Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Conversations with Lucy

Lucy is not quite two and a half so her language skills are (still) a bit on the sketchy side. She understands much more than she can communicate to us and her world has a few unusual rules that we've yet been able to correct.

I met up with Erin and Lucy at the mall for a quick walk before heading to The Little Gym. As Erin was leaving and waving to us,

Lucy: Where mommy go?
Me: She's going home.
Lucy, 30 seconds later: Where mommy go?
Me: She's going home to work.
Lucy, quite firmly: Mommy no work. Daddy work.

A bit later, Lucy and I were driving this morning on the way to The Little Gym for our weekly class, and the sun was shining brightly (no doubt our last glimpse of it until April).

Lucy: Moon out.
Me: No, Lucy, that's the sun.
Lucy: No! Moon out.
Right now there is no room in Lucy's world for two large orbs in the sky so the sun and moon are both the moon.

As we were getting out of the car, I asked Lucy to stand still and wait for me to lock the car. She planted her little feet and stayed stock still.

Me: Thank you for listening to me so well and standing still, Lucy.
Lucy: You're welcome.
Me: I like it when you listen so nicely.
Lucy: You're welcome.
Me: Do you know I think you're a silly, goofy goober*?
Lucy: You're welcome.

*we have always used goofy goober as a teasing name for the girls and they know we don't really mean they're goofy or goobers.

She's at that age where everything that comes out of her mouth is precious. It's so cool to finally hear what thoughts have been rattling around in that little curly-topped head!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Two word boycott - won't you join me?

We live in Upstate New York, about 60 miles or so from Niagara Falls. While I'm sure there are some areas of the country that have well-behaved, evenly spaced out seasons, that is so not the case around here. Let's see: 12 months divided by four seasons = about three months per season. Unh uh, not here. We get spring for about six weeks, summer for about 12 weeks, fall for eight weeks and the remaining 26 weeks are given over to that bully of the calendar: winter. That's about six and a half months or more than half a year. Not fair.

So, while it probably won't help make the cold and gray season go any faster, I'm going to strike two words from my vocabulary until next spring. The words I do not plan to say for the next several months are winter and snow.

I don't have to give in to acknowledging either one of these and it will be interesting to see how long I can go without uttering either of these. Heck, there are lots of synonyms and ways to make myself understood without sinking to their level. I don't want to give them any more attention and perhaps they'll just slip way quietly in a more sensible time frame than we previously have experienced.

Before moving to this area 18 years ago, we lived in Minnesota for 11 years. While it was colder than anything I had ever experienced before, it was beautifully sunny most of the "W" season. All crisp, crunchy white stuff under foot and bright blue skies above. I was fine with that. Here we exist in a dull gray cocoon of unending clouds that stretch across the horizon. Ugh. Pretty soon the news reports will be filled with stories of Sun Affective Disorder and how getting sunshine is so important to people's well being and moods.

Anyway, I'd be happy to sign you up to help with the boycott. The more the merrier and maybe -- just maybe -- if enough of us don't use those two words for the next 6.5 months, we can survive the season with good humor and better cheer!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Cinderella and the Monkey

As I said in my last post, my creative juices have been in high gear over the past month or so. And that isn't always the case. I can successfully stifle any creative urges I feel (besides writing which seems to be with me all the time) pretty easily by taking a nap. Besides working on my plant chair, I decided a few weeks ago that I'd make Halloween costumes for Emily and Lucy. Emily, at four years old, is obsessed with princesses and can name them all proudly. She is a very girly girl and wants to wear dresses every day. It's adorable and what's a grandma to do but feed that obsession? Certainly I don't want to be the one to discourage her interests at this tender age!

Lucy is two and has a floppy terry cloth monkey ("
mah nee" in Lucy-speak) who is her best friend and most favorite lovey. He's a generic monkey, not a Curious George sort that seem to be popular at the moment. We have rewarded her monkey obsession with a monkey backpack, monkey shirts, monkey underwear as motivation to go potty and a couple larger sized monkeys that she loves almost as much as original Mah nee. She knows all about princesses too because of Emily's addiction but the monkey thing is much much cuter.

So off I went to JoAn Fabrics, armed with coupons and a head full of steam. I spent a wonderful couple hours there, first finding patterns and then selecting the exactly right fabrics.

I am not an accomplished seamstress and my projects are restricted to things for little girls. I'm too critical to sew things for me to wear as they j
ust never turn out the way I have them pictured. And I'm too impatient to do everything exactly by the book so most projects for me just don't turn out well. When Erin was little, I made overalls and dresses for her as well as a clown costume that we still have and really enjoyed those projects. I've made blanket sleepers and sleep sacks for Emily and Lucy but otherwise my sewing machine sits in the basement, sometimes for months, between sewing sessions.

When Erin and I received our sewing machin
es several years ago*, we took some quilting lessons. I enjoyed the exercise but the patience thing gets me and I'm not interested in sewing little squares together all that much. Fun, yeah, but my need for quicker gratification kicks in and I'm a goner.

*it was a hallmark week for the little sewing shop in our town as Johnnie (who was still working at the time) bought three of the same Pfaff machines within days of each other, one for me, one for Erin and one for Holly. Erin has traded up her machine since then twice because of her interest in quilting. Holly and I are still working on our original models.

Anyway. I came marching home with the materials and patterns, excited to be working on these costumes and knowing how much the girls would love them. Surprisingly, the monkey costume was relatively complex and time consuming to sew.There was the whole fake fur issue with watching the nap and sewing through several layers of thick fabric. The fabric shed like crazy and my Pfaff and the surrounding area was covered with dark brown fuzz for weeks. My clothes were covered too.

I didn't start Emily's costume until this past Monday, shortly after finding out from Erin that the girls had a fall celebration with her MOMS club buddies yesterday (the 23rd). Um, OK. Guess I better get cracking. While her dress was less complex, the design itself was kinda fussy and the material was slippery and sometimes difficult to sew on but I just didn't focus on that and proceeded slowly lest I get overly impatient or discouraged. There are a couple oopses in it but most are things that no one would ever notice except me.

I intended for both costumes to be played with and used for dress up and make believe, not to be worn a couple times to parties and then stored away. While they fit, let the kids play with them to their hearts' content. I'm comfortable with the work and deliberately reinforced seams and tried to sew them sturdily so they won't fall apart. I'm sure they'll get dirty and banged up but that's the best part, I think. If they let the girls imagine and have fun, it's so worth it to me.

Anyway, here are pictures of the costumes -- scans of the pattern envelope (both are Simplicity patterns by the way, if anyone is thinking of tackling these themselves) and then pictures of the girls in their finery.

Organ grinder monkey costume above, Lucy's costume (and monkey friends) below.

Cinderella costume from the pattern envelope above. Emily below, striking a regal pose (with demonic red-eye), twirling* and showing off her sparkly shoes and Easter egg socks.

*any dress must have a great twirl factor, very important when you're four, and this one has been officially approved by Emily.

I didn't bother with things like elbow-length gloves or the headband and we ultimately purchased a Cinderella crown at Target on Friday morning that looks more appropriate than the pink feathery headband. Emily stayed overnight at our house on Thursday and spontaneously and repeatedly thanked me for making her dress and telling me how beautiful it was. While I was just thrilled that she liked it, having her pour heartfelt thanks on me without any prompting was pretty much over the top. You can be assured that I went to bed a very thrilled and satisfied grandma that night!

Because of its fake fur construction, Lucy's costume is too warm to wear for any length of time. The girls don't go trick-or-treating outside, in part because they live in the country and their nearest neighbors are adult Laotians and not all that into the Halloween thing. So she puts the costume on for a while but then it has to come off because she's perspiring like a two year old sumo wrestler.

However, Emily is wearing her costume just about non-stop. She wanted to nap in it yesterday after the party but I vetoed that idea (I had taken them home for naps while Erin and her buds cleaned up after the party). She took it off for her nap and then put it on immediately when she got up.

I've been so flushed with the success with these projects that I'm considering sewing some of the Christmas gifts that we exchange with the kids. We'll see; I hate to get carried way and then having to force myself to finish the projects after the inspiration has evaporated.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wow am I behind

So, here I am after MUCH too long a hiatus from posting here. My apologies. As you may remember (or maybe not, no matter) I was co-chairing a 5K race and that has taken up a huge portion of my time, along with playing with granddaughters and just living life.

The 5K was a great success, despite crappy drizzly cold weather the morning of the race. By the time the race actually started, the rain had stopped. By the time we were doing awards, the sun was peeking out.

We had a total of 453 runners, an increase of about 120 over last year's field and grossed about $16,000, also higher than last year. We had been hoping to get to $25,000 this year but "in this economy" (I really hate those words) and because we didn't brow beat prospective sponsors early enough or thoroughly enough (I really ***really*** hate the sponsor schmoozing and contacting stuff, which I was in charge of) we didn't make it. Better luck next year, especially since there must be one or two fundraising/sponsor armtwisting people out there somewhere who will hop on the task and do it up better than I did.

In among all the 5K details, my creative juices were inspired by the cool fallish weather and I returned to painting a chair I want to make into a planter. It's been in the works for several years. Progress was made and I'm hoping it will be ready by next spring to put outside.

I also decided in mid-S
eptember that I wanted to make Halloween costumes for Emily and Lucy this year. Lucy's monkey costume is finished and Emily's Cinderella dress just needs hemming and a hook & eye put in the back. The great unveiling of the costumes is tomorrow evening and I can't wait to see the little girls all dressed up in their costumes. (Their Halloween party is this Friday.) We showed the monkey costume to Lucy yesterday and she correctly identified it as "mah neee," her word for monkey. We'll take pictures and I'll post them here.

I'm also thinking that I might make some Christmas gifts but with our Christmas with our daughters, sons-in-law and granddaughters happening over Thanksgiving weekend rather than a month later like normal people, I may get too squeezed for time. Who knows. John's two brothers and their wives will be here for Christmas over the traditional dates in December so we don't slide completely -- just get to have two celebrations and house-fulls of company.

Along with all that, we (Johnnie and I) took Emily with us to Cleveland this past weekend so she could play with her four-year-old cousin Elizabeth. The little girls had a blast together and slept as little as possible. Next time we'll do the trip with Lucy and Emily since there is a comparably aged cousin for Lucy to play with too, Marley.

We also made a quick one day there and back trip to Cambridge, Massachusetts last week to pay our respects at my elderly cousin's (89) wake on Columbus Day. We weren't close but I just have so little family that I felt I would regret not going. So we drove on Sunday and back on Monday after spending a full 20 minutes at the funeral home. Lovely drive and fun to get away, even for that purpose.

And there have been a few sporadic writing assignments and I'm busily looking for others so that I don't feel so idle and make some money to pay for all my expensive habits.

We finally received the new microwave and the stove was fixed last Friday (not thanks to any real helpfulness from our friends at Sears -- we are not likely to EVER buy another appliance from Sears as their customer service on the stove problems sucked big time). So now I can cook again without boiling water for spaghetti on the side burner of the outdoor grill. Good times.

Annnnnywaaaaay...that's the news from here. I plan to re-emerge from my posting exile and get back to reading posts too (currently 988 in my reader, yeow). There have been days (gasp! seriously) when I never get upstairs to the computer at all. Hard to believe.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The family curse

Pretty much anytime we purchase something, particularly if it is electronic in nature although it sometimes extends to items with batteries or motors, it will break or fail long before its time. We bought Erin a camera and six months later it sprung a fatal error and had to be sent back. Uncountable tools, cameras, phones, you name it have entered our house only to be shipped back rather quickly because they failed. From this we have learned to always fill out warranty and registration cards because we use the heck out of them eventually.

Thursday evening, Erin, Mike and the girls were here for dinner. We were having a last gasp of summer picnic on the deck complete with hot dogs, Italian sausage (Johnnie's was a Tofurky sausage) and a bean burger for me. I warmed the buns in the microwave over the stove as usual, along with heating corn and baked beans before. As I took the buns from the microwave, I slammed the door closed. It continued running. Hmmmmm. Stood there punching buttons to make sure the exhaust fan wasn't on, slammed the door closed again. Light was on inside the oven and the oven was cooking. So I took the buns to the deck and left the microwave oven door open.

After dinner, Johnnie took a look at it and confirmed that it was indeed still running although he thought it just thought it was running but he didn't believe the magnetron was actually emitting microwaves. Just to be safe, he unplugged the microwave. All was good.

On Friday (yesterday), Johnnie and I went to Sears and finally found a new microwave that we ordered. It won't be here until October 6th but probably more like October 7th. No problem, we can do without microwaving since we have a great stove.

Yesterday, I was opening a pile of mail and came to an envelope from Sears. It turned out to be a recall notice on our smooth cooktop stove, alerting us that a burner might just spontaneously heat itself up or heat to a temperature beyond what was set, posing a fire hazard. Do not use the stove and unplug it until the defective part could be replaced. Great. Now we have a defective stove and no microwave for the next 10 days.

Since all our appliances are from Sears, we felt they might be able to give us a hand. Johnnie got on the phone last night and waited about 30 minutes to speak to a supervisor to get some assistance with the problem. Of course it's not their fault the microwave crapped out and that the new one will take 10 days to get here. After quite a long discussion last night and again this morning with the escalation team at the Sears call center, they gave us $100 off the new microwave.

So we quickly went hunting this morning and purchased an inexpensive microwave at Target that will be our primary cooking source for the next 10 days, along with the gas grill outside (and it's trusty side burner), slow cooker and rice cooker. Kinda like camping indoors for the next 10 days and a couple weeks after that since the new stove part isn't scheduled to arrive until October 20th. Looks like my creative cooking skills will get put to the test for the next month, huh?

The family curse lives on!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Erin's fourth anniversary of her 29th

Last Friday (9/11) was Erin's birthday (bad mommy for not getting a post up about it then). Since 2001, this date has had a giant cloud over it for everyone in the United States but for the past 33 years it has always been a wonderful day for me, even in 2001.

When Erin was born, her dad and I didn't immediately have a girl's name picked out because we had both been pretty certain that she was going to be a boy. We debated for a couple days over names but Erin Elizabeth was always the front runner. I was overjoyed then and always that she was a girl. And a wonderful g
irl (and now a wonderful woman, mother and wife) at that!

I showed these two pictures to Erin's four-year old daughter this week and asked her who she thought this person was. She thought the picture on the left, Erin at 2 1/2, was of her (Emily) and the one on the right, Erin at 1 1/2, was of Lucy. Nossir, the apple didn't fall too far from the tree here either!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Horoscopes and rubber mulch

I am not in the slightest a horoscope or astrologically-inclined person. I'm 99% sure that it's all a bunch of hooey but I do always check it on my birthday, just to see where the stars say I'm headed in the next year. Here's what Holiday Mathis' horoscopes in our local paper had to say about my special day, my comments are in blue:

"You have a clear vision of who you want to be, and this ye
ar you make the changes necessary to become that person. [That's the plan, Stan] The process that works best for you is loving, creative and gentle. [Well sure, when the 2x4 isn't effective...] A lively relationship keeps you guessing through October. [Whoo hooo! Bring it on!] Family makes you proud in December. [Our family always makes me proud] Finances improve in May. [Not until then? Gee, that's kinda harsh] Aquarius and Sagittarius people adore you." [That seems extreme and I don't really know any Aquarius and Sagittarius people that well]

But I'll take it! I especially like the first part and am definitely committed to doing a better job in my weight improvement department.

We spent half the day yesterday and another thr
ee hours this morning putting down rubber mulch. The weeds in our front landscaping really got the upper hand this summer, what with all the rain we've had and my lackadaisical halfhearted attempts at weeding. I spent about seven hours last week on my hands and knees pulling weeds (four wheelbarrow loads full) and was quite resolved that it was the absolutely last time I would do that. Mama didn't raise any fools. So we (rather Johnnie, on seeing how dead set I was on putting in rubber mulch regardless of the expense) set about purchasing 105 bags of rubber mulch and yesterday we commenced putting it down.

The mulch was actually fairly easy to work with a
nd we had perfect weather. The temps never got above 67 degrees yesterday. Despite all that, I worked myself into a mild case of heat exhaustion, barfing over the landscaping timbers into the ravine and then all but collapsing after taking a shower.

However, the landscaping looks awesome and ***the very best part*** we should never have to mulch in those areas again. We ended up using 111 bags of rubber mulch (1.15 cubic feet per bag, roughly 30 pounds a bag) and I believe it will be so worth it.

Next year we'll do the side garden but getting the front done is huge and looks great.

The little white parts at the edge of the third picture are the edges of the newspapers that we spread beneath the mulch to help discourage any foolish weeds that might try to get through the mulch. That'll teach 'em.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Turning 29 for the 30th Time

Today is my birthday. I'm 59 as of today or 29 for the 30th time. One year away from 60. How the heck did I ever get here? I sure don't feel as old as the calendar says I am. Most days I feel somewhere in my 30s. Sadly, I don't look like I'm in my 30s any more but that's OK. I've earned the wrinkles and hair the old fashioned way.

Getting older has been an interesting experience and one I really wouldn't trade for the world. Getting older has given me (us) wonderful family including great sons-in-law and beautiful granddaughters.

This is me at two (much) younger ages. The first is me at about four years old and the second is my high school graduation picture, taken the summer before I turned 17. I kind of see granddaughter Emily in my four year old picture but maybe it's my imagination.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

More conversations with Emily

We are back from vacation and have just been recuperating from busy-ness these past five days. We had a great time visiting with Holly, Mike (and Frank their new dog) and working our way through as many Paso Robles wineries as possible last weekend. Awesome.

While we were out there, they reminded us of a conversation they had with Emily last Christmas. I don't recall all the circumstances but the best part is Emily's punchline anyway. I'll try to do it justice.

Emily came into the room and had been crying.
Holly: Oh honey, why are you crying?
Emily came up with something, probably about what Mommy wouldn't let her do or what Lucy was doing.
Holly: Oh, wait, there's a tear here.
Emily, nodding sagely: Yes, there are always tears on my face.

This past Saturday morning we met Erin at the local mall to give the girls back. There's always plenty of hoisting in and out of the van giving last minute kisses and hugs.
Me: Oh Em, I forgot to give you a kiss!

Emily: Oh Grandma, I think you did it wrong. Wanna try again?
Suitably corrected, we smooched again on the lips.

Monday, August 3, 2009


We're leaving tomorrow for a week in California to visit our daughter Holly and her husband Mike and explore the middle areas of the state from San Francisco southward.

I'll get back into posting when we're back. Have a great week!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

So many playgrounds, so little time

Erin and Mike took their Spanish exchange student on a quick trip to New York City this past weekend so we had the two granddaughters with us for some non-stop fun. Here's our weekend in pictures.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Never Gets Old

J: I forgot my hearing aids.
C: What?
rim shot
C: Never gets old.

C: Can you feed the dogs?
J: No, they must be around in the back yard.
C: Do you have your hearing aids in?
J: No, why?
distant rim shot
C: Never gets old.

J: I gotta go get my hearing aids.
C: What?
yet another rim shot
C: Never gets old.

J: Uh oh.
C: What's the matter.
J: My hearing aid battery in my left ear just died.
C: What?
you guessed it
C: Never gets old.

Johnnie has had hearing aids for almost two years and we must go through variations of these conversations at least five times a day. His hearing aids aren't like the old style flesh colored ones that blocked the entire ear opening and squeal loudly when you hug him. These are blue-tooth enabled little jobbies that perch almost invisibly behind his ears with clear tubes that hold little domes inside his ear canal. Since he's a tech-weinie kind of guy, we knew the ones with all the buttons and custom settings would be fine for him. He was going to mess and fiddle around with them anyway so he might as well have the technology working for him.

But I tease him especially when they're not in. Usually I can tell almost immediately since he just won't hear me when I'm talking. It's like the old joke about the two old guys.

Guy 1: What time is it?
Guy 2: Two thirty.
Guy 1: Yeah, I could go for a cold one too.

It just never gets old.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Moments in time

Conversation with Emily

Scenario: I've been with the little girls a lot this week because of doctor appointments and lots of scheduling challenges for Erin and Manuel, their exchange student. I had taken the kids to Big Lots and while there, bought them pretend cameras -- Emily's is a princess (what else) camera and Lucy's is a Mickey Mouse. Emily's camera clicks and then says positive phrases such as "you're as pretty as a picture!" Lucy's camera just clicks but she doesn't care or even much notice.

Once we came back to our house, both girls were wandering around and Lucy somehow picked up Emily's camera. Emily came into the office to tell me that Lucy had her camera. Lucy was in with Grandpa in the new slowly evolving bathroom.

Emily: Wucy has my camewa, gwamma.
Me: Oh? That's OK, she'll give it back.
Emily: I know but it takes away my poweh when I don't have contwol. I want my camewa back!

Seriously. I was thinking How the heck old are you? And where did that line come from? Holy cow!

Lucy's bouncing balls

Lucy's language skills are coming along but many words are still only intelligible if you have been around her for a while. She loves balls and sees them everywhere: in globes, balls, on cards and so on. She calls all balls "bouncy balls" which sounds mostly like "bocce balls" to me.

We were at Home Depot with Grandpa this morning and I was pushing the cart while Johnnie was selecting a can of stain for a piece of wood. Lucy and I were goofing around -- she was pushing my away from the cart handle with both hands and I'd swoop in to sneak a kiss on her forehead or nose. More than once her hands pushed on my breasts as I got closer to claim my kiss.

Pretty soon, she's leaning out toward me yelling "Bouncy balls! Bouncy balls!" and grabbing for my breasts as though I was a radio and she was tuning in Hong Kong. Repeatedly.

Johnnie figured out what she was doing and started laughing. Later this afternoon he (predictably) reached for me, saying "bouncy balls!" Great.

Thanks, Luce.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Making up is hard to do

Nah, I'm not talking about arguing with my husband because we (seriously) rarely have big disagreements. I'm in a quandary about make up.

I've worn make up, although not heaps of it, since I was in junior high. I don't wear foundation unless we're going to something really fancy or I know I'm going to have pictures taken. It always feels gooky and thick to me. I do wear SPF 30 Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock on the recommendation of my dermatologist. He'd really prefer I wear something with even higher SPF but I just don't like the feel of them and I discovered that the SPF 45 stung my eyes when I perspired.

My real questions are about eye makeup. If I don't wear eye makeup my face looks completely naked. I have light/nonexistent facial hair so I (feel that I) have to wear eyebrow pencil, eye liner and mascara for my features to look normal. On a day when I'm going somewhere, I'll put a little eye shadow on too.

I've been trying to find a decent eye liner for the past few years and I'm getting really frustrated. If I use a powder one, it looks fine as I put it on and then ends up under my eyes almost right away so I look like a raccoon. If I use a creamy add-water one, putting it on is tricky and I can't get it on consistently. I tried the liquid ones but I don't like the line -- it's too definite and doesn't soften or smudge gently. I'm not trying to look like Elizabeth Taylor, just rim my eyes subtly with a fairly thin line but smudgier and softer rather than a razor-like black line.

I've been using Almay or L'Oreal mascara but lately it's depositing itself above my eyes like a bruise. Maybe the skin above my eyes is drooping but it's supposed to be waterproof mascara so I don't understand why it's rubbing off even when I'm not touching my eyes.

I don't want to look like a young girl, since I'm not, but I do want my makeup to look appropriate and tasteful. On our cruise last July, I had a makeup consultant with the girl in the perfume and makeup shop, mostly because we were getting our pictures taken that night and I knew she'd do more with my makeup than I would. I ended up buying some Smashbox powdered eyeshadow/liner that I like but it comes off very easily. I get discouraged after spending time getting my makeup to look nice and natural only to have it shift once I leave the bathroom.

I have a Sephora gift certificate that I want to use to go have another makeup consultation but I hesitate because I'll just buy stuff I think will work and then feel let down when it doesn't perform as I expect.

Any ideas? Recommendations? Hints and tips you can impart, please???

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sunday sightings

I have a bunch of things I want to blog about but none are earth shattering and of consequence by themselves. So here we go!

I really admire Erin and Mike for being open hearted and having 16 year old Manuel from Spain stay with them for the month of July. It's a big commitment to have an exchange student and, with all the other things that happen during the summer, what a wonderful experience and sacrifice they are making to welcome Manuel. I'm very impressed with our kids and can't wait to meet Manuel!

Both of the churches we attend, one Catholic and one Presbyterian, have done photo directories this past spring
. The Catholic church used Olan Mills; the sales person was quite friendly until we made it very clear we were only interested in getting the free picture. Then he turned curt and we were outta there in a flash.

The Olan Mills picture

The Presbyterian church used LifeTouch and the seller was personable even after he got the message that we weren't getting anything but the freebie. The Olan Mills picture is OK but not great. The LifeTouch picture is actually pretty good of both of us, surprisingly. Of course I don't like the extra arm flesh on my forearm mocking me but otherwise it's an accurate, reasonably attractive snapshot of how we're looking these days.

The LifeTouch picture

I go into picture taking sessions with very low expectations, especially since I have looked like everything from Raymond Burr to Quasimodo on serious drugs in some shots. Johnnie? He looks great in every shot - it's in his family's genetic makeup to flash the famous permagrin whenever a camera is within 50 feet of them.

Almost the same clothes (same colors at least although it's hard to tell that my sweater is blue in the upper picture) and such different results. The pictures were taken about two months apart.

I think I'll take the picture of the girls off the blog for a while and put ours up. We'll be getting new shots of the kids taken for their birthdays in the next couple months but until then, we'll stand in for them.

I received a wonderful prize from Carmen's blog this past week: a case of V8 V-Fusion juice and a really great LL Bean tote bag. And not just little bottles - eight 46 ounce bottles, mind you! The juice flavor is Goji Raspberry and it is really good. We had tried the juice once before and both granddaughters (suspicious of anything different) liked it.

Yummy juice and awesome tote bag prize!

We opened a bottle of the juice when it arrived the other day and sampled it. Quite yummy and eight ounces contains a half cup serving of vegetables and fruit. Hard to beat. The only downside (if there is one) is that an eight ounce serving also has 24 grams of sugars, albeit natural sugars. Thanks, Carmen -- it's an awesome prize!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Crazy week

I am not altogether certain where the last seven days have gone but the calendar convinces me that they are indeed history.
  • Our friend Bridget and I walked 4+ miles three days. We met up with Johnnie on one of his last days of enforced time at the bus garage (children were already out of school) and walked with him.
  • Took off .8 of a pound ~ not much but at least it's in the right direction.
  • Planted a bunch of new plants.
  • Chopped down a smallish tree and started hacking away at too-large lilac bushes in an effort to get more sunlight on the front gardens. Somehow escaped getting poison ivy, to which I am very allergic, that I was standing in for a while.
  • Watched it rain and rain and rain (repeat for 24+ hours) last weekend.
  • Celebrated Father's Day for Johnnie and Mike with a seafood dinner last Saturday night.
  • Had Erin, Mike and the girls over for dinner and Mike helped get the new double sink base and top upstairs.
  • Stayed with the little girls while Erin had an almost 24 hour stay in the hospital for as yet undiagnosed problems, probably due to her Celia attack last weekend. She says the bread was delicious but definitely not worth a week's illness.
  • Decided I didn't like the color we had chosen for the bathroom and found something lighter in the same color family.
  • Spilled red wine on the brand.new.wool.carpeting. grrrrrrrrrrrr
  • Cancelled our transatlantic cruise because of the expense (sob) and scheduled a (much more inexpensive) trip to California to see daughter Holly and son-in-law Mike.
  • Set up a combined birthday celebration for John's brother Ferd and me for late August.
  • Reserved a romantic one-night get-away for Johnnie and me for our anniversary.
So those are the highlights in bullets. Not much of anything momentous but here we are at the imminent arrival of July. Where the heck have the first six months of this year gone?

So...how's by you?

Friday, June 19, 2009

See? It really is all about me

Courtney tagged me for this post. I have to disclose seven personality traits about myself and then I must pass this award onto seven* other blogs that deserve such fine recognition for the personalities that they share with the blogging world.

*I don't know seven other bloggers well enough (without tagging Courtney and Erin again) to do this so I'll just put down a couple at the end and hope they'll play along.

1) I don't like waiting. When I'm ready to go, I'm ready to go and hate waiting what seems like an interminable time to actually get going (yes, Johnnie, I'm looking at you). I'm the girl and it usually takes me three times as long to get ready as it does you. So when I am ready, you should have planned accordingly and be ready too.

2) I'm fairly impatient, probably as a corollary to waiting. I'm accused (gently, by my husband) of tailgating and he's probably right. I've tried to improve at that. I don't like walking behind aimless or poky people at the grocery store or in the mall - y'know, those people who get inside the door and then stop dead in their tracks two feet inside to look around as though they've never been there before or take off their sunglasses at a snail's pace.

3) I'm less uptight and more carefree about things than I used to be. That's a great side benefit of getting older. I'd like to think I have more perspective about things and can pick and choose my battles (or what gets my undies in a wad) more judiciously. And sometimes I just don't care if I am making a fool of myself in public or being goofy. Much more satisfying way to live, according to me.

4) I have a great mind for numbers and dates. As long as I don't have to perform mathematical functions with them. Ed Green, from third grade at Pardee Elementary School a thousand years ago, his birthday is April 19th. I have a list of about 60 or so people to whom we send birthday and anniversary cards each year. They marvel that I can remember. Oddly, I do remember most of their dates but have them written down so I don't mess up.

5) I bend over backwards trying to be considerate of other people -- strangers as well as family and friends. I stopped a guy driving down the road a couple weeks ago because his lunch (in a Tupperware container and sandwich bag) were perched precariously on the tool box in the bed of his pickup. I stopped a pickup hauling a trailer to tell them their lights were out on the trailer (I didn't mention that I almost rear-ended the @#$% trailer as a result). I hold doors open for people -- men are usually uncomfortable with that, especially older men. Sometimes I find things I can do for Johnnie, Erin or Mike that are thoughtful and maybe a little surprising.

6) I'm stubborn on some things. I won't go across the street to apologize to our neighbors for the issue we had with them two years ago (a story for another post, maybe), even though according to the firemen, we were wrong. I won't knowingly drive anywhere without my license even though Johnnie insists I'd have 24 hours to present my license and avoid a ticket. Even when my sister and I weren't talking for several years, I continued to send her birthday, anniversary and Christmas cards so I didn't come down to her level.

7) I'm fairly independent. I like being by myself and can entertain myself easily with books, television, sleeping or projects for days.

** Here's a bonus. I get bored easily. If I spend too much time at the computer without something actually compelling or work-oriented to do, I become lethargic and very bored.

So, that's a pretty good synopsis by personality traits of who I am. I hope there aren't a lot of surprises but if so, let me know!

As to tags, I'm going to tag Liz, Ree and Linda. Please?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Ask and (sometimes) receive in a big hurry

Earlier this week on our morning walk, I was bemoaning the lack of growth in some of our sunshine-oriented plants in the front yard to our friend Bridget who loves to garden and has great gardens to show for it. And it struck me that the trees in our front yard have grown to the point where the sun doesn't actually get to the plants until late in the afternoon.

When I got home from the walk, I went out front for a long, critical look at the trees. Most of them are huge locust trees ranging from 50 to 75 feet (maybe higher) in height. But there were two smaller trees that could be taken down and let in quite a lot of light. (I really loathe removing trees because of their positive impact on the environment but these weren't contributing all that much anyway, or so I rationalized.) There are also some lilacs that can be trimmed back so the shade from them doesn't impact the garden. I can do that kind of thing myself and I love to get all sweaty and dirty doing yard work.

I mentioned my idea to Johnnie on Tuesday evening. We bantered back and forth about him getting the trees down and left it at that. While I was at BJ's with Erin and the girls Wednesday morning, Johnnie called me to say that he couldn't take the trees down himself because there were power lines and phones lines among the branches. BUT, there were two tree guys there who would take the trees down for $30 cash. What a deal.

When I came home after lunchtime, the trees were down, the branches neatly stacked on the curb for pickup today by the town (we love our town services that we pay through the nose for) and the trunk was cut and ready for loading into the truck to take to Erin and Mike's to dry and heat their house next year. Holy cow! It looks much brighter without the scraggly trees in there and, even without a great deal of sunshine today (it's raining), I can see it's going to make a big difference for the landscaping plants.

I never ever expected such quick action on my request. I'm just thrilled! I know serendipity played a part (the tree guys were at our neighbor's house trimming trees and Johnnie just happened by) but I'm thrilled and now, once it stops raining, I can get out there and do the remainder of the trimming.

Whoo hoooo!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

45 lessons on life

A Facebook friend had this listed on her Facebook page a bit ago and I thought it was worth borrowing (thanks, Kate!). Always good to get some perspective on life.

Written By Regina Brett, 90 years old, for The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio.

To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me. It is the most-requested column I've ever written. My odometer rolled over to 90 in August, so here is the column once more:

1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

4. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch.

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.

8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.

12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.

13. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.

15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks.

16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

17. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.

18. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.

19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.

20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.

23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.

24. The most important sex organ is the brain.

25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.

26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words 'In five years, will this matter?'

27. Always choose life.

28. Forgive everyone everything.

29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

32. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

33. Believe in miracles.

34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.

35. Don't audit life.. Show up and make the most of it now.

36. Growing old beats the alternative -- dying young.

37. Your children get only one childhood.

38.. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.

41. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

42. The best is yet to come.

43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

44. Yield.

45. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift.

Friday, June 12, 2009

I spy...

I was reading Carmen's post showing where she blogs from and I thought I'd post my creative spot too. Unlike Carmen, mine stays in place permanently. I took the picture here on a particularly un-messy day. Usually there are piles on each wing of the desk so I feel as though I'm in a paper cave. I became inspired with the migration of the bedroom nightstands back into our bedroom and took the opportunity to clean up my desk. I also have just finished up several real-live work projects so all that stuff is now not strewn from one end of my desk to the other.

Johnnie has a mirror-image area and our backs are to each other. I'm the luckiest (according to me) because I have the windows I can look out. The only problem with the one to the left of my screen is the sunshine and glare in the afternoon. Usually the shade on this window is pulled down at least partially all afternoons so I can see the screen and not make the wrinkles in my forehead and around my eyes any more prominent than they are already by squinting all the time.

Wow. It really still looks pretty messy, doesn't it? But I know where everything is at most any time. I almost always have a mug of coffee and a glass of iced tea with me. There are chicken treats for the dogs and the pictures taped to the bottom of the screen are my inspiration (?) for getting svelte. Above the screen and to the left is an Ott light that is my source of sunshine and light, especially in the winter, my MBA diploma (gallons of blood, sweat and tears later), my bulletin board that mostly sports pictures and cards, a calendar and a white board for tracking whatever projects I should be doing from day to day.

Anyway, this is where I camp out when I'm working and quite a bunch when I'm just goofing off. If you see something in the picture above and wonder about it, just ask me and I'll explain. I'm big on having inspirational messages and pictures around, even though they become part of the wallpaper and I'm not sure if I really **see** them much any more.

How about your blogging and computer spot? Let's see it!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Yes and No

Courtney took a post of Lisha's and modified the answers for herself. I've done the same thing.

1. You can ONLY answer Yes or No.

2. You are NOT ALLOWED to explain ANYTHING unless someone messages or comments you and asks. -- and believe me, the temptation to explain some of these will be overwhelming. Nothing is exactly as it seems.

Kissed any one of your Facebook friends? Yes.
Been arrested? No.
Kissed someone you didn't like? Yes.
Slept in until 5 PM? Yes.
Fallen asleep at work/school? Yes.
Held a snake? No.
Ran a red light? Yes.
Been suspended from school? No.
Experienced love at first sight? No.
Totaled your car in an accident? No.
Been in a vehicle at more than 100 mph? No.
Driven a vehicle at more than 100 mph? No.
Been fired from a job? No.
Fired somebody? No.
Sang karaoke? No.
Pointed a gun at someone? No.
Done something you told yourself you wouldn't? Yes.
Laughed until something you were drinking came out your nose? Yes.
Caught a snowflake on your tongue? Yes.
Kissed in the rain? Yes.
Had a close brush with death? No.
Played spin-the-bottle? Yes.
Sang in the shower? Yes.
Smoked a cigar? No.
Sat on a rooftop? Yes.
Taken pictures of yourself naked? No.
Smuggled something into another country? No.
Been pushed into a pool with all your clothes? No.
Broken a bone? Yes.
Skipped school? No.
Eaten a bug? No.
Sleepwalked? No.
Walked a moonlit beach? Yes.
Rode a motorcycle? Yes.
Dumped someone? Yes.
Forgotten your anniversary? No.
Lied to avoid a ticket? No.
Ridden on a helicopter? Yes.
Shaved your head? No.
Played a prank on someone? Yes.
Hit a home run? No.
Felt like killing someone? No.
Cross-dressed? No.
Been falling-down drunk? Yes.
Made your girlfriend/boyfriend cry? Yes.
Had Mexican jumping beans for pets? Yes.
Puked on amusement ride? No.
Seriously & intentionally boycotted something? Yes.
Been in a band? No.
Knitted? No.
Been on TV? Yes.
Shot a gun? Yes.
Skinny-dipped? No.
Gave someone stitches? No.
Eaten a whole habenero pepper? No.
Ridden a surfboard? No.
Drank straight from a liquor bottle? No.
Had surgery? Yes.
Streaked? No.
Taken by ambulance to hospital? Yes.
Tripped on mushrooms? No.
Passed out when not drinking? No.
Peed on a bush? Yes.
Donated Blood? Yes.
Grabbed electric fence? No.
Eaten alligator meat? Yes.
Eaten cheesecake? Yes.
Eaten your kids' Halloween candy? Yes.
Killed an animal when not hunting? Yes.
Peed your pants in public? Yes.
Pooped your pants in public? Yes.
Slipped into a movie without paying? No.
Written graffiti? No.
Think about the future? Yes.
Been in handcuffs? No.
Believe in love? Yes.
Sleep on a certain side of the bed? Yes.

Let's keep it going - copy it and substitute your own answers. Have fun!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Today's the day

As you might or might not remember, we've been sleeping in our guest bedroom since about mid-February. Today we put the bed back up and we'll get to sleep in our own bed tonight! Yippee! Our guest bed is very comfortable but the room is small and with two 50-60 pound dogs sprawled on the floor and the king sized bed, it's been way cozy. At least we have a very good idea of how comfortable our guest room is when we have guests staying with us!

I must say that I have really enjoyed having a window directly over our heads since we've been able to open the windows and catch a lovely nighttime breeze through the room. It was awesome last night listening to an approaching thunderstorm and being bathed by the breeze preceding the storm. The lightning strike somewhere close to our house wasn't quite as enjoyable but we didn't lose power so that's good. We'll have two windows again in our own bedroom but they're more offset so all breezes are nice but not directly overhead.

The new carpeting in the bedroom is awesome and the padding underneath has a spill guard protective layer so if one of the dogs barf or has an accident or I spill a glass of iced tea, it won't damage the hardwood floors underneath.

I was putting new outlet covers on the outlets this morning and thinking back to when we dismantled the bedroom and how completely different it will look once we get it all put back together. We've done so much to it and it looks fantastic. Pictures of the entire process will be forthcoming when it's all done. Make sure you have NoDoz in the house for that post.

Johnnie has a couple more courses of tile to put up in the shower, then install the sink base, toilet and vanity. Probably a week or so more work but we're getting close. Very close.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Unhappy with me

No one else (that I know of) is unhappy with me. I am. I started going to Weight Watchers on April 29th. I've been there every week since then.

My progress:
-2.2 pounds week 1
+.8 pounds week 2
-2.6 pounds week 3
+.8 pounds week 4
+1.8 pounds week 5

Total net loss in five weeks 1.4 pounds -- and that's because I wore jeans the first time and have been in lighter clothes every week since. So effectively no loss at all.

Ridiculous. I'm paying $40 a month for this. To continue to bobble around, weight-wise, and not really get my act together for a solid seven days in a row. I'm so angry with myself I could just spit. I look at my weekly tracker and I have been consistently at or over my points allowance most days. I'm playing a game with myself and I'm always the loser but in the wrong way.

In the past I've spent months going to a nutritionist for about double the cost of Weight Watchers but you get one-on-one sessions and someone looking objectively but critically at what you're eating and doing for exercise. I played that one too.

I know exactly what I need to do. Why is it that my penchant leans so heavily to self sabotage rather than self improvement and weight loss? I carry one of the grandkids up the stairs and think that their weight is the same as what I want to lose. How much easier climbing the stairs would be on my knees if I can focus long enough to lose the 30 or 40 pounds.

I'm determined to buckle down and focus on getting this done. I will do it. We are going on a cruise in two and a half months. I don't want to look chubby and I want to feel good about myself. It's time I stopped screwing around and get serious.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Fundraising and human nature

I love marketing and writing but I strongly dislike doing sales and making sales-y phone calls. Since I'm a co-chair of a 5K in October, I'm on the fundraising end of the profit we need to make to hold the race and keep the agency going for another year. We're trying to raise $20,000 this year - a huge stretch goal from the $10K we made last year. I sincerely believe we can do it with attracting more runners and walkers as well as finding more sponsors with deepish pockets.

We're a small agency helping women and children who have experienced domestic violence (not a popular, trendy charity like Ronald McDonald or breast cancer) and $20K is a lot of money for us. It spells the difference between keeping the doors open so we can help our clients or closing down.

I spent the afternoon yesterday making about 40 calls to various companies in the area to follow up on letters we sent to them a couple weeks ago about sponsorship for the race. I will be calling the rest of the list this afternoon. I don't like making these calls and I've found just about every excuse I can legitimately summon to avoid doing them. "It's Monday, no one ever likes these calls on Monday." "It's too soon after the holiday, they probably took more days off." "It's lunchtime, never a good time to call someone." You get the idea. After a while, even I was calling myself on my excuses. When even I don't believe myself, it's time for action.

I decided yesterday that I had to keep my butt in the chair and make at least 10 calls before I could (a) read another blog or (b) play another game of Solitaire. It worked because I finally got into it and just kept plugging away making calls through about half the list that needed to be called.
No one likes getting these calls any more than I enjoy making them. I try to stay upbeat and speak clearly and relatively slowly so they can absorb what I'm calling about.

Now it's occurring to me that this is another interesting lesson in human nature: how people react when you call them, if you get them at all; whether they actually return your call as you have politely begged; whether you ever get anyone at that company to talk with you and when you decide that follow up calls have left the reminder stage and now border on harassment.

I talked with a real estate company owner (standing in for Chicken Little) who said, effectively, "good luck in this economy sucka." I'll be fascinated to see how HIS business thrives in the next 12 months.

The president of another company called me back late yesterday and explained that they usually sponsor Little League teams and other child-oriented charities. Nice conversation, nice man. I talked to another business owner who explained that he's on the board of another non-profit that's working with children in Africa and his money will be funding that this year. Another great call and an obviously legitimate reason for no contribution.

Today I received a call back from the head of a large, prestigious advertising agency who wasn't too big to call to say they couldn't participate this year. Another small business owner's wife called today apologizing that she hadn't sent in her sponsorship yet and would do so immediately.

So, out of 40 calls, so far I've had five responses, just over 10 percent, and I've left messages for 30-some more. Considering it another lesson in the amazing variety of human nature and reactions helps me pick up the phone to make the calls. No matter that I'll have to call 30+ people back a couple more times before I figure they're avoiding me or just plain darn rude.

Projects like this help me understand people a little more and ultimately refine my own reaction when I get calls like this so I don't sound like "good luck sucka" Chicken Little guy. Sure, it doesn't really matter because they're faceless when I call (so am I to them for that matter) and I'm just another phone number and equally faceless when I get these calls. But I do have to live with my own reaction and going through this exercise helps me figure out what I must do so I can tolerate myself when I'm the faceless target as well.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Gray? Gray? We don't see no stinkin' gray!

Last Saturday, Erin and I went to Cleveland in their van to pick up the top part of our new entertainment center. Johnnie and I had attempted to get it three weeks ago but the trailer we rented was too small (by inches) and the top was dropped and damaged in the process of trying to wedge it into the trailer.

So Erin and I went this past weekend. By.Ourselves. No kids, no husbands. Just the two of us. Four hours there and four hours back. In between, a quick lunch with Ferd and Mare and a visit to the hallowed halls of Marc's, conveniently located in the same strip mall as the furniture store from which we needed to retrieve the top. Mike stayed home with their daughters. Johnnie stayed home to grout the floor tile in the bathroom we've been working on since February.

Got a call from Johnnie at about 10:30am. He's at Lowe's trying to decide on grout colors. (Sidebar: we had already bought a bag of too-dark grout, returned it and bought a second bag of grout in a lighter shade of gray earlier this week.) Huh??? The debate ensued with me not having any grout color chips to use as reference. (Sidebar #2:This is all complicated by the fact that Johnnie is red-green color blind. So anything red looks kinda brown and greens look kinda grayish. He's taught himself to almost unerringly know what the real color is he's looking at but sometimes he second guesses himself and needs help. That's my job.) We had already picked out a grout color and me -- the one who sees colors just fine, thanks -- said it was the right color. Whatever.

Seven minutes one second later I'm off the phone after assuring him that whatever color grout he got would be just fine with me. I trusted him, yadda yadda yadda. And I truly do trust him. Even if he doesn't always trust himself.

Erin: "Y'know, whatever he picks, you've gotta tell him you hate it, right?"
Me: "Yeah, I probably should. That would freak him out."
Erin: mischevious giggle and we resume talking nonstop all the way to Cleveland.

11:37 the phone rings again and it's Johnnie. He's ***still*** debating the grout color and he's still at Lowe's. OMG. He's settled on Smoke Gray, it looks like the right shade, and on and on. Six minutes 41 seconds later, I've assured him again.and.again. that the grout color sounds fine and don't worry.

Erin, smirking: "You totally have to tell him you don't like it."
Me: "Yeah, I'll do it."

We get to Cleveland, pick up the top, have lunch with Ferd and Mare, visit Marc's (it was kind of a let down for both of us, anticlimactic actually), gas up and we're back on the road. Erin sleeps from Cleveland to the Pennsylvania-New York border, then she awakens and we commence talking again, almost nonstop back to Rochester. We've spoken to Johnnie a couple more times and the grout is in and looks good, according to him.

Me: "Let's both go up and look at the grout and tell Dad that it looks kinda green."
Erin: "Oh yeah - if we both do it, without looking at each other, he'll really buy it."
Me: "Especially if we tell him it looks green since he doesn't see green well anyway. Yeah, let's do it!"

We get to our house and eventually go upstairs to look at the grout. Erin leading the parade, followed by me and then Johnnie.

Erin,turning on lights then looking at the floor: "Dad, it looks good but ... it looks kinda green ..."
Me, coming into the room: "Hmmmmm. Wow - it looks great, honey, but ... there is a sort of green tinge to it ..."
Johnnie, peering over our shoulders, seeming calm but a bit anxious around the eyes: "Really? No, I got Smoke Gray so it can't be green!"
Johnnie retrieves a plastic pail of grout to show us: "See? It's Smoke Gray. That's what I got. It was lighter when I put it down and it's gotten a bit darker as it's dried."
Me: "Don't know what to tell you sweetie but it looks green to me. What can we do?"
Erin: "Can you scrape it out?"
Johnnie, now looking tense and a bit frantic: "No! I can't scrape it out - it's in there. There's nothing I can do about it. It's Smoke Gray, honest."
Me: "Do they have colors we can put over the top of it?"
Johnnie, seeming more concerned now: "I don't think so."
Me: "Well, I guess we'll have to change the wall color so the blue doesn't clash with the greenish color of the grout. It's kinda lime-y or something like that. (pause) You really can't see it?"
Johnnie: "No - I only see gray. Well it looked a little more aqua when I was putting it in but all I see now is gray."

We finally couldn't stand it any longer and started cracking up.

Me: "Nah, we're just kidding. It looks great and it's just fine. There's no greenishness to it. We're just sh**tting you!"
Erin: "Yeah, pretty funny, huh?"
Johnnie: "NO! It's not funny! You really had me scared. My heart is racing and the adrenaline is pumping. Oh my Lord! How could you do that to me?!?"

Erin and I were falling all over each other, cracking up. Johnnie was trying to calm himself down with little success. We three went to one of our favorite places for dinner and kept chortling (well, two of us chortled) from time to time about pulling the wool so firmly over Johnnie's eyes.

He still doesn't think it's funny, even two days later. He called his brother Ferd yesterday (Monday) and related the prank to him. Ferd found it completely amusing and laughed quite hard at Johnnie's retelling of it.

Normally I am not on the giving end of any type of pranks - I just don't think that quickly and usually don't have the opportunity to really cook one up. However, with our eight hours in the car together and a willing accomplice, we did a great job. This one will live in infamy within the family for a long time.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Irony is everything

I was first married at the tender age of 20 to a man who is seven years my senior, named Greg. He and his parents were the epitome of a solid family in my perception at that time. (My father was an alcoholic and my mom a classic enabler, if not an alcoholic herself, I could never decide. So my teen years were pretty well messed up.)

Anyway, it took me two years (from 18 to 20) to convince him but we finally got married. Greg's parents lived about 50 feet from us and he and his dad operated a family excavating business. Greg was the brawn of the outfit and worked tirelessly for his dad, usually six and sometimes seven days a week all year round in broiling heat and frigid temperatures. It is a brutal business.

Within a year of our getting married, the real family dynamics became clear and the honeymoon for me with their "perfect" family ended: Greg worked for his dad but his dad and mom completely controlled the business and he was merely the brawn. We had many discussions about what would happen when his dad retired and ultimately Greg decided to go to the local community college. After two years of working those tireless hours and then going to school at night, he graduated as an electronic technician. Erin was born about a year or so into this process.

Greg's parents were never on board with his going to college but he and I felt he had to have some career in place when they decided to stop the business. It was very clear that he would never inherit the family business and have the opportunity to keep it going. Plus, electronic technicians don't have to work outside in sewers and such 12 months a year. So it looked pretty attractive.

After graduation, Greg had one interview at General Motors Proving Grounds in Milford, Michigan and got the job. You have **never** seen a more proud and ecstatic man. He was 33 when he graduated. Greg's parents were never good at building his esteem so getting this job was an incredible feat in a number of ways for him.

He has worked at the GM proving grounds ever since. He worked for years in current year engineering and now he calibrates the crash test dummies for barrier and other tests.

Aside: We're fortunate in that we overcame our marriage breakup issues years ago (at his new wife's urging) so we could co-parent Erin and help her grow up as unaffected as possible given the situation. They visit and stay with us, we go visit them. We've even gone on weekend vacations with them. We're friends and that's been much easier on everyone for the past 30 years.

The irony comes in that General Motors is expected to declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy today. Today is also Greg's birthday. I'm sure that will weigh heavily on Greg's mind today.

While GM has gone from having 615,000 employees to 88,000, they will never have a more loyal and dedicated employee than they do in Greg. He has declared numerous times that he will never retire -- he turns 66 today. They will seriously have to carry him out boots first to get him to leave. He rails about them and has never lost his feistyness about some of their bureaucratic convolutions but he loves what he does. He is extremely lucky that he has been able to work for a great company but not at an office job (he would never have made it in one of those) for all these years - since 1976.

Of all the days for GM to officially go into bankruptcy, it is just a crowning blow to have it happen on Greg's birthday. Happy birthday, Mr. Goodwrench!

Friday, May 29, 2009

White shirts and traveling don't mix

Even on the best of days, I'm kind of a messy person. I spill things on myself or splash things that wind up as spots on my clothes. Bleach and Oxy-Clean are my good friends. (Johnnie tells me that I'm the messiest teeth brusher he's ever been around. Oh well, nobody's perfect!) So I have learned when we're traveling to always wear dark colored shirts or sweaters so I can hide minor stains that appear out of nowhere.

Except when I was packing for our trip to Cleveland a few weeks ago, I didn't heed my own advice and packed a white t-shirt. I ended up wearing it on Sunday as we traveled home with a small U-Haul trailer in tow carrying the bottom part of our new entertainment center. (We tend to shop and buy everything from furniture to clothes out of town and then figure out creative ways to get them home. We once brought two Eames-like recliners and ottomans back from Cherry Hill, New Jersey in a 1997 Civic. Cozy.) I digress.

Granted, I packed for the trip in about five minutes and with little focused thought about what I was actually taking. One pair of jeans, a couple shirts, necessary underwear and we're outta here. We're still living out of laundry baskets and tipsy piles shoved into closets since our bedroom is still uninhabitable so I'm surprised (and lucky) I found anything reasonable to wear.

Anyway, I thoughtlessly wore the white t-shirt home. Just after we got on the road, I looked down to see two smallish coffee stains on my left, um, breasticle, forming a pretty perfect target in the nipplish area. What the heck?? How did they get there? Must have been some drops from my coffee mug. Argh. When we stopped at the next rest area (we were stopping at just about every one to check the trailer to make sure the tires weren't overheating and everything was riding well) I dabbed at the spots and made them less brownish but still noticeable - and now they were wet as well.

Shortly after our pit stop, I was sipping some iced tea and dribbled it down my chin. Onto my nice white shirt. Double arghh.

Still later as we rounded the bend past Buffalo, I took the lid off my mug and somehow dribbled even more coffee down the center of my shirt, looking somewhat like a Rorschach test blob. At this I gave up and just left them alone until we got home. As I took the first load of things upstairs, I changed my shirt immediately and vowed once again to never wear anything but black tops for traveling. Now if only I remember the next time we go anywhere!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Signs of our times

There are many many times in a day, week or month that we need to leave ourselves or each other reminder signs to do something or NOT to do something (like feed the dogs because the other has already done it). We leave ourselves voice mail messages. We put reminders on our electronic calendars. We write notes and post them in obvious spots on the back door, in the car or on the hood over the stove. Interesting to me that all of mine seem to have smiley faces on them.

Translations from the top: Drambuie, Message on recorder, Dogs are fed, Order nuts, Please feed dogs no pills, Chemicalize tub (the hot tub).

My favorite ones are the use-and-reuse sticky notes we keep in the cupboard nearest the garage door. The spellings are deliberately goofy. We tend to do that on grocery lists too. Dog food is often spelled as fog dood or fawg deud or something equally as silly. There have been times when Johnnie spells something so far off in left field that I have trouble figuring out what it is. We used to have a stack of these notes written on scrap paper and held together with a binder clip. We'd just search through the pack for the correct one and then stick it on a cupboard with a piece of tape. We've slimmed down most of these (getting rid of the birds definitely helped as they were the source of many notes) and now we have just a few that seem to need repetition and notification.

I'm sure there are more efficient ways of handling these types of couple communications and reminders but this works just fine for us, especially since I bought a pack of those really really sticky Post It notes. They are the cat's pyjamas.