Thursday, March 31, 2011

Making amends

Disclaimer: I’m not an alcoholic although I am the daughter of one. So any familiarity I have with the 12 steps is once removed and not from actually working the steps. They've always made sense to me, though.

OK on to what I'm trying to say.

When I was young and stupid, I didn’t always treat people very well. More to the point, I know I hurt several badly by my actions and I’ve regretted it over the years. Keep in mind these are not people who deserved bad treatment or anything; in all cases my behavior was a result of my own screwed up self. Mostly I drifted away from them after my not so good treatment because of normal life—I got out of the Army or I moved away or whatever.

But I’ve ended up reconnecting with a couple of them through Facebook, and I’ve had a chance to apologize for my behavior and how I acted, no excuses, no justifications, just the apology and a request for forgiveness. In all three cases, it’s been graciously forthcoming which while not entirely unexpected is still pretty nice.

So in addition to getting to find out the rest of the stories of people I didn’t behave badly with, I’ve also been able to make amends with a few that I didn't do so well with (man, that was an awkward sentence). That’s not half bad for social media.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cash rules

I read several personal finance blogs and have read more than a few books about personal finance and budgeting and money management in general. Most tend to believe that paying cash for a car is the way to go.

I never thought that was something I could do, that I would actually be able to save enough money to pay for a new car outright with cash. And it's not like I buy cars frequently. I average nine years of ownership over the last three cars (previous cars got sold earlier because of international moves so they sort of don't count). But I still didn't think I could do it.

Yes, yes, of course the point of this post is that I did do it. I did it yesterday and used my debit card to pay for my car. That part just amuses me to no end. I traded in my 2002 Honda CR-V for a 2010 Honda Fit. The CR-V made a lot of sense in the Midwest with wider roads and roomier parking places. The Fit should do well for us here in Boston and still be a good cargo hauler. I picked silver because it doesn't show the dirt as much.

Monday, March 28, 2011

LOL as a weapon

I’m not a passive-aggressive woman; in fact, I err on the side of bluntness. Don’t think I’m bragging about it either, because I’m not. The bluntness along with my marked lack of patience are my two biggest character flaws.

But I know and/or work with a few passive-aggressive people and noticed a trait they all seem to share—they use “humor” after saying something fairly confrontational or nasty or aggressive. Take your pick on the motive because I’ve seen all three in recent conversations. I put the word humor in quotations marks because it’s clear from the context that they aren’t actually kidding, nor are they trying to be funny.

This happens the most in emails or online. These folks can’t come straight out and say what’s on their mind without adding in the fake LOL.

I get that people can be uncomfortable with confrontation and I don’t go looking for it myself. But when I see the fake LOL, I tend to discount whatever was said entirely, sort of a la-la-la can't HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAR you!

I’d far rather someone be slightly rude than use fake humor.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Happy cats

Are drugged out cats!

Thanks to the Ds and Lemming!

Sunday, March 20, 2011


I’m not actually a minimalist

Although I can see why someone might think otherwise, given my tendency to purge my belongings. But I’m not interested in owning just 10 or 20 items of clothes, you’ll never find just one pair of shoes in my closet or just one purse and I like art on my walls and color all around. But I detest clutter and disorganization. When things get cluttered and disorganized, then I feel out of control in my own home.

Kent and I send each other links to interesting articles all the time. This week I sent him an article by miss minimalist about the concept of of areté, a Greek word for excellence; I've translated that in my mind to the notion of quality over quantity in all your belongings.

He sent me an article by Marc Gunther that looked at something called the Veridian; this article took the last Veridian note and considered the relationship we have with our things and why that’s so. The two articles sparked a really good discussion yesterday, sort of a philosophy of belongings conversation.

(I will say that Marc Gunther is clearly very involved in the the green movement and I'm not, so I found the first few paragraphs fluffy and I didn't get interested until he moved on to talking about the article The Last Veridian—however he did a great job pulling out the good stuff from there. I tried to read the original article and had to stop.)

I dislike using the word mindful because it smacks of eastern mysticism which I do not believe in and don’t follow, not in yoga and not in anything, but the word sort of works here. Kent and I want to deliberately choose to own our possessions and neither of us wants them to own us.

When I settle for something and it’s not exactly what I really wanted and needed, then it becomes a source of frustration and clutter—like the near misses in my closet; they hang there mocking me. I’ve seen Kent go through the same thing when he’s gotten a tool for home repair and it wasn’t really the one he knew he needed but what he needed wasn’t available.

I foresee a new round of purging for us, using the four categories mentioned in the second article.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Book report

So the IFBC has finished one book, and we are busy reading the next. But I’m still thinking about our reviews and how we expressed our opinions—frankly I’m sitting here wondering how to go about saying what I liked and didn’t like without turning the discussion into a slam of someone else’s taste in books.

Let me explain.

I took a grad level essay writing class as an undergraduate, and I was one of maybe three undergrads in the class. The rest were all on the Ph.D. trail; most took the class for fun. We read several collections of essays, discussed the essays themselves thoroughly and also talked about the forms essays took. Don’t ask me to recall any of that, because I took the class 10 years ago and don’t remember.

What I do remember is that we wrote essays all the time and we all got reviewed at least once that semester by the class. Those reviews were brutal, but not for the reasons I expected. I thought we’d be critiquing the writing style and offering suggestions for improving the form of the essay but nope, that’s not what happened at all. Instead the class generally tore apart the idea of the essay and did so viciously. That seemed like dirty pool to me and really inappropriate but that’s what happened.

I’m not saying we tore apart Lemming personally over her book. But I think I need to find a better way to share what I liked and didn’t like without veering into something that may be interpreted as a personal slam.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Cats at play

I've been remiss with kitty videos lately. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Weeks from disaster

Have you ever watched the show Seconds from Disaster? This National Geographic show ran from 2004 to 2007 and analyzed everything that happened in selected disasters. The disasters ranged from natural disasters to oil rig explosions to train and plane crashes.

One that still haunts me was about a plane that crashed because the tail mechanism broke and put the flappers or whatever they are called into a position which forced the plane to nose dive straight down. The cockpit recordings are chilling as the pilot asks the co-pilot two or three times “Are we flying? Are we flying?” as they hurtle to the ocean below.

My job feels a little bit like that right now.

Due to the complete inability of Congress to pass a budget, the contract I work on full time will probably go away May 7. In the meantime, my company has pitched an intensive consulting effort to improve graduation rates at the programs we support. This is supposed to demonstrate how much they need the services we offer. Normally I’d be all for this project since organizational consulting is something I specialize in. But I don't have high hopes for a good outcome for the following reasons:

  • The classes are approaching the halfway point--in other words, we can't change the selection process which is a big problem at a lot of programs
  • 80% of the chosen programs cannot meet their graduation targets because they have already fallen below those levels. The best we can do is mitigate damage.
  • I have no assigned resources to gather and analyze the data I need to create the get well plans
  • The whole thing must be completed by May 6, and the programs don't graduate until various dates in June. So we won't even know if we did anything effective.
  • I'm out all next week training another class which puts the timeline in jeopardy.

Much like the pilot in that doomed flight, I’ll be doing all the right things for this initiative and I, too, won't be flying.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Dear Wally,

When you close our bedroom door and THEN go open and close kitchen cabinets loudly, it's not nearly as effective as the other way around.


Your humans

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Seduction of Water

OK imaginary friends, it’s book report time.

I agree with Roger Ebert’s way of reviewing movies and think it works for books too—take the movie (book) at face value and compare it against what it’s trying to do. Don’t use an absolute scale in reviewing because that’s not fair to fluffy entertainment pieces or to the really dark, gloomy ones. So having said all that, here’s my take on Seduction.

I loved the opening of the book when Iris tells the story her mother told her. Did you ever see the movie The Princess Bride? Do you recall how you forgot that the grandfather was actually reading the story to the little boy, when you became fully immersed into the story? That’s what happened to me within a few pages of the fairy tale (and I’m not a huge fan of fantasy). In fact I had much the same jolt back to the reality of the novel when Iris returns to talking about current events as I did when in the movie, the boy interrupted his grandfather to ask if the book was a kissing book. So that was the initial hook for me and kept me from focusing on the stuff I didn’t like. Also I like mysteries.

I’m not sure what word to use but Iris’ frustration? pain? Whatever you want to call it, the way Iris felt about not knowing more about her mother or her mother’s family hooked me in as well. I have large gaps in my immediate family history due to divorce and other things. Now that entire branch of the family has died off (bio father’s side) so there are things I will just never know. And it does bother me, much as it seems to have bothered Iris.

Having said what I like, let me also list the dislikes—and I’ll be honest. I know at least a couple of these are more because I don’t understand why someone would think or feel the way Iris does.

  • The ABD thing. Holy cow, get that sucker done. This is something I don’t understand in the least, not in the book and not in real life. If you have spent that much time and money pursuing your Ph.D. then finish the damn thing. I know, I know, my puny little thesis for my M.S. does not begin to compare and I’m sure I just don’t understand the stress. Even so, if Iris were a real life friend, I’d be doing my best to get her to finish it. 
  • Fussing about the age difference between Iris and Aiden. Who. CARES. Again, I’ll own that’s probably a personal bias since I’m seven years older than Kent and neither of us seems to have ever given it a second thought.
  • Aiden’s supposed angst over having done jail time. Honestly I think that was Carol Goodman’s angst, and it rang false for me coming from Aiden.
  • Iris’ relationship with Jack. What a wretched, pathetic relationship. It’s like settling for frozen yogurt when what you want and need is full fat, full flavor, glorious ice cream.

All in all, though, I enjoyed the book. It made for a delightful retreat from reality and I’d give it a solid B.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Cat stays

And the rug goes. Cats > rug.

In other news, I’m going through my clothing remembering again that just because something is currently fashionable and I can pull it up over my butt doesn’t mean it’s all that flattering. Fat-bottomed girls (that would be me) generally don’t look good in the pencil leg pants. I don’t know what I was thinking . . .

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I don't know what to do

I had another post written in my head but that got put off by this morning's events. Chloe has peed on the rug again.

When she did this last fall, we took her to the vet immediately to rule out any health issues. She was fine although the vet couldn't get enough urine to run tests. She suggested that we look for ways to increase Chloe's water intake. So we got that fountain I mentioned and we started incorporating some canned food in the cats' diets.

I know she's hydrated; that's not the issue. I suspect she peed because Eddie was picking on her again. So I don't know how to solve this problem. I'm left with
four untenable options:
  • Get rid of Chloe (I can't live with an animal that pees in the house but she's completely bonded to me and I don't think she'd re-home very well)
  • Get rid of Eddie (he does bully her but he would not do well without his litter mate and honestly I don't want to get rid of him)
  • Live with the pee (uh no)
  • Or we could get rid of all rugs. That isn't very appealing either since we live on the bottom floor and the floor is quite cold.
This is awful. I used lots of Elimin-Odor on the spot but I do wonder if she's doing this elsewhere. Unlike most cats, her stuff really doesn't stink so it's hard to track down anything.

Monday, March 7, 2011

For FreshHell

I didn’t used to like lentils; in my 20s I thought they tasted like dirt. It was probably because of how I cooked them—to death with almost no seasonings. Hey, we were poor and I was learning the ins and outs of cooking.

But I love them now. I have fantastic recipes for lentil soup and dhal and as of last night, I have an amazing recipe for lentils with shitake mushrooms and greens from Food & Wine. We’ve had a subscription to the magazine for probably eight years. Every now and then, we’ll stop and reevaluate if we get enough value to justify the price and the hassle of a physical magazine (remember, we live in a small space). And so far, the magazine more than pays its way.

Here’s a link to the recipe (I imported it to Springpad, which is an application I use and love): linky

I will make two changes going forward. First, I’ll cut the oil by 2/3. You just don’t need it and I don’t think we’ll miss it. Second, I think the recipe calls for too much water to cook the lentils in. So I’ll cut that down to a more normal 2:1 ratio.

Also, no I didn’t use the Swiss chard. I hate that stuff. So I used argula.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Poor rug

We got this area rug almost eight years ago, right after we got married. Kent had talked me into creating a wedding registry, which I thought was both silly and inappropriate. After all, both of us had been married before and really who would buy us gifts? I reluctantly agreed with the caveat that we'd register only for small things and only at two places; we chose Williams-Sonoma and Pier 1.

As part of the wedding registry scheme, stores generally give you discount coupons when you register. We used the one from Pier 1 to buy a 5x9 wool area rug made up of color blocks. They don't make the rug any more alas, but it sort of looks like this, only the colors were more muted.

Even though it was 100% wool, that rug wasn't the highest quality rug ever made. I wasn't surprised that when we flooded in 2009, it didn't come back in great shape. It was still usable but the binding along one edge had come undone which made vacuuming quite challenging.

The second water incident earlier this year has ended that rug's life. We managed to get it folded up and outside after the frozen pipe burst, but it was soaking wet and of course it froze solid once we got it out there. It's still out there, six weeks later, folded and frozen and waiting for a thaw so we can get it out to the trash.

I think the rug helped us avoid more damage this time, though. I think it acted like a giant sponge and soaked up water that might otherwise have shorted out all our kitchen appliances again.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

An interesting milestone

Today my older son turns 30. I have to say, it's strange to realize I am the mother of a 30 year old. Yeesh. He's been having kittens about getting older which makes me giggle now since if he's 30, what does that make me?

Anyway, here's what he looked like at five days old; his eyes were so big he sort of resembled a tadpole:

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Pics please

Here's the necklace with the dress. I need longer arms to do the self picture thing. And yes, I should have smiled. Oh well.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A (true) story by Kent

Kent frequently works from home, which the cats like and which also helps keep them awake during the day. Yesterday, not only did I leave on another trip--always unsettling to the kitties--Kent went into the office. That meant the cats had free range of sleeping spots and plenty of time to snooze and snooze during the day. What follows is his account of last night's shenanigans.


Chloe nearly became an only child again last night.

I go to bed around 10 pm. We have the typical tango of cats cycling through to get their petting which ends with all the cats leaving the bedroom to torment Chloe in the living room. Except the tormenting never stops. (note: when Kent says torment, he's not exaggerating. Eddie turns into a mean bully sometimes with Chloe and has even bitten out some of her fur. Generally we have to put him in kitty time out in our room to break his fixation.)

After about 15 minutes I get up to separate Eddie. After I go back to bed he goes right back to torturing Chloe. We do this cycle about three times.

Eventually I get Eddie to come to bed. He gets his petting and he even curls up under the covers. I'm ready for sleepy land and then I hear Chloe yowling because Wally is tormenting her...which rouses Eddie.

After a few more cycles of separating cats I eventually get Chloe to come to bed so I can protect her. She gets nice and settled on your pillow. Except now she's wired and won't fall asleep. Every time one of the boys get within 15 feet she starts yowling. I'm not sure, but I think the boys are ready to kittie pile and go to bed, except every time they hear her yowl they think the game is back on. For a brief moment all the cats were on the bed and settling in when the boys decided to start wrestling each other. Chloe eventually bolts and we are right back to square 1.

At 11:45pm I am so frustrated I grab a bowl of food and a litter box and lock Chloe and myself into the bedroom/bathroom and leave the boys out in the living room area. This works great until the boys start clawing at the bathroom doors making a clatter. After Chloe fell asleep and the boys had been quiet for about 5 minutes I opened the bedroom door. The boys cycled through to see what was going on and then decided to punish me by sleeping in the living room. But it was at last peaceful at 12:30.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The rest of the story

My mother emailed me yesterday after reading my blog entry from Sunday and told me that the necklace I'm wearing in the picture was actually hers. I'd assumed it was from Grandmother Lockett mostly because the jet jewelry came from her and also I would never have imagined my mother buying a piece like that.

But she did--for the sum of $25, which was a lot of money then. She didn't recall if there ever were earrings or if maybe they were out of reach financially. She did say that my bio dad made $20,000 a year, which was a very large income for the time.

I love getting a glimpse into what things were like when I was a tiny girl.