Saturday, December 31, 2011

Remember Your Black-Eyed Peas for the New Year!

Just my friendly annual reminder to re-fuel your luck for the coming year by eating your black eyed peas first thing on New Year's Day (12:01 a.m., right after the champagne toast, is my favorite time for it).

For further explanation, please see this prior post.

For a recap of the bad luck I experienced the one year I forgot to eat the darned peas, please see this prior post.

Don't let this happen to you! Eat your black-eyed peas!!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011!





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With acknowledgment to Nan at "All the Good Names Were Taken," which is where I first discovered this little gem.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

This Is How I'm Doing Christmas This Year....




.... the "right" way. As in, the one on the right, not the one on the left!

Happy Holidays everyone!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Loving Christmas

I love Christmas. Or at least, I love the *idea* of Christmas.

The idea of Christmas is that we'll decorate and have time to enjoy looking at the pretty lighted and decorated tree.

The idea of Christmas is that we'll bake cookies and have time to enjoy sharing them with our family and friends.

The idea of Christmas is that we'll shop for and buy that one perfect gift for each person on our list, and will have time to enjoy watching them smile when they open the beautifully wrapped package to find the love-gift inside.

The idea of Christmas is that we'll spend time with family and friends and show them, by our actions (including our presence at their holiday party and/or their invitation to attend ours), how much we love and appreciate them.

The idea of Christmas is that we'll celebrate, in whatever way our particular Christian religion, or lack thereof, specifies, the birth of the Christ child 2000 years ago, and will have time to reflect on the values that are important to us because of that event, such as love and kindness and charity and acceptance and compassion.


* * * * *


The problem with the idea of Christmas is that the reality of Christmas gets in the way.

Between work and daily life (which do not bother to slow down or stop just because it happens to be Christmas) and the added tasks of the season such as shopping and cooking and decorating and baking and wrapping and the never-ending obligatory holiday parties, I usually end up stressed out and frazzled by the time the day actually arrives, so that minor annoyances are then catapulted into catastrophe-land and I end up feeling less than loving, kind, charitable, and compassionate toward the relatives and friends who have gathered at my home and are trying to show me how much they love and appreciate me by doing 8000 annoying things and talking to me all at the same time so I can't even hear myself think and getting in the way of the cooking and baking that is happening, not to mention knocking over the decorations and spilling wine on the couch....


* * * * *

This year, I'm really trying to honor the idea of Christmas, so forgive me if I skip some of the decorating, shopping, wrapping, baking, and party-attending so that I can relax and enjoy the few decorations I will put up; and enjoy watching just a few friends and close family members open their pretty but less-than-perfectly wrapped and decent but not-necessarily-perfect gifts; and relax while attending one or two holiday parties, instead of rushing madly to attend bunches of them.

This means some of you might feel "slighted" as I don't attend your party or don't get you that one perfect gift (or any gift at all, really).

It's not that I don't love you. It's just that I also want to relax and enjoy this Christmas season. I want to love Christmas again -- and not just the idea of it.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

In these tough economic times, I am especially thankful for many things -- things that many people these days do not have, and suffer much for not having them.

I am so very thankful that my children are healthy and that we have health insurance for them, for those times when we need it.

I am thankful for the jobs that my husband and I have, and have been able to keep, even amidst layoffs and hiring freezes and businesses closing all around. My business has suffered, but at least I have work to do and I am quite thankfulr for my few remaining clients who are able to pay their bills. I am thankful that my husband and I are able (barely, these days, but we are able...) to earn enough money to pay for the home we live in, the cars we drive, and food for our table.

I am thankful that we have family members, both near and far, who care about us and about our children.

I am thankful for the good public schools that my children are able to attend, and for the knowledge and life skills those schools teach them. I am especially thankful for my children's wonderful teachers, who so clearly care about their students and continue to do a great job every day, despite having been forced to take pay reductions this year in order to keep their jobs.

I am thankful for the many good friends and kind neighbors all around me, and am glad that none of them (so far) have lost jobs or houses or their health this past year.

I am thankful for the wonderful Thanksgiving feast we will enjoy -- and glad that my wonderful husband will have a "year off" from cooking it, as my Mom has volunteered to host dinner this year.

And, as always, I am eternally and especially thankful for good wine and great chocolate!

Happy Turkey Day from sunny Arizona!


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Credit Card Companies Are Not Your Friends

While surfing the internet last week, I ran across a pretty creepy article.

In case you were still under the delusion that your credit card company, or any of its representatives, actually cares about *you*....

Click here to read the New York Times article.

It is chilling, really, to read about how the credit card companies have invested tons of money to train people to *act* as if they care about you, and to use psychological profile information against you, so that they can suck as much money as possible out of you while you feel "grateful" for their "kindness."

Example: Even when the collection agent knows the company would settle for $10,000, he uses psychological manipulation to sucker the poor schlub into paying $12,000.

Example: The "kind" woman at Bank of America (I'll call her "Vampiress" here) so thoroughly convinces the poor woman whose husband just deserted her, leaving her to try to raise two kids and pay the huge credit card debts alone and on a virtually non-existent income, that Vampiress is "just like her" and understands her situation and actually cares about her, that the woman becomes devoted to paying B of A and pays the entire $28,000 balance (half of which was probably interest and fees, rather than actual borrowed money). Vampiress, meanwhile, never informs the poor woman that B of A would readily have cut her debt in half and reduced the (probably near 30%) interest rate if only she would ask. And of course the woman never asked, because she didn't want to "hurt" Vampiress's feelings.

And -- they are using information about *what you buy with the card they have issued you* to determine whether you are a "good" or "bad" credit risk -- and to raise your rates accordingly if you buy things they think indicate you are a bad risk. For example, if you buy beer at particular bars, your credit rate likely will increase. On the other hand, use your card to buy home repair items, and they figure you are a good risk and leave your rates alone. I guess technically it's not an "invasion of privacy" since you're using their card to buy the stuff and so they are only looking at their own records, but... wow. Seems like they ought, at least, to be required to inform you about what things you buy might make your interest rate go up!!

After reading the article, all I can say is:

Holy crap, people! Credit card companies are NOT your friends! Nor are any of their employees or representatives!

The companies are evil blood-sucking leeches, whose only goal is to suck every penny out of you that you will pay. The people they hire to pretend to befriend you are doubtless down on their luck, too -- or else they are also evil. I can't imagine any other reason why anyone would sit through the training described in the article and not run screaming from the building instead of consenting to work for such guileless monsters.

Your best option? Use the cards as much as you like, but pay the balance every month, faithfully. Never roll over a balance to the next month.

What if you owe money on several cards and can't pay the balances in full? Call all the companies and ask them to reduce your interest rates. Some will, some won't, but it never hurts to ask. Then, focus on repaying the cards as quickly as possible. Credit card interest is the worst kind. It's generally not tax-deductible, and often the rate increases based on one late payment -- or even based on one late payment to a different credit card company!!

What if you owe lots of money on lots of cards and have no hope of ever fully re-paying the balance (or at least not within some reasonable amount of time, such as 5 years)? What if you are starting to feel that at least half the money you owe them is amounts they have tacked on in interest charges and late fees for those times when you paid a day or two late -- or paid a different bill late? For that situation, I have the following public service announcement:

Remember, credit card debt -- unlike child support, alimony, and student loans -- is unsecured debt that is dischargeable in bankruptcy.

So, if you are having even some minor difficulty paying your credit card bills, consult a bankruptcy attorney. Get a realistic assessment of your options. If it looks like your financial troubles are unlikely to improve in the very near future, or if it appears that, even when you get a job and/or start making more money, you still may have trouble with those ridiculously high credit card interest rates, you probably want to file bankruptcy. Don't be afraid. Just do it.

Do it now, *before* you are behind on your mortgage and car payments and haven't bought clothes for 3 years and have drained your retirement account, all to try to keep up with those ever-increasing card payments with their ridiculous fees and exorbitant interest.

Do it now, *before* you default on the cards for a year and get sued and potentially allow the credit card companies to reduce the debt to a judgment, which can then be secured by a lien on your home.

Do it now, *before* you send thousands of dollars to the evil credit card companies that you could have been putting into your retirement account or your kids' college funds.

Just do it.

Remember: The Credit Card Companies Are Not Your Friends.

In most cases, when you file bankruptcy you can keep your house and car and all or nearly all of the money in your retirement accounts, as well as most or all of your stuff, and you will get rid of that ridiculous credit card debt so you can go back to buying clothes for your kids and making your mortgage payment without raiding your retirement accounts.

Look into it now. Before the credit card companies successfully lobby Congress to make it harder for you to get those leeches off your neck.



* * * * * *

The foregoing should not be construed as legal advice, nor as advertising for any particular attorney or for attorneys in general. It is, instead, practical advice based on my own particular observations about the evil-ness of credit card companies.

Screw them, before they screw you.

And then learn to live within your means and quit using those credit cards!! After all, you really shouldn't have run them up in the first place....

Friday, November 11, 2011

Eleven

If you are reading this just as it is posted, it is now 11:11, 11/11/11 -- also known as 5-11. If you missed this in the morning, no worries. Just check your watch again tonight at 11:11 p.m. It'll be 5-11 again!

If you like to count seconds, or if you are "into" symmetry, then at eleven seconds past 11:11 a.m. or p.m., you can make it a very symmetrical 11:11:11, 11/11/11. I guess that would be 6-11.

And if you want to be even more neurotic, then at 11:11 and 11 seconds on 11/11/1111, we could have called it 7-11, except that back then they probably didn't measure seconds quite so much... and besides, there's already a convenience store by that name and there might be trademark infringement issues if we go that route.

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I'm sure you've all read similar stories already today. I could have posted this in January or last week, but I wanted to post it at the magical 5-11 time. So, sorry if it's old news by now!

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All nonsense aside, please remember to thank a veteran for his or her service on this extra-special Veterans' Day!

Monday, October 24, 2011

More Email Fun

A Sunday school teacher was discussing the Ten Commandments with her five and six year olds. After explaining the commandment to 'honour' thy Father and thy Mother, she asked, "Is there a commandment that teaches us how to treat our brothers and sisters?"

From the back, one little boy answered, "Thou shall not kill."

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ta-tas Matter

Back in the early days, B.L.S. (Before Law School), I worked a clerical type job.

The other clerk (I'll call her Fannie, because that was not her name) had bodacious ta-tas; mine are merely adequate.

Fannie was incompetent. Blindingly, ragingly incompetent. Not just "couldn't do her job" incompetent, but "actively destroyed work done by others" incompetent. As an example, she was supposed to enter some data into a database one day. Not only could she not do that correctly, but she ended up accidentally deleting everything else that had been in the database. The computer repair guy spent hours and hours trying to recover everything. At least once a week she had some sort of problem with her computer. Every day, the boss had to spend at least an hour explaining some procedure or another to her. He didn't mind so much, though. It gave him a chance to stare at those bodacious ta-tas in the (always) very low-cut and tight shirt.

By contrast, I showed up, did my job well, got great compliments from everyone I spoke to on the telephone, and managed never to destroy work done by someone else, or to make the computer guy have to waste entire days trying to fix my errors. Whenever I did have a question (rarely), I'd ask one of my co-workers. I tried asking the boss once, but he glared at me and said I should figure it out for myself because it's "not rocket science."

Fannie was late -- often hours late -- at least three times per week, and would call or sometimes just show up hours late, with wild excuses every time.

Each excuse individually would have been a reasonable excuse for being late - flat tire, power went out and alarm clock didn't work, sink flooded, dog escaped, transmission quit, bus was late, locked her keys in the car, lost the keys to her car, her mother called to say her aunt Matilda died, her aunt Matilda died ("Again?" "Oh, no, that wasn't Aunt MAtilda last month, that was Aunt BAtilda! Isn't it funny how my Mom and Dad had sisters with similar names?") ... but honestly, nearly every day it was something. That woman had more "emergencies" than anyone else I've ever known. The boss would always say, "Oh, that's ok, I understand."

I had some sympathy for her tardiness, even though it annoyed everyone else. I have a tendency to be 5 minutes late everywhere I go, too -- I always think I can accomplish more in a given amount of time than is really possible, and I always think there shouldn't be any traffic, even though I know there will be. At that job, though, I carpooled with some folks who were very punctual, so I managed to arrive every day at least 15 minutes early.

Until one day we really did have car trouble -- something minor, I forget what it was, but we had to stop and one of the guys fixed the problem on the spot and we drove on -- and so instead of being 15 minutes early we arrived one minute early.

As I walked in the door, the boss called me over. He lectured me about how I really ought to try to arrive early and not be breezing in right at 8:00, because really I should be sitting down and working already, not hanging my jacket and stashing my purse.

I laughed because I literally thought he was joking. He glared at me and lectured me about how serious he was and how important it is to be on time, especially since part of my job involved answering the telephone and we open for business at 8:00 a.m. and on and on ... and on and on ... and then the kicker: I ought to take my job more seriously, like Fannie!

I searched his face for some sign that he was in fact kidding, so I could come back with a smart-ass remark like, "No problem, I'll be sure to show up by noon tomorrow." But no, he was seriously annoyed.

So I lost it. I told him I was one minute early, I wasn't late, that I would have been "actually working" by 8:00 a.m. after hanging my jacket and setting my purse down, BUT FOR THE FACT THAT HE JUST SPENT 5 MINUTES lecturing me because I was "only" one minute early. I explained that I'd have been 15 minutes early as usual but for the fact that we had car trouble -- WHICH WE TOOK CARE OF AND STILL MANAGED TO BE ON TIME TO WORK -- that my time prior to my scheduled 8:00 a.m. work time was my time and it was none of his business what I did with my time and that IF it ever happened that I was actually late, he could then feel free to lecture me, but UNTIL THAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED, he really ought to save his lectures for Fannie the problem child and effing LEAVE ME ALONE.

I turned and walked away, set my purse down and answered the ringing telephone with an exceedingly pleasant, "Good morning, how may I help you?" and studiously avoided looking his direction at all.

I knew he was extremely peeved at me for "talking back," but I really didn't care at that point. I knew my time there would be short-lived. The next eval would not be pretty. I immediately began looking for another job, and left within a month.

So never let anyone tell you bodacious ta-tas don't make a difference in the workplace. They do. They definitely do.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Black Is Beautiful

When I was very young, in 1970 or so, my mom took me with her sometimes to the office where she was a student intern. The receptionist there was always friendly and would talk to me or offer me pencils and paper for coloring when I was bored waiting for my mom.

One day, the receptionist had a little sign on her desk that said "Black is Beautiful."

I said, "I don't like black. I like blue the best!"

The woman laughed. My mom was mortified and apologized to the woman and took me aside and explained that the sign meant that black *people* are beautiful, and that it was meant to counter the general and wrong view that black people were some how "less worthy" than white people.

I was confused because I hadn't realized she was a "black person." When I thought about her at all (which was very rarely, really, since I was a kid and didn’t think often about others), I just thought she had a nice smile and a kind personality and pretty brown skin. And I was embarrassed for saying I didn't like black, because that wasn't what I meant!

I think that was the first time I realized that some people considered different skin color "bad." It made me sad because the woman was really nice.

Sometimes people claim that kids don't "notice" skin color until we teach them to. That's not really true, though. It wasn't that I didn't "notice" her skin color. I did, just as one notices hair color, height, and the shape of a nose. It's just that until then, I had never thought it could be a bad thing or even a defining characteristic of a person. I noticed, but without judging.

I hope our society will one day stop teaching kids that anyone's physical characteristics are "bad" or make a person "unworthy" or "less" than others.

And I thank my parents heartily for not teaching me such awful lessons.

Friday, October 7, 2011

ZZ Top Still Rocks

I scored free tickets to see ZZ Top last Friday night at the Comerica Theatre (formerly the Dodge Theatre) in Phoenix.

ZZ Top -- who would have thought they were even still around, much less touring ... but they are, and they are ... and they ROCK!

The show was fantastic.

Well, a little odd, too, but fantastic. Odd how, you ask?

First, I'm not that much older than I was when I first rocked out to "I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide," "Cheap Sunglasses," and "Jesus Just Left Chicago" among other awesome ZZ Top hits. So why did everyone in the audience look so damned old?!?

(And act so old! The dude next to me was sitting, looking tired, and complaining to the people in front of him that they should sit down. WTF? You're at a concert -- stand up and dance, or at least bob your head a little! Really!)

The warm-up band (Philip Sayce) must have noticed this, too, because it opened with a song called "One Foot in the Grave." Oddly appropriate, I suppose...

Second, the video screen behind the band didn't add much to the show and sometimes seemed, well, just weird.... floating spark plugs (for "Got Me Under Pressure")? floating wrenches ("Jesus Just Left Chicago")? floating hubcaps ("Waiting For the Bus")? Was this an auto-parts store ad, or what?

But the show itself? Rocked. Ignore the lame video screen and focus on the act itself, and you'll be pleased. The band looks essentially the same as they did in the 1970s and 80s-- two dudes with suits, hats, sunglasses, and the trademark long (if a bit grayer) beards, and the un-bearded drummer, Frank Beard. Three "Beards," one way or another.

And they sounded great -- played all their classics with their best blues sound. And played a straight-up tribute to Jimi Hendrix ("Hey Joe") along with an explanation that they appreciated Hendrix's recognition of them when they were just starting out (in 1969!).

Here's a sample -- from a different show, for sure, but it'll give you an idea of it:

And they're good people, too, not narcissistic bastards like some aging stars can become. During the show, a fan waved a copy of their first album. Guitarist Gibbons waved the man up to the stage, chatted with him a minute or so, and then all three of the band members autographed it. Then he pretended to auction it off, talking fast and sounding for all the world like a real auctioneer -- "OK, the bidding starts at $1000, over here do I hear $1000, $1000 over here.... Nah, I'm just kiddin'!" And he gave the album back to the fellow, to loud applause.

Later in the show, a kid dressed in ZZ Top attire -- black suit, hat, sunglasses, fake beard -- was invited up on stage to share the spotlight for a few minutes. Gibbons teased him, saying he had stolen his Halloween costume.

All in all, a down-to-earth, fun performance.

Ya' just gotta love that great little "Beard band" from Texas!



* * * *

They have shows coming up in October in Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas, Alabama, Texas, Illinois, Iowa, and West Virginia. Maybe you, too, can catch the awesomeness with a side of odd. For more info, click here.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Received in the Email Today...

The children had all been photographed, and the teacher was trying to persuade them each to buy a copy of the group picture:

"Just think how nice it will be to look at it when you are all grown up and say, 'There's Jennifer, she's a lawyer,' or 'That's Michael, He's a doctor.' "

A small voice at the back of the room rang out, "And there's the teacher, she's dead."

Monday, September 26, 2011

Worried...

My grandfather died two years ago. My grandmother died this past May.

My uncle from Japan visited here in May. It was good to see him; I hadn't seen him for nearly 20 years. He was one of my favorite uncles when I was a kid -- about 10 years older than me, and about 10 years younger than my mom, he was old enough to drive and young enough to be lots of fun.

My uncle from Texas visited here in August. It was good to see him, too; I hadn't seen him for about 20 years, either. He was another of my favorite uncles when I was a kid, a year apart in age from my favorite uncle from Japan, and also lots of fun. He plays the guitar and sings (has made money at it, at times over the years) and even taught my son a couple of chords on the guitar while he was here.

My grandparents raised good kids. Both of my "favorite uncles" were kind and playful and funny, and just generally good with younger kids.

When they visited here, my kids loved them just as much as I did when I was a kid. They haven't changed a bit, my favorite uncles. Still kind and funny and playful, they both know just how much to tease and when to let up and how to keep a kid laughing and smiling. It was fun to watch.

My uncle from Japan went back to Japan, and I haven't heard much from him since then. It may well be another 20 years before I see him again. He has his own family, friends, job, issues.... I'm sad my kids won't know him better, but I'm glad they at least got to meet him.

My uncle from Texas, though.... I'm worried.

When he visited, he had sold just about everything he owned. He bought a van, and had decided to drive from Texas through Arizona to California and up the Pacific Coast Highway to San Francisco, and then continue north to Oregon or Washington or perhaps even as far as Vancouver. He wasn't quite sure where he planned to settle. His plan was to camp along the way and basically live out of his van. He had his four cats with him, and a decent amount of money in the bank to support his travels, but not enough to live on forever. The plan was to eventually settle somewhere, rent an apartment, get a new job....

He has worked most of his life in the computer field, but he wanted to try something new -- selling food at art festivals, for example. Something totally different. It sounded a little radical, but he isn't married, has no kids and no responsibilities other than his four cats, so if he wanted to follow a dream, why not?

He had built some shelves in his van to store his few remaining belongings, food/cat food, camping equipment, and other supplies, and also a roof rack to carry some clothing / luggage.

He had his computer with him, and his cell phone. He planned to stop at McDonalds and/or Starbucks along the way to use the free wi-fi and communicate with friends and/or check on his mail (which he had forwarded to a UPS store, which could then ship things to any UPS store nationwide as needed). He did not, however, have any sort of car charging cord for his cell phone or computer.

For the first couple of weeks after he left here, he called my mom every two to five days. He would let her know where he was and what his next plans were. Last she heard, he was at the Grand Canyon, camping, hiking, and exploring, and was thinking of exploring the North Rim and then taking a different route to California than he originally planned, but might head back to Flagstaff and then on to California.... sort of uncertain plans at that point.

That was almost four weeks ago.

He hasn't called since then. He hasn't responded to my mom's emails or calls. Even the ones where she is increasingly worried and saying, essentially, please call to let me know you are still alive.

When my grandmother was alive, he used to talk with her at least once a week by phone, sometimes two to three times per week. He didn't keep up with anyone else in the family, but he would call her.

Of course, she isn't there anymore.

On the one hand, it's not unusual for my uncle to go years without calling me or my mom.

On the other hand, the situation has changed. The family member that he did contact regularly is gone, and he set off into the wilderness, essentially, with no really set plans... and started off by calling my mom pretty regularly, and then just stopped. Also, all of the siblings are still in the process of settling my grandmother's estate, and he knows that some paperwork still needs to be filed that will need his signature, so he had promised to stay in touch to make that process easy.

It has left my mom (and now me) wondering if something awful happened. Did he have a terrible car accident? Did he get injured or killed (snake bite? bear attack? fall?) while hiking in the woods or the canyon, and have no way to call anyone because his cell phone battery was dead? Did he get mugged and injured or killed, with all his things stolen?

Or is he simply being a bit of a loner and enjoying the solitude?

When my mom first told me last week that she hadn't heard from him and was worried, my first reaction was, hey, he went years without calling you before, try not to worry....

But she's right. It's different this time. He doesn't have his parents to contact any more. He is not married and does not have kids of his own. He quit his job and moved out of his apartment in Texas, so he doesn't have co-workers or neighbors to notice if he doesn't come and go as usual. He recently broke up with his girlfriend. He doesn't get along well with his other two brothers, so he probably would not call them. My mom and my kids and I were the last family members he contacted, as far as we know.

I'm sure he has friends, and might even have talked with them. But we don't know their names or any contact information for them, so we have no way to know if he has kept in touch with them.

And although it isn't unusual for him not to spontaneously call, it is unusual for him to not return a telephone call within a few days. Unless (maybe?) he's camping in the woods for two weeks with a dead cell phone battery and no internet access.

I hope he's ok, and just enjoying the solitude.

But I'm worried he is dead somewhere and we may never even know where. Or when. Or how. I'm worried I may never hear his voice again, may never see his smile...

How does one know when to start calling the missing persons organizations, or the police, or... who? And which ones would I even call? He could be in Arizona, Nevada, California, Utah, Washington, Oregon or possibly even Idaho or Canada at this point, depending on whether he stuck to his original plans or changed them.

How long do you tell yourself not to worry, before you start to really worry?

Am I being ridiculous to even think there could be a problem? I'd hate to start a huge "manhunt" for a guy who was just wanting a few weeks with no telephone calls in the woods.

Or am I being ridiculous not to have called the police already? I'd hate to think he died waiting for help after falling or being bitten by a snake, all because I was too timid or too stupid to make the call.

God I hate not knowing what to do.


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Update: Thanks to all for your kind comments. We finally heard from my uncle. He made it to San Francisco with no problems at all. And since he is no longer potentially traveling across a huge, extremely hot, very underpopulated desert / mountain area, I'll be a lot less worried about potential disasters. He still wouldn't promise to check in regularly, but at least there's less cause for worry. At this point, I'm sure he'll be fine. Hopefully he'll let us know when he settles somewhere.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Fine Parenting Moment #3129

Overheard at the dinner table, just prior to dinner last night:


Daughter (tunefully): "Lucy in the sky-y with di-i-a-monds... Lucy in the sky-y with di-i-a-monds....... ahhhhh, ahhhhh...."

Husband (inquisitively): "Who sings that song, anyway?"

Daughter (informatively): "The Beatles!"

Husband (sarcastically): "Yeah. Let's keep it that way!"

Daughter (you can imagine the tone and facial expression here): "Nyyaaah!"

* * * *

I shouldn't have laughed, but I did.

* * * *

Friday, August 5, 2011

Arizona Trivia

Today's Arizona trivia lesson features the lovely town of Snowflake, Arizona.

Lots of people think the town name came from its co-founders, the Snows and the Flakes. Almost, but apparently not quite, true.

According to the town's official web site, Snowflake, Arizona, was founded by a Mormon, William Flake, in honor of a Mormon Apostle, Erastus Snow. Thus, the name: Snow-Flake, drop the hyphen and it's Snowflake - an ironic name, since the town doesn't get much, if any, snow.

There are still Snows in Arizona, and Flakes. Jeff Flake, for example, is Arizona's Congressman for the 6th Congressional District.

Lots of people think he's sort of "flakey." (hahaha. sorry...)

G. Murray Snow is not, however, considered "flakey." He was a well-respected judge on the Arizona Court of Appeals (and a super-nice guy, too).

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Dumb Stuff I've Done

Did I ever tell you about the time I got a speeding ticket, then signed up for the "diversion program" driving class to take care of the ticket, and then got into an accident on the way to the driving class?

Yeah, I did that. Really.

(Can you spell "E-M-B-A-R-R-A-S-S-I-N-G"??)

The police officer who showed up to take the accident report asked where I was going at the time of the accident. He rolled his eyes and laughed at my (truthful) answer. Ouch. Not going so well, here...

But in the end he did agree the accident wasn't really my fault, and so he did not give me another ticket. (I'm persuasive when I need to be. It's part of what makes me a good lawyer).

When I arrived at the class, one of the other students asked, loudly enough for everyone else to hear, "Wait! Didn't I see you outside? Weren't you the one who was in that accident I passed on the way in here?!?")

(Can you spell "A-S-S-H-O-L-E"??)

So I replied, "Yeah, well, I'm here to learn to drive better, but I bet you'll always be an ass."

. . . . . . .

(OK, no, I didn't really say that. I just wish I had. But the rest is true ... )

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday Feature - Throo Da Looking Glass

I often check in at "Best Posts of the Week," scroll through the listings, and click on anything that sounds interesting. I rarely read all the posts in any given week - there are too many, usually - but I always stop in and read some of them. So this is a shout-out for BPOTW, as well as for my featured blog. It's fun to see what's out there, and I often discover new blogs I like.

This past weekend, I discovered a new favorite blog: Throo Da Looking Glass. It features gorgeous and interesting photographs, generally one per day, with usually minimal, but insightful, commentary. It's exactly what I need some days -- a few moments of beauty to brighten my outlook.

Check it out!

Monday, July 11, 2011

GIKC, 1924 - 2011

My Grandma died in May, just about exactly two years after my Grandpa died. (I never called them "Grandma" and "Grandpa," but that's what they'll be for purposes of semi-anonymity in this post.)

I miss her presence in my life.

That is what she had become. For the past 10 or 15 years or so, she had not wanted visitors. Maybe it was too hard, any more, to cook and clean and be the gracious hostess. She was a bit of a pack-rat, and so maybe it was hard to present a clean home for guests. Maybe it was partly because when her son, my uncle, killed himself in the mid-90's, it just made her feel less open to the world. Too much hurt out there, or something... Or maybe it was too hard for her to contemplate clearing away the clutter of her books and papers, the manuscript she was working on, only to have to pull it all back out later, in the loneliness after the guests left, and reorganize her papers, and her thoughts. Maybe she felt she had earned the right, in her 70's and 80's, to be a bit of a hermit, to hang up her "hostess" hat and put on her philosopher hat, to see the world on her terms, and her terms only. She never said why, she only ever said it was "not a good time to come... maybe next year." Only next year was never a good time, either.

So, she was a presence. A voice on the phone. A pretty face in a photograph. She would call occasionally to talk (not so much to listen, really). She sent occasional letters or handwritten cards, presents for the kids... my Grandpa used to send occasional pictures, but I got no more of those, after he died two years ago.... He always saw her as beautiful, and she was. She talked with my Mom daily, and so I kept up with her life, her triumphs and troubles, her ... self. But I had not seen her for years before her death.

Still, I miss that presence dearly.

* * * * *

I visited my grandparents each summer when I was a kid. Some of my favorite memories are from the time when they lived in a fantastic house in Florida, near one of the best beaches in the world. I posted a photo of me in front of the house with my bike, here (scroll down to number 4). I think I wrote in that post that I never quite forgave my grandparents for selling that house and moving to Atlanta. Well, I've forgiven them now. Atlanta opened a whole new set of opportunities for both of them, and they shared its delights with me, just as they had shared the delights of small-town Florida with me when they lived there.

My Grandma was young, though she seemed "old" to me at the time -- she was only about 40 years older than me -- and in Florida, she would take me to the beach, and shopping, and out to fun restaurants for lunch, or out for ice cream, or for walks around the neighborhood.

She taught me the value of neighborliness and caring for others, as she took small baked treats and brought me for short visits and lively conversation with the elderly woman next door, who was confined to her bed.

Although my Grandma was what they called, at the time, a "housewife," she also devoted a pretty large chunk of time to helping my Grandpa with his insurance business. He was very successful in his chosen career, in part because of her good advice and savvy business skills. She had her hands full, between my Grandpa and that huge old house. Also, two of my uncles still lived at home, attending high school. But more than any of the titles you might give her based on her day-to-day life -- wife, mother, secretary, office manager -- she preferred to think of herself as a philosopher. She loved to contemplate ideas, to think about the deeper meaning of things, and of life in general.

In high school, my Grandma's guidance counselor had told her that it was "too bad" she was a girl, because otherwise she "could have gone far" with her intellect. In her later years, she really resented the fact that she had been discouraged from pursuing intellectual interests based on her gender, but at the time I think she accepted it as "the way things are," and so she married my Grandpa when she was 18. They were married for 67 years, until he died two years ago.

They had a sometimes difficult, but very devoted, relationship. He struggled with alcohol off and on throughout his life, and that caused a lot of stress in their marriage. He often was not a happy drunk. But despite the difficulties, she always cooked and cleaned and cared for him, and helped him make his way in the world of insurance sales. He, in turn, provided well for her and his growing family, financially, and respected her for her intelligence.

I remember sitting in their grand old kitchen in Florida, and later in their smaller kitchen in Atlanta, or riding in the car with them, while my Grandpa would read articles from the paper and ask to hear her thoughts about things. Sometimes he would share things he thought were amusing. Other times, he seemed to want to spark a debate with her. And still other times, he just wanted to know her opinion.

She shared her opinions freely and forcefully, on any and all topics. She was not a shy, retiring person, but a force to be reckoned with. If you disagreed with her, you had best be prepared to make a good, logical argument about it. Usually, it was easier to just do what she said.

She wanted the best for those she loved, and she had a keen memory for details, and this often came across as a controlling nature. If she were your boss, you'd say she was micromanaging you. It could be frustrating to deal with her, because she always thought she knew the best way to handle a situation, and would be angry if you didn't do it "her way." But given time, she always got over her anger and returned to loving you, even when you didn't do things her way -- and regardless of whether your way worked out ok for your or not.

She loved to take me places and show me new things: the beautiful and/or controversial art at Atlanta's wonderful museums; the joy of music in the park at dusk, while watching the fireflies blink on and off; the view from the top of Stone Mountain; the varied treasures one could find at flea markets and antique shops... and she would have my uncles take me to "kid places" like Six Flags Over Georgia, or a baseball game, or the Star Wars movie. She encouraged a broad range of interests and activities, but did not feel compelled to participate in all of them.

She was a wonderful cook, and always a gracious hostess. Whenever I would visit her, she would make her latest favorite recipes for me and my Grandpa to savor, and would offer up a selection of books she thought I might enjoy (she knew how much I loved reading), and would have the softest bedsheets on the bed, with the TV remote on the nightstand... heaven, for a kid. One could become quite spoiled, visiting my Grandma.

She and my Grandpa also were adventurous in their choice of restaurants and would patronize everything from fancy fine-dining establishments, to local "hole-in-the-wall" family-owned ethnic restaurants, and even chain restaurants. The only requirement was that the food be delicious. And that requirement could be overlooked on occasion if the place was fun for a kid.

She and my Grandpa took me out to enjoy some of the finest food and most-fun restaurants Atlanta had to offer. Everything from the best-ever home-style BBQ, cornbread, and collard greens at a small diner that was always crowded on Sundays after church, to virgin daiquiris at the revolving restaurant at the top of the 76-story tall Peachtree Plaza hotel (a very exciting experience for a kid from a small town in Florida), escargots at a fine French restaurant, or curry at their favorite family-owned Thai restaurant down the street.... And, let's not forget Morrison's cafeteria, which has since closed its doors. How I miss Morrison's. They had the best macaroni and cheese, and always good fresh fruit like watermelon, and great fried chicken, pot roast, prime rib, or broiled fish, veggies cooked perfectly (not overcooked and mushy), and delicious chocolatey desserts.... I loved Morrison's, and have never found another cafeteria that comes anywhere close to the quality and variety Morrison's provided daily.

I think I mentioned already, my Grandma loved to read and to discuss philosophy. But she wasn't above enjoying popular culture, either. I remember sometime in the mid-'90's, she was delighted to discover old re-runs of "Cheers." And she became a devout Atlanta sports fan in the early '90's when Deion Sanders was making headlines playing for both the Falcons and the Braves. She was fascinated by his abilities, and her enthusiasm for his achievements and for sports in general was contagious.

* * * * *

One of my uncles has been charged with finding a publisher for the philosophy manuscript she worked so hard on during the last years of her life; it was the culmination of a lifetime of studying and dissecting philosophy, religion, scientific thought... The thing she wanted most was to be remembered for her ideas, her philosophy. I can't wait to see her words in print, to learn what her final thoughts were on the meaning of life.

* * * * *

She died a harder death than she had to, I think. She fell and hurt herself a couple of times over the past year, and refused to go see a doctor or go to the hospital, I think in part because she did not want to leave her writing, her life's work, until it was done. None of us knew how bad the injuries really were until she finally admitted that she had taken to bed and started hiring people to come help her with various things. She'd pay someone to get the mail and do her shopping, another to come by and bring her food and help her to the bathroom and back, another to care for the dogs... By the time she decided to go to the hospital (I started to say, "by the time we convinced her to go..." but that would be inaccurate. No one ever "convinced" her to do anything; she was determined to be in control of her own actions at all times), it was too late. She was too weak to withstand the surgery she needed in order to save her life. So the doctors sent her back home, with hospice care, to die.

It is not the death I would have chosen for her, if I had a choice.

When my uncle and his wife (my wonderful aunt) appeared at her bed side, my Grandma first fussed at them for coming and tried to send them away, but later she told them she was glad they had come. Thank God for small miracles. Thank God they were available, and able to come and care for her. Thank God she accepted their gift of time and love.

* * * * *

My Grandma told me a story once, about her riding the "Lady Bird Express" campaign train [fn 1] in the '60's across the South, and filling in as a "body double" for Lady Bird Johnson when Lady Bird was tired. She would wear one of Lady Bird's outfits and stand on the back platform of the train waving at the crowds as the train rolled slowly through towns where no stop or speech was scheduled. I have no way to verify if this is true, because of course the official campaign staff have never stated that anyone filled in for Lady Bird, but I suspect it is true because it is the kind of thing my Grandma could have pulled off.

* * * * *

For over 30 years, I've been able to say, "Atlanta? Yeah, my grandparents live there." Well, I can't say that any longer. They are both gone now, and Atlanta will never feel quite the same for me again.

* * * * *

Sorry for rambling so much. I am having a really hard time with this one. I just can't capture my Grandma's spirit and essence quite the way I want to... It's too mixed up with too many losses. The loss of ... My Grandpa. My uncle. My Florida Childhood. Atlanta "back then." Family harmony (see my prior post entitled "Write a Will. Please, Write a Will."). And of course, my Grandma herself, in a way lost slowly over time as I was able to see her less and less over the years; but in a way, suddenly gone forever...

... it's just too hard.

* * * * *

I'll always remember my beautiful, challenging, smart, kind, difficult, adventurous, controlling, charming, graceful, and wonderful grandmother. The world is a worse place without her.

* * * * *

footnote 1: Here is a link to a short online blog post about the Lady Bird Express campain train. Johnson had passed the Civil Rights Act, which was hugely unpopular in the South. Nevertheless, Lady Bird Johnson campaigned on a "whistle stop" train tour for her husband across 8 Southern states - without him - in an effort to drum up support for Johnson and for his domestic and civil rights policies. She faced many hecklers and jeers, but she delivered her message calmly and gracefully.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

"Dust Storm 2011"

Here is a video that shows what yesterday evening's dust storm looked like here in the Phoenix, Arizona metropolitan area.



These dust storms are so cool. They literally look like a wall of dust moving across the city. One minute, you can see buildings and roads and people and cars; a couple of minutes later, it's all just obliterated, hidden by the great moving wall. They are huge -- I heard this one stretched 30 to 50 miles long (depending on who was reporting), and was approximately a mile tall. They move fast. This one moved across the Phoenix metropolitan area in about an hour.

There were some very cool videos taken from news station-owned airplanes and helicopters, and shown on CNN and other networks -- if you saw them, I'm sure you were impressed, but I didn't want to violate copyright laws to post them. This was a really good "amateur" video I found, and available on YouTube to be embedded here. It really captures how quickly day turns to night, how fast it goes from "beautiful evening" to "holy cow, I can't see more than 10 feet in front of me!"

They grounded flights and refused to allow planes to land at the airport for a while last night, because you couldn't even see the control tower and there was no way to fly planes through the dust soup.

I went to the post office yesterday evening - the one on Van Buren street that is open until 9:30, God bless the USPS - left my house around 7 p.m. I got lucky and found a parking spot within 20 feet of the door (never happens!). When I came out of the post office, I couldn't even see my car; there was a thick blanket of dust blocking the view of just about everything. It looks a lot like fog, actually. You can see fuzzy parking lot lights and car headlamps in the distance, and vague outlines and shapes through the "mist." It would be beautiful, really, if only you could stop feeling and hearing that "crunch" whenever you touch your teeth together.... mmm-mm, nothing else quite like eating dust while trying to breathe.

When I found my car, after walking in its general direction for a few seconds while trying not to trip over unseen objects in the parking lot, it was completely covered in dust, mixed with a little water from the rain that was just starting to fall. It looked as if someone had stolen it while I was at the post office, and had gone joy-riding off-road in the desert!

Click around on the web and find some more cool videos of the storm (and others from years past). It really is quite interesting, and yes, fun, to watch.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

My Juke Box Hero

My husband bought a jukebox - dirt cheap! - from a fellow who said his girlfriend wouldn't let him keep it anymore. I am thinking the fellow ditched the wrong thing, because it's a real 1970s vintage box of fantastic topped with awesomesauce, and it works perfectly, too!

Here's a link to a photo: http://www.jukebox-world.de/Forum/Archiv/AMI/AMI_R-82.htm

It's the "Black Magic" one, on the right.

It came loaded with 100 records -- everything from Frank Sinatra, Conway Twitty, and Elvis, to the Beatles and Journey. Some great one-hit wonders, and some classics of country and rock-n-roll, many of them on the classic original labels like Decca, Parrot, and Apple. Too cool!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Write a Will. Please, Write A Will.

My Grandmother died last month. For purposes of remaining somewhat anonymous, I'll call her Grandma here, although I did not call her that while she lived.

I feel bad about not writing sooner of her death, and my feelings about it. After all, I wrote of my Grandpa's death the day I learned of it, which is to say the morning after he died. And I'm not writing about her today, either, because I have something I have to get off my chest first.

My Grandpa died with a will, and with a spouse. This vastly simplifies things. He left everything to his spouse under his will, and it was not a large estate, so there were no probate issues, no estate to settle, no taxes to be figured and paid... everything was just... easy.

My Grandma, however, died with no spouse and no will. She also never re-titled some of the assets from my Grandpa (car, bank accounts...) into her name. This vastly complicates things. First, you have to figure out who the heirs are. Because one of her sons killed himself years ago, his "children" (they're adults, now, actually) are entitled to share in the estate. They share the portion of the estate that he would have taken, had he lived.

Plus, there is no executor designated in a will, so you have to get the siblings to agree on who should be the personal representative of the estate.

And you have to figure out what, exactly, constitutes the "estate." There are insurance policies that pass outside the probate estate. There are bank accounts with POD designations that pass outside the estate. There are bank accounts with co-owners named on the account itself, that pass outside the estate to the co-owners of the account. At least, this is what I am learning about the law of the state she died in. Please don't take this as good legal advice for every state or every situation.

That pretty much left the furniture, for my Grandma's estate, and a couple of insurance policies she held on the lives of others, payable to her, which may have some sort of cash-out value and will be payable to the estate. Oh, and the car, too -- which has to be retitled to someone and it can't be my Grandma since she's no longer living, so then you have to decide who must handle that and what should happen to the car. Will it be sold? Will someone just keep it?

And then you have to try to figure out what the furniture, car, and other assets are "worth," and how to dispose of them.

The siblings end up disagreeing over this. Some want to have some furniture and/or the car, others want to simply auction it all off and split the proceeds. And if some people take items of sentimental value, does the "value" of those items (and what about shipping costs?) come out of that person's share of the proceeds? If so, how do you value it?

And if you're going to auction it, who pays for the costs of transportation to the auction house? If the estate is paying to transport things to the auction house, should it also pay to transport things to any sibling who wants to have them? And if it takes time to pack and transport the things to the siblings who want them, or to the auction house, who pays for the extra storage costs (rent at the home where the items are located, or transportation to and storage costs at a storage facility) while you wait for the auction, or transportation to the siblings, to occur?

And if some siblings go to the house and help sort and pack items, while others claim they are too busy or live too far away to assist, do the siblings who help get reimbursed for their travel expenses from the estate? What about lost income? See, if a personal representative were appointed, they would be entitled to some sort of compensation by statute, but what about when one hasn't been appointed yet?

And will there even be enough money to pay the tax accountant after all the expenses are paid? If not, who will pay that?

And what about the fact that Grandma left money in IRA accounts to three of four siblings, but not the other? Was that intentional? Or not? Should the siblings try to "equalize" the estate by giving more proceeds of any sales to the fourth living sibling? If so, does that sibling get more of a say in what happens to the furniture / household items? Can that person "demand" -- or can others demand on his behalf -- that everything be auctioned to maximize his cash? And what about the children of the fifth (dead) sibling? Do the siblings try to equalize their inheritance, too? Or do they just accept that Grandma maybe didn't want those heirs to have the same amount of cash as the others?

And so the siblings end up disagreeing over these things, and even though none of them are particularly money-hungry, and none of them want to leave the others without an inheritance, and it's not a lot of money anyway, the disagreements over the details leave everyone having the same fights they, as siblings, have had all their lives. Fights over whether this or that person is "too controlling" or "doesn't care about anything but money" or "isn't stepping up to be responsible and help with the work, or the decision-making."

Feelings are hurt, usually unintentionally. Relationships, never perfect among these siblings to begin with, are damaged further.

It is hard to watch. These are all people I love -- my Mother, my uncles.... and it's not that anyone is saying "it's all mine you shouldn't have it." Nothing that extreme. Just minor disagreements over how to handle things, and who gets to decide, and what is the best way to maximize this minimal estate, combined with 40+ years of sibling rivalries and personality conflicts.

Please, people, don't put your children through this. Write a will. If you have significant assets, contact a good estate planning attorney and set up living trusts and pourover trusts and whatever else you need to protect your assets while also making sure they go where you want them to go after you die. Tell people what you want to happen to your stuff, and direct that the expenses should be paid from the estate if possible, and/or direct that anyone who wants what has been left to them should pay for their own transportation costs or costs of sale or other disposal. Your choice. But make a decision!

If you've raised your kids well, they'll appreciate the direction. Some feelings may be hurt, and some of your kids might be mad at you for giving the silverware to someone else -- but most likely they'll work it out or accept that you handled it the way you thought was best. At least they won't be ruining their relationships with each other just trying to decide what you would think is "best" or what "should" happen.

Well, I can't guarantee they won't. Sometimes people's feelings are hurt, or they're money-hungry and so they challenge the will. But at least they have a chance to avoid the fight, by simply following your directions.

Without a will, it appears there's almost no chance of avoiding conflict, even when all involved have good intentions.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Idiot

This story, by Lola at Women: We Shall Overcome (awesome blog), reminded me of an incident that happened to me a few years back.

My husband and I needed something or other from Home Depot. On a Saturday. Oh yeah, you know that's fun, right?

So we drove to the closest one, which happened to be in a very crowded strip mall in Mesa, Arizona, and then we drove around the parking lot for several minutes looking for a parking space.

Finally, success! A car with a person getting into it! So I stopped in the lane and waited for the person to finish getting into her car and back out of her space.

I don't know why, but after getting into her car and starting it, the woman sat there a while, not moving, before veeerrrryy sloooowly beginning to back out of the space.

Meanwhile, a car pulled into the lane and stopped right behind me. Then, a man approached from the left side and behind my car (coming from the store exit) and walked around the front of my car and approached the driver's door of his car, which was parked directly to my right.

And then the man got into the car to my right, started his car, and put it into reverse. . . . And then he started backing up.

I couldn't pull forward or back because of the other cars in the lane, so I hit the horn -- twice quickly and then a loud long blast!

My husband yelled out his open window, "STOP!!"

A man and woman were walking, and then running, up the row and they were waving frantically and yelling "STOP! STOP!"

But the man backed right into my car. Kind of hard. There was a very large dent in the passenger door. We were lucky my husband wasn't injured.

And then the man, hereafter to be known as "The Idiot," got out of his car and yelled at me, "WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?!?"

WTF? I tried to remain calm, but it is difficult when faced with such irate stupidity.

So I yelled back at him: "What am I doing? What the hell are you doing? You just backed into MY car! And you knew I was there!! You had to walk around my car to get into yours!!"

"Well you should have moved by now!"

"WHAT?!? Didn't you look behind you before you backed out of your space? You're damn lucky you didn't just run over a person walking!!"

[Under my breath: "God what an idiot!!"]

The Idiot then started to get back in his car, saying he was leaving. I reminded him that Arizona law requires drivers to share their license and insurance information whenever they are involved in a collision. He refused to give it, insisting that the collision wasn't his fault. (Uh, yeah.... right....). Someone called the police on a cell phone, but then someone else said they wouldn't come because it was private property. I don't know if that's true, but the police did not arrive at any time before we left, so maybe it was true.

The Idiot wanted to leave and demanded, loudly, that I "Move that piece of shit car so I can get on with my life!!" . . .

. . . That was the moment when I realized I had the upper hand in this negotiation.

So I smiled, and calmly told him I'd move my car right after we exchanged license and insurance information, as required by Arizona law. I got out a piece of paper and made a big show of (very slowly) recording the make and model of his car, the license plate number, and the VIN from the dashboard.

He yelled at me the entire time -- things like, "This is all your fault, you bitch! Get away from my car!" and "I'll have you arrested for false imprisonment if you don't let me leave!" I told him he was free to go anytime he wanted; but that I wasn't planning to move my car until I had obtained the information I wanted and/or filed the police report. After that I ignored him and wrote down the information. I did not touch his car. The witnesses offered me their names and telephone numbers. I wrote those down, too.

The man yelled some more about what a moron I was and how the collision was all my fault. I smiled politely and said, "Yell all you like, I'm not moving my car until after we have exchanged insurance information, as required by law." I slowly wrote down my own license and insurance information for him. He looked like he wanted to hit me, but the witnesses were still standing there, and my husband looked like he might hit back, so finally the man broke down and got out his license and insurance information, cursing the entire time.

I wrote it down. I moved my car. He drove away. The police still hadn't arrived, so I parked my car in his spot and my husband and I did our shopping and then we drove home.

His insurance later paid to fix my car, with no questions asked. Didn't even need those witnesses. I had the feeling from his agent that this was not the first time The Idiot had done something ... idiotic.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Heavenly Objects and Sh-- Like That

Received this in my email inbox today, and thought you all might enjoy it:



video



I'll never look at shooting stars in quite the same way again...


* * *

Footnote (because I'm a lawyer, and lawyers love footnotes): Is anyone else reminded of the Bad Company song? ... How's it go? Something like: "Don't you know that you are a shooting star... ?" Never knew they were actually calling the dude a giant piece of $*!+ did you?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Stupid Blogger

So I hadn't written anything since April 20. Then I finally posted something Wednesday. I checked in yesterday to look at comments and surf around a bit, and Blogger wouldn't let me read the comments or even log on.

And now today the post and comments are just gone.

Stupid Blogger!

So, thanks to those who commented, but sadly, I didn't get to read your words...

My Wednesday posting wasn't one of my better ones, so no great loss for mankind there. But I was reading some great posts on other blogs Wednesday night; I hope those aren't gone, too.

I love technology and computers. But it sure sucks when they malfunction.

Stupid Blogger.


**********

UPDATE:

The post has reappeared, but so far the comments have not....

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sad News and Puppy Training

So much going on lately... so much to write about... I hardly know where to start.

First, I'll mention that my grandfather died two years ago. See this post. And now my grandmother is probably dying. We were all surprised that she lasted past Mother's Day and past my grandfather's "death day," May 10. Perhaps she will surprise us more, with a miracle, and heal herself and rise from her death bed to live another 10 or 20 years. More likely, she will continue to decline and eventually die from the kidney infection and kidney stones that are currently inoperable because she is too weak.

This breaks my heart. I'll write more later about it. Right now, I just can't manage it.

* * *

My uncle, the one who lives in Japan not all that far from the Fukushima nuclear plant, came to visit. He was cleaning out his storage locker in L.A., where he and his wife placed all of their stuff before moving to Japan nearly 20 years ago. He has paid to store the things all this time, but has finally decided it is time to part with most of it, and quit paying for the past. He rented a truck and brought me his piano and some other items that he wanted to "keep in the family," as well as a few boxes of papers and memorabilia that he asked me to store for him indefinitely.

It was great to see him. He is as much fun with kids as I remember from my own childhood, and my kids absolutely loved having him around.

He is also having marital problems and spent a lot of time while here talking with my mom and me about the issues in his marriage.

This also breaks my heart. I'll write more later about it. Right now, I just can't manage it.

* * *

We got a new dog about 6 weeks ago. Another St. Bernard. She is about a year and a half old, and absolutely beautiful. We got her from some folks who were about to have a new baby and said they just could not handle a big dog, too. Particularly a not-very-well trained one.

She is housebroken and sits on command. But when we got her, she had a terrible habit of jumping up (not a good thing for an 80-plus pound dog, who will be 100 to 140 pounds when she is full grown).

Within just a few days at our house, she mellowed out considerably. She loves that she can go in and out as she pleases. She loves that she gets lots of love and affection from all four of her new humans, plus gets to play with two other dogs. She has quit jumping up and instead sits next to you and looks up with the sweetest brown eyes ever. You just can't help but pet her, and I swear sometimes she purrs like a cat....

She was somewhat neglected by her former owners -- they left her in their small back yard a lot, and never took her for a walk. I had to buy a "head collar" to control her; a regular collar was not workable at all -- she is far too strong and pulls way too hard, and she resisted all efforts to keep her from simply taking off to run where she pleased. But she is getting used to walking with some slack in the leash, and enjoys our fairly regular outings.

She still has some issues. She barks at lots of people, and most dogs, when we walk her. She is just trying to be friendly, to get their attention.... but it is scary for them, and other dogs tend to get offended. We are trying to train her not to do this, but it takes time, and patience, and it is hard.

Just had her spayed yesterday -- had to wait until she was out of heat to get it done. Can't believe the former owners didn't do it, as they stated that they had no intention of breeding her, even though both her parents were registered purebred Saints.

I'll post photos and write more later.

* * *

Work is busy, too. A good thing, after last year's fiasco of clients who didn't pay and slow business. I think the economy is getting better. More of my clients are paying, and there are more of them this year.

I'll write more later.

* * *

Just wanted to give you all a quick update. I'm not gone. Just busy... and somewhat preoccupied with sad news and puppy training.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mosquitoes Suck

I was rudely awakened this morning by an evil mosquito biting my LEFT EYELID.

Damned bloodsucking bastard.

* * * * *


.... worse than attorneys....

Monday, April 4, 2011

Hu's On First

I learned some great information today. The Mets have Chin-lung Hu playing short stop. Every time he hits a single, the announcers can say, "Hu's on first"!

For your viewing pleasure:

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Overheard at the Baseball Game...

LegalMist's Son (LMS): That little kid is stealing that bat!

LegalMist's Husband (LMH): The one over there with the helmet on?

LMS: Yeah, him! Why is he taking the bat?!?!

LMH: He's supposed to. He's the bat boy!

LMS: What's a bat boy...?

LMH: He's Batman's son, of course.

LMS: Dad! You're an idiot!! [Looks at me] Is that true, Mom, is he really Batman's son?

Me: Oh, absolutely... Batman's son....

[After all, the parenting magazines do say you should back up your spouse when your kids are questioning their authority...]

* * * * * *

He'll be the only kid in his class who knows *this* particular fact....

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Funny Story...

... because I need a break from worrying. (I hope I haven't already posted this one. I really don't remember and I'm too lazy to go look.)

When my daughter was younger, five or so maybe, we were driving in the car one day and she asked, "Mommy, what is that little light?"

"What light, hon?"

"That one there" (pointing at the dashboard).

"Oh, that blinking one? That's the turn signal indicator. It tells me that I've got my turn signal on outside, so people know I'm planning to turn right up here."

"Oh."

... a bit later ...

"Mommy?"

"What, hon?"

"How come Daddy doesn't have those little lights in his car?"


* * * *

I found this information verrrry interesting.... !

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Earthquakes and Tsunamis, reprise

So after the earthquake, there was the tsunami. Neither got to my uncle's family or house. But both got to the Fukushima Daiitchi nuclear power plant.

And now, there's the threat of a nuclear meltdown. I've watched it for the past few days, through explosions, failed attempts at cooling, apparent turning of the tides and cooling, and more explosions.... Sometimes I worry. Other times, I read things that ease my mind.

Tonight, I am worried, after reports that the workers have been told to evacuate the area of the plant. If the workers aren't even staying, what is to prevent a total meltdown? Will the containment structure hold? For how long?

They live about 100 miles from the troubled nuclear plant. Depending on wind conditions and topography, that may or may not be far enough away to escape the worst of the radioactive fallout if there is a meltdown and a failure of the containment structure at the plant.

My mom (his sister) emailed my uncle to invite him and his family to come to the U.S. for a vacation, sort of let this thing blow over, as it were, and if nuclear disaster is averted and his hometown is spared, he could always return home later.

He emailed back, stating his youngest son does not have a passport because his wife "neglected to mail in the paperwork." Not "because I failed to mail in the paperwork." No, it's the wife's fault.

And then, despite my worry, I find myself annoyed with my uncle, even somewhat angry at him on behalf of my aunt. Why is he incapable of admitting that BOTH he and his wife neglected to mail in the paperwork? Why is it solely "her fault"?

If he asked her to do it and she didn't, then he has two choices -- do it himself, or accept at least part of the blame that it isn't done.

Even if he asked her to mail it and didn't know she didn't mail it (absent an outright lie, of course), it's still at least partly his responsibility. He didn't find it important enough to follow up, to make sure it happened. He can't blame her for not making it a top priority if he didn't do so either, right?

If it's important, and you want it done, you make sure it happens.

If you weren't worried about it, then you don't get to blame the other person for "neglecting" it. You simply admit that neither of you got around to it, and you set about solving the problem.

And then I am annoyed with myself for being angry on her behalf. It's her marriage; her choice to be annoyed with him or not. It's not my place, not my business.

Probably says more about my own issues than about theirs....

And then I'm back to my worrying. As annoying as it is that he's placing blame instead of problem-solving, he's still my uncle, and I still want him and my aunt and cousins to be safe.

* * * * *

Anger (annoyance) is an easier emotion to handle than fear. That's probably why I ran there so quickly.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Earthquakes and Tsunamis

I have an uncle who lives, with his wife and two kids (one now at the University), in Japan, about 20 miles or so from Tokyo. So when I awoke this morning to stories of a huge earthquake off the coast of Japan and tsunami waves causing massive destruction along some coastal areas, I was worried.

After a couple of hours of searching the internet, I found a couple of news reports and a blog about my uncle's town. It appears that the area where he lives was hit pretty hard, but not devastatingly so. There are lots of broken windows, shelves toppled in stores, many buildings damaged and some ruined, bridges damaged, some roads probably impassable, and of course there were power outages -- but it appears, thankfully, the area was not one of the worst hit. Most buildings remained standing, as far as I can tell. It is far enough inland that I think they won't have any tsunami waves. I am so thankful that it appears they will be ok.

Interesting, isn't it? I woke this morning to terrible news of a huge earthquake and tsunami across the world and immediately began to worry about my family there. Within a very short time, though, I was able to find information on the internet that, at least for now, is easing my worries. I love the internet!

Here is a link to Google's person finder, in case you, too, have friends or relatives currently in the area hit by the earthquake or tsunamis in Japan:

http://japan.person-finder.appspot.com/?lang=en

* * * * *

On a lighter note, it appears the tsunami has not caused widespread damage in Hawaii, and the warnings for the western U.S. have been downgraded to tsunami watches in most areas.

And so I am reminded of my one personal experience with a tsunami warning -- click here to read about it, and scroll down to number 1 in the list.

* * * * *

Update: just before I hit "post," I got word from my uncle in Japan -- he and his family are fine; their house is fine; the city is damaged but not destroyed. Telephones -- another miracle of modern life!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Regarding Same-Sex Marriage

One of those facebook blurbs caught my eye and I thought I'd post it here, too:

So, let me get this straight . . . Charlie Sheen can make a "porn family," Kelsey Grammer can end a 15 year marriage over the phone, Larry King can be on divorce #9, Britney Spears had a 55 hour marriage, Jesse James and Tiger Woods, while married, were having sex with EVERYONE. Yet, allowing same-sex marriage is going to destroy the institution of marriage? Really?

Re-post if you are proud to support equal rights.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Some Things I Just Don't Understand

I'm sure no one could have missed the latest headlines about Charlie Sheen's drinking problems, alleged abusive behavior, rehab issues, and off-the-wall remarks and rants about his co-stars in Two and a Half Men, the studio & network execs, writers, producers, etc., in which he calls many of them losers and complains about them trying to control his life, and so forth.

In response to Charlie's off-screen antics, the network cancelled the remainder of the season of Two and a Half Men. (No huge loss for mankind, really. The show has some funny lines, but it has no redeeming social value whatsoever and it's a typical, predictable sit-com. Of course, like Nip/Tuck, something about that total lack of social value is part of its charm for me!)

Sheen has been acting like a jerk, probably drinking too much, and now, he's literally ranting. He sounds nuts when you listen to him. But he has a point.

Have any of you actually watched Two and a Half Men?

For those who have missed it, it's about a 40-something extremely wealthy guy named Charlie who lives in Malibu and doesn't have to work much for his money and therefore spends most of his time drinking, partying, and seducing a different woman each night, and sometimes more than one a day. His divorced, down-on-his luck younger brother (Alan) moved in with him, and Alan's son lives with them part-time, too, as part of the custody arrangements. Charlie is pretty decent to the kid, if not exactly a great role model.

The star of the show is Charlie Sheen (his stage name - birth name is Carlos Estevez), a 40-something extremely wealthy guy who lives in California and doesn't have to work much for his money and therefore spends most of his time drinking, partying, and sleeping with women. He has kids, and he's pretty decent to them, although he's not exactly a great role model. Sound familiar?*

In other words, Charlie Sheen basically plays himself in the show.

How is it that the show's producers and network executives are offended when their star acts like the show's character off-stage? I mean, if the show were about a kindly priest, I could understand how Charlie's off-screen antics might offend some viewers.

But, hello? Is anyone who watches the show actually offended by Charlie's alcoholism or drunken rants? I doubt it.... so leave the guy alone. Let him be a drunken idiot if he wants to be. I mean, I don't condone the behavior, and if I were his ex-wives, I'd be seeking sole custody of the kids, but hey, I'm not his ex-wife and I never have to interact with him and so I really don't care if he acts like a jerk off stage!

And as long as he's doing his job (and most accounts said he was), why should his bosses care if he acts like a jerk in his off hours? Heck, they've scripted the jerk for his work hours. Maybe they should just follow him around during his off hours with a camera and save some production costs!

Another thing I found ironic is everyone's gushing about how "talented" Charlie Sheen is, as evidenced by the show's popularity. I'm not saying Charlie isn't talented (even if I thought it, I wouldn't say it, because I'd hate to get sued by a multi-millionaire), but I will say I don't see how his performance on the show Two and a Half Men proves he's talented. He's basically playing himself, isn't he? How does that demonstrate acting talent?

Just my two cents. What do you think?

_____
* Footnote 1: I don't think Sheen has a divorced, down-on-his-luck younger brother or nephew living with him, though. Last I heard Emilio Estevez, Charlie's older brother, was doing just fine, as was his other brother Ramon. And the on-screen Charlie has no kids of his own (at least none that he knows of or recognizes as his). So the analogy is not exact. But still, the character on the show is basically a slightly more articulate and cleaned-up-for-tv version of the real life immature party-boy.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Krewe of Little Rascals

I mentioned yesterday that I took the kids to New Orleans to visit family this past weekend. By family, I mean my aunt, my cousin and his wife & kids, and my grandmother. My dad and step-mom also flew in for the weekend. We had a blast visiting with the family.

Also while in New Orleans, we went to see a Mardi Gras parade.

Mardi Gras season is ramping up in New Orleans. It starts early, with a couple of parades in January and early February. There were several parades this past weekend. And then there will be dozens of parades starting this Friday and continuing through Mardi Gras day, which is March 8 this year. Here is a link to the list of parades and their schedules, if you want to see just how many parades there are.

Nearly everyone in New Orleans gets a week off for Mardi Gras. Schools are closed, businesses shut down.... the whole city participates. Of course, the businesses catering to the Mardi Gras crowd and tourists ramp up rather than shutting down, but most folks have holiday time because, really, with several parade routes throughout the city and the corresponding road closures, as well as the gazillions of tourists and their cars clogging up the remaining streets, there would be no way for them to get to work or school anyway.

Each parade is conducted yearly by a specific "Krewe," a membership organization which is in charge of designing the floats, filling out all required paperwork, and organizing the hundreds of people who will ride, drive, or march in the parade. Each year, the floats will have a different theme, sometimes serious, sometimes fun, sometimes satirical in nature. From the link I gave you above, you can click on the name of each Krewe to read some historical information about the Krewe, as well as what their parade theme is for the year, what parade route they will follow, and what sort of "throws" they will have.

The Krewes provide not only the floats and parade marchers, but also "throws," which means the beads and trinkets and other assorted items thrown from the floats during the parade. These are quite varied and can be anything from the standard mardi gras beads (you have to promise to throw a certain number of new ones), to fancier beads with the name of the Krewe, light-up necklaces, insulated lunch bags, commemorative cups, luggage tags, note pads, small flashlights, plastic doubloons, bracelets, magnets, balls, stuffed animals, and so on.

Usually, the throws will reflect the Krewe's theme, and/or the theme of the Krewe's parade for the current year. My favorite "throw" was from a couple of years ago -- a feather boa in green, gold, and purple feathers (the official Mardi Gras colors), with small lights that you can turn on or off, or set to "blinking." Classy, right?! I wear it often.

Each Krewe tries to outdo the other Krewes and their own past parade throws when selecting this year's throws, so every year, the selection gets more varied and interesting.

So, this past Sunday, we went to see the parade sponsored by the Krewe of Little Rascals, which is an all children's parade. Well, of course they had some adults -- someone has to supervise the kids and drive the tractors that pull the floats, after all. But the Krewe members and the float riders are all children, and there were numerous kid groups marching, as well -- dance troupes, school bands, and so forth. This year's "Queen" was Taylor Shelenhamer, and she rode on one of the fanciest floats, handing out white beaded necklaces with a plastic medallion with her likeness in gold. Very cool.

The Krewe of Little Rascals was founded in 1983. Here is a link to the Krewe's web site.

My kids loved the parade. We caught a gazillion beaded necklaces, a green plastic water gun, several superballs, a couple of handfulls of candy, and a whistle.... and probably lots of stuff I've forgotten.

I may forget some of the stuff, but I won't forget how much fun my kids had. What a parade!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Contraband

I took the kids to New Orleans to visit family this past weekend. We had a blast. The kids even got their picture taken with a movie star!

True story.

While goofing around at New Orleans's Piazza D'Italia, the kids saw a dog walking by and went to ask the owner if they could pet her. Turns out, the "owner" was not the owner, but was a trainer / dog handler, and the dog was "Eva," a movie-star dog who portrays a drug-sniffing police dog in the upcoming movie "Contraband," starring (in addition to Eva), Mark Wahlberg & Kate Beckinsdale.

Eva was very friendly and allowed my kids to pet her and hug her. She smiled at them and wagged her tail. However, she declined to sign an autograph.

Here is a link to more information about the movie. Couldn't find anything about Eva on the web site, though!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I Will Never Buy a Toyota Highlander

Hate is too mild a word for how I feel about those Toyota Highlander commercials with the kid who looks down his nose at other people's cars and feels sorry for the kids who have to ride in them.

Honestly, what a snob!! What an entitled, judgmental little yuppie brat!

Who the hell lets their kid dictate what kind of vehicle they drive anyway? And then puts up with snide comments from the back seat?

Shouldn't they be explaining to that little brat that it is simply wrong to judge other people based on the car they drive? That some people might not be able to afford - or simply might not choose to waste money and gasoline for - a giant new SUV with all the bells and whistles so that their (apparently only) child can ride in the lap of luxury? That kids should just be thankful they're riding instead of walking, and that they shouldn't criticize adults' decisions regarding what kind of car they drive??

Oh, wait, I forgot. The parents are probably judgmental snobs, too.

Ugh. If that's how your kids turn out when you buy a Highlander, I'll be sure I *never* buy one.

What commercials do you hate, and why?

* * *
For those of you who haven't seen it, click here to see spoof of one of the commercials. (I can't bear to link to the actual commercial.)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I Am Sad This Week

Some lunatic shot a bunch of people in Tucson, Arizona, outside of a Safeway store, at U.S. Rep. Gabriella Giffords' "meet and greet" type event this past weekend.

Rep. Giffords was shot in the head, but survived. She remains in the hospital. Her doctors are "optimistic," hopeful for a full recovery, but of course with a head wound you can't be sure for a very long time. Everyone who knows her (and I know several people who know her) knows that she is a warm, wonderful woman, who absolutely did not deserve to be shot in the head and to suffer such a horrible injury.

Gabe Zimmerman, an assistant to Rep. Giffords, was shot and killed. I didn't know him, but all accounts state he was a wonderful person. He clearly died too young, at age 30.

Federal District Court Judge John Roll, Chief Judge for the District of Arizona, was also shot and killed. Like many judges, he earned an LL.M. at the prestigious University of Virginia Law School. As you may know, U.Va. is LegalMist's undergrad alma mater. Everyone who knows him (and I know several people who know him) knows that he was a warm, wonderful man, who absolutely did not deserve to die so soon.

A nine year old girl, Christina Green, also was shot and killed. She had just been elected to the student council at her school and was excited to meet her state representative. According to at least one report, she was also the only girl on her school's baseball team. I didn't know her, and I don't know anyone who knew her, but she sounds extraordinary and, by any measure, a nine-year old absolutely did not deserve to be shot and killed.

Dorwin Stoddard, a 76 year old man, died while protecting his wife. He dove to the ground to cover his wife, who was shot in the leg three times. The pair had been high school sweethearts, reunited in retirement after their respective spouses had died. Again, I didn't know him, but he sounds like a true hero and a gentleman. He absolutely did not deserve to die. She did not deserve to be shot, nor did she deserve to lose her loving husband.

Phyllis Schneck, a retiree with a winter home in Tucson, also was shot and killed. By all accounts, she was a kind person who spent much time volunteering at her church. Another wonderful person, dead for no reason.

Dorothy Morris, another retiree living in Tucson also died. Her husband, George, was shot twice and remains in the hospital. He, too, had tried to shield his wife from the bullets. Like the Stoddards, they had been high school sweethearts. However, instead of being recently reunited, they had been married for 50 years. Again, by all accounts, they were kind and decent people. They did not deserve to be shot. She did not deserve to die. He did not deserve to lose her.

Many others were injured in the shooting incident. I am sure none of them did anything to deserve it.

So I am sad at the terrible loss of lives and for the suffering of the injured. I am sad for the families of those who died or were injured, and the inevitable increase in fear the community must face. I am particularly sad for the families and friends of those who died; they didn't even get a chance to say goodbye.


*******

Representative Giffords was trying to do a good thing. She was trying to meet her constituents, maybe talk to them a little about their concerns. She wanted to hear them, to listen to what they wanted.

And yes, I'm sure she wanted some good PR, too. A little self-promotion now and then is necessary if you're a politician. It's the kind of interaction, though, that should be encouraged in this country. I'd like to think that, in this country, all of our leaders want to listen to our concerns and interests, and that it is still possible to talk to our leaders directly -- that they are not walled-off from society at large.

But if people make it too dangerous to interact with the public, our leaders will be forced to stop. How can it possibly help anyone's cause, in this country, to destroy that?

That makes me sad, too.


******

According to this web site, and this one, Sarah Palin recently had on her website a map of the United States, with several "targets" marked with rifle crosshairs, each marking the location of a Democratic Congressional representative. Representative Giffords was marked by one of the targets and crosshairs. (The map has since been removed from Palin's web site).

Holy crap, how irresponsible is that?!? And this woman wanted to be VPOTUS?!? Thank God she lost the election. (John McCain showed pretty bad judgment in selecting her as a running mate, I must say...).

NOTE: Like the other writers, linked above, I am not saying Sarah Palin caused the attack or intended that anyone actually shoot or kill anyone on her map. Nor do we know for certain, at this point, whether the attack was politically motivated (although, generally speaking, shootings of politicians at political events tend to be politically motivated). I have no idea whether the shooter even looked at Palin's web site, or listened to Rush Limbaugh, or whatever, so I'm not, at this point, accusing any of the right-wing hatemongers of actually causing the shooting.

What I am saying is that marking people on a map with targets and rifle crosshairs sends a violent message (intended or not), and that the level of political attack rhetoric in this country, especially coming from the right-wing nut jobs like Limbaugh (and now, Palin), is way over the top. It is reckless at best, and downright evil at worst in its potential to incite other right-wing nut jobs to violence. And it has spread to the highest levels of our political groups - it's not just media hacks like Limbaugh any longer; it's the politicians themselves who talk in violent terms.

This makes me sad, too. And more than a little scared for my country.

Friday, January 7, 2011

My Child Is A Freak

My son just got home from school and asked if I would please cook some broccoli and carrots for him.

I had to ask, "Who are you, and what the hell have you done with my son?!"