Friday, July 30, 2010

Five on Friday - 1993

In honor of my youngest daughter's birthday this past Monday, I have chosen five songs from the year of Jamie's birth for this week's Five on Friday - the fun meme that Travis hosts every week.

As hard as it is for me to believe, when I started going through songs from 1993 it dawned on me that I knew darned few of them.  Did I really not listen to music hardly at all that year?  Seriously?  How did that happen?  Music has always been a major part of my life but apparently not in 1993 and that bothers me a little bit though it doesn't mean that I was in a complete and total musical void and there were some that rung a bell or hit the right note!

It's a bit of an odd and eclectic mix but I hope you'll find something here that you enjoy! Surprisingly I actually found some that Amanda knew so they must not be that bad!


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Thursday, July 29, 2010

I'd Like to Thank the Academy ...

As I may have mentioned (or not), I haven't been working anywhere near the number of hours that I had been working now that we are actually up to staff in our dispatch center - knock on wood or any reasonable facsimile!  I've picked up an extra shift or two here or there but right now 40 hours a week is the norm and even though my paycheck is decidedly lighter, I'm rather enjoying a standard work week and having more time to do things other than tell ambulance crews where to go and sometimes what to do when they get there!

I believe I also mentioned a couple times that work had been totally stressing me out for awhile there but I contribute most of that to the fact that I was totally stressed about so many other things that work couldn't help but be added to the mix.  As much as I try, it's not possible to leave all of the personal baggage in the hall by my locker and some of it invariably gets carted into the dispatch center with me.  I wish that weren't the case but alas, I'm only human.

All that said, it was quite the very pleasant surprise when I went into work this past Tuesday afternoon that not only was there some of Renee's extremely delicious chocolate-chip banana bread waiting for me but my supervisor handed me something that I really wasn't expecting - the award for Employee of the Month for June!

I have always thought that it's pretty darned cool that I work for a company that recognizes its employees even though there are those who think the program is in need of a revamp (a sentiment that I have shared myself from time to time as even though it is a good program, I think it has the potential to be great).  I sure the heck don't ever remember getting any sort of recognition when I worked for the Cop Shop - with the exception of the much-appreciated thank you's from the guys on the street from time to time - so working for a company that not only appreciates its employees but let's them know it does is really a very nice thing.

What makes this recent award surprising is that six years ago I was awarded Employee of the Month in July of 2004 - an award that put me in the running for Employee of the Year which I was very honored to receive in January of 2005.  With the title came a really nice plaque, a parking space close to the door, and a lot of ribbing from my fellow dispatchers as well as the realization that I had pretty much hit the pinnacle of my success with the company after only my first year of employment with them.  I'm pretty sure that no one has ever gotten Employee of the Year twice and I was also told that as a former Employee of the Year, chances were good I wasn't going to get Employee of the Month again as it wouldn't be fair to the other employees if the same people got it over and over again. Logical?  Yes.  Depressing?  Yes.  Less of an incentive to do a good job?  No.

Whether I was ever going to get another award from the company or not, I have this thing called a work ethic that was handed down to me by my parents who got it from their parents who got it from ... well, you know where I'm going!  I was taught that if you're going to do something then do it to the best of your ability no matter what because even if no one else ever notices, it's a matter of personal pride and at the end of the day I still have to answer to myself.

All that said, though, it's still really nice when someone says "Hey, nice job!" or "We appreciate the effort you've put in!" as like I said above, I'm only human and we humans like the equivalent of a good head scritch every once in awhile ourselves. I'm going to consider my recent award a very nice head scritch!

I just find it kind of funny that I got the award for the month when I took a vacation!  I wonder if they're trying to tell me something??

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mid-Week Musings

Hey!  How did it get to be the end of July already??

Speaking of July - on the news last night the weatherman said that this July is going to go down in the record books as the hottest July since the National Weather Service started keeping records back in 1888.  June has already gone down in the books for the same thing so if it seems like it's been hotter than usual this summer - it has been!

I'm rather hoping for a bit of a break this weekend as Amanda and I are taking her last road trip before college down to Baltimore - a trip which surprisingly has nothing to do with Edgar Allan Poe!  Instead Amanda is going to be attending the Otakon Convention which in their words "celebrates all anime, manga, and all facets of Asian pop culture!"  Okkaaayyyy ... she bought and paid for her own ticket so I'm basically going to be playing Hoke to her Miss Daisy!   She just recently managed to rope her friend Darci into going with her so we'll be making a stop in New Jersey along the way.

I think her prime reason for going is that she wants to meet Tessa Stone who is the comic artist of Hanna Is Not A Boy's Name - a web comic that Amanda absolutely loves.  Ms. Stone's artwork is very much like that which Amanda hopes to someday do so she is really looking forward to the opportunity to meet her in person.

Apparently I may get the opportunity to meet her in person myself as I was asked last night if I would be able to do group photos for Tessa and her "fans" on Saturday evening.  Not having any one thing in particular on my own agenda - at least not yet but I've found some things I'm quite interested in doing - I'm pretty sure I'll have the time to do that before going back to my own devices in Baltimore.

This being my third trip down to Baltimore at least I've got a semi-decent idea of the lay of the land so what I'm mostly planning on doing while there is taking pictures of some of the more historic parts of the city.  The hotel I managed to get a really amazing deal at (more on that in another post) is located in the Mount Vernon section of the city which is considered to be the heart of Baltimore's arts and culture community.  Once the home of Baltimore's gilded age elite, there is a lot there for any history buff to love including the original Washington Monument erected 50 years before the one in Washington, the Basilica of the Assumption which was America's first cathedral built between 1806 through 1821, and the Enoch Pratt Free Library which is one of the oldest public libraries in the country established in 1882.

Anyhow, there will be lots more on this later but for now I've got to take Amanda up to her doctor's office to get a meningitis shot - something she's really not looking forward to but a definite must for college!  I hope everyone has a wonderful Wednesday no matter what you may be doing this hot, hot July!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Suggestions Wanted!

My resident artist has agreed to redesign my blog for me before she toddles off to art college next month but we've run into a bit of a snag in that I haven't been able to come up with an idea for what she should do and neither has she.  Truth be told, I'm actually rather surprised she hasn't suggested a shambling member of the undead with one foot in the grave and the other on a recent victim while changing the blog title to "Are We Dead Yet??" but she's not suggested that at all!

As neither one of us are coming up with anything creative, Amanda thought I should ask my readers for suggestions as to what you think she should do to jazz things up a little around here.  After all, a blog is like living room furniture in that you have to rearrange it every once in awhile before it gets too old and worn and the furniture settles so deep into the carpet that it leaves grooves that will never come out.

So ... what say you?  Suggestions?  Ideas?  Thoughts?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Happy 17th Birthday to My Baby!

JamieSeventeen years ago today in a hospital less than three blocks from where I live now I gave birth to my youngest child - Jamie Jessica.  I think that for the very first time in those 17 years, Jamie isn't spending her birthday here in Connecticut but that's okay as we'll just wait to celebrate until she moves up sometime next month as long as things go according to plan.

Where the future will take her yet we don't know but she's already got her high school diploma in hand and I'm going to do my best to make sure that she has every opportunity at happiness and a career that she wants to do - not that she just has to do - as Amanda does.

In the meantime, I wish her a very happy birthday and hope that she knows that even though she's not here in person she is here in my heart and always will be.

Happy birthday, kiddo, and we'll get that ice cream cake you always love once you come back up to Connecticut - promise!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Things That Make You Go "I Don't Think So!"

Congratulations.
You have been chosen to receive ($1,000,000.00 USD)in the on-going
chevron/Texaco poverty alleviation program 2010.Send you Name & contact
address to Mr Kennith Davids at (chevronpayment@gmail.com
)to file for your claims.Or dial +2348067852678 for more information on
this program.
Note:All E-mail response should be sent to the following email address for
verification and payment approval
Yours kenneth Davids.
On line co-ordinate
Chevron/Texaco oil&gas company.
I received the above email a couple of days ago in my inbox as it seems that the spam filters on Yahoo! have been letting a few slip of late. I suspect that with the increasing amount of spam out there that it's tough catching all of it so I can understand having to deal with this sort of thing from time to time.

The reason I kept it was because it made me laugh with the phrase " the on-going chevron/Texaco poverty alleviation program 2010".  I have to admit that I've had an on-going poverty alleviation program myself during 2010 in the form of working probably way too much overtime but sadly, it's not working any better than this email would in alleviating my on-going poverty!

The other sad thing is that this email is so poorly written that it seems to me that it would be very difficult for anyone to believe that it was official but I would be willing to be that there are some who would still fall for it and all it takes is a small handful for this sort of scam to keep being one of the weapons of choice of people who just don't want to make an honest living like the rest of us.

Maybe if Chevron/Texaco came up with an on-going spam alleviation program I might buy into it!

Sunday Thought

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The Amen! of Nature is always a flower.
- Oliver Wendell Holmes

Saturday, July 24, 2010

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Norwich Free AcademyI'm a little over a month late on this post but as I mentioned earlier, in addition to June 18th being Amanda's 18th birthday it was also the day of her high school graduation and, except for the fact that it was just a little bit too warm, we couldn't have asked for a better day as there was none of the dreaded New England summer humidity hanging in the air nor were there buckets of rain pouring down.

Unfortunately there were also darned few clouds hanging in the air either and had I been using the part of my brain designed for actual thinking I would have brought an umbrella or two with us when my mother, our friend Amy, and I walked over to the Norwich Free Academy campus around 3:00 to attend the graduation ceremony which began at 4:00 p.m. with a massive processional!

NFA Class of 2010 Processional
NFA's graduation is traditionally held on the athletic field behind the school unless it rains and then they hold it in the gym with very limited seating but broadcast the ceremony on closed-circuit TV in classrooms around the campus.  There was certainly no need to hold the ceremony in the gym this year but for those of us sitting in the metal bleachers waiting for the ceremony to begin, it was going to be a very warm afternoon!

Standby Unit at NFA
Every year my company provides an ambulance to be on standby just in case someone is overwhelmed by the excitement and/or heat and this year was no exception.  It's a good thing they were there as three students had problems with the heat during the course of the afternoon but that's no surprise as when you're graduating 546 students it takes time - especially when the speaker from the Class of 1960 decides to go on and on and on longer than the song at the end of Titanic!  Both of the speakers chosen from the Class of 2010 were quite good and quite quick but apparently the gentleman who represented the alumni of 50 years ago didn't realize that people were just about ready to melt in the bleachers across from him. Granted a lot had happened in the past 50 years but this guy seemed to want to cover all of it in intricate details and before his speech was over we could see vultures circling in the air just waiting for someone to keel over while the half moon had risen quite high in the sky!

At long last the speeches were done, the presentations were made, and it was the moment that all 546 of the kids sitting in the glaring sun on the athletic field and their friends and family surrounding them had waited four years for - the presentation of the diplomas!  As I waited for Amanda's name to be called I tried to remember what had it been like for me way back in 1976 waiting my turn to walk across the stage and accept the certificate that closed the door on my youth and pointed me in the direction of adulthood and my own dreams but alas, like so many things anymore, the memories were sketchy at best.  And of course there were no video cameras or score of photographers or parents with really good zoom lenses on their own cameras sitting in the stands to record the event while updating on Facebook and Twitter!

Amanda doesn't have my last name so luckily we didn't have to wait all the way to the O's before her name was called (and mispronounced as seems to be the norm) so shortly after she received her diploma my Mom, Amy, and I retreated to the shade on the side of the athletic field and waited for the ceremony to be over. I certainly didn't want my Mom to be one of the people that my co-workers needed to lend assistance to - especially considering that it was her birthday also and probably the last thing she wanted was a trip to the Emergency Room!

Once the last student finally received his diploma, the newly anointed alumni of the Norwich Free Academy Class of 2010 receded from the athletic field where they were greeted by cheering family and friends all immensely proud of their own graduates - myself included. As happy as Amanda was to have her high school career behind her, I still found it hard to believe that those four years had passed by so quickly and that my very last child had graduated from high school - having been leaped over by her younger sister by a mere six days!

When we got back to the house where Jamie had been waiting as there weren't enough tickets for her to attend her sister's graduation being that her father had come all the way up from Florida to be there, I had Jamie put on her cap & gown that we had brought up from Florida so that I could have a picture taken with both of my graduates.  After all, I was never expecting to have both my girls graduate in 2010 and the occasion needed to be marked.

Me & My Graduates
And look! They're both smiling at the same time! It's a graduation miracle!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Five on Friday - Amanda's Picks Version #2

Amanda asked me last night if it would be okay if she choose the songs for this week's Five on Friday, the fun meme of our host Travis who invites us to pick out five (or even a few more if the spirit moves you) favorite songs and then post them on Fridays.  Hence the name ... Five on Friday!  If you'd like to join us be sure to click over to Trav's Thoughts and check out the suggested guidelines.

I was happy to turn this week's musical choices over to Amanda as even though I always come up with these great ideas - or what I think are great ideas - for sets I then promptly forget what they were because I haven't gotten smart enough to write the ideas down when they pop into my head.  I either need to start taking the highly touted fish oil to improve my brain function or begin carrying a notepad and pencil around with me on a regular basis if I ever hope to remember these "great sets"!   I really wish I could remember when it was I became so forgetful!

Anyway, enough about my loss of memory ... courtesy of Amanda I present to you this week's Five on Friday - enjoy!

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Meanwhile ... Back on Amanda's 18th Birthday

My bad!  It's been over a month now since Amanda's 18th birthday and graduation and I've yet to do any posts on it - gasp!  That's it; I've gone and lost Mother of the Year yet again and I've got no doubt that I was really going to be in the running this year, too!  Oh bother!

Anyway, in an attempt to catch up on the blessed event(s), let me back up to Friday, June the 18th, the date of not only Amanda's high school graduation but also her 18th birthday - the type of occasion that only manages to happen once in a lifetime when the planets align in the proper order ... or something like that!

Knowing that this was an event of historical proportions, I had begun thinking early about what sort of gift to get my off-to-art-college-in-the-fall-wannabe-illustrator daughter.  What could possibly be good enough for this sort of monumental occasion; what could possibly say "I'm proud of you for making it through high school with my sanity intact and oh by the way, welcome to adulthood!"; what gift would stand head-and-shoulders over all gifts?  Wait!  I know!  How about a one-of-a-kind, drawn-just-for-Amanda, none-other-like-it-in-the-world piece of art by her most favorite illustrator Gris Grimly?!?

For those of you who have been devoted followers of this blog (and I thank you all!), you probably remember that Amanda had the chance to meet Mr. Grimly at a book-signing in Baltimore last October when we made our second trip of the year to Charm City to attend the slightly-late funeral for Edgar Allan Poe - an event that was being held due to the fact that Poe had never had a proper funeral when he first died in a Baltimore hospital back in October of 1849.

Amanda & Gris Grimly
In addition to meeting her favorite illustrator at the book-signing (where I exercised my parental right to embarrass her as much as possible), Amanda also had the chance to hear him speak at Poe's funeral being that Mr. Grimly has illustrated two books of Poe's writings - Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of Mystery and Madness and Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of Death and Dementia - and he had been invited to speak along with other people who had been influenced by E.A. Poe such as H.P. Lovecraft, Sir Alfred Hitchcock, and (the still-alive) Ellen Datlow! I know it probably sounds a little strange but it really was a very cool event and I'm really glad we went.  Not many people walking around today can say they attended Poe's funeral but I can!

HP Lovecraft, Alfred Hitchcock, Ellen Datlow, Gris Grimly
However, I digress - as per usual!  Knowing that one of the things Amanda wanted most in the world was to someday own an illustration of her own by Gris Grimly, I decided to send him an email and see if he would be at all available to do a commissioned piece for her birthday/graduation.  I was a little leery of him having the time to take on an extra project being that he had been hard at work on illustrating the original 1818 story of Frankenstein as well as bringing his version of Pinocchio to life on film but when I received an email back, he said that even though he was swamped he'd be able to do a cool ink sketch for Amanda that would indeed be a special gift.

A few more emails back and forth hammered out the details of when I'd need it by as well as ideas of what Amanda might like - heck, I figured he could draw two stick figures and she'd be thrilled to pieces but obviously the man is a professional and there's no way he's going to put his name on something like that!  Wanting to make sure that I knew my daughter as well as I thought I did, I consulted with her brain twin and best buddy Sami and together we worked up a list of probably way-too-many ideas for the poor guy to sort through!

Shortly after that, I was emailed a pencil sketch of Gris' planned artwork for Amanda so that I could make suggested changes if I wanted to before he inked it in.  Changes?  Oh heck no!  Even just looking at the rough pencil sketch I knew that Amanda was going to be totally blown away by the piece which I had mentioned she was probably going to want to get as a tattoo someday also.  He took that into consideration while he was sketching and what he had shown me was perfectly Amanda!

While waiting for the final sketch to arrive I took the time to order what I hoped would be the perfect picture frame and archival matting to display her one-of-a-kind gift and then I had everything shipped to work so that Amanda wouldn't be the one to get the mail the day any of it showed up. She wouldn't have been suspicious about yet another picture frame arriving but a delivery from Mad Creator Productions would certainly have raised both eyebrows! There were a couple of times before the big day that I thought about giving the artwork to her early as I was pretty excited to see what her reaction was going to be but somehow I managed to wait until the morning of her birthday/graduation.  As a matter of fact, I even managed to wait until she had returned from her "reunion" breakfast with her father - an event she hadn't exactly been looking forward to but which she got through without any of the problems she anticipated.

For those of you who missed it on Facebook, I feel it's my obligation to post the video that I took of Amanda opening her gift even though it embarrasses the heck out of the kid (again).  After all, I can't possibly violate the Code of Parental Ethics that requires us to embarrass our offspring as often as we can and besides, I don't think her reaction is embarrassing at all - I think it's priceless! The only thing that would have made it better is if I didn't have to listen to my own voice. Ew.


In conclusion, I think I'm going to have to say that I chose wisely and that Amanda was really quite happy with her gift. A big thank you once again to Gris Grimly for taking the time out of his incredibly busy schedule to make my daughter's day and then some. All I can say is that it's a good thing I've got four years before I think about a college graduation present because I'm not sure how on earth I'm going to top that one!

Amanda & her Gris Grimly artwork
*I'm not posting a bigger/better picture of the sketch itself which is titled "Crypt Courtship" as Amanda doesn't want someone liking it so much that they copy it and get their own tattoo before she does but trust me, the detail is amazing and then some!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Happiness is ...

... a new chirpy toy from the grocery store ...
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... that makes you roll around on your back in bliss ...
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... and maybe look just a little silly ... 
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... but you don't care because it's all yours!
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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Winging It

I've got the day off today and there is a ton of stuff I should/could be doing but I seem to have gotten sucked into the vortex of the internet and am having trouble breaking free.  I also figured I hadn't written a post in two days so I needed to come up with something!  So ... this isn't exactly a random stream of consciousness thing but here we go ...

I could get used to having regular days off again.  This week I'm only working five - that's right FIVE - shifts and it's kinda nice!

I picked up my photo from the Mystic Arts Gallery on Sunday at the close of the show that it was in and was handed some paperwork by the lady at the desk about a couple more shows coming up very soon.  She was very complimentary towards my photo and suggested I submit work for the upcoming shows.  I'm thinking about it but just can't decide on which pictures to use.  What I think of as art is definitely not what a lot of other people think of as art!

Matter of fact, when I stopped at the gate to the parking lot where the attendant collects parking fees and said I was there to "pick up my artwork" I felt rather strange saying that as I don't consider my photos to be artwork - just pictures.

Amanda is an artist - I just like to fool around with the camera.

There's some drama at work with one of my dispatch partners and her marriage that has made me again remember why I don't mind being alone.  The decision to end my marriage was tough but in the end, it was definitely worth it.  I wouldn't want to be walking in her shoes for love or money right now.

I would, however, love to be able to hold hands with someone again.  There are times when the Queen song "Find Me Somebody to Love" plays on a continuous loop through my head but I guess that's just life.

Reading posts by Sandee's husband, Zane, makes me really wish for a good man in my life - especially as it seems he and Sarge Charlie are competing for most romantic guy on the internet!  Why are all the good ones always taken??

A very special guy in my life dropped a cooler off on my backstep this morning that contained a very large, very chilled bottle of wine - a gift from he and his wife to help alleviate some of the stress I've been having lately. Guess what I'll be doing later while catching up on shows on the DVR??  Thank you, Andrew - and Bethany, too!

I need to renew my driver's license, Amanda needs to get a state-issued ID card, I need to open a bank account for her, she needs to get a meningitis shot that she's really NOT looking forward to, I need to mow the lawn, Amanda needs to get her final high school transcripts, I need to write a really large check to Montserrat, Amanda needs to think about what she's taking with her to college ... I need to get off this computer!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sunday Sentiment

Cemetery Sunset

"It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more."
~ Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Saturday Stuff

Compared to last week, this has been a rather nice week ... no, make that a fantastic week!

Making the decision to use my 401K for Amanda's first year of college has taken a major weight off of my shoulders though I have had a little trepidation about that same weight reapplying itself next year when we have to start trying to figure out financing for her sophomore year however, there's time to cross that bridge later so I'm going to try not to stress about it now.

I had a long talk with Jamie the other night and the current plan is for her to move up here after Amanda leaves for college at the end of August.  That, of course, is subject to change if she can't remember to tell the truth to her father however she wants to try to continue to work at her job at McDonald's and save up some money before moving up here.  She did express some interest in possibly taking some courses at the local community college so I told her father to fill out a FAFSA and see what she qualifies for in regards to financial aid.  He was on unemployment for a very long time so she should qualify for a lot more than Amanda did.

Work wasn't too bad this week due to the simple fact that I had a lot more time off than I've been used to having.  If I hadn't picked up the open shift this evening, I would have worked a mere five shifts - something I haven't done in a very, very long time.  Next week really should be just five shifts as there's nothing open that I know of.  Even though I'm going to miss the overtime pay, I really think I could get used to having more time off!

So how did I spend a lot of that time off?  Sitting on the couch and watching programs that I had recorded on the DVR long ago.  I had five episodes of "Flashpoint" stacked up that I thoroughly enjoyed watching.  I've become a bit hooked on that show as it's not your typical cop drama - thank goodness!

Amanda and I went to the movies with our friend Paula to see the new Leonardo DiCaprio film "Inception" last night and let me just say that it was fantastic and definitely lived up to all the hype!  The movie is directed by Christopher Nolan of "Dark Knight" fame and he did a wonderful job with the film.  Add on a fantastic score by Hans Zimmer, some truly amazing special effects, and those blue eyes of Leonardo and well ... go see it as I want to discuss the ending with someone!  Amanda's already wanting to see it again she liked it so much.

And for all of you who told me to go out and do something for myself after the horrible week I had previous to this one, you'll be glad to know that I did just that in the form of some hair pampering.  I'd been wanting something different so I decided to become a brunette and got a nice cut to boot.  This picture is not that great as I took it with my cell phone but it gives you a bit of an idea at any rate. Of course, it must not be that much of a change as Amanda has failed to make any reference to my new do at all - perhaps it wasn't extreme enough for her?

Everyone have a lovely weekend no matter what your plans may be!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Five on Friday - Maroon 5

After a long Thursday at work, it's a real pleasure to be able to participate in Travis' quick and easy Five on Friday meme! If you're interested in joining us one of these Fridays, pop on over to Trav's Thoughts where he lays out the guidelines for becoming a Five on Friday participant.

To make this really quick & easy for this week the only thing I've got left to say is that I've picked out some of my favorite Maroon 5 music - enjoy!


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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tesla Talks

With all the drama that's been going on here around the house the past week or so, you guys have no idea how incredibly bored I've been.  It seems like no one has been paying any attention to me at all because they're so worried about their own stuff! 
I mean, come on now, what's a cat to do when no one wants to give head scritches or dig my toys out from under the couch or play with that feathery thing on a stick that I like to play with?
I'm going to have to give some serious thought to finding some way to entertain myself as it appears no one else around here is going to do it!
Oh hey wait, that blue thing with all of the brushy sticks sitting in it on the table gives me an idea!
That kid that lives here who makes the huge mess in the dining room that the lady always complains about is always doing something with this thing here and those brushy sticks and that seems to keep her occupied and  happy so maybe I'll check it out myself!
Ok, all I have to do is jump up and here and get one of those brushy sticks that the kid uses, I know there's some back here ... hmm, where are they??
Oh dear, I can't seem to reach one and I think I'm on the wrong side of the wooden leggy thing anyway!  Man, this ain't gonna work!
Oh hey wait, what's that?  Did I just see a squirrel run past the open window??
Man, if I could just get outside I bet I'd be able to find something to do!  I bet the squirrels wouldn't ignore me like everyone in the house seems to do lately!
Oh well, guess I'll just go hang out in the laundry room on my rug for the rest of the day being that no one wants to pay any attention to me.
But seriously? How can anyone not give me head scritches when I look so darned cute??
Sigh ... I just don't get it! 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Please Let Me Explain ...

In trying to sum up the past week the only word that I can really think of is AAUUGGGHHHHH!!!  Yep, that looks and sounds about right.  With the exception of a couple of high points, last week and this past weekend reached a high watermark of suckiness but I'm hoping that perhaps the worst of it is behind and we can now move on towards getting things done without feeling like I'm developing the world's biggest ulcer.

To try to sum things up as succinctly as possible (not an easy task for me on my best day being that I tend to be rather, er, wordy) - during the past week I have been dealing with some stress at work which came in the form of a couple of really, really busy days as well as a colossal feeling of being let-down by someone who shall remain nameless.  This blog isn't for bitching about work so I'm not going to go into detail but the stress from that certainly added to the stress from other arenas.

For those of you who are friends on Facebook, you've probably got a pretty good inkling of what's been going on in those other arenas and know that the major source of my stress has been centered around college financing for Amanda.  As I am the world's worst money manager and totally inept when it comes to finances, I am not able to do anything for her in regards to the Parent PLUS loans that are out there or am I even able to co-sign for her on a commercial student loan; some of that is my fault and some of it stems back to my divorce but let's just suffice it to say that my credit looks like a very fine and holey piece of Swiss cheese.  Eventually my credit will clear up but for now, I can't do anything for Amanda in that arena.

As such, Amanda's brother was going to co-sign for her loan as he feels that she has the talent to make a living as an artist and he didn't want to see her lose her place at Montserrat or her scholarship.  Unfortunately, he was turned down as a co-signer as he had a delinquency that he didn't know about so that option went out the window and things were looking quite bleak as there were no other co-signers to be found.  Needless to say, there were an awful lot of tears flowing this past weekend as Amanda saw her dream of going to art college turning to dust and I was feeling like a major failure as a parent as I should have been able to do something about this if I had just had the good sense to plan better for the future of my children.  Guilt, recrimination, woulda-shoulda-couldas ... it wasn't a fun time by anybody's standards I suspect.

Sunday night while I was tossing and turning with all of this running through my brain, the thought occurred to me that I have a 401K through work that - though it doesn't have much in it because of the recent hits by the national economy - might hold enough to get Amanda through the first year of college if I was able to access it.  It was a glimmer of hope at least and when I went to work yesterday, I contacted our Human Resources Director to see if there was a way I could use the money.  As it turns out, I am able to access the money through a hardship withdrawal that allows me to "pay tuition for the next twelve months of post secondary education".  Ah-ha!  There's a glimmer of light at the end of the college financing tunnel!

While I was at work talking to HR about what I was going to need to secure the hardship withdrawal, Amanda was at home getting a letter from Montserrat with the information for her residency and the names of her roommates - roommates that she was thinking she was never going to get to meet as from her end, things were still looking pretty bleak.  When I called to tell her that I was going to be able to withdraw the money to pay for her first year, she was both happy and concerned as she wanted to make sure that was something I really wanted to do - after all, the money in my 401K is supposed to be for my eventual retirement and it's taken me seven years to accumulate the not-substantial amount that's there so any withdrawal is a big withdrawal.

Well, the way I look at it is that the money is there, it's available to be used, and who knows if/when I am ever going to reach retirement anyway.  I would rather use the money now to help my daughter on her way to achieve her dreams then leave it in an account that's going to be buffeted by the ups and downs of the economy.  I'm not going to be able to retire until I reach the full Social Security age of 72 anyway so that gives me another twenty years of contributions to build the account back up. Besides, when Amanda is a famous artist she can support me in my old age!  And there's also the added bonus of knowing that there is at least one year of student loans she's not going to have to pay back.  Granted, we are going to have to figure out how she'll pay for the next years after this one but I'm hoping that the time between now and then will give us some more workable options.  There are three more bridges ahead of us but for now I am just going to worry about getting across the first bridge and setting Amanda off on her freshman year of college.

Now as if all of that wasn't enough, in the midst of all the stress from work and college financing I received a phone call on Saturday morning from Jamie that threw yet another log on the fire - her father has told her that she needs to move out and she wants to come back to Connecticut to live with me.  This is one of those double-edged swords as I think that moving back to Connecticut will probably be a very good thing for her but by the same token, until Amanda goes to college there a) isn't much room and b) the girls still don't get along all that great.  Of course, having been sent back to Connecticut by her father years ago herself, Amanda is at least a little sympathetic to Jamie's situation and hopefully that might ease some of the tension between the two.

The reason that Jamie is being told to move out is because she doesn't tell her father or stepmother the truth a lot of the time and this makes her no longer welcome in their home.  Whereas I can certainly understand not wanting to be lied to, I'm not so sure that gives a parent a right to send a child packing - especially a child who is still only 16 even if she has her high school diploma.  I had noticed when I was with her in Florida that Jamie embellished on things sometimes or minimized them but this is something that she has always done ever since she was a little girl; I don't think she does it on purpose and I'd be willing to bet that a psychiatrist may very well say that it's directly connected to her ADD.

I've been researching the difference between compulsive liars and pathological liars as I've got to think there's something in Jamie's makeup that causes her to lie easier than to tell the truth - especially when confronted with an unpleasant situation.  She's not a bad kid at all - she has some personality disorders that need to be addressed and just throwing medication at her isn't the way to do it.  And throwing her out of the house isn't the way to do it either.

I need to speak to my ex and get things figured out for Jamie to come up here and live with me and once she does, I'm going to see about getting her into some sort of regular counseling so that her problems can be addressed properly.  Jamie has told me that she wants to get a job and she'd be willing to do just about anything while she continues to study for her ASVAB to try to get into the Air Force.  I don't believe she's lying to me about that and even though jobs are still very hard to find around here, perhaps there will be an opening at the local Stop & Shop or McDonald's where she can pull in at least a few hours.  Once she gets up here we'll figure something out and I'll do my best to get her on a path she wants to be on also.  It's probably not going to be easy and I suspect we're going to hit some roadblocks along the way but Jamie deserves just as much of a chance at a good life as Amanda does and as her mother, I owe her that.

So anyway ... that's been my week and I hope it explains what's been going on that has put me in such a funk lately.  I'm hoping that now that a couple things have been resolved that I'll be able to get back to some form of normalcy soon and that I'll also be able to get around to visit everyone else's blogs and see how your lives are going.  Talk about feeling out of the loop!

Oh, and so much for succinct, eh??

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Quiet Moment

Yantic Cemetery
“After all to the well organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.” - J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, spoken by the character Albus Dumbledore

Friday, July 9, 2010

Did Someone Say "Pressure"??

Just a quick note to say thank you to everyone for your kind comments on Wednesday's post and to let you know that I'm hanging in there in spite of even more added stressors the past couple of days.  I'm sure there are many reasons for my being overwhelmed right now - not the least of which I'm sure is the heat & humidity and aging hormones - and I really do plan on seeking out someone of a professional nature to talk to before my head explodes or something, I just need to remember to do that!

In the meantime, this evening is Amanda's long-delayed graduation/birthday party for which she has a fantastic cake courtesy of the talents of Miss Maggie Moo and I promise pictures and such as soon as I can get my ducks together and keep them in some sort of row for at least a little while.

In the interim, this video might just sum it up!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Feeling Like The Bug

Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits fame wrote a song quite a few years back called "The Bug" wherein he sings the lyrics - "Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug". 

Well, to be honest, I'm really starting to feel like the bug here lately and I'm at that stage of the game where all a person has to do is look at me funny and I'll start to cry.  Right now I am totally stressed out about so many different things on so many different levels that I'm not even sure which thing it is that has me waking up at 3:00 in the morning and unable to get back to sleep or which thing is putting the knot in the middle of my back right between my shoulder blades or what might be causing the headaches and the constant clenching of my jaw.  I'm not sure why I read other people's blog posts and get all sniffly and weepy or why I just want to go crawl under a rock afterward but right now I do and I'm thinking that's really not a good thing.

So, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go break out the pointed hats, the streamers, the balloons, and the other trappings of any good full-blown Pity Party and have one for myself for a little while.  Hopefully when I come back I'll feel human again or at least a little less like I've been splatted onto one windshield after another in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Van Gogh Doctor

I've got a few more pictures to post from my Florida trip and a couple other posts in the wings, too, but I thought I'd take today to show you one of the paintings that Amanda recently completed. Inspired by the latest episode of Doctor Who on BBC America, Amanda wanted to do a picture of the 11th Doctor who is played by Matt Smith in a Van Gogh style.  The painting was done in oil, not her favorite medium, but a good choice for portraits.

I told her that I thought he had that "Bill the Nye the Science Guy" look about him and she said that was what she was shooting for - in which case she was right on target! 

Monday, July 5, 2010

Adventures in Florida, Part 7: When The Lady Says "Paradise", She Means It!

After inspecting our "swanky" room but before climbing back into the rental car and making the short drive over to meet Empress Bee and Sarge Charlie, we decided to clean up a bit from our long day on the road and Jamie went from bright neon colors to classic black & white.  I think this is her "thoughtful" pose!

Jamie

As we drove over to their condo and I looked around at West Palm Beach, the thought occurred to me to try to remember to mention something in particular about Bee's blog when I wrote this post and that is, for those of you who read Muffin 53, Bee often titles her posts with whatever the day of the week it is and the words "in Paradise".  Obviously I'm not a big fan of Florida on several different levels - with the highest one being the heat and humidity - but when Bee says "in Paradise" she really means it and I don't think it's just because she lives on the 19th floor and has the following views (though I'm sure it doesn't hurt!):

A 19th Floor View
The View Below

I think if I had a terrace that overlooked those kinds of views, I'd be writing "in Paradise" on my post titles, too!  Talk about gorgeous ... not to mention a long ways down!  But anyhow, enough on the view, how about something about the people who possess that view?

I believe that Sarge Charlie first started commenting on my blog via the old "Bestest Blog of the Day' and shortly after that, Bee started coming around, too.  Charlie has always held a special place in my heart as it turns out that he served in Vietnam at the same time as my father.  Matter of fact, if my faulty memory serves me correctly he was also stationed at Da Nang where my Dad was stationed though my Dad was Air Force and Charlie was Army.  It didn't matter what branch of the service they were in though, as they were serving in the same place, at the same time, fighting the same enemy and that made them comrades-in-arms.

Charlie

Unfortunately, both of them being in the same place at the same time also meant that they were both exposed to Agent Orange - the effects of which eventually caused the cancer that killed my father at way too young of an age.  Regular readers of Charlie's blog know that he, too, has recently been fighting quite the battle with cancer as a result of his exposure to Agent Orange so when I finally made up my mind that I was definitely going to Florida for Jamie's graduation, I also made it a priority that I get the chance to meet Charlie & Bee in person as I admire them both tremendously:  they are both cancer survivors, they are both patriotic Americans, and they share the same sort of love that my parents did - that rare type that you know makes them soulmates and best friends and perfect for each other. The kind of love I wish that I had been able to find but never did. 

Miss Bee & The Flat Boyz

Of course, you can't meet Charlie & Bee without also meeting their pets - Flat Skeezix and Flat Jeter!  Jamie seemed a bit confused about the whole flat cat thing initially but caught right on when I explained that as much as Bee loves cats, she can't have a real one as Charlie is allergic.  Flat cats are better than no cats and these two are always up to some sort of antics.  In the picture above they're posing with a cache of cookies that Bee scored in her Liberals versus Conservatives Cookie Scam Contest.

Jamie and I were in for a definite treat that evening as we were having dinner cooked for us by Miss Bee and it was absolutely delicious! So good in fact, I failed to take any pictures! We had steak and mashed taters and corn on the cob and broccoli and the most delicious gravy ever. I know I've raved about the gravy already but it was just THAT good! (I'm hoping maybe I can convince Bee to sneak a vat of it onto the Bloggers Cruise in February!)  In addition to all of that, we were treated to a fresh-baked cherry pie with vanilla ice cream that was totally delicious!  Seriously, Bee totally outdid herself and Charlie assured us that it was a rare treat indeed to have her cook these days so we felt doubly honored!

Miss Bee & Her Delicious Cherry Pie

I've got to take a moment to say that in addition to Jamie being a good photographer, I was totally impressed with my youngest daughter while we were visiting.  She not only helped Bee in the kitchen with the meal preparation and set the table but she also cleared the table and loaded the dishwasher - all without being asked!  In reward for that, Bee let her go "shopping" in her big walk-in closet where Jamie ended up cleaning out a bit of space for Bee to put new things!  And she told Bee that she wasn't on a shopping ban! I think that scored her a couple of points!

Charlie, Me, and Bee

All in all it was a lovely evening and the next day was going to be just as nice as Jamie and I were going to be treated to breakfast at the famous John G's on the Beach in Lake Worth!  I'd read many a blog post about John G's and it was pretty exciting to be able to go to the actual spot I'd read about so many times before.  First though, it was back to the Marriott and a nice relaxing night in a nice comfy room.

Jamie in the lobby

The next morning had us up semi-bright and early after a very restful night in our luxurious beds and as we waited in the lobby for Charlie & Bee to arrive, Jamie - of course - made use of my cell phone to catch up with her friends.  Just as an aside, I don't know why but this picture reminds me of something out of the John & Jackie Kennedy era - I must be crazy, right?

Anyhow, after the short drive down to Lake Worth on a beautiful Tuesday morning, we arrived at John G's and before we knew it, the following had arrived at our table (feel free to biggify the picture and drool!):

Breakfast at John G's

Just in case I get it wrong, I'm sure Bee can correct me but I believe what we have here from left to right across the top is Charlie's Spanish omelet with hash brown potatoes; Bee's Italian omelet with grits; my eggs over-easy with hash brown potatoes; and Jamie's corned beef hash with poached eggs.  Me feeding my face at John G'sThat delicious looking toast was rye and it was hands-down the best rye I've ever had!  Bee shared some of her omelet with me and I've got to say that it was absolutely delicious, too.  I can see why John G's is such the popular place that it is!

As you can see, I was too busy stuffing my face to be of any use with a camera so Jamie grabbed the Nikon and took some shots of the restaurant so that you can get an idea of what a nice homey place it is.  Apparently it's been in business in the same spot on the public beach for 33 years now and is a family-run business.  Certainly made me wish I lived a lot closer than 1,200 miles so that I could come back and sample some more of the menu but maybe one of these days I'll get there again!
John G's Restaurant

Following our wonderful breakfast, Charlie drove us back to our hotel via the scenic route while Bee played tour guide and pointed out Rod Stewart's house, Jimmy Buffet's house, Donald Trump's house, The Breakers Hotel (which is absolutely gorgeous), the house that John Lennon lived in when The Beatles recorded The White Album, and a host of other gorgeous houses and buildings.  Jamie explained to me the difference between royal palms and queen palms and I let her do all of the photography along the way.  It was really, really nice to be a passenger and be able to gawk at everything while someone else did the driving!  I've put the pictures all together in a slideshow that you'll find at the bottom of the post I but neglected to put any captions in as I couldn't remember what half of the pictures were of!  All I know is that the whole area was absolutely beautiful but if there's one in particular you have a question about, I'm sure Bee can help you out with the answer as that's her stomping grounds and I'm sure she knows it well.  It seemed to me like she sure did as she shared her beautiful city with us!

After we arrived back at the hotel, we bid Charlie & Bee a fond farewell and thanked them for their hospitality and the wonderful time we'd had.  I am very glad that I had the chance to meet them both and am even more excited that I'll get to see them again on the Bloggers Cruise in February!  Yay to Barb for that!

Thinking ahead, I'd made arrangements with the hotel when we checked in the day before for a late check-out so we still had time to hit the pool before we had to head down to Fort Lauderdale to catch our flight back to Connecticut.  There are pictures of the pool in the slideshow below, too, and even though I can promise you that I actually did go swimming, you aren't going to find any pictures of me in a swimsuit!  I did take some of the pictures from the middle of the pool, though, to prove to you that I was in the water but that's as good as it's going to get and I'm just glad I didn't drop my Nikon in the water!  I tell ya, the things I do for blog pictures!!  Still, it was my first time in the water in years and it was ... well, it was like being in Paradise!