Monday, August 30, 2010

What You Say

My granddaughter saw the engagement ring this weekend, and exactly as I predicted, said, "Oh, that's so cute!"

Um, yeah. Sure. Glad you liked it. I guess. Now excuse me a minute while I go dig that squeal out of my ear so I can hear again.

It occurs to me, from this and from another conversation we had, that she's lacking in ideas for what to say to people at various times. While I'm not energetic enough to try to cover all situations, I'd like to offer up ideas for what to say when a compliment is expected. It could be about anything: hair, jewelry, a piece of artwork, somebody's ugly new baby. "Cute" in a high-pitched squeal just doesn't do the job.

Trust me.

I could have used a list like this many years ago, during my most embarrassing moment ever. A compliment was expected, deserved, in fact, but by the time it was my turn, all the good ones had been used. And I just had to, had to say something unique. (Think of it as a disease.) What came out was an insult, and no, I'm still too embarrassed about it all these years later to say just what it was. It was, however, definitely unique. And those people don't speak to me still, though they had plenty to say at the time.

So, whether you like something or not, try some of these next time:

Oh, that's beautiful!
That's just so you!
Wow, that's so unique: I never would have thought of it.
That must have been so much work!
However did you find it?
Boy, that sure makes a statement!
It's good that you're so sensible.
You get such interesting ideas!
I could never get away with wearing that.
Those colors work so well on you.
You're so lucky to have straight/curly/red/blonde/thick/whatever hair like that.
You certainly have a flair/talent/eye for these things.
Leave it to you to come up with something so imaginative.
You're just so creative.
You're just so brave.
Wow, is she tiny!
He sure can sleep soundly!
Wow, what a good set of lungs!
Look how she's grown!

The Glen Beck Miracle

Glen Beck promised all his followers a miracle on Saturday at his march on Washington, or whatever he called it. (I can't stand to listen to him for very long.) In all the commentary following the event, I heard a lot of head-scratching about just what the so-called miracle was.

I think I figured it out.

Those well-versed in Christianity will understand the reference if I call it a "loaves-and-fishes" kind of miracle. And hey, if you don't, look it up, if for no other reason than it being a cultural reference, if not for being (your) religious one.

How it works is this. The aerial photos and neutral observers/counters put the crowd at about 87,000. Impressive actually. However, the miracle was that he expanded that number to 750,000 when talking about it this morning on his radio show!

The Campaign Ad

Our city newsletter is allowing all candidates for city office to put in a half-page ad to encourage votes. Here's mine:

I am dedicated to this city. I've lived in Shafer since '91, currently in a 3-generation household, and my fiance' has agreed that we will continue living here. When a developer left improvements undone in our neighborhood, meaning we all got assessed to finish the job, I ran for council to help insure future development was done right. During the 12 years I was first council member, then 2-term mayor, we developed standards and enforced rigorous development agreements that made sure development was a boon to all and not a hardship. I fought to keep taxes as low as possible in a time of rapid growth, make sure our ordinances met our changing needs, and were enforced fairly without favoritism. I've worked with the leaders of our neighboring communities to bring a new modern library to the area, and develop a joint long-range-plan for our growth. As mayor, I maintained strong working ties with city staff, both in-house and professional.

I strongly believe that all that experience matters in guiding the city forward as our economy changes and growth resumes. I also believe that listening to all sides of an issue and making sure the council has complete information before making a decision is vital. I bring the communication skills and temperament to facilitate all sides being heard in a calm manner regardless of how heated the issues become. My vision of the job of mayor is a lot of hard work, responsibility, and loyalty to what's best for the city as a whole. It takes both an eye on the details as well as on the big picture. I am very much looking forward to serving you again as mayor, and hope for your vote this fall

Saturday, August 28, 2010

An Unpleasant Task, Finished

There's a reason I hate the annual trust filing. Actually, this year there were several.

Start with locating all the paperwork. Now normally that's only fairly odious. All the bank statements that come in are put into the filing box, even though they're only filed about twice a year, those being tax time and trust filing time. At least they don't get lost, although there have been years where they wind up in the wrong file folder, generally the one holding my personal bank statements. Then the receipts are put back in the checkbook at the time purchases are made, so they're easy to keep track of. And since the checks are in the carbon-copy form, it's easy to go through and see that the reason #xxxx is missing is that it was voided.

Finally there are the proofs of checks being properly cashed. This means I go online to the credit union and print out the copy they provide of each check that's gone through. It had previously been explained to me that only an official printout of both front and back of each check would do for the filing. In the early years there was a fee for this. After the account became accessible online, I could access the info and print my own for free. This year I was closing out the account, so I made sure to do that before closing, after all the checks had cleared.

That's where I noticed the first problem.

Two of the checks were written to Target. Target made a change in how they clear checks. They now clear them electronically, from the store. No hard copy of the check goes to the credit union. Their only record is the store name, amount, and "electronically cleared." Since Target doesn't do this at the cash register at the time of purchase, no hard copy of the check gets returned to me, either.


Well, I have no alternative but sending along a copy of both the receipt and the carbon of the check, with an explanation, and hope it serves.

That points out the second locating-paperwork problem. I keep that little green checkbook in one of two places. The first is a place it's kept whole not in use. No, I'm not going to tell you what it is. The second is in my pocketbook when I need to use it. It wasn't in either spot.

It wasn't in the file box either. Or mixed in with the stacks of paperwork on the dining room table. Or the lamp table by my chair. Paul hadn't seen it. It wasn't in any of the places adjacent to its usual holding spot where I might have absent-mindedly put it. I checked my memory of where I'd last seen it, which was easy: I'd written the last check to Jordan for the cash balance of the account minus the final administrative fee for the trust filing. I hadn't even needed to take it along to the credit union to close the account, using the most recent statement and my ID to accomplish that.

Oh dear, next problem: I also didn't have the certified check I'd had them make out for that fee, or that last statement either. I distinctly recall putting those in a "safe spot". But which one?

Since I hadn't yet gone through every scrap of paper and every file folder in the files box, I decided to do that first: find out just exactly the scope of the problem. Along the way about 5 pounds of paper made it into the recycle bin. I decided, for example, that I no longer need the last five years of insurance policies for the house and car and the statements attached to them. The result is everything is now neatly filed for tax time, all of the trust bank statements were accounted for, and the certified check for the filing fee was located. I had everything I needed but that checkbook.

There was only one place I'd overlooked, because it couldn't possible be there. So of course, it was.


OK, first, check out those two Target checks. Yep, carbon copies in the book. Yep, receipts in the book.


The receipt from the purchase nearly a year ago had faded so badly about the only legible thing on it was the bullseye logo for Target. And that's as good as it's ever going to get.


Now the real fun begins. Head to the computer, pull up last year's filing, change dates, change numbers, keep the template, save as new. Of course it's never that simple. Never has been. There's always a math error. It never balances to the penny. Assets on hand last year, plus interest, minus administrative expenses, minus distributions to beneficiaries, need to compare exactly to current assets on hand. Luckily this year, that's zero, making at least that little bit simpler.

Part of the fun is that the trust year is not the same as the bank statement dates, so they need to be combed through to figure out which figures go in this report and which are for the previous or future year. Year-to-date figures will be wrong. Each entry needs to be tallied. I always make at least one mistake by the time the first balance is taken. Sometimes more.

That's even more aggravating. There's nothing quite like finding an error, thinking you've solved the problem, and finding out there's yet another one.

This year I finally decided to put everything on a spreadsheet, at least for the interest. There was interest on the savings account and on each of the 4 CDs which were held for some part of the year. Each of those, further, needed to be noted in another part of the trust for the exact amount of interest earned and a justification entered for why it didn't earn at least 2%.

Have you tried to get 2% this last year on any secure short-term investment? Just saying.

This year, after all the figures were accounted for, additions and subtractions made, and everything was balanced, the result was...

A penny off!


Go back and recheck every figure, making sure it was entered correctly. Re-add all the columns, twice. There's a whole lot of paper shuffling, a whole lot of where-exactly-did-I-get-that-number? involved in that process. It has to be done in the morning, since that's when my math brain is at its most functional. (Don't ask me to do math at night! Ever!) After all that is done, I finally come to the last set of figures, the administrative expenses. Only four numbers, two ending in zeros, and I can see instantly on the form that 5 + 2 do not equal 8. All that double-checking was unnecessary, had I just looked there first. But, hey, at least I know there aren't any other mistakes.

All that's left now is making copies of what needs sending, getting my signature notarized Monday morning, and taking the whole thing to the post office after that.

And waiting. Waiting to find out the consequences of inadequate proof of expenses. Waiting through whatever number of years until I can make 4" more space in my file box after throwing out all the paperwork.

Oh yeah, and waiting to see those pictures from Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.

And, hey, anybody out there thinking of setting up a trust and making me the trustee? Go find somebody else!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Chat With the Granddaughter

I took Jordan out to dinner last Friday so we could catch up on each other's news. She's looking well after being gone to SE Asia for over 5 weeks.

First, when I informed her about the engagement, she squealed, "Oh, that's so cute!" Yeah. We geezers aren't supposed to do things like that, I guess, so when we do, it's just so cute. Well, it's better than several years ago when she saw me kissing him and the reaction was "Yecchhh!"

Yep, definite improvement.

However, I informed her that if she was going to be a bridesmaid and stand there during the ceremony going "That's just so cute," I was going to throw her out of the church. Or wherever.

We hadn't talked since before she left for music camp at St. Olaf in late June. Her mom had told me in a phone call over the lost luggage that she (Jordan) found the girls at camp too snooty and changed her mind about wanting to be a music teacher when she finished college. Jordan confirmed that her mom had gotten it mostly right - for a change - but that she still wanted to go to St. Olaf for college. She just didn't know what for, exactly. But music required lots more instruction starting much earlier in her life.

So, if I've got this right, she wants to go to a very expensive college with no idea how it'll work with her undecided-upon major with all those rich snooty girls who'll be many of the same ones or have the same attitudes as the ones from music camp? Interesting choice.

As for the trip, she mostly loved it. The first week, the one with the elephants, the primary reason she went in the first place, was a big disappointment. First, when they relocated the program from Thailand to Laos due to civil unrest, they settled for a lesser quality program. She got only about two hours a day with the elephants, and the rest touring temples and playing tourist. Second, she spend much of her time upset about the lost suitcase, distracting from her enjoyment.

Her next two weeks were island hopping and diving on the Thailand coast, and that was great fun. That's good, since there was no bonus of community service hours from that particular piece of the trip. They started with four students and ended with two. Both boys got sent home a couple days into the trip for stealing! They were just very lucky that they avoided being arrested there. Jordan thought that part was because the local cops were corrupt and just wanted money to look the other way. I asked Jordan if having half the student load meant now getting twice the attention. She said it didn't work that way. The staff got twice the time off.

The week with the orphans in Cambodia was mostly helping with the outlying facilities of the newly-build orphanage, and I gather not so much working with the orphans themselves, as the trip had actually been advertised. The last week as well struck me as the experience not quite matching the advertising, though the exact details got lost in the overall hearing of the experience.

We discussed how she compared her Rustic Pathways trip this year with the People To People trip a couple years before. Rustic Pathways seems to be much less organized, and much less supervised. I'm thinking she was lucky that there weren't more problems than there were, and also lucky that she'd had the better trip first with all the advance training and knew how to behave, how to deal with setbacks, how to travel to a foreign land.

But she's home, and safe, and has a couple of amazing experiences to remember the rest of her life.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

I Won!

No, not the lottery. Yet....

But the results are finally in from the Crex Meadows 2010 Photo Contest, where top two in each category make it into the calendar for the next year.

I thought I'd missed the deadline. It was close. I knew it was just after we'd get back from vacation, and with all the chaos, I just let it go until after we got back. When I remembered to check the date, it had just ended, minutes before.


I checked in again a few days later for something else, and they had extended the deadline. Time to get busy! I had one day! They needed an 8x10 and an e-file.

I dug out the laptop - completely untouched all vacation long in its place in the RV with all the electrical issues we'd had and the fact I hadn't actually needed it - and found the picture I'd had in mind. It had been taken years before during a presentation on site. It was a close-up of a horned owl, rather wet because it had been raining. In fact, that had been the hook the presenter used to get our attention: "What does an owl do in the rain?" After we all went out, a whole lot of folks who couldn't kill their flash found out the owl eyes in a flash picture are yellow with red pupils like little winged devils. I got a few of those. But I also killed my flash for a whole bunch of shots, and of those I selected one where the owl's beak is open with its tongue showing. (See it here on my blog.)

I wasn't sure such an "unwild" shot was what the contest sponsors had in mind, but I sent along a note explaining that I thought their sponsored events were as important a part of what they do as letting us drive unsupervised around the place hoping to find something worth shooting. With our cameras, of course, though most of Crex is open to hunters in the proper seasons, and is in fact financially supported by them. On the day I dropped off the picture, I took my dad along for a drive and we had a great time.

The following weekend I took him along when I went up again to vote, and they obligingly sat him right in front of the big hi-def TV they use for a pair of gorgeous videos for his own private viewing. He says he saw a lot of it that way, despite his vision. (At least the sound was good, music, bird calls, etc.) Then we two drove around while I took some more pictures. Never too soon to try for next year's contest, after all.

Most years they post the results right away.


I thought somebody hadn't gotten around to posting it on the website. Maybe they had some kind of glitch? I also figured that since I hadn't heard anything via email, my picture wasn't a winner. After all, it was entry #26 just in the birds category, and I hadn't counted to see just how many entries there were. The competition was fierce. Seeing the pictures alone is a great reason to visit.

Today I checked out their website for something else, and there it was: the winners were finally posted. Some explanation about lots of counting. May as well see who I lost to, eh? And there, on the top line of three pictures, was my owl, in second place. I made the calendar!

Some of you might expect a flat package this year for X-mas. Just so you know.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Entropy Questions

Entropy has always been something of a head-scratcher for me. Perhaps it's denial of the idea that everything is on a downhill slide and will be forever until nothing is left.

Oh, I concede that on a macro scale, some of the points are obvious. A tree dies, the wood rots or is burned, and eventually nothing is left. Iron rusts away. Even plastic in landfills will eventually decompose. Even on a larger scale, I get that the sun will burn through its finite supply of energy/matter and go dark.

However, as much as there is the inevitable down in the cycle, there is also the up. It's not straight line. That tree started as a blossom, got fertilized and changed into a seed, grew and grew, became tall and strong before it died. It's remains feed the next tree to spring from its seeds, which feed the next, etc. And that doesn't even start to take into the account the organisms which feed on it, from bacteria and fungus on up.

It's the big picture that keeps me puzzled. Our sun may go dark, but something will still be there, as will something remain of our planet, solar system, universe. The time scale of those changes is far beyond anything that will affect anything I can even recognize as a descendant, and thus needn't ever become "real" for me. And who can absolutely say that what is left cannot change yet again into something completely new and start some cycle all over again? Entropy's an interesting theory, but how does it stop all the bodies currently in motion and prevent collisions which provide a new influx of energy? Since nobody can explain the Big Bang to my satisfaction, as in where did all that "stuff" come from just before the explosion, how can they pretend to disprove we're not heading for another one? And don't feed me all that stuff about infinity, please, not when we can't disprove curved space and haven't a clue what gravity really is and string theory isn't even as good as the mozarella strings come from. If only one or two people on the planet can claim to understand such theories, who's to say they're not fantasy and the scientific emperor is really wearing no clothes?

For my nickel, it's all still a bunch of questions, not answers. And here are a couple more.

To grossly simplify entropy, the universe is going to hell. And if that's the case, what about Heaven? It that going to Hell also? If so, what's going to happen to Hell?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

90 Years of the Vote

The question on MPR today was about what women have contributed to the political process since getting the vote. Have we made a difference?

I wish I had an answer, based on research and objective fact. I'm not old enough to have experienced before and after. My mother was born without the right to vote, but it came along shortly afterward, enough so that she likely took it for granted, the way I do.

I would like to insist that of course we changed things, and for the better. In some ways that has to be true. We no longer are property, though some still behave as if we are. We can own our own property, have our own money, follow our own reasonable desires. Surely our votes helped accomplish that. In the whole of things, the fact that half the population is no longer prohibited from having a say in their own lives has to have made a difference, for the better. Just like allowing whatever percentage there was/is of persons of color in the population getting the vote has made a difference, for the better. Just like allowing whatever percentage of GLBT citizens have full rights will make a difference, for the better.

It's about power.

I heard one comment read on air where somebody was whining that we women have made this country more liberal, like that was a bad thing. While I have no problem with that word, let's substitute the word "humane" for it. That's the how of why it's more liberal. Individual persons, their rights, their educations, their aspirations, their comforts, their full bellies - these are the ways women voting have made the country more humane.

We still have to fight for it, an ongoing battle against a noise machine these days that glorifies the company and the bottom line and denigrates the worker. But those of us who've been around long enough to see some of the progress and remember what it was like before, know the battle isn't won and we can't back down. We've been taught that power is unfeminine, that wanting for ourselves and our families is selfish (when somehow it's not when the robber barons do it), and a whole host of other lies that seek to make us turn away from our collective power, told to us by those who seek to keep all of theirs.

We are told that we react with feelings and not logic, by those who value only logic and don't recognize their own feelings. While this may be true with individuals on the far end of the feminine spectrum, it is equally true on the far end of the masculine spectrum. Whether our feelings tend more towards nurturing and theirs more towards rage is something to be sorted out if we can ever get away from stereotypes and figure out what is real and not. I know people of both genders who defy the stereotypes as well as those who fulfill them. If we women do tend to vote towards nurturing, towards cooperation rather than competition, then this has to be an improvement in our society. If we vote with an eye towards the family and the community and less with an eye on the profit margin, then we can help balance what is so often out of balance.

So have we made a difference? Some. Not enough.

Let's keep working on it.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Selecting The Ring

I had several requirements, once I actually took the time to think about it. I've done the big diamond solitaire bit: bad marriage, bad memories. Time for something different. And even though I reset the diamond into a new "dinner ring" with more diamonds and a pair of sapphires years ago, I just don't wear it.

I've often thought a ruby or rubies would be nice, especially since the red color is for love. Heck, a red heart would even be nice. Not necessary, but nice. Diamonds are good too, something on the small side, perhaps one or two on either side of a central ruby. Nothing too flashy or set too high, though. I'm left-handed, and still working for a living, and a high profile stone is just asking for snagging and prong wear, and with my dermatographism, would give me reasons to find it uncomfortable and not wear it.

As for the band, yellow gold. White gold contains nickel (though I found out that's in the past, that white gold now doesn't have it. Too many like me allergic, I guess.) Something simple in shape, that can go with a plain slim band.

I know rings like this exist. I've seen the flyers that come out every year around Valentine's day. They're not hugely expensive, another requirement, though I wasn't thrilled with the idea of waiting for the holiday to roll around again just to find something.

Keeping all this in mind, and after several conversations with Steve, I headed over to my favorite jewelry store tonight after work (Goodman's, in Maplewood Mall.) His basic thought was find something I like. I'll be the one wearing it. My thought was hoping I'd find one I liked tonight so I wouldn't have to do any more shopping.

I found a great saleslady, somebody who listened to exactly what I thought I wanted, gave me missing information, such as which rubies were laboratory created and which natural, and the white bands were sterling, not white gold, and once I requested sitting down, dragged all the ruby rings out of the case they were in and over to the one with chairs and a lower top. She never tried to upgrade me or in any way pressure me. She patiently let me try on whatever I wanted, let me know what the sale prices were, let me think.

I came to several conclusions. There were flashy rings on the low price end, and I wound up not liking any of them, including the heart-shaped ones with diamonds on the side. Even the two-heart rings. Nice in concept, not so much in execution. Luckily I didn't wind up liking the expensive rings either. The sterling rings were nice, but I didn't happen to pick one. What I did finally go for is subtle, low profile, and beautiful in its simplicity and complexity.

It has seven stones, lined up in a row, all the same small size, and alternating color: 4 rubies and three diamonds. The rubies are natural and deep red both, something I hadn't expected to be able to find. Apparently with small size they are still available. They do not rise very high off the band, although all are prong set and not channel set. The band is slim and straight, but has a second partial band with what I think of as opposite symmetry, appearing to cross the stone-set band, curving higher on the left and lower on the right. It gives the illusion of two interlocking bands, which is a good thing since I'm thinking of just re-using it as a wedding ring.

It has to be resized, of course, so I'll have it by the end of the month when Steve can put it on my finger. Meanwhile we all have to wait to see it.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


So the kid is home, finally, working off a sleep debt after getting 6 hours of sleep in 2 1/2 days. I actually spoke to her, letting her know we'd reconnect in a few days.

Rae is better, post-surgery fever gone, foot swelling gone, waiting a clean bill of health that will let her go out to visit her sister - who is also doing better. Doctors are cautiously optimistic. However, her health is still way too fragile for her to be exposed to even a remote possibility of a bug like MRSA. Which brings me back to what puzzles me: how can they be sure it's gone when it keeps coming back after a few months?

I filled out the forms and paid my two bucks filing to run for mayor for a third term. The current mayor, Kyle, always stated he'd be running for a single term. About a year ago he added to that, in a conversation with Richard, "...unless your mom runs again." Apparently he meant that. It will be an interesting race.

My grandnephew, Elijah David White, was born Wednesday, 8 lbs. 9 oz, 21" long. I caught his new mom on her way home from the hospital with him -hubby driving- on the cell. Love the happy lilt in her voice. Shared a few tips on dealing with infants from the deep recesses of my memory. Waiting for emailed pics, though I gather there are already hundreds to go through. Gotta love the enthusiasm of tech-savvy new parents.

The hot/muggy spell has finally broken. Enjoying having the doors open, breeze blowing through a house that's been closed up way too long. Planning on a backyard bonfire/weenie-roast for supper if we can find enough dry wood to burn. That'll be a challenge. It even rained last night in a last-gasp effort at perpetual sogginess.

And did I mention I'm engaged? Or perhaps I should say we are engaged, we being Steve and I. It started out as a semi-joke last week, kind of an if-we-win-the-lottery question, where we agreed to become provisionally engaged. Last night we discussed it in person, and decided to make it official. Not that we're in a hurry to get married. There are some financial issues. But there will be a ring, something discrete in yellow gold, low profile due to work which already does enough damage to my mother's ring. And sometime next month we'll try to find a nice enough weekend to throw an engagement party in the backyard, bonfire, potluck, all that. There's still family to notify. So far the people we've told have been thrilled for us - possibly why we picked them to be the first to be told. I'm sure I'll have to keep reassuring my dad that he's not going to get kicked out of the house, that nothing's changing as far as he's concerned.

Right now the biggest change is that I can refer to Steve as my fiance' instead of my boyfriend. That's so high-school! Hardly dignified for someone retired on Social Security.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Why You Don't Ask

There's a question I've learned not to ask. It doesn't matter how hard I'm thinking it. There is a reason.

If you've been following Jordan's trip, you remember that her luggage got lost, the form letter they sent out to file a claim also got lost, she ran out of funds to get home (extra charges for suitcase and food). Seems like plenty to go wrong for a 17-year-old on her own, even through a organizationally sponsored trip, for nearly 6 weeks in SE Asia.

Yesterday I got a call from her father. She'd texted him that she'd arrived in LA and everything was fine. Whew! Safely back in the USA. Now there was just the flight back to MSP, with a stop in Denver. I could relax, "knowing" that everything else was being taken care of, that Steph and Ben were heading to the airport around midnight to pick her up, bring her back to their house to sleep off whatever she needed after all that flying, and help her decompress before returning to the "real world".

Around 10PM I got another call from her father. Turns out her flight from LAX was delayed, enough for her to miss the connecting flight. She was going to be put up at a hotel, brought back to the airport, and put on a different flight back here in the morning. And no, they apparently hadn't lost her suitcase this time. That was part of what was worrying her. She had a total of $20 in cash left, and feared they'd charge her the usual $30 for the suitcase for that final leg of the trip. And what would she eat? Seventeen-year-olds don't tend to carry credit cards for such situations.

I suggested he text her that since there was to have been only one fee for the full LAX - MSP trip, that there shouldn't be another fee just because the airlines gave her a different flight than the original. He commented he'd already texted her that if they gave her any hassle, she should try tears. Let everybody else at the ticket counter see the big mean airline as bullies giving a kid a hard time, and the PR problem alone should solve the issue. And if that didn't work, get angry!

I'm trying to stay uninvolved, emotionally. I just want to jump in and fix it. I don't care what "it" is, just make it go away. I'm still telling myself that it's not my problem, there's nothing I can do, that she's pretty grown up even if stressed out by the traveling, and hope for the best. Fingers crossed. And above all else, I'm telling myself not to ask the question.

You know what it is. We all ask it occasionally. What else can go wrong?

Problem is, every time you ask it, somebody comes along with an answer.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Coming Out

No, not me! I'm completely straight, not that there's anything wrong with that.

I'm talking about my favorite morning radio show host, Stephanie Miller, who came out today on her show. I admit to being one of those completely naive people who had no idea that she was gay, not even after she was chosen to lead the Gay Pride Parade a while back. I figured it was just an honor given to gay-supporters on occasion. And perhaps it is.

A lot of different pieces fell into different places today, as callers spent the next two hours talking about it. One commented about Keith Olbermann now being able to be relaxed around her, after years of her schtick about a very lengthy "Future Husbands List", on which he featured prominently. Apparently he hadn't been sure just how much of that was comedy, or perhaps it was just one of his staffers who took the bit a little too seriously. But we listeners knew from the length of the list and the ineligibility of most of the men on it, due to marriage, that it was pure comedy - and a high compliment to the men so named. Every one of them had done or said something to gain her admiration in the political arena.

Now that she's out, I believe it's time to start a "Future Wives List". The qualifications should be the same. The women should be liberal, at least as good looking as Dennis Kucinich, active in the political arena, and just as unlikely as anyone named as a future husband to ever actually connect with Stephanie either romantically or sexually.

I felt so strongly about the idea that I emailed her about it tonight when I got home.

I also applied to be put on the list. Hey, there'd be nowhere for her to go from there but up.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Smart Phones and Sex Partners

It was one of those news items this morning on MPR that I started to listen to partway through when it caught my attention. You know how it goes, half-listening, driving, thinking about the need to stop for gas. It can take a few key words to draw your full attention to what's being said, and there's no instant replay like on the DVR. So I didn't get just who did the research or where they posted it or....

But I did get the gist: iPhone users have more sex partners than the users of other brands of smart phones. More? At one time? In a short period of time? Over their lifetime so far? What are the parameters? Is there a cause and effect? Does having more partners lead you to using the iPhone? Or does having an iPhone attract more partners to you? And for heaven's sake, why?

So many questions. Will anybody get past the headlines and do the real research and answer some of them? Will anyone care if they do? Will every lonely techno-geek now switch to iPhone? Will iPhone use cause divorces, prima facia proof of infidelity?

But I did catch a few numbers. Brand X correlates with having an average of 3 partners, Brand Y correlates with having 6, and iPhone correlates with 12.3.

The final radio comment on the subject was that someone had tweeted in response that the .3 knew exactly who he was!

I was laughing so hard I forgot to lift the lever on the gas pump and had to stop a minute to figure out why I wasn't getting any gas.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Storm Damage

Well, the basement stinks again. It'll dry out eventually.

My dad reports that there was someone cutting up a large tree that had fallen over the east end of the bike path when he went out on his scooter this morning. The west end was fine. In a couple days he'll likely have forgotten there was ever a tree there. He did that after the last time.

Rich informed me this morning that when he went out for a post-storm evening smoke, he headed down to the end of our street, drawn by the sound of chain saws. The last house on the end, opposite side of the street, had what appeared to be four trees down across the house. We went to take a look this morning, and it still looked like four trees, though only a couple were across the roof - or what was still left of them, since something had to have been removed last night - and only one looked to have punched an actual hole. I expect a closer look will show more damage, like to shingles and gutters and such. Friends of ours across the street seem to have escaped all damage, as did we. I haven't heard any other reports of local damage, but most trees in this town are still small.

Best of all, we missed the flooding reported in Wisconsin and Iowa.

A Driveway Moment

That's a phrase that MPR uses to describe sitting in your parked car for a few extra minutes to finish listening to something on the radio. Mine served a different purpose.

I'd followed the leading edge of the storm home last night, sometimes dry, sometimes slowed to 45 by the heavy rain. All the warnings were up except for tornados, and I hadn't seen any rotation anywhere, so that didn't bother me a bit as a concern. However, by the time I reached the driveway, it was raining well and there were close lightning strikes all around.

By close, I mean that the time between the light and the noise was around a second, meaning about a thousand feet distance or less. They were coming at about three-a-minute intervals, and I decided the sensible thing to do would be to sit in the car and wait for the storm to pass over. After all, I had a book to finish, and a nearly full root beer that I'd neglected drinking while I watched the storm throwing ground strikes all along its path.

So I sat, through light rain, downpours, tiny hail, not-so-tiny hail, and of course the noise and light show. It had mostly passed by the time Paul pulled in behind me, and he just got out of his car and ran in. I was collecting my stuff when my cell rang. It was Richard, letting me know from his vantage point a block and a half away serving as election judge, that the power for the town was out (s0mething I couldn't see from in the car in daylight), and he'd just called Grandpa to let him know that we'd be there shortly.

Yep, time to go in.

Paul got busy finding and lighting candles, flashlights, and locating the crank-up radio we have for just such occasions so my dad had something to listen to. The outage was lasting a bit, so we finished off the ice cream in the freezer before that last dab melted, and my dad went to bed early, aided by Paul with a flashlight. Cellphones were set for alarms, radios and lights and other electric gizmos were turned off. Rich parked himself on the futon to sleep instead of heading down into the again-flooded basement.

I opened the doors from my room to the screen porch for some air, and turned the overhead fan on full so I'd know if/when power returned. Rich had let us know that the power company had informed the city clerk that it would be an estimated 6 hours to fix the main line in Lindstrom, another hour to fix the one in Shafer, and who knew what lay between them?

I'd asked about the machine which counts ballots, and they were lucky: the power went out late enough that the 3-hour battery backup in it was sufficient to let everybody finish voting and for them to run a tape on the results. The public works guy had brought the city generator over to keep the water tower full enough, and since it was next to city hall, the plan was to run a cord over if it had been needed for the election.

Somewhere around 4AM the fan started in my room and I knew we had power back.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Finally: A Good Shopping Experience

You know how much I hate to shop. I was anticipating just such an experience again this evening after work, but I'd finally reached the end of my patience. It had to be done.

Since I moved my dad in, his lift chair has been taking up room in my living room. I don't begrudge him an inch of it, but it has meant that my loveseat recliner had to be relocated to my new bedroom. That's kinda cool, but it left me without a comfortable place to sit in the living room to read or watch TV. For about a year I settled for a free but abominable chair from the auction house, an orange rocker-recliner.

Let's start with it having a low seat, a knee-killer made to order. That's exacerbated by the front of the seat dropping down every time I got in or out. The seat is too deep so it needs a pillow supporting the back, something you had to hold each time you sat so it didn't wind up under you instead of behind you. It was semi-comfortable at best with the foot rest up, but last week something broke, and the footrest no longer latched in place at a decent elevation when you rocked the chair back to a certain point. So, yes, my feet were supported... about three inches off the floor. It tilts forward by an awkward placement of the center of gravity. And hey: orange!

So tonight I hit the Slumberland store in Little Canada, roughly on my way home after work. It's the corporate offices, how I knew its location (from doing my job), plus the clearance center. It seemed a reasonable place to start looking. I had a list of demands: absolutely no rocker-recliners, just a recliner, small in seat size so it didn't need back support, a high seat for comfort getting out (in too, but out generally sucks), comfy with the footrest up, and a low price tag. Upholstery I could stand would be a bonus.

The store is not made for less than fully able-bodied patrons. The parking is a half block from the front door. (Someone is in love with grass maintenance.) The aisles are narrow with sharp turns, so no scooters or wheelchairs need apply. There are two sets of heavy glass doors to get through, neither of which has an electrical assist. The last thing I needed after that was to have to wander through a huge warehouse looking for the perfect chair. But I braced myself. At least I'd be in the chair department; plenty of places to sit while I shopped.

The first thing my eyes lit on as I cleared the second door was the perfect chair! It was the right size, height, color, and totally without any rocking mechanism whatsoever. Hardly daring to believe my luck, I sat in it and tried it out. And sat. Footrest up. Down. Up. Just to be sure, I tried out the chair right next to it. Big mistake. It was a rocker-recliner... on wheels! What kind of insane idiot designed that accident-magnet? The only thing keeping the store from a lawsuit is the fact that the chair was jammed in so tightly between other chairs that it didn't have very far it could move. I very carefully extricated myself and went back and sat down in chair #1. Yup, still the chair. And in a very nice solid sage green. Touchable upholstery. Really touchable. Strokeable, even.

Once the salesman arrived, it was just a few minutes before the purchase was completed, a few more before the warehouse had it ready to load, and I was ready to drive back to get it. My car got rearranged with the back seats folded down for maximum room (tiny Hyundai hatchback, remember?), the chair got removed from a box bigger than my car, and I got to show the young whippersnapper how it really needed to be loaded in the car to fit. Having it in two pieces helped, of course.

On the way home I called Paul to warn him a new chair was arriving for him to bring in and set up. He decided to avail himself of the orange monstrosity, since the folding camping chair he had been using in his bedroom had broken, and he tells me he's comfy enough. So now it's time for me to quit typing and go enjoy my new chair.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

$end More Money

Those of you who know me, know that I don't Facebook. So somebody who does needs to communicate between someone else who does and me when there's a message needing to be sent when Facebook is the only medium.

Confused? Don't let it bother you.

My daughter left me a message from my granddaughter, who's currently in Cambodia, getting ready for the final week of her southeast Asia Rustic Pathways experience. If you've been following this blog, you may remember that there was a trust left to be spent on her that sponsored this trip, that it was cashed out and the balance given to her before we both left on our separate vacations this summer, and that her luggage was lost on her way over. (Incidentally, it's still lost and the form that was to be sent to me to finalize the claim has apparently gotten just as lost. I wonder if I can submit a claim on that as well!)

All caught up? OK, the message was that she needs more money, and could somebody please send some to her account with Rustic Pathways? It seems that replacing her wardrobe from the missing suitcase got a wee bit costly.

Wow! Really? A $grand gone just like that? Just what do clothes cost over there anyway? Yikes!

I put in a call to her other grandmother, the one I was told is holding the balance of her trust funds for her until she returns, to explain our granddaughter's request. Her reaction was much like mine, with the additional query of why on earth she still needs more money? So I got to explain that there will be at least two different airlines wanting their "checked baggage" fee, and presumably she needs to get all that new merchandise home. (Unless somebody loses it, too.) Then, since she'll be traveling for about 24 hours, there'll be the need to purchase food. Grandma got the picture, took the phone number from me to contact Rustic Pathways, and hung up to make the call to start the process.

There was just one little hitch, however. She wasn't holding the cash balance of the trust for Jordan. Jordan took it with her on the trip.

Wow! Really? $1700 gone just like that? Just what do clothes cost over there anyway? Yikes!

I called Jordan's father to bring him up to speed. I actually wasn't anticipating an actual connection with him, figuring I'd leave voicemail on his cell. But he surprised me by answering. He also surprised me by informing me he'd given Jordan a hundred dollars to help tide her over on her trip when he saw her just before she left.

Wow! Really! $1800 gone just like that? Just what do clothes cost over there anyway? Yikes!

I do hope she had fun, though.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Rae's Story Part II

For those who missed Rae's story, read it here.

Some stories aren't over when they're over. New chapters sneak up on you, sometimes with a sudden phone call seemingly out of nowhere. Had you asked me this morning how Rae was doing, I'd have said she was fine. I've seen her twice in the last couple weeks, once getting together for an activity we both enjoy, and once at a family celebration I was invited to.

But I did get that phone call.

Her first bad news was that the MRSA has returned, this time in the other foot, and she's undergoing emergency surgery as I type. She's upset, of course, wondering how long and how often she's going to have to fight this bug and how much damage it's going to ultimately do. But that's not the end of her story today, not by a long shot.

She filled me in on a bit more of her personal history this afternoon. When they were both teenagers, her sister got into a terrible accident which left her with severe disabilities. Rae wanted to fly out to the coast to visit her, and Rae's father was willing to pay for her ticket. However, Rae's mother vetoed that, because Rae was still using at the time. Her mother informed her that if she could stay sober for a couple days, she'd be happy to have Rae come visit her sister. However, if she was using, she'd be worse than no help to her sister.

Rae didn't get sober. Her addiction was still stronger than anything else in her life back then. Rae's never let herself forget that.

The reason that's important today is that her sister is in the ICU, and it's touch-and-go whether she'll survive. Part of the result of that accident years ago is her sister needs a stomach pump in order to process her food. It quit working for a while. While it wasn't functioning, she was still taking her medications on a regular basis, but they remained undigested in her stomach. Once the problem was discovered and corrected, all that leftover medication got sent through her system at once and she overdosed.

Rae wants to be there for her sister this time, now that she's a responsible adult and a "respectable member of the family." It eats at her that she messed up so badly last time, and she's dealing with all the guilt and shame and everything else leftover from the earlier experience all over again because she can't go this time either. She has to stay here and work on saving her own life. It's hitting her doubly hard, this feeling of letting her sister down again when she needs her.

You might think that's enough for life to throw at anybody at one time, but there's more. Rae's mother is also dying, although I gather in a more prolonged fashion. We had other things to talk about besides bogging down in details.

Rae's doing the right things, reaching out to friends, family, and her fellow supporters in recovery. She's clinging to her sobriety, but she's fearful of not "keeping it together." Staying numb might keep her going, she thinks.

I told her the only thing she needs to keep together right now is getting herself to the hospital and getting herself taken care of. She won't be able to be there for anybody else until that's done. If she needs to cry, scream, yell, whine, complain, curse, or anything else in the process, just let 'er rip! She did cry. And curse. And ask, "Why?" as if there's an answer. But she also got childcare taken care of and got to the hospital, a ride provided by her sponsor's sponsor, somebody who can help bolster her through this.

And her support network is working to raise the funds for a plane ticket, just as soon as Rae can fly.

I'm sitting, waiting for word. How much did they have to remove this time? Will they admit her or send her home like last time, something she has no faith in as far as promoting her long-term recovery from the bug? Will it keep recurring or can they finally knock it out of her system? There must be a reservoir of it somewhere, hiding from the antibiotics, biding its time. How will she deal with the pain this time, after the Vicodin started giving her problems last go-round?

Will she be able to find a way to forgive herself if she can't make it to her sister in time?

There is a reason that the flight attendants tell you if the oxygen masks drop, to secure your own first before you help the person next to you. It makes perfect sense. But will it allow forgiveness?