Friday, December 21, 2007

Double Edged Pen

I have never been very good at keeping a written journal. Honestly, I've wasted enough money on Day Timers to realize that I can't even keep a date book current. I keep most things organized in my head, and it seems to work for me. The downside, of course, is that no one else knows the status of anything I am working on. So, then, it comes of somewhat of a surprise that I keep this blog going. It would seem to be somewhat out of character.

What I have found, or more accurately, rediscovered, is that I truly enjoy writing. I like the order it brings to my thought process. I am forced to consider each word...its meanings both actual and connotational. I confess to having a poor grasp on grammar, except to know that one should not begin a sentence with a conjunction or end with a preposition. My ignorance was brought home with painful clarity when my 6th grade son asked for help with his Language Arts homework. Linking verbs? Present perfect? Ummmm, don't you have any math homework you need help with? The process, however, of taking nebulous ideas and setting them down in ordered prose is tremendously satisfying.

I have also found that while I appreciate and collect pens and paper, I don't necessarily enjoy writing longhand at great length. My pen just cannot keep up with my brain when the words come spilling out. While writing in any format requires mental discipline, it requires so much more when one uses ink and paper. The editing process is much messier than when one can simply backspace to correct spelling, usage, grammar or punctuation. I suppose the downside to that is one cannot track mistakes and corrections.

Unfortunately enjoyment does not necessarily translate into ability. There is writing here in blogland that is truly spectacular. It has an expressiveness, rhythm and music to it that is just beautiful. That is what I am striving for. My speech tends to be more formal than most, and that is reflected in my prose. I think I associate formality with the notion of order and precision, or maybe just it is a tool that allows me to distance myself from the ideas I am expressing long enough to do so coherently.

It is in the distancing from an idea that I can examine it more closely. That I can see its many facets. I do not write here out of a sense of exhibitionism. I write here to purge myself of some demons. To give order to chaos. Occasionally just to vent. Even more rarely, to philosophize. And since I visit others and leave my mark around select sites, I am bound to be read myself. It has gotten me into some trouble, in fact. It may be that I will start a separate blog to write about things I do not want discovered by the casual or purposeful eye. Writing has become a need, just as exercise has become a need. There are times when the words flood my brain and demand release. There are times I work ideas through in writing, and times when the finished piece comes out nearly whole. Either way, the process is cathartic if occasionally costly.

r.

Friday, December 14, 2007

How Bizarre!

This falls under the header Only in New York.

After lunch today, I ventured over to the Modell's on 33rd and Broadway to pick up a skateboard and helmet for Christopher. It is about 4 block or so from my office. This being New York, one learns to move along at a very quick pace, weaving around slow movers and scaffolding with considerable skill. So there I was, trucking along, when this woman who was walking towards me on a Christmas crowded sidewalk, to pass me on my left hand side took one big ole step to her right, directly blocking my path. She said not one word. Just stood there. I had my hands in my pants pockets, not carrying a purse, so nothing on me of any interest. She was nearly a head shorter than me. I didn't recognize her at all. I looked at her for a few moments before asking "Is there a problem?" She said "No." So I stepped around her and went about my business.

How strange! Gotta tell you I was a little nervous. Then I thought, well, maybe if I had said something else such as, "Do I know you?" or, "Can I help you?" I might have learned her intent. I mean she definitely got my attention, but is such a disquieting way, it was not my first inclination to think to be more gracious.

r.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Self Examination 1

I was brought up in such a way that I learned early to live with emotionally closed doors. Open them up for a second to peak out at the world, maybe play in the dooryard for a little while and then scurry back inside before getting hurt. So afraid of being hurt that I don't think I ever realized that my running back inside in its many forms was hurting those left standing outside the door. Those people had no idea why I took flight. Why the door closed. Sometimes, and the farther I go along in life, more and more rarely, the person is still outside my door when I gather the courage to peak out again. As a result, I peak out less and less often. Hard to see an empty, desolate dooryard.

There have been only a handful of people I have ever let into my inner self. Literally 5. Those people I love fiercely. I depend on deeply. I don't think, given my tendency to live in my own head, that they know who they are or the exclusive company they keep. I really don't mean that to sound egotistical at all. I have trusted so few in my life. But those I have, I have trusted with my life, heart and soul. For the most part they have loved me stubbornly, in spite of myself. A few I have lost along the way.

Since the time I can remember I loved my father with every fiber of my being. I longed for his company. I missed him, and blamed my mother for it. She deserved some of that blame, and so did Dad. But once I became an adult, I had to shoulder my part of the blame. I wanted him to call me. To reach out to me. I wanted to be wanted and missed. I behaved emotionally like an infant who cried until someone would pick me up and tell me it would be ok. That was unfair to both of us. I waited too damned long. I wanted him to be something he could not be. He died before I could fully realize what I was doing. The grief I felt was overwhelming. I have moments when it still catches me unawares. And at moments of clarity, when I fully realize the dynamic in place, it is this side of unquenchable. Ah, so THIS is regret...

When I was in my very early 20s I met my husband. My love. My partner. My protector. My foil. My parent. My child. The one who has never left my emotional dooryard. He has sit patiently on my porch for twenty years. His steadfastness, passion, love, honor, intelligence and gentleness is more humbling than I can say. I don't know why he has hung on. I have fought him tooth and nail, and still he hangs on to me. I don't ever want him to not be there. He is home for me. He is where I am safe. He takes the blows of every fight I wage that has nothing to do with him. Talk about slings and arrows! He has always let me know I was his number one, smart, beautiful, loving, and still I sought external affirmation. But when his wellbeing is threatened, I fall apart. He is my rock. I have bared my naked soul to him like no other, and there are still such dark places he knows not of.

At that same time, late 80s, I met another man that I still know. He and my husband are best friends. He is such a good friend to us both, and someone that I also love and need in my life. He brings to me a sparing partner in a quick witted sharp banter. He is so pragmatic, but without being judgmental. He has no idea the depth of my friendship for him. It is almost as if he and my husband are the two sides of the same coin.

When I was in my mid 30s I met a person that was to be my best friend for 4 years or so. I don't think I have ever had, nor will I ever have, such a girlfriend. We understood each other on a fundamental, we don't need to say the words kind of way. We are both emotional hiders--crawl into a pit and drag a rock on top of it. That said she is much more courageous than I am. She will confront most things head on where I tend to be more oblique. I have always admired that about her. That and her willingness to look at herself, see what needs work then set out to do the work. Very few people have that strength. She is smart, beautiful, loyal and I love her deeply. The thing is that that friendship ended. I was probably to blame. Needed too much. Gave too little. Shirked blame and responsibility too much. When I understood that she was done, the grief took my breath away for weeks and weeks. My throat would ache with unshed, unshedable tears. It has been months. It still takes my breath away, just not daily. Something I see, hear or want to share brings it home with devastating clarity. I have written to her to no avail. I am terrified to pick up the phone. Do I lack the courage to hear her grievances? Do I lack the strength to redress them? Or am I just afraid that there is nothing to be done for it all? Doesn't matter, really. The result is the same. She moved on, and I am bereft.

My brother, about whom I have written here already, also possesses more courage than I. And I have treated him and my girlfriend in the same way as I did my father. I wanted to be reached for. Invited in, without inviting nearly enough. Happy to talk and visit when they call, but not picking up the phone. I told my brother that I wanted to feel like I mattered, that I was worth it. He told me point blank that I was making people feel the exact same way I didn't want to feel. In constantly having to reach out to me, they thought I felt they were not worth reaching for.

God knows I don't see myself as she who must be revered. That's not it. I love them all. Gave them parts of myself I can never take back. It's almost that I am in my own private jail. I can't get out, I can only be visited. I know on an intellectual level that I hold the key to free myself. I know that living like this is painful in the extreme. I know that once I loose those whom I do love so deeply, I will be left alone. I know I need to open myself up, not to let people in, but to get out of myself. No one wants to be trapped in my cell. I get that. I went into my 40th birthday with such brash optimism that I finally was learning what life was for and about. Seems that my proclamations were a bit premature.

I have a son who is learning how to be loved by a woman in how he sees me behave, both towards him and the rest of the world. I want him to be more courageous than I am. I think he might be learning that from Daddy. But I know I need to change myself for no other reason than to ensure that my beloved, kind, tender, smart, honorable, funny son is never left sitting on the emotional doorstep of the woman he loves, with only occasional access to her inner warmth and beauty. I am convinced that my father in law did that too, to some degree. That he was to his wife what my husband is to me. That man died 17 years ago now. It has destroyed my mother in law. Robbed her of any real joy in life, regardless of kids and grandkids. Heavy burden for her husband to have carried, though he like his son carried willingly. Not the legacy he would have wanted to leave his son. Truly sad for those left behind. Lord, I pray that I will learn how to stop making that same mistake.

r.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Introducing....The Silver Bullet!

My husband really, really liked our old car. As you might remember, our little Ford Escort Wagon was wrecked on 12 September. When we had it hauled away by Kars for Kids, Brian and I were both a little weepy. We have since settled with the insurance company, and spent about a month looking for a new car. Brian wanted another 1998 Ford Escort Wagon, and got one. This one has around 81,000 miles on it, but runs as well as our first one did when it had 27,000 miles on it!

Brian brought her home yesterday afternoon. He had to travel all the way to Scranton, PA to pick her up. We know the dealer through a good friend, so trusted that the car was in fine shape, and would serve us well. In what can only have been inspired by his sense of the ironic, Brian named this car Patience. With that in mind, we decided that if this car is Patience, then surely our old one was Fortitude. Since our first car was more commonly known as the Green Machine, I nicknamed this one the Silver Bullet.

The time between cars has been valuable to us. Since we live in Queens, a car isn't an absolute necessity—we lived very will without one for 7 years. You can walk just about anywhere you need to go, or take mass transit. Heavy loads of groceries can be delivered, etc. Since September, Brian has walked the mile or so to work each day, and it has been very good for him. He now fits into those 38" trousers, and is very happy about it. He has told our son that they will continue to walk to school as well, unless the weather is particularly bad.

I am already contemplating summer beach outings. Brian is planning a trip to Ohio to visit with his mother. Boy Scout outings. Trips to Target. Oh, the places we will go!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Guess I Went Dark for a While

So, where exactly did October go? Seems to have flown by while I wasn't looking! Then again, I must confess I have buried myself under the proverbial covers for a while now. When I am hurting, I don't reach out, talk or write. I retreat. But I don't want to dwell on that...Instead, a brief rundown of the month that was:

• Christopher joined the Boy Scouts. His school was visited by a local troop in late September. New member night was held 3 October, so we went. He liked it enough to stick with it. Now all we have to do is work with him to organize his priorities so that he can fit this in his schedule. His first outing was to a haunted house with his troop mates. Family night was held on the 24th, where he received his patrol patch and scout coin. His first weekend camping trip is coming up mid November.

• I was sought out by a recruiter in my industry, had several very interesting phone interviews. In the end, it came to naught, but it was a very positive experience. Still no word from Houston, so safe to say that lead is dead in the water.

• I joined a gym as an actual paying member. The facility is near Chris' scout meeting place, so I drop him off and then go sweat. It's a great thing! I love that this place is not just a meat market, full of uber fit men and women hooking up, but all shapes and sizes. These folks are serious about their workout. Plenty of equipment, no lines, no time limits. Weekend yoga classes. What's not to love. I think Brian wants to join as well, once he has a car available to him.

• I went on a one day there and back trip to Detroit to do a presentation that will hopefully not only help us retain the current business, but garner more. It was a publisher with some 50 titles, at least two thirds of which could go digital. We already handle 5 of their titles--more than any of our competitors, except their own in house solution.

• Brian is continuing to feel better about walking. Nearly fits a 38 waist pants!! Very exciting. He is also scouting out a new car, as fall has finally decided to come and stay a while in the Northeast.

• We celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary. We both took the day off from work, and then went out to a wonderful dinner, just the two of us. Chris spent the night with a friend, so we were able to have a leisurely evening.

• Ryan's relationship with Citerra seems to be getting serious. She's brought her kids over to our house. Ryan is awesome with them. My husband was completely enamored of her daughter, Ellie. She's 3 and just as cute as a button. Christopher, not knowing WHAT to make of 2 tiny kids running around, retreated to his room to read.

• First trimester progress reports came home. Chris is doing OK...needs some help with prioritizing a much heavier workload. The good news is that his math grades are much better this year. We are getting in gear for high school. Good God!

• Brian is enjoying his work with the school much more this year, as he is no longer on the executive board of the parent/teacher organization. In fact, our anniversary fell on the same night as the school's Halloween Bash, and we could just leave! Imagine that :)

I am sure my dark cloud will lift. It will just take some work. So many unresolved issues lingering from summertime. Can't believe all this time has gone by without visiting, really visiting with some of the women I was closest with. I didn't think these things happened to seemingly together adults...thought it was a thing of the adolescent past. Guess I should have known better, because I really didn't think I'd make the best friends of my life so deep into my 30s. Thought that was the province of one's adolescence and twenties. You live, you learn, yes?

r.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

I Wonder...

• What is it about human beings that makes them incessantly try to rank things? It seems we are nearly incapable of contemplating ideas without trying to assign some empirical or moral value to them. It is what nearly all forms bias is built upon. My things/ideas/morals are better than yours, and I'm gonna stand here and scream about WHY they are better than yours. People will find and cite references obvious and obscure. Or worse yet, simply repeat that which strikes a chord within them without any analysis. Really? Who has time for that crap? And why? Why do people not understand, with several millennia of recorded history under our collective belt, that to do so is as harmful for the judge as the judged?

• Why is it that other people perceive decisions made by one person as a judgment on their decisions? What one person decides is right for themself and their circumstances has absolutely no bearing on anyone else. Or is this all part of the ranking scheme mentioned above? Is the 'decider' doing trying to see how many chits they can pile up in their corner until they are satisfied that their pile is bigger than someone else's? Or is the person feeling judged taking stock of their pile of chits and feeling as if someone else doesn't measure up, or like they don't measure up themselves? Why is that?

• Why is it that we all talk about wanting the same things, yet most individuals do nothing to ensure those same things become universal truths? Or, even worse, stand by and do nothing to stop others from violating what we all say we want? Idealism is a wonderful thing, but ideals cannot be achieved simply by wishing them so. Those who stand for uglier causes are far more active than those who espouse more noble ideas. But wait....is that a judgment that can be rationalized?

• Why is it that while we can tell a complete stranger where to go and how EXACTLY to get there, we have serious difficulty confronting an emotional issue with someone very close to us? Flipping the bird easier than picking up the phone...now that's just wrong. And the flip side of the same issue...we are so polite to a stranger on the street, but take for granted our own kin and kith. Bump into someone on the sidewalk, and automatically we say, "Excuse me." But saying a heartfelt, "I'm sorry" to someone we've offended is far less reflexive.

I wish I could actually offer answers to these wonderings. If you can, I'm all eyes....

r.

Monday, October 01, 2007

The Weekend That Was

Well, this family did everything it could to send September out in style! There was beautiful weather, baseball, a deposit into the karmic bank account, drankin', meeting, and a faire. HAH!

Friday afternoon I left the office early to take my son to out to Shea Stadium. It was the Mets' final home stand of the year against the Marlins. Well, I believe most know how THAT worked out. Dammit! I mean really, WTF?!?!?! Seems that an investigation is in order for the monumental collapse that we witnessed. I'm thinking they HAD to have thrown the season.

Saturday morning was gorgeous. We were up very early to get all the chores done. We were expecting a visit from a lady who was raised in the apartment where we now reside. She lives in Maryland, and hadn't been back to this neighborhood in over 40 years. Who can blame her? She lost both of her parents within a couple of years of each other when she lived here. Accompanying her up 4 flights of stairs, and back 40 years time was her sister-in-law, a cousin and an old friend of her parents. We set up coffee and pastry, and gave her free rein of the house. For about an hour, they reminisced, teared up and took pictures. It was really interesting to hear what the neighborhood was like back in the early to mid sixties.

As these women were coming in, Chris was leaving for a birthday party for his buddy, at whose house he wound up spending the night. A distant relative of my husband's, Ryan, lives in our spare bedroom. He had a woman spend the night with him. As long as everything is discrete, I don't mind. He is 25, as is his lover. I got to spend time with her Saturday afternoon while my son was doing his thing and my husband was at work. Nice girl. Damn, 25 is young! Ryan came home around 7 or so, Brian came home around 9 bringing with him an old friend. There was lots of wine and laughs.

Sunday morning was absolutely beautiful. Bright sunshine, clear blue sky, light breeze. I got up early and hung over. I really don't understand why I felt the need to be out of bed at 8am! That said, after Brian went to work, Chris, Citarra and I got our acts together enough to leave the house by 11:30 or so to go to the New York Renaissance Faire held every year at Fort Tryon Park. A forty minute ride on the A train to 190th Street, and you'd never know you were in Manhattan. There are high cliffs overlooking the Hudson with a view of the palisades on the New Jersey side, wooded paths and grassy clearings. The Cloisters, a castle-like branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is up there as well. Perfect location for a Medieval Festival. There were jugglers, jousters, an actual blacksmith, falconers, dueling, the whole nine yards. We had a great time.

I topped it off with a homemade lasagna for supper. Trying to top that next weekend is a tall order, but at least We'll have 3 days to give it a shot!

Update on the Houston situation: NONE. I wonder how much information one can legally glean about a prospective employee without their having given actual consent. I sent a note by email outlining questions and plans last Thursday, resent it today, and have heard butkus. Nada. Zip, Zero, Zilch. Oh well. Onward.

r.

Friday, September 28, 2007

September....Remember

It has been a busy week and a half in my part of the world, leaving me with little time or energy to update my ramblings....

The school year is fully underway with regular exams, standardized exams, demerits, detention and the annual harangue by our Monsignor for being horrible, permissive, atheistic parents. Oh, joy. He just doesn't understand that the reason most of the parent population stays away from the church is because they want to stay away from HIM! This man actually put the kibosh on a lucrative event because my husband, a member of the executive board that does the planning, doesn't go to church. Let's not mention the fact that he is the most active member of the board, giving of his time and talents in a truly Christian way. He speaks ill of no one. His only faults are occasional stubbornness and, of course, the aforementioned atheistic (though really more agnostic) tendencies. My husband is incensed, and I share his indignation. I don't think I have ever known a more judgmental or bitter Catholic in all my life than our intrepid Pastor. (We won't mention some of the more conservative stances of the church that I just cannot get behind. My son is there because it is a small school.)

As mentioned in a previous post, I am unsure stability of my current employer: One source of our funding is becoming increasingly difficult to secure, reorganization is under serious consideration, and many mid to large capacity publication printers have added digital edition production and distribution to their back ends. This move makes a lot of sense. Publishers can take advantage of economy of scale, as well as save some valuable time. This piece of news came from a major client of ours who has their print contract out for bid right now. Every bid is coming in with digital edition pricing in addition to their print production and distribution pricing. Losing this client would put our company's viability in serious jeopardy.

With that in mind, I went to my favorite job boards, and submitted several resumes. Since I want to get back on the publishing side of the fence, I went after circulation director positions. On a lark, I submitted a resume to a Houston based company. That was a Wednesday the 12th. The following Monday I received a call from their CFO, with whom I met for lunch that Wednesday. Sunday, I took a call form their Director of Publishing Operations, and set up a lunch date with him for the following day, Monday. Both meetings went very well. Tuesday evening, while trying NOT to think about any of this, and just prepare supper and help my son study for 3 exams he had the following day, I received a phone call from said Director saying he wants to offer me the job. For those keeping score, submitted resume, had two interviews and a job offer within 12 days.

My head is absolutely spinning. Do we want to move to Houston? What is involved? Timing? Well, of course, they want me to start as soon as humanly possible. When to visit? How to negotiate such a huge thing? I think the only thing I know for sure is that I am prepared to refuse any offer that is not completely advantageous to my family. Hell, I don't have the means to pull up stakes and move down the block, much less to Houston! How will my husband adjust? My son? Well, his latest question was do they have rodeos? I said, "Duh, it's TEXAS!" He just laughed.

I sent an email to the Director of Publishing Operations outlining a few questions and concerns yesterday the 27th. I am literally sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for a response. This man is a new hire at the company, recruited from Chicago. If anyone would understand the magnitude of the change, it would be him. His wife is high on the food chain for a major business to business publishing house with a toddler, and another on the way.

We are adjusting to being carless for the moment. The weather, thankfully, has held. We donated the carcass to a charity benefiting kids. My husband cried when they towed it away. Negotiations with the insurance company continue. Given the current situation, we haven't made any decisions on what to do about a car yet. We will probably wait until all the Texas dust settles. Then, I think I will get my driver's license, at long last.

r.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Baseball Home Run Record



Just one girl's opinion. I love baseball. I do not like Barry Bonds. I don't believe he didn't use any enhancement substances. He call the guy who purchased the ball an idiot. So, no honor, no grace, no class. Blech. The record should be asterisk just as Roger Maris' was for so long.

If you have an opinion on the matter, go vote!

r.

Requiem for the Little Green Machine

Total Loss. That is what the other driver's insurance adjuster said after visiting my crumpled little buggy. All I can do now is wait for the check, according to him. My husband never did follow up with our insurance company to see if that was the final word. I just left them a message telling them where the car is. Hopefully the adjuster will return the call. I doubt, however, that the verdict will be much different. The Kelly Blue Book value of a 1998 Ford Escort Wagon SE with nearly 95,000 miles on it is next to nothing, so my fear that the damage far exceeds the value of the car has been realized.

On the upside, my husband now has to walk EVERYWHERE! This is the most exercise he has gotten in a long while, and he needs it. He had his first heart attack at 46. Thankfully, it was minor and caught early. Since then, he has had several other blockages treated, the latest in May of this year. He was supposed to submit to a cardiac rehabilitation program, but never did citing time pressures. The lack of the car forces the issue.

While I am very happy that no one was hurt, and do recognize that that is the most important thing, I am still very angry and sad that my husband wrecked the car. She was a good buggy, that's for sure.

r.

Friday, September 14, 2007

More Random Information About Me.

A few others in Blogland have done the exercise below. Since I have nothing particulaly interesting or creative to post today, I defaulted to this:

What were you doing 10 years ago?
10 years ago my son had just been walking for a couple of months, so now he was off to the races. I was a red head with long hair. My husband's aunt lived with us, so we had live in babysitting. Day care was still a year away.

What were you doing 1 year ago?
One year ago it was just past my 40th birthday. Weight loss was really beginning to show. I was dancing at a friend's wedding reception :)

Five snacks you enjoy:

Cashews
Dates
Chocolate
Ice cream
Cheese

Five songs that you know all the lyrics to: (You can't say I'm not well rounded!)
Mercedes Benz (Janis Joplin)
Comfortably Numb (Pink Floyd)
Evergreen (Theme song from the Streisand/Kristofferson version of A Star is Born)
Red Neck Woman (Gretchen Wilson)
Piano Man (Billy Joel)

Five things you would do if you were a millionaire:
Buy a house and serious acreage in Southern Illinois so the land stays in the family.
Put money aside for my son's education and our retirement
Make sure my brother's kids are taken care of
Pay my mother in law's heating bills and property taxes forever. Repair her pool and have central air installed!
Travel

Five bad habits:
Avoidance. If it is unpleasant, I'll avoid it like the plague.
I'm a wicked critic, especially of myself. Goes along side-by-side with my perfectionism.
Impatience with those who either a: should know better or b: are able to determine their own fate. I'm very patient with the elderly, babies and animals.
I can get stuck in ruts!
Boy, can I swear. Right up there with truckers and career NCOs

Five things you like doing:
Cooking
Walking in the woods (But, really, I'll walk anywhere)
Listening to music
Writing
Love a good debate!

Five things you would never wear again:
Bikini
Tube Top
Platform shoes
Pleated skirts
Anything with words running across my ass!

Five favorite toys:
iPod
Laptop
Teddy Bears (I still have a few)
Raggedy Ann type dolls
My son's light sabres. We have a great time dueling with them.


r.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

My Little Green Machine

By the beginning 1999, the company I was working for was in its death throes. Every employee knew it. By mid year, we all had our exit options and the financial ramifications of each spelled out. Being in no hurry, and seeing a larger payout if I stayed, I was one of the last employees to leave on 15 November 1999. I had secured a new job with a start date of 29 November.

In February of 2000, I took a chunk of my severance and put a large down payment on my first car, a certified pre-owned forest green 1998 Ford Escort wagon. The whole transaction was conducted online--selected, financed, insured, all of it. It was one of those autocratic decisions on my part, as I didn't (and still don't) have a drivers license. We went down to the dealership to sign the paperwork and pick up the vehicle. I envisioned road trips, vacations, trips to the grocery that didn't require delivery. Ahhhh, freedom.

The first time we dinged her up was during what can only described as a pissing contest between my husband and the driver of an SUV, while jockeying for position in a car-wash line. The car was in our possession for a month. We were all unhurt, but my son saw both of his parents at less than their finest. Since then, a friend riding in the backseat inadvertently opened up the car door into oncoming traffic, my husband misjudged a pickup on 21st Street in Astoria, we were rear ended on the Clearview expressway, and Brian dozed behind the wheel on the BQE. At no time was anyone hurt, but the front driver's side of the car has taken some damage!

My husband can be an impatient driver. He hates getting stuck at a red light when the car in front of him goes just slowly enough to make it through, but he can't. He is also convinced that those who drive larger vehicles hold his in contempt. While he is not reckless per se, he is adamant that he not be taken advantage of on the road. He will NOT cede the right of way unless other drivers are polite or he is in peril. He said that I should have his epitaph read "I was in my lane."

Yesterday, while driving from his job to pick up our son from school, my husband was proceeding through a fairly busy intersection. He crested a hill as the traffic light turned yellow. He still had the right of way. Already in the intersection was a 1978 Cadillac waiting to make a left turn. He was supposed to wait. He didn't. My husband hit the brakes, steered towards the right so as to not hit him head on. The Green Machine driver's side quarter panel, wheel well and tire are severely damaged. Thankfully my husband is fine. The driver of the Cadillac is fine. The Cadillac, aka a TANK, sustained a broken headlight. The drivers exchanged information, the Caddy drive off, our Escort was moved to the curb, where we were written a ticket for not feeding the meter enough.

Since the Caddy violated the right of way, the accident is his fault. His insurance company, Allstate, is in no hurry to settle the claim. In fact, they told Brian they want to settle, to which he responded, sure, for the price of repairing my car. I told him to go file a police report. Not sure there were any witnesses that will be any help. By the time people saw what was going on I am sure the light had changed to red, and people might very well say Brian ran the light.

I saw the car loaded up on a flat bed. From the running lights to the drivers side door, wheel to hood, the car is crunched. I held up traffic taking pictures with my camera phone. Now all I need is the cable to download them. In the meantime, we are without a car for at least a week, if not two. We may even be faced with the prospect of taking any insurance money we get and putting it down for a new car. With a new school year and increased tuition upon us, the last thing we need is a car payment and the higher insurance rates that go with it.

r.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Much Better, Now!

Ok. I've had my cup and half of coffee, and feel much better about life, the universe and everything. Especially since I was finally able to have a conversation with my coworker regarding the financial health of the company. Before I went on vacation, I heard the dreaded word 'reorg' and thought "uh-oh!" As suspected, it isn't good. However, from what we can gather, the danger isn't imminent. But enough for me to dust off my resume and send it to 3 potential employers within 15 minutes. The last thing I need is to be caught unawares like I was the last time.

October 26th, 2005 was a very pretty day. Leaves were changing color, the sun was shining, and it was day in the upper 60s, if I remember correctly. And it was also my 15th wedding anniversary. My husband and I could not linger over coffee and breakfast, as I had to be out of the house by 5am to make it to work by 7am for a 7:30 am meeting. By 7:35, I found out that my position had been eliminated, I had thirty minutes to empty my office, and a limousine was waiting downstairs to drive me home. I was unemployed for the first time in my life, and scared to death. It took until February 2006 to secure a new job. Not that long by most standards, but when you are responsible for supporting the family, it is an eternity.

I don't normally leave a job unless there is a very compelling reason. I am a security NUT. From the time I was 24 until now, I've had only 3 jobs. The first one I kept for nearly 10 years--the company was sold and shut down. The position that was eliminated I held for nearly 6 years. This one I have held for a little over a year and a half. Seems strange to actively seek new employment after so short a tenure. That said, I am no longer working in the suburbs, but in Manhattan. I can get around so much more easily. Seems silly not to take a long lunch or come home a little late in order to better secure my family's future.

r.

Starbucks PSA

Just a short rant to begin the day:

Note to Starbucks Employees, 35th Street and 7th Avenue:

It is inadvisable to install a completely new crew in one of your busiest locations during morning rush hour. If the guy taking money does not know the touch screen, or cannot count money, open up another register. It is not in any way, shape or form acceptable to wait over 10 minutes with only 2 people in front of you at 7:35am for a simple Grande Drip! Seriously, when the line starts creeping out the door, it is time to relieve the poor bastard! When your regular customers are having strokes, it is time to relieve THEM.

Rant over. More later.

r.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

Where Have All the Flowers Gone is a folk song written by Pete Seeger around 1961. The inspiration for the song came from a Ukrainian folk song referenced in a novel by Mikhail Sholokhov, And Quiet Flows the Don. Seeger wrote three verses, and adapted it to a tune. Some time later, Joe Hickerson wrote two more verses. I remember hearing several versions of the song when I was a little kid: one by the incomparable Joan Baez, and one by Peter Paul and Mary. What I remember most, however, is my mother's virulent hatred of the song.

Joan Baez' rendition of Where Have All the Flowers Gone was released in 1967. My father was a 23 year old infantry Marine in Vietnam at the time. Given that Baez spent years and her considerable energy protesting that War, I can almost understand why my mother felt as she did. I also think she was fearful of the line "Where have all the soldiers gone? Gone to graveyards, every one," as so many Marines, Sailors, Airmen and Soldiers did.

Every year I go to my family reunion, one of my Aunts, Uncles, or Cousins bring me a piece of my father. These memories, artifacts and photos are treasures to me. They are also exquisitely painful. This year, Dad's next eldest and closest sister brought me photos taken when he was in the Marine Corps. The first was his recruit photo. It was taken in 1961 when he was just 17 years old. The Vietnam War was underway, but there were only about 3,200 military advisers on the ground. Kennedy was still alive, and commitment to American combat troops was still about 4 years away.

The other photo was taken in January of 1968. Dad was nearly 24 years old, serving in Vietnam. His wife was in New York ready to give birth to my brother. At the time, there were nearly half a million troops on the ground. The total would reach its peak of 543,000 by April of 1969.

On the reverse of this photo is a handwritten note to my Aunt. He was due to come home soon, and was understandably happy about it. I will always be grateful to my Aunt for giving me these pictures. She says next year she will bring the photo of Dad in his dress blues. I'm sure it is something to see!

The song, the photos and the Vietnam war bring to mind what is now going on in Iraq and, to a lesser extent, Afghanistan. Not that the paths to war are similar or any of the politics, per se, but war and its aftermath in general. Just as in the '60s, our young men, boys really, go overseas in uniform to execute the policies created far from the front. The average age of a Vietnam soldier was 19. I am sure the age is similar for those going to Iraq, whereas in WWII, the average age was 26. That my mother, most likely in support of her husband, could not protest the war he fought, and also vilified those who did, is an attitude that is visible today. It is an attitude that frequently only changes once husbands, fathers, brothers, wives, sisters, and mothers come home to Arlington.

I have always been proud of my father's service. I have always opposed the war he was sent to fight. I have always mourned the damage to his soul. I have always wondered how our lives would have been different if he hadn't gone to Vietnam. I read an article recently that stated only 15% of Vietnam veterans suffered long term psychological problems as a result of their service. I think that number is grossly understated. Given the revisionist history witnessed by that remark, one can only shutter at what the reported long term effects on Iraq and Afghanistan veterans will be.

r.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Time to Again Gather the Clan

Every year, Labor Day weekend, is the Shields Family Reunion. It is held near the original farmstead where my father and his 9 surviving siblings were born and raised. Though the original dwelling is in ruins, I have visited the old graveyard, the family church and the high school in town that bears my maiden name. It is the bosom of my family to which I have returned faithfully since the death of my father in 2003.

The first year I went, Labor Day 2004, no one knew me, but everyone knew who I was: Charlie's daughter. I am his spitting image, and was welcomed warmly, as the pain of Dad's death was still very raw. I went with my husband and son, and was reintroduced to everyone. I had only met most of these people at my Dad's funeral the prior December. Brian and I stayed in a hotel in town, so we had an out if we needed one. While nerve wracking, it was a wonderful experience.

In the years since, I have earned my place as Rebecca. Still Charlie's daughter, to be sure, but an individual, known in my own right. We no longer stay in town when we visit, we stay with Dad's younger brother Lyndel, right down the road from his older brother, Marvin. I have learned what life was like from their perspectives growing up dirt-floor poor. Through them, I am getting to know and better understand the man that was my father.

I also spend time with 3 of Dad's older sisters: Dorris (whom I most resemble), Joyce and Mary. I met his oldest sister, Reba, on my first visit, but she has not been back since. While I love them dearly, I find them less approachable and more critical than my uncles. They also forget that I am a 40+ year old woman, not a teenager in search or need of a maternal figure.

My son is getting to know his cousins, aunts and uncles, too. When we are at home, we are a small family of 3, with only my husband's youngest sister near enough to visit. It is easy to forget that we are part of something larger. I didn't have extended family growing up, as my mother was an only child, and we were completely cut off from my father's family. It is very important that Christopher knows that he has many, many relatives near and far.

This weekend, the Shields clan will again commandeer the property now owned by my grandfather's brother's grandson, Jerry. There will be nightly cookouts, a live band, karaoke, and way too much to drink. Aunt Dorris will give the evening meal blessing and cry. We will cook and catch up on family news and gossip. We will celebrate my cousin Lisa, who has come though breast cancer treatment bald and bruised, but unbowed. Christopher will learn how to shoot a .22 shotgun, and search for deer and coyote tracks and turkey feathers with his cousins. For the first time since 2004, my husband will join us.

Our gathering together is salve to our souls. Leaving is always hard. Anticipation for the next years' event begins when I step on to the plane bound for New York.

r.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

June 16th

I have visited several blogs recently that have posts regarding events that occurred on their birthday throughout history. So, I went to Wikipedia, typed in June 16, and holy moly, a whole lot has gone down on that day!

Events:

  • 1487 - Battle of Stoke Field, the last dying breath of the Wars of the Roses.

  • 1755 - French and Indian War: French surrender Fort Beauséjour to the British, leading to the expulsion of the Acadians.

  • 1911 - A 772 gram stony meteorite struck earth near Kilbourn, Columbia County, Wisconsin damaging a barn. (Hence the Superman myth?)

  • 1967 - Monterey Pop Festival begins; Monterey, California.


Births:
  • 1723 - Adam Smith, Scottish philosopher and economist

  • 1829 - Geronimo, Apache leader (d. 1909)

  • 1917 - Katherine Graham, American publisher (d. 2001). She was at the helm of the Washington Post during the Watergate coverage that lead to Nixon's resignation. You go girl!!

  • 1971 - Tupac Shakur, aka 2Pac, American rapper (d. 1996)

  • 1996 - My beloved son, Christopher

Holiday/Observance:
  • Bloomsday, in honor of Leopold Bloom, the hero of James Joyce's Ulysses set on 16 June, 1904.
r.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Exhale!

Until last Friday, I didn't think it was possible to hold my breath for an entire week, much less six months. Funny thing is that until I received a letter from a radiology facility, I didn't fully realize that I was holding it.

As part of my 2007 New Years Resolution to take better care of myself, I scheduled an appointment with both my OB/GYN and GP on January 31st. I hadn't been to see either in about 3 years, so I figured I'd knock both appointments out in one day. Since it was 6 months past my 40th birthday, my GYN ordered me to submit to a mammogram. I scheduled the appointment as soon as I left his office. It was set for the sixth of February. I finished my day feeling quite virtuous.

Less than a week after my mammography appointment, I received a phone call from my GYN telling me to schedule a follow up sonogram ASAP. I was terrified! My cousin who is only 2 years younger than I was just diagnosed with breast cancer, involving her lymph nodes, stage 3 or so. I scheduled and kept the appointment within the week. My doctor called a week or so later giving me a provisional all-clear. I was to schedule a 6 month follow up exam in August. While I was somewhat relieved, I still had a heightened sense of anxiety. There were some pretty big words hurled at me, of which I understood only 2: No Cancer. When I hung up the phone, I immediately picked it back up and scheduled my next appointment for 13 August, 9am. Best to just get it over with!

Monday, thirteen August dawned bright and beautiful. I headed to the Grammarcy Park area for my visit with the Breast Crushing machine and the sonographer, and when finished, went about my day. The rest of the week I waited for a phone call that never came. I tried to reassure myself that if there were anything really wrong, the phone would ring. I checked my message light on my home, work and cell phones constantly. Finally, Friday evening, when I came home from work and the gym, there was a envelope from the radiology facility. All clear. Schedule your next appointment for a bilateral exam in February 2008. It is now three days later. I have the letter with me to schedule the appointment.

I didn't spend a whole lot of time talking about my increasing level of anxiety. Neither did my husband, and I know he was just as nervous as I was. When he realized what was in the mail, he nearly tore it out of my hands once I had read it! The relief was palpable. Looking back, it was almost a state of suspended animation that we were living with. I am fine, but the prospect of not being fine was daunting to say the least. Maybe that explains the slightly reckless streak I have been on lately. Now that I can breathe more freely, I think I will take some time out and just be.

r.

Friday, August 17, 2007

A Quintessential New York Moment

Yesterday's evening commute started out quite ordinary. I narrowly missed the Astoria-bound N train at 34th Street. A few minutes later, the W arrived in the station which I boarded and got a seat. At Times Square a tall, slender man in paint splotched clothes boarded and sat perpendicular to me. Two stops later at 57th Street, a tall thin woman in a striped shirt got on and sat next to me. Nothing at all unusual. I took notice the man only because he had a small Band-Aid box that he kept clicking open and shut. The woman caught my attention because the volume on her iPod was turned up high. But no matter, I was absorbed in a book.

Somewhere around Lexington Avenue, the woman asks the man whether he was a painter. He responded no, he just left the operating room--brain surgeon. She seemed to enjoy his smart ass answer, and the conversation continued. He is a house painter. She is a packaging designer for cosmetic companies. He owns his own business with his dad, has a wide and varied clientèle and "is very good at" what he does. She is bored with her job. He is Queens born and raised, she moved to Astoria a year or so ago, and loves it.

"Do you want to go and have a drink?" he asks the woman.

"You buyin'?"

"Sure," he shrugs.

They formally introduce themselves: His name is John, her's is Maria. A short conversation about where to go leads to this exchange:

"Do you know Sparrow?"

"No."

"It's on 29th Ave. and Astoria Blvd.," she says.

At this point I reveal that I have been eaves dropping on the conversation the entire time by saying, "Sparrow is on 29th Street and 24th Avenue, across from the Beer Garden."

"Oh, oh, right, right. I always get the Avenues and Streets confused! Thanks."

They agreed they'd meet at 6:30 that evening. Both got off at the 30th Avenue stop. We all bid each other a good night, and I smiled the rest of the way home.

r.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Most Annoying People Ever

I have long held that some of the most annoying people are the recently converted. It really doesn't matter what form the conversion takes. Former smokers, born again Christians, formerly overweight people all fit this category. What is most annoying is their seemingly constant need to proselytize. If you ask anyone I know, I think they will report I have joined the ranks of those whom I so disdain.

I quit smoking in the middle of October 2005 cold turkey. I quit because it was becoming increasingly more difficult to breathe doing ordinary things. A four or five block walk left me panting before I got to my front door. Did I mention that I live on the fourth floor of a walk-up? In the dozen or so years before that time, I had never been winded climbing those stairs, even when carrying a sleeping 5 year old. I didn't find it particularly difficult to quit, as mine was a sub-pack a day habit (unless I was drinking). Besides the fear of emphysema, or any other chronic pulmonary disease is a powerful incentive.

I never went out of my way to talk about the fact that I quit. I didn't make any announcements or pronouncements at all. On occasion someone would notice that I hadn't lit up on a while, and would ask me about it and I'd tell them. The discussion begins with every new person who notices: "When did you quit?" followed closely by "How did you DO it?" They ask, I answer, and those who had a harder time kicking the habit become really sick of hearing it.

Beginning in around March of 2006, I noticed I was beginning to loose weight. I had just started a new job that took me from a 4 hour daily commute to a sub 2 hour daily commute. I had much less sitting around time. Also around then, I took over cooking duties from my husband who also started a new job. In the beginning, I shrugged it off, as incidental. That, and I was scared that it wouldn't last. I was also worried that I might have developed a medical condition that was making the weight come off (that idea has been soundly rejected).

That said, I was pleased that I finally didn't have to buy bigger clothes! I went to the track an average of 3 times a week, and made a much more conscious effort to monitor what I ate. More weight came off. In November of 2006, a good friend of mine was given access to a fitness room that she shared with me an another friend. So, now I went to the gym a couple of times a week, the track once a week, and took mile-long walks at lunchtime. More weight came off.

Fast forward to present. I have shed a total of 80 to 85 pounds. I worked hard to do it. Nothing magic about it. I did the research and the math to figure out how much I can eat, and how much I burn. I never allow myself to feel denied or hungry, nor do I turn away a cookie, pasta, ice cream or bottle of wine. I do, however, think about what and how much I eat in conjunction with the the amount exercise I get, constantly. I am justifiably afraid of becoming that overweight person again. My family tends to the arthritic and the round.

This isn't something I want to spend a whole lot of time talking about anymore. But here again, if someone hasn't seen me in 6 months or a year, the change they see is pretty dramatic, and they definitely comment on it. "Wow! You look great! How much did you loose?" "How did you do it?" "Wow, you must feel so much better!" Comments along that line, that are made, and to which I respond. In so doing, I try to be honest (assuming that if you ask how, you really want to know), gracious, modest, or deflect kudos, or say well, I'm still having a problem with...I can tell you everyone I know is sick and tired of hearing it.

I guess people think that since I am now a thinner person, that all other problems are non existent. I shouldn't still worry about that one area of my body that I cannot reshape no matter how hard I try. I had one woman tell me that talking about my weight was hurtful to every single person on a daily basis. That my weight loss was unhealthy. That I am looking gaunt and unattractive. I would never have expected such an attack from her. While everyone watched me gain weight and vocalize my despair, I was heard with much more patience and encouragement. No one told me to put the damned cookie down, move my ass and quit feeling sorry for myself. While that would have been hurtful too, it might have also been a little motivational.

I have changed my opinion of those who have made life altering conversions. I no longer think they are pompous, insensitive or evangelistic. I was a smoker. I can tell you a smoker doesn't want to hear from a former smoker. Sometimes it is a matter of being defensive about a habit that meets with perceived disapproval. Maybe they are trying to quit, or have tried unsuccessfully and feel judged. But I can tell you that a smoker has never been made to feel uncomfortable in my home or in my presence. Maybe the person who doesn't want to hear about weight loss or related topics is someone who is also struggling with the issue. They'd like to be happy for your success, but can't as it is perceived as an indictment against them. In the meantime, perhaps all that is needed is some time and space away. Maybe I have offended my friends irreparably, and that truly grieves me. But I have to believe the problem is shared at least fifty/fifty.

r.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The List

I found this list on several blogs lately, and thought it an interesting idea. Almost as much fun as Eight Random Facts, but a lot more thought provoking. So, without further ado:

I know ~ that life is good.

I believe ~ that I will continue to evolve.

I fought ~ bitterly with my mother.

I am angered ~ by dishonesty or deception.

I love ~ my family and friends.

I need ~ to run like hell sometimes.

I take ~ most things in stride.

I hear ~ music and it carries me to a different place.

I drink ~ a lot of red wine and whiskey.

I hate ~ monotony.

I use ~ nothing harmful.

I want ~ to see where my spirit can take me.

I decided ~ I would not be a fat immobile old lady.

I’m entirely ~ too defensive.

I like ~ walking in the rain with no umbrella.

I am ~ responsible.

I feel ~ very alone sometimes.

I left ~ a corrosive relationship with my mother behind.

I do ~ have really good intentions.

I hope ~ to sit and have a drink with my son when he is 25 and hear his take on life the universe and everything.

I dream ~ of that which haunts me.

I drive ~ some people up the wall!

I listen ~ to what is NOT said.

I type ~ sloppily.

I think ~ way to damned much.

I wish ~ I could see how it all turns out.

I compensate ~ my occasional lack of substance with style.

I regret ~ not seeing my father before he died.

I care ~ about the world I am leaving behind for my children and grandchildren.

I should ~ know better.

I said ~ I would do it, and so I did or will. Almost always.

I wonder ~ if I am good enough.

I changed ~ my outer appearance.

I am not always ~ strong.

I cry ~ when faced with any strong emotion or loss.

I am ~ unabashedly myself.

I am not ~ mean spirited.

I lose ~ my nerve too easily.

I leave ~ an impression, one way or the other!

r.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Mid-Life Crisis?

Mid-life Crisis. Usually said with a measure of derision, the words alone conjure images of the absurd. How often have we snickered about someone acting impetuously in an attempt to prove they are not yet old, or to keep them from getting old. Now that I have reached that time of life, I think that might be a little harsh. Once I hit 38 or 39, I began reevaluating many things. I just wasn't really conscious of it at the time. And while I will not color my graying hair, or undergo plastic surgery to staunch the march of time, I will spend a buck or three on good moisturizer.

I was thinking about this on Saturday while sipping my morning coffee, wishing it was a Bloody Mary. Friday night I was out with a bunch of my girlfriends. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner at a somewhat fashionable restaurant in the City, then picked up a couple of bottles of good wine, and hung out at a friend's house. It's not that I want to be 25 again: hell, at 25 I wouldn't have been able to afford or appreciate such 'grown up' tastes.

After the original crowd of 9 women dwindled down to 4, we decided to go over to a local Irish Pub. It was 2am. I walked into the place with greater confidence than I ever would have 15 years ago. I ordered a Jamison's on the rocks, went over to the juke box and put on what I wanted to dance to. Didn't leave until well after last call for alcohol. What struck me while reliving a fun night was that in another few years it might....will...seem ridiculous to do that. To some people reading this now, it might seem ridiculous to do it, or still WANT to do it at the age of 41.

Is it about propriety? A sense that one should, by a certain age, give up such rowdy behaviors, just as a child gives up his toys. That would seem to me a case of sour grapes on the part of those casting such judgment. Is it about looks? You don't look all that different when you are in your mid thirties than you do in your early forties. But a 45 to 50 year old does begin to show some wear and tear. Then it seems more creepy to hang out at a bar, or drive a powerful sports car, or wear certain kinds of clothes.

Even older athletes are looked at differently, especially if they can perform the same feats as their younger teammates or competitors. It's as if once a person reaches a certain age, a shift should occur, not unlike a gear change in an automatic transmission.

I don't think people my age want to hang out with twenty-somethings. Lord knows I don't wish to relive my own misspent youth. Many of us in our early to mid 40s and beyond think we can still raise some hell. We don't want to go gently into that good night. I, for one, still rage against the dying of the light, and will for some time to come, God willing.

r.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A Six Year Reprieve

As long as I don't move out of Queens County, I am free from Jury Duty for the next 6 years. Until fairly recently, the exemption was 4 years if you served, but since the Empire State widened the jury pool by eliminating most vocational exclusions, the exemption was extended.

I was prepared for the worst, but all in all, it was not a bad experience. As intimated in the post below, my first experience with Jury Duty soured me a little. In 1989 or so, the jury room in the Manhattan Supreme Courthouse down on Church Street was very dirty, uncomfortable with wooden pew-like seating and ancient phone booths. The coup de grace was a rather elderly gentleman dressed in a ill fitting navy sports jacket covered with dandruff who had a 'pet' cockroach crawling around on him. I swear to God!

Fast forward to 2007. I arrived around 8:10am, sailed through a metal detector (damned underwire bras!!). The jury room was well lit and spacious with comfortable seats and a nice array of amenities. There were a dozen or so internet ready computers, vending machines, clean bathrooms, reading material and a few tables on which one could work or eat. The Jury Clerk (a NYPD officer) played movies on the large flat screen TVs at a moderate volume. He even cracked a few jokes.

The only bump in the road was when the Clerk told me I couldn't use the computer at 8:20ish...they were not to be used until after 8:30 or 9am. WHATEVER! I asked why not. He refused to elaborate. I copped an attitude. So did he. Yep, I reverted to my 16 year-old problem with authority self in a New York heartbeat. To complete my humiliation, I had to go back to him and ask if I could use the machines, as the posted signs said I wasn't allowed to power them up. The signed lied. He told me to turn them on. Ah, bureaucracy!

I was never called. Left the courthouse by 4pm, with several hundred pages of The Half Blood Prince under my belt (which I stayed up until 1am to finish so I could begin Deathly Hallows today). My husband and son picked me up at our subway stop, and we headed down to the Astoria Park pool. Collected a full day's pay, too. What's better than that!

r.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Jury Duty!!

In Queens, one is served their Jury Summons in the mail with instructions to call in to see if your designated code number has been selected. Every night beginning on an assigned date, you call a toll free number to see if you have been summoned to report to a dank, depressing court house in the middle of nowhere. I was instructed to begin calling Friday, 27 July. I did, and was not so summoned, but I had to call again tonight. My luck just ran out. I am to report tomorrow by 8:30. I have managed to dodge this bullet for many years, this time I must bite it.

The first time I was summoned to Jury Duty, I was in my mid 20s. I made past the exhaustive voir dire and all the way into the jury box before being dismissed by one of the attorneys. I went into it feeling proud to be part of the system. I envisioned the process as being somewhat regal. Maybe too many episodes of LA Law, but I expected intelligent attorneys, a somber learned judge, crisp bailiffs, and an interested jury pool. I came out of it very disillusioned. Even in the late 80s early 90s people went into the jury room dressed like they were going to to pick their kids up from school. The attorneys were disheveled, and that is being kind. The judge consistently dropped twenty five cent words that he used incorrectly. He was so in love with the sound of his voice that he blessed us with his fractured oratory for 40 minutes!

Oh well, that was nearly 20 years ago in Manhattan. Maybe Queens County Courthouse will be different. I will let you know in a future post...

r.

My Mini Vacation

There are few things better than taking a couple of days off from work, and all associated computer endeavors! It isn't quite as relaxing as a full blown vacation, but definitely required every so often.

Thursday, my girlfriend and I went out to Shea Stadium to watch the Mets play a very sloppy game against the Pirates, and loose 8-4. Seats on the first base line in the Loge section. Great for foul balls and the tee shirt grab.

Friday, I took Christopher all over the city. We had to drop his buddy, Connor, off at day camp on Houston and the Bowery. We grabbed a cup of coffee and walked up to the Trader Joe's in Union Square (needed some 2 Buck Chuck for later in the evening). From there we took the subway up to Times Square. Chris just HAD to go to the Toys R Us flagship store to peruse their Star Wars action figure section. From there we walked up to 58th and Park to the Borders store to purchase the Harry Potter book. The nice man at the checkout counter saw me with a child in tow, and gave us a poster of the cover art. Then walked over to Columbus Circle to grab some lunch from Whole Foods, and had ourselves a picnic in Central Park. Chris started reading HP and The Deathly Hallows, and was as absorbed as if he just picked up a new Spidey comic! Returned home around 4 or so. Friday night was wine and girlfriends.

Saturday, Chris and I went to see the Mets play a much better game against the Nationals. They won 3-1. A friend of ours gets tickets all the time from various business associates. This time we were just behind home plate, very front row of the Mezzanine section. Definitely NOT the seats you want if you are trying to shag a foul ball. Chris brought his mitt, but came away disappointed. We watched the second game of the double header at home....they lost.

Alas, Sunday was dedicated to getting the chores done. But I can't complain. We had a great extended weekend. The only downer was that my husband was working all 4 days. But It was really a nice treat to spend some time with my son, one on one.

And here we are Monday morning. Back to the grind, but much more prepared to handle whatever comes my way.

r.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

I'm Outta Sorts!

It's only Wednesday, and I feel like I've been run over by a freight train! I'm just exhausted in every way imaginable, so my patience level is down around zero. So, today, I think I'm gonna indulge myself and rant about the idiocy of the general public, myself included.

Idiotic Incident The First

I absolutely HATE littering. Completely unnecessary, gross, ignorant, inconsiderate and beyond all excuse. I don't think it has ever occurred to me to leave my detritus in the world. My son certainly knows better. This morning I ran into a bunch of twenty something year old idiots who decided that they should unwrap their breakfast sandwich on 35th Street, and toss the wrapper and the bag it came in on the sidewalk! Seeing as how I am in such a FINE mood this morning, I said out loud, "Why the FUCK would you DO that?!?!?!" All 4 or 5 of them turned around to gawk at the crazy beotch who addressed them in this manner. Did I leave it alone? NOOOOOOOO. Went on to call them fucking pigs. They probably had themselves a good chuckle, or hurled an insult or two in my direction. I couldn't hear them, as I was jamming to Montgomery Gentry on my iPod.

I am sooooo not going to tell my husband about this little drama, as he is convinced that I'm going to get myself killed one of these days mouthing off to the wrong crowd. But really, I'd be willing to bet their mammas taught them better than that!


Idiotic Incident The Second

When I was a child, and became frustrated trying to do something, my grandmother would tell me, "Rebecca, there is always more than one way to skin a cat." While a gross visual, the concept is an important one. If you are trying to accomplish something and your first method doesn't work, try another method!! The guy who does the billing for my company about blew a freaking gasket when his first choice report didn't yield the results he expected. Rather than choosing to look at a different report that actually gave the same information, albeit in a slightly different format, he chose to butt heads with absent data. Even AFTER being presented with a workaround! I gave him the figures from an alternate source, then queried the tech staff as to why the preferred report wasn't functioning properly. They corrected the mistake, problem solved. But only after frustration level was ramped up to a ridiculous level.

To compound matters, he he couldn't seem to stop trying to look down my shirt the entire time he was having his hissy fit!!!


Idiotic Incident The Third

This should be filed under Reading is Fundamental. A new client of mine just received her first invoice. She, very reasonably, got out her contract Schedule A and compared it to said invoice. She then picked up the phone and called me with her questions. Which she then proceeded to answer on her own while reading her contract to me. This is by far the most benign idiotic incident, as it really didn't arouse my ire in any way, it just made her feel silly. Eh, her dime!

Thank God I am taking the next two days off from work! Maybe I'm just hormonal, but I need some extra sleep and some stress relief. I am envisioning a bottle of vin rouge, a mani/pedi and a hot tub. Two out of three's gonna have to do, as there is no hot tub in sight!


r.

Monday, July 23, 2007

I Am Charlie's Sister

Funny where one can take inspiration. I have been reading several blogs lately with a family theme. It got me thinking of my own family of origin. A couple of months ago, I wrote about my father, I write frequently of my son, occasionally of my husband. Now, it is my brother's turn.

My brother, Charlie, is 18 months younger than I, almost to the day. As is often the case in wartime, the child was conceived just before Dad was shipped overseas, and born before the end of his first tour of duty in the Vietnam war. His father's namesake, Charles was an absolutely adorable baby with a elfin face. Growing up, I was completely convinced that he was my mother's favorite, since he was both the baby of the family and a boy. In hindsight, I really don't think she had a favorite.

As far back in our childhood as I can remember, Charles was irritated with me for being the older sibling. His resentment was fueled by the fact I always had slightly more privileges than he did: I could stay up a little later, had a bigger allowance, etc. What he didn't realize was that I was also held more accountable both for my own behavior and his (since I was older, I set the example), and I always had a few more chores than he did. Charles always thought he'd catch up to me both in age and size. Since he is approaching 40, he is no longer as eager to surpass me in age. He had only to wait until his mid teens to surpass me in height. We fought bitterly, probably for dominance, and probably because each was convinced the other was favored.

Even in his very early years, that boy was always in trouble. He was a smart kid, but performed poorly in school. He was mischievous when he was very young, borderline criminal when he was older. Before he even hit his teens my mother had him sent to a boys correctional/group home facility. At the time, I was too young to fully understand the ramifications for him, me, or the rest of the family. All I knew was that my brother seemed to be the cause of a great deal of tension, and now he was going to not be there anymore. I have a much different understanding now, both as an adult and as a parent. It has haunted me for years.

Charles was always more courageous than I. Growing up in a strict household, my acts of defiance were quiet and small (a form of passive aggressive behavior I learned to perfect, and have been working to disavow). His acts were much more overt. I admired him for that, and I still do. He can confront things immediately and head on, that it takes me weeks to build up the stomach for. Until his early 30s, he thought nothing of pulling up stakes and moving on. When he was done with a place, either because there was no work for him, or he just became restless, he packed his car and went. I have 3 pages in my phone book with addresses for him in Texas, California, Colorado, Georgia and Arkansas!

Charles has since settled down. He has been married for about 10 years, and has 3 kids of his own. His eldest daughter looks just like him! Charles named her for me, an honor that I will never fully deserve.

While we stay in touch, it can be a little strained. Our frames of reference are out of kilter all together. Our family history isn't really a shared one, since he was out of the house basically since he was 9 or 10, with only brief intervals of being home. We both grew up as de facto only children in parallel universes, it seemed, his universe being a type of bizarro world. He never blamed me for it, and it wasn't my fault. Neither of us had much control over the situation. But I think we both learned a great deal from it.

r.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Thank You, She Says Creatively



The other day, Epimenides bestowed upon me the Creative Blogger Award. Thank you very much, Epi. One of these days, I might actually post a piece of fiction or philosophy here so that I can be more deserving of his esteem.

Below is a list of blogs that I keep up with that truly are creative. I am one short of the requisite five nominations, but quality is aways better than quantity. Without further ado...

Random Magus' blog is always well written and topics deeply thought out. It is always a treat to read.

Flying Pink Elephants. This blog has the most beautiful and widely varied photographs. A fellow publishing maven, her posts are a joy to read.

My Bucket of Parts. Uncle Phatato can write, draw and takes great pictures. He is truly creative, and a lot of fun to read.

Three Beautiful Things (3BT). The author lists 3 things every day in which she finds beauty. Some are very minor, indeed, but the way in which she describes them reminds us all to see the joy in our daily lives.

Of course, there are rules....
1) If you have received an award simply choose either the dark or light background image and save it to your files, then post it proudly on your blog!
2) Pass the award on to five other people, you can choose any of the awards from the series, you do not have to pass out the exact award you received. Choose whichever of the awards below that you'd like to give out. You can give out one of each or five of the same one, whatever you prefer.
3) You can change the size and color of awards to suit your blog, that's up to you, it's your blog, just leave the titles the same.
4) Please link back to this post so that people can read these rules and so that the meanings of the awards will not be lost.


r.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Going to Extremes

There is a family here in the City that has turned back the clock about a hundred and twenty five years in their household. It is a one-year experiment to create as little waste as humanly possible. He dubs himself the No Impact Man. Anyone who stayed up late enough to watch Nightline last night will know what I am talking about. Another family I heard about in the news recently decided to try to remove all products made in China from their lives. While that is next to impossible, I am not sure that No Impact Man has it any easier.

The Beaven family decided to eat only locally grown unpackaged food, reuse everything they possibly can, compost in their kitchen (odorless, for the most part), not use any form of transportation, and, for the coup de grace, shut off their electricity. They have, therefore, eschewed all prepared foods, travel over scooterable distances and, heaven forbid, television.

I have to admit, I am intrigued. I am not sure I want to go without electricity or any extended travel, but the rest of it I have given more than just passing thought. Who doesn't remember all the food scares coming out of China. The head of that country's Food and Drug Administration was executed for taking bribes in exchange for looking the other way. Also in the news recently was the fact that of all the tons of food imported by the US, none is tested, and only a few containers inspected to see if they contain what the documentation says they should contain. WHAT? That's absurd! Here we are worried about who might bomb us to kingdom come, and all a terrorist really has to do is poison the unguarded, imported food supply!

All of this has made me take a much closer look at what my family consumes. My husband likes to shop the sales. If apple juice is $1.29 a bottle, he will buy 4 of them. If I buy the juice, I buy the organic Motts. We were talking about this the other night while preparing dinner. Brian was sipping 'generic' apple juice out of the bottle (yeah, we do that in our house...). It had stamped on the bottle "made from concentrate in China." What? Why? There are several states including my own that are big apple growers. Why on earth are we importing THAT? Does it have to do with immigration legislation? If so, pass the laws, make the illegals legal, and let's eat the apples they pick! I am admittedly somewhat oversimplifying here, but my dander is up.

I have decided that I will now be much more conscientious about purchasing locally produced food. It will require some research, but I think my family will be better for it. The Union Square farmer's market is a great place to shop. If I save my pennies now, I can buy into an organic produce cooperative that has a drop off right across the street from my son's school. All that produce comes from New York State. I can also purchase meat, dairy and poultry from upstate farms.

If I want to go to a grocery, I go to Whole Foods. With four locations in my neck of the woods, it is the most sane place to buy organic foods, packaged or unpackaged. That store also lets me know what products are grown or manufactured locally. We have one local Trader Joe's. While that store is cheaper, it is so unbelievably crowded, I cannot abide shopping there.

My husband shakes his head and says to me that "regular old food" was good enough for me for the last 40 years. But I remind him that much has changed over the past 30, especially. Farmland used to begin a mere 45 miles away from city limits, in the eastern parts of Nassau County, and western Suffolk. Cabbage, potatoes, broccoli, etc. as far as the eye could see. No more. A few smaller family farms here and there in Suffolk County, sod farms, and vineyards. I'd rather do without takeout food, and reduce restaurant dining than put food on my table the quality of which I cannot know.

r.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Not Your Usual Rush Hour!

It was a horrendous commute for a huge number of New Yorkers tonight. There was a huge steam pipe explosion on 41st Street between Lexington and Third Avenues. Apparently it was installed in 1924, and was 24 inches in diameter.

You can view the story here: http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory?id=3391889. No one was killed in the accident, but one poor guy died of cardiac arrest.

My girlfriend's law office is right at the intersection of 41st and Lex. She saw a huge plume of steam, then mud rising up, and she's on the 19th floor! She, and everyone else, was evacuated from every building for several surrounding blocks. Many were covered with the debris that was shot heavenward, then fell back to earth.

Only one entrance to Grand Central Terminal was open, and the Metro North rail road was running close to schedule. Subway service was a mess: much of the Lexington Avenue line was suspended from 86th Street to the Brooklyn Bridge. Engineers are now assessing the soundness of all surrounding structures, and the Department of Environmental Protection is testing for asbestos contamination. Residents were told they could not return home until later tonight. We'll see about that. If asbestos is present, a haz-mat team will have to be brought in.

This whole event scared the bejezus out of all of us! New Yorkers are always hypersensitive to this kind of disturbance. I am very grateful that everyone I know that was near the disaster site is safe. One good thing came of it. We decided that The Subway Inn at the corner of 60th and Lex would serve as a meeting place in the event of a disaster. We can have a pint, then walk across the 59th Street Bridge if we need to.

r.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Day My Husband Became the Right Reverend Brian

In April of 2005 my good friend attended her father's wedding in Las Vegas. After a night of partying at the reception and beyond, her long time boyfriend popped the proverbial question. She, of course, accepted. The drunken phonecalls began at oh, about 3am Vegas time, so let's call it 5 or 6am on the East Coast. I can't for the life of me remember what I was doing that night two and a half years ago, but I would imagine it involved a bottle of wine. I missed the call. Voice mail captured the happy unintelligible rejoicing.

One of the first stops they made upon their return to New York was to our house, where we celebrated the occasion in style. The wedding was to be in September of the same year. Niether of them are religious, though the groom was brought up Catholic. They decided they wanted a simple outdoor ceremony. Problem was neither of them knew anyone who could officiate, and unless you travel to City Hall, you cannot be married by a Justice of the Peace in the City of New York. They decided my husband should officiate. He, of course, humbly accepted, assuming it could be done.

Now, how to get my gnostic Greek husband ordained. Ah, of course. The Internet. Genious! They Googled "How to become ordained online." This search yielded a surprising number of results. They, over a tumbler or two of whiskey, selected a 'church' with which they felt they could be affiliated. With their payment of $14.95, they hit the "Ordain Me Now" button. Brian is now a card carrying minister, legally able to perform marriages, funerals, naming ceremonies, and other rites. He may not, however, perfom exorcisms, circumcisions, or animal sacrifices.

On September 10, 2005 The Honorable Reverend Brian P. officated the wedding of our two dear friends. It was a gorgeous day in Astoria Park. The bride was beautiful. The groom handsome. There were 75 or so people in attendance. The reception was held at the Bohemia Beer Garden, to which they all paraded with noisemakers, and general rowdiness. Beer Garden personnel roped off an area and erected a canopy. We had beer, wine, schnitzel, and red velvet cake. The general public did their usual thing along our perimeter. It was grand!

Who says you have to spend 20 grand on a wedding. I think they got it all done for decently under 5.

r.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Oh, My Aching Body

This weekend we, or more accurately, I, decided to move furniture around. An entire hotel full of Crate and Barrel furniture that was being liquidated, so a few friends and I decided to rent a U-Haul and have a look-see. I told my husband about it, including the fact that for 100 bucks I could score a 27" TV with a DVD, VCR built in. He handed me his wallet, and said have at it! Off we went. Where was my husband? He was at work, missing out on ALL the fun.

My one buddy picked up a bed frame, 2 nightstands, and a few other things. My other buddy picked up a really pretty mirror, mini stereo, and assorted other appliances. I got the aforementioned TV. Paid the lady, loaded the truck and headed back to Queens. Once back home, Joan decided she was getting rid of her couch. Great! Chez RP needed a new couch. Since we had the truck, we decided to do the move. We maneuvered the beast out of the house, down the stairs, onto the truck, off the truck, up FOUR flights of stairs to my apartment. Pant, heave, curse, sweat. Then we had to get the TV up the stairs. Oh, my God was that thing heavy, and very awkward to carry. It required several pauses, and changing of the carrying guard to accomplish. Fine, put it all down, eat, shower, bring Christopher to his buddy's birthday party.

Then my little angel begged to spend the night at his friend Connor's house. Who am I to thwart him. With an unexpected night off, Brian and I went down to 6th street in the City with another couple with whom we spend the day moving. For those who don't know, 6th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues is THE place for Indian food in Manhattan. The entire block is one kitchy Indian restaurant after another, each with a guy out front trying to convince passers-by that HIS is THE place to eat. We had a great dinner, and a mediocre bottle of wine. Poor Shelby fell asleep in the car on the way home!

Now, if I was smart, I would have taken some Advil BEFORE the muscles started screaming. But, I hate medicine of any kind, so I didn't. Sunday rolled around and we picked up both kids and took them to the Harry Potter movie (awesome, btw). Brian then took the kids at the park, while I caught up on chores and rearranged what was newly acquired--still unmedicated. So here I sit two full days later with sore bicepts, forearms shoulders and back.

r.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Summer School Update

Last month I was concerned that my son was having trouble with math. He wound up failing the subject in 5th grade, and was sentenced to summer school. Though he was promoted to 6th grade, it was with the caveat that he pass summer school math. We decided to get him a one-one-tutor, rather than place him in a more school-like situation. He goes 3 days a week for an hour at a time. He brings home a ton of home work. At the risk of jinxing things, he is doing GREAT!

Friday evening, I had an opportunity to talk to his tutor. She said that based on the material she received from his teacher, she had very low expectations for him. Then she started working with him. He is not only getting the material, but acing it. Scores between 95 and 100 on his tests. I grade his homework each night with similar results. It is to the point where she is no longer just giving him 5th grade material, she is giving him 6th grade material. The test he took Friday morning was from the 6th grade book and he got a 100!!!!!! HA! I knew he could do it! More importantly, now HE knows he can do it.

While I am estatic with his progress, for me it still begs the question why. Why did he not master this material from September to June, but does in such a condensed program? Was it that his plate was so full that math was the thing he chose to let go? On several occasions, I studied with him, he seemed to get the material, then took the test and either failed or eeked out a high D, low C. It was frustrating for everyone. He became so frustrated that he just shut down, and could no longer let knowledge in. What a difference a month makes!

How will we get through 6th grade? I will be sure to avail him of a tutor at the first sign of distress. I will work harder at keeping my cool, and helping him keep his. I will do all I can to bolster his confidence and motivation. He is a very bright, funny, sensitive kid. Reminds me of the lyrics of P!ink tune: "Don't let me get me." Guess that's what we have to figure out how to do. Oh, and that therapist who suggested that perhaps he has a learning disability that caused him to do poorly in math? Pshaw. I don't freaking THINK so! Damn, vindication feels good.

r.

Friday, July 13, 2007

My Inner Hedonist

Most of the time, I am a very responsible person. I take care of my family, do well at work, I am considerate of my friends, and generally stay inside the lines. Most days, this is not difficult at all. I was raised to just get on with it, and I do. Lately, however, I feel very, very restless.

There is a part of me that wants to hang out like I did when I was in my twenties all over again, especially since I now actually LOOK BETTER than I ever did then. It's not like I missed my twenties. I definitely HAD them. I got married at 24, but didn't have Christopher until I was 30. There were many late nights. But I want to do it with my 41 year old head. In my twenties especially, I was defensive, very self conscious and afraid of being by myself. I'd never dance in public. I'd cling to whoever I was with for dear life. Now, on the few occasions I do get out, I march myself up to the jukebox, play my favorite (and usually OLD) songs and have a blast. I go places by myself without being panic stricken.

Maybe it is the stage of life I find myself in. Maybe it is the Gemini in me. I want to be social. Go out. Travel. Flirt and be flirted with. Dance. See things. Talk to people about new ideas. I've done several of these things in the last month or two and found myself in some very, ahem, interesting situations. But I felt alive! Don't get me wrong, I don't want to leave home or anything. I can just feel myself straining against invisible reins and, right now, it is driving me nuts.

r.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I'd Like to Thank the Academy....


But seriously folks, thank you for nominating me for the Schmoozer and Thinking Blogs Awards. I appreciate the kind honor.

Below are blogs that I have frequented for some time now, commenting on most, lurking on some...They all offer unique and often funny opinions, stories or perspectives. For the most part, I ran into them quite by accident. Without further ado here are my 5....well, 6:

1. The Center For Improved Living. I came upon this one day under Blogs of Note and was intrigued. Since then, I have visited daily and responded to just about every call to action. It is also where I met several other blogs. I love people's answers to the questions posed. And the questions, though sometimes silly, are almost always very thought provoking.

2. Traveling Oma. This is the first entry I ever read on her blog: I'd Like to Recommend. It is a list of 100 things to do before one shuffles off this mortal coil. She just posted an entry on editing that I really enjoyed as well.

3. Foul Bastard. Though David has already been nominated, I second the motion. His writing is witty, friendly and accessible. His comments on my blog always kind and thoughtful.

4. Analysing It. Epimenides is the person who nominated me, and has already received the award himself, but still. Reading the thoughts of my counterpart halfway around the world is always interesting.

5. A Day in a Life. I really enjoy this blog of family life. My favorite entry was her anniversary list. It is warm, with a wonderful sense of humor.

6. Revelations For Life. Dwight always opens quite a can of worms, and most comments are very interesting and well thought out. His comments to my blog reflect that as well.

Now for the fine print:

Here are the rules:
1. If, and only if, you get the Thinking Blogger Award or The Power of Schmooze Award, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think, or have schmoozed you into submission.
2. Link to
this post and Mike so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
3. Optional: Proudly display the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ with a link to the post that you wrote (here is an alternative
silver version if gold doesn’t fit your blog).

There are more I could name, but it says 5.....thanks again

r.