Thursday, May 31, 2007

Ah, another nice compliment

I e-mailed the owner of the house I had seen on Sunday morning to tell him that I didn't think the house would work for me, elucidating the lack of air conditioning and presence of only one bath on the second floor.

He e-mailed back, saying he understood and agreed whole-heartedly. He thanked me for writing and said, "You're obviously a class act."

Nice. Ya think I could get him to write a letter of reference I could present to potential suitors?

A Long and Sordid History

I made a couple of purchases via phone and Internet today, and Chase Visa locked my account. (Thanks alot, guys, that makes me look real good!) First I got the automated call from Chase asking me to press 1 as the little-guy-automated-computer-voice read off each purchase to confirm the transaction. Four hours later I received a second call from Chase, only this time leaving a message asking me to call the fraud prevention department.

I called, and had to key in my account number, first three letters of my mother's maiden name, and the last four of my SSN. Then the system connected me with a customer service representative, who asked me AGAIN my account number, my mother's maiden name, and the last four of my SSN. Excuse me, what was the purpose of the computer asking me this info if a person was going to ask me again?!

Once the CSR determined it was me, she then had to ask me three more questions from my long and sordid past to determine it was me. She asked which of three addresses I had lived at in the past. I got that one easily. Then she asked me what month S.G. was born! S. is Husband #2's daughter! I have had no dealings with this sniveling, manipulative little marriage-breaker since 1987. (Attitude? I don't have no stinking attitude.) I may remember my first husband's social security number, but I try to remember nothing from subsequent marriages. (I don't actually try to remember his SSN; it's just so deeply ingrained in my brain I can't get it out. To my sons: if you ever need this info, just give me a call!) Fortunately, I correctly guessed the answer to this question and confirmed my purchases (again) and they unlocked my account.

I think the people who steal identities and cause all this annoyance and aggravation for the rest of us should be strung up by their thumbs!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A First!

Today I applied for tech writer and database consultant positions at Hyland Software on the west side of Cleveland. Imagine my surprise, while navigating the online application form, to be presented with a page asking me to compose an original poem about my job. Jeez!

So with my haiku blog experience last year, I came up with this.

A Web Content Developer's Haiku

Compelling content
Brings visitors to our site
To study and learn.

Excellent products,
Leading edge technology
Plus my thoughtful words.

My goal? To convert
Visitors into buyers
For IBM's gain.

Of course, once I hit "Submit" I had the terrible sense that I had not met their minimum requirements. Dare I hope they think I'm clever enough that I didn't need to meet the minimum requirements?!

Oh help.

Decisions, Decisions

As I was leaving Youngstown on Sunday to drive back to Pittsburgh for my flight back to Tucson, I stopped for 15 minutes to see a house the next street over from Ty and Jaci. I had seen this house advertised on Craig's List and had e-mailed a few times with the owner. He is asking $48,000. !

The house is about 2000 square feet, two-story plus full basement, a style we call "Center Hall Colonial" in Virginia. It needs significant work, including getting the mold out of the basement. But it's good space, good bones in a house.

Seeing houses like this helps me refine what I want. First, I need a living room large enough to hold a 6' grand, plus with an entry space that the piano can navigate. Next, I want a dining room that will hold John's antique breakfront that I dearly love. Oh, and two bathrooms on the second floor. That's more important than the breakfront. I don't want to have to walk out into the hall in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, and I don't want to share my bathroom with houseguests, whether those houseguests are my grandchildren or adult visitors. (Oh, I didn't mean that. There were no lines to read between in that statement. I mean if any of you come to visit.) Also, good computer space is a must. And good sewing space. Intrinsic in both the computer space and the sewing space is good light. My aging, Lasik'd eyes demand good light. Finally, as I stated the other day, air conditioning — or forced air heating that will enable me to install air conditioning — are greatly desired, if not required.

I can probably meet many of these needs in any house, except the wall for the breakfront and the second bathroom. So I need to e-mail this owner — coincidentally a lawyer-by-training with an alternative vocation — and tell him I don't think his house is for me.

As I think about possibilities in houses, I also think about possibilities in jobs. Today I happened upon a site with contract technical writing jobs. Several of them required 10 hours a week and paid $10K or so a year. Hey, I could have three or four of these positions and make it financially!

With each day, my mind opens wider than the day before.

I've got airline reservations to return to Y'town for the July 27th public memorial service for Bob Fitzer. I wonder how many more reservations I'll make before I don't have to fly there any more?!

And Happy Fourth Birthday today to our little Ridley, my little cutie pie.

Dandelion Girl
Dandelion Girl
Dandelion Girl
Nature Girl

Monday, May 28, 2007

My Daily Life, in one post!

My lifelong friend Gail sent this to me, and I just had to share it with you. Every woman over 50 who is reading this understands and is laughing out loud and shaking her head. The rest of you think it's a myth. Trust me, it's not!

Recently, I was diagnosed with A.A.A.D.D. - Age Activated Attention Deficit Disorder.
This is how it manifests:
I decide to water my garden.
As I turn on the hose in the driveway, I look over at my car and decide it needs washing.
As I start toward the garage, I notice mail on the porch table that I brought up from the mail box earlier.
I decide to go through the mail before I wash the car.
I lay my car keys on the table, put the junk mail in the garbage can under the table, and notice that the can is full.
So, I decide to put the bills back on the table and take out the garbage first.
But then I think, since I'm going to be near the mailbox when I take out the garbage anyway, I may as well pay the bills first.
I take my check book off the table, and see that there is only 1 check left.
My extra checks are in my desk in the study, so I go inside the house to my desk where I find the can of Coke I'd been drinking.
I'm going to look for my checks, but first I need to push the Coke aside so that I don't accidentally knock it over.
The Coke is getting warm, and I decide to put it in the refrigerator to keep it cold.
As I head toward the kitchen with the Coke, a vase of flowers on the counter catches my eye--they need water.
I put the Coke on the counter and discover my reading glasses that I've been searching for all morning.
I decide I better put them back on my desk, but first I'm going to water the flowers.
I set the glasses back down on the counter, fill a container with water and suddenly spot the TV remote. Someone left it on the kitchen table.
I realize that tonight when we go to watch TV, I'll be looking for the remote, but I won't remember that it's on the kitchen table, so I decide to put it back in the den where it belongs, but first I'll water the flowers.
I pour some water in the flowers, but quite a bit of it spills on the floor.
So, I set the remote back on the table, get some towels and wipe up the spill.
Then, I head down the hall trying to remember what I was planning to do.
At the end of the day:
- The car isn't washed
- The bills aren't paid
- There is a warm can of Coke sitting on the counter
- The flowers don't have enough water,
- There is still only 1 check in my check book,
- I can't find the remote,
- I can't find my glasses,
- And I don't remember what I did with the car keys.
Then, when I try to figure out why nothing got done today, I'm really baffled because I know I was busy all damn day, and I'm really tired.
I realize this is a serious problem, and I'll try to get some help for it, but first I'll check my e-mail. . .

Don't laugh -- if this isn't you yet, your day is coming!

Passes and Glasses

Any longtime reader here knows I simply can't understand why there isn't a man who can recognize what a find I am and who wants to have me in his life.

Yesterday as I was navigating Security at the Pittsburgh airport, this cute agent looked me up and down, and teased me about the reading glasses balanced on my head and the sunglasses hanging from the neck of my t-shirt. He said, "You know, men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses." I laughed and responded, "Maybe that's my problem."

His lighthearted comment kept me grinning throughout my long trip back to Tucson.

Oh, did I tell you I was supposed to have coffee in the airport with a man from Pittsburgh? Well, he was a no-show. Go figure. Didn't answer my confirming call as I was driving down; never returned my call; no e-mail this morning explaining the absence. I even searched his name in the Pittsburgh paper this morning to see if he had been in a horrific motorcycle accident. Nope.

His loss.

Compliments from One's Children

Any motivated, committed parent knows you spend a lot of years encouraging your children, finding things about which to compliment them, focusing on the good and downplaying the less-desirable.

I received two compliments from Tyler this weekend, and I'll probably remember them for the rest of my life. One was about my exterior and one about my interior.

First, the exterior. He asked if I had been going to the gym. I said, no — and that I had just realized last week that I could not longer delude myself that the ten minute walk from my car to the office in the morning and ten more minutes back to the car in the evening was really exercise. I said I needed to get back to the gym. He said, "Well, you look good." Thank you, Tyler!

Now, the interior. I had writen here last week about Unwanted Suitor and the note I had written to him, explaining why we were not going to have a relationship, and the fact that I had never heard back from him.

Tyler knew only about the initial contact from this man and the fact that it might develop into employment in Cleveland. He asked if there was anything further to that story, and I mentioned that it was the strangest "employment" conversation I had ever had. He wanted to know more, and laughed harder at every little tidbit I told him. Of course, after the children were in bed that night, he wanted me to tell Jaci the story. I did, then read to them the note I had written to Unwanted Suitor.

The next morning, he said to me, "That note was very generous."

Thank you again, Tyler.

And today's Real Simple daily thought:
May 28, 2007
Whoever one is, and wherever one is, one is always in the wrong if one is rude.
— Maurice Baring

Saturday, May 26, 2007

wet, Wet, WET!

I'm all wet.

I'm dying from the humidity. It doesn't matter that I spent 28 years in Florida and 16 years in D.C. After seven years in the desert, I am dying from the heat. Jaci and I have decided that I must get a house with central air so they can come over and sleep at my house when it gets too hot in their un-airconditioned house.

And I've decided the first thing I'll do when I move up here is get a short short haircut.

'Scuse me, I gotta go dry off.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Deja vu, all over the floor

After Tyler and Ridley and I got home from our trip to Sam's Club to stock up on supplies and food for last night's party, I opened the back of my rental SUV to start taking things in. Of course everything had shifted, and the party tray of ham 'n' cheese on croissant fall to the ground, falling open and five of them spilling out onto the pavement. We quickly (five-second rule) grabbed them and determined a little fiber from the pavement wouldn't hurt us if we ate the runaway sandwiches for lunch.

This morning I went to the basement to grab a couple of the whole wheat rolls out of the freezer to have for breakfast. The cheap cellophane bag in which Sam's Club had packaged the rolls broke open and about six of the rolls fell to the floor of the basement, where the dogs spend each night. I declined to eat these, instead immediately depositing them in the garbage can.

This reminded me of an incident in Sarasota, where Terry and I lived when TJ and Tyler were 3-2 and 4-3. At Terry's request, I had made a cherry pie. As I was pulling it from the oven, my hand slipped and the steaming hot cherry pie tipped and slid to the floor, cherries pooling on the sheet vinyl. Terry and 3-year-old TJ each grabbed forks and started eating the cherry pie off the floor.

Ah, those germs just strengthen your immune system, right?

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Grandma: Ridley, your mouth is covered with peanut butter and jelly.
Ridley: Would you like to wash it?

(Of course! I'd love to touch any part of your sweet little face!!)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Very Quick Update

I'm in Youngstown today, having taken the 10:35 (which turned into 11:20) Continental redeye from Tucson to Newark and then connecting with a puddlejumper back to Pittsburgh, where I rented a car and rolled in the Fifth Avenue house around 11:00. Tyler immediately said, "c'mon, we gotta go to Sam's Club." So we went and got provisions for an open house to follow Bobbo's memorial service today. Then I picked up Boston from school and did some more grocery shopping, and did a little cleaning to supplement Jaci's massive cleaning, and tried to help get things set up for the open house.

I was honored tonight to meet so many dear friends and relatives of this incredible man. What a loss, his death at age 50. Hearing different friends recount memories of time spent with him was fun and melancholy and uplifting.

As I'm back in a greener part of the country, I realize how much I gain from the greenness. It's like a balm to my soul to be around so many trees.

Sitting in Newark this morning, waiting for my flight, I was surrounded by business people in real business clothes. Oh My God! There are people who know how to dress for work. What a novel concept!

Another thrilling part of the day was driving on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and seeing so many clumps of bikers headed for D.C. to ride in Rolling Thunder. When I see them, I am proud to be an American. I have had fun this week speaking and e-mailing with The Traveler, who will roll into Arlington, VA, tomorrow with 1000+ bikers who rode all the way from Southern California.

Your bit of humor for today:
Tyler and I share a love for the Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan film, Joe Versus the Volcano. At the beginning, the boss is on the phone repeating, ad infinitum, "I know he can get the job, but can he do the job?"

Let me just say, with no malice aforethought, that the Hertz counter at the Pittsburgh airport is the worst I've ever seen, bar none. I spoke on the phone with Tyler while I was waiting for my car. He quite humorously said to me, "I know they can make the reservation, but can they keep the reservation?" I laughed out loud.

This exhausted traveler bids you good night.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Stupid Human Tricks

Sunday evening I went to SpaOne and had a deep tissue massage. It hurt so good! Before getting out of the car, I removed my gold earrings (a gift from John in 1997) and placed them in the car console. After the massage, I stopped at Safeway to do a little shopping. Upon arriving home, I had hands full of glasses and crossword puzzle and phone and birthday cards for Mother and Older Brother. I leaned over and grabbed my earrings out of the console.

I walked into the house to put everything down in the kitchen before coming back to empty the trunk of groceries. As I stepped from the sewing studio into the laundry room, I heard a little ping, something hitting the floor. When I put everything down on the kitchen counter, I realized I only had one earring.

I walked back to the car, studying the floor and the ground, and saw no earring. Everything John-related is very precious to me, so you can understand I was working up a real case of upset at not having this earring.

When I got back into the kitchen, I thought, brilliantly, that I should drop the other earring to see if it made the same sound I heard when I walked into the laundry room. Then I would know that the missing earring dropped in the laundry room and I could move heaven and earth and washing machine to find it.

So I picked up the remaining earring, held my arm out, and dropped it. Ping. The sound was very much like what I heard in the laundry room. So I looked down to pick up the dropped earring. Voila! It was gone. Totally disappeared! So much for my brilliance.

I got the yardstick and ran it under the refrigerator and the oven, and NOTHING. Now beyond being upset at the loss of one earring, I'm astonished at my own stupidity. Here I think I have such good logic circuits in my brain, and I just have to laugh at my reliance on logic rather than common sense.

P.S. Last night, as I was walking through the sewing studio, I glanced down and saw the first earring. And then spent the next ten minutes pulling the refrigerator out from the wall, where I found the second earring on the floor, just waiting to be rescued.

Loving My Garden

One of the best things about my ex-romance/now-friendship with Frank is the flowers I planted in the backyard as a result of my exposure to his garden. I did not have time yesterday to photograph the poppy again, now without petals. It was just incredible. Today when I looked at it, it was just a small star at the end of the stem. Truly a wonder of nature.

I have two more poppy buds that will, I'm hopeful, bloom next week. I'll document them again, because it's really something to behold.

So as I stood watering this morning, I was pondering why I love poppies so much. And I remembered. In 1971, as I was traveling on a bus from Paris out to Fontainebleau to meet Nadia Boulanger for the first time and get settled into my summer schedule, we passed fields and fields of poppies. Acres of red and coral, waving in the breeze.

It's the kind of vista that lets you know, without a doubt, that you're in Europe.

Update on Unwanted Suitors

So I put a lot of time and thought on Monday in a note to Unwanted Suitor. I drafted the note in the morning, then revisited it throughout the day and finally hit Send at 9:30 Monday night. I was gentle, I was refined, I was complimentary, but I was firm. In closing, I asked if he could understand my viewpoint.

I haven't heard back from him.

So much for communication.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Business Casual

I am so jealous of men who are able to just throw on a pair of khakis and a blue oxford cloth shirt each morning and walk out the door. I agonize every morning over what to wear. I always wear pants, as much of my editing work is done leaning back in my chair with my feet on the desk. But aside from the pants-or-skirt decision, what do I wear that is somewhat professional looking without being overdressed or girly-silly (e.g. the floral print appliqued jacket with brilliant turquoise lining I wore last Friday).

Of course in Tucson there is no real business casual. Business casual in Tucson is clean shorts, a t-shirt, and flip-flops. When a man dresses up here, he dons a clean Hawaiian print shirt.

You can always tell the IBMers who are transplanted from the East Coast. There's one sweet man in my building who always wears a white shirt and tie. He says he'll dress the same until the day he retires. And the men walking around the building in suits, searching for a hidden conference room? They clearly just got off the plane to attend a meeting.

I need to think about a suitable female equivalent of khakis and blue oxford cloth shirt. Maybe that's my next career: fashion designer to confused women.

What a Difference a Year Makes

I have this wonderful five-year journal. Each day as I write a paragraph about the day, I can see what I was doing and thinking and feeling a year ago.

A year ago I was dating the Lemonade Tycoon, telling Tyler about once a week that I didn't have a clue what this man felt about me. Tyler repeated, weekly, "Mom, he keeps asking you out. He must like you." Ah, the wisdom of young men! In mid-June the Lemonade Tycoon terminated that relationship (squeezed the last drop out of it?) and a week later I met Mr. Match where, I have stated repeatedly, lightning struck the table when we sat over our first drink together. Within a week he was predicting we'd be married in a year; within a month he was telling me he loved me. And we know where that went: nowhere. He's now Mr.Every.Two.Weeks.

All of last year I wanted a permanent man in my life, one more love to last me the rest of my life.

Amazingly, I now find that I don't care. I hang out with Frank a couple of times a week. When I travel to Youngstown, he comes over to pet Rudi and water the garden. Last night I met new guy (Rick) for coffee, and I went into it with zero expectations. He's interesting and I'll enjoy having dinner with him occasionally. But I would never anticipate sparks flying. Next Sunday, after I check in for my flight, I'm having coffee in the Pittsburgh airport with a guy (Don) who lives in Pittsburgh. Again, I think he'll be fun and interesting, but there are obstacles to anything serious developing. (He's very religious and I ain't goin' there, ever again. Mark my words.) And I find that that doesn't matter. That I don't care.

Today I am one month away from 57! Eeeek. (Not really sure how that happened!) My therapist gave me a little straight talk a couple of months ago about statistics. At my age, there are many more women than men. There are many more single women than single men. And if you facet that pool by compatibility . . . . Well, the likelihood of finding a mate is slim to none.

So I guess I need to come to terms with this reality and learn to like having a few interesting people — friends of either sex — to socialize with. Really, it gives me more time alone to be creative. I spent much of Saturday and Sunday sewing and it felt wonderful.

But isn't it interesting how one's perspective and desires can change in the course of 365 days?

Monday, May 21, 2007

A distant memory

How do you say to someone who is sub-50 that he just doesn't understand the postmenopausal woman's body? Maybe I don't speak for every postmenopausal woman. I hope I don't. But for me, enjoyable and rewarding experiences between the sheets are a distant memory and probably not ever to return to my short-term memory cells.

There's this guy who's interested in me. I'm highly skeptical. He's a highly successful businessman, former VP of several banks and investment firms, entrepreneur, has several start-ups under his belt and is invited around the world to talk about security issues. For some reason, he's singled me out and has convinced himself we can have a long and wonderful [and highly sexual] life together. He's 48 years old. I'll be 57 in a month.

I was flattered at first, but now I'm wanting to somehow get through to him that once a woman loses her ovaries, she's never the same again. And when you remove hormone replacement therapy from the picture, the change in her body is even greater. I don't care what Oprah and all her medical and lifestyle guests say, the aging female body is different. I mean, I'm grateful that the hot flashes have diminished. It's no longer like shoving my head into a 350 degree oven. It's more like a wind that washes over me and I have to stop and wonder whether the building suddenly got warmer or I did. But the thought of being with a man whose thoughts every 19 seconds are of sex. Well, that's just not in my Weltanschauung.

Is that my only concern? No. He's got 15- and 13-year-old daughters. I've done the teenaged [step-]daughter thing more times than I care to remember, and never successfully. Stepdaughters are not Carnegie Hall — it's not a matter of practicing until you get it right. I'd prefer to quit while I'm ahead.

Oh, the other concern, as bigoted as it may sound? He's Indian. My Southern drawl ears have a very difficult time understanding his accent, and I feel like a fool every time I have to ask him to repeat something. He called me on his birthday and teased, "What didn't you vish me today?" (Maybe he actually said "Vhat didn't you vish me today?") I was tearing my brain apart trying to figure out what vish was. A food? A city? Some secret code word? Oh. Wish. Oh, it's your birthday and I didn't know.

I'm just a grandma seeking a simple life with some components of vocation and avocation, and some elements of helping my kids have the best possible life. Can I see this high-energy man as part of my life? No, not really.

So I will try again this evening to get through to him that he doesn't need to travel to Tucson to meet me face-to-face. Wherever he got his notions, whatever convinced him a lovely and erotic future was ahead, he's oh-so-wrong and he should just look elsewhere.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

More eye candy from my garden

I have been sick all week, so have been somewhat quiet. I was in my sewing room at 6:15 this morning, working on a new jacket. I will resume posting on a more regular basis tomorrow (maybe) but for today will share a poppy that just bloomed outside my back door. Look at the translucence of the petals. Look at the hairs on the stem. (Click on the photo to enlarge.) Fabulous!

Wisdom of Our Fathers

While spending time in my sewing room tonight, I watched a bit of Tum Russert's show on CNBC. Tom Brokaw was guest hosting, interviewing Tim about his new book, Wisdom of Our Fathers. Tim recounted a number of stories that are told in the book, stories that were sent to him by men and women about their fathers. Stories of unconditional acceptance, stories of belief when no one else believed.

I immediately went to find Tim's e-mail address, as I wanted to share my memories with him. Since I couldn't find his address, I'll share it here.

You may have gathered, over the ten-and-a-half months that I've been posting to this blog, that my mother and I are not close. She is quite possibly the most critical person who was ever born. Whatever personality traits she has should be on a social services checklist for things to look for when denying a person's request to adopt a child. (Upon rereading, I must state that she is a good person. And she really did a lot for me for which I am grateful—all the schlepping to piano lessons, the dresses sewn, the meals cooked. She was a good housewife, she just wasn't a good mother to me.)

With Mother I never felt good enough, never felt loved, never felt accepted. She always set the bar very high, and when I came close to reaching that bar, would pull it even higher. I have said numerous times that I was raised to believe I was dumb, ugly and incompetent. That perception came from Mother and my brothers.

But my daddy. Oh, he was different. With Daddy I felt I was more than good enough. I felt loved, accepted, cherished. He died twenty-three years ago, but he still whispers in my ear that I'm a good girl. Mother couldn't be bothered to come from Florida to Maryland for my college graduation when I was 37 years old, but I knew how proud Daddy would have been. My mother never fully understood or appreciated how hard I worked to get through law school, but I knew Daddy would have been proud of me.

Daddy wasn't around a lot, as he worked very long hours in his medical practice. But he somehow packed quality into the time we had together. I pride myself on being like him, possessing his work ethic, his love of crossword puzzles, his need to stay busy, to not be bored. I try to treat my children and grandchildren as Daddy treated me, and I encourage Tyler and Jaci not to pay back to me, but to pay forward to their children.

I wrote the other day that, despite the hardship in my life, I've been blessed. One of the greatest blessings was the luck of the draw in getting John Crews as my Daddy.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Night-Blooming Cereus

When my pest control guy (no, that's not a euphemism!) left yesterday morning, he asked if I knew I had a night-blooming cereus in the backyard. I didn't, and I doubted that he knew what he was talking about. But I ran and took photos of a local bee having breakfast at the fly-in restaurant. Then I Googled. And by jove, I think he's got it.

Enjoy another wonder of life in the desert.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A Fond Farewell to a Good Guy

Our darling friend, Bob Fitzer, namesake of Boston Robert Clark, has been released from his suffering. When he was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, I believe the doctor predicted three to six months.

With sheer will and determination and a refusal to give in to the cancer, Bobbo made it almost eight months. He made it long enough for Tyler and Jaci to get back to Youngstown, for Boston and Riah to get to know "Uncle Bobbo."

A few weeks ago Jaci had a talk with the children and explained that Uncle Bobbo would die soon. She said, "and when that happens, he'll live in our hearts." My darling Boston replied, "But he's already in my heart."

Bob Fitzer was greatly loved and respected by everyone who knew him, everyone who ever played alongside him in a musical ensemble, every music student who ever learned from him, and every proud citizen of Youngstown who worked and continues to work to restore the city to its former glory.

My family's life is richer for having known him and we are all deeply saddened today at his loss.

Tyler and Jaci have also made comments on their blogs.

Samuel Clemens

I've been "reading" the biography of Mark Twain written by Geoffrey C. Ward, Ken Burns, Dayton Duncan and Bill Meisle. (Thanks, Tyler) What a fascinating account of an enigmatic and idiosyncratic man.

One of the accounts that captured my ear was the detailing a home—palace, really— that Sam and Livvy, with their three daughters, occupied for a period in Italy, I believe. He referred to the large foyer as the "skating rink". He said the house was so large and they wasted so much time searching for family members throughout the house, that they should gather in the skating rink every hour or two just so they could see each other and make sure everyone was alright. (I don't remember the exact statement, but that's the problem with audiobooks — you can't exactly flip back to the page to get a precise quote.)

Having just spent a few days in Tyler and Jaci's enormous home in Youngstown, I had to laugh at this, and thought maybe I'd suggest it to them. Maybe we could all meet in the second floor foyer every other hour on the hour.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Definition of Weird

Weird, as an adjective, has two meanings: 1) relating to the supernatural; or 2) of strange or extraordinary character. Tonight was weird—both definitions.

My friend, fiddler Lindianne Sarno, asked me to join her tonight at Raz for an "amazing evening of music arranged by Hana Ripp." I don't remember ever meeting Hana Ripp, although when we arrived at Raz she said we had met before. You know I'm not real good in situations where there is no plan and I have no control over the situation, so this evening was rather challenging.

The main characters in this "amazing evening" were Lindi and her fiddle, me and a lovely grand by the bar, and Gabriel Ayala, who is a Native American guitarist about whom I've heard wonderful things. There was no rehearsal for the three of us; Gabriel and Lindi had met once before to play together. We all arrived together and kinda stood around trying to figure out where to set up. There was no sound system. As they were looking at each other, pondering, I sat down at the piano and started to play from my "beautiful music to shop by" repertoire. There was applause after every number I played—this is something I'm trying to learn to be gracious about. I'd rather just sit in the background and not be noticed, or be quietly noticed, sans applause. Of course, applause is better than booing, so there you go.

I played a couple of numbers and then in walked Todd, the lawyer-cum-real estate investor I dated three years ago. He looked good. Darn, he never looked that good or dressed that nicely when we were dating! (Remember? This was a guy who didn't own any unstained shirts. This was the guy whose profile said he was 59 and in reality he was 69—I guess that makes him 72 now. But looks darned good!) Todd had called me a couple of weeks ago for Lindi's phone number after meeting Gabriel and realizing quickly that he and Lindi (whom Todd had heard play at Li'l Ab's with her husband, Gary Kuitert, and his band, Titan Valley Warheads, a mere three years ago) would be perfectly matched musically.

I played a few more numbers, then Lindi rosined up her bow and started playing along with me. Let me tell you about Lindi. She and I met in January of 2004 when we started playing with my neighbor, LaVerne Davis Lawrence, for her spring show. The first time Lindi and I sat next to each other and started to play, we just looked at each other and grinned. We knew there was something special between us.

A few numbers later, Hana came up and said there was a woman in the restaurant who was a singer and wondered if she could sing something. She asked if we'd mind. Well, you never know whom you're offending, so of course we said we wouldn't mind. The woman came up and asked if I could play something or other in the key of whatever, and of course I could. Well, this woman sounds like about a two-packs-a-day smoker. She could definitely carry a tune. But when she started singing, I expected the music to flow as it does between me and Lindi, between me and Judy in Sarasota, between me and many singers for whom I've played. Nope. Didn't happen. No magic happening there. No lightning striking the piano. Anyway, that was over quickly and the woman had her moment in the spotlight.

Evidently the whole time Lindi and I were playing, Gabriel was objecting to the lack of sound system. He seemed to think that Lindi would overpower him and was reticent to play with Lindi without a sound system.

So Lindi and I played a half an hour and then I begged off, saying I was just the opening act and that I was taking my cold home to bed. I left it to Hana to massage Gabriel's ego and get him to pull out his guitar and play. I don't know what they did after I left.

I enjoyed what I did. I would play nightly there for tips and a minimum wage—it was really lovely sitting at a keyboard again and working my magic.

I just would prefer to have a little control over the situation.

And now I'm going to pour a little chardonnay and tuck into bed.

The Pursuit of Happyness

I pay-per-viewed Happyness over the weekend and found it very difficult to watch. Each time Chris was wondering where the next dollar was coming from and how he was going to care for his son, I was reminded of the very difficult years in Washington with Tyler.

I don't know if I've ever told this story here. I had been with IBM for eight years, had finished two years of law school, and had been living with John for a year. I was following the real estate track in school with two years left to complete, and hoping to become a real estate attorney upon graduation and passing of the bar. Several of the real estate classes I wanted to take were only offered during the day, and I was going to school at night. After many discussions regarding this dilemma, John suggested I resign from IBM and let him take care of the all the finances while I focus on school. This would enable me to take some daytime classes. So after thinking and talking and considering, I resigned from IBM at the end of August 1988. I went from a salary of about $45,000 to a salary of $0. A few weeks later I got a part-time job as an editor for a crazymanlawyerauthorpublisher in Arlington so that I had a small income. About a month later Tyler told me he wanted to leave his dad and come live with me. At the beginning of January I drove to Plano to get Tyler and brought him and all his stuff, crammed into my Honda Civic Wagon, through driving rain back to D.C. Six weeks later—on Valentine's Day, if memory serves me correctly—John told me he "could not deny [his] love for Elizabeth and wanted to be with her." We stayed together a couple more months while I searched for housing and means to supplement my income. And from that point forward, I worked a full-time and two part-time jobs while finishing law school, just to provide for Tyler and myself.

Not a day went by when I wasn't worried about money, about bills, about the future. It would grip me like a straitjacket, the fear of not being able to make ends meet, of having to deny Tyler something that he needed in his education and his life.

Watching "The Pursuit of Happyness," I could feel that panic again.

When I look at my current life, my two houses and four mortgages, any angst I feel now is nothing compared to where we were then.

And may I never have to experience that again!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Ride Safe

My friend Lee — The Traveler — dropped by this morning to bring me a Sunday morning raspberry cinnamon roll from Le Buzz. Lee, a former U.S. Marine, is on his way out of town for a month. Every year he participates in the Run for the Wall, which will culminate in Washington, D.C., on Memorial Day with the Rolling Thunder ride to the Vietnam Memorial. He'll be on the Central Route. The riders stop in many small towns along the route and visit with the children of servicemen and women who have lost their lives in Iraq. Lee saves his vacation and looks forward to this ride all year long.

I was impressed with his organization, seeing his BMW bike and how well he has all his gear stowed for the trip. He has three weeks of clothes in a small duffel bag so he can make most of the trip without having to do laundry. I don't think I could do it. But we do have to admit that he doesn't have to take hair dryer or make up or all that other girly stuff.

Ride safe, Lee. See you in June.

Today's Quote

My favorite new quote, at least for today, is from this weekend's Prairie Home Companion.

"I've had a number of successful marriages."
Garrison Keillor

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Mr. Match = Mr. Not_A_Match_For_Me

I've had a most interesting couple of days. Bob/Mr. Match's daughter and her friend/traveling companion have been staying with me. They are lovely young ladies. Jenn (the daughter) is working on a second B.A., in interior design, preparing to pursue an M.A. in architecture. Valerie, her friend, is pursuing an M.A. in teaching of English as a second language. They are delightful — perfect houseguests. We've had a nice time getting to know each other.

Tonight I had TSO tickets and had asked Bob to go with me, in a moment of weakness during one our every-two-weeks "dates". (Oh, call it whatever you want.) He suggested we ask the girls if they wanted to go (they're mid-20s) and to my shock they said yes. So the four of us went to Rio Cafe for dinner and then to the concert.

You know I've become best friends with Richard and Eduardo, the owners of Rio Cafe. I adore these men, as they do me. They've told me I have a standing invitation to stay with them whenever I return to Tucson after moving to Youngstown. Well, as my best friends, these men are very protective of me. They want the best for me, and that includes the best man who's going to treat me right. They look sideways at any man I bring into Rio (so far only Frank and, now, Bob).

The three of us are all open and warm and loving with each other, and there are hugs all around when I walk in. So tonight I collected hugs, then turned to introduce Richard to the girls and Bob. I was really shocked at how [what's the opposite of outgoing?] Bob was. He almost mumbled hello. The girls were very outgoing, warm, shaking hands, eye contact, "nice to meet you". Bob almost mumbled and seemed to look at the floor.

Whenever I am waited upon at Rio, I make sure to learn the server's name and speak to him or her by name. When Chris came up to take our orders, I started a conversation with her. The girls and I were easy with the repartee; while Bob was withdrawn, quiet, and lacking in personality. That's it. That's the definition of his behavior all evening: devoid of personality. Hmmm. I had never seen that before.

When we first started dating, he told me he didn't have many friends in Tucson, as his fianceé had been based in Chicago and was always commuting back and forth to Chicago for work. When she was in Tucson, she was busy with laundry and manicures. I told him I had lots of friends who would welcome him into the circle and the activities. He stated that he was interested in developing this facet of his life, but whenever I suggested dinner or some other activity with friends, he'd decline. (Jill, remember the almost-dinner at Galo's?) So tonight, seeing how he really didn't know how to interact with people, how to make small talk, was really eye-opening.

The man doesn't have a life. I really think he doesn't have a life. He has work. He has acquaintances at work. He has a handful of women he dates — I don't know how many and how frequently, and I don't want to know. He doesn't know how to make conversation. He can talk about his work, and problems he's having in the mismanaged company for which he works. But he doesn't know how to ask questions and draw a person out, how to learn more about a person.

At some point tonight it hit me as sharply as if a glass of cold water had been thrown in my face. He is arrogant. (I figured that out last summer, but thought I could downplay it.) He is self-centered. (How many hours can you go on about the problems with your job without being ready to stop kvetching?) HE DOESN'T DESERVE ME. (Huzzah! Huzzah!)

Friday, May 11, 2007

Life — Waiting Around the Corner

I started to title this "I Am the Luckiest", which is the title of a Ben Folds song that I love. I'll drop the lyrics in at the end of this post for you to enjoy.

I look at my life and think I'm lucky, I'm blessed, I've lived a charmed life.

Don't get me wrong. I don't think my life has been easy. On the contrary, I think my life has been hard. But hard in a blessed way, in a can-you-pass-this-test way.

Leaving my children, trying to do what was best for them, was agony, but look at the wonderful relationships I have with them now, and with their families. Tyler has the most wonderful wife and children; TJ now has someone in his life that makes him happy. These boys have grown into men of character.

Careerwise, I've never had a plan. The right job has always fallen into my lap. My love life has been interesting, and each relationship has added to the brick-upon-brick building of my life. Terry, bless his hypercritical and demeaning self, helped me produce these talented young men. Dick got me to my beloved Washington, DC. Bob provided me health insurance when I needed it and had no resources for it and enabled me to realize that it was okay to walk out on an untenable situation. And John. Oh, John gave me love and acceptance and a sense of belonging and the ability to craft between us the marriage we had both wanted all our lives. Walking with John to his death was the hardest task I've been given in my life, and the one I believe I accomplished most successfully. Steve gave me a few years of not working (outside the home - don't kid yourself, I worked like a frigging slave picking up after him and his daughter) so I was able to take lots of arts classes and to enable Jaci to take classes while I watched Boston. That freedom of time allowed Boston and me to spend an enormous amount of time together, forming an incredible bond between us. The relationships of 2006? I think they allowed me to refine my sense of what behavior I will not put up with in a companion.

I had some interesting personal transactions yesterday that have been building for a couple of months online, and those only served to reinforce my understanding that I have good instincts and can trust them.

Yes, I'm lonely. Yes, I'm frustrated that my life seems to be in turmoil and I don't know what's coming next. But when I look at the patterns of my life, I sense something wonderful—personally and professionally—is waiting just around the corner. I can't see it yet, and I'm in a time of needing to focus on preparation. But I can sense its presence. Something just waiting to happen.

My friend Lindianne has a few friends who are househunting who, she thinks, would find this house perfect to their needs. Other friends are alert to the imminent availability of this house. I believe that will all come together as it should.

My tenants are leaving the Continental Ranch house in August, and somehow that will all work itself out. My boss at IBM is having conversations with peers, trying to find me a position within IBM, still as a contractor, working for a manager who, unlike her manager, endorses telecommuting.

So if I can be patient and keep hope alive and, especially regarding my love life, keep telling myself, "it could be worse," then I'll get through this. And I'll round the corner and the sun will shine.
- - - - -
The Luckiest
Ben Folds

I don't get many things right the first time
In fact, I am told that a lot
Now I know all the wrong turns, the stumbles and falls
Brought me here

And where was I before the day
That I first saw your lovely face?
Now I see it everyday
And I know

That I am
I am
I am
The luckiest

What if I'd been born fifty years before you
In a house on a street where you lived?
Maybe I'd be outside as you passed on your bike
Would I know?

And in a white sea of eyes
I see one pair that I recognize
And I know

That I am
I am
I am
The luckiest

I love you more than I have ever found a way to say to you

Next door there's an old man who lived to his nineties
And one day passed away in his sleep
And his wife; she stayed for a couple of days
And passed away

I'm sorry, I know that's a strange way to tell you that I know we belong
That I know

That I am
I am
I am
The luckiest

A Star, Waiting to Happen

Reminiscences of time with grandbabies

Sunday afternoon in Youngstown we went to the DeYor Center to watch "The Kids and I" (takeoff on "The King and I" — get it?), staged by Easy Street Productions, with whom Jaci has a long and happy history. Maureen Collins sang, surrounded by 60+ very talented kids, from 6 to 16, who had completed a workshop she runs.

I didn't know what to expect. I've worked with lots of children's theatre groups and know the performances can run the gamut from awful to great. This one was beyond great. Every aspect of this show was handled with the utmost in professionalism. I told Maureen afterwards that she and I are going to be great friends once I get moved to Youngstown, as I can offer her both my accompaniment skills and my needle-and-thread skills to help her job run more easily.

But back to the subject of this post. Little Mr. Boston Clark, he of the incredibly keen musical ear, he who hits pitches right on and doesn't miss intervals and has done so since age 2, was taken with this production. During the finale, he sat in his seat, eyes glued to the singer/dancers and was copying every arm movement. I think if his dad or I had shouted at him, he wouldn't have heard us, so tuned in was he to what was happening on stage. My heart soared! He performed as much of the choreography as he could without leaving his seat.

Needless to say, Boston will be one of the first to sign up for Maureen's summer workshop, and I predict another long and happy history with Easy Street is in the making.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished, er, Unnoticed

I was recently nominated for the Evelyn Peters Kyle Angel Award in Alumnae Region Six of Pi Beta Phi, in which there are 41 alum clubs.

This award is presented to an individual alumna who has served her alumnae club by performing those duties that often go unrecognized but serve to enhance the success of an alumnae organization. These awards are presented in honor of Evelyn Peters Kyle, an outstanding leader of the Pi Beta Phi Fraternity who has given over 75 years of service and leadership to the Fraternity.

I was notified last night by the president of our club that, although I didn't win, I was awarded one of two Honorable Mentions among the nominees.

I prefer to work behind the scenes and require no acknowledgement. But acknowledgement is always nice, as is this Honorable Mention for my work.

Mill Creek Park

While I recover from my jet lag and prepare to host two young ladies for the next four days, I'll share with you two photos of the fabulous Mill Creek Park in Youngstown.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Sooner or Later

This post is being written in the Cleveland airport as I wait for my flight back to Tucson. I had an absolutely fabulous time in Youngstown. One of the things I love about my life in Tucson is how frequently I run into people I know. Let me tell you the uncanny tale of my four days in Youngstown.

On Friday, Tyler and Riah and I went to the Rose Garden at Mill Creek Park to have lunch in the café. (We’ll ignore the fact that the service was interminably slow, something Tyler knows I despise.) Before walking into the café, we walked over to the fountain next to a broad expanse of grass filled with plantings lush with tulips. We stood by the fountain for a few minutes, laughing as the wind blew the spray from the fountain onto Riah and she squealed with delight. We then turned to walk back to the café, and I heard Tyler says, ‘Well, hello there.” I turned around and it was our friends Ron and Marcia Gould. Ron was Tyler’s major professor and mentor in his four years at Youngstown State, and Tyler remains the fourth Gould son. I adore these people and cherish every moment we are able to spend together. We had been invited to Ron and Marcia’s home for dinner on Saturday night, but what a rare delight to get to spend an extra hour with them over lunch on this trip. It made the interminably-long lunch more bearable. (Marcia and I decided that once I move up there, she and I will audition for the Cleveland Symphony Chorus and carpool up on Monday nights.)

The next uncanny story also involves Mill Creek Park. To set the stage: When Boston heard about our experience with the fountain on Friday, he wanted to see the fountain, too. So Saturday morning I took Boston and Ridley back to the Rose Garden. Unfortunately, the fountain was turned off, but they had a great time racing across the grassy expanse and back. Then we got in the car to go explore some more and see what we could find. As I was driving around trying to find access to a playground I had seen at a distance, I saw Lily Pond, where Canada geese, wood ducks, and mallards were paddling and turtles were sunning themselves. I parked the car and we got out to look at the geese, and a kind grandpa with his two young grandchildren offered to share his bread with Boston and Riah so they could feed the geese. Then we went and found a playground. Lunch at McDonald’s followed and then we went home so I could meet the realtor to go real estate browsing.

For some reason, all afternoon and evening they kept asking me if we could go back to the park the next day and take more bread to feed the geese. So we got up, had breakfast, letting the parents sleep, and took off for another exploratory drive through Mill Creek Park. I was able to find Lily Pond again, and we fed geese and ducks and saw three Canada goslings, darling little six- or eight-inch-tall balls of yellow fluff. We walked a little farther along the path and I noticed a woman walking her dog in our direction. I looked at her, she looked at me, and we both smiled and said “hi.” This is unusual for me — I frequently smile at people, but I rarely speak like that, so open and friendly. I looked at her and thought, “Is that Maureen?” While I was weighing whether to ask her if she was Jaci’s friend, Maureen Collins, she looked at the kids and said, “Is that Ridley?” We just laughed at the coincidence of running into each other in the park. I had met Maureen at Jaci’s bridal shower in 1998, and we were planning to go to the production of her children’s theatre workshop on Sunday afternoon.

In four days in Youngstown, I went out four times, and half of those times ran into people I knew. How right does that feel?

My friend Eileen, my predecessor on Chula Vista, e-mailed after my last post that I need to just pick up and move and everything will work itself out. I tend to agree with her.

I looked at two condominium units in Liberty Township, less than five minutes from Ron and Marcia. I also looked at two 1950s center hall colonials on Gypsy Lane, overlooking Stambaugh Golf Course, two minutes from Ty and Jaci. One of the houses on the golf course is in pristine, move-in condition, and lists for around 160K. It belongs to a friend of Tyler’s who is retiring to Scottsdale. Unfortunately, he wasn’t interested in trading my Tucson house for his Youngstown house. The other house could be had for about 100K, I believe, but needs a ton o’ work. I could easily put 50K or 60K into this house to have a really lovely home. There are also several homes within three blocks of Tyler and Jaci that list for under $100K and could be doable, although maybe not exactly what I want. But at $100K or less, I could live easily if I had a job, or live frugally but happily without a job!

As Eileen sensed in the post that prompted her to write her note, it all feels right to me. I’m happy when I’m with the kids. With my presence, Ty and Jaci were able to go out to a party and sleep in and generally take it a little easier — something they had not been able to do since February 9th. Jaci is not a morning person, frequently doing her best work very late at night. I think she enjoyed having me take Boston to school during my stay so she didn’t have to get dressed and out so early in the morning. I like enabling my children to have a little ease in their lives. I am happy when I am helping my kids. Read whatever psychological mumbo-jumbo you want into it, but helping my kids makes me happy. So analyze me!

A couple of other notes: we mentioned to Maureen that it was Tyler’s birthday, and she had the entire audience sing Happy Birthday to Tyler, mentioning how everyone at Easy Street Productions was so happy to have them back in Youngstown. I was able to meet a number of Tyler and Jaci’s musical and theatre friends, some of whom I had met years ago, some who were new, all of whom were thrilled to have Ty and Jaci back in Youngstown.

As much as I questioned the move when it was first presented to me in November, I have to tell you I’ve never seen Jaci so happy, so contented, so comfortable in her own skin. This move was absolutely the right thing for her and, consequently, for her family. I salute her for being prescient enough to recognize the resonance within herself when she went back to Youngstown in November.

Their home is absolutely incredible, and they are very fortunate — blessed, if you will — to have a house of this caliber and magnitude at ages 32 and 38, respectively.

Now when I find my little house up there, figure out the job situation, and get moved, all will be right in my world.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Home At Last

I'm in Youngstown now. As I stood at the sink after breakfast doing the dishes, cleaning up the kitchen so Jaci could spend time doing other things, I realized I felt at home, at peace. Happy. Happy! When's the last time I was able to say that?

For three to six months now, I've been in turmoil—the turmoil of preparing for Tyler and Jaci's departure, followed by the turmoil of trying to figure out what I am going to do next. I've blogged about feeling empty, feeling lost, feeling like I was in limbo. Now, when I'm back with them, I feel settled, grounded, happy. Happy!

Jaci and I drove around for half an hour this morning after dropping Boston to school; she pointed out this house and that house that they think might work for me. Then while Jaci got her hair done and I killed time with Riah before going to pick up Boston from school, I drove around a little more.

This afternoon I called the YSU Director of Development to remind her I was in town if she felt my résumé looked like a fit for their posting for a development officer.

It suddenly occurred to me that if I get an interview out of that call, this trip is probably deductible! Of course I'm in favor of any and all deductions!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Second Life

You've heard me gritch and groan about Second Life and the work I was doing to prepare for an IBM launch event there. Here's Tony Pearson's blog, including the video as posted on YouTube and an article written about the event.

Lovin' my Starbucks

I ran in to get a mocha this morning against my better judgment. I was running late as I had to wait around the house for the appraiser to come - part of my "get a mortgage/pay your taxes" exercise.

Today I'm wearing Susan Silvy silver-core lampworked beads hanging off large sterling silver hoop earrings. It's way out of my norm — nothing subtle or understated about these earrings. The gal who took my order noticed and commented on the beads and asked about the artist.

Then while I was waiting for my drink to be delivered, another woman noticed the lampwork bead hanging off my lanyard with my IBM badge. Turns out it's a bead I made back in my learning-to-lampwork days. It's a periwinkle blue dotted with transparent royal blue dots. To the perfectionist, it's a half-assed bead. But to someone who just loves glass and the color blue, it's exquisite. And I made it. And someone noticed and commented.

It made me smile.