Saturday, December 31, 2005


Sitting around wearing my New Year's Eve bling, waiting for my ride, wondering if this guy creeps anyone else out as much as it does me....

3 Cheers for Nothing

(Not my photograph)

I had today off. I slept late, and awoke joyously headache free, for the first time since Sunday. The State of the House has been driving me mad, so I had a leisurely morning, tidying up, and then ran some errands in the afternoon: some mailing, a few returns. And, I wanted something pretty to wear for New Year's Eve. I'm in a rut! Tired, a little depressed from the flu, probably, and I'm bored with telling myself that I shouldn't waste money on myself. I bought myself a little something for tomorrow night, smug with the 60% after-holiday-savings.

It was raining as I finished my errands. The rain suddenly turned into snow flurries, and then into thick, crazy, blinding snow. Snowflakes fell in crazy giant bundles, hitting the windshield like handfuls of flour. Amazingly, this berg turned into an icy slushy mess in about 30 minutes. Traffic on our "shopping district" backed up fast.

I decided, on the way home, to run to a grocer, pick up lemon and honey. My headache was returning, and a good hot lemon tea sounded good. I know, I know, the traffic sucks, the roads are a mess, cars are fish-tailing in front of me. What's a 10-minute delay, though, I want lemon and honey!

I took a right turn to the grocery store...a slow right turn, at a usually busy intersection.

My car had a mind of its own, in this slush and ice. My car left the lane it was supposed to be in, slid into the opposite lane, and proceeded sliding forward down the road. I couldn't have been more surprised! I am accustomed to driving on ice, and my vehicle has all-wheel drive. I have never been in an accident, never had a ticket, andI know what I am doing...yet I am sliding in the opposite lane, into oncoming traffic, and I have absolutely no control of my vehicle!

And you know what? As luck would have it, there is no one in the oncoming lane! 5:00, this lane in which cars are usually lined up to get out onto a busy avenue, is empty. There are cars approaching, but they are able to stop, to allow me to recover, to get back into my lane, and as I pass, the drivers gave me a sympathetic wave.

I decide that lemon and honey can wait, and I head home, playing out all the different "what if" scenarios...

So, the anticlimactic ending to this story is: Nothing Happened.

And I woke up this morning a little bored and depressed, because Nothing seems to be happening in my life lately. I went out looking for a pretty new sweater, because Nothing is going on, and it would cheer me up. I have cabin fever, because I have been home with a cold, and Nothing is happening...

And I came home tonight reminded that there's a whole lot of Nothing happening that I should remember to appreciate every single day of my life...because Something almost happened to me, and Something didn't, and NoOne got hurt, when SomeOne could have.

Count your blessings. Sometimes Nothing IS better than Something.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Fabulous Broads Highlights

Still flu-ridden (I think it's getting worse!) and braindead, so you get someone else's writing today. Last year's desk calendar: Quotes from Fabulous Broads. Here are the Top 7 that I pulled and straight-pinned to the wall:

The idea of strictly minding our own business is moldy rubbish. Who could be so selfish?
—journalist Myrtle Lillian Barker

Women are repeatedly accused of taking things personally. I cannot see any other honest way of taking them.
—writer Marya Mannes

I try to take one day at a time, but sometimes several days attack me at once.
—writer Jennifer Unlimited

If I didn't think you meant so well, I'd feel like slapping your face.
—actress Mary Astor, in the film The Great Lie (1941)

Somebody once said we never know what is enough until we know what's more than enough.
—singer Billie Holiday

I may be a liar, a cheat, a drunk, and a tramp, but I've got principles.
—Joanna Cassidy as the university dean's wife, protesting her innocence,
in the film All-American Murder (1992)

Dayquil-Induced Nothing Entry

I still have the flu. I still have to come to work. There is no work to do at work. Here are some random pix from the last week.

It's official: My nephew, Dane, is the world's worst gift-wrapper:

This guy sits atop the wall at Radio Maria, a local restaurant. How many times have we walked beneath him and never noticed? That's my friend Lori. Why is she tickling his feet? Because we drank too much wine, that's why.

Here's one thing Lori gave me for Christmas. Since we've been best-friends since we were 10 years old, she's the only person that could get away with it.

Our friend Atef wants to cook an authentic Tunisian meal for us. In order to do so, we need to find this vessel, a Tajine. The meal cooked in it is also called a Tajine. Where in the heck do we buy a Tajine?

Monday, December 26, 2005

Grey Poupon (Our Handbags)

OWWW, ow my head, Santa skipped the coal this year, and put the flu in my stocking, I guess. Brian and I were both complaining yesterday, of oncoming colds. I got up this morning to head to a brunch with friends, thinking I was feeling better. Brunch wore me OUT, baby, and though I tried to come home and tidy up the house, my body has delivered this message: "I don't think so; you're going down."

Well, I resist idleness, which is why I'm logged on here now, trying to think up something charmingly flu-like to talk about.

Speaking of Germs...This month's Glamour magazine [hey, a girl has to indulge in mindless fluff every now and again!] has a blurb about a specific germs.

It quotes a study that says we are walking around with fecal matter on the bottom of our handbags, because we place them on the floor in public restrooms. It suggests we use the hooks on the back of the door.

Well, every woman knows we're not supposed to secure them to the hooks on the door, as the second we get our pants around our ankles, someone is going to reach over the door, snatch that purse off the hook, and take off. The underpant-ankle cuffs are going to do nothing but hinder our hot pursuit for our fecal-free handbags.

Sigh. Peeing in public is just getting more and more complicated, isn't it? We've already been taught to NEVER sit down. Now we have to hover with 30-pound purses hanging around our necks.

My suggestion to you all, then, when making your 2006 resolutions, is to start incorporating this exercise into your daily workout.

Or, go before you leave home.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

It don't get any better...

A magical day here. I woke relatively early, and began cooking, to take stuff to Mom's. Later in the morning, Brian and I shared bacon and OJ as we opened our gifts to each other. Brian had saved some money, and showered me with gifts, to my shock. My gift to him was a digital camera*; with high hopes that he'll send me pix of his "new life" later in the year.

Off to Mother's, then.

Christmas, in our family, is slightly untraditional, but always wonderful. We do not throw a formal ham and/or turkey Christmas dinner. Mom and Sis collaborate on a big pot of chili, and I'm in charge of a clam chowder that is guaranteed to knock your socks off and add two pounds to your already expanding holiday girth. We gather together around the beautiful fireplace my father built 30 years ago, cook hot dogs, brats, and polish sausages, and later, marshmallows.

Our kids know nothing else for Christmas day, and I am proud of the warm tradition, the chaos, the pushing and shoving and laughing 'round the flames each year, attempts to knock each others' foodies off their sticks.

Today was no different, a ridiculously wonderful day. Food followed by gifts a bandit would be jealous of. My brother-in-law's mother joined us, and we had a wonderful cozy day in my Mother's small house.

Home then, to make a few long-distance calls to friends and family.

All of this followed up by a quick summary of the state of the house: Disaster!

Sigh. Nothing to do then, but ignore it, open a bottle of champagne and watch "Elf."

*Now you know what was in the box (Dec. 22 blog)

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Mi Vida Nueva

It is a Christmas Eve of a different sort.

Though I've time under my belt, "on my own," my paths as a single girl are still establishing themselves. I sit in a chair, curled up with my laptop. My son is crashed on the couch next to me. Our Crazy Tunisian friend, Atef, had joined us for the evening, along with the Gandhi-esque Ilaiy, (also crazy), from India. 2 more from The Coffee Clique, Momo and Woof, married, had actual family obligations, and so are not here tonight.

Thai coconut green-curry chicken is simmering on the stove, we're to stir fry some sesame green beans, and portobello mushrooms are marinading, waiting for their broiler doom. Meanwhile, we're socializing, napping, and blogging while we laugh over "Stripes," the DVD my son got for Christmas this morning, from his Dad. Neither one of them have ever seen "A Christmas Story," and I intend to give them a cultural education when the movie's over; 24 hours straight on TBS, baby!

We are incredibly comfortable, save missing Momo & Woof.

And I am contemplative, as I am most Christmas Eve's, about the State of My Life. You just never know where life will lead you, do you? One year ago, I had not met these now-fierce friends.

Any time I find myself sitting in the glow of a decorated tree, gifts and a napping cat underneath, and in the company of friends and family...

I can only be thankful, that I am so blessed.

Thursday, December 22, 2005


Ahhh, the gifts are all purchased and the fun begins: Wrapping.

How are you guys at gift wrapping? I suck at it: Paper and tape, and if it doesn't quite fit, swear a little bit, and tape in a patch. If I'm feeling really crafty, I'll slap a stick-on-bow on the top and call it good.

I have a secret weapon, though, for those gifts that I want to make Extra Special: Diane. My friend of 20+ years, who is afflicted with a sickness: She LOVES to wrap gifts. I know! Weird, isn't it?

Di is stocked up; a tape dispenser is a necessity, of course, and then she forklifts out a set of stackable boxes filled with ribbon, and something called toule, and raffia, and shiny stuff and stringy stuff, and wire and blow torches and anvils.

A Diane-wrapped gift is a Creation; when all is said and done, it looks like spun sugar under your tree. It is bee-YOO-ti-ful, and has only one setback: it's so anticlimactic to open a "Diane" and find a pair of black socks inside.

It will never do to have the wrapping look better than the gift, I tell her, so I let her wrap only the best gifts of the season.

Here's one of this year's highlights that now sits under my tree.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Bah, Humb....awwwwwwwwwww.

It's getting down to the wire, isn't it, folks? I am almost done with my Christmas shopping. Almost. A few more things to buy before Saturday, and, as of now approximately 20 spare minutes in which to buy them.

I went out tonight on a Mad Mission: Put an end to this shopping chaos. Finish it.

Oh God. The Mall. Parking frenzy and strollers on your heels. Might I make a few observations?

First complaint: Beeping! When did we become so stupid or lazy that "they" decided that either we, or every employee of every establishment, needs to be beeped at to be reminded to do our jobs? Beep! Someone's coming in! Scrreech! Paper is coming out of the register! Blip! Sign here! Boop! You are exiting the store! Whoop, whoop, whoop, we forgot to remove the security tag! ... Well no wonder; there's no siren on the security tag!

Next, what's the deal with all of the "hip" stores cranking the techno music to volumes in which you are forced to scream "NO THANK YOU! I'M JUST LOOKING. WHAT? NO, JUST ...NO, JUST LOOKING!! I'M JUST LOOKING! oh, forget it, I'm outta here."

Another complaint, since I'm on a roll: A store filled with clerks stocking and talking, and only 1 employee working at a counter with 3 registers. HELLO, McFLY! Is there no one here authorized to ring up the 15 people standing in this line?!

Ok. My last stop of the night: Barnes and Noble.

You know all of those cool bargain aisles at the front of the store? Tonight, they are selling children's books with little electronic PIANO's in them. Loud, screechy, grate-on-your nerves pianos. Not that much of a problem, except that someone, to my amazement, has dropped off their 2 TODDLERS to play piano books. I can hear them from everywhere in the store. I pace back and forth around those kids; there are NO parent-types to be found. I am stunned and worried about them, irritated at their stupid parents, and hissing to my friend "who in the HELL would just drop their kids like this?"

It is suggested by my too-honest friend, that my holiday spirit for the day may be waning a bit. I tell him to shut the hell up, because I am FULL of holiday cheer, and he'd better not forget it. Now where in the hell are those kids' parents? Are they abandoned orphans or WHAT? I have to hover around to make sure no one eats them before their parents return. They do, at long last, and I resume my shopping.

Then the Angel Gabriel appeared, and said, "Behold, I bring you fun shoppers with REAL holiday cheer, and you should go and ask them if they will pose for a photo for your blog."

I did, they did, and my Grinchy heart grew three sizes, and I ended the evening all giggly, with my faith in holiday spirit restored.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

APB: Is This Yours?

A friend called me recently, asking to borrow my staple gun. "I don't have a staple gun," I told him. "Yes, you do, we stretched your canvases with it last spring."


Oh. Yes. We sure did. But oh, yes, I borrowed that staple gun from my boss, and I don't have it. I don't think. Let me check... Ohmigod, there it is, still in my toolbox! I borrowed that thing last April! I have to get this back!... Well, after I loan it out again, I will promptly return it!

So, I brought the thing back to my boss yesterday, saying "I am mortified that I have held on to your staple gun for 8 months. I am so sorry." And he said: "That's not my staple gun; mine is green." I'm pretty sure it's his though, so he takes me to the garage and proves it to me: Ta-DUH, THERE is his green staple gun, I can see it with my very eyes.

Now what? Is this MY staple gun? Did I go buy one when I needed it last spring? Was it just there in the toolbox that I got custody of after the divorce? Or did I borrow the damned thing from someone?!! The accompanying staples don't even look familiar, they have an old-timey sticker price tag on them!

Is this YOURS? If it is yours, give me a call, and I'll get it back to you, and, really, I apologize in advance for keeping it so long.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Thar she blows...

I'm not much into self-help books, although I have to admit, I've found a bit of solace in the self-help aisle of the local bookstores, by playing out this scenario:

I stand with a recommended title in my hands, spinning my wheels about coughing up hard-earned dough on a book I know I will never read anyway. I contemplate my "issue," realize that I know what the stupid answer to the stupid problem is anyway (stop spending, stop eating, stop fighting, just stop whatever it is!] and decide to buckle the fuck up without Dr. Phil or Tony Robinson. Put the book back, save $16, and feel better about myself already. What a load off!

One book I *do* like, however, is Jon Kabat Zinn's "Wherever You Go, There You Are." I'm not sure it would be considered self-help, or more of an instructional guide to Mindfulness Awareness and meditation. In a nutshell, what I take from the book, when I flip through it, is 2 things:

1. Live in the here and now. VERY difficult to do. We get so caught up in what happened earlier, and what we have to do later, that we miss out on NOW. We don't taste our food, listen to our friends and families, smell the roses, see the sunset.

2. Try not to place negative or positive judgments on things: "This is neither good or bad, it just is." (Or was it Yoda that said that?) This also requires some determination, but when I make an attempt at it, my road rage cuts down considerably: "That that moron just ran thru the 4-way stop is neither good or bad, it just is, and it's in the past now, because I'm through the intersection now..."

I generally can't (or don't) stay aware of this mindfulness stuff for more than a few weeks at a time, even though I feel noticably more grounded when I do.

I am, lately, restless.... There's normal holiday chaos, yes, but it's more than that; the past and the future are my constant companions, and Mindfulness Awareness is hard to come by.

I've mentioned, before, my son's plan to join the military. Final dates are not established yet, but it won't be long, before he flies the coop. These are big issues between us, I am contemplating worrying about him, and missing him.

His entire childhood is flashing before me, several times a day, as I shop, drive, do chores. I polish floors and smile at how my convincing him that his black dress shoes were "police-man shoes" backfired on me bigtime, and his 2-year-old hatred for them turned into an obsession to wear them even to bed. I laugh at the memory of his father startling him so badly with a dead bug he found in the car that he accidentally tossed his bagel out the window. On and on, the memories are flooding me lately.

Whatever his decision is, whether it worries bejeezus out of me or not; whether it's military, school, or a's time for me let go.

And the future looms ahead. His. And mine.

And it's time for me to decide who I am going to be now. Though I'm sure you'll hear more from me, about his life, as it's relayed to me, I do not intend to BE "lonely, weeping mom," for heaven's sake. I need to keep things in proper perspective here.

This is just a big, BIG life change for me, kiddies. I married my first husband straight out of high school, and so went from my father's home to my husband's. We were married for 10 years, and Brian was 4 when we ended up on our own. He will be 20 in March.

I will be 43 in January, AND living alone for the first time in my life. No one to take care of but myself. No relationships in the works. No obligations to anyone or anything, save a mortgage payment and a few credit card bills.


These issues are the source of my restlessness. It is TIME in my life for me to be nothing but me, and just THINK of all the choices! Oh, I'm planning, baby; I am contemplating and stewing and making some hardcore decisions here.

Though some might just kick back and take a bit of a rest, that's simply not in my nature. I just told a friend the other night, "I can decide now, whether to do nothing, or to do something great, and I'd like to aim for something great."

So, let me get through these holidays. Bare with me while I weep a bit when the kid leaves. Smack some sense into me if I forget to stop it soon enough...and hang on to your hats, you'll be hearing from me in hopefully bigger and better ways.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Are we bored?

This was the pattern on my driveway this morning.
If he'd only put that much energy into cleaning his room...

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

I'm adorable!

This little guy greeted me from the hood of my car today, as I mucked out to the car, still in a computer-induced stupor. Quite cheering!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Christmas Fools Day

Last Christmas was our first in our new house. For the sake of the story, the house is laid out in a "studio" format; the kitchen, dining room, and primary living area are all one big room. It's a long room, but relatively narrow, so we chose a space-consuming tree, pictured. The tree is visible from anywhere in the main living space.

One evening, caught up in the holiday chaos, I found myself out of some ingredient or another. I told Brian that I had to run to the store, and would be right back.

When I returned, Brian and his friends were on their way out, but were dragging their feet some. After so much loitering and snickering, I asked them what in the heck was their deal?!! "Nothing, nothing," they laughed, headed out the door, with Brian telling me to call him later, if I wanted to.


My 18-year-old son telling me to call him? That's a switch. Pfft...I shook my head and went about my cooking.

It was a full 30 minutes before I figured out what the snickering was about, ended up sinking into a chair for a good long laugh, and, indeed, giving him a call.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Art Night

I mentioned, way back, that I join 2-to-4 kids once a week—when I'm not so busy that I keep guiltily begging off—to draw. Some weeks the lesson is structured, on perspective and shadow, for instance, but other weeks, it's "fun night."

Wednesday night, we made Christmas cards. Though I didn't use the cliche, I stressed to the kids to "think outside the box..." to come up with puns, use non-holiday items for clever ideas. A frog was drawn, with the words "Hoppy Holidays" scrawled across. A cartoon of a Santa stumbling down the chimney, "Happy Fall-i-days", and a lava lamp, "Feliz Lava-Dad".

Moms & Pops prefer I don't use their real names, but J***, Age 7, fixed up this card, inadvertently making it too large for the envelope. I told him he'd have to trim it down. He got right to it with the scissors, stuffed it into an envelope, and addressed it to me.

He sealed it, and handed it to me, insisting, "Open it!"

"Well...I just saw you make it, so I'll wait."

"No! Open it! Open it!"

Fine. I opened it, pulled it out, and admired the..uh...drawing that he insists was not blood, but merely "mouth-colored."

"OPEN it!!!" He insisted, still. Ok, something written inside?

I folded over the front page...

...and the thing fell apart in my hand, into 2 pieces.

I gave J*** a dry look, and he collapsed into incontrollable laughter, tears rolling down his cheeks.

He'd inadvertently cut off the fold-side of the card when he trimmed it to fit the envelope, cutting the card into 2. Instead of trashing it, he decided to play a *bit* of a practical joke...

Sigh....There was a day when a 7-year-old couldn't pull one over on me.

Blizzard de 08 December, 2005

Looks like a hurricane, doesn't it?

Outside Badri's house

My driveway, 2 hours after I shoveled it all clean.

Lori's Winter Fashion Advice: Wear What's Warm.
Mix & Match if Necessary.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

A Few of My Favorite Things...

A favorite gift from the past, this bubbling
Christmas bulb nightlight, from Jennie Tonic.

I recently went to a birthday dinner for a coffee-shop acquaintance, with a lot of people I did not know, and one or two that I did. The Birthday Girl is a sweet but dynamic 28-year-old reflexologist, and she was good at keeping conversation going with her friends that didn't know one another. At one point she asked us to go around the table and tell the most bizarre gift we'd ever received.

First up was our friend Ilaiy, who received a bag of diapers at a white elephant Christmas exchange last year. Every young bachelor's dream gift!

I was next, and had no problem coming up with my answer: My friend Jennie Tonic sent me a Gargoyle made out of cow manure. I loved that Poo-Goyle, and dreaded putting it in the flowerbed, where it was meant to go, to eventually turn into...well, just poo. Looking back, I should have just kept it on the mantle, the only respectable place of honor for any manure sculpture.

The problem with spouting off the words "Manure" and "Poo" at a dinner table full of people you don't know is just don't know them. Birthday girl and her boyfriend seemed amused, but crickets were chirping around the rest of the table.

I was amazed at what happened next: Nothing. Not another soul at the table (of 16) could think of any weird gift they'd ever had. "I'll pass." "Well, nothing weird, but my best gift ever was..."

Well, aren't people different one from another then!

C'MON, you have to have received something besides pajamas and socks and DVDs at least ONCE in your life!

I'm placing an APB, right NOW! Please send me your comments of any crazy gifts you've received in your life, good or bad. All of you! Anyone reading this, and I know you're out there, because you TELL me you read, but you never comment...

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Sundays with Mama(s) Vol. 2

Mom and I hit the road this morning, for a 90-minute drive over the river and through the woods, to Grandma's house. A lovely day! She fed us BBQ sandwiches for lunch, and strawberry ice cream and a cookie for dessert.

We retired to the living room after lunch, to "set a spell" and listen to the tick-tock of a clock...I'll admit I nodded off, though not so deeply that I couldn't pretend I hadn't.

In an effort to shake myself out of cozy GrandmaHouse stupor, I pulled out some photo albums. Most I'd already seen, but I came across a delightful new book that my Aunt had put together, full of certificates and letters. Here are some of our historical highlights:

This is the total for my Grandmother's 10-day stay in the hospital when my mother was born, in 1942. The room cost $4 a night, and the medicine they gave her came to 85 cents. The itemized column included "fan" and "radio" but the total room charge was a "flat rate." I'm not sure how much you can read here, but the total was $55.85, and my Grandfather paid $40 of the bill before leaving the hospital.

This letter from my mother to her mother, was written in 1952. Her handwriting was pretty good for a 10-year-old, don't you think?

And look at this excerpt from a letter I wrote to my Grandma when I was 7 years old. What an ungrateful brat I was!

The photos were great, but creeping through the handwritten history of my Grandmothers, my Mothers, and even my own life was a most wonderful gift....along with sitting around and guessing which recipe we all hated.

We decided it was probably the tomato aspic.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

One of those...weeks

This is the face you'll get if you ask me how my week went. Pretty, huh?

There seemed to be activity and chaos every waking moment. Any attempt at clever blogging resulted in comatose staring until bedtime, which should have been an hour ago anyway.

The lowlights: Another argument with my son, followed by both of our tearful sobbing about how much we'll miss one another when he leaves for bootcamp in January. Conflict, I can handle; heartache lingers. I am currently trying to mentally prepare myself for his leaving, and yet to live in the moment, enjoy the hell out of him, and this upcoming holiday, while I can. So here we are tonight, can you see how I'm going to miss him?!

Onward, then.

My work is seasonal, and season is heating up. Our customers are outsourcing to India, we are tightening our belts, and it is apparently stressing the H-E-double-toothpicks out of the guy that has to make payroll [aka, owner and my employer, for 18+ years]! He's irritated that people want time off around the holidays; they ask me, I ask him, and "BARKBARK bark bark bark!!!!"

The same guy also called me into his office and suggested I start dragging my ass into work a few minutes BEFORE the workday begins. Ok, I'll also give him that. I'll also give him space for justified irritablility, since I was still working off the heartache from the first lowlight, and my response probably came off as a bit insincere: "Yes. Fine. 7:55 instead of 8:05. You got it. Whatever. Sir, yes sir."

Evenings were filled with second, part-time job, and a freelance project.

Highlight! "Freelance project" is for mi clientes (y amigos) favoritos, Allen and (Nurse) Nancy, who own the Silvercreek and Courier Restaurants. Go in, pull a little typsetting and photoshop "magic" and you are rewarded with wine, champagne greens, salmon, smoked white cheddar macaroni and cheese, and something called lava cakes, all made by a real live chef, (Kelly). I'll blog about them sometime later.

Friday, finally Friday!! Friday, I did a favor for an old friend and ex-husband, Rick. Rick had to have out-patient surgery, and I agreed to provide transportation, under one condition: No vomiting in my car on the way home. He promised to try not to, which was good enough.

The surgery went well. The Post-op went well...until.

Until the sweet post-op nurse came in and cheerily took his vital signs. She pulled out her clipboard, and asked me, "he's doing quite well now, and you'll be the one spending the night with him tonight?"



Rick is bandaged, supine, still groggy from anesthesia, too nauseous to sit up, and [everyone sing along, now]: HERE she Isss...Miss Ameri-bitchhhhhh...

"Um... I really wasn't planning on spending the night with him."

"YOU HAVE TO! SOMEBODY has to!!! He MUST have constant care for 16 hours after this surgery!!!" The nurse insists that we had better settle this NOW. "You don't have to sleep with him! You can stay in a different room! He can stay at YOUR house!"

The "spend the night" pressure came from the nurse for more than 2 hours; she gave me a handset and told me to settle it! I'm not making it up, she actually took me aside, and said, "Look, all you have to do is SAY it, and I'll believe it; I just have to HEAR someone SAY it..."

Well, I didn't SAY it, but we did settled it. It was still stressful, uncomfortable, guilt-worthy...I picked Rick up to take him for his follow-up appointment this morning, all the while worrying that I'd find him dead in a pool of blood, and it would be all my fault, of course, for my hesitancy.

What're the odds? Slim I guess, yay for me; he wasn't dead at all, but dressed, upright, and relatively bouncy, considering the bandages. Yay for him too.

So, I'm wrapping up my week now. Tired, but having managed to accomplish a few things, and not have Rick's death on my hands, so all was well. Here are a few photos that I grabbed along the week, but couldn't think of a single thing to say about them, in the long run:

It was -2 degrees, yesterday morning, with wind factored in.

Look at all the birds.

Here's some snow on the Christmas Lights next door.

Here's Brian and me again, only this time he's giving me bunny ears.

Tomorrow, I am taking Mother to Grandma's---MY Grandma's!!!---So, isn't that a wonderful way to wrap up a hectic week!


[Please, no gratuituous negative comments about employers or ex-husbands. I don't want to get fired, and don't care for ex-bashing. Thankyouverymuchy!]

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Cayenne Chocolate

From the movie Chocolat, which was one of my favorite books long before it was a movie:
Armande Voizin: Your cinnamon looks rancid.
Vianne Rocher: It's not cinnamon, it's a special kind of chili pepper.
Armande Voizin: Chili pepper in hot chocolate?
I've never been a chocolate freak, like a lot of people are. I actually crave salt and heat over sugar any day. While most woman are turning to Godiva during times hormonal, I am searching for sushi, with a side of high-sodium soy sauce, and enough wasabi to knock me off my ass.

I don't dislike chocolate—I'm in heaven with a $2 bite of dark chocolate from a good chocolatier, but that's about all I can handle with out reeling from sugar-nausea.

Every time I watch the movie or thumb through my copy of Chocolat, I've been intrigued with the idea of chocolate and chili pepper. Sounds, darling, like it's right up my alley. Why have I not searched it out?!

As luck would have it, a friend begifted me with this bar of chocolate, after a trip to San Diego last week.Uh-my-gawd, chocolate and chili pepper ROCKS! Where in the hell have I been?!! Look, baby, I doled out a square of this my son and his friend, who happened to be around when I opened the bar, but that is IT!!! The only reason this candy bar lasted 4 days is because I meant to ration it and make the heaven last. I had to FORCE myself to stop eating it!

I did a bit of research. Chuao Spicy Maya Chocolate Bar is not inexpensive. One candy bar runs about $13, but Va-Va-Voom, is it ever worth it!!!

I don't know if I'm the last goober on earth that hasn't experienced this stuff—for all I know it's as common as Hershey's, and I've merely remained oblivious in the chocolate loop in search of nori and wasabi. I am pleased as punch however, to finally have tasted cayenne pepper chocolate, to have moved a little closer into one of my favorite books, and to understand the surprise of Armande Voizin, when she tastes her chili chocolate.

Joyfully, the movie will never be the same. Neither will I.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Sundays with Mama #1

I've decided that I'll make a weekly attempt to post something about my Sunday afternooons with my mother; Lord knows there's always some kind of blogworthy fun being had. Read on for the first edition.

"Mom, will you pose with the mask on?" "Sure."
Isn't she fun?

After lunch at the Mexican Restaurant, we went mucking around, got her glasses adjusted, and ended up strolling around Bed Bath and Beyond. We smelled all the candles and touched all the fuzzy blankets, and ended up poking around a stocking-stuffer bin. Mom picked up a sleeping mask, and asked me, "what's this thing?" I explained to her what it was for, and she replied, "Oh. I thought it was panties."

Panties? PANTIES? Give me that thing, I have to figure out how she came up with that.

Oh. Ok. A reasonable misunderstanding after all.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Black Friday

I dared to go out on the most dangerous of days yesterday: Black Friday. Once upon a time, my son and I would wake up at 5 and head out for a couple of hours, end up having breakfast at a downtown cafe around 7, and then come home to sleep. It was a self-indulgent hunt for good cheap loot; we mostly ended up picking up stuff only for ourselves, saving Christmas shopping for a more appropriate time of Dec. 23.

These days the son is just getting home around 5, and I certainly don't have the discipline to get up at that hour on my own, so this year I headed out with a friend at the crack of 10:30.

First stop: Best Buy. Look, I HATE that store, but they had A Home Theater System for $49.99!!! I had originally been on a hunt for a a docking station for my iPod, but here was an entire home theater system for 1/2 the price. This could work! I threw one in my cart, along with a memory card for my camera. We picked up a car stereo system for an out-of-town friend, and headed to the check-out, approximately 11:45, 15 minutes left to get the great prices!!

The Best Buy Authorities directed us with those air-traffic control-orange-popsicle-lights to a recreation-park-esque queue that had been taped off through the kitchen appliance department. It was extremely organized, but approximately 500 miles long.

'Tis the season; we took our place amongst the Frigidaire's. We were soon joined by a woman with a cartful, who seemed to have no idea the significance of the day. Harumphing and sighing, she stood with us around the first corner before beckoning a poor BB employee, "EXCUSE ME, EXCUSE ME...," she snapped, "IS THIS THE ONLY PLACE TO CHECK OUT?!!"

I keep standing and smiling, but I am thinking "No, bitch, there are 1,000 people standing patiently in a line that leads to 15 checkout lanes, but there's one register open back in the rear of the store, wayyyyyyyyy back there with the Princess telephones, that has no waiting. Run on back there and find it. Jay-zus, people should be more patient!!!! More patient I say!!!"

No wonder riots break out, eh?

[P.S. The $50 Home Theater System sounded exactly like a $50 Home Theater System would. I gambled and lost; have returned said system, and instead run a complex system of Campbell's soup cans and string from my television to various corners of the room for a vast improvement.]

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Banana Fanna Fo Fori

Observation: Have you ever noticed that anything, absolutely ANYTHING will be gobbled up if you just leave it on the counter in your workplace? The last pruny tomatoes on September's vines, Halloween candy, leftover wedding cake, the giant Sam's club bag of sugar-garlic potato chips... just put them on the counter at work. Some poor schmuck that skipped breakfast will ALWAYS, eventually come along and devour the food that you and your family won't touch with a 10-foot pole at home.

(I have been polishing those bananas off at a rate of one a day.)

Monday, November 21, 2005


I noticed this the other day. What the heck is it?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Russian Oil-Pulling Therapy

I periodically thumb through a small paperback book at a friend's house, entitled "Acupressure and Fitness" by Dr. H. Bhojraj, an accupressurist (is that a word?) from Sri Lanka. Copyright 2004.

I came across a Miracle Therapy that will ease or cure the following ailments: colds, cough, asthma, digestive problems, chronic headaches, pimples, cracking feet, and (honestly!) "etc." It cures etc.! It also cured one man of gas, insomnia, and sensitivity to weather.

Ok, here's what you do—be sure to read all through the directions before you try this.
Measure 10 ml of refined sunflower oil or groundnut oil (approximately one tablespoon) and without any great effort or hurry, wash and suck the oil inside the mouth like using a mouthwash. Never gargle or swallow the oil. Pull the oil through the teeth often; this oil will pull all the toxins from your mouth through saliva.
You have to do that for preferably 15 to 20 minutes, until the oil becomes a "thin, white foam."

It's best performed early in the morning, and on an empty stomach. If you're in a hurry to cure your cracking feet, do this 2-3 times a day.

When your 20 minutes is up, NEVER swallow that toxic saliva; it's best, the book says, to spit it into a sand-filled dust bin, and dispose of it regularly. (Like a litter box. A Spitter box. Ha! Get it? Spitter box!)

This has been a public service announcement. I'll be on my way, now, to take some Nyquil, put some lotion and cotton socks on my feet, count sheep, and wait for your comments about how ROPT works for you.

At the very least, I hope it cures your itchy et cetera. Keep me posted.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Pane & the Ass: Update

Hey, everyone, thanks for the outpouring of support, here and through e-mail, with websites, addresses, phone numbers, and advice on my windows issues.

I did allow a male friend to make a call to Midstate on my behalf. Here's an excerpt from The Hero's report:
At the beginning, D*** thought he had me on his side. Surely I could see things from HIS point of view, couldn't I? I parried inconsequentially allowing barbs directed at you to pass by without apparent friction—at least at first. He actually responded positively to my assertion he wouldn't accept that work in HIS house. "No he wouldn't" was the outcome. "Well, neither would I, D***. Neither would my business-owning friends. So, I gotta wonder, D***. Why'd you do it?" He implied it was because you were "cheap."
Grind, grind, grind <-- My teeth. He went on:
He called me a "modern-day Robin Hood: stealing from the honest and giving to the dishonest.
Repeat grinding.

If you've read previous comments, you'll know that the conversation between the boys escalated into what my friend The Rhinestone Cowgirl refers to as "tool time": Swinging tools, and she's not referring hammers and drills. When all was said and done, Mad Dog's advice to me was:
Losing situation, sadly. I am convinced in my own mind this company is rife with ineptitude. They ignored Business 101 classes down at the local community college and opted for the "caveman" business principle of "bashing with a large stick and hauling off the carcasses." A tawdry way of running a business (if they may indeed be referred to as a 'business.') I'm also quite alarmed at their (oddly suicidal) practice of speaking in such abusive and demeaning ways to individuals they've never met, nor sized up physically.
So. What to do, what to do?

Well clearly, I am not finished here. Baby, it's cold outside. I am remodeling, and I HAVE to move forward and get these windows taken care of. Oh, in their defense, Midstate has made it clear that they WILL rectify the situation.

For a fee. They don't just GIVE labor and materials away, what kind of businessman would do that?

Here are some tidbits from my last response to them, then, until I can calculate what it's actually going to cost me to straighten this out, and which actions I will ultimately be taking:
An honest attempt to straighten out some misunderstandings on my part has resulted in my being referred to cheap, dishonest, undereducated (as if I have only a 6th grade education], and conniving (trying to get something for nothing). You have also threatened my friends (suing them for slander...)..

...[A] mere "it's not in the contract, we will do nothing more for you, good day, Madam" would have been enough.

I will be contacting the attorney general and the better business bureau, primarily for the intimidating tactics you've used in attempting to convince me that sealing off the windows you installed in my home was not your responsibility.

But let the record show: I am neither dishonest, conniving, cheap, poor, or uneducated. When all is said and done here, I walk away shaking my head at your business tactics, wondering if your own life is fulfilled working for a nice guy like D***, if you both go home feeling good using your belittling tactics.

I have received two seemingly very polite phone calls from D*** since I sent that message along. He would like me to return his phone call; he has a proposal for me.

Eh, No thanks.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Here comes the Sun...

If you know me, you've probably already seen this picture. It's just too pretty not to show everyone. I grabbed a stepladder and a camera and took a road trip to this field in Decatur, Illinois, 2 summers ago. There was no taking a bad photo in this glorious place.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Tales Part Deux

Sit down.

I've been trying to decide whether I'm going to use this blog as an avenue for venting about my consumer woes, and have decided, HELL yeah! It SAYS it's about my encounters, doesn't it?

Here is the summarized response from the company that installed my new windows: I purchased cheap windows and would have to expect water coming in to my house. I can't possibly expect a dry, sealed off window.

Ok, it's been a LOT more drawn out than that, and I've been yelled at and belittled by some chick named Becky. Trimming and sealing the windows, I was told, was not in my contract.

I asked her "why would I want to replace leaky windows with leaky windows?"

And she replied, "I don't know. I'm not you."

Now THAT is service, don't you think? Midstate Siding and Windows has been done proud by this employee!

As you can imagine, the conversation went downhill from there. She offered to have more people call me, probably to explain to me how it is I am wrong to have expected my windows to be sealed off, instead of merely suspended in a hole in the wall. I said, sure, bring it on.

In the meantime, I'm tired of her avoidance and condescension, and I won't hold my breath waiting for some salesman's supervisor to get in touch. I'm sending out a registered letter tomorrow, with photos, demanding repairs and an apology. Better Business Bureau and Attorney General will hear from me, and, if this isn't fixed, so will small claims court.


I accidentally paid for a lofty car repair last week that should have been covered my extended warranty. Once we figured it all out, the HONDA people were downright merry at the prospect of setting this to rights, and getting my money back to me as soon as possible. YAY for Honda!!


Last January, I purchased a carpet remnant from Carpetmasters in Champaign, and had it cut down and bound into an area rug and 2 runners, for an odd-sized space. Unfortunately, the main rug curled up at all 4 corners, growing increasingly worse with summer's humidity. My initial phone call to the company to fix this was met with nothing but an apology. After my mother nearly killed herself tripping over a curling corner, I knew I had to dispose of the rug.

I wrote the company telling them how disappointed I was with the product, and mailed it on a Friday evening 4:00.

NEXT MORNING, 9:00, Cookie, the manager called me, and made it right, on the spot. They couldn't steam the rug down, so I was invited into to pick out new carpets, and 3 new rugs were made for me, at their expense.

I have yet to send her a letter of thanks, but I am impressed and grateful, that she'd stand by her product 10 months after selling it to me, and I will DEFINITELY be talking to Cookie again when this sunroom issue is rectified.

So, there's good in the world. Look at my cute, flat rug:

...last gift

Every Sunday, I take my mother out to lunch. I haven't written anything about my mother yet, but I intend to, because if there are angels walking among us, she is one, and you should know! If I were to give you a quick summary, I'd tell you that I look back on her a as wacky and fearless woman, providing, in her day, daycare to as many as 10 babies at once in a 3 bedroom house, falling in love with every single one of them, and crying her eyes out when one moved away, or had to actually, say, go to kindergarten.

She is shyer now, still sweet, but anxious. She is beginning to lose her memory. It is little things; a word here and there, and numbers frustrate her: "8" is obvious, she knows, but how does she write the numeral "teen"? Medication helps, but she is just as comfortable handing over her checkbook and bills, to me and my sister, to ensure that everything remains in order. We do what we can to take over and ease her panic. In the meantime, she is otherwise functioning fine, and we rejoice in her company.

SUNDAYS ARE A TRIP! We go, most Sundays to the same small Mexican restaurant, in which the waiters yell "Hey, Mama" and give her hugs, pat her shoulder. After lunch, we determine which errands need running, or just head out shopping. I drag her to my favorite cafe late in the afternoon, where she often has a chance to meet a few of my friends. She's quiet, but adores them, and loves going there. She will notice who is missing, and say "it's not as fun without ____" there, though she rarely speaks to ____.

There's more, but you get the idea, right? She's sweet and sunny and naive, and she's been talking to 2-year-olds for the last 45 years, and she will crack you up! I am 42 years old, and she will still make me look at a train, a plane, or a cow, on every roadtrip we take.

When I called her yesterday morning, she was giddy. "I have some surprises for you!!!" she said. I could just HEAR her doing a jig. "What? What is my surprise?" I tried to trick her. "I don't know! I don't know what it is!" she giggled.

Yah, Ok. Par for the course, Mom, although I know something's in store for me. When I arrive, she hands me THE softest micro-fiber throw I have ever felt. She has gone with my sister and some girlfriends and had a blanket-buying frenzy, she must share the wealth, these things are so warm and soft. YAY, it is heavenly; she bought one for Brian also.

"What" then, "is the surprise you don't know?" I ask her. She pulled a gift-wrapped package out of her purse. She found this box, as you see, labeled, "Love, Mom and Dad." She has absolutely no recollection which year she forgot to put this under the tree.

Can you imagine?!! We both look at the box as if it were the Holy Grail! It could be a child's gift! Was it for my teen years? Was my son even born when this gift was purchased? We know only one thing: It was Christmas 2000 or earlier, as my father passed away in 2001.

And this is not lost on me: Unless Mom stumbles across a cornucopia of lost Christmas gifts, which isn't likely, it is the last gift I will ever open that is signed, "Love Mom and Dad."

It doesn't really matter what was in the box, then, does it?

Monday, November 14, 2005

Excess Baggage

'Dja ever walk around putting more mental energy than is necessary into a thing?

This suitcase has been at the base of my neighbor's driveway since Friday afternoon. Just sitting there, no one has come or gone. It's bothering me the way shoes in the street bother me: what's the story behind them?

I am worrying about that luggage, and about my neighbors, whom I have never met. I imagine them having set about a long trip, and placed this piece of luggage on the top of the car, while they arrange the rest in the trunk. OFF to O'Hare airport in Chicago they go, joyously looking forward to their vacation in the Bahamas, or their honeymoon at Niagara Falls. With traffic, three hours before they arrange themselves in long-term parking, and find themselves perplexed: Where is the big suitcase? Where are our underpants?!!

I want to run over there and unzip just a bit and peek! Maybe there's ID in there, and I can call the owner—no money for me, please, solving the mystery is reward enough.

But, as I said, I don't know the people that belong to that driveway, and I don't want to appear the crazy screw-loose neighbor [and steal CJ's thunder], should I approach the thing and give it a tap with my toe.

Instead I'll just blog about it.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

...Tales of a Pink-Blond Homeowner

"You're such a girl"...recently commented my friend, MadDog, much to my amusement.

Boy-0-boy, that phrase has been on rewind-repeat in my head for the last 24 hours.

I purchased my 'lil house a little over a year ago. The former owner had done a general amount of maintenance and remodeling, which was a big selling point for me. Home maintenance isn't one of my strong points.

Oh, I'm a terrific homemaker and decorator, but I don't do wiring, plumbing, roofing, siding, window installation. Worse, even, is that I often can't even recognize when these things need to be done...or if they're done incorrectly.

I have a sunroom on the back of my house that consumes roughly 1/6 of my living space, so I've been working towards making it as functional as possible for the most months of the year. The windows to the sunroom, when I bought it, were disasatrous; it seemed as if each were picked up at different junkyards, none matched. Pine needles blew right into the room through the mis-aligned windows and frames. I had to seal the room off for my first winter here.

This summer I hired a BIG company to put 11 new windows in my sunroom. Windows are expensive, jack, and it was a somewhat stressful transaction for me.

There were a few red flags: When I phoned to schedule an estimate, the woman on the other line asked me, "Are you single?" The idea of her checking off a box on a form somewhere: "SINGLE", didn't sit well with me. I asked her, before getting off the phone, what difference it made. She said they require all homeowners to be at the estimate meeting. Hmph.

This particular company, a very large one, made me an offer I couldn't refuse. $2K, actually, to install 11 windows. I'd done some shopping at home depot, and the numbers seemed to make sense, so I signed up.

It was months before the work was actually done, but they were finally installed, and I thought them beautiful. I can begin the painting, carpeting. But first, I must hire someone to insulate the room, and perhaps add a heating duct to it.

I called an old friend starting a new business, Herman, to give me some ideas and estimates. He had plenty of ideas, and in the interim, he's shaking his head at the shoddy workmanship on the entire structure. Well, yes, even I can see that it was sort of a piecemeal project for whoever put this together; and I am trying to fix this now. Then, Herman said, "your windows are in some sad shape, that guy must have been a moron."

I am dumbfounded. My WINDOWS are in bad shape? I let it sink in for a few minutes before I meekly admit that my windows were just installed in August, and maybe he should show me what is wrong with them.

Herman has a fit, and drags me around to show me my window problems. The windows are not even sealed into the walls. They clearly do not fit, there is wood showing, and rain can run right into my walls. He brings me inside and stands me on a chair to show me that daylight is shining right through, around the outside of the windows. The tops and bottoms of 8 of my 11 windows look like this:

I am feeling like a little pink-haired girl in a dunce-cap; How can I not have seen this? It's very obvious; did I ever even go outside and inspect them?!! NO! I was on autopilot; I was pleased; the windows are done, I paid good money to have them done, and it didn't occur to me that Midstate Siding and Windows (heh heh hehhh) would have done anything less than a stellar job.

Herman is *thoroughly* annoyed, I have been taken for a ride. He insists, of course, that I get on the phone, and make them make this right or there will be hell to pay. I am deflated, now, and unsure of my abilities even to have that conversation. I honestly don't even know what to tell them is not right about the windows, or what I want them to do to fix them. Is there a part? a frame? is flashing something? I know only that I should be seething! Herman told me so, so I believe it!

I'm somewhat anxious; when the workmen last left here, they made me go through, I kid you not, a RECORDED exit interview: Is everything done to your satisfaction? YES, I said, happily.

While I'm not meek or stupid, I will probably call on the assistance of my knowledgeable men-friends to help me fight this battle if it become a battle. I can write a mean letter, and make phone calls, and this will be right.

I still wonder, though: Was SINGLE checked off somewhere?!! What if, on that initial phone call, I had lied, and suggested that there WAS a man of some sort in my house, a man that would be inspecting those windows, a man that would have said "I don't freakin' think so" on the exit interview, would those installers DARED to have walked away leaving sunlight and wind and water to rain to run right into my walls?

I'm disenchanted.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Pucker Up

Busy day today, working outside. Found myself eye-to-eye with this guy while I was carrying outdoor furniture from the back yard to the garage. While I sidled my way through the gate, I asked him, "please don't jump on my face."

He didn't, so I went back and asked him to smile for the camera. He was a real natural.