Friday, July 31, 2009

Philosophical Phriday

Yes, I know I spelled Friday incorrectly. I liked the way it looks.

So here is a philosophical quandary for you armchair philosophers, you captains of ethics:

Back in May, here in Boston an MBTA train crashed into another train because the driver was texting his girlfriend on his cell phone. On first glance it often does appear that these trains drive themselves, but they don't. While no one died, people were injured and the crash caused the Government Center station to be closed during a very busy time of the day.

As a result of this crash, the MBTA instituted a zero tolerance policy on not just the use of cell phones while on duty, but even CARRYING one on your person if you are a driver of any MBTA vehicle while on duty. Since the implementation of the policy at least one driver has been fired for having a cell phone in his possession. They are not fooling around. Lives are at stake.

I live a block up and over from an MBTA bus stop. This is a VERY popular bus line, as it goes into Watertown and stops at all the shopping and businesses. If I am not mistaken, the stop in question is the western most stop on this line. Many people in our neighborhood use it to get to work in downtown Boston.

This morning, for the second time in about a month, I have seen a driver, the same one both times, of one of the buses stroll up our street, talking on a cell phone. He is obviously doing this to avoid being seen with and talking on his phone while on duty. I don't know what the policy is on walking away from your vehicle, but he is definitely in flagrant violation of the MBTA's stand on cell phones.

If you were me, would you report this to the MBTA? Or would you take a "live and let live" stand on this? I am generally NOT that person who will stick her nose in places unless I, or someone else, whether I know them or not, is at risk of being injured, having something lost or stolen, that kind of thing. On the surface, who is it hurting if he is using his phone outside of vehicle, not while driving? BUT there is a very good reason that the MBTA instituted this policy, because people have shown an amazing lack of common sense regarding the use of cell phones and texting while on duty, while driving a vehicular homicide waiting to happen. If he is stupid enough to think he can violate their policy at all, is he stupid enough to use it sometime WHILE driving and possibly cause an accident? And he drives a bus. The likelihood that people would be seriously injured and possibly killed if he caused an accident are even higher than on the train. The train really can only collide with other trains. A bus can collide with people, cars, trucks, other buses, etc.

So what do you think? Do I make a call, report what I have seen, or let it go? Since I personally have witnessed this twice, he is likely doing it all the time.

In other news, while I am feeling better, I am putting off departing for Maine until tomorrow. I have done no packing, and was up on and off last night coughing and blowing my nose. The good news is I COULD blow my nose. It is when I am clogged and can't get anything to move along that I am most miserable. I imagine I shall feel much better tomorrow and will be up for the 4 hour drive to Frienship.

And the parakeet is still at large, in the big wild world. We shall see how things stand when I get back.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


Ugh. I am sick. I am actually feeling better this morning than I was yesterday. Or last night. Around 4am things turned a corner and I stopped being achy and trying to cough up my spleen. Cooper and I both came down with a cold of sorts, which is why he had the hives. But he is feeling mostly fine now, while I am a giant mess. We are supposed to leave for our vacation in Friendship Maine tomorrow. We go every year. I think we will still go, I am sure by tomorrow I will feel even better. But if we have to delay a day it isn't the end of the world. Our friends John and Virginia are up there, waiting for us, and will be there on Saturday too.

In other news, the parakeet is still outside my office. I don't know if we will catch him or not, but I will give up on it for now. If he is there when I get back from vacation, we will renew our efforts.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Parakeet rescue mission, Day 1

Today I was approaching the back door that leads directly into my office (I work in a house converted into office space) and heard all this squawking that sounded different than birds I hear all the time. I looked up and there was this parakeet sitting on the roof just above my door. A little light blue bird, with a yellow head and black and white stripes on the wings.

I imagine it is someones pet. I didn't give it much thought until a few hours later I saw lots of flapping outside my window. I ventured out and there he was, hanging out on the roof, flying back and forth to the trees and back again.

At this point I sort of went all Dr. Doolittle and decided I had to catch this bird. First I put some crumbled Wheat Thins on the step, and left the screen door and my inside door open.

Field note #1: Parakeets do not care for Wheat Thins.

Then Richard came in my office. He works upstairs and came in to apologize for all the noise he was making moving. I asked him "Do you know how to catch a parakeet?" He thought I was asking some Zen Buddhist esoteric question. I was all "NO, I mean do you know how to catch a parakeet, for REAL." Then I had the brainstorm to research them on the internets, and found that this is probably a Budgie. And I found some sound clips of Budgies singing. So I played that REALLY LOUDLY.

Field note #2: The Bugdster DOES respond to recorded sounds of other Budgies. He actually flew down and landed on my door knob. Then he promptly fluttered back out again.

Field note #3: Be prepared for how to TRAP said Bugdster if you find him in your office again. Was not prepared the first time.

So after wasting an enormous amount of time obsessing on this bird, I researched bird rescue on the internets, and found a number for a guy who fosters orphaned birds in MA. I called him and explained the situation. He had all these suggestions, most of which broke down to GET BIRD FOOD and be prepared to capture it.

So we moved on to step 3, get bird food. And a feeder which attaches to the window on my door. I figure if I leave the food up for a day or so, he will get used to it, and then I might be able to get close enough to capture it. I may also bring to work a bird house I have at home, so see if he will go in it.

Because now he is trying to take the building apart.

This picture is of Bugdster on the roof just above my door, trying to burrow into the eave. He keeps gnawing at and pulling at this piece of wood that is part of the roof, just under the shingles, trying to get it out. I might get to work tomorrow and find he has succeeded on getting in there. Not sure what we will do then.

I have a deadline for dealing with this - I leave for Maine on Friday. If I have not captured him by then, he will have to survive or not without me until I get back in just over a week. My boss is not going to be thrilled if a bird has burrowed in under the eave. She is on vacation this week, so that is another element of the deadline.

I am not sure what we will do with Bugdster if I do catch him. Schnauzers kill birds, if you know what I mean. But one step at a time. First I need get my Snowhite on and get him to land on my finger. If only I could whistle.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Oh look, summer

Well, in the last week of July, summer has arrived in Boston. It really IS the humidity that is the worst. We had held out until yesterday, but finally, as I was standing there, sweating, I said "Let's put in the air conditioners." And we did. There is such a difference between the hot, wet summer of New England, and the hot dry heat of Texas. They were trying to tell me it was humid there. I laughed. I think there are places more humid than New England in July, but they are not in Texas.

Cooper ended up running a little fever over the weekend, so I think the hives were, as the internet suggested, a byproduct of some virus. I felt gross most of the weekend too. Now I am talking like Demi Moore. It started before the air conditioners, so I am pretty sure it is not because we put them in.

And I am happy to report that one of the mom's in the neighborhood gave birth on Friday to a GIRL!! We were all pretty sure you could not conceive while living in our neighborhood and have a girl. But she has debunked that myth. The little gal weighed in at a whopping 9lbs 2oz and is named Arden. She has two older brothers, although not much older, so she should either be sufficiently spoiled or completely picked on her entire life. Maybe both.

There were times growing up that I wished I had an older brother; someone who would dote on me and make sure no one picked on me. But then I would see how REAL older brothers acted and was happy being the eldest child. I could do most of the torturing, and acted the protector on occasion for the little brother. Mostly there was torture. I am fairly sure to this day I could just walk behind him and he would jump in anticipation of being tickled. He was my very own Pavlovian classical conditioning project. Chip, if anyone suggests you might suffer from PTSD, you may want to listen to them.

This is also for you Chip...Sarasponda sarasponda sarasponda retsetset...

Friday, July 24, 2009

A random case of hives

Yesterday I got a call from Cooper's school saying that when he got up from his nap he was covered in hives. So off I went to buy some Benadryl and go get him from day care. And yes, he was having quite a hive event. His chest and stomach were covered, and there were a few spots on his legs.

He had not eaten anything unusual, since he is the least adventurous eater you will EVER meet. They had taken a walk down the street to the local supermarket, and he ate a piece of american cheese at the deli. Nothing unusual about that. This morning he still had some residual hives, so I decided to keep him home and keep an eye on things. When I called to let them know he would not be in school, the teacher had remembered that he had touched a lobster at the store. Neither Bob nor I have a shellfish allergy, and usually you have to ingest it to have a reaction, but I suppose it is not out of the question. I think it is more likely he has some sort of little virus and it is causing the hives. That theory has been mostly confirmed by things I have read on the internet.

But it is a very disturbing site, your little boy's chest and stomach covered in red hives. He didn't seem bothered by them at all. And he didn't turn blue or puffy or have any breathing problems. Here is hoping it all just goes away.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Hate and stupidity know no boundaries

I am sure you have had one of these people in your lives. For me it was in my freshman year in college, Humanities 101. Dr. Elizabeth Ashe Douglas was one of the instructors. She was this amazingly regal, dramatic, gracious women who was there to teach us about art. Specifically, art history. She began talking and I was all "WHAT is she talking about?" Byzantine this, chiaroscuro that. She talked like we all knew exactly what she was talking about.

We had to take four semesters, two years, of Humanities. By the time I was a senior I had finally figured things out a bit and I was a teaching assistant for the Humanities 101 classes. Betty was one of those instructors who quietly got into your head and before you realized what was happening she had opened your mind and you found you actually LEARNED something.

Recently Dr. Douglas found her way to Facebook and she and I have reconnected. She has retired from teaching, but is an artist and is living in and has a gallery in Rochester, PA. On FB this morning her status update read: Yesterday, the township road foreman came to my door, saying "I'm sorry, we'll get it removed as quickly as possible." I discovered the "it" was a huge KKK spray painted on the street in front of my home. On Sunday morning a huge phallus had been painted on the street in front of Douglas Gallery. It was removed Monday morning. I am the only African American in the immediate vicinity. Why is this happening?

It is beyond sad that this type of thing still happens. We live in a day and age where we have an African American president. We have progressed so far beyond the days of slavery, of segregation, of DEsegregation, and yet hatred and stupidity is out there, being spray painted on the road in front of private homes and places of business.

This is a woman of extraordinary grace and spirit. She has a joy about life that transcends time and space and age and race. No one deserves to have this kind of hatred in their life, but that goes quadruple for Betty. I hope that the perpetrator(s) are identified and apprehended sooner rather than later, and that she is not in any actual danger.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Crappy day, so here are some pictures

Today was a day that left me feeling incompetent and in need of a career overhaul. So rather than complain about that, because some of it I can't actually talk about here, I will just give you some fun pictures.

I think this one is self explanatory.

We had the twins from next door over for a swim this weekend. They are turning 4 next month, and yet Cooper is almost as tall as they are. YIKES.

Cooper had a hair cut while I was in San Antonio. Before that he was rocking the Lyle Lovett look.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

People are bizarre

Right now we are watching the Tour de France, or the recorded coverage of what has already happened today. They are in the mountains. I think the whole idea of the tour is INSANE. Biking around France and some of Spain for three weeks? And not stopping to have a lunch of cheese and bread and wine every few hours? What is the POINT? But the mountain stages always make me realize how truly bizarre people are. Never mind that you have these guys riding these expensive bikes in their funky outfits, you have all of the spectators bunching up around the edges of the road, leaving barely enough room for these guys to pass. They wave big flags, some wear crazy outfits like superheros and run along with the cyclists. They threaten to knock these guys on their butts. JUST GET OUT OF THE WAY I yell at the TV every time.

Then there was this mother and daughter in my office yesterday. They were there to turn in the rest of the paperwork we need for their file. Neither of them files a tax return. Mom doesn't work. They get money from Social Security because the father died. While discussing student loan options, the student says "What if I graduate with like, $100,000 in loan debt? How am I going to pay that back?" Mom, the non working, non tax filing mom says in response "You will get a job and work, like the rest of us."

You mean like the rest of us in the room right here, like ME, not you, you who doesn't work? I think that does actually qualify as the definition of irony. While I can TELL you the definition of irony, I think most of the time people call things ironic when they are really coincidental. Irony doesn't happen as much as people think.

Cooper is growing some new teeth again. Poor bean. It is obviously causing pain. He now knows to ask for Tylenol by name. I think it is good we cannot remember that pain later in life.

Friday, July 17, 2009

But I was saving that for later...

Last night I was putting the schnauzers into their kennel (they sleep together in a large crate so they don't get into trouble while unattended) when I noticed this small bit of feather. Not like a feather that fell off a bird as it flew by, but a feather you might be left with if you plucked a bird. YUCK. So I cleaned it up, assuming that one of them had found something to chew on out in the yard but that was all that was left.

I was wrong. I had today off today, as I do every Friday during the summer. After dropping Cooper off at daycare, Bob and I were heading off to catch a matinee of the new Harry Potter movie. I admit it, I LOVE these books, and have loved each of the movies. I was putting the schnauzers in their kennel again, which resides in a corner of our living room, when I looked further in and saw something that made me pull the dog bed out and found a dead baby bird body. GAAAAAAAAK. I pulled the whole thing out on the deck, flung the bird body over the fence so they couldn't find it again, and informed Bob that the dogs would have to be gated into the kitchen while we were gone AND we would be buying a new dog bed at Target after we went to the movie.

So we went to the movie, and then to Target, and bought the dog bed and some shorts and tshirts for Cooper. The movie was great. Very true to the book and the effects were great. Upon returning to the house, I entered and said out loud "WHY does it still smell like dead animal in here??". So I went to the corner and pulled the kennel all of the way out, only to find the HEAD of the bird that had become detached from the bird body I had previously flung outside. And some other gross bits and SHOOT ME NOW because how long has this dead animal been in my house????

Seriously. I have no idea. It could have been there for DAAAAAYS. I am nauseated now just thinking about it. I pulled the entire kennel out on the deck, sprayed everything down with a bleach and water solution. The floor, the kennel, everything. DIST.GUS.TING. It was Gus. I am sure. He goes out there and stalks things along the fence. This was small enough that he could have hidden it in his mouth and brought it in just before going into the kennel right as Bob was leaving to take Cooper to day care or before going to bed at night. They are schnauzers. It is their nature. But it is so GROSS.

I am undoubtedly having some bad dreams tonight. And summer has finally arrived. It is 9:45pm and still 77 degrees. But we still haven't put the air conditioners in. We might not hold out much longer though. I can't stand being hot when I sleep. Especially when I am dreaming about dead animals in my house.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

How NOT to find if someone is pregnant...

I forgot to mention the very uplifting moment I had at the last reception at the conference. I had been searching for my friends from Boston College, wandering around nibbling on the little plate of nacho chips and roasted veggies I had picked up. I hadn't found them yet when I was approached by a woman I know who is the director of aid at another local college here in the Boston area. "Michele, how are you? Are you expecting another baby?" she asked with a big smile. "UH, no. No I am not" I responded. "Oh, it's just fat, huh? I KNOW, I have been carrying around a spare tire for years myself" she says, as she jiggled the little bit of pooch she had around her belly area. And then she wandered off.

W.T.F???? Are we serious right now??? Not too long after that I found my friends from BC and told them what happened and bemoaned the fact that if she is asking me that after I have lost 20lbs, what did I look like BEFORE I lost the weight? One of them, who is known for being pretty blunt said it was bull shit, I looked great and didn't look the least bit pregnant.

But let this be a lesson to you. DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES ask a woman if she is pregnant, unless you know for sure already she is. Because chances are she is NOT pregnant, just FAT. BAH.

Today I went back to work, completely confused about what day it was. The time difference was only an hour, so I can't blame that. I just didn't have a clue what day I was in. And then I found out that this family who just HAD to have more help financially, just couldn't make it work without help, so I gave them some additional funding, has declined every loan the student is eligible for. Hm. Guess they are not in such desperate shape after all. THAT irritates me. I feel like saying in my responses to these appeals that I will give you some more help, unless you turn down the self-help portion of your award, in which case I will take back the extra help. But I can't really do that. But I want to.

And today was a perfect pool day. Cooper and I got in as soon as we got home from work and school. That kid is a pool maniac.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

An uneventful return home

I like when I travel and have no good stories to tell. That means I got from point A through points B, C and to D without any delays, annoying passengers or other mishap. I left San Antonio at 8am and arrived in Boston at 5:15pm. The only interesting things that I noticed was this woman who spent no less than an hour in an airport bathroom doing her makeup. I didn't stare at her, but I went into the bathroom about half way through my 3 hour lay over, and she was there putting on her face. When I went in just before we boarded, she was just cleaning up. My theory is that she was completely changing her identity and look before leaving the airport. It is probably just as well I didn't stare at her, she might have decided I was able to identify her and I might not have gotten home.

Then there was the flight attendant who, while walking by with the bag to collect garbage, was saying it like the word ended in SHHHHH: Garbasssssssshhhhh, garbashhhhhhh. I thought I was imagining it, but she did it both times she went by. Strange.

And finally, if you think about it, only one thing distinguishes a crazy person ranting to no one in particular on a street corner and the guy who was walking around at my gate in Detroit, growling about who was in charge: a blue tooth headset.

Cooper seems to have grown taller and developed more verbal skills in the 5 days I was gone. He was very happy to see me, and then when I told him I had brought him stuff, he immediately needed to "help" me get the stuff out of my suitcase. I brought him a little sombrero, which he refuses to wear, and a little raccoon skin hat which he also refuses to wear. Score!

So I am back to my life. Tomorrow is back to work. Whee.

Monday, July 13, 2009

And then I was at the circus...

Today was a full day of conference activities which was YAWN. It was an opportunity to watch a lot of department of education employees get all defensive while people kind of yelled at them so it was not a complete loss.

But last night was the night I am pretty sure I was at the circus. At least that is how it felt. I met up with my friend Mary who I worked with at Boston College at the reception at the end of the first day of the conference, and we went back to her hotel so she could change before we ventured out for dinner. As we entered the hotel into what is a bar/lounge area decorated in a hip happening bar/loungy way with very cool light fixtures and a very large red sea urchin kind of hanging piece of art work, we were assaulted by cool hip bar music, and lots of conversation. In the corner some woman was holding what appeared to be some sort of healing ceremony. She was laying hands on the faces/heads of two boys in the corner and chanting at them. Nearby there were two other guys dodging at each other in a sort of shadow basketball game. It was surreal.

We ended up eating at The Republic of Texas because we were in search of steak, and the Little Rhine Steakhouse was closed on a Sunday night. We left just as the karaoke started. There was a very obese Asian man singing Ring of Fire. It was surreal.

Then we found our way to Durty Nellie's Irish Pub where we found some friends hanging out. This is one of those places with peanuts on the floor. We sat outside which at 10pm was almost comfortable. Some people drank Jagermeister and Red Bull shots, NOT ME, because Red Bull is gross and Jagermeister should be renamed Vomitmeister.

Tonight I had dinner with some other friends back at Boudrou's. I had a the very delicious grilled fish with garlic mashed potatoes. They make guacomole right at your table. I do not like avacodo, but I could NOT get enough of this guacamole. If you ever find yourself in San Antonio, go to Boudrou's and have the guac for two. You will NOT regret it.

Then my friends dragged me to this place called Howl at the Moon. I am easily 450 years too old for this place. It is a piano bar. A DUELING piano bar. I stayed long enough to hear them play Sweet Caroline, which is a very Boston thing. It is played at every Red Sox game and there is a sing along and hand motions.

Now I am here, typing and now I am going to bed. I miss my boys and am ready to go home. But I have one more day. Whee!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Does anyone actually LIVE here?

After my second full day of San Antonio, and I have a question: Does anyone actually LIVE in the city? It is so unlike Boston in so many ways, but the most striking difference is that there don't seem to be residences here in the city. In Boston you have a healthy mix of old brown stone buildings that are condos and apartments along with the businesses and restaurants everywhere. Boston has people out and about all the time. After dinner last night at La Magarita's, which was excellent, we walked part of the way back. The streets were desolate. On a SATURDAY night. This would be unheard of in Boston. The heat was more tolerable at 8pm than earlier in the day, but there still were very few people, other than us tourists, out and about.

A word about outdoor dining in San Antonio: BIRDS. Holy bird crap Batman. I am not a fan of birds being near me to begin with - hello West Nile virus - but eating outside in this city means these birds that resemble what I would call a grackle back home STALK you with these creepy open beaked beady eyed stares. So while I was enjoying my chicken enchiladas and sangria, I was keeping my own beady eye on several characters who would have thought nothing of hopping right up and eating off my plate. ICK.

Today my Uncle David and Aunt Sharon, who reside in Orange, TX, drove over to have lunch with me. This is my father's younger brother. They are awesome. We had lunch at Boudreau's, once we found it. While the Riverwalk SEEMS like you should be able to find things easily, you often find that you are on the wrong side of the river from the place you want to be. After lunch we walked back to the end of the Riverwalk where you can get on a boat tour.

Two words about open boat tours in San Antonio on a sunny afternoon: Heat STROKE. As Sharon, the delicate southern flower that she is (originally from West Virginia) declared "I am glistening". In Boston we call it SWEATING. Profusely.

But I learned some things about San Antonio, about the river, and saw some other places that would be fun to check out for eating and/or libations. If of course I can find my way BACK to these places without being on a boat.

They don't have an actual water taxi service that I can see. I thought they did. They SHOULD. BUSINESS PLAN for those who are in the market. I would do it, but then I would have to live in Texas. And boy howdy that ain't happening.

And finally, my uncle informed me that his son, my cousin Matthew, a DOCTOR, has purchased an AK47.

????? He doesn't live in the Republic of Texas either. He is not neighbors with Ted Nugent.

He likes to shoot guns at the shooting range, I was told. Okaaaay, but why not a rifle, a hand gun, why an ASSAULT weapon? No one really knows, but my aunt suggested it might be because of all the elderly vets he has worked with at the VA hospital. He is a fan of history, he has a strong sense of tradition, so he might have found their combat stories inspiring. All I know is that if he was my husband he would be finding somewhere else for that little item to live that is not in my home. I grew up going to my grandparents house where there were rifles on the wall of the bedroom my brother and I would stay in as small children. I am not anti gun. I am anti assault weapon in my home though. CRAZY.

Ah, Bob just informed me that it isn't a fully automatic weapon because that would be illegal for him to own. THAT is comforting.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

It's HOT y'all

Well, there are several reasons I can never live in Texas.

1. I would instantly develop this really obnoxious but thoroughly genuine Texas accent. Hi, my name is Michele and I am a magpie. I can't help it.

2. IT IS FREAKING HOT HERE. I don't know if the natives know this or not. I am not sure anyone I have seen so far is actually FROM here. Maybe the guy driving the taxi I took from the airport to the hotel last night. But it is something like 104 right now.

3. The Alamo. I can't live here because they took this historic site of a battle we LOST and made it into a SHRINE. Texas is CRAZY that way.

My friend Laura and I will wander down to a restaurant that not one but two people have recommended - Thanks Ron - La Margarita Mexican Restaurant and Oyster Bar. I am not a fan of the oyster except in their service to mankind by producing pearls, but I do love Mexican food, and if it is authentic it is even better. I also will abstain from any tequila based drinks. The few times I tried any margaritas I became very very very angry. Like I wanted to punch someone angry. So unless one of my friends has enough money for bail, and because my boss said I wasn't allowed to embarrass the college, I will not be drinking any margaritas. They don't take me to a happy place.

I shall report tomorrow on our night of dining and what have you. Meanwhile, back at the homestead, Cooper got a hair cut and seems to be surviving, AND sleeping, just fine without me. Gooooo BOB!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Deep in the heart of Texas...

Tomorrow I get on an airplane and go to San Antonio for a conference. Two conferences really, that always happen back to back. Financial aid related conferences. So I will be in a land where it is approximately 12000 degrees, sitting in sessions learning more about federal regulations and blahblahblah. The interesting part is that the new president of NASFAA (national association of financial aid administrators) was just indicted on 8 felony counts from his time at a college in CA. He was supposed to be the keynote speaker. He won't be speaking.

So Bob will be in charge of three dogs and one child for the 5.5 days I will be gone. I am SURE he will handle it just fine, but I would appreciate it greatly if I don't come home to the same situation I found the last time I had to leave him in charge for any length of time. That time I came home to a son who would not go to bed before 9pm and would not fall asleep in his bed. Since we are currently blessed with a child who goes to bed like it is his job, with a sigh and a smile and many kisses and hugs, I would like to keep it that way. Otherwise I am sure all will be well.

I have never been to Texas, other than on a layover in the Dallas airport. This will be interesting. I don't really like being hot. That is actually a wild understatement. If it breaks 80 degrees around here I am sweating and uncomfortable. I used to have a stove with a dial for the oven temperature (as opposed to the digital version I have now) which had 110 as the lowest temperature. So officially, this is the temperature at which things might begin COOKING? I just checked, they are predicting temperatures between 101 and 104 over the next 6 days. With sunny or partly cloudy days. Such a difference from the 69 degrees and rainy we have been having here.

I will be attempting to give updates here while I am there. Unless I have melted into an indistinguishable puddle of goo.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Grateful: being warmly or deeply appreciative of kindness or benefits received.

Today I spent 20 minutes on the phone with a mother who could not have been more grateful to all we, the royal we of the college, have done for her and her daughter. She kept saying that. She began the conversation concerned about how she was going to pay the bill. After resolving a bit of that concern, and explaining some of her options about the payment for the balance, she launched into a discussion about how wonderful the college has been to them. How she approached our office feeling embarrassed to discuss her situation, but that not one person made her feel awkward about it, that we just set about explaining what to do and helping them through the process. She spent a few minutes talking about her daughter and how she has learning disabilities, and that they worked very hard throughout high school to help her and get her tutoring, and that the end result was she wrote about it in her admissions essay, with no help from anyone. She talked about her life and how hard she had worked to provide a good life for her children, and despite the fact that now she and their father are going through a difficult divorce, they should still go to college and get the education she never got.

Often during these conversations, where the person feels the need to ramble on, sometimes incoherently, I wander into a zone where I am just responding with "Uh hu" or "Hmmm" and I am waiting for that break where I can bring the conversation to a close. This time was different. I could tell this woman REALLY wanted me to understand how thankful she was and why. So I listened. And I HEARD her. I appreciate how hard she has worked and how she is still going to work hard to make this happen. She wasn't just asking me to solve the problem for her, like many people do, she just wanted to know her options. She is very proud of her daughter, and she wanted me to understand that. Not because she wanted me to give her more money for being a hard working great kid, but because she wanted me to know she was a hard working great kid is stretching herself in ways no one thought possible.

Mostly she wanted to say thank you. She said she wanted to say it in writing, should she send a letter to the president of the college. YES I said. He would love to hear all this goodness about his staff. But even if she doesn't do that, I heard it. I heard a mother who is proud of her child, and grateful for everything people have done to make this transition possible and smooth.

And I am really grateful to her for sharing all of that. Because it is the thing that keeps me doing this job. When I am disillusioned about work, because of bureaucratic crap, endless streams of stupidity from many sources, it is this kind of conversation that reminds me why I do it. We really can and do make a difference in people's lives.

And that picture is my dog Gus. He expresses gratitude in ways that people just cannot, at least not without risking arrest or being shunned. Like plopping his whole body on top of me on the couch and sticking his nose in my face, giving me the love, or lying on his back waggling his feet in the air in the sun on the deck as if to say "THANK YOU for letting me out here to sunbeam doze." Dogs are the definition of gratitude sometimes.

I hope you find something to be grateful for today.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The pros and cons of being 45

Today I celebrate my 45th birthday. Wheeeee. Do you like the picture? That was me, approximately 30 years ago. A friend from high school who found me via FaceBook sent it to me. That was taken in her house. I have to say the perm ROCKED. How better to celebrate turning 45 than putting a picture up from one of your more awkward moments in time.

I am not particularly sensitive about my age. I figure there isn't much I can do about being any particular age, it is what it is. I do find myself FEELING my age here and there - like when chasing a 2 year old around. I was sitting with him on the couch over the weekend, and as I stood up to go get play dough out of the closet, something went "PINGpopBOING" in my left knee and caused pain ever so momentarily. I yelped of course, and Cooper piped up from the couch "You OK?" Of course I was, and am. I need to more yoga, and get things stretched out more.

But here are things I like about being 45:

I am very comfortable in my skin.
I don't feel the need to be a people pleaser unless I WANT to be a people pleaser.
I am way more relaxed about life in general than I was 10 or 20 years ago. Things have a way of working out.
I own a home.
My car insurance is lower than it would be if I was 25.
No one expects me to play competitive sports. Not that they did before, but they definitely don't now.
I don't get perms anymore.

Things I don't like about being 45:

My eyes seem to have betrayed me. I need reading glasses. Actually, I needed them early on in life, like at age 7 because I was far sighted. I outgrew it for awhile, but now it is here to stay.
My knees make funny noises and complain when I get up from having been sitting for awhile.
Hello flibby flabby bits.

My staff brought in Birthday Bagels this morning. It is a tradition I started awhile ago. Cake is so old news. Assorted bagels with a variety of schmear, now that says HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Later today I hope to be having eggplant parmesan from The Chateau, a local establishment, and birthday pie. When offered the choice of dessert pastry to celebrate a birthday, I will always go for pie over cake.

Hope you all have a lovely day.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Treadmill death watch, day 2

Because I don't have a long enough list of things I would spend money on if I actually HAD ANY, the treadmill is on life support. This is the treadmill that we acquired from the ex-wife after the last one was fried in the great flood of 2008. Bob has had this particular treadmill for almost 10 years, and it had spent the last 4 years or so living at the ex-wife's house. So when we got it, it was "free" which is a good price when you have fried not one but two practically brand new treadmills in the previous 3 years in basement floods. The basement has been flood free for a year now, KNOCKING ON WOOD VIOLENTLY, because of the law of the universe that says if you spend $2100 on a sump pump system to prevent flooding in the basement, it will not be needed. Much like carrying an umbrella will prevent it from raining. Unless you live in Boston right now. So ironically we are having one of the wettest summers in recent memory, and yet, the sump pump has not been needed.

Anywho, back to my tale of woe. The past few days the treadmill, while being used by Bob because he doesn't feel like running in a thunderstorm and who can blame him, suddenly, around mile 3, decides to go to a 12% incline and then stop. It has some sort of seizure, and gasps for air and stops. Now when I am on the treadmill, I am using it at a polite 3.2 miles per hour, and mostly not inclined. Bob on the other hand is RUNNING, for 4 - 6 miles at a time. I think that is probably asking a lot of 10 year old treadmill. I would have a seizure too.

After resting for a day and having incantations chanted around it while sprinkling it with holy water, it seems to come back to life, only to do the whole thing all over again the next time Bob uses it. I have not been able to use it because it is still laying on the couch with a cool cloth on it's forehead when I need to use it. So I think we are witnessing the demise of the treadmill. Which is decidedly counter productive to my ongoing quest to lose more weight. I am on track, but I really do need to lose another 20lbs to be in a healthy weight zone for my paltry 5'4" frame. I have dropped one clothing size so far, which is AWESOME, but there is more to go.

If it does die, which I think it will, the question will be do we try to get it fixed, or perhaps buy one off of Craig's list for half the price a new one would be. Or live without one and figure out another way for me to get a good cardio work out. I have a rowing machine and hand weights, but I am unable to row for 30 minutes which is how long I am usually on the treadmill. It is something I can do for maximum 10 minutes at a stretch, then things being getting really tight in my back. Right now walking outside is as difficult as running - I am NOT doing it in a torrential downpour/thunderstorm.

I know this is such a mundane concern compared to real problems like poverty and starvation. So I will count my blessings and be grateful. Are there healers out there for exercise equipment?