Saturday, May 28, 2011

Are You Covered? Sure About That?

If you’re a DIYer, Memorial Day weekend is generally the equivalent of a religious holiday to all things home-related. So, I’m pretty sure you have a healthy to-do list all written up.

But, while you’ve got this extra time, I’m going to recommend that you move something up to the top of that list: Read Homeowner’s Insurance policy. I’m recommending this for a few reasons. First, with our homeowner’s renewal check going out this week, I became aware of something on my policy that I didn’t know. Second, rates are in rapid rise mode so it might not be a bad idea to comparison shop if you’re renewing soon. Third, recent violent weather – some of which came within three blocks of us.

1. 80 percent coverage. Say what?! If This D*mn House burned to the ground, in order to rebuild it, I’d automatically be $25,000 to $35,000 in debt – beyond insurance’s share, for a property that is PAID FOR. That’s because I didn’t know that we didn’t have 100 percent coverage. Apparently, 80 percent is a minimum and what most mortgage lenders require you (or used to) to carry on your home. Apparently, that’s what we had. A revised policy was sent to us, upping the premium by less than $100. So, which sounds better: Less than $100 now … or up to $35,000 later?

2. Dramatic increases. Our rates went up about 7 percent this year. Not outrageous and not surprising considering the number of claims that they’re no doubt paying thanks to Mother Nature and her endless tirade. But that wasn’t the part of our recent renewal that got me. It was buried on Page 2 in the form of a $1,000 deductible – or DOUBLE our current $500 deductible. OR 10 TIMES the $100 deductible we had prior to July 2006. That is a 500 PERCENT INCREASE in under five years! And the deductible level in mandatory. It used to be that you could pay a bit more in premium to have a smaller deductible. That is no longer the case.

3. Violent weather. It seems almost nowhere is immune to Mother Nature’s wrath this year. And you just never know if it will be your town, your block, or just your house that she’ll choose to level next. If we’ve learned nothing this spring storm season, we’ve learned just how indiscriminate the damage can be. How many times have we seen one or two homes completely obliterated, only to see neighboring homes suffer infinitely less damage? The only thing that would be worse than losing everything or losing loved ones in one of these disasters would be to fall victim to a financial tornado in the aftermath of such tragedy. What about flood insurance? If you live fairly near water, you definitely need to check into it. Homeowners' alone won't cover flood damage.

So, if you haven’t looked at your homeowner’s policy in a while, please do. Use some of this extended weekend to make sure that you’re covered or to pull a list of questions together for your agent if you find out that you’re not.

I think it will be well worth your time.

Friday, May 27, 2011


Apparently, the star of HGTV show Carter Can can say, “I do.”

Yep. Sadly, I must report that the world’s sexiest handyman – Carter Oosterhouse –is no longer on the market, ladies.
Oh, Carter … how could you?! It wasn’t bad enough when you started a show called “Red, Hot & Green” … and co-hosted with a different Nicole. That was insulting, but I didn’t complain.

Now you’re off to marry some sweet little blonde thing. Ah! Heartbreaker.

In all seriousness, I hope they will be very happy. Everything I've ever read about this guy, he's the real deal. He does lots of things to support kids and the environment and is just an all-around good guy. Add to that the he is so incredibly hot -- and a talented craftsman ... that's one lucky girl!

Ah, well, I'll console myself with the reality that if I had a handyman that looked like that (instead of dear grandfatherly Lawrence) nothing would ever get done at This D*mn House!

Ready. Set. Paint!

OK. Maybe I won't be doing actual painting this holiday weekend (or maybe I will, one never knows) but do know that I will be BUYING paint this weekend.

Yes, boys and girls, it's the Memorial Day paint sale at The Home Depot. Now through Monday, get $5 off a gallon or $20 off a five-gallon bucket of Behr, Glidden and other paints and stains. I know I will be buying outdoor white, more paint for the kitchen and possibly more black paint. The black paint will be for the strips of egg and dart molding which arrived from Surface Solutions amid all of the storm craziness that was Wednesday.

Yes, I have an eight-foot box in the middle of the livingroom floor. I'll get it moved later today.

Trying to decide on just WHAT to work on as, when I leave work this afternoon, I won't be back 'til THURSDAY. YIPPPEEEEE!!!!

That's the problem with having so many different projects going on. It's hard to know just where to start ...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Fun Never Ends

(This post is actually from Tuesday but because of all the more serious events of that day and the hours preceding it, I didn't post. Since today's forecast is rain -- and just rain -- and cooler temps (as in 20 degrees cooler!), decided to go ahead and post this one. Wednesday was a pretty scary day in St. Louis but it ended up OK.)

Yet another storm front moved through very early Monday afternoon. I don’t know what the wind gusts got up to, but they had to be freakin’ phenomenal. A piece of ¼-inch glass was pulled off of the baker’s rack in the carport and literally hurled behind Pearl, shattering the length of the driveway from carport to street. Unfreakingbelieavable!

I had Pearl covered as a precaution, trying to avoid more damage ‘til I can get her fixed, and the wind (which Lambert clocked at up to 84 mph) tried in spite of the bungee cords to remove it. Ripped the whole rear passenger section of the cover. Oh, and another shutter was peeled off the back of the house, right off one of my bedroom windows.

There are bits of trash all over the yard and the mats I have down to help control the amount of oil that the driveway gets dripped on from Ladybird ended up in the neighbor’s yard. And none of this stuff, except for the shutter, is light.

So, I have to pick up all this little mini-disaster when I get home from work. Fun times.

Trying to do just one more thing before dinner, I run downstairs to grab some birdseed. Wait. Gotta turn on the lights. D*MN! The dimmer switch is permanently dimmed – it won’t switch on. So, the hall light is the only light you get until you can make it to another switch in the middle of the family room. (I’ll add that project to the Lawrence List.)

Once downstairs, I dump the dehumidifier. I notice that it’s not acting right. The compressor doesn’t want to seem to do its job. I guess it’s going to be time soon to get a new one.(This one has been on almost continuous duty for six or seven years. It’s done its duty.)

I finally get the birdseed but as I’m getting to the top of the stairs, I stumble, squishing the plastic container I’m holding a bit. The lid pops off and at least a cup of birdseed goes everywhere. Fabulous. Yet another mess to deal with.

I get that cleaned up and I race through the rest of my evening routine so I can sit down and watch HBO’s “Too Big to Fail.” Tons of huge names. Have been wading through all the hype for weeks. With little more than 38 minutes to go, the TV locks in place. I soon discover that cable is out. It would be out for the next few hours.

Frailty, thy name is Charter! I can hardly wait to kick these guys to the curb.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Downtown St. Louis: Some Olive Street History

I love downtown St. Louis. But you already knew that. Even so, I got a reminder of just how much in two ways this week.

First, as I virtually trolled through a digital collection of Missouri History Museum photos, I mourned some of the buildings that had perished. It's so hard to look at some of the grandeur I see in these photos and know that someone decided it just wasn't worth saving. Conversely, I got seriously excited as I found images of others that I completely relish during my daily commute.

Then, as I took a lunchtime walk through the actual streets, my spirits were immediately buoyed by the sight of some of my favorite centenarians. Just about every block of the heart of downtown has some old building that has weathered a century or more. And I adore that. The late 19th and early 20th century architects responsible for these gems are among my idols.

Unfortunately, I am a directional idiot so seeing some of these photos tagged as the northeast corner of this intersection or the southwest corner of that, doesn’t help me get my bearings to figure out if the buildings in the photos even still exist. Luckily, I do know enough to recognize certain things. That’s why I was a little puzzled when I saw this photo of Olive Street featuring some of my most favorite buildings.

It’s a photo of the Union Trust building (which I wrote about here) in 1893.

It’s the best picture I have EVER seen of its original round windows that went around its second story. And look at the second-story gargoyles on the corners! I didn’t know it had those.

Wonder what happened to them when some idiot decided to cover over those beautiful windows back in 1924. (Though there’s a lone alley where you can see a precious few. My blog post features a shot of one of those originals.)

Though it was the age of art deco so, by then, some 30 years after it was first built, I guess the plainer front and the gargoyles might have seemed outdated to them.

I easily recognized the domed structure in the background as the Old Post Office. But what’s that rectangular structure between the two?

Beats me. Hey, wait … the Chemical Building is supposed to be there!

Oh, but it wasn’t built until 1896. Guess that could explain its absence, huh?

Then, I happened upon this Olive Street scene from a few years later – 1900 – and a block farther back.

You can see the unmistakable round windows of the Union Trust (and oh, look at those gargoyles!!!!) though the trolley covers the two-story entryway.

Sadly, I'm pretty sure that where that gentleman in the foreground is standing is now the edge of a parking lot. (I hope St. Louis has learned from its shameful history of razing historic structures and turning them into parking lots or garages!)

But just behind the trolley and opposite the power line … is the Chemical Building. (It’s the building with all the bay windows. It’s one of only two in the city with bay windows from bottom to top. The other is the LaSalle Building a few blocks away.)

God, I love this city.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mother Nature's Wrath

I had another post all ready to go, but it's all so trivial right now in the wake of more deadly tornados I just can't. It will keep.

I hope that all of my virtual world buds are safe tonight. And, all of my distant family members who seem to be in or very near the storm-struck areas.

Be careful out there PLEASE, everyone. Keep your eye to the sky, listen for warnings, watch radar on TV if you can.

If you have a watch or warning issued, HEED IT! Maybe that time you spend in the basement, the bathtub or closet might seem a silly waste, but sillier still would be for you or your family to lose your lives because you chose to ignore it.

You're all in my thoughts tonight, folks. Batten down the hatches and hopefully, we'll all be OK tomorrow.

Total Devastation

My heart aches for the people of Joplin, Mo., and its surrounding region. The total devastation and the continually increasing death toll is beyond tragic.

It’s horrible how this can keep occurring each week. Watching that coverage makes me feel more and more lucky to have gotten by with what we did in April.

The silver lining is that they found 17 people ALIVE in the rubble yesterday. I hope it's a trend that continues; I fear that it won't be.

Mother Nature needs to cut them slack so that they continue their rescue efforts. So many have lost so much already. As I usually do, I'll ask that you offer a helping hand if you can. There are so many groups, even individuals in the St. Louis area, who are sending back some of the love that came our direction a few weeks ago.

Sometimes you get what you give.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The End of the World … Again

It’s the end of the world as we know it.
It’s the end of the world as we know it.
It’s the end of the world as we know it.
And I feel fine
. – R.E.M., “It’s the End of the World As We Know It”

Surely by now you’ve heard about the 89-year-old minister who’s predicting “The Rapture” for today. He says the event he’s looking for to herald Judgment Day is a major earthquake. I’d say he’s got fair odds of getting one considering recent major tremors in South America, Japan and Spain.

Even if that does happen, does it really signify the end of the world? Probably not, as similar claims have borne out.

Still, there are those who believe that on May 21 (today) that the righteous (or roughly 3 percent of the world’s population) will be whisked away to heaven. The rest of us? We get to deal with a self-destructing earth for five more months. How would that work, exactly? If you’re on the “nice” versus “naughty” list you magically vaporize? And, if not, you’ve basically signed on for the Apocalypse?

In my lifetime, this is the fourth or fifth time that I can think of that Planet Earth was slated for destruction. In my lifetime! (I’m sure there were several others that I either don’t know about or forgot.) And yet, the world didn’t go kablooey sending life as we know it screeching into oblivion.

The first one I can recall was in 1982, thanks to a mid-1970s prediction from televangelist Pat Robertson that the world would end that fall. (A couple of science writers touted this same theory, citing some kind of planetary alignment that was supposed to set off the San Andreas fault and domino style, take the rest of the world along.) While I didn’t get to go to it, my friend Maria threw an “End of the World” party that has long outlived the dire prediction and is now legendary.

In 1988, there were multiple apocalyptic predictions. I remember these only because that was the year I was graduating from college and I thought, “D*mn. I get this close and I don’t get a degree!” On the bright side, I wouldn’t have had to repay my college loans.

Then, while it wasn’t world-ending, there was the Iben Browning prediction for Dec. 3, 1990. He claimed that on that date, give or take 48 hours, the New Madrid fault area had a 50-50 chance of being the center of a destructive earthquake. And while that wouldn’t have ended the world, per se, it would surely have seriously rocked mine due to simple geography. That didn’t happen either.

And then … Remember all the Y2K hype of 2000? Yeah. Me, too.

So, if you’re reading this, I guess earth’s imminent destruction has been foiled yet again… at least until 2012. And if they’re right?

At least I won’t have to mow the yard.

Friday, May 20, 2011

To the New Graduates

So you got your college degree … CONGRATULATIONS!

Unless you already have a job lined up, I’m sure the question you’re asking is: Now what? I wish I had a good answer for you. I do, however, have what I hope will be a few words of wisdom.

Like you, I graduated within a few years of a stock market crash, a major financial bailout, rising inflation, tax cuts primarily benefitting the wealthiest among us, an ongoing debate over balancing the federal budget (and during which some Republicans cried as they had to vote multiple times to raise the national debt ceiling), and geographic unemployment challenges.

The unemployment rate was just below 7 percent then, a number that would look good by today’s standards. But, the area in which I lived and still do, was not flush with opportunities for a still wet behind the ears communications major. When I got the chance to apply at a local newspaper a few weeks after I “officially” graduated, I leapt. Two weeks later, I began my first “career” job.

It would be both a blessing and a curse.

It was a blessing to have a job, especially one related to my degree. It was an incredible training ground supplying insight and experience I could never have gotten in school. It was a curse to have a starting salary that paid only marginally more than the part-time civil service job I gave up at the university. And, it became even more of a curse because I stayed there way too many years. I was reminded of this by an article in the New York Times about today’s college graduates and the bleak outlook for their immediate futures.

“If you don’t move within five years of graduating, for some reason you get stuck where you are,” one expert in the story says. Oh, how right that is! Here's some other advice:

Don’t be complacent. At least until you get that first job or two under your belt, always keep looking.
Take every job seriously – even the minimum wage ones with no direct ties to your “career.” The people you work for in these jobs may appear again later in your life and be in a position to help you along and be willing to do so if they have a good memory of your work. Don’t burn bridges!
Be realistic. You probably aren’t going to waltz into your dream job with a huge salary. (A Rutgers study showed the median starting salary for students graduating from four-year colleges in 2009 and 2010 was $27,000, down from $30,000 for those entering the work force from 2006 to 2008.) If you get an offer in this ballpark for a job you can do, ideally in your field of choice, think of it as an investment in on-the-job training – and something besides your part-time work record that you can put on your resume.
Network. Think of everyone and anyone you’ve ever known who works in a field or at a company that you might like. Talk to them. Seek their advice. And, if you can, enlist their help. Many times it really is just as much about who you know as what you know, particularly as you start out.
Always save Face(book). This wasn’t an issue in my day but in the age of everything is on the Internet, be very mindful of what you put out there on blogs, Facebook, MySpace, etc. It ceases to be all in good fun when a prospective employer stumbles upon less than savory photos or other college exploits.
Consider internships. Many companies offer paid internships, positions that are often filled by candidates a semester or two past graduation. I know firsthand several former interns who work as staff today because they took a chance and showed what they could do during 90 days or so. Even those who weren’t hired, now found they had some great new references – or they were introduced to people outside the company who could offer them other opportunities.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Ballad of Frank and Jemmy

After a morning downpour,
into our drive you strode.
Somewhere in our neighborhood,
you've settled into your own abode.

While we thought your stay was temporary
And looked upon you as a guest,
I'm more of the mind to think now
That you've set up a duckling nest.

To help you get things going
And meet your many needs
You'll always find a ready supply
Of fruit and bread and seeds.

And so it is with great joy
An announcement I do make
That This D*mn House is now home to
Jemima Puddleduck and Sir Francis Drake.

And so goes the ballad of Frank and Jemmy ...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Hail of a Lot of Money

Before the (Not So) Good Friday storms that rocked the St. Louis metro area, there was the Tuesday before Easter. On that day, hail fell at This D*mn House not once, but twice, within 12 hours.

My group had clients in town and we were supposed to get the company suite at Busch for a game that Tuesday night. But because the National Weather Service was already posting warnings over the prior weekend, by Monday, those plans were cancelled. ( As was the game following the storm the next night.)

If I’d still had plans to go to the game, I would have driven that day. In fact, even though those plans were canceled, the early morning warnings calling for hail were enough to make me think I should drive anyway. I came very close to doing so because Pearl would have safe haven inside a downtown garage rather than have her rear exposed in our carport. I almost drove that day. Almost.

But then I thought of the stretch between Illinois 3 and the McKinley Bridge. It’s a fairly desolate stretch – either with nowhere to seek shelter or nowhere you’d want to – so I figured Pearl’s chances were better in the carport.

I figured wrong.

I made it to work just fine but the HUGE hail (golfball at least) started in within 15 minutes of my arrival. I got a panicked call from home in which I could actually hear the hail beating the hell out of the house. I knew Pearl was under siege and cringed. D*MMIT! I’ve I’d driven, Pearl would have been safe!

Before round 2 of the hail hit (more of a pea-sized variety, fortunately), I made it back home and while it was still raining a bit, I had to go out and check Pearl. I immediately noticed a half-dozen or so good dents in the trunk lid. Not too bad, all things considered. It would be several more days though before I would get a clearer picture of the damage.

When I washed her that weekend, I actually felt before I saw the array of tiny pits on the lid. Sh*t! That’s going to require a new trunk lid, I thought. Since then, I’d found a few more dings on the rear quarter panel and one leading to the roof, all on the side that was open to, while not directly exposed to, the elements. That’s because we hadn’t had much in the way of sun and Pearl’s iridescent surface can mask a multitude of sins without direct bright light.

And Saturday, when I took Pearl to the insurance adjuster’s for an estimate, they found even more damage. In fact, they identified nearly $2,400 in damage in total. While it is comparatively less than all my neighbors’ claims that I’ve heard thus far, I still think it’s a buttload of money. And it makes me sad. Say heh freakin’ looooo to higher car insurance!!!!

But, I have to get her fixed. I think I’ve identified a body shop, so I’ll need to call them up and take her for a visit.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Fine Feathered Friends

Saturday morning, ahead of the sun, the mother bolted into my room and awakened me from a very pleasant and peaceful slumber. The weekends are the one time of the week that I am not dressed and out the door, usually well before sunrise, so I relish these early morning extended visits to the unconscious realm.

“Hey!” she cried. “C’mere. Quick. There’s a mallard duck and his mate out in the driveway.” Without completely opening my eyes, I muttered, That’s nice. And then returned immediately to my prior state.

But within 15 minutes, she was back. And insistent. “Aren’t you coming?” she half yelled. “I thought you’d bring your camera.”

Did she honestly not see that I hadn’t stirred? No. Let me sleep, I protested grumpily. Dammit, I know what ducks look like. Big deal. But it was no use. This time she had succeeded in pulling me from Dreamland and I would not be able to return as easily as before. So, I got up. And I got my camera.

Unfortunately, there were too many challenges to get a decent shot. 1) A bleary-eyed photographer, still in a mild state of protest; 2)a funky camera angle through a multi-paned and grubby window; 3) a dying set of batteries which was making auto-focus go bananas; and 4) two moving targets.

These are the best of the half-dozen shots I did take. Not very good. Oh well.

In between myriad activities on Wednesday afternoon, I got a call from the mother. “They’re back!” she exclaimed. “They’re out there right now with the squirrels, eating.” We regularly put seeds, moldy bread and fruit out for the menagerie of creatures in our yard – bunnies, squirrels, robins, sparrows, a lone pair of cardinals, an occasional raccoon or owl.

Arriving home, the first thing I noticed is that they were still in the yard, eating happily. I quickly ditched my stuff and emerged from the house, camera in hand. It’s the only way you’ll ever see me shoot a duck.

They were out there again last night, near dusk. I watered down the driveway in a section we don’t drive on so they had pools to pick from but they diffidently waddled off instead. If I see them tonight or over the weekend, I guess they’ll have to be officially added to our creature collection – and may warrant names.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

It’s Time to Go Home

(I wrote this post a few weeks ago – roughly April 21. In all the confusion of recent world events and Mother Nature’s local wrath – not to mention daily life – I never got around to posting it. My sentiments remain the same so I decided to share, albeit a bit late.)

"I'm angry. Waste always makes me angry, and that's
what all this is, sheer waste."
Rhett Butler
(Clark Gable) to Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh) as the citizens of Atlanta mourn
their dead upon learning of the Southern defeat at Gettysburg in GONE WITH THE

Man, am I with you, Captain Butler.

That quote popped in my head after hearing that not one, but two, award-winning photojournalists were killed in a Libyan grenade attack yesterday. All I could think was, “All that talent … wasted.”

I think that both Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros would disagree. It takes a certain kind of individual to be a journalist. And it takes an even narrower breed to be a foreign correspondent. And then, there are those who dedicate themselves to war coverage. Some people will tell you that they were crazy or stupid for taking on such an assignment.

While I’m sure that both of them possessed some kind of daredevil/thrill-seeker gene, they both were passionate about a different role they played: communicator.

I consider myself a communicator, both personally and professionally. As a former journalist, I fully appreciate the impact a story or a photo can have, even at the local level. So, put that on steroids, crank it up a couple thousand times and you can begin to recognize the value of what these guys were doing. They put a face, or more accurately faces, on our foreign war fronts. And in most cases, those faces belonged to young American males, far from home, often questioning what they were doing, most scared sh*tless but putting up brave fronts to conceal it.

They also put a face on the many nameless and often unseen figures: the civilians whose lives are in complete and utter upheaval by the violence that surrounds and regularly permeates their personal space daily.

Hetherington and Hondros gave them a face and a voice. Most notably for Hetherington in the award-winning documentary Restrepo, and for Hondros, in a body of still images illustrating the stories of countless masses in the U.S. and abroad. My God, those pictures!

What makes me angrier still is the continued collective carnage in the Middle East. We aren’t winning hearts and minds. We’re losing limbs and brain capacity and the potential of so many young lives. It’s wasteful. And it must stop.


You Asked

Recent email query: When are you going to review some more stuff?

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by this question. I’ve been getting lots of recent hits on several reviews – some even a few years old – including caulk guns and caulk, our Dyson canister, my Kindle, the Twin Draft Guard and the TroyBilt lawnmower that was sent to me to review last summer.

Hmmm … good question. I wish I knew the answer. It isn’t like I don’t have things to review.
A hard floor steamer that has never been taken from the box. Ditto that for a tool I won – a year ago.

YIKES! Seems like I’m more than a bit overdue. So, thanks for asking! I'm thrilled that my opinion seems to matter.

I’ll see what I can do to get ToolTalk revived.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Next Up

I think that next up on the to-do roster is the bathroom. It's logical because I think it's the one room where I actually can finish things. There is, of course, quite a ways to go.

I have to finish the walls, wallpaper and paint. do some minor flooring repairs and put down quarter-round and … I think we’ve had a slight change of plans when it comes to the ceiling trim. Instead of using the thin egg-and-dart molding I’d bought to complement the existing thick wood trim in the bathroom, I think I’m going to go back to the proprietor of the Michelangelo project and spring for the egg-and-dart molding they sell which complements the ceilings.

You remember, right? Like in our kitchen.

Mind you, this was before I painted the cabinets (most of them anyway) AND before the arrival of our stainless appliances. This was June 2009, right after the ceiling and trim were finished.

In the bathroom though, the trim will be black, not silver. And the mother will have to paint it. And she will be unhappy about that. But, I think she will be far happier with the end result since she has recently said several times that she doesn’t like the wood in there now and isn’t sure about putting up the additional thin egg-and-dart in white.

Whatever. See, this is the problem in having almost TWO YEARS pass between the time you start a project and the time you, um, start the project and just stop. It gives her an opportunity to change the plan. Well, with the mother, that’s always an option, but when you give her almost two years to think about, it’s practically a given that she will not like something she liked then. (She already doesn’t like the floor. But, that’s just tough sh*t. I like it. It cost a bundle. It was a pain to put down. It ain’t coming up!)

At this point, you could put up rainbow-colored yardsticks for trim once the wallpapering is done and I’d likely nod in approval. OK. Maybe not that, but … you get the idea that I’m anxious to get something, anything off this massively growing list, right?

Memorial Day weekend is comin’, baby.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

On Mother's Day

Being a parent is hard work. Being a parent on your own is 10 times harder.

I don't speak from firsthand experience -- but from secondhand. It’s one of the only silver linings I’ve found in having missed out on motherhood. I know that if I’m honest with myself, I might well have repeated, in many respects at least, my own childhood. (Definitely not a good idea.) And I know that it would not have been as easy as many of my friends (very much to their credit) make it seem.

I can’t imagine having the awesome responsibility of creating, caring for and molding another human being. The complexity of it does not escape me. I think it is one of the ultimate things that anyone can do and one of the most arduous tasks that can ever be undertaken.

So, it is with the maximum amount of love and respect that I offer a sincere thank-you to the person who embodies my longest relationship: the mother.

Things probably would have been easier (and a lot more enjoyable) had she not taken her parental responsibilities to heart and made them a priority. No, make that the priority, in her life. I can’t count the times I’ve wondered what might have become of me if she had decided to conveniently forget that she had a child and focus only on her own wants and needs. (It’s a chilling thought, considering that I had one parent who did just that.) And she easily could have, too.

But she didn’t.

And while it’s not always been the easiest of relationships, I know that I am loved, I have always been cared for and I have always had someone in my life truly in my corner, someone who has wanted for me many times more than I even want for myself. Someone whose enduring love, trust and respect are sometime more than I deserve.
And for that, I will be forever grateful.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there. Especially to mine.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Rise and Shine

For two consecutive mornings, the sun has come out at sunrise. Doesn’t sound like much of a feat unless you have been a party to its daily dose of cloud cover for far too long. Sometimes you have to be grateful for the smallest of things.

Rain is back in the forecast for this afternoon/evening. Even so, I’m beyond grateful for the temporary break. The sun began to greet me on the trip in, a small sunbeam focusing with laser-like precision on my face. It was so intense, it distracted me from my Kindle (and a rereading of Sinclair Lewis’ Babbitt) long enough to don sunglasses.

It was becoming so bright as we trundled into downtown that it cast an eerie glow around Homeless Guy who was sitting on a bench, his giant quilt still rumpled before him. (Normally, he is still inside it, huddled next to the adjacent steam vent as we pass.)

As I depart the bus, I am greeted by not one, but two bus drivers passing by, both of them former drivers of either my route in or out of downtown. Vita waves wildly and honks as I cross in front of her stopped bus. As he passes, Jimmy throws open his door, waves and shouts, “Mornin’, Sweetie!” I gladly return both their greetings.

Those exchanges garner me a concentrated stare from Chicken Man, one of the street vendors. He is parked on the corner, still sitting in his SUV before starting to set up his grill where he cooks brats and chicken for the lunch crowd. (I see this guy just about every day and have even attempted a few “good mornings.” He is not a friendly dude. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt though. Maybe he hasn’t had his coffee yet – it is only 6:45, after all.)

In the next block, I recognize one of the security guards as he exits Starbuck’s. He grins and waves with his free hand. As he rounds the corner, a maid from one of the hotels appears. We exchange smiles as we pass.

As I enter the store downstairs to claim my own cup of coffee, M.’s familiar voice bellows, “Good mooooooooooornin!” from the back of the store. That makes me grin and I yell back. The only truly unfriendly morning exchange comes from the coffee machine.

Instead of sputtering and drizzling a stream of cappuccino down my hand (per usual) before beginning to fill my cup, it employs a new tact: It stalls – and then erupts with a stream that jumps over the cup and pours onto the floor – and my feet.

Not enough to dampen my mood though. It’s going to be a good day. Hope you have one, too.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Groceries and Rainbows

I’m always chasing rainbows … Yeah, that’s me, both metaphorically and in real-time. I’m a sucker for arcs of color in the sky.

As I sat at my desk last Thursday, I witnessed one of the weirdest weather patterns that I have ever seen. Ever. At least four times during the early afternoon I saw it shower, occasionally pretty heavily -- and mostly while the sun was shining brightly. And usually against the backdrop of a slate gray sky. Bizarre!

I periodically got up from my desk and attempted to view various angles of the sky, looking for the rainbow that just had to be there. I didn’t see it.

As evening arrived and I made my way home, the weird weather continued. Sun. Sun with rain. Gray sky. Grayer sky. Rain. Rain with sun. And as I neared the grocery store where I’d planned a quick stop, the rain stopped once more, slowing to a fine mist.

As I parked and then exited Ladybird, the sun again began to cut through the gray clouds – and the rain began anew. With it, I spied a widening rainbow arc. I quickly rifled through my bag and grabbed the camera.

I got some strange looks as I stood in the middle of the grocery store parking lot, a light shower falling, snapping away. But I didn’t care.

Pretty soon, people began to point not at me but at the rainbow forming over Arby’s. Then, just as quickly as it had started, the rain stopped.

The colors of the rainbow began to fade. I went inside to shop.

I was inside only a short time. As I walked to the car, the rain returned. First very lightly but by the time I had loaded the trunk and returned the cart, coming down at a good clip.

And the sun came out again.
As I was driving home, this is what was in front of me.

I hurriedly pulled Ladybird into a parking lot. More stares as I ran here and there to capture this.

Ask me if I care.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Is It Wrong to Rejoice?

Five words on the bottom of the TV screen, which had been cut into a mosaic featuring a live broadcast on one side and stock footage on the other, immediately grabbed my attention: Osama bin Laden is dead.

What?! I read the line again and gasped. The mother had just caught up with me. It was a stunner to see after flipping to our local news after watching various History Channel shows during the evening.

I was equally stunned to see the revelry taking to the streets across the country. Mind you, I'm not condemning it. I just don't plan to go yell in the street or anything. No. My option is much more subtle.

The old comedienne Moms Mabley said it best: "They say you shouldn't say nothin' about the dead unless it's good. He's dead. Good."