one that can swap out into a griddle; a warming drawer; easy-glide racks; convection oven; Min-2-Max™ burner with a range of 550 to 16,000 BTU and Wave-Touch™ controls; and - Sylvia's favorite - the perfect turkey button.

I can hardly wait to cook. But we're not done.

There is the exposed vent hood/fan, vented to the outside. It set us back a bit, as well. Then there's the dishwasher - and, once again, do not be fooled by price. The $250 dishwasher will be loud. It will not have adjustable racks, and you won't be able to set the delay cycle (very handy in a family if five). The refrigerator that costs $400 will not have an ice maker, will not have ice and water in the door, will not have the finish you require (we went with the too-trendy stainless steel - it will likely go out of favor in the next year to 18 months), will not have the fancy pull-out shelves and gallon-door bins. We opted not to go for the über-hip extra-wide fridge with the freezer drawer - they are very chic, but they tack on quite the premium for that look, so we went with your basic side-by-side. The budget could only support so much that is au courant.

It's all costing us. It does increase the value of our house (the appraiser has been through for the refinance), that's for sure, and it will not only look beautiful, but be so much more functional than what we had.

But I'm thinking of my 8-year-old self, and how *boring* I thought appliances were on The Price is Right. How we learn, how we change.

What I'd give to be on The Price is Right, with the chance to win a high-end kichen gadget. And how I would be right on top of that suggested retail price. Come on down ...

Monday, April 06, 2009

Zinn ecstasy

I greeted the Zinn cabinet installers this morning at 9 a.m. By 4 p.m., they had worked their magic.

This was what our kitchen looked like yesterday, as we painted. The color looks oddly orange in the camera light, rather garish - it is a bit more subtle. Though not too subtle - I am a big fan of bold color these days. And why not - life is short.


Here is our floor - slate tile. It is beautiful against the orange walls.


To the right of the sink, this cabinet/counter top area comes out at an L. The lower level is standard cabinet height - a fantastic work area. The upper level is bar-height - just enough room for three bar stools. You know, three kids = three bar stools. Fewer would never do.


The stove wall, which will feature my fancy new Electrolux duel-fuel range, with fancy exposed stainless steel hood/vent. This will be a cook's kitchen, but without the Viking range. Not enough room, not enough budget.


The sink, below the window. We didn't move it - way too much trouble (expense), plus, I like having the sink below the window. It has a view of the pool; nice in summer, kind of dull in winter.


Another view of the bar; the wall to the right is where the old half bath used to be. The refrigerator will now go there, recessed into the wall, with cabinets above.


In the new part of the kitchen, this recessed cabinet backs up to the side of the refrigerator. Great use of space - credit for this ingenious bit of design innovation goes to the Zinn kitchen folks. Glad I had them - little ideas like this make it so worth paying for kitchen design expertise.


It is possible to do a kitchen on your own - pick out cabinets at Home Depot or one of the big box stores, install them yourself, and save quite a bit of money. But you get what you pay for. We used Zinn, one of the premiere custom cabinet companies in this area. They do cost a bit more, but it is totally worth it. Their price includes everything: Design, hardware, installation. Everything is guaranteed for life. They will make certain you are satisfied. And, added bonus, it's local, and experts can tell you how much more of your money stays in the community when you buy local. Plus, people have warned me that when you deal with the big box stores, if something comes damaged or does not work out - ie, if you measured wrong and are off by a quarter inch - you are on your own; you have to contact the manufacturer. When you go with a custom place, or a kitchen designer, as my friend Kaye did, they stand behind the product and deal with the headaches so you don't have to worry so much. Yes, it costs more, but in the end, it is so worth it.

I've spent much of my day just standing around, admiring my new cabinets. They are soooo beautiful. And - ! - we are painting Sylvia's room in anticipation of new carpet Friday. Meaning this weekend she'll be moved into her room, the guest room will be done, and all will be back to normal on the top two floors of our house.

We may eventually finish all this remodeling. Then what will I do with my time?

Spring Break

I learned a couple of things on spring break this year.

Number one, I learned that I do not love downhill skiing. Everyone raves about what fun it is; everyone says it's the best thing ever.

I will have to respectfully disagree. I found it terrifying. Perhaps I am too old - perhaps I would have enjoyed it more when I was younger, more fool hardy. But at my age, it's just too much for me. The feeling that I could not stop, that I was going too fast, gave me nightmares.

Oh, and I spent part of my vacation week with a migraine. Didn't help.

We had a lot of fun with my brother John and Barbara, his significant other. They are always fun to hang with. Even when Missouri loses its quest for the Final Four.


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I spent much of the week curled up on the sofa, enjoying the books I brought with me. Which leads me to the second thing I learned: that vacation does not have to involve lots of activity for me to be happy. Just hanging with Gary and the girls, enjoying a good book, games, and time together is enough for me. I do love a fun vacation in a major metropolitan area, but I also like the laid-back week.

But next time will be at the beach.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

But I'm a UU!

For fun, I went to Beliefnet.org, just to make sure I'm at the right church. Ooops - looks like my church is my No. 2 choice.

Oh well. I'm already there - I guess I'll hang around for a while. But maybe I should start going to Forum??

Your Results

The top score on the list below represents the faith that Belief-O-Matic, in its less than infinite wisdom, thinks most closely matches your beliefs. However, even a score of 100% does not mean that your views are all shared by this faith, or vice versa.

Belief-O-Matic then lists another 26 faiths in order of how much they have in common with your professed beliefs. The higher a faith appears on this list, the more closely it aligns with your thinking.

How did the Belief-O-Matic do? Discuss your results on our message boards.
1. Secular Humanism (100%)
2. Unitarian Universalism (94%)
3. Liberal Quakers (78%)
4. Theravada Buddhism (74%)
5. Neo-Pagan (73%)
6. Nontheist (71%)
7. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (62%)
8. New Age (59%)
9. Taoism (50%)
10. Reform Judaism (46%)
11. Mahayana Buddhism (46%)
12. Orthodox Quaker (42%)
13. Sikhism (34%)
14. Jainism (32%)
15. Scientology (31%)
16. Baha'i Faith (29%)
17. New Thought (28%)
18. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (22%)
19. Hinduism (22%)
20. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (21%)
21. Seventh Day Adventist (20%)
22. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (16%)
23. Orthodox Judaism (16%)
24. Eastern Orthodox (14%)
25. Islam (14%)
26. Roman Catholic (14%)
27. Jehovah's Witness (12%)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Scattered

My mind is all over the place these days.

My house is a mess - a total disaster. But there is light at the end of the tunnel, so we're just breathing deeply and getting through it. I dusted yesterday - seems pointless, as there is more drywall to be sanded. But at some point, I had to rid the furniture of at least one layer of filth.

We are leaving on spring break Friday. And I have a laundry list of things to do - a long list. Meetings, errands, stuff around the house.

Which explains why I forgot Sylvia's dentist appointment today. But not how I had 30 minutes to shop sale racks.

I know. I don't understand either. Nor do I understand some of these "designers," a term I use loosely here. Why I would I want to wear a sweater with little pockets on the sleeve? Or a pullover with a fake T-shirt sewn into the V neck? Or anything with pleats on the empire waist?

Yuck.

So, lacking a transition here, I'll segue into Sylvia's fourth-grade class play on Indiana history. I am fully up to date on the state of Indiana through 1865. On the relative importance of canals, of flat boats, and of abolitionists vs. secessionists. I am a bit annoyed that the note sent home had the start time as 1.15 p.m., yet when I walked in - at 1.10 - the play had clearly been underway for at least a few minutes.

I sat by one of the other mothers I know. Who is fine, most of the time. But feels a constant need to drop into every conversation that her husband is an aeronautical engineer.

Um, OK. So is mine. (My husband's bachelor's degree is in mechanical & aerospace engineering. His master's degree, too. In case you're interested.) But I don't necessarily need to remind everyone every time we talk. I have another acquaintance who likes to make sure all the kids call her husband Dr. X.

I wonder if it has to do with insecurity (which is what I suspected of the neighbor who always wanted us to know just how successful he was, how he had just joined the country club, how his wife could afford to quit work now). Or with an over-inflated sense of importance.

Either way, people notice. And aren't impressed.

OK. That 400-page book is not going to read itself ...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tragic

How does a 45-year-old woman hit her head and walk away, then end up dead within hours?

It's so tragic. And it's so real. This is what happened to Natasha Richardson, who hit her head during a ski lesson.

She was 45 years old - my husband's age. She has two sons.

It just all seems so senseless. But boy does it stop and make one think.

We are going skiing in two weeks. This makes up my mind about whether or not we will be wearing helmets on the slopes.

And it also helps me pause and reflect on how fleeting life is, how quickly everything can change. You just have to appreciate every day what you have - it can all change. Life isn't fair; no one ever said it was. And as I read this morning, anyone who doesn't get up in the morning and say, "How lucky I am," is an idiot.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Life lessons (or Where did I put that rat's ass?)

We were chatting this weekend - just general lunch time chat, about such things as Michelle Obama's arms and whether or not critics should be after her and her penchant for sleeveless dresses, even in February.

Which is when Maddie reminded me of a great quote from a favorite television show, Pushing Daisies (which, apparently, has met with an early demise - collateral damage from last year's writers' strike).

The quote: Where did I put that rat's ass I could give?

That program always made me giggle - very clever, very snappy writing. And that quote is just apropos sometimes. Because now, when it seems that I should get worked up over something trivial, I can remind myself and just not care.

As I've gotten older, I've learned a thing or two. About life. I've learned not to let little things get to me. If you do, you'll be consumed with angst. I like my husband's favorite quote, too: "Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind." Dr. Seuss hit it right there - why bother worrying about what other people think?

I could concern myself with the fact that my husband and I do not use the same last name - won't people wonder whether or not we're married? Whether or not he is the father of our children? But I gave that up long ago - we know we're married; we know who the girls' father is. And anyone who matters knows. Why care what anyone else might possibly think, about someone who might have the wrong idea. It is their problem, not mine.

Which isn't to say I don't worry, but I save it for the stuff that matters - I worry plenty about my children (who else will?), and about my husband (I only have the one), about our life, our home, our finances, the choices we make regarding all of the above.

But as far as some of this other stuff? Such as, What will the neighbors think? or, Does he/she like me? I have learned to let all that go. Not that I didn't used to worry. But somehow, along the age of 40, I figured it out: If people don't like you (or, in this case, me) it's about them, not me.

And when I look at the people in my life that I consider friends - people in my neighborhood, my church, friends from high school and college - I am really surrounded by some great friends.

As for the rest of it? The small, nitpicky stuff? The keeping-up-with-the-neighbors? The kind of nonsense that surrounded me in the soulless suburbs of Houston?

Where did I put that rat's ass I could give? Because none of that matters a bit.

(And special thanks to Maddie for being clever enough to remember that bit of television philosophy.)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Perception

Poor Sylvia.

Yes, I noticed that she didn't do much yesterday; she lay around, watched some television. She even took a nap, which I assumed was because she had stayed up too late the night before at a friend's house.

So it wasn't until we were halfway through our marathon of running errands last night that it suddenly dawned on us: She's not just tired and cranky, but sick. When she asked to sit next to me at the restaurant and buried her head in my shoulder, I knew it immediately.

You'd think I'm new at parenting. I guess there is always more to learn.

So today I have an excuse to stay home. Though she seems to be fine today. She went to bed with a fever of 101, but she woke up today as usual, fever-free. And hungry.

And I get the morning off - nice. I am so glad she is feeling better; you hate to waste a sick day on a weekend, after all.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Demolition Day

It's going to be a stressful few weeks around these parts. We may be hitting our limit: We are officially relegated to our temporary kitchen, i.e. the dining room.

It's demolition day here at our house - the old kitchen is coming out as I write.

I am not sorry to see it go. I've mentioned this before (because really, do I talk of anything else?). But I am mostly bidding good bye to a pile of non-working appliances, outdated cabinets, and worn-out flooring.

And it is good riddance, indeed.

So, today I bid a farewell to this:






This shot shows the size of our old kitchen - the behemoth of an island usurping what little floorspace is in the middle of the room. Must remember that this kitchen was originally built at a time when people did not have a lot of dishes, utensils or appliances. Or, more importantly, at a time when the owner of a house like ours (it's a pretty big house, and, when built, would have been the home of folks with money) did not deign to cook for herself. At the very least, she would have had some help. Which explains the servant's bedroom in the attic and the back staircase.

(Sadly, no household help was included with the purchase of the house - I am on my own.)


Here, the wall is gone! John and Gale are shown here dismantling the giant island, leaving what now feels like an inordinate amount of floor space. It's all in what you're used to.



You can see back into the new area (which is essentially done, lacking only some trim and tile grout). The new bathroom is functional (though lacking a window blind - probably need that, and soon). We've installed a laundry sink, as that will be our makeshift kitchen.

I would post a photo of my dining room, but I don't think I'm up for it - it is filled with boxes of dishes, boxes of food, our microwave, necessary appliances (coffee maker, toaster, refrigerator). And it is a giant mess. We are going to be on the edge of madness around here, I'm thinking - we still have to eat, and we cannot possibly eat out all the time.

I can feel my stress level creeping up even higher ... and I was already at a preternaturally high stress level to begin with.

It's all for the greater good - I can tell that Sylvia finds this all to be an adventure. I suppose we will look back someday with great fondness, full of thigh-slapping exploits of the giant remodeling of '08-'09.

In that spirit, let the games begin. But I'm quietly counting the days.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Thank you for being a friend

To the recipient of my anxiety-filled e-mails of the last few days:

Thanks so much for listening (reading?). Thanks for being non-judgmental. Thanks for sharing - just enough - to allow to me feel as if I am not crazy, as if I am not isolated.

Mostly, thanks for being my friend for so many years. I won't say how many - that doesn't benefit either one of us, does it?

Thanks for being you!

Monday, March 09, 2009

Colors

We painted our new downstairs half bath and the addition part of the kitchen over the weekend. The bath is a green, slightly lighter than avocado - an apple green, I suppose you could say. The kitchen is a burnt orange, sort of terra cotta. It is stunning - both colors blend well with the slate on the floor. The green will be complemented by white trim and white bathroom fixtures; the orangey color also makes the slate really stand out (lots of terra cotta/copper in some of the tiles) and will look great next to our oak trim and the color of hickory cabinets we choose.

Cabinet stain has been narrowed down to two choices. We held them both up against the floor and wall, and both look fantastic. Trust me. It is all very warm and inviting.

I am feeling so good about all this. The wall between the old and new kitchen comes down this week; the kitchen demo begins Wednesday. Which means I need to get busy packing up the kitchen and setting up our temporary space in the dining room. And in the new bathroom, which will play its role as makeshift kitchen.

So this is your last chance to see our hideously outdated kitchen - it all goes on Wednesday. Come by and bid farewell - though you'll see no tears shed on this end!

Stupidity

"I'm not a big fan of the Spring-Back," were the opening words of this blog I read on occasion.

It's spring forward, you nitwit. That's the comment I wanted to leave. But didn't. Because I'm not a big fan of leaving caustic, nasty comments on others' blogs. I kind of want to sometimes, but I don't. I ascribe to the "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" school of thought.

You're probably wondering why I read this particular blog, seeing as it is so full of holier-than-thou, sanctimonious tripe. (It is - trust me. It is one of two highly sanctimonious blogs I read.) Good question; I ask myself that at least thrice weekly.

I'm a glutton for punishment, apparently. I know - who's the real idiot in this scenario?

Don't answer.

Friday, March 06, 2009

The fabulous, and the not so fabulous

Today, I have a headache. My back hurts. And did I mention that I had a terrible time sleeping last night? Lay awake for hours? (Literally - from midnight til 2 a.m. Dreadful.)

That sort of sums up my day. Last two days, to be exact. Yesterday was sort of hellish, for a variety of reasons. I'll spare you the details, but I was on the verge of a panic attack every hour or so, hyper-ventilating and overcome with brief terrors.

It's better today. Perhaps because today I had to pull myself together and get in gear - meetings had to be attended, things had to get done, passive voice had to be used. (In J School, passive voice was such a no-no - good thing none of my professors reads this, huh?)

I am feeling better, too, because I was able to take a nap this afternoon, getting back one of my precious lost hours of sleep from last night.

It has turned warmer outside - the day is glorious. It is warmer outside than in my house, a common phenomenon at this time of year. I went for a nice long walk yesterday with my BFF - the one who has the job that uses up all her play time, leaving with me with only dregs and crumbs. Thanks goodness this is a school-year-only job situation and that I can be patient - we'll have hours and hours poolside this summer to catch up. I look forward to that.

We have a nearly completed brand-new slate floor in our addition. It looks stunning - truly stunning. Gale, my contractor, is not convinced of just how lovely it is. But John, one of his employees, is on my side - he loves it. Of course, John also loved Maddie's wall color - perhaps he and I are simply on the same decorating wavelength. John's parents have some sort of Mexican tile in their house, the kind that is handmade and lies in the sun to dry, thus accumulating tiny bird foot prints in the tile. Sounds very cool. He understands just how very beautiful our natural slate tiles are, how the variations in color are eye-catching, how the look will go with whatever wall color we choose.

I assured Gale that when we are done, he will understand just how splendid it is. And that his name will be all over it - everyone will know who is responsible for our fabulous floors.

So I should get used to laying them? he quipped. Funny guy.

All right. Must move on - so much to do, so much I haven't done.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Bureaucracy

Yesterday I visited our local license branch. I shouldn't complain - the people who work there are nice and as helpful as they can be, and it's not really their fault the line is always out the door.

And mostly I'm not complaining. I got my new Indiana license (and they did not ask how long we'd been here - I was little worried, as I am way past the mandated 60 days in which to transfer my out of state license). And I started the license process on the Audi. My new DL picture is dreadful - for some reason, we now have this rule that one is not to smile, which did not help me any.

But I'm not sure I care to entrust the question of whether or not I'm a qualified driver to someone who tells me "read acrosst (sic) the the top line."

Scary. But I'm all legal again. And I have two more cars to register.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Game room, tile, more progress

What I wouldn't give for an extra hour or two each day. For reading, organizing, running errands - maybe even sleeping.

I could sure use it.

Today was a flurry of activity. While I was on the elliptical, my mind starting racing around, thinking of what I could do upstairs. But first I should back up: We moved all of Maddie's stuff from the third-floor game room down to her room - success! She is completely moved in (though to say everything is neatly stowed away would be a stretch - that is her job, and this week she is incredibly busy, with three swim meets, tests, ISTEP, science fair, etc. I can wait.)

So, with Maddie out, I cleaned, cleaned, cleaned ... in order to move Sylvia upstairs. We got the biggest portion of her necessary stuff moved up there; since she'll only be there for two weeks or so, we decided some of her furniture could stay in the hallway, or even move into our room (the sitting room off our bedroom).

And, since Sylvia is not taking up as much space as Maddie did, it suddenly dawned on me, while on the elliptical, that we could actually arrange the furniture in the TV area the way we would like, as we no longer have to accommodate for all of Maddie's stuff.

Thus I spent the morning moving furniture (and vacuuming thoroughly underneath everything I moved). It looks good. Not great - that will wait for the day Sylvia is no longer up there and we have a new couch (I've priced them - after this kitchen remodel, it will be a while). None the less, it looks much better, much less cluttery, much more usable space.

This took up much of the morning, but I feel so much better about the state of our house - we are seeing such progress. Today I am seeing this in the new part of the kitchen:

It is even more beautiful in person. Soon we'll be seeing new kitchen cabinets. I'm thinking "soon" is a relative term. But the stain choices are sitting in our house, waiting for a decision.

It is happening. Truly, it is happening.