Nov 19, 2011

Be careful that your "Line in the Sand" isn't really drawn in cement.

Is your story about what a hardass you are so fragile that you are willing to ruin family relationships over it?  I guess they really weren't that important to you in the first place.  One after the other.

Nov 13, 2011

They Don't Wear Buttons

Monsters don't wear buttons.  It's in their best interest to blend in with the rest of us.  To look like the "nice guy next door",  "the faithful husband", or even "the well respected coach".  Sadly, the people who end up seeing  what lurks in a monster's heart are his victims.

We had a next door neighbor in the old neighborhood who was a monster.  At least his suicide leads me to believe the stories were true.  Having served time in prison for selling drugs I think he knew what was in store for him once his girlfriend called the police.  He had been messing around with her very young daughters.  Probably not a predator but a sick opportunist.  He slit his wrists while lying in a bathtub full of water.

I had lived next door to the man for 15 years and never would have suspected.  He seemed pretty harmless to me.  I guess to grown ups he was.

Creeps are different than monsters.  They're openly slimy.  Like the cashier at the grocery store who can't take his eyes off of the women's chests.  All the while he has a disgusting lecherous smile on his face.  Creeps are easy to avoid.  Just pick a different line.

But watch out for monsters.  Don't assume that the unthinkable is impossible.  That so and so would never do such and such.  That's what monsters want you to think.

Oct 21, 2011

Same as I've Always Been

The farther I get into middle age the more marginalized I feel.  Young adults, strangers and family alike, have a way of talking to me lately that makes me feel like they are drawing on some deep reserve of patience to get through their interchange with me.  I have become mostly invisible to the younger generation.  When they are forced to deal with me it often doesn't go well.  My life experience sometimes puts me a step ahead of them.  I'm anticipating where things are going to go and try to skip a few steps to get us where we are going to end up anyway.  After all, time is getting shorter and shorter for me.  I want to hurry these mundane interactions along as much as possible.  They don't hear that I just gave them the answer to the next five questions they are going to ask.  They roll their eyes, sigh and go back to question one.  I sigh, roll my eyes back at them and go through their step by step routine with them.  Then they think I'm cranky as well as clueless.  

In my own family I see the young people's lives expanding and growing beyond my realm. Not just my realm of influence but also of inclusion.  They have big, busy, successful lives that I am a smaller and smaller part of.  They are independent grownups leading full and rich lives.  I am happy for them. Even so I still find myself feeling left out sometimes or worrying that I'm being a nuisance when I call.  Sometimes after I talk to one of them I think to myself "I wonder if this is how Mom felt when this happened to her?"  It makes me wish I could go back in time having experienced the dynamics of both sides.  I would have been more understanding and patient.  A little less, "yeah, yeah Mom, I know......"     

I have my own life and most parts of it are better than they have ever been, my marriage, my relationships with friends and family, my confidence in who I am and what I am about.  But this shift in my position within society and especially my family is unsettling.  I waited a few days to post this.  I know my kids read my blog and I don't want them to get the wrong idea or to feel bad.  I don't want sympathy or for them to change anything.  Just to know that I understand things are different and that it's going to take some getting used to.  I'll get through it.

Sep 28, 2011

Not Worth It

I'm not sure when the freeways of this country turned into Mad Max all day, every day.  It's been a gradual sort of thing.  I would wager that the decline in civility closely tracks the increase in both the average video game hours played per US citizen and the number of reality TV shows being aired.  We've lost our ability to empathize with one another.  The cars around us aren't filled with other human beings living the same sorts of lives we do.  They are competitors, trying to get an edge over me, take advantage of me, God forbid - get one or two cars ahead of me.   People cut you off, don't use their blinkers, won't let you in when you use your blinker.  Everybody is out for themselves, screw the next guy.  

I am just as guilty as the next person too.  I recently had a whole line of cars refuse to let me into their lane even though I was approaching a construction barricade with nowhere else to go.  I hadn't tried to zip ahead of anybody.  I tried to get over as soon as I saw the merge sign.  I didn't do anything to warrant this animosity.  Clearly the only motivation was not wanting another person in front of them.  I don't know where they thought I was going to go. I had to merge.  I finally muscled my way in.  

I could have left it there, ignored the lane blockers.  Instead, in keeping with Mad Max rules, I did my best to give back as good as I got.  I let everybody who had been behind me in the merging lane go in front of me.  The lane blockers had to sit and watch as car after car pulled in front of them.   They were furious.  I cackled madly at them.  It felt like a victory.  I had a car full of people.  Looking back on it, not one of my better moments, quite the maniacal spectacle to behold.

Every day I drive the same freeway to and from work.  M14 between Plymouth and Ann Arbor.  The same drama plays out every day.  Left lane is for faster traffic and right lane is for slower traffic.  The left lane generally moves along at an acceptable pace.  Occasionally somebody goes too slowly and you pass when you can.   Every single day one or more people come speeding up from the right lane, even though they clearly see that the right lane is blocked and at some point they will have to cut somebody off to get back into the left lane.  I feel my blood pressure rising.  I start thinking "Oh no you don't".  Then I realize I've got a death grip in the steering wheel and am tailgating to keep people from getting into the left lane.  

Stop.  Take a deep breath.  Think about this for a minute.  It's not going to kill me to let them in.  I'm not actually teaching them any lessons.  They'll be back the next day doing it all over again.  I back off and let them go in front of me.  

When I am nice and considerate you should see how smug and satisfied I am with myself.  When I take pity on some poor soul and wave them into the spot in front of me.  I act as if I've just performed some great humanitarian act.  See how considerate I am?  I'm not like the rest of these barbarians.  I get so mad when people don't acknowledge my courtesy.  A wave?  I don't get a wave?   This small act of benevolence is way out proportion with the huge pat on the back I give myself.  Shouldn't this be the standard?  Some patience, consideration and  a little bit of "live and let live" would go a long way towards making everybody a little less stressed out all the freaking time.

The more I think about this the more parallels I see to the current political landscape.  No ground will be given so everything must be seized. 

Sep 11, 2011

Never the Same

Of course I remember where I was on September 11, 2001.

I had just finished having breakfast with somebody we were thinking about re-hiring at work.  He was a friend too. It was a nice breakfast.  It was a beautiful fall day.  I got to the office, sat down at my desk and immediately got a phone call from my husband.  He said "They're crashing planes into the World Trade Center."  I didn't believe him.  Then I saw all the commotion out in the office.  People on the phone, people talking in a very animated way.  I stepped outside my office door.  Everybody else was saying the same thing.

I'm sure most of you were glued to your TVs throughout the day, like I was.  I was horrified, shocked and yet somehow it seemed unreal.  This couldn't really be happening.  Then rumors started about other planes not accounted for, other targets.  We let everybody go home.  Nobody knew how widespread it was or when it would stop.

I thought about how less than a year before I had been in New York for an annual meeting with the HR people from our affiliates around the country.  Our meeting had been in the North Tower of the World Trade Center, the 90 something floor.  I don't remember exactly.  It was hosted by our insurance broker, Marsh McLennan.     They were very nice offices and the view from that high up was impressive.  I remember the towers swaying slightly and I remember a helicopter flying by below us.  While I was in that meeting my husband and kids, who had come with me on the trip, were touring the top of the South Tower of the WTC and the plaza below.

Eleven months later the eight floors of the North Tower that Marsh occupied took a direct hit from AA Flight 11, the first plane to hit.  Nobody at work that day for Marsh McLennan at the WTC survived the attack.  Two hundred ninety five people gone.  I remember talking to our broker a few months after the attack.  His office was in mid-town, not the towers.  He was so profoundly sad, having attended funeral after funeral for his lost co-workers.  I couldn't help thinking about how it could have been us there had the attack been 11 months earlier. I was so thankful my family was safe.

The devastation of 9/11 really hit me when I got a call from my friend.  Her niece had been on United Flight 93.  Her name was Deora Bodley and she was the youngest passenger on the plane that day, only 20 years old.   I had met Deora's mom a few times.  A nice lady.  Very intense.  I met Deora once when she was probably 16 or 17 at my friend's wedding.   She seemed like a very sweet girl.  We didn't say more than hello to each other when we were introduced.  I had no real connection to her.  But I knew how close their family was.  I knew how much my friend's parents loved and cherished each of their grandkids.  I knew how proud they all were of Deora.  The tragedy of 9/11 became their family tragedy.

Today, like every September 11th, I can't help but think about Deora and my friend and her family.  I wonder if it helps that their personal loss is felt to some degree by the entire nation.  Or does it make it harder that their grief will be forever shared with the world? Is the significance of their personal loss diminished by the enormity of it all? It's more than 9/11, it's their family and it will never be the same.  Neither will we.

Aug 27, 2011


Jim has been adamant.  No more cats.  Every time I bring it up he just points to the door sills.  Miss Tinkerbell left scratches on nearly every single one of them.  Pine is very soft wood that scratches very easily.  Although, I guess to be fair I really should call them gouges and not scratches.  I never caught her in the act but it was clear she would stretch to full height on her back legs, dig in all of her claws and sharpen away.  It looked like a wolverine had been let loose in the house.  

After my daughter moved out and took Tinkerbell with her I was with Jim 100%.  No more litter boxes.  No more cat hair.   Then I started to miss having one around. They can be fun, especially the young ones.  There's no creature on earth more appreciative of a good scratching and petting than a cat.  My desire for a cat only got worse once I started volunteering at the shelter and saw how many homeless cats fill the cages.  Easily 4 - 5 times more than the dogs.  Poor babies. 

I started to test the waters...... all those poor homeless cats.  No way.  Then I tried the "birthday" thing.  Saying I wanted a Siamese kitten for my 49th.  No.  I promised to keep the soft caps on the claws.  No.  I begged.  No. FINE, NO CATS!

Then, as luck would have it, a friend of my daughter's was looking for an emergency kitten sitter.   I offered to take the cute little furball in.  I thought that Jim would change his mind about cats once he got some kitten time.  They're so much fun.

It worked.  Jim loved the kitten and the kitten loved Jim.  Jim loved to play with the kitten and we both loved watching the little guy run all over the house playing with anything he could get his paws on.  He'd run under the bed and hang from the box spring upside down like Spiderman waiting for someone to walk by so he could grab their toes.  

I started picking out names for the new little Siamese kitten I was going to get, Seymour, Biscuit, Ritz.  Then the kitten made a fatal mistake.  While I was getting ready for work one morning I left the kitten in with a sleeping Jim.  The kitten started to do mad dashes across the bed, clawing over top of Jim every time.  Zoom, zip.....  It was over.  One thing I've learned is Jim gets cranky when you mess with his sleep.  Jim's resolve to never own another cat returned with a vengeance.  

We returned the kitten.  I was a little sad to see him go but as I thought about it I realized visiting kittens are one thing but a long term commitment to a cat is another. Too bad you can't just rent a kitten once in awhile.

Aug 4, 2011

Substantive Mediocrity

I learned recently there is a well known and often studied sociological phenomenon called "illusory superiority".  It leads humans to think they are better at something than they really are.  It's the reason that nearly everybody you ask  (86%) will say they are an excellent driver.  Even when we know for certain that many of us are not.  I mean many of you.  I am an excellent driver.  

I suspect this phenomenon is also the reason that I've always thought I'd be one of the people to make it through an apocalypse.  I thought I had survival skills.  Now, I know most people don't rate, or for that matter even consider, their ability to survive an apocalypse.   But it's always been one of my favorite entertainment genres. When I read books like The Road, or watch movies like 28 Days Later and TV shows like the Walking Dead I imagine myself in these situations.   I have always assessed my skills pretty highly.  However, after my latest fishing experience I'm not so sure now.  It seems I'm lacking the most basic skill set necessary --- catch food, kill food and clean food.  Though I still rate my ability to eat food pretty highly. 

Our company summer cookout this year was held at a trout farm.   The fishing doesn't really offer challenges to the true fisherman.  Throw your hook in, wait 30 -90 seconds, snag a huge rainbow trout.  Good for kids with little to no patience or those who just want some fresh trout and aren't necessarily there for the fishing experience.  I don't like fish.  I rarely cook it.   My husband loves fish.  I decided to give him a rare treat by catching and cooking some fresh trout.  Well, to be honest my plan was always to ask somebody else to catch it for me.  The worm business really grosses me out and there's no way I'm grabbing that slimy, squirming fish.

So an awesome co-worker/friend of mine caught two beautiful rainbow trout within a matter of 2 minutes.  Plop, into the bucket they went.   Fortunately for me this trout farm will kill, clean and prep the fish for you for a fee. All I had to do was carry the bucket up to the cabin for processing.  Being very aware of my own limitations I quickly realized that as soon as one of those fish flopped around in the bucket I would scream and drop it.   The fish would spill out all onto the ground and there would be no way I could actually touch one to get it back into the bucket. What to do?  What to do?

I asked another co-worker/friend to carry it up to the cabin for me.  He gladly obliged.  We got to the cabin and the fish were dumped into a plastic bin sitting on top of a scale for weighing.  The fish were easily 3 - 4 feet off the ground.  I was a good 5 - 6 feet away from them.  All of a sudden they started to flop around.  I screamed.  One of the fish jumped out of the bin and onto the floor.  I screamed and ran around the other side of the counter.  The fish squirmed its way around the counter and was making a bee line straight for me.  I screamed and started running towards the door.  Finally one of the trout farm employees nonchalantly scooped the fish up.  Ha ha - all very funny and amusing.

Fast forward three hours and here I sit with my raw, processed trout.  This primal feeling, brought on by the thought of cooking a freshly caught fish for my man disappeared as quickly as it came when I realized the stupid things still had their tails, spines and skin, ewww....  I couldn't bring myself to touch them in order to prep them for the grill.  I had to ask for Jim's help in turning them over and putting them on the fish rack.  

That's when the whole apocalypse thing hit me.  I'll need Jim if I have any hopes of surviving.  I couldn't do it on my own.  Now I am asking myself all sorts of other survival questions Could I start a fire without a match or lighter?    Am I physically fit enough to outrun a zombie?  How far could I conceivably hike in one day?  How long before my lack of food catching skills and dwindling physical capabilities move me from "help" to "hindrance" in people's minds?    A dear friend of mine insisted my managerial abilities will be useful in a survival situation.  I'm not so sure the ability to flowchart, mediate and delegate will be quite as marketable as putting food in people's bellies and kicking zombie butt.     

Jul 15, 2011

It's Like Magic

I've been troubled by something for quite some time now.   It's not my imagination either.  I'm not perceived by others to be very friendly. It's true.  Family, friends, co-workers and strangers have all told me so.  But nothing could be further from the truth.  I'm very friendly once you get to know me. I'm generally optimistic, fun loving and generous (a little cynical and sarcastic too, but in a funny way).  Apparently, I send out the exact opposite signals.  It's not that I don't like people.  Well, actually, I really don't like most people but find them tolerable.  Spending time with dullards is the price you pay to meet the really interesting, funny and smart people.

There are a few reasons I scare people off.  My stature and heritage, very tall and a stern German countenance. It's intimidating.  I have a tendency to place both fists on my hips, legs spread far apart, body language for "Yeah? You got something to say?"   Another thing working against me is I'm an introvert.  I will never be the life of the party.  Unless it's a very small party with people I know really well.  Oh and my tendency to speak bluntly can put people off too.  Once I work up the courage to confront something I don't bother sweetening things up before they come out of my mouth.  Time-waster.

I've always just accepted this about myself but a few comments recently had me wondering if I should and could change my image.  When comparing me to my sister recently my uncle said "Well,  everybody knows your sister has always been the friendly one."  Ouch.  Then a store clerk asked me recently if I was OK.  I answered that I was and asked why she thought I wasn't.  "The scowl on your face." was her answer.

Wow.  Scowl?  Really? I decided I needed to do something about this.  As much as it pained me to think of myself walking around looking like a simpleton I vowed to start smiling at people.   I'd always heard smiles bring out the best in people.  That smiles connect people.  When you smile at someone they smile back.  It's also one of the universal, innate expressions of emotion.  We are born to smile, we don't learn it.

My former method of connecting with strangers was to make some sort of witty comment about whatever circumstances we found ourselves thrust into together.  Nine times out of ten I would get a sideways puzzled glance and a cold shoulder.    Definitely not working for me.

At first I treated this smiling thing as an experiment.  Would walking around with a forced smile plastered onto my face really make a difference? I am happy to report that it IS working.  People are nice when you smile at them. Plus, smiling is becoming more natural for me, less forced. I'm not even thinking about it, just doing it.

This morning as the McDonald's lady handed me my coffee she said "It's so nice to see that big smile of yours.  Have a wonderful day."  That made my smile even wider. Two weeks of smiling and the world is already acknowledging my newfound friendliness.

Jul 13, 2011

Me? A Nerd?

I am reposting this in honor of Embrace Your Geekness Day.  I know some will argue that there is a difference between geeks and nerds.  I think there's some overlap there. After all, didn't we all sit at the same lunch tables back in high school?

Someone accused me of being a “closet nerd” the other day. I am definitely a nerd.
Below is the irrefutable evidence that I am a Nerd (and proud of it too).

1) I love everything Star Trek
(except the original TV show which is just OK in my opinion.)
2) I have been to Star Trek conventions. Read plural, conventions
3) I have stood in line to get autographs at said Star Trek conventions
(Capt. Janeway and Worf(swoon)among others)
4) I regularly kick ass in Trivial Pursuit
5) I regularly kick ass in Scrabble
6) I offer up interesting tidbits of useless information
(usually to people who could really give a rat’s ass)
7) I love Battlestar Galactica
(the new one not the old one)
8) I play World of Warcraft
9) I love all the Star Wars movies
(even the one with JarJar Binks)
10) I won my Jr. High spelling bee
( I still have the dictionary with my engraved name to prove it)
11) I read about Human Anthropology and genetics for fun
12) I have interrupted a million conversations so I could go look something up on google because I have to know the answer NOW!

Nerds have nothing to be ashamed of. Nerds are curious about the world and how it works. Nerds have imagination. Nerds don’t care what others think.

I don’t think I’m a closet nerd. I would say I am a “flaming nerd”. But after consulting with my family they say "closet" because you wouldn't know I was a nerd unless you talked to me. But isn't that really true about everybody no matter what? You really don't know them until they open their mouths and reveal something about themselves.

Jun 21, 2011

Got me again.

We worked in the yard most of the weekend.  Weeding and planting flowers.  Jim found a toy rubber lizard that some passersby had dropped in the driveway.   He brought it over to me on a shovel, pretending that it was real.  I jumped and screamed.  He's a practical joker.  Loves to take advantage of my universal fear of anything creepy, crawly or scaly.

It didn't take me long to figure out it was fake but it still gave me quite a scare.  He left it sitting on one of the downspouts.  One of the dogs grabbed it and Jim had to take it away from him before he ate it.  I didn't see the lizard again, until about 3 hours later when I was standing at the kitchen sink getting a glass of water.  Glance out at the yard and nearly pee my pants when I see a lizard staring back at me.  Hardy har har har.  He thinks he's so funny.  I let him have the satisfaction of telling him how it scared me since he didn't get to witness it first hand . 

I'll be damned if that thing didn't scare me again later that day.  Quicker recovery time but still gave me a startle.  I promised myself I wouldn't let it happen again.  Remember the lizard.  Remember the lizard.  Next day, standing at the sink, I notice the lizard is gone.  Then boom - he had moved it to the other side of the window and got me again.  I have got to go get that thing and hide it or he's going to be terrorizing me all summer long.

Jun 19, 2011

He's not just a father.... He's Dad!

He didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.  ~Clarence Budington Kelland

As I was growing up, every now and then I'd glance over at my Dad and he'd be looking right back at me.  That look was filled with pride and love.  It made me feel secure, my Dad was there for me.  I also knew that he cherished the job of father.

I learned a lot from my Dad.  A hard working man who never complained.  He was away from home a lot, a truck driver.  Day in and day out.  He had to provide for his family and put some money away for retirement.  He put us through college, something he takes great pride in considering he dropped out of school at 16 and joined the army.

Not only is my Dad a man of principle, he's a man willing to fight for his principles.  He's walked many picket lines over the years and not just his own.  He fights the good fight.  Yet, he's the least cynical person I know.  Always believing that right will win out over might in the end.  Honest and loyal to his friends.  Generous to those in need.   Just a good guy and a good father.

Jun 12, 2011

Flyswatter Included

 This is a picture I scanned and sent to somebody interested in taking the camper off our hands. I had never noticed before that Jim was pretending to hit me with a flyswatter just as our daughter snapped the picture.   Ah, memories.  We haven't camped in years and this thing is taking up valuable garage space.  It's a  difficult and surprisingly sad decision but it's time to let the camper go.  We're closing a chapter in our lives.

I think this is the State Park in Petoskey but it might be Cheboygan.   We camped in so many places over the years it's hard to remember which was which.  I do remember this campsite clearly though.  The lake was right behind our camper.  The kids would wander off to explore with their Dad while I lounged on my lounger reading all day.  We'd end the day with hot dogs or burgers cooked over the campfire and then gooey, way too sweet s'mores.  We'd play games or go for bike rides before turning in.  Midnight trips to the bathroom were always a pain but all part of the fun in the end.

We took this camper to Disneyworld.  Best campground we ever stayed at even though the lot itself was an asphalt slab a mere twelve feet from the neighboring campsite.  Only campground I know where you go watch Disney movies and have Chip & Dale serenade you with camp songs around the fire every night.  The wildlife was fun too, spotting armadillos everywhere we went instead of the squirrels and raccoons we were used to.

The camper and Jim's new car got damaged once when Jim stubbornly refused to listen to my advice about a tree he was about to hit as he backed the camper into our spot.  It was late at night, because we couldn't ever seem to manage arriving during the day.   Trying to be quiet so you don't wake up the whole campground.

Me:  Ah, ah, ah...... watch that tree.

Him:  I see the tree.

Me:  Pretty sure you don't because you're about to hit it.


Me:  (Silently cross arms and watch him back into tree)

That's how he damaged the car.  The camper got damaged because he was so mad about the tree that he kept cranking it up even though one of the clasps was still attached.  Snap - one of the supports broke and the roof over one of the beds drooped.  I called it the Clampett Camper that week.

So the camper's for sale.  We will rent cabins from now on if we want to get back to nature.  Less hassle and the campfires are just as good.  I'm including the dishes and other miscellaneous stuff we picked up over the years to deck her out with.  But the memories, well, I'll be keeping those.  The new owners will have to get their own.

Jun 6, 2011

Things I Hate - Because That's the Kind of Mood I'm In!

Category: Food & Drink
Beer Nuts - Not sure why but whenever I smell Beer Nuts I throw up a little in my mouth.

Clam Chowder - Ditto above.  Sadly, for me, my husband loves clam chowder and orders it often.

Fish - Maybe not hate - more like can't be bothered.  Why order fish when you can get a nice juicy steak or some tender chicken.  Fish doesn't have enough substance.  I do however make an exception for canned tuna.

Sardines/Herrings - Cold fish that still look like fish, complete with the skin, bone impressions, occasionally a tail  - and all packed in a nice thick oil or a cold cream sauce.  Disgusting.

Tomato Juice (V8) - It just doesn't seem right to drink anything cold and tomatoey.   Could be a flashback to my Mom making me sit at the table and eat my tomato soup no matter how long it took me.

Raspberries - I don't like the seeds.  They're not chewable and they don't get digested.

Category:  Music
Heart - Their music is just harsh and ugly sounding.  Barracuda, Crazy For You.  Nah, it's just bad

The Police/Sting - It all started with the song Roxanne, I hate that song.  He sounds like a cat in heat wailing away.  The more I thought about it I realized I don't really like anything they do.  Too repetitive and  Sting always sounds so whispery.  Every Breath You Take - creepy, stalker song.  Message in a Bottle- hate the way he says anozher instead of another.  The Police suck.  Admit it.  You've just been afraid to go against popular convention.

Jazz - I just don't get the point.  Sounds like disjointed noise to me.  I can barely snap my fingers or tap my foot in time when there's a good beat.  Jazz just messes me all up.

Category: People
Republicans - Do I really need to explain this one?  Today I heard they want to cut school lunches for poor kids.  These people truly do represent the worst in us.  Greed, spite and callousness.  Plus none of them have a sense of humor.

Bad Drivers - They come in many varieties.  The left lane hogs driving 10 miles below the speed limit.  The guy who zips in front of you if give him even an inch, no blinker.  The cell phone talkers who weave in and out of lanes.  Although I'm more likely to cut them some slack now that I know they all have brain cancer.

Mean People - It's just as easy to cut somebody some slack as it is to go for the jugular.  It's just that one shows you have a shred of human decency and one shows what a cold hearted so and so you are.

That's enough for now.  I'm not in the hating mood anymore.  I just baked some mini blueberry muffins and am magically in a much better mood.  Excuse me while I go grab a couple.  I'm so damn easy to please.

PS:  I hate it when I burn the muffins.

Jun 4, 2011

The Builder

Jim went off to work on "the basement".  Over the last two years he has been helping a former client work to transform his basement into a home theater.  It's taken so long because Jim can only get over there every few months or so.  They're willing to wait for Jim's here and there work day.  They know he does good work.

When I met Jim he was a roofer.  Roofing is hard work.  I remember watching him sling a bundle of shingles on his shoulder and climb up the ladder, no hands.  It made my heart drop to watch him scale a two story house, jump up and then scramble all over the steep roof as though he were still firmly planted on the ground.  He had no fear.  He did a lot of roofs over the years. To this day when we drive through Ann Arbor he'll point out roofs that he did.

Flat roofs paid more money so he moved into that business.  Smelly, dirty work, tar over everything.  But we needed the money since our family was growing.  Over the years he got the chance to do other work, finish carpentry, mostly remodeling.  Homeowners liked him.  Not only was he honest, friendly and hard working, he had a knack for helping people develop their vision and then he delivered.  His clients always came by word of mouth.  When you do good work your name gets out there.   That's why the basement people wait for Jim instead of hiring someone full time.

As Jim moved into his 40's the work got harder on his body.  He got the chance to change careers into computer support.  I was doubtful at first.  He had zero experience with computers, turning a computer on was the extent of his skills. But he worked hard, didn't get discouraged and now travels around as a network and computer support freelancer.  He is also the family's computer expert.

He still does good work and his computer clients like him.  But I know he misses the chance to build things with his hands.  When you fix somebody's computer there's really nothing to stand back and admire.     So, he grumbled a bit about working on a beautiful summer Saturday but I can tell he was itching to get his hands on a hammer again.  Came back for some special tools after about an hour.  Seems they need help with the stairs.  It's not easy to build stairs he told me. Well, stairs that are straight and true anyway.  I'm  sure he'll take a couple of trips up and down those stairs when he's done, proud of the work he's done.

May 25, 2011

Eat, drink and ...... you know the rest.

I always find myself liking the grasshopper better than the ant in Aesop's Fable.  The ant seems like a dull sort of fellow.  Aways working and never any time for play.  

Sure, sure. I get the message.....the moral......

"What!" cried the ant in surprise, "haven't you stored anything away for the winter?  What in the world were you doing all last summer?"

The ant's just stingy.  Surely the music and laughter that the grasshopper generated all summer earned him a little bit of the fruits of the ant's labor. Instead of viewing it as one extreme against the other - constant work vs. constant play - I prefer to think of it as two sides of a well balanced coin.  What good is being well prepared for everything if there's no joy in it?

Sure the ant has food for the whole winter but what a boring meal it would be to actually sit down with that self righteous insect going on and on about how many grains he has stored away for the winter.  Berating me for not having the same foresight and fortitude as him.  I bet he hasn't laughed in years. Bah!

I'd much rather pour a glass of wine and sit down with the cheerful grasshopper. I'm sure he'd start off with a happy song on his fiddle and then move onto an entertaining tale.  Well worth the price of admission.

Life is too short to suck all the fun out of it at every step.

May 8, 2011

Moms - You Gotta Love 'em

Having children makes you no more a parent than having a piano makes you a pianist.
                                                                           Michael Levine

Happy Mother's Day Mom!  I love you.  Having children of your own allows you to really understand your mother's love.  To know that she would do anything for you.  That when you hurt she feels it.  Your joy is the  best reward your mother could ever receive.  She acts selflessly, with no expectation other than ensuring the well being and happiness of her child.  No thank-yous are needed but are certainly well deserved.

Thanks for getting me to where I am.  For making me the person I am today and just for loving me.

May 5, 2011

Alice doesn't live here anymore.

This is Alice. I really grew attached to her.  Even started wondering if I could manage a third dog,  Unfortunately they had to put her down at the shelter.  She had started to lunge at people as they walked by her cage.  Not the staff or the dog walkers but potential adopters.  It breaks my heart.  Alice really won me over with her sweet face and despite what I just wrote about her aggressive behavior, she loved the hugs and attention I gave her whenever I took her out to the exercise yard.  I tried to make a point of walking her whenever I went in.  But the shelter has to be very careful about dogs they adopt out.  As much as we like to think there are scores of Cesar Milans out there ready to rehabilitate "red-zone" dogs.  There aren't.  Too, too many pit bulls and not nearly enough people to adopt them.  What have we done to this breed?

I try so very hard to like people as much as I like animals but stuff like this makes it hard.  The way we treat our fellow creatures is inexcusable.  Yeah, I know, we treat each other that way too.  I guess we just suck all the way around.

May 2, 2011

My Whining Paid Off

Yes, spring is here.  After all the whining I did two posts ago I thought I would let you all see that things are green and springy here in Michigan.  I drove past this willow tree and was struck at how gorgeous it is. Not a bad picture with a phone.

We do endure some of the worst weather here in Michigan.  But it's all worth it when you get to live through one of our beautiful summers.

Apr 29, 2011

Just My Cup of Tea

I can't explain why the Royal Wedding brought tears to my eyes this morning.  But wait, before I get started with this blog post I have to put in some disclaimers.  I know that not ALL women feel the same way about this.  Please don't take offense if weddings are not your thing.  I'm not casting aspersions on your femininity.   Likewise, please don't insinuate that there is something trivial or flighty about those of us who were excited about the wedding.  Isn't variety awesome?  We can all like different things.  Your thing doesn't get better just because you make my thing look stupid.  (Yes, I got pshawed by some ladies at work today.)

The easy explanation for the fervor over today's event is that all girls love a fairy tale wedding.  Most of us grew up with a mental filiing cabinet full of wedding ideas and plans stored away until needed.   Love that, hate that, that could work......  Colors, dresses, table settings, flowers......  I just went through this with my daughter.  She definitely knew what she wanted when she saw it.  A bride planning her wedding is like a general laying out battle plans.   The fact that my daughter is an engineer brought an added level of planning detail to the party, you should see her spreadsheets.  

Many women will try to copy as many of the wedding details that their pocketbooks can handle, or settle for a reasonable imitation. Etsy is a website for people to sell their hand-crafted or vintage items.  It's a really cool site.  Their daily e-mail today was titled "Get the Look" and was filled with items to help brides mirror Kate's look today.  At the very least Kate's choices today will set wedding trends that new brides will find hard to escape for years to come.  But you can't match the magic of today.  I mean Westminster Abbey ?  

For me the "dream wedding" is definitely part of it, but it's not the whole answer.  It was also about the monarchy. I love history.  One of my favorite books of all time was a history of the kings and queens of England.  Fascinating stuff, political intrigue, wars, affairs.  William is descended from a long line of men and women who were true, bold, conniving, ruthless, brave, stupid, every adjective you can name.  Through it all they have endured and the Brits love them.  It's sort of contagious.    I got goosebumps when William and Kate stepped out of the church and the crowd went crazy.  

Another reason this wedding really got to me is how obviously in love the couple was.  I don't care what kind of a wedding you're witnessing, that's powerful stuff.   I think Diana would be proud that her boy married for love and not out of duty after all she did to raise them as normally as she could.  

So as my husband complained about me watching the wedding this morning I reminded him of the snoozefest called the NFL draft that he watched last night.  Weddings of those in direct line for the throne of England just don't happen every day.  Cut me some slack.  I don't think 2 billion people tuned in to see if Detroit finally made a good draft pick.  To each his/her own. 

Apr 20, 2011

How about if I beg?

Oh how I long to open the windows and let some fresh air into the house.  Our climate confused planet is not cooperating though.  Winter just won't let go. It's been cold, rainy and we even had snow a few days ago. An inch or so that lasted about four hours until the dreary wet rain washed it away.  This is freaking ridiculous already.  I remember Easter egg hunts in the snow but they were always in March, not April. I should be wearing flip flops by now..... well, maybe not.  Though certainly sweaters should be replacing coats and hats by now.  No end in sight.  This cold rainy weather is supposed to linger for at least the next five days.

I want to go to the German Park and drink beer from buckets, eat bratwurst and spaetzle.  I want to play cards while lederhosen and dirndl clad teenagers clop around under the pavilion as accordions play polkas over the loudspeaker.  I want to watch old German ladies dance on the picnic tables as they slosh their beers around to the beat.  I want to see some German beer hall fights that I promise to do my best to stay out of.

I want to go to the dog park and find some young kid that is fascinated by Mario's frisbee skills, throwing it over and over again for him.  Finally giving up in exhaustion.  That dog will keep on going as long as there are frisbees to catch.  I want to watch Leo the pekingnese bark boldly at the dogs as they chase balls into the river.  Demanding that they stop making such spectacles of themselves.  I want to watch Chance sniff around the edges of the fence and pretend he doesn't hear me when I call.

I want to roll the windows down while I'm driving and turn the radio up really loud.  Nobody can hear you singing along if the music is loud enough.  I can't even hear myself.  I want to acquire that deep dark left arm tan from hanging it out the window.  I want to smell the rain as it first hits the hot, dry pavement.  I want goosebumps form the air conditioner instead of these record breaking cold temperatures.

I want to go golfing.  To ride around in the cart with both legs propped up on the dash, stubby little white socks poking out of my golf shoes.  Hanging onto the roof for dear life as my husbands zips around the course.  I want to get a hot dog at the turn.  I want to lose track of how many shots I've made and settle for a reasonable number to put on the score card.

I want to lay in bed at night and hear the crickets chirping.  Listen to the planes as they pass overhead.  I want to wake to the birds singing in my window.  I don't care how early they start.   Especially the one that sounds like the Muppets' Swedish Chef....... verdy, verdy, verdy...... I have to add the bork, bork, bork myself.  The Swedish bird doesn't sing that part.

It's not too much to ask for.  Isn't anybody listening?.  I want summer damn it!  I want it now. I'll settle for spring, please.

Apr 13, 2011

Such is Life

For various reasons I have been on an emotional roller coaster lately.  I have felt anxiety, anger, grief, sorrow and helplessness.  Some of the things causing these feelings were within my control so I calmed myself, said what I had to say and did what I had to do.  Some of these things were due to my mistakes.  I seem to make a mess of things sometimes.  Even though I’m a mostly well intentioned person I can often be thoughtless and careless.  I apologized, tried to make things better and hopefully learned from my mistakes.

Some of the things going on are totally out of my control, troublesome situations, not serious, but still emotionally draining.   I can not change the circumstance.  All I can do is change my reaction to it.  Adjust, adapt and make the best of it if for me and the others in the same situation.  This particular situation has a time limit. There is an end, not in the immediate future but out there on the horizon.  This one is going to be sort of an endurance contest, a test of my ability to control my temper over and over again so I don’t make a life changing mistake.    

The worst thing going on right now affects me only indirectly.  It is directly affecting the people that I love most dearly in the world.  There is nothing I can do but offer my love and support and be there if I’m needed.  I have no answers to offer about why life is so unfair.  Hell, it’s got me wondering the same thing.  I have no way to make this better as much as I wish I could.  This is weighing heavy on my heart and mind.  I think about it constantly.   I am coping by trying to be thankful for every day, for my loved ones and to not take anything for granted.  

Apr 2, 2011

I Think I've Got This Figured Out

My family is currently addicted to the game Settlers of Catan.  We've played three times so far.  Tonight will be the fourth time.  I haven't won yet and even though I'm a sore loser I still have fun.  It's sort of a cross between Risk and Monopoly.  There's some strategy involved and some luck.

We had a bit of fun the first night when we realized that everybody was stacking their game pieces  (settlements, cities and roads) in ways that corresponded with their professions.





Building is key.  You need resources to build.  You get resources from rolls that correspond to hexes you have buildings on.  Building is key.

You can also trade resources with other players.  At least until you get close to winning.  At that point nobody wants to help you advance.  They all turn on you.  Of course I've only witnessed this second hand.  I've never experienced it because I've never come even close to winning (pout - have I mentioned I'm a bad loser before?)  Trading keeps everyone involved and interested in every turn.

At any point that a 7 is rolled the robber is activated and anybody with over 7 resource cards loses half of them.  This is brutal when you roll it on yourself.  This keeps the incentive high to build instead of hoard cards.  Things move fast.

So, tonight I've cooked up some chili, baked a pineapple angel food cake and purchased some fruity malt beverages.  I think tonight is my night.  You see, I've read some strategy guides.  They're sure to help. Shhhhh....... don't tell anyone.  One of the keys to success is to keep a low profile while pointing out to everybody else how awesome someone else is doing.

Mar 28, 2011

I'm Just Trying to Make Everyone Happy

Someone once told me I should have chosen mediation as a profession.  I took it as a compliment.  I like it when everyone gets along.  I often find myself in the middle trying to get two opposing sides to reach a solution that is workable for both parties.  This came in handy back when I was settling fights between my children.  These days I use this talent most often at work. Although it can come in handy when trying to get my family to all agree on what restaurant we're going to eat at.

I'm not much for psycho-analyzing everything.  I usually have no interest in trying to figure out why I am the way I am.  But this one I do have figured out.  My Dad had a very short temper, (he's mellower these days).   He wasn't cruel or abusive.  He just went from calm to raging in seconds flat if something set him off.  Sometimes small, insignificant things set him off.  I coped with this in two ways.  I always tried to make everyone laugh because if you're laughing you can't yell and be angry.  Stage two if the humor thing wasn't working and things got tense - calm things down by adding perspective, by reasoning - mediate.

The key to successful mediation is to get people to see someone else's perspective.  This is challenging when ego or selfishness gets in the way.  Stupid people offer their own challenges to the process.  Focus being their biggest hurdle.  It's all worth the challenge though.  There's nothing more satisfying than averting disaster and having everybody walk away feeling as if they got at least part of what they were hoping for.  Not necessarily winners but not losers either.  Workable.  

Being a mediator, a peacemaker, has its down side.  The fact that I desire harmony leads people to believe that I won't take a stand.  They think I'm a pushover or that I'm afraid of confrontation.  It's not true.  I won't be backed into a corner or bullied.   I won't stand by and watch other people be mistreated.  I won't nod and agree that something harmful or stupid or immoral is the right thing to do.  Underestimate me at your own peril.  :-)    That sounds more ominous than I meant it to so I added a smiley face.

Mar 26, 2011

You Can't Make Me

This is one of my favorite pictures.   Partly because we are so happy.  Though the reason I really like it is it shows the lengths we'll  go to for this stupid dog we love so much.

It was during a camping trip up north.  I don't remember where, some state park, Cheboygan maybe.  We were walking some trails in the park and came to a bridge.  It was coated with a sort of sand paper type material meant to prevent slips.  Chance clearly didn't like it.  He gingerly walked about 10 yards across the bridge.   Then one of his nails got caught in a gap between the boards.  He yelped.

He absolutely refused to move any further.  No amount of pulling, coaxing, yelling or cajoling was going to get Chance to move either forward or backward.  We had no choice but to carry him.  It was a long bridge.  And yes we carried him back across after our hike was over with too.

From now I am going to "like" every health/sickness/medical testing related facebook status that in my opinion goes too far.  I'm sure to lose some friends over it but I might as well go out making a statement.

It's OK to mention you are fighting a cold, going for a checkup....... simple updates with not too private information.  But some people go too far.  I do not need to know you are scheduling an appointment to get your tubes tied.  I don't want to read word for word the report you got on your CAT scan.  I don't need daily updates on the tests you are having to determine what is causing you to vomit incessantly.

Don't you people have email accounts?  Because truly, only your friends are interested.  And they're probably faking it.  

Mar 18, 2011


If I had to choose between music and books I don't know what I'd do.  Fortunately that's one of those stupid hypothetical questions that I'll never have to answer.

 I love books.  I haven't been without a book since about the age of 8.   I've read so many, good and great.   I quit wasting my time on mediocre books long ago.  The written word can be a beautiful thing.  Good stories transport me to different worlds.  One well crafted sentence can make me not only appreciate it on its own merit, but also make me look deep into my thoughts, beliefs and ideas.  Books have shaped my view of the world.  

But music....... well, music can stir me to the core of my being.  I close my eyes, feel the beat, let myself get lost in every note.   Turn it up.......   my life has a soundtrack.  So many songs take me back to past times in my life and make me remember how happy I was, or how sad.  And they do it over and over again, every time I hear them.

When I hear Roy Orbison & Patsy Cline I can see my parents dancing around the living room in the mid 60's.  Jackson 5 and the Monkees take me back to the bubble gum stuff I listened to in the early 70's.  Teenage years were spent listening to Bob Seger, Fleetwood Mac and Pink Floyd.  The early 80's was a musical awakening when I was exposed to new sounds by my first love.  David Bowie, Sly Stone, Motown, Beatles, too many to list.  I still have my favorites.  Music I listen to over and over again.

I'm not a music fanatic.  My memory is too bad to remember every band's name, let alone the songs and what albums they come from.  But I know what I love.  I know it when I hear it and to this day it can transform me.  

Other than a few favorites that have been read over and over again, there are few books that stir such emotion in me.  Books feed my brain and quench my thirst for new information.  But music feeds my soul.  I don't think I could live without it.

Mar 14, 2011

Virtuoso Wannabe

The day I took up the violin was the day I had to finally admit I was truly a geek.  Oh, I had sort of known before that but the violin pretty much sealed the deal.  The only reason I chose the violin over the flute was because strings started in fifth grade and band in sixth.  Patience is not one of my strong suits.

Carrying a violin case in my neighborhood, in front of my "friends" was like painting a big red target on my back.  Add in all the books I was always reading, the dorky clothes my mother made me wear and I was doomed.  I'll never forget the laughter and the ridicule.  Pure humiliation. Stupid, stupid...... what was I thinking.

It took me two years to ditch that violin.  My parents had spent so much money on it I had to commit to it for at least a little while.  But I wasn't going to carry that damn thing into Jr. High.  At the end of sixth grade I made up some lame excuse and told Mr. Osborne, my violin teacher I wouldn't be continuing.  I'll never forget the sad look on his face.  Oh, to relive that day.

I spent the next nine years trying to be a hard-ass, a tough girl, a burnout.  That's how you fit in where I came from.  I didn't do a very convincing job.  People who knew me really well weren't convinced.  Neither was I.  And you know what?  I wasn't happy either.  It's very stressful to try and be somebody your'e not.

I wish I could go back in time and give the 12 year old me some advice.  Who gives a flying f**k what anybody thinks?  Conformity is easy, different is hard.  Hard always pays more rewards than easy in the end.  Fitting in?  Don't waste your time.  It doesn't get you anywhere.  I tried hard to teach my kids that lesson.  I think I did, didn't I?

Anybody know where I can get some violin lessons?

Feb 25, 2011

Blackjack Makes Me Happy

We are traveling to the Upper Penninsula to see my daughter this weekend.  She's an engineer and she  works on brakes, ABS and traction control.  She has to test her products in winter conditions so two or three times a winter she goes up there for two weeks at a time.  Now, you should know, we see our daughter all the time.  She lives within 5 miles of us.  So why, you ask, are we driving over 350 miles on snowy roads, over one of the world's largest suspension bridges to see her?

I threw the bridge part in because it makes me nervous to drive over the Mackinac Bridge in the best of conditions.  Add icy roads with the wind whipping the bridge back and forth ever so slightly and I become a nervous wreck.  Back in 1989 a Yugo got blown off that bridge.  It's a long drop, plenty of time to be thinking about what's about to happen.  ~shiver~  Still debating whether I will allow my husband to drive me over the deadly abyss or whether I will insist on driving.  I like to be in control when I think my life is at risk. I'd fly the plane too if I knew how.

Back to our trip Up North.  It's a chance to get away.  To break the routine.  But most of all, a chance to go play some blackjack.  We are staying near an Indian casino.   I am the family Blackjack expert.  After studying the strategy in a few books and some long practice sessions over the years, I know what I'm doing.  I've taught my husband, my father, my daughter, sister, brother-in-law, niece.  This weekend it's my youngest niece's turn to learn.   She's 18.

I can pretty easily teach someone the strategy of the game but what I can't teach is gambler's nerve.  You either have it or you don't.  My sister and daughter do not.  To have gambler's nerve the money has to be invisible to you.  You play for the thrill and you don't let the money influence your actions.  My oldest niece has it.  She makes me proud.

I feel very lucky this weekend.   And no, I don't see any contradiction between my last post about not believing in fate and stating here that I do believe in luck.  I'm a complicated woman.