Saturday, January 30, 2010

Phase One

It was cold and windy but the sun was out. All in all, not a bad day for a drive. So, the mother and I headed to the restaurant.

We didn't take the big mirrors for the fireplaces but we took a smaller one, a cabinet and a bunch of assorted odds and ends. The restaurant was hopping. My little cousin even jumped in to help with the tables.

I did a bunch of measuring and there was a lot of discussion about what and how and how much. Not much when.

I have a feeling it's going to be sooner, much sooner, rather than later. Phase One -- whereby we decide the WHAT needs to be done is complete. Phase Two is well under way, the time during which we determine what supplies and how much we'll need to pull it off.

In return for my trouble, I was treated to an awesome sandwich (turkey and havarti) and cup of soup (carrot and rice -- may not sound good, but it's dynamite!) and homemade potato chips and sweet potato chips.

Yeah, it's going to be a lot of hard work but d*mn am I going to be eatin' good!

Enough Already!

I grew up watching Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show and for about a decade I watched Late Night with David Letterman.

I don’t watch much late night TV anymore and haven’t for quite a few years. Usually, because we watch local NBC news, I’d catch Jay Leno’s monologue by default. Sometimes he even had an interesting guest or Ross the Intern on. And, if it was Monday night, I might leave it on, and then go do something until “Headlines” came on. I have no particular allegiance to Leno but I can watch him.

As for his successor/predecessor Conan O’Brien, I don’t think he’s that funny. And I did give him a few tries on The Tonight Show, too. I barely survived the monologues. No one, Leno included, will ever be Carson.

I didn’t watch Leno’s appearance on Oprah and from what I’ve read, he didn’t really say anything that anyone who was listening five years ago didn’t already know. (If you couldn’t figure out by some of Leno’s comments and jokes immediately after the announcement years back about O’Brien taking over that Leno wasn’t in favor of it, you just weren’t listening.) And so, it’s been a long few weeks of finger-pointing and name-calling by all kinds of people online and even picketing at NBC.

Even before they officially said that O’Brien had said no and that Leno was coming back, I was increasingly annoyed by the people who acted like Leno was gunning for the job. That prompted me to comment on one of our local news sites, something I don’t often do. I tried to describe the situation in real-life terms and in a way that most of us could relate to:

Imagine that someone came to your office – where you were the top performer – and said, “Hey, we think you need to clear the way for Joe Blow here to take your spot by this date in the future because we don’t want Company X to steal Joe away from us.” Joe continues his other gig with the company and gleefully waits in the wings to take your spot.


Would YOU like that?

Then, you leave, Joe Blow replaces you. Your company doesn’t want you to go to another company either so they throw you a bone on a smaller, less lucrative project. It doesn’t go well. Meanwhile, things aren’t so good with Ole Joe either -- his results are only HALF AS GOOD as yours were. Customers are complaining about their results.


Realizing their error, the company decides to take part of the plum assignment away from Joe and give it back to you. Just part. Otherwise, it’s business as usual. You say you’re game if he is. But Joe? He’ll have none of it. You don’t lobby for the company offer but Joe acts like you do. And in the end, Joe walks … with a helluva lot of money, for doing absolutely nothing.


Yeah, if I were you, I’d try to find some spare time to feel sorry for Ole Joe, too.
When O’Brien ultimately declined and Leno took the desk back, the vilification of Leno got turned up on high. Why? All he did was reclaim his job – a job the network got him to begrudgingly give away in the first place. The network is guilty all the way around. NBC was ballsy to expect Leno to abdicate to begin with (after all, his ratings weren’t suffering, he was No. 1). It was equally ballsy to then use Leno as a pawn to try and “fix” the huge mistake they’d decided to make five years ago – to keep him from going elsewhere – only to play him against the guy they were once so anxious to replace him with! It was exceedingly crappy treatment of both Leno and O’Brien.

I thought it was admirable that O’Brien stuck it out for benefits for his staff. And, if his shows had been half as clever or amusing as his “People of Earth” letter, the opening salvo in the “CoCo” war, he may actually have gotten the viewership needed to appease the network and this whole mess would never have transpired.

But that didn’t happen.

Now the whole matter really is a moot point. O’Brien took his $30M+ and went home. After the winter games, Leno will be back. Get over it people. Move on with your lives. Just stop blaming Jay. There's more than enough blame to go around, most of which belongs to NBC.

U.S. unemployment is at 10 percent. The country’s short-term financial picture remains uncertain. People starve to death on the streets here every day. In Haiti, they’ve stopped looking for survivors, even though there probably are people still clinging to life beneath the rubble. And these are people whose lives weren't even that great BEFORE the earthquake ...

If you have to feel sorry for someone, I’m thinking Conan should be pretty far down on the list.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Game ON!

I did not hear the bus go by the house. Usually, that’s my cue to be heading out the door or very, very close to it.

I was right on schedule. I looked for it at the middle of town as it should have been coming toward me but I didn’t see it. Great. It looked very much like one of those days where it just wouldn’t show up. Because it is Friday and I’m exhausted. And uncaffeinated. And it’s 17 degrees.

But at the station, it did come – and almost on time. I nearly cheered.

I know my posting schedule has been erratic at best this week, due in part because I’ve been erratic at best this week. I’ve tried to at least read most of my usual blogs and event comment when I can but it’s been tough. And I can't keep up with the comments on my own blog but I'll do that soon.

I’ve been busier than a one-armed paper-hanger this week – and loving it. One of my new assignments has mushroomed into a myriad of small projects, some of which are loosely connected. (After my initial job, they asked to keep me – and for as much of my time as they could get. Humbling, that.)

There’s a huge learning curve on my part as it’s a whole new industry for me (though I did work briefly on another account several years ago, but not with work like this.) I have new colleagues to please and a new client to impress. Interesting, if not a little bit intimidating, even to an old hand like me.

I love to be challenged and busy and it’s been quite a while since I’ve been both of these for an extended period. It’s exciting and exhilarating and exhausting. Tired as I’ve been, it’s been very hard to shut my brain off at night. Funny how that works sometimes, isn’t it? You’re almost too tired to go to sleep!

Right now though, I need it to ON, really on. So it’s full speed ahead. Happy Friday, everyone!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Cobwebs of My Mind

Somewhere, tucked away in a darkened corner of the attic inside my brain, are the words that I desperately need to complete the revisions to a client's project I've been working on for the past week or so.

It reminds me of my old newspaper days when you'd hit the equivalent of a writing "speedbump" and that word, the very one that would so perfectly complete a thought, a sentence, a headline was just beyond your grasp. My colleagues and I would helplessly confront one another, adopting a robotic monotone, endlessly repeating, "Word needed! Word needed!"

I've done a lot of writing lately representing a variety of voices, subjects and styles. I've been in a fairly consistent state of one-upmanship with clients as my words have become theirs and their words have, in some cases, replaced mine. Well, says the little writer who lives somewhere deep in my soul, if you thought that sentence was good, it's only because you haven't seen this one yet. And the battle of the wordsmiths would resume and I would hurl myself headlong inside of it.

But then ... it just stopped. (If you've ever fancied yourself a writer, you know exactly what I mean.) Instead of languishing in a steady stream of literary love, I find myself drowning in a linguistic dearth of epic proportions. It feels very much like being mid-shower when someone tries to do dishes or flush the toilet. It's that startling a jolt.

It's been a fabulous few weeks. My fear is that the proverbial well of words has now run dry. (Maybe I really did use up more than my share of valuable brain cells in less than productive -- albeit infinitely amusing -- ways in college and the piper now has come to exact his price. EEK!)

Somewhere. Buried beneath countless cobwebs, aging memories and mental photographs from long ago scenes from a much-younger me's life (oh my God, look at me! I was sooooo thin!) I shuffle through them, peek here, peek there and yet those words continue to elude me.

Here, wordy, wordy, wordy. Where arrrrrrrrrrrre yooooooooooooooou?!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

IF I Had THAT Hammer …

My tool love is well-documented, so it shouldn’t be a big surprise that I’m throwing my hat in the ring of yet another contest to try and win one. And the fun part is that you can, too!

Todd over at Home Construction Improvement is giving away a Craftsman Auto Hammer. Todd tells us that this little baby “removes the need for a hose or cord and uses the power of a 12 Volt Lithium-Ion battery to nail nails up to 3.5-in. in length with the press of a trigger.” And even with the battery, it weighs less than 2 pounds! Sounds like love to me.


I’m thinking there are plenty of uses for a small, battery-powered, handful of SMACK-IT around This D*mn House. I’m thinking it could:
· Take care of the dozens of finishing nails I’ll be using to complete assembly of the new kitchen drawer fronts.
· Make quick work of some replacement picture-hanging that needs doing.
· Install ceiling and floor trim as part of the long-awaited bathroom project activities.

And now that there’s Another D*mn House in my life to think about, I’m sure there are 100 other things I could use it for. Wish me luck and/or get in on the contest yourself. What would you use it for? Think about it and enter by Feb. 5.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Extremes

For weeks, I've been grumbling about the real estate people at Uncle Bill's house. I'm not likely to stop anytime soon.

For one of those weeks, they repeatedly left a pocket door blocking the kitchen and entire upstairs from the basement and sunroom (the latter two both unheated) open. At first, it was open just a crack. Then, for days it was left half to completely open.

Then, they left the front door unlocked -- one time not even closing the door!

So, my godmother gave them a firm talking to. Tonight they went from leaving the doors open and unlocked to locking the place up like Fort Knox.

I couldn't get to the back door to open it because the storm door was locked up tight. I found the front door the same way.

The bad part? No one knows where the keys are, if they even exist.

So I guess the realtor is going to be paying for a locksmith.

Through the Looking Glass

Mirrors are a fabulous way to add light and depth to a room. We know this well at This D*mn House where space is at a premium.

But, the mother had been on a quest for nearly a week to find mirrors that would do the same thing but in a much larger space: two of the dining rooms at our family's new restaurant. She had something very specific in mind (as she always does) and nothing else would do.

We'd seen a few contenders that were close but there was always something: not the right shape, too much damage, or there was only one. It seemed we could not find that which she sought. That changed Sunday.

I lost her in a decor store. I spent about 15 minutes looking for her. I started out in the obvious sections: first, I went to the photos/frames section. I thought she might look there first since it was closer to the front of the store. No dice.

So I meandered around until I found a section of mirrors. I spied some very pretty 16x20 mirrors in some gorgeous antiquish frames and at an unbelievable price -- but I knew there were too small for what she wanted. (She ended up getting one of these anyway for something else.) Once I finally found her, awash in nick knacks, she'd already seen the other mirror and saw the same basket that I did to solve a long-standing storage need of ours.

We spent the next few minutes combing the mirror aisles together. She snagged one of the 16x20s and we continued to search. It all seemed in vain. But then, I saw it ...

I called to the mother and the second I saw the expression on her face, I knew the search could end right there but for two things: 1) Would I need a defibrillator to revive her once I saw how much it cost? and 2) Were there two of them?

No. And yes!

These mirrors are ginormous. (I think they're 30x34 or 32, some outrageous size like that. The 16x20 mirror FILLS the mirror portion perfectly if that gives you an idea.)


And the price? For a second, I thought I might be the one in need of reviving! Not because the price was too high, but because I couldn't believe how low it was: $30! Mind you, I've looked at no less than 100 different mirrors since our first visit to the restaurant on Monday. Mirrors this size (even the cheapest) are at minimum, twice that. And the second that I confirmed that there were indeed two exactly alike, the mother immediately burst into applause.

What was not so fun was getting them home. While Pearl can haul things, that was never the intention. The mirrors would NOT fit in the trunk and they almost wouldn't fit into the backseat. It took some careful maneuvering -- and the blanket that came with the cargo mat that now lines the trunk, a day after Thanksgiving find at Kohl's -- to get them in and not damage my seats. But I did it. And then had to repeat the performance in reverse to get them out and then into the basement.

And there they sit, for now. Along with a little collection of other goodies that the mother has been grabbing up like a kid in a candy store. I know that they're going to do the trick. Can't wait to see them in place!

Monday, January 25, 2010

A New Profession?

So I called up Jim the Mechanic to see about getting Pearl back to him, thanks to the reappearance of the engine light. And, of course, to boast about my conquest of the turn signal.

"I've got good news and bad news," I began. "The good news is the turn signal is fixed -- and I fixed it. The bad news is the engine light's back on."

"Well how did you manage that?" Jim asked. I related my battle with the wheel well cover and Hell's pushpins. He laughed mightily.

"Well, if you're ever looking to make a career change, you should just come down here and work with me," he said.

I graciously declined. For the moment, I'm quite happy right where I am. Let's hope it stays that way.

Winter – and Monday – Return

I blinked and the weekend was over. And as it left, winter came back.

The past week or so with lows around 30-35 and highs between 35 and 50, I had been allowed to briefly forget about winter. Not so this week. The good news is that we have survived December and most of January. February is the month to worry about, though we do occasionally get a 70-degree day during the month.

The mother and I did some running around again yesterday. It was very near 50 degrees though quite cloudy all afternoon. We found some more things for the restaurant and the mother and the godmother were on the phone plotting and planning again last night.

The mother can get waaaaaay ahead of herself so I cautioned that an on-site planning session, complete with measuring, was definitely in order before things went too much farther. That said, I imagine we’ll be taking another trip to the restaurant one evening very soon.

I see much work in my future. Yes, Another D*mn House is looking more likely all the time.

Engine Light: ON!

I couldn't believe it. As I was taking Mrs. B. and S home Friday night, the engine light returned.

I'd driven somewhere between 175 and 200 miles since Jim had cleared it on Monday. After driving roughly half that distance just on Monday without a recurrence, I thought for sure it was a fluke. Apparently not. Something is wrong.

A few things it might be:
  • A failing oxygen sensor. (EXPENSIVE)
  • An ailing air filter. (NOT expensive.)
  • A hole in a vacuum hose. (MIGHT be expensive as you have to remove a bunch of stuff to GET to the hose to check it out.)

Would be great if it were something as simple as an air filter. My luck, however, is usually not that good. I'll call Jim tomorrow and see when I can get it back in the shop. Besides, I can't WAIT to tell him about my victory with the turn signal.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Inside the House of Plenty

I promised a look inside my family's new historic restaurant yesterday and would gladly have done it last night but I was only home from work last night long enough to dump my stuff and head right back out the door.

The mother and I went on a four-hour shopping expedition and came home with a trunkful of d├ęcor items for the new restaurant. It’s pretty but it needs some help. Here are some before shots and a few more architectural details.

I really love the upstairs windows – both outside AND in. This is in "the ship room," an upstairs bedroom turned into another dining room.

This fan has a gorgeous medallion and it has exposed brick walls. I would have shot the room itself but it had several diners in it at the time and I didn’t want to be rude. This is the "big" dining room. Unlike the two smaller rooms downstairs, it doesn't have a name. Just like in the "Timothy" room with the fan, the big dining room's main light has a pretty medallion, too. When you first walk in, there's an area off to the left with more seating and some more exposed brick. (There's also some hokey looking faux stained glass panels in the ceiling. Those will be going.) Between the door and this section, there is also a cool, old cookstove.

There are some very nice features, but the place is in for a few changes. So, consider these some of the "befores."

Dear GM

Dear GM –

I really, really, really love my CTS and you’re to be commended for the successful combination of a sleek and classic sedan with a sporty design. Previously, I never thought that anyone under the age of 65 should or would own a Cadillac and, as I’ve still got a few decades to go, never dreamed that I would be among them.

But, back to the design …

Is it really necessary to make it virtually impossible to reach something as vital as a turn signal bulb? Really? Was it absolutely necessary to make something that should be as simple as opening a drawer as difficult as navigating the Amazon?

Those “pushpins” from Hell that hold the wheel well covers in place were nearly the death of me. And once I had those off, I had barely enough room to reach the bulb housing. And who in the hell decided to put in the owner’s manual something about “plastic clips” holding the bulb in? WHAT plastic clips?! I spent nearly 25 minutes looking for something that doesn’t exist!

I’ve owned or driven several makes of cars including Volkswagen, Chevy, Ford, Buick and Nissan. At one point or another, I have changed a bulb or headlight of some variety on every one of these vehicles. EVERY ONE! But NONE of them made it impossible to access the bulb or headlight to change it. No. It was a simple five-minute procedure. AS IT SHOULD BE.

This process even managed to confound a mechanic or two. (Of course, they didn’t bother to consult the owner’s manual either.) But me, I'm stubborn and I didn't buy the theory that both the bumper and headlight would have to come off to get to the signal below.

I’m happy to report that I survived the incident on my own, despite an inury. A putty knife and a pair of very thin needlenose pliers finally defeated the pushpins. (But not before my hand got pinched in the bargain.) And, other than the debacle about the plastic clips, the rest of the job was fairly simple. I’m very glad to say that job is behind me … until the passenger side decides to go out.

In the interim, I would recommend some serious physical torture for the person who designed the access. I think it should involve pushpins. LOTS of pushpins. And pliers …

Friday, January 22, 2010

A New Destination

I mentioned earlier this week that my godparents bought a restaurant and that we went there for a visit. It is really quite the place. Or it will be, once it gets some of the TLC it's been lacking for a while.

This is now the "front" entrance -- but it wasn't always. Here's the original front more than 100 years ago.And here it is today. It's now the side of the building and adjacent to the main dining rooms. I just LOVE the architectural details! It needs some work but you probably would, too, if you were born in the 1850s! I wish that my own house was under control so I could be of more help to them. They're going to need it. (Yes, I can see the launch of Another D*mn House, though I'll admit that this was always the kind of place I saw myself redoing instead of the one that I am.)

Of course, the mother has been obsessing for days. She's already got the entire inside done -- in her head. (She does this.) She and my godmother have been on the phone every night, thicker than thieves, discussing this accent and that design. The mother is seriously chomping at the bit to get let loose inside. (Come back later and I'll take you in.)

Yesterday, their local newspaper did a write-up. So far, business seems to be OK. I hope for their sakes that it all works out. It sure is an awesome place!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Good Luck, Mrs. B.

The mother and I were talking about “the female state” after watching Sense & Sensibility for the bamillionth time over the weekend. (It’s one of my favorites and I’m happy to report, now among the mother’s, too.)

Early on in the movie, Edward (Hugh Grant) is bemoaning how he can’t agree on a profession with his mother. Eleanor (Emma Thompson), whose father has just died and – along with her mother and two younger sisters – is being turned out of her sizable home, which has been inherited by her half-brother and his wife, Edward’s sister. Property passes from father to son, not father to daughter, Eleanor tells us. The family of women is reduced to a paltry annual sum on which to live collectively.

“At least you will inherit your fortune,” Eleanor tells Edward. “We can’t even earn ours.”

I thought about this as Mrs. B bid me farewell yesterday within minutes of having greeted me. Turns out she’s been fired from her part-time job; Friday is her last day. “I guess I’m just too old,” she said, a look of defeat covering her face. I asked if she could retire, referring more to her finances than her age. “I could,” she said. “I just don’t want to.” Somehow, I don’t think that’s completely true.

She has a son but I don’t get the feeling that he is either willing or able to help her out. I do get the feeling that she may be looking at some tight times ahead. I can’t imagine having to start over at my age (something that frankly, scares the holy hell out of me) much less at hers. The widow lady trying to make her way in the world for whatever time she has left.

So much has changed since the time of Jane Austen’s forward-thinking female characters. (I have to think Jane Austen would be simultaneously pleased and appalled by some of the changes, depending on what part of the world you're in. That was the heart of the discussion the mother and I were having.) Yet for all their forward-thinking, there was just one out for Austen's female characters: to invariably solidify their fates through fortuitous marriages – with vulgarly rich men they just also happened to be in love with. Something Jane herself even managed to avoid.

Yes, so much has changed since then … and yet, so little.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Is My Backside Still There?

It’s a legitimate question because I swear I have written my a** off this week! That’s not a bad thing either – except for the blog neglect. Sorry about that.

At one point today I remember feeling pulled in so many directions that it reminded me of being a kid and of a field trip we took to Kaskaskia and Fort Chartres about an hour or so away. I remember going into a shop where two old women were alternately rolling and pulling a bunch of taffy around on a marble tale. Finally, they each took an end and started pulling.

Yep. That was me! And that’s how I felt most of the day: being pulled in five directions and occasionally balled up and smacked down on a marble table.

As my day was wrapping up, one of my colleagues stuck her head in my door. “Got a minute for a house question?” I really didn’t but I nodded anyway, welcoming the distraction from the 100mph merry-go-round this day has been.

“Have you ever renovated a bathroom before?”

Well, yes. I’m currently in the throes of the third remodel of the solitary bath in This D*mn House in our more than 23 years of occupancy. Just talking about it made me grimace, too. Lately, as I’m showering or brushing my teeth or well, just in the room, I can’t help but look around at all of the things that are not done. But I digress.

Apparently, her home is a decade or so older than mine and was built with lathe and plaster walls. Her question was about that. I had to admit ignorance as it’s not anything I’ve ever worked with before. It seems she is taking out tile and wiping out all the wall behind it. Sounds like an ugly, ugly job. Joke though they may be, our walls are drywall so you just cut out whatever section isn’t doing it for you and replace it. It does NOT sound fun.

Speaking of houses, I need to run over and check on Uncle Bill’s. The HVAC guy came yesterday and it was indeed a faulty thermostat that had the house hotter than a sidewalk in July. The mother went to let the guy in and checked everything and dumped the water from the leaking washer hook-up so I didn’t even have to think about it yesterday.

I’m so tired. I don’t even want to get up. But, I know that if I don’t, the odds are not in my favor that I will anytime soon. So … off I go!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Hope in Haiti

In July of 2006, a series of storms wiped out power to the metro St. Louis region. Almost everyone lost power at some point for some amount of time in 100-degree heat.

For most of a week, we holed up in our basement family room. We scrambled to make sure we had enough candles and batteries to power lanterns. We were without phone service for the first three days. We bought extra drinking water – when we could find it – and getting ice was a longshot each day. And we couldn’t use tap water for drinking as we were simultaneously under a boil order.

I literally saw people on the verge of blows while fighting their way into a line to get at a newly arrived shipment of ice. We had to drive to a neighboring town to get gas, too, so keeping the tank as full as possible become imperative. Driving through town was a nightmare as most of the stoplights were out, including those at many major intersections. Hot and bothered (and with good reason), manners didn’t always apply.

In short, it was bedlam.

I thought about this as we watched continuing coverage of the crisis in Haiti over the weekend. I tried to imagine what that week might have been like if, in addition to all the challenges we already going on, we had no shelter, no food and were suffering serious injuries. I tried to imagine it, but I couldn’t. And I immediately felt simultaneously guilty and grateful. Guilty because I know I was a whiner that whole week. Grateful because I know it could have been so much worse.

So I was already primed to be reduced to tears by these two news stories on NBC Nightly News. The first about a baby delivered by military on the USS Carl Vinson after his mother was pulled from the rubble in labor. The healthy baby boy was appropriately named Vinson.
Then, in what I consider to be a true definition of faith, there was a husband who refused to give up on his wife’s survival.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy



He just knew she was alive buried beneath the rubble of the bank where she worked. For six days, he held vigil at the bank site and once heavy machinery came in and began clearing debris, he would dutifully run in to check between loads to see if any evidence of survivors had been found.

Six. Days. Of not knowing. I have to think that the lack of food, water and other resources had to pale in comparison to his anguish over his missing and possibly dead wife.

But his faith paid off.

I jumped up and down in my living room as I watched a reporter try to converse with the woman through a small hole in the rubble. I wiped tears and laughed hysterically as rescuers pulled her free. (I wish I was smart enough to figure out how to get these two videos from my RealPlayer library into this file. But alas, I am not. HOWEVER -- Why S. is pretty smart and she got me the video about the baby. Check it out. Thanks, Why!)

If you need some life-affirming messages or just a kick in the pants to stop feeling sorry for yourself, spend a little time watching some of the stories emerging from Haiti. If that doesn't do the trick, you aren't listening.

Monday, January 18, 2010

An Otherwise Perfect Day

Today is the kind of day my life needs a whole lot more of.

Engine light status: STILL OFF! This, after the mother and I drove roughly 90-100 miles this afternoon. Keeping my fingers crossed on this one.

It was almost like the mother and I were sharing a brain. (I can hear the collective groan from all those already involved in the collective brain-share with me.) There is a boutique she really likes that is going out of business and it seems the owner is sloooowly putting out new merchandise every day. We've been there three times this week! (And come home with new goodies each time, too.) Retail therapy has been heavenly! She wasn't going to go today but changed her mind at the last minute.

We started our afternoon there and then ... drove to the historic home that houses the restaurant that my godparents bought at the end of December. It was our first time to see it in person and it was a lot of fun. (Photos and more info in another post.)

We did some more household shopping on the way home. I ran over to do the daily check on Uncle Bill's house. I got the first assurance that I've seen so far that the sump pump works. The water is definitely coming from the washer hook-up, so no mysteries or new problems there. Everything was fine downstairs. But once I opened the upstairs door...

It was like being hit with a high-powered blast from a toaster oven. The kitchen counter and stovetop were so warm that it felt like the oven was on! Apparently, the thermostat had gone nuts. It was perfectly fine yesterday. Today -- completely and totally schizoid! I tried everything to get it to turn off. This went on for nearly 30 minutes but nothing worked. The furnace raged on.

I was afraid to start flipping breakers, not knowing what kind of havoc I might wreak. (Not to mention, I had NO clue where the switchbox even was.)

While relating this story to my godfather via telephone, I had a brilliant thought: doesn't the furnace have some kind of a master switch? I know our furnace does. Why, yes, it does! my godfather confirmed. Try that.

Of course, I had already gone home by this time. So back I went. (Thank God it's only about 3 blocks or this could get monotonous in a hurry.) I found the switch with no problem, flipped it and viola! The furnace is off. Whew!

Luckily, it's not supposed to be nearly as cold as it has been recently and the water is already shut off, so ideally there won't be any damage to follow. And, the plan is they'll be able to get someone to come out tomorrow and look at it.

I feel a little guilty (visualize the inch or so of distance between thumb and forefinger) for not getting anything done in the house on a three-day weekend. But sometimes you really do have to hold out for the joy of it all. Right?

Engine Light -- OFF!

Here's hoping it stays that way. I spent part of the morning with Jim checking out Pearl. He did some tinkering but says the code could be a fluke. He reset it to see if it returns. Here's hoping it doesn't.

In the meantime, Pearl will have to go back whether or not the light returns. That's thanks to the blown turn signal light. Seems that Cadillac thought it would be a good idea to make it impossible to get to the d*mn thing to change it without a) removing the sealed beam headlight or b) putting it up on a rack to gain access to a shield under the car. Just further proof that nothing can ever be easy!

In the meantime, the mother and I are preparing to take off on a little adventure. I figured if the light is going to come back, the few miles from Jim's shop probably won't be enough to trip it. A 30-40 mile roundtrip, however, might be. So, I guess we'll see. Or hopefully not.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hitting Stride

I have always loved to write. It only seems natural then that my third career choice as a kid -- journalist -- would ultimately win out. At age 7 or 8, I was making my own newspapers on looseleaf, the pages strung together with yarn. Less than 20 years later, I was doing it for real for a newspaper I once delivered.

After more than a decade of covering countless council and school board meetings, court cases and even a criminal execution, I jumped to what journalists call "the dark side:" that's PR to the rest of the world.

I've been doing that for nearly a decade. During that time I've written countless press releases, media plans, bylined articles, case studies and executive bios, just to mention a few projects. But somewhere along the way I was doing less and less writing. And less and less of it that I found any joy in.

The blog, which is nearly two years old if I discount the initial three entries from 2007, has been a godsend in restoring some of my creative juices. But even so, something has been missing.

I've recently gotten some great opportunities to write again at work and part of how I've been preparing have been some of what I think are my best blog entries. They have had little or nothing to do with the house or with DIY or tools or most things you normally find here. So I thank you for indulging me those. And I thank you for the many kind comments you've left.

It's been invigorating and energizing and I'm hoping that my little writing exercises will give me the jolt I need for my writing assignments for work. It's a reservoir that's gone untapped for far too long. Here's hoping that the stream I've tapped keeps right on flowing.

On Being A Girl

Remember when you were 4? You were tiny and rebellious and a bundle of energy. Arms and legs and jaw – always in motion. You knew how to read and write, could count well past where you needed to and had an answer for everything. One day, driven by sheer boredom, you embarked on what would be your first cover-to-cover reading of the dictionary.

Around this time, you were baptized and subsequently energized by the pomp and circumstance of the Catholic church. You liked the priest who poured water on your head, quickly blotted it with his long, skinny, scarf before praying over you and putting salt on your tongue. The next Sunday you were mesmerized by the Mass itself. You had no idea what they were saying (it was Latin, not English) but it sounded cool and immediately drew you in. At play, you began to mimic the blessing of the sacraments, a discarded perfume bottle and an empty salt shaker serving as the vessels for your water and wine.
***
The next year, when you were 5, you started going to Mass every day, in preparation for parochial school the following year. But you were a Vatican II baby and your local church had finally caught up with the times. Mass was now in English. You literally vibrated with excitement as you began to piece together what was being said during the service for the very first time. You learned not only the part that you were supposed to say, but also what the priest was supposed to say, too. You added this to your playtime Masses. Your grandmother would alternately laugh and shake her head watching you.

Around this time, you decided to chuck your plans to become a veterinarian. You were going to become a priest! Priests helped people when they were in trouble and they forgave you for being bad. And most importantly, they worked for God – that had to be good job, right? Imagine the devastation when you found out shortly thereafter that was not possible. Girls did not become priests – it wasn’t allowed. It would be the first time that the gender card would trump you, the first time that “because you’re a girl” would be given as a reason.

***
During your first year of Catholic school, one of the meanest nuns ever to be found, discovered that your birthday fell on the Feast Day for Mary Magdalene. “Watch that one,” you would overhear her say to your first grade teacher. “She will be trouble – just like Mary Magdalene.” It would be several years before you would understand the reference. You would confound the same mean nun a year later when you read much farther ahead in your Jerusalem Bible and learned that Mary was the first person to whom the newly risen Jesus appeared. Not the apostles. Not even his mother. Mary Magdalene.

“Sister Agnessa (doesn’t this name conjure imagery of Medusa in a habit?),” you bravely began, “If Mary Magdalene was so much trouble, why did Jesus come to her first after being on the cross?”

You had never seen anyone turn so red. Ever. “Go back to your seat,” the nun barked. “Girls should not ask such questions!”

You would feel vindicated years later when historians (both secular and theological) concurred that Mary was not the sinner that she was painted as in some texts. In fact, she may have had quite the relationship with Jesus. But because of the view of women in her time – and maybe to appease the Greeks, whom the Church was courting, and who would refuse a woman in the role of teacher – she was instead vilified. Because she was a girl.
***
You had no siblings and for all of the cousins you had, the only ones your age were boys. Boys who liked cars and G.I. Joes and football. You clung to them and dutifully blew up Barbie, crashed race cars and endured brutal beatings as you were piled on while carrying the ball into the end zone. You were just one of the guys and you could handle it.

But one day, the camaraderie shifted. You weren’t chosen to be on either side’s team. You knew you were changing physically but why should that have such a weird effect on the boys around you? You did not understand. Then came the chilling explanation: “Because you’re a girl.”

***
You and your cousin shared a paper route. On Monday and Thursday after school and every Saturday night, you dutifully delivered newspapers. You ran very fast on Saturday night because you wanted to be home in time for Starsky & Hutch. (Your 11-year-old self had an incurable crush on Paul Michael Glaser.)

You bristled every time you went to the door of one customer dubbed “envelope lady” because she would leave her 25 cents in an envelope taped to the door. The envelope was addressed to “The Paper Boy.” After several months of this, even when she would see you on occasion and knew that a girl brought her paper, the envelope did not change. So, on a lark, you changed it for her. She never changed it back.
***

Around this time, you started to recognize the differences in you in other ways. Scarier ways. One of your newspaper customers was a wheelchair-ridden old man. You always knocked and then brought the paper inside when he responded. He was always very nice and when he handed you the money, there was always a tip. But one day, things were different.

There was the normal, polite conversation but you couldn’t help but notice how he stared at you. It was not normal. Or polite. “What’s that in your pocket?” he asked. You reached into a pocket of your jeans and produced a piece of lint. “Just lint,” you said, holding it out to him. He batted the lint from your palm. “No,” he growled. “Inside your pocket. Let me get it.” He lurched forward in his chair and you jumped back, just out of his reach.

Two quarters were perched on his lap. As he flew at you, they rolled onto the floor. You dropped to one knee, snatched up one (the cost of the paper) and tossed his paper at his feet. And then you ran.

***
It would be a few more years before you would begin to understand the joys of being a girl. You would learn that a wry smile could help you out when you least expected it. You would find out what it was like to fall in love. You would discover that your modified dream – the one in which you would write for a newspaper – could come true.

You would know successes and have doors opened to you that many generations before you did not. It wouldn’t always be easy, but it would be much, much easier than it was for the women who came before you. You didn’t have to fight for the right to vote or to own land or to pursue any of your goals ormarry someone because that is who your family said to.

***
One day, you would run into an old grade school friend, now mother to a teen girl. A teen girl who is active in every group imaginable, whose plans and dreams are as countless as the stars. She is the image of her mother at that age. Your parting words to her have deeper meaning than either she or her mother can understand.

“Don’t forget those plans and dreams,” you tell her. “You can achieve them, all of them – because you’re a girl. And girls? They can do anything.”

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Yes I Can!

We went shopping last night, The mother has been in a bit of a funk following the death of a family friend that she didn't learn about until he was already buried.

So, it was a combination of necessity shopping and good ole retail therapy.

Pearl's trunk was full and we got home just ahead of the really nastiest of the fog. The temperature was hovering just above freezing by the time we got in and I was glad we made it when we did. The fog was plenty thick this morning so I just stayed in bed. Getting dressed now to take a bunch of cans in for recycling. I think cans are even at 55 cents a pound right now. Booyah! They usually only pay well when I have a tiny amount.

Good news: Jim seems confident that he can fix Pearl. He tried to use a code reader yesterday but it wasn't the right one. (He thinks his son has the right one.) So I am to call him on Monday which is perfect because I'm off! YAY! That made me feel a lot better. A LOT.

So, I'm off to recycle and then I'm coming home and planning to get to work on the bathroom. I desperately want to get the floor finished up and do some wall finishing and maybe even some painting done. Let's see how far I get.

Friday, January 15, 2010

All About Pearl

I'm hoping to devote some of today to Pearl.

She hasn't been washed in weeks. Yes, weeks, and it's killing me. I cannot stand to see dirt on this car. And now that the snow is nearly gone (thanks to back-to-back days of temperatures over 50) she needs a wash more than ever.

I hope to get her in at the carwash across from the office. Then she'll be all nice and sparkly when I leave work and take her to meet her Uncle Jim. Uncle Jim being my mom's high school friend who has worked on cars most of his life and most of ours for the past few decades. Since I'm out early today, I'm hoping to catch him at his shop this afternoon.

I'm hoping that I will be pleasantly surprised by what Jim can do for her. Not banking on that, but hoping just the same. I'm further hoping that he will be able to diagnose and rid me of the engine light. (I'm relatively convinced it's nothing serious, but then I'm not ASE certified either.)

It's going to be a short day at the office, so let's see how much I can get done. Ideally, I'll be able to cross off a bunch of to-dos while simultaneously managing Pearl.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Zoooooooom!

That's a perfect description of how this day has been. It's been all I can do just to keep up.

Mind you, this is NOT a complaint -- merely an observation. If it wants to stay this way for a while, fine by me. I'm glad to be busy and in demand again!

It has, however, made me dizzy. At one point, I know my head was spinning, almost enough to rival Linda Blair in The Exorcist -- but without the demon eyes and spouting of pea soup! At one point, though, the caffeine stopped working. Even getting up and running a few flights of stairs didn't help.

The good news is that tomorrow is a short day (roughly 8 hours). The better news is that it's a short day before a three-day weekend. Yippppeee!

But, no rest for the weary. I have a whole host of things I hope to accomplish while I'm off. I'm NOT going to blog about them though until they're done because it seems to doom me from finishing anything if I post and say, 'I'm going to do xxxxx.' It's almost a certainty then that xxxx won't get done.

So, I'm off to start my evening which might or might not involve shopping. Ugh.

Adding Insult to Injury

Poor Haiti. Could this possibly have happened to a nation less equipped to deal with it and with not that much to lose to start with? It seems patently unfair to me.

Watching the coverage was both heartbreaking and gut-wrenching. I felt guilty as I sat there with my dinner. I wished with all my heart that I could have passed my water and food through the screen to those survivors. And then kept passing things from medical supplies to clothing to bedding.

I know they are asking for cash donations because of the logistical nightmare it will be to get goods to the victims. I’ve answered that call. In the wake of such devastation though, it just doesn’t seem nearly enough.

Even worse are some of the incredibly insensitive interjections from the indescribably insane faction. I thought I was beyond being affected by the likes of these shameless overzealots. (Yes, Pat Robertson and Rush Limbaugh, I mean YOU!) I wanted to break my television but that would have been as stupid a response as theirs. But I still wanted to do it.

As someone who lives and dies by words (and tries to back them up with actions), I find it seriously appalling for someone to abuse this privileged communication in such a way at a time when this is the last thing anyone wants or needs to hear.

Instead of relying on this whole mythical pact with the devil (centuries old lore that may or may not have happened with a people who were desperately fighting for independence), maybe Mr. Robertson should resort to something he should be infinitely more familiar with: his Bible. OK, smart guy, take a little stroll through the book of Matthew. Try this one on:

“Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me.” That's attributed to Jesus himself. Guess whose words I'm paying attention to.

I obviously don’t pray to the same God as Mr. Robertson claims to represent. If I did, you could cancel my membership five minutes ago! Christian? Seriously? May God help you, sir, because at this point, I believe he may be the only one who can.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Thermodynamic

If thermodynamics is all about the conversion of heat and energy then let's hope it applies today in more ways than one.

Work is getting off to a good start in the new year (a momentum I hope continues to snowball). I just need some very serious energy conversion to keep it all in the air. Please, please, please don't let me drop a ball right now. Not now. It's too important.

And this week is getting off to a fabulous start in terms of temperatures with every day being warmer than the one before it. After 10 days in the deepfreeze where single digits ruled and wind chills plunged below zero, I open both arms to it. A thousand thank-yous for pulling us out of ultra-cold storage. (I always know when the cold has overtaken me when, on a morning like this one when it's around 20, I think: Wow. It's kind of nice out here.)

One thing I'm trying to do is to appreciate the little things more and to be more grateful for them. I think a lot of what's wrong in the world today is that we spend infinitely more time focusing on long-term goals or what we’re trying to make happen and not nearly enough time enjoying what’s in front of us, right here. Right now.

Not that having goals and working toward them is bad. (If it is, then my entire life has pretty much been wasted.) No. It just needs to be more about taking the occasional detour and enjoying the ride that gets you there.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I Am Woman – Hear Me Roar!

Let’s set a scene. Sitting in front of computer monitor. Annie Lennox and Aretha Franklin are belting out, “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves.” Catching up on latest blog posts from some of my favorite bloggers … and I see an interesting theme playing out right in front of me!

Coincidence? Maybe. But I think not.

If you know anything about me, you know that I am all about gender equality, especially in as much as the notion that just because I have boobs it doesn’t mean I don’t have a brain. (There’s a car dealership that is finding that one out and how!) And why is it that so many men are threatened by a woman’s success. (From conversation with friend whose paramour is totally freaked out by her newly acquired spot at the top of her firm. Ummm … When you love someone, don’t you want them to succeed? Shouldn’t you be proud of them when they do? )

Chivalry is marvelous – and appreciated – but not required. I’m probably more likely to open the door for him than he is for me. But that’s more about being polite than chivalrous. And I’ve never been the subservient type. I will gladly get him a beer, fix him dinner or rub his back – but because I want to, not because it’s expected. And you’d better believe I’d want him to feel the same way!

But back to the blogs:
· Never, and I emphasize never, underestimate a woman’s ability to spot a bargain at 40 paces! Vinny over at The Black Dog’s Bungalow shows off this uncanny ability.
· An installment of rules, courtesy of Star Simplified, as part of her ongoing series “When I am Queen.”
· I don’t cook much – but Ty’sMommy does. She even bought a tool just for a specific recipe. A woman after my own heart!
· But the most female-empowering entry of all comes courtesy of Jayne over at The Kelly House whose “p*ssed-off – ness” sounds a lot like my pi*ssed off determination. (Girl, we MUST party sometime!) She tells a local plumber just what he can do with his wrench. And never, NEVER underestimate what you can do when you get really good and p*ssed off! (That’s how I got the job I have today.)

At the same time, I am still coming down from an estrogen-powered weekend with some of the most talented, fun-loving and generally great to hang with gals I know. I finally got the weekend’s photos posted for sharing but how could I not share a few with all of you? (Especially with a post with a theme like this!)



The Shuttle

Mrs. B is probably right around the mother’s age, give or take a year or two. She is even shorter than me and very round. She kind of bounces when she walks, a combination of her weight, age and injuries. She is not very steady in snow and ice.

I’m not sure why she can’t drive (and I didn’t ask) but she recently stopped driving to the station. She has been arriving by cab. She leaves the bus when I do. Yesterday, she asked if she could “cross with” me. I knew this meant she was worried about falling so I made sure she got across. She then goes inside the building across from mine and hails another cab for the last four or five blocks of her journey. I offered her my cell but she is apparently now on a first-name basis with the concierge and he takes care of her each morning.

I think her plan had been to retire this year or maybe last from her job of nearly 30 years but some time in the past five years, her husband got quite ill, ate up their savings, and died. So, she went on working and last year she got laid off. She found another job about six or so month ago, part-time, and several blocks from the once convenient location she’d been at.

She usually isn’t on my evening bus. But just a few minutes before it arrived, she appeared on the corner. She asked if I could take her as far as a bakery on the main drag. When I asked where she was trying to get to, I found that this was only another four or five blocks from home for her.

“No,” I finally said. “But I will take you home.” It really is on my way, sort of, so it seemed silly to leave her on a corner to get another cab. Nope. Not doing that.

So once back at the station, I first got S settled in the back seat behind me and then made sure that Mrs. B didn’t fall on the parking lot and got her into the car. On the way through town, Ladybird hit a patch of ice and we slid through a stop sign. Luckily, I was going slow enough and there weren’t any cars on the corner (though there was one in the intersection and I just knew I was going to hit it). I turned the wheel into the slide and we still slid but the other car passed us safely. I corrected the wheel once out of the slide and continued on. S saw what was happening and gritted her teeth. Mrs. B was blissfully unaware.

Mrs. B’s street was still heavy with snow so we crawled up that way. Getting into her driveway was like scaling Mount Everest. I got her out, safely up the drive and past an icy walk to her back door. On the way out, I slid in her driveway. Once in the car, I began to back out and Ladybird slid, too. I was able to stop just short of a phone pole at the edge of Mrs. B’s drive. Whew!

Let’s just say I was a very happy camper when I got in my own driveway last night.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Nostalgia

There are pieces of our childhood that get pushed to the recesses of our minds -- they never really go away. Sometimes we can take them out and dust them off and decades later, they still make us smile.

That was the case tonight as I logged a little time at my late great uncle's house.

The furnace had a hiccup a few weeks ago, spurring a water issue in the now vacant and for sale house. We've been trying to keep an eye on it to make sure there isn't a repeat or any new problems, especially during the recent cold snap. (Which, mercifully ended today when we finally reached freezing again!)

I think I isolated a minor water issue (involving the washer hook-up) and while I scoured the shelves for things to mop up some puddled water with, I was amazed at all the things that came flooding back.

My uncle never bought one of anything. This was still evidenced by the 10 (yes, TEN) cans of Bon Ami on a nearby shelf, the jumbo pack of Charmin and the three packages of Reynolds cooking bags that were just a few feet away. In their previous home, where I'd spent a good deal of my childhood, Uncle Bill had transformed what was once a small office into a pantry. It was ALWAYS well-stocked. I remember the wonder of being surrounded by a tiny grocery store! (I was their faux grandchild for seven years before they got one of their own.)

As I waited to see if I had in fact isolated the issue, I spied a semi-open closet door which revealed aged turn-out gear. (He was a long-time volunteer firefighter and a former chief.) I immediately remembered the many times that I had seen my uncle, who was NOT a little man, rumble down a hallway and literally leap into his boots, boots nearly as tall as I was at the time, before slipping into his turn-out gear as he ran for the door.

I checked again to confirm that I'd isolated the problem by putting the hook-ups into a bucket, swabbed the floor one more time and waited for the furnace to cycle. (Just to be sure.)

My aunt, who died a decade ago, was an avid photographer. As I rounded a corner, I saw a camera bag sitting on a shelf. Next to that, a tiny notepad, clad in a leather case, opposite an American Express branded calendar -- for 1968. In the next room, near the stairs, I passed a stack of photo albums. I couldn't help myself -- I picked one up and thumbed through.

My aunt had loved her photos so. And, fresh off a weekend devoted to preserving pictures, I grieved for her. I smiled through teary eyes as I flipped past pictures of my cousins in their teen years (now in their 30s) and even one of a much younger me, sitting next to the mother, at my aunt and uncle's 45th wedding celebration. (My aunt had been quite ill that year and it was speculated that might be their last. She fooled 'em though and lived another six years.)

I returned the album to its stack as the furnace went through its motions. I took the stairs slowly. As I reached the top and stood in the entrance of the sunroom where I would pass through to leave, I think I half expected to catch Uncle Bill napping in his leather lounger.

Good night Auntie N. Good night Uncle Bill.

Blah, Blah Monday

If I were a smarter person, I would have taken today off. Historically, on the Monday after Crop Camp, I feel as if the life has been drained from me. Today is no exception.

It’s not a weekend where I sleep very much (and I do the bulk of my sleeping on weekends) so it stands to reason that I’d be exhausted today – and I am. It was a marvelous weekend, filled with laughter and progress. In fact, I set a personal Crop Camp record by completing 51 pages. (Yes, that’s right, FIFTY-ONE. More than half of those were from the Monkeygirls’ wedding!) That’s almost twice what I usually get done on a good camp weekend. So, it was uber-productive and I’m pleased to say that 2006 is DONE and 2007 is under way!

It’s not all about pages and scrapbooking though. Just hangin’ with this group of friends (including the MonkeyGirl, Mama Martha and Harriet) is too much fun. And this year didn’t disappoint there either. Thanks so much, everyone! The adjectives are just too tame to describe how much fun it was. We even welcomed two “newbies” to the group (new to camp, not to scrapbooking) and I think we successfully made an addict out of one of them.

It all goes so quickly though and before you know it, it’s back to reality. Oy! And Monday, too. OUCH!

The good news is that the weather is improving dramatically. It’s still cold to be sure, but … it is NOT the frozen tundra that it’s been the past week or so. Today, we’re headed for 30! And already, it’s warmer right now in the predawn minutes than it was all day Saturday! That makes me very happy indeed.

It was a fabulous weekend and I was sad to see it end. I was happy though to come home to the comfort of my own bed and my own personal Snuggie (better known as Ozzie). So as we close the book on another year’s event, the pages are already turning on future memories to be preserved. And the counter is gone until this fall ...

Can’t wait to get to the pictures!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Priorities

I left my cellphone on at work yesterday, something I don’t ordinarily do because I’m usually at my desk or somewhere in the building where I can hear a PA page.

Good thing, because I got a call from Lawrence.

Like he did last year and the year before, Lawrence is working as a day laborer. But, unlike the previous years, he intends to do it all year. This really crimps my plans as it means he will only be available to me on Saturdays. And then, even on a limited basis as he’s going to school starting next month. UGH!

D*mn. I thought retired people were supposed to slow down. Doesn’t sound like that’s the case at all with him.

It means I will really have to work out priorities on jobs where I need his skills or his help. I guess it’s pretty lucky that we got the driveway, the cabinets and drawer fronts and some of the projects he got done for me during the August marathon done when we did or those might be in jeopardy.

I think the most likely things next on his list will be installing a make-up mirror and wiring it for electric in the bathroom and repairing the shower faucet/handle. But, those will have to wait for a different weekend. I am off to Crop Camp!

Let the annual silliness begin – PLEASE!!! This week has been unrealistically long.

I think I have decided to forego the “blogging by the bathroom light” of last year and give myself a day off tomorrow. Stay tuned though. To borrow a line from the California gov: “I’ll be back.”

F-R-I-D-A-Y!

I feel like someone has kicked the crap out of me. And in a way, someone has. Her name is Mother Nature.

When I got home last night, I cleaned off both cars, did some shoveling (enough to move both cars in and out of the driveway and to enter and exit both cars without going through a drift) and then took each car to the gas station. (Both HAD over a half tank but having more than 3/4 each is better. Besides, it was good to make sure they both got some runtime in as this cold is hell on batteries.) Almost as soon as I'd started this little adventure, the wind kicked in, pushing stinging snow into my eyes, sending powerful shivers through me -- and not in a good way.

To say my butt was frozen by the time I'd finished all this would be a serious understatement. Pearl's heated seat was a temporary oasis, but the cold WOULD NOT leave me. Anywhere I sat soon became a frozen seat.

It finally took about 20 minutes on a heating pad to revive my backside and ultimately a really hot shower to actually return all the circulation to my lower half. I HATE being that cold. And this was the end to a day that had started with me standing on a corner in the cold for about 20 minutes for a bus that never came. (I tried to come in early but ended up on my regular bus.)

Yeah. This week can't get over fast enough to suit me. Tonight, I'm on way to Crop Camp and I can purge myself of this nasty, nasty first week of the new year. It will all get back on track after that. I know it will.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Next Step

I love Pearl. Truly. But I'm having a hard time adjusting to having a vehicle that I can't really get hands-on with or even begin to diagnose if there's a problem. Decades of POS ownership have trained me to not only guess at what's wrong but occasionally to even fix it.

I guess that DIY isn't limited to the house for me. But, I'm much more skilled when it comes to the house. So, it's time to consult someone whose skills are WAY beyond mine and someone whom I can trust: a high school friend of the mother's who has worked on not only Ladybird but the last three cars I owned before Pearl. Someone who has been working on cars longer than I've been alive.

The mother told him about Pearl shortly after I got her and he was quick to admit that there would be many things his shop would not be equipped to do. But even so, there will be a lot that he can, too. So, my next course of action is to get him on the phone and get his advice.

Yeah, that. What I should have done in the first damn place ...

Thanks for all the supportive comments. And a special thanks to the MonkeyGirl who let me rant as I drove home last night. (Tried out Pearl's private line. I like it!)

The good news is that they did (supposedly) change the oil and rotate the tires -- things they OWED me -- and even did a visual inspection of fluids and other basic items during which nothing else was noted. Because I got the services that they owed me, I can officially wash my hands of them. Never again. Not even on a bet.

For now, it's all about getting to work. Both Pearl and Ladybird will stay parked today. It's in the teens with winds gusting up to 30 mph and up to four inches of snow on the ground.

Fun times.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Can't Stop Shaking My Head

I'm going to pick up Pearl. Hope and pray for me that I get in ahead of any real snow.

Oh, she's NOT fixed. I don't even know if they changed the oil or rotated the tires (things which were supposedly coming to me free anyway). Do you see that vein throbbing on my right temple? Hopefully, it will stay beneath the skin and not pop free.

After yesterday's debacle, at 3:30 today I STILL had not received a call. When I tried to call, it was deja vu all over again. Hold Hell. Indefinitely. I opted to call the sales manager. After previously telling me to go through HIM for these kinds of things, he quickly passes me off to my salesman. About 20 minutes later he calls me and says,

wait for it ...

Their plan was to take my car to a GM dealer TOMORROW?!!!! WTF? I could have done that myself, DAYS ago. It seems that since I was last there, they are no longer a GM house. Since they aren’t a GM house anymore, they don’t have GM diagnostic equipment. (And I was supposed to know this, how?) So, they can’t run the code on the check engine light. SERIOUSLY?!

And for two solid days, no one could call and tell ME any of this?! And they were going to take my car out in the aftermath of a snowstorm (assuming it arrives later, which I hope it doesn't and that it's all hype). NOT!

The saving grace of today is that in that in a very short time, Crop Camp will be one day and a matter of hours away ...

This is some of the craziest sh*t I have ever heard ... and for those who know me in real life, you know I've heard some crazy sh*T!

Ladybird to the Rescue

To say I was annoyed last night would be a little bit like saying that Charles Manson had a bad day. I was ready to chew glass.

It wasn't that Pearl was not ready to be picked up. That was disappointing. No, the angry part came from the fact that I had to call FIVE times during the course of about 90 minutes and during which I was put on hold EVERY time ... and left there ... indefinitely. By that time I was really getting mad.

Could they not have called me and told me they wouldn't have the car until Wednesday? As it was, I had made arrangements to get a ride out there and was holding up someone else. All in all, the sheer rude factor pushed my indignant button. This is no way to run a business. I fully plan for this to be my last dealings with these people. Before I leave, they will know why, too.

So, I had to ride the bus all the way home, collect Ladybird, drop off S so she didn't have to walk in the frigid cold, and then go about my errands. We're due for snow tonight and I'll be damned if I'm going to be running around in it any more than I can help. God bless Ladybird. She performed more than admirably!

So, here's hoping that I get some satisfaction today. And that I have my Pearl back home safe and sound tonight before this snowstorm hits.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Mexicans

So, I bought the mother a cell phone for Christmas. I gave it to her about a week early. She’s been playing with it off and on ever since after initially declaring that she didn’t need a cell phone.

On Christmas Day as we were preparing to go to our family’s house, her phone went off and then stopped. Hmmm. I picked it up and flipped it open. She had a text message : Joyeux Noel (which I understood) and a bunch of other French that I did not. I figured this was a one-time thing.

Then, last week, she got a call from someone who was “talking 100 words a second in Spanish.” After three or four calls of these calls, she finally spoke to someone who seemed to get “wrong number.” The calls promptly stopped … for a few days.

“I tried to call you but my phone wouldn’t work,” the mother said one night. I flipped open the phone. 1 New Text Message. I opened the message. Sorry I haven’t been back in touch since Christmas. I was out of the country and just got back.

WTF?

I ignored it.

And then, the calls starting coming again – daily. The mother, being the mother, finally called them back. She was almost triumphant in her announcement to me that she had “gotten to the bottom of the thing with the Mexicans.” She announced this to me as I walked in the door from work one night.

It took a few seconds before I could figure out what she was talking about. This time, she got ahold of someone who passed her off to someone else who actually did speak some English. They apologized profusely. No more calls.

Yet.

Brrrrrrrrrr!

Today, the temperature is 4. Four. That's a baseball score -- NOT a temperature!

It could be worse though. I could be in International Falls, Minn., where it was -18. OUCH! Tomorrow night, we get snow. First, I heard 2 inches. Then, I heard 2-4. This morning: 3-5. Yeah, January, I'm not liking you!

Admittedly, today's commute was much better than yesterday's. Today, I drove Pearl to the dealership. Pearl warms up in a matter of miles. And I have the comfort of a heated seat while I wait! Then, the dealership brought me to work in a heated van. Yeah, WAY better than yesterday on both counts.

Luckily, I should have Pearl back (hopefully fit as a fiddle) tonight and can do all the pre-snow running tonight. We are forever out of something it seems.

So, wherever you are, here's hoping you're safe and warm.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Baby, What's Your Number?

The bad news: I could have frozen to death this morning. It was a whole 3 degrees (with a wind chill of -10) as I got ready for work this morning. Bitter, bitter cold. The kind I just hate. The kind that makes me want to pack up and move to a tropical island.

The worse news: The bus was practically without heat. I would wager my laptop put out 50 times the amount of heat the entire bus did. It would have been impossible to type with gloves so the laptop emitted its tiny bit of heat on my lap. We could see our breath on the bus and most of us remained bundled (including hoods, scarves and gloves) for the entire journey. There was a collective groan each and every time the bus door opened.

The better news: Never knowing how the office will be (extreme temperatures AND following an extended weekend), I dressed for bear. Had I not been so warmly clad, I know I would have frozen solid on the ride in. And, Ladybird did start, God love her, though the accelerator pedal was frozen! She was just under a half-tank so I stopped at the gas station (after getting there at a top speed of 20MPH.) I left her running while I paid, then came out and did a good scrape of the windshield before hopping back inside by which time the pedal was working again. She fired right back up after I put the gas in, too!

The good news (I hope): Pearl is headed to the dealer tomorrow. Hopefully, by this time tomorrow all will be well (including my bank balance). I don't like for Pearl to be a source of unhappiness. I want the joy restored now. Thank you.

Laugh of the day: Part of the OnStar service (which is what is telling me Pearl "may have an issue") includes a hands-free calling feature. You literally push a button and tell it what to dial. Viola! Instant call via your car stereo. Now that the mother and I both have cell phones, I can’t imagine why we’d need it, but I got some free minutes with it during the trial period AND they made me a purchase offer for additional time that was so stupidly cheap, I took it. (The time will carry over once I start paying for basic OnStar and I reminded myself of the many times I’ve left home without the cell phone or with a dead one. Hmmm.) Part of an email yesterday from OnStar provided me with Pearl’s “phone number.” Pearl has her own private line!

Maybe I really am too easily amused, but I am still totally cracked up by the idea that the car has her own phone number. Too. D*mn. Silly!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Touchdowns, Dashboards and Laundry

My brain is all over the place today so why shouldn't blog posting follow suit?

The year is getting off to a questionable start. After finally getting OnStar active (with a three-month free trial) I got an email telling me that the first diagnostic done on Pearl shows "there may be an issue with the emissions system requiring attention." Great. I have had the car exactly eight months (yesterday) during which I've not yet put 4,000 miles on it. And I now have a warning light on my dashboard. Sweet.

So, tomorrow I will have to call the dealer. I needed to get an appointment for 50,000 mile maintenance anyway. Here's hoping this isn't going to be ugly.

***

Now for some good stuff, in no particular order.

When the weather was on earlier they happened to say "on your third of December" and it happened to trigger in my brain that TODAY is the Plumbelieves' triplets' birthday! Happy birthday MLB! I absolutely cannot believe it's been 10 years already. How did THAT happen?!

***

After more than a decade of mediocre football, the Cowboys clinched the NFC East today! Not only did they win, they BLANKED the Eagles. I was stunned -- but in a very good way. They just need to do it again next Sunday!

***

I did laundry this morning and quite a lot of it, too. It was easier to put some of it away as it went directly into a suitcase, in preparation for Crop Camp which is now just a few days away! With laundry done and almost all my clothes for the weekend actually in a suitcase, this means that I am now 90-95 percent ready for the weekend. So psyched I can hardly stand it.

With a five-day workweek, bitter cold and now this crap with Pearl standing between me and the weekend, I have a feeling I'm going to need it more than ever.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Sock Drawer

I only opened the drawer to see what colors of socks were clean. (Preparation for Crop Camp and for a five-day work week in the not so distant future.)

Before I knew it, I was sprawled out on the floor, the drawer pulled out before me, its contents strewn about in a variety of stacks. It hadn’t been my intention to clean out this drawer, but there I was doing it just the same.

And with a new year having just began, the timing seemed more than appropriate. As I sat there, socks, slips, headbands, wristwraps, underwear, camisoles and a variety of other ladylike treasures surrounding me, it occurred to me that this was a lot like life.

The healthy stack of black, brown and other solid-color socks were the “useful” things, the things I need. The things I’m most likely to use. Then, there was another stack of more than well-worn athletic socks, some even solo selections, the mate long having been lost, perhaps eaten by a dryer.

Reluctantly, I began to pick these from the fray. I tossed them aside.

Then I noticed there was a growing stack of socks still sewn together, some even with the tags still attached, almost all bearing some wild design or another. (These represent a collection I’ve been given over holidays and birthdays by well-meaning family and friends. I have, on occasion, worn some of these gifts, but rarely more than a few times.) So, I carefully went through those that were unused. Would I seriously wear these? Ever? If the answer was no, they went into a pile to be donated.

There were also a few unpleasant surprises as I discovered at least a pair or two that had made their way back to the drawer instead of into the laundry. Those were promptly plucked out and added to a growing stack of wash.

Yes. A lot like life. Things we need. Things we don’t. Those very unpleasant surprises. Things we could use – if we made the effort to do so. And things we know we’ll never use but just aimlessly hang onto anyway.

These are things I’m guilty of both emotionally and physically in ways far exceeding socks. In 2009, I made some great strides in letting go of emotional baggage, some which had been hanging around since childhood. Some of it very damaging. And while you can’t control your memories or what triggers them, I can say that it is getting much easier to control how I react to them. That is a choice and it’s one that I have the power to make.

I pondered this as I gathered up the discards and donations, as I neatly returned the useful solids and the collection of ladylike necessities to precious order within the drawer.

I’m hoping that as 2010, a new year – a new decade, gets under way that I continue to exercise this judiciousness and maintain this kind of order in other aspects of my life. It will be a way of building on some of the ground I managed to cover last year.

Yes, order and judiciousness – but never to the extent that you won’t occasionally catch my feet clad in colonial blue socks bearing puffy cartoon penguins.