Thursday, July 31, 2008

Gourmet Commuter Cuisine

(Note to occasional or new readers: my office is located 60 miles from my home, so my lifestyle includes lots of behind-the-steering-wheel time. And a further behind-the-scenes: I don't cook. I cooked when my boys were small. Now I don't cook. My DIL cooks; I clean. My DIL might rent me out to her friends for the right price, but cooking is not my strong suit.)

This morning started out great. Yesterday while waiting for a prescription to be filled at Giant Eagle, I found some soy protein powder. In my continuing attempts to stop these danged hot flashes, I realized I could add the soy protein to my breakfast on the mornings I'm not drinking Silk, and still get some soy. I was feeling very smart.

This morning I dressed for my date with the mammogram machine (I'm sure he has a name, but I haven't learned it yet.). Black Eileen Fisher rayon knit slacks, crisp white blouse, pearl and diamond drop necklace, pearl earrings, favorite Taryn Rose black patent slides.

I mixed my breakfast: Nature's Path Organic FlaxPlus Granola, onto which I sliced six strawberries. Then I spooned a half cup of unflavored low fat yogurt on top, and poured a scoop of soy powder on top of that. I started to stir it all together and made a note to myself—tomorrow I will put the soy powder on the granola and mix it up first, then slice the berries and add the yogurt.

I started driving and eating. I was not seventeen miles into my commute. I had not even reached Lake Milton. My elegant sterling plastic spoon caught on the side of my lovely porcelain plastic bowl and flipped unmixed soy powder all over my pristine knit slacks. That great Eileen Fisher rayon knit fabric has lots of little knit pockets where soy powder can lodge, and every bump on the highway lodges it deeper and deeper into those knit pockets.

To say I was miffed (kid-friendly for Poyally Rissed) is an understatement. I had to drive another fifteen or so miles to get to the rest area where I could pull over and brush it all off my lap and off the seat.

The moral of the story? Ummm, get up earlier? find a job closer to home? retire? Either of the last two will do.

Dating Misadventures

I know you miss my dating misadventures but there haven't been any of late. Not any misadventures; not even any adventures.

I've started documenting the adventures and misadventures past in the hopes of turning them into a book. And in doing so, I've realized one thing. I'm more likely to have the table struck by lightning when I'm lonely and/or just out of a bad relationship then when I'm just bored with life or disgruntled.

I've been rather dispassionate lately, but now I'm starting to feel lonely again, and this afternoon I'm having a mammogram.

Watch out—Tomorrow I may tell you I'm starting a relationship with the mammogram machine!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I'm Havin' a Pity Party. Anybody Wanna Come?

I've had a pretty tough couple of days at work (despite being permitting to telecommute yesterday). Sometimes I just want to throw all my belongings in a box and yell, "I quit." Then I remember all my newly acquired debt and rethink my position.

Anyway, about this party. I'm serving worms, warm prune juice, and for dessert, sauerkraut cake. Any takers?

That reminds me of a funny story. FOMC and I were living in Sarasota. The boys were about four and two. FOMC was working as Minister of Music and Youth at a small Southern Baptist church on the northeast side of Sarasota, the kind of church that has regular potluck dinners.

The little old ladies of the church could bring some verrry interesting dishes to these dinners. One of these sweet little bluehairs found a recipe for sauerkraut cake, purported to taste like applesauce cake. I had tasted a sauerkraut cake several times and it was, um, not bad. On the particular night in my memory, however, the lady who made the cake neglected the recipe instruction to "chop finely".

I took a bite into the cake, and the sauerkraut strings hung like spaghetti hangs from Boston's and Ridley's mouth when they eat pasta. It was, well, memorable. You may rest assured that I've never attempted a bite of sauerkraut cake since.

And thanks for indulging my pseudo-humorous memories in an attempt to fight my discouragement.

I'll be back tomorrow, in better humor, I'm sure. And I'll probably stop to pick up a bottle of Red Bicyclette Chardonnay on the way home this evening.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Salute to the City

I just drove past Wick Park on my way to and from a doctor's appointment. The big storm was one week ago (see Jaci's blog for photos). Already the tree crews have been clearing away the damage.

Kudos to whomever made sure this cleanup happened in a timely fashion.

Now this is the way cities should be run!

Il ballo del qua qua

My first paying gig since moving to Youngstown was unlike any gig ever before in my many, many years of playing piano.

I was honored and delighted to play with Steve Ley on drums and a delightful young YSU student, Chris, on bass to back the Italian duo Jay & Gisele on Saturday and Sunday night at the Mount Carmel Italian Festival. This lovely couple, who are Italian and French by birth, but now live in Australia, had their two daughters (late teens or early twenties) with them, along with their son. The girls sang a few duets, as well as singing back-up on a few songs. The son worked alongside the sound guy and ran the accompaniment tracks. Talented, nice, considerate—these people were the consummate professionals.

The part that was the real learning experience for me was the lack of rehearsal. We met with Jay for about twenty minutes before going on and he talked us through the charts. Then the act that preceded us left the stage, and we had 15 minutes to quickly get all our equipment set before Jay and Gisele began. In the blink of an eye, 90 minutes had passed and we were done for the evening. It was astonishing. There were a few moments when I was quite lost, and then my perfect pitch kicked in and I could find my place again. And then I realized that Steve's music didn't even show him the chord progressions, so I quit complaining!

It was fun to perform with this band and with these singers, and to watch the audience reaction to them. The audience loved them!

My thanks to Jay & Gisele for coming to Youngstown, and to Steve for inviting me to join him on stage.

One little note from occasionally watching the audience out of the corner of my eye:

Men, here's a little clue for you, something for you not to do—At one point in the show, Jay said, "Let me see the hands of all the lovers." A 60-something lady in the front row raised her hand. Her husband, seated next to her, didn't raise his. Jay jumped on that one, and joked with the man about not being a lover. The man stuck his finger down his throat in the international sign for "gag me."

Here's the deal, men. If you're lucky enough to have a woman who will confess, in public, to being in love with you, don't be a jackass! It won't kill you to act like you're in love with her. But to act like her loving you makes you want to vomit—don't do it!. Guess what, Darlin'. I think you ain't gettin' any tonight, or for many nights to come. And that woman who just proclaimed to the world that she was in love with you? Well, she could be doin' a lot better!

After posting this, I realized I never explained the title. That's the Italian title for "The Chicken Dance." Jay and Gisele and the daughters, Maria and Christina, invited the children in the audience to come down front and perform this with them. As a gift for performing, they gave each child a small stuffed koala bear. Cute!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Live Life Until You Can't Live It Any More

If you're one of the five or so people in the U.S. who has not heard of Dr. Randy Pausch, who succumbed to pancreatic cancer last week, I encourage you to visit his web page and read his "Last Lecture" or others of his writings.

I was interested to learn this morning that he also sewed. I'll be Googling that more as the days pass to learn more about his interest in that art form, and to what extent he pursued it.

And to all of us, I say: may we pursue our interests while we have the physical stamina, and not wait until the last possible moment.

Today I'm going to do laundry and go to the farmers' market and go to my company picnic (to show off my family) and play the piano at the big local Italian Festival and be grateful that I have the ability to do all those things.

Sez Who?

From Friday's New York Times:
Sales of previously owned homes declined in June at nearly double the rate that economists had expected, according to a report on Thursday.
I heard this report on the morning podcast yesterday as I was driving to work, after having my Tucson realtor say to me a week ago, "I think we've hit the bottom and turned around." When he told me that, I asked if I should let this demanding buyer go and hold on for a couple of months. "No," he replied, "you'd have to hang on for a year, I think."

The New York Times' analysts seem to believe that the bottom isn't even in sight.

And then yesterday I received an e-mail from old boyfriend/retired attorney/real estate investor in Tucson (you remember—the one who couldn't be bothered to wear a clean shirt when he went out with me). He asked when my contract with RE/MAX was expiring and wondered if I was interested in renting my house with an option to buy. I asked where he had been a month ago. We exchanged a few e-mails and he told me the value on one of his houses in my neighborhood had dropped from $285K to $218K in a year-and-a-half. His business partner's house, on the same street, dropped $100K in value in two years. He must be thankful his parents left trust funds for his kids as college tuition looms around the corner.

So whom do you believe? There's so much input, so many conflicting reports.

I'm very close to having amassed my $40K for the August 14 closing. It's painful as hell, but once I sign those papers and wire that money off to Tucson, I will breathe a very big sigh of relief. I think we will probably pop the cork on a bottle of champagne here in this lovely Youngstown home, and toast the end of the Tucson era.

And then I will plod along, dollar by dollar, and dig myself out of this hole.

Friday, July 25, 2008

You Wanna Be My Friend?

Then don't sit in the middle of my bed and wake me up at 4:00 a.m. or some equally egregious oh-dark-thirty hour, hacking up a furball, forcing me to wake up out of a perfectly wonderful dream and remove you to the bathroom so you can hack it up on the tile instead of on my bed.

Honestly, Rudi!

The Games Clarks Play

A thousand years ago when my last name was Clark, like that of the Father Of My Children, he and I played a word game for hours on end while we traveled by train through Germany and Switzerland to our first ski vacation in 1972. That vacation has, actually, become family lore. I understand from Tyler that it has taken on a life of its own—two lives, actually, depending upon which parent tells the tale. But I digress.

This word game is played without the benefit of pencil and paper. Each player thinks of a three letter word but doesn't tell the other player. Let's say your word is "fig" and mine is "pea". I go first. My guess is "pie" and you answer 1. One letter in my guess is in your word. You guess "ask" and I answer 1. The order of the letters doesn't matter. Only the number of letters correctly guessed. The challenge is remembering what word I have chosen while keeping track of what letters I have guessed, both correctly and incorrectly of my opponent's word. I forget what happens if the word has double letters. That's always what makes the word harder. The games is made exponentially more difficult when there are more than two players.

My point was that we were able to pass countless hours, on that trip and many subsequent trips, playing that game. We were a game-playing family and I always loved that. I loved the Saturday nights when we would have people over for dinner and board games or card games, cut short only because we had to get up in the morning to get to church. Tyler has been gracious to begin playing games with me again since I moved up here, and it makes me so happy.

Wednesday afternoon I heard the guys in the next aisle of cubicles talking about home schooling. The guy I know the best, who used to sit next to me, said he was home schooled for a couple of years. I stopped by to chat for a moment before leaving for the day and told him my grandson, not yet seven, had been home schooled and thought alliteration was just the coolest thing. My friend said he thought alliteration was very cool, especially for naming kids. My friend's name is Brian Brotherton.

When I walked in the door at home, the first thing I did was tell Boston the alliteration story. He looked at me blankly. I said again, "His name is BRian BRotherton." He said, "Ohhh." And giggled uproariously.

This afternoon I glanced at my XMRadio display on my desk and noticed the piece that was playing was by Adolphe Adam. Aha. Alliterative composers. As I was driving home to Youngstown from Akron, I texted Tyler, driving toward me from D.C., that Boston's favorite composer was going to be Adolphe Adam. I didn't realize what I was starting. Bela Bartok. Edward Elgar. Howard Hanson. David Diamond. George Gershwin. William Walton. Modest Mussorgsky.

The texts flew back and forth. I was astonished at Tyler's command of the names of classical composers.

Until, that is, he confessed to scrolling through his iPod playlists to see the names of composers whose works he had stored.

I wonder what games normal people play?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Follow the Yellow Brick Rules

[Okay, Faithful Readers, you can breathe a collective sigh of relief. Today I am writing about neither money nor real estate.]

As you know, I've sung with a variety of choruses over the years. When you're dealing with large groups of volunteers, you must have rules. Clearly elucidated rules.

These volunteers are, for the most part, intelligent, educated, talented adults. Why complying with these rules is so difficult for them remains one of the great questions of my life (and one of the banes of my existence!).

For example, I will tell you about the recent performance of the Blossom Festival Chorus with the Cleveland Orchestra. As I told you, the Cleveland Orchestra is known as the "best band in the land." You'd think these singers would feel honored to be able to sing with this group and want to toe the line. I certainly did!

The women's dress code for this performance was a black mid-calf (or longer) skirt and a white long-sleeved (or 3/4 length sleeve) blouse that could be tucked in. This chic ensemble must be worn with black closed-toe shoes, preferably with a low heel. If one wore stockings, they must be flesh-colored, not black. Sounds simple, right? Actually, it was very flexible. The skirt could be straight or full, flounced, cotton, linen, silk. The blouse could be shirt-style, ruffled, even a T-shirt. It just couldn't be ivory. And it needed to be tucked-in (unless the woman was pregnant). If you didn't have such a shirt in your wardrobe, you could pick it up at Target or Wal-Mart for $25 or so. I found one at Nordstrom online for $65, and I will wear it again and again, as I love the look of a crisp white shirt with black slacks. The skirt? I made mine in an hour with about $12 worth of linen from Jo-Ann's. Okay, I know not everyone sews. But really, people. This was not a hard assignment.

It just annoys me no end when people are given a clearly written assignment and they refuse to follow it, choosing instead to complain about it and push the limits, causing annoyance and stress to the manager in charge of enforcing the rules.

Just grow up!

(What made me think about this today? I guess the fact that my director has decided everyone in the department has to be in the office no later than 9:00 a.m., no exceptions. And everyone has to take a one hour lunch, no exceptions. It's an arbitrary rule. And we're adults. There's not an audience watching us, as with the chorus. There's no real explanation for this rule. We're getting our jobs done and producing a very high quality product that's selling like the proverbial hot cakes. This arbitrary rule is yielding morale cuts, not increased work output. Oh well. Nobody asked me.)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Hit Me Once and Hit Me Twice and Hit Me Once Again

If you read the comments on this blog, you know that I learned last night that the inspector on the Chula Vista house decided the roof needed $400-$500 in repairs. Actually he decided the house needed a lot of things, and in his defense, the buyer has been very gentle with me.

Tyler and Jaci and I wanted to say "No,", but my sainted realtor, Tom Sloyan, prevailed. He really has been a rock through this process. I have tried to not be his highest-maintenance-client-ever, although I'm sure there are days he wishes he'd never met me. He's taken a commission cut on both transactions, and now he's offered to split the roof repair with me. The princely Gardener went over today and grounded the pool motor. Tom's partner, our esteemed Bill Gaul, called a handyman to fix a couple of other items. We're almost home. Or I'm almost homeless.

I do feel this buyer is getting a deal to beat all deals and I do feel he has taken advantage of me. Extreme advantage. But that's what this market has done to sellers like me, who have gotten overextended and have faithfully and painfully paid their bills every month. I'm afraid it will take me years to recover from this mortgage debacle. My grandchildren may be teenagers before I'm able to move out, but I will continue to mind my manners and do more than my share of the housework to try to not wear out my welcome.

In the meantime, I again salute all you proponents of affirmations. Jaci got me a gig today that's going to pay for my half of the roof repairs. Saturday and Sunday nights I'm playing the piano for a local show of some sort. I'm not really clear on all the details, but the money is exactly what I need to pay the repair bills.

Keep those positive vibes comin', Darlings!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Define: Date

As I was rooting through all my trash 'n' treasures on Sunday afternoon, I came across two keychains that had miniature Yamaha harmonicas attached. These were given to me by a guy I met (and dated a couple of times) a thousand years ago, post-divorce-#1, when I was living in Dallas, working for IBM, and playing piano evenings at the Loews Anatole Lobby Bar. The guy was a sales rep for Yamaha, and these were little marketing goodies that he would hand out at trade shows. Who knows why I've held onto these harmonicas for (2008-1982) years? Sometimes I just hang onto things that I just don't know what else to do with.

On Monday morning, as I was getting ready to go to work, Boston tried to give the harmonica key chain back to me. I told him he could keep it. He said, "But your friend gave it to you." I said, "Oh, Boston, that was just some guy I dated a thousand years ago." He said, "But didn't you like him?" I replied, "I hardly remember him." Aghast, he replied, "But you dated him." (He clearly did not understand the process, this darling little innocent.) I said, "Boston, I've probably dated a hundred guys." His jaw dropped. "A hundred? Really?" He seemed flabbergasted.

At that point I started my drive to work, but all day I was thinking about the men I've dated throughout my dating career. (Let's admit that my dating career has had more longevity than any of my other careers!) I folded a piece of copy paper at work and, as I was performing other tasks, would write down names as they popped into my head. Thirty, forty, fifty, sixty. I never got to a hundred. When I got home I told Boston, "I was wrong. It wasn't a hundred. It was probably seventy." I didn't tell him this, but I think his grandfather has dated, maybe, five women. Surely fewer than ten.

There were many whose names I couldn't remember. In fact, the list was quite humorous. (I think I feel a book coming on.) There was Annapolis IT guy/actor, wierd IBM guy, GW doctor, FCC lawyer who never drove his Mercedes, health club guy who flirted with all the girls on exercise bikes, . . . . There are a few I remember with rancor. There are many I remember with great fondness. There are two or three in particular that, if I heard they were divorced or widowed (and that GMP no longer smoked), I'd be dialing 4*1*1 faster than you can say "What's that hottie's number?"

As I recall, my first real date was in eighth grade with Donny L. We double-dated with Merilee G. and (who was she dating? Randy F.?). I think we went to the Central Florida Fair on a Saturday night. I had no boobs. (Ummm, no longer have that affliction.) She told me to poof up the top of my sweatshirt and keep my arms folded under it all night long so it would look like I had boobs. Years later Donny (with whom I have a mutual admiration society to this day) told me he wasn't fooled. Merilee was also adopted. (My mother said, "All you adopted kids had problems." Well, ducking Fuh! I think we could do a little finger-pointing here and find out why we all had problems!) Merilee, rest her pour tortured soul, died of a drug overdose in her mid-thirties. When she was 16 and on a trip to Europe with her grotesque, obese, dentist Adventist adopted father, Merilee walked in on him in bed with some chickie in the European hotel room and slit her wrists later that evening. (Her own wrists, not the chickie's.) A couple of years later she ran away from home. I think she moved to Miami and became a stripper. Anybody who wants to tell me growing up as an Adventist was a bowl of cherries or being adopted is a blessing doesn't know all the horror stories I know. Don't even ask how many years I was in therapy!

I've strayed a bit from the topic here. My point, I think, was our view of life as children. Boston is in love with all the little girls. My friend, Keith, also has a seven-year-old son who is at the same place. These little darlings have wonderful mothers and fathers with terrific marriages. There's no divorce in their lives. They believe their lives will involve dating some sweet young thing, falling in love with her, marrying her at the appropriate age, having two to four healthy, smart, well-adjusted children, getting an education that qualifies them for a good job, from which they'll never get laid off. They'll buy a nice house, which they'll never lose. The country will never run out of water. Gas will never cost $5 per gallon. We'll never again go to war. And so on.

The great American dream.

May Boston and Ridley and all their friends and all your children and grandchildren grow up to live it.

Money, Fallin' From the Sky-y

Remember that song from the early 60s "Raindrops, fallin' from the sky-y. It feels like ra-ain-drops, fallin' in my eye-eyes, fallin' in my eyes." I could sing it for you. I could play it for you on the piano. But I can't Google it and tell you who the artist was. It's just not coming up.

Anyway, when I got home last night, I had received a check from Countrywide. And it felt like money, not raindrops, was falling from the sky. Finally, Countrywide did something good for me. They released the escrow balance from the Continental Ranch house just in time for me to apply it to the short sale on the Chula Vista House. Another $1,250 that I won't have to pull from my IRA.

If you're keeping tabs, I'm at around $37,750 now. Today, after taking the car for some recall work, I'm going back to Ace Diamond and Jewelry Brokers and take a handful of things I pulled out of my jewelry stash on Sunday afternoon. I'm hoping the current price of gold will mean that handful of things will bring me, maybe, $500.

And while I'm sitting at the Acura dealer, I'll be working on more descriptions for eBay.

I'm all about money these days, in a non-Gold-diggerish sort of way!

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Allure of Alliteration

We're all about alliteration in our house. I believe we have the PBS show "Word Girl" to thank for this. The babes are addicted, and Word Girl's words fly through our air on a daily basis. Boston uses "flabbergasted" in conversation at least five times a day.

But the uses of alliteration are hilarious. As you know, I'm raking the rugs (see?!) for money. Over the years I've collected lots of lampwork beads and am now having to release some of the more valuable ones back into the universe through eBay. Yesterday I spent a couple of hours sorting and culling. Boston was by my side and was only too happy to help. He oohed and aahed over all the wonky beads I had made back in my beadmaking days, and I let him keep them. We talked about how he could store them, and they became Boston's Bead Bag. When we were in Jo-Ann's a couple of weeks ago, he saw a $4.99 box of assorted buttons that he just wanted, with all his heart, although he couldn't elucidate why. I consented, and found a large jar for them when we got home. They have become Boston's Bottle of Buttons.

I have a flameworked frog that I bought from the uber-talented Deb Crowley about six years ago. One of the frog's legs had broken off and I need to glue it back on. Boston asked me yesterday if he could have the frog and I said yes. Last night as he was getting ready for bed, he lost his grip on the box that held the frog, and another leg broke off the frog. I want to tell you, the tears just flowed down this precious little boy's cheeks. I believe I can glue it all back together, but I've got a similar frog posted on eBay now, and I told him if no one buys it, he can have it.

If you haven't guessed by now, this child holds my heart in his hands!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Lots of Help

Barbara called me yesterday morning to tell me the latest issue of Real Simple has announced a writing contest where the prize is $3,000. She complimented my writing style and said, "If you won, you could have your concert tour vacation to China."

The babes were in the car with me when I took the call. After I hung up, Boston wanted to know what it was about. After I told him it was a "writing contest", he said, "I want to do that. I love to ride my bike." I had to tell him it was a writing, not a riding, contest. But I told him he could do the writing contest, too.

Later on, after buying the magazine, we saw that contestants must be 18 years of age to participate. I told him if he wanted to write about the most important day of his life, I'd submit it to Real Simple for him anyway.

This morning after breakfast, he said, "Grandma, if you win $3,000, you could buy the house behind us."

Everybody's looking out for Grandma!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

My Town

Today was filled to overflowing, divided between community activities, errands, and pool time for les babes. The errands included the post office (shipping an eBay sale), the bank (cashing in some savings bonds), the quilt store (see if they had a certain pattern I wanted to try), the lamp store (get a lamp rewired for the sitting room), Giant Eagle (turn in some dry cleaning and earn some more Get Go gas points), Barnes & Noble (snack, books for kids, Real Simple mag to see about writing contest, and potty break), and jewelry/pawn shop to divest myself of three carat diamond ring. I know, that's just your idea of the ideal Saturday. Wait, I'm not done.

On the community activities side, there was the Farmer's Market at the UU Church where B&R played one pin bowling (okay, you work with what you have—we had one water bottle in the car) with Gillian and I visited with my new friends. Then there was the Pig Iron Press North Phelps Street Festival where we ate hot dogs and watched the clowns go by. No really, clowns. And people we knew. Chris. Crissy. Ray.

We came home to two hours in the pool for the babes while I drafted idea number one for the writing contest, then had blackened pizza with their dad (I guess he's no better a cook than his mom - what a bumper!), then read a new book in bed. An altogether delightful day.

I want to focus on two aspects of the day.

#1. The street festival. This one-block-long slice of Americana seemed carved out of the 70s or 80s. The boom box played Huey Lewis and the News, then local poets got up and recited their creations. It was a beautiful place to be, and I felt privileged to be witnessing this event. Kudos to Jim Vallani, Phil Kidd, Dr. Ray Beiersdorfer and all who helped organize this event. Next year I will come, dressed cooler, and plan to stay longer. This is the sort of event that makes Youngstown a unique place to live. I was trying to imagine what other town you would see an event such as this. Maybe in Winter Park, FL, near Rollins, but probably not. Winter Park is too chic. Not Madison, WI. Madison is too big. Maybe Takoma Park, MD. Maybe some university town in Iowa. It was just . . . special. It was special. If you don't like that word to describe it, give me a better one!

#2. Anyone who has been reading this blog over the past month knows I'm living in the worst that the mortgage industry and the real estate market has to offer at this time in American history. I'm reexamining every possession and every practice as I try to cover two short sales—one for $25K and one for $40K. Today I sold a my beautiful three carat diamond solitaire.

Anyone who has tried to sell an expensive piece of jewelry will tell you that you never get out of it what you put into it. Jewelry is not an investment. And this piece of jewelry was absolutely not an investment, due to the disreputable jeweler who took advantage of me once I was no longer trading with him under the umbrella of EEFFH's millionaire checkbook.

I had thought of trying to sell this stone on eBay, but was very concerned with trying to deal with that amount of money in that venue. Then, too, trying to insure the stone to ship it was worrying me. What would prevent the buyer from saying the stone was not in the package when it arrived (even though it was). How was I going to get payment? And so on. There were just too many variables that were too scary to me.

So this afternoon when I turned onto Market Street in Boardman, looking for another store, and saw Ace Diamond & Jewelry Brokers at 7110 Market Street, I thought I'd just go in and discuss the situation with them.

I recommend this company and Dom Eckman without reservation. He was completely honest and straightforward with me, explained lots of options, listened to my sad-sack situation, came up with a solution that was agreeable to both of us, and wrote me a check on the spot. When my grandchildren were getting restless, he signalled one of his colleagues to bring lollipops, and a little later small bottles of cold water.

Everyone who interacted with us at Ace was friendly, kind and knowledgeable. These people and this store are an asset to this community. If you are in the market for a piece of jewelry, please visit them first.

And if you're keeping tabs on my current tally (why do I feel like Jerry Lewis on Labor Day?), I think I'm right around $36,500. Tomorrow I'll go through the rest of my jewelry and see what old gold I have that I no longer wear. I also have some handcrafted goodies that are going on eBay. At the last resort I will turn to my IRA. I have about two more weeks.


The other day FiveHusbands was tagged and tagged in return. Now I know she's gotten a lot of press in this space lately, but here's the deal: we have the same initials, we have the same advanced degree, and if you consider my four years living with EEFFH to be analogous to one of her marriages, we've been married the same number of times. That's a lot of points of identification, people. Plus she writes beautifully. I love being around smart people who write beautifully.

Anyway, I was very grateful that she didn't tag me. I hate being tagged, because I hate having to find five or six friends to tag. I think that's a mean thing to do, to put a burden, an assignment, an onus on your friends. Sorta like a Tupperware party or Amway or Longaberger or . . . . (You get the idea.) But I do like reading what people reveal about themselves.

I also liked crseum's Thirteen Things post the other day. Especially since I had experienced a couple of serious pet peevish moments in the previous few days.

So today's post is going to be a freebie. You get free self-revelation culled from the two referenced posts: three random things you probably don't know about me, and three pet peeves. I may add something else, depending on my mood when I get to the end.

Three Random Things

  • I want my next vacation to be a hiking vacation on either the Atlantic coast of South Africa or in England, either the Cotswolds or the Lake District. This is one of those vacations where you stay in a different bed-and-breakfast every night and walk between six and nine miles each day. A van schlepps your luggage from inn to inn for you. I've said that's going to be my vacation in 2009, but I'm not sure I'll have won my parole from Real Estate Jail by then. And I just heard about a fiber artists' tour of Vietnam with Sandra Betzina in the fall of 2009 and I'd love to do that. And I have the opportunity to go to China for only three thousand dollars and sing Carmina Burana for a special celebration next summer. No parole = no fancy vacation. So it may be a moot point. But it's my

  • When I transferred to Florida State in the summer of 1969, my daddy got me the Camaro Pace Car convertible. I dropped out of FSU about six months later and moved back home to Orlando. I had Daddy sell it and get me a car that had air conditioning. (All together now. Repeat after me. "That child was spoillllled!")

  • The longest I've lived in any house of my own (rather than moving into a house my husband owned and living there) is about three years.

Three Pet Peeves

  • Slow restaurants. The girls at work went out to lunch this week to celebrate the June birthdays, and I chose Olive Garden. The rest of the girls insisted on having the whole singing-and-cake shebang. Lunch took one hour and forty-five minutes! I was out of my head with frustration.

  • Slow drivers. On Wednesday morning, for my 60 mile drive to work, every slow driver in three counties was on 80/66/67 in front of me, in the left lane, going 60 mph, talking on the phone. As much as I talk on the phone while driving, I decided Ohio should ban cell phones in the car!

  • Customer service reps for whom English is not their native language, and who cannot understand my very clear explanation of my complex technical or financial problem. I know they need a job, but their inability to comprehend the situation just makes me seriously consider terminating my business relationship with their employer.

A Little More Randomness

  • My favorite ford is wuck.

  • My favorite perfume is Diva and no, I am not!

  • The worst job I ever had was while I was in law school; I worked as a law clerk for this insane sole practitioner 30-something female who treated her practice like a toy. I've removed her from my resumé and this is the first time I've mentioned her in about 15 years.

  • My roommate from Florida State is now a two-star general in the U.S. Air Force.

  • I have a hard time staying awake when I drive.

  • Or typ

Friday, July 18, 2008

Borrowing Friends & Living Vicariously

Despite my morning "TGIF" tweet, I only like Fridays through about 4:00 p.m. After that, the air around me is filled with the sounds of people making plans with their sweethearts and families, and I am reminded of my singleness.

It makes me miss the Gardener, when he was sans une fille, and I could call him. He'd put the top down on the Z3 and zip down Campbell to take me to dinner. We'd hang out at the bar at Rio for an hour-and-a-half over my glass of Excelsior Chard and a couple of draughts of Sam for him, shooting the breeze with everyone who walked in, solving the world's problems. Or my Friday Girls' Night Out bunch who would share appetizers and wine at whatever Tucson restaurant had the best half price appetizers for Happy Hour.

If I had to live without a love interest in my life, at least I had my friends.

Lest I sound like my gratuitary gland is on the fritz, let me be clear that I am grateful from my painted toenails to my highlighted split ends for my children, who have taken me in and given me a roof over my head and constant encouragement. But I do not necessarily feel I am living my life. I feel I'm living an annex to their lovely life, just as I'm living in an annex to their lovely home.

I told Ty and Jaci over dinner the other night that I felt bad to keep borrowing their friends. I feel like I need to make my own friends. That's part of my scheme to see if I can get a part-time job teaching writing at the university. At the very least, I would expand my circle of acquaintances.

Tyler and Jaci both scoffed at me. "That's what community is. That's why you're part of a community, of this community."

I've met two delightful women over the past week who have become my friends in all the ways that matter nowadays—blogs, Twitter, Facebook—and I'm quite taken with these women who are startlingly bright and hilariously funny. Conversing with them makes me feel bright and funny. And yet they're my children's friends and my children's ages. I feel like I should ask these women if they have mothers who are as bright and funny as they and who are looking for a nice friend who's new to town. But I don't want a random friend. I want a friend I am drawn to, someone I have interests in common with, someone who gains from her friendship with me as I do from mine with her.

So it's Friday night, and I didn't say, "Love ya, Bye" to anyone on the phone today. And yet two beautiful children just clapped their hands at the news that it was Friday night and they get to sleep with Grandma tonight.

I would be willing to bet there are thousands of grandparents who are either physically or emotionally estranged from their grandchildren who would kill to be living my life right now.

I do have a love interest in my life. Two of them, in fact. It's just not romantic love.

Friday night isn't so bad.

My Life as a Motivational Poster

It's Friday, finally, so I'm not going to write about anything that has any redeeming social or family value. (familial value?) And I'm not even going to stop and refer to Chicago Manual of Style or Grammar Girl to figure out whether it should be family or familial.

I get occasional Wailing List e-mails from that cause me to laugh out loud. The one this week made me actually consider buying the poster before I remembered my current financial situation and decided just to share it with you here.

This poster just set me to giggling. If you can't read the text, it says:

Hundreds of years from now,
It will not matter what my bank account was,
The sort of house I lived in,
Or the kind of car I drove. . .
But the world may be different
because I did something so bafflingly crazy
that my ruins became a tourist attraction.

The tongue-in-cheek poster is based upon the motivational poster on, shown here:

The text is "A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove...but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child."

In my current state, I'm thinking people are going to drive by my house on Chula Vista Drive in Tucson fifty years from now, point, laugh their silly heads off, and tell their children, "Look, look. That's the house that insane woman paid that guy forty thousand dollars to take off her hands. She could have just stopped making her mortgage payments and let the house go into foreclosure, but she was lousy with integrity and did The Right Thing instead."

Happy Friday!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

What's in a Name?

Boston and I have been taking "nature walks" (his terminology) every morning at 7:30 for two weeks now. We both consider this the best part of the day.

This morning, after spending the night at Grandma's "house" and staying up late telling me about stag beetles, he slept late and didn't feel like getting up and getting dressed to go for our walk. When I was downstairs packing my lunch, he raced into the kitchen, all dressed, and said he was ready to go for a walk.

"Oh Boston," I told him, "it's too late. I don't have time now to go."

"But . . .," he argued.

"If you'd like, and if I'm not too tired from my day," I countered, "we can go for a walk when I get home from work tonight."

"But it's a morning walk," he protested.

"I thought it was a nature walk. You can take a nature walk any time of day." I was doing my best to negotiate.

He would have none of it. "No, it's a morning walk."

"Well, when Rara gets up, see if she has time to go for a walk with you. Otherwise, we'll have to wait until tomorrow."

A rose is a rose!

A Moving Target

This blog is a moving target—don't get too used to today's topic, 'cause it'll probably change two days from now.

The Traveler called me last night and mocked me (I hope he was mocking!) for saying there were no good men. He's a good guy and he knows it. There's just no zing between us. We think we're pretty good traveling companions so long as we have separate hotel rooms. We'd be no good sharing a bedroom door.

But when he quoted to me my offensive words, I couldn't even remember having written them. They were sooo pre-real-estate-crises. Dating? I can't even remember dating. I can't even remember having the time or the inclination to date.

I'm tired. Every day, both on the drive to work and the drive home from work, I'm overwhelmed with fatigue and slapping myself to stay awake. I would want to try to fit dating into that picture? Nope. I think not.

So if you came here to read about my dating misadventures, you're simply going to have to browse through the archives.

But thanks for thinking there are actually possibilities!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Gratuitary Gland

Thanks to my cyberfriend FiveHusbands, I've become a big fan of Zappo's corporate blogs. I already thought their methods of marketing shoes was inspired, but when FiveHusbands pointed me to their blogs and I learned more about their corporate culture, I was enamored of them. Their CEO Twitters all day long, the employees are paid to leave their jobs after a month if they feel they don't fit in, and they have the best inspirational blog I've ever seen. I love to read it every day!

Let me share with you what Dr. Vik, a.k.a. "Coach", wrote a couple of days ago. It really resonated with me, especially in my current financial state.

Gratuitary Gland?

It's kind of like the Pituitary gland.

But instead of its primary role of providing growth of your body, the Gratuitary gland is in control of positive growth in your life.

Its function is stimulated by being grateful and showing gratitude for all the blessing we have in our lives which promotes future growth...the more we use it.

So continue to be grateful and show gratitude, and the positive process will continue to work by itself.

Yours in Trust the Process - Coach

Livin' Life On a Roller Coaster (Yet Again)


Last night I thought I had it all figured out.

This morning I placed my daily call to my mother and, wonder of wonders, she answered. During the trade of what's-news, I told her I had found $30K to borrow and was still looking for $10K. (This was after having to explain to her yet again why I'm having to pay $40K to sell a house. I've explained this twice already.) She said, "I can send you $10K." It's a good thing I wasn't on the freeway yet or I might have driven off the road. I wisely thought to ask, "Is this a gift or a loan?" She said, "I'll lend it to you." "Oh, thank you, Mother," I breathed. She said she would put a check in the mail today and I suppressed my skeptical thoughts that she might forget once she hung up the phone.

So here's a tip of the virtual hat to those of you who have e-mailed me and told me to "just ask her." I didn't actually ask, but I did open the door for her to display her latent generosity.

So that was the high of my real estate roller coaster for today.

Now the low.

I had to call USAA again this morning. I talk to a different representative in the investment department. It turns out what I thought I could do with the babies' mutual fund was not actually legal. Yes, I could close out the funds. But if I didn't use those monies for the benefit of the named beneficiaries—in this case Boston and Ridley—and the IRS happened to audit me, I could be subject to big penalties and taxes.

So poof! The $15K I thought I had located last night just dis-located itself.

Silly girl. You're the one with the law degree. Next time do your own damned research!

Now the count is at $25K, maybe $31K if I can work something out regarding another account. And at lunch I'll be running to a local jeweler to get the diamond solitaire cleaned so I can photograph it tonight.

Don't tell me. You don't want my life, right?

<Sidebar on>
As I was preparing this post, I searched my blog on "roller coaster" to see how many times I had written about living on a roller coaster. Ummm, too damned many times! Would somebody please push the button and stop the car while I'm at the platform and can get off‽
<Sidebar off>

<Thought-for-the-Day on>
"I finally know what distinguishes man from the other beasts: financial worries."
-Jules Renard
(From Real Simple, July 14, 2008)
<Thought-for-the-Day off>

How to Make Friends and Find Money

Y'know for years I've been grousing about not being able to meet any good men face to face. I've been saying I work and then I sing (and most of the men I sing with are gay or married) and then, at least in the Washington area, I go to my second job at Nordstrom (where most of the men are there with their wives or honeys).

At this stage in my life I've given up on meeting men, but now I've started to think I need some women friends and I'm getting smarter. Last night as I was driving home, I thought, "I need to take a class at YSU or hang out around some continuing education classes."

I had just finished spending three-quarters of my drive home on the phone with USAA looking for money. Suddenly it hit me. YSU wants advanced degrees in its instructors. I have an advanced degree! My vocation is something that people want to know how to do. I write. I could teach writing. I could both meet people and make money teaching writing at YSU.

After dinner, I ran next door and talked to Sherry and John, both professors at YSU. Sherry confirmed my instinct and is going to put me in touch with the proper person in the English department. Looks like I might be able to turn my stroke of brilliance into a part-time career that would carry into the future. And make me some friends. Oooh, I love it when that happens.

Money tree count: two trees so far. Good news: I'm up to just over $30K from two sources on my quest for $40K. Bad news: I've had to wipe out the babes' education fund, as you can't borrow against an account that's set up under the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act. I've promised Ty and Jaci I'll give it back as soon as I'm on my feet again. I spoke in code in front of the babes; there's no way I want Boston to know I've just stolen—err, borrowed—over $16K from him, regardless of the fact that it all came from me in the first place! Tonight: list my three carat diamond ring on eBay and see if anybody bites. Ho hum, it's only a rock.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Vive la France!

In the style of my darling fourth husband, the bon vivant J.R., last night we held a Bastille Day celebration. Jaci did a little research and whipped up a fabulous ratatouille that the babes gamely tried. I brought home baguettes, brie, and chevre (yum - my fave!). For dessert I got strawberries, red sprinkles (for the white, red and blue of the French flag) and French vanilla ice cream (you can giggle now—I know I was stretching things with the ice cream). Some almond cookies, from Europe rather than specifically from France, finished dessert, and some French lemonade was consumed but not appreciated.

Tyler did his research and gave us an abbreviated course in French history focusing on Bastille Day. I didn't realize how the French had helped the Colonies in the Revolutionary War and how they had personally suffered for their actions.

Following Tyler's history lesson, I told some stories about the summer the babes' grandfather and I spent in France studying with Nadia Boulanger and generally about what it's like to live in France. I told about seeing men riding their bikes down the street, carrying a baguette home for dinner, and about shopping at the market every day for one's meals, rather than shopping at Sam's Club once to stock up for a week or two.

<Stories I didn't tell - on>
Walking into a small grocery store in Fontainebleau to buy salt for our picnic in the forest. In our very broken French, asking the grocer for salt. "Sel?" "Sel?" Repeatedly making salt shaker gestures. Finally his face lit up and he said, "Oh, du sel." (Never underestimate the power of the article.)

Feeding the carp in the pond outside the palace at Fontainebleau.

Getting locked in the private apartments in the palace when we lingered behind the guard, reading the English guidebook.

Being able to tour the private apartments in Versaille as American art students and stand in the room where Marie Antoinette reportedly said, "Let them eat cake."

. . . And many other lovely memories of Franch that would have bored the babes.
<Stories I didn't tell - off>

Tyler and I hummed "La Marseillaise". Next year we'll print off the lyrics and sing it.

After dinner and preparing for bed, the babes got to stay up late and watch Ratatouille (yes, again).

Oh, how I love France and all things French. Oh, how I love family traditions.

Monday, July 14, 2008


Yesterday's post has prompted comments, both on- and off-blog. Have you noticed that people seem to feel more passionately about religion that anything else in life, except for politics?

Today's conversations involved religion/Christianity and philosophy, and their ability to peacefully cohabit. EEFFH, whose advanced degree and wealth came from computer science, loved philosophy more than anything else. One Sunday, when we were visiting St. Philip's in the Hills Episcopal Church in Tucson for First Sunday music, he noticed a woman who was a philosophy professor at the University of Arizona in line for communion. He said, "She must not be much of a philosopher if she believes in taking communion."

First Husband, who believed one must spend x hours a day in prayer and Bible reading, did some pretty horrible post-divorce things to me regarding our children, all in the name of Christianity.

Throw those two experiences in a pot, add a a number of other negative experiences, stir over medium-high heat until thoroughly blended, and you can understand why I tend to turn and walk away when approached by either discipline.

Then I see a bumper sticker. WWJD. What would Jesus do.

Really? What does it matter? What would Jesus do? What would Buddha do? What would Walt Disney do? What would Elvis do?
Why should I have to ask any of those questions?

What would I, as a self-respecting ethical member of the human race, do?

We were reading the other day about a murder and Tyler said he didn't understand how anyone could kill someone. Truly, how does that happen? What goes wrong inside a person's brain that makes murder okay or desirable?

I watch Tyler and Jaci raising their children. They're teaching Boston to respect his sister and all women and, for that matter, people. They're teaching Ridley not to take her teddy bear away from a two-year-old guest.

Remember the book that came out a number of years ago, "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten"? Isn't that really what it comes down to?

Let's see: Take small bites; Wipe your mouth; Wash your hands after you go to the bathroom; Share your Crayons; Smile for the camera; Do your best.

Do your best.
Behave responsibly.
Be a good citizen.

If I let my words and my actions be controlled by my ethics and my concern for my fellow man, then I challenge you to tell me what could go wrong (at least in a world filled with like-minded people).

What would Jan do?
Jan would be kind.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Church Bells Are Ringin'

I've been thinking a lot lately about one's affinity to church or, more accurately, to religion or organized religion. When I hear the word religion, I think organized religion, Christianity and church. Those terms are all glommed together for me, due to my upbringing. I believe I knew one Jew before I went to a secular (meaning "not Seventh-day Adventist-sponsored) college at age 19. I never even heard the term "Eastern religion" until I was in my late 30s, and still know very little about that, so it doesn't factor into my thinking.

A couple of Sundays ago I was standing in my bathroom at 10:00 a.m. and heard through my open window some church bells ringing. They sounded charming. They sounded like small-town, middle America. They sounded like Norman Rockwell. Simply charming. But then I thought of people going to church. And I remembered how I never liked to go to church, whether as a child or an adult. As a child, on Saturday/Sabbath, I remember a couple of times asking Mother if we could skip church and being told in no uncertain terms that we didn't skip church. The guilt that followed was not something I wanted to relive, so I didn't ask again for several years. (Let's be clear—my mother is the queen of guilt-laying.)

I didn't like the sermons. I didn't like the scripture readings. I loved the music. The only thing that ever spoke to me in any church I ever attended—Seventh-day Adventist, Southern Baptist, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Lutheran, United Methodist, LDS, Christian & Missionary Alliance, non-denominational Charismatic dancin'-in-the-aisles speakin-in-tongues—was the music. I love to sing; bring on the music. I would try to read the Bible, but it was always an effort of moving my eyes across the words. I even tried that through-the-Bible-in-a-year program when I was about thirteen. I think I lasted about eighteen days. There was never any life in those words for me.

My first husband was excellent at denigrating me for not being a good-enough Christian, for being less of a Christian than he was because I didn't spend enough time praying or reading my Bible. (Okay, yeah, this was the same guy who told me I wasn't as good a musician as he. I'll let this discussion go at that and suggest maybe he was lacking in self esteem and chose a wife he could use to bolster that sagging self esteem.)

Here in the middle America of northeastern Ohio, I am surrounded by devout church-going Christians. The colleagues with whom I spend the most time, with whom I lunch the most frequently, all bow their heads and offer thanks before their meals. I pause and honor that, but don't join them. One of the young men at work drives a car covered in magnetic signs with scripture verses proclaiming our need to be saved. When we went to the ball game the other night, he wore a bright red shirt with the words "Jesus saves" printed on the back.

Why do so many Christians feel the need to evangelize? Why do they believe everyone must convert to their way of thinking. People! Really! There is no One Way! For a very rudimentary proof, look back up in this post to the list of churches I've attended in my life. There are lots of ways to believe, both within and without Christianity, within and without religion, within and without the concept of a God, a Divine Being. Lots Of Ways! Aren't there better ways you can spend your time?

One of my favorite lines in my stand-up comedy routine is "I was raised a Seventh-day Adventist, then married a Southern Baptist who got off into all that Charismatic stuff, then I married a Lutheran, then a Mormon, then a golfer. I liked his religion the best." Dearies, I've had it all crammed down my throat. I don't need anything else crammed down my throat. I want to live and let live. Respect and be respected. I'm so happy you've found a belief that floats your boat. I may not agree with you, and it may confound me that you can actually believe in that [whatever], but I'll defend to the death your right to believe that way.

Back to the church bells: As I listened to the church bells and wondered what might have been wrong with me that I didn't "get" church, it occurred to me that maybe there are different types of people. (Yeah, that's part of the upbringing also—it's always me there's something wrong with. And there's always something wrong, never just status quo. I'm pretty sure I can thank the Adventist church for that, too.) Maybe there are people whose personality is compatible with belief in God and Christ and that whole faith and evangelism thing, who need that for their lives to be complete, to have meaning. And maybe there are people who find the meaning in their life through caring about and for their friends or their community or the less fortunate. I don't know the exact number of readers who are now studying Eckhart Tolle's "The Power of Now" through Oprah Winfrey's focus on that New Thought writing, but I believe it's significant. I believe there's a need in the human condition to believe. To believe in something.

There are so many different -isms and -phies and ways of thinking out there. For me, it comes down to one thing. (Remember City Slickers and Curly's finger held aloft?) Be kind. Be kind to your spouse, your children, your co-workers, the clerk at the grocery store, the agent at the airline ticket counter, the child who throws his ball into your newly-pruned flower bed, the street person who asks you for a dollar, . . . .

  • Implicitly remind your spouse/partner why you chose him or her. (I think living it is so much more powerful than saying it.)
  • Implicitly reinforce to your children how lucky you are to be their parent.
  • Implicitly let your coworkers know you're glad to be working with them.
  • Remember that the clerk at the grocery store and (especially) the stressed-out agent at the airline ticket counter are only doing their job. They're not paid enough to put up with all the abuse they take from disgruntled customers. Do what you can to make their workdays a little better.
  • Imagine that the child with the ball has a hellacious home life and his few moments of peace and happiness culminated in fright when he accidentally kicked his ball in your flower bed. Can you show him there are nice, friendly adults in the world?
  • You don't have to give the street person a dollar. You don't have to support his lifestyle. But you can look him in the eye and treat him with dignity as you say, "No thank you."

In my third marriage, when I would leave my home at 5:30 every morning for the two-hour commute into D.C., living in a home where I didn't feel welcome and wondering every night whether my stepson would shoot me to death overnight, I developed great compassion for people. I wanted to try to be less critical and more understanding, to try to look through a window into people's lives. I told my staff, "When that attorney or that paralegal snaps at you, remember that his dog may have bitten him as he walked out the door this morning, or her husband may have just told her he wants a divorce."

Compassion. Respect. Kindness.

I'll attend that church any day.

That's my religion.

    Friday, July 11, 2008

    Inspector Gadget

    Okay, so Step Next is the inspection on the house. In my hope for a more reasonable buyer and price, I can always hope that the inspector comes up with 118 things that they want me to fix and I can say, "Nope. Take it or leave it. As is."

    Of course, Dear Friend Jill says "Just sell and be done."

    And BA says I can make 40 birthday bears (remember Ridley's birthday party?) and sell them for $1,000 each and have all the money I need. I read that suggestion in the car on the way home from the Akron Aeros baseball game last night and Laughed Out Loud.

    And PianoLady has been in the hospital for a week with a suspected heart attack and I didn't even know it. Gee, I'm feeling pretty self-absorbed and like I'm not a very good friend!

    It's about the money. It all stems from my lifelong fear of being a bag lady. If I had $40K sitting in an investment account, I wouldn't care. I'd liquidate it and throw it at the title agency and you wouldn't be hearing all this moaning and groaning. But I just scraped together $25K by the skin of my teeth two weeks ago. And now $40K? And I gotta bolster up my courage and ask my Mother if she's willing to help me out? Oh My God. My stomach ties in knots just typing the words. She could write the check to the title company without batting an eyelash, but Narcissistic Nellies aren't prone to take such action.

    Oh well. I think I'll turn my jewelry drawer upside down this weekend and see if any eBay buyers are interested. This, too, shall pass.

    Thursday, July 10, 2008

    High Angst

    <Update at 11:15 AM EDT 7/10/2008>
    Good news: Prospective buyer signed.
    Bad news: Prospective buyer signed.
    Another day older and deeper in debt.
    <Update end.>

    I'm in a state of high angst. The thought of being over $100K in debt because of house sales and credit card debt incurred while carrying two houses is daunting. I want to cry.

    Pair that factor with having uprooted myself from Tucson, leaving lots of good friends behind, friends whom I could call and say, "Meet me at Rio for a drink". Yesterday I walked into the lunchroom at noon with my little lunch of brown rice and black beans. Five of the women, with whom I'm developing friendships, were having a birthday lunch for the receptionist. Once they saw me, they invited me to join them. But why couldn't they have invited me from the start? Of course I wanted to cry.

    In the afternoon I received an e-mail from last summer's beau. "Don't think this e-mail means I'm trying to start anything again," he wrote, suavely. He wanted my address to be able to send me a jazz CD from a performance he had heard on my birthday. He had thought of me and wanted to express his appreciation for all the piano guidance I had given him last summer. Nice, but ya can't hold it while falling asleep. Of course I wanted to cry.

    Yesterday Tyler and I bought Fareed Zakaria's "The Post-American World" on Audible. I was listening to it on the way home last night, after a day of waiting to hear from my prospective buyer. I had to turn it off. It was way too depressing for my current frame of mind. Of course I wanted to cry.

    I switched to "The Splendid Table" podcast.

    I'm hating starting over at 58. I'm hating not having my own place. And then a six-year-old comes down at 7:30 a.m. and says, "Grandma, do you want to go for a walk?" And I LOVE my life!

    Wednesday, July 09, 2008

    What's the Skinny, Minnie?

    My potential buyer and his agent and my agent and I have been throwing pieces of paper back and forth across the U.S. for several days now. I think we've settled on a number that is almost palatable to him and horrific to me. It means, after coming up with twenty-five thousand dollars two weeks ago, within four weeks I've got to find another forty thousand dollars. Can you say "ouch"?

    He has until 8:00 p.m. left coast time tonight to accept or reject, and it looks like he's going to take every minute of that time, keeping me on pins and needles. Part of me wants this drama over with so I can get started gathering dollars, and part of me wants him to go away, allowing me to continue to pay the mortgage for a month or two more until a more optimistic buyer comes along.

    This is a beautiful house, a charming house, and the infrastructure is impeccable and freshly replaced. Please! Why couldn't I have found a buyer who could see and appreciate that? Oh well.

    In the words of another much-loved woman, "It is what it is."

    Monday, July 07, 2008

    Here We Go Again!

    Good news: I got an offer on the Chula Vista house.

    Bad news: The offer price is 10% below the list price. The list price is already below the amount I owe on this house. That means a whole lotta dough I'll have to scrape together to sell this house.

    Let the negotiations begin!

    Sunday, July 06, 2008

    Remember Why You Do This

    Those were Bob Porco's words to us in his preconcert pep talk last night.

    Remember why you struggle to master the Latin and the German and the Russian; and why you rehearse passages over and over and over again to learn the notes and hone the inflections and the dynamics; and why you give up precious time with your family and friends and drive home late at night; and why you spend money on the perfect long-sleeved white blouse and the perfect black calf-length performance skirt and gallons and gallons of gas. One reason only: you love the music. And not just this specific piece of music. You love music.

    He said at various times during the rehearsals that he didn't care if we made mistakes or missed notes or sometimes had to make up words. He wanted us to be present. He wanted us to sing from our hearts. In Betsy's final remarks to us last night, she said we needed hearts of fire and brains of ice.

    And, boy, did we have them last night. It was a stellar performance and a truly magnificent experience. I will never forget last night for the rest of my life.

    First the weather. The one word I've learned about Ohio weather this time of year is "rain". As I've mentioned, eight years in the desert has given me a love for rain. But when fireworks are on the program, you don't want rain to also be on the program. Well, the weather gods were smiling yesterday. I can't remember the last day we had that was as glorious as yesterday. Sunny, scattered clouds, eighty degrees, light breezes, absolutely fabulous!

    I left the house a little after noon and got to Blossom around 1:20, then found the rehearsal room at 1:30. Our warm-up started at 2:00, and rehearsal began on stage at 3:30. When we took our seats on stage and started into the first chords of Carmina Burana, I was just blown away. The resonance of the pavilion at Blossom makes the chords linger in the silence, and the many birds perched in the rafters burst into songs of joy at the glorious sound. To hear those birds singing over and around us—well, it just made my heart happy. And to again hear that incredible orchestra in front of us—the oboe, the flutes, the horns, the trumpets, all those cool percussionists, . . . . And the great soloists that Cleveland Orchestra contracted for this performance. And the sweet and innocent children's chorus. Oh, and the men of the Blossom Festival Chorus on the drinking songs. I spent every moment I wasn't singing just sitting there smiling.

    <Sidebar on>
    Hearing the birds from the rafters reminded me of one of my first dates with John—a summer double date to Wolf Trap. Midway through the first half of the concert a pigeon in the rafters pooped on my shoulder. I must have handled it gracefully. Eight years later John married me. :)
    <Sidebar off>

    The break between dress rehearsal and chorus call for performance was just long enough that I could grab my box lunch and, thanks to the magic of cell phones, find my family and neighbors John and Sherry at the top of the hill behind the pavilion. A young lady doing some marketing for Cleveland Orchestra came by asking us to fill out address cards, and Ridley proudly told her "My grandma is going to be on stage." It's the first time Ridley's ever been to one of my performances that she really got what it was all about.

    Once I was seated on stage, I saw Tyler and Jaci and the babes take their seats and saw the adults pointing me out to the babes. Both babes were waving to me but, of course, I couldn't wave back. I was trying to pull my ear lobe, tilt my head, brush my cheek, and surreptitiously nod my head to let them know I could see them. Then I saw Ridley turn to the man next to her and tell him her grandma was on stage and point me out to him. I laughed.

    Memorable moments throughout the concert:
    • The soloists—fabulous!

    • The spontaneous applause after a couple of the solos.

    • The children's chorus—equally fabulous!

    • The view from the stage of the large crowd in the pavilion and the packed lawn.

    • Coming back after intermission, with the sky darkened, looking out to the lawn and seeing candles scattered throughout the audience. A precious site!

    • The a capella opening of the 1812 Overture, which we have never nailed. We nailed it last night! When the chorus came in, in G Major, after our final G Major chord, our G Majors matched perfectly. Woo hoo!!!

    • The cannons.

    • Even before the music died down at the end of the 1812 Overture, the audience erupted—erupted—in applause and cheering. I have never heard that kind of appluase at the end of the concert. I have sung in, probably, between two hundred and three hundred concerts in my life, and I've never experienced that kind of applause. It was breathtaking.

    • During the "curtain calls", the applause for the chorus. It was clear the chorus was the star of the evening. We don't sing for the applause. We sing for the love of the music. But how fun to hear that applause, to know that the audience appreciates what we do, how hard we work.

    • And finally, sitting and watching the fireworks with my family and friends. After a year of being alone and lonely in Tucson, I'm home with my family.

    I <3 MUSIC!

    Saturday, July 05, 2008

    The Age of Innocence

    Last night we watched "Back to the Future" with the kids. We were thinking it was G-rated, but noticed the "s" word and the "d" word were used numerous times throughout.

    When the movie was over, Jaci and Tyler got Boston's attention and told him that there were words that were used in the movie that we just don't say and they didn't want to hear him using them. He said, "What? I don't remember any." Then he reflected for a moment, and said, "Oh yeah. I remember one." They asked him what it was, and he said, "Hello? Hello? Anybody home?", quoting the scene where Bif meanly knocks on George's head and speaks to him like he's stupid.

    Ah, may this child maintain his innocence a bit longer.

    Friday, July 04, 2008

    I'm A Grownup!

    I have a Steinway Model A that was built around 1913. I have had this piano since I was 14 years old. I had a regular wooden bench with music storage inside for a number of years. When it finally gave out from overuse, Daddy found an antique piano stool to match the piano. It was rickety, but it served the purpose, and I've been using it for over 35 years.

    When the movers unpacked my belongings, the stool ended up in the farthest possible corner of the storage unit, and we've been making do with a dining chair ever since.

    But yesterday we took delivery of a real piano bench. I feel like a grownup. Instead of making do with a rickety old piano stool, we have a real, high quality, professional piano bench.

    It's about time!

    The Best Band in the Land

    Last night I sat in dress rehearsal behind an orchestra that has been called "the best band in the land" and "the finest in America". Oh! My! Gosh! What incredible sounds that group of instrumentalists produce!

    On one hand, I want to muster up my courage to audition again in August to be able to sing with the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus to continue this incredible experience. On the other hand, I'm tired-tired-tired and doubt that I can continue this late night driving week after week, and especially during concert weeks.

    But what a wonderful opportunity this has been.

    Dress rehearsal was held in Severance Hall, which is an experience in and of itself. When I sat in the hall for the Sea Symphony performance several months ago, I looked at the decor in the hall and thought it would make a fabulous wedding gown for a mature and chic bride. Then I thought I had read somewhere that that was the inspiration for its decor. Now, as I research this post, I can't find that statement, so I'll have to believe that was my own imagination. Trust me—the combination of the visual stimulation of the hall and the aural stimulation of these musicians is out of this world.

    As I drove home last night, I was treated to the fireworks display in Independence, Ohio. I love fireworks, and this was a great show. Then as I turned onto the Ohio Turnpike, I could see two displays, one at Blossom and one in Cuyahoga Falls. I smiled the whole way home.

    Tomorrow night I'll sit on the back row of the chorus (I'm tall, hence the back row) on the stage in the pavilion at Blossom Music Center behind the Cleveland Orchestra and thrill to the excitement and fun of Carmina Burana, the lush melodies of Polovtsian Dances, and the percussive thunder of the 1812 Overture. And then I'll step outside and enjoy the fireworks. What a night.

    Happy Fourth of July. God Bless America.

    Wednesday, July 02, 2008

    Migraine P.S.

    I forgot to mention the chills. When all your blood is hanging around in your head, causing all that pain, then it's not getting to your extremities. The result is you feel you're freezing to death. It can be 90 degrees or more outside (which, I'm thankful, it's not) but all you want is more and more and more covers piled on top.

    I laid here this morning under my nice 400 thread count sateen sheet, blanket and quilt, with a fleecy jacket over my arms. I waited patiently for Boston to come in to say good morning (actually, he said, "Grandma, what are you still doing here?") so I could ask him to get my warm bathrobe and put it over me to increase the heat.

    The pain in my head isn't enough. I have to also have nausea and chills.

    Welcome to the world of migraines.

    Experiencing Migraine

    Have you ever wondered what it's like to live with a migraine?

    I've had headaches since age 16 and migraines since age 18. Tyler began having migraines when he was 10 or 11. In my twenties, when my sister-in-law had known me about five years, she said she couldn't imagine what my life was like. She said she very rarely got a headache, but she knew when she did, that the very worst headache she ever got was far less than the mildest headache I got.

    This morning I woke up with a killer. I established a relationship with an internist in Youngstown yesterday, a lovely young woman who is from Youngstown and returned here to practice medicine. (Ironically, she's also a musician, having played piano and clarinet. She said throughout her education she wondered whether to be a musician or a doctor, that's how good she is.)

    Tyler had started a new medication six months ago for his migraines and had been telling me how much it had helped him. I asked my new doctor if I was a candidate for this medication and she quickly agreed, but said I needed to reduce my daily doses of Excedrin. (I take from one to eight Extra Strength Excedrin every day.) So yesterday I had only one large glass of iced tea, no hot tea, and no Excedrin. Last night I took the first Topomax. This morning my head was held inside an enormous vise grip, being squeezed, feeling like the top would explode. When one takes so much caffeine on a regular basis, a day without caffeine or with greatly reduced caffeine can produce a headache.

    As I laid in bed, getting up the strength to reach for my laptop to tell my boss I couldn't come in today, I thought about how to describe the headache. With a migraine, every minute lasts an hour. The pain is so intense that I pull on my hair, twist my hair, yank my hair, trying to relieve the pain—trying to provide input to the pain receptors that is greater than the pain of the migraine. I look for a place to lay my head that will minimize the pain. The left? The right? Flat? Elevated? There seems to be no position that will take my mind off the pain. And then there's the nausea. I'm so sick to my stomach. I slowly, carefully walk to the kitchen, every step making my head pound even more. I bend over to get the crackers from the bottom drawer, and am sure my head will explode before I can stand up again. I argue with myself about which will feel better on the back of my neck, an ice pack or a heat pack. I opt for ice and load the ice bag with cubes. Then I carefully navigate back up to my room, trying to glide like a ballerina or an ice skater to minimize the pounding.

    I look at the clock and only five or ten minutes have passed, although it seems like two hours. I can't imagine how I'm going to live through fourteen more hours of this pain before bedtime. Audio books or books don't help; the pain makes me unable to concentrate. Maybe mindless television or an old beloved movie. I sent work home last night. Can I concentrate enough to convert two Word files into PDFs?

    Finally, blissfully, I'm exhausted from trying to find a way to relax amidst the pain and I fall asleep for two hours. When I wake, the pain is only slightly diminished. It feels like a tight headband. But now I've got a butcher knife sticking in the back of my neck and the nausea is still there. And it's only 10:00 a.m.

    . . .

    So if you've ever heard a colleague say, "I've got a migraine" and thought, "Yeah, right - a headache - big deal", I urge you to think twice and conjure up some compassion. It's no romp in the grass. And I didn't even mention the visual aura—the half-hour period when I lose my vision. When it first happened to me at 18, I thought I was going blind. I was scared to death. Now, forty years later, it still happens and reminds me that there are parts of my life over which I have no control.

    Now let's talk about Topamax for a moment. I didn't ask the pharmacist the price when I handed in the prescription yesterday. When I drove up to the Walgreen's window last night and the gal said "That will be $50", I thought maybe I misheard. I repeated "$50?" She said, "Your insurance paid $255." Um, that's $305 for 60 tablets that it cost Ortho-McNeil how much to manufacture? And they've still got the patents locked down so there are no generics. Well, now I understand why I see so many ads for this med. A) they're making a boatload of money on it, so they can afford to take out full page ads in magazines and commercials on television; and B) they want more headache sufferers to pay the big bucks to use this med. Man, I wish I had a stream of income like that!

    But if it works to alleviate my headaches, then all is forgiven! I'll let you know!

    Tuesday, July 01, 2008

    O Fortuna

    The last day of June is always a hard day for me, as that's the day John died. Yesterday marked ten years since his passing. It seems impossible to believe. And it seems impossible to believe that in December my daddy will have been gone twenty-four years. These two Johns are always with me.

    I got through the day yesterday the best I have in the past ten years. It's the first time I haven't marked the day by doing something special or getting myself a little treat. (There simply was no time to do so.)

    At rehearsal last night, when we started into Carmina Burana, Maestro Porco remarked about the music. "Whoever wrote this", he said, "was very angry".

    O Fortune,
    like the moon
    you are changeable,
    ever waxing
    and waning;
    hateful life
    first oppresses
    and then soothes
    as fancy takes it;
    and power
    it melts them like ice.

    . . .

    Fate is against me
    in health
    and virtue,
    driven on
    and weighted down,
    always enslaved.
    So at this hour
    without delay
    pluck the vibrating strings;
    since Fate
    strikes down the string man,
    everyone weep with me!

    It felt quite ironic to me to be singing those words on the day that made me a widow at age 48. And at a time in my life where I'm starting to think I may be alone for the rest of my life. You can talk all you want about visualizations and affirmations, but there are also statistics. The number of men in my age group is far fewer than the number of women. And as the years pass, that disparity gets wider and wider. And the good ones? Well, I've already mentioned here that, for the most part, the good ones are recognizable by their wives and being hung-on-to for dear life.

    So maybe I'm the Widow Grandma for the rest of my life, working hard to give all my kids a better life and make the world (or at least my corner of the world) a better place.

    I had one really good marriage. I had one really good and loving husband. I had a truly happy marriage, if only for 27 months. Some people never get that much goodness and happiness.

    (And the more people I meet, the more I hear about estranged children or families that never see each other. I realize I'm truly blessed to have children and grandchildren who treasure me and I them.)

    So I look at the full moon each month and tell John I love him. And I put one foot in front of the other, trying to be a good citizen. And I try to keep the craziness that was caused by my upbringing under control.

    Fate isn't so terrible. Life could be much worse than it is!

    It's all relative.