Monday, June 30, 2008

Google Docs

If you ever create a document that you need someone else to reference or edit, and you haven't used Google documents, you don't know what you're missing!

Google Docs enable you to create a file (think "Microsoft Word") or spreadsheet (think "Microsoft Excel") or a presentation (think "Powerpoint") that you store on Google's servers and share with others. By entering the other person's e-mail address, you can enable colleagues to either edit the document or merely read it. Because the documents are stored online, there's never any e-mailing back and forth of documents, and never any concern about who has the latest version of a particular document.

Tyler first told me about Google Docs several years ago. He has used them to write his program notes and then allow me to proof and edit them. I've used them for Tucson Chamber Artist press materials and board documents, adding the entire board of directors as collaborators.

Why are Google Docs on my mind this morning? A year ago, as I updated the Tucson Alumnae of Pi Beta Phi membership database with the annual update sent from the Pi Beta Phi International headquarters database, I made very detailed notes, hoping it would be my last year to make that update.

Last week I received an e-mail from the woman who has taken over those duties, asking if I could help her understand how to convert the headquarters' comma-separated-values (.csv) file into a useable format to update the database. Last night, prior to our phone call, I looked back through my Google Docs, patted myself on the back for storing the information in a Google Doc, and added her as a collaborator. Our phone call took ten minutes rather than two hours.

Today I'm thinking I'm brilliant. No, wait. I'm thinking the Google engineers are brilliant!
- - - - -
And with that summation, I enter Carmina Burana hell week. I don't know how prolific I'll be this week, as I have rehearsal with Bloosm Festival Chorus every night this week after work (except July 4th, she says, waving a flag). I'll get home from rehearsal after 11:00 every night, and get up again at 6:00 the next morning to do it all over again. Send me cyberstrength, please, but also know how much I'm enjoying singing this music.

Ta.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Passing Time, Not Killing It

I spend a lot of time driving. Oh, you knew that already. I pass the time listening to lots of podcasts and occasional books.

Recent books I have listened to include Mignon Fogarty's Grammar Girl's Quick and DIrty Tips for Better Writing; Mark Levin's Men in Black: How the Supreme Court is Destroying America; Oliver Sacks' Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain; and Scott McClellan's What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception. I recommend all of these books, and—as much as I resent the loss of those two hours from every day—I appreciate the time to use and expand my brain and learn things I would not otherwise have the time to learn.

I gave you the links to the hardcopy books, but I get my reading material off Audible. Audible makes it very easy to download audiobooks to my iPod, and iTunes makes it easy to sync and go.

As part of my Audible membership, I get the daily feed from the New York Times. That's the first in my list of podcasts I choose from during my drive.

Other podcasts are:
American Public Media: News from Lake Wobegon (Prairie Home Companion), Composer's Datebook, Jon Gordon's Future Tense, Writer's Almanac, and Performance Today's Piano Puzzler
National Public Radio: Car Talk's Call of the Week, Sunday Puzzle, and Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! (Wait Wait is an hour long podcast, the complete show, and I wish they broadcast every day. They make me laugh out loud.)
Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing
Sewing: Grandma's Sewing Cabinet, Mad Quilter, Material Mama, Miss You Sew Much, Sew Chick, Sew Forth Now, Stitch by Stitch (I'm still sorting through these to see which I'm going to continue to subscribe to and which I'm going to drop. Some are extremely amateurish—ear-hurtingly so—and some are filled with great information.
The Splendid Table
The Accidental Creative (This was recommended by my cubemate Keith, who has a commute just a little shorter than mine and also fills his time with podcasts.)

I also download a few vodcasts (video podcasts), but do not watch them while driving! These are:
PBS Great Performances;
DIY Style;
The Larry King Podcast;
New Yorker - Conference Video; and
What Makes It Great, with Rob Kapilow

So there you go. If you're looking for some good and/or fun stuff with which to feed your mind, try some of these.

In a future post, I'll tell you the blogs I read on a regular basis.

Gee, it's amazing there's any time left in the day with so much fodder for thought flying around cyberspace!

<Footnote>If you've never listened to a podcast before, let me share some info. I will assume your computer has iTunes installed. If not, go to the iTunes home page to download and install it. You can then click on iTunes Store, then on the Podcasts link within the iTunes Store navigation section. You can browse the available podcasts, or you can stick a search term (e.g. football, cooking, fiction, poetry, comedy—whatever your interest may be) into the search bar in the upper right, and you'll see a list of available podcasts. Most are free. Just click on one that grabs your interest, then click the Subscribe button.

There are other podcast catchers, and I'm sure Tyler will add a comment to this post if he has better information to give you than I've done.

Other good resources are the NPR Podcast Directory and American Public Media's podcast page.

Pretty soon you'll be able to understand why I've been heard to shout, "I love podcasts!"

Friday, June 27, 2008

SATC

I took advantage of a night with no babysitting obligations to catch Sex and The City. PianoLady and I had been sitting in Bryant Park when the wedding gown/flower scene was filmed. It was so much fun to see it on the big screen and scan the crowd to see if I could pick us out. (I couldn't, but don't think I won't be freeze-framing it when I rent it to watch again in a few months.)

The movie made me cry. I miss John. I miss having someone who loves me unconditionally (besides Boston and Ridley). I miss having romance in my life.

When I watched the final episode of the TV series and Carrie received the telephone call from Big where his name comes up for the very first time on her caller id and she learns (we learn) that his name is John, I just sobbed. Sobbed. Completely.

What a sap I am.

My boss is on the party planning committee for the holiday party. The committee is trying to keep things hush-hush, but I overheard some of their conversations yesterday, so I know the general theme. When he said, "Oh no, now Jan knows what we're doing", I replied, "It's okay. I'm not going to go [to the party]." The HR director and my boss and the other manager who was in my boss's office at the time expressed dismay that I wouldn't want to go, and questioned why. I told them that nothing makes me more depressed than going to a couples party by myself.

And that tells you what hope I feel for meeting anyone now or anytime in the future. Zero. I hope to meet someone. Certainly, I hope. Just like I buy lottery tickets twice a week. But I think the odds of my winning the lottery may be greater than the odds of meeting a man to become my significant other.

So I remember being loved. I remember having someone to collaboratively work the Washington Post crossword with every night as we fell asleep. I remember sitting over our dinner, seeing who could answer the Jeopardy question faster. I remember going to concerts and traveling to Hilton Head and a million little togethernesses. And I miss it deeply and sadly and, unfortunately, probably foreverly.

Even a feel-good movie can't make me feel good.

Whaaa??

Boston popped into my room, fully clothed and bouncingly awake, at 6:10 this morning. We chatted about various aspects of his life and I found him an educational game to play on my computer while I took my shower.

At some point he started talking about getting a job at Wal-Mart or Toys R Us or Sam's Club. I told him he should enjoy his ability to just play and learn all day and not rush into working. We talked about why people work, and about people training for specific jobs to help people, like doctors and lawyers and architects and research scientists. (You see where I'm going here, right? Get Your Education!)

He said, "I'm going to be a landscape architect."

I beg your pardon? The kid is not-yet-seven! And he knows the term "landscape architect"?! (Where's that interrobang when I need it?!) If somebody asked me, as a child, what I was going to be when I grew up, I had no idea. I had thought no further than "wife and mother". And anyway, the world was going to end, Christ was coming for the second time, in 1968, so it was a moot point. I used to cry that I wasn't going to get to grow up and get married and have a family. I didn't want Christ to come again so soon—I wanted a chance to live life. (Well, guess what. I've lived life, by the scenic route, and there has been less joy than pain. Woo hoo.) (Oh, yeah, and Christ hasn't come again, yet. The joke's on the Adventist church.)

Back to Boston and his future occupation. He can be a landscape architect or a scientist or whatever he wants. I've assured him I'm saving money to make sure he can get all the education he needs. But he should take his time and remain innocent of the politics that invades the workplace.

I'm angry at the politics of jobs. My dear friend, Jill, whom I frequently mention and who frequently comments here, e-mailed last night that she had lost her job. She had a perfect-fit job, which she performed with style and grace. She was recognized both in the University community and the community at large for her ability to pull together fabulous events, aptly and respectfully recognizing and honoring donors, and to always work within budget. And then the political-powers-that-be brought in a woman to work just above her, who denigrated and demeaned her work, who effectively tied Jill's hands in the workplace. And now, just having turned 60, she's jobless.

I want a magic wand. I want a winning lottery ticket. I want to banish the mean, selfish and self-centered people of the world to a desert island where they can all fight each other to be top dog.

Boston, take your time. Go play.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Inquiring Minds

Boston has started getting out of bed quickly in the morning to get downstairs so he can spend a little time with me before I start my morning commute.

This morning he asked me what "rhetorical" meant. I asked where he had heard the word, and he replied "On 'Ben Ten: Alien Force'." (It's his favorite TV show, dontcha know.) I explained about rhetorical questions and gave an example. He was satisfied with my answer. Then a few minutes later, he asked what "virtual" meant. I explained first, then asked where he had heard it. He said, "Virtual Hold" (my employer).

I love the way this almost-seven-year-old's brain works!

Kudos to Tyler and Jaci for fostering his inquisitiveness.

My New Philosophy

That title reminds me of the song Sally sings in "You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown." Her philosophy? Basically, "I don't care."

I've mentioned that I'm having some challenges at work, and I'm trying desperately to rise above them.

Zappo's has some great corporate blogs that I read on a regular basis. One that I especially like is Coach, a motivational thought-a-day blog.

One of Coach's recent posts was particularly on point with my current situation. I typed and printed it and it now hangs over my laptop in my cube.

Professionals have one thing in common . . . they can handle adversity in stride.

The True Professional can take anything which comes into her work or personal life, that may distract her from her plans, and quickly go to plan "B" while working on a solution, instead of grinding to a standstill.

It takes a little multi-tasking, but that's what makes the Successful, Successful.


So I say to myself, and to Jill and Fivehusbands and BA and PianoLady and anybody else with seemingly-overwhelming issues right now: Hang in there!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Countrywide's Favorite Customer

The Traveler sent me this link this morning.

I would be one of those customers of Countrywide. I have three mortgages from Countrywide, all since 2004.

There's no recourse for me. I'm just a little guy, struggling to make ends meet and maintain my integrity. But it has changed how I look at home ownership. The house I love, on 5th Avenue in Youngstown, is probably not the house I'll ultimately buy—when I get up the courage to buy again. I'll probably settle for a house that's much smaller and much cheaper. It will be an okay way to live, but I'll probably never love it.

"That'll do, Pig. That'll do."

Civility

I'm reading, on my daily commute, Scott McClellan's new book, "What Happened". A statement he made rang true with me.

America, at its best, matches a commitment to principle with a concern for civility. A civil society demands from each of us good will and respect, fair dealing and forgiveness. Some seem to believe that our politics can afford to be petty, because in a time of peace the stakes of our debates appear small. But the stakes for America are never small. We must live up to the calling we share. Civility is not a tactic or a sentiment. It is the determined choice of trust over cynicism, of community over chaos. And this commitment, if we keep it, is a way to shared accomplishment.


I don't like "politics". I don't like fighting and confrontation. I want people to play nice, for countries to play nice.

Civility is what I want for my country, regardless of who occupies the White House.

It's History Now

On the Saturday of Labor Day Weekend, 2003, EEFFH told me he wanted to "be alone". That weekend was exactly four years from the date I received his very first e-mail—an interesting choice of days to break up with me.

His pronouncement took me by surprise and knocked me off my feet, emotionally. It took me three weeks to get my act together. I had to go through every cupboard, closet and bookshelf in the house to extricate my possessions. I had to find a place to live, apply for a mortgage, open bank accounts, and pack belongings. And keep going with my normal schedule, which included babysitting two-year-old Boston three or more times a week and taking pottery classes at the community college twice a week.

Thanks to my wonderful realtors, Bill and Tom, I found a house the first day I looked. It was the 15th house I looked at on the day before Labor Day. It was a Pulte home, well built and well designed. And it was only one mile away from Tyler and Jaci who, along with the children, were to be my narrow ribbon connecting me to sanity for the next couple of years.

Lots of sleepovers and lots of creativity took place in that house, but I always missed being closer to town. In the almost-three years I lived in that house, I only had friends over about three times, as I didn't want to force friends to drive 45 minutes to see me. So when my friends Eileen and Jacki decided to sell their house in town, I jumped at the chance to buy it.

The best tenants in the world, Shane and Amanda, moved into my vacant house and treated it with loving care for the next two years. Now they've gone on to Shane's "I've got a new MBA" job at Hewlett-Packard in Colorado.

Tomorrow Karl and Kathy will take possession of 7532 W Colony Park Drive. I hope they appreciate how lovingly that house has been cared for over the past five years. And I hope they have many wonderful years there.

I had to part with a lotta lotta money today. I tried to get Countrywide to help me out with the enormous loss on this sale, but it turns out that if you're good about making your mortgage payments, even if it's a terrific hardship for you, the mortgage companies aren't willing to help you. If I hadn't made my payments, they would have been willing to help me. But because I made all my payments, I was privileged to hand over in excess of twenty-five thousand dollars to the title company today.

I've felt horrible about the situation for the past several weeks. But today, once I handed the signed and notarized papers over to the FedEx guy and determined the money had been wired out of my account, I felt tremendous relief.

Repeat after me: It's only money.

One down. One to go.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Scenic Route

While running errands at noon, I was listening to BroadMinded on XM Radio (love those girls!). They were interviewing Irish author Marian Keyes, whose newest book "This Charming Man" is just out.

Ms. Keyes made a statement about her life and romances that I think I'll adopt to apply to all my marriages and relationships. She said, "I took the scenic route."

I love the mental image that statement brings.

If you've got to experience some bumps in your life, wouldn't you rather it be on a scenic route than a boring straight-and-narrow road through the desert?

Monday, June 23, 2008

It Was A Very Good Day

Okay, if you're wanting a post-mortem, yesterday was a very good day. The babes had spent the night with our friend Marcia so Tyler and I could return from Blossom without rushing. (Jaci was shooting a wedding in Akron at Stan Hywet Hall. She's got a darling slideshow of Ridley's birthday on her blog this morning. Watch this week for the Stan Hywet photos, including a fabulous rainbow behind the bride and groom. Truly a memorable picture!)

After I picked the babes up from Marcia's, we stopped at Plaza Donuts for treats, then went home and ate donuts and I opened cards and a set of garment fitting DVDs from Threads Magazine that I've been coveting. We listened to the rebroadcast of Prairie Home Companion and then ate slices of an ice cream cake Tyler had gotten for me. I took the babes with me to Jo-Ann Fabrics and Home Depot, and also did some sewing and laundry (love accomplishing things!) throughout the day. Then Boston requested an "alone night" with Grandma and we talked as we fell asleep.

A good day. So far, 58 ain't so bad.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Gift

About three months before his death (on the 30th of June, ten years ago), John fell and broke several ribs. His bones were filled to overflowing with cancer and there was nothing the doctors could do about the breaks, so they just increased his pain meds and he dealt with the pain.

Within a few weeks, he went on medical leave from his job at the Pentagon, and we started processing the paperwork for his disability retirement. As the days passed, he spent more and more time in his recliner, dozing.

He would call in to work occasionally to catch up with his friends, especially Annie, a 40ish USAF captain whom he respected highly. In early June, I noticed more calls with Annie, and then she came to visit a couple of times. Then one day he asked me to write Annie a check, specifying the amount and telling me not to ask why.

I figured he had something up his sleeve but wasn't sure what. On my birthday, Annie stopped by with an elegantly-wrapped package for me. When I opened the gift, I found a beautiful gold omega chain. This man, in spite of his incredible and pervasive pain, had made sure I had a wonderful piece of jewelry for my birthday, something that would remind me of him every time I wore it.

Annie told me later that he had known exactly what he wanted, and she had had to buy and return several items until finding the right one. He wouldn't be dissuaded from his decision about the perfect gift for me.

This behavior was so typical of JR. I have a gold rope bracelet that he gave me for my 38th birthday, just a couple of months after we met. I have worn it almost every day for 20 years. On my right wrist I wear a gold Italian bracelet that he bought when he went on a Panama Canal cruise during the years we were apart. When I'm acutely missing him, I wear my wedding ring—a delicate vintage-inspired ring with two Burmese rubies and a small diamond. We always joked that he got me a big house rather than a big diamond. And when the outfit calls for it, I wear the gold omega chain and remember the many sacrifices of this man to express his love for me.

MFEO

Happy Anniversary to dear friends Jill and Dave Becker, who were truly blessed to have found each other many years ago. He's smart, savvy, and extremely easy on the eyes; she's a true friend, in the best sense of both those words, individually and together.

* MFEO = Made for each other (from Sleepless in Seattle)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

On the Air

Tyler and I, along with our neighbor, Sherry, and her colleague, Stephanie, went to Blossom Music Festival tonight to see the live broadcast of Prairie Home Companion. We had a great time!

Rain was forecast and, boy, did it rain. It thundered, it lightninged, it sheeted rain. Fortunately, those events occurred after we were safely and fairly dryly settled in our seats. Tyler and I glanced at each other and smiled while watching the rain. After spending so many years in the desert, we're very partial to rain.

This trip to PHC was my birthday treat to myself, and Tyler rose to the occasion. If you're a PHC fan, you know Garrison Keillor accepts notes from the audience which he then reads on air. As the intermission began, Tyler slipped out of his seat. I thought nothing of it, but went on chatting with Sherry and Stephanie. But then, as GK began reading the notes, I wondered if that's where Tyler had gone.

Sure enough, I heard GK say "Happy Birthday to Jan . . ." and then heard lots of laughter from the audience. I asked Tyler to repeat it to me several times. Here's what he wrote and what was read on NPR tonight:

Happy Birthday to Jan from Tyler; a devoted mom and grandma whose remarkable diversity of careers is matched only by her remarkable diversity of husbands.


I consider Tyler to be brilliant on several counts: 1) to write something so clever that it would get past the "sorter" and make it into the broadcast; and 2) to know how incredibly special a birthday present that note was.

Thanks Ty. You made my day!

If you live in an area with a Sunday rebroadcast of the Saturday night broadcast, you can probably hear the show tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. The notes segment begins about one hour into the show. Or check the PHC website in a week or two to read the transcript.

Correction: Tyler tells me the rebroadcast is noon EDT. I believe it's still 10:00 a.m. in Arizona.

The Great Queen of Regiftable Gifts

You all know one—someone who doesn't have a clue how to buy gifts with the recipient in mind.

I've got one friend who gives things she likes, things that fit her lifestyle, her decorating style, her taste. Things she has given me in the past always ended up on eBay or in the Goodwill box. Another friend gives lovely gifts but doesn't know me at all any more. She gives gifts that suit her image of me, not who I really am today. She doesn't know who I really am today.

But the worst insult is when your own mother doesn't think about your needs or desires or tastes or lifestyle. This year's example: my birthday gift arrived in the mail yesterday. It was a small box, just the right size for a piece of jewelry. Mother knows the one piece in her jewelry box that I really, really want to possess. She told me a year ago to take it and I foolishly demurred, saying she should continue to use it while she wants. In my fantasy world, Mother sent me that pearl brooch that she knows I want.

Nah, not even close. I opened the box, remembering the Lenox collectible glass rooster and hen of two Christmases ago (sold on eBay) and the Victoriana-ornate blown glass perfume bottle set of last Christmas (sold on Craigslist). Truthfully, I was shocked she remembered it was my birthday; last year she forgot.

When I finally got the box open I found, ta da, a calypso-colored striped salt and pepper shaker set. Ummm, huh? I don't have a house. I don't even have a kitchen. I live in one room, about 12' x 15', and a bathroom. Every stick of furniture and item for home accessorizing that I own is in a storage unit 12 miles away.

Go ahead and say I'm ungrateful. Tell me I'm a spoiled brat and I don't deserve a birthday gift.

As I pause to figure out how to summarize this post, what tag line to drop on the end, my eyes are filling with tears. That damned Little Adoptee just popped into the room to remind me that I don't belong in that family, that no one in that family really knows me or wants to know me.

And here I am, a day short of 58 years old, without a sweetheart to cuddle up with, without a home of my own, getting ready to send almost $26,000 to the title company for the privilege of handing my house keys to someone else, and my very own mother sends me a god-damned pair of salt and pepper shakers.

There's gotta be a joke in there somewhere. Please. Somebody tell me a joke. I've gotta find some funniness here or I'm gonna go jump off a bridge over the Rillito River. Oh wait. There's no water in that river. More futility!


Oh, okay. Here's a joke for you, courtesy of today's GrammarGirl podcast:

There were two ducks on a pond. One said, “Quack” and the other said, “I was going to say that.”

Friday, June 20, 2008

When He Was Good, He Was Very Good Indeed

And when he was bad, he was still pretty darned good!

Happy Birthday to my darling JR, who would have been 70 today. And he would have done it in style, as he did everything with great joie de vivre and style.

Last night we (Ty, Jaci and I avec les bebes) had dinner with Ron and Marcia, with whom we've been friends for fourteen years now. I pulled out the bottle of champagne that Tom and Judy Timberman had brought to John's and my wedding as a guest book. It's been hanging around with me, through the cancer battle, through moves, through various relationships and lives, since the wedding on March 16, 1996. I didn't know whether the champagne would have any fizz left.

Last night, with dear friends, we popped the cork and drank a toast to John, to memories, and to friends.

Wasn't I lucky to have known and loved and been married to such a stellar man?!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Cat Talker

Boston had an "alone night" with Grandma last night. When he woke up this morning and heard Pepper meowing in the hallway, he started meowing back. He has decided he wants to be able to communicate with dogs and cats.

(With great apologies to Tyler and Jaci, who were probably awakened by their son's meowing this morning.)

Pepper walked into my bathroom and starting eating a few nuggets of food I had dropped on the floor for Rudi. Boston started meowing at him. He said, "I'm telling him not to eat off the floor." I assured Boston that it was okay—Pepper was a cat, not a boy, so eating off the floor was okay. Of course when Pepper walked away from the food, Boston called, "Good boy. Good boy."

Then Pepper jumped up on my nightstand and Boston meowed at him again. When Pepper left the nightstand, Boston again praised him. "I was telling him to get off the nightstand," Boston said.

He's so serious, so sincere. He wants to perfect his "communication" (his word, not mine!) with dogs and cats, but thinks dogs will be harder.

Ah, the innocence of youth. I want it back!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

We're Havin' A Heat Wave

It's Hawaiian shirt day at Virtual Hold Technology and, noting the lack of a Hawaiian shirt in my closet, I made a new shirt for the occasion.

I look at my Google home page and note the weather in Tucson today is sunny and 106 degrees for a high temp. (Boston looks at my Tucson weather feed and says "sun, sun, sun, sun, sun". I'm thinking he misses a little of that sun.)

In Akron, on the other hand, where we're wearing flip-flops and short sleeved shirts, it's raining and the high will be 63 degrees. Brrr.

So I miss the heat a little. But not at night in a house where there is no air conditioning. When I get home tonight I'll throw open my bedroom window and enjoy the cool breeze. That would never happen in mid-June in Tucson!

- - - - -
When I went to the other side of the building this morning to show my creative coworker my Hawaiian shirt creation, she said, "We (she and the two women who sit next to her) were talking about you yesterday, how creative you are and what style you have." So nice to hear.

Make it your mission today to compliment someone!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Doin' What You Do Well

Yes, I'm exhausted. But it's such a happy and fulfilled exhaustion. (No traffic on the way home tonight, only rain.)

Despite the exhaustion, I sit in the rehearsal and I know I'm good at what I'm doing. I curse my nerves for screwing up my audition and not allowing me to have the COC seat secured already. But I'm so happy to sit there singing fabulous music, listening to great voices all around me. Tonight I sat next to Ginny, a first alto. In the divisi parts, I was thrilled to be harmonizing with her.

I'm going through a difficult time at work. Because telephony is a new area of technology for me, the learning curve is enormously steep. I try to gather information from the various technical people at work, and sometimes it backfires. A month ago someone sent me an incomplete answer. I asked him for more detail and he e-mailed my boss to say he didn't know the answer. I don't know all the details of the e-mail response, but my sense was my boss felt like he was being yelled at by his colleagues for my behavior. So now I have to send all my requests to my boss and he'll see if he knows the answer or ask others for the answer. He said these guys feel dumb when I ask them something they don't know. (Yeah, and how do you think I feel when I have to ask and ask and ask to get information?) I've always been very good at communicating with colleagues, at gathering information to code database applications to solve all kinds of problems. Why am I now having my hand slapped for the way I gather information. Something's not right here.

D'ya think there's anything to this "mercury in retrograde" stuff?

I've had several days in the past couple of weeks when I just wanted to sit there at my desk and cry. I don't know that I've ever had a job where I felt so stupid and useless. I've always walked into jobs and "hit the ground running" (direct quote from a letter of reference written by my boss at a big downtown D.C. law firm where I was manager of database systems). I walked into my job at IBM two years ago and everything just fell into place. And here I am, almost fifty-whatever years old and feeling like a summer intern trying to figure things out. I hate this feeling. Hate it.

So you can understand how wonderfully freeing it feels to sit in that rehearsal, nailing every note, pronouncing the Russian impeccably, knowing that this is something I do very, very well.

Too bad singing doesn't pay as well as technical writing.

(Oh, that reminds me. If you're a technical writer looking for a job, my boss told me today he's going to hire an additional writer. Hmmm.)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Singin' and Drivin'

I'm still not going to fill you in on the details of my weekend in D.C., 'cause I just got home from rehearsal and I'm exhausted.

Tonight was the first rehearsal of the Blossom Festival Chorus for this season. Betsy Burleigh is the assistant conductor and handles the rehearsals up until Conductor's Piano Rehearsal. The first concert, at Blossom on July 5th, will be comprised of Carmina Burana, Polovtsian Dances, and 1812 Overture.

First rehearsal with Cleveland Orchestra Chorus and Blossom Festival Chorus is like the first day of the semester in law school: you get your music ahead of time, including a CD with the pronunciation and the conductor's markings for the score, and you're expected to be fully prepared before the first rehearsal.

I was very nervous today as I hadn't fully prepared the Borodin. (I just performed the Carmina Burana two years ago, so it's pretty fresh in my ear.) I finally told my boss I needed to take the afternoon off to master the Russian for the Borodin and the Tchaikovsky. Then I got hung up correcting an error I made, and didn't leave the office until after 3:00.

I drove up to Fairmount Temple in Cleveland, where rehearsals are held, and found a shady spot in the parking lot. It was an absolutely gorgeous day. I opened the windows and the sunroof and sat in the car learning my music.

When I twittered today that I was not prepared for rehearsal, my friend FiveHusbands tweeted back that I was probably more prepared than anyone else in the chorus. She was right, at least of the women sitting around me! I had transferred all the markings to the score, listened to the pronunciation CDs of the Orff and the Borodin, practiced my part on all three pieces, and walked into rehearsal fully prepared.

So I'm feeling pretty darned good about myself. If I could go reaudition tonight, I'd have it made!

My final thought about tonight: Who knew there would be so much traffic on the interstate at 10:30 at night?! Oh yeah, and construction on 271 and 480 outside of Cleveland? Always. It will never be done! And at 10:30 at night, that means three lanes crammed into one on southbound 271.

But I think I can live with that traffic and construction, just to sing this fun music with a very good chorus.

And now, good night.

Age-Related Giggle

I've got two very busy days ahead. Tonight is the first rehearsal for Blossom Festival Chorus, and I haven't finished marking my music or listening to the pronunciation CD. Arghhh.

I had a great less-than-24-hours in DC, catching up with old friends and hearing great music. I'll tell you more later.

Today I'm giving you a glimpse into my daily life. My friend Maggie in Tucson sent this along and it's just too funny (and painful).

Enjoy!

- - - - -

AAADD- KNOW THE SYMPTOMS

Thank goodness there's a name for this disorder.
Somehow I feel better, even though I have it!!

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 one 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 street is filled with water

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 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.

Do me a favor.
Forward this message to everyone you know,
because I don't remember who
the hell I've sent it to.

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

Saturday, June 14, 2008

More Amazing Adventures

I'm off to D.C. this morning.

Itinerary: quick stop at Nordstrom to pick up a pair of Not Your Daughter's Jeans for summer; a visit to the Textile Museum; visit with City Choir friends at a reception; attend the performance of Eugene Onegin with NSO and The Washington Chorus; go out for drinks with friends; spend the night at my friend Risa's; drive home.

I am not schlepping my laptop along for this whirlwind trip, so will be silent for 36 hours.

The Consumate Gentleman

I was deeply saddened yesterday to learn of the death of Tim Russert.

During John's illness and, especially, after he became unable to golf because of metastases in the bones, we would watch "Meet the Press" every Sunday morning and "The Today Show" every day. John held Tim Russert in the highest regard and derived much pleasure amid pain by viewing the broadcasts with which Tim was associated.

A number of months after John's death, I dated a man who attended the same church as Tim, and we would see him whenever we went to services there on Sunday morning. I resisted the urge to walk up to him and express my appreciation.

I did, however, write him an e-mail shortly after John's death just to tell him how much pleasure he provided a dying man. I don't know if he got it. I never heard back from him, but that's understandable.

How fitting that he died in the studio. How wonderful that he had just finished a vacation in Italy with his family. How comforting for his father that they had enjoyed a recent visit together.

My heart goes out to Tim Russert's family and friends over their loss. And my gratitude will always be with him for the professionalism he brought to his work life and the humanity he brought to all his activities.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Make It Stop!

The money-letting, that is.

My tenants called and e-mailed two days ago to say a storm had hit northwest Tucson and knocked down about half of the large mesquite tree in the backyard.

That information caused the onset of a flurry of phone calls and e-mails to determine if the buyers' agent thought this would be a big deal, how much it was going to cost to remove or remediate the damage, whether I would have to have a new tree planted, and so on. And each phone call and e-mail made me envision more dollar signs.

I now have a little over $23,000 in my savings account and need to come up with a couple thousand more before closing. Boy, wouldn't I love to just take that money and throw it at credit card bills! But I'm unwilling to have a foreclosure on my record for the next seven or so years.

So I smile and look for more money trees to shake.

Basta!
Das genügt!
Stop it!!

Reprieve

Ms. Pearl's death sentence has been stayed. She got her teeth cut instead of a Great Big Injection. (I don't know. Can a rat's teeth be cut? Anyway, that was how Boston and Ridley told the story when I got home.)

They were greatly relieved for Ms. Pearl not to be put to sleep today, and I was greatly relieved to see them happy again.

Our pets—they give us lots of pleasure for all the trouble they cause!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A First Sadness

A very sober Boston walked into my bedroom at 7:00 this morning. I knew instantly that something was wrong. He normally bounds in, jumps up onto my bed, and laughs, "Good Morning, Grandma."

He said, "We have to take Ms. Pearl to the vet and give her a shot that will let her go to sleep." My morning was placed on hold immediately, as I hugged him, stroked his back, and told him what a good friend he had been to Ms. Pearl. He said, "Well, Rara cleaned her cage and fed her, but I always gave her treats, so I was half of who took care of her." I then reminded him of how much he played with her when he first got her.

Last night as he was giving her a treat, he noticed that she had been chewing her arm and that it was bloody. I don't know rats, but his mom told him Ms. Pearl would have to be put to sleep.

Of course he has shed tears before, but he's never had someone close to him die. As he was being sad, I told him he would always have wonderful memories of her time with him. I told him that ten years ago right about now J.R. died, and so right now I'm thinking of and remembering J.R. a lot and missing him every single day. I'm sure in his sweet little mind, the loss of a pet rat and the loss of a spouse are equal. (Don't you dare make jokes analogizing a husband to a rat!)

I told him how lucky Ms. Pearl was to have been adopted by him. I said, "Sometimes people are adopted by people who don't love them very much." Then I realized what I had said—no small Freudian slip there—and changed it to "Sometimes animals are adopted . . . ." He always loved Ms. Pearl.

So my heart is with my sweet Boston today. Death is a part of life, we all know that. It just would be nice if we could wait until age 26 to learn that fact, instead of age 6.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Superpower

I've decided the superpower I want to have is to be able to view, in scrolling lights on a date's forehead, exactly what he's thinking. I think it would save a helluva lot of time in the dating process.

I don't want to have discussions with him about the characteristics or traits that he's thinking negatively about. And I certainly don't want to change [whatever] just because he doesn't like it. (Been there, done that. First marriage all over again.)

But if we're sitting over a first cuppa coffee or potato skins and he's thinking, for example, "Gosh, those are weird glasses" or "How could she hold such an inane belief about the freezing point of water", then I would be less prone to ponder or be pensive all night long, weighing his pros and cons and deciding what to do next.

I had a second date with a nice guy last week, but we just don't have much in common beyond being 58 and lonely and living in NE Ohio. I've been in enough relationships to know that's not enough to base one on. So I wrote him a note and said, "Don't think so." He wrote me back and said, "I was gonna say that."

Do you know what a relief it is to have a conversation like that? No hanging chads. No tossed barbs. Just adult conversation: you're nice but there's somebody better for you than me.

And with that, my profile is down off all dating sites, never to return.

Mark my word. No, really. Mark My Word.

If I Were a Rich [Wo]Man

In light of some disturbing happenings in downtown Youngstown, I've been pondering what I would do if I won the lottery or had a sudden influx of a great deal of wealth.

I would do good.

Of course I would do much to foster the arts, supporting my favorite choruses and Interlochen and local museums and arts organizations. But I would also work to preserve the gorgeous architecture we see around us.

Additionally I would want to help educate people about housing. I would arrange classes to help the underprivileged learn to maintain their homes and manage their money so they would never lose their homes. I believe the activities of Habitat for Humanity and similar organizations are laudable, but you cannot just give someone a home without helping them understand what needs to be done to maintain and preserve the structure.

And I would do my dead level best to keep outside organizations from coming in and snapping up the cheap real estate in Youngstown without a plan to preserve these testaments to our past.

Read about our concerns:
I Will Shout Youngstown, #1
I Will Shout Youngstown, #2

Long Live Hope

If I could find my journal (lying in repose in some box in the storage unit, along with the nine books on my must-read stack that were beside my bed before the moving van arrived), and I sat poring over my Google calendar, and I walked backwards through the cobwebs of my mind, I could tell you how many first dates I have had since John's death just short of ten years ago. It's a finite number, but larger than I would like it to be.

I go into each first date with minimal expectations but great hopes. I won't elucidate the hopes here—I've said it all before. You and I are all sick of the litany. It's a pain in the royal butt to have to go through the first date drivel over and over. How does one lay out the bare minimum of a life well or poorly lived, the requisite information for the man sitting across from you to feel he knows you well enough to make an informed decision on whether or not he cares to spend any more of his precious time with you.

(Yeah, we'd all like lightning to strike the table. It's been almost two years since that first date with Mr. Match that set me spinning and started this whole blogging routine. He's a God-damned fool for not realizing I was enough for him. And I'm lucky-beyond-belief that I didn't hook up with him—he who is destined to go through life wearing a ball cap embroidered with the word, "Scoundrel". Lightning strikes are rare.)

I say precious time because that's exactly what time is in my life. You've read my schedule: an hour commute each way, an eight hour day, an hour lunch, an hour to get dressed in the morning, eight hours of sleep to prevent migraines. That leaves four hours to do everything else that must be done, twenty hours during the work week to: fill up with gas, grocery shop, make or buy breakfast, do laundry, read e-mail, play with the babes, clean up the kitchen after dinner, sneak in some sewing time. Oh, and work in a date now and again.

And yet I hope. And yet I keep looking. And when I look—on Match, on Yahoo—there are all the men who are also looking. I've seen some of these men out there for years! (Yeah, yeah, they've been seein' me out there for years also.) We're all out there, looking for someone to fill some little hole in our lives. Each man and woman out there—no matter how fat/skinny, handsome/homely, smart/dull, rich/struggling, multiple children/no kids, multiply married/never married—is looking for someone and believes there is someone in this world for him or her. And hopes that person won't be too geographically undesirable. And hopes his family will like her and she them. And hopes when he takes her to a business function, she won't embarrass him. Hopes she'll look good on his arm. Hopes they'll like the same music/politician/brand of peanut butter.

Is that what makes us human? Is our humanity what enables us to hope and keep hoping and have our hopes dashed and still keep hoping? If I stop hoping, will a little piece of my heart or my psyche die along with my dreams?

Is a buddy enough for the rest of my life? Can my family meet my need to bestow love, and a buddy meet my need for someone my age and the opposite sex with whom to have a connection?

Can I be satisfied with the Traveler and the Gardener and JW and like men who are my dearest friends and companions but not my lovers?

Can life be complete without a lover?

I hope I don't have to find out.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Strange Bedfellows

When I was on my way back to the office from lunch today, I saw a truck that made me wish I had my camera out and ready.

A tractor-trailer from the Hamrick School in Medina, Ohio, passed me in the opposite direction. Written on the side of the trailer in very large letters were the words:

Truck Driving
Massage Training
Massage Therapy


Now, really. Can you imagine two unlikelier subjects to be taught in a single school?

I laughed all the way back to the office.

Monday, June 09, 2008

What Was, Is Now, and Is Yet To Come

On our way back from the storage unit in Boardman on Saturday afternoon, the babes and I did a little exploring. I continued east on 224, across 680 and all the way to Struthers Road, and then north to Bridge Street in Struthers. We crossed the river, then drove north on Wilson Avenue along the river through Campbell (pronounced Camel). If you're a longtime reader, you'll remember the story on Tyler's blog about the day spent cleaning up the historic Youngstown Sheet & Tube Workers' Housing, built in 1918. I didn't take the time to find that neighborhood, but what I saw was all the old abandoned buildings along the river—the old steel mills. I also saw lots of dilapidated and abandoned homes, stores and buildings.

What I felt as I passed these signs of lost lifestyles was great sadness. Imagine the excitement the steelworkers and administrators and managers experienced when they landed these jobs. How secure they must have felt. Their wives and husbands and children must have been exultant at the new homes or apartments, the new cars, at not having to stretch every penny, resew every seam, hand clothing down from child to child. To be able to afford meat for meals and flour for bread. Many of them probably lived with their extended family, as we do, and the new home meant the grandkids didn't have to sleep with grandpa. I'm sure it wasn't a lavish lifestyle, but I imagine it was a modestly comfortable one.

To think of what happened to these people, quickly and harshly, when the steel mills became superfluous is just unimaginable and overwhelming. As an educated and experienced, computer-savvy worker in the 21st xentury, I have options. I have lots of options. It might take me a while to find the right next job each time I decide to change jobs, but I can find the job. I have the opportunity to learn and grow and prosper.

When an industry shuts down, there are no other jobs in that industry to which to turn. It would have been devastating, I believe, to those workers. The loss must have been staggering.


The reason Tyler and Jaci and I, along with many other like-minded people, are here in the Mahoning Valley today is that we see its beauty, its wonderful, kind-hearted people, its great natural resources. We know that once it was a great city, and we know it has the potential to be great again.

To see what was and is no more is sad, is depressing. But to envisage what can be is empowering. We want what is yet to come. We want to use our brains and our willpower and our muscles to help bring it back, to restore the greatness of this beautiful area.

Those who knew and loved Bob Fitzer frequently quote his ten Rules of Living. If you haven't seen them before, I'll add them here:

Bob's Top Ten Rules of Living
1. Get Involved
2. Be Kind
3. Never Give Up
4. Rejoice in the Success of Others
5. Take Chances
6. Be Humble
7. Embrace Chaos
8. Take Time
9. Trust in Your Intuition-Guts-Bones
10. Don't Move to the Suburbs

As for me and my kids and my grandkids, we're not moving to the suburbs. We're working, sweating, thinking—we're bringing this city back. And if we're successful, no one will ever have to drive past Youngstown State University, up 5th Avenue, down West Federal, and say, "Remember when those crazy people thought they could make Youngstown great again?

I'm almost 58 and I choose to believe we can make it happen in my lifetime.

I'm glad I live in Youngstown, Ohio.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Equal Time

When Ridley heard Boston and me discussing his list of favorites, she insisted I write down her list, so here you go.

From the mind and imagination of a newly-turned-five girl:

Vegetables: Broccoli and Lettuce
Fruit: Oranges and Bananas
Sandwich: Peanut Butter and Banana Honey
Color: Blue and Pink
Stuffed Animal: Little Bear (the bear she sewed with Grandma) and Cutie (a small stuffed cat)
Doll: Barbie
Movie: Enchanted
Song: True Love's Kiss (from Enchanted)
Drink: Water
TV Show: Charley and Lola
Cartoon: Scooby Doo
Thing I Like to Paint on my Fingernails and Toenails: Sparkly pink nail polish
Toy: A car
Thing to do: Have play dates with Emily
Sport: Bowling (after Emily's bowling birthday party today)
Jewelry: Necklaces and bracelets and sometimes rings

Do you now have a clearer image of a majorly Girly Girl?

Favorites

Of late, Boston has been thinking and talking a lot about his favorites things in life. I have a few favorite colors, but I have never put the thought into this topic that he has.

For your enlightenment, here's his list:

Color: Red
Number: 7
Shape: Star
Vegetable: Broccoli
Fruit: Watermelon
Berry: Strawberry
Letter: X
Musical Instrument: Piano
Card Game: Go Fish
Movie: Enchanted
Musical: Singin' in the Rain
Cartoon Network TV Show: Ben Ten: Alien Force
TV Show: Land of the Lost
Ice Cream Flavor: Vanilla
Friends: Emily, Olivia, Alexis, Dana, Rebecca and Caroline (notice a trend here?)

One Man Advertising Agency

Boston loves doughnuts. Okay, let's be blunt. Boston loves sweets! That's okay, his grandma does too. But she has learned the wisdom of limiting intake of sweets and he's not quite there yet.

Anyway, I took him to Bob Evans for breakfast on Saturday, after Jaci left for her wedding gig in Pittsburgh and long before Tyler (still reeling from this awful cold we all got) and Ridley (who loves to sleep as much as her brother loves to eat sweets) woke.

At Bob Evans, Boston wanted both chocolate milk and pancakes and I told him it had to be one or the other. He opted for pancakes.

On the way home, we stopped at Plaza Donuts on Belmont to pick up some doughnuts to take home to Daddy and Ridley. There were, as usual, about ten geezers scattered around the bar, eating their doughnuts and passing the time of day, a la the Chieftain in "Men in Trees" or some Lake Wobegon scenes on PHC.

The lady came over to take our order. Boston picked something in pink for Ridley, as that's her favorite color. We got a cinnamon roll for Daddy, then a couple of glazed, and an extra pink thing for Boston to have on Sunday morning. He told the lady that the first pink one was for his sister. He told her, "She's home sleeping." After a moment, he said, "Our dad's home sleeping, too." The lady said she wished she was home sleeping. He said, "Our mom's at a wedding." I paid and we took a few steps away from the register and he said, "She's a photographer." Then we got to the door, and he turned and leaned back into the establishment and announced to the lady and all the geezers, "Jaci Clark".

This is a guy you want helping you with your advertising plan!

Good News/Bad News

The babes and I went to my storage unit today so I could retrieve another sewing room box and some boxes of fabric. I've been getting very lonely for and needing to spend time with my fabric.

To my horror and alarm, I found several boxes starting to collapse from some sort of condensation on the floor. I don't know what to do. Do I need to rent a small apartment for my belongings until I sell the Tucson houses and figure out what's next? Fortunately, the U-Store-It assistant manager happened to walk in while we were there and was able to see the condensation on the floor where I had moved the box. I'm very concerned lest the condensation be prevalent in the entire unit and not just up front near the door.

I pulled five plastic boxes and one duffle bag of fabrics out, and one large box marked "Sewing Room Things." Then I was able to move some things around and put my small stepstool farther into the unit than it had been before. I leaned over the top of my boxed mattress and looked down. Hey! Two little round brown dowel-looking things. All I could see was about half an inch of the end. I wasn't sure what it was, but called Boston, who prides himself on being a little monkey.

I said, "I want you to slide along this box on your tummy, then see if you can reach down there and touch those arebrown things." When he pulled the first one up and handed it to me and I saw one pedal support for the piano, I was close to tears. I can't even imagine how much money I've just been saved, not having to have new supports crafted to match my piano. And he knew he had done "good". I told him that's one of the nicest things anyone's done for me in a very long time. He kept bringing it up the rest of the day, asking how long it's been since something that good has happened. "Since you were born?" "Since you were 16." "You're glad you have me, huh, Grandma?" Darned right!

And when Ridley asked her obligatory, "What was the best part of your day?" tonight as we were settling into bed, I answered, "Getting the pedal supports back."


Tonight I was helping Boston practice his piano lessons and was horrified to see how horribly out of tune the piano is after the move and three months of Very New Climate!!! Trust me—I'll be calling the tuner this week!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Catching Up: Travelogue

I am almost myself again, but have no voice from all the coughing. I was actually supposed to have a breakfast date this morning, which I was really looking forward to, but he had a bad reaction to something he ate last night and called at 7:30 this morning to ask for a rain check. From his profile and from a number of e-mails and a couple of brief phone conversations, we seem very compatible. More to follow on this topic.

Back to the travelogue:

Sunday morning we got to Mother's about 8:30, then took off to go up to the mountain cottage. We were in two cars, with Jim in the lead and Mother navigating—after all, she drives this route probably ten times a summer. As we were turning onto Route 64 near Hendersonville, my GPS was telling me we were going the wrong way. But she knew her way, right? And my HandsFreeLink has been giving me some problems lately, so I figured this was part of the problem. After about 20 minutes of driving, and seeing sights I had never seen on this trip with her, I noticed Jim pulling over. They had realized there was a problem, and Molly had pulled up the GPS on her Blackberry. We had gone about 10 miles out of our way and added about half an hour to the trip. This is why Mother doesn't belong behind the wheel of a car any more! We finally arrived at Jerry's around 10:45, spent a few minutes admiring his view, then went back down to Cashier's to the Cornucopia for lunch before Jerry had to leave for the Atlanta airport.

To orient you: The three white dots in the upper middle of the photo are Mother's house, garage, and pump house. The green mark is my 1.6 acre lot, and if you look immediately to the left of my lot, across the trees, you'll see a curved driveway that leads to Jerry's house. In reality, Jerry's house is on top of a mountain. My lot and Mother's house are at about the same elevation. Jerry's house is another 800-1000' in elevation. The view from these properties is absolutely exquisite—down to Lake Glenville/Thorpe Lake (depending on which map you draw the name from) and out across the Smoky Mountains toward Asheville.

I am passionately in love with this property, and Tyler has inherited my love. The original parcel was 150 acres which Daddy and two of his business acquaintances purchased from Mr. Youngblood of the Youngblood Trucking Lines in 1960. When all was said and done, Daddy had 55 acres. Now Jerry has developed much of it into beautiful lots with lakeshore or lake access. Mother has the original one bedroom, one bath cottage, built in the 40s, to which has been added a large master bedroom and bath and a wonderful front porch, perfect for watching the waterskiers go by down below.

I spent many summer hours on that property from age ten on. Once I married and had children, the trips were fewer. I've only been once or twice in the past fifteen years, what with John's illness and then the move to Tucson. But I love this place with a passion that's deeply ingrained and not soon to vanish. I placed my lot on the market when I figured I'd be spending the rest of my life in Tucson and wanted someplace easier to get to for spending summers with my grandchildren. Now I'm back east and wondering what to do next.

Our summer activities consisted of long walks, playing around the waterfall at the far end of the property, picking vegetables from the large garden the caretaker would plant each year, picking wild berries along the road and making pies, driving to Cherokee or Gatlinburg to do a little touristing, lunching in Highlands or Cashiers, and so on. I've always been a bit solitary, so for me there were many, many hours spent under a rhododendron with a book or, simply, with my wishes and dreams. When Boston walked down to the water's edge and balanced on a log under the rhododendron, it was too sweet a memory to not snap a pic.

After a couple of games of Upwords and a walk and a few games of Dominoes, we started back to Asheville. Ridley very quickly fell asleep, only to wake about ten minutes later saying, "I've got to throw up." Before Boston could grab a plastic grocery bag to give her, the deed was done, in a projectile manner encompassing both the back seat and the front. Yuck. And I was on a two-lane winding road with no way to pull over to help her out. I had no water in the car, so she just had to live with the horrible taste in her mouth and the stench in the car. We were supposed to meet Jim, Molly and Mother for dinner, and I had to call them and tell them we were just going back to the hotel and would see them in the morning. Not a very pleasant ending to a wonderful day.

We got back to the hotel with no further vomiting, found a little something tummy-soothing at the cafeteria next door, then settled down for the evening. Fortunately, no more croup attacks or vomiting occurred all night long. Yea!

The next morning we were up early and got to Mother's by 8:15 so we could say goodbye to Jim and Molly, and then to Mother. The trip home was uneventful, 8:45 hours of driving on an 11-hour journey. I found a McD's for lunch, with a small play area and cool video games at several of the tables. While the babes played, I spent lots of time on the phone with USAA, trying to find the funds I need to close on the Continental Ranch house. It wasn't easy, but I'll divulge that I do not own my car "free and clear" any more. All together now: "it's only money."

One thing I noticed along the way, which helps explain why the rest stops were so time-consuming. These babies have been taught how to properly wash their hands, and they're religious about it. After the normal rubbing the hands together and getting soap on the backs of their hands, they scrub their palms with their fingernails and then make sure the soap is under their fingernails. These kids could walk into an operating room after their handwashing ritual! I salute their parents. However, when I'm traveling alone, my nature breaks take approximately 6.5 minutes. Each nature break on this drive home took half an hour. It's a darned good thing I like my car so much, wouldn't ya say?


So that was my trip. Mother was thrilled to have us all there. My brothers and sister-in-law were happy to meet their great-niece and -nephew. I was so glad to see Aunt Louise again, as I'm not sure how much life is left to her. And I was ecstatic to have my babes walk the Smoky Mountain land I love so much. (Oooh, sounds like a John Denver song, doncha think?) If I had more vacation time or more money, I would take time off from work this summer and take the babes down a couple of times to spend a week traipsing around those mountains.

And in the meantime, I'm seriously rethinking the plan to sell the piece of property.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Feeling Better

I'm almost myself again, and will be back to posting tomorrow.

Thanks for the notes and calls of well wishing.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Thoughts for the Day

Thought 1: I want to kiss the person who invented NyQuil and DayQuil.

Thought 2: I wish my office wasn't sixty miles away.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Time Out

During the mid-afternoon of our long drive back from Asheville, I realized my throat was feeling sore. Sure enough. When I woke up this morning, I had a bad cold—leaky nose, aching head, upset stomach, and an elephant sitting on my chest.

I'll write about the rest of the trip once I feel like myself again.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Birthday Celebration: One Long Day

It's almost one a.m. Boston woke up an hour ago crying and barking with croup. I had observed him with this problem several years ago, so I knew instantly what it was. But how horribly scary for him—to feel he can't get his breath, to feel the pain in his throat. It's fortunate that he's so close to me. If it had been Ridley, I think she would have been very upset to be away from her mother. But he was okay and responsive to my soothing tones trying to help him calm down and get his breath.

It was scary to me as well. I'm trying to take very good care of these children, feeling blessed that their parents allowed me to take them on this trip. They are very precious cargo and I would not ever never want anything bad to happen to them.

As I sit here on the bed, laptop at hand, he has fallen back asleep and his breathing is less labored. Poor little guy.

He and Ridley were wonderful today. We got up and went down to breakfast, then came back to get their suits on and went into the indoor pool. Ridley was following him around the pool, walking rather than swimming. Then she got a step too far and totally panicked. She couldn't feel the bottom and started to flail around. I ran down to the end of the pool and try to get her to kick or dog paddle over to me, but she couldn't be calmed. I stepped out of my shoes, yanked my watch off and jumped in. I had put my bathing suit top under my t-shirt, but had jeans on the bottom. I grabbed her and held her until she realized she was okay. I asked several times what she had been doing and she said, through her tears, "I can't explain it."

I got her back to the shallow end and told her to stay there. She thinks, just because she's the same size as her brother who's 21 months older, that she can do everything he does. And she lives to copy his every word and action. We spent the next half hour, while I kept trying to squeeze water out of my jeans, encouraging her to kick her feet and pull with her hands.

A little after 10:00 we went back to our room, then got ready for the day. Boston wore new navy twill slacks and a Polo striped pique shirt; Ridley wore a darling new black and white checked dress with red floral applique at the hem, and her matching new red sandals. She looked absolutely darling and knew it. We ran to Ingles and picked up balloons for my brother Jerry and a birthday card for the babes to give to their great-grandmother.

Then we went up to Mother's apartment and decorated a little with some party accoutrements my sister-in-law had purchased. The plan was to celebrate Jerry's birthday at the apartment after celebrating Mother's birthday downstairs.

The babes and I got back down to the apartment lobby as Jerry, Jim, Molly and Mother got back from church. We stood around meeting her friends for about 15 minutes and then went through the line for our dinner. Molly had arranged for two long tables to be set up in a small conference room, and we had dinner with the six women she normally eats with and a handful of other friends. Molly asked me to get up and say something, so I reintroduced the family members and said where we lived, and told them we thought mother was precious. There was a loud agreement from everyone as I said that. How nice for Mother to hear how much her friends like her. Then I asked them to sing Happy Birthday while I played. There were lots of cards and lots of flowers. It was a really lovely event, thanks to Molly's planning.

Then we went back to her apartment and surprised Jerry with a little celebration for his 65th birthday. He seemed to enjoy being attended to. After a little while, we walked up to my Aunt Louise's villa. My cousin Bruce's wife, Cindy, was down from Washington for the weekend to attend to Aunt Louise, who is very ill with Parkinson's and other problems. After a visit with Louise, the babes and I walked over to Mother's/my friend Renie's house to see her new Toy Schnauzer puppy.

Back to Mother's to visit for several more hours, then to the cafeteria for dinner, then back to the hotel to collapse.

An enormously successful day.

(Blogger stopped for me on Sunday early morning while I was writing this post. I had no time on Sunday to write, as we went up to the mountains. I'll write more about that tonight. Now it's Monday morning at 6:30. I'm almost dressed, will finish packing, then get the babes up and head to Mother's to say goodbye. It's been a successful trip, but this is one tired grandma!)