Thursday, December 30, 2010

Just like magic

I really like HH Gregg.  I can walk in there, say I want such-and-such with these features and the knowledgeable sales staff comes up with exactly what I want at the price I want to pay.  It happened when I went looking for a TV and it happened again yesterday.  I now have a Sony Blu-ray player that is wireless and streams Netflix and so much more.

As much as I like HH Gregg, I love my Blu-ray.  So far, I have streamed "Been Rich All My Life" while babysitting my granddaughter and listened to music via Pandora.  I love Pandora.  You can enter an artist's name and it creates a "radio station" with that artist plus others of the same genre.  I have two stations so far:  Greg Brown and James Taylor.  The station for the latter is generating a lot of nostalgia:  Van Morrison, Loggins and Messina, the Eagles, Carole King, Simon and Garfunkel, Neil Young, etc. (although I could do without Billy Joel.)  And I know all the lyrics, so I can sing along.

You go, grandma!

I'm sure none of this is new to any of you out in Internetland, but I feel like I have discovered a third arm.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

If wishes were horses

Every year I try to take the week between xmas and New Year's off.  For one thing, there is NOTHING happening at the office during this time, so it is even more boring than usual.  For another, it gives me a chance to reflect on the past year and plan for the next.  Sort of.  Or at least flush the filing cabinets of all the paper generated by our so-called paperless society.  If I can get the monster desk cleared off, it will make a trip to the Salvation Army, as it is so Sauder.  It would be nice to get the garage cleaned out as well, but it's really cold out there.

This week must be what retirement would be like for me.  I'm "busy" but I don't seem to actually get anything done.  Time takes on new meaning - or no meaning - when all the good stuff doesn't have to be crammed into a 62 hour period between 5pm Friday and 7am Monday (minus 24 hours for sleep and x hours for chores).

Anyway, I did watch a movie - "Remember Me" - which wasn't half bad - intelligent dialog, interesting characters, Chris Cooper, Pierce Brosnan - until the ending.  (Spoiler alert!)  Why are so many writers afraid of a happy ending?  Why can't they let the protagonist live instead of killing him off, this time on (gasp) 9/11?  The surviving characters went on to live better lives, but who's to say they would not have done that anyway?

I am also reading a book called World and Town, by Gish Jen.  It's about a retired biology teacher (Hattie) who is half Chinese, half missionary, and is living in the town where her "host" family summered.  The love of her youth also returns, which gets tongues wagging.  A dysfunctional Chinese Cambodian family arrives and is housed in a trailer not far from Hattie, and she is drawn into their problems.  And then there are the various and sundry locals.  It took me a while to get used to the author's writing style - if you don't pay attention, you trip on the gaps - but now I am into it, interested in what happens next.

And I have been perusing seed catalogs and knitting and babysitting my granddaughter and exercising more than usual.  And trying to figure out this business with incomplete positions in my IRA.  And doing an admirable job of not thinking about my job.  Also in the plans is some shopping:  I "need" a Blu-ray player that is wireless and streams Netflix.  Then my life will be complete.  Except for that retirement thing.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

So far, so good

I covered an empty wrapping paper tube with aluminum foil and hung it from the light fixture over the diningroom table, but an airing of the grievances seemed too cynical, even for me. In fact, as I prepared our xmas eve meal, I kept thinking of all the good things the past year has brought.

  • My son graduated from college and moved back to Hoosierdom. This is the closest he has lived to home (and by "home" I mean my house) in ten years.
  • My daughter gave birth to the most beautiful baby in the world, making me a grandma for the first time.
  • The proud papa earned a promotion at work.
  • My SO has a new son-in-law, and he's a good 'un.
  • We are all healthy and gainfully employed (except my SO, who is gainfully retired).

While I am not a fan of holidays (although I love paid holidays), the end of the calendar year is a good time to reflect on what has gone before and contemplate what is yet to come. The daily grind is wearisome at times, but all in all, we are doing okay.

Happy Festivus!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It's true

I'm sure you have heard the comment, If I had known grandchildren could be so much fun, I would have had them first! While it is mostly impossible to have grandchildren without first parenting at least one of their parents, it is true that grandchildren are fun.

Of course, I am not the one getting up at 2am or trying to get something, anything done while a fussy baby demands attention. No. I'm the one who is willing to stand in the kitchen for 15 minutes, swaying with baby N while she stares fixedly at the refrigerator magnets. I'm the one with the sedentary job who does not mind strolling slowly around the house, showing baby N what is right outside the window or hanging over the mantle. I'm the one who finds the fussing (god forbid) cute.

I was not like this as a mother. I love my kids, but they are only two in number because I could not face the prospect of teaching a third child the alphabet. I was a stay-at-home mom until they were out of diapers, then I fled back to school and into the work force. They tell you to cherish the moments with your children because they grow up so fast, but when you are in the thick of it, all you want is for them to grow up, FAST.

And then they do. They grow up and move away and go to college and get married. And if you are lucky, they settle down nearby and give you grandchildren. Grandparenting is a pseudo second chance at parenting, but one that contains more fun and less responsibility. It's like a hobby as opposed to a job, dessert instead of Brussels sprouts, springtime even in winter.

I'm most happy to be one of the lucky ones.

Note to self

Don't eat black bean soup on the day you go to yoga class.


Monday, December 13, 2010

More stuff I wonder about

  • I understand why, when I order something from Pottery Barn and they send a confirmation to my Yahoo email account, the advertising at the top of the email page is sometimes for Pottery Barn. But how does Yahoo know what toilet paper I buy?
  • To use up some rewards points that I accumulated through one of my credit cards, I ordered from SkyMall a gift card for Barnes and Noble. Today I received an email from SkyMall stating that the gift card was on back order. How can a gift card be on back order?!?
  • If Social Security is underfunded for the future, is it really a good idea to decrease the amount we pay in for the next two years? And the money we are not paying into SocSec will be taxed, right? So is this just a shady way to transfer SocSec money to the general fund?
  • We have "privacy rooms" at work for people to meet in so they do not disturb their co-workers. But if they don't close the door, it isn't very private, is it?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Actively waiting for things to change

There is a Dilbert cartoon, where Bob the Dinosaur is talking to Asok the Intern: "Most problems go away if you just wait long enough, Asok. It might look like I'm standing motionless but I'm actively waiting for our problems to go away. I dont know why this works but it does." Then the pointy-haired boss sticks his head in the door to announce a re-org.

I like the company I work for, but I have never cared for the work itself. What I do is stultifying. About once a month, I come this close to walking out the door. But I know if I just wait long enough, things will change.

In recent years, we have had a department-wide re-org, followed by a company-wide re-org. Now my team is suffering its own mini re-org, as we are being transferred en masse to another branch of the corporate organizational tree. *sigh* Here we go again.

While I am not quite ready financially for retirement, I am in a fairly decent place. My kids are grown and self-supporting, my house and car are paid for, I have no health issues to speak of (knock on wood). And after a while, one becomes numb to the turmoil, so I'm not losing any sleep over the latest announcement.

As Woody Allen said, "Ninety percent of life is just showing up." So I'll keep showing up because, while most days feel like the previous, one day it will be a new day.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Stuff I wonder about

  • If DST is such a good idea, why are we not on it all year round?
  • Gravel trucks around here have signs on the back telling other drivers to stay 100, 200, even 300 feet back. (That's a whole football field!) The signs also say, "Not responsible for damage." If the truck contains a load of gravel and the driver is too lazy to pull the tarp over the gravel, then yes, they ARE responsible for damage.
  • There are approximately 310,000,000 people in the USA. What if some of those billionaires gave each of us a million dollars? What would happen? (Hopefully, plumbers would blow through theirs really quickly.)
  • Instead of giving money away, why don't the billionaires in the world start new businesses and develop new industries and create new JOBS?
  • If they raise the retirement age, won't that make unemployment worse?
  • Every time I lean over the HOT oven door to haul something HOT out of the HOT oven, I wonder why oven doors don't swing to the side like refrigerator doors.
  • At work, we have dual flush toilets, one mode for solids, one mode for liquids.  I'd like a shower head like that, slow flow for rinsing the body, high flow for getting the shampoo and conditioner out of my hair.  And I want to be able to switch back and forth without having to adjust the water temperature.  Or maybe something like this already exists?  Surely I'm not the first to come up with this idea.
  • I'm watching a PBS special featuring the folk music from the 50s and 60s.  Were we really that young once upon a time?  And when did we get old?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The bad old days

Until recently, my granddaughter was a cryer. Not a FEED-ME cryer or a CHANGE-ME cryer, but an I-AM-IN-PAIN-DO-SOMETHING cryer. One minute she would be relatively content, and then the next, she would arch her back and kick her feet and thrash her arms and issue a heartbreaking and angry WAAAAAAAH! Sometimes she could be distracted with a pacifier and/or a windchime and/or NFL football on TV, but mostly she was just miserable.

What happened to change this? Baby N visited the doctor for her four-week checkup. After listening to the above symptoms, he prescribed Zantac. A few hours later, my daughter called me and announced, "No crying!" Turns out the kid has a bit of a problem with acid reflux. Besides feeling relief (because as much as I love that baby, the hopeless crying was getting old, especially for the parents), I also wondered how many pre-Zantac babies simply cried and cried until they "outgrew" the problem, while the parents (usually the mother) were blamed for being high-strung and/or making their child high-strung.

My first-born arrived thirty years ago, back when you had to go to the doctor to have a pregnancy confirmed (no pregnancy tests at the drug store). You might or might not get prenatal vitamins, because the link between micro nutrients and birth defects such as spina bifida had not yet been confirmed. The pregnant body was a thing of shame, so you hid your growing belly beneath ugly smock tops that flattered no one.

The safety of sonagrams had not yet been determined, so the baby's gender was a secret until delivered. Epidurals were not routine, either, although you could opt for "natural" childbirth. In more enlightened parts of the country, things may have been different, but for the birth, I was literally strapped down, flat on my back, feet up in the stirrups. And don't forget the episiotomy, anther routine procedure. At least my husband was allowed to be there.

All babies stayed in the nursery. Breastfeeding was not encouraged, so no lactation consultants. High biliruben counts meant time spent by the baby under the "billy" lights, while the nurses claimed your milk was "too rich".

We paid an extra $10 a day so I could have a private room at the hospital, another couple of dollars to "rent" the TV. The meals were the usual hospital fare, although we did get a celebratory bottle of sparkling grape juice. BUT I was allowed to stay as long as I wanted; none of this kick-them-out-after-two-days business back then.

In the end, I came home with a healthy baby and the realization that, while the birth experience could be improved, it was only the beginning, the gateway to parenthood.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Love the ones you're with

The other night my daughter and I watched "Please Give". It has been a while since we watched a movie together, but since we both liked "Friends with Money" I figured this was a good one to share. Grandbaby N, aka Miss Fussypants, slept in my arms the whole time, only occasionally throwing her arms wide with a start when I laughed out loud.

Anyway, the movie was lovely and amazing. (That's a Nicole Holofcener joke. Sort of.) "Please Give" is about how we look to the world outside for answers to our internal angst. It is easier (if sometimes embarrassing) to try to help a stranger than throw a little love and kindness in the general direction of our family and neighbors.

There's Kate who is feeling guilty about how she and her husband earn their living, buying the used furniture of recently deceased people (the grown children can't be bothered to dispose of it properly) and then selling it for a tidy profit. Her husband Alex experiences no such guilt, but fears he has "hit the wall" even though his skin is still good. Their 15-year-old daughter Abby is, well, fifteen, hates dishonesty, and is having the usual weight- and acne-centric problems. Then there is the elderly neighbor Andra - Kate and Alex have bought her apartment and are waiting for her to die so they can expand. Andra has two granddaughters; Rebecca is the "good" one and Mary is the "bad" one, both stuck in ruts, as is Andra. The Rebecca is the first to find a new view on life - a new boy friend and his grandmother help. Andra never does.

I have become a fan of Nicole Holofcener, even though I don't always get her. Her movies consist of multiple stories of nearly equal import, and the stories brush up against each other in subtle and catalytic ways. At least, it's subtle to me. And I love the candid dialog, the kind of stuff that civilized folk stifle.

I have seen Catherine Keener in way more movies than I realized, most of them directed and written by Holofcener. Oliver Platt is totally recognizable, of course. Amanda Peet is another familiar face, as is Ann Guilbert (marble rye) and Lois Smith. I did not recognize Sarah Steele, Rebecca Hall, or Thomas Ian Nicholas (gah - he has three first names).

When my SO and I were in NYC one April, the windows were full of spring fashions, all in black and Amish blue. It seemed like almost everyone in this movie wore black with a touch of turquoise. I'm going to assume this is commentary on NYC fashion. You can too.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The long and short of it

I previously posted about my so-called career as a freelance writer, and about how I abandoned the effort in favor of something by which I could support myself. Looking back, it would be easy to say that I made a decision for the short term - I chose a "real" job over my "true" calling - but I could also argue that it was a long term decision - I chose that real job so that at a later time I would be financially secure enough to pursue writing as an vocation. Of course, I'll be really pissed if I die before I have a chance to retire.

My daughter is at a similar turning point. She is a gifted photographer, but making a living at photography requires a lot of work spent not behind a camera but in chasing new business. In the current economic climate, that has become even more difficult, especially when everyone has a brother-in-law with a "good enough" digital camera who can take "good enough" pictures to convince the budget-minded bride that she does not need a professional. So she is contemplating alternatives.

I have no advice on this matter. Sometimes a crappy little job leads to bigger and better things and you discover abilities and interests you didn't know you had. Sometimes you follow your bliss and it emigrates. Most of us find something tolerable that pays well enough to raise a family and lets us live a life of relative comfort. The Oprahs and Marthas of the world try to make us feel bad about not living our "best" - our most perfect - life, but who is to say what is best for us?

If I make a list of the positives and negatives of my life, the first list is long, the second limited to my work, which in recent years has been boring and stressful. When I review decision points in my past, I sometimes regret the paths I've chosen along the way, but I also know why I chose those paths and even now can't fault that logic. There is no guarantee that a different fork would have resulted in a better life, only a different one, and maybe not all that different in the end because I would still have been me all along the way.

If something is important enough, we will find room for it. I may never write the Great American Novel, but I do write. My daughter may not become another Annie Leibovitz or Ansel Adams, but she still takes exquisite photographs. My dog is not Lassie and she doesn't feel bad about it. Maybe we all should be more doglike.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Happy anniversary to us

No, not a blog anniversary.  Nor a wedding anniversary.  But a ten year anniversary, none the less.  My SO and I have been dating for ten years.  And he still brings me flowers.

No, we don't live together.  We thought about it, talked about it, and decided we like things just the way they are.  Ditto marriage.  Why ruin a good thing?

We met online, back when some dating sites were still free.  From his emails, I thought he was dark and brooding.  The first telephone call dispelled that myth.  We met for breakfast at the now-defunct Canterbury House.  I ordered the Hoosier Breakfast and cleaned my plate; he barely ate anything.  I had to let that go.

We started a conversation over that breakfast ten years ago, and haven't stopped talking since.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

We say Eegore, they say Eager

A while back, I watched "Coco before Chanel". The movie was okay, but my general impression of Gabrielle Chanel was that of a self-centered and calculating bitch. I found it difficult to drum up any sympathy for her. "Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky" did nothing to dispel this impression. I found the "love" story to be rather boring - he was her excuse to end her mourning for "Boy", she his for abandoning his tubercular wife and passel of children. I'm sorry, but being creative does not excuse one from treating others well.

* * * * *

I work with some Latvians, one of whom is named Igor. Most of us - and by "us" I mean myself and my non-Slavic co-workers, so this is not just a dumb American quirk - call him Eegore, whereas his compatriots pronounce his name more like Eager. I listened carefully during "Coco and Igor" (most of which was in French and Russian) and yes, the latter seems to be the correct pronunciation.

Most of my co-workers are not native English speakers. We make a genuine effort to pronounce each others' names correctly, and we are forgiving of each others' efforts. For example, I think Vidya's name consists of two syllables, but most of us slip an extra one in there, so instead of vid-ya, we say vid-ee-ya. I wonder if that is comparable to referring to "Carl" as "Carol". My name is not mispronounced often; instead, I am sometimes called by another co-worker's name, although since the two of us are no longer on the same team, this happens less frequently.

Some of my Chinese co-workers resolve this problem by taking English first names, going by Susan or Sheila or Tony instead of their real names, most of which start with the letter X. The Indians, on the other hand, tend to shorten their impossibly multiple-syllabic names or adopt nicknames. Thanks, Raj.

I seem to be particularly challenged when it comes to names of any origin. I even confuse my co-workers Dan and Mike, not because their names are similar (obviously NOT) or because they look or sound alike, but because their last names start with the letter R. I know - hopeless.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Itch that scratch

My son writes really well, and I'm not saying that just because I am his mother. His college professors have also commented on his writing ability. I have urged him to write, to chronicle the small town he grew up in or to write a sports blog.

"But I hate writing," he responds.

"So, you don't have that itch to write, huh?" I asked. "I have the itch but apparently, I have nothing to say."


When I was a child, the classified ads were divided into employment for men, employment for women, and sales. I grew up thinking I could be a nurse or a teacher or a secretary, but not much else. I'm not sure why I thought I would have a job of any kind - my mother was a stay-at-home mom just like most of my friends' moms - but I guess I read enough Sue Barton to at least contemplate what I might do to earn a living as an adult.

Now that I think about it, because of my love of animals, I did try out the idea of becoming a veterinarian, but my dad said, "Over my dead body" - I think he thought only lesbians became animal doctors. Ditto my idea about being an Olympic miler. My brother killed my interest in being a vet by pointing out that part of my job would be to euthanize animals. Thanks a lot.

Somehow I knew being a secretary would not suit me. So that left teacher or nurse. Having been a student and seeing first hand what teachers have to put up with, even in our white collar middleclass town where we were all relatively well-behaved students, I did not think that teaching was my calling (although I would still like to have my summers free). That left nursing, and if I was to be a nurse, I'd better pay attention in science class. And I tried, but snore. My dad was a chemist and my mother later became a nurse herself, but again, I was not called.

Then it occurred to me that I could be a writer! Even as young as seven, I had received complements from teachers on my writing abilities. And there was certainly a plethora of role models, as I spent an inordinate amount of time reading. This was back in the dark ages - no home computers, no cable, no video games, and daytime TV consisted of game shows, soap operas, and talk shows, intellectual and otherwise. Reading was all there was.

And I did a lot of writing as a kid, mostly imitating the Hardy Boys series. At that time, it did not occur to me to write non-fiction. In high school, my writing tended to be a means of expressing wishful thinking, as the main character took the form of an idealized me. Oh, and I wrote a lot of bad poetry. Again, teachers praised my writing, but the craft of storytelling somehow eluded me.

Even in college, professors were after me to major in English. I toyed with the idea, but wasn't sure I could slog through Shakespeare and the classics. And what would I do with an English major besides teach? Garrison Keillor had not yet broadcast his first episode of "A Prairie Home Companion".

In my twenties, I tried to get serious about writing. My husband showed his support by buying me an electric typewriter (oooh). I wrote short stories and sent them to magazines like Redbook. I subscribed to Writer's Digest. I even took a correspondence course on creative writing. During that time, I think I sold a couple of one-paragraph items to Organic Gardening, and that was about it.

A few years and two babies later, I managed to land a writing job of sorts, reporting "social news" for a free advertiser that needed some filler. (I was so professional at my interview that I brought my infant daughter along, who cried. The secretary had to hold her while the editor talked to me.) My "column" took the form of "The gathered on at and was attended by ." Apparently, everyone likes to see their name in the paper, even if all they did was attend a baby shower. For my efforts, I was paid something like fifteen cents a column inch. I asked if I could supply the paper (which was called The Paper but not ironically) with a feature, and they said sure. I was pretty proud of that piece, but the resulting payment did not seem to match the amount of effort put forth.

But then the editor of our local newspaper asked me to write a weekly article. These articles were about local individuals who had done something noteworthy, like win a contest or work somewhere unusual or develop a hobby. The base pay was more like $25 per article PLUS $.75 a column inch. Astronomical! Since I considered myself a freelancer, I agreed, but when my first article came out, I was promptly fired by The Paper.

I saved the clippings of the articles I wrote over the next couple of years, but I'm not brave enough to reread them. I'm sure they weren't very good - I didn't understand the concept of hooking the reader with a great opening line (by the looks of this post, I still don't). All I did was try to fit all my notes into the article to increase its size. I took a photography course, so I was able to supply equally bad photos to go with my articles. And I died a little each time an article was published. It was a small town and appearing on the front page once a week felt like I was parading down Main Street stark naked.

That editor gave me some good advice: Never give your work away. And he made it clear I was free to write for other publications. And so I did. During that time, I became master of the query letter. I managed to publish an article in Soybean Digest and one in Organic Gardening. I also worked for The Farmer's Exchange as a stringer. The most exciting thing, however, was when the editor of Acres, USA called. Wow, an editor had contacted me about doing a story! I felt I was on my way.

Life being what it is - full of surprises - my circumstances changed around then. Faced with the prospect of having to support myself all by myself, I returned to school so I could get a "real" job. My writing ability still served me well, as it helped me get my foot in the door with several employers who valued the contribution I could make toward their technical writing needs.

And so it went for many years. Always, in the back of my mind was the idea that someday I would write again, maybe after I retired. Meanwhile, once the kids were out of the house, I returned to a hobby I had enjoyed in a previous life, knitting. And eventually, knitting led me to knitting blogs. And knitting blogs led me to blogging about my own knitting. And about gardening/home improvement. And eventually, a little bit about me.

Initially, blogging made me feel really nervous, naked and exposed, hence my screen identity of "Abby". And I struggle to find my voice. There are several "cursing mommy" blogs I enjoy, but that is not my style. There are funny and witty blogs, but I'm not all that entertaining. I started and abandoned several blogs along the way, trying this or that, to see if I could ignite a spark. The knitting blog survives, primarily as a record of what I knit, although Ravelry serves the same purpose. The home and garden blog also survives, again as a diary of sorts. But this personal blog mostly languishes.

It doesn't help that blogging has revealed that my writing ability is not so special. A lot of people write, many better than I do, and some even manage to get paid for blogging and/or have published books as a result of their blogging. In fact, everyone and their brother is writing a novel this month. I can't compete.

(Actually, I do have an idea for a novel, but whenever I write fiction, I feel that naked-on-Main-Street thing again, only worse.)

Over the past several years, my dad has been slowly cleaning out his basement. As a result, I have a ton of family letters (mostly from me - again, not brave enough to read those). Many, however, are from relatives I have never met, some even in Danish. It used to be that the mail was the only means of communication that was affordable. Now we have long distance calling plans, texting, tweeting, FBing, all kinds of communication methods that leave nary a trace. But blogs seem to last "forever". Even the ones I've abandoned are still out there, silently awaiting my unlikely return.

And so I keep slogging away at this blog, leaving my own slimy trail in the ether, in case some future descendant wonders about the nuts on their family tree. Blogging satisfies that itch to write, but I can keep my clothes on, figuratively speaking. Lucky you.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

New purpose in life

My mother passed away when I was 20. Consequently, it was very important to me that my children grow up to be independent, just in case I was not around. And they did. And while I am very proud of the young adults they have become, I could not help but be a little sad when I felt that they did not need me anymore. After decades of dance recitals and ball games, after ushering them from kindergarten through college graduation, there was not much left for me to do besides provide holiday repasts and force xmas gifts upon them.

But now, I have a brand new baby granddaughter. While I have been looking forward to becoming a grandma, I was not prepared for the depth of my reaction to her appearance less than three weeks ago. Day 1, I could not sleep because all I saw in my mind's eye was her sweet face. Day 2, I worked from home so I could spend my lunch hour holding her. Day 3, I took the afternoon off so I could again hold her and not feel rushed to leave. Day 4, I did not think I would see her, but her parents stopped by, oh joy! I saw her every day the first week of her life. Too much Baby N is never enough.

Not only that, but I have this overwhelming urge to stock up on picture books and puzzles and little stuffed animals and teething rings. My imagination is running wild in anticipation of first smile, first step, first t-ball game. I never had the patience to let my kids help me with the garden or the baking or even the laundry, but now my middle name will be Patience because I will be utterly transformed from Harried Parent to Doting Grandma.

I hope she likes me.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Six of one

We have been in our new "green" office building for a couple of weeks, and it is starting to feel like home.  The staff keeps tweaking what they can, but there are some major design flaws that may be expensive to correct.  We'll see how it pans out in the long run. 

Where I sit, on the third floor
The current progress report: 

  • It is still too cold in here, but the clamminess seems to be gone. 
  • I have rearranged things in my pod so it feels less claustrophobic.  With three monitors, it feels like command central. 
This is "before"; I don't have an "after".
  • I tend to sit forward in my chair, as though it were one of those ball chairs, which has proven good for my back. 
  • They gave me (and everyone?) a new keyboard. 
  • Still no headset for the phone.  However, I can forward my calls to my home phone.  Since I work at home one or two days a week, I now don't have to keep checking my office voice mail for missed calls. 
  • I've grown use to the printer noises, but there is also overt pressure to reduce printing in general.  The door to the stairway, on the other hand, bangs. 
  • Trays for paper were delivered, which helped clear my desk top. 
  • The "new office" smell seems to have dissipated, so no more daily headaches. 
  • The post next to my pod blocks my view to the left, but since I am on an aisle, also blocks my view of people walking by. 
View to my left
  • The toilets have two flush modes, one for "liquids" and one for "solids".   Apparently, toilet paper is a solid.
  • The minimal number of "sit down" facilities for the men has proven not to be a problem.  Or so they say.
  • For some reason, the third floor bathrooms are not handicap accessible.  Was this on purpose? 
  • The single-cup coffee makers in the pantries produce coffee that is no worse than what was available in the cafeteria and vending machines. 
  • The ice/water machines now have ice. 
  • "They" tried actively discouraging people from eating at their desks, using all kinds of made-up excuses (companionship? really?), but I think the real reason is they don't want us slobbing up the new pods.  BTW, their efforts are coming to naught. 
  • The vending machines and microwaves are in the cafeteria.  The cafeteria is the only space large enough for large meetings.  We are not supposed to use the vending machines or microwaves while a meeting is in progress.  This has produced complaints. 
  • There is no barrier between the serving area of the cafeteria and the sitting area, which means some meetings have to put up with the sounds of food preparation.  This has produced complaints. 
  • People in some parts of the building are discovering that there can be too much natural light.  Mine is not one of them. 
View to my right

  • The acoustic ceiling seems to be doing its job dampening sound.  Or maybe it is the "white noise" of the PA system.
Stand up, sit down, fight, fight, fight!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

StrengthsFinder 2.0

I think I read about StrengthsFinder 2.0 in AARP. Someone(a newscaster?) took the StrengthsFinder test and discovered a new self-image. I think most of us have enough self-awareness that we do not need a book or a test to tell us what we are good at, but rarely do we even think about our strengths.  Instead, we scrutinize our shortcomings, wind up in careers that don't utilize our talents, and in general feel pretty crappy about ourselves at least part of the time.

My copy of the book came from the library, and a previous borrower had already used the access code that came with the book.  Consequently, I could not take the test at, so cannot comment on that.  I will comment on the book, though.

The book starts with a brief explanation of why we need a "language" of talents, why we cannot become anything we want to be if we just work hard enough, then offers a list of strengths that read sort of like star signs, but we get to pick what matches, not be doomed by our date of birth.  

So what am I? I am an Achiever. At the start of the day, I plan what I want to accomplish. At the end of the day, I take inventory to see if I met my goals, even if those goals were just doing laundry and vacuuming. I keep lists, not only to remind me of what I want to do, but because I enjoy crossing off each item. Sometimes, when I have been busy but not doing things on my list, I will add my current activities to the list, just so I can cross them out and feel like I accomplished something that day.

What else am I? Analytical, that's for sure. That is one reason I went into software development. I suspect it is also a contributing factor to my inability to make that "leap of faith" required by most religions. 

What else? I am Competitive, but not always in a good way. I am constantly comparing myself to others. Consistency is important to me, but I think this goes hand-in-hand with being Analytical. I get bored easily, so Intellection seems to apply to me, but this conjoins with being an Achiever. Responsibility is another trait that seems to do me more harm than good, because I feel responsible for things that are not my responsibility, or at least, not mine alone.

Besides helping identify one's strengths, this book offers advice on putting one's strengths to work and for making the best use of the strengths of others. These "ideas for action" are rather naive and assume that we all have the talent of people skills.  However, keeping my strengths in mind is helping me change the way I think about myself and reframe my so-called problems.

Monday, October 18, 2010

I hate it already

I was one of the few people anxious to leave my cubicle behind, but I'm not impressed with my pod and its accouterments.  Here is my list of wah-wah: 

  • It is freezing in here.  And when it is not, it feels clammy. 
  • My desk top is covered with cables.  And a keyboard I can't use because... 
  • My keyboard is not the same one I had before.  This one sucks.  And sticks.  And skips. 
  • My primary headset is missing, but I doubt it would work with my new phone because... 
  • My secondary headset does not work with my new phone. 
  • The monitors had loose cables, something I did not discover until I had opened a help desk ticket.  That means when "they" hooked up the equipment, they did not check to see if it worked. 
  • Two of the three shelves in the pods are inaccessible unless one crawls under the desk. 
  • I lowered the desk to a height comfortable for typing and now the file cabinet does not fit under it.  I notice that a lot of people have raised their chairs instead of lowering their desks.  If I do that, my feet fall asleep. 
  • Hanging file folders do not fit in the provided frames unless one makes a slight "modification" - i.e. yanks out the crossbars. 
  • There is something hinky about the power to my pod, but now that it seems to be working, I don't want to mess with it. 
  • For some reason, a printer/copier has been located right behind me, and it is LOUD.  And why are people printing stuff?!?  Since all our documents are online, we could be a paperless office if only people would Just.  Stop.  Printing. 
  • The large magnetic clip provided is not strong enough to actually hold anything on the cloth-covered metal pod wall. 
  • Where are the trays we were promised?  Not that I need one, being all paperless and such.  Plus, there is no place to put it except on one of those inaccessible shelves.  Or on top of the unused keyboard. 
  • Only four speed-dial numbers allowed on the phone?  Seriously?  Better than our last phones, though, which had NONE. 
  • The "new office" smell gives me a headache. 
Other observations: 
  • There are twelve parking spaces next to the building for hybrid cars.  Eleven of those spots were filled this morning. 
  • My neighbor across the way has the right idea:  low expectations.  So, when asked, he says the pods are better than he expected. 
  • The chairs are not too bad, although they seem to be missing the adjustable lumbar support option.  I may need a small pillow. 
  • Each floor has an ice/water machine in its "pantry" but so far, no ice.  And refrigerators but no microwaves.  Today the cafeteria ran out of take-out containers.  It seems eating at one's desk is being passively discouraged. 
  • To get an outside line, one dials '9'.  To get long distance, one dials '9-1'.  In an emergency, one dials '9-1-1'.  When one accidentally dials '9-1-1' the impulse is to hang up.  Guess how many times the police have shown up today because of 9-1-1 calls followed by a disconnect. 
  • There are 52 steps from the first floor to the third.  I need the exercise because... 
  • Free breakfast and lunch = overeating.  Thankfully, that is a one-day only thing, but the cafeteria now offers ice cream.  Curses.

The BigMove has been surprisingly stressful.  I need a nap. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Movin' on up

This is the weekend of the Big Move (or as those of us who like bathroom humor, the big BM).  Friday morning we packed up the last of our cubicles.  Monday morning our stuff should magically appear at our new pods.

Not everyone will be in a pod.  The new rule is only senior VPs get floor-to-ceiling offices, so some are losing their offices.  Not all, though, as serendipitously several non-senior VPs received last minute reprieves in the form of promotions.  Not that they do not deserve to be promoted, it is just the timing that seems a little suspicious.

Since I started my career in software development, I have worked in a variety of office setups.  The first place was a start-up where we fought over the chairs.  I don't know what the owners thought we were going to sit on when they hired us.  Eventually, some used office furniture showed up, but we were still sitting cheek-to-jowl, elbow-to-asshole, sharing phones, user manuals, scissors, and too few bathrooms.

Like many start-ups, this one was feast or famine, and during a famine I was released.  Imagine my shock at my next place of employment where I not only had my own cubicle and my own phone, but my own scissors, stapler, user manuals, and an office chair no one was going to co-opt behind my back.  Unfortunately, that place was less than ideal in other ways, and I eventually returned to the start-up when they hit a new feast phase.

The start-up had moved and now all the engineers had offices.  Except me.  I had to wait for someone to leave the company before I could take over an office.  And what a nice office it was, with a window that overlooked a pond.  Eventually, the feast gave way to famine again, and I went back to company number 2 and back to a cubicle.

It was not too long after that when I decided to give consulting a try.  My home office - the Florida room - was not posh, but I replaced the windows to make it a three-and-a-half-season room, supplemented with a space heater.  My home-based business lasted about a year, but during the year I learned to love working out of my house.

Since then I have worked in cubicles and bullpens.  In neither case have I been exposed to natural light, which is one plus of the arrangement in our new building.  Cubicles give the illusion of privacy without the reality, so I doubt pod life will be much different in that respect.  The acoustics in the new building are supposed to be sound-dampening, so hopefully the lack of cloth walls will not equate to a higher noise level.  And there are privacy rooms for those who talk too loud.

I have not been in the new building yet, but I know where I will be sitting on the third floor.  My group is tucked into a corner, and I will be on the aisle.  In the general vicinity are two conference rooms, a stairwell, the printer room, and a coat closet.  I'm hoping the traffic is not too disruptive.

Oddly enough, the men have expressed concern that there are too few sit-down toilets for them in the new building.  There has been a lot of angst expressed over the limited storage we will each have in our pods; some actuaries were actually calculating cubic-inches available.  I'm not looking forward to losing my chair, as we are all getting new ones, all the same style.

But you know what?  My paycheck is still automatically deposited in my checking account every two weeks.  I have great benefits, including life, health, dental, and eye care insurance.  The work, while stultifying, is not overwhelming.  My co-workers are pleasant (for the most part).  And now we will be working in a green and well-lighted place.

I'm not going to complain.  Much.

P.S.  My dog Betsy has recovered completely from her bout of pancreatitis.  Yay!

Saturday, October 02, 2010

How I almost killed my dog

Monday evening, when I arrived home from work, I found Betsy shivering in her crate.  Surprised, I turned on the furnace and fed her, a meal she soon threw up.  As the evening progressed, it became obvious that she was really sick.  By bedtime, I was on the Internet, scaring myself half to death about what might be ailing her.  Finally, I took her to the emergency vet clinic, arriving just before midnight.

Now, I am very happy that our town has an emergency vet clinic and I realize that their rates are going to be higher than normal, but jeesh.  My regular vet charges $29 for a daytime visit, while the emergency clinic charges $100, $125 if it is after midnight.  The other charges also run about three times what my regular vet charges.  Knowing this, I was reluctant to let them do much of anything besides examine Betsy.  I just wanted to make sure she would be okay until morning, when I would take her to her regular vet.

About two hours and $200 later, Betsy and I headed home.  She had been hydrated and tested for a few things, but she had no fever, no funny lumps.  She had politely thrown up on their floor, so they were able to see that she was vomiting only dog food.  A rectal exam showed no diarrhea or blood.  They also gave her a shot for the nausea, so at least I could safely let her sleep on the bed with me.  And sleep we did, as we were both exhausted after all that.

Tuesday morning she was still shivering (although not cold) and not interested in eating.  She was also favoring the leg that had been operated on years before, when she blew out her ACL.  By the time we arrived at the vet, she could not walk at all.  The exam did not reveal anything obvious, so we started in on the tests, all of which came back normal, except the one for pancreatitis.  Bingo.

The vet gave me the pancreatitis lecture:  Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, and is very painful (hence, the shivering).  Some breeds of dogs, like schnauzers, are susceptible to pancreatitis; also dogs that are on certain medications, like prednisone, which is true for Betsy.  Pancreatitis also runs the gamut, from dogs who have one episode to those that die from it.  And a flare up usually follows a high fat meal.


Saturday night I had cooked oven fried chicken.  Betsy considers it her job to lick plates and pans clean.  I had poured out the grease from the pan, but there was enough left that I had wondered if Betsy would get diarrhea from it.  I had given the pan to her anyway.  Mea culpa.

They hydrated Betsy again, gave us some antibiotics and anti-nausea pills, and suggested an interim diet low in fat and protein, like rice and chicken breast or fat-free cottage cheese.  And no more prednisone for a while.  As I forked over another $200, the receptionist asked when doctor wanted a recheck.  He hadn't said, and only later did I consider the possibility that he thought Betsy was not going to make it.

But she did.  I tricked her into drinking a lot of water by flavoring it with baby cereal or chicken broth (fat-free, no msg, low sodium).  I fed her little meals of half rice and half chicken or cottage cheese.  I baked her some low-fat whole wheat treats.  Wednesday morning she was able to walk again, although she was obviously still in pain.  Now it is Saturday, and while she still has some discomfort after meals, she is vastly improved.  And last night she finally pooped, after having not done so since Monday night.

I have owned dogs most of my adult life.  Most of those dogs could - and did - eat just about anything, including one that ate a whole head of cabbage right out of the garden.  Betsy does not have the best conformation or the strongest constitution, which has led to some new experiences for me as a dog owner.  And this is just one more.  Too bad they almost all involve a lot of money.  For a "free" dog from the local shelter, she certainly has been expensive to care for.

But who could resist that sweet face?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Everyday stuff

I have a gardening blog and a knitting blog.  This blog was supposed to be for everything else, but I don't want to blog about work (don't bite the hand that feeds you) or family (they can tell their own stories) or friends (honesty is NOT always the best policy).  So maybe I should blog about the everyday stuff, things I might want to have a record of years down the road.

Like what I did with the shares MetLife gave me when they demutualized.  I have a life insurance policy with MetLife and one with the Principal.  According to my faulty memory, MetLife demutualized, and I took the shares of stock they gave me and transferred them to my brokerage account.  I later sold those shares to help finance my daughter's education.  After going through old files the other day, however, I discovered that BOTH companies demutualized, the stock I transferred and subsequently sold was from the Principal, and instead of taking the proffered stock from MetLife, I chose cash.  It was a measly amount, which may be why I did not recall that.  But I also had several of the details of these two exchanges mixed up.  I may have mentioned one or both in a pen-and-paper journal, but who wants to dig those out?  Much simpler to execute an electronic search on a blog.  Assuming this blog still exists in some future time.

And while we are discussing money, let it be known that I NO LONGER HAVE A MORTGAGE!!!  After my daughter graduated from college, I suddenly had extra discretionary income.  My financial advisor suggested investing more in my Roth IRA, but most of my retirement is already in the stock market basket.  Instead, I started making payments against the principal of my mortgage.  And YAY ME I paid it off last month!  I still have a home equity loan, but not for long.  Once that obligation is met, I will be totally and completely debt free.  YAY ME again!

This is all part of preparing for retirement.  If nothing else, I will at least have a roof over my head.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Sort of like New Year

Every year I take the days between xmas and New Year off, ostensibly to renew and refresh and declutter the house and my mind.  But the past few years, too much has been going on at that time of year for me to achieve much of anything.  Likewise, summer can be a time of rest and relaxation, especially after a weeklong vacation somewhere other than here.  But this year?  NOT.  I traveled more than usual, in short stressful bursts.  By my niece's wedding in August, I just wanted to stay home.

So Labor Day weekend turned into a go-nowhere-see-no-one-let-me-get-one-thing-done-dammit kind of break.  I haven't exactly seen no one - my SO came over Saturday night for dinner and my daughter is coming over tonight for our semi-weekly walk - and I did make it to the DQ for a Peanut Buster Parfait, but otherwise I have been home.  Alone.  For three days.  Aahhh!

The only to-do items on my list this weekend were 1) to meditate at least once each day (check) and 2) to jump start my yoga routine (check).  I had not done any yoga for about a month, so I was leery about overdoing it, but after some initial soreness, the yoga muscles remembered.  Thanks to gardening and walking, I have not lost much muscle tone.  Initially, the flexibility was not there, but that has improved already.  Yoga moves chi and unblocks energy channels - all that breathing and stretching and twisting - and it always feels good.

The meditation is my attempt to deal with work.  I can't change the circumstances of my employment or my need to be employed (that money thing, you know), so I am trying to make an attitude adjustment, to make my work life more bearable.  One solution has been to work at home one or two days a week, and that helps.  I'm hoping the meditation will provide additional assistance, or at least quiet the excessive whining that goes on my head from eight-to-five each day.

Any meditators and/or yoginis out there?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I yam who I yam

There is a new sitcom on NBC coming this fall, titled "Outsourced."  It's about a call center that has been moved to India.  Some bloggers have suggested that this premise may be offensive.  They meant, it might be offensive to Americans whose jobs have been outsourced.  My concern was that some of my Indian co-workers might find Hollywood's interpretation of Indian culture to be offensive.  This, from someone whose career has been outsourced. 

I still have a job; just not the one I was hired to do, so I am luckier than some (although most days I don't feel very lucky).  I still maintain that we all need jobs, whether we are in India or Indiana.  If I were younger and spoke more than one language and was footloose and fancy free, I would consider relocating to a foreign country.  But not now - I'm going to be a grandma!  Plus, the older I get, the more I value personal comfort.

Recently I met someone in my company who, while American and owning a house in the US, has worked most of her career in South America.  She speaks Spanish but not German, even though she now works in Zurich.  In the past, I might have felt jealous of her life choices, but now I realize that, for me to have made similar choices, I would have had to be someone other than who I am.

The fifties are known as the Age of Regret.  Where does that regret go as one nears sixty?  It may disappear into the realization that, to live a different life, we would have had to be different people.  Finally, finally, I am starting to feel comfortable with who I am.  There aren't days when I don't wish I were more socially adept or more creative or less bitchy, and I do try to appear somewhat normal to the outside world.  But I am also trying to jettison the baggage I have been dragging along all these years.

(For some reason, I feel like I have written about some of this stuff before in this blog.  We each have stories to tell about our lives, and sometimes we have to repeat them ad nauseum.  I'll listen to you repeat yourself if you will cut me a little slack here, too.)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Why I don't take people pictures

When visiting my son last spring, I shared my latest photos with him.  Amazingly, they were all of my knitting and my garden, nary a human face to be found.  I tried to rectify that this summer, but as you can see, I'm not quick enough.

Nor steady enough.

The witness protection program has nothing to fear from me.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Your best

I just finished reading The Bucolic Plague, by Josh Kilmer-Purcell, which is the story of how the author and his partner became "gentleman farmers".  It's not a how-to book, and if you harbor a secret (or not so secret) wish to abandon the city and your nine-to-five job for the simple life in the country, this book may make you scream with frustration because you do not have the Martha connection nor the funds nor the personality nor the whimsical chutzpah to buy a mansion in the middle of nowhere in upstate New York, or if you did, said mansion would not come with a caretaker and 80 goats and a cast of helpful characters.

Anyway, the major conflict of this story is Kilmer-Purcell's wish to live his Oprah-inspired Best Life and his partner's Martha-influenced perfectionism.  They work things out in the end (obviously), but the gem of this book is the revelation by the author that what is his Best Life is not following his bliss, but doing what he is best at (which happens to be "sparkle").

Which leads to the question of, What am I best at?  And I am not talking about what I am best at in comparison to other people, but what, amongst the myriad of things that I do, is my own personal forte.

Not only does this take an acrobatic ability to twist your point of view, but it also requires that you compare apples to oranges.  I already know that I write better than I talk, but do I knit better than I write?  Do I cook better than I garden?  Each so-called talent has its own criteria for rating whether you are "good" or "better" or "best" at it, but then things get really complicated when you include non-specific things like attitude or enthusiasm or social skills.  Or sparkle.

It seems easier to identify someone else's "best" than your own.  For example, I have a co-worker whose "best" is problem solving.  He tackles any and all problems that fall in his path as though they are solvable if only he thinks or researches or works on them hard enough.  So it might be eye-opening to ask your friends and family what they think your "best" is.

If you can get them to refrain from comparing your "best" to theirs.

The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers: An Unconventional Memoir

Sunday, May 02, 2010


  • While driving to work the other day, I noticed a small yellow plane flying surprisingly low.  It flew in and out of my line of sight, until I reached work, where the plane was barely clearing our new building.  I asked the security guard what was going on.  He said they were spraying for gypsy moths.
  • I try to lead a healthy lifestyle, but what do you do when small yellow planes are raining crap from the sky?  They say it should be harmless, but also recommend we stay inside.
  • According to the HAPLR Index, our local library system is in the top ten for communities its size.  That does not surprise me.  
  • When I contemplate moving somewhere else, I wonder what the library system would be like.  Now I can consult this list.  
  • I'm surprised at how many of the top libraries are in the Midwest.  Or maybe I shouldn't be.
  • I can now stream movies from Netflx over my FIOS to my laptop and onto my TV.  I watched "Run Granny Run" the other night, just to test it out.  (I gave this movie 3 stars.)
  • Friday night I tested the subtitles on my new TV by watching "Coco before Channel".  (Another 3-star movie.)
  • Right now I am listening to The Postmistress on CD.  After disk 1, my interest was waning, but gave disk 2 a try and got sucked in.
  • I write better than I talk, so I like using SameTime to communicate with co-workers.  It's a chat tool built into Lotus Notes.  I can also see when they are away from their desks or in a meeting or do not wish to be disturbed.
  • All I want to eat are burgers and fries.  And drink Coke.  Not that I do, but I want to.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Welcome to the 21st century

This past week I had FIOS installed, which not only provides me with wireless access to the Internet but also gives me unlimited long distance (I have been using my prepay cell phone for LD), call waiting (don't really care about that), and caller ID.  Also, my answering machine (which occasionally would record nothing but static) is now redundant, as the service provides its own voice mail.  My phone system is up to the changes, too, which I did not know beforehand.  Wow.

Today I bought a new TV.  I don't watch much television, but I do like movies, usually foreign movies, movies with subtitles which were becoming more and more difficult to read on my 18-year-old Sanyo.  My SO and I were just browsing on a rainy day and wound up in HH Gregg, and there was a TV that suited my criteria:  42", less than $500, and a brand name that begins with an S (in this case, Samsung).  Okay, then.  It's a little big for my livingroom, but I am getting used to it.

And a new digital camera is winging its way to my house.  I have a digital camera, but it is old, there is some kind of flaw on the lens, and lately it has been eating batteries.  Time for an upgrade.

No, I have not won the lottery.  (And if I did win the lottery, the first thing I would buy would not be electronics, but custom made footwear.)  The FIOS is not costing me more than my current telephone and Internet service, I have been in the market for a new TV for over a year, and the camera is nothing fancy, just a point-and-shoot.  It is simply that everything came together at one time, like electronic destiny or something.  I am pretty good at saying NO and depriving myself of many luxuries, both big and small, but eventually the time comes for YES.  Also, when something annoying can be fixed with a little money (and one has the money), why not?

What have you done lately to stimulate the economy?

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Most useless PowerPoint I've ever seen

Slide 1:  Meeting title
Slide 2:  Meeting agenda, 3 items, plus time for questions
Slide 3:  Meeting agenda, with item 1 highlighted
Slide 4:  One line summary of agenda item 1
Slide 5:  Meeting agenda, with item 2 highlighted
Slide 6:  One line summary of agenda item 2
Slide 7:  Meeting agenda, with item 3 highlighted
Slide 8:  One line summary of agenda item 3
Slide 9:  Questions?

I hope no one printed this out.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Still whining

Many of the bloggers I follow tend to post during the week, then disappear over the weekends.  I work on a computer all day, thus am reluctant to do more of the same in the evenings Monday through Friday.  But weekends?  I'm there, right online, where I feel like I belong.

And soon I may be online at home even more, as I am contemplating upgrading from DSL to FIOS.  The two-year-guaranteed price for the DSL is drawing to a close, and I figure if I am going to pay more anyway, I might as well get more.  I kept putting it off, though, and now I am reaping the benefits of my procrastination.  Yesterday I received in the mail an offer that will basically give me FIOS for the same price as I have been paying for DSL, with a two-year-guarantee on the rate.  Whoo-hoo!  Sign me up!

In work related news, I still hate my new responsibilities, but I am catching on and hence don't feel so overwhelmed.  Also, I have become a bit of a folk hero.  We are moving to a new building this summer, and the new podlike furniture is being test-driven right next to my cubicle.  Last week, the first test team was replaced by a second test team, which included an individual who bathes in perfume each day.  I tend to be sensitive to scents to begin, and this particular one not only gave me a headache, but made me feel physically ill.  I posted a message on our company's version of FB/MyS about how, given that we will be working in closer quarters and without intervening cubicle walls, we all need to be cognizant of the scents we wear, be they perfume, cologne, or scented lotions.  Not only did I receive positive responses online (one of which was from the boss of said offender - yay!), I have been verbally thanked in the halls by people who I don't even know.  All of this goes against my philosophy of keeping a low profile, but the Perfume Queen has not been in the pod since and I feel so much better, it is worth it.

Books:  I finished Horse Boy.  A film crew accompanied the family to Mongolia (that was one way they were able to finance the trip), so I am interested in seeing the DVD.  Most of us know at least on person who falls in the autistic/Asperger spectrum (whether we know it or not), but rarely do we get an inside glimpse of what parenting such a child is like.

(As an aside, I recently commented to some friends that I thought, were I to pursue it, I might be diagnosed as falling somewhere on the Asperger spectrum, citing my social difficulties.  None present said, "Oh, no!  Not you!"  Which is telling, I think.)

Other books:  Finished listening to U Is for Undertow.  Excellent, which is par for the course for Sue Grafton.  Also read Shadow Tag, by Louise Erdrich, which was totally engrossing, but the ending felt abrupt and inconsistent with what went before.  It was almost like Erdrich was facing a deadline and needed to wrap things up, and did so, jarringly and without grace.  This is a problem I have encountered frequently in recently read novels, and a trend that I don't like.

I just started After the Ice, by Alun Anderson, which promises to be excellent if depressing.

Movies:  Watched "The Door in the Floor".  Engrossing but a bit uneven, starting in sadness, veering into comedy, then concluding with one of those odd endings where things just kind of work out all right, even for those who do not deserve to have things go well.  A good film for budding writers, as Jeff Bridges plays an author/illustrator of children's fiction and provides the personal assistant he hires for the summer with a few nuggets of writing wisdom.

Also watched "Canvas" which is about a family in crisis because the mom is schizophrenic and forcibly hospitalized.  It's told from the ten-year-old son's perspective and is the perfect film to watch if you need a good cry.