Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Forget The Tipping Point, Let's Talk about The Breaking Point

My left eye began to twitch.  Or was it my whole face?  I was twitching and blinking and wondering if it's possible to develop Tourette's out of the blue. One of my sons had bouts with it, so maybe this was some latent form of the disorder passed up from child to mother.  Or, maybe not, as just then the volume of my voice began to rise.  Incredibly it went from zero to eighty in less than two seconds...decibels, that is. The recipient of my twitching, blinking, shrieking rage? Yasir A, Badge # 234372 of Standard Parking Company, with the memorable tagline "ambience in parking". What do you think that means?? Yasir had come on over to the toll booth at DIA to play 2 on 1.  Yasir + Markos the non-English speaking cashier at Denver Airport's parking garage = 2 against me, 1.

Despite, or rather, due to his lack of English, Markos had a hard time understanding my explanation of why I didn't have my parking receipt.  Mind you, I had just spent 20 minutes in line at the main parking office inside the terminal to ensure that this lack of parking receipt would not be an issue.  And that is what I had been assured. ("We have cameras that photograph your license plate when you enter so we know exactly how long you have been there and so there is never a charge for a lost parking receipt") So when Markos tried to charge me $54 for 45 hours of parking (which, by the way, has a MAXIMUM rate of $36), I said no.  Not only was I beginning to become irate since I had just jumped through all of the hoops to avoid this exact issue, I was also becoming irate because it was so clinically, cynically, salt-to-the-wounds dispassionately cold and inhuman to try to fleece someone who's just been fleeced!

Whatever happened to interactions between humans that are based on shared human experiences. Why was it that, despite being the victim of a crime, I had yet to be offered one ounce of compassion, understanding, or assistance? (correction, the gals at  the United counter, who helped my husband find a way to leave an envelope with $40 for me-so I could pay my $36 parking fee, were lovely, helpful and appropriately empathetic. They had not turned him away and said "that's not allowed", even though it wasn't allowed.  They had used their noggins and their hearts and had also, appropriately nodded with approval at his foresight and devotion.)

I just read up on Standard Parking's website and have decided that Yasir and Markos must have played hookey on training day.  The website clearly states: Standard Parking's reputation for outstanding on-site management is built on a comprehensive, award-winning training system.  The process identifies and develops the skills and attitudes required to enable all of our employees to perform up to our stringent expectations.

HUH?? I'd like to know exactly what those stringent expectations are... perhaps a basic command of the English language for employees whose job it is to interact with  customers?   And what exactly would you call the 'attitude' that had good ole Yasir staring me down, refusing to call a supervisor, and insisting that I pay $54 for less than 48 hours for which the maximum fee is $36.  Never mind  the reason I don't have the flippin' parking reciept is because it's in my wallet which was stolen!  Along with my money and that driver's license that Markos kept asking for...

If you had the good fortune to read the post before this, you're  already half-way caught up on the story.  If not, go ahead, I'll wait.  Okay, with me now?

Last night I sat with my son on a wall fronting a Sixth Avenue office building, across the street from Radio City Music Hall, snacking on coffee and dessert from Magnolia Bakery.  As we were chatting, a young woman with a foreign accent, toe ring, and New York Magazine folded to the Club section, asked us for directions since the magazine had apparently taken to just posting general areas (Madison 8) and not exact street addresses.  As Will looked up the address on his phone, I glanced down at the big red bag by my feet, and being a bit suspicious by nature, nudged it a little closer to me since it held my beloved Mac. Young lady thanked us, and headed off in the direction he'd pointed her.  We visited for a few more minutes before our bear hug and kiss goodbye.  

I called home, to check in, while walking east. It was ten minutes later when nearing Grand Central,  I realized that while the red bag was heavy as ever, the small purse hanging from my shoulder was sickeningly light.  My wallet was gone.  Neurotic as I am about constantly checking and re-checking my purse, and always keeping it strung across my body, or in my lap when I'm in New York,  somehow I had blown it.

 Well, there I go already blaming myself!  Those cops must have rubbed off on me.  After pulling off to the side of a Park Avenue office building to dump and frantically search both bags, I realized I was screwed and began swiveling my eyes for signs of a police car.  What do you know, right up 48th Street one was idling by the curb. I figured, hey, they must have some protocol for this kind of situation, this is New York, tourist and travel capitol of the world. As I neared the passenger window, sounds of the Yankees game drifted out. I quickly told the officers my story; the first thing they asked was if my purse had been unzipped.  As if that was the issue. Hmm.  Maybe that should have been the first red flag.  I mean the second; the girl with the accent asking directions was the first.

When they said "aw shucks, we'll drive you back to the airport hotel, I thought,"boy, NYC cops aren't nearly as bad as I thought"... but when the driver began heading in the wrong direction  until his partner reminded him where the Triborough Bridge was located, I began to have my doubts.  The Yankees game was turned up, and they warned me not to tell anyone they had driven me to Queens, as leaving their borough is apparently a no-no.  And I would've kept my promise if I hadn't found out an hour later after being passed around to three different "customer service" reps at the airline, that without a police report, my ass was grass.

(Don't let me forget to mention my failed call to the Transportation Security Administration,  that icon of warm and fuzzy safety ( TSA),  whose headquarters unexplainably keep bankers hours despite the department being created specifically to protect our 24 hour a day/ 7 day a week transportation system.)

Proving just how suspicious and neurotic I am, I actually keep a "terror" kit in our basement storage room filled with essentials such as flashlights/batteries/peanut butter/candles, a crank-up emergency radio and, that dinosaur, the corded phone. I also happen to keep a xerox of my driver's license and credit cards there.  Beast.  So my beleaguered spouse, who had his own 8 am flight to make out of  Denver, headed to Fed Ex/Kinkos at 9:00 pm and faxed the hotel every identifying piece of paper he could find, including not just my credit cards and license, but passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate, and social security card.  He even threw in his own birth certificate for good measure!

With my alarm set for 5:10 (the airline folk advised me to get to La Guardia as soon as it opened), I curled up briefly only to hop up again to close the AmEx account. After a few minutes more passed, I realized my credit report would need a fraud alert.  Half an hour later, my heart sank as I realized that the piece of paper I carry with all the kids' social security numbers was in the wallet too.  Not to mention the parking receipt from DIA. Damn. 5:10 arrived about a minute after I had finally fallen asleep.  Time to stumble from the bed, to the shower, to the lobby, for the 5:30 shuttle; which today had left at 5:29.  Deep breaths.  It was just a ten minute walk...sure it was on the edge of several highways in Queens, NY... plus the sun wasn't up, but figuring there wasn't much left to steal, I hoofed it over to the terminal.

Turns out that although I had flown out on Frontier, my flight back was on United.  The guys behind the ticket counter chuckled at my assortment of identifying papers, pronounced them overkill, and good-naturedley scooted me along to security. There, it was a different story.  Ms. Brown, 'Lead Officer' was summoned by Ms. Devila. (I think they got the name tags mixed up, as Brown was clearly the Cruella of the two.)  She took a cursory glance at my reams of papers, briefly peered at my face, and declared " Well, I can't tell that's you".  She was enjoying that view from high up on the seat of power, and wasn't going to give up this golden opportunity to make me quake too quickly.  When I offered to show her my photograph with name caption on the WomensRadio website, she scoffed and said "I'm not holding up all these people for that." I was the only person in her "special treatment" line.  At last she scribbled CCCC twice on my ticket, pressing down hard as a third grader as she furiously underlined the mysterious letters, and then grudgingly allowed that I could go to the "frisking and bag toss" station for another twenty minutes of inane search.  

This story has gone forwards and backwards, kind of like my last 24 hours.  But the final kicker is only sentences away so hang in there.  The text that I received this morning from my duly knighted spouse was to tell me about the $ in the United Service Director's office,  and also relayed that he had (mistakenly) left his Visa at the FedEx/Kinkos last night, and that they were holding it for me.  So this afternoon, I left early to pick up our daughter from rehearsal, headed to Cherry Creek North, fed the stupid parking kiosk, obediently went back to my car to put the slip in the dash, then headed up the steps to Kinkos.  I pulled out all of the copies he had made last night, explained the whole thing all over again to the gal behind the counter, fully expecting that since I was back in the'hood, all would be good.  But 'lo and behold, the tenets of sound reason  have been replaced by those of senseless rule. Even after pulling up the actual text on my phone that described the situation, our Visa card remains tucked away in the drawer  of Kinkos, while Phil is in California until Friday, my ATM card and credit card accounts are all closed, and I'm wondering why the hell the world is upside down.

This is the longest post that I have ever written, but why stop now!

My dear friend, Laura, long ago introduced our family to the spectacularly comprehensive phrase "stop the nonsense!" which is not only contagious but also covered all kinds of situations arising among our (combined) 10 children.  But, as of today, I am hijacking the term for use in circumstances like those described above.  

America, stop the nonsense!  Stop being drones. Stop being dehumanized. Stop being dictators in the name of democracy.  

Start using your heads.  Start using your hearts.  Start being human.  

Frankly, I'd rather die humane, than live inane.  This is not the end of this topic, just the end of my evening.  Stay tuned, there is more to come!

Whatever you do...

Whatever you do, don’t have your wallet stolen.  Especially in New York City.  Especially 11 hours before an early morning flight.  Especially if the policemen who were nice enough to give you an unauthorized ride back to the airport hotel, neglect to make a police report which, by the way is required, in order for the airline to believe you are not a middle-aged American jihadist intent on blowing up the plane just so you won’t have to pay the next installment on 3 college tuitions. For my own take on installments, the next post in this series on travel is also now available here.

Yessiree, it was a memorable day...(and night, but I promised to put that in the next installment). Started out drinking creamless coffee out of a do-we-still-not-care-that-Styrofoam-is-toxic cup at the airport hotel, and attempted to accomplish an hour or two of actual work, yet succeeded only in thinking a whole bunch of brilliant, but undocumented thoughts.  On a more positive note, spent an hour and a half catching up with longtime friend, Ashley, who I hadn’t seen in years.  Next stop was Aldo’s for a pair of sale shoes as I took pity on my  feet. Did you know that the sidewalks that run between Fifth Avenue and Central Park are still made of cobblestones?  Really!  

The high point of the day was Radio City Music Hall where my son,  and 17 other knock-your-socks-off talented New York University kids performed The NYU Reality Show for a crowd of 7,000 incoming students.  Wow...that's all I can say - wow!  From the cheer team dancers to the school band, and the bagpipers leading the Dean's procession to the keynote speaker, award-winning actress  and passionate NYU alum, Kristen Johnston, from the warm welcome given by University President, John Sexton, to the Reality Show: NYU -- a gritty, funny musical about the lives of NYU students as they experience an array of confounding, confusing, and exciting issues, every minute of it was spectacular- so yes, again wow. 
 For a school that few would associate with  the rah-rah culture of  the typical college experience, this was a unique and unanimous expression of both welcome and unity to the newly arrived.  Addressing issues ranging from anorexia to test anxiety, drinking to street smarts, roommate woes to homesickness, relationship violence to safe social media use, suicide to sexual orientation, this was a rare and remarkable performance. Written and performed by a dozen and a half current students, it left no stone unturned, no secrets untold, and no doubts unassuaged.  The phone number of the NYU Wellness Exchange was repeated and recited and reverberated hundreds of times...no one could have left that hallowed venue with out the hotline permanently burned in his or her memory.  I wonder how different the college years (and the future's they shape) would be if all schools welcomed their incoming students with such a clear message of universal acceptance and 24/7 access to meaningful support.

And then I giggled a little recalling the call we received from Will about a week into his freshman year, after he'd gone to the local NYC emergency room for a "bad cold".  I had stared at the lengthy Wellness Center printout tacked to my bulletin board in Denver while gently suggesting that the school must have an infirmary of some sort.  He vehemently denied the possibility, and when that thousand dollar bill arrived, I just swallowed hard as I submitted it to the insurance company flavor of the month.  Last night I asked him if they had had The Reality Show when he began NYU...and when he confirmed that they had, I asked why he hadn't known about the Student Health Center and Wellness Exchange then. He sheepishly grinned and replied "I guess that show just wasn't as good as ours..."

Sunday, August 29, 2010

No Wonder Southern California is Crowded...

Can almond joy be considered a breakfast food?  Because that was all  I could find to coat my stomach before my fancy one-cup-brewed-at-a-time hotel room coffee infusion. We were at the Canary hotel in Santa Barbara.  When Pill (that’s how my friend Theresa used to refer to hubby Phil when we were in college, and he was being one.  Since so many famous bloggers have clever pseudonyms for their significant others, e.g. The Farmer, I decided that I should too) gave me a list of Santa Barbara hotels to check out, I had to pick the one with the bird name. 

It’s a boutique hotel right off the main drag –State Street.  The old world tile treatments, four-poster canopy beds, and eclectic furnishings coupled with the whimsical canaries scattered around give it a unique Europe meets California feel.  The room has those touches that really remind you you’re on vacation.  Crisp white sheets, with lots of cushy pillows and a soft luxurious throw that I crawled under for a brief siesta when we arrived yesterday after saying good-bye to Kev, our newest college freshman. 

I do get irked however when fancy hotels nickel and dime-I mean ten and twenty you.  There were similar complaints about the Hilton in Chicago in June.  It seems like when you make the decision to go high end and pay a hefty rate for a room, that certain things should be included.  Whether it’s parking, or Wi-Fi, or the bottled water on the dresser, I’d rather have those fees hidden in the price of the room.  What you don’t know won’t aggravate you. 

But enough complaining.  I've never been to Santa Barbara; in fact I have only been to Southern California twice…once when I was eleven and my brother and I spotted Florence Henderson in the dining room of the Beverly Hill Hotel while our parents were "sleeping in", and four years ago when my youngest was inducted into the Princess Cult as their personal messenger, preventing the rest of us from experiencing the most popular rides at Disneyland. 

Kev’s school is in Claremont, a gorgeous town conveniently located 15 minutes from the small and crowd-less Ontario airport.  We  arrived Wednesday afternoon, as he returned from a camping trip at Mammoth Lake designed for freshman bonding.  Filthy, tired, and hungry, Kev was the happiest I’ve seen him since the Yankees won the World Series. 

Minimalist that he is, the shopping excursion to outfit his dorm room cost about a quarter of what it cost to outfit his older brother’s and sister’s dorms.  His roommate could not be more perfect...a friendly baseball player from the Los Angeles area, with similar tastes in music and sports, PLUS parents that we liked from the get-go.  Everything about this college feels right.  In fact, the Pill’s ecstasy over Kev’s choice, was interlaced with brief flashes of insane jealousy as he stared longingly at the perfectly manicured fields, the signs announcing upcoming parties, and the slew of cute co-eds, moving in down the hall the dor.

The goodbye was less emotional than most.  First, I had already had the meaningful hug and goodbye last Saturday.  And since Kev went to boarding school, I’m used to him being away.  Plus you could tell he was happy.  So after the President’s welcome, we gave our boy a squeeze and headed up the coast to Santa Barbara for a two day reprieve before heading to NYC for 36 hours to see his brother perform at Radio City...and then back to Denver for three consecutive command performance evenings at the younger kids’ school.  Phew..no wonder it's taken me 3 days to get this posted!

Current setting is a little more pedestrian, The Clarion Airport Hotel at La Guardia Airport! But whaddayaknow...free wi-fi.  Can you tell what my priorities are? Found this room via a travel site plugged in Women's Health Magazine.  Worth a look for you other last minute planners...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Saying Goodbye

This morning I took my middle child to the airport to fly to California for a school-sponsored camping trip before he begins his freshman year of college.  Even though we will see him again on Wednesday when we head out to help move him into the dorms, today felt momentous.  

One of our members on MidChix, Mama Holli, who you may know from her fabulous blog, Nobody Puts Mama in the Corner, started a Flock & Forum for Chix with Baby Chicks Flying the Coop.  Whether your chicks are off to college, careers, marriage, war, or even just moving down the street, this is the place where we share our stories, tears, tips, fears, joys and just about anything we want to share about baby chicks leaving the nest!

If you'd like to read more about my goodbye with Kevin, I invite you to register for MidChix.com, and join the Flock. It's free, it's fun, and it's a special place where you can go when you want to write something that you can share, but just not share with the whole world...

Friday, August 20, 2010

Driving me to Drink or School Zones

On September 10th, (if all goes well on September 9th), I will be a free woman.  No, I’m not getting divorced.  My fourth is getting her license, and since, for the first time in 16 years, there is only one school to drive to, I am off the hook for good!  Wow.  Two hours added back to my day.  I am beside myself with anticipation.  

Does the driving part of parenting get to you as much as it gets to me?  Does anyone else care that I spent from 1:30-5:50pm in the car yesterday?  When you have an online business, being in the car is like having your hands tied behind your back.  I know these statistics may seem important:

one robbery every 49 seconds
one burglary every 10 seconds
Every 1 second a public school student is suspended
Every 10 seconds a public school student is corporally punished
Every 10 seconds someone is involved in a car accident
Venereal disease strikes someone every 5 seconds
A violent crime occurs every 27 seconds
Every 41 seconds a baby is born without health insurance
A child abuse case reported every 10 seconds
Every ten seconds a gun is made
every nine seconds one is imported
A person is arrested every 20 seconds for drug violations
one marijuana smoker is arrested every 54 seconds
a crime is committed every 2 seconds
Every 71 seconds, someone develops Alzheimer's disease
One death every 12 seconds

But how ‘bout: “Every 53 seconds another “urgent” email arrives in my inbox”?? 
Now we’re talking serious!

In honor of my final three weeks of school driving, I think it’s only fair that I celebrate with a rant !  This one I wrote last August, but never got around to posting, so I hope you will enjoy it even at this late date:

The worst part about summer’s end is the advent of the cursed school zone witch hunt by the local cops.

To drive my daughter to high school every morning, it is impossible to avoid passing through at least four separate school zones.  That’s four on the way there and four on the way home.  An hour later, when I drive my son to school, it’s another three each way.  By the time I get home at 8:40 I have slowed down and speeded up fourteen times.  It is inevitable that one of these days I am going to press the accelerator a little too firmly.

Believe me, I love kids.  I have five of my own.  And sure, I want people to be careful if a child is crossing the street.  But I can count on one finger how many children I have actually seen crossing a street in a school zone on any given day.  As a matter of fact, the school zone at the back of the Catholic School appears to have nothing to do with the children walking to school.  The majority of kids are dropped off and enter via the front of the building which is located a block away, where there happens to be no school zone.

The zone that runs along Josephine and York Street between Second and Fourth Avenues is another doozy.  It was hard to not react when the officer that pulled me over for going 30 in the 25 zone addressed me as if I were a hardened criminal instead of a harried mom in between school pick ups of her own kids.  And even though I drive that road every single afternoon during school zone hours, I have never laid eyes on a single child walking along the sidewalk much less anywhere near the road itself.

Besides the fact that the placement of the zones themselves is so arbitrary, the times in which they are in operation, and the speeds which they dictate vary from sign to sign.  While some zones insist that the speed limit is 20 anytime between the hours of 9-6, others are between 7-9 and 2-4. 

Did you ever wonder why the speed limit is 35 at East High School, and only 30 at Denver School of the Arts?  Guess they think the East kids really are tough, or maybe they think the creative types are daydreaming when they cross the street?

But the main question is why?  Why are the local police so intent on ticketing us folks driving these kids, who surely have enough stress in our lives without a trumped up 30 MPH in a 25 MPH zone speeding ticket.  Shouldn’t they be putting their energies into patrolling  I-25 where the crazies weave in and out at 85MPH?

Come on Chix, raise your voices against arbitrary school zones which are not saving lives, but merely filling police coffers with your hard-earned dollars.

Monday, August 16, 2010

I test drove a Nissan Murano last weekend, and loved it. The Murano is kind of a cross between an SUV and a sports car.  That’s just what I’ve spent my whole life trying to be!

Buying a new car often takes me for a ride down memory lane.

My mom was the ultimate station wagon mom.  In fact, she didn’t give up her last station wagon until about two years ago at age 75.  Remember those bench seats?  My clearest memory of driving with mom is her flinging her right arm across the bench whenever we had a sudden stop, which was frequently.  Even though seat belts are standard now, it's still an automatic gesture, though with her shorter and me taller, most the time she just ends up whacking me in the boob!

I don’t remember all of my Dad’s cars, but most of them were practical and penny-wise.  Except for the Fiat.  When I was 10 or so, Dad pulled into the driveway in an electric blue Fiat Spider convertible.  This was the most impulsive action we had ever seen him take.  I probably hadn't heard the term mid-life crisis yet, but even if I had, would never have associated it with my father.  Back then, fathers were invincible. Today, in our house at any rate, teasing Dad is a fierce competition.   

That Fiat was fun.  My mom wasn’t too happy that our second car was a two-seater; but Dad, a lifelong law abider who'd suddenly decided laws didn't apply to mid-life men, promptly sat my brother and me up on the back edge of the convertible roof.  We drove around like that until a policeman flagged him down, and this stranger with the uncanny resemblance to my dad, gave the cop a real run-around. 

When I got to high school, , the mid-life crisis must have passed or at least devolved into resignation. Dad bought a Ford Pinto, which became my primary mode of transportation. With all the fender benders I was in, it’s a miracle that I wasn’t blown to kingdom come. 

My own first car was a big old grey Plymouth Fury.   A real ghetto car. I saved long and hard for that beauty during the summer before my junior year.  And though it took up two parking spaces, it got me around.  After graduating, I had the audacity to talk the boyfriend that I'd  dumped for my future husband, into selling me his Toyota Corolla.  Now that was a cool car.  It had a nickname, but I can’t share it.  It was very red and very fast and I felt very cool in it, especially after two years of piloting the Titanic.

Fast forward  a few years...

After getting married, we lived in NYC, where a car was out of the question.  But when it came time to move to the burbs, with one baby on board and one in belly, we became the proud owners of an old green Volvo station wagon. Phil will never recover from the indignity suffered when driving our cute (read:hot) babysitter back to her dorm, she told him what a cute (read:not hot) little couple we were with our baby and our Volvo station wagon.  

Maybe that's why his own mid-life crisis hit as early as it did. In 1992, Phil bought a used white Mercedes Benz 2-seater convertible from a family friend in bankruptcy. Considering our  three kids under the age of four, it wasn't the most popular decision he'd ever made!  But it gets worse... read on.

Because he worked an unfathomable amount of hours, the job of registering the car fell to me.  So, bracing myself with a diaper bag full of toys, treats & books, and the paperwork he had handed over, I spent a memorable morning at the White Plains DMV.  With baby Kev in the stroller, the two year old holding onto one handle and the three year old to the other, we wound our way around the many stanchions outside the main door.  After two and a half hours we had finally made it inside, only to find another looping line of people corralled between more zig-zagging stanchions.  Optimist that I was, I chirped "almost there" to the kids and busied myself feeding the baby another handful of cheerios. It was just then that my not quite three year-old son suddenly pulled the front of his elastic waisted pants down and exclaimed "Look, my pee-pee is full of doo-doo!"

No kidding.

Can you see my face?  This was its color.

Then his nearly four year-old sister yelled "Let me see!"  The guffaws from the crowd still ring in my ears.  We had just made a day at the DMV more entertaining than a night on Broadway.  When the gentleman in front of us turned and suggested that everyone else  might let us go to the front of the line, I was near tears and protested that they had all been waiting just as long as we had.  Before the words were even out of my mouth, it was like the seas had parted and I was suddenly face to face with the hoop-laden, gum-chewing, talon-wielding, government-issued DMV employee.  She took a cursory glance at the papers I had clutched in my hand (which couldn't move very well as it was attached to the arm holding the offender against my side so he couldn't repeat the display of his fascinating feature to the whole crowd).  It was only a few seconds before she thrust them back at me, and disgustedly said "you need to get these notarized".  

We won't discuss the conversation that ensued with my husband.  

After that, I was never really sure if I was holding a grudge against the car or just had  a hang up about being seen in a Benz.  I've never been a big fan of ostentation, and to me a Benz convertible was just about as ostentatious as you can get.  The first time I deemed to ride along with my hubby for a date night, we saw three people that I knew and ducking is pretty tricky in such a little car.  Then this summer, I had to drive it  (yeah, we still have it ) when he was recovering from surgery... and I thought "hey, I don't look half bad in this baby..."  Maybe I'm just having my mid-life crisis on time. 

Friday, August 13, 2010

I Had Nightmares About the Plunger

Everyone needs a Kristen on their team.  My daughter has that kind of attitude that you wish could be packaged and shared with any victim of any thing.  Maybe it's the classic entitlement that is often attributed to being the oldest, or maybe it's the Mimi gene she got from my Irish-tempered grandmother; but whatever it is, I wish I had it! Kris thinks nothing of calling up Apple, At & T, or Wells Fargo and reading them the riot act if something is amiss with her settings, service, or statement. And she can hold a grudge like nobody's business!  After the dean of students at her boarding school had the audacity to suggest that she may have a hard time in college, she mails him her honor roll status every semester. Once, she included some wax for his unibrow.

After she moved out of the dorms and into a tiny house for her senior year, the dorm staff danced a jig, while her landlord is now trembling in his boots.  Within 3 weeks of her arrival she had bullied him into repaving the driveway, renovating the bathroom, installing a new oven, replacing the kitchen floor, and putting in all new gutters!
Now mind you, she's a lowly college student paying a pittance to share this crummy little place for a year with 2 other girls.  But never mind that, she has standards.  And this place was not meeting them. The contractors (finally) showed up yesterday (a day late) and began to do what contractors do.  Too bad I didn't record the call last night when she arrived home to find the driveway unsealed, the fridge in the living room, her washer and dryer on the back porch (clothes too, of course), white dust everywhere, and the crowning blow: plungers left on her bedroom rug.

Now Kris, despite less than a year away from becoming a nurse, is an incredible germ phobe.  She won't go barefoot anywhere, and blanches if I put my purse on the kitchen counter or a suitcase on the bed ..."who knows what floors they have seen??"

So finding plungers on her new Ikea rug was her version of biological warfare.  "Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God" was all I could here on my end of the phone as I imagined some intruder jumping out of the closet.

These are the texts I received this morning after inquiring how the rest of the evening went.

"Slept at kelsey's, doing a mid day surprise check to see what is going on.   Lazy men.  With plungers.  I had nightmares about the plungers."

"you have no idea."

"and my laundry.  on the porch.  this is not west virginia."

Now I have heard Kris take someone to task many times before, but usually it is over the phone.  Damn, can't believe I'm going to miss this.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

damn, never liked being a copycat

who knew there were so many gals already doing my project-on a daily, yearly, lifelong basis!  sheesh.  and here i was thinking i was so great.  but never mind, i'll try to remember this isn't a competition.  so far my biggest accomplishment was buying the marked down to a dollar bodywash for my hubby instead of the irish spring he asked for.

oh yeah, joined ebates.com

am still figuring out exactly how it works but it sounds like it's a place to get cash back on purchases. which is a little worrisome because then i have to make purchases. but since i only promised to not pay full price i guess i can still buy as much junk as i want!

i know you're wondering why i am pretending to be e.e.cummings. well, this is the reason.   i have neck stuff.  it makes my hands go numb, which can be a problem when you spend 90% of your day typing or manhandling a steering wheel.

so the deal is that the position my body is in to type or steer is the worst position for someone with neck stuff. figures. so after letting my fabulously sadistic muscle activation therapist leave permanent bruises on me last night, i am trying to type with my arms by my side rather than extended. which means that hitting shift to capitalize is a little too much effort. want to try?  okay find a rocking chair, put the laptop in your lap (finally figured out that's why they call it a laptop) now rock back.  oh i forgot to tell you, you'll need an ottoman too or something to put your feet up on so you can stay rocked back and type at the same time. okay, now brace your feet against the ottoman; oops you also need an overweight dog to sit on the ottoman so it doesn't push away under your weight. keep your elbows back like your hugging your muffintop and then type. (if it doesn't push away under your weight OR if you don't have a muffintop, then maybe we shouldn't be blog buddies...)

 so now, i'm cutting back on spending and capitalizing and skinny friends!

my sixteen year old has been teaching me to cut back on word endings.  no kid.  she is into abbrevs . having a convo with her is worse than coit interrupt.  soon i may be texting my blog...except if i do it via my iphone it'll just b garble.  is anyone else sick of the iphone correcting their typing? i knew i had to stick with a real keyboard after it changed "forgive me" to "f$ck me".

ok, time to see if i'm as good at driving with my elbows caressing my muffintop as i am at typing.  stay tuned.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Cycling & Saving- a New Approach to Spending

With three kids in college this year,  MidChix still in start-up mode, and the need for a new car looming as our fourth kid takes the wheel, our budget is busted, big time!  We are not frivolous spenders, but we do spend a lot.  Some on needs, some on wants.  As we work on instilling more money sense in our kids, I decided that it's high time we walk the talk.  

So after discovering the joys of the local ARC thrift shop this summer, and the fun of Five Below, along with reading so many accounts of writers' year-long experiments (The Happiness ProjectEat, Pray, Love,  Animal, Vegetable, Miracle), I think its time I embark on my own project: Penny-Pinching without the Sting.

I'm going to shoot for four months rather than a year; am not sure if that's because I'm chicken, or because most of the above books got a little tired as I began rounding the half-year mark!  But mostly since it frees me up a few weeks before Christmas on the off-chance that someone in the family has their heart set on something Apple, which, as we all know, never goes on sale.  

Now, having been in recovery for years after being raised by the consummate Scotsman, I have a real fear of appearing cheap.  This you need to know about me. So I won't skimp when it comes to tipping and treating...but I will try for some self-examination every time I try to be first to reach for the check...
Anyway, today is the first day in my four month commitment to not paying retail price (except on organic or gluten-free food as we are also embarking on a healthy eating regimen & hopefully there will be a substantial pay off for that down the road). One of my first visits will be to fellow blogger's site Just Trying to Save Money.

Hope you'll join me as I  see how much I can save by shopping sales, thrift stores, consignment, ebay, wholesalers, etc.  I welcome any advice from veteran penny-pinchers!

Sunday, August 8, 2010


23 years ago I had the incredible foresight and fortune to marry my husband.  He was a rare find when I first met him in 1982, and still is today.  Not that there haven't been times when I've wondered who the hell is that, or what the hell was I thinking, where the hell is he, or when the hell is he going to shut up.  But most of the time I can't help wondering how the hell did I get so lucky. Then I figure God was just making nice after subjecting me to the triple threat of anxiety, ADD, and acne as a teen.

Some of my friends (who can't help but like him too) will still ask how I can be married to someone with such opposite political views.  And that's a good question.  But there are lots of men that share my political leanings but whose personal leanings are something to behold!

Phil has a capacity to stomach constructive criticism, think outside the box, adjust to alternating levels of chaos and still be gracious, solicitous, and amorous.  I arrived home last night after 8 weeks away, toting the dog he never wanted, the youngest that it took me  a year to talk him into, and my computer which distracts me from him 23/7.  We arrived to a spanking clean house, newly-filled fridge, empty laundry room, freshly grilled chicken, and a bunch of balloons that read Happy Anniversary.

As we celebrate today with breakfast at Daz Bog & the Sunday paper, I will be silently thanking our lucky stars for another anniversary.  Ten years ago today we arrived in Denver, for what was supposed to be just a little adventure.  It ended up being all kinds of adventures, and probably the smartest move we ever could have made.

Thank you, Denver and thank you Phil.

For more of the mushy stuff you might like //midchix.blogspot.com/2010/02/evolution.html

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Last Day on the Bay or I Hate to Pack

I'm still a baby about some things.  I'm a baby when it comes to the finger prick before donating blood, getting on the scale at the doc, running out of coffee, wine, milk, or seltzer, cleaning toilets, and packing.  I'm really a baby when it comes to leaving Stone Harbor.  Here, I think nothing of walking the dog in my pajamas, wearing no make-up for weeks at a time, going barefoot 24/7, walking around in a towel.

When it comes to blogging, I am still a baby blogger...haven't figured it all out yet-though thanks to Mama Holli I am getting the hang of it!  2 Questions... when someone is nice enough to leave a comment, is it best to reply here, or go to their blog and leave a comment?  Also even though I "follow" a ton of blogs, only some do I get an email about telling me about the latest post... how to get that from all?  (And make sure my followers get notice of mine)

Well, I'm also a baby when it comes to using IPhoto and so I am praying that this slideshow of my last morning here will upload correctly!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Red Flag

When an exchange begins with the words "Let me get this straight" someone should throw a red flag. There have been two times in recent memory when this opener has been directed at me. Once was when my son Kevin (at the well-informed age of 16) took issue with my disgust after John McCain chose Sarah Palin as a running-mate. The second was just this week, when my Facebook "friend" (a high school classmate who I haven't spoken to in 30 years) took me to task over my status. I had posted a link promoting the boycott of Target for their financial support of a virulent anti-gay, anti-immigration politician.

Beyond just depressing me that I had to defend my patriotism, political beliefs, and personal causes on my own Facebook page, it reminded me of just how ugly the political landscape has always been.  

I've often wondered why about my lifelong interest in stories of the holocaust, as well as civil rights battles that happened before I could even read. Along with anti-semitism, and racism, anti-gay fervor bewilders me. How can people hate other people who they don't even know?  Believe me I hate too.  But I hate people who have given me a reason to hate them. Some are black, some Jewish, some female, some gay, some Hispanic, some Muslim, some Catholic, some male, some white, some Asian, some straight, some Texan.  But I don't hate them because of those identifying qualities - I hate them because they are mean-spirited, narcissistic, dishonest, sadistic, or intentionally hurtful.

Maybe my mission during this life's merry-go-round ride is to educate as many folks as possible around issues of gender identity and sexual orientation. I didn't have much experience or knowledge about them twenty years ago, but now I do.  If I can become educated enough to be an educator, then maybe others can too.
The backlash that Target is experiencing may have not yet reached capacity. (It was only last night that I called the hotline (612) 304-6073 and joined the bandwagon of folks protesting Target's support of Minnesota right-wing gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer.)  Not that I think that my paltry $15,000+ year spent at the Glendale Target is going to change their policies; but it is starting to look like the power of pulling the paltry purchases of patrons might just make an impact. While an apology doesn't undo what has been done, maybe it will make other CEOS think twice before they bite the hand that feeds them.

If you liked this post, maybe you'll enjoy my recent article on WomensRadio.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

dog virgin

Last night I heard that little cough familiar to mothers nestled in beds across the universe.  I stumbled out of my own nestle and wildly listened again.  First thing I thought was "it must be Lilly".  Lilly is eleven and here visiting. She's my son's best friend from first grade, who broke his heart when she moved to Rhode Island after third.  Somehow her mom, who has the most can-do attitude you've ever seen, and I ( who am kind of can-do myself...) managed to get Lilly to the southern tip of New Jersey for a few days. Now the reason I thought that it must be Lilly is that Lilly is famous for having christened both cars during drives to the mountains back when she lived in Denver. Plus, her mom had warned me that her stomach had been bothering her.  And despite this extremely clear warning, I did nothing to deter her from eating pizza for three meals running, followed by scads of candy compliments of Cam's cast party, along with some Mountain Dew left over from that event as well.

Oh God, Laura, are you reading this??  I'm shuddering as I recall the disgust in Mikey's voice when he talked about the family that served chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast!  Bless me Father, for I have sinned.

Ok, back to that little cough.  If you haven't guessed from the title, Lilly was innocent as a lamb.  Augie, the doggie was the culprit.  But fancy this, like the toilet-trained cat in Meet The Parents, he had tried to make it to the john!  Puked all over that pretty little potty doormat I bought at Walmart before my mother-in-law came to visit.

So, even though I lived with one golden retriever or another for all of my 18 years at home, I had not one clue what to do.  Not one.  Well, one; I picked up the potty rug, gingerly wiped the mess into the toilet, and hot-footed it to the washer...all while Augie sat there wondering when I was going to figure out what to do.  So I got him downstairs, and he flew to the door, which is very unusual behavior for this dog who will put off the morning walk until afternoon if it means he can keep lying on the couch.

When it looked like he was trying to eat the stones (this is Stone Harbor, you know) I remembered one of my friends who is not a dog virgin, informing me that dogs eat grass to try to settle their stomachs.  What I didn't remember was if it worked.  Hmm.  So barefoot,in my version of pjs - ripped boxers & ancient cami, frantic dog on tangled leash we made our way over the fishing bridge to the nearest house with grass, which Augie dug into like a lion would a deer (at least on Lion King).

Back at our house, I ran inside for my computer to look up "vomiting dog" and returned to find all the neighbor's grass now on our stones.  Nice.  The google search led me to lots of scary scenarios which all seemed to involve scads of tests followed by death of the dog or bankruptcy of the owner. It just so happens that we have a vet appointment this morning, ostensibly so Augie can get a health certificate and a doggie downer to fly home on the plane with us this weekend.  Wonder how that's going to go?  Maybe I'll be staying in Stone Harbor after all.