Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Indignity of It All

I woke at 3:00 with a headache and, after getting up for my Excedrin, realized sleep was gone for the day. It's amazing the amount of thinking one can do in the dark.

This morning my thoughts are of the move and my finances and my apprehension of living alone again. The past eleven months have been a blessing. To see my beloved grandchildren every day, to have the meaning in my life of being a helper, to be an intimate and integral part of a loving family. I think I'm one of the luckiest people on earth.

And now I'm leaving this secure nest and going to my own disheveled—boxes everywhere, why-did-I-keep-this-item, where-can-I-put-this-ridiculous-*thing*—nest-in-the-making.

(Note to people who love to give gifts: When a person is over age 50, you should just give things that will be used up, such as food or candles or toiletries. Stop giving *things* that have to be dusted or placed just so. It doesn't matter how much you love the thing, to the recipient it's just a thing that must be someday given away. The only exception to this rule is handcrafted mugs. Oh, wait—or really fine jewelry.)

I'm more than halfway between 58 and 59, and my every day is filled with balancing of finances. Needs versus wants. Taking care of self versus pampering self. Why didn't I figure this out earlier in my life? Why am I so stretched now?

I come back to buying the midtown house in 2006. I'm mostly glad I did. I can't imagine how different my life would be today if I hadn't bought that house. Being close to friends made me much more sociable. I dated men—some good, some scoundrels, all life-changing and life-affirming—whom I never would have met had I still lived on the other side of the Interstate.

But I can imagine how different my life would have been, financially, had I either been able to sell the Continental Ranch house before moving to midtown, or had I stayed in the Continental Ranch house. Or, had the real estate market not taken the dive it took.

I'm scared about living alone again. For the past eleven months, I've had a reason to come home at the end of the day. For the next month, my reason to come home will be to the exhausting work of settling the house. (Oh, for a magic wand!)

But at the end of the day, when I crawl into bed, it will be to pat my chest for Rudi to join me, and to lie in bed with my laptop to read my mail or work a quick crossword puzzle before sleep. And in the morning when I awake, my first action will be to again reach for the laptop. My laptop is my Significant Other. How sad and alone and disgusting is that?!

I shed tears for missing John. In five months he will have been gone eleven years. The person who loved me unconditionally because he wanted to, not because he adopted me and had to.

I know my life is as it is because of choices made at each fork in my life's road. I know I can't go back and unmake any of those choices. But it seems cruel that it's come to this: alone for however many more years I must occupy this earth-space.

I envy those women who made good choices. My colleague is off to Hawaii next week with his wife to celebrate their 38th anniversary. Lucky. Smart. Wise.

Maybe it takes a functional (as opposed to dysfunctional) upbringing to be able to make the wise choices, to choose a life partner who will treat you with dignity and respect. Maybe I was sabotaged at age six days, when I went home with the woman who was incapable of treating me in a way to develop self-esteem. And when I chose husband #1, FOMC, I chose someone who treated me as my mother had treated me all those years. And the pattern of poor choices was formed.

So now I must pack my bags again, move to my beautiful, empty new house, get some distance from my children's lives so they can be adults again, and try to form a life.

Why can't life be easier than it is?

The question for all ages.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Kaleidoscopically Gifted

I've never read any of John Updike's writing. I believe I've mentioned that, in the years I was growing up Adventist, the church banned the reading of fiction. Or at least the powers-that-were in my high school banned it. It seems that fiction is lying, and lying is killing the truth or stealing the truth. That would be contra to the commandment that says "Thou shalt not kill" or "Thou shalt not steal". Whatever.

The result of this religious higgledy-piggledy is that there's a world of literature that has escaped me. I've recently bought "Grapes of Wrath", in an effort to start rectifying this gross error.

So when I heard yesterday that John Updike had died, I had to learn more about him. My Goodling took me to Christopher Lehmann-Haupt's tribute in yesterday's New York Times.

I loved this quote:
“I would write ads for deodorants or labels for catsup bottles, if I had to,” he told The Paris Review in 1967. “The miracle of turning inklings into thoughts and thoughts into words and words into metal and print and ink never palls for me.”

Inklings into thoughts and thoughts into words. Marvelous.

John Updike is being added to my list of must-read authors.

Hello, Old Friend!

I found my journal today! The last entry was on February 19, 2008. For the final two weeks I was in Tucson, I was enjoying at least one meal a day with old friends, catching up with everyone before I left town.

"Had lunch with [redacted] today. Now I remember why Linda and I didn't like her. Very bossy. Working dinner with Judith. D worked on piano all day. Phone tech support with Eric."

The first entry in the five-year journal was on January 1, 2006.
"Had Boston and Riah overnight. Baked cookies in the morning. Did lots of relaxing."

I'll have to rely on my blog to fill in the holes from 2/19/08 to 1/28/09. Hey, I guess this journal just grew from five years to six years!

Other things I've found: my great Rowenta scale; my clock-radio; my Pampered Chef mini bar pan; my stained-glass turtle night light; earrings I've been looking for for a year; a couple of favorite bracelets; and many more fun little items that I had forgotten I owned.

On the other hand, I'm questioning why I have so much stuff. I should have gotten rid of much more stuff before I moved from Tucson. But you just never know what you're going to need again sometime.

Or do you? It will be interesting to see what goes to Goodwill over the next month.

And today's fun fact: I accepted the job with VHT a year ago today.

Snow Day

We got hit with a big storm overnight. It was not snowing when I woke up, but started shortly afterwards and has not stopped all day. I worked from Tyler's office this morning, then moved over to my house at noon. The picture above is the view from my kitchen. My neighbor, Jean, feeds the birds. I mean, she takes very, very good care of these birds. The upside is that I get to hear birds chirping all day long. Lucky me! Lucky birds.

Stay warm!

(By the way, I found my passport today. It was right where I left it 11 months ago. Yea! Now I can fly off to some sunny clime.)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Moving Questions

  1. Why would you wrap a 69 cent Lotus bowl in eight sheets of paper?

  2. Why would you screw the bolts on the client's bed frame in so tight as to strip the threads?

  3. Why would you mark 15 boxes "Misc. Items", thereby making it virtually impossible for the client to find her clock-radio or her telephone or her printer?

  4. What does tea from an almost-full 100-bag box taste like after a year in storage?

  5. Why would you store two heavy mirrors in one box and not mark it, alerting the client to challenges in unpacking?

. . .

and other random questions.

Noticing the Yo

I subscribe to the Zappo's blogs, and was thrilled this morning to see that their Rideshop blog had mentioned Austintown and Youngstown. Woo hoo!

How nice to see our area positively mentioned, instead of being dissed!

Monday, January 26, 2009


If you have known me long or know me well, if you have visited my home in the past five years, you know of my passion for George Huffman's "The King and the Queen of the Prom." This was a commissioned piece, based on Billy Joel's "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant."

I used to choose houses based on the size of my grand piano. Now Tyler and Jaci have that burden, and I choose houses based on the size of this painting, a mere 11' 4" long. Oops, when I looked at this house, I was thinking it was 9' long. Big Oops.

I thought TKATQOTP was going to fit in the living room and have been planning that room based on that fact. When the movers brought it into the living room today, I instantly realized I was wrong-wrong-wrong.

If you look directly above the "Parkway Diner" sign, you'll see the end of the wall where I thought it would hang. The light in the background is the kitchen light. Damn.

Now I've got to find some artist or framing guru who will 1) remove the painting from the frame; 2) remove the canvas from the stretchers; 3) move the canvas carefully upstairs to the family room; 4) take the frame apart; 5) move the frame upstairs; 6) reassemble the frame; 7) place the canvas back on the stretchers; 8) place the stretched canvas back in the frame; and 9) hang it.


The photo above is taken on my iPhone with very low light in the living room. Here's a photo in glorious, living color, taken in my house in Continental Ranch, NW Tucson, where I lived from 2003 to 2006. Aren't those colors incredible? Can you understand why I'm so passionate about this work of art?

The Things Nobody Tells You

Aging sucks! Nobody will tell you that. You hear people say, "It's better than the alternative" and "Sixty is the new forty" and other bullshit aphorisms. But no one will tell you the down-and-dirty.

I noticed about eight years ago that when I clasped my hands (as to pray, in an earlier life), my fingers felt different than they had in earlier years. It was as if in my 40s, when I clasped my hands, I could feel the fat or fiber (Okay, I never took anatomy and physiology. Get over it.) around the bones. But suddenly, all I could feel was the bones. My hands felt very bony.

And my beautiful skin was gone. I've always been complemented on my skin, and I would attribute it to the amount of water I drink daily. But now all my skin has turned to crepe.

One of my favorite fabrics is satin-backed crepe. It's pebbly on one side and satin on the other. My skin is no longer satin. It's just crepe—ugly pebbly old crepe.

The backs of my hands: crepe. My neck: crepe. My décolleté: crepe crepe crepity crepe!

It's an evil trick of nature. Isn't it bad enough that we start losing our memory, that we have to walk from room to room trying to remember what the hell we were looking for? Isn't it bad enough that menopausal women are prone to put on weight no matter how active they are or how carefully they eat? Isn't it bad enough that our once-milk-filled breasts now level out at our waists?

My beautiful hands are a thing of the past. Now they're marked by bulging veins, what my mama called "liver spots", and crepey skin.

I think this is just another indicator that supports my son's belief that there's no God. A benevolent, caring God would not have done this to all of us big-hearted, caring, nurturing women who carry the world on our shoulders.

It's a cruel joke, and I'm not laughing!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

One Floor at a Time

From Coronado Avenue

Work is continuing, fast and furious, on the new-to-me house. Painters are there every day, doing a fabulous job of patching-before-painting. I was very anxious for about a week at the slow pace of progress, but now I smile every time I walk into the house. Late yesterday afternoon Donny and Mike got into my sewing room, and found problems under the south window and in the ceiling. But they quickly drove over to Donny's to retrieve some drywall pieces and expertly patched the problems. These guys are not "professional" painters, but they're doing one highly professional job. The "family room" (southeast bedroom) is finished; by noon today my bedroom will be finished; and by tonight the sewing room will be finished.

On Thursday my Starbux buddy, general contractor Duane, came in and pulled the carpet up from the first floor. I had only pulled a portion by the living room fireplace and seen gorgeous oak flooring. Imagine my horror to arrive on Thursday night and realize the previous owner, at some point probably 60 years ago, had refinished the edges around the area rugs. Horrors. (This action totally falls into the category of "what were they thinking?!".) The picture above shows you what the floors looked like.

Yesterday (Saturday), the guys from Mr. Sandless came in to work their magic. These young men were incredible dedicated workers. They wet-sanded the floors with their special cleaning solution. The floor show (pun intended) included Jim falling on his butt as his feet flew out from under him on this incredibly slippery solution. Alas, the wet-sanding did not remove the excess of old varnish-or-whatever around the "area rugs". These boys got down on their hands and knees and sanded and scraped around the edges of the four "area rugs" to remove that excess. Then they put two coats of ginger-colored sealer, followed by three coats of polyacrylic.

From Coronado Avenue

This photo shows the same area as the first photo, after one coat of sealer. Big improvement, but not wonderful. I was thrilled with Mr. Sandless's work. I was not a happy customer, but I was a content customer. These guys did the absolute best they could. To have brought the flooring back to its original 1927 glory would have cost me a couple of thousand dollars more. My worst case scenario, if I feel I can't live with the result, is to place area rugs down again (which I'll probably do anyway).

From Coronado Avenue

The library is probably the most noticeable. This photo shows the room as the second coat of sealer is being applied. Closer to the camera you can see the portion of room that is dry with one coat of sealer. It was very interesting to see that the previously-covered floor in this room was much lighter than in the other rooms.
From Coronado Avenue

Contrast the light "area rug" in the library, previous photo, with that in the living room, above. But, "area rugs" aside, look at that gorgeous oak flooring.

I've mentioned that this house has a back stairs and a "maid's room". The seller's nephew, whose grandfather built the house, told me there were never servants in this house—it wasn't that kind of family. There were six or eight children in the family—I think he told me eight—and every bit of this house was filled with family, not servants. That said, the "maid's room" has pine flooring, as does the back stairs, where the "front" portion of the house has oak flooring. It makes me wonder if the grandfather/builder was building the house for someone else, who backed out of the deal, causing the grandfather to decided to inhabit the house himself. Oh, if these walls could talk!

So that's the Thursday and Saturday activities. On Friday, the security system guy and the cable guy were there. I now have a working security system, high-speed Internet access, Wi-Fi, and cable television in the family room and the sewing room. Yesterday the water was off most of the day, so I couldn't do any kitchen cleaning. For part of the day I just sat with a book in the family room. Happy as the proverbial clam!

Today I will get back to the kitchen. First I'll run to Lowe's to get felt pads for the legs of all the first floor furniture. Donny and I will carefully place the dining room furniture back on the pristine flooring. I'll measure the second-floor hall closet for Elfa shelving, to be ordered from The Container Store—this will become my shoe closet. I'll move some more boxes from Ty and Jaci's garage to the new house.

Monday will dawn, bright and early and very cold, with a predicted high of 22 degrees. (It's 3 degrees right now—brrr.) I will meet the movers at the storage unit at 8:00. It will be a long cold day, but by the end of the day most of my things will be in one place. And I'll be a happy homeowner.

I must tell you that with each hour I spend in the house, my love for this house grows. I've been uncharacteristically ambivalent about the house since I first saw it. I knew it was a beautiful house, and that—after my summer Tucson real estate fiasco—it was a residence I could afford. But the purchasing process was so long and drawn-out and—sans Realtor®—filled with the unknown and the unknowable, that I wasn't really sure the purchase would be consummated until two days before closing.

Now I'm past all the confusion and indecision, and I'm absolutely falling in love with this house. The maid's room stays as is and becomes the intimate guest room. I've ordered a yard of whimsical live-laugh-love fabric that will become the basis for a quilt for this room. Y'all come. I can't wait for my friends to see this treasure-house and fall in love with it as I am doing.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A New Word

I've been listening to Claire Messoud's "The Emporer's Children" in preparation for my book group next week. It's a delightful book, written the way I would have written it: jumping around from character to character and time to time to tell the story completely.

Ms. Messoud used a word—unfamiliar to me—several times. Then this morning I read the word somewhere again.

The word? Ineffable.

Isn't that the coolest word? Not necessarily its meaning, which is "indefineable", too sacred for words, cannot or should not be expressed in spoken word.

I just love the sound of it. It could be code for a curse word. You could use it in polite company and no one would know what you really meant, that you were verbally thumbing your nose at the offending persons or his offending ideas.

My favorite word is duck. Well, with an "f" instead of a "d". I love it as the inserted syllable. That diamond is educkingnormous. Your new house is induckingcredible. Yes, you can say ineffingcredible and have virtually the same meaning. But think about using ineffable. Maybe only those members of the Professional Organization of English Majors (thanks, Garrison Keillor, for this wonderful imaginary league) would catch your meaning, would know the definition of the word.

"That diamond is ineffable." "Your new house is ineffable."

I'll do another post soon on my list of favorite words. But for right now, "ineffable" is right up there at the top.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Most Unusual Day

I am filled with pride in my country, to the point of tears. We can have hope for the future!

God Bless America.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Brotherhood of Musicians

At the end of November and beginning of December, before all the holiday concerts took over every spare moment, I had the honor of singing in the Star Wars in Concert performance. The CleveOrch Chamber Chorus was contracted to sing as the Royal Philharmonic Chorus for performances in Pittsburgh, Columbus and Cleveland.

There were 60 singers, and I had a blast! We were able to meet Anthony Daniels, who played See Threepio. We observed some very talented musicians and heard incredible music. Those of us who wanted to were able to stay for the second half of the show in Cleveland and see how this incredible show was put together.

I'm standing on the back row, the rightmost woman as the camera pans across.

The orchestra had been put together in England, but other musicians had been added in the States over the course of the tour. To walk backstage and see so many professional musicians, ranging in age from their late teens or early 20s to their 60s, was thrilling.

There are so many young people who have talent and dream of careers as musicians, and yet it's a very hard dream to achieve. Seeing all these musicians together, to know that here, and in many other venues nationwide, are jobs for talented musicians. I felt pleased and encouraged.

We were seated behind the percussionists. As the mother of a percussionist, I loved seeing the interactions between these musicians. I loved seeing the camaraderie and the joy in the music they were making.

I felt very lucky to be participating in this concert, and in listening to these talented musicians.

In the end, it's all about the music. It's about the joy and fulfillment and inspiration we get from the music. Aren't we lucky?!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Deja Water

To set the stage: Maybe you've heard—it's been damned cold here. I've decided that hell is not full of fire and heat. It's full of below-zero temps and icicles and double-digit below-zero wind chills and snow-snow-snow! And we're livin' in it, Darlings.

On Tuesday, wonderful new insulation was blown into the ceiling of the garage, creating blessed heat in my bedroom.

Friday morning I woke to no hot water in my bathroom. The pipes were frozen. I showered in the kids' bath and Jaci called the plumber. The plumber was able to get the pipes thawed out enough so that no damage was done. We placed a space heater in my bathroom and left the water dripping and thought we were done with that problem.

Saturday I had to go to work, so got up and took my shower in my bathroom but had only hot water, no cold water. (Should have paid closer attention to this sign.) I made sure the water was dripping and the heater running, and left for my long, frigid drive. When I got home at 5:00, I headed straight for my bathroom, as I needed desperately to micturate. (Oh, look it up. This is what Daddy (an M.D.) always had us say instead of "I gotta go pee." It was the South. It was the 50s.) As I stepped into the bathroom in my besocked feet, I placed my foot squarely into standing water. Oh! Shit! I immediately began shouting for Jaci to come and for the babes to bring towels. Jaci calmly walked in and said, "your tub is overflowing."

It seems the pipes had thawed and water had begun running but the drain must have still been frozen, as the tub filled faster than it drained, and water was now seeping through the bathroom floor, through the brand new insulation, through the sheetrock in the garage ceiling, and pouring onto the garage floor below.

All I could think of was my pipe nightmare a year ago in Tucson. Story 1. Story 2.

I want a year to be calm, serene, pothole-less. I was sad for most of 2007—the kids left in February; I tried to figure out how to craft my life without them; they let me know they missed me and wanted me with them so I started looking for a job; I spent a year sending out résumés; I had, as I recall, one brief relationship all year. It was a depressing year for me and I was glad to see it draw to a close. I was certain that 12/31/07 would be the end of the sadness and 2008 would be all goodness.

Then 1/1/2008 dawned, beginning a month of house woes. I got a job, but it included a 60-mile commute. I moved. I sold my houses, and had to cough up $70K to close. I had a few forgettable dates. I lived for my kids and grandkids.

Certainly with the passage of 2008, the financial woes would slow down and 2009 would be smooth sailing. Right? Then the horrible cold set in and this pipe fiasco. It feels like I'm a jinx to plumbing systems. It can't get worse, can it? Certainly, it will not get worse. This is the bottom, and we have only uphill to go from here.

(Did you ever wonder about that adage? Doesn't "going uphill" entail more work? Climbing? Pedaling harder? I question it every time I write it.)

My mother called yesterday, as I had not called her all week. I explained to her that I had been sick and to speak was to cough. I knew I couldn't talk on the phone without coughing, so just had not called. I told her about our plumbing problems and our concerns over the cost of repairs. She said "I'll pay for you." Oh, General Tso be blessed. She'll send me money. Oh, wait. What did I hear her say? "I'll pray for you." Shit. Mom, I'd rather you send me money than pray. Money goes a damned sight farther than prayers, at least when it comes to plumbing!

So that's our week at Chez Clark. And three blocks away, on Coronado, I'm getting rid of leftover furniture, having some painting done, trying to get the house ready to move in. Each hour I spend in that house convinces me more and more that I've gotten ahold of a real estate treasure.

If I start having plumbing problems when I move in over there, I'm simply going to shoot myself!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

It's So Warm in My Bedroom!

"How warm is it?", the reading audience shouted en masse.

On Thursday night, it was so warm in my bedroom, I:
  • kicked off my socks

  • turned off the electric mattress pad

  • snaked my foot out from under the covers to cool off, and

  • pulled off the fleece jacket I've worn every night over my silk pajamas

This despite the fact that it was about -5 outside.

However, the fact that it was -5 outside, and the fact that the garage radiator was malfunctioning, led to the hot water pipes in my bathroom freezing. An emergency call to the plumber and a space heater running round-the-clock in my bathroom has ameliorated the problem. Now we just wait for the cold wave to break.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Looking for a new business venture?

I've got just the thing for you! A towing service!!

During my 2.25 hour evening commute today, I saw at least 20 cars—facing every possible direction—in the ditch, in the median, slipped off the shoulder. Probably the most impressive was the jeep who had done a 180 degree turn and was on the right side of the rode in the ditch on its left side. In other words, I saw the axle as I passed slowly by. I also saw a semi in the ditch where the driver had failed to negotiate the curve off the toll road onto I-80 crossing the reservoir.

Just in case you're wondering, it snowed all day. The temperature right now is 13; the low tonight will be -8; and the high tomorrow will be 4.

I voluntarily moved from Tucson, where the high tomorrow will be 72.

The Hits Just Keep On Comin'

Today is my first day at work this week. I've been down with a cold, and had nothing to contribute to the blogosphere.

Saturday I drove to Kent, OH, to attend a technical communications workshop. The weather forecast for Saturday was 4"-8" of snow. I think we got 9". The drive, which should have taken 45 minutes, max, took me an hour and 45 minutes. The drive home took over an hour. The roads were minimally plowed and ducking scary.

On Sunday, I spent the afternoon at the new house, getting things ready to go to Goodwill, sorting, culling, purging. The handyman/painter/family friend came over to see what he needs to do his job. I discovered that one of the pieces of furniture left behind was a Knoll Barcelona stool. I went to Lowe's and spent $200+ on paint and supplies. A busy day. When I laid my head on the pillow at 10:00, I started coughing. Monday, when I got out of the shower, I said, "there's no way" and crawled back into bed. Tuesday I didn't even bother with the shower! That should give you a little clue to how bad I felt.

This morning I scraped about 4" of snow off the car before I set out. As I glance out my window, it is snowing and snowing and snowing. Not a blizzard. Just steadily-falling snow.

The longest I've lived in cold weather before this iteration was the school year of 1971-72, when FOMC got his Master of Music degree in choral conducting at the University of Wisconsin. I don't remember much about that year, except being overwhelmed by the fact that I had made the biggest mistake of my life in marrying this guy. Oh, and I remember the day when the high was 23 below zero and our heat pipes froze. Not fun.

I've fantasized throughout my life about living lots of different places. But I think I never supposed the weather in that locale would be any different than it was on the day I fell in love with it. Boulder, Colorado; Gloucester, Massachusetts; Northeast Harbor, Maine; Chicago, Illinois; …. You get the idea—I have a great real estate fantasy life.

But now here I am, ostensibly for the rest of my life, in northeast Ohio where it's damned cold. When I woke this morning, the temperature was 5 degrees. Okay, so that was above zero, but still. (My friend JW is going to scoff at this post, as he currently resides in Rochester, MN, where it's double-damned cold.) I never dreamed I'd be living in this kind of climate.

The snow is still magical to me. I grew up in Orlando. When I was in second grade, we had snow one day, and the principal rang the fire alarm so we could go out and catch snowflakes in our little mittens. My next experience with snow was my freshman year in college in southern Tennessee. Repeated instances of snow, but nothing like this!

So I close with a shout-out to the hard-working guys from Energy Detectives, who have been laboring for a week to upgrade the level of insulation in the Clark residence. Even thought the outside temperature was 5 degrees this morning, the temperature in my room was 50 degrees! Astonishing!! Thanks, guys.

Post script 1:20 pm: Just ran out to the car to retrieve the cough drops I bought on the way in to work this morning. (They weren't there. How could I have lost an entire bag of cough drops?) It's so white ouside I had to shield my eyes to see where I was going. And damned cold.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Dipping My Toe in the Real Estate Pool Again

Oh, wait. I guess I'm not just dipping my toe in. I've done a cannonball into the pool.

I closed on my new house on Friday morning, and the docs will be recorded on Monday. I spent a significant amount of time there yesterday afternoon and am starting to feel a sense of ownership. The reality is starting to sink in.

I will meet the family handyman, Donny, there tomorrow to see where he needs to start and how to prioritize the work. All the rooms need to be painted, and I will pull up the carpeting, at least on the ground floor, to reveal the beautiful hardwood flooring. The other priority is having insulation put into the attic to try to keep the gas bill at a manageable level.

I'll move in a couple of weeks—sometime before the 2nd of February, on which date I must vacate my storage unit.

Thanks for all the support through this process. Come visit!

(Oh, and we got about 9" of snow today! Take that, all you Tucsonans.)

Thursday, January 08, 2009

A Lifetime Lie

For some reason, I'm thinking this morning about my birthmother. I was adopted at birth—left the hospital at age six days with my adoptive mother and a family friend. My birthmother was unmarried and 38 years old.

I found her when I was 33. A search agency in Dallas was helping me and called me with her phone number. Without hesitating, without a second thought, I picked up the phone and called her. She answered. I asked, "Is this Gertrude X Y?" She said, "Yes." I said, "My name is Janet Clark. I've been doing some research into my genealogy and the records indicate you are my birthmother." There was a long (pregnant, if you will) pause, after which she replied, "I can't talk to you right now." Not, "Boy, have you got a wrong number." Not, "You couldn't be more mistaken." Just, "I can't talk to you right now."

Further research on my part revealed she had married a year or two after my birth and had never told her husband that she had been pregnant or had a child. She had been living with this lie—or lack of truth—for 30+ years.

I pride myself on my openness and lack of guile. I simply cannot understand how someone could live like that, live with hiding something—such a big something—for so much time. For all one's married life.

Gertrude and I exchanged correspondence one time, about six months later. It turns out she was one of Daddy's patients (small world, huh?) and she told him she would accept a letter from me if I sent it to him and he brought it to her when she was in the hospital for surgery a couple of weeks later. I poured my heart out to her in a typewritten letter, a full page with ½" margins. She wrote back to me in the margins of my letter.

She said she had blocked me and my father out of her mind. Huh? How do you do that? How do you block such a life-defining event out of your mind? She asked that I never contact her again, which I didn't.

About five years ago I did some intensive Googling and determined she had died two months before John died. I project that she died with a full heart and a heavy head from all those blocks in her mind.

At least that's how I would have died with that lifetime lie.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Happy Birthday to the Traveler

Today I salute my travelin' buddy, Lee, on his birthday. I won't divulge the number, but he is a couple of years older than I. We'll leave it at that.

He's known in this forum as The Traveler, based on his username when we met, two-and-a-half years ago. You couldn't hope to meet a nicer guy.

Happy Birthday, Lee. I hope it's great!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

More Customer Service Tips

I'm trying to get all the utilities at the new house switched over to my name. Today I called Dominion East to establish my gas account. I spoke with Jackie. She was adamant that their representative had to enter the house to read the meter. Of course, she could only give me a four-hour window. I explained that I did not have access to the house yet and didn't know when I would get access. I explained that the house was unoccupied and I could not ask the seller to go sit at the house for four hours waiting for their technician. I explained that I work in west Akron. She suggested they could come on Saturday, but I have an all-day technical writing class in Kent. I kept trying to get her to come up with alternatives, but she had none. And the whole time, she's calling me "Mrs. Crews."

Now as you know, I've been married many times. But none of these men was named "Crews." My daddy, on the other hand, was named "Crews," but I was never married to him.

After feeling rising frustration with her inability to be a problem-solver, I said, "I'm Ms., not Mrs."

And you know how she responded? She hung up on me.

Oops. Not good customer service.

(I called back five minutes later, got a lovely young lady named Brooke who knew how to solve problems. Yea for Brooke.)

Monday, January 05, 2009

Today's Customer Service Tip

Things not to say if you're a Customer Service Rep:

I had an automated payment returned last week for insufficient funds. Oops, I was playing on the beach, not monitoring my accounts appropriately.

The bank delayed two days before sending me the notice, hampering my ability to rectify the problem. On Friday morning I called customer service and asked why they had delayed notifying me—the initial transaction occurred on the 29th and I wasn't notified until 5:30 on the 31st, when I could do nothing about it.

The CSR said, "we have thousands of customers and only so many agents monitoring the accounts." Excuse me? It's a computer! The monitoring and the sending of e-mail notices is done by a freaking computer!!

Then she asked me if I had enabled my alerts. I told her they had always notified me when there was a problem. She then showed me where the alerts were and I replied, "No one ever told me about alerts before." She said, "Well, we learn something new every day."

Honey, in which of your training classes did they tell you this was a suitable reply to a Valued Customer?

(The thought of their agents monitoring all the accounts reminds me of one of my favorite picture puzzles showing all the little people running around inside the computer moving 1s and 0s to make things happen.)

Sunday, January 04, 2009

The Fear of Now; The Fear of New

We're home from our wonderful week at the beach. I loved every moment of the visit. The trip home was twelve-and-a-half hours of uneventful. Ridley didn't throw up once. Yea, Dramamine. Yea, Sea Bands.

Now I'm faced with new. This week I close on the house. USAA called me Friday to say the loan was finalized. I've got to call the owner's nephew, Ed, and ask who all I need to call to set up accounts.

This is the second time I have bought a house without the benefit of realtor. The first time was my 1950s mid-town charmer in Tucson that I bought from my friends Eileen and Jacki. I could go walk through the house when I needed to. I could call or e-mail them to find out what I needed to know.

This time I'm buying from a stranger that I'm apprehensive about bothering. I've been in the house four times, I think. I've spent no more than an hour in the house. And now I think I'll live there the rest of my life‽

It's scary as hell! A good realtor flattens all the speedbumps for you. I've got to figure everything out all by myself. I repeat: it's scary as hell.

What was I thinking? Why didn't I just get a one-bedroom apartment? Oh, right. I hate renting. I hate apartments.

I'm filled with fear and apprehension and unknowingness and the future spread out before me like a whiteboard that someone inadvertently marked with a permanent marker and couldn't get completely clean.

So today, on my first back-in-Youngstown post of 2009 (eek! 2009‽ How did that happen‽), I've gotten rid of the dots that have decorated this blog since its inception in 2006. (eek! I've been blogging for two-and-a-half years‽ How did that happen‽)

This year is about starting fresh and clean and seeing where things go.

Welcome to my new life. Come along with me while I trust my gut instinct.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Good Food! Good Meat! Good God, Let's Eat!

We've been doing a lot of eating out this week, as neither Tyler nor I enjoy cooking. (I've recounted the Mom's Microwave Pizza anecdote here, right?)

We've had breakfast two mornings at Stacks. Love Pavel the waiter. (Actually, if I were a cougar, I'd be takin' that boy home with me.) Great pancakes, waffles, French toast, grits (yum!). Pigs-in-a-blanket for the kids.

Monday night dinner at Guiseppe's in Sea Pines Center. Dependable good food, good service, Pittsburgh Steelers memorabilia everywhere.

Dinner Tuesday night at Crazy Crab, which Ty remembered fondly from our last trip here nine years ago. Great hush puppies.

Lunch on NYE at Truffles. I've eaten at Truffles once on every trip to HHI. I have the Truffles t-shirt. Love that place. This year I had turkey and swiss on a croissant, and sweet potato fries. Wonderful memories of sweet potato fries at Bryant Park Café with PianoLady.

Dinner Thursday night at Wise Guys in Main Street Village. Oh. My Gosh. I haven't been able to find a Web site to show you the menu, which is—quite simply—incredible. Ty and I shared the Hot Crab and Cheese Fondue (lump crab, hearts of palm, creamy three cheese blend, seasoned pita chips) and the mini crab cakes with champagne lobster cream. The babes shared a white shrimp pizza (pesto drizzle, domestic shrimp, mozzarella, shaved garlic). Boston objected to the pesto drizzle, as I would have. We're going back tonight. The babes will again have the white shrimp pizza, sans pesto drizzle. Ty and I might have the tuna tartare lettuce wraps, or the tempura king crab and mango stuffed avocado, or the hot smoked salmon chips, or the greek lamb lollipops with goat cheese whipped potatoes, or the lobster, wild mushroom and asparagus risotto. Get the idea? Fabulous Food.

Wise Guy's motto? "Big Wines, Small Plates, Serious Cocktails"

If you're ever on Hilton Head, Wise Guys is a must-eat.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

The Entrepreneur

The babes and I headed out just after high tide yesterday to hunt for shells. Boston became enamored of sharks' teeth after seeing shark's teeth fossils (and convincing Grandma to buy one) at the little general store in Harbour Town on Tuesday evening. Our Googling said sharks' teeth can be found after high tide, so we researched high tide and made our plan.

He and Ridley, as neophytes, didn't really know a "good" shell from a poor one, so their buckets were quickly filled. To them, a shell is a shell is a shell.

I saw a couple of Boston's finds with really cool patterns on the back, and I started again to think about pottery creation and using random "tools" to create texture in the clay. I told Boston that we could make a pot and use his shell to create a pattern. Well, that started his creative mind to churning.

He started telling me that we could open a little shop in front of his house to sell the shell-themed pots. He would name it "Shop of the Shells". He found a clam shell with a pointed end and said he would use that to write people's names. He then started looking for cup-shaped shells that he would use to hold the ink he would use on the shell-pen.

I told him I had met a woman in Youngstown who has a pottery studio and we could rent time in her studio and kiln to make and fire our pots.

His mind was simply racing. He was working out the sign for the store. He was telling me in a very detailed fashion about the piece of paper where people could write their names when they visited the store. ("It would say 'Name' and they would write their names to the right of 'Name', not on top of it.") He would create a sign that said "Line up here" so all his customers would be in a single line rather than spread out in front of the counter. When people had signed his visitor log "three or more than two times", he would [I never did understand this option, but there's definitely an incentive for coming to the store more than twice].

The store would be open all day Saturday and Sunday, but closed Monday through Friday because he has to go to school. He said people could call him and I suggested 'Open by appointment, M-F'.

I was astonished at how quickly he was putting this whole plan together, and at the detailed level at which he was thinking.

I guess, when we get back, I've got to find the pottery woman and sign him up for a class!