Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ten Rules for Being Human

I received this in my email the other day and found it fairly profound. Ms Carter-Scott says very articulately many things that I have often thought about. Seems fitting for an end-of-the-year post. Against my natural inclinations, I have left in the quote marks around various words so it is as I received it. I hate quote marks and ordinarily in all my writing or editing, especially for pay, they are summarily stricken "every time."

Ten Rules for Being Human
by Cherie Carter-Scott

1. You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it's yours to keep for the entire period.

2. You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called, "life."

3. There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of trial, error, and experimentation. The "failed" experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiments that ultimately "work."

4. Lessons are repeated until they are learned. A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it, you can go on to the next lesson.

5. Learning lessons does not end. There's no part of life that doesn't contain its lessons. If you're alive, that means there are still lessons to be learned.

6. "There" is no better a place than "here." When your "there" has become a "here," you will simply obtain another "there" that will again look better than "here."

7. Other people are merely mirrors of you. You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects to you something you love or hate about yourself.

8. What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours.

9. Your answers lie within you. The answers to life's questions lie within you. All you need to do is look, listen, and trust.

10. You will forget all this.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Bus driving for fun and profit

Johnnie is a school bus driver and has been for the past couple years. He retired three years ago from a big corporation after 30 years of cubbie farm enjoyment. After about a year of hanging out (and distracting me from my scheduled, ordered existence), I told him I needed more structure in my life so he should find a job. He interviewed at a local school district, got his commercial driver's license and began driving a school bus.

Johnnie never had children of his own but rather inherited my two girls when the youngest was in her teens so he is a relative newbie to children's behavior and has been rapidly learning kids antics on the bus and now with our granddaughters. So it's been interesting. However, he has a very even keel and the patience of Job that works in his favor when dealing with the little darlings every day. I couldn't do it. I'd have been tried for murder or mayhem by now.

Besides being a lot of responsibility in carrying over 100 children to and from school each day, the job was about what he (and I) expected. We established a new daily schedule of arising at o-dark-thirty each morning, him off to work, me up to the office to work and so on. Nice. Funny and frustrating instances of kids not behaving or one kid telling another, "I'm not a pest, I'm just annoying." The stuff that makes the world go around.

What we didn't expect was the unbelievable largesse he would receive at Christmas and the end of school as thank you presents from happy parents whose children were picked up promptly and delivered to their expected destinations -- either home, school or latch key daycare -- every day. Whoa. Last year at Christmas time he received about 12 Starbucks gift cards, several to Dunkin Donuts, Bruegger's Coffee, Home Depot, Wegmans (groceries), Hess, Barnes & Noble plus plates or bowls of cookies, about $40 in cash, a pound of Starbucks coffee, candy, hot chocolate mix -- you name it. Who knew bus driving could be so lucrative?

Same thing at the end of the year last June.

He began bringing gifts and gift cards home for the Christmas holidays a week or so ago - starting with a tower of goodies from Harry & David. We've been snacking on the cookies and candy for days. I never made any cookies at all this year but in some ways that's good because we have so many things from his kids. He's received a $25 gift certificate to Home Depot, several cards to Wegmans (always popular), many to Starbucks, Tim Hortons, Bruegger's, Wendy's, another pound of coffee, two pounds of Dove chocolates and lots more.

Since we don't frequent most of those places much, we often give the cards to our kids or sometimes as gifts to other people -- I guess it's really re-gifting but otherwise they will go completely to waste if we keep them to ourselves. We think of it more as sharing than re-gifting. I carry them around with me in a big rubber band in my purse so if we get someplace and want to use them, we're all set and not forgetting them at home.

He drives in a relatively affluent district but we're still amazed at the plenitude of gifts. Interestingly this year there have been fewer gift cards but many more homemade treats. Probably a sign of the uncertain economy.

When our kids were growing up and taking the school bus, I literally never even knew their bus drivers' names much less think to give them something for Christmas and the end of the school year. It has tuned my awareness to make sure we thank our service providers such as our postal carrier and our paper delivery person which I never would have thought to do before.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The holiday rush

The holidays are stressful enough so why do we purposely increase the stress and give ourselves MORE tasks and projects to get done? (obviously rhetorical) Just before Thanksgiving I decided to finally paint the upstairs guest bathroom. That led to a gradual project expansion that was ultimately of avalanche proportions when it was done. Gee, if the bathroom looks so nice, wouldn't it be great if the guest bedroom was finally done too? Heck, it's only four more walls and a ceiling. Much larger room. And a closet. So off to the paint store we went.

While the room was emptied, we started discussing how this smallish guest room had a king sized bed in it and way more furniture than it could accommodate. The furniture fit but the feng shui was nowhere to be felt. So we decided to swap two rooms around -- the smallish guest room and the larger bedroom once occupied by our daughter Erin that is now mostly used for naps and overnights for her daughter Emily. And the convenient flat surfaces catch a lot of junk that migrates there from time to time.

So now we had two rooms to paint and then exchange all the furniture. At the same time, since the birds are now gone, I decided to pull up the area rug in the dining room plus three others and take them to ServPro to get cleaned. And to arrange for carpet cleaners to come in and clean the wall-to-wall carpet in the house. All.at.the.same.time.

We began several years ago to switch the interior doors in the house from the standard luaun ones to six panel doors. The ones on the first level were done; none on the second floor had been done. Johnnie decided it was a good time to do the doors too, at least on the rooms we were repainting.

About this time, Johnnie started urging me to contact a wonderful painter we know and see if she had any available time. Of all miracles, she did. So Annie arrived in the nick of time to paint the larger bedroom. (I also have developed basal joint arthritis in both hands which makes it very painful to grasp the paint roller. More about this another time) Annie is calm and patient and paints without drop cloths or taping mouldings or anything. And she doesn't have gobs of paint on her clothing (a sure tip off -- I wear more paint on my clothes and hands than I ever get on the walls!).

So in a period of about two weeks we: switched two rooms, painted both of them (including trim and closets), got the carpets cleaned, got the rugs cleaned and returned, put the rooms together, put up six panel doors (and closet doors) and new hardware -- hinges and lever handles rather than knobs. Whew!

Our California daughter, Holly and her husband Mike arrived last night from San Francisco and all the projects were finished in just the nick of time. Johnnie hung the closet doors in the"new" guest room yesterday afternoon.

So that's why there have been no posts. Mea culpa. I'll work to do better once the holiday rush is over!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Bogart and Coconut

We inherited Bogart, then a five year-old red-lored Amazon, in 1992 when my ex-husband moved from Long Island to California and didn't want to drive cross country with the bird (understanding rightly the stress it would put on the bird). He ultimately gave Bogart to us. Despite the bird's name, we found out a year or so ago that Bogart is a female which explains his/her often randy (and funny) antics in the springtime, hoping to do her part to propagate the species.

We purchased Coconut, at the time a six month-old blue and gold Macaw, in Maui when we were there on a company reward trip in 1995. It was our (very expensive) living souvenir from a wonderful all-expenses-paid trip. We loved these birds and have cared for them daily for the past 17 and 13 years, respectively.

Did you know that Amazons live about 70 to 80 years and Macaws live to the ripe age of 40-45? Bogart is now 21 and Coconut is 14. We knew their life spans and their intelligence levels when we adopted both birds. They have the behavior of two year old children and the intelligence of seven year olds. Easily bored. Very bright. Need lots of stimulation, socialization and interaction.

We began to wonder about our future (as in we're not getting any younger) and the birds' futures a couple years ago. Neither daughter and son-in-law couple wants either of them. They may both outlive us (Bogart certainly will, given the right diet and living conditions). So we have been wrestling for many months about what to do with the birds.

Through personal inquiries, we found a young girl who wanted to adopt Bogart and breed her. So we parted with Bogart in August, cage, food and everything. We were hoping to find someone who wanted to buy Coconut so we could recoup a bit of our investment but it's hard to sell a bird. We didn't want him/her (only way to tell the gender is through a blood draw and DNA test) to go to someone we didn't know or weren't sure we could trust to treat him/her well. (There are people out there who deal in birds just as there are puppy farms - and we didn't want to subject Coconut to that kind of inhumane treatment.)

We turned to Paul Lewis of
Birds Unlimited, from whom we have been getting our bird supplies for these past 17 years, and have been talking with him about our birds for several months. Today Coconut moved to Paul's store. We're hoping that someone either decides to take Coconut as their pet or that Coconut gets along well with the store's resident Macaw, Simon, and has a long and happy life living in the store.

The house will be strangely quiet without Coconut's friendly greetings (Have a good day, What's up with that, What are you doing. Merry Christmas, I love you, and so on) and more frequent screeching. We feel sad and relieved all at the same time. And have a nagging feeling of guilt for taking on a pet and then not being up to the task of honoring our commitment to it (them). Still, we are certain that it's the best thing for Coconut, Bogart and for the two of us. Yet they have been part of the family for such a long time. We will miss them greatly.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Quick trip

Hope that everyone had a great Thanksgiving. We were at our daughter Erin and Mike's and had a great time. While the grandkids napped, we played Uno, Unger's Rummy and then the guys bowled on the Wii with Emily after dinner. Great fun and very relaxing. Check out Erin's beautiful spread and her molten temperature probe on her blog (www.the-looney-bin.blogspot.com).

We left early (5:45 am) on Friday morning to zip over to Michigan (about seven hours of driving and quick stops) for my second 40th class reunion.

I went to two different high schools because my parents decided we were moving in the early part of my junior year (just think how happy I was about THAT). We didn't move far - about 10 miles. Truthfully, I don't really know why to this day that we made that move but it probably had something to do with my dad's excessive drinking and losing his job. Perhaps the house was in foreclosure or something - I really never have had a clue and never thought to ask while either of them could have told me when they were still alive.

So we went to one reunion in August in Michigan and the other was yesterday (Friday) in the Detroit area. This reunion was a very relaxed event at an Italian restaurant for the bargain price of $15 apiece which included salad, pizza and dessert. Cash bar. Can't beat it. About 40 of our class and their spouses were there. Since I had only been with this class for roughly a year and a half, I didn't know many people -- at least not that I remember after 40 years for goodness sakes. I've never made it to any previous reunions because they couldn't find me. I've move enough times and changed my name enough that they didn't find me until I happened onto them via classmates.com. In any event, it was fun and we had a good time. I was able to make contact with the couple people I hung out with in high school and it was worth the trip.

It's not a bad drive from here to there and the weather mostly cooperated in both directions. We go along the NYS Thruway, cross at Niagara Falls and then cross into Michigan at Sarnia/Port Huron. Fairly painless. Lots of long stretches of highway with very little traffic. We (Johnnie and I) literally giggled and talked our way through the long rides. We read books to each other on repetitive trips where there's nothing really all that new to see. The latest is Diane Mott Davidson's Sweet Revenge, although it's not a new book.) The worst is getting across the borders with increased security and Thanksgiving weekend traffic. That's why we left so early in the morning on Friday and then left Michigan this morning at about 5:30 am.

The worst part about going to Michigan: they still allow smoking in restaurants! New York state has been smoke free in all restaurants, public buildings and bars for several years. So we're unprepared for smoking and it just stinks to high heaven. At the restaurant we were all seated in a banquet area and luckily there was no smoking at the tables. The room we stayed in at the nearby Motel 6 was billed as a non smoking room but the most tangible sign of that was an ashtray turned upside down on the bedside table with a no smoking symbol on the bottom. Oh yeah, and a disabled smoke detector showing that someone had obviously smoked in there recently (obvious in addition to the stench in the room).

Even Ireland, England and Scotland are now smoke free in its pubs and restaurants. But Italy was filled to the brim with smokers everywhere you turned.

So what's up with Michigan? How unenlightened can they be? Despite all the automotive industry problems and unstable economy in the downstate Michigan region, they should be eliminating smoking in public buildings.

Both Johnnie and I were smokers in our early years. I stopped in the early 1980s and he only smoked for a few years at about that time too (before we were together). We become more vigilant and outspoken as time goes on about other people's smoking and to our knowledge, no one in our family smokes (well, probably one niece does but we've never seen her). And my opinion of adults who I eventually discover smokes takes an automatic plummet. It's one habit that makes absolutely no sense in the midst of current health information about the hazards of smoking. It's just hard to reconcile the actions of otherwise intelligent people with their intent to kill themselves with cigarettes.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


The title should be said with Homer Simpson-like reverence.

Both Johnnie and I were chubby kids. He was called Johnnie Potato Chip by waiters at the country club his grandparents took him to as a youngster and I was Cheryl-Barrel during my elementary school days. We have always tried to eat sensibly and we do eat the right foods, just too much of them. We've each fought a valiant fight with weight over the years and we do MUCH better when we join forces to reduce our combined avoirdupois. We yo yo together.

We eliminated red meat from our diet years ago and don't miss it at all. He has borderline high blood pressure and cholesterol issues and his family has a history of heart disease and diabetes. My half sister and other relatives were diabetic and my dad was an alcoholic. So we have to be seriously careful and we mostly are.

A good friend of ours gave us a book a couple years ago called Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. We both read it and felt it had a great approach to reasonable eating. Effectively it eschews all meats, processed foods (sugars, flour) and animal products such as cow's milk, cheese, etc. in favor of plentiful vegetables and fruits. It advocates getting necessary fats from nuts and seeds such as sesame seeds, peanuts and so on. When we follow the principles of Eat to Live closely, we do well, feel great and lose weight. Johnnie is exceptionally good at following the general idea of the book and he has exceptional motivation to remain focused so he can avoid taking statins in favor of dietary control and exercise. Me? Not as much health-related motivation.

Big confession: I miss cheese and ham. I understand Dr. Fuhrman's premise that cheese is not healthy because it's loaded with animal fat and cholesterol. And ham is a no no because it's a processed meat -- in the same category as sausage and bologna. Sob. (In checking labels, we were surprised to discover that turkey sausage is actually higher in cholesterol than pork sausage. Seems somehow counter intuitive.)

So I depart from the plan occasionally and order cheese on my Eggbeater omelets or put a bit of blue cheese on my salad. We do use soy- or almond-based cheese and I try to embrace them but I can't always make the leap, especially if it's not buried in a burrito.

If we order pizza in, we get two: one made with no cheese and one with light cheese. I tried the no cheese one and it just doesn't deliver for me. I truly wish it did. Johnnie doesn't mind not having the mozzarella on it and uses a veggie-based Parmesan on top of the pizza.

I eat conscientiously most of the time but some things just aren't worth having without cheese as a critical ingredient. Ham has always been my favorite meat (our son-in-law would say it's a pork product and who can resist a good processed pork product -- he's from Nebraska, land of pig processing).

BTW, I'll be having a turkey leg for Thanksgiving while Johnnie eats veggies and stuffing.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Silliness around the bend

I think we have finally gone around the bend. As in getting a bit crazier and goofy as we get older. We have a print in our bedroom that is one of the She Said series by Leigh (sorry I wasn't able to find better attribution even on the Web).

It says:
"There is a direct correlation between the level of happiness in one's life and the amount of silliness they allow into it." SHE SAID "I know. I've done studies."

Last weekend Johnnie was telling me about an inflatable turkey that's on his school bus run and how cute it was. We took a drive past the people's house (literally a mansion on a street with million dollar homes - even here where housing prices are traditionally lower than in other parts of the country) and Johnnie went to the door and asked the woman who answered the door where she got the turkey. Online, couldn't remember where.

We embarked on a turkey hunt online and in local stores (Home Depot, Lowe's, Target, Big Lots, WallyWorld, you name it). He found the turkey on one site online (this was a very special inflated turkey, after all) and ordered it only to be notified on Monday that it was out of stock. Bummer. So he found a different, more common turkey on another site and ordered that. When I told Erin what we were getting, she merely said "your neighbors are gonna plotz." Possibly. Who cares?
It arrived last night. Johnnie went out and immediately set it up. The turkey's name is Gobble. Johnnie is thrilled. Erin and the granddaughters arrived while he was outside setting Gobble up and the Emily thought Gobble was pretty great (Lucy's too young to verbalize her delight quite yet). Erin? not so much but she humors us. After all, we're old (relatively speaking) and she doesn't want to be written out of the wills!

e know that we have not been inflatable ANYTHING people in the past. Our holiday decorations run to a few strands of Santa Claus lights around the front door, a grapevine star over the front door and a couple grapevine trees standing sentry on the porch. Quick and done.

(I asked for a small light up gnome for the back deck and a pink flamingo to stick in the flower bed a couple years ago and I seriously thought Erin was going to disown me for achieving a new level of tackiness and kitsch that she did not think I was capable of. It's a recently acquired fondness, possibly associated with getting older or maybe just more relaxed with being me. They're cute.)

During the day yesterday, Johnnie went to a Thanksgiving celebration at granddaughter Emily's preschool. He stopped at Lowe's on the way back to look at tools he might want for Christmas (to help those of us who play Santa for him) and he was smitten with yet another inflatable that he decided we needed. An inflatable nativity scene. Dear Lord, as Erin said when she saw the box last night.

The nativity is cute and will go up right after Thanksgiving when Gobble comes down. He (Gobble) is having a short season this year since Thanksgiving is next week but I'm sure he'll get a much longer season next year.

As you might suspect by now, we personify our decorations somewhat. We have the Great Pumpkin who starts coming upstairs in September because he's excited about Halloween. We have a small stuffed Santa Claus who has been known to sneak up the stairs early in November (for heaven's sake) to get an early start on the Christmas season. And they all rebel when they're sent back to the basement when their respective season is completed. I'm fearful that Gobble will be the same way. We are pretty sure they talk and compare notes during the remainder of the year while they're downstairs waiting for their season to arrive.

So we have achieved another benchmark in our silliness. Inflatables. Yikes.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Worm Songs

You know those songs that get into your brain or subconscious and NEVER leave? I can wake up in the middle of the night and still have the same song going around and around. It's aggravating. And it doesn't have to be a new song although it is at the moment. Right now, it's Taylor Swift's Love Song. It is driving me frickin out of my mind. Of course it's not the whole song, just a couple lines of one of the verses. Over and over and over and over ...

We are also having the same phenomena with
Jennifer Juniper by Donovan. One of us will start humming it about Juniper (Juni) the puppy and then we're both tunelessly humming and singing the song. Johnnie has had trouble with Watching You by Rodney Atkins (obviously we listen to a country station most of the time). We've had to turn the radio off many times to avoid constant repetition of the chorus in that song in either one or both of our heads.

Our daughter Erin calls these worm songs because they worm their way into your head and refuse to leave at a decent interval - like three or four minutes later. And with the limited playlists on most popular stations (such as the subject country station) you are liable to hear the same song several times a day.

Furthermore, we're fairly sure that some old songs never die. For example, did Alabama EVER sing anything except Song of the South? Has Tracy Chapman ever done anything except Fast Cars? Seriously folks. While they're just fine songs, they are tiresome after a while. Give us a break so we can give our brains a break! How about Charlie Daniels' Devil Went Down to Georgia? OMG! And even though we've heard them a hundred thousand times, I still mindlessly find myself singing along. Argh!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Headlines from our house

An assortment of things I've been wanting to share.

Juni (18 week old chocolate lab puppy) ate a foam paintbrush on Friday. She's fine and deposited its remains on the lawn or in the flowerbed shortly thereafter. I was up on the ladder putting the finishing touches on the bathroom painting and heard her crunching on something. I didn't give it much of a thought since she has toys scattered everywhere and is pretty good about not getting into things she's not allowed to have (except tissue in the wastebaskets). I found the remnants later in the hallway.

Random exchanges with Emily (3 year old granddaughter):
Me: "I have a boo boo on my thumb," pointing to arthritis-aching thumb joint on my right hand - no blood or other visible problems). "Would you kiss it for me and make it better?"
Emily, considering: "No, it will get better all by itself."'

Me (as Emily and I walked through Aldi's yesterday): "You can't get any new toys now. You're going to see Santa Claus in a couple weeks and tell him what you want so he'll bring you toys."

Emily, looking up at me: "Here?" (concerned that Santa will be bringing her toys to Aldi's)

Measurable, slippery wet lake effect snowfall in western New York overnight and today. Big bummer. I was out driving early this morning and the sky was steel gray in all directions, and even deeper colored out over Lake Ontario. We're lucky in that we only have an inch or so of snow. Buffalo got two feet and other areas nearer the lake (in traditional lake effect snow belts) got 33 inches. Yuck. The forecast is for snow intermittently over the next five days. Happy happy joy joy.

In a related matter to the snowfall, I glanced into our third garage this morning as I was leaving at our cute summer car, a Toyota MR2 Spyder named SUNNNNY. (Johnnie and I had a mutual mid-life crisis in 2003 and bought her on my birthday while in Cleveland for a family wedding.) SUNNNNY was sitting there looking very forlorn and shivering in the four wheel equivalent of a tank top and short shorts - her top down and windows wide open. Johnnie drove her to work as recently as last week. How fickle the season! She will now be tucked into her official winter wardrobe and slumber peacefully until the weather turns for the better in the spring.

We finally had to turn the furnace on for the first time last week for a couple days. Then it warmed up and we were able to turn it off again. Alas, with this current bout of weather, I think it will be staying on for a while this time. Sigh.

After struggling with strange happenings, unexpected bootings and reluctant start ups for quite a while on the Windows XP computer and the new computer loaded with Windows Vista for the past couple months, we finally bit the bullet and went for a MAC. Yes, the clever ads on television helped us make that decision. Well, those and Johnnie's on-going love affair with his iTouch. The new MAC is a thing of beauty - a 24 inch display that feels as large as a football field and a teeny tiny keyboard that I'm still working to get used to. And within this wondermachine is my MAC desktop, a Vista desktop and an XP desktop and all my files. Wow. It's so wonderful that Johnnie is so skilled at this stuff. I'd be hosed without him (and the MAC)! With all that said, sometimes I think my head will explode trying to figure out how to move documents and applications among the desktops. But it's worth it.

Does any other area of the country have to select their energy supplier(s) every year? We've been doing it for natural gas (and can also do it for electricity) each year for the past several. It's the utility's way of having its customers play Let's Make a Deal for the following year and deciding which of four or five energy service companies to select, each of which has a fixed price and a variable price option. So you're trying to wager which company will have the lowest rates for the coming year and within that, whether to gamble on the rates or lock in to a fixed rate. Once your decision is made, there's no going back. Plus, looking at past year's results is very confusing so you're never sure if you made the right decision or if you should switch for the coming year. It has now become an end-of-the-year ritual but I am not sure if this is a prevalent practice in other areas of the country. If you have something similar, could you leave a comment and let me know? It seems ridiculous to me, truthfully.

I'm sure it's no surprise to many other people (and shouldn't have been a surprise to me) but exercise works at alleviating depression and lethargy. Eureka! Our friend Bridget and I have been getting together three or four times a week to walk for an hour or so (three to four miles) for the past couple weeks to fight off apathy and lethargy and it's working just great. I've read it, I've intellectually understood its effects but never applied it to myself until now. All of a sudden I discovered that I have energy and I am not sitting around waiting for life to happen for me. Try it, you'll like it!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Games we play

I imagine that most couples have games they play with each other. Although I don't remember having playful games with either of my former spouses but I think Johnnie and his former wife did somewhat. Johnnie and I have several games we play with each other. Just playful games and we're fully dressed so I'm not talking about that type of game.

The latest one is to see how far into the fall we can go without turning on the furnace. I think we're going to have to turn it on pretty soon. It was 34 degrees (F) this morning when we got up but it was still close to 60 in our bedroom. Even when the heat is on, the highest we set it is about 62 anyway. Overnight and
during the day it can get down to the mid 50s in here. Fairly chilly. But great for sleeping. We have a small space heater in the office that we can turn on if we need it but with two computers, a printer, two dogs and two humans in here, we often don't need to use it. We have a gas fireplace insert that we use in the evening when we're watching television and that heats the family room extremely well. Some of that heat will drift upstairs but it is usually much cooler upstairs. So we've made it to November 10th this year so far, pretty good, we'd say.

We also play a haircut game. The trick is to get a haircut without fibbing (about where you're going and when) and then see how long it takes the other to notice the haircut. We've gone days sometimes without the other noticing a haircut. Johnnie is now keeping his hair much shorter so it's easier to tell when he has a haircut because it goes from fairly shaggy (relatively speaking) to almost buzz cut. I've always admired him because he's not sensitive about his baldness. He used to save the few strands of long hair, comb them over and anchor them down with hairspray but now they're cropped short and he looks just as great to me. The shot here with Juni was taken in early October.
It's easier for me to get away with the haircut game as my hair generally only changes by an inch or so. So it's a bit unfair although usually my hair comes back from the salon far more coiffed than I do it on a daily basis.

We also play a waving game mostly on weekdays. It has evolved over the years from a single wave (when we both left the house to go to work at the same time in the morning) to multiple waves each day. It has actually become quite useful for each of us to remind each other of what meetings or obligations we have during a day since our schedules are unpredictable. For example this morning:

Wave wave wave
Old wave, old wave, old wave
New wave, new wave, new wave
Legacy wave, legacy wave, legacy wave
Monday wave, Monday wave
Chimba (that's me) and Bridgie goin for a walk wave, Chimba and Bridgie goin for a walk wave
Mode (that's Johnnie) getting a physical today wave, Mode getting a physical today wave
Chimba priming the bathroom today wave, Chimba priming the bathroom today wave
Erin, Mike, Emily and Lucy come for dinner today wave; Erin, Mike, Emily and Lucy come for dinner today wave.

After one of us (usually Johnnie) starts the waves, the other repeats them all back and adds more waves if there are things that have been forgotten. Nonsensical, yes, but it reminds us about what the other has going on during the day since our schedules can be vastly different from day to day.
I'm generally the keeper of the schedules and now with the new computer (a topic for another post) we haven't yet figured out how to share calendars. Not that that would solve the issue anyway as we've both had pcs for years and shared appointments, yet didn't necessarily remember each other's schedules.

We play word games almost constantly. We have silly names for each other, if that qualifies as a game. Mine is Chimba. Started as "I don't think so, Jim" from the old Tool Time show and morphed into Chim. When I/we finished my/our two years of agony in MBA school, I added the -mba part to Chim, hence Chimba. (I give Johnnie all the credit for getting me through MBA school since I was seriously close to losing my mind most of that time and existed in a fog of work-school-sleep - repeated endlessly. And just look how well I'm using that MBA -- glad we didn't pay the money for it, just the sweat and blood equity!)
Johnnie is Mode because he always called Elton John Elton Commode. So I asked him how he'd like being called Commode since his name is John. It was shortened to Mode almost immediately.

I'll let you know when we turn the furnace on!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Holidays already?

On her latest post, Courtney talked about Christmas traditions and getting amped up for the upcoming holidays. Mostly, for me, holidays are about being with our whole family. Our daughter and son-in-law come in every year from California, bless their hearts. It may not always be exactly on Christmas (usually it isn't) but they always come and for that we're extremely grateful.

I'm going to steal shamelessly from Courtney's post to create mine and, therefore, establish consistency. Thanks to Courtney and Cousin Jim for the helpful questions.

When is it okay to start listening to Christmas music? I think right around Thanksgiving is about right. Although it's weird because, as I was reading Courtney's post, O Holy Night by John Berry started playing on my husband's computer behind me and it sounded very timely. Of course, it is a wonderful version of that song. Still, it was sort of spooky as though someone was reading my mind!

What's your all-time favorite "it's not Christmas til I hear it" Christmas CD? For me, it's Stevie Wonder's Someday at Christmas. We played that on vinyl when the girls were growing up and a few years ago, our oldest daughter Holly found it on a CD and gave it to me for Christmas. I cried. Johnnie didn't care for the Steve Wonder CD at first but it's grown on him over time. Also George Winston's December is a timeless classic filled with beautiful piano and instrumental versions of traditional songs. Johnnie favors the song Father Christmas by Emerson Lake and Palmer, turned up at a deafening decibel level and standing in the exact center of the surround speakers. He grins like a Cheshire cat and I love to watch him listen to that song!

When is it okay to break out those Christmas specials and start watching them?
Again, around Thanksgiving time. We try to remember to listen to Alice's Restaurant on Thanksgiving and that paves the way for the Christmas music, specials and movies. By the time Christmas rolls around, I'm as tired of Christmas songs as I was of campaign ads on radio and TV this year.

What's your favorite Christmas movie AND Christmas special? I like all the hokey Christmas movies, like The Santa Clause but not the weird Tim Burton ones like Nightmare before Christmas. In terms of specials, Charlie Brown Christmas.

What is your favorite Christmas tradition from when you were younger that you try to do today? Having tacos, burritos and refries for Christmas Eve dinner. At the time we started that, it was my anti-tradition sentiments that pushed us that way. Plus our family loved that dinner and it was fun to have that on Christmas Eve. We still do it, but because of Holly and Mike's travel schedule, we'll have it on whatever we designate as Christmas Eve with them. Still fun. Otherwise I don't think we've maintained a lot of our early childhood traditions - either from Johnnie's family or mine. We discontinued making a gingerbread house as a group (mostly we all ate the candy and cookies and a few landed on the gingerbread house) a few years ago but may resurrect that when Emily and Lucy are a little older and can participate with us.

What is your new favorite Christmas tradition? Something started AFTER you left home? Well, the taco dinner thing is new since leaving my parents' home. Before Johnnie's mother passed away in 2001, we went to Cleveland to be with his brothers and mother for every Christmas. Since she is gone, we now have our own Christmas here at home. I like having the luxury of just the two of us doing something without pressure and time constraints; it's fun to laze around and savor the day. We don't travel other than to Erin's and Mike's, depending on what their schedule is for the actual day of Christmas.

What do you hope Santa brings this year? I don't really care as long as we're together. That sounds hokey but I have so few things I need. We're planning to do more charitable giving this year and giving more distant family members a note telling them that we've donated in their names. They don't need stuff either*. We have tried within our immediate family to emphasize made gifts rather than bought ones. Our daughters have adhered to it much better than we have. I claim parents' prerogative and we (Johnnie and I) get them/make them whatever we feel we can afford and want to get/make for them. We create and trade lists but in my mind, they're just guidelines. Sorry, girls!

Now, as Courtney said, it's your turn to blog about your holidays and what makes them special to you and your family.

* For my last birthday, Erin's stepmother and father gave me this plastic bag (grocery bag) of items including: a bar of scented soap, a small bottle of Purel, one magnetic picture frame from a package of more than one, foot cream, corn plasters and something else weird that I don't even remember. It was tough to thank them sincerely without asking "What the heck were you thinking?" I really think that she remembered at the last minute before they left to come here and thought, "Oh crap, it's her birthday. What do I have here in the drawer that I can give her?" Therefore, I am taking the hint that they don't really want to exchange gifts any more so we'll donate to a charity and let them know it's in their names. They also regifted a pair of gardening gloves to me a couple years ago. I thought it was very strange.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Truths and Consequences

Subtitle: Now where did I put me?

I've been on a downward spiral mentally lately and I finally landed, I think. Yesterday it culminated in a strong feeling of discontent and restlessness that I couldn't put my finger on. It felt familiar and suffocating. Overnight it became clear: I've lost myself again.

Over the past few weeks, I've been feeling unanchored, thoroughly unmotivated and quite unbusy work-wise. So I've tried to solve it by taking on more projects around the house and helping our daughter Erin with their daughters and generally hanging out. It got to the point where I found myself waiting for someone to need me or ask me to do something. I just haven't checked with myself to see what I wanted to do, what I needed to do for myself. I forgot that I need to find a share of myself to keep for me.

So my next project is to find time for me and remember to focus some of my attention on what I need to be content and feel fulfilled. I don't know why this slips me up periodically but it does and then I just get lost.

And on another level but in the same vein, I'm grossly disappointed in me. I have been watching with embarrassment (and not a little horror) as my weight has stayed firmly pegged (about 30 pounds above where it should be) despite my halfhearted efforts to eat properly and exercise. I'm eating well enough that I'm not gaining weight but I'm not losing, most of my clothes don't fit and I won't look in the mirror if I can help it. Along with that, I think I'm enjoying wine a little too much and believe that's also contributing to my lack of motivation, will power and overwhelming feeling of apathy. I worry because my father died of cirrhosis so I'm painfully conscious of my heritage and losing myself that way too.

When I was in b-school, my favorite saying was "if you keep doing what you're doing, you'll keep getting what you're getting." That pertains to my constant but self-sabotaged efforts to whittle my waistline and drinking now as it did then with studying. So the obvious answer is fix it or make peace with it. I can't make peace with it so I must find a way to resist my natural inclinations and habits.

A third part of this discontent is that next week I'm scheduled to assume the role of president for two non-profit church-based ministries in our community and I really, REALLY don't want to do it. I'm happiest in the background getting tactical things done, not being in the forefront crafting policy and leading. Yet another thing I need to make peace with that, incidentally, takes away a piece of me for the next two years. It isn't something I can avoid. So my attitude must slowly come around to what won't kill me makes me stronger.

More on this as I take a new deep dive into self discovery.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

High Maintenance

Maybe every woman is high maintenance at sometime. But it strikes me that some women I know are high maintenance pretty much ALL the time. My sister-in-law May is one. Her poor husband (even Johnnie and me) is constantly tending and running to keep up with her requests. As in "Teddy, can you get my jacket?" "We need more napkins." "Teddy, will you go ." She isn't debilitated just sort of a low level constant demanding. I don't mean the kind of demanding as when a person is ill and needs more tending than usual from their significant other or spouse.

She interrupts and frequently doesn't listen (guess those are two sides of the same complaint). Continually, usually with complete departures from the current conversation. My favorite is "Look, Teddy, a pergola," uttered as we're driving anywhere and not talking about pergolae/pergolas. (What's the plural of pergola?) They were on a pergola kick a few years ago and she was apparently on the lookout for every one in the county. Sometimes Johnnie and I will compare notes about how many conversation threads were actually taking place at a single time and how much our ears hurt from people talking over people.

Going to a restaurant is an anxious exercise in watching the waiter/waitress zip back and forth fetching lemon slices, napkins, more water, another drink, getting her bacon done extra crispy, taking the drink back because it isn't right, taking her dinner back to get it more done, changing her order, you get the idea. Sometimes there are thank yous but sometimes not. I sure hope Teddy tips well.

At home, Teddy and May have an arrangement. They have a two-car garage but it's full of Ted's woodworking equipment. It's a sore point with Mare as they live near Cleveland. Cold, snowy Cleveland. So it's Ted's job to go out and clean off May's car every day and warm it up in the winter. While they were here a couple weeks ago, Ted was dispatched to warm up their car in our driveway. It was easily 55 degrees outside. Not car-warm-up weather, according to me.

For a couple weeks after we've been with them (at their house or ours) I fret that I'm high maintenance which I absolutely positively do not ever want to be. Johnnie assures me that I'm not but I still worry. To me, high maintenance means being demanding and being served. In Googling the phrase, it seems that others interpret high maintenance to mean expensive clothes, Botox and lots of personal maintenance services. Perhaps so but that's not what I'm referring to.

I want to do things for myself. More than that, I get uncomfortable if I feel I am being waited on hand and foot. At restaurants we specify how we want food prepared but then we tip well to compensate the staff for taking care of us. And thank them copiously. We tend to patronize the same places all the time so they get to know us and our idiosyncracies.

My sister used to say that her daughter was high maintenance and I guess maybe she is, in a different sort of way. Must have her Starbucks every day. Must drive a high value car. Spends money like it's water (and they don't have it to spend). I never thought of her as high maintenance, more just indulged and unwilling to change her habits. Perhaps that is another version of high maintenance. Interestingly, my sister was a hugely high maintenance person but it never seemed that way until you were the one jumping to keep up with her requests.

I suppose it isn't necessarily a gender thing and that men can be high maintenance too. I just don't know any personally. And probably there are more high maintenance men and women in certain cities -- Los Angeles or New York City for example -- where wealthy or famous people are accustomed to constant tending and servitude from others. It just seems way out of line to me.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Picture Post

While reading other people's blogs, I've noticed that I really enjoy the ones with pictures. No surprise, really as this is the classic age-old marketing communications principle: people like looking at other people. So as I was lying awake at 3 am this morning, I was thinking that this post should be all about pictures of Juniper (aka Juni) our 15-week old chocolate lab puppy and our big weekend in early October with the granddaughters, Emily and Elizabeth and Lucy. (I'm also learning how to work with pictures in my blog - please be patient with me!)

Above left, granddaughter Lucy (15 months) tries coming through the tunnel slide from the bottom up. Right, granddaughter Emily (3 years old and fashionably clad in her Oscar t-shirt) climbs up to another slide.

Poor Juni, such a rough life. She played so hard she had to take a nap on the step for a while.

Juni relaxing on the front steps a couple weeks ago while we worked to put away lawn and deck furniture. She even has milk chocolate lips and eyes. Her cuteness works greatly to her benefit when she's been naughty and, for example, chewed the dryer vent on the outside wall of the house.

Above left: Judy (at our favorite coffee shop) cuddles Juni while she still fits on a lap. She is a chocolate lap-rador (Juni, not Judy)! Right: Daisy and Juni take a well deserved nap in the office while I work.

Above: Sister-in-law May, her granddaughter Elizabeth and our granddaughter Emily snuggle in a tent momentarily at The Sandbox. The girls were wearing matching candy corn shirts from Target.

Happy Halloween everyone!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Y'all broke my kid

We had a huge weekend. That's why there have been no posts since last week. Sorry. Back to the weekend. John's brother Fred, our sister-in-law Mary and their three year old granddaughter Elizabeth (called Lizzie or Liz) came up to visit. In turn, we had our three year old granddaughter Emily for the weekend too. The two girls are about eight weeks apart in age. We've had them together before but now they're old enough to really have fun and actually play together.

The idea was for the two grandmoms to take the little girls and go play on Saturday. The brothers would go off and do brotherly things, then we'd have everyone over for dinner on Saturday evening.

Fred, Mary and Liz arrived on Friday afternoon. Emily had spent the whole day asking me when "wibet" (the best I can do of her version of Elizabeth) was coming. And spotting every car or little girl and asking if that was Wibet. (We've always called Liz Elizabeth, it's just a nicer version of the name although Liz is easier for her to spell and manage name-wise I guess.)

For her part, Liz was doing the same thing to Fred and Mary -- asking where Emily was and when she was going to see her.

We met at our favorite restaurant (you have to get there early to get served without a long wait beforehand) and the girls immediately began playing and being super excited: jumping up and down on the benches, yelling, crawling under the benches, spilling chocolate milk and much more. I eventually got up and apologized to the people in the next booth as both girls had hit their heads on the back boads of the both MANY times. The family there was really cool about it which was great. Still. We've been there and had kids clunking on the booth and know it to be irritating depending on the type of dinner you're having (if it's a romantic evening, forget it).

After dinner, we went to a farm market that puts up giant teepeesfilled with hundreds of illuminated elaborately carved pumpkins. The girls picked out pumpkins and we went on a short unscary hayride into the woods. Then we came back to our house, got them into jammies and into bed. The room Emily sleeps in has a queen bed in it and we also put an aerobed up so each little girl could have her own bed -- didn't think trying to put them into one bed was going to work. Neither did the aerobed/big bed arrangement. There was plenty of talking, squealing, bouncing and then crying. Emily sleeps with white noise (radio tuned to static at our house) and a nightlight. Liz sleeps in quiet. Just wasn't going to work. So we moved Emily into our room and both girls promptly konked out.

We rigged a bed on the floor from pillow shams and extra pillows and blankets so that's where Emily slept when we came to bed. That was fine until about 6:30 Saturday morning.

When both kids (and the new puppy) were up and ready for the day, we headed out to one of our favorite breakfast restaurants. Both girls had new Barbie dolls brought by Fred & Mary so they were reasonably occupied while we ate. After breakfast, Mary, Liz, Emily and I took off for an indoor playground called The Sandbox . We had the place almost to ourselves and had great fun. Then we headed to the Scarecrow Festival that the village puts on -- organizations decorate scarecrows and they're displayed along Main Street. Another great excuse for a festival - food, lots of families out walking through the sunny October weather to look at all the scarecrows. We took the kids on an antique fire engine ride and had ice cream for lunch. In total, we walked probably close to three miles, more than plenty for the little ones!

We came back and all of us took naps. Then Erin, Mike and Lucy (15 months) came up for dinner. The weather was so good we ate on the deck rather than in the house. It was beautiful outside. Even the yellow jackets didn't bug us. After Erin, Mike and Lucy left, we got the kids into their jammies and watched Toy Story. They were both mesmerized and stayed up until about 10:30. Emily leaned over to me at one point and said "When the movie is ovew, I want to go to bed." Never thought I'd hear her say that!

We tried putting them in the same room but it was clear almost from the start that it wasn't going to work again. So we moved Emily to our room and Liz had the aerobed. Ultimately, Johnnie ended up on the makeshift bed on the floor of our room and I slept with Emily.

Sunday morning, Liz was up early and we were on our way to breakfast by 9ish. We stopped for coffee and Erin met us to trade Emily back. By then we were REALLY ready to be on our own for a little while. Fred, Mary and Liz took off for home and Johnnie and I went home for a nap. Naps are really lovely, aren't they? Very restorative.

Erin called about 6pm to tell us that Emily slept from 1:30 to about 5:30. Her comment: "Y'all broke my kid!" comes from keeping Emily going so much that she took such a long nap. Let me tell you, the kids broke the grandparents too!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Snowflake on the Dashboard

When Johnnie was still working a 40+ hour a week job at the corporation-not-to-be-named, we decided to get him a more cost efficient car for commuting -- he was traveling about 20 miles each way to work. We bought a Prius before it was an economic imperative.

Now he's a school bus driver at a neighboring district. I don't have to get up in the morning with him but I do because I work better in the morning and getting started that early helps me establish a reasonably efficient routine, especially when I have paying work to do. So we get up about 5am and we're out of the house at roughly 6am to get coffee, then Johnnie heads off to the transportation office and I come home to really wake up and get my day rolling.

As we drive in our respective vehicles to get coffee, we talk by cell phone. I know it's goofy but we've been doing it for years. Our kids think we're silly. We have a set couple-chat patter that we go through each morning. Johnnie calls, tells me the current conditions and then we exchange a series of waves for the day. (Even though the wave thing is dippy, it helps us both know what's on each other's schedules for the day so it has become a valuable ritual for us. What's strange is when we're with someone we know and have to do the wave thing in front of them. We validate our weirdness for our family that way, also valuable.)

Today is October 7th. We had a mostly killing frost last night (btw, isn't it EARLY this year??) so the allergy sufferers among us can begin to get some relief. So in Johnnie's description of the current weather conditions at 6:05am this morning he said, for the first time this fall season, "There's a snowflake on the dashboard." Sigh. Groan. The Prius posts the temperature on the status screen and posts an electronic snowflake on the dashboard when the temperature gets close to freezing, usually shows up about 37 or 38 degrees. And cheerfully puts the @#$% snowflake up here every time the temps are below 37 degrees. I seriously think I can see the car leering gleefully at me as it puts up the snowflake every morning without fail from October until April. Grrrrr.

It isn't that I mind the snowflake on the dashboard per se. It's what it means: several months now of wintry yucky cold GRAY weather. I'm a warm weather girl and I begin about now to question my/our sanity in staying in this part of the country. We grapple with snow where other states battle mudslides, hurricanes, wild fires, floods and tornadoes but that is absolutely no comfort (to me at least) when we're being battered with snow and ceaseless grayness for 30 consecutive days in January and February. The snowflake on the dashboard is the first harbinger of those things to come.

We lived in Minnesota for 11 years and while it was bone chilling cold for weeks on end, it was sunny and pretty outside. Here? Not so much of the pretty part. And definitely very little of the sunny part. Cheerful and comfy become challenges.

We peg our yearly schedules to the snowflake on the dashboard, when the Erie Canal gets drained and refilled, when our favorite ice cream shop reopens, when we can sit outside at our favorite restaurant. At this time of the year I begin mourning all the lightness and warmth of the waning summer. We aren't considering moving (yet) because of Erin, Mike and the little girls. So we'll suck it up for another winter and continue questioning that sanity every day from now until April. Welcome back, little snowflake.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Got Change?

When I'm not hanging out with John, Erin & Mike and/or the grandkids, I really do still have a business (sort of) that I'm trying to keep alive.

My computer is my lifeline for my work since I'm a marketing and technical writer. Over the past few months, my computer has been getting decidedly more temperamental and hinky. It needed CPR to start in the morning and would freeze up or decline to respond during routine activities. Any time new applications were added it would need cajoling and sweet talking to wake up the following day. We added a new version of Weatherbug a few weeks ago and then the computer stopped shutting down gracefully too. I had to exit Weatherbug first, then shut down. We discovered over this past weekend that it hasn't been backing up my hard drive since late August and hasn't been alerting us that it wasn't happening. Aggravating!

The handwriting was clearly on the wall that it was going to need to be replaced sooner rather than later. A couple weeks ago Johnnie suggested that I pick up a new PC at Aldi's (of all places!). Besides the strangeness of my shopping list that day (peanut butter, refries, cauliflower, PC, little carrots) was the bizarre feeling of putting the PC box on the conveyor belt and then checking out with a $500-something charge.

So Johnnie has been working to get my new PC set up while I continued to work on the old one. He switched me over to the new one yesterday. Please let me say how wonderful it is to have a husband with such comprehensive geekiness skills. He does computers (even owns an iTouch), auto/truck repairs, woodworking, electricity, plumbing, etc. And he's really normal, except for that early childhood foray into accordions -- but that's for a future post.

While sometimes it's tough to get his attention to get things done because he has such varied skills and interests, it is wonderful to have a resident expert who doesn't have an overly inflated concept of what he can and cannot do. Usually I'm the one who won't allow him to do things such as building an additional garage or cleaning the gutters. Been there, done that. No need to prove you can. Write a check and have someone else do it is my motto.

Anyway, so now I'm on the new PC and the old one is sitting here silently (probably sulking) under the desk. I really hate changing PCs. You never know what didn't transfer successfully. And I know where I put things and my own special filing system that Johnnie doesn't necessary comprehend. What's more, this is now a Vista operating system so we don't know whether all my specialized applications will make the trip. That's the next step.

I just discovered that I can't IM with Erin this morning. My calendar transferred OK but it lost the most recent appointments I've put in it. Offered to scan a couple pages of cross stitching patterns for Erin and realized my graphics packages aren't here yet. Sigh. Patience is not my strong suit on all this stuff.

Generally I can tolerate change fairly well. But changing PCs taps every drop of patience I have. Please help me pray for patience. And I want it RIGHT NOW!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Army of Women

This wasn't actually the second post I was thinking about writing. However, we saw a feature on the ABC national news last night about the Army of Women. And it's important enough to get the word out.

A research doctor, Dr. Susan Love, and Avon have teamed up to recruit one million women in every age, ethnicity and breast cancer risk-- to contribute to the research to find the common risk factors for breast cancer. Dr. Love's theory is that without studying representatives across the entire spectrum of women we cannot determine how to isolate and eradicate breast cancer once and for all.

So far, 68,000 women have been recruited. Signing up is simple so please go to the site today and sign up, then send the link to every woman you know. Participation in research may mean anything (quoting from the site here) "from filling out a questionnaire to donating blood, breast duct fluid, saliva or perhaps a core biopsy of breast tissue." You decide whether you are interested in taking part and to what extent. The researchers will then call to let you know what they need next. Each woman's safety and privacy is protected and each project undergoes scientific, safety and ethical reviews before it is started.

Our oldest daughter, Holly, lost her birth mother to breast cancer when she was only two years old. I adopted her after I married her dad and she's as much my daughter as Erin, despite the fact that we don't share any DNA. Obviously she has significant risk factors predisposing her to breast cancer since her mom was only 31 when she died six months after diagnosis. She's been getting screened frequently even in her 20s to make sure she stays cancer free. I hold my breath for her all the time.

One of the quotes on the site says, "Writing a check isn't as gratifying as being a part of breast cancer research." She's right. As part of this country's population (whether male or female), we have the opportunity to remove breast cancer from the legacy we leave for our daughters and granddaughters. Do this now, please!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Beginnings and Endings

Lately, we've had an unusual amount of beginnings and endings at our house. It feels as though we're in some sort of prolonged upheaval and state of unrest that I'm not quite sure I understand. Case(s) in point:

  • I (foolishly) took a job at The Little James (as John calls it) for 14 hours a week at the beginning of September. Even with the dramatically few hours, it cut into my work time, time with John and time with Erin and the grandkids. So I've already quit. Shortest job I've ever held. The work was OK but never felt comfortable and the owner was a challenge. Biggest bonus was that the grandkids had free classes there while I was working.

  • John had been working at the middle school cafeteria in the school district where he drives a school bus. He decided he wanted his time back more than the extra money (neglible) and the mostly fully paid benefits so he quit that part of the job. Now he'll have the time off between the morning shift (6:30 to 9:15) and the afternoon shift (1:30 to 4:15) to get things done here at the house. Or not. But at least he won't feel as though he hasn't any time to work with.

  • We have been looking at houses and continue to think about adding on to this house instead. Dunno which option is the right one. Johnnie is categorical in not wanting to move and the economy is certainly not conducive to purchasing something new (even though real estate prices are theoretically dropping). Intellectually I understand this. Emotionally I'm not there. And the stock market plummets aren't helping either.

  • Last Saturday we had a huge day: (1) we bought a new-to-us pickup to replace Bubba our beloved 1990 Chevy rustbucket worktruck. Bubba is the greatest truck ever. Unsung and constantly ready to start. Our neighbor across the street actually called Bubba a "piece of sh*t truck." That really hurt. Hope she likes the new one better than Bubba. I'm sure she's having a great laugh over the for sale sign on Bubba at the foot of our driveway. (2) We went to the local farmers market to get some apples and bought a puppy. Had no expectations of getting another dog. John saw a young couple walking through the market carrying an adorable chocolate lab puppy. He heard them tell someone it was a female and it was for sale. Five minjutes later we gave them $20 as a deposit and went to get the pup later that afternoon. Biggest coincidence, the puppy and her litter mates were born on our 15th wedding anniversary.
  • Starting to revive my somnolent marketing communications and writing business. I had had a couple really great clients who consistently kept me busy month after month but both have taken different courses of getting their writing done. I may still get some work from them but only a drop in the bucket compared to what I've been getting. I really don't want to work in an office - the Little James experience taught me that. So the answer now is for me to resurrect what I love to do most -- write. Have sent out some feelers for freelancing. A good friend (also a freelancer) and I are going to get back into networking -- something neither of us particularly enjoy. Partly because most networking events are in the evening and we want to be with our respective spousal units in the evening. Also, for me, getting up before the crack of dawn (5am) each day is tougher when I don't get to bed until later than 10pm.

I think that's the extent of our most recent tumult or there's so much else that I can't think of it. Looking forward to getting more posts up here and joining the blogging universe!