Thursday, August 31, 2006

"To err is human, but to really foul things up requires a computer. " ~ Paul Ehrlich

I'll be the first one to admit that I really don't know all that much about computers. I grew up learning how to type on a manual typewriter and then with this great thing called an IBM Selectric which everyone thought was the pinnacle of technology. And in 1976, it WAS the pinnacle of technology! Obviously technology has grown by leaps and bounds over the past 30 years and typewriters have gone the way of the dinosaurs but that doesn't necessarily mean that technology has gotten any easier. At least not for those of us who sometimes find ourselves computerly-challenged.

I have been having some issues with my printe
r not communicating with the rest of my computer for the past couple of weeks and have uninstalled and reinstalled the software several times over. However the gremlins that live in my house have obviously decided to invade yet another electronic device as things just don't seem to want to work correctly. The printer will work fine for a little while and then it will go back to its old tricks of not wanting to print something because it can't "communicate". A window will open with some lame excuse such as "the printer requires a USB port and no port is detected" which is ridiculous because the cable is plugged into the exact same USB port it has ALWAYS been plugged into! Neither myself or Amanda find any need to plug and unplug cables from the back of the computer for sport so I'm not sure what's going on there unless the cat has found some other way to irritate me to no end!

Yes - my computer is old. In dog years it's going on 35 years, were it a horse it would have been put out to pasture long ago, and as a computer it's probably older than Methuselah (who, for those uneducated in Biblical characters, is reportedly the oldest man ever to have walked the earth having lived to be 4,757 years old - can you imagine the candles on HIS cake??). I am in desperate need of a new computer, especially co
nsidering I now share this one with a teenager who likes to scan in all of her drawings and download music, etc., etc. but there's this slight problem called money.

Despite the fact that I work a fairly large amount of overtime I barely have two nickels to rub together two days after payday has rolled around and considering we get paid once every two weeks rather than every week, it's pretty tricky to even be able to afford food towards the end of a pay period never mind luxuries such as new computers, microwaves, television sets, etc. Translated that means we have to make do with what we have until I either win the lottery or marry a man of wealth. I figure chances are pretty good that neither of those two things are going to happen anytime soon so we're jus
t going to have to suck it up and get by like we have been doing.

However, that doesn't mean that I don't want to throw this antique Compaq PC of mine out of the window on a fairly regular basis! Thankfully I'm well versed in the adage of 'biting off one's nose to spite their face' so the comput
er remains where it is and mocks me.

Oh well, as Mitch Ratcliffe once said,
“Computers have enabled people to make more mistakes faster than almost any invention in history, with the possible exception of tequila and hand guns”
I'm pretty sure I have some tequila downstairs ...

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

"Small children disturb your sleep, big children your life." ~ Yiddish Proverb

In an attempt to fill some of the holes in the dispatch schedule at work, I've been switching a few of my day shifts back to my beloved evening shift and it has actually worked out pretty well. With Amanda back in school (and apparently not traumatized at the sheer volume of students that attend NFA!) it gives me the opportunity to get a few things done around the house before going into work in the afternoons. Granted, it also cuts into the time that I get to spend with her but it's only a temporary switch and for the past few days she's been on a half day schedule so she's been able to fill me in on her new life as a freshman before I head off to work.

Yes - NFA is huge and there is a crowd of ot
her students (I believe the numbers were put at 2,500 overall with 620 in her freshman class), her classes seem pretty good so far, and I was right - her science teacher is "hot" and apparently has a great sense of humor to boot! I'm just happy that she didn't come home after her first day with the entire student body there and huddle in a corner declaring that she was never going back because it was too overwhelming! She's only two days in but so far she seems happy with her high school experience. Let's see how she feels in two months!

Because she has to get up so early for school, Amanda is in bed by the time I get home so it was very nice when, after what turned out to be a very busy shift, I found the below drawing waiting for me on my bed last night:

As silly as it may seem, I was rather touched to find it there and to know that Amanda had thought about me while I was gone. I'm pretty sure the cat doesn't think about me at all until she hears the key rattle in the lock and starts singing the Empty Food Bowl Blues once again and for quite awhile, the cat was all I had waiting for me at home. And I'm not so sure that she was waiting for me but simply for somebody, anybody, to fill her bowl.

Even though living alone has its advantages - smaller utility bills, less clutter, having the bathroom all to myself, only having to buy groceries once in a great while - I think I much prefer having my daughter here with me and knowing that while I'm gone, she's drawing pictures for me. A lot of teenagers don't want anything to do with their parents - I count myself very lucky that my teenager does.

I've got to disagree with the Yiddish on this one. My life doesn't feel at all disturbed by my "big" children - instead it's more fulfilled.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

"A tree never hits an automobile except in self defense." ~ American Proverb

Just in case anyone who lives in this area hasn't noticed - it's been raining the past couple of days. Some days it's been more or less a constant overcast with a little rain here or there and other days it's been like someone was standing above the State with a large bucket of water and just poured it all out at once.

Whenever it rains like this, or snows for that matter, I have to wonder the same thing - "why on earth don't drivers learn to slow down and be a little more cautious?" I have been wondering this since I first started dispatching cops way back in 1984 and I'm still wondering it 22 years later from an ambulance dispatcher's point of view.

Yesterday morning it was raining steady enough that those with some common sense knew enough to ease off the gas pedal a little bit and be a bit more cautious with their driving habits but apparently there were A LOT of others who either missed that part in the driving manual or figured the information was in there for test purposes only and once they held that coveted laminate card that gave them permission to drive they completely forgot about it. These people tossed that piece of wisdom right out of their heads along with the rule about following one car length back for each ten miles per hour of speed and yielding for pedesterians in crosswalks. As a result, a good number of them got into accidents yesterday morning.

When I first tested for my license at 17 years old, the DMV Examiner in Willimantic, who was a crotchedy old geezer, failed me the first time because he said I was "too cautious". Actually, I think he failed me because I did an absolutely horrible job of trying to parallel park the boat of a Ford Gran Torino station wagon I was driving but the official reason he gave was "too cautious". My Mom was always a fairly quiet woman but I can still remember her giving him a hard time about that one! At any rate, I went back several months later and managed to pass the second time so perhaps I learned to be more reckless in between tests?

Reckless now seems to be the rule of the road when it comes to driving and that's pretty scary as there are A LOT more cars on the roads now than there were back when I first started driving. If I'm no longer comfortable driving with over 30 years experience, how anxious do you think I am to let Amanda even think about learning how to drive in the next two years? Trust me, I'm not looking forward to it at all and even she made the comment the other day while we were making a short trip across town that she wasn't in any big hurry herself.

Driving is no longer the fun activity that it once was. As a kid, I can remember my parents loading us into the car for a Sunday drive through the mountains of Arizona or the swamplands of Florida; my grandfather used to pile at least a half dozen of us grandkids in the car and take Sunday drives through Connecticut and Rhode Island; and I myself have driven back and forth across country too many times to count.

My very first long distance road-trip of my own was when my friend, Carol, and I packed up my 1976 Chevy Chevette with a ton of 8-track cartridges and took off from McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey to trek cross-country to Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City. It was a grand trip and we had a marvelous time but we were young (18), gas was cheap back then, and the roads really were "open" and not nearly as crowded as they are now.

The last long-distance driving trip I took was two years ago when my Mom and I took the girls out to live at their new home in Louisville, Kentucky. By the time I got home from that trip I had to practically pry my hands from around the steering wheel and I vowed that my long-distance driving days were over. We were in a minor accident when some guy changed lanes into the side of our car in Maryland, we witnessed a hit-and-run roll-over right in front of us when some guy changed lanes and tagged another car in Pennsylvania (luckily no one was killed but someone easily could have been), and the traffic the entire trip was absolutely ridiculous. That trip squashed whatever joy I might have ever had in driving somewhere as calling 911 twice in one trip is certainly no hallmark of a good time!

Driving is now a chore that I undertake to get from point A to point B and that's about it. Just getting out of Norwich to drive up to my Mom's house in Canterbury can be a headache and a half depending on the time of day! Heck, I have a mile and a half commute to work and even THAT can be harrowing at times, especially in the afternoons. With school buses now back on the road I'm sure it will be even more "fun".

Were I to wear one, I would tip my hat to every one out there who is a professional driver and has to deal with traffic and inattentive drivers and recklessness on a constant basis. Kudos to you all! And to everyone else - maybe we could slow down a little and be a bit more careful? Not just for ourselves but for those we love.

Monday, August 28, 2006

"I look upon death to be as necessary to the constitution as sleep. We shall rise refreshed in the morning."*

On Saturday I posted about Death and I wanted to share the comment that I got from bulldog68 because I feel that it definitely warrants a whole separate entry rather than just a short reply. He wrote:
"Unfortunately, you picked the WRONG job to avoid Death. Yep...he be yo bestest buddy now!The good news is two-fold: 1.) You know it ain't the absolute end if you have any faith in the afterlife at all; and 2.) Chances are, you're gonna go right back to living again, but hopefully with a lesson or two learned from this life to apply to your next one. You read it right - your NEXT life. I truely believe in reincarnation. Even from a scientific point of view, how can you argue against the proven fact that energy in motion remains in motion.?? It's certainly something to think about, and it makes the ending seem so much less final than a "costume change in a telephone booth" between real-life "acts". Do you believe in reincarnation? If so, can you remember or have an inkling of your past life? Share this!"

In answer to his question, yes - I do believe in reincarnation and if that makes me a loony then so be it. Add it to the long list of other things that make me a bit of a loony! At least I know I'm in good company!

My good friend from California and I have lots of talks about this particular subject and we both believe the same thing - that you go through life more than one time and that you pretty much write the script of your life before you get here. Of course, we both wonder why on earth we put certain things in our life scripts but chances were good that we needed to learn a lesson somewhere and that's why we did it. I believe that Sylvia Browne talks about this very thing in at least one of her books and I'm pretty sure that it's the whole basis behind karma and the old "what goes around, comes around" theory.

When Cyndi and I first met 'lo those 22 years ago in the dispatch center of the Stockton Police Department we hit it off right away. By the end of the evening it was like we had known each other forever instead of only eight short hours. As a matter of fact, the other people working dispatch that night were completely surprised to learn that we didn't know each other at all prior to that night as we had one of those easy relationships that sometimes takes years to develop. We've been great friends ever since despite the time and distance that separates us and, as such, we firmly believe that we've known each other in at least one other lifetime.

Certainly we've all had that feeling of either liking someone right away and feeling like we've known them our whole lives or meeting someone for the first time and, for no good reason that we can put our finger on, we just don't like them no matter what. I truly believe that these are people that we've had dealings with before and the familiarity carries over with us into our next incarnation.

As far as any remembrances of a past life - I have nothing tangible. I do know that whenever I walk on a Civil War battlefield I feel things that can't fully be explained. I especially have that feeling in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Some of that could simply be from the fact that I'm walking on land where over 23,000 people died and there's bound to be A LOT of residual energy still there but it seems to go deeper than that. The very first time I went to Gettysburg way back in 1979 I felt like I belonged there - like I had been there before - but I couldn't put my finger on it. Do I have a past life there? I don't know but I wouldn't be at all surprised to find out that I did. I'd also like to know if I was on the winning side!

The thing with death and dying though is that NO ONE knows for sure what happens after we die. There has never been a single person to come back and tell us what awaits us once all of our vital signs and organs shut down permanently. There have been a lot of people who have come back from almost-death who have told the same stories of white lights and people reaching out and who's to say that they're wrong? Did they all make up the exact same story?

I very much believe that we all have a purpose for our lives and that when we have done whatever it is we're supposed to do, learned whatever it was we were supposed to learn, we exit this earth and then go on to either our next life or stay on the other side to do some fine-tuning, write out a new script, etc. and then come back to try it all over again. I believe that coming back is a choice just like, for some, crossing over is a choice and that's why there are spirits still on this earthly plane that "haunt" places - if you will. Oftentimes letting go is the hardest thing we ever have to do as anyone who has ever been a parent can tell you. Letting go of life is certainly different than letting go of your children as they're growing up but it's the same principal in general. Some people embrace Death and others are, well, scared to death of it!

As for me, I'd like to think that there's definitely something waiting on the other side. And I shudder at the thought that it's some unforgiving God who simply wants to punish us for all we did wrong while we were on this earth. If, in fact, God made us in His image then He made us with flaws and imperfections and I suspect He's not all surprised when we fall off "the path" or don't live our lives without a single misstep. Religion was made by man, faith was made by God - religion punishes, faith never does.

Anyhow - that's my belief on the subject of reincarnation and after-lives, etc., etc. I've never done a past-life regression or anything like that but do I think this is my first time around on the planet? Nope - not at all. And I doubt it will be my last. I just hope that I remember to write in "wealthy" and "gorgeous" on my next script!

Anyone else? Thoughts? Experiences? Opinions?

*Benjamin Franklin

Sunday, August 27, 2006

"Oh Where is My Hairbrush?"*

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Want to hear Larry sing? Click here for "The Hairbrush Song"

As previously mentioned elsewhere in this Blog, I do not do mornings well. I don't like them and they don't like me but mornings and I have come to a semi-comfortable truce as there is just no avoiding them for at least the next four years. Well, that's what I had hoped right up until this morning.

Due to the fact that we can't seem to keep a full staff in dispatch for love or money (maybe it's the air?), I currently work double shifts on Saturdays from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. so coming back in at 7:00 a.m. on Sundays adds a whole new chapter to the Groan ~ I Hate Mornings! saga that has become my life. If I have problems getting up in the morning after seven or eight hours of sleep, how well do you think I function after only just about six? No degree in mathematics or science needed to figure that one out, eh? Now, just to add some more fun to the mix, let's toss in my 14-year old daughter's inability to apparently put anything away back where it belongs and see how it goes.

After forcing myself out of bed after only 1-1/2 swats to the snooze alarm this morning (yay me!), I managed to stumble into the bathroom only to find that there was not a single hairbrush anywhere in the room. Not a one. It doesn't matter that there are at least six hairbrushes currently taking up residency in my house - none of them are where they're supposed to be. This was cause for some grumbling on my part but okay, I figured I could live with it and I was sure I'd find one somewhere else in the house.

While the cat did her usual "feed-me-can't-you-see-I'm-starving" howling, I eventually managed to get my uniform on without succumbing to the intense desire to call work and tell them I was running a bit late while I retreated back to bed for just a little while longer. It was tough but I turned my back on the bed and, still not feeling all that awake, went downstairs to the living room where I finally managed to find a brush (three of them had apparently migrated to the area of the couch). I then went into the kitchen and fed the cat so as to shut her up and then proceeded to make my lunch. Bread, jelly, and ... where the heck was the peanut butter? Why was the peanut butter not in the cupboard? I know we have peanut butter so where is it?!?

Thinking that perhaps Amanda had put it back in the wrong cupboard I looked through all of the cupboards we keep food in and even a couple that we don't. After coming up empty-handed I looked in the refrigerator and the freezer and when nothing turned up there either I checked the living room on the off-chance that perhaps she was eating peanut butter while congregating with the hairbrushes. Nope - nothing there either. Feeling quite annoyed at this point, I went back into the kitchen where I checked the trash can just in case Amanda had gone on a peanut butter-eating frenzy and wiped out the entire half of jar that was there when I left yesterday morning but - nope - nothing there either.

A quick glance at the clock showed me that I was starting to run out of time so I resisted the urge to go upstairs and demand from my daughter's still-sleeping form where on earth the stupid peanut butter was and decided that I'd just have to suck it up and lunch today would be a jelly sandwich. Perhaps this was God's way of telling me that I didn't need peanut butter and jelly two days in a row or perhaps the gremlins that like to leave lights on around the house occasionally had absconded with the peanut butter and taken it back to their lair. Who knew? Either way, it was just jelly for me. Oh yum.

Once I finally got to work I was greeted in the bay by several fellow employees who told me that Jen "looked like crap" but that news didn't really surprise me as this pregnancy has been kicking her butt lately. Upon arriving upstairs in dispatch I was met with the news that Jen's blood pressure was up and in addition to her usual swollen 'cankles' her hands and face were now starting to do the same. None of that sounded very good so once she got in touch with the OB Doc on call, "better safe than sorry" was decided upon, and she took off to the hospital.

Whereas I could certainly understand and appreciate her circumstances and was concerned for her and the baby the morning was really beginning to tick me off! First no hairbrush, then no peanut butter, and finally no partner?!? Good grief! I really think I should've gone with my first instinct to call in late and crawl back into bed with the covers over my head - work ethic be damned!

Have I ever mentioned that mornings suck?

*Larry the Cucumber ~ Veggie Tales "The Hairbrush Song"

Saturday, August 26, 2006

"In the midst of life we are in death." *

Some weeks seem closer to Death than others and by that I don't mean my own inevitable death but Death in general ... Death as a whole ... Death as something that we can never escape.

I started out the week watching Death taking a holiday on Meet Joe Black. I spent Tuesday evening walking amongst the dead at the Yantic Cemetery. On Wednesday there was a funeral service for my 53-year old cousin who died unexpectedly in his sleep. On Thursday I took Amanda and went back over to the Yantic Cemetery for a little more walking around and reading of gravestones. And today when I came into work I found out that one of my very young, very energetic, very nice co-workers had met Death sometime during the early hours of the morning.

Like I said, some weeks feel closer to Death than others. This one feels like I'm sitting on a park bench right next to the Grim Reaper while we share a bag of peanuts and sections of the newspaper. I'm pretty sure He's reading the obituaries while I'm trying to find some humor in what passes for the comic section these days.

It's a fact of life that eventually we all die - no one gets out of this alive as far as I'm aware - for as Geoffrey Chaucer once said, "In the stars is written the death of every man." And as John Maynard Keynes so profoundly put it, "In the long run, we are all dead."

I doubt that most of the time few of us give Death much of a passing thought. We're too busy living life to worry about the end of it. Since starting work at an ambulance service, I see a lot more of Death than I ever did before and I feel I have a better understanding of it but there are weeks like this when I truly believe that Death wants us to give more than a cursory glance His way. We need to remember that He's there and He's waiting and eventually Charon, the boatman, is going to be waiting to take us across the river Styx.

Everything happens for a reason and we know not when our turn will come. "Live as you will have wished to have lived when you are dying." **

Rest in peace, Ralph. Rest in peace, Mike.

- - - - Book of Common Prayer "The Burial of the Dead" (1662)
**----- Christian Furchtegott Gellert

Friday, August 25, 2006

No Singing of the Sorting Hat Here

Freshman Orientation Day scheduled for the 29th of August at Norwich Free Academy is rapidly approaching. Not only does it mark the end of summer for Amanda but it also marks the very first day of her high school journey - a four-year journey that will most likely bring her much happiness as well as much frustration as she makes her way towards becoming an adult.

The NFA Campus is nothing like Windham High School where I put in my last two years of high school education a very long 30 years ago! Norwich Free Academy was founded in 1854 and looks more like a small college campus than a high school. Where Windham High School is one very large building with two floors, the NFA Campus consists of 13 buildings including two gymnasiums. It is also home to an artificial turf field surrounded by a really nice track, a television studio, a museum and art gallery, and a student-run restaurant called The Brickview Inn.

Before the school year begins, Freshmen are divided into "Houses" which they are assigned to for their entire 9th-grade year. Much to Amanda's dismay the Houses aren't Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, or Slytherin but are Greek names like Beta, Delta, Sigma, Zeta, etc. She was also disappointed that there was no Sorting Ceremony where she got the thrill of sitting under the magical singing Sorting Hat to determine which House she would be assigned to. Instead, I merely picked up the phone and was told (without any singing involved) that she was in Delta House and then was given the appointment time of her individual family orientation session which we went to last night.

I've logged many a mile at the track at NFA but have never really spent any other time on the campus so most of this was as new to me as it was to Amanda. We went to the Cranston Building, which is essentially THE building for Freshmen, and met her Civics teacher who gave Amanda her schedule for the year - Algebra, Phys Ed, Civics, English, Advanced Science, Graphic Design, and Concert Band. Ms. Matters mapped out where her classes were, gave me the "important parental paperwork", and then after a brief overview of what Amanda could expect this year as well as what was expected of her we took off for our tour of the campus.

Luckily Amanda only has classes in two buildings and the gym but not-so-luckily the two buildings are pretty much polar opposites on the campus! Looks like Amanda will be getting some extra exercise not only from her walk back and forth between the Cranston and Bradlaw buildings but a couple of her classes are upstairs to boot. By the time we finished traipsing around to look up all of her classrooms, I was worn out and couldn't even begin to fathom doing all of that with a heavy backpack in tow! Of course, Amanda is MUCH younger than me and should be able to handle it quite easily but honestly they should count some of that hiking and climbing towards a Phys Ed credit!

Leaving the Campus after our tour I wondered: Is Amanda excited about starting high school? Is she looking forward to the challenges that a new school and new curriculum will present? Is she at all nervous? Is she ready for this? Am I ready for this?? Honestly, it's hard to tell as she's too busy complaining that summer can't possibly be over yet! but she does seem excited about the fact that they have an Anime Club and she can't wait to join that. Oh well, at least there's something!

And now off to Staples to spend a small fortune on the list of school supplies that got handed to me last night along with all of that other "important parental paperwork" ...

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Who Ya Gonna Call??

This has been an odd week to a certain extent as I have actually had some time to myself for a change. Amanda went to Rhode Island to babysit for her nephew while my son Mike and his wife Laura went down to Newport News, Virginia to do some house-hunting and take physicals for their new jobs down there. Both lost their jobs last March during the first round of lay-offs at Electric Boat in Groton and now both are being hired as draftsmen down at the shipyards there.

So ... what to do with some free time? Not that I had all THAT much free time as I put in some overtime at work but I used Monday evening t
o do some cleaning around the house and then Tuesday I decided to go spend some time in one of my favorite cemeteries. Yes, I said spend some time in one of my favorite cemeteries - you read that right.

I have always liked history and I guess I've always had a bit of an interest in the supernatural, too. Just ask my brothers about the house in Tuscon, Arizona that scared me to death and my great fear of sleeping with the closet door open! But if you put the two interests together, what better place to go to than at an old cemetery? By myself. When it's almost dark. Yep. I'm crazy.

Anyhow, all that aside, I needed to go to the local Stop & Shop for a couple of things and decided that while I was heading that way I
might as well grab my camera and explore a bit over at the Yantic Cemetery on Lafayette Street here in Norwich. The cemetery was established in July of 1844 which makes it fairly old; it's covers a little over 28 acres so it's quite large, and it has quite a number of interesting graves with quite the variety of stones.

There are former governors and other politici
ans buried there along with a number of Norwich's former prominent citizens. If you walk through and read some of the names on the stones, it's easy to recognize a lot of them. There's also a Civil War Memorial complete with a 30-pounder Parrot rifle known as the Andersonville Memorial Gun located at the eastern end of the cemetery. It was this gun and concentric circle of stones that first caught my attention as I am quite interested in anything to do with our country's Civil War.

The Andersonville Memorial Gun

I arrived at the cemetery close to 7:15 or so and though the sun was definitely going down, it wasn't what one would call dark yet so I didn't believe I was breaking any laws by being in the cemetery after sundown (former police dispatcher that I am I have this thing about trying to adhere to the law!). I decided to take some pictures of some of the more interesting gravestones while in the back of my mind was the thought that maybe I'd catch something "interesting" on the pictures - yes, I've watched too many episodes of Ghost Hunters on the SciFi Channel and Most Haunted on The Travel Channel!

Even though it was starting to get dark and the
re were various and assorted twig-snapping sounds from the woods surrounding the cemetery, I wasn't creeped out or anything but felt very much at peace while I was there. When I was a child, I wouldn't even look at a cemetery after dark if we happened to drive by one but I've obviously outgrown that fear as otherwise there would be no way on God's green earth I'd be walking around by myself in one of the oldest graveyards in town while it was rapidly getting darker! I didn't feel in any great rush to jump in the car and get the heck out of Dodge as quickly as possible so I took quite a few pictures before calling it a night.

In total, I took close to 50 pictures while I was there and left at just about 8:00 when twilight had definitely set in. After getting what I needed at Stop & Shop, I came home and downloaded the pictures into the computer an
xious to see if I had "caught" anything. I was viewing the pictures through a slideshow program and hadn't seen anything that looked too out of the ordinary when this popped up on my screen:

The Stedman gravesite to the rear of the cemetery

Rapidly followed by this:

Graves located in the middle of the cemetery

Needless to say I about near fell out of my chair and as a shiver ran up my spine all I could think was "WOW!". After going through all of the pictures, I found about four or five other pictures with a smaller amount of orbs in them but nothing compared to these two. And I can guarantee you that the flash didn't reflect off of anything, neither the moon or stars were out, and I was out in the middle of the cemetery and too far away for any "outside" lights to affect anything. If there was something wrong with my camera you would be able to tell with every picture but that's just not the case. Amazing.

Orbs are a hotly debated topic amongst paranormal investigators and skeptics alike with most skeptics wanting to believe that there's simply something wrong with the camera or the developing process. Are orbs ghosts? I don't think so, I think they're simply a manifestation of energy and I believe that there is a A LOT of energy left behind in graveyards. How can there not be? Death evokes some of our deepest and strongest emotions and there are probably more tears shed in cemeteries than anywhere else as a lot of times it's where we not only say our final goodbyes but we come back over and over again to be with our loved ones who have departed this earthly plane.

Call me crazy if you'd like but I find it to be quite interesting and I'm actually looking forward to going back and taking more pictures sometime soon. Though next time there's a good chance I'll be taking someone with me!

If you're interested in seeing more pictures, feel free to email me and I'll be happy to send what I have along to you. Got a favorite place that's a little out of the ordinary? A story or a picture you'd like to share? I'd love to hear about it or see whatever you might have!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

" Winter must be cold for those with no warm memories" - An Affair to Remember

I had a little free time Sunday evening so found myself sitting in front of the TV randomly flipping through channels when I came across the tail end of Meet Joe Black. It had to be the last 10-15 minutes or so of the movie but it was probably less than 30 seconds before my eyes had welled up with tears and my throat had swollen shut with choked back sobs. I don't care how many times I've seen this movie - it gets to me every single time.

Don't tell anyone but I'm not the hard-as-nails person that I make myself out to be all of the time. Underneath the biting sarcasm and dry sense of humor is a sucker for a good romance as
I admittedly am one of those fools who believes in true love and happy endings despite the fact that neither of my marriages have fit those categories. Well, I was happy at the end of my second marriage but I don't think that's exactly what I meant!

I grew up with parents who thought the sun and moon rose and set on each other, who were each other's best friends, and who shared the kind of love that you normally only read about in books or see in movies. Granted, they didn't have a fairy tale life - not when
you throw in my Dad's military career and us four kids - but it was certainly the type of relationship that I have always hoped to have but have never been able to obtain. I guess that some things are just out of our reach sometimes for unknown reasons. Perhaps I forgot to write 'true love' into the script of my life this time around and substituted the words 'heart break' instead but who knows ... and ... I digress - imagine that!

Anyhow, as I was saying before I rudely interrupted myself and went off on a tanget - I love romance movies - the good ones that make you think and make you feel and leave you sitting there with a wad of Kleenex in a pile at your feet and a nose that would do Rudolph proud! I prefer to watch these types of movies by myself so that I can cry my eyes out but I've been known to sit in the dark of a movie theater and sniffle from time to time.

Movies like Bridget Jones's Diary (both of them!), Moulin Rouge, Message in a Bottle, Sleepless in Seattle, and An Officer and a Gentleman are great love stories. Chick flicks - yes - but they're supposed to be! And I would be willing to bet that there are som
e men out there who secretly like watching these movies despite what they might say. As a matter of fact, I used to know a certain Police Sergeant in California who once gave me quite the list of romance movies that he liked so it's not unheard of that men like these sort of movies, too. And no - he wasn't gay!

In my opinion, some of the greatest romantic couples of all time to ever grace the silver screen were: Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour in Somewhere in TIme; Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in Casablanca; Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pfeiffer in LadyHawke; Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford in The Way We Were; Cary Elwes and Robin Wright in The Princess Bride; and Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr in An Affair to Remember. What can I say but siiigggghhhhh ...

And what woman with a pulse could possibly resist Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice (the original BBC mini-series, not the 2005 remake). Could any man any where have done a better job of portraying Darcy than Colin Firth? I wanted to throw things at Elizabeth when it took her so long to realize that she loved him - augh!!! Oh but what a story and what an ending!

So how about it, folks? Between you, me, and the computer screen what are some of
your favorite romance movies? What are your "warm memories" made from?

Monday, August 21, 2006

"Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy wealthy and wise"*

When Amanda came back to live with me last October I made the ultimate sacrifice that I, as a mother, could make - I changed over to day shift hours at work.

Now ... this may not seem like much of a sacrifice to those of you who have spent your entire lives either working day shift hours or were/are in pursuit of them but let me tell you that as someone who has almost exclusively worked evening shift hours for the entirety of my life - it is a MAJOR sacrifice!

I can uneqivocally state that I am not now - nor have I ever been - a morning person. To me there is no better place to be on a cold winter morning than snuggled under a warm comforter with the mattress pad heater set to a comfy "5" on the dial. Ah - bliss!

Pre-Amanda, I didn't have to be jarred out of my peaceful slumber by the nagging sound of an alarm clock but could awaken leisurely at my own pace, meander downstairs for a hot cup of coffee, and then curl up on the couch to catch the babbling idiocy of Regis and Kelly or the down-home twangy wisdom of Dr. Phil.

I had plenty of time before going in to work at 3:00 - I could clean the house, do laundry, meet a friend for breakfast or lunch, do grocery shopping - any number of things that might have come up. Or I could just sit around the house in my pajamas and read a book or watch TV until it was time to get ready to go to work. It was a much more laid-back, relaxed pace and I swear that my stress levels were much lower.

Alas, all of that went the way of the horse and buggy when Amanda came back to live with me because it just wasn't fair to her that I worked the evening shift. With her in school during the day that didn't give us any time at all together except on whatever my days off might be and for some reason, she found that to be unacceptable. Lord knows why but she seems to actually like to spend time with me. I thought teenagers were supposed to hate having their parents around?!?

When shift bids came out last November I was high enough in seniority that I was able to go from my beloved evening shift spot to days so I did what all good and loving parents would do - I bit the proverbial bullet and made the switch. However I just can't seem to get used to it even all these months later! I don't believe that there is a single morning when I have to get up that I don't lie there and calculate how many more days before I can sleep in. And I'm not saying lay in bed until noon but to sleep until even 8:00 would be nice! With winter fast approaching again, I know that it's going to be even worse as trying to get out of bed when it's still dark out and cold to boot is really a chore on my part. How do sanitation engineers, bus drivers, and fishermen (to name a few) do it?!?

Even though getting out of bed in the morning is probably the worst part of working days other issues ensue in that nothing gets done around the house, I no longer have time to spend with Matt & Al and the other folks on the Today show (I like Meredith Viera but I think they should have picked Ann Curry to replace Katie Couric!), and I feel constantly fatigued. Add on the fact that I am neither wealthier or wiser and I gotta think the above proverb is full of nonsense! I've neither health, wealth, nor wisdom to brag about and I'm doing both the early to bed and early to rise parts!

I spoke to my doctor about the problem last time I was in his office and he told me that some people never adjust to working different hours. People who normally work days can't deal with evenings, the night owls who love the midnight shift can't handle anything else, and people like myself who just can't seem to get kick-started in the morning will probably never get used to working anything other than evening hours.

Great! ... Not what I wanted to hear as I was rather hoping that sooner or later I might get used to this but it seems that the next four years are going to be a constant exercise in extracting myself from bed when I don't want to get up. Good thing I love that daughter of mine!

Hmmm ... I wonder if I could get one of those beds that George Jetson had that folded in half and popped him out like a piece of toast? That might actually get me going in the mornings! Then again ... probably not!

* From Poor Richard's Almanack for the Year 1735, October edition Posted by Picasa

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Hair Today

Tonight should be interesting.

It should be interesting because I haven't seen Amanda since Friday evening when she happily climbed into Baby Liz's vehicle and sped away to spend the weekend with her in Griswold. Baby Liz had mentioned long ago about "doing" Amanda's hair for her and this seemed like the perfect weekend as I would be at work pretty much nonstop and Baby Liz had her humble abode to herself as her roommate was off horsing around (at a horse show!).

I've only spoken to Amanda once since Friday evening when she called me yesterday afternoon to ask if she could stay over another night. At that point she informed me that her hair was currently black (BLACK?!?) as they had gotten a late start on it the night before and hadn't had time to get all of the color in it yet though the cut was done. Gulp!! Needless to say - I have no earthly idea what the finished product, er, child, is going to look like when she gets home later today.

If it's something too out there I'm afraid I have no one but myself to blame as when Baby Liz asked me Friday what the limitations with Amanda's hair were I believe that I simply said "as long as it isn't green". And I believe that there were enough people in Dispatch that heard me make that comment so I can't claim I "never said that!"

Oh well, Amanda wants to be different so I guess this is her big chance. However, if a very loud and very long scream is heard from the east side of Norwich later today - there's a very good chance that could be me!

Update 8/21/06: I'm happy to report that there was no screaming when Amanda returned yesterday evening nor was there any groaning or gnashing of teeth! It's going to take a bit to get used to seeing Amanda with black hair and bleached highlights but the cut is actually kinda cute and with the right accessories, it's not a bad 'do. Of course, I'm not sure when I'm going to be able to take her to visit her grandmother again but I'm sure we can find a scarf or hat around the house somewhere! I shall post a picture as soon as I get my hands on one.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Statistically speaking ...

Working long 16-hour shifts on Saturdays, Jen and I often have plenty of time to watch bad TV (you know, there's really not much that's good on the box on Saturdays no matter how many channels you might get!) or have long, philosophical discussions about the truly important things in life. Things like the future of Norwich, various child-raising anecdotes, are we ever going to be able to afford to retire, and the all important - what are we having for lunch?

One of the topics that came up today was the question - if, after being a two-parent family, you found yourself a single parent how long do you think it would be before you threw yourself into another relationship? Obviously when you have children to consider, it's not the same as being a single person on the prowl for a new significant other. You have to take into consideration things that you don't give too much of a thought to when single: How will the new partner get along with your child/ren? How financially stable is he/she? How willing is he/she to get into a relationship with more than one person as obviously you're a package deal now. And how will your child/ren feel about you bringing home someone new?

In doing some research on
divorce and remarriage, I came across the statistic that "75% of all divorced people re-marry, half of them within three years." Further research showed that the median number of years people wait to remarry after their first divorce was 3.3 years for males and 3.1 years for females. I waited over nine years before entering into my second marriage and am going on four years into divorce #2 while Jen waited a whopping eight months before saying "I do" to her second husband so obviously neither of us fit into the published statistics!

We eventually came to the conclusion that it really was a personal and individual decision and had to be hinged on a large number of factors. Jen felt that one of the most important was how the marriage ended to begin with. If your heart was totally broken (been there, done that, own the t-shirt in several colors) or whether the marriage had ended long before it officially ended (been there, too!) would probably have a lot to do with your decision on when to get back into another relationship. Healing rates are obviously different for every person and would have to be factored in.

What do you think? Do you think a person should be a lot more cautious in entering another relationship - lead with your head and not with your heart? Or do you think that it doesn't really matter? That your heart will know what and when is best?

Just as some more food for thought: the median duration of second marriages that end in divorce is: Males: 7.3 years and Females: 6.8 years - which is only 6 months less for males in a first marriage and 1.2 years for females. Things that make you go hmmm...

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Friday, August 18, 2006

Random Quotes - sort of!

I recently installed Mozilla Firefox as a browser on my computer as I've been having some issues with the Yahoo! one that I normally use. I am in desperate need of a new computer and though getting one is on the rather lengthy list of Things I Need But Can't Afford for now both myself and Amanda need to suck it up and make do as best we can with our current out-of-date Compaq. To that end, Firefox loads much quicker than Yahoo! so I am now using it.

That said, I needed to set up a new home page and was thumbing through the list of options that G
oggle (which Firefox defaults to) offers. One of the things that looked interesting was "The Quote of the Day". As one who has always enjoyed a good quote, this seemed like something I wouldn't mind having on my home page so I added it.

Today's quote:

"Marriage is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.
Second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience."
- Oscar Wilde

Things that make you stop and give pause! As someone who gave marriage a shot not once but twice I guess I kind of have to agree with Mr. Wilde on this one. I was 19 when I got married the first time and I'm sure that I imagined marriage to be something completely different than what it turned out to be. I was 32 when I married the second time and I suppose maybe I was hoping that marriage the second time around was going to be all that it wasn't the first time around. How many times can I say "WRONG!"??

Oh well, to quote Alexander Pope from his Essay on Man,

"Hope springs eternal in the human breast..."

I wonder what Mr. Wilde thought of third marriages? NOT that I'm considering one, mind you (it might actually be helpful to have one of those things people call dates once in awhile before I got to marriage again!) but under the right circumstances, I'd probably try it again. After all, as Alexander Pope in his Essay on Criticism also said:

"... For fools rush in where angels fear to tread."

And I do so love a good romance!

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Yesterday's 9/11 Post Revisited

Now that the over 1,600 new 9/11 tapes have been released and people have had a chance to listen to them, to relive the agony and horror of what happened on that beautiful September day over again, I am going to stand by my post of yesterday and once again ask "WHY??".

According to this Associated Press article that I read today - NYC Releases New 9/11 Tapes - "Family members on Wednesday repeated complaints that their loved ones were betrayed by poor communication that could have steered them outside before the buildings fell." and "Attorneys for the Times and victims' relatives said they brought the lawsuit because they wanted to find out what happened in the towers and what dispatchers told workers and rescuers."

Now tell me once again that someone somewhere IS NOT looking to cast blame on the poor people who were merely trying to do their jobs that day. It wasn't the "poor communication" that killed 2.977 people but the 19 terrorists who flew the two planes into the Towers. As I said yesterday, NO ONE could have been prepared for this sort of catastrophe.

The article states, "Most of the calls involved firefighters and dispatchers. The voices of 10 civilians calling from inside the World Trade Center were edited out because of privacy concerns" so it's hard to say that as a family member you want to hear your loved ones last dying words unless your loved one was a public employee. And honestly, no offense Jen, but I for one would not want to hear my son or daughter or husband's last gasping breath. My imagination can do a bang-up job of its own when it comes to that sort of thing, I don't need to have the actual voice repeating itself over and over in my head on a continous loop.

It is quite possible that someone out there WILL find some sort of closure listening to those tapes but if your child or spouse was one of the hundreds of firefighters or police officers that died that day, do you have any doubt at all that they died as heros? Do you need to hear their last anguished cries on a recording to know that? I would know it in my heart and I am confident that the rest of the world would know it, too - I wouldn't need a tape to back me up and prove it.

I just can't help but think that this dredges up more pain than it heals. But I am just one voice - what does everyone else think? I know ECR and Marlea and Jenifer's thoughts but what about the rest of you who stop by to read this blog? Truly everyone has an opinion and I would love to hear it.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Re-Opening Pandora's Box - Again

It was with some dismay this morning that while surfing through news stories on the Internet that I came across the following: More 9/11 Emergency Calls to Be Released. As an Emergency Medical Dispatcher and someone who not only listens to but talks on 911 for a living, I see no good reason for the release of these tapes unless you're trying to prevent a wound from healing by constantly picking off the scab.

I honestly don't know why the general public wants to listen to these tapes unless it's simply morbid curiosity. What good is it going to do anyone? It's merely going to send those people who were on the other end of the phone lines right back down into the pit of depression which they probably haven't managed to climb all the way out of yet anyway.

Have you ever listened to the sounds of someone dying on the other end of a phone line and known that there was not a damned thing that you could do about it? I have and I can tell you that it's a horrible, horrible thing. I have been on the listening end of a man being shot to death in a local bar, I have been on the listening end of a young woman taking her last gasp of breath during a fatal asthma attack, and I was sitting on the other side of the radio console when four children died in the Lake Street fire in Norwich in November of 2001. Is there anyone out there who thinks that I just ended my shift and went home totally oblivious to those things? No - I did not.

It's my job as an emergency services operator and dispatcher to gather the information from the caller and pass it on to the responding units in a calm and professional manner but that doesn't mean my care and concern ends when I hang up the phone. It doesn't end when I broadcast that information over the radio. And it doesn't end when I clock out at the end of my shift. Those voices go home with me and sometimes they keep me awake at night.

If that's how I feel over the "small" losses that I deal with, how do you think it affects my brethren dispatchers down in New York City? I can't even imagine being behind their consoles on 9/11; I can't even imagine being behind their consoles now almost five years later. And now some of them to get to relive that tragic day all over again with the release of more tapes. Why? Again I ask - what good does it do? Is it going to bring anyone back? Is it going to make anyone feel any better? Are we supposed to believe that it's not going to induce more finger-pointing?

The plain and simple truth is that NO ONE in New York City was prepared for what happened that day - NO ONE. And how could they have been? Who sits around and comes up with the unthinkable scenario of flying not one but two planes into the two tallest buildings in the City and then tries to figure out how best to handle that? There is no doubt in my mind that NYC probably has one of the finest Disaster Preparedness Plans in place than any city anywhere in the world but how do you plan for the unthinkable, for the unimaginable? You can't.

People in New York did the best they could that day - the firefighters, the police officers, the 911 operators and dispatchers - all of them. I doubt that there is anyone anywhere that could have performed better under the circumstances than they did. The rest of the world relived that horror through television and radio but there's no comparison to the people who lived it right there in New York in real-time.

I asked Andrew Duval, a paramedic at American who has also been a dispatcher at Quinebaug Valley Emergency Commucations for almost ten years, what he thought of the release of more tapes and he told me, "I understand and respect the country's "right to know" about everything that occurred on that day but some things shouldn't be re-hashed. Every time I see pictures or footage of September 11, 2001 I begin to well up and get a lump in my throat. I remember thinking about all of the Emergency Services workers entering the Towers and the thousands of innocent employees just doing their jobs when the planes hit the Towers. Releasing the 911 tapes of some poor completely helpless Dispatcher doing his/her job really isn't going to do anything but confirm what we already know. There is NO Fire or Police Department in the world capable of handling what went on that day. Regardless of who they are."

As for that day, Andrew said, "I was dispatching that night at American. I was the one that offically dispatched the call for our three ambulances to go and stand-by. QVEC was forming a list of personnel and equipment ready to be deployed in conjunction with the CT Fire Academy. They were, at one point, in desperate need of Dispatchers both for Ground Zero and for the rest of the City. I had already packed a "go bag" and was waiting for a phone call. Never happened and looking back I am kinda glad I didn't go. The stories I am hearing and reading, I don't think I could have come back and worked in EMS again."

While working across the street at Norwich PD that night, I remember thinking that as hard as my job was sometimes, it couldn't possibly compare to what the dispatchers in New York City, Washington DC, and a small town in Pennsylvania were going through. And I'm sure they will continue to go through it for the rest of their lives. Over and over and over again. I'm sure they're hard enough on themselves, maybe the rest of the country could give them a break and not be so hell-bent on releasing tapes that will do no good to anyone who either lived or died on that most horrific of days.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Draw, Ya Varmint!

One of the biggest challenges that I have had to face as a single parent (especially when I was doing the single Mom thing with Michael) has always been what to do when school is out, the kids were home all day, and I still had to go to work. As much as teachers and students like to be out for the entire summer, it's a single parent's nightmare as just the logisitics of the whole thing can be mind-numbing.

Fuil-time childcare would wipe out whatever paycheck I might have brought home and YMCA day camp wasn't e
xactly any cheaper though it kept Mike busy all day. I couldn't exacly tie him up and leave him locked in the car while I earned a living and darned if the authorities didn't frown upon parents leaving their underage kids home alone for hours on end. I tell ya, I truly dreaded and hated the months between June and August. I guess that's why one could always find me dancing in the streets when the school buses resumed their rounds and my offspring was once again hauled off to the halls of higher education. Thank the State for compulsory education!!

As much as I hate to rush the growing-up process, it's a major relief when a child can take care of him or herself. In Amanda's case I know that if I leave her home by herself all day while I'm at work that chances are good she isn't going to burn down the house, invite in some suspicious guy who might have been lurking around outside and used the ploy of needing a drink of water to get in the house, or had everyone over for a party (though I'm sure that will become more of a worry as she gets older!). I must admit that it also helps that my next door neighbor and land
lord is a Norwich cop whose wife is a New London school teacher that has the whole summer off. We have a pretty safe little neighborhood and that gives me peace of mind while I'm off at work a mere mile away.

I've already established the fact that Amanda doesn't exactly spend the day cleaning the house or picking up after herself so what does she do all day? Mostly she draws. It's a hobby that keeps her busy and puts a constant drain on my finances to keep her supplied with pencils, erasers, drawing pens, paper, etc. Of course what she really wants is an expensive drawing program like Corel, Adobe Photoshop CS, or Paint Shop Pro for the computer but I'm afraid that unless the Computer
Software Fairy magically leaves it on our doorstep that she won't be getting it. Single parent-one income families just don't have the budget for those kind of luxuries - at least not this single parent-one income family!

Barring that, Amanda scans her hand-drawn pictures into the computer and then uses an old version of Adobe Photoshop 5.0 that Mike's ex-girlfriend left downloaded on the computer to fine tune them. This keeps her occupied for hours on end and takes up most of her day; I doubt she really even notices that I'm at work most of the time except that she can't constantly yell downstairs "hey, Mom, come look at this and tell me what you think!".

Though she tends to draw in just one style - a form of Japanese anime - she's actually pretty good and has some decent stuff posted on her page which you can look at here on deviantArt, which is more or less an on-line portfolio that gives artists and wanna-be artists a place to display their work and get feedback and critiques. Amanda feels it's a good tool for her to see how she's doing and what others think and I see no harm in it (her father, of course, disagrees
yet again with me but like I said - he's not here, he pays no child support, he gets no say!).

As one of her electives at NFA this year Amanda is taking Introduction to Art and I am really hoping the class gives her more of an appreciation for all kinds of art rather than just animation. It also helps that our friend Paula is an artist and Baby Liz, one of the schedulers I work with at American, is an amazing artist unto herself. They've both given Amanda some great advice and tips and she loves their input.

So maybe she'll never be a Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones, or Matt Groening but you never know - someday I might be able to say I knew her when! And then she can support me in the style to which I would like to be accustomed with all of her royalties!

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Light Has Dawned or Was It Just Left On Again?

It has taken a little over 14 years for me to realize that Amanda is not my daughter. It doesn't matter that she had her big feet stuck in my ribs for most of the pregnancy, it doesn't matter that I was there on the day she arrived into this world, it doesn't matter that the hospital gave us matching wrist bracelets, it doesn't even matter that she has obviously inherited the sarcasm gene from my side of the family - none of that matters - for she is not my daughter.

If she were really my daughter then I wouldn't come home to a messy house every day; if she were really my daughter she'd know how to turn a light out every once in awhile; if she were really my daughter then she'd be able to open up her bedroom door and throw her dirty clothes into the hamper that sits right outside of it rather than toss them on the floor. Oh no - this child is definitely not my daughter!

Growing up with a father who was career Air Force, I learned at a very young age that you made your bed before you went to school in the morning, you shut things off when they weren't in use, and you never ever ever left your stuff laying around in the living room! Left your shoes out by the side of the couch? Have fun untying the massive amount of knots the laces now have! Left the door open? The place of your birth was in question ( i.e., perhaps it was a barn?)! Left a light on when you walked out of a room? Apparently you were paying the electric bill! My Dad wasn't horribly strict but he expected the four of us kids to take some responsibility for our actions and the lessons have stuck.

Today at work I walked by the radio room where the door had been left open and the light on. There wasn't anyone in the room so I asked if anyone knew who had left it in that manner. Renee, our Employee Scheduling Coordinator, told me that she thought Marvin, our Facility Manager, may have left it open but he was now out on a 911 call so it seemed pretty obvious to me he needed neither the door open nor the light on. With that, I turned off the light and shut the door. Helen, the Executive Assistant to the BIg Boss, was in dispatch at the time and told me that "Ron would be proud that you shut that light off" whereupon I explained to her that it was an automatic reaction drilled into me by my father. It was then that I realized that there was no way that Amanda was my daughter - I guess you could say that the light dawned!

Ever since she moved back in with me I have been telling that child to turn things off, pick things up, and clean up after herself but for all the good it has been doing I might as well be speaking to the cat. Who, I might add, also contributes to the walk-in mess that my once clean house
has become. There was a time when I never fretted about people stopping by unexpectedly because I knew my house was clean and in order. You couldn't eat off the floors or anything ridiculous like that but there was no clutter, nothing was out of place, and you sure as heck never saw any dust bunnies hopping across the floor. Sadly, all of that seems to have changed.

When Paula came by the other day for our shopping trip she told me that for the first time ever since she's known me (and that's going on 9 years) she saw a dust bunny in my dining room - and not just a petite little bunny but a jackrabbit-sized piece of scuz that could have passed for a small tumbleweed if a good breeze had blown through! I could have slunk under the couch in my embarrassment except for the fact that there were too many pencils, old gum wrappers, dirty socks, and magazines already there!

My friends tell me to relax and not be so anal about it - that Amanda is no different than any other teenager out there. She's too busy living life to be worried about running up the electric bill, putting her dirty dishes away, or leaving open cereal boxes on the kitchen counter. She's only young once and I shouldn't be on her case about such things; I should relax and not sweat the small stuff but I just can't seem to accept that.

Yes, she's only young once - as are we all - but if we don't learn good habits when we're young then when are we supposed to learn them? I seem to remember some adage about not being able to teach an old dog new tricks; if Amanda isn't going to learn something as a young pup then what makes me think she'll do it as she gets older? It dismays me to no end but what can I do about it? One can only say "how many times have I told you ..." or "didn't I tell you..." a finite number of times before it's simply just white noise in the background that can be easily ignored. And yet like the white noise, I keep attempting to be heard.

For all I love my daughter, I also miss my clean house - does that make me a bad parent??

Sunday, August 13, 2006

"Chasing the Years of My Life"

I thought I'd dedicate this entry to one of my fellow dispatchers over at American. Russ has been having some very painful shoulder issues for the past couple of weeks but I think that, more than the shoulder, what hurts is knowing that as he ages his body just doesn't do what it used to.

I've found this out only too well myself here the past year and a half or so. Things I used to be able to do without a thought now come with a very high price tag attached as far as my physical body is concerned. I get sore, I get tired, I get winded ... I get depressed! It will be a year ago on the 17th that I had spinal surgery to fix some major problems in my back - my back that used to think nothing of carrying my kids around, my back that I thought would never fail me, my back that can now barely haul a load of laundry upstairs.

Russ and I were talking last night at the end of my shift and the beginning of his and agreed that it pretty much sucks getting old. I told him that I feel like I'm on a downhill slide and no matter how many protruding tree limbs or rocks I grab at on the way down nothing seems to be slowing the descent! I just can't seem to get my feet dug in enough to stop the slide! It started with a simple twinge in my back and de-escalated from there. Despite some amazing work by my orthopedic surgeon my back still reminds me on a regular basis that I'm not a kid anymore - as if the white in my hair wasn't enough of a clue!

But life isn't going to stop just because I can't handle certain aspects of it anymore. The snow still needs to be shoveled, the lawn needs to be mowed, groceries have to be carried in, and I'm going to pick up my grandson every chance I get. I'm just going to do it a lot slower and a lot more carefully! I'm either going to relax and learn not to be so anal retentive and let Amanda do things that might not be done the way I would do them or I'm going to be sitting in a wheelchair the remainder of my days!

My biggest dismay of all this is I still haven't figured out where the years went so quickly. They literally flew by without my even realizing that they were going. And I think that's half of Russ's battle, too. Well, to borrow some lyrics from Five for Fighting & 100 Years:

"I'm 45 for a moment
The sea is high
And I'm heading into a crisis
Chasing the years of my life...

Half time goes by
Suddenly you’re wise
Another blink of an eye
67 is gone
The sun is getting high
We're moving on...

I'm 99 for a moment
Dying for just another moment..."

I guess what I'm trying to say here (and yes it's going to sound like a cliche!) is don't keep putting off until tomorrow the things that you can do today because trust me - it goes by in the proverbial blink of an eye or twinge of the back or ache of the shoulder.

Well, for what it's worth, Russ - we're in good company and just think, a couple more years and we can get that Senior discount!

Curiosity Killed the Cat ...

... and I'm rather hoping that some sort of satisfaction might resurrect the poor little fella from the dearly departed. However in order to do that I am going to need the help of you, dear readers.

Some of you may have noticed that I have a stat counter located at the bottom of this page and I've discovered it's a nice little gizmo to have. Not only does it keep count of how many page hits I have but it's got some cool little features that tell me where those page hits are coming from, how long they last, etc., etc. It gives me comfort to know that I'm not just writing to myself but that there are people out there actually reading my babblings - other than those of you who are nice enough to leave comments, that is!

The fascinating thing is that I have page-loads from far-off places like Indonesia, Australia, Poland, and Wales - places not so far off like Virginia, Mississippi, Texas, Massachusetts, and Canada - and a good number of towns here in Connecticut. But I've got NO idea who those people are that are stopping by for a visit and I have become curious like any good hostess would!

To that end, I have installed another little nifty feature on the sidebar of my page under the "Links" section - a guestbook!! I thought it would be nice to offer an alternative to leaving an actual comment to one of my posts by giving people a place to stop by and say 'hey' and any other comment they'd like to make. Please be nice, though, I actually do have feelings despite what my ex might claim and a recent cardiac ultrasound proves I have a heart also - so there!

The guestbook would also be a great place for someone to leave a suggestion for a future post if they had a thought for one. No doubt there are lots of single parents out there just like myself struggling to get through life with their sanity intact and I'd love to hear from you. As a matter of fact, considering I have what could be considered no social life whatsoever this could be the equivalent of my going to a local watering hole and chatting with folks!

So please, be my guest and click on the icon to the right and drop me a line or two - let me know where you're from, how you got here, and what you think. It would be a pleasure to "meet" you!
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Friday, August 11, 2006

They Shopped - I Dropped

Could there be three words more pleasant to the ear this time of year than "back to school"? Well ... perhaps "today is payday", "sleep in late", or "I'm not bored" could be a few but other than that there probably aren't too many more phrases that could make us parents smile more. As the Staples commerical once sang "it's the most wonderful time of the year!"

Sadly most great things generally have one small flaw that keeps them from achieving perfection and in this case it's the dreaded back-to-school shopping that must be undertaken prior to the child(ren) officially going back to school. As a female that doesn't particularly like to shop (yes, it's true - we DO exist!), I dread this ritual second only to Christmas shopping and paying my car taxes. But I can't very well send Amanda off to the hallowed halls of Norwich Free Academy for her very first year of high school with middle school attire now can I? I believe that would fall squarely into the category of "cruel and unusual parental punishment" ~ especially when it comes to the female teen of the species.

Thankfully my friend Paula needed to do some back to school shopping of her own this year what with her new job teaching art down at Grasso Tech in Groton so we planned an outing to the Crystal Mall so that both she and Amanda could get some new duds. Oh ... goodie ... a trip to the mall ...

I'm pretty sure I have never mentioned how much I dislike the mall so let me just say here and now - I do not like the mall, I do not like the mall at all, I do not like it in the Fall, I do not like it short or tall, I do not like it fat or thin, I do not like it on a whim ... well, okay, I'm no Dr. Seuss but I'm sure you get the idea! The thought of spending several hours traipsing around from fitting room to fitting room was just not sounding like a good time on my day off but, alas, it had to be done.

Fortunately, Paula is a better shopper than I and she has the added advantage of having done some of her student teaching at NFA so she knows what's in style, what's cool, what would be appropriate, what would be allowed, etc. Whenever Amanda would show me something and I'd give it the skeptical Mom-look she'd request Paula's opinion and it seemed like nine-times-outta-ten I was getting overruled.

"Hey, Mom, look at these boots" as she held up a pair of what looked to be combat boots with chunky soles. "They're ugly", I stated. "Actually, they look a lot like Doc Martins and are what the kids are wearing these days" from Paula. And as if that wasn't enough the salesman chimed in with, "Fall shoes are going fast so if she doesn't get them now we probably won't have her size later." Well, gee, who am I to veto not only a teenager but a soon-to-be teacher and a salesman, too? I just hope she has them properly broken in before school starts! I finally decided that I was there merely for financial support so I attempted to keep my archaic opinions to myself and just dole out the cash unless something was truly hideous!

One of the highlights of the day for Amanda was a surprise trip to the Lancome counter at Macy's where Paula bought her eyeliner and lip gloss which came with a GWP. My sister-in-law Ann is Queen of the GWP (gift with purchase) and she will be proud to know that her niece is learning the secrets of great shopping (Ann has never met a piece of jewelry & very few shoes she hasn't liked and she's quite the savvy shopper!). So now not only does Amanda have coveted liquid eyeliner but a full set of Lancome make-up products and a carry-bag. These are the things that will light up a 14-year old girl's eyes!

Almost five hours later we finally wrapped up our day and deemed it a success as a good 75% of the back of Paula's Explorer was stacked with bags - none of which contained a single item that wasn't on sale or discounted with a coupon. Paula later told me her final tally, without savings, was close to $700 but she had saved well over $300 and I know that I saved more than 50% on Amanda's purchases. All things considered I guess you can't knock that! I am definitely my Mother's daughter as I never buy anything that isn't on sale and Paula appears to be cut from the same cloth! Hopefully that's something I can pass down to Amanda when she starts making her own money and purchases and realizes the value of a dollar.

Any great shopping tips or secrets that anyone out there would like to share? Got a favorite store? A favorite brand? Something you absolutely, positively can't live without despite the cost? Let me hear from you - all comments are happily accepted.

Oh - and just so you're prepared - there are only 133 shopping days 'til Christmas .... groan!

P.S., In case you're wondering, the only thing I got for myself was a bottle of Aleve and some water to wash a few down - woohoo!

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Book 'Em!

There is nothing like a good book as far as I'm concerned. Books can take us to worlds only imagined, can introduce us to characters that we would love to have as friends in real life, and can remove us from our own possibly humdrum lives for a little while as we immerse ourselves into the story we're reading. Science fiction, romance, thriller, mystery, biography - it doesn't matter what the book is if it's a good story and well written.

Growing up on military bases as an Air Force brat, one of the constants in my life was the library. I had a library card at every base we lived on and made full use of it. I can still remember going to the library at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona as a second-grader and reading books like The Wizard of Oz, Charlotte's Web, My Friend Flicka, and any other horse story that I could get my hands on. Like most little girls I dreamed of having my own horse but there are definite regulations against having them in base housing so I would go to the library and "borrow" one for awhile!

I had a collection of Nancy Drew mysteries that would grow by several volumes each year at Christmas and it was easy to put myself right there with Nancy and her good friend Helen Corning as they cruised the countryside in her snappy little roadster looking for clues. Several of my favorites were The Secret of the Old Clock, The Hidden Staircase, and The Bungalow Mystery though I loved them all and couldn't wait to expand my collection - which I wish I had still had but, alas, it probably got left somewhere between New Mexico and Florida as when you moved all the time in the military more than just friends got left behind sometimes.

When I missed close to three months of work last year with a pinched, twisted nerve being compressed by not one but two ~ ouch! ~ herniated disks my cousin sent over a pile of books to keep me occupied while I was confined to the couch. Reading Angels and Demons, The DaVinci Code, and probably a dozen or more books kept my mind off the pain that was constantly with me. What Vicodin couldn't touch, Dan Brown and other authors took care of with their mesmerizing stories!

Being an avid reader, I tried to instill that trait into my own children and succeeded moderately with Michael, not at all with Jamie, and quite successfully with Amanda who seems to have been bitten by the same reading bug that I was. While she was in Kentucky and attending South Oldham County Middle School she had hundreds of points in the Accelerated Reading program as she read constantly. Of course she's an avid Harry Potter fan and is anxiously awaiting the release of the last book in the series along with most of the rest of the world but she's read so much more than J.K. Rowling's books.

Lately I have been trying to get her interested in the writings of Stephen King, one of my favorite authors. The Stephen King I'd like her to read is his earlier stuff - books like The Shining, Salem's Lot, The Dead Zone, Cujo, Pet Sematary - the stories that could really make you stay awake at night with all of the lights in the house blazing! And from there she should move on to books like Misery, Desperation, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, and one of his scariest ever - It - the book that made me vow once and for all that I would never ever step foot in Maine again! Perhaps I've not mentioned how much I dislike clowns??

I figure that Stephen King is perfect reading material for my oldest daughter who likes to think of herself as "different". She wants to wear black clothes and too much eyeliner and dye her hair in odd colors; she wants me to let her have a snake for a pet (not on your life, kiddo!); and when she grows up she wants to live in Japan and draw anime. Who better for her to read than the Master of the Macabre? Oh, and Edgar Allan Poe, too - the man who perfected the psychological thriller long before Stephen King scared the beejeebers out of anyone!

I think it's time we take a trip to the local library and make some use of that library card I made sure she had! Reading suggestions anyone??
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Author's Note: Despite the fact that my cousin is the Head Librarian in Andover and also on the library staff at Three Rivers Community College in Norwich, she in no way influenced my writing of this post! Did you, Amy?