Tuesday, November 16, 2010


This time of year it seems that every time the mail arrives (or email for that matter) there is another request for donations: Food Pantries, Toy Drives, Homeless Shelters. The list goes on and on. We pick and choose the charities that we donate to, looking for ones that do the most good in our own community: Preferably ones who operate with lots of volunteer rather than paid help. We do that so that our donations go the farthest toward helping those in need, because as we keep hearing, the need is greater than ever this year.

Need has always been all around us. We used to shop at a lot of thrift stores when doing theater, looking for props, costumes, or set pieces. But we were doing it for fun. And all around us we could see people for whom the thrift shop was their store of choice – out of necessity.

The Bearded One and I were discussing the huge amount of unmet need this year and deciding to contribute a little more than usual this holiday season and both of us remembered the exact same incident from many years ago:

We were looking for matching glassware at a Salvation Army Thrift Shop. Near the racks of men’s dress shirts were a young couple looking to be in their early to mid 20’s. They were looking for a dress shirt and tie for the husband to wear to a job interview. As they paid for their selections, the wife was looking at a rack of paperback books that stood by the cash register.

“Can I buy a book?” she asked wistfully.
“Yeah, you can pick one out,” he answered.
They were 25 cents apiece. When a single quarter is an issue of great importance, need is very great indeed.

I’m really counting my blessings this year.

Rufus and The Ninja Sisters

Note: The post below was written on 8/30/10. I just found it and am now publishing it. There have been many changes since this was written.

Why do we have 3 kittens when we agreed to adopt 2? When one of the adoptive families fell through, we were asked would we possibly be able to take 3. We have had 3 cats at times in the past and The Bearded One had finished a glass of Cabernet…..and he LOVES cats.

Rufus got his name from the lead character in the movie “ffolkes”. Stubble and his friends decided that the two female cats were “little cat ninjas” because of their stalking and pouncing (on each other and on their brother and on us). We googled “female ninja names” and came up with Katsu and Kimiko.

How quickly one forgets what kittens are like. Well, it maybe isn’t so unexpected when you consider that we have been cat free for nearly 2 years and that our cats are complete house cats and so tend to live long healthy lives. We have many years of living with adult cats who are more, um, sedate than rough and tumble kittens. The night before last, in the middle of the night, at least two of them pounced on my toes and began chewing…little monsters. I wound up putting on my thick Thorlos socks and they went away. No doubt because it isn’t as much fun to chew on me when I’m not screaming in pain.

They arrived on Saturday and proceeded to attempt to eat the carpet and attack the furniture until The Bearded One had the happy thought of moving their climbing tower into the living room. It doesn’t provide any additional ambience, but it has so far saved the furniture. The mini-blinds and verticals are permanently closed so that the kittens can’t get to the screens; they managed to badly damage one of the screens in the dining room before we figured out what they were up to. Stubble’s shower curtain is also a victim of climbing kitties. His shower curtain is a loose weave, though, so I should be able to “massage” the fabric back into shape. His bathroom door is staying closed, however.

Sunday night, the climbing tower got a little too close to the living room slider and before you could say, “wait, stop, don’t do that”, Rufus was on the top rail of the verticals “walking the parapet”. Stubble couldn’t reach him to get him down and when we finally got something for him to stand on, the kitten would just happily walk to the other end of the rail and laugh at us. He finally decided to get down on his own and jumped right onto the climbing tower – which is now in the middle of the room rather than by the window.

There have been the inevitable accidents when kittens didn’t find the litter box in time. They are in a new house that is bigger than the house that they came from and to be fair, they really don’t know their way around yet. So when we aren’t around to catch accidents immediately, into the laundry room they will go. At least for the next little while.

Their first vet visit is tonight. I will be taking Stubble as back up to help keep all three of them in play and out of trouble (if that is in fact possible). Because we were so late in getting possession of them, spaying and neutering isn’t far off. Maybe only a week or two. I’m not looking forward to the expense of two spays and a neuter, but the alternative is unthinkable, so we’ll just have to make do. It will be at least another 20 years before I can handle any more kittens!

Follow up: We quickly discovered that the only way to get sleep at night was to keep the kitties in the laundry room. They didn't seem to mind at all. Just last week we were able to release the kittens from their laundry room when we are not in the house. Of course, now they won't go into the laundry room at night any more and are sleeping with us, but being a little older, they are now perfectly fine bedmates.

Monday, November 15, 2010


Someone new moved to our neighborhood about 6 months ago. Actually "something". A big fat Raccoon. And he is menacing our property. He started with the lawn, digging up sod wherever he felt like digging. At first we suspected any number of things, but when Stubble and his friend caught sight of the beast through the family room window one night while playing a marathon session of World of Warcraft, we knew what we were up against. Our first volley was motion sensor lights aimed to cover the entire back yard. The Raccoon's answering salvo was our fish pond. He started by shredding the netting that covers the gazebo that protects the pond from local fish eating birds. He escalated by tearing up my water lillies. I replanted and he tore them up up again. The lillies are now residing in a water garden on our deck where I hope that they will recover from the trauma.
The Raccoon continued his vandalism, leaping from the top of our shed to the gazebo roof - where he fell through toppling the waterfall that feeds the pond. He has also eaten one of our neighbor's koi and a frog (tossing the uneaten half back into the pond).
This means full out Raccoon War. Last weekend we bought "poultry mesh" basically chicken wire made out of really tough plastic. We removed the damaged netting and attached the poultry mesh with hundreds of black cable ties..,.
I sincerely hope that this keeps the little menace the heck away from our pond. Time will tell. Wish us luck.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Little Bit of Fiction

I really can't think of what to write about so I'm posting a little bit of fiction that I wrote some time ago (and yes, it is copywrited)

The cast of characters:
Robbie: a 16 year old boy
Dannie: his 14 year old sister
Cathie: their mother
(ther are an "ie" family)
Tom: Cathie's husband, father to Dannie and Robbie
Sammy: the 6 year old staying with their family while his mother is out of the country
Stacey: Robbie's girlfriend
Ben: Stacey's little brother and Sammy's best friend

A Solstice Celebration

December was speeding by and it was time for Sammy’s school concert. Dad had something at work and so he and Mom couldn’t go, but Dannie and I went and I took Stacey and Ben with us. Ben wanted to see his new friend in the show and Sammy and asked Stacey especially if she would go too. It is really hard to say “no” to those big brown eyes. “Besides”, he told us, “there are cookies afterward”. The school had divided up the concert so that the first and second graders had their show on a Tuesday night, the third and fourth went on Wendesday, and fifth was all alone on Thursday. The kindergarteners did their holiday show for the parents during the day. From what Mom said, there had been previous problems with not being able to get all of the parents inside for the show and the show being far too long if they tried to do the whole school together. The show was pretty early so we didn’t do a real dinner first, just a snack and then we’d have dinner afterward.

We got to the school really early because Sammy had to get to his classroom an hour early. I couldn’t see why, they’d just all get restless, but I guess there are some people who come so late for everything, that they were afraid that half of the students wouldn’t get there on time. Anyway, Dannie stayed in the classroom to help Sammy get into his snowflake costume and Stacey, Ben, and I went to find seats in the cafeteria which also has a stage and gets used for performances.

The seats are very uncomfortable and close together. They had tried to decorate the room with lots of Winter scenes to make it festive, but there really isn’t any way to disguise a cafeteria. The concert was also what you would expect. I often wonder why there is even a piano on the premises because nobody can play it. It just sits there while they use karaoke CD’s to do all of the songs. At least it is a step above the old “record players” with old scratchy vinyl LP records that they used when I was in elementary school. Those must have been kicking around the school for decades and nobody ever bothered to convert them to a cassette tape or anything.

Most of the kids can’t sing. Well, they can sing, but not all together listening to each other and singing the same thing at the same time. It is almost painful and it is probably easier if you have a child on stage that you love more than anything else in the world. That way you can probably over look how bad it is. The classes come out one at a time and sing two songs each. Then at the end the entire two grades will surround the audience and we’ll all sing something together. That is how it has been done forever and no doubt when I am all grown and have children of my own they will still do it this way.

Sammy has been “fizzing , as Mom would say, about the concert for a couple of days now. He has even forgotten to “help” he is so excited. Dad loaned me the digital recorder so that I can record Sammy’s part of the show for his mother. We’ll load it on to the computer so that she should be able to see it tomorrow. She asked Mom to get Sammy a special outfit for the show and Sammy is really proud of it. It has a vest to match the pants, a long sleeved dress shirt and a clip on bow tie. He looks really cute in it, but I would never tell him that.

When Sammy’s class came out on the stage, Sammy was in the back row behind a really big kid. I couldn’t see him at all. I can’t believe that the teacher planned it that way. They usually have all of the little kids in front and the bigger kids in the back so that everybody’s parents can see. But no. We have a disaster here. Sammy is in the back row and his new outfit and his snowflake are all covered up by a bigger snowflake. I can’t record the numbers from here. Sammy’s Mom won’t be able to see anything and Sammy will know that she can’t see anything…it will be an absolute disaster.

I am lucky that I am toward the front of the audience. They haven’t started singing yet and I move toward the front of the room. So does every Dad with a recorder who has a child in that class. Dannie is hissing at me to sit down and just watch from here. I am hissing back that I need to get Sammy on camera. She is mad at me and she is embarrassed. I am embarrassed too, but I am darned if I am going to go home and tell Dad that I didn’t get the recording, because Dad will certainly think that I just didn’t try. Stacey is pretending not to know me, but it is pretty hard because Ben is yelling, “Hi Sammy, Here I am!” and waving like a flag in a breeze and Sammy, bless his heart, is waving back at Mike but not as wildly, because the teacher no doubt told them not to wave at their parents. Well, Ben isn’t Sammy’s parent so he is kind of doing as told.

I am toward the outside of the room and I need to get toward the middle so that I can get a shot of Sammy at an angle. They haven’t started singing yet. The teacher is still talking, telling all of us how hard they worked and how proud she is and how proud we must all be of all of them. She tells the woman running the CD player that she wants number 24 cued up. She announces that they will be singing The Snowflake Song. I am still moving toward a good position to see Sammy when the kids start to move. Darn. I was almost in position.

The little boys are moving down off the risers and onto the stage floor. Sammy is still in back. They start to sing “Snowflake, Snowflake, falling down….”

I am finally in a position where I can see Sammy. I have the recorder already running so that I don’t miss any of the song and I figure that now I’ll just try to focus on Sammy, but the boys are now moving to the music as they sing. Sammy and another boy change positions and Sammy isn’t on camera any more. If could get him on camera if I moved to the right but there is a man with a recorder standing there and I just can’t ask him to move.

I take a step to the left and move forward and I have Sammy centered in the viewfinder when they start to move in a circle.
“Snowflake, Snowflake, twirling round”
If I just stay where I am I’ll be able to get Sammy into the shot in a couple of seconds. There he is! Almost there! My mind flashes back to the first Star Wars where they are trying to take out the space station…Almost there, almost there. And then, there he is fluttering his fingers making the snow fall and all the time singing,
“Snowflake, snowflake on the ground, landing there without a sound.”

Now the boys are moving back to the risers and the girls are coming down to do their part of the dance. I can only suppose that the teacher didn’t want to have the boys and girls dancing together because the little boys would push and shove and the little girls would fall down and cry and that would certainly spoil what is meant to be a meaningful and memorable concert. I have lost Sammy again in the crowd. I wasn’t prepared for choreography.

The girls make better snowflakes than the boys did. They are dainty and delicate and falling gently,

“Silver white in the moonlight…” they sing. “Pretty and cold, sparkle silver and gold…”

Sammy is now back on the riser. I got a few good shots of the back of his head as he was moving and now I am trying to focus on his face for more than a few seconds. Luckily they are now standing still. They begin the chorus again,
“Snowflake, snowflake falling down”.

I have him. He is singing and smiling and looking altogether like the perfectly put together 6 year old boy. I have him in focus and am adjusting for a close up. And the song is over and the girls are taking their places again on the risers.

I have one more chance. The teacher compliments the class on how well they did and announces that now they are going to sing Frosty the Snowman.

Robbie is trying so hard to try to get a video so that Sammy’s Mom can see the concert. I was really embarrassed when Robbie started moving up front with the camera, but I guess I shouldn’t be because everybody else with a camera is moving too. They are trying to do it quietly, but with so many people moving there is definite rumbling and scraping as the chairs are nudged across the floor and out of the way. Some of the Dads and big brothers squat down so that people can see. Mostly they just stand in the best position they can get and film away. Sammy is now in front of the bigger snowflake, but he is next to a little girl who is trying to move to another position on the risers. I can only suppose that she is out of position and instead of just staying in the place she landed in after the snowflake dance, she is trying to get to her correct place. She is a very pretty little girl in a red dress with plenty of white ruffles. The problem is the big bows in her hair and the full skirt of the dress. She tries to cut in front of Sammy and he steps as far back as he can on the riser. Thank goodness they aren’t on the top. They are singing about Frosty coming to town and she is scooting in front of Sammy. Slowly, bit by bit as though if she moves slowly enough, nobody will notice that she wasn’t in the right place. From the side of the stage the teacher is frantically trying to stop her from moving, but the little girl is facing straight toward the audience and she doesn’t see. Sammy is now completely covered by hair bows and red dress. There is no way that Robbie will be able to get Sammy on camera.


If the little girl just moves a little more to my left I’ll be able to see him. She is finally to the right of Sammy and steps back into position, Sammy adjusts a bit to the left and all is well again. Just in time for;
“Thumpity thump thump , thumpity thump thump look at Frosty Go.”
I have him on camera, in focus on his face and manage to catch about 10 seconds of Sammy as Frosty goes over the hills of snow and the song is over. Dang.


Robbie, very wisely did not let Sammy see the video when they got home. Sammy was wild to see the show, but Robbie told him that he needed Tom to help him get it on to the computer. Luckily for him, Sammy wasn’t technically savvy enough to demand a playback on the recorder. When Robbie first saw the recording after he got Sammy to bed he was pretty sure that we couldn’t salvage anything worth watching, but when Tom got home and saw it he thought that we could salvage something worthwhile if we were creative. A marathon editing session ensued.

First, Tom and Robbie separated the sound track from the video. They cleaned it up in the computer, don’t ask me how, and it sounded pretty good for a school production done in a multipurpose room with people moving around. Then they isolated the parts of the video that showed Sammy clearly. They looped some of them so that they had enough video to match the length of the songs. They left in the teacher’s introductions, the boys and the girls dancing to the Snowflake Song, and the video that showed the back of Sammy’s head moving onto the risers after the dance. The little girl in the red dress will forever be standing at Sammy’s right and not crossing in front of him. Sammy’s Mom will probably realize exactly what they did, but unless Sammy tries to lip read and is successful, he won’t know that it took Tom and Robbie over 6 hours to edit something that looked like a pretty decent recording of a Holiday show.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Setting Myself Up For an Epic Fail

After making my intentions clear to all and sundry that I will be blogging daily during the month of November, I have already blown that promise. Usually November is my "slow" month at work and I can have "real" lunches where I can get out my memory stick and write for an uninterrupted half hour. Then when I get home, all I would need to do is edit and voila! A new entry (or another couple of hundred NaNo words). At least last year it worked that way. This year for some reason I am busier than I have ever been. I guess the stars or the planets or whatever are out of alignment.

I have to find somebody to blame (other than myself) so it is going to be the kittens. Feeding them, playing with them, cleaning the litter box, playing with them, etc. all of it involving the kittens. Yeah, that works for me.

In reality the probable cause is putting the house back together. When we went to the storage unit and liberated our books we also brought a box of "wall decoration": wooden Orcas, ceramic masks, family photos...it is a VERY big box. And it is calling to me, "Please unpack me - forget about that stupid laptop! We have been packed away for YEARS! You OWE it to us!" The objects in the box are very vocal and very emphatic. So as soon as this posts, I will try to ignore the voices while I watch MythBusters.

Ah, Discovery Channel - the REAL reason.

Monday, November 8, 2010


This will be a short post tonight. I was running behind today because of a medical appointment. In the last few years my blood pressure has been tricky. I am not one of those people who can just roll out of bed, pop my blood pressure pills and get on with my day. I have to check my blood pressure daily because there are some days when I can't take ANY BP meds.
Well, lately I have had a few days when even NOT taking the meds my blood pressure continued to drop - to the point where I wasn't passing out, but was really dizzy and couldn't walk around and function normally.
So...we are "investigating" the other medications that I take. I must take them separately, checking BP before and an hour after to see which ones may be affecting me by lowering the BP to dangerously low levels. I will also be cutting BP pills in half (half of what I usually cut in half). For the mathemeticians in the group, that would be quarters.

I am also to keep Gatorade around and if my BP drops below a certain point, I am to drink a Gatorade for the electrolytes followed by a BIG glass of water. And then another big glass of water. The Gatorade is to insure that I have enough electrolytes to keep the water in my system., I am also, after YEARS of limiting salt, to now INCREASE my salt intake, at least while we are figuring this out...

I'm glad that there aren't lots of tests to be done and that as a first step we are trying to figure out exactly what is going on....

The last time this happened, I wound up changing doctors. The new doctor said, "HOW much of this are you taking? This is enough ______ to drop a person three times your size - or a HORSE!" (exact name of medication deleted for legal reasons). I was being seriously over medicated. Now I am being medicated appropriately but still having problems.

I really trust this doctor and am sure that we'll get it all worked out. But it makes for a short post.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


This weekend was fun, Fun, FUN! We started putting the office and family room back together...which requires a little history. While the couch and TV have been up and running and the exercise equipment functional (but generally unused) and the computer that is our house server has of necessity been running 24/7, the books have been in boxes in a storage unit for much of the last 5 years. It all started with the painters telling us to "pack as if we were moving" and then get out..so we did.

As Stubble says, "Mom and Dad, you keep WAY TOO MANY books!" And we do. Once we own a book it is ours forever. It is a beloved friend and we will make a place for it in our lives forever....and that is pretty much not an exageration. We occasionally take books to Friends of the Library if we hated reading them or if we have no more space, but today we boxed up many of our "friends". We unpacked 10 cartons of books that were dusty and dirty and are actually preaparing to send 2 cartons of them away....and it was tough. Both the letting go and the dust.
I have had 2 showers during the course of the day because of my dust allergies. But the bookcases are now full and the room looks ready to live in.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

I named it "Chris"

The Bearded One had some unused frequest flyer miles. He got this great little catalog of things you could buy with your unused miles before they expire and GUESS WHAT! There really were some nice things in there! For himself he got a 12" heavy duty DeWalt chopsaw. For me he got this nifty little notebook. It is a little Acer and I am in love. I should have thought of a better name than "Chris" for it, but when Stubble was setting it up for me it never occurred to me that I would have to assign it a name. What is this world coming to when you have to name your comptuer in order to set it up? Who thought of this? And why?
Anyway, at some point, I will think up a better name and change it. Maybe Norman, or George, or Barak.....
In the meantime I'm going to enjoy the "heck" out of it.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

No to NaNo

Instead of doing NaNoRiMo this year, my personal NaNo promise to myself is instead of writing fast, to write in my blog each day. Let's hope I can do it.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Instead of Blogging

Since I wrote my “Hurrying Up” post, I began prepping flooring non-stop. It is amazing how long it takes to get everything ready for carpet installation. Because nobody would tell us exactly what they wanted us to do to get the floor prepped (I suppose that they wanted to do the prep, but we expected the damage under the carpet would be huge and didn’t want to pay for a project of that magnitude done by a professional carpenter). The Bearded One went to a DIY website and downloaded instructions.

We needed to pull all staples and scrape up all glue. And then make sure that there were no gaps in the subfloor to cause excessive wear in scattered places in the new carpet. I understand that you are supposed to glue the carpet pad, and then staple only on stair treads but our carpet was BOTH glued and stapled and stapled and stapled and stapled some more. Everywhere but on the concrete slab in the family room. And that slab? It had animal paw prints in the concrete…ah well it must be those pesky beer bottles again.

I filled all of the gaps between the sub floor boards and then I painted on several coats of Kilz and then realized that I hadn’t removed the baseboards. After they were off there was drywall to repair…dang. I cannot recommend a Dremel Multi-Max highly enough. After the Kilz , more staples showed up on the clean white paint. In fact, I was still pulling staples the morning of the scheduled installation. Which was still incomplete 2 weeks later because the Mill shipped the wrong carpet.

Which brings me to a recommendation that I cannot stress too strongly: When you are purchasing carpet don’t just take a little sample. We bought a 1 foot wide 12 foot long sample and it has saved us a tremendous amount of heartache and expense. The carpet that was sent was very close in color to what we had ordered, but the quality was not right and if we hadn’t had that large sample so that it was evident to everyone, we might have had 5 -7 year carpet rather than 15 year carpet…..

The above was written on Thursday, September 2nd. It is now November 3rd. In the meantime, the Carpet Mill sent replacement carpet and SURPRISE! It was the same as the first carpet that they sent…obviously they have changed the spec for the carpet and it is not at all what we would want in our home. Home Depot has been wonderful in backing us up. When seeing the sample that we originally ordered and what we received from the Mill they went to the manufacturer to complain for us. Then they arranged for us to choose completely different carpet from a different manufacturer. We waited for two more samples and had to reorder carpet and wait for installation. At least the measurements are already taken! We still had our home entertainment center torn apart, all excess furniture was stored in the guest room (which you can’t walk across). The correct carpet finally arrived and was installed on October 29th and we are now in the process of putting the house back together. I can’t believe that this has taken so long!