Friday, December 21, 2012

maybe it really is the end of the world

Our elected officials, ostensibly the people we think can best represent our interests, are acting like recalcitrant children.  The Republicans can't even get their own people to play well together, much less play nicely with the other team. And there is no end in sight to this temper tantrum.

After one of the most horrific episodes of gun violence ever, the NRA wants to energize its base to arm virtually everyone except those people on its "database of the mentally ill."  I believe that Wayne LaPierre, exec vp of the NRA, should be the first name in that database.  This man is truly delusional and dangerous and has a huge following through the NRA membership.  Scary.

And the pope rails against gay marriage in each of his recent addresses to his followers.  This hatred, this bigotry, from a man who is purportedly the personal emissary of god.

Are any one of these people in touch with reality?  Or have they been so taken with their self-centeredness and righteous anger that they are unable or unwilling to see anything but their own very narrow perspective?

I've not felt so hopeless since the Vietnam War.

Monday, December 17, 2012

My daughter posted this article - "A Day in the Death of America" - from the The Guardian, June 8, 2007 on her Facebook page.  Although it is from 2007 it is sadly still relevant today.  It follows one 24 hour period in the United States and the deaths due to gun in children under 19.   If the average number of gun deaths of children under 19 still stands at 9 as referenced in the article, and I have no reason to think that it has decreased, then since this article was published based on November 25, 2006 data,  that means that over 19,000 children have died due to guns (and don't give me that shit about 'guns don't kill people, people do.') And that doesn't even count those that were injured and maimed such as the two year old  little girl who was shot in the face, and her mother killed, last week in Washington as she was being held in her mother's arms boarding a city bus. 

How many more thousands of children will we sacrifice to placate our gun lobby?  It's a shame that the children don't have the deep monetary pockets to influence our politicians to do the right thing.   Every politician that has been swayed by the financial backing of the gun lobbyists should hang their heads in shame, as should those citizens who supported and voted for them.

When is the right time?

So, why, exactly, is it NOT the right time to get all political about gun control?  Why do people keep saying this?  When, exactly, would be the right time?  Never?  If I hear that comment one more time I will rip the cord out of the back of the television.  Let's use this anger and energy and outrage for some good.   And although there is tremendous shock to the killing of 20 six and seven year olds in their school, is it really less awful to have children killed and maimed one at a time by guns through random violence, accident, and design as happens every single day? 

And where is the outrage that a mother who had a son with acknowledged behavior and mental health issues - one news report I read said that she had told people he had Asperger's syndrome - had guns in her home?  Yes, she is dead and that's sad, but I can't feel all that bad for her as she did such a stupid, stupid thing.    In fact the current Connecticut gun laws had stopped the son from buying a gun, but the mother had them readily available to him. And she had assault weapons!  She was worried about her safety in her large home in her safest town in America?  Didn't she ever hear of intruder alarm systems that will summon the cops?  THEY have guns so you don't have to have them.

And some of the Republicans who now think that we should arm school personnel or have even MORE gun availability so we could shoot people we think are the bad guys.... This just leaves me speechless. 

And I know that there will not be sweeping change.  We will all wail and gnash our teeth and politicians will blather on and Christmas will come and this will fade from the news and maybe, just maybe, Congress will pass some watered down bill that will do little good because it has to pacify the card-carrying, gun-toting gun lovers, and some child will get shot and it will barely make the local news because it's not 21 children that were shot. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Just let me have a personal bitching moment

We have leaves in our yard.  Lots of leaves.  The entire yard is full of leaves.  You cannot see the brown grass underneath.  There are two schools of though on raking leaves.  Do a little at a time so you never have HUGE amounts to deal with or wait until every last leaf falls and do one enormous leaf job.  My husband subscribes to the wait until the last possible leaf falls philosophy.  I have mixed feelings and probably fall into the middle - do two leaf  clearings with one about halfway through the season and a final one once every leaf is gone.  My husband said he would clear the leaves, since I do all the summer yard mowing, planting and weeding, if I would take the giant leaf sucking machine to be repaired.  I did.  It is repaired and in the shed.  It is enormous and ends up to be so heavy with the now wet leaves that I can barely maneuver it around the yard    But the leaves have been gone from the trees for at least a couple of weeks now, easily before Thanksgiving, and he never got around to sucking them up.  We are now approaching Christmas and I  can no longer stand dragging them into the house with every footstep to say nothing about it makes our lovely home look abandoned.  I made a couple of observations about the leaves.  I moved to a couple of  reflections that he needed to get that job on his schedule.  I continued to using the shame that ours is now the ONLY house in the neighborhood to still have piles of leaves in the yard.  After he said, "I'm going to be giving a flying lesson on Saturday" and the weather forecast for Sunday is rain, I realized that this was NEVER going to get on his schedule. I finally gave in and said "If you'll teach me to get the giant machine started I'll try to do the leaves this week."  I thought that at that he might realize that he really had pushed me too far but instead he replied, "If you pull the machine into the garage today I'll give you a lesson when I get home."

I am considering moving into a condo, without him.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Noche Buena Menu

Guests - 20 - 25

Roast pork - purchased cook on Monday
meatballs - make on Sunday
Black beans - make on Sunday
Yuca and mojo - make on Sunday
Bread - go to BJ's

Need some other non-pork main dish - Maybe Chicken and Yellow Rice?  Make it ahead and heat in oven?  MEATBALLS!

Desserts -
guava pastries - buy at BJ's
pudin de pan - started thawing

Garlic Mushrooms
Olives - black and green, tuna, anchovy
Ham spread and crackers - make Sunday
Olive spread - make Sunday
Cheese and crackers
Plantain Chips
guava paste and queso blanco

It's pretty much the same every year,  Maybe I should just link to last years list.

It's time for a list

As the Christmas season gets into full-swing I feel like I'm falling behind.  This year I'm trying to not get insane with the shopping, rethinking, return cycle.  I've tried to just get things that the kids actually want/need and not worry about the "surprise" factor.  I really want to learn how to enjoy Christmas instead of dreading it.  But I feel like I'm approaching a critical period where a list is required to keep things in order.  So, bear with me for the next couple of weeks as I have my countdown.

  • Invites for Noche Buena - email and hand deliver.  Get Charlie's guest list.
  • Mail girls' packages.  
  • Have Daddy sign check and card for mailing.
  • Menu for Noche Buena
  • Decorate.   Can I get someone to help?  Maybe Sharon would have as much fun with tree decorations a she did with cookies?  Not exactly the activity you'd think to have a Jewish friend help with but maybe she's curious on what she's been missing out on.
  • Clean house.  Like really clean, not a lick and a promise.
  • Get Charlie to clear the leaves, before you do it yourself and then kill him.  I got the big blower repaired, the least he can do is push it around.
  • Order fresh ham on Friday for pick-up on Dec 21st.
  • Purchase Dragon Speak on Friday at Exchange - sale starts.order on-line as I was too late  to the sale
  • Today!  Buy children's books for bookclub and figure out a finger food to take to Margie's.
  • Wrap gifts Still waiting on delivery of a couple but everything in the house is wrapped!
  • Tidy D's room
  • Will I have time to make 1 more pair of slippers?

Friday, December 07, 2012

Book Recommendation - "The Betrayal" by Helen Dunmore

I love reading, but although I have a Kindle, I prefer books.  And I really prefer used books because I like the idea that they are being shared and enjoyed by many people.  I use to acquire and trade most of my books but that means I usually have to wait until what I have requested becomes available in the system.  Sometimes it is weeks and sometimes months before a book I have requested pops up.  "The Betrayal" by Helen Dunmore is such a book.  I remember reading a review one morning and putting in on my request list and then I forgot about it.  Not only did I forget about it, I didn't have any idea what the book was even about by the time I received it. Since I had forgotten why I had wanted to read it it kept getting pushed to the back of the reading list until this week and then I had to stay up late at night reading because I was so engrossed.

"The Betrayal" takes place in 1952 post WWII Leningrad.  The protagonists, who were introduced in an earlier book, "The Siege", have established a life as normal as one could in Russia during Stalin's time.  He is a doctor, she a nursery school teacher and her brother, who is almost young enough to be their child, live in an adequate apartment not shared by other families. They have plenty to eat and they are well respected in their professions  Then the doctor must treat the son of a senior secret police officer.  As a doctor he knows what he must do, as a husband and parent he knows the potential consequences. 

This book was riveting and very well researched.  She brilliantly describes the tension and fear that was part of everyday life.  It acts as a reminder that power and the powerful can do unspeakable things when left unchecked.

I was asked if I planned to read the earlier book, "The Siege", and I think not, because I think I would find it too upsetting given her amazing descriptive and evocative powers.  Does that even make sense that I would NOT want to read a book because it was TOO good?  But you should read "The Betrayal".

Sunday, December 02, 2012

homework assignment for this week

I am not a hoarder.  In fact, I'm noted for throwing things away, often things that I later realize that I need.  Once, in a frenzy of cleaning up I threw out my paycheck along with the some junk mail. But despite my tidy tendencies, I have a messy desk with paperwork that needs to be addressed - filed, reviewed and thrown out, sorted and organized.  And I doubt I could lay my hands on my will without going to the county offices where it is registered.  And there are some things I keep for no apparent reason.  It is just when my hand is over the trash can that I hesitate and pull back.  But as I start looking at my father's home through the lens of him moving, or dying, I realize that I need to do far more to get my act together.  Today's column by Michelle Singletary in today's Washington Post should be required reading by everyone, no matter what age or health status.  What a gift her friend gave to her friends...."A promise to a friend" by Michelle Singletary, Washington Post, Sunday, December 2, 2012.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thanksgiving review

I loved our Ann Arbor Thanksgiving, even if the dinner tasted like school cafeteria food and the turkey was dry.  The company was GREAT!  We went to Ann Arbor to be with the kids and that was all that was important.  Actually, Thanksgiving was our only bad meal and what can you expect when a restaurant is turning out probably over a thousand meals that day.

We arrived in Ann Arbor and found our lovely little VRBO studio apartment.  It was everything it was advertised to be and had even more charm than I expected.   As we arrived the owner was getting out of her car and had fresh croissants and cookies for us and a bottle of wine in the fridge!  It was lovely to have a place to entertain the children and we actually had dinner with the children there two nights - carryout food but a nice environment to sit and talk.

The girls apartment is fine - your standard 1960's garden apartment.  No charm, no storage, but the price is right.  They have tried to decorate and organize but, as mentioned before, they just don't quite get finished.  As long as they are happy it is fine but I did have to keep myself from digging into the kitchen clutter and reorganizing.

One thing that they love about Ann Arbor is the food.  Thanksgiving dinner notwithstanding all our other meals in AA were fabulous - Barrys Bagel's, the Coney Island Diner, the Middle Eastern gyros, the Detroit dog - you'll never go hungry in that town.  And Ann Arbor has everything you need, including a nice downtown filled with cute shops and a wonderful farmer and craft market (think Portland Saturday Market on a manageable scale).

We did a driving tour of Detroit since I had lived there in 1969 and wanted to see my old  house.  Where I  had lived, near Wayne State University, actually looks better than when I was there and my old house has been turned into a high-end bed and breakfast, but the rest of the city is indescribable devastation.  Really, you think you've seen pictures of what it's like?  No, pictures cannot capture the look of a city of such despair.  And the sheer scope and size of it.  Not just one neighborhood of vacant lots, burned homes, falling down buildings, and the occassional occupied home, but miles and miles and miles.  Whole neighborhoods that now have a handful of occupants.  No people, no cars. But the odd thing was that there wasn't any street trash either.  It looked clean, without litter. I guess there are no people left to litter.   I cannot imagine how it can transform into anything.  It looked like a scene out of the TV show "Life After People" on the History channel.  And then in an hour you are back in Ann Arbor which is a charming, amazing, vibrant place.

So now I need to plan another trip, maybe in the spring or summer when it isn't so cold.  And I'll also hope that Katie gets a good offer from UM after this post-doc and they can stay on forever in The People's Republic of Ann Arbor.

Monday, November 19, 2012

of this and of that

I was so caught up in the election, and so relieved when Obama won, that I find myself rather at loose ends. The "Real Housewives and Generals" show is taking up some of my internet time.  It really does read like a reality TV episode, and since apparently there was no actual crime except terminal stupidity and hubris, is great fun.  I do feel so sorry for Holly Petraeus and hope that she has the good sense to sue his ass for divorce, and that she hires a good shark lawyer.

I've spent the last two weeks in Florida, visited family and friends in South Florida and had a bit of fun at the beach.  I visited with a good friend whose husband has established a medical cycle of "could die tonight" and then bounces back to "when he goes to rehab and returns home".  She has been living this nightmare for months as the cycle apparently goes in two week increments.  She is a wreck and another friend and I did an "intervention" to help her establish some sanity in this insanity.  A person cannot live in "high alert" mode indefinitely.  I think we helped her ask some local friends for help and that we got her to see that she has to accept this craziness as her "new normal" and establish her personal schedule that gives her some time to regroup and refresh.  I think that we did some good but I'm certain she'll need a refresher course before long.

Now back home and getting ready to head to the girls for Thanksgiving.  Although we are staying in a privately owned studio apartment that I found on VRBO they are planning meals (think restaurants, not them cooking), and outings.  I like that they want to show off their new city to us as it means that they are finally settling in to their new life.  And son is joining us there so we will all be together!

It seems odd not to be planning and cooking Thanksgiving although I can't say that I'm disappointed in the least.  I am trying to get everyone to understand the need for new traditions, or at least not holding on hopelessly to old traditions that no longer meet your needs. 

So, Happy Thanksgiving everyone. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

We escaped unscathed

Since all the trees fell down last summer during the derecho our neighborhood emerged unscathed from Hurricane Sandy.  Power flickered but never went out, wind blew, rain came down, we slept in basement and woke this morning to a normal rainy day. 

I can't even imagine the devastation in New York City where you could be high in the sky with no power, no water, and no hope.  It really would be like the end of the world.

Monday, October 29, 2012

I just started putting food back into the freezer

After last summer's derecho wind storm when I had to throw out EVERYTHING from my refrigerator and upright freezer, I decided to delay restocking anything until the end of hurricane season.  Although we generally don't get hit by hurricanes we did have one in August 2011 and I decided not to tempt fate for the remainder of this summer.  So only recently I started slowly restocking the freezer.  Safeway had a great sale on shrimp, another sale on steak....  So  the freezer is not too full but it has some high cost items in it.  And now, Hurricane Sandy!   I've moved all the lawn furniture and plants into the porch, put batteries in all theflashlights, checked the oil supply for the oil lamps, pulled out the box of candles, and stocked up on wine.  Now we are eating our way through the freezer before we lose power.   Saturday was steak, last night was shrimp, tonight it will depend on if we have electricity or not. 

And my father!  He refuses to leave his home and stay with us.  So I've put batteries in his radio and flashlights, bought cans of soup in case he loses power and just have to hope for the best.   His basement may flood and there is nothing we can do about that and I hope the 300 year old tree in the yard doesn't fall on the house.

My hope is that since so many trees fell in our neighborhood during the derecho the ones still standing are strong and sturdy and that the power lines that came down and were replaced are also sturdy.  But I know that no power line can hold back a falling tree and in my heavily wooded neighborhood I think we are sunk.

Friday, October 26, 2012

my hope for this election

My hope for this election is that it will re-energize the women's movement.   Hopefully the generations of young women who have benefited from what was accomplished in the 1960's and 70's, will now see how precious these changes are and how quickly they could be taken away.  Many young women today, with some exceptions like Sandra Fluke, have seemed complacent about the short history of the women's movement and the tenuous hold we have on Roe v Wade, contraception, workplace rights, credit rights, etc.  They have never lived under the restrictions both legal and cultural that we faced pre-1970's and so have no context for life without those protections.

A friend sent me this YouTube vide and it made me want to sing along.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Amongst some of my friends I've gotten the reputation of being a picky eater.  This is amusing since 1) I'll eat almost any kind of foodstuff, and 2) it is coming primarily from a friend who has declared herself gluten free and is always on some kind of bizarre diet which generally restricts her food choices to ice cream and Fritos.

What I am picky about is where I eat my food and with whom.  I do not eat at buffets unless it is my only choice and I am quite literally starving to death.  The idea of all the hands on the serving utensils, the utensils falling into the pans, people breathing, coughing, smelling, ....... you get the picture.  We recently went to a 170 item buffet as part of a conference "fun night".  Take it from me, you should never go to a restaurant where you are greeted by a pirate, "Ahoy, matey!   Arggg!"  It met all my expectations and more.  I drank iced tea and ate three fried shrimp taken from the way back of the pan.

Another of my eating issues is going in large groups and having people try to split the check.  Just order modestly along with the rest of the group, restrict your drink order to a glass of wine (and if you have more throw in extra money), and prepare to divide the check equally.  Do not get pissy over not having a cup of coffee at the end of the meal, do not insist that the tip be no more than 15, or 18 or whatever measly percent you allow the server, do not start exclaiming over that outrageous tax rate in whatever city you are in.  Just pay your share of the damn bill.  These large group dinners were common when I was traveling for work and I dreaded them to the point where I once told one of the offenders, when the group was going to a very nice restaurant that I often frequented, that I wasn't going with them because I didn't want to be associated with the group since I wanted to be welcome back to the restaurant when I went there the next time.  They thought it was a joke.  It wasn't.

I also have an issue with restaurants that are so loud you literally cannot hear yourself talk, much less the other guests at the table.  I never thought restaurant reviews would come with decibel ratings but here in DC they do.  It the decibel rating is too high I just don't go there.

So, does this make me a picky eater?  I think not.  I prefer to call it discerning.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

DIY project list

Today I happened to glance at the list on my sidebar of the DIY projects that I posted last spring:
  • Frame sailing picture
  • Frame Sedona poster
  • Plant flowers front yard
  • Plant shrubs, etc around deck
  • Herb garden - where to place?
  • Wash windows - after yellow pollen season
  • Paint bedroom
  • Tile backsplash mudroom - learn to tile project
  • Tile backsplash - kitchen
I have only  completed two of the projects - plant flowers in front yard and the herb garden - and even they weren't very successfully completed. For the flowers in the front I was planting perennials as I hate planting things and only wanted to have to do this once but the combination of a drought and heat killed most of what I planted so I'll have to do this again next year.  The herb garden, although in the proper location, was also not a success as the drought and some teeny tiny bugs got into the plants.  Since these were herbs and I didn't want to use any pesticide, the plants were pretty well munched on before I got to use much.

Maybe I can claim that I made progress on the two framing projects as I did get a super catalog from an artist friend where I can get the pre-cut materials for the huge frames I need that will be far cheaper than using a frame shop, and easier than a total frame-it-yourself project.   Now I need to get around to ordering the materials.  The painting/washing/tiling projects are still waiting for some action.  I've found the tile I want and now need the courage to try to put it on the wall.

I should probably revisit my to-do list a little more often if I want to make any progress.

I. am. so. tired.

I am so tired of this election.  I am so tired of lies coming from Mitt Romney.  I am so tired of the hateful rhetoric from the Republicans, and some of the Democrats, too.  Can"t we all act like grown-ups and 1) tell the truth, and 2) avoid the "gotcha" mentality, and 3) be polite and follow the rules.  These are lessons that we supposedly learned in kindergarten. 

I live in Virginia where almost all the TV ads are political.  Sometimes they show the same one two or three times in succession without a break.  And our senatorial race is very contentious also so we have those ads, too. Kaine, a reasonable very middle-of-the road Democrat vs Allen, a bigot and blow-hard of the first order.  Both were former governor's of the Commonwealth of Virginia.  The seat they are seeking is currently held by Jim Webb, a Democrat, who narrowly defeated Allen, the then incumbent, in 2006.   So for Allen this is really a grudge match and his thugishness shows.  He also has the smugface of Romney.  The two of them just have a face I want to slap.

I have been reduced to watching only shows available through Netfix, Hulu, and on-demand in order to avoid the political ads. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

busy busy

It's very nice to be busy having a good time.  We just returned from a trip to Myrtle Beach, SC where husband had a conference.  I loved being in a beautiful beachfront hotel and not having to do presentations or attend meetings.  It was a totally new experience!  We had fabulous weather - 80's and sunny - and I met some very interesting people.  From there we drove to my sister-in-law's home to celebrate her birthday weekend and had a good time visiting family.  Foxnews on the TV 24/7 was a bit off-putting but she didn't comment on our bumper sticker and we didn't comment on her yard sign.  The amazing thing is that she and her husband are living strictly on social security and have no savings to fall back on and she just doesn't see that they are the ones that will be losers should Romney win. 

Back home to a nice lunch with a friend and my bookclub meeting.  Next up getting ready for a trip to Peaks of Otter with friends this weekend.  I have purchased a mexican train dominos game to pass the time while we are there since it is pretty isolated with no TV, internet access, or phones.  It's kind of like camping in a hotel.  Before we leave I'll make a trip to Trader Joe's for wine and snacks and we will have the makings of a good party.  The mexican train dominos are a fun game although I really can't remember the rules or strategies.  When I played last I was both exhausted and drunk and didn't grasp the nuances of the game.  In fact, I abandoned my team and went to sleep on the sofa. 

The next trip is another conference at the beach!  YES!  and this one is in Fort Lauderdale so we can combine it with another visit to see family.  How lucky is that!  and I'm planning to stay at our beach place for some extra days to visit with a friend who is dealing with a critically ill husband.  She has lots of friends in Florida but I think she needs a friend from 'home' for a little while.   

And finally, Thanksgiving in Ann Arbor.  Plane tickets are bought and I've booked a studio apartment through VRBO.  Never tried Vacation Rentals by Owner but figured this was a good first trip to try it.  If we get there and it is a scam we can always sleep on KT and G's blow-up bed and I'm not out much of a deposit.  If it is good then I'll have discovered a great place for our future trips to Ann Arbor.  I really like finding funky little places to stay - I have  favorites in San Jose, Los Angeles and Portland, OR that are small little places that have funky charm, good locations, and cheap.

My next few weeks are pretty packed which will help keep me from being depressed at the coming winter.  Today I had to put on the slipper socks that I crocheted a couple of weeks ago and my feet are glad I was pro-active in getting ready for the cold.

Friday, September 28, 2012

I would really like to support local small business but....

I find it very difficult sometimes. Most of the stores in my neighborhood are chain stores - grocery, major discount retailers, etc. - but every now and then I have an opportunity to support locally owned small retailers.  Today was one of those opportunities.  I needed a replacement heating element for my bathroom heater.  The two major hardware stores nearby only sell complete units so I would need to go to a small repair firm to get the part. 

I called the first one on my list.  They were able to locate the part number after I gave them the model number of the heater unit.  Then they told me I would need to mail them a check to an address across town and then after they received and cashed the check they would order the part.  They had no idea how long it would take for me to get it.  Since in this scenario they had my money and I did not have my heater part, I called the next shop on my list.

This shop kept telling me that I had a bad model number.  They were pretty insistent that it was wrong.  Actually it isn't wrong, it's just an old discontinued unit.  She told me once I could provide the "right" model number or the part number they would order it.  I never got as far as the payment practices because I didn't have the "right" number.

So finally, I resorted to the internet.  After I plugged in the model number and the word "heating element" up popped a nice internet store website that 1) showed all the different model numbers that this heating element would fit, 2) had the same price (only a few pennies less) than the price quoted to me by shop number 1, and 3) would take my credit card number and ship it immediately.  Since it is getting colder here and this is the only source of heat for our bathroom, I placed my order.  The entire transaction took about 2 minutes. 

So much for our local businesses.  I didn't use internet shopping on a price decision, I used it on a service decision. The human service I was receiving was just unsatisfactory.

Friday, September 21, 2012

I actually feel kind of sorry for Ann Romney

Although I think that she is a terrible, thoughtless, and rude person, I sort of feel sorry for her, too.  She's been made to be a main player in Mitt's campaign, required to meet, greet, and sell Mitt to the public.  Unfortunately it isn't a job for which she is well suited and it shows.  And it probably isn't something she ever wanted to have to do.  I'm certain she liked her pampered life where everyone took care of her every need, she had so much money and influence that no one ever disagreed with her point of view (at least not to her face), and where everyone thought that she, and Mitt, and the Mittens were just so perfect.  Her tantrums, and I'm certain that she's had many, were behind the solid closed doors of their home and not on public display. 

Now her life and her tantrums are public fodder.  I know how hard it is to bit your tongue, smile, memorize people's names and children's names, and make pleasant, inane conversation with people you hope never to see again.  It's hard and tiring and grates on your last nerve.  And in her case results in her saying something awful. I sometimes think she might be doing some of this subconsciously hoping that it will torpedo Romney's election chances, because if he would win this is her life in the public eye for the next four years.  She doesn't have the grace and the intelligence to handle the job of wife of a presidential candidate much less the job of First Lady, and I think she knows it.  I hope her plan works.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

"Wish Me Luck" - Netflix streaming recommendation

I got into the "Downton Abbey" craze late  in the cycle.  I missed the entire first season and by the time I caught up on that season the second season was in full swing.  I watched the second season in one marathon day before it was removed from the PBS website.  While suffering withdrawal, I searched on Netflix for other British shows I may have missed and I can highly recommend "Wish Me Luck", a fascinating 23 episode British show from 1988-90 about women who are recruited as British spies working with the French resistance in WWII.  Although it was a bit off-putting to have all the French characters speaking in British accents, while the Germans did have German accents, it was a fascinating look at how spy networks operated and assisted with the Resistance.  An excellent summary is available from Wikipedia -

Making it even more fascinating for me was that my neighbor, now deceased, had been awarded the Croix de Guerre for his work in France with the French Resistance.  I could just imagine kind, methodical Mr. Green, as one of the unassuming characters who were quietly doing some of the most dangerous work imaginable.

And I've always wondered if Mr. Green was actually Mr. Green or if that was a pseudonym that he had to assume.  My husband and I had always had a theory that Mr. Green was actually a CIA controller for another neighbor who was the operative.  Small things that to us just didn't make sense, when added up gave us a great theory (and I still maintain that it is true).  When I got the full story of his life at his funeral it made my theory even more plausible.  Early career as a communications person in the Army, Croix de Guerre for work in Occupied France, following WWII joined the OSS (predecessor to the CIA), and then spent most of his career with the State Department stationed in Africa and the Middle East, and a final posting in DC where he would meet the planes of foreign dignitaries and top US staff at all hours of the day and night.  (Hmmm, I wonder who was really on those planes???)

There was much mystery to Mr Green although at the end he lived a quiet suburban life with his wife and daughter. He was also a wonderful friend and the neighbor that my children always knew was the person to go to in case of emergency.  The rule at our house was that if there was an emergency, fire, whatever, you should run to Mr. Green's house - it was our own version of a safe house.

So, back to "Wish Me Luck"  - I highly recommend it.  Even though the people seem a bit too well dressed and well fed to have really been in Occupied France, the story line is based on some real people and real events and it is a much better use of your time in front of the TV that most of what is currently being produced.

Monday, September 17, 2012

my HGTV weekend

Front yard in progress.  

If I ever had any idea that fixing up old houses would be fun I've been disabused of that notion.  Although I obsessively watch home and garden tv and I do love a good project, tackling the minor fix-ups of KT and G's house to get it ready to rent was a three day extravaganza of cat hair.  They have, or I should say, KT has, two cats.  They shed ALL THE TIME.  And no one ever cleans thoroughly enough to rid the house of cat hair.

We started with cleaning out the stuff they left behind, including the singleton shoes (I wonder if they have the mates in Ann Arbor?), stuff left in the back of closets, and one of their good plates that I found on the back porch.  After filling a couple of garbage bags it was on to cleaning floors, walls, baseboards, and radiators of a sheer fuzz of cat hair.  That was before you could actually do anything else because every step you took, every breath you took, made the cat hair fly around.  So after sweeping and wiping all the surfaces Charlie took a final run through with the shop vac which has enough suction to vacuum up the entire cat.  Then we started on cleaning all the walls of dirt, smudges, streaks, etc.  They came out looking great and there is no need to paint.  Thank goodness for using good paint when it was last painted. 

Then I attacked the painting of the bathroom.  It had been completely redone last year after a major shower leak but they never got around to painting it.  They had selected a nice grey tone with looks really good with the black and white tiles and black grout.  My other painting project was to clean and paint the spot in the living room ceiling where the water had leaked from the bathroom.   I was able to get the spot cleaned up and painted but the texture of the paint doesn't match the rest of the ceiling.  I didn't bother to repaint the entire ceiling but it does bother me that it is slightly off.

Doesn't the kitchen look pretty!
Next on to cleaning the kitchen.  Opening the refrigerator was a surprise and included finding cat hair!  It looked like they still lived there including the box with the leftover pizza (which we ate for lunch) and I did appreciate the Natty Boh's that they left (National Bohemian beer for those of you not familiar with the famous beer of Baltimore).  The cabinets had all sorts of half-empty pasta boxes but after finding some  meal moths I discarded everything because I didn't want to take any home with me.  I also bug sprayed the kitchen cabinets so that the next person won't have that problem.  I used a great new bug spray that doesn't smell and lasts a year!  It was easy to do since the cabinets were all empty.

Charlie tackled lots of small repairs just to make the house look a little more "finished".  The girls have a tendency to get almost done with a project and stop just short of the last step.  My favorite "not quite done" example is one new knob for the kitchen cabinet I found with all sorts of assorted hardware items left in a kitchen drawer.  In the mix of assorted stuff I saw a knob that matched their cabinet knobs and I thought "Oh, they must have miscounted when they replaced them."  Then I looked up and saw that one cabinet still had the old knob on it.  In 30 seconds I replaced it with the new knob. 

Our final effort was to get all the tangle of weeds and vines cleared from the back yard.  This was the project that I most dreaded and it was surprisingly easy.  It seems that an earlier owner had put down that black fabric to keep weeds from growing.  It didn't keep the weeds from growing but it did keep them from growing deep roots so you could almost roll the vines up like a carpet.  We now have the yard down to dirt.  Not hugely attractive but at least you don't fear what may be living in the underbrush.

We did three solid days of work and now the house is cute as a button.  We had a lot of traffic looking at it while we were there, especially since the property manager had given the address in the craiglist ad and we got a lot of walk-ins.  I could assure the people that the parking situation is easy and the neighborhood is safe, especially the family that was looking at an apartment for their two college-age daughters.  I know that there are at least two applications for the house and, hopefully, we will get good news soon that it is rented.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

thoughts while mowing the lawn #3

  • I will really miss the girls when they are no longer in Baltimore. They leave on Thursday and we won't have a chance to see them again before they leave.  We saw them rarely while they lived in Baltimore but I knew that they were there, a mere hour away.  Close enough so that you didn't need to make airline reservations, and plan a trip in advance, and make it into a big deal.  Close enough that I knew that it was just possible that they might come down to DC to visit friends and spend the night with us.  Close enough that I could enjoy our time together instead of worrying about how soon it would be over. 
  • I actually like mowing the lawn but I hate edging and the sidewalk is getting overgrown by the grass.  How can I convince Charlie that he should pick up the edger occasionally?
  • Today is 9/11 and it is a beautiful, clear, blue-sky day just like in 2001.   I hear a plane overhead and remember well that fall when the only planes I would hear were the fighters patrolling the sky over our house.  Every night the drone put me to sleep. Something had to since Charlie was away on AF duty, and the children were away at school and there was nothing to do but listen to it.   It was a horrible constant reminder that life had changed forever.  But at the time I had no idea that I had more to fear from our country's reaction to the tragedy than I did from the terrorists. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

my election conumdrum

OK, I'm a Democrat but I actually have voted for a few Republicans in my day.  Senator John Warner of Virginia I liked, and I'm certain that there was somebody else sometime.  But now I think I've become a yellow-dog Democrat.  I can find no common ground with any of the Republicans because they have become not just mis-guided but are actually evil. 

I have a few friends who are Republicans.  We don't discuss politics and never have and they would do anything for me, but now I wonder do they condemn my lesbian daughter?  Are they uncomfortable around my African-Amercian best friend?  Do they shop at the more expensive grocery store because they really like spending more money than necessary for food or because they are afraid to go to our local stores which are full of immigrants from South America and Africa?  I find that I am now looking at these friends differently than I did in the past.  I look at them and I no longer see friends, I see bigots.  But really, these are nice people who go on mission trips, who volunteer their time, who would never say anything bad about a specific person because of their color, or origins, or their sexual orientation but who feel perfectly justified condemning groups of people.  But am I guilty of the same thing?  I like my friends but I deplore the Republicans.  And if they support Romney/Ryan aren't they supporting bigotry against the people who need our help - the elderly, the poor, the disabled, the struggling, the people of color?  And how can I be friends with a bigot?

Saturday, September 08, 2012

to use up the last of the zucchini

Actually I have no garden so have no surplus of zucchini but they were a great price at the grocery this week.  I found this recipe in the Washington Post and gave it a try.  I must admit that I made some changes based on what I actually had on hand but it still turned out to be delicious.  I used a mix of fresh Italian parsley and curly parsley since my Italian parsley has been stunted by our drought but you just can't kill curly parsley.  I used less feta since I didn't have 1/2 cup feta, and I used dried dill since I had no fresh dill.  Oh, I also substituted a bit (not nearly a half cup) of yellow onion for the scallions.  Also, their zucchini must be far bigger than mine as I used 1 1/2 half average size zucchini, which measured at 1 1/2 cups before I took the water out, and we got about 7 patties from it. The only thing I would do is use more salt as I had to add salt at the table.  Maybe if you used the requested feta it would have a saltier taste.  But, this was quick, easy and forgiving.  I would definitely put this on my "ways to use up zucchini" list.

 Zucchini Cakes with Feta
From the Washington Post. Adapted From Bon Appetit
Makes 12-18 patties, depending on size
11 / 2 cups coarsely grated zucchini (from about 1 large)
1 tsp salt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
½ cup (or more) all-purpose flour
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
1 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
½ cup chopped green onions
1 ½ tablespoons chopped fresh dill
½ cup (about) olive oil
½ cup (about) grapeseed oil
Plain Greek yogurt (optional, for dipping) 
Toss zucchini and ½ teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Let stand 5 minutes. Transfer to a sieve. Press out excess liquid; place zucchini in a dry bowl. Mix in egg, egg yolk, ½ cup flour, cheese, and ½ teaspoon salt. Mix in parsley, onions and dill. If batter is very wet, add more flour by the spoonful.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of grapeseed oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, drop batter by rounded tablespoons into skillet. Fry patties until golden, 5 minutes per side, adding more oil as needed. Transfer to paper towels. Serve with yogurt.
Can be made 1 day ahead. Place on baking sheet, cover and chill. Rewarm uncovered in 350 degree oven for 12 minutes.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012


I love summer.  I've always loved summer and have never understood those people who say that they look forward to the crisp days of fall.  Fall is such a transition time and transitioning to winter is depressing to me so the approach of fall is always a disappointment. I've noticed the days getting shorter, hearing the children playing outside in the twilight because it is now dark before bedtime.  I've watched the calendar creep slowly to September. School started today and in a couple of weeks we may even need a sweater on cool nights.  It happens quickly here.  Just as we plunge directly into summer, we sink profoundly into fall and start our slow descent into winter.

My father is also transitioning to needing more attention.  His failing sight means he can't do many of the things that he enjoyed, Although he can see around his house, and most of the TV,  he no longer can do things that require close work, especially using the internet to watch his stock portfolio, read stupid jokes, and keep in touch with friends through email.  I now spend a few hours each day doing these things for him and I think he hopes I'll eventually learn how the stock market works if only we go over the P/E, the EPS, and Yield one more time.  He's been trying to teach me for years and refuses to admit that it just makes absolutely no sense to me.  He truly fears the transition of his stock portfolio to me as much as I do.  But a bigger transition is his transition to OLD.  At 91, he still remains amazingly healthy except for his sight issues but that loss is truly a descent to being needy.

And the transition of K and G to their new life in Ann Arbor.  The movers arrived today.  We went to Baltimore yesterday to dismantle the bed frame so it could get down the narrow staircase of their row house.  They were madly packing random stuff into random boxes and not labeling anything.  The mother in me wanted to give directions on why knowing what was kitchen stuff, versus bedroom stuff, versus basement stuff might be useful but then I just shut my mouth and said "Why don't we take a break and dad and I will take you out to dinner."  We all enjoyed dinner.  They are still transitioning into adults and I've got to let them do that on their own.

And I need to transition to some new activities and interests.  I've gotten lazy this summer and need to establish a new schedule which includes more than laundry, cleaning, and my father. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

we interrupt this political campaign to go to the other most annoying thing in my life

which as you all know is my father.   Due to his deteriorating sight he has become much more dependent on me to provide his information and entertainment.  I know that he would rather be doing this himself and that he hates having to ask me to do these things.  I know that I feel terrible for him and I have been doing research and consulting with low vision specialists to find tools and equipment that will make his life easier.  I know that I am doing everything and more than can reasonably be expected.  That is everyone that is reasonable, and that does not include my father.

I have been getting him books on tape, actually books on CD and MP3 books, so that he has some entertainment besides the television, which, thankfully, he can still sort-of watch. (He can definitely hear it since he keeps the volume at ear-splitting levels at all times, even when he has his hearing aids in.)  I've selected some books for him and provided them in all kinds of formats - CD's for his CD player, I've gotten him an MP3 player for some of the other books so he can sit in a room other than where the CD player is located, and I've managed to put up a home media server so he can actually selected and listen to books from his TV.  I spend about 4 hours each day doing little things for him, or just sitting around waiting for instructions from him.  I also visit the library almost daily to get new books because he goes through them so fast.  I don't believe he actually listens to them for content but he seems to be enjoy them nonetheless.  But, he only wants books about New York City in the time period when he was growing up.  I understand why enjoys them so much, but does he understand that 1) there are limited books on tape about that time period, and 2) I spend half my waking hours researching said books, and 3) even when I find one that is in the catalog of audio books at county library, it is not available at my local library and I have to wait for them to transfer it to me?  NO.  He wants what he wants and he wants it now.  And when I fail to produce I am made to feel like I've let him down and that the six other books that I've painstakingly selected are not acceptable.

So if any of you have suggestions for books and authors who write about New York City, the Bronx, or even Brooklyn, the history of New York, or any time period about New York other than post 9/11, please let me know.  I'm getting pretty desperate.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Friday, August 17, 2012

At least Jonas grew up!

I Was A Teenage Objectivist! | The New Republic

This article was written by one of my daughter's dearest friends.  They were great friends through high school, even through their numerous spats, and continue to be best friends to this day.  If you read the article note that one of the "two girls in my AP English class" was my daughter and the other was her best friend.

Jonas grew out of his teenage fascination with objectivism although if you read his resume you'd think he was a prime candidate to be a wealthy, conservative, me-me-me kind of person.  Attended prestigious college and graduate schools;  editor of every college and graduate school publication that counted; got a highly prized and highly paid position following his pricey education;  tall, handsome, funny - the whole package.  He should be running for office on his looks alone.  But he is most importantly a nice and thoughtful person. 

If only Romney and Ryan would also grow up.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I went to college in one of those ubiquitious small mid-western church related liberal arts colleges.  How I ended up there is its own story but I was there in southeast Ohio for four years where we did all those standard rural college things like having parties in the cow pastures.  Actually, after I got over the first shock of being in a town with literally one gas station, one pharmacy, one barber shop, a dry-cleaners, and the co-op which was a combination grocery and anything else you may need hiding in there someplace store (think general store of old), I actually learned to like it. This was the late '60s and things were exploding all over the place.  We were not immune from those news stories.  Although we didn't have television (the only tv I remember was in the student union where we all gathered when they read out the draft lottery numbers.)  we did read newpapers and magazines in the library. I remember having to have a signup sheet for the Washington Post and the New York Times.

I met very nice people who came from mostly Ohio, Pennsylvania and, for some reason I still don't understand, New Jersey. We all had similar economic backgrounds which was very lower to middle middle-class. Our parents worked hard and had saved money to get us to college and we all had some kind of job to help pay our bills (I had the best job on earth as the language lab attendant on FRIDAY afternoons. Do you know how many people showed up at the language lab on Friday afternoon? Exactly zero. So I basically got paid to do homework.)

I am not good at keeping up with people and in those days it was harder than now. You had to write letters as phone calls were expensive, and I left Ohio on graduation day never to return.  I have made contact with a couple of people through facebook and now I lurk on other former classmates facebook pages.  So far I haven't found anyone who is not politically very liberal and I have a sense of wonder and almost awe regarding that.

Is it that we were forming our political conscience during the Vietnam War?  or that we received  strong ethical foundations? (I hesitate to say moral because that has been co-opted by bigots.)  Or was it that we were part of a strong middle class background and we understood the advantages we had been given and were grateful and wanted to do our pay back by doing good for others?  By any measure we did not attend a "liberal" school but of everyone I've stalked we are all very liberal.  I hope that the school is still managing to instill a social conscience in their students.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Becoming a biker chick

After a number of times around our condo parking lot I decided that I would never get the courage to actually go out on a street with my new little scooter.  Going 10 mph in a straight line is one thing, going 35 mph in traffic and needing to make turns was quite another. So I signed up for the motorcycle safety course that is required for all motorcycle drivers in the state of Florida. I'm not required to have the class because my little scooter is only 49 cc (whatever that means. I think it means can only go slow.) but it is recommended and I think that is the only way I'll get the courage to actually leave the parking lot.

I did my first classroom session last night and I've done my homework and my first driving portion is tomorrow at 7 am - get up at 5 am, leave for location at 6 am, start learning to bike at 7 am!  I've bought some cute boots (required) at JC Penney, and I've pulled together a some jeans, a jacket, and some gardening gloves.  They will have a helmet and a scooter for me at the location.  At least I hope they have a scooter because I really don't want to have to learn to ride a motorcycle.

The people in my class run the gamut of the young kid who is learning to ride, the young adult who just moved here and had to sell his car to get the money to move so now is getting a motorcycle for cheap transportation, to the older guys who rode when they were young and are now looking for that youthful adventure again. There is one other woman whose husband rides a motorcycle and wants her to have her own so she doesn't just look at the back of his head on their trips. 

So I have class all day tomorrow and Sunday.  By Sunday night I'll either be listing my scooter on craigslist or I'll be buying an expensive helmet and taking to the streets!

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Great fun! Now I need to learn how to turn corners. If I could just go straight forever I'd be fine.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Getting ready to go to the beach

We hadn't planned to go to the beach this summer as things were very busy and schedules kept shifting.  Finally, we found a weekend that Husband was available so we booked flights for a quick trip. He'll be there for the weekend and I'll stay for two weeks.   As much as I hate to admit it I think that two weeks is going to be my new beach trip length.   No more four and five weekers will be possible because now that my father doesn't drive I need to be around for the errands etc.  As Husband pointed out I can just make more short trips but that does get expensive.  Oh well.  It will all work out fine and I'm getting an unexpected trip now.

We have some friends joining us from Miami for the weekend.  They are bringing me a very, very cool motor scooter!  It's an old Honda scooter, looks like a Vespa, that their kids used in high school and college.  Now that no one is using it they wanted it out of the garage.  Can you just picture me tooling around on an orange motor scooter?  This will be so cool.  I guess I will need to get some sort of helmet as I may fall off at least once or twice as I'm learning to ride it.  But it just suits my beach fantasy..... Pictures will follow.

Now I must go find the phone number of the shutter repairman as one of our guests has over-rolled the storm shutter (for the second time!) and I need to have it fixed while I'm there.  It is stuck in the up position which is good when I"m there but not so good with some tropical weather forming in the Atlantic. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Life with an elderly teeager

My father, to whom you have been previously introduced, is not an easy or particularly nice person.  The face he shows to the world is a completely different person than the one that can emerge when he doesn't get his way or is angry.  He is always self-centered and self-involved, failing to see anything from someone elses perspective.  To keep him happy I walk on eggshells using my best "dealing with teenagers" strategies, knowing that I can't MAKE him do the right thing but hoping that I can get him to want to do the right thing on his own. I usually fail.

Usually I am just exasperated with him but today I am ashamed of him.  The story is so selfish that I cannot believe I am related to him.  It all started when he made the decision that he should no longer drive. It was the right decision and he made that decision himself a few months ago.  Since then I have been at his beck and call and have unfailing been available to him or to run his errands for him.  The only thing he has suffered due to loss of driving is his pride.

 It is now time to get rid of one of his two cars.  Although it only has 67,000 miles, it is over 25 years old and  it needs a muffler and  it needs to get its annual inspection.  A car in this condition is impossible to sell and the best you can hope is that you can donate it to a worthy cause.     Henry, the African-American clerk at our local gas station, where my dad has purchased gas and had his car repaired for many, many years, told him if he wanted to sell the car that he would like to buy it.  Why the detail that he is African-American is important to me is not easily understood but he is old of undeterminate age, he has lived his whole life in the south and I'm certain has been exposed to unthinkable things in his lifetime, and he is extremely nice to our whole family providing rides to and from the station when our cars are being repaired, he is unfailing polite, and he is trying very hard to provide for his wife and children on a minimum wage job.  So it seems like a very easy transaction, right?  We establish a bare minimum price for the car so he doesn't lose his pride at being able to purchase it for his daughter, and we get rid of a car that we don't need and will cost us money to maintain.  This seemed like a clear win-win to me.  Not so fast....

My father wanted $500 dollars, which is about double its probable value.  (I actually put the value at $0 as I just wanted to get rid of it easily.)  So my husband told Henry that my dad had decided to sell the car and asked if he was still interested.  He was as he needed a car for his teenage daughter.  They were negotiating a price when the mechanic at the shop mentioned that it was going to need $500 - $800 worth of work to bring it up to standard.  That meant that we would need to establish a much lower price for the car.  Remember, the goal is to just get rid of it and get it to Henry.  The price my dad was willing to accept was about $50 more than I was willing to ask Henry to pay.  My father exploded and ranted and raved at my husband and said "$50 doesn't mean anything to me" to which we responded "But it means a whole lot to Henry."

So the deal went down today.  I hadn't wanted to get involved but I had to do the final transaction.  I cried a little and talked to my best friend about how horrible I felt about what my father was doing and I was terrified of what my father would say to me.  I felt like I was 8 years old all over again,  waiting for the wrath of my father and letting it fall all around me while I could do nothing to defend myself.

My husband made the deal with Henry over the phone and gave him the lower price.  When no one was looking I slipped an extra $50 into the envelope Henry had given me  before I gave it to my father.   They both finished the transaction feeling like winners. I just felt relief.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

thoughts while mowing the lawn #2

Things are going well for for my family right now so why am I so terrified that something will go wrong?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

thoughts while mowing the lawn #1

Why don't people have their kids mow their lawns anymore? 

When I was growing up mowing lawns was the way the boys in the neighborhood made a little extra money.  You could start doing it about age 11 or 12 and a couple of lawns a week and you were rich!  I didn't mow our lawn very often as that was "men's work" but I did have to learn how to do it and mowed occasionally.  

When my kids were little and my husband on travel (which was most of the time) I mowed the lawn myself to save money.  I did have to have my father come over to start the lawn mower for me and then I couldn't stop until it was finished because I wouldn't be able to start the mower again.  Luckily you could do our lawn in about an hour and a half. I wouldn't have lasted much longer.  As the kids grew up they mowed the lawn.  Maybe they didn't always do a great job but it was respectable, and they earned a bit of extra allowance for their efforts.  My son mowed one neighbor's lawn for years.  He just went over when it needed mowing and eventually she would pay him for the job. Sometimes a year later but he always got paid.

Now everyone in my neighborhood, except me,  has a lawn service, even the ones with children of appropriate lawn mowing age.  These are not rich people and I have no idea what the service costs but it can't be cheap.  But they don't bother to ask their children to pitch in and do a bit of work for the family.  The kids are at the pool and when they return the lawn has been mowed.  They probably don't even realized how it happened.  What will these children think about hard work and contributing to common good when they grow up?  This is an important lesson that can be easily learned when they are given the responsibility to see that the lawn needs to be mowed and then to mow it. 

These families aren't doing their children any favors.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

of this and of that....

1)  I'm already tired of all the political squabbling.  Listening to the Republicans makes my head explode.  I will not make it to November at this rate.

2) On the good news, no, great news front - KT successfully defended her dissertation and is now Dr. KT!  We are so proud of her!  After her defense we went to Morton's for dinner which was a fabulous once-in-a-lifetime event  as I cannot stand to pay what is the equivalent of a month's rent for most people on a dinner, no matter how wonderful the food and service (and they really did make it a special celebration dinner for us). 

3) and the boat that son D crews on came in third in its class in the Chicago-Mac Race!  What an accomplishment!  He is finally coming into his own in a field where being able to do the job means so much more than being able to take a test.  He now uses engineering skills,  math/trig, and a solid understanding of general physics to make that boat go faster and faster.  He also wants to get teenagers interested in boat building to help them develop craftsman skills, team-work, and work/life skills.  He knows that for some kids they need to use the education that they don't even realize they have in order to make sense of it.  He's developing contacts to help him start a non-profit foundation.  Hopefully it is 'profitable' enough to pay him a salary.  And he has a lovely, not-crazy, girlfriend!

4)  I've been thinking about a comment Bushafullofgrace made on my Seven Deadly Sins quiz.  She had scored low on everything but envy.  She felt badly that she had become envious after her financial setbacks have hit her so hard.  And I felt badly that what was to have been a fun little quiz had resulted in her unhappy reflection on her situation.  And I realized that it's easy for me to not be envious when I have so few wants that are not realized.  But there are actually two kinds of envy:  1) a "bad" envy where you are resentful of what what others have, and 2) a "good" envy that does not wish other's ill because of their good fortune but which motivates you to move forward.  I'm going to postulate that Busha is in the "good" envy category where she is making the best of her situation and will continue to move forward to her happiness.  

Thursday, July 19, 2012

"You people", REALLY.....

Ann Romney: 'We've Given All You People Need To Know' About Family Finances 

      Well, we now know where Ann Romney stands on the separation of classes.  It's a shame that her mother didn't teach her that class wasn't defined by money but by your actions and manners.  You can be a low class bigot no matter how much money you have.  Thanks, Ann, for reminding us of this lesson.  

And I'm not venturing into the release of income tax returns.  She's clearly said enough.  I guess she actually has given us all we need to know about her family's finances.  We know that they have something to hide.  Hopefully, they are ashamed of whatever it is.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Seven Deadly Sins - a quiz!

I found this over at  Take the quiz and see how you fare.  I'd better get back to cleaning house now that I officially rank medium on "sloth".

Greed:Very Low
Envy:Very Low

Take the Seven Deadly Sins Quiz

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

This morning I got around to reading the July 5 - 19 "Rolling Stone".   In addition to an article on 'Rachel Maddow's Quiet War on Television News" that I intend to read, it had an article entitled 'The Fallen' which cronicles the story of three separate homeless families in Santa Barbara, CA.

They all started out with jobs, middle class or middle class aspirational jobs, and had homes, businesses, cars.  Now they have cars, cars that they live in in church parking lots.  They are the reminders to us all that we are all one medical emergency, two bad decisions, and a few paychecks away from homelessness.  None of us are immune; some of us just have further to fall.

The striking thing about their story is how it impacts your very core of who you are.  Homelessness changes how people look at you, and think of you, and treat you in ways that have nothing to do with being homeless.  Although many people are homeless due to addictions, chemical and alcohol abuse, and mental illness not everyone is homeless due to those reasons.  Some are homeless due to plain old bad luck - the bad luck of a bad economy, or an illness, or losing a job.  These people were our neighbors, the other customers in the grocery store, the lady that sold us our summer plants. 

Being homeless becomes a full-time job. Just trying to make it through the day or the next meal or the night takes all the mental and physical energy you can muster.  And how do you find a job with no phone and no fixed address?  How do you interview for a job when you can't shower or press your clothes?  Where is the safety net for people who are struggling with such dignity?

Many years ago I volunteered to serve breakfast at a local church that provided hot breakfasts and bag lunches to the homeless.  My daughter was about 10 years old and I took her with me.  She could be useful setting and clearing tables while we cooked and served.  She was standing in the big parish hall while everyone ate and many of the homeless men approached her.  The were not trying to frighten her or molest her.  They wanted to make certain that she had gotten enough to eat and to give her the cookies that they had received in their bag lunches.  They thought she was a homeless child.  She had to explain that she'd had breakfast and had cookies at home, but thank you.  They were willing to share the little that they had.  What are so many American's unwilling to share when they have so much?

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

return of civilization

Monday night trucks arrived in our neighborhood.  First the tree people who came from New York State starting moving the big trees off the power lines and power poles.  There was lots of work for them and we all watched in awe as the big buckets on the trucks carefully threaded their way into the tangle of limbs and branches and they carefully cut away the trees.  Next to arrive was help from the Mississippi utility companies.  After the tree people separated the lines from the trees and the trees were cut out of the way, the utility people put up the lines, replaced transformers and checked the power boxes to the homes to make certain they weren't damaged in the transformer explosion (which actually left a giant hole in the road), and they restored our power!

It was odd to find lights on in out of the way places in the house.  We kept switching on lights by habit as we wandered the house in the dark for three days and now the place was lit up like a Christmas tree.  The strange thing was after sweltering for the last three days, the evening was reasonably cool, only in the 80's and I kept the air conditioning turned off!  The A/C is back on now as we are looking at temps to 100+ for the next three days when it will cool off to the 90's.   Now I'm spending my time cleaning up and doing laundry and putting away everything that migrated down from the upstairs of our house during the outage. 

Someone asked me how long I thought civilization would last without power.  My reply was it would only last until the gin and tonics ran out. 

Monday, July 02, 2012

update from Armageddon

Last week after days of extreme heat I was hoping for a thunderstorm to clear the air and humidity and give my plants a much needed drink of water.  Instead I got Armageddon.  Friday night about 10:45 pm, we were watching Charlie's favorite show, Discovery Channel's "Flying Wild Alaska", when we thought the end of the world had come.  With no warning,since we weren't watching a local station we didn't get the emergency weather updates, the wind picked up and outside our house looked like a scene from the Wizard of Oz.  I grabbed the chair cushions and plants off the front porch and slammed the door just as a huge twig came hurling toward the front door.  Much wind and lightening and very little rain later, the lights went out.  It was a "Derecho", a storm that started in Chicago and laid waste from there to the Atlantic Ocean.  Because of our location just at the bottom of a large hill, we got the worst effects of the storm as the wind picked up speed due to the Venturi effect of compressing the air under the hill.  Everyone in the path of the "derecho" had a huge storm but we have a narrow path of destruction where the trees were literally stripped of leaves.

The morning after the storm, after checking on my dad who lives nearby, we went to the grocery to buy ice.  My kudos go to Shopper's Food Warehouse which, despite running on just their emergency generators, was open and had pulled their ice supply to the front of the store.  I was able to get a couple of bags for me and a couple for my dad.  We did a survey of the neighborhood and discovered that the damage was in pockets, one street had no damage, the next one over was covered in downed trees.  With multiple trees down in our neighborhood the streets were blocked and the power lines are a spaghetti of tangles that makes me think if I was the power company I wouldn't even try to untangle them;  I'd just start over.

Late in the day we decided to head to Ikea to walk around and hit the shopping mall to get some A/C.  After a long shopping mall visit and a stop for dinner we returned home to find that 1) my father now had power (yay!) and 2) we had to try about 6 different ways to get into our neighborhood because more streets were now closed.  We thought we were going to have to hike in, but the last way in (which if you were not native to the area you never would have known about) was open and we arrived to our dark home. 

So here were are at Monday.  The power company hasn't yet scheduled any repairs in our neighborhood so I'm figuring we have at least 2 more days or more.  They say by Friday they will have 90% restored.  I just hope I'm not in the 10%.  It is heading for the upper 90's to 100 every day.  Even I, who don't mind the heat, am missing my fans and my refrigerator and my internet.  I've thrown out food and stashed a bit of stuff in my dad's freezer.  We will survive this and I hope mostly with good humor.  This afternoon I'm at the library sharing my power strip so people can use their computers and recharge their cell phones.

I can generally get through the day just fine but we are having trouble sleeping since the upstairs of our house is about 100 degrees.  We've put a blowup bed on the porch but I'm so restless I spend most of the night just wandering the house.  As I remind my children when things like this happen, it will make a great cocktail party story someday.

So, here are my tips for coping:
  • Don't bitch and moan, it only makes you feel worse.
  • Shower often, sometimes three times a day.  You'll feel better.
  • Remind yourself that it could be worse.  The house didn't burn down, a tree didn't fall on our house or car, we weren't injured, and it's not cold.
  • A couple of gin and tonics before bed really help!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

what to do when it's hot, hot, hot

Since it is approaching 100 degrees today, and expected to be over 100 tomorrow, I have turned on the air conditioning and have tried to find indoor activities.  So far the best thing I've found is to fold laundry and watch movies on Netflix streaming.  I can highly recommend the following (descriptions courtesy of IMDb):

  • "The Way" (2010) written and directed by Emilio Estevez and staring his father, Martin Sheen.  "The Way" is a powerful and inspirational story about family, friends, and the challenges we face while navigating this ever-changing and complicated world. Martin Sheen plays Tom, an American doctor who comes to St. Jean Pied de Port, France to collect the remains of his adult son (played by Emilio Estevez), killed in the Pyrenees in a storm while walking the Camino de Santiago, also known as The Way of Saint James. Rather than return home, Tom decides to embark on the historical pilgrimage to honor his son's desire to finish the journey. What Tom doesn't plan on is the profound impact the journey will have on him and his "California Bubble Life". Inexperienced as a trekker, Tom soon discovers that he will not be alone on this journey. On his journey, Tom meets other pilgrims from around the world, each with their own issues and looking for greater meaning in their lives.
  • "Housewife, 49" (2006, TV)  In the late 1930s Nella Last,a housewife aged 49,living in Barrow-in-Furness on the North West English coast,agrees to send details of her routine to the Mass observation project,a non-governmental scheme designed to chronicle the lives of ordinary people. When war comes Nella defies her over-protective husband to join the local Women's Voluntary Service. Initially diffident she blossoms thanks to the dominant but kindly Mrs. Waite,and enjoys her independence as a useful war worker. The film also shows her relationship with her two sons as well as the effect of the war on the community and ends by explaining that Nella kept in touch with the Mass Observation project until her death in 1968.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I will miss Nora Ephron.   We should all watch "Heartburn" on Netflix Instant View in her honor.  It wasn't an award winning film, but it's one of my favorites.  Being semi-autobiographical it has a realism that is missing in her other romantic comedies, although I love them, too.  In her writing and interviews she could use an understated comedy to make us reflect on our humanity and humanness.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

addendum to Trinity University graduation post

Adrienne has gotten a new job!  She really is starting a new post-college life.  She will be in a career transitions program which after a year of training and mentoring will place her in a career path professional position.  It is a very competitive program and she had applied before and not even gotten an interview.  But this time she not only was selected but was selected with a targeted position that has the highest salary level offered.  And she did it all on her own.  The rest of us had no idea she had applied again.   This is truly life changing for her.  I am so proud of her. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Health Care As a Privilege: What the GOP Won’t Admit

 Excellent quick read from New York Magazine

Health Care As a Privilege: What the GOP Won’t Admit

Health care is a privilege that my friend's daughter did not have when she was between jobs and diagnosed with stomach cancer at 34 years old.  They eventually found, in another city, a hospital and surgeon who would operate on her despite her lack of health insurance.  Her parents are paying the bill for the rest of their lives.  We hope she lives as long as her medical bills will.  She started a new job which offered health insurance two weeks following this major surgery.  Her stomach cancer is a pre-existing condition and further treatment for it is not covered by her health insurance.

Can someone explain to me why this is considered her "personal choice"?

of this and that

We had a lovely dinner and evening with Katie and G.  They treated us to a wonderful dinner at a fondue restaurant as a combined and belated Mother's and Father's Day celebration.  We had a super good time and we discovered a restaurant that makes my father happy!   Since they prepared the fondue right at the table he could keep them from adding any garlic, and he also loved that fact that each bit he had was hot.  If only we had known this 25 years ago!  

After dinner we returned home where we all drank too much wine and then one of Daniel's friend's since first grade came over.  We always enjoy him and he is really like another son/brother.  He has struggled with his sexuality (we have though he was gay since elementary school but he took a longer time to realize it) and he is having tremendous difficulty in telling his parents he is gay.  I feel so sorry for him.  I can't imagine that his parents will have a problem with him being gay but he just so worried about telling them.  I feel so badly that this still has to be such  heartbreaking discussion in this day and age.  It is destroying lives and family relationships so unnecessarily. 

Katie and G stayed for breakfast on Sunday and we started talking about the great move to Ann Arbor.  They have so much to get done.  They started on making the list of what to get done and what to move.  I will help prep the house to be rented and will help financially with the move but there is so much that they must physically do to sort, throw-out, pack etc. that I just cringe at the whole process.  I just want them out of the house so Charlie and I can do the work that it needs to get a good tenant.  I know that it will be a long, hot summer with that hanging over their heads.

We topped off the weekend with dinner with some friends from Miami who were in town for their son's induction into the State Department Foreign Service.  We had a great time chatting and hearing about his new post in Nigeria.  The only downside was I believe that I was served caffinated coffee, not decaf, and consequently I had a burst of energy all night when I should have been sleeping.  I did, however, make great progress on finishing Sharon's baby blanket so not all that energy was wasted!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

I have too many pairs of sandals

While cleaning the house I've found a pair of sandals that I've kicked off in every room and two pairs in the sitting room.  I've only been home from the cruise for two days and I've managed to leave a trail of sandals everywhere I've been in the house.  I must think they are like breadcrumbs and they will lead me back to vacation.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Cruise Report

It really was fun!  Unexpectedly fun.

Leaving from Baltimore was a breeze and set the tone for everything else.  We parked literally next to the terminal entrance and walked right into the building.  Daddy's check-in was a breeze since he was booked in a suite and didn't have to stand in line.  We met him and M. and then made the trek into the ship.   Found a table at the buffet area and got some lunch while we waited for our rooms to be ready.  It was noisy, crazy, and full of people but Daddy seemed to love it..

Our luggage was already at the room when we got down there.  The suite was lovely and large and I think Daddy and Maureen really enjoyed it.  We met back by the pool and found a table to sit and watch the party festivities.  A theme through this cruise was "we found a table".  It was like I had a table and chair fairy who would always have one available when I needed one, even when every seat was occupied.

Dinner in the dining room was nice and the food was good.  I did have to get our dinner tables switched since we were not together.  Didn't understand that since the reservations were made at the same time, under the same account name, but I ran down to the dining room when we arrived and made certain we were all set and they were able to make the switch for us.  That was one of my key things is to check on anything that could go wrong BEFORE it went wrong. 

While at sea we did cruise things, like walk around and around and around, and then find a chair for a bit of sun bathing.  We did do breakfast and lunch in the buffet, which was the part of the cruise that I liked the least.  No, I actually loathed the buffet but my husband didn't want to deal with the dining room for breakfast and lunch. I did see the child licking his sticky hand (the whole hand, including all five fingers) and then grab the serving utensil.  When I reported this back to my husband I hoped he would see the need to eat in the restaurant but his response was "Well, his hands were sticky."  So I took a deep breath and would grab the utensil with a paper napkin and take food from the very back of the serving pan so that the handle wouldn't have been in contact with that food.  I survived.

The time in Bermuda was perfect.  I had arranged a private tour before we left and we had a wonderful tour guide who had made every effort to assure that he included places and views of things that my father wanted to see from his time in Bermuda in the early 1940's.  He talked with my dad, answered all his questions,and was very gracious.  I couldn't have asked for anything better.   Bermuda was beautiful, roads were scary, people were nice.  There is a high standard of living and very low unemployment.  Main industries are tourism and insurance and, I guess, taking care of lots of rich people who have homes there.  I would return and since we saw the island from one end to the other on this tour, next time I would pick just a place or two for a longer visit.

Things I learned on this trip: 
  • I really don't like to have the wait staff encouraged to be overly friendly.  I don't like the  "Mrs. Jane"  address which just reeks of plantation obsequiousness.   The waiters are professionals, not my friend nor my servant.  They did an excellent job and took care of our very small special requests - like seeing if there was any pistachio ice cream left from the previous day which my father had loved - and I tip for service, not friendliness.
  • People just eat too much and I can't imagine what stories are told in the staff areas about some of the gorging of the guests.  Plates were piled mountain high in the buffet area like these people were never going to get another meal.  I overheard people bragging about how much food their table had consumed in the restaurant.  OK, a teenage boy might want/need a second entree to be full, but most people do not need more than they are served.  It is wasteful consumption which makes the American's look like total boors.
  • Gin and tonic is my new summer signature drink.  They made a great G&T on-board and the liquor prices were lower than any place in the Metro area so I have no idea why people spend all this effort trying to sneak on liquor in their luggage.
  • Try sliced almonds on soup instead of croutons.  I hate croutons on soup or on salad.  The sliced almonds in the cream of asparagus soup were just the perfect touch and what and easy thing to do do to make it elegant.
  • Maureen just ignores my father's childish behaviour and I should learn to do that too.   She is lovely and I thoroughly enjoyed her on this trip, and she really understands how to deal with my father in a way my mother and I never did.  
  • Charlie needs to get away from work now and then and maybe a cruise is the way to do that.  I so enjoyed him not having a cell phone or any email.  While we were in port in Baltimore, still with cell service, his phone was constantly going off - two calls in the terminal when they don't allow cell phone use and I thought he would be arrested, more calls during our lunch on the ship.  And then on our return before breakfast he had already made calls to check on his airplane and to work.  I knew we were back to reality.
So, we had a good time and I may even do it again.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

we haven't even left home yet

and my father and I have had our first argument.  Tomorrow we leave for the Bermuda cruise.  While I was at his house downloading a book to his Nook I told him that I would put things in my carry aboard bag for him so he didn't need to deal with one.  He said that he had no carry aboard bag, that everything was in his suitcase.  I said, "But you need to carry aboard your medicines and your hearing aid stuff.  We don't want to be without it in case your luggage gets lost. I can put that stuff in my carry aboard."

Well, those of you who have followed bitching about my father can anticipate what came next.  First we had the explosive "NO, I'm not carrying anything on board."  To which I responded, "I know that.  I'm going to carry it."  After much discussion - through gritted teeth on my part and at high volume on his part - we agreed that I could pull the medicines from his bag and he would ask Maureen to to put them into her carry aboard. 

But the hearing aid stuff.   AH, there started the lies.  First he said that the stuff was buried in the suitcase and it would be fine.  I said "Humor me.  Just take it out and carry it on board.  You need your hearing aid batteries."  "NO", he exploded, "the bag is all packed."  So I said it wouldn't be hard to find the box, I'd just carefully unpack the bag.  He really didn't want me to do that so I knew something was up.  Clearly I wasn't going to find the hearing aid stuff when I unpacked and I didn't.  At that point we had to look all over the house to find it because he didn't know where it was.  Once we finally located it I left it in the little pile of things for Maureen to carry.  Without his hearing aids we couldn't possibly have a conversation without the entire ship listening in.  Luckily he is willing to wear them (not so much with his teeth, and I didn't check on those.)

I will be locked up at sea with this man for 6 days.