Thursday, November 3, 2011

Doing something right

My office is in a front room of the house, between the kitchen and the front door. During the day, while working, I check the mail, let the dogs out, let the dogs in, investigate the odd noises, refill my coffee, bring in deliveries (the UPS guy is here often enough I can just leave my outgoing on the front porch), move laundry along, get files from the garage, change long sleeves for short sleeves, grab a coke out of the back fridge, switch from glasses to contacts at the sink......actually I don't need an excuse to walk away from my desk.

I'm already planning, in my dream office of my dream house, to get one of those desks that elevate, allowing you to stand when you like. It doesn't take much for my chair to make me twitchy.

A just released study has "found that among post-menopausal women, taking frequent breaks from sitting was associated with smaller waist circumference and lower levels of C-reactive proteins, both biomarkers associated with elevated risk of some cancers."

Fortunately, the article didn't mention short trips to the pantry for a handful of chocolate chips or to the freezer for a fudgicle. I'm taking the attitude any break is a good break. Gotta' stay healthy!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

How smart is our dog?

You just have to wonder.

Winston has figured out how to jump the kitchen gate. He knows to go in his crate if he sees a purse slung across my shoulder. He pulls Krista by her leash to get her to play.

This is him in the entry way, growling, whining and barking..........wait for the paper Homecoming Mum hanging from a corner of the furniture. It had been there for days.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Startled and Dismayed

A good friend's mother is awaiting pathology results to learn whether a small pancreatic tumor is benign or cancerous, and if cancerous, what type of cancer. It is the worst of times, kept waiting, unable to research and pursue options without a definitive diagnosis, unable to do anything. The family has been there before. The mom was thought successfully treated for breast cancer a few years ago.

When you receive a cancer diagnosis, the world tilts. You may have had few or negligible warning symptoms. I knew at the beginning of my doctor's appointment a year and a half ago that he was going to tell me I had colon cancer, but had no clue five minutes earlier. How can something you can't see, you can't feel or touch have such an impact? Why are your cells such traitors? Do you see yourself, do others see you, as the walking dead? Will you be missed? You immediately have a new normal. Those close to you have a new normal, too.

Life goes on, maybe or maybe not. With modern medicine there are more and more maybes. Once you have had cancer, particulary as an adult, though, there is lingering skepticism that life will in fact go on. It will certainly be different. There are scars and side effects. My colon will forever more be cranky. The blood draws, MRIs and tests continue ad infinitum. I have to have a colonoscopy every stinking year. I have been told I am more likely to have other forms of cancer in my future. Constant vigilance!

October was a month deluged with cancer awareness activities, encouraging research, early detection and treatment and celebrating the survivors. The term survivor is odd to me. I consider myself a veteran instead. Ultimately, none of us will survive.

Battling cancer is never ending. There are conflicting reports on what you should or should not eat. Is coffee good or bad? Does fiber matter? More important, does chocolate matter? Will low dosage aspirin reduce risk? Vitamins? Exercise? Is it all in your head, a bad attitude? Will a break through be discovered in time? Did you do something wrong? Do you have to have a miracle? How do you fight your own body?

I completed my first campaign aside my fifteen year old daugher. After my second war last year I now wait in reserve to be called up again. I prepare alternative battle plans - an army of one against an invisible enemy, appreciating the respite between skirmishes.

If you know someone who has had cancer or is close to someone with cancer, don't look at a survivor. See the warrior instead. Stand confidently with your friend, or daughter or mother. Bring in the support troups. Provide joyful furloughs. Celebrate the victories. Yes, life does go on.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Everything's bigger in Texas

Thank goodness for the Second Amendment!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Couldn't have said it better

Today is it, done, finished, kaput, the final tax filing day of the 2010 filing season. I actually completed my own return last night. For the last few years I've been filing my own return between 11:30 and midnight, barely making the deadline. This year' I'm 24 hours ahead. Woo hoo!

I only have one return left to go, which I'm about to start now, and it will probably get done on time, too.

So I traded blogging for sleeping this past month. I wouldn't have had to do that if I could only force myself to work a little more consistently between April and September. Every year I have the best of intentions, but.......  Oh, well. This year I actually got more down before April 15, thanks to adding a regular assistant.

But while I've been dormant on the web, my husband has not. His post today is perfect.

I work hard and pay taxes. My friends and family work hard, too. "We are the 53%."

I'll write more later, but right now I have to work for a living. Sure wish everyone did.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

When the going gets desperate

The desperate eat ice cream and potato chips.

I have a family size bag of Wavy Lays. I have packages of individual Blue Bell ice cream cups in the vanilla, chocolate and sundae flavors.

At the end of the day, when I have confirmation of the last e-filed tax return on this final due date for most 2010 tax returns, how full (empty) will the chip bag be and how many empty ice cream cups will be in my office trash can?

That's a rhetorical question, of course, because I'm not telling.

Happy Tax Day!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A story to tell your teenage driver

The young man was a new driver, out driving with a friend on a Thursday late afternoon. Weatherford, Texas is a country town suburb to Fort Worth. The teens were on a two lane winding highway. My friend, who lives in the area, says witnesses reported he wasn't driving exceptionally fast, he was just driving impatiently and made a stupid choice to pass cars that were driving a little slower. Maybe it would have saved five minutes.

Instead, he and his girlfriend burned to death, trapped upside down after a head-on collision caused by his poor judgment. The rescue workers could not extricate them from the crushed car and had to listen to their screams as they died. The other driver, a father who had recently celebrated his remission from cancer, died at the hospital.

So please, guys, treat the machine you're driving as a great responsibility. We love you and want you to live long and prosper. In this case, at least three families are devastated and the rescue workers are haunted.

Here's the story......

Weatherford Democrat

September 2, 2011

Wreck becomes triple fatality

Christin Coyne
Weatherford Democrat
WEATHERFORD — Three people lost their lives Wednesday night in a fiery tragedy on Zion Hill Road.

Two teens were pronounced dead shortly after 7:15 p.m. at the scene of a head-on collision in the 3800 block of Zion Hill Road, and a man flown by air ambulance from the scene died at Parkland Hospital hours later.

Driver Jorge Flores, 16, and passenger Alexandra Elizabeth Hernandez, 13, both of Weatherford, were pronounced dead after the Mitsubishi car they were traveling northbound in crossed the center of the road and struck a southbound Dodge pickup head-on, DPS Senior Trooper Gary Rozzell said.

The driver of the Dodge truck, William Harlon Moore, 53, of Weatherford, was pronounced dead shortly before 11:30 p.m. in Dallas after being flown by air ambulance from the scene with serious injuries, including significant burns.

A witness said the Mitsubishi had been passing cars on the road.

He said the truck caught fire, and while he and others were trying to rescue Moore from the cab of the pickup, the fire spread along the dry grass to the overturned car where the teens were trapped.

Hernandez was born in Weatherford and an eighth grade student at Tison Middle School, as well as a former student at Hall Middle School.

A memorial service for Hernandez has been scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday, at the Galbreaith Pickard Funeral Chapel.

Flores, a former Peaster ISD student, had just started his sophomore year at Crosstimbers Academy in Weatherford.

Sandra Pearson, counselor at Crosstimbers, said she spoke with students during the afternoon assembly and the school is offering counseling to students.

“Right now, it’s difficult for a lot of them,” Pearson said.

Even if some students didn’t know him well, the school is so small that everybody had been in contact with him, Pearson said.

Moore reportedly worked in the oil field industry and was on his way to pick up his daughter when his vehicle was hit.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The way we were

My kids, as teenagers particularly, have thought themselves superior to their parents and grandparents - considering themselves more worldly, more sophisticated, more knowledgeable, more current.  We parents wait for them to mature out of those notions, smiling to ourselves about their naivete.

My cousin, a professional genealogist freely sharing her knowledge and research with the rest of us cousins, posted this picture on her facebook page.

This is my grandmother with her husband and first child. She was fifteen and he was twenty-five when they married. She's fifteen or sixteen in this picture, probably in the year 1929.  She joked that she played with her dolls and her babies at the same time.

At fifteen, she knew what she wanted and she made it happen. Like most men, I expect my grandpa never knew what hit him. They had four daughters and two sons, the younger son living only a few hours. The surviving son is my dad.

My grandparents were married for forty-five years, until my grandpa died at age seventy. She died in 1995 at age 80. They lived in southwestern Oklahoma, farming in rough conditions.

I am in awe of my grandmother's determination and her recognition, at such a young age, of the important things of life.

Have you hugged or called a grandparent today?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The end of the story

In June, 2010, my doctor gravely told me, in his office a few days after my first colonoscopy, that I had colon cancer. Without a pause, I asked what the next step should be, who would do the surgery, etc., etc. He repeated the diagnosis a couple of times, wanting to make sure I understood what he had just told me, expecting me to be upset. What he didn't understand is that I had been there, done that. My daughter had already shown me the way.

My journey of the past year pales in comparison to the road she traveled in 2001. I will tell her story, our family's story, over several posts, but it's an easier story to tell when you already know the ending.

Graduation at UVa

25th Birthday

Here is what she wrote today (italics added by me.)

September 1, 2011

Ten years ago today is a day that I will never forget. As I prepared to leave (the hospital after the last chemo treatment) , getting ready upstairs in my room, I had no idea why my mom insisted that I wear cute clothes and makeup. It was just not that big of a deal. As far as I was concerned, it just meant that I could watch new movies (the teen movie channel only aired Bring it On, Remember the Titans, and Center Stage in the summer of ’01 on constant rotation). But a few minutes later, I was completely surprised to walk out of the elevator to see 10 (or so) of my best friends, half an hour away from home in the hospital lobby to celebrate with me, complete with signs, banners, painted car windows, and gifts.

So we had a little mini-party there at Cook Childrens (Hospital), and then we proceeded to a local pizza place, where I was astonished to see 30 to 40 more friends waiting to celebrate with me. It was an awesome day, one I didn’t see coming, and one I won’t forget.

What I have forgotten, though, is a lot of that summer. I kind of consider it a black hole in my memory. I don’t remember that many days in the hospital, the fatigue, the biweekly trips to the clinic for blood draws, or that much about the regular shots given to me post-chemo by my mom. I don’t remember much of loud nurses or lonely days while my friends were at school or hanging out at the pool or on mission trips.

What I do remember, is the people who surrounded me then. I remember that there were always tons of us hanging out at someone’s house. There were lots of movies and nights out at the pool, afternoons practicing the (marching band) fundamental block to the fight song, and a never-ending rotation of teenagers in the hospital. I remember the first summer of marching band at Bell (High School) and the support of my basketball coaches and teammates during the summer workout program and subsequent fall offseason. I remember wiping the stubble of hair from my sweaty head at a basketball game, and joking about not having hair ties. I remember the permanent hall pass at BJH and the 9th grade only hat day.

But most of all, 10 years later, I am grateful. Grateful for the good times then, and grateful for all I’ve been able to do since because of the support that I had at age 15. I am grateful for those of you who were there for me. I’m especially grateful for those of you who were there for my parents, siblings, grandparents, and other friends, because you held them up so that they could hold me up. I am grateful that people were willing to pretend that nothing was wrong, because that’s what I wanted. I am grateful for the 3 years in the Bell band, including the privilege of standing up on the podium near tears during the finals of Grand Nats. I am grateful for my basketball career, because I love the game and was given opportunities despite my height.

I am grateful for my education. I am so grateful for the incredible well-rounded collegiate experience I got while at Rice and all of the relationships I made, and the new experiences there that shaped more of who I am today – all of the powderpuff games, trips to cool places with the basketball team, all-nighters, late night TC runs, and cramming 15 of us into my super stylish Suburban. And I’m so lucky to have met my best friend and soulmate (husband) there, and we’ve been able to establish such a great life out here in Coppell, with fantastic new friends, close enough to home to be close, but not in Mom’s backyard (love you!!). I’m grateful for my job, my church, the opportunity to go to UVA for graduate school, and very importantly, grateful for my health. No issues in 10 years! Can you believe it’s been 10 years? Some days it seems like 2, other times it feels like 20, but either way, it’s crazy!

I’ve come a long way since that day as a freshman where I woke up and didn’t know what was wrong (March 1, 2001, not that I remember), and I know that it was because of the people in my life, and for that, I thank you.
DisneyWorld July 2001

Marching band rehearsal Fall, 2001

Wiley (age 6) wanting to be just like Lindsay

I love a happy ending, don't you?


I received this in the mail today. (I've redacted specific addresses.)

This is a check to me from a firm in Fort Worth I regularly do business with. Both the return address and my address were clear and legible. I have no idea when the check was originally mailed.

The sticker added on the outside of the envelope says "we" found this in our mail room and we are forwarding it to you.

The mysterious "we," who could it be? The zip code of the stamp is downtown Fort Worth, although there is no cancellation mark. There is no business listing for a company with initials "CNOV." The check inside is dated April 1, 2011.

I tend to think the US Post Office found my mail in a neglected corner and sent it on to me. What do you think?

I wonder if this is how a government bureacracy administering a universal health care system would work......delayed and unpredictable service, anonymous supervision, little accountability, no recourse for the customer.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A little macabre

Earlier this summer, we started our vacation driving toward Florida on a Saturday afternoon. I can't remember exactly why, except that it was my fault, we left nearly an hour after our intended departure time. It probably had something to do with my waiting until nearly lunch time to start packing.

We were only a couple of hours east when traffic slowed quickly to a halt. We inched along, some cars jumping the line or u-turning to avoid the wait and then there it was - cars flipped over, people standing around, a county hearse on the access road. Sobering. Sad.

Taking in the scene, it could have been us, the wreck was likely about an hour old. Those scenes repeat themselves throughout our lives, usually in smaller ways. It could have been my daugher skidding on the ice, there could have been an explosion if I hadn't been in the right spot to smell the gas filling the house......

In 1994 we lived in a three story Victorian style home. I turned the corner toward home one afternoon,  and there was a fire truck on our street, at my house. I'd run out on a quick errand, leaving the kids at home. Ricky should have already left with one of them for practice. But as he was loading the car he heard something, maybe, and checked out the sound. The garage roof, sheltered from view by the house, was on fire. He yelled at the kids to get out of the house, called 9-1-1 and put a hose on it. About $50,000 later the fire department completed the job. If he had not been in that part of the garage at that particular time, I would have come home, been in the house with my children, and wouldn't have known our house was on fire until much later. With a wood shingle roof, the whole house would have been gone. (Turns out there was a roofing nail touching electric lines and it finally torched.)

The bottom line is that we are all fortunate any day we make it through intact. Who knows what might have been if .....?

Today the news has been all Hurricane Irene and its aftermath. While the storm fizzled somewhat, the news agencies are reporting fifteen deaths attributable to the storm. Keep in mind this death toll marks the eastern United States from North Carolina to New York. I am saddened for those families, but part of me can't help wondering how many other lives were saved this weekend with all the bars closed, the parties canceled and trips postponed.

I've decided that the best thing to do when things don't go according to plan is trust that there was another plan I just didn't have the details for.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Change of season

I wish I could say fall was on its way, but we continue to have daily high temperatures around 105 and daily low temperatures around 85. Even today's ten day forecast doesn't show much break. We will probably set the record for most number of days over 100 degrees in a year.

This has been the summer of my discontent.

I have looked forward eagerly to the start of school and the restoration of familiar rhythms - everyone else leaves the house in the morning and comes home in the evening. Summer vacations are over and no one is working swing shifts. The animals and I have the daytime to ourselves.

School started on Monday. I'm almost back to myself.

Even better, the first football game of the season is tonight. Wiley's already left, rehearsing one more time at school before the band loads up on six yellow dogs (aka school buses) and heads to the stadium. Ricky and I will travel in our comfortable SUV, eat some hot dogs, visit with friends, admire their children as they perform and pay attention to which of Ricky's students have notable achievements during the evening. The kids love receiving compliments in class from a teacher who notices what they do. And of course we watch our son.

In honor of making it to another school year, of appreciating what I have, I'm linking to one of my very first's Friday night in Texas, y'all!

UPDATE: The evening was a success, I've added some pictures. Notice the score at halftime - we ended the game 62-7, with only one score in the 4th quarter. The band put Part 1 of their competition show on the field, without a gaffe or a fall. It's a little different watching from the back side. It's a little different when the band is not in full uniform. But the temperature was 104 when the game started and still 98 when it ended. As the visitors, we got to enjoy a new stadium in the southern part of our metro area - a school district that had one high school ten years ago and now has five. Want a job? Come to Texas, it's sizzling!

Band warming up in the end zone before half-time

Taking the field to start the 2011 season

Opening set

End of Part 1

Starting the Spirit Show (traditional old style spelling out Blue, Raiders, LD Bell)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Out of character

I don't usually post on Facebook. But my BFF (since 7th grade) got me all hot and bothered, starting a post about rich people, taxes, jobs, etc. She has a friend (turns out he's a lawyer, go figure) joining in as a whiner and I just couldn't stand it.

Here's an example of what fifty-something people are talking about.....

BFF: Scott Rasmussen just said that polls indicate that many people have figured out that in regard to the economic crisis"somebody changed the rules" and it has been bad for the country. I think Dan would agree. Sadly for me as a lifelong Republican, I am experiencing the creeping growth of a feeling that it might have begun with the Gipper himself ;(

Whiny Lawyer: In fact it did, he was put in office by the rich and powerful. Immediately lowered tax rates for the rich from 72% down into the 30's We were lambs going to slaughter with not a clue what was happening

Me: So how much should the "rich" pay? The most recent statistics say that the top 5% pay almost 60% of all individual income taxes.​2010/11/04/what-percentage​-of-federal-income-taxes-d​o-rich-people-really-pay/ This is a current link.
According to the IRS, the top one percent of all income earners in the United States in 2008 paid over 38 percent of the taxes.
For historical myth busting, check this article as well. When tax rates are lower, GDP rises and more taxes are paid.

The Truth About Tax Rates and The Politics of Class Warfare

Whiny Lawyer: The tax code is primarily to allow the rich to shelter income and avoid taxation which is fine. I would be pleased to see any statistics showing the 1% pays 60 % of taxes because it seems high. Our country is in trouble everyone should pay taxes to help reduce debt until it is retired. Across the board on a scale dependent on income. A consumption tax instead of income tax would work also. It is the Megarich or billionaires who are the problem not wealthy people who have success.

BFF: I love this discussion between my lawyer friend and my tax acccountant/BFF Kerry McCarley Balthrop! I am going to read these articles! But Dan, seriously, 72%??? I would never do anything if I understood that the government was going to get three quarters out of every dollar I made. And, do you really mean "everyone" should pay taxes? Even the "poor" in this country? You mean they might have to give up cigarettes, beer, and cable tv and not get there UN Earned Income Credit? And how do we tax the megarich when they have armies of lawyers and accountants (sorry guys) to defend their riches--betters than having the knights, castles and moats that defended the medieval lords.

Me: Why should I mind if other people have millions as long as I have the opportunity to succeed? Again, a rising tide floats all the boats. I do have millionaire clients. They pay plenty of tax. They worked hard to be successful. Why should I resent that? My millionaire clients provide jobs and support private charities (which are far more efficient than government "largesse.") And there aren't that many "millionaires" anyway. A 100 % tax on the people you think are millionaires would be a drop in the bucket. History says that taxes stay about 19% of GDP, doesn't matter the tax rate. So the goal should be to enact policies that increase GDP (jobs.) These policies include lower tax RATES (not lower taxes) and less regulation. For example, the government now wants all farmers to have commercial drivers' licenses, with all the fees and reporting that ensues. And look at the "deprived" poor and middle classes in our country compared to others. Our poor have cell phones, television and air conditioning. Check out India with a billion people living at real poverty levels. Check out Ricky's blog at http://rickysplace.wordpre​ for discussions on economics and true poverty. There is so much information available. Instead of just saying "I would be pleased to see any statistics......" go look at the statistics for yourself. It takes a few clicks on the computer. And the statistics say that the top 5% (not 1%) pay almost 60 % of the taxes.​011/07/jet-owners-ogres-an​d-other-millionaire-myths/
Just another site

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Starting the countdown

Tomorrow morning I will have my second ever colonoscopy, after having eleven inches of my colon removed a little over a year ago. There's more annoyance than dread. I should have had that first proceedure done a few years earlier, but you know how it goes - there was a wedding or too much work or vacation plans. Whatever. I would get it done eventually.

Eventually I was diagnosed with late Stage 1 colon cancer, after surgery and a four day hospital stay.

A colonoscopy is not that bad, folks. Everyone gripes about the "prep," but take away the theatrical exaggeration and it's just a few hours of being tethered to the house. Of course, if you really like to eat, you might disagree.

Yesterday was lunch at Applebee's and dinner at Outback. Today I've had a couple of cups of coffee and the ever popular Route 44 Coke at Sonic's Happy Hour prices. I've taken my first pill, then will drink the first round of magic potion an hour from now, followed by a second round later in the evening.

This summer's magic potion is different from what my doctor used in 2010 and is different again from what Ricky will be drinking on Sunday before his colonoscopy which is different again from what he had to drink four years ago. Last summer, my surgeon prescribed the easiest method - a LOT of powdered laxative dissolved in gatorade - cheap, relatively tasty, effective. How interesting that there are at least five different ways to clean out the pipes.

Have you had your first colonoscopy? If your answer is "yes," and it's been in the last five years, this post is done. If the answer is "no," go ahead and read the next paragraph.

Are you over fifty? Has it been more than five years? (The medical community is in the process of revising guidelines down to five rather than ten years between colonoscopies.) Are you over thirty-five with a family history of polyps or colon cancer? If you have a "yes" answer, then just go ahead and do it. Having some polyps removed now is so much better than surgery and possibly chemotherapy later!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Opposites Attract

They say that opposites attract. I never really believed that, because Kerry and I are very much alike. There were some differences, but we were always more alike than different.

Not any more. We couldn't be any more opposite if we had to be. We'll have to see if our marriage (32 wonderful and happy years) can withstand it. You see, I'm in Hyderabad, India, and Kerry is in Lake City, Colorado.

She's at 107 degrees west longitude. I'm at 78 degrees east longitude. Not exactly directly opposite sides of the world, but pretty darn close. Right now it's actually closer for us to go through Asia than through Europe.

She's in the mountains; I'm near sea level. Her temperatures are on the 50s to the 80s; my temperatures are in the 80s to the 100s. She's rafting on beautiful cold rivers; I'm in an arid region where the monsoons aren't here yet. She is surrounded by modern America; I'm surrounded by ancient India.

Seriously, I am so blessed to have been married to Kerry for 32 years. She has made me a better person, a better Christian, and I hope I've been a good husband to her. My parents were married for 68 years before my father died. I would like nothing better than to break their record.

Thanks for letting me guest post on your blog, Kerry. If you would like to read about my Indian exploits, check out my blog


Thursday, July 14, 2011

It's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow

I have a new post all ready to put up, but it requires illustration. The laptop was out of juice, so after plugging it in, I started the camera download while puttering around the room. About ten minutes later, I realized the camera is dead.

Looking around our room for the camera battery charger, it dawns on me that my bedroom is only a slightly more tasteful version of one of the rooms in Disney's "Carousel of Progress." If you've been there, you will recall the room that models the introduction of electricity to the average home - the tangles of electrical cords strung from a couple of wall plugs to every fixture and appliance in the room - the ceiling light, floor fan, icebox, radio,  lamps, coffee pot, oven....

In our bedroom, which triples as Ricky's office and our living room away from the kids, I count sixteen items (and the camera battery charger) that stay plugged in, plus the surge protectors they're plugged into. When you add in all the gadgets that then have to be connected to each other, the snake's nests of cords are mind boggling.

Have we made progress? I'm not sure. My boggled mind is skeptical.

UPDATE: I guess it could look like this, though.

Friday, July 8, 2011

7 Quick Takes - Frayed at the edges

Here are 7 Quick Takes - what's happening at home while my husband  is half a world away, finishing his first of four weeks studying economic development in India. Don't forget to follow his adventures!

1.  Heat

This is where Ricky is right now, with cool nights and expected highs of 93 degrees.

Yelagiri Hills in southern India
While running errands this afternoon, my car thermometer, generally accurate, didn't go below 107.

2.  Hairballs

Last night I brushed my teeth, turned out the lights and headed back into the bedroom. My foot came down on something squishy. The sludge made it up between my toes. Ewwww... . lights on, I still didn't know what I had stepped in since, without contacts, anything closer than six feet is blurry.  Correction - I just didn't know from which end one of our five animals had exploded. I cleaned off my foot, the gag reflex kicking in enough for me to apologetically ask my son to clean up the mess. He found it, cleaned it up and laughed at me in a nice kind of way and said I didn't need to explain. The good news is that it was feline regurgitation and not canine defacation. The other good news is that my son's future wife will appreciate how well I have trained him for her.

If Ricky had been here, he would seen the hairball and cleaned it up even before I miraculously missed it going into the bathroom.

3.  Lightbulbs

In the past week, I think at least one light bulb in every room has gone out, most of which are some sort of fluorescent and are supposed to last for years. Don't believe a word of it.

4.  Tools

I bought a shelf for an awkward location and have the perfect tool, a Christmas present new B&D power screwdriver that bends in the middle. The screwdriver is out of charge. I am out of charger. Only Ricky knows where the charger is and he is in the mountains of India incommunicado.

5.  Cash

Ricky likes to go to the bank. He is my ATM machine, my personal debit card. Down to $3, will I remember to go to the bank Saturday before it closes? We're going to the baseball game Saturday night. Parking is more than $3.

6.  Dogs

Did I say it was hot? As in over 100 degrees until late in the evening hot? Our high energy shiba inus need more indoor play and more short walks than usual. They miss another adult in the room.

7.  Space shuttle launch

I was late to a meeting today so I could watch "live" the last space shuttle launch. Wish Ricky had been here to see it, too. He participated in an intense six week astronomy program the summer before his high school graduation and has always had a passion for the stars. The United States' space exploration program is about as old as we are and the shuttle program has been around about as long as we've been married. I will miss that vicarious thrill of going where no man has gone before.

So many things taken for granted.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

While the cat's away.........

Do you like moving? Not the jumping up and down kind, but the get another house and start over kind? I do.

The only time my house is consistently clean and orderly is when it's for sale and must be "show ready" at a moment's notice. Glorious living for those few months as we all work together to defeat the enemy clutter.

We have lived here for over twelve years, the longest I've ever lived in one place.

I have the itch. I want to move. (Actually, I want a bomb to go off after the strategic removal of a few items so that I can collect the insurance and build the current version of my dream house.)

Chained here for at least a couple more years, I'm doing the next best thing. Operation House Reclamation has started, one room at a time.

Today's project - the boy cave, a.k.a. The Den.  I will spare you the "before" picture. And thankfully, boy odor doesn't transmit over the internet so you are spared that as well.

We are cleaning out cabinets and bookshelves and actually hanging the pictures left shelved after the last paint job (three years ago.) Ricky would do a more thorough job if he were here, but his slash and burn style of attacking the mess doesn't allow me sufficient time to agonize over decisions.

In the trash go crayons, old school supplies, broken games, dozens of National Geographics saved for the next, long past, elementary school project. I did rescue a son's discard of Ricky's grade school chess set, in perfect condition and still holding sentimental value (I think.)

The boys helped a lot, especially if you ignore their attempt to bribe my office assistant to "lose" the feather duster. Brian was moving Ricky's album collection to a better location and noticed this one:

(And no, those are not my hands.)

Whatcha' think? Further proof we are the world's nerdiest family? Who else owns a two album set of the dramatic highlights of congressional investigations, with one whole album, both sides, devoted to the McCarthy hearings? Must be fascinating. Keep or toss? Not mine to say.

We have umpteen sets of dominos, I'm embarassed to admit the true number. There are double nines and double twelves for playing "Chicken Foot" or "Train." The rest are double sixes for playing straight dominos or my favorite game of all time, "42," which has just been legally declared the State Game of Texas. Seriously.

So should I throw away the extra red or some of the ivory sets, the dominos personalized with our name or the set decorated with the name of our alma mater? Should I toss the dominos given to and inherited back from my father-in-law decorated with pictures of bass? Ricky can ponder those decisions as he travels across India on Friday.

I will still stash my tubs of beanie babies back into the cabinets, too, planning to dole them out as bribes to future grandchildren.

But still, a couple of trash bags now on the street. I'm finally moving!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Decorations of Independence

There is a flag flying on the front porch. As they do every year, neighborhood volunteers, up at the crack of dawn, lined our streets with flags. The flag adorns businessess, shirts, the hood of another neighbor's antique car. My next door neighbor displays red, white and blue bunting on his driveway gate from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

I love this American tradition, this United States of American tradition, of celebrating our demand for freedom. In our community, the fireworks, the picnics, the carnivals are small exclamation points to the years' displays of patriotism. In our schools we say the Pledge of Allegiance. In our town, businesses fly the flag. At our games we sing the Star Spangled Banner. In our city, the orchestra plays and the audience sings the National Anthem at the start of each concert. 

Our church has a patriotic service each year. We sing the Battle Hymn, America the Beautiful, My Country 'Tis of Thee, the Star Spangled Banner. Uniformed veterans walk in their branch's flag as the choir performs the Salute to the Armed Forces. For the past several years I have particularly enjoyed the World War II Navy veteran, tall, still slim in his khakis, jauntily marching in and saluting his flag. We shed tears at the pictures, videos and "freedom displays" of active duty and veteran congregants.

Our pastor preaches on appreciation, responsibility and respect - on the interweaving of faith and government. We must honor our defenders. We must vote our convictions. We must pray for our government's leaders.

Should there be this intermingling of church and "state?" Of course! Each promotes the stability of the other. The following is a quote from Benjamin Franklin, eighty-one years old, as he addressed the delegates at the Constitutional Convention, struggling to agree on a founding document:

In this situation of this Assembly groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the Divine Protection. -- Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? or do we imagine that we no longer need His assistance.
I have lived, Sir, a long time and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth -- that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings that "except the Lord build they labor in vain that build it." I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall be become a reproach and a bye word down to future age. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments by Human Wisdom, and leave it to chance, war, and conquest.
I therefore beg leave to move -- that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of this City be requested to officiate in that service.

The Assembly agreed with Mr. Franklin's request, and the rest is History.

May God Bless America!

Friday, July 1, 2011

The tortoise and the hares

The boys and I played golf this morning, starting the holiday weekend early. I kept my cell phone handy and, sure enough, about half way through the round Ricky called from India to report a successful arrival at his New Delhi hotel. I didn't want to waste my good tee shot and passed the phone to Wiley while I hit from the fairway. There wasn't a whole lot of news to share since he'd been traveling for eighteen hours while we'd been sleeping and hanging out.

We're trying to get back into some semblance of a golf habit. Ricky and I played quite a bit when our first three kids were little. I got fancy new clubs about the same time I became very unexpectedly pregnant with our fourth child. Then our golf came to a screeching halt as we spent the next fifteen years shepherding teens with a precocious younger one trailing behind.

This spring we all got new clubs and are determined to get back in the swing of things. I'm not any good, but I enjoy playing, as long as it's not slow. At the first hole today, I switched my clubs from the electric cart to the hand cart. So the boys shared a cart while I walked the course.

The course marshall commented on it to me about the twelfth hole - "Kinda' funny you're walking while those boys are riding." "Yeah," I said, "but they zig and they zag their long shots and have to hunt balls while I hit my four iron down the middle. It works." A couple of holes later, he crossed paths with me again - "I see what you mean."

We finished the round in under four hours, a pretty good morning. Lots of fun. Right now, I'm playing golf with my hybrid four iron, a seven, a wedge and a putter. Every now and then I throw in an extra club. On vacation my hybrid six worked well several times. Today it was my eight.

We spent the first part of our Florida vacation playing golf with Ricky's sister and brother-in-law in Port St. Lucie. They have a time share week at the PGA resort there. We played one of our rounds on a Pete Dye designed links style course. One hole has about fifty yards of marsh grasses between the tee and the edge of the fairway. Sherry, having watched her husband and sons play the course several times over the years, commented quite out loud that someone always lost a ball in the grass here. Dennis, a consistently good golfer, fussed at her for jinxing one of us. Then he proceeded to hit not one, but two balls into the grass. Didn't even make it past the ladies' tee. Hee, hee. Thanks for taking one for the team, Dennis!

Golf is such a head game. Your opponent is yourself. Can you play better than you did last time? Can you play better than you did last hole? Can you ignore your last bad shot and focus on this one?

I wish there was a way for all young men to have to play "Ground Hog Day" golf. A boy would play golf over and over and over, three rounds a day, rain or shine, cold or hot, until he learned how to have an even demeanor, whether playing awesome or ugly.

Ricky played a lot of golf while in high school. Now he can go years without playing and still score in the eighties. He can play a little bit and consistently score in the low eighties. I started playing golf as a way to share his hobby. With limited playing opportunities, he expected to score as well as he used to. I was happy if I didn't whiff. (Whiffs usually gave me two whiplashes - first from the miss and then from trying to see who had noticed.) I couldn't understand how he could get so upset - slamming clubs, tossing clubs, muttering "stuff," stomping off, when I would have been thrilled to trade places. He's a talented athlete. I'm a slogger.

Watching him sulk, golf's appeal diminished for me. But you know what? He figured it out, developed some personal discipline, and we have had a great time playing together over the years. (Right, sweetie?)

I listen to my sons' golf stories and watch them when we play together. It's a tricky thing, knowing when to compliment a shot or how to comment without annoying. Two years ago, Brian played generally ugly, cringe-inducing-to-a-mom golf, and I'm not talking about his scores. He and Ricky played more together last summer while I was laid up, a dad taking the opportunity to demonstrate patience, to walk the talk.

While in Florida and again today, Brian played awesome golf. Wiley, modeling his dad's and brother's behaviours, played awesome, too. Like father, like sons.

When's our next tee time?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Back to Basics

After an eventful month, I am back.

In fact, it seems like deja vue all over again.

The boys, Ricky and I took the Florida vacation we had scheduled a year ago, before my blurred week of colon cancer diagnosis and surgery forced its cancellation.

The rest of the month has been filled with getting Ricky ready for thirty days in India. In fact, he should be pulling back from the tarmac right now, headed with a group of seventeen educators to catch a fourteen hour flight from Chicago to Delhi. He will leave Chicago about 4:00 pm today and land about 5:30 tomorrow afternoon Indian time. India is ten and a half hours ahead.

A year and a half after we married, I spent three weeks on a business trip to South and Central America - no cell phones, no internet, no employer budget for personal communication. Ricky and I had two prearranged thirty minute phone calls, all we could afford. The following summer he had internships in Texas while I continued to work in Chicago. Without a doubt, that was the longest twelve weeks of my life, even with spending all his summer salary on my plane trips to Texas every other weekend.

Now he's gone again, and I am home, but this time not alone. In the intervening thirty years I've accumulated two dogs, three cats and three kids to help hold down the fort. The fourth child and spouse live nearby.

While I was in South America Ricky grew a beard and moustache. It was so pitiful he shaved it all off before picking me up at O'Hare. I only have pictures. This time he shaved his head before leaving, something I'd seen and admired before. (You can see a picture here.)

Last time we were apart, communication was sketchy. This time, whenever internet is available, we will chat on Skype. We will email and update our blogs. He paid the $8 for ninety days that will allow him to use the internet to call any phone in the United States. The longest we will go without talking will probably be today. He has left his cell phone home, so I won't hear from him until he is settled in his Delhi hotel. The communication blackout may happen again as he moves around the country and stays in less modern hotels, but maybe not. We'll see.

Last time apart we were young adults still learning each other. Now we are marriage veterans able to have extensive conversations with few audible words. Then we filled the empty spaces with worry and perhaps a little jealousy. Now we just rely on each other with confidence. He is going to have a fabulous adventure without family worries and responsibilites. I will get the same adventure by proxy and will make myself do some things with girlfriends usually deferred for family reasons. Ricky gets a month without having to clean up cat messes, put dogs to bed, wake up kids or work on his "honey-do" list. (While he's gone I have farmed out the cat and dog assignments to the kids and will pretend to be childless as much as possible. After all, the youngest is sixteen.)

I have totally enjoyed watching Ricky prepare for this trip. For the past couple of months, anticipating our separation, he has been particularly sweet and attentive. What fun! And I've watched with amusement as he worried over trip details. Ricky wants to KNOW the plan when he's traveling. This is the first time in his adult life he has no control or choice regarding his schedule. He will have no control over home while away, either. He has worried that we won't be able to function without him. He has worried that we will be able to get by without him. Funny man, my now out of control husband.

Thinking about Ricky's worries reminds me of his dad, Jim Balthrop. Jim, a hungry teenage boy during the 1930's depression, ran his adult life around mealtimes. We, his children, mocked him for arranging his meals by clockwork and for setting his travel itineraries by the highway locations of Stucky's and Denny's Restaurants. Ricky has spent the month of June preparing to be hungry in India. Here's the email he sent me a week ago when we got back from Florida:

     With a week to go before I go a half a world away, here are some things that sound good for stocking up my stomach.

          Mexican Inn
         Chicken chunks
         Outback (or other steak place)
         Italian restaurant (either Italy or Cafe Sicilia)
        Barbeque (at least once thats not Spring Creek)
    Those are probably the biggies. Chocolate cake maybe sometime?

Unfortunately for him, I only had a week to "make my weight" at Weight Watcher's, so we didn't get to the lasagne. I remembered Tuesday night to make his favorite chocolate cake and it turned out all right. (Since I weighed in after dropping Ricky off at the airport this morning, I can now have a piece, too!)

His other preparations included shopping, a favored activity barely second to eating. He bought the Ipad he's been pining for and a nice mid-sized camera with lots of zoom we both wanted. He has a new Eddie Bauer backpack and monsoon worthy shoes and lots of beef jerky. So now he and all his preparations are in the air.

What will I do while he's gone that I don't do when he's here? Grocery shop, make my own coffee, decide what and when to eat. (I had Ricky buy ground coffee yesterday so I can keep my coffee bean grinder-free track record intact.) I will have to pay the few bills he could not pay in advance and may actually learn how to use the various TV remote controls. Brian is covering the pool maintenance, I made Wiley learn how to operate our robot floor cleaner, neither of which I have ever done or will do. I'll have to make sure the trash is set out, the cars are gassed and the house is secure when things go bump in the middle of the night. I will have to turn on the bedroom celing fan myself, then turn it off, back on, off, on, ....... (Remember, I'm fifty-something.) And I'll find out how to do all the other things he does without thinking or me noticing.

When the boys and I head to Colorado for a few days in July, I must study the route, book the hotels and make sure we have more than the usual $5 or so of cash I usually carry.

And he's worried we won't notice he's gone? I already said he's a funny man.

If you want to follow his India adventure, he has a blog at

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What goes around comes around

I enjoyed the Royal Wedding last month, old enough to be the mother of the bride. Her dress was perfect. I'm sure she felt like a Princess - Princess Catherine.

My dress had the same Queen Anne neckline, fitted lace sleeves and satin skirt with lace accents. My lace may have been plainer, the chapel length train shorter, but the result was the same. I felt like a princess, too.

It wasn't hard to dig up this old picture. For some reason I've always kept the little portfolio of bridal pictures in my sock drawer. Doesn't everyone?

The Royal Princess Kate did have much longer hair. My wedding hair would have been long, too, but for the arrogant opinion of a hair stylist a couple of years prior. I went in for a trim, he started cutting in the back. I heard him say "I haven't done this haircut in a while, I think it will look really good on you."

You know how that story ends. Shocked at seeing ALL my hair on the floor, I couldn't stop the tears. At least he felt guilty enough to scoot me out of the store without making me pay.

On the Royal Wedding Day, April 29, 2011, I got my hair cut. Still learning the style of my new stylist, I took a picture of the "do" I was hoping for. She had similar ideas and pictures and got to work. As she finished up I saw that horrible college era haircut reflecting back from the mirror. When she asked how I liked it, I honestly told her I hated it. Together we looked at the pictures. The top halves looked similar, but my hair was only half the picture. I have no hair below my ears.

It's been over three decades since I came home from a haircut and immediately jumped in the shower to get rid of the "hair products" and try to see if I could salvage my self portrait. Other than that and some groaning and pouting, though, I think I have handled this setback with dignity. I paid and tipped generously for the haircut.  I did not cry, maybe teared up some, but definitely did not cry. When people compliment my new style I thank them without grimacing.

It's been almost three weeks and I'm starting to recognize the face in the mirror. The hair is almost long enough to wring the water out after shampooing. It's a good haircut, it's just not me. There is zero chance of me posting a current picture.

In a couple of weeks Ricky and I will attend a "black tie" wedding. I had been looking forward to dressing up before this latest scalping. But hair grows and now that I know I must curb her exuberance, I am optimistic that with two more weeks my new stylist can work a little magic to give me a look that matches my little black dress.

After all, it's a wedding. Every bride is a princess at a wedding.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A ways past fifty something

I had a conversation with my dad today, in between all the fast and furious e-filing I am doing. Actually, I called him to make sure he had looked over his and mom's return so that I could go ahead and push the button to file it.

I told him that Wiley and I are probably going to a soccer tournament in Colorado in the middle of July. Had he and Mom decided yet whether they are spending their motor home summer in Alaska or Colorado? I have been hoping for Colorado, as I'm longing for a cheap way to spend a few days doing as little as possible. If they are in Colorado, maybe they'll catch a soccer game or two and then Wiley and I can hang out for a few extra days.


Me: Looks like Wiley and I are going to be in Colorado the middle of July, at Colorado Springs doing a Pike's Pike soccer tournament. Are you going to be in Colorado then? Tell Mom so you guys factor that in when deciding where to go.

Dad: We're leaning toward Colorado, I think. So, end of July?

Me: No, the middle of July

Dad: I bet we could be in Boulder.

Me: No, we're going to Colorado Springs, so southern Colorado.

Dad: Okay, Colorado Springs, first of July.

Me: MIDDLE of July, Dad. I'm calling Mom.

And I did.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Wardrobe (mal)function

Two days ago I worked in my pajamas 'till after 3:00. Yesterday I spent the day wearing Adidas comfy clothes.

Today I dressed to go to a client's office first thing, expecting to get a call that I needed to be there and not expecting to have time to do a wardrobe change.

A few minutes ago I got the call that I don't need to go until tomorrow.

That's a good thing as I've just noticed that both my nice shirt AND my pants are coated with chocolate drippings from the ice cream cone I ate for lunch.

Working at home....gotta' love it.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Welcome to my world

This is the time of year I sit all day and eat junk food, rewarding myself with ice cream and chips. I've already had my first round of ice cream today.

But I know I will "make my weight" at the end of the month, so it's all good, this year at least.

Someday, this will really be an issue for me.

But not now. There's a guy working in our backyard so I had to take the dogs out to the front yard for a short break. Winston immediately found a long, fat, juicy worm. He ate part of it, played with the rest, carried it around dangling from his mouth as a trophy. When Krista tried to make it tug-of-war, I surrendered and brought them back in the house (after Winston dropped the worm.)

My appetite is under control for the rest of the day.


Back to work.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Typically Texan

I'm headed out to a client's office this afternoon of March 30. I am wearing my leather coat.

It is a damp 48 degrees outside.

Wiley has three soccer games on Saturday. The high temperature is expected to reach 90.

Too bad there're no trade backs.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Nature or nurture?

January 4, 2011 - Looking at the Atlantic
I love being near an ocean. At the end of our January trip to Tallahassee, we went quite out of our way, on a cold, rainy day, so that I could see the ocean.

Even for thirty minutes, it was worth it.

In a perfect world, a world in which family and work were still close, I would live a block or two from a beach.

I was born and raised land locked, smack dab in the middle of Oklahoma, except for a couple of years that our family lived among Yankees. That's when, age eleven, I walked the boardwalk of Atlantic City and later in the year  had a Saturday outing to a Maryland beach.

Fast forward and my next view of the ocean was my freshman year of college. There were many trips to Galveston and a trip to Hawaii during the college years.

Fast forward to married life and we've been to Jamaica, Hawaii, Grand Cayman, the California coast,  Cancun and back to Galveston every now and then. On our many trips to Disneyworld we usually detoured off the interstate to drive along the coast of Mississippi.

My decorating style, if I wasn't too cheap to buy furniture not on sale, would be British Country. I finally figured out why it appeals to me. It's the same style used in the elegant island homes of the Caribbean.

Keeping the fast forward, I still live land locked, still think some day of the retirement home near the beach and only half-jokingly consider exploratory trips to Costa Rica. Realistically, I hope to spring for a month-long rental every now and then, maybe when I'm sixty-something. In my home, I settle for tropical themed decor.

I don't know the source of this oceanic compulsion. Maybe we always want what we can't have.

Longer than I've loved the ocean I've enjoyed watching and playing basketball. I read biographies of Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell and wore No. 6 in junior high. I grew up watching college basketball and the Celtics, one of my mom's passions.

This season, busier than ever, I've watched a few pieces of tournament games. My first loyalty is to the old "Big 8" with the "Southwest Conference" schools close behind. Anybody but Duke, North Carolina, UConn.....give me an underdog, instead.

So Texas goes out of the tournament unable to throw the ball inbounds. Counting on Kansas to keep me interested another week, they just lost to the much lower ranked Virginia Commonwealth. If I was Coach Self, I would have my players shooting 1,000 free throws a day this summer. Once again, their offense stumbled and their free throw percentage stank.

There's one more game to go - Kentucky vs UNC. I like Kentucky. If they win, I'll end up watching some more ball next weekend. If they lose, well then I won't have to live with the guilt of sneaking tube time when I should be working.

Another March, a lot of madness here. Wish me luck.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Elvis has left the building

Every year I treat myself to some new business toy - a new printer or computer or fancy shelving or pricey wall decor. Three years ago I replaced my five year old Dell computer with another Dell. The machine bought in 2003 was having compatibility problems with some of the newer hardware components and software programs and face it, five years is a long time to ride one computer.

Unfortunately, I picked the window of time (early 2008) during which computers only came with the Vista operating system. Blissfully ignorant of the trouble ahead, Ricky assembled my new computer and began moving software and data from old to new. After about fifteen hours of trial and effort, nearly everything worked. We had come "this close" to giving up and paying the restocking fee. But like many things in life, the more time spent getting the computer to work, the harder it was to cut our losses.

There were some programs and a printer that absolutely would not work with Vista. But my tax season was already fast and furious, so I made do. There were constant issues and a steady stream of Vista updates that fixed some problems while creating more.

We were miserable - the "we" being me constantly tearing my hair out over computer induced work stoppages and Ricky having to listen to my wails and be my IT guy while I hovered. I'm not a patient hoverer.

As the year progressed, Microsoft, admitting to its Vista disaster, began re-offering the XP operating system for new computers as they worked on a replacement for Vista. Fat lot of good it did me.

In surrender, I bought another new computer in early 2009 - an Apple laptop I used along with a desktop monitor. It has been much more stable on our home network and with the Intel chip, I could run my Windows based business software successfully.........for a while.

Approaching a critical deadline, the Apple hard drive crashed last summer and had to be replaced. Fortunately, I had my data backed up, but the Windows stuff never worked quite as well from then on. Meanwhile, Windows 7 released with good reviews. I put Windows 7 on the stupid Vista computer and got it back in business.

For the past six months, I've run all my tax software on the Windows 7 computer and my email and Office programs (Word, Excel) on the Apple. The two are networked, so that's all good.

It's kinda' like having two monitors with one computer. eyes are tired of the small laptop screen. I'm constantly shuffling keyboards and mice and could use more space on my desk. And good grief, keeping up with the cords is a job itself.
My little corner of the world
I have decided to put everything I use at work back on the Dell computer, including email and Office so that I will have one computer and one keyboard and will use two desktop size monitors.

Anticipating the laborious process of converting email, loading programs and getting everything working efficiently, I started thinking about this now three year old Dell computer. That's like fifty something human years.

Bottom line - I ordered a new computer, with the features I need and speed I can count on. And in this world of strange marketing, it was actually cheaper to customize a package deal they were offering with a monitor than to buy the same system without a monitor. So I will have two (nearly) new large monitors instead of one large and one medium. (Pizza, anyone?)

Ordered a few days ago, today it shipped!

The strange things that delight me - I can't wait for Elvis to arrive.

The Department of Redundancy Department

I'm trying to work this morning, but concrete saws have been going for hours just outside my office window. I feel like I'm two hours in to a dentist appointment of non-stop drilling. My ears are ringing.

Our house is on a corner. Workers are shaving off the curbs recently installed along the intersecting sidewalks.

A month ago we had neighborhood sidewalks which sloped to the street at every intersection, allowing easy movement for pedestrians, strollers, bikes, skates and the rarely seen wheelchair. Several years earlier, most offending sidewalks, those that required a step-off, had been replaced. So we have had politically correct, ADA approved sidewalks for some time.

A couple of months ago city crews began going through the neighborhood, tearing out corner sidewalks and replacing the concrete, rebar and slope with new concrete, rebar and slope. They added a doormat sized textured section near the street and added about two feet of curbing in each direction. Today they're lowering the curbing.

Essentially our city is spending months of man hours digging holes and filling holes.

Stimulus dollars at work.

My head is about to explode.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Day 4

At least the dogs enjoy the weather. After three days of ice, with temperatures staying in the teens, a layer of snow arrives to top it all off.

It's another day of school closings. Never in my fifty something years have I had four straight days of school closings. But it's the right call - the school parking lots and drives are still covered in thick sheets of solid ice.

My boys have gone a little stir crazy. Brian actually went to work yesterday, but the office was virtually empty. In desperation, today he entertained himself with the remote control to his new ceiling fan, running around the house to see how far away he can be and still turn his light off and on. His room is designed such that the regular light switch is outside his door. Now he can get in bed or sit at his desk and control the light. Sometimes it's the simple things that mean the most.

Wiley has gone for walks and enjoyed taking his car on short errands. We even let him drive a couple of blocks.

But mostly we're trying to appreciate the change of pace and ignore the endless Super Bowl hype.

A week for the record books, that's for sure.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Rolling, rolling, rolling

It's the second day of the ice storm of 2011, the storm that left 2-3 inches of solid ice on all driving surfaces and temperatures in the single digits. It's still not as bad as the Oklahoma blizzard of 2009, the difference being this time I am comfortably at home (except for needing Bob Cratchit gloves.)

And now I have to admit to the downside of working at home. Everybody else had a "snow day" yesterday. For Ricky, Kelly, Brian and Wiley there was no school, no jobs, just pajamas (although Kelly had to dress twice as her delayed start became a more delayed start and finally no start at all). Meanwhile, I completed several tax returns and two loads of laundry and even made it to the local close-out store for its 8:00 am opening (Hunter ceiling fans at half price!) Ricky and I made it to the hockey game last night in downtown Dallas. The highways were fairly clear, unlike all the side streets and parking lots. The friends we went with drove us in their big, comfy, 4-wheel drive SUV. We had our choice of seating in the arena.

Today more businesses are open, but no schools. The temperature is hovering around 10 degrees, with scheduled power outages to keep up with demand. The electric company doesn't like the term "rolling blackout." We've had two outages so far this morning, a little tough on computers and internet, so I'm now getting a bit of a snow day.

I always wonder, in a weather event like this, if the world can get by with delayed starts and temporary closings every now and then, why don't we schedule them more often?

At my daughter's new job, she usually finishes the day's assignment in about three quarters of the allotted time. Most jobs and activities are replete with scheduled breaks and time off and cushions for delays and allowances for the lowest common denominator.

Instead, I suggest we all protest and demand a 30 or 35 hour work week.

Work hard, play hard! My favorite motto.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Oh, No!

So I have my slush fund started to keep me stocked in SUV's for the rest of my life and another fund started to fund my trips to Costa Rica in twenty years to get the health care procedures I won't be allowed to buy in the United States.

Now I have to start stockpiling............Chocolate!

Will there be a chocolate drought? World’s supply of sustainable cocoa could run out by 2014

Last updated at 9:04 AM on 28th January 2011
 Fairtrade chocolate
No-go: Fairtrade training schemes for farmers have ground to a halt because of political unrest in Africa
The world faces a chocolate ‘drought’ over the next few years, an expert warned yesterday. 
Political unrest in the Ivory Coast, where 40 per cent of the world’s cocoa beans are grown, has ‘significantly’ depleted the number of certified fair trade cocoa farmers.
Many have fled the West African country, while fair trade training programmes have also come to a halt.
Fairtrade training programmes have ground to a halt because of the danger farmers face in rural areas.
The situation is already affecting chocolate manufacturers, who are facing the highest cocoa prices for over 30 years.
Prices jumped by 10 per cent this month alone. Analysts are predicting they could soon hit $3,720 per metric tonne - a level last seen in January 1979.
It follows a curb on international cocoa exports initiated earlier this week by the country's new president,  Alassane Ouattara. 
Angus Kennedy, the editor of Kennedy's Confection and a leading British chocolatier, said chocolate producers are facing 'one of the biggest challenges to hit the industry in recent history'.
'Supplies of sustainable cocoa are set to run out, it's that simple,' he said.
Drying up: Ivory Coast cocoa supplies are under threat after many farmers have fled the country
Drying up: Ivory Coast cocoa supplies are under threat after many farmers have fled the country
'The Ivory Coast is a complete no-go area for cocoa traders as it's too dangerous, so training new farmers and trying to cut problems in the region is now, mostly impossible.
'So in effect, its sustainability is not sustainable. Prices can't go up as it's reported because there basically isn't enough certified cocoa left to sell.' 
Of the world's 5.5 million cocoa farmers, only 10 per cent have been trained and certified as sustainable fair-trade producers.
The certification is granted by specially-trained teachers, and the course runs for up to three years.
But the political turmoil in Ivory Coast means both the farmers and trainers are fleeing the country, leaving a severe shortage of certified cocoa beans.
Even if the political situation improves, it could take three years or more for the number of certified fair-trade farmers to reach its former level.
According to Mr Kennedy, manufacturers are now fighting for the rest of the world's sustainable cocoa bean stock.
'Things could get nasty now as producers start to fight over the last stocks,' he added.