Wednesday, March 31, 2010

two opposites

1. I don't remember a time in my life before now when I dreaded listening to the messages on the phone. Another call today from Citibank--this time for a Sears Mastercard that was used at K-mart. Over $2000 in charges. Seriously, who is this person? $2200 at K-mart?

2. Four years ago today, I became a gramma. Tonight we forgot our troubles and remembered ourselves and ate strawberry cake and realized that the nightmare flights through Orlando were all worth it when we heard our little redhead cherish her snow globe.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

healthcare or grief?

I've thought often in the past few years about health care and the crisis it has become. Something about having married kids in college or adult kids having babies and raising babies or perhaps being so very familiar with the health care system as seen through the eyes of the mom of an adult kid with some major health issues--or perhaps it's just the almost 100% increase in premiums in the past five years?

But that will be a post for another day. Today I post about grief.

I've heard about the stages of grief--denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Apparently, in the early 1990s, those stages were dismissed as inaccurate and based on observation, not scientific research; however, recent research has identified more of an ebb and flow of processes that include shock and numbness, yearning and searching, disorganization and despair, and finally reorganization.

I am not sure which stage or process I am currently ebbing and flowing through because it varies--obviously I am ebbing and flowing. But I suppose that is to be expected when someone loses her identity.

For once, I'm not talking psychologically--I'm talking reality. Somebody has swiped my identity and is opening credit accounts all over the internet in my name. Sears. Best Buy. Goodyear Tires for hell's sake. All related to Citibank. I don't have any accounts with Citibank or any of these companies. Well, the real me doesn't have any accounts with them. But the stolen me is opening accounts everywhere. Turns out I'm quite a shopper. And I must be a guy because I'm getting ready to buy Craftsman Tools and a massive home theater and some of those skinny tires and shiny wheels with the rotating centers that make it look like the wheels are always turning.

Sears' fraud department (located on the second floor, between furniture and infants' clothing?) called to ask about my recent account activity last Friday. Jack and I put fraud alerts on our credit reports on Saturday. That's when I found out about my Goodyear account. Today I got a call from the Best Buy Citibank guy. That's when I filled out a report with the state's Attorney General office.

I have the feeling this is just the beginning of a long serious of stages and processes ebbing and flowing me from denial and shock to hopefully, eventually, reorganization.

Rotten bastards.

Monday, March 29, 2010

it is spring

Tonight, I looked out the kitchen window and spotted five daffodils out back. Five bright yellow spots waving at me.

I thought that after dinner I'd get the camera and capture those little bits of spring sunshine for those of us who appreciate a change in season.

Before I made it outside with my camera, the wind picked up, the temperature dropped, and by now, it may be snowing.

If that isn't spring in this pretty great high mountain desert, I don't know what is.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

you know i'm not one to brag

But I think I aced my math test this morning.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

butter pecan ice cream



Wednesday, March 24, 2010

far less than 1,000 words


She still loves tennis balls

Yes, her fur is as soft as it looks.


I took the camera up north with me today.
This is one of several homes I spotted.
Look closely.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

i don't want to deal with this anymore

food--planning, preparing, choosing, digesting
money--saving, spending, watching
work stress--personality clashes, political hiring/firing, lazy/unaware workers
mom nonboundaries--don't even get me started
political disagreements--healthcare, wall street, finance, taxes, meaniepants, bigots, hatred, nonlisteners

that's enough for now. thank you for listening. or at least reading.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

at least nobody barfed

I think I may have figured out that "guy" thing.

I'm 51. Not 30. Or 40. Or even 50. So you can ignore the next (or last) post if you haven't already read it.

A few months ago, Breanne told me about a snow globe someone had given to her. She loved it. When I asked to see it, she said, quite matter-of-factly, "Naney bwoke it."

A couple of days ago when I was shopping for a hoodie, I bought each of the girls a few things at a store near my hotel, but because there are five girls now and because I have very limited "put that back, they don't need it" ability, those few things for each ended up being a big bag full of stuff. As I was paying for the stuff, I noticed little tiny snow globes that had Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse inside of them. And then I saw one with Cinderella inside.

In no time at all, I remembered Breanne's snow globe adoration, her bwoken gwobe, her love of princesses, especially Cinderella--and said, "Oh, you have princess snow globes?" "Cinderella?" "Please charge me for one of those too." I told the ladies behind the counter that it was for my granddaughter's fourth birthday next week and that she would love it.

One of the ladies reached under the counter, pulled out the Cinderella globe and said something about it being a gift. Then she wrapped it in bubble wrap, twice, and then wrapped it in a large sheet of brown packing paper. Then she smiled at me, and after writing something on it, handed it to me.

I asked how much I owed her for it, and she said, "Oh no, it's a gift for you from us. To thank you for buying so many things. Your granddaughters will be very happy girls." She had written "Gift" on it. I was delighted.

On the way back to my hotel, I stopped in another store and noticed similar tiny snow globes. For $11.99. Seriously? No more than three inches tall and they wanted nearly twelve bucks? I was relieved that I hadn't seen enough snow globes for all of the girls.

Yesterday, surprisingly, I was able to pack all of my treasured purchases into my carry-on suitcase. I had intentionally packed light because a) I was going to Florida where it was supposed to be warm enough for lightweight clothing, and b) I wanted room to bring home surprises for the girls. Was that a smart plan or what?

My flight didn't leave until 5:15, but my late checkout time was 2:00, so rather than drag around my carry-on and computer bag and purse, I decided to go to the airport, get through security, and then find someplace to sit down and eat while doing the USA Today puzzles. My driver was a very intelligent friendly man in his 50s who clearly recognized a fine woman as he helped me into and out of his taxi van.

I entered the airport and soon realized that every member of every girls' softball team on the east coast was waiting to go through security. With their parents and coaches.

Additionally, spring break season has begun, so there were many families returning from vacations and countless teens without their parents who were waiting to go through security.

The lines were beyond long. But I remembered I was early, had plenty of time, and decided to enjoy the show.

Thirty minutes later, I was at the conveyor belt where you disrobe and place all of your stuff down to go through the x-ray machine while you walk through the human-x-ray machine. As usual, there was no beeping when I walked through the machine, so I started redressing, but then the person at the x-ray machine asked if the black bag was mine and then directed me to another counter. He asked me to open my suitcase and I thought the problem must be the pedicure file I'd packed. It is a serious foot file. (Thank you, Jr). But the attendant didn't go to that part of the suitcase. He reached for the zippered part that contained my clothing brush? What? And then his hand came back out with the small parcel in brown wrapping paper marked, "Gift."

"Oh yeah, I thought so."


"You can't carry one of these on the plane."

"It's less than two ounces."

"Doesn't matter. It's flammable liquid inside."

"Seriously? Flammable? It's for my granddaughter's birthday. Really? I can't take it on the plane? It was free from the store where I bought all of this other crap. Really? Flammable? It's for a four-year-old's birthday. Flammable?" "Really?"

"Yes, sorry, ma'am. My supervisor found it so you'll either have to throw it away or check your bag."

"Really? It's got to be less than two ounces. Flammable?"

"Yes, ma'am. Sorry. What would you like to do?"

"It was free. It will cost me $25 to check my bag."

"Yes, ma'am. Sorry. What would you like to do?"

And this is the part where I should have thrown away the snow globe. I was already a little worried because I'd only bought one and I think Audrey would probably like one too, and so would Janey, but she's probably too young, especially since she broke the other one, and besides, the liquid is flammable? What am I doing giving something like that to a four-year-old?

"I guess I'll check it. Do I have to go back through security?"

"No ma'am. Follow me and I'll get you a quick pass so you'll be able to walk right in and be back at your gate in five minutes."

So, I followed him to the security exit, told my story to the guard at the exit as she gave me the quick pass. Dragged my suitcase and computer bag and purse back to Delta's check-in counter, checked in again, paid my $25 to check my suitcase and snow globe, waited for the attendant to give me the tag for my bag, all the while, telling my story to anyone who would listen.

Another thirty minutes later, I found the quick pass entrance. It's also the entrance for "Uniformed Flight Crew", and "Uniformed Flight Crew" are directed to go to the front of the line. So they don't miss their flights. Because, you know, planes leave all of the time without the pilot or copilot or attendants.

The quick pass entrance does not allow non-"Uniformed Flight Crew" to pass through security without x-ray. No, no, no. If you are not wearing a uniform that indicates you are part of the flight crew, you are directed back through the x-ray machine. Both you and your carry-on go through the x-ray.

And because the national security threat is orange, security personnel conduct random additional screening, which may include testing for traces of explosives or body pat-downs.

So, I waited while the crews were sent through without screening, finally set my computer bag and purse on the conveyor belt, computer and cell phone in a tray, shoes, hoodie, purse in another tray, computer bag on the belt.

The big guy in front of me set off all kinds of bells. Apparently he had metal inside his body.

I set off the bells. I do not have metal inside of my body.

I was the lucky random person selected for additional screening. While I watched my two trays of stuff move to the end of the conveyor belt, the screener directed me to stand here, then there, and keep an eye on my stuff, no stand there, until a female screener approached and asked me to follow her. I think she told me to keep an eye on my stuff as we walked to another spot for my additional screening.

She asked me to hold out my hands and then she wiped them with little wipes and scanned the wipes or my fingers or something--I don't remember exactly. I do remember that she wore gloves and I wondered if those wipes contained a substance that in great enough quantities would be harmful to humans, and I made a mental note to wash my hands as soon as possible.

Then she told me I could go pick up my things and head to my gate. But I wasn't leaving until I told her my story, including the part where the attendant had said my quick pass would get me through security quickly.

She listened, smiled and said, "Well, at least I didn't pat you down."

Friday, March 19, 2010

this is what i've learned

My boss will be so happy that I've completed the class I attended this week. While he usually considers training money to be money well spent, the information I have stored away from this week's class will be useful in all kinds of ways. It will help me as I negotiate terms for agreements, as I interview people during investigations, as I represent the legal department. It will help improve relationships in the office. I can't help but think it will help me in my personal relationships.

That is all good.

But there is something else I learned, completely separate from the book learning in class this week.

This thing I learned--maybe it's because I have short brown, gray-streaked hair. Or maybe it's the wrinkles. Or perhaps it's the extra weight I still carry around. Or that tired look in my eyes that my parents ALWAYS comment about when I visit them. Or maybe it isn't me at all, or perhaps it's the entire me.

But something has changed.

It isn't that my thought process has changed.

I've always, wherever I've traveled for business or with my family, been someone who smiles at and says hello to everybody. I complement people if I like their shoes or sweater or hairstyle. I have no ulterior motive. I think I'm just friendly.

But this trip is the first time I've seen a difference in the way people respond to me. Not my classmates. Or the women I see in stores or out walking. The men.

I think I look like their gramma now. And there is a whole group of men who totally dismiss all but a certain group of women.

Now that I don't have the long, red hair. Or the thin body. Or the smooth skin. Now that the clicking noises are my joints, not my high heels on the floor.

My gramma lost most of her eyesight for the last few years of her life, but whenever we went out and she wanted me to run in to a store to pick up something for her, when I got back in the car, she would always say that I walked like a teenager. And she meant that as a good thing.

Maybe I've lost that teenager walk. Gramma's been gone for almost five years.

So. The people who look at me differently are the men. Or perhaps the guys. The dudes. The ones who are under 30 (or over 30 but think they are still under 30). It used to be that whenever I smiled and said hey, everybody made eye contact, smiled, and said hey back. Now, the guys don't even make eye contact. It is as if I am invisible.

And I think I may have been wrong about guys. I think some, not all, but some must scope out all of the people in a room from the instant they enter the room. Until this trip, before I was even aware they were in the room, they had already seen me and decided I was worthy of a smile or a hey, and I'm starting to think that some of them were wondering in their tiny little minds if--well, I'm not sure what they were thinking in their minds, but I am starting to understand that Jack knows how men think far better than I ever did. And I can hardly wait to get back home to my smiling, hey-how-you-doing, guy. Because even without the long red hair, or the smooth skin, or the wide-awake eyes, or the clicking high heels, he makes eye contact with me and he thinks I'm cute and funny and just right.

btw--he rarely reads my blog. this post isn't for him, it's to document for me the trip that opened my eyes to so many things.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

guess what i've been learning about?

You may have figured out that I don't like confrontation. It could be said that I've been known to do just about anything to avoid contention. Or at least that has been my typical, fall-back position until the past few years, when I woke up and started participating in relationships and conversations and all of that real-life stuff. Man can that be painful. Or joyful. Or anything in between.

I don't remember if I've mentioned that my boss thought it would be a good idea for me to attend classes that would help me gain a better understanding of the contracting world. So far, I've been to a class on basic contracts, government contract law, and now the class I'm attending related to negotiation. In particular, successful negotiation strategies.


Are you seeing where this is going?

I did not even see it coming.

The class I'm attending this week is not specifically related to government contracts. It is about determining each participant's personal fall-back position, whether he or she is in a comfortable place or in a confrontational place. We've worked as teams--a buyer and a seller--trying to negotiate the best deals we can, and we've had a lot of lecture time regarding different tactics and styles and steps to successfully close a deal.

Perhaps it won't surprise you to learn that I am a nurturing cautious. But if neither of those work, I just might explode.

Uh. I can already feel my kids nodding their heads in agreement.

The amazing part of this class is that the teacher isn't saying everybody needs to become a power or a nurturer or an analytical or a cautious. The point of the class is to help each participant recognize his or her own strengths and areas of weakness and learn to recognize the same thing in other people with whom we might be negotiating. So we can avoid or resolve conflict.

Is this a great idea or what? I don't care if I ever negotiate a deal at work or not. This stuff has been such an eye opener for me personally that it has been worth the long, extremely bumpy flight, the rough landing, (note: the pilot announced we would be landing in 30 minutes and there was a lot of wind, so tighten up the seat belts and hold on to the kids. this is the first and only time I've thought I might actually barf on a plane. took me two hours on the ground to recover.). It's been worth the time away from Jack and JoJo and the boys and married kids and grandbabies and cats, the cool, rainy, windy Florida weather, the steady diet of junk food and restaurant food, and the additional hours of work that still need to be completed when I'm out of the office.

Once again, I'm astounded that I've lived this long and never knew this stuff. Did you know there is a term for the tactic taken by those people in your life who dismiss what you think or say or feel or perhaps tell you how you are thinking or feeling and are totally off target (bulldozing)? Did you know that salesmen actually expect you to negotiate the price/other stuff when you buy a car or a house or numerous other things? And not just in Tijuanna! (Which is, by the way, possibly the only place that I've ever bartered, and boy did I get a great deal on a leather coat for Jack.) (Unless you count yard sailing, but I don't really count that.)

I can hardly wait to go tell Carolyn about all of this. Since she's the therapist, she probably already knows about it all, but think of the progress I could make now that I have some of the answers that she has been refusing to give me. (She's so about me doing the work.)

This could be the start of something big. You know, in some ways, I am so naive.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

hello? am i still connected to the internet?

Something weird is going on here in Florida. It may have started before I got here...

I have been posting and posting. A blogging fool. And more than that, a commenting fool. I'm commenting here and there and on every blog I read. But I'm starting to think that my posts are not showing up on my own blog. Because I have zero comments. That's a math term for none. Nothing. I'm getting nothing. And yes, I'm in beautiful breezy Florida, but I'm here alone. ALONE. And I'm starting to think I'm talking to myself here. Online. hmmm.

Okay. Got that off my chest. Now to the latest facts/updates. Those Florida lizards do their own sort of hibernation. In the eaves and around air conditioning units and anyplace that is warmer. I think that might creep me out even more than when I see them sunning themselves.

Update two. There are two of those discount touristy stores between my hotel and my class. Who knew? I stopped at one on the way back from class today, thinking I'd find something warm like a hoodie with some green on it to wear tomorrow. You know, two birds, one stone, and all that. (that is really kind of sick, when you think about it.)

Anyway. The store didn't have very many hoodies and only one that had any green on it. There was a bit of green in the outline of the Tinkerbell that was flowing over the left shoulder, but it was a bit difficult to spot, what with the pink Minnie and red Mickey and yellow Goofy and all of the other large, broad brushed outlines. And it cost $25. Seriously. Like I'd pay that much in a discount touristy store. But I did find some adorable princess lunchboxes and notepads and pens and really cute stuffed animals for the girls. And it was all far less costly than at the Disney store in the airport.

Then, as I walked across the big fat highway between my class and my hotel, I spotted another touristy discount store. It was huge. And full of touristy cheap stuff. That is where I found a black hoodie with ORLANDO spelled out in pink block letters that are backed up by green block letters. Possibly not as exciting as the lime green hoodie with the same block letters in pink and black, but I just wasn't feeling quite ready to sport the lime green hoodie to class. Okay, not really. I loved the lime green hoodie, but they only had size S, which does not stand for supersize.

I'm feeling pretty good about getting out of the second store with just the hoodie and three minnie mouse headbands, complete with ears and pink bow. I mean, they had "Real Alligator Heads" and Disney bouncy balls. I almost bought two bouncy balls but then I remembered I'm flying home in a few days, and while I may have packed light, there really isn't room in my suitcase for two 10-inch bouncy balls.

Monday, March 15, 2010

lizard update

I haven't seen any lizards. Yet.

Yep, back in Orlando, at the same hotel, walking the same way to class. This time, the temperature is around 70, but it's very windy, and apparently, lizards like to sun themselves when it is warm.

I would be more comfortable if I'd brought a hoodie. But really, I guess I shouldn't be complaining since it didn't snow here all weekend like it did at home.

I am wondering where the lizards go when it isn't warm and sunny enough for them...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

none of these things are like the others

1. Today while driving home from up north, I watched a hawk flying alongside my car with a mouse in its talons, and I thought again about the amazing balance in nature that has created animals like mice and rabbits that breed like, well, like rabbits, because majestic birds like hawks and eagles need large quantities of them to survive.

2. It is calving season. Seeing those wee newborns started my mind wondering about cattle--so I googled a bit and learned that cows are pregnant for the same length of time as humans, a normal calf delivery is two feet and the nose first, and cattle ranchers watch their cattle round the clock during this time of year, checking the cows every three hours to make sure everyone is okay. As I suspected, those cows that were lying down today could have been napping or preparing to deliver a calf, but if problems develop during delivery, the cow might have an easier time delivering if she is standing up, allowing gravity to do its job. The other thing I noticed today about the calves--it is astounding how quickly they grow. It was obvious today that some of the calves were brand new, just born. Others were bigger, more sure on their feet, and clearly older. I look forward to the next few weeks driving up north and remembering again how much the calves remind me of a classroom of third-graders out at recess.

3. Yesterday, JoJo got me to follow her to the basement to free her missing squeaky ball. Last night--okay, this might take a bit of explaining, but--I went to the kitchen to do the dishes and Jack came out to help me. First he got out his bedtime pills and got out mine too. He follows the same routine every night; he places my ambien on the desk while he takes his pills so he doesn't take my pill too. Then he brings me my pill. Very thoughtful of him. Last night, we were both in the kitchen, tidying up, which meant Jack rinsed off the dishes and I loaded them into the dishwasher and then he wiped off the counters and I took some junk mail to the garbage, stopping to move the opened ream of paper from the desk to the open box of paper below the desk. A few minutes later, Jack asked me if I'd taken my pill and I said I hadn't, and then he said he'd left if on the desk, on the--"wait, where's that opened package of paper that I put your pill on?" And then we both searched the desk and the chair and the floor under the desk and under the chair and the box of paper and the opened package of paper on the box of paper. We could not find the little white pill. We did not want to give up until we found it, because, obviously, we can't leave pills lying around on the floor with the girlies coming over to visit and besides, there's JoJo--wait--where was JoJo? That's when she came up to me, as I sat on the floor near the desk and then looked at me while she walked a few feet back across the kitchen floor. Then she looked at me again and waited for me to get up and follow her. To the dining room carpet and the little white pill that was on the carpet where JoJo had been laying. I don't know if she didn't swallow it because it tasted nasty or if she is just so smart that she knew it would not be a good thing for her to eat it, but either way, how clever of her to have led me right back to it, right?

And if you're wondering what I did with the pill, the answer is yes.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

one amazing dog

You know how you always hear about those really smart dogs that find their owners and then convince them to follow them to the well to rescue the old guy who fell in?

Or that dog who finds her owner, stands up on her back legs and puts her front paws on her owner's lap, and when the owner says, "What do you need?" "Want to go out?" the dog stands there. "Are you hungry?" Still waits. "Okay, I'm coming." And then the owner gets up and the dog keeps turning back to look at the owner every three feet as she follows her down the hallway, through the laundry room and kitchen, down the stairs, into the storage room, past the little black cat hiding on the shelves, and waits for the owner to move the bass drum so that the squeaky ball that is underneath it squeaks and the owner realizes that all along, the dog really wanted to play with the ball, not the cat.

That JoJo is one smart dog. And Weezie is one lucky cat.

Monday, March 8, 2010

it's birthday time

We celebrated two birthdays last night here in the gardens. Audrey is now three and Janey is now two. The whole bunch of us were here for cake and ice cream and presents and play.

There were two cakes--a butterfly cake and a heart cake

I did my very best to limit the quantity of gifts because they all have so much stuff--
The baby with bottles was a good choice

Checking out the bag...

Never one to miss out on the chaos, Ms Jo showed up with her ball

some of my girls

Deeper into the bag

And don't miss the newest stander-upper

And a big sister who can still cheese it up even though it wasn't her birthday

Clearly the small pink tote full of princesses was Audrey's favorite

Janey also loved the soft pink blankie that came with her new baby

Cailin and her daddy

Doesn't he look great?

Jr was totally overworked.
What would I do without him?

Doesn't she look like Sweet Pea?

I am in love with these girls

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

bff update

Hiding in the basement, refusing to participate.

Sleeping on the top bunk.

Waiting so patiently...

Wait for it...

So not willing to share JoJo's ball...

Success! No claws or hissing, only minor glaring.

We are so making progress.