Dec 30, 2008

What's that smell?

In my experience smell brings back the strongest memories. I can not smell Old Spice aftershave without remembering my father scooping me up and hugging me when I was a little girl. It was usually right after he had shaved. I would rub my cheek against his and then touch his cheek with my hand because it was so smooth.

Strawberry lip gloss brings back memories of being a pre-teen girl thinking she was all that and a bag of chips because my lips were so shiny and kissable. Smelling a little baby transports me back to holding my own kids when they were infants.

I was recently at a car show where some vintage vehicles were on display. I opened the door of a ~1970 Mitsubishi Colt and was instantly transported to the late 70's, summertime in Florida. The sun beating through the windows onto the vinyl bench seat creates a certain smell that can't be recreated in today's automobiles. I closed my eyes and it was like I was there.

As a teenager I spent many of my summers in Florida with my dear cousins. The girls were all older than me and at least one of them always had a car. We would dig in the couch for coins to buy gas and other necessary beach items, ahem. We would head down to the beach for a day of sun, sand and guy watching. We were trouble waiting to happen and we didn't care. Some of the best times of my life. Wish I could go back now that I know I should have appreciated it more.

And speaking of my dear cousins..... HAPPY BIRHTDAY BONNIE. Big Five-Oh on January 5th. How in the hell did that happen?

Dec 23, 2008

Oh me, Oh my !

Before I tell you about my adventure this week I feel the need to establish the fact that I am an independent woman. I watched during the 1970's as my mother broke the "yoke of domesticity" to become a bona fide, college educated working mother. The lesson was not wasted on my sister and me.

There are few things I am afraid to try or do. I have always believed that I could do anything I made up my mind to do. I am proud to say that I have never fallen back on the female ploy of fluttering the eyelashes and asking some big strong man for help. If I am giggling like a schoolgirl it's because I'm flirting not because I'm manipulating some man to help me out. I have never cried in front of a police office to get out of a ticket.

Having said all that... there are certain things that make me feel like such a girl. Number one on that list is a flat tire. I hate feeling helpless but I really don't know what to do. Actually, I do know what to do.... call someone for help.

The other morning I ran over a bungee cord. Please regard the picture below as your fair warning not to run over bungee cords if you can avoid it.

I should be able to change a flat tire. Lots of women do it. I just get all flustered and out of my element. First off, the tire is under the car. Am I expected to lay down in the middle of the road in the snow and unhook it. Exactly how is it connected to the car anyway? I'm sure that a tool of some sort is necessary. But I have no clue what tool that is or where I would find it. And the whole jack thing is complicated. It comes in several pieces and I have no clue where to position it under the car. It's much easier to just call somebody even at the price of feeling needy.

While we're on the subject of things that make me feel like a girl, number two on the list is any yard equipment that is started by a pull-cord. C'mon, after all these years we can't design a push button starter? I'm no conspiracy theorist but it's awfully suspicious that lawnmowers and weedwackers are not only difficult to start but are constantly cutting out on you. Is this some plot to make me feel weak and needy?

Dec 22, 2008


I would like to share my grandmother’s story. First, let me apologize to my mother, aunts and uncles if they remember any parts of this story differently. I am fully aware that this is your story too. My defense is that family stories are a subjective thing, for both the teller and the person hearing the story. Different things strike a chord with each of us so the story I tell will certainly be different in some ways than the story you would tell.

My grandmother’s name was Luise Wande Busse. She was born near Obornik, Germany on January 5, 1905. The story goes that she was very weak and fragile and my great-grandmother had to huddle near the cottage’s ceramic oven to keep her from dying.

I don’t know much about her childhood years. She met my grandfather, Wilhelm Lauchstaedt at a friend’s wedding. I remember my grandmother talking about him during one of her visits to the US. Even though she spoke no English and my German is patchy at best, I could tell that even after all these years he was the love of her life. She was a very calm, quiet and serious person but when she spoke about him she got a sparkle in her eyes and had a big smile on her face.

As you can see from the photo he was very handsome. I have also heard many people say that he had a great sense of humor and liked to spend time drinking and laughing it up with his buddies. He owned a butcher shop in Obornik. He and my grandmother had nine children. I think there may have been another one that died in infancy as well but I’m not sure about that.

My grandfather was a soldier in the German regular army during WWII. He wasn’t called to serve in the beginning of the war because he had five or six children by then. But as WWII worsened for the Germans the number of children needed for an exemption kept getting higher. Below is a picture of my grandomther with seven of her children.

My grandfather was killed by Polish Freedom Fighters while home for Christmas leave in 1944. His death was gruesome and violent. I won’t speculate about the atrocities against the Poles at the hands of the Germans that could have led them to such violence. Those were evil times all the way around. I’ll let history sort all of that out. This is the story of my family, not WWII.

What I do know, is that my grandfather was a loving husband and father. His family grieved deeply for him. My mother was the youngest of nine and was just 5 months old when her father was killed. She has no personal memories of her father. She has copies of some letters he wrote while away at the front. He always made a point to mention all of his children in his letters.

At about the same time my grandfather was killed the Russians were quickly making their way toward my family’s hometown. My grandmother made the decision to pack up her nine children and her elderly mother and travel by train to Berlin. Her brother lived in Berlin and she hoped to take refuge with him.

The trip to Berlin was difficult. It was the dead of winter and they traveled in boxcars. It was cold and crowded and food was scarce. My grandmother struggled to keep my infant mother from freezing. To this day my mother's skin still gets red and swollen if she’s out in the cold too long.

The family arrived in Berlin right before the Russians invaded the city. Those familiar with WWII history will remember that the Russians were brutal. Many Germans were murdered and many women were raped. None of my family speaks much about the fall of Berlin. During a trip to Berlin I saw the basement where the family huddled while Berlin was being bombed. The rumor was that the Russians wouldn’t rape a woman with a child so many of the neighbor women wanted to “borrow” one of my grandmother’s children to protect themselves.

The Americans came and things got a little better in Berlin. But there still wasn’t much food and they all lived in a very small apartment. My mother remembers playing in the ruins of the bombed buildings as a young girl.

My grandmother successfully got all of her children through those tough times plus the many lean years that followed. Berlin was a divided city with the each of the four allied countries in charge of a different section. Fortunately my family lived in the American sector.

In the early 60’s the Berlin wall was built. The Russian and US armies faced off while the families of Berlin caught on opposite sides risked life and limb to be together. My father was a soldier in the US Army stationed in Berlin. That’s how he met my mother. They married in 1962 and she moved away from her family to join my father in the States.

My grandmother ended up raising one of her grandchildren when her son was not able to. Late in her life she moved in with my Tante Rosi and her husband into a very nice apartment in Berlin. She died in October 1988. Her family loved her and honored her for her strength and goodness but whenever she talked about her life she never thought she had done anything exceptional. She said she had just done what she needed to do.

Dec 17, 2008

Kim and Henry ?

Text messaging is a wonderful thing. I don’t really like talking on the telephone, except to my sister for our periodic bitch sessions. And I mean bitch in both senses of the word. Texting is quick, to the point and allows you to multi-task.

I had a brief exchange with my husband this morning (no pun intended).

Me: Found my underwear!
Him: Boyfriend’s suitcase?
Me: Yep, right where I left them.

Seems I had packed my underwear in the super secret compartment of my suitcase. My husband and I had to make an emergency trip to Target to buy me some new bloomers. Imagine if I had sent that message to the wrong person.

Recently while sitting in a theatre waiting for a movie to start I was scrolling through my old text messages. Most were the mundane, taking care of business type of message…

What’s for dinner?(grrrr), Be home late. Need anything from the store?

I had a few drunken messages from a good friend of ours. I still can’t decipher them completely. I keep them as a reminder of how quickly some Jaeger can bring you to your knees.

There were three messages from a couple named “Kim and Henry”. I don’t know a Kim and Henry. I know a few Kims, but none of them have a Henry. Since May of ’08 I have received three text messages from this mystery couple. I had quickly forgotten each of them as they were received and never gave them another thought.

During my stroll down text message memory lane I saw the pattern of one way communication from Kim and Henry to me. In May they had texted “You’re getting married! Congratulations!” in July they had texted “Happy 4th of July” and then in November “Happy Thanksgiving”

I am intrigued. Who are Kim and Henry? Who were they texting? Were Kim and Henry invited to the wedding? If so, why couldn’t they come? Don’t Kim and Henry wonder why they don’t get a response? Gosh, I hope I haven’t ruined a friendship with my carelessness.

I was a little trigger happy when I was looking at these old messages so all the Kim and Henry messages got erased. I hope that Kim and Henry send me some Yuletide Greetings so that I can get some answers.

Dec 15, 2008

California Dreaming

Spending a few days in “not-so-sunny” California. Just my luck that when I visit the state renowned for it’s near perfect weather I get gray skies, a cold snap and torrential downpours. Sigh. Yesterday was a little better. The sun was shining and the 60 degree temps felt like summer to me.

My husband and I spent a wonderful day with his aunt. I love everybody on that side of my husband’s family. They are loud and funny and loving people. We went to the Rose Bowl flea market, then had a wonderful dinner at a Mexican restaurant and finished the evening with a drive through Hollywood. Sad to say we didn’t see any movie stars but I don’t think they hang out in Hollywood anyway.

I love California. There is a certain attitude out here, a general acceptance of everybody and everything. Everybody is so easy going and friendly. Complete opposite of the mid-west where we hustle and bustle about as if we are all the only people on the planet.

A few oddities I notice about California.

The trees out here are different than trees I have seen anywhere else. The big trees with the white trunks are my favorite. I don’t know what they are called. Their roots are exposed and they look as if they are hanging onto the earth for dear life.

They have two story strip malls.

Even though the freeways are crowded they are really good drivers, at least compared to Michigan. They use their signals, they know what the left lane is for and they let people merge into traffic.

A lot of the buildings and houses in LA look like they were built in the 50’s and 60’s. Not having made it out here until the 90’s, I am guessing that California had big growth back then. I’m going to have to research that.

This is a wonderful place to visit but don’t think it’s a retirement option because the prices are too high. Flagstaff is still in the lead for that one.

Dec 11, 2008

Scattershot Journalism

I read a NYT article this morning because the headline caught my eye, Illinois Scandal an Early Test for Obama Team. Oh really? Did Mr. Obama or someone on his team have some involvement in the Illinois Governor’s criminal attempt to sell the soon to be vacant Senate seat? I read the article and I have to tell you that it is lacking any substance at all. It was like a wisp, a ghost, a bit of fog captured on the page but fading in and out. I had to read it a few times to see if I was missing something. No, I didn’t miss the main point because…..there wasn’t one.

Here are some highlights from the article:

An Illinois hopeful for the Senate seat commented on how she couldn’t get any insider info out of Rahm Emanuel (Obama’s Chief of Staff) on what the Governor was thinking.

Obama and his advisers were keeping their distance from the Governor and not looking to influence his decision, partly because he was known to be under federal investigation.

Democrats have stated that Obama had strained relations with the Governor and made the decision to stay out of the decision process.

Two potential candidates are cited as saying that they never talked to Mr. Obama about the vacant senate seat.

This all sounds like A-Number-One judgment to me. Mr. Obama and his team declined to speak about something out of their control with people who had a direct personal interest in the outcome. Wow, what were they thinking? And, gasp, they didn’t trust or want to associate with the Governor of Illinois. Again I ask, where’s the story?

Then the article does a complete about face for no apparent reason:

Republicans have raised questions about Mr. Obama’s refusal to say more about his past ties with the main characters of the scandal.

Mr. Obama stayed out of sight on Wednesday, calling for Mr. Blagojevich’s resignation through an aide and only after other Democrats had done so.

Even if Mr. Obama remains untouched by the investigation, it shines a light on the corrupt politics of the state he emerged from.

Past ties? This is the Governor of Illinois, not some weapons dealing, drug smuggling, nefarious character. I’m sure many of these same unnamed Republicans also had “past ties” with the Governor since we’re not exactly being clear on the definition of “tie”.

And what exactly is being implied with the statement about the timing of Mr. Obama’s call for the Governor’s resignation? It seems to imply that he did it under some sort of pressure, almost against his will. At worst, this implies that Mr. Obama hesitated because he was somehow involved. At best it insinuates that Mr. Obama didn’t have the guts to do it earlier. They are kidding, right?

Then they deal the coup de grĂ¢ce, reporting that Mr. Obama is somehow tainted because he and the Governor both come from the same State. Well, with that logic, anybody from the State of Texas is a blithering idiot.

I seem to remember from my grammar school days that first you “Start with your main topic in mind and expand on it”. Now certainly the writers at the NYT have gone to grammar school and certainly they should be expected to collect their thoughts in a cohesive fashion and translate it to paper. So what is going on here? I know exactly what is going on. Throw enough chum into the water and the sharks are bound to show up. That’s today’s media for you. Throw a bunch of disjointed statements on paper, none backed by any named sources and hope that a public furor ensues because then you can really sell some papers.

Dec 9, 2008


There are a few questions I dread. The longest lasting and most recurring one is: "What's for dinner?" I used to joke with my family that I was the sun and they were each planets orbiting me on a 24 hour cycle. Each of them compelled to ask that question once per day. A little bit of a complicated analogy but it works for me. My answer "I don't know, whatever I feel like cooking when I get home from work."

Things have changed. Most of the time it's just me and my husband, with the youngest off at school and the oldest technically at home but spending a lot of her evenings with her boyfriend. To be fair to her, our daughter usually cooks one night a week. I am sure it is only because she can be assured of getting a good vegetarian meal that way. But who am I to complain, so long as I don't have to cook it. Truth be told, she has a few tasty recipes up her sleeve.

My husband and I have kind of a game going on. Whoever asks the other one first "What's for dinner?" wins. Even if the person asked doesn't end up cooking there is an advantage to be gained for the next day. That's the triple bonus, double whammy. Asking the other one "What's for dinner?", end up being the one cooking it and then asking again the next day "What's for dinner?". There ain't no way you're cooking then. Best case scenario, we go out!

Another question I hate is "What do you want for Christmas?" Hell, I don't know. Something you think I'd like. In my younger days I could come up with a whole list of things. But I pretty much have reached a point where I have all that I need. Whatever you get me is fine by me. I'm not picky. A gift certificate to Borders so I can feed my insatiable appetite for books, a scarf, some perfume, anything you like. How about you cook dinner for a whole month straight?

Dec 7, 2008


This beautiful creature was in our cherry tree this morning. I caused quite a bit of commotion going back into the house to get the camera and she very kindly stayed put. We recently cut down quite a few trees in the yard and I think it stirred up the local rodent population. That's like an Old Country Buffet for red tail hawks.

On a totally different topic.... Today my husband twisted my arm to stop in at WalMart because he heard some of their grocery prices were really good. I hate WalMart. Not for any high and noble reason like their questionable business practices. Not because of the alleged unfair treatment of their employees. Not because most of their goods come from third world countries. WalMart like any big company has it's fair share of skeletons in the closet but I believe a lot of the negative media they get was initiated by and is fueled by their competition.

I simply hate WalMart because it is aesthetically unpleasant. Their signs are too big. Their stores are too crowded and the atmosphere feels..... I don't know ..... crazed. After all, it was a WalMart where the shoppers trampled a worker to death trying to get to the bargains. (Part, if not most, of the blame lies in WalMart's lap for not maintaining some sort of control over the crazed shoppers.) Now, I love a bargain as much as the next person. But c'mon. Can we maintain a little common courtesy and human decency while pursuing that unbelievably low price?

I will shop at KMart occasionally. I mostly go for nostalgic reasons. I have a lot of memories of going there as a kid with my Mom. Back in the day some of them were called S.S. Kresge's and they had soda fountains. It was the 60's and my Mom had go-go boots and a bad-ass beehive. If I was good she'd get me something, if I was really good I might even get a hot fudge sundae. However, I view K'Marts as only a step or two above WalMart and consider them to be a Target wanna'be.

Now Target on the other hand is the BEST store in the world. They are marketing geniuses in my opinion. I invariably spend more than I intended. Quite a bit of it on "Dollar Spot" junk that I really have no use for but can't resist because it's only a buck. Their stores are clean. Their displays are appealing and it just feels better than WalMart. So, anyway, gotta sign off now because I am headed to Target right now with my daughter. Christmas shopping awaits. I wonder what stocking stuffers they have at the "Dollar Spot".

Dec 3, 2008

Where be the treasure?

The word pirate has several meanings. One of them, according to is:

a person who robs or commits illegal violence at sea or on the shores of the sea.

This is, technically, the appropriate word to use for the people who have been terrorizing ships sailing in waters near Somalia. Though I have to admit, for me anyway, Disney and Johnny Depp have successfully rendered this word unusable in any serious context. Every time I hear one of these stories about “pirates” I picture Jack Sparrow sailing up along side an unsuspecting ship and charming his way aboard. That is NOT what is happening.

In the last year there have been nearly 100 attacks on ships sailing the waters near Somalia. 40 of those attacks were successful, resulting in the ships being boarded and hijacked and the passengers and crew members being held hostage for ransom. The most recent attack was on a luxury cruise ship that fortunately was able to outrun their attackers.

Somalia is a country on the eastern tip of the African continent. The people of Somalia are starving and desperate. They have been caught in the crossfire of tribal feuding and all out civil war since the early 90’s. There is no central government in Somalia. Different regions of the country are ruled by opposing factions. The piracy trade has flourished there because it offers the destitute citizens a chance to make some money to feed their families. The pirate kingpins get rich and the local officials get their share of the booty. All other legitimate trade in the region is at a virtual standstill because of the danger associated with travel to that country, especially by ship. It’s like a vicious circle with no end in sight.

May I suggest we come up with a new word and permanently relegate the word “pirate” to the world of fantasy and make-believe. Let’s call them “sea marauders” or “sea bandits” instead. But, I guess even those words sound whimsical. Maybe there is no good alternative and I will just have to quit thinking about the Pirates of the Caribbean every time I hear or read one of these stories.

Dec 1, 2008

Debits = Credits

There was a big change at work today. Up until today I was responsible for managing HR and Administration. I have managed both of these functions for my entire career but until this current job I had also always managed the accounting function. When I accepted this job a little over a year ago I knew I would be giving up accounting. At the time I was excited to have the chance to focus all my attention on one thing for a change. I am a jack-of-all-trades kind of person and wanted to see if I could finally “master” one of them. I was also happy to get away from the monthly grind of producing financial statements.

But I have to admit I have missed accounting a little bit. The majority of issues that HR deals with are “gray”. Whenever some policy or employee issue is open for debate, discussion or interpretation it invariably ends up in HR’s lap. We are the fog lifters, the cheerleaders, the explainers and the comforters. It’s very challenging and rewarding.

Accounting on the other hand is a very black and white kind of thing. There is usually only one answer. The left side needs to balance to the right side. It always provided a nice balance to the HR side of things. After a tough day of dealing with people issues I could bury my head in numbers.

I work for a Japanese automobile manufacturer. Japanese companies are different than American companies in a lot of ways. That is a whole blog post in and of itself that I will save for another time. But I will say that one of the key attributes for success is the ability to wear many hats. There is a standard phrase put on job descriptions that goes something like “and other duties as assigned by manager.” This phrase really gets a workout in a Japanese organization.

So, after one year here and increasingly difficult times for the automotive industry I find myself in the position of taking on the management of the accounting department in addition to my current responsibilities. I am happy about this change and also glad that being a jack-of-all-trades gives me at least a little bit of job security in these tough times.

Nov 28, 2008


You know, it's the simple things in life we are usually most thankful for. Not the things that we spend most of our time thinking about during the rest of the year.

Mario is thankful for his ball. Really, anything he can get you to throw for him. Border Collies are smart like they say but they can get a little obsessive. He especially loves visitors. They may as well have "Sucker" tattooed on their foreheads. He collects every throwable object in the house and lays it at their feet. They laugh and throw his toys for him over and over. They inevitably give up long before he tires out.
Chance is thankful to sit next to me, wherever I am. He is also thankful he can tuck his back legs safely behind him. He's very weird like that. I think it's because my husband snatches at his back legs when he rough-houses with him.

I am thankful that my son is home for Thanksgiving. He's been away for his first year of college. He doesn't call nearly as much as his sister. OK, he never calls. I have reconciled myself to the fact that boys are very different than girls. They don't let their homesickness show but he couldn't hide the fact that he was excited to be home.

This one is a little tougher. My daughter did not spend Thanksgiving with us this year. Her first one away from the family. She went to Texas to spend it with her boyfriend's family. I am thankful she has a whole new family to get to know and I am thankful that they welcomed her with such open arms. But then again, what's not to love.

Finally, the whole family was thankful for a wonderful meal, the chance to be together because that's what Thanksgiving is really about. And of course, pumpkin pie!

Nov 24, 2008

Where have you been all my life?

There is a whole host of things I wish I had tried or discovered earlier in my life. Most, but not all, are food related.

FOODS: You wouldn’t know it to look at me now, but I was a picky eater as a kid. Following are some of my favorites that I didn't try until adulthood.

Scrambled eggs
– after my daughter was born the first meal I had in the hospital was scrambled eggs and toast. It’s been a favorite ever since.

Sour cream – there was just something about the name that always bothered me. Milk based products should not be sour.

Cream cheese – spreadable cheese seemed unnatural to me.

– it looked like cactus to me.

– can’t explain why I didn’t like them – the gelatinous seeds maybe.


Sleep Mask – This one could have saved me a lot of grief over the years. I am an avid reader and I fall asleep every night by reading. My husband is not a night time reader and the light really bothers him. I have tried a lot of things to reach a compromise, low watt bulbs (25 watt bulbs don’t give off much light), booklights (a pain in the ass), a towel over the lampshade (tacky and a fire hazard). I happened to get him a sleeping mask a few years back. Oh my God! Why had I never tried this before? He looks a little dorky when he wears it but it’s a small price to pay.

Wire Whisk – I always just thought a fork was good enough. My cousins thought this was hilarious so one of them bought me an assortment of wire whisks. I am now a convert.

IKEA – Where was this store when I was young and broke?

Podcasts – Doesn’t quite fit because they are relatively new, but I haven’t listened to the radio on my way to work since I discovered them.

I guess my grandmother was right all along, “You never know until you try it.”

Nov 21, 2008


I’m starting to get angry and also a little bit scared about the future. I have no particular love for the Detroit 3 (they had to relinquish the Big 3 title once Toyota turned into a big player that was regularly beating one or more of them in monthly sales.) The auto execs are arrogant, overpaid, short-sighted and got themselves into this mess all by themselves. Instead of developing new technologies and innovative long term strategies they have focused on the bottom line of the next quarter. Their strategy has been to bombard us with low financing deals for the past five years. Couldn’t they foresee a day when Americans would have to tighten their belts and hold off on that new car purchase?

On the same note, duplicity and insincerity from the Washington crew doesn’t surprise me. How many of them have uttered the words “Buy American” in one of their campaign speeches? Yet now they stand on the brink of letting the largest manufacturers of consumer durable goods in the US go under. I understand if you don’t like them. There is not much to like. But have they thought about the impact of letting even one of them go bankrupt? Our economy is like a car teetering on the edge of a cliff. One good stiff breeze could cause us to plummet to the bottom. That will be one big fiery explosion.

They seriously can’t be thinking about letting the two biggest American automakers go belly up. Not after they doled out all that cash to the financial industry. I don’t remember any of them having to endure the endless interrogatories about their spending habits and recovery plans.

I think it’s time Congress quits posturing and grandstanding. The auto execs have been abused and slapped around enough by Congress. Give them the bailout already. The economy can’t withstand such a major jolt and hundreds of thousands of hard working Americans will find themselves without jobs.

FOOTNOTE: "Assume the position" takes on a whole new meaning for Obama's Treasury Secretary. He's screwed.

Nov 18, 2008

The end is near...

Sling, my faithful blog reader, and fav-o-rite blog poster, tagged me in his most recent blog post.

My assignment: Open the book nearest your computer.No fair hunting for something that sounds intellectual and impressive to page 56. Post the 5th sentence,plus one or two thereafter for context.

First let me admit that I cheated a little. The books nearest my computer are my stack of unread books. I really didn't think I could work up anything to add to the post if I chose a book I hadn't read. So, instead I decided I would grab the closest book to my nightstand. (That's where all my finished books end up).

So here is my offering,

We've been over all of this. I didn't bring myself to this. I was brought. And now I'm done. I thought about not even telling you. That would probably have been best. You have two bullets and then what? You can't protect us. You say you would die for us but what good is that? I'd take him with me if it weren't for you. You know I would. It's the right thing to do.

This comes from The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I love a good post apocalyptic novel. My love of this genre started in high school with On the Beach by Nevil Shute. My all time favorite is Earth Abides by George R. Stewart. I have read it twice and will read it again I'm sure. Not sure if The Stand by Stephen King counts as a post apocalyptic novel or a horror novel but it's my list so I can include anything I like. I have read that book five times. Honorable mentions to Alas Babylon by Pat Frank and Eternity Road by Jack McDevitt.

I can't explain the appeal. Maybe my belief that we can take whatever the world has to throw at us and survive. I also love these types of movies too. Red Dawn, 28 Weeks Later, Independence Day, any movie featuring a close call with an asteroid.

I hit the jackpot when I was looking up the names of some of the authors I listed above.

Wikipedia Gold

Now to sort out the winners from the losers. There is nothing worse than bad post apocalyptic fiction except for maybe bad science fiction.

I tag Ms. G-Box and my sister who has yet to start a blog of her own but has been talking about it so this would be a great start.....

Nov 17, 2008


Winter officially arrived in Michigan this weekend. At least in my little corner it did. We got snow that fell heavy and stayed put. We've had a few traces before now but unless it coats the ground it doesn’t count. We can’t complain too much. Up until now the fall weather has been for the most part warm and sunny.

Winter starts off well, the snow puts us into the holiday mood as Thanksgiving and Christmas get closer. But deep down we dread what is to come. Around January 3rd or so we will be sick and tired of the cold and ice and snow and especially the gray skies that come with Michigan winters. We rarely see the sun in winter and become like trolls living under bridges.

My cousin moved here from Florida a few years back. She was not prepared for the harsh winters we get in Michigan. She got quite a wake up call one morning during her first winter here. All she was trying to do was go to work. My husband and I had quite a laugh at her expense but she‘s a good sport.

We had freezing rain the night before and then snow. Everything was coated with a solid sheet of ice and a nice 4-5 inch coat of snow, including her car. She bundled up and trudged out to the street.

Step 1: Bundle up in multiple layers of clothing
Step 2: Use a snow brush to clear the snow off car
Step 3: Scrape ice off windows
Step 4: Discover that lock is frozen and key won’t turn
Step 5: Come inside to warm up
Step 6: Bundle up in multiple layers of clothing
Step 7: I can’t remember how she unlocked frozen lock, she consulted my husband.
Step 8: Pull on car door repeatedly until it finally opens
Step 9: Discover that car won’t start
Step 10: Come inside to warm up
Step 11: Bundle up in multiple layers of clothing
Step 12: Get a jump
Step 13: Discover wheels are frozen solid to ground by plowed snow.
Step 14: Come inside and declare “You people are f***ing crazy!”

I can’t remember if she hacked her tires out with a shovel or called off work. I do remember that it took a few hours to complete all the steps above.

If asked though, I'm sure she will admit that Michigan has one of the most beautiful summer seasons in the country. She moved back to Florida to be close to her daughter and grandkids. But I think our winters had something to do with it too.

Nov 14, 2008

Confession Time

I have a confession to make. I am a World of Warcraft player.

For those of you who don't know what World of Warcraft is I will explain. (At the same time I will refrain from making snide comments like "What, do you live under a rock?") World of Warcraft is an MMORPG which stands for Massively Mulit-player Online Role Playing Game. It is by far the most popular MMORPG. 11 million people play world wide with no end in sight.

I certainly don't fit the demographic of the typical WOW player but this appeals to the rebel in me. I started playing WOW because my on-line poker playing was not going well. I had a promising start but had to come to terms with the fact that I am just an OK poker player.

My on-line gaming has followed this path over the years:
AOL On-line Word games (Basically chat room word puzzles and stuff)
On-line Scrabble
Yahoo On-line Card Games (Hearts, Pinochle, Euchre)
On-line Poker
World of Warcraft

I have been playing WOW for about 2 1/2 years. I love it. For about the last year I have been in a guild that is dedicated to "raiding". This is bringing 25 people together, each with a unique role, to run through a dungeon and kill monsters and "bosses". It takes study, effort and dedication. The guild becomes like a family almost.

This week the latest expansion to the game was released. I stood in line at midnight on Wednesday with a bunch of pale young men all dressed in black to get my pre-ordered copy. They probably thought I was there to pick it up for my son. But I am a nerd too. Just an old nerd. I will be spending the entire weekend playing this game and I will be in heaven!

Nov 10, 2008

Be careful what you wish for.

We have raised our kids to make up their own minds about things. I always thought that my greatest success would be to raise kids that turned into free-thinking, independent adults. I still think that but some things take some getting used to.

My daughter became a vegetarian about 6 months ago. It was our fault for sending her off to the University of Michigan. Ann Arbor Michigan is a hotbed for liberal thinking and activism. It’s like Berkley transplanted into the snowbelt. I like to think I am pretty open-minded but her vegetarianism is something I have had to get used to.

On one of her first visits home from school she explained that she had run into some PETA people on campus and that she had read some of their literature. The material really bothered her. She loves animals and was very disturbed by the pictures in the brochures. This was about four years ago and we saw a marked decline in her beef consumption. The only meat she ate with any regularity after that was chicken. Even though I tried to get her to eat some beef she just wouldn’t do it.

She finally made her decision and broke the news to us that she would not eat meat anymore. Her decision was based on the treatment that animals receive in the factory farming system. We were in denial at first. Surely this was some passing fad. In an attempt to hurry her through this phase we threw every argument in the book at her. I admit, in hindsight, that some of them are pretty lame.

* Why do you think we have canine teeth? (Seriously?)
* These animals wouldn’t be roaming the countryside, free and happy if we all stopped eating meat. They are bred so we can eat them.
* You will have such a hard time when you eat with non-vegetarians.
* What will you do when I make Chicken and Dumplings or Chicken Tacos? Will you really be able to turn those down? (I don't want to brag about my cooking but I have to admit I thought this was my strongest argument.)
* You being a vegetarian will not end factory farming. There are still plenty of us that eat meat.

As the family peacekeeper I usually had to stop these raging debates by encouraging everyone to just agree to disagree. But every once in a while I am struck by a new realization of how this will impact her and us.

* You mean you will turn my grandchildren into vegetarians?
* What about your wedding reception? Will you serve meat?

She very calmly explains that she has made this decision because she feels strongly about animal cruelty and that she would be a hypocrite if she raised her children differently or served meat to 200 people at her wedding reception. (200 people? Does she think we are made of money?)

I don’t know why I felt so strongly about this in the beginning. It really shouldn’t make any difference to me at all. But, I have come to respect her decision. I am glad to see that she is a person of conviction and principle. Independent means she gets to make up her own mind about things even if it's contrary to the decisions I make in my life.

Nov 7, 2008

Quitcher Bitchin!

I am traveling to Ohio this weekend. My husband, daughter and I will be going to a “Cousin’s Reunion” for my husband’s side of the family. I am trying so very hard not to whine about it.

These are cousins that he spent quite a bit of time with as a kid. I didn’t meet any of them until after we had been married for over 20 years. That was at the first reunion 2 years ago. I enjoyed the reunion and it was nice to meet everybody. But I am at a heart a hermit. The prospect of a long drive and a whole day of lots of people that I am not so familiar with is not a pleasant one for me.

I like small groups of people. It takes me awhile to get to know people. Most of my favorite things involve me being inside my own head. I read quite a bit, I play video games, I scrapbook. I am just not a social butterfly. I am more like a cocoon.

This has provided a good balance to my husband. I have walked up on him in public places convinced that is talking to a long-lost dear friend only to find out that he only met the person 10 minutes earlier. I envy this ability he has, but console myself with the fact that if we were all the same life wouldn’t be so interesting. I get to tag along for the ride.

I have decided that I am being selfish.

Very early in our marriage my husband’s family scattered across the country. My family all lived within three blocks of each other for 14 years. As a result, we are incredibly close to my family and spend quite a bit of time with them. Holidays have always been spent with my family. We have traveled numerous times to Florida so that I could spend time with some cousins that I am very close to. Every five years we attend a huge week long family reunion with my extended family. Don’t get me wrong. My husband loves my family and enjoys spending time with them but his family has not had equal billing.

My husband lost both his parents within the last two years. He needs to feel that connection that family gives us. He needs to laugh and share stories and be with people who come from the same place he did. I need to stop being so selfish. I don't have to enjoy it but the least I can do for him is shut my mouth and pretend like I do.

Nov 5, 2008


I, like so many of you, was overjoyed last night when Barack Obama was elected as the next President of the United States.

I lay in my bed watching the coverage and heard fireworks in the streets. I saw people flocking to the White House to celebrate. This seemed to me to be a collective flipping of the bird at the man who has held our country hostage for eight years. I saw celebrations across this country like I have never witnessed before.

Ain't democracy a wondrous thing?

We've accomplished step one. But the work is just getting started. The "Yes, We Can" chant is not a just a campaign slogan. It is a rallying cry to put things right that have been wrong for quite some time. Barack Obama is a man of high ideals and a desire to make fundamental changes. Key legislative initiatives will be coming our way soon.

What does "Yes We Can" mean? It means to fully understand the critical issues facing us. To clearly understand the proposed changes and how they will affect not only ourselves and our families but also our fellow citizens. It means to let our voices be heard to those who represent us. It means taking action on the issues of most importance to us.

Contact your Congressman and Senators

Get Involved
Volunteer Match
Volunteers of America

Sounds cliche, but my faith in the American people was restored last night. We can not only vote for change, we can bring about change through our own commitment and efforts.

Nov 2, 2008

Bacon or sausage?

Presidential elections are getting to be like Christmas in Department stores. They both keep starting a little bit earlier every time. Tuesday is starting to feel like the finish line of a marathon race. Enough, already.

While reading up on the latest and greatest news about the election I came across an article titled "Praying for Election Day miracles". I read on, intrigued by the notion that God really cares who wins. I discovered that each of the opposing candidates have prayer circles across the country dedicated to them.

How does God decide which prayer circles will prevail? Is it based on the length of time the prayer circles pray? Does the number of faithful in the prayer circle impact God's decision? Or does God just end up flipping a coin when we aren't watching? Is proximity to Washington DC important? Some of the faithful believe it is since they are flocking to our nations capital to hold their prayer circles.

And once God decides who will win how does he manage it? Voter fraud, election tampering, you can't be too careful. I don't remember any uncontrollable urges to change my vote at the last minute. Does God make your car break down if you are on your way to vote for the wrong guy?

And why prayer circles? Wouldn't forming the devotees in the shape of a cross be more persuasive? Well, I digress.

The article I read contained the following quote.

We have just days to pray that someone who upholds the sanctity of life and marriage between one man and one woman will win," said Pam Olsen, co-pastor with her husband of the International House of Prayer in Tallahassee, Fla.

First off, how is gay marriage affecting the sanctity of marriage? You idiot! Second, why do you care? And third, did you know that you named your church after a popular restaurant chain that specialize in pancakes? I have to assume you did know because I can't imagine Tallahassee gets many international church goers.

Why did you name your church IHOP? Are you hoping to snag a few unsuspecting people who really just want a stack of hotcakes and stumble into your church by mistake? Were you sitting there enjoying a plate of Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity pancakes struggling with what to name your church? Holy House of Bible Thumping? First Church of the Self Righteous? Wait, I got it..... International House of Prayer.

Like I said, Tuesday can't come soon enough for me. I will be spending the next few days switching channels between MSNBC and Fox News. It's my way of balancing the news. Happy Voting!

Oct 29, 2008

We'll keep your seat warm for you!

This week the headlines of the Detroit papers proclaimed that the former, disgraced, but unexplainably still proud, Mayor had been sentenced to 120 days in Wayne County jail. This coverage came complete with a nice mug shot of the ex-Mayor in his green uniform. I am sure his new duds will not be the worst humiliation he will suffer during his incarceration. But for a man who monograms the word "Mayor" on his cuffs I am sure it served as a wake up call that he ain't in Kansas anymore.

The prisoner garb photo isn't my favorite one though. I like the one above that was taken during his sentencing. It is so "Kwame". This photo was taken just before he was taken away to serve his time. Kwame knows what we want. We want to see some humility, some remorse, hell, we'd even take fear. He will not oblige. He remains steadfastly smug and arrogant.

Kwame's list of proven and alleged digressions is long and sordid. Stripper parties, extramarital affairs, perjury, unexplained murder, improper award of city business to personal friends. Click the link below for a detailed blow by blow of this 5 year saga.


In the end it caught up to him and he stands before us a broken man. Oh wait, no he doesn't. His confidence is not shaken in the least. And his parting words upon his resignation were "You have set me up for a huge comeback". The sad thing is that he is probably right. We have not seen the last of Kwame.

Oct 27, 2008

Say what?

I gave up smoking two years ago. I did it for many reasons. I was feeling like shit at the end of the day. My kids bugged me constantly to quit. My mother-in-law had just died from emphysema. And not least of all, because I was starting to feel like a social leper. The places where you could light up in public were getting to be few and far between. And if you did find a place you were reduced to shamefully puffing away while all the non-smokers waited patiently for you to hurry up already.

Every year more and more cities, counties and even states are passing laws that prohibit smoking in one place or another. I don't regret giving up the "cancer sticks". But as someone with an addictive personality I have to admit I still miss it. But I fight the urges and carry on.

Today I received quite a shock. I served jury duty today. As anybody who has performed this important, but very boring civic duty, can tell you, it involves quite a bit of sitting around and waiting in a confined space.

At the start of our morning a very nice court employee was explaining the lay of the land to everybody. She was quite entertaining. As she was nearing the end of the rules she asked "Any smokers here?".

Everybody looked from side to side. At first only about three or four people in a room of well over 200 people raised their hands. Seriously, three or four people. We all knew there were more of them out there. But they weren't 'fessing up.

"Now c'mon, this will be important to you. Raise your hand if you're a smoker." the nice court lady encouraged them in a very motherly tone of voice. Sheepishly a few more raised their hands. "Well, at break time you are the only jurors allowed to go outside. Everybody else has to stay in the building." You could hear the gasps in the room. Then the mumbling and grumbling started.

She then told the the smokers that we were going to have to get started at 9:00am sharp and that they had just enough time to sneak out for a quick smoke. I was standing near the front counter as the nice lady behind the counter dumped out a healthy supply of "loaner lighters" for the smokers since theirs had been confiscated on the way into the courtroom.

There was a stampede. As I suspected, the jury pool certainly had more than the dozen smokers who had raised their hands. I fully expected somebody to complain about this special priviliege. Especially since it was being bestowed upon "smokers". Maybe it was the courthouse setting or perhaps, like me, some of them were former smokers and could empathize. Not one person complained.

I think I know why the court makes an exception for smokers. It isn't in anybody's best interest to have a cranky, distracted juror. I'm sure the whole "fair and impartial" thing is really hard to control under the influence of nicotine withdrawal. I certainly wouldn't want my fate resting in the hands of a heavy smoker who had gone without a fix for the whole day all because of me. Innocent until proven guilty my ass.

The only thing that keeps me from starting to smoke again is knowing how hard it was to quit. I hope those smokers enjoyed every minute. Light one up for me!

Oct 23, 2008

Life Lessons

My sister and I chose very different career paths. I entered the business world and she became a teacher. Over the years we have rejoiced in each other’s successes but I’m sure, just like me, she would shake her head occasionally and think “She just doesn’t understand what I do.”

I am very proud of my sister. She has taught school in poor, rough neighborhoods throughout her entire career. She has had to deal with parents that were often ungrateful and sometimes even a little scary and threatening. She has had to deal with an increasingly ungrateful community that was led to believe by Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” that it is the teacher’s fault if their kid is not doing well.

She suffered through all this because she put the kids first. She has taught kindergarteners how to brush their teeth (and given them toothbrushes). She has visited the homes of her students to offer her help to their families. These visits were in neighborhoods so impoverished and dangerous that most people wouldn’t drive through them, let alone leave their cars. She has spent huge amounts of her own money on school supplies and mittens, coats and gloves for these kids.

What did my sister get for her years of devotion and hard work. She got laid off. The students in her district slowly moved away from the public school system to charter schools. These charter schools are funded by tax dollars. Their parents believed that attending a school with the word “Academy” in the name and wearing a uniform were the key components missing from their child’s education. Never mind that most of these parents couldn’t be bothered to come to conferences, to help their kids with homework or to respond to phone calls and messages from my sister.

After losing her job my sister got the opportunity to take a Human Resources position. That is my chosen profession. We have discovered that our jobs aren't really that different after all.

Do you remember the book “All I Ever Really Needed To Know I Learned In Kindergarten”? It’s true. The employees that cause the most grief for HR professionals are the ones that didn’t learn those lessons. My sister is uniquely qualified to be in HR. She can help those wayward employees learn the lessons that she has been teaching kids for 20 years.

* Share and Help Others
* Don’t Tattle Tale
* Be a Team Player
* Don’t Hit
* Don’t Call People Names
* Don’t Lie or Cheat
* Respect People and Their Property
* Do Your Best

What she did best though was to inspire her students. She taught them to have confidence in themselves and to not be afraid. That is something we in HR could do a little better job at.

Now we have lots to talk about, my sister and I.

Oct 15, 2008

My physics and astronomy gene is missing!

I am convinced that I don't have the gene that allows you to understand physics and astronomy. I try so very hard to understand but I just don't.

We watch the Discovery channel, National Geographic channel, I love science in general but when a program related to physics or astronomy is on I feel like a caveman encountering a computer. It's just something beyond my abilities. My head tilts and I say "hunh" in a really high pitched tone. It amuses my husband to no end. He gave up years ago trying to help me understand. Now he just laughs at me.

Well it just so happens that we got onto this subject at the local watering hole recently. Somehow this led to a discussion about the moon and it's phases. It shames me greatly to admit that I just don't get it.

Coincidentally, one of the regular couples we meet there met at an "astronomy club" and were totally on board with helping me to understand. I was even trotted outside to view the actual moon in hopes that the light bulb would come on.

I did see how the moon shone in relation to where the sun was (theoretically was anyway, since it was night.) Mission accomplished. But I don't get the whole picture.

The drawing above was sent to me by my good friend in an attempt to once again help me understand. She agreed to let me include it in my blog only if I included the e-mail chain below.

Me: I've been paying attention to the moon since bar night and although I thought I had it, I really don't . Gonna bring a grapefruit (sun), orange (earth) and ping pong ball(moon) next time for a 3D demonstration.

Friend: LOL!! It's still on my radar to clean the basement storage room before Thanksgiving -- last I saw I still have leftover styrofoam balls and paints from an elementary ed moon phases demo I did for my student teaching. Maybe I won't pitch them quite yet...

(Friend sends me above diagram).

Me: Oh, thank you for the diagram. Also for alerting me that I am not 1:20 the size of the earth.

I get the whole sun shining on the moon thing. But I don't understand why the moon is in different places in the sky. How does it move in relation to the earth during a 24 hour period, and during the 28 day cycle? And how does this movement affect how we see it. .... I know I am being incredibly dense on this subject but it frustrates me not to understand, I guess I'm not as smart as a 5th grader.

I am afraid that there is no way to avoid a 3D demonstration.

Sister: (I think she was embarrassed on my behalf by this point.) ZOMG, you are really over thinking this!

Friend: Cool site! I love the first line: The Moon travels around the Earth. Square one!

Me: You guys are brutal.

Friend: While I admire your quest to fully grasp this concept, I'm a little disconcerted by the fact that it's taking you so long. :)

Me: It's as if I damaged some section of my brain isn't it ??

Friend: Like your moon phases gene is stuck in a black hole or something; nothing's getting through.

Sister: Was the year your teacher showed you the 3-D model that every school has the same year you were visiting the "chemistry" class too often ?

Friend: Ah hah! I think you're onto something. Maybe those brain cells have been permanently "impaired".

Don't even get me started on black holes. And how did you know I was going to title my blog entry "I'm missing the astronomy and physics gene!" And Sis, you just keep your theories as to where my brain cells went to yourself.

Oct 12, 2008

You crack me up!

There are moments when my husband can make me laugh unexpectedly. An honest laugh that comes from deep inside. It's one of the reasons I stick around after nearly twenty five years.

Me: Hey, come read my blog!

Him: Right now?

Me: Yeah, c'mon.

Him: I have to listen to your blog all day long, now I have to read it too?

See. He cracks me up.

Recently, while driving home from work I saw a huge owl flying low in the median of the highway. It was an unusual sight. I thought to myself, I have to remember to tell Jim about that. I know I'm going to forget about it. (It's a long boring ride home, my mind tends to wander.) I know, I'll text him. I proceeded to text him the word "OWL". I couldn't do more than that without risking life and limb.

I drove happily along forgetting about the owl. I was confident that he would ask me about my strange text message when I got home. Five minutes later he sent me a text message. I thought it would probably be a text like, "Why in the hell are you texting me the word OWL?" That's what I would have done in his shoes. No, his text was "EAGLE". God, do I love him.

Oct 10, 2008

Main Street USA

The current political catch phrase being bandied about by everybody is driving me nuts. It is meant to make us feel like our politicians are on our side, they get where we are coming from and they are here to help. It always involves contrasting and comparing "Wall Street" and "Main Street". This bothers me on so many levels I don't know where to start.

Not sure who used it first a Democrat or Republican but they all throw it around in an attempt to make us believe they care more than the other guy. They try so hard to convince us that they come from Main Street.

Sarah Palin does it best. Is the fact that she comes from a small town meant to comfort me? Make me believe that she will fight for me? That might work better if she hadn't tried to have the town librarian fired for not destroying books she found objectionable. Do you think that library is on Main Street?

When they say "Main Street" they all give a dramatic pause and then wait afterwards. As if they are rock stars on stage during a concert mentioning the name of the town they are in and expect us to explode with pride because they actually know who we are. Bob Seger giving a shout out to the Motor City. Woooooooooo!

When they say Wall Street they practically hiss. As if these aren't the same people who regularly visit their offices on capitol hill. Do you think we are that stupid? Moguls don't get where they are without greasing the political wheels in Washington.

And by the way. The wolf is at the door. To be an effective leader you need to A) See the wolf when it's on the horizon and, most importantly, B) Do something about it.

Quit acting like I might run into you at the Home Depot down the road. Unless of course you need some more of that duct tape you are using to patch up our failing economy.

Oct 8, 2008

Do I really have anything to blog about?

OK. Fresh sheet of paper..... well not really paper.

Start over.... blank screen waiting for witty musings about everyday occurrences, keen insights into current events or deep thoughts about life and our place in it. Wow, the pressure is overwhelming, I don't think I can do this.

I guess I will start small.

We're thinking about getting another dog. OK, I'm thinking about getting another dog. The only thing holding me back is that I am trying to decide if I want a third dog because I love dogs (which I do) or because my youngest son just went away to college.

My husband's objections would seem to play a role in my decision, but only to an outsider. He has objected to every animal ever brought into our home. This is purely a strategy on his part so that he can lay the blame squarely on my shoulders if any doggie misdeeds occur. He loves the animals as much as I do. And in the case of one Golden Retriever named Brutus, even more than me.

We recently had my sister and her husband over for cards (euchre... there's your first clue that I live in Michigan). The dogs had been to the groomers that day and received for their trouble , cheesy doggy bandannas. I stopped the game to insist my husband put the bandannas back on the dogs. He claimed they made the dogs look stupid and refused. We went back and forth. My sister and brother-in-law started laughing and asked "Do you guys miss your son?"

I do miss my son. The dogs have been taken on more walks, been played with more and just generally received more love and attention. I see the connection, really I do. I don't need anybody to point it out to me.

I still might get another dog though.