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 ├╝ber-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%)