Sunday, December 31, 2006

Beware my 40-watt porch light, burglars and murderers!

Not only do I read too much Stephen King, as Janet pointed out, but also, I've watched way too much TV in my lifetime. Yesterday morning, as I was putting on my tennis shoes to go exercise, I thought "Sock, sock, then shoe, shoe. Your way is styooopid!" And then I giggled to myself.

Confused? OK, in an episode of All in the Family, Michael was putting on his shoes while talking to Archie, and Archie noticed that Michael put on a sock, then the shoe, and then repeated the process on his other foot. Archie was horrified. He told Michael everyone knows you're supposed to put socks on both feet first, and then put both shoes on. Michael pointed out that if a fire broke out in the middle of putting on his shoes, and he had to run out of the house into the rain, he could at least hop around on one foot--the one that already had a sock and shoe on it--and wouldn't get the naked foot wet. Archie's way, he'd be running around in his socks and get both feet wet.

Not that I think all of life can be explained through the medium of TV shows, but sometimes I do find meaning in seemingly meaningless sitcoms or cop dramas or whatever. Remembering this All in the Family episode made me realize that even if there's no good reason for doing something a particular way, we're capable of justifying it--sometimes with sound, simple reasoning and sometimes with convoluted, farfetched logic. And, of course, our way is always the right way.

I get irritated with Kevin, for example, because he never remembers to turn on the outside light next to the back door before coming to bed. I insist that light should be on because if a burglar or an axe murderer--you know, the same one who tried to break in through my creaky basement door the other morning, or one of his pals--is lurking around the back yard, the blazing 40-watt yellow bug light is going to deter him. The police might spot him in the brilliant clarity of that light, after all! I assume all burglars and axe murders are prudent and cautious fellows. You don't get successful in those lines of work by being slapdash and careless.

I say "we" because everyone I know justifies his or her methods of doing things with varying degrees of nuttiness. It's not just my own peculiarity. One friend told me her husband, who's a chef, insists on putting forks in the dishwasher tines down to avoid contaminating the eating surface with bacteria when grabbing the forks to remove them from the dishwasher. His way, you grasp the forks by the handles, thereby preventing bacteria on your hands from contaminating the tines. I pointed out that bacteria could, theoretically, travel down the handle to the tines. I mean, those little suckers can travel, or spread, right? His method seems pointless to me, but I'm sure it makes perfect sense to him.

******

I feel compelled to clarify my complaints about Kid Manager in my previous entry, after reading the lovely Lisa's comment (who has a great name!). It sounded like I was lumping all young recent graduates into the same group, and I didn't mean to do that. Wisdom most emphatically does not always come with age, and I think the young are often beset with uncertainty more than hubris. I know I was. Also, I've worked with many people in their early 20s who are better organized and more capable of staying on top of details than I am.

What bothers me is how common it's becoming to throw inexperienced people into managerial positions they're not ready for--and that it's often done because hiring someone right out of college is cheaper than paying, say, a middle-aged person with several years of applicable experience. I know staying in business is tougher these days for companies, but I think cutting corners without considering the consequences is a disturbing trend in business--at least, the business I'm in. Hiring practices are just one example, too. I could blather on ad nauseum and bore you to tears, but in short, I'm seeing major changes in several clients that are going to drastically reduce the quality of the books they publish. And that's a damn shame.

******

I have no big plans for New Year's Eve tonight. Daniel's going to his dad's, and Kevin is working until 10:00. We're planning a bed picnic--probably fruit, cheese, French bread, and wine--while watching the countdown on some channel. I don't know whether I can bear to watch the post-stroke Dick Clark, poor man, and I get quite enough of Ryan Seacrest on American Idol, so I'll have to find an alternative. Whatever you're planning to do, be safe, yes? Happy last day of 2006!

Friday, December 29, 2006

I'm buying WD-40 today

I got up this morning at 5:30, which is ridiculously early. I hate waking up when it's still dark outside, but I do enjoy having a quiet house to myself. So I was happily curled up on my couch reading and drinking coffee, when suddenly I heard a loud creeeeeeeeeeeeeeeak. I spilled half a cup of coffee on myself (which had, thankfully, cooled down to lower-than-magma temperatures) because I practically levitated off the couch. I knew which door it was right away. The door to the basement closes but doesn't actually latch; it has a lockplate that takes one of those old-fashioned keys, and I don't lock it because it's a pain in the ass. Besides, there's a locking door to the outside at the basement stair landing. The hinges need to be oiled, so it makes a creepy creaking noise, much like the sound effect starting off the radio program "The Shadow," every time we open it.

Anyway, I was convinced an axe murderer had broken in a basement window or the coal cellar chute, and was now inching that door open on his way to chop me into a bazillion pieces. I meant to dash upstairs to wake Kevin but was frozen in place, and I couldn't convince my legs to move. Just when I thought my heart was going to pound its way out of my chest, my cat Cairo strolled into the living room, trying to look nonchalant. That damn cat had been skulking around the basement; I suspect she goes down there to stalk mice or bugs or critters I don't want to know about. If we close the door while she's down there, she's figured out how to hook her paw under the bottom of the door and open it. If I'd had my wits about me, I would have remembered that, but a creaking door in a quiet house is one of the scariest noises I can imagine, and it set off my paranoid fantasies, I guess.

******

I don't mean to sound like a cranky old lady, but lately the publishing world has been taken over by kids just out of college. They have little to no work experience and don't know much about managing a project. It's not their fault; project management takes time to learn, and having an experienced person show them the ropes would be helpful. Like most businesses, however, publishing companies are going through heavy budget cutbacks, so these kids get thrown, without any preparation, into management jobs meant for people with far more experience.

One of these poor kids is managing a book I'm editing now; I worked on the previous edition with the same group of authors, who are hell to keep on schedule. The previous manager warned Kid Manager about them, and I had a long talk with her before taking on the book about the challenges of working with them and the importance of riding herd on them to keep the book on schedule. The first chapter was a week late--clearly a red flag--and it's been downhill from there. Kid Manager is supposed to send out weekly status reports to the authors and me, listing what's been done and what's due that week. She's done nothing to check on the book's status, however, and it's not my job to tell her how to do HER job.

We're now a month behind on the production side; the first chapter was supposed to have gone through its second author draft and my second edit on December 7. Kid Manager finally called me this morning to ask "How's the book going?" Uh, I've been sending her my own weekly status reports, yet she was shocked to hear no author seconds had been turned in. I know she has a heavier workload than she should because of personnel cutbacks, and as I said, she's young and inexperienced, but damn it, it's not rocket science to look at a schedule, compare it to a list of what's been turned in, and see that things haven't been done on time.

So she's trying to coordinate all four authors for a conference call next week in an attempt to get the book back on schedule. I don't have the heart to tell her--nor is it my place, really--that when a book is this far behind, there's no realistic way to make up for the lost time. I guess the silver lining is that she's going to learn a lot, and quickly, about book management with this project, but it's going to be a painful lesson for her, I'm afraid.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Stop me if you've heard this before

My parents just left after a short visit, and I'm reveling in the absence of my mom's chatter. I love her, but damn, can that woman talk--and about nothing in particular. What's made this habit worse the past few years is that she's started repeating things--not once, not twice, but many, many times. This morning she told me, for the fifth time since the beginning of November, that my uncle's girlfriend takes TWO Ambien and drinks before going to bed. Dangerous, sure, but worth repeated tellings? And that's all there is to the story, too. No cautionary incidents of Pat the girlfriend sleepwalking or falling into a near-coma or having lapses of memory. No hilarious stories about her cooking dinner in the middle of the night and not remembering the next day. Nope. Just the fact that Pat takes two Ambien and has a few drinks before bed. Finis. I doubt even Stephen King could spin an interesting yarn out of that story.

Before I let go of my irritation, I have to tell you she does something else that irritates the shit out of me. My dad has lost quite a bit of his hearing yet refuses to get hearing aids. I know that's frustrating. I've spent many phone conversations with him yelling at the top of my lungs while he insists I'm just not holding the phone close enough to my mouth. She treats him as though he's lost IQ points along with his hearing, however. When we go to restaurants, for example, she reads the menu to him and explains what certain dishes are like--because God knows he couldn't figure it out from the mysterious description "A medley of eggs, sausage, hash browns, and country gravy in a skillet." When we were opening Christmas presents last night, she explained what everyone got and the purpose of whatever the gift was, as though my dad couldn't SEE Kevin pull a sweater out of a gift bag and understand it's something to wear. Oy. My dad's one of the smartest people I know, and I can't help thinking being treated like a simpleton is slowly driving him mad. However, he seems to have a bottomless reservoir of patience where my mother is concerned. I admit she's a very sweet and thoughtful person, so I guess that helps.

I wonder what Daniel's going to write about me in his blog 30 years from now. "My mom's funny, but I wish she'd shut the hell up about how CNN misspells words all the time in the news crawl! And God, if I hear her bitch one more time about people using apostrophes to form plurals, I'm going to stick a sock in her mouth." Maybe I should start working on being sweeter and more thoughtful, just to make sure I wind up in one of the GOOD nursing homes.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Almost an O. Henry Christmas

I posted a few Christmas pictures on Flickr, but I'm about over the holiday hoopla now. The weather was so awful Christmas night and yesterday--cold rain mixed with snow--that a drive to look at lights didn't seem appealing. I was disappointed because Neargem told me about some elaborately decorated houses in the area. Now I'm just looking forward to taking decorations down and getting my house straightened up.

I do have one funny Christmas story that's a little O. Henry-ish. Well, it's missing something to create the perfect twist, but it's close. Daniel came back from his dad's last Saturday morning carrying a huge box with a teeny-tiny, limp bow stuck on top--no wrapping paper, just a cardboard box. "What in the world is that?" I asked. He beamed and said "It's your surprise!" His dad pointed out the holes in the sides (meant as carrying handles) and said "Don't worry. We cut some air holes." Hmmph. Very funny.

Daniel made me wait to open that box last on Christmas Eve, and I was shocked to find a microwave oven inside. About a month ago, I was cleaning the inside of my ancient microwave and mentioned that it's 11 years old, and I'd like to get a new one. Then I didn't give it another thought, except I guess I told my mom on the phone that I'd love one that's smaller and stainless steel because the white one I have always looks a little dingy. I suspect I'm too lazy to own white appliances.

Anyway, Daniel told me excitedly that his dad's neighbors had bought a new microwave and wanted to sell this one, even though it's only a year old. He said he got "such a deal" (heh) on it and even cleaned it himself and made sure the instruction manual was included. (Yes, I'm still reeling at the realization that he CLEANED something himself, with no prompting.) However, this thing is enormous--I could microwave a side of beef in it--and, unfortunately, white. Daniel was so tickled with himself, however, that of course I didn't say that.

A little while later, I called my parents to wish them Merry Christmas. My mom asked what Daniel got me, and I described the book on Celtic traditions and the Seinfeld DVD. When I mentioned the microwave, she exclaimed "Oh, shoot!" "What?" I said. She told me she had bought me one for Christmas AND--of course--it was a nice, compact model in stainless steel with black trim. Arrrrghhhhh!

My mom understood that I couldn't turn down Daniel's microwave, however, and said she'd exchange hers for something else. A cute little microwave in shiny stainless steel would have been nice, but every time I use the big white one, I'll be reminded of how much my son loves me. It's the best Christmas present I've ever gotten.

Monday, December 25, 2006

A little Christmas babble

I'm answering questions for the Nebshit Game here:

1. Do you have a favorite Christmas tradition? Since he was around 6, my son has insisted on playing Santa and handing out presents. I insist he must wear a Santa hat while doing it. Mwah-ha-ha-ha. Last night, it was rather warm, however, so after about 10 minutes, he exclaimed "My brain is boiling!" and took the hat off.

2. When do you open gifts--Christmas Eve or Christmas morning? Christmas Eve. When I was little, Christmas morning was for presents from Santa and digging into stockings. We still do stockings--that's one of my favorite parts of Christmas.

3. What is your favorite Christmas cookie? My mom makes bar cookies with some kind of cereal on the bottom and chocolate-butterscotch topping. To DIE for.

4. Real tree or fake? Real. I know fake trees are easier, but I just can't give up a real tree.

5. Do you want something for Christmas that you know you will not get? I couldn't think of anything until I saw someone answer "a car" in Nance's comments, and a younger car than mine would be nice.

6. What’s the worst gift you ever got at Christmas time? For our first Christmas together, my ex-husband gave me huge, fuzzy Snoopy slippers. Ugly as hell, and my feet started sweating the second I put them on.

7. Do you write thank you cards for Christmas gifts? When I was little, I did to out-of-state relatives, but not now.

8. Do you get a Christmas bonus at work? I'm self-employed, so no.

9. How old were you when you found out the truth regarding Santa Claus? I don't remember a big dramatic discovery; I think it was more of a gradual realization. Maybe 8 or 9?

10. Do you buy your boss a Christmas gift? See #8. I buy myself a present--does that count?

******

I had such a nice Christmas Eve. Kevin had to work until 6:00, but I had dinner ready to go when he got home, and then the opening of gifts began. By the way, I was all set to take the advice a couple of you gave me about his presents that didn't arrive, but then I decided to ask him what he'd like. He said he'd really like a cellphone, but if I felt compelled to get him something else, we should wait until after Christmas and see whether any good sales are going on. He's frighteningly practical, no?

He was so thrilled with the Mr. Beer kit I got him, however, that I don't think I'll be able to top it. I bought it as somewhat of a joke because he's said several times he'd like to try brewing his own beer, and I always made fun of him for that, calling him "The Brewmeister." He was really tickled, though--he can't wait to try it out. As Janet told me, this means I'm going to have to actually try one of his beers and assure him it's delightful, no matter how awful it is. Heh.

Daniel's dad is picking him up soon, so I guess I should get out of my PJs. I'll write more tomorrow and post a few pictures, if I get ambitious. I'm looking forward to leftovers for dinner (no cooking--whoo hooo!) and a drive around town tonight to look at Christmas lights.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

A Christmas Wish

Last week, Kevin found his old roommate, from when he was in his early 20s and living in Cleveland, on the Internet. Peter has a Web site created by another friend of theirs from that time, Scott. Kevin was the lead singer in their punk band, The Basiks, and has talked often about how much he'd like to hear from Peter and Scott. He left a message on Peter's site, and a couple of hours later, Peter had posted an entry about Kevin with a picture of him from 1979:

I can't believe that's Kevin! I keep looking at it and wondering whether I would have fallen in love with him back in 1979. Funny, we were both in Ohio at that time and wound up later in Indiana, a state neither of us ever foresaw living in. I started looking through old pictures to find one of the 20-year-old me for comparison:

Back then, I was attracted to older, jaded, angsty, artist types--and if they had a British accent, so much the better. Kevin was an artist, true, but he was so cherub-cheeked and cheerful looking; I'm afraid he would have been much too happy and normal for me. Heh. Now, however, I think he's pretty darn cute. (He's the one on the left, by the way. The other guy is a little too, uh, GREEN for my tastes.)

And here's me 27 years later:

My hair's almost the same, but everything else has certainly changed. Sigh. Well, I'm not the only one who's changed. Kevin pointed out that his friend Peter, who had thick, shoulder-length hair in 1979, is now as bald as Patrick Stewart, and Scott, who had women falling all over him back then, is no heart-throb these days.

I'd like to have a neat, tidy conclusion to this look back in time, something along the lines of we're all happier now and more comfortable in our own skins, yadda yadda. Speaking for myself, I know I don't suffer from the kind of melodramatic angst I did at 20, but I still have disappointments, worries, and uncertainty. Life doesn't automatically smooth out just because you grow up. However, I've gained some acceptance since then. I'm not as hard on myself or others as I used to be, and I don't think I see setbacks and failures as a reflection of my self-worth as much. Maybe that's the real miracle of growing up: not that you learn all the answers, but that you learn to be a little kinder to yourself.

So in the spirit of treating myself kindly, I'm not castigating myself for all the things I didn't get done for Christmas--for the baking I didn't do, the presents I couldn't afford to buy, the decorations I ran out of time and energy to put up, the cards I didn't send. Tonight, I'll have a nice dinner with my beloved and my son, and on Wednesday, my parents arrive for a visit. I'll be surrounded by friends and family who love me. What more could I want? I wish the same for all of you--and much peace and happiness in the new year.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Karma to me: Ho, ho, ho!

Oh, my God. Greg was absolutely right in my comments yesterday: My Christmas-readiness hubris DID come back to bite me in the ass. Barnes & Noble is chuckling at the karma boomerang! Don't ever say you don't believe in karma, people. Earl knows the score.

All right, I'm humbled. I'm crying "Uncle!" I will never, in this lifetime, be completely prepared for Christmas ahead of time. When I found out the other night that Kevin's presents wouldn't be shipped until after Christmas, I called him at work sobbing. (Not, by the way, the smartest thing I've ever done. W@lgreen's has been crazy-busy the past week, especially the photo department. Jabbing a stick in his eye repeatedly would have been kinder than a phone call from a distraught, hysterical woman.) The first thing he said was "Honey, I'm so glad it was my presents, not Daniel's, that got screwed up!" Gah. Sometimes I think I don't deserve him.

He said he'd take me to B&N or wherever I wanted to go today so that I could finish shopping. I think he knew the prospect of fighting the traffic and crowds alone was enough to do me in. However, I'm considering giving him a choice: I can get him the very cool CD, book, and DVD I'd planned, or I can add him to my cellphone plan and get him a nice phone. A phone would be more practical, now that he's traveling 90 minutes one way to Logansport a few times a month for work with Sam on the arts foundation. But is "practical" good for a Christmas present? I know the items I'd ordered from B&N are sure to delight him and aren't things he'd buy for himself. What do you think?

******

Ack, I need to run. I have to go to the doctor's and to exercise, and then brave the shopping madness. I'll leave you with a picture of my Christmas tree, which looks a little blurry because I used the night setting, but the lights are so pretty, I wanted them to show up:

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Evil cats and even more evil online bookstores

I suspect one of my cats, Cairo, is evil--pure evil, I tell you. She's always been haughty and prissy and easily pissed off, but those traits are typically feline, I think. I first wondered about her evil nature when Kevin's kids started coming over for weekends. Cairo took an instant dislike to them and used to lie in wait for them to walk down the hall or up the stairs, and then pounce on them, hissing like a possessed she-devil. As the kids ran screaming in the other direction, I could almost swear I heard her chuckling "Mwah-ha-ha-ha-ha!" Look at this evil thang:

Lately, she's taking to skulking around my office, but not to be near me. No, she's waiting for an opportunity to steal Charlie's bed. Last night, she'd been hogging his bed almost all evening, and I was getting ready to leave my office for the night. I tried to shoo her out gently so that she wouldn't be trapped in my office for the night, but she wouldn't budge. Finally, I tipped the bed over and dumped her unceremoniously on the floor. She gave me a look of hatred and ran off.

A few minutes later, I settled down on the couch to watch TV. Holly, my beagle, was snoring happily on the loveseat, when suddenly I heard her scramble to her feet and start snarling. I looked over but didn't see anything that would have upset her. Bad dream, I figured. A few minutes later, the same thing happened, and I looked over in time to see Cairo swatting Holly on the nose! She knew waking Holly up was mean, and she was getting back at me, the little devil. You should have seen the smug look she gave me when I scolded her. As I was telling Kevin this morning, my other cat, Picard, at least manages to look ashamed when I scold him and most of the time just radiates sweetness:

I'm telling you, that Cairo is a bad seed.

******

I'm so mad at Barnes & Noble's online store, I could just spit. I ordered most of Kevin's Christmas presents online December 6. Two items would be shipped within 24 hours, and one within one to two weeks, according to B&N. Even if shipping took two weeks, I had plenty of time before Christmas--or so I thought. Last night, I realized I hadn't gotten anything from B&N, so I checked my order status online. To my dismay, the report said all three items wouldn't be shipped until December 22 and would take three to eight days to arrive!

I called the customer service number and after hanging up on one rep who said snottily, "Well, there's nothing I can do for you," and then put me on hold for seven minutes, I finally got a supervisor. BIG waste of time. He couldn't get his story straight, first telling me item #1 was out of stock, which is what held up my order. I asked why the site said nothing about the item being out of stock at the time I ordered it and why the other two items weren't shipped, and he stuttered a little and then said item #2 was out of stock. I asked what he could ship NOW, and he said item #2. Uh. I said "Didn't you just tell me that item's out of stock?" No, he claimed, it was item #3 that was out of stock.

About at the end of my rope, I asked "Well, what CAN you ship me now?" He said item #1 (the one he originally said was out of stock). "Fine," I said. "Can you ship it overnight?" Here's the conversation that ensued:

"I'll expedite shipment," he said evasively.

"That's not what I asked you. Can you ship it out overnight tomorrow?"

"Yes, it will take one to two business days."

"That's not overnight. Can you guarantee it will get here Saturday?"

"Well." Long pause. "No, I can't."

"Fine. Cancel my entire order."

Jesus H. Christmas! Amazon at least has the good sense to display a warning in big red letters next to an item: "This item cannot be guaranteed to arrive by Christmas." And B&N claims it's rated the number-one online bookseller?? Hmmmmph. Well, I'll never use B&N's online store again, but now I have to go out among the hordes of crazed last-minute shoppers to find the same items or something comparable so that Kevin doesn't have a sucky Christmas. I am not a happy camper. Bah, humbug!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Survey says . . .

I saw this survey at Robyn's a while back, and because I'm feeling lazy today, I'm answering it:

1. What does your cell phone look like? It's a Nokia that was free with my Cingular service. I got on the cell phone bandwagon late, but I lurve my snazzy black and silver phone, and I even used it the other day to call Kevin from the grocery store to see whether he wanted me to pick up something for lunch--something I never thought I'd need to do.

2. Do you know what time you were born? Yes, because it's the time school let out when I was a kid: 2:45 p.m.

3. What do you want more than anything right now? A magic fairy to swoop in after Christmas, take down all the decorations, and put them away in an organized fashion.

4. What do you miss? Friends who aren't around anymore.

5. Hot dogs or hamburgers? Hamburgers, definitely. A hamburger with bleu cheese is one of my favorite indulgences.

6. Do you get scared in the dark? Oh, sure. I hate complete dark and prefer to sleep with some sort of light on, much to Kevin's annoyance.

7. The last person to make you cry? Daniel, indirectly (that is, he didn't do anything to make me cry--I was being a sentimental wuss).

8. Hair/eye color you prefer on opposite sex? I don't think they've ever mattered to me that much. I did go through a streak of redheaded men when I was younger, but I think that was coincidence. Redheads are pretty darn sexy, though.

9. If you could eat anything right now, what would it be? A really good fruitcake. With the nut allergy I developed a few years ago, I can't eat anything with pecans, and I miss fruitcake and pecan pie. Well, not that I could eat them now anyway, with The Diabetes and all.

10. Who is the last person who was mad at you? Kevin, who was upset that I was impugning his skill at connecting cables for the home theater.

11. Do you speak another language? A little French and a smattering of Italian.

12. What was the first gift anyone ever got you? Uh, baby gifts, I guess? The first one I remember is the tiny rocking chair my grandma gave me the Christmas I was three. Having my own chair was a big deal to me. When Daniel turned three, I fixed it up, painted it, and made a new cushion for it, and he rocked in it while watching TV.

13. Would you fall in love with someone knowing he or she was taken? If I did, I wouldn't act on it. I don't think. I hope I wouldn't.

14. Best way to tell people how much they mean to you? As I've gotten older, I find saying "You mean a lot to me" to mean less than actions showing you value someone else.

15. Your weaknesses? Lord, too many to list. I suspect impatience is at the root of most of them, though.

16. Ever made a prank call? After we both read Harriet the Spy, my friend and I decided there was something suspicious about a small business in a brick house up the street. We'd call them pretending to be adults and, uh . . . ask stupid questions trying to find out what kind of business it was. We never did find out anything.

17. If you could get plastic surgery, what would it be? A height insert.

18. What do you get complimented about the most? My mad editing skilz.

19. What do you want for your birthday? I don't know--it's almost a year away! I can't plan that far ahead.

20. How many kids do you want? I'm happy with the one I have.

21. Do you wish on stars? Falling stars, yes.

22. Which finger/s is/are your favorite? I've never, ever thought about my favorite finger (who writes these questions??), but I suppose my middle finger has come in handy many times.

23. When did you last cry? Didn't I answer this question in #7? OK, I lie. I cried last night while listening to Christmas music when "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" came on. That song does me in every time I hear it, for reasons too long to explain here.

24. What is your most embarrassing CD on the shelf? I'm almost too embarrassed to say, but I actually own a Yanni CD. I've never listened to it, but because of the person who gave it to me, I can't bring myself to throw it away.

25. If you were another person, would you be friends with yourself? Sure, why not?

26. Have you ever told a secret you swore never to tell? Yes, but for a good reason.

27. Do looks matter? In a general sense? Yes, in the sense that making an effort to look nice reflects your opinion of yourself.

28. How do you release your anger? Stewing, fretting, and muttered swearing for smaller upsets; for the big stuff, I might resort to throwing objects, stomping my foot, and generally acting like an asshole.

29. Do you trust people too easily? I'm afraid so.

30. Favorite toy as a child? The dollhouses I made from shoeboxes.

31. Where were you 6 hours ago? Sleeping.

32. Who will be your next kiss? Kevin or Daniel.

33. Anything pink within 10 feet of you? Yes, a hot pink felt-tipped pen.

34. What are you wearing right now? Tan velour sweatpants (I'm ensconced in velour!) and a white T-shirt for exercising.

35. Last sporting event you watched? Jeopardy! What? It's competitive question answering, ergo a sport. In my world, anyway.

36. What is/was your favorite class? I liked most of my classes in graduate school. One I enjoyed a lot was a class in the history of socialism and communism, but that could have been because I had a wild crush on the professor.

37. How old are your parents? My dad is 77, and my mom is 69.

38. Do you miss anyone? Yes, quite a few people.

39. Were you an honor roll student in school? Yes.

40. What do you know about the future? It's inevitable.

41. Do you have a tan? Bwah! Good one.

42. How old do you want to be when you have kids? I was 29 when I had Daniel. I wish I'd been a little younger.

43. Last time you got stopped or pulled over by an officer? Honestly, I don't remember. I've never gotten a ticket for a moving violation (that I can remember, anyway).

44. How do you like your drinks? Caffeinated.

45. Are you someone's best friend? I hope so.

******

What a shame Marvin Gaye had such a short life. I'm sitting here listening to a CD of his, and the man had a voice like an angel.

******

I'm still dreading the prospect of giving myself shots, but if I have to, I have to. And as Von pointed out the other day, it could be worse (heh). OK, I'm off to exercise and get those damn BG levels down. Ugh.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Inez and Me

Last week, the inexpensive little home theater system I had wheezed, coughed, and gasped its last; it had been sickly for a while but struggled on a few more months after a nice man at the local Sears outlet tinkered with it (and it's not a Sears machine--he just took pity on me because no one repairs electronic components these days). With little hope, I took it to Mr. Nice Sears again, but despite his valiant efforts, the thing was well and truly dead. Really, most sincerely dead, even. Ding dong.

However, a Sony system was on sale there at half its already discounted price. Kevin suggested we go in on it together as a family Christmas present, which seemed like a good idea. It's been sitting in the living room since then, until last night when I decided to start untangling speaker wire and going through the complicated "Quick Start" setup. Finally, I thought it was ready to play a DVD and popped in a disc from season 2 of Star Trek: Voyager. (Shut UP. It's good! And that Chakotay is mighty fine.) The system read the disc just fine--whooo! Before I could get cocky, though, I realized the picture was in black and white. Arrrghhhh. I read the manual, I consulted the Sony Web site, I messed around with cables, I lit candles to the Gods of Electronica . . . nothing. I muttered "Why does everything have to be so hard?"

And then I sat there with that question reverberating in my head. Hard? I'm bitching because a machine that lets me play movies IN MY HOME isn't easier to set up?? What the . . .? When did I get so spoiled?

My rather unattractive fit of petulance got me thinking about how much easier my life is than my grandmother's was. I often think about her when I'm feeling sorry for myself because if ever a person deserved to complain about a hard life, it was Inez. She raised five kids during the Depression, suffered three miscarriages or infant deaths along the way, and endured the uncertainty of her husband never being sure what his next source of income would be--a decent tobacco crop, a livestock sale, odd jobs he could pick up here and there. She kept a clean home and sewed most of her family's clothes without the luxuries of electricity or running water. I began comparing the differences in an typical day for us, based on her recollections and my dad's reminiscences of his childhood:

Inez wakes up in the chilly dawn. She yawns and sighs, then eases out of bed quietly so that she doesn't wake her baby, Joan, who's sleeping nearby in her cradle. She lights the oil lamp and gets dressed quickly, shivering. She carries the lamp into the kitchen, starts a fire in the woodstove, pumps water into the kettle, and puts it on to boil for coffee. While she's waiting for the water, she goes to the chicken coop and gathers eggs for breakfast. Her husband Jeff is up now and out in the barn milking the cows. Inez checks the stove, and then makes coffee and mixes a batch of biscuits. Before she can get them in the oven, though, she hears Joan crying. She runs back to the bedroom, changes Joan, and then carries her to the kitchen to nurse her.

I wake up, look at the clock, and decide I can snooze for 15 more minutes. I get up finally, carry Charlie downstairs, and let the dogs out, sipping my first cup of coffee that's already brewed before I get up. I check the clock and call upstairs to make sure Daniel's awake.

Inez's four boys stumble into the kitchen, sleepy-eyed, and go out to do their chores. She finishes making breakfast and feeds Jeff and her boys, managing a few bites herself, standing up, while bouncing Joan and fetching butter and jam. She gets her boys off to school finally and puts on water to heat for washing a load of diapers.

I take a frozen waffle out and stick it in the toaster oven for a couple of minutes. While I'm waiting, I check my blood sugar and take my medications. When the oven dings, I take the waffle with another cup of coffee to the living room, turn on the TV, and watch the news while I eat. I kiss Daniel good-bye as he leaves for school, and then walk into my office with another cup of coffee to surf news sites and journals online and check my e-mail.

Inez puts diapers in hot water and bleach to soak for a while, and then heats more water to wash the breakfast dishes. She gets some potatoes and onions out of the root cellar to use later for dinner. The water is finally hot enough, so she cleans up the kitchen, and then scrubs the diapers on her washboard while listening to the radio. She rolls the diapers through the wringer and hangs them outside to dry. Joan starts fussing, so Inez carries her back inside, nurses her again, and settles her down for a nap so that she can start washing another load of clothes and mend Jeff's overalls. She hopes she has a few minutes to sit down and write her cousin a letter; she hasn't heard from her in months. She'd love to see Ruby, but traveling 30 miles away is out of the question these days, even if they could afford the gas for the truck.

I yawn, stretch, and walk into the kitchen. I put breakfast dishes in the dishwasher and look to see whether I have enough to run a load. I don't, so I go downstairs to the basement, toss a load of towels in the washer, turn it on, and go back to my office. I check the weather online and then pull up the chapter I'm currently working on. A couple of hours later, I take a break to eat some yogurt. I hear the UPS man at the door, so I fetch the Christmas gifts I bought online. Then I change into my workout clothes so that I can drive to Curv3s because getting a little physical activity every day is important. Before I leave, I call my friend Lynn and chat for a few minutes. We decide to meet for lunch tomorrow at the Chinese restaurant.

******

And that's just the morning. I'm exhausted thinking about the rest of Inez's day. I wish I could call and ask her how she managed--and how she kept her faith and her sense of humor despite what life handed her. She's been gone five years. I still miss her, but remembering her gives me strength and the perspective I so often lack.

Monday, December 18, 2006

If editing doesn't work out, there's always catalogue copywriting!

I hope my Christmas-readiness hubris in my last entry doesn't come back to bite me in the ass. I'm very superstitious about jinxing myself by boasting. With my luck, the shirt I bought my dad will fall apart the first time it's washed, and all because I couldn't keep my yap shut! If you're listening, O Karma Gods, I take it back. I'm completely unprepared and stressed out about it.

******

Actually, there is something I'm worried about. Despite exercising, losing weight, and taking higher doses of my medications, my blood glucose levels aren't coming down as well as they should. Dr. Bambi wants me to start taking Byetta, which isn't insulin but is injected (eeek). It's a new drug that helps your body produce more insulin and slows the absorption of food after you eat so that your BG levels don't rise as quickly after eating. Good side effects: BG levels are regulated better, and you tend to lose weight. Bad side effects: Nausea and sudden drops in BG levels (hypoglycemia), which can be dangerous.

Of course, this wonder drug is hideously expensive, and I don't have insurance. So the first step is seeing whether I qualify financially; often I fall just over the cut-off line for any kind of medical assistance because drug companies seem to think I'm fabulously wealthy and could jet off to Fiji anytime I like (please). I refuse to worry about the prospect of injecting myself with a freaking NEEDLE until I know whether I can even get the stuff. (I'm lying, of course. You know I'm sitting here sweating at the thought of poking myself in the stomach or leg with a sharp object.)

******

As I mentioned, I bought the Il Divo DVD for my mom's Christmas present, but she also hinted she'd like a new address book because her current one has lots of crossed-out entries. So I thought, no problem--I'll pick one up. Do people not use paper address books anymore? I've checked bookstores and even the dreaded H@llmark store, and I can't find anything decent and appropriate for a 60-ish woman, unless I want to believe my mom would adore a Hello, Kitty address book (and that would be a NO). The H@llmark store had two: one a bright turquoise and the other hot pink, and very plain with no illustrations. My mom prefers pastels or more subtle colors, and she likes pretty pictures of, you know, flowers and shit. (Why I'm not writing catalogue copy, I don't understand.)

I was bemoaning the dearth of mother-appropriate address books to Kevin the other day, and he came home from work Friday practically giggling. He handed me an address book--marked down to $3, even!--with silly photos of dogs dressed up in all kinds of costumes. The funniest one is a little terrier dressed up in a gondolier's outfit standing over two other dogs going for a gondola ride. It's truly the tackiest thing I've ever seen, and my mom will be horrified. I can't wait to see how hard she'll try to pretend she loves it before I tell her it's a joke. I'd like to find a nice one to hand her after telling her the other one's a joke, but even if I don't, it's still funny. Yes, I'm chock-full of the Spirit of the Season. Heh.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Don't hate me because I'm calm

I haven't written in a few days because on top of my usual amount of work, I've been helping Daniel with some school projects. Well, not helping him do the work--more standing by to offer moral and technical support. Finals are next week, and several end-of-semester projects were due this past week. Only a few years ago, I would have refused to help on principle because he'd waited until the absolute last minute to start on projects, but he's been much better about keeping up with work. Unfortunately, he couldn't do much work ahead of time on these projects. For example, for an economics project, he had to include a summary report on how the stock market performed over the past month, and you can't write something like that ahead of time, unless you're Nostradamus.

He skipped going to his dad's Wednesday night and was up late gathering data for his econ project. Then Thursday morning, he had to be at school at 7:00 a.m. for Brain Game practice AND had a meet that afternoon until about 6:30 p.m., and then he worked on his econ project and an English paper as soon as he got home. He was up until 2:30 a.m. and got up again at 5:00 to finish. I stayed up late both nights with him, fixing paper jams, solving computer freezing and CD burning problems, and typing a few things he'd written longhand. He likes to write on paper first because my boy is unbelievably old school. Hell, even I write drafts on the computer, and I'm fairly old-fashioned about overusing technology to do school assignments.

What made those few days even more hellish is that Daniel was suffering from stomach pains and nausea most of the time. I'm worried he's coming down with something and kept fretting over him, offering yogurt, bananas, and tea, but like his dad, he tends to manifest stress as stomach complaints. He was still feeling sick this morning, so he decided not to accompany his dad to Ohio for a family Christmas gathering at his aunt's. Just as well--if he's coming down with something, I'd rather he not infect all his cousins at once. Talk about the "gift" that keeps on giving. Here! Have violent stomach cramps, nausea, and diarrhea for Christmas! You're welcome!

******

Kevin picked up Andrew this morning and headed up north to visit his cousin Sam for the day. Based on some good advice I got from a few people, I've decided to be more hands-off about how Kevin deals with Andrew. I know he feels almost completely helpless to do much about Andrew's situation, and my harping on it isn't helping. The truth is there's not much of anything he can do, and particularly not if he doesn't want to start a war with Andrew's mom. I can't imagine how awful it must be to have so little say or control in what happens with your own child, and I think I need to focus more on understanding Kevin's feelings instead of giving advice, as a wise friend suggested. Sure, I ALWAYS know best (snort), but Andrew's not my kid.

I do think, however, that a tiny bit of my previous talks with Kevin had some impact, or he at least decided to do what little he could to help Andrew. He was talking about Christmas gifts for Andrew and said he wanted to put together a sort of "grooming kit," with an electric razor, aftershave, and the like--things to make Andrew feel more grown-up. That's a positive step, I think. A baby step, but at least one in the right direction.

I realized, too, that I've been guilty of comparing Andrew with Daniel. Comparing any two kids is a fruitless exercise, and when one of them has problems the other doesn't, it's also cruel and unfair. I hate to think this, but I suspect I indulged in some comparisons occasionally because it made me feel the tiniest bit smug about what a great son I have. That's awful of me, I know, but I'm trying to look honestly at how my own behavior has contributed to the arguments Kevin and I get into over Andrew. I've never come out and said "Nyah, nyah, I have a better child than you do!" of course, but it's entirely possible my attitude has spoken for me, and in that case, I can't blame Kevin for feeling resentment toward my "helpful" advice.

You know, I hate analyzing when it turns out I've been wrong. Damn it.

******

Okay, on to lighter topics. Did I mention I got my Christmas tree up AND decorated last weekend? And that I've finished my gift shopping, thanks to the twin miracles of online stores and shipping services? And I have about 80% of said presents wrapped? AND I've already bought my Christmas ham--on sale, even? You can commence with the hating me now. I'd hate me, too, if I weren't so impressed with my bad self. Usually, I'm the one running around on December 23, cursing the very existence of other shoppers, cramming objects into gift bags that are wildly mis-sized, and paying way too much for food for Christmas dinner because I've waited until the last minute, when grocery stores know they have you in a tight spot and can charge exorbitant prices for yams and hams.

I don't know what got into me this year, but I'm not even dithering over the prospect of my parents' visit the Wednesday after Christmas. I am, believe it or not, almost serene. I got up early this morning and baked apricot-almond bread for breakfast, and I'll wrap a few of Kevin's presents while he's gone today. I need to do some carpet shampooing upstairs today, too, but other than that, I plan to relax and watch a movie with Daniel this afternoon. I don't know who I am or what I did with the real Lisa, but I'm certainly enjoying the lack of typical pre-holiday panic and angst!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Brainiacs, Ho Ho Ho, and Wedding Videos

I've been missing out on an feeling all you parents with children who do competitive activities are probably used to: glee that my kid BEAT someone. See, Daniel has never, ever done anything that could be construed as competitive; as a matter of fact, the second any endeavor even hinted of competing with other kids, Daniel lost interest. Oh, I tried to encourage him when he started school, figuring that a little healthy competition is useful, but he couldn't care less about soccer or basketball or T-ball or any other sport. He even dropped out of Boy Scouts when it was time for the little wooden car race thingie (sorry, I can't remember the official name).

So you can imagine my shock when he voluntarily joined the Brain Game team at school. So far, they've done fairly well and even gave last year's state champs an extremely close match. Last night, he came home after a meet with another high-ranked school, and he dragged in looking dispirited. Fearing bad news, I asked "Well, how did it go, son?" He grinned suddenly, did a victory fist, and exclaimed "We won by ONE POINT because I answered the last question right!!" I haven't seen him that excited since he got his new computer last year. I asked him what the question was, and he rattled off a convoluted string of words, from which I picked out "World War II" and "island," and the answer was "Guam." I've been proud of him countless times in his 17 years, but I think this was the first time he's been proud of himself at the same time, you know? Apparently he did have a competitive streak buried somewhere; he just had to find something he cared enough about to compete in, I guess.

******

Kevin had some interesting news when he got home from work yesterday afternoon, too. Guess who's playing the W@lgreens Santa next Monday? Ha! Yes, he gets to take the day off from developing photos, listen to greedy kids recite lists of things they yearn for, and wear an itchy fake beard and a hot, sweaty suit. Why he's excited about it, I have no idea! I'm afraid I'd approach it with all the enthusiasm of a prisoner marching to the electric chair, but he's already practicing his "Ho, ho, ho" chuckles. Naturally, I plan to drop in that day and take several pictures. I hope no overly excited tots pee on his lap.

******

I've been editing several online courses lately, which are usually short, adult-education-type classes on a mix of technical and "lifestyle" topics: a beginner's guide to Photoshop, an introduction to wine tasting, tips on low-carb diets, digital video editing, and the like. Later this week, I'm starting one on wedding videos, and I can't wait to read the tips for hysterical, control-freak brides who are frantic to make sure they have a PERFECT record of their big day. I don't understand the fervor over taping a wedding. I know couples were doing that when I got married back in 1985, but I didn't see the point. I mean, does anyone actually watch these things? Ever?

Well, actually I can say I've seen one couple who watched theirs, but it was one of the more surreal experiences I can remember. My ex's little brother was marrying Jenny the Future Cocaine Addict and Major Hoor, and after the reception, most of his family gathered back at his parents' house to watch the couple open presents from out-of-town relatives. Mind you, the wedding had taken place approximately three hours before. After opening gifts, Jenny cried "Let's watch the video now!" I thought she was kidding and started laughing appreciatively at her sarcastic wit, but she was dead serious. And I'll be damned if everyone didn't sit down and watch the video breathlessly, as if it contained a shocker ending, such as the bride shrieking "No, I don't!" and racing down the aisle or something. Maybe if I watched sports and were accustomed to instant replays, I wouldn't have found viewing a record of something that had JUST HAPPENED so strange, but I did. The, uh, camera "work," performed by my ex's father, was nausea-inducing, too. The first five minutes of the tape consisted of wild swoops between the ceiling of the church and my father-in-law's feet, accompanied by his muttered curses. When he finally settled on a point midway between those two extremes, he couldn't decide between VERY CLOSE UP, at a range that allowed us to see my brother-in-law's nose pores in crystal clarity, or so far away that the priest, couple, and attendants looked like ants.

I suspect one of the first guidelines in this wedding video course will be "Do not let a relative take the video." If it's not, you can bet I'll suggest it.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Searching for my doppelganger

I just saw this facial-recognition test at Robyn's and had to try it out. First, I tried it with my high school picture:



Eh, a little boring. Then I tried it with a more recent picture:



These results were funnier. Oprah will no doubt be delighted to know she resembles a middle-aged white woman. Heh. I have to confess that I tried to be a wisenheimer by trying a picture of Charlie first. The program didn't find any matches for a chihuahua, however.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Pottery Barn can bite me

Indiana weather is just plain screwy. Friday morning, it was 6 degrees. This Friday? It's supposed to be in the mid-50s. Yeah, I have no idea what to wear from one day to the next. Does the weather change that much in other, non-Midwest parts of the country? I've lived in almost every region but New England, and I don't remember the weather being so capricious elsewhere. Maybe I'm just getting old and crochety and prone to bitching about the weather . . .

******

The other day, I took down all the curtains in the dining room to wash them. That room has four big south-facing windows, so there's almost too much light, especially this time of year when there are no leaves to filter the sun. Anyway, yesterday I was stringing lights on the Christmas tree, which I set up next to the piano in there. I happened to look over at the dining room table and was struck blind by the unimpeded sun hitting the billion dust particles everywhere. The whole room looked frumpy and shabby--and God, incredibly dusty--which sent me into a frenzy of floor-mopping and dusting and throwing away piles of junk mail on the secretary in the corner and picking up scattered dog toys, and FUCK.

You know, I look at rooms in decorating magazines or those damn Pottery Barn catalogues that show up faithfully every couple of weeks in my mailbox (even though I haven't ordered anything in three years), and I long for a house that looks as serene and ordered and tidy, with everything looking clean and crisp. My house is a hodgepodge of hand-me-downs, leftover-from-college pieces, some inexpensive antiques I've refurbished (back when I had time to strip paint, sand, and stain), and a few newish things. I hate feeling this dissatisfied, and I suspect much of it has to do with a vague weariness over life in general, not my house specifically.

Also, I'm mad at catalogues and magazines for promoting this myth that EVERYONE BUT ME is neater and more organized and takes better care of his or her home. They set me up for feeling like a failure, damn it. And to be honest, I let them. Why do I think I have to meet some impossible standard a superior marketing snot in San Francisco or NewYork, with way more disposable income than me, decided to create to make me feel bad about myself? I've been in other people's homes (really, I have!), and they don't have impeccably clean, perfectly accessorized houses with actual matching couches and chairs. I've seen puppy chew marks on the corners of their ottomans, shoes and toys scattered on their floors, and juice stains on their carpets. So why do I feel as though I'm alone in my utter shame and disgust over the state of my house? OK, "shame and disgust" might be an exaggeration, but discontent, certainly.

On the other hand, it wouldn't kill me to dust a little more often--AND get my freshly washed curtains up faster before I notice how bad it is!

Edited to add: I had to go out to pick up pita pockets for the tabouli I made and of course wound up getting 17 other things. The bagger kid had a running commentary on almost every item I bought, which annoyed me. After the cashier told me I'd saved $10.08 with my grocery card, the bagger boy said "Hey, don't spend it all in one place," dripping sarcasm all over his Converse high-tops, and then, THEN he . . . uh, how do I say this? He "adjusted" himself. Vigorously. I . . . I'm speechless.

Friday, December 8, 2006

A game and a plea for help

I saw this game at Janet's, so I thought I'd give it a whirl. Comment and I'll give you a letter, and then you have to list 10 things you love beginning with that letter. That beeyotch Janet gave me "J" and I had to struggle to come up with J words!

  1. Jumping into a warm bed on a cold night
  2. Jam, seedless blackberry
  3. Jousting and other things from medieval history
  4. Japanese art
  5. Jovial people
  6. Junior Mints at a movie
  7. Jocularity
  8. Jaunts to bookstores
  9. Jewelry, silver
  10. Joining in the carnal sense (hey, I'm running out of J ideas!)


Oh, OK, I'll include Janet in that list, even though that makes 11 items. I promise I'll give you an easier letter if you comment.

******

I love the Internet. A couple of hours online Wednesday morning, and I'm two-thirds done with my Christmas shopping. Yes! I went to Amazon first, and can I say I'm a wee bit disillusioned with that site? On almost everything I checked, Amazon "couldn't guarantee" arrival by December 25 if I picked its much-vaunted free shipping. Oh, if I wanted to PAY for shipping, Amazon would get that package out to me on the double, no messing around. I have a B@rnes & Noble membership card, so I went there and found almost all the books, CDs, and DVDs I needed--and at a 15% discount with free shipping. Take that, Amazon! Who needs ya, baby?

******

This time of year always makes me grateful my job has nothing to do with customer service or dealing with the public. I don't know how Kevin stands it. Of course, the photo department at W@lgreens has been inundated with orders lately, and to make matters worse, several sales and promotions have been bringing in the crazies along with regular customers. A guy came in early the morning a cellphone sale started, demanding to get "one of them phones" he saw in the paper. The main office hadn't sent the stock of cellphones until late the day before, so they still hadn't been unpacked. Kevin dug around in boxes in the back and finally found the right phones and accessories. Phone Guy examined the phone suspiciously and eventually agreed to buy it. After Kevin rang up the purchase, he handed Phone Guy the activation card and explained how to dial the number on it to set up his account.

Phone Guy did a double-take and hollered "You mean this phone doesn't work?" Kevin patiently explained that yes, it would work just fine after he set up the account by calling the activation number.

Phone Guy glared at him and said "I need to make a call NOW. I'm not buying no damn phone that doesn't work!" Kevin wisely decided to let the egregious use of double negatives go and gave Phone Guy his money back. He even refrained from advising Phone Guy to use a payphone instead of buying a cellphone the next time he needs to make a call. Oy.

******

Last week, I bitched about the G@rmin commercial. Clearly, I wasn't paying attention to the content because I thought G@rmin was a department store. Uh, it's actually a GPS device. Whatever. Still an annoying commercial.

******

I need some advice. You might remember me talking about Kevin's son, Andrew, who has Asperger's Syndrome. He's 15 now, and his symptoms have improved a little over the past couple of years. He's still scatty as all hell and has trouble focusing on anything that isn't a cartoon or video game. For example, last weekend, Kevin asked him to empty the dishwasher but didn't stay in the kitchen while Andrew did it. A few nights later, I was baking with Daniel and went to grab the measuring spoons from the hook where I keep them. Not there. I checked the dishwasher. Nope. Daniel and I pulled out drawers and looked in cabinets and tried to think like Andrew. Finally, I pulled out the drawer holding tin foil and plastic wrap, and bingo. I know. Makes no sense, but moving along . . .

Anyway, last Saturday morning, when Kevin was leaving to pick up Andrew, he said "I'm going to take Andrew out for breakfast, so I won't be back for a while." He'd mentioned that he needs to watch expenses to make sure he had enough money for Christmas shopping, so I said "Well, it's 10:30. Andrew gets up early, so I'm sure he's eaten by now." Kevin said indignantly that Mary (his ex) never feeds Andrew before he picks him up Saturday mornings. "Uh, honey. Andrew's 15. Surely he can get himself a bowl of cereal without Mary's help?" I suggested.

Well, from there, the conversation devolved into an argument, with me claiming Kevin makes too many excuses for Andrew and has expectations for him more appropriate for a 6-year-old, and Kevin insisting he doesn't baby Andrew too much. I realize Kevin has typical noncustodial-parent guilt that he can't spend more time with Andrew, and I understand he might let some things slide with his son that he wouldn't if Andrew lived here full-time. He treats Andrew like a small child instead of a teenager in high school, though. He rarely asks him to help out around the house or pick up after himself; he seldom tries to teach Andrew things a young man should know (like how to shave, which Andrew definitely needs to do); he lets Andrew wallow in cartoons and video games the entire time he's here instead of trying to introduce more grown-up entertainment and conversation--maybe talking about the news, for instance?

My worry is that he's doing nothing to prepare Andrew for real life. What happens after Andrew graduates from high school? As he is now, there's no way he could hold down a job, and going to college is unlikely for both financial and academic reasons. Is he going to spend the rest of his life sitting on his mom's couch playing Nintendo and GameBoy? Andrew has no conception of real-world, practical things, such as how a bank account works, how to mail a letter, how to read a map, and on and on. Frankly, I don't think the kid could figure out how to change a light bulb. I know teaching him anything is a frustrating, slow process that requires lots of repetition, but someone has to do it. His mother can't be bothered, and I think Kevin's too scared he'll lose Andrew's love--and the boy does adore Kevin--if he's tougher on him. As a sort-of stepparent, what can I do? That's not rhetorical: I really want to know. I'd appreciate any suggestions.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Chuck Norris mourns my passing

I saw this quiz at Robyn's and thought my results were quite fitting:

QuizGalaxy!
'What will your obituary say?' at QuizGalaxy.com

Well, I don't know about Chuck Norris missing me. I've never even watched one of his movies, so it seems unlikely he'd mourn someone who's ignored him. Wait. Is Chuck Norris still alive??

******

I don't think I've done a Fat-B-Gone update recently, but when I went in for a check-up today, I'd lost two more pounds. I'm up to a total of 21 pounds, I think. To be honest, I'm having trouble keeping track of the total, but as long as I'm losing something and continuing to exercise, that's fine. I've never been obsessed with numbers (actually, I try to avoid numbers when possible--you know, math and all). I tend to notice things such as clothes being looser or a reduction in the jiggle factor more. Anyway, the Curv3s women are doing monthly measurements and such on me, so I'll let them keep track of the numbers.

******

I just got off the phone with an editor friend, and we were talking about how Christmas shopping isn't as much fun when you don't have a young child to buy presents for. I used to be able to thrill and surprise Daniel with Christmas presents; now he announces he's added several items to his Amazon wish list, and I can just buy his gifts there. Hmmph! What fun is that?

My mom's "wish list" is a bit more interesting, however. She informed me the other day that she really, really likes that Il Divo group (the pretty-boy singer group formed by Simon Cowell) and wouldn't mind having one of their CDs. Here's the horrifying part: She giggled like a schoolgirl as she added "But the only problem with a CD is that I can't look at them while they're singing!" My mother HAS A CRUSH. On YOUNGER men. Actually, that's kind of adorable of her, but I don't think I want to be in the same room with her while she watches one of their TV specials or concerts or whatever. I might have to gouge my eyes out. Something about those boys makes me shudder, too. Maybe it's the cheesiness factor.

******

Daniel finally got his SAT scores, and damn, that boy tests well. If only that skill translated to his grades, but it doesn't--certainly not in any math-related classes. He has the strangest report cards I've ever seen, I swear: A, A-, A+, D, B+, C-, A. Easy to tell which classes he likes and which ones he hates, that's for sure.

******

I wasn't hungry at lunch, so I had just a yogurt, and now I'm starving. I'm off to go start some baked ziti and salad. Sasha, I'll try to remember to post my chicken pot pie recipe this week--promise!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The bells, the bells . . .

The incessant playing of "merry" Christmas commercials has started already--hell, what am I talking about? They started before Thanksgiving. I'll be sick of every single one by December 1, yet I guarantee they'll be stuck in my brain for several weeks. Hmmm, just long enough to influence my Christmas shopping. How fiendishly clever!

The one that's driving me crazy the fastest is for G@rmin department stores or malls or some damn thing. The jingle is that Christmas carol about bells, I think? But it's just the chorus repeated several times, as far as I can tell, so it's incredibly monotonous yet oddly hypnotic. Yesterday in the shower, I found myself singing a bit from it over and over: Call the salon, need a waxing now, got a UNIBROW. And the woman sporting said unibrow looks damn frightening; she's become a major player in my nightmare landscape. I hear that song all the time in my head now. Curse you, G@rmin Stores! I am unfortunately prone to getting what the kids are calling "earworms" these days, or maybe I have a touch of the OCD. I hate retailers for causing bad song loops in my head.

******

One of my favorite lines from Seinfeld is Jerry describing Kramer: "He falls ass backward into money." Well, Kevin seems to fall ass backward into creative opportunities. I mentioned a few weeks ago that he's going to be teaching some classes on collage for the Sugar Creek Arts Center, but another opportunity fell in his lap. His cousin Sam moved back to Indiana recently and got a grant to start an arts organization/learning center, which also involves overseeing an archive of materials related to arts and literature. The grant includes a stipend for an artist-in-residence, who will be Kevin. I don't know what-all this position entails, but it will include running workshops, teaching art classes, organizing art exhibitions, and so on. He'll also be working with the mayor of the town where Sam lives, about an hour north of here, who's interested in boosting the arts in that community, particularly for school kids. Kevin's so excited he can barely contain himself. I'm afraid he's actually developing a BUBBLY personality (the horror!). It's wonderful to see him happy, of course, but I barely recognize him these days. He was babbling away about his plans yesterday, and I was compelled to ask him "Who ARE you, and what have you done with Kevin?" Maybe I should check him tonight for the placement of a hidden mole that few people besides me would know about.

I'd better scoot and go work out. I have to run to the grocery to pick up a few things for a chicken pot pie I'm making tomorrow. Daniel will no doubt refuse to eat it because all the ingredients are mixed up together under the crust; if he DOES eat it, by some miracle, he'll inspect every bite for evidence of lurking onions. He loathes onions but suspects me of putting them in everything. Too bad, though. I make a delicious homemade chicken pot pie, and I haven't made it in ages in deference to His Pickiness's delicate tastes. The weather is supposed to turn wintry and nasty tomorrow, which calls for a warm, comforting dinner, in my opinion. If I'm feeling magnanimous, I just might hold the onions.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Importance of News Anchors

The morning news proclaimed today Cyber Monday, the online equivalent of retailers' Black Friday. In my house, however, today is Black Monday because Robin Meade, of CNN Headline News, still isn't back from vacation.

Several months ago, Kevin and I got in the habit of watching this "CNN light" station because you get a smattering of news, weather, entertainment, financial crap, and so on, which is perfect for mornings when you don't have time for in-depth news coverage. It took a few weeks to pierce my pre-caffeine fog, but I realized eventually that Robin Meade was doing more to get Kevin out of bed in the mornings than I was. I suffered a brief flash of jealousy, until I realized his adoration of Robin is more akin to a school boy's crush on his teacher. He comments on what she wears and says she's "SO sweet"; he even gets a happy little grin on his face when she says "Morning, sunshine." I swear he thinks she's talking directly to him. He adores Robin, but there's not a drop of sexual attraction in his lurve of her. Actually, I teased him about that once, and he was horrified I'd even suggest he could harbor such crass feelings for Roooooooooobin.

To be honest, Robin makes my mornings pleasant, too. She's as cute as a bug, without the nauseating perkiness of a Kelly Ripa or Katie Couric (before she got all evening-news deadly serious). She's easily amused, which I like because I am, too, and her chortle is slightly goofy and very genuine. I found myself looking forward to her return this morning after being on vacation all last week, but alas, her substitute was still there today. Please come back, Robin! Come on. How much vacation does a news anchor need?

******

Kevin had to work Saturday night, so I coaxed Daniel into helping me clean up the downstairs a little. I vacuumed and dusted while he took out trash, loaded the dishwasher, and changed some light bulbs. I was vacuuming the entryway when I noticed how disgusting my cat-hair-covered stairs looked. My cats like to hang out on the top stairs where they can keep tabs on the action but stay out of reach of the dogs. Unfortunately, gray and black hair shows up quite clearly on beige carpet.

As you can see in the picture (taken last Christmas--you didn't think I had my Christmas decorations up already? please), the steps on the spiral staircase are too narrow to balance a vacuum cleaner on. So the only way to clean them is to pop them out of the step frames and toss them down to the entryway floor, starting at the top and working my way down (which I learned after trying the reverse direction the first time and finding myself stuck upstairs), spread them out on the floor, vacuum them with the brush attachment, and then put them back in from the bottom up. I have to warn everyone first to get whatever they need from upstairs. Daniel still has trouble with this concept, and a few months ago, realized after I'd started vacuuming that he needed to change clothes for work. He had to walk upstairs by balancing on the metal step frames because I'm a mean mom and refused to put the steps back and then take them out again.

The steps are now as clean as I can get them, considering that hideous beige carpet is probably 15 years old. Ugh. I want to rip up the carpet in the entryway and install a wood floor, but I'm stumped as to what to do with the steps. They're just plywood with carpet wrapped around them, so I can't simply remove the carpet. I suppose I could have new steps from nice wood cut to fit, but I imagine that would be expensive. I thought about painting the plywood, but I'm afraid it would look tacky, and besides, the plywood steps aren't quite thick enough. When you walk on them, the sharp metal edge of the step frames would cut into your feet, if you were wearing soft-soled shoes or going barefoot, as I'm wont to do. The carpet adds some thickness and pads the steps a little. Any ideas?

You know, every time I clean, I'm overwhelmed by how much I want to fix or change in this house. However, money, time, and energy: I need gobs of all three, and I have none of them. The only solution I can come up with is to stop cleaning so I don't notice, but that's not going to happen, so I guess I'm stuck with feeling overwhelmed. It would be easier to bear if Robin were back to brighten my mornings, though.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Babble and a picture

That picture to the right is me at three-and-a-half, when I lived in Sacramento. I was going through a period of insisting on wearing my bathing suit most of the time. My dad took me to the pool in the apartment complex after work, and I wanted to make sure I was ready to go the second he got home.

******

A few thoughts I've had lately:

  • When I watched The Grinch Who Stole Christmas last week, I spotted something I never noticed before that disturbs me. The Grinch is slinking around stealing Christmas decorations and stockings and presents, and then he goes to the refrigerator to take the Christmas dinner. He picks up a can of Who Hash. I thought "If corned beef hash is made from corned beef and potatoes, what is Who Hash made from?? Are the Whos cannibals?" It's still bugging me.

  • Why is the term Realtor capitalized sometimes? Other job titles aren't, as in "I'm a brain surgeon." What's so special about realtors? People need to stop that practice right now.

  • Do you think Rosie O'Donnell realized, when she opened her yap about Kelly Ripa and Clay Aiken, that not only was she outing Clay when perhaps he didn't want to be, but also she was calling him not cute? She said something like Kelly wouldn't have reacted as she did if Clay had been "a straight man, or a cute man." If I were Clay, I'd be a tad offended.

  • Also, does anyone besides my mother watch The View?

******

My Thanksgiving dinner turned out pretty well, although the turkey was nothing to write home about. I'm not very good at cooking meat. I can whip up great side dishes, bake up a storm, and stir-fry like a mo-fo, but a roasted chicken or a brisket and such? Not so much. My pumpkin pie was delicious, partially thanks to Daniel, who ran up to the little grocery on the corner Wednesday afternoon to find premade piecrust for me. I hate bland pumpkin pie, so I jazz it up with lots of molasses and spices. I got some good tips on making piecrust, though (thanks!), so I might get brave enough to attempt it again one of these days.

Kevin took me to see the new James Bond movie last night, and I was pleasantly surprised by Daniel Craig. He's a very different Bond, but a good one. I wish I knew more about poker because I would have enjoyed the card game scene more. Whenever they showed the cards in someone's hand, Kevin or I would whisper "So is that a good hand? Is he going to win, or is he bluffing?" Everyone else in the audience seemed to be poker geniuses, oohing and aahing knowledgeably--or they were just good fakers. The Bond song by Chris Donnell (Is that his name--the Soundgarden guy?) was good; I liked it at the time. Today, I can't remember at all what it sounded like, however.It didn't stick with me the way Bond songs usually do. The cheesy Goldfinger theme--now THAT'S a Bond song you can remember.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Kitty haunts me 25 years later

In graduate school, I taught classes in communications and English comp and lit. For one class, interpersonal communications, I was actually more of a teaching assistant. I worked for a professor who gave once-weekly lectures, and I ran the twice-weekly labs and determined students' grades. I'll call this professor "Kitty," although the oh-so-professional nickname she insisted on being called was another animal (seriously). She was annoying in a multitude of ways, but one of her most irritating traits was claiming that "and" should be used instead of "but," as in "You're showing improvement in class, and your last paper didn't show enough effort." She theorized that "but" negates everything that comes before it. Yeah, yeah. I mean, in the example I used, both statements can be equally true, but saying "and" sounds unnatural and stupid.

To my surprise, however, I found myself using it yesterday when I was talking to my friend Lynn on the phone. She was a little worried about how well she and her husband are going to handle around-the-clock togetherness over the next few months. He has a landscaping business and doesn't usually work between the end of November and the end of March. Because she quit her job and will be working from home for the new job she's likely to get, she's going to be home all the time, too. I was telling her that earlier this year, when Kevin was unemployed for several months, that all the "togetherness" started getting on my nerves, and I wanted to tell Kevin, "I adore you, honey, AND I'm sick of seeing your stupid face all the time." I used a Kitty-ism! The horror! Unfortunately, it seemed to fit--in that context, anyway. (Note: I don't really think Kevin has a stupid face, but YOU try being around your beloved nonstop for months on end.)

******

Well, I was wondering when this was going to happen. Normally, I have little patience with litigious people, and I have my doubts about how innocent Melinda Duckett was in the disappearance of her son. However, someone has to stop that shrill-voiced harridan Nancy Grace. Not just for this incident, although I do think she was out of line in her questioning of Melinda Duckett. Nancy Grace needs to decide whether she wants to be a newsperson or a prosecutor, and she has got to stop trying to run her show as though she's the judge and jury combined. It's not up to her to determine guilt, and haranguing guests on her show isn't as much help in solving crimes as she'd like to think it is.

******

Anyone have a good pie crust recipe? I forgot to buy the premade crust you roll out and place in an pie plate when I went to the grocery yesterday, and I'll be damned if I'm going back again today. My homemade crust usually turns out pretty bad, but I'm willing to try if it means I can avoid another trip to grocery hell.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Two days until T-Day

Thanksgiving creeps up on me every year and catches me woefully unprepared. I understand some people, bless their hearts, sit down a few weeks ahead of time, plan a menu, and create a detailed shopping list, organized by grocery store aisle. I should amend that. Some crazy people do all that. OK, OK, I'm just envious I can't plan ahead, all right?

So of course I didn't go grocery shopping until today, and I went with only the vaguest notion of what I plan to serve Thursday: probably a turkey, something with sweet potatoes, and, um, other things. Oh, and a pumpkin pie. Clearly, I like orangish food.

After dodging slow old ladies and pushing around a heavy, overflowing cart with a wheel that kept sticking, I was exhausted by the time I got home. It was at that point I realized I really, really suck at this "planning ahead" thing. Just once I'd like to have the forethought to clean rotting and/or moldy food out of my refrigerator before I bring new foodstuffs home, instead of frantically tossing decrepit vegetables and wiping down shelves before the new carton of ice cream melts. Also, when I finally got around to putting the groceries away, I discovered that I already had not one, but two, giants cans of pumpkin puree. I now have enough canned pumpkin to bake pies for a horde of hungry stevedores. Gah.

Testing, testing . . .

Is this thing on? Hello?