Friday, December 31, 2010

Looking Forward ... and Back

This wasn't quite the year I thought it would be. I had hoped to get a lot more done on the house.

The reality is that not a lot got finished at all. It wasn't for lack of trying. There was a lot of activity, just not that much in the accomplishment column. But, as the mother and I so often like to say to one another, "It's gettin' there."

It's been a year filled with learning after I switched departments at work early in
Q2. It's been both gratifying and frustrating on that front.

And 2010 has been a funky year for health. The mother, Ozzie, even me ... we've all had multiple doctor visits this year. (Including a trip to the ER for me after crackin' my head open.)

But it's been a good year just the same. It's been filled with fun, friends and a bit of frivolity that we haven't always been able to enjoy. For that, I am exceedingly grateful.

So, my wish for 2011 is much like it was for 2010: A better year. Whatever levels that may need improvement, I plan to work on. And for the areas I can't control, I'll appeal for a bit of divine intervention.

While it doesn't sound like a lot to ask for, I know that it is. Even so, I'm going to ask for it and work toward it.

As we bring 2010 to a close, I wish for all of you that the year ahead holds much peace, joy and happiness -- in whatever forms it may take for you. I know that this has been a tough year for a lot of you, for a lot of different reasons. And, as I wish for me, I wish for you a better 2011.

Winter Wonderland

Today's expected high: At or near 70.

Hard to believe that only a week ago, it was snowing like crazy. It ended up looking like this.

All those people who wanted a white Christmas sure got it. It ended up being 3 to 4 inches (nothing like what you guys out east got to be sure) but it was quite cold and enough of a mess to really cause some traffic issues. A lot of churches canceled Christmas Eve services. I felt sorry for the road guys who were out in trucks instead of home for their holiday celebrations.

It started disappearing earlier this week and then, in the course of a single day, it was all but gone. Good riddance!

Today, it is rain that is falling. And not much, thankfully. At least not yet. There is a slight chance for severe storms. Well, of course there is. You can't get temperatures like this in late December without paying some kind of price. And while it may be 70 today, it's only going to be half that tomorrow.

Crossing my fingers though that Mother Nature will relent and let the year end revelers enjoy their celebrations without rain ... or ice.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Shout Outs

The year is rapidly winding down as is the counter (at right) to Scrapbook Escape!

This week in particular though is filled with a lot of milestones, all from within my Circle of 8 (the eight of us from high school who still manage on some level to keep in touch). It started on Sunday with the birthday of my MEF, the MonkeyGirl. Happy birthday, g-friend! Glad your card arrived in advance.

Today marks two, count 'em two, big events, one of which has my head reelin'. The first is the wedding anniversary of the PBs. Happy anniversary you two! They're still goin' strong 21 years and four kids later. By the way, that card was unbelievable. I can't believe those are the kids. In fact, the mother, who definitely doesn't see so hot, asked me, "Don't they have four kids?" I nodded. "Well, then, who's that fifth kid down in the front?"

When I looked at the card to see what she could possibly be talking about, I noticed it was Jackson (right?) the Dog! Gotta love the mother.

But the event that really has blown my mind is that Stevie Ray was born 20 years ago today. He is the son of B., another of the eight, and he just happened to be born on the PBs' wedding anniversary. I've always thought that was pretty cool. Wow. 20 years old.

I've seen him in the past few years, and know that he now towers over all of us so I shouldn't be surprised. But I guess somewhere in the back of my mind he will always be that adorable little towhead less than waist-high. Ah, youth.

So, happy birthday and happy anniversary dear ones!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


I’ve sat down and intended to write a post for days now. I even have pictures! And yet none of it made it to the blog.

I left work just before the early closure of the office on Thursday. (Wow. That seems a lifetime ago!) And thus began an odyssey that has had some very positive results. Instead of going straight home, I was awash in last-minute shoppers. Thankfully, I didn’t have a lot to get and most of the lines moved swiftly. Not long after I got home and got everything inside, the snow flurries started. Just a little here and there. Nothing accumulating.

Snow arrived with a vengeance on Friday so it was a good thing we didn’t have solid holiday plans. (We got somewhere between 3 and 4 inches.) Normally, we’d have been driving 40 miles each way to our celebration. Clearly, that was out. It just didn’t seem worth the risk.

We ate well on Christmas and while there was no tearing of wrapping paper, the mother and I – through the work she’d started a week or more ago and the dedicated efforts of both of us over three solid days – have reclaimed our house! Is it perfect? No. In fact, our respective rooms are a whole ‘nother story. But yes, Virginia, there IS a dining room in there! Who knew?! And the table is set with festive ware.

The livingroom, diningroom, kitchen and bath are livable again. Even the family room, still serving as the main storage area and dumping ground for supplies for all those as-yet unfinished projects, is clean and orderly. I steam-cleaned the kitchen and bath from top to bottom and other than a few debacles (like the dining room chandelier coming out of the ceiling and losing the ShopVac wand in the cold-air duct) I’d say all the efforts were worth it.

If you've ever lived in and done a renovation at a house simultaneously, one that seems to turn into months if not years, then you totally get this.

I’m tired and sore (mostly from the bruising of my left arm which got trapped while retrieving said wand from the cold-air duct) and it’s back to the grind today. But full days today and tomorrow, a shortened day on Thursday and then a three-day weekend. Aaah.

The house still has a looooong way to go, but just making it livable again has been the best present I can think of.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Weird Sleep Pattern

Brrr … Yesterday morning it was near 40 degrees. Today, it’s around 25 with a bit of a wind. It’s the beginning of what’s going to be a tricky travel weekend for anyone who is headed off to grandmother’s house to be sure.

Luckily, we aren’t going anywhere. We’ll be working on the house. I’m good with that. Tomorrow will be an early day at work and then I’ll be running to get stuff to keep us in food through the weekend. I ordered a partial honey-crusted spiral ham from Dierberg’s ( mmmm … my stomach just rumbled thinking about it) and a bunch of wonderful trimmings.

Work on the homefront continues and it’s starting to look both like a house (granted, one where there’s some work in progress) and looking a lot like Christmas, too.

The best news of all though is that when I got home last night I was greeted by a significantly different dog than when I left yesterday morning. Ozzie was bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and ready for action! It was a beautiful sight to behold. Thanks for the thoughts and prayers for him; they sure did work!

He, the mother and Toby stayed in bed most of the day and I think it did all of them a lot of good. I was the only sleep-deprived member of the household so after having a bit of dinner, I grabbed a shower and was in bed by 8 p.m. I got back up at 2:30 and started doing some things for work that my sleep-deprived brain struggled with considerably yesterday.

It was funny because it reminded me of more than a decade ago when I first started with the company. I had to be at work at 5, so I was up every day at 3:30 a.m. It was a wicked schedule and one I’m glad to be rid of! Thank you but 5-ish is plenty early enough for me!

I was able to get some things done but I’ve still got quite a ways to go. But today, an abbreviated day tomorrow and then it’s FOUR days off. A bit of time to rest and plenty of time to focus on the house. It’s the one time of year that I can be off and not worry that clients will be weighing in one way or another!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


I’m not sure how much sleep I actually got last night. Not more than a few hours.

It was a vacation day and one well-spent, doing a bit of decorating outside and a bit of reclaiming the house on the inside. (So far, I have taken two trunkfuls of items to Goodwill and took an extra three bags of trash to the alley yesterday.) It’s really hard to try to live in a house and remodel it – and work full-time and cope with day to day life. I don’t recommend it.

I only got five hours of sleep the night before so I started out yesterday tired. I ran around all day doing things, went to bed at 1 and was awakened by Ozzie at 2:30. He woke me again at 3:30. After that, I never really went back to sleep. I’d left the small lamp on making it easy to check on him. He was restless at first after I plopped him into bed at my side, but then he nestled against my legs and went to sleep.

I thought he was getting better. He hadn’t really been having many of the little coughing fits the past few days but they seemed to begin again in earnest yesterday. I think part of the problem is that he wore himself out trying to follow me around the house.

My hope is that with me gone for the day, he will sleep and continue his recovery. That’s the hope. If not, I guess we’ll find ourselves back in the vet’s office for the holidays.

If you can, say a prayer that he did get some rest today and is feeling better when I get home. We all thank you for it!

Monday, December 20, 2010


I had some issues logging into the blog yesterday so my apologies in the delayed announcement of the winner of the Black & Decker Ratcheting ReadyWrench giveaway!

Thank you to all those who entered. It was great hearing those stories! Glad to know I'm not the only one for whom sockets have always posed a challenge. One lucky poster though won't be experiencing these technical difficulties for much longer: Congratulations to kaypasa who sounds like she can put it to good use.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Be In It to Win It!

Don't forget -- my contest to win a B&D Ratcheting ReadyWrench ends TONIGHT!

You gotta be in it to win it! See my review and enter in the comments for that post.

Good luck!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

ToolTalk Tuesday: Black & Decker Ratcheting ReadyWrench

Last year, Black & Decker sent me their new ReadyWrench. All in all, I liked it. For me, it replaced the box o'sockets I inevitably would drag out -- and promptly drop all over the place -- when something needed tightening or untightening.

This year, Black & Decker sent me the ALL NEW Ratcheting ReadyWrench. And I have to say, I think they've got another winner here! Through the course of a week, I tried it on a variety of tasks, both planned and impromptu.

I love that this tool takes the 16 most common socket sizes and condenses them into one. No more fumbling with multiple pieces just to get to the right one. That size doesn’t fit? No problem, Just flip to the next. And when you’re done, throw it in the general toolbag, no buiky separate case needed to accommodate all the pieces!

I planned to test its furniture-tightening abilities as there are two Queen Anne pieces in particular that suffer the occasional wobbly leg. The wrench did not disappoint. In fact, with the added stability of the ratchet dial, B&D eliminated my singular complaint about the original ReadyWrench: Because the wrench doesn’t lock, when you would use it on smaller settings, it would not always find enough leverage to grip and was prone to slipping. With the ratchet, this did not occur.

You may have read a post some weeks back where I installed a Victorian mailbox. I used the original ReadyWrench to tighten the nuts on the mounting bolts. While doing my test of the next generation, I gave those nuts a few extra twists. Effortless and now locked in place!
I like the redesign, too. Where the original tool was flat, the new model is arched at palm level, making it easier to get a firm grip, for hands of almost any size. It weighs about the same as the first ReadyWrench, too – hefty, but not heavy.

I can see the Ratcheting Ready Wrench coming in handy for a dozen uses. It would be a good addition to a mechanic or carpenter’s kit whether a pro or weekend warrior.

I also tried the wrench to tighten up a recently assembled shelf. Two quick turns and it was locked tight. With Christmas just around the corner and a pile of “some assembly required” gifts in most of our futures, I see this as a very handy option!

Conclusion: This is a well thought out and very handy product. I really like the redesign, the convenience and at this price for a multi-use tool. I’ll give it an A overall.
Availability: Most retail and online outlets, $24.99 ( to $31.99 (Ace Hardware)

Get your own – for FREE
Full Disclosure: Last year, I accepted an offer to join the Black & Decker New Products Team and as a result, received the product described above for evaluation. I did not receive any additional compensation for participating in this program. But …

Black & Decker has given me the opportunity to share the Ratcheting ReadyWrench with you.

The rules are simple:

  • Leave a comment on this post – 1 entry (post-related ONLY, please)
  • Tweet this post’s link – 5 entries
  • Write a blog post – 15 entries (your post must contain a link to the contest post)

LET ME CLARIFY ... The MOST entries you can get is a total of 21. You need only tweet once to claim 5 entries. Leave me a link in the comments. If you write a blog post, leave me a link in the comments and you claim 15 more entries. You don't have to leave me 15 links in the comments. You won't get more than 21 entries. I LOVE getting comments ... but not spammed.

Contest ends at 11:59 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 18.

And when you comment or post on your blog, tell me about your worst assembly nightmare. As a prompt, here’s a link to my favorite and one of my most recent fiasco requiring assembly. Good luck!

Friday, December 10, 2010

An Open Letter to President Obama

Dear Mr. President:

To set the record straight from the get-go, I did vote for you – in the general election – but not in the primary. Truth be told, I was not happy when you won the Democratic primary. In fact, I was downright disappointed.

But I supported you. You were the party candidate. (And who else could I logically vote for? John McCain? *shudders*) Disappointed, I consoled myself with the knowledge that you are an intelligent, charismatic guy who came from middle-class stock. Being middle-class and mixed race, I know you knew what struggle is all about. It hasn’t always been easy and it seems that you genuinely care about people who come from backgrounds like yours as well as for those who were unfortunate enough to come from even less.

But what’s happened to the guy I cast my vote for in the past two years? Will we ever see him again? I know you’ve been set upon by all sides and, for the most part, I’ve sympathized with you. You inherited one hell of a mess and are faced with leading a nation who, in large part, quickly and easily deleted 2001-2008 from their memories. And, in doing so, conveniently forgot just who got us into this mess to begin with. It certainly was not you.

This tax debacle though? I have NO sympathy for you on that one. You should have been smart enough to see this coming. Everyone knew that these budget-crippling tax cuts were ending this year. Everyone. Several months ago, it might have been prudent to have started to rally the troops – long before the mid-term elections. Rally your troops, rally your base and push through the cuts as you wanted them. But this was not done.

Instead, in the weeks AFTER the mid-term, you go to the Republicans, hat in hand, and give them the keys to the kingdom. Nary a voice raised, much less a shot fired. WHAT THE HELL?!

I appreciate that you wanted to try bi-partisanship, that you wanted to not immediately give up on being able to bring everyone to the table and work together. I really do appreciate that. It’s definitely something they won’t do or even consider doing come January, so kudos to you for the effort. But pacifism, while preferable, is not always the best course.

What glimmer of hope could you possibly have interpreted from the Perennial Party of No? You tried that route for six months, a year, 18 months … and still you think you can compromise with them? Do you not see that that is completely irrational? There is no compromise with these people. Not when they’re the minority so how in the hell did you think it would be possible with them as THE MAJORITY?! How?! Did you really think that you’d strike a good agreement with them, then sit around back-slapping, smoking cigars and singing “Kumbayah?” Really?

Republicans don’t operate with democratic (small “d”) principles. How can they maintain that they do – when their interest is clearly in doing the most for the least – at the expense of the most? Was I the only person who heard them VOTE DOWN the tax cut extension for everyone making $250,000 a year or less – and then vote it down AGAIN when that threshold had been increased to $1million? If they’re so worried about a “down economy” and “reining in the deficit” how do you reconcile that with burdening people who don’t make salaries like those, or even close to them, while digging the hole a little deeper to fund lower taxes for people who don’t really need it? But now the game is truly afoot.

Now that some of the Democratic party is doing what it – and YOU, Mr. President – should have been doing a YEAR AGO. I wish that some of the anger that you’ve expressed toward them would be directed in the right direction for a change. (Maybe if you did, you’d have their support.) It’s still going to end badly. The Republicans aren’t going to renegotiate your white-flag arrangement now. And their aren’t enough Democrats with spines to make them. No. There are only two options. The deal will pass as you agreed to it, Mr. President.

Or the tax cuts will expire. This would make the Democrats look bad and the Republicans look just as bad, right? WRONG!

Because when they take over next month, that will be the first order of business: Extending the tax cuts for all. Heroes! *excuse me while I gag* That’s what they’ll declare themselves, all the while declaring you a tax-raising villain. What a great first order of business AND, as a bonus, what a great way to help nail down the self-proclaimed No. 1 item on their agenda: Making you a one-term president.

At this rate, it shouldn’t be hard.

Long Time Comin'

Yes, the blog has been dark this week. It’s been crazy.

Parties and doctors trips and pharmacy lines and then trying to do all kinds of work ahead of year-end budgets. (I am STILL fighting the sinus battle. Today, however, is the best day I’ve had in a while. We’ll see how long it lasts.)

On the homefront, the mother has been a demon this week, pitching and packing. Yes, Virginia, there IS a livingroom and dining room in there! Every night when I go home, there is less stuff in the diningroom. Hey, there’s a floor in there. Who knew?! (Note to self: Never again undertake TWO major room renos simultaneously, singlehandedly in a home in which you must also live. Why? A year later when it’s still not done, it will make you NUTS!)

Then there’s having to give Ozzie two pills a day, twice a day. I have finally managed to cut the antibiotic into thirds and his other pill in half an successfully hide them in a few scraps of Arby’s roast beef. It’s the only thing so far he won’t immediately spit back out, the little bugger! Thank you again for all the well wishes. He is getting better.

And finally, it’s Friday. It sure seemed like it was a long time comin'. As if it should have been Friday daaaaaaaaays ago. It is, however, the last week of the year that I will work five consecutive days, thanks to vacation and holidays. Next week, I work four days. The last two weeks: three days each! LOVE IT!

Don’t envy me too much though. I’ll be very busy even if I’m not at work. This weekend I’ll be trying out a new tool. And be sure to stay tuned because next week, you could WIN one!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Scrooge and Grinch Elected to Congress

In 2009, for the first time in my working life, I made less money than I had in the previous year.
Mind you, I lived through the ‘80s and again in the early ‘90s when wage freezes or miniscule raises were the norm. (At my previous job, I think I worked for three years without a raise.) Fortunately, that trend reversed in 2010. I got a meager bonus (after anticipating none at all for a second year), and my raise was more than what I’d thought it would be. Go me!

I feel incredibly fortunate to have a job when nearly 10 percent of Americans do not. And to have gotten some love from my employer increased my gratitude 10 fold. I am not a millionaire. I am not only not close to being a millionaire, I’m not even close to the earnings level for which the proposed tax cuts would expire.

So, I found this stat a little interesting: more than half of all Congressional members are millionaires. (This is particularly startling when you consider that only just about 1 percent of the whole population are millionaires.) In fact, of the 261 millionaires currently serving, eight were in the $100M + range of calculated wealth. NO WONDER they don’t want those tax rates to expire. And, at a time where the wealthy have it better than ever before with tax rates double digits below what they were for the rich in decades past.

Some of these same people – people who receive, on average, $175,000 in government salaries – are the ones who won’t support an extension of unemployment benefits – for the people who were paying those salaries when they did have jobs! And these are the same ones who voted down the proposal that would have retained the Bush tax cuts for those earning $250,000 or less while allowing all others to expire.

And while the U.S. median household income dropped 3 percent between 2008 and 2009, not so with the Congress. Oh no. Their personal wealth increased by MORE THAN 16 percent!

They rattle off a bunch of “chicken crap” (to borrow the Tan Man’s phraseology) about how small businesses will have to cut payrolls and so not allowing the already well off to keep that money will cost jobs. Let me respond to you with a new phrase, John: Bullsh*t.

Maybe you’re fool enough to buy into “trickle-down economics.” The dearly departed Ronald Reagan tried to sell that to us 30 years ago. That theory is still just as much bullsh*t today as it was then. Those tax cuts will go into savings account, trust funds and luxury items. Nary a new job in sight.

I would hope that the Senate would have had the gumption to stand up and call the proposal to not let tax cuts for millionaires expire by its right name. Yes, you guessed it: bullsh*t. But I’ve learned that instead, the Dems are caving on these tax cuts.

The only silver lining appears to be that as part of their collapse on cuts for all, the Dems are holding firm on extending unemployment benefits.

Extend tax cuts for millionaires – or else raise the tax burden on the middle class. Make part of your job denying unemployment benefits to 26 million Americans who, unlike you, don’t have jobs. Hey, Congress. Listen to yourselves. I'm waiting for these phrases to come out of your mouths this week: Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?

Yeah, it’s great having Scrooge and The Grinch running the show. Can’t wait until they all take office. Only thing that could be worse would be to have Rush Limbaugh in charge. (He, who just days ago uttered the insanity that if you get food stamps, housing assistance, Medicaid, or are homeless you should lose your right to vote. What an AMERICAN -- not to mention CHRISTIAN -- concept. *rolls eyes* Yeah. Fat, rich, drug-addled b*stards like him should be the only ones allowed to vote.)

God help us all. He may be the only one who can.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

30 Hours Later

It's about 30 hours since we left the vet's office and things are looking up so far.

We're still waiting for the results of a series of blood tests but Ozzie presented with an elevated temperature and the doctor didn't like the congestion he heard in his chest. But ...

He got a shot of antibiotics and is now taking two different drugs twice a day. And now that he's had three doses -- he even LOOKS better and it's obvious he must feel better, too. That's the good news.

The bad news is that the lump is likely glandular and the doctor thought it could be hypothyroidism. (He could also be diabetic and he is a few pounds overweight.) But we'll wait 'til tomorrow to hear the test results. I'm feeling much more positive than I did yesterday. Sometimes it's wonderful to be wrong!

Thanks so much for all of the thoughts and prayers. Really, really appreciate those. You guys are the greatest!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Defining Bedlam

If you look up the word "bedlam" in the dictionary, I'm positive you'll find This D*mn House among the definitions it offers.

On a morning where I could have slept in a few hours, I was awakened by the dog around the time the alarm normally goes off during the week. Instead of being peaved, I've used that extra time to do a variety of tasks up to and including empty Pearl's trunk.

I've emptied it because very soon I will begin filling it. We are taking a load of items to my godmother. That will help to eradicate some of the bedlam that this house has devolved into. It's a combination of Christmas and of items for the restaurant. It won't be all of it, but it will be ALMOST all of it and I'll count that as a victory.

On Wednesday, I will be driving to the office and that will help, too, as I can empty my room of all the things I've purchased for our charity program. (It's starting to look like Santa's workshop in there.) That also means that I will have easy access to my poor excuse for a closet once more so I can empty my room of all the clothes hanging around that have amassed everywhere now that the closet is blocked.

I groan every time I walk in the unfinished bathroom and cringe staring at the half-completed kitchen. Yes folks, I've hit the boiling over point. I want my house back. The unfinished projects are like the grim reaper and depress me every time I walk in the rooms. And since it's serving as storage space, I haven't seen the dining room since February or March. Sad.

I haven't been able to reach Lawrence. I'm trying to see if I can eke a day or two out of him sometime, anytime, during the next few months. Especially since this coming Monday is the ONLY Monday I'll be working for the rest of the year. *GRINS* Just got my vacation schedule finalized. So, I'm hoping these coming long weekends will help me make this place livable again.

And of course my displeasure with the house is only marginal compared to the real source of my angst: Ozzie has to go to the vet. He's been sick off and on for a while and at the beginning of the week I discovered an ominous lump. We were finally able to secure an appointment with HIS vet, who, unfortunately, has one foot out the door toward retirement. I wouldn't have held out if it seemed like an emergency, but while it's not an emergency, I do fear it's serious.

He's 13, halfway to 14 almost, so that's part of my concern.

I know it's inevitable, but I'm not ready yet to go there yet. As a person who generally likes being right, this is one time I want to be very, very wrong.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


For weeks now, I’ve watched holiday decorations spring up on both sides of the river. People have taken full advantage of the unseasonably warm November we had to get outside decorations done.

Not us. I guarantee it will be freezing or below by the time we get ours up.

Take this morning for instance. It’s all of 26 with a gusting wind that is downright bone-chilling. Brrrr. December arrives, as if on cue.

It’s going to be a busy month. Lots going on at work. Lots going on at home. Add the holidays into the mix. And, of course, preparations for that wonderful annual event that is Crop Camp.

I’m tired just thinking about it all. Part of me wants to say, “Wake me when Christmas is over.”

But despite all of the activity, and even the cold, I’m buoyed by one thing: the lights. It doesn’t matter whether they’re clear or colored, blinking or stationery, I’m completely enamored with them. Apparently, I have been all my life.

The mother says that during my very first Christmas season, when I was barely five months old, I could be in the middle of a horrendous crying fit but if she took me in by the tree, it would cease at once. I’m happy to report that they still have that kind of calming effect.

As the lights burn bright in Kiener Plaza or put the huge, multi-story tree at the Metro Building aglow, or even twinkle above the entry to my own piece of downtown, I’ll be watching them. (Right now, I’m looking at the tree of huge strands of lights atop the U.S. Bank building. I’m seeing it from a distance right now. In just a few minutes, I’ll be staring at it from a window just a few blocks away.

Yeah. The lights. They’re worth getting out of bed for.