Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Hey Santa, WTF?

"Every Christmas my Mom would get a fresh goose,
for gooseburgers, and my Dad would whip up his special
eggnog out of bourbon and ice cubes."
-Philip J. Fry, Futurama

The other night Doug DVR'ed "Santa Claus Conquers The Martians." I do believe some magazine recently named it as the worst movie of all time. Yeah, it's bad, but it is also fun... if you're watching it on our couch with us. We are kind of our own little family MST3000 sometimes. At Halloween, we didn't watch a lot of the gory horrifying modern zombie/monster flicks. We watched a lot of the old school zombie flicks, like White Zombie and King of the Zombies and the like.

While watching this horrible wonderful Santa flick, we found ourselves falling off the couch laughing. The toy machine on Mars has been sabotaged by a bad Martian who doesn't want Mars' children to ever be happy and laugh and play (oh the whole thing reeks of what the USA thought of the Soviet Bloc during the Cold War. In fact, about 10 minutes of the movie is pretty much a recruitment film for the US Air Force. Hell, even I almost enlisted!). The toy machine is spitting out teddy bears with doll heads, dolls with teddy bear heads, and baseball bats with tennis racket heads (at this point Jessica is singing "Sabotage" by the Beastie Boys and we're chuckling).

Martian Boy turns around to show Santa one of these horrible hybrids, and I yell out "Hey Santa, WTF?"

hey santa, wtf?

larger sizes for your desktop decorating needs can be found here.
Click on "all sizes" and go for "original" to fill up your screen with WTF goodness.

We watched it again and again and it was just drop dead funny. I had tears running down my cheeks. WTF! Santa! Do something!

Jessica and I decided it would be funny to make a LOLCats style shot of the scene, and I found the video on google and made the picture for her.

And of course, Santa saves the day in the end and conquers the martian ... hearts! Oh yes! He does. Bad Martian ends up in jail, he never comes around to loving Santa and fun and frivolity and happiness, and to be honest that would have made the movie worse in an awesome way if he had. His surly ass ends up going on trial and I bet you a million dollars he ended up executed by firing squad.

This Christmas is the first year Geoff isn't a "believer" of the Santa myth, not even in a "Santa is in all of our hearts" kind of way. He knew that he would be getting gifts from me and from Doug and grandmas and grampas and aunties and uncles, and that was that. He didn't stay up until midnight with me chastising him to get his ass into bed, the way he has for many years. Instead, he was in bed asleep at 8:30pm, like every other night of the year.

The boy woke up this morning at 7am, and we all went down and did the gift thing. He didn't get something that he wanted and it took a lot of me saying "dude, you got a hundred bucks, we'll go buy the thing you wanted..." and he eventually accepted that. In years past, he could be pissed at Santa, but there was nothing he could do about it. This year he could point at his Christmas list and say "um, mom? I didn't get this..."

So we'll use his gift money to go get the one thing he wanted and he'll be all set. We're heading to Pittsburgh for a few days to visit Doug's family (because the last time we went there was for Doug's uncle's funeral, and longtime readers to July 2006 remember how much fun THAT trip was...) I'm actually looking forward to getting away for a while but the cost of things really freaks me out. Paying for dogsitter or kennel, paying for hotel for five nights... it's a real drain on the wallet. Meh.

Anyway. It was a really quiet Christmas. We didn't take a long walk, or do anything special. We didn't go to church of drive around to relatives houses. We just stayed in, threw snowballs at the dogs, ascertained the damage from the ice dam, played Guitar Hero III, and watched a marathon of Homicide Life On The Streets (love me some Kyle Secor... mmmmm. Bayliss....) on Tivo. That's about it.

I did neglect to mention that Friday was my sister's birthday, towhit I point you to the entry I wrote for her in 2001. Go read if you like. Not much else to mention. Guess that's about it.

Now, off to fold laundry in anticipation of our trip on Thursday. Yay.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Damn Ice Dam

"All this trouble over a fat little man in a red suit!"
-Voldar (Santa Claus Conquers the Martians)

So let us now add to the list of things I do not love about my house right this minute. First, the furnace (which seems to be working fine, and the kitchen, and front of the house are comfortable... unless it is 11 degrees out and then it's kinda chilly). Now, there is a huge ice dam on the roof which is now melting, thawing, leaking and destroying the interior of our house.

Thank you house and mother nature. Your tag team of malicous destructiveness sure makes me happy. That's awesome. Please stop it. I'm sick of this crap and it isn't even officially winter yet.

Tuesday night we went to Geoff's elementary school band and chorus concert (a mighty fine performance it was too, I might just add here). When we got home, I walked into the dining room to see the ceiling just completely soaking wet, the picture window filled with ice and water, and the wood floor covered with water. When it is a little lighter out, I'll take some pictures and show you.

We couldn't exactly see where the water was coming from down on the first floor, in between the first and second floor. There was no water coming in above the window on the second floor, and no sign of water coming in through the attic. We cleaned up, stood and scowled at the spreading mess on the drywall and ceiling, and figured we'd assess the situation come morning.

Yesterday we went out and saw the dam on the roof, and the sheet of ice that had built up on the exterior back side of the house and the giant icicles (insert Ralphie's mom here saying "be careful out there, those icicles can kill!")

I talked to my buddy Wayne and checked online at a few sources, receiving conflicting advice on what to do about the dam. Long and short of it is we should clear as much ice as we can on our own to reduce the amount of water that will be rolling down. That's kind of hard, seeing as we don't have hoverpacks and can't get up there to clear the dam... we kind of have to wait until mother nature (that ruthless bitch) clears the dam via thawing/melting/warmth. I guess right before Christmas it is supposed to hit about 45 degrees, so hopefully it will clear. Problem is, the water is going to flow ... that's right. Right into my house. Right through the walls. I'm so excited. Horray.

So yeah, I'm thrilled right now. Horray for homeownership.

The funny thing is that Doug took this a lot better than I thought he would. Doug's usual defense mechanism with anything that he can't quite deal with is to retreat, curl up in a ball, and hide. He gets a bit sullen, well... more than a bit. And he's hard to deal with. This time though, he was very pragmatic, accepting, and realizes that there isn't much we can do but clean up while it does its thing.

He said "this has obviously happened before, and the house has been standing since 1774, so it survived a lot and will survive this..." which kind of made me proud of him. I expected a total "oh woe is us" flailing of arms in dramatic fashion that I usually get with him and home improvement and repair projects (long time readers will recall the Good Friday Plumbing Incident a few years back... check the archives and find it if you are truly interested in reading about that one. I don't want to dig back into that history right now...) We can't really afford for someone to come and fix things, which makes me nervous. We would need a huge list of crap done, according to Wayne. So I'm stressing this right now.


Anyway ... we've got another little snow storm today and it will kick up about four inches of snow here. Nothing to French Toast Alert about really, four inches is nothing. It is old hat. Par for the course. Four inches? Give us that every day. We can handle it.

But seeing as there is precipitation falling from the sky, there are school closings round and about the region. And as usual our kids have school and EVERY DISTRICT AROUND US has the day off. Every single one. It pisses my son off to no end as he sits there and yells out the names of all the neighboring districts as he watches the ticker at the bottom of the screen. They get close to us... it goes... Pelham NH... closed. Pinkerton Academy... Closed. Where the hell is Pentucket?!?! And then he starts ranting. Look! There's Newburyport! There's Georgetown, Boxford, Topsfield, Haverhill! There's Whittier! There's Essex Aggie! And I have to listen to him go nuts for about a half an hour (which he is doing right now).

The only consolation this week is I can tell him that after tomorrow he's on vacation and doesn't have to go back to school until NEXT YEAR! When I was in elementary school, that used to always make me laugh. "See you ... NEXT YEAR!" everyone would say as we'd leave for the holiday break. Oh, how easily amused I was then, and am now.

Geoff thinks it is funny too, but obviously not as funny as I used to think it was.

I also keep telling him that we only get three snow days worked into our school schedule. Anything above and beyond that pushes the school year back further into June. One year they were in school until June 21st. It was ridiculous. Kids were signed up for summer camp and missed the first week because they had seven days to make up to get to the end of the year. Some districts had school on Saturdays to make up for those snow days. It was sad. So I ask him... do you want to be in school later in the year just to have a day off today where you lounge around the house eating oatmeal and playing video games all day? Is that a trade off you're willing to make, or ... can you make it through Friday, December 21st, 3pm. Ask yourself. Is it worth it (do you feel lucky, punk? Well?)

Eventually he sees it my way. I just wish I didn't have to have the discussion with him daily.

Anyway. I have to get ready for work now. The boy is getting ready for school even though he doesn't want to. I want to take some ice dam pictures and get to work on time. More later.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Dan Fogelberg

"Love when you can, cry when you have to,
Be who you must that’s a part of the plan.
Await your arrival with simple survival
And one day we’ll all understand, one day we'll all understand..."

I was listening to the radio last night before going to bed, and the news came across the wire that one of my childhood heroes had shirked this mortal coil. I set my book down and listened as they let me know that Dan Fogelberg had lost his three year battle with prostate cancer. He was 56 years old.

Dan was one of the early folk "troubadours," white guys with guitars and sentimental sensibilities writing love songs and singing to hippie hearts across the land. Along with Dan, Jackson Browne and James Taylor stole my heart, and through high school I spent hours upon hours locked in my room listening with headphones and working out the harmonies to their songs.

So this morning finds me sad... wallowing in a somewhat guilt-ridden, bad fan, self-indulgent retrospective of 1976-1984 me. Pondering what was, what sucked, what was great, and how much a part of my life his music was.

I remember staring at the cover of the album "Souvenirs" for hours when I was like 12 or 13. I'd bought the album from a used record store in Huntington NY (I bought lots and lots of used records there -- Linda, what was the name of that store?) I remember pulling the album out of the record store rack and looking at it.

On the cover was this beautiful young man with long, flowing, gorgeous dark brown hair. He was holding a quill, which had been dipped into the ink by the wrong end and I thought it whimsical and silly, but somehow profound in some weird way. Why would someone do that? Doesn't he know that you're supposed to use the other end in order to get ink onto the page? What was the message there? He was looking right into the camera, and right at me, with deep, dark, soulful eyes. I thought he was so beautiful and pretty much fell in love with him right there in the record store. I didn't know anything about his music, but I remembered thinking that a dollar was worth the investment of finding out what this man had to say.

I was hooked instantly. As each album was released I enjoyed everything he had to offer. Most especially was the album he did with Tim Weisberg called "Twin Sons of Different Mothers." I hadn't really heard anyone combine folk guitar with jazz flute, and the songs soared into my heart. I would listen to him constantly.

In 1983 or 1984 I remember going to see him in Madison Square Garden with my best friend Rob. We missed our train on the way out and behaved ridiculously on the platform singing alternate lyrics to "Illegal Alien" by Genesis. "It's no fun, waiting for a train to Penn Station! I tell you it's no fun, waiting for a train to Penn Station!" We got there just as the show started and the lights went down as we walked in, and they ripped into "Power of Gold" and I almost cried and laughed and fainted all at once. It was one of the best nights of my life, filled with a lot of laughter and good fun with Rob. Just thinking about that night and how vividly it is etched into my memory gives me the chills as I sit here and type.

When I left for college, the album collection came with me but Dan didn't make a frequent visit to the turntable. My tastes began to change towards REM and 10,000 Maniacs and Talking Heads. I bought "High Mountain Snows" when it came out in 1985, and the record store in Huntington gave me the promotional poster that they had hanging up behind the counter.

That was pretty much the end of my 10 year dance with Dan's music. At the time (1985), I didn't have much interest in where he was going musically, had little or no good exposure to bluegrassy folk or "cross country," and it didn't sit well with my rock and roll hunting soul. I remember seeing the cover of "The Wild Places" and thinking "what is up with this guy now? What's with the indian headband kind of thing? Kind of a poseur, eh?" And then went to dance to "Stop Making Sense" and David Byrne's big, huge, weird sweaty suit video. MTV changed what I was watching and listening to, and I don't think Dan Fogelberg got much play from them.

Little did I realize at the time but Mr. Fogelberg had planted seeds in my soul that would later turn to great love for bands like Roger Clyne and the Arizona Peacemakers (and the earlier Refreshments stuff Clyne and his cohorts were slinging. Dan gave me cross country before it was cross country... funny how that works).

I progressed through some punk, a lot of grunge (Lord, so much of it) into Barenaked Ladies, Ben Folds and Guster. I managed a coffeehouse in the late 80s/early 90s and so many folk troubadours walked across my threshold, some better than others (Richard Shindell, Peter Mulvey, Ellis Paul) that my heart latched onto them because of the love of the white boy with guitarness that Dan Fogelberg had planted in my soul.

When I was growing up, and through college, a lot of people laughed at me for liking Dan Fogelberg so much. Dan Fogelpoop. Dan Fogelburp. Whatever. I loved him and defended him against those who ragged on him for harmonizing with himself (in three parts, mind you) and for being a hack songwriter (I mean, come on... fishes? Dude. The plural of fish is not fishes. It is fish).

I go back and listen to a lot of the early stuff, like "Phoenix" and "Windows and Walls," and a lot of it sounds dated, very folk in the early 80s/late 70s without that kind of lasting California sound appeal that a lot of the Eagles pre-hotel California stuff has. But to me, it is still good even if it sounds dated. It is still part of the soundtrack of my life.

And I smile when I think about Weird Al Yankovic harmonizing with himself as Dan Fogelberg in "Leader of the Dan." You know you're someone when Weird Al latches on to one of your hits and makes light of it.

Now he's gone, and because I wasn't paying attention and didn't realize he was even suffering, I feel that much more guilty for abandoning him and his career when he still meant a lot to me. I'm sure that his "true" fans, the ones who stuck with him all these years, let him know how much he meant to them.

I wish I had taken the chance to reach out to him and thank him for his role in my life, for keeping me sane through high school, and for teaching me that pure, clear harmonies and beautiful guitar work are not "hack."

In my mind's eye, he's still that young man in that rocking chair who doesn't know how to use a quill to save his life.

Thank you, Dan. Godspeed.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


High: Heavy snow predicted. Harvey Leonard breaks into huge grin, can't keep his hands off the weather map. Proceed at speed limit before snow starts to nearest supermarket to pick up two gallons of milk, a couple dozen eggs and two loaves of bread - per person in household.

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Doug just called me from just north of Boston. He left his office at 2:30pm. It is now nearly 8pm. He's gone 10 miles. He is on Rte 1 North in Saugus/Revere. He may get home by 10pm. I told him to pull over at the first restaurant he sees and get a good meal in him, and relax. Right now though, he just wants to get the hell home.

I'd totally be sitting in Orzo's in about 40 minutes, because it will take him that long to get to that point on Rte 1. But that's me, not him.

I feel for him. I really do.

Seeing as I'm now home, safe and sound, I thought I'd whip up a quick batch of french toast and share the news of my commute with you. As the above shows, the current French Toast Alert in Boston is "High." At about 12:30 this afternoon, me and the new guy in the office set out to buy lunch. The snow was just starting. He's from south of Boston but has lived in California for many years. I could tell he was excited, nervous and ... excited. Snow. Right when he gets back. Perfect timing. And he faced a hellacious commute. Worse than mine. And I complain about my commute all the livelong day.

Gretchen basically told us to get the hell out around 2pm. I was working on something that I wanted to finish, so I stuck it out to 3pm. We all kind of left at the same time. I hope New Guy isn't sitting on the highway south of Boston trapped like my husband. Jesus lord, no.

Anyway -- I pulled out of the office parking lot and started my ride home. I noticed at the VFW hall that there was a blood drive going on.

A blood drive, scheduled months ago, and happening on the worst, most snowiest day ever.


These folk were all set up for business and there were literally no cars in the parking lot. It has been several months since I last donated blood. I figured, I'm going to be trapped in traffic for hours to come, why not make an hour worth someone's while.

I pulled into the parking lot and went into the building -- the volunteers were overjoyed to see me. One other guy was there, getting fawned over by about 10 little old Marblehead ladies. Half turned their attention to me.

"Oh! Oh thank you for coming out in this! Oh dear! You are so wonderful! Thank you!"

Um, I was just driving by, thought I'd stop in. I made no heroic effort to turn left into the parking lot... but hey! I'm a whore for love and attention and praise, so keep pilin' it on, cute little old lady!

They processed me immediately. Three of the women there knew me by face. I give blood a lot, or as often as I can. So they welcomed me back and one said "Don't you live kind of far away?"

Yes. I do. Far away from Marblehead indeed. But. I'm here -- you're here. Love the one you're with, baby! Let's do this thing!

I was in and out of there in a half an hour. A record for me giving blood, which usually takes like 90 minutes with the waiting and the questions and the test my iron and take my blood pressure-ness.

The phlebotomist who took my blood was very unhappy to be there. I could tell she was nervous about her ride home to Lexington from Marblehead. I knew she was thinking about the roads and the danger. I told her "You're doing good things, which is why you're here and it is why I stopped. It's like ...Karma. You'll be rewarded for your staying. And hopefully I'll be rewarded for coming in here and taking the time to give your sacrifice of time value."

Geoff calls it being "Karma-lized" when good things happen when you do good things, and bad things happen when you do bad. He's learned a lot from "My Name is Earl."

But it's true. I left the office and wanted to be Karma-lized. I wanted to not be trapped for elevendy hours on rte 114 in Peabody just trying to get near the highway. I knew it had been far longer than I usually let it go between blood donations, and they were there for a reason. I thought of my friend Carrie's father in law who has recently been diagnosed with leukemia. I thought of how important blood would be to someone who was in an accident in the snow.

So I stopped. I think I made the phlebotomist feel better, and she nailed the insertion of the needle into my arm on the first take, which always makes me happy because my veins are a bitch to find and they usually have to try three or four sticks before they get me. So she had a big smile on her face, and held my hand for a little while longer than I think she usually would have.

And it made me feel Karma-lized.

After I gave blood I got into the car, and in the period of time I was in the building there were 3 more inches of snow on my car. Doug called at that point and said he'd made it from his parking garage to the ramp to go into the tunnel. Less than a quarter mile. 90 minutes. Holy crap. I knew he was in for it. I proceeded homeward.

I was stuck behind someone who was driving in the CENTER of West Shore Drive. CENTER. At 4 miles per hour. I couldn't pass on the right, because there just wasn't enough room, and there certainly wasn't enough room on the left because, well, dude was in the center of the road. I was trapped for a good long time, and eventually got to pass. I was letting the Karma-lized feeling relax me (or was it the cheez-its and wooziness of giving blood? who knows?)

Eventually we got to an intersection where I could pass this car. I expected to see an ancient gentleman in a hat. Lovingly referred to as a Hat Wearing Q-tip in my household. Instead, I glanced askance to see what was a woman, no older than I, who was just gawking at the sky, the streetlights, the everythingness about the air around her. At 4 miles an hour. Traffic was backed up to France because of her. And she was ... dreamily lookin' at the sky and the stuff falling. La la la. As Brian Reagan's bit about "Me Monsters" and "go ahead, Mr. You Universe!" echoed through my brain, I managed to slowly pick my way towards the highway, stopping periodically to whack ice off of my windshield wipers.

All told, it took me 2.5 hours for the drive. 3 hours if you count the giving blood portion. I got home to find Jessica making dinner per my emailed instructions, and Geoff feeding the dogs. Everyone seemed in great spirits, and life is good here at the house. It is the one thing I am amazingly thankful for when stuff like this happens -- that my kids are finally at an age where if I should become trapped overnight on a highway somewhere and I need to sleep in my car (rather than abandon it on the side of the road) they'll survive the night. Hallelujah.

Doug will be okay. He'll maybe make it home by 9. I think the kids will have no school tomorrow, and my husband will be in no big hurry to rush back into the city to get to work. He said "I should have just stayed at my desk to right about 8pm. I bet that would have worked out much better for me."

Long and the short of it is, if Jess wasn't making chili, I would have made French Toast. I am happy to be home, reading the travails and triumphs of those in the region who have also made it back to a PC somewhere to share their stories. My body is a pint lower in blood, but I'm feeling happy and relaxed. Now I'm off to watch some Thursday Night Football and continue to pray for my husband as he drives north. Maybe he's at Orzos or Bertuccis by now... eating dinner. Maybe he's on his way home. Regardless. The fire is hot and the wine is chilled and I will be happy when he is back here in the Older Than America colonial house we share.

If you're out there -- I pray for you too. If you've made it home, I hope that wasn't you who abandoned your Mercedes in the middle of the road. Dude... it isn't the Blizzard of 78. It's just a snowstorm.

Monday, December 10, 2007

What I wish for

"And I will get what I deserve. Keep all the secrets under the bed.
Open the curtains, forget what I said.
And what you wished for could come true.
You aren't surprised love, are you?"

This time last year our furnace kind of broke. I called our service provider, they sent out a technician. He fixed it but said within a year the furnace should be replaced. It would cost about $5000.00.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever dude. Thanks for coming out and getting her running again.

Well. Here we are, a year later.

We have three zones in the house. Upstairs, downstairs, and woodstove/loft. The downstairs zone is not working. At all. Without heat right now are the kitchen/dining area, the brown room (which I lovingly refer to as "The Room of Requirement." Harry Potter fans can guess what is in that room) and the pink room where we play our playstation.

As far as my mind goes, as long as the bedrooms and upstairs bath have heat, that's great. We can sleep comfortably at night. Woodstove room is where we hang and watch TV and we have a cord of wood. That'll last for a couple of months (or 3 days at the rate we're burning. ha!) The loft is above the woodstove room, and consequentially the warmest room in the house. It is where am right now. Comfy, cozy and warm.

So the only problem areas are the kitchen, where we don't spend a lot of time outside of cooking. We eat in front of the TV so we won't freeze to death sitting at the dining table. The playstation hasn't been used in a couple of days because it is just prohibitively cold. I was in there the other day playing, wrapped in a fleece blanket and wearing a hat. I quit because my fingers were too cold. The downstairs bathroom is like using an outhouse in far northern Maine this time of year. Brrrr. So it is a quick in and out there, and only used when someone is in the upstairs bathroom hogging the joint up.

I can live without the zone working on the furnace. The bad news is, that probably means another zone will break and then we'll be screwed. Thing is, I don't have $5000 handy. I don't even think we can finance it.

We will have to get it fixed because the last thing I want is a pipe bursting in the kitchen or bathroom. So it is going to have to get fixed.

And I am kicking myself for not fighting for the furnace to be replaced by the previous owner. It should have been a show stopper for us. Replace the furnace or we don't buy the house. Thank you, have a nice day. But the dude wouldn't do it and we didn't want to lose the house... so we acquiesced. We gave in. And we decided we'd replace it... when it needed to be replaced.

So the long and the short of it is I have to have it done. That bums me out. Meh.

We had an incredibly busy weekend. The kind that makes me want to crawl back into bed and stay there for a full day. Friday night, I left work in Marblehead, drove the hour home to get Jess and her friend Lizzy, turned around and drove the hour back to Marblehead. Why? Well, a bunch of Jess' friends from Shakespeare were in the high school production of Cabaret. At least 10 kids were in the cast, and she wanted to see it.

I'm not a big musical theatre fan... but always support the kids in all they do. So Jess wanted to be there, and I took her. And... long and the short of it is that this was a tremendously well done production. I had forgotten so much about the play, I forgot that there is a lot of homosexuality, a lot of promiscuity, an abortion, alcoholism, and ... NAZIS! lots and lots of nazis! In fact, it was slightly unnerving at the end when a huge, giant red banner with a giant gianormous huge swastika gets lowered from the ceiling... and that's the end of the play. I could feel the audience hesitating to clap in the end. Jess said "oh! I want to clap but not for THAT THING!" It was sort of weird.

It was very nice to see her friends, and see that Lizzy totally LOVED the performance... so much so she wants to buy a DVD.

Several of the cast members were stellar vocalists, and aside from a few audio glitches, the entire production was great. Glad I went.

Saturday saw me running around doing stupid nothings. At about 4pm I took Geoff to a friend's birthday party. They had it at an indoor sports complex, so for about 30 minutes they got to play flag football. Most of the kids at the party were on Geoff's football team, so it was a blast to see them executing plays and ripping the flags off each other. They were hysterical, and it was very physical. We bailed from the party early because I had a date with Jess (again) to go up to Portsmouth NH to see Groovelily (aka "Amy Church") in their touring production of "Striking 12."

I mentioned that I'm not big into "musical theatre," but this isn't musical theatre. Sure, it's music, in a theatre, and a story is told... but it is different, better, wonderful. Amy turned me on to them a couple of years back, and they're just great.

Funny thing about the show was everyone there was like ... old. Well, I'm old... but these people (at least all around me and Jess) were like, officially old. In their 60s old. It was kind of strange. Not the crowd I expected at all. There was a guy in front of us who was a dead ringer for my father in law. And as I was sitting there listening to Valerie sing and rock the hell out of her violin, I thought ... wow. I bet my in laws would actually like this. Too bad they're not going to Pittsburgh with the tour. I'd buy them tickets.

Afterwards, Jess and I decided that we would go get something to eat, so we headed over to the Rusty Hammer and downed some chow, chatted for a long time, and pulled into the driveway just as it was striking 12...

Sunday was a lot of football, and Geoff had a cub scout holiday party. He was one of only two webelos in attendance. He felt stupid and old, didn't have a buddy there to hang with and talk to... so we left after snack. I fell asleep during the Steelers/Pats game and then was completely unable to fall asleep last night, so I was up until 2am.

Today Geoff's got a half day, and I've got parent/teacher conference at 2:45pm. I asked for a later time... but I'm kind of glad it is early. I can get it over with.

And now a collection of useless observations:

I had a very very sharp booger in my nose the other day. When I breathed in, it cut me. When I exhaled, it cut me. If I pressed on the side of my nose, I thought I'd die. It hurt so much. Why do boogers turn titanium steel sharp inside of host nostrils? Heartbreaking.

There is a woman in my building who smokes. And you always know where she's been, because there is this reek that is left behind her everywhere. I know when she's been in the elevator before me, when she's been in the bathroom... when she's been in the parking garage. It is horrifyingly smelly.

She takes the elevator up one floor and DOWN one floor so she can go out and smoke. This kind of bothers me. I mean, I'm fat and all, but up one storey and down one storey, everyone should take the stairs. Unless you've had hip replacement surgery. And even then, that's part of your rehab. I don't understand anyone who takes mechanical transport up and down one level, unless they're Geoff and they think it is funny as all get out.

I kind of feel like I'm sitting in the calm before a storm right now, and am not sure where the storm may come from next. Do you ever get that feeling? Everything seems to be going smoothly, but you know in the back of your mind, you can just feel it, you know something huge is about to go down. And there is no way of knowing from what angle. It's kind of unnerving. I know some of it is my unpreparedness around the holidays. I have not done any Christmas shopping and Christmas Eve is two weeks from TODAY. It isn't just the holidays. It feels like something more and different and I can't pinpoint what it is.

Keri is looking for a permanent home for the Shakespeare camp. We got something about a curatorship for a DCR (Department of Conservation and Recreation) property that needs a total rehab. It would be great, awesome, amazing... and luckily we are in cahoots with someone who has looked at this property and is whetting down our enthusiasm or we'd be rushing headlong into oblivion right now with trying to plan how this would work. I mean, it would be amazing. An amazing place to have the camp, an amazing place to do performances. But it would cost like a million dollars to complete the renovations. And I don't even have $5000 for my furnace. I don't know how to start or run a capital campaign. I know I want to help do this and it would be a great opportunity... but reality bites me on the ass a lot and bursts my pie in the sky dreaming bubble. But, like I said, thank God we're working with someone who tempers our enthusiasm and keeps it real. Who knows -- maybe someday we'll find something perfect for Keri and the kids where they don't have to compete with heavy metal band concerts in the pavilion, or drunken wedding receptions... sigh.

There is this guy in a huge pick up truck who turns around in my driveway every single morning. He's out there right now. Every single day. It bothers me. I mean, it isn't like some person from away gets lost and needs to turn around because they missed their turn. This is a guy who does this daily. And I have no idea why. Dude. Stop it. Stop turning around in my driveway. The house across the street has a semi-circle driveway and no one lives there. Go. Turn around there. Go loop around our street, turn right and turn right again, all within a couple hundred feet and you know what? You've reversed direction. Stop pissing me off in the morning.

I'm not sure why that pisses me off so much.

Anyway... it took me the better part of two days sitting here to write this so I ought to post it and get on my way. Have a good day all.

Monday, December 03, 2007

French Toast Alert System

You few long-time readers (all four of you) know how the media makes my head explode when there is a weather-related story, especially when snow is in the forecast.

I've written here many times about the "abandon all hope" wails from the well-coiffed Cassandras on the news desk. Last week they began to forecast a storm and it was "oh my GOD there are still LEAVES on the TREES and they will be pulled down onto your house and powerlines and millions will die!"

I'm disappointed because there are still leaves on my lawn... screw the leaves on the trees. That's lame to have snow on top of your lawn leaves. Gah.

Anyway, the storm started last night around 9pm ish (in these parts). The trucks started salting and sanding about seven hours before the storm came. I bet my town has used its entire winter snow removal budget already. For four inches of snow. God help us all when we get five inches. We currently have about 4.

Anyway, back to the media. They whip general population up into a frenzy and all the little old ladies run to the store and buy all the milk, bread and eggs. Like no cow will ever have her teet mechanically squeezed again, no farmers will exist to go to the hen house and pick up eggs (because, they're all frozen to death in their farmhouses... of course) and all the bakers died in horrible spin out accidents on the highway going to the bakery.

I've also noticed all the toilet paper gets bought too. But that doesn't fit into the new web tool I'd like to draw your attention to this morning. Over at Universal Hub, our boy Adam has launched the French Toast Alert System.

Boston French Toast Alert: Green

The French Toast Alert System serves to warn you when you need to get your ass to the store and start buying those aforementioned essensials (there is no mention of TP in the alert system, but be sure to grab four 24 packs, you know... just in case).

Unfortunately, this is not a nation wide alert system, so my readers in Nebraska and California and possibly even Rhode Island will not benefit from this. But.... readers in the immediate Boston area will be able to be alerted in case of extreme french toast situations.

I had always used Kent Brockman's "Category Four Kill Storm" as my gauge for levels of freakingoutness when storms were coming (for an example, see this entry from February 2006 where I go to the market, and trust I've written about 10 of these very similar entries over the last 7 years. I need to find the one where I talk about piling up the bodies of your dead neighbors who tried to break into your house and steal your french toast makings) but I think I am now going to adapt the French Toast system, so I'm on the same page with all other Boston Area bloggers. After all, one person's Category Four Kill Storm is another's Category Six... so we need to standardize our warnings.

My kids have a two hour delay today, so I'm up at my usual time. Geoff got up at 6 and got in the shower before I could tell him that he didn't NEED to be up and showered and ready... but he's just that way. He's already gone out and played in the snow for 20 minutes with the dog, and I think I may send him out with the scraper to clear off my car in about an hour.

A 2 hour delay is worse than a school closing for me personally, because Geoff would be unattended for an hour and a half by himself once Jess left the house. I can't necessarily abandon him, so I'm sticking around this morning and will probably see if my neighbor can take him in for an hour so I can actually leave for work and get there before lunch time.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Anya Has A Posse... time to saddle up

For almost a year now I've had the "Anya Has A Posse" graphic in my left navigation column on all my entries and on my main page. I've written a couple of times here in the last year about my good friend Keri, how she adopted Nastia and how she has been working on adopting Nastia's sister Anya...who is 16 now and living in an orphanage in Siberia.

For a long time, I've been silent on the Anya topic. Several of you have asked what is going on, where are they in the process. I haven't written an update because, well, there was nothing to say, there was no news to share, there was nothing to write home about.

Well, there is now news about Anya, and it is time to share. And I need to get the posse ready to ride. Here's what's going on.

For quite some time, dear readers, you know that Keri has been waiting for her adoption to go through. Kemerovo had closed all international adoption while Keri was in the process, and the adoption was stopped. This happened to her when she was trying to adopt Nastia, and Keri patiently waited for the reversal of the decision... and eventually things changed, and Keri brought her Siberian Princess home to Massachusetts.

We also thought it was curtains for Anya because once an orphan turns 16, there is no way to adopt him or her. And Anya turned 16 in August. But Keri learned there is a loophole for children who have siblings who are already adopted out into foreign nations, and because Nastia came before... Anya has until she is 18 to be adopted.

That is good news, the loophole. There was still time.


The hard part was the closed to foreigners adoption policy, wondering when Kemerovo would lift the ban... wondering when Keri go back to square one, start again from the beginning of the process, and get her daughter out.

At least Keri and Anya could communicate on the phone. But... it got to the point where the orphanage decided they would no longer allow Keri to talk to Anya because every time she did it would upset her so much she'd freak out.

There sits Anya... suddenly without a word from "home" and "mom." Anya became convinced that she wouldn't ever be adopted and that Keri had given up.

Well, a ton of political shifts have taken place in the past few months, and Anya's adoption is on the fast track once again. Hopefully, Keri will be able to adopt her and bring her home in February. Keri has been able to speak with Anya, be in contact with her, and everyone is thrilled about that.

Keri reports that Anya is not well. She is despondent, she is depressed. Keri has received reports from contacts and friends who go to check on her that Anya believes that the adoption will never happen, she will never come be with "mom" and her sister... that it is all pointless. It is all a lie. It is all a dream.

Anya has been begging her, "I need you. I need you mamma." Heartbroken for her, we know Keri is doing everything in her power to assure her, comfort her, bless her... When I spoke with Keri this evening, she was actually planning on the possibility of going over to Siberia over Christmas, just to give her that comfort in person.

Unfortunately, the harsh reality is this will set Keri back quite a bit of money, and will probably monkeywrench the adoption and push it back later than February... which is something she doesn't want to have happen. Again.

Keri has been praying. Sometimes, she'll be in the middle of something and she'll feel it -- the call to prayer. She'll stop everything, she'll pray with intensity for Anya's healing, for her mental health, for her comfort, for her strength of soul.

Obviously, this is a lot on Keri. She wants to go there, get her now, can't do it, can't assure her daughter that soon all this will be well... she has work to do. She has Nastia to home school, she has Shakespeare to teach.

So now, posse... Anya's Posse. Now's when you saddle up to ride. It's not about money right now. It may be eventually when Keri has to pull funds out of mid-air, and I'll call for that then. But right now. Oh honey.

Anya needs prayer. Keri needs prayer. She cannot shoulder the burden of cosmic mojo all on her own.

When we talked tonight, Keri mentioned a prayer circle. An old fashioned prayer circle where people are notified what to pray for via the church newsletter or something.

I said, better yet... I'm so blogging this.

Many of you who read here walk with God. Many of you are kind of spirit even if you are not of "the faith." Many of you believe in a kind of cosmic mojo like I mentioned before, and will gladly pitch in the good vibes.

I don't care who you are or what you believe. I'm putting aside any sort of denominational hierarchy and I'm going whole-hog ecumenical, even all World Religiony on you.

I need you people now. Anya needs you.

Rally your hearts and minds and spirits round a little blonde girl in Kemerovo Siberia, and pray for her daily. Pause and contemplate her situation, daily. Wiggle your fingers and send the powerful energy to her, daily. Starting now.

Some of you have not prayed in YEARS, I know it. Some of you have had your hearts and souls burned by organized religion, but men and women who have abused the power of faith. Some of you are currently being victimized by judgment and scrutiny, even from your own parents and siblings.

Put that aside.

Please reach into your stores of energy and share it with this child. You can do this in so many ways without smells and bells, crossing yourself, kneeling in a church. Here are some thoughts:

  • Set your Outlook Calendar to go off once an hour with an "Appointment with Anya."
    If once an hour is too much... a few times a day while you're sitting at your desk. Perhaps the moment you arrive, the moment you get back from a meeting or from lunch, the moment you shut down your PC to go home for the night. You can do it.
  • You can print the photo, stick it up at your desk, and each time you glance across it, let your mind soften and your heart speak her name.
  • If you have children, when you look at them, talk to them, lift her up in your thoughts that she will one day be home with her mom and sister
  • If you're running on a treadmill in the gym, instead of staring at the tv, look ahead of you, focus, send the energy you're generating to Anya.
  • When you're stuck in traffic in Boston, each time you step on your brakes -- let that be a moment to think on her.
  • As you're falling asleep at night, in the quiet small hours (like now, it is 1:02am for me and I'm writing this because my brain will not allow me rest) think on her.

I don't believe in asking God for specifics. I was taught to pray by some very wise and super smart men at the college I went to avoid praying for the specifics because disappointment always arises when those specific wishes/prayers don't come to fruition. We then end up angry at God. Instead, I always pray that good and right outcomes will be realized, and His will shall always be done in whatever the situation. Let his will be done. That's all. But I do know what she, Anya, needs and I honestly believe God will bless her with these things if we ask. I think these are the kinds of specifics that he can get behind if we all sing it out together:

  • She needs healing in her soul.
  • She needs calm and comfort in her mind.
  • She needs her anxiety to cease.
  • She needs peace and understanding.
  • She needs to be ready to have acceptance in the face of disappointment if Keri cannot come be with her in December.
  • She needs assurance in her heart of hearts that it is for the best and will result in her eventual, sooner than we ever imagined, adoption.
  • She needs the power of the holy spirit to enter into her and enrich her and support her right through all this.

And while we're at it -- I mentioned praying for Keri. Please do not forget her. She has had a couple of amazing answers to prayer in the past week... but I know she needs strength and guidance, the support of all the mojo we can muster to help her get through this. Pray also for Nastia as I'm sure that all of these things are overwhelming to her... there are fears and anxieties and uncertainties that I'm sure she cannot voice right now. I cannot speak for her, because I don't know what possibly is going through her head, but suffice to say that her life is directly impacted, shifted, changed, altered, once Anya comes to join her. Sisters who have not grown up together, who were split apart so long ago. Please consider her as you walk through your day.

You don't need to leave a comment or let me know that you're praying or meditating or sending mojo or anything, don't feel obligated, but I would love to know who is in the circle. And I bet Keri would love to know.

I'm dead serious in my desire for Anya to be cared for, not just with food and warm blankets, but with a sustained spirit. She can't pull that together for herself right now, and I know her posse will have her back on this... in the form of lifting her.

Thanks for your time. It is now so very late and I'm so very tired... and I guess that pounding this entry out over the last few hours is yet another example of how to pray for someone.

Blog it too on your end, direct link to me here, spread the prayer circle. Get'r Done.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Thanksgivingness Update

I've been trying to sit and write this entry for days now... I had a lot on my mind and really couldn't sit and put into form what I wanted to share with the world and talk about this Thanksgiving.

There isn't anything wrong, per se. I would just sit down here and start typing and after an hour hate what I was saying, so I discarded entry after entry. This one, I want to make stick. Just because you guys deserve an update. In order for me to do an update though, I find myself wanting plenty of uninterrupted time, and a clear head and open heart. So more than a week has passed and many of you feel maybe I've been put into a hospital in traction due to my back. Well, rest assured, dear reader. Not an ounce of truth to that speculation.

My back is better but not perfect. Doug and I took a long walk today and halfway through it I wanted to go back to the car. The dogs needed a run, so I sucked it up but really feel like it is time for Dr. House to do an MRI on me.

I'm too young to be couch ridden, playing video games, against my will and better judgment.

Since my last entry, I turned 41.

The birthday was quiet and uneventful. Doug and the kids met me half way between my office and the house at The Cheesecake Factory. Now, I know I've said here before that we prefer non-chain restaurants, but I had been to a Cheesecake factory and REALLY loved my meal, so I figured for my birthday... well, why not.

It was kind of craptacular. And I'm truly disappointed that we spent the money to get the bland-assed food we ended up with. Our appetizers were ice cold, and it sucked because we each took bites out of the items and sat there looking at each other wondering if we should send them back to get heated up a touch when the entrees all showed up. Mere moments after the appetizers.

I got the "bang bang chicken and shrimp," which was more like "bland bland chicken and shrimp. It was 98% rice, not at all flavorful "Thai" sauce and rubbery chicken. The shrimp was decent... and that was about 1% of the over all meal.

Jess got Shepherd's Pie... which is what she got the last time we were at The Cheesecake Factory and it is her all time favorite thing to get out at restaurants where it is carried. She was stoked for it, and didn't even need to open the menu to see what her other options were. She said it was all salty and not very tasty.

Doug got the Hungarian Goulash, which he said was ALL salt and no other flavor of anything. He ended up waking up in the middle of the night parched, dehydrated and his mouth dry as the Sahara.

Geoff got a cheese pizza, and that boy will eat hot melted mozzarella on a cardboard sheet, so he was perfectly happy with what he had.

After the meal, which some of us finished and others didn't (me being the latter) we wrinkled our noses, paid the bill, and got some cake to go to eat at home... no one wanted to eat cake after that experience. I think I ate mine on Wednesday night after I got home from work.

Fool me once...I doubt I will go back. Hands down, that was a nasty meal in a beautiful presentation. And I'm sorry -- I'm not paying for pretty fixtures. We won't be visiting one again anytime soon. Meh. I could have had really delicious pad Thai if I wanted Thai food, but there I was at a big box restaurant hoping for a decent bite and got nothing.

I honestly blame the "too much on the menu" thing. They have about 65 different entrees on the menu. And that is way too much to specialize, focus, and MAKE a good meal out of something. Sad. I'd rather go somewhere that there are 10 total choices, and you know there is a chef in back preparing them by hand, not pulling things out of pre-portioned containers and slapping it together.

If you have any opinions on the Cheesecake Factory -- feel free to share.

My parents came up for Thanksgiving on Thursday. Doug roasted a brined bird, a la Alton Brown, and it came out wonderful. He made this huge squash casserole that smelled really good, but just didn't taste as great as it looked.

Perhaps we can sell the recipe to The Cheesecake Factory. Heh.

Thanksgiving is a really low-key holiday for us. We don't have 30 people for dinner or have to go from house to house to house visiting and catching up. We talked to people on the phone who weren't with us, because they were in NY or Pittsburgh or Portland Oregon... and we took a couple of walks with the dogs, and that's about it.

I like low-key. Low-key is some good stuff. As much as I miss family far away, to me it is more special to see people in the middle of July when there's nothing going on... or February... bring the love at different points of the year.

After doing that travel thing to NY when my parents lived there, I learned my lesson... just stay home. It's okay. See folks another day. Thanksgiving and Christmas and whatever... they don't have to be these EVENTS that are blown up with stress and expectations. Just get with people who are geographically close, and do Thanksgiving in March if you really really gotta do it.

Also, I don't really get the after-Thanksgiving insanity with the shopping. I know people who go out for Black Friday shopping, and I listen to them tell the tales of woe with the traffic taking 4 hours to get to the outlets, and the "by the time we got into the store and to the counter the laptop that was on special was GONE!"

??? uh... dude? What'd you expect, that you were the only person gonna show up to get that special deal? Wake up. No deal is worth the stupid that you have to deal with in order to get through the door.

I also think it is criminal for retailers and stores to whip folks up into a frenzy. Just open at the regular time. Have a sale. Act normal. Don't be all "door busters insanity!" at 4am. It is just wrong and stupid. And it makes people have to come into work at midnight to get ready for the truckloads of stupid that will be coming down the pike to bust those doors open.

Once upon a time, I worked retail. Once upon a time, I worked for a store credit card company and had to work the day after Thanksgiving. No one appreciates you for it, from the consumer end to the boss end. And you go home with a migraine at the end of the day. You're welcome, America. Enjoy that Wii system.

I deliberately do not shop the weekend after Thanksgiving. I deliberately shop online. I hate malls, I hate stores, I hate crowds. Or, I go to small, unique gift shops in small unique towns and buy different, unique gifts that you can't find at Target or Best Buy.

I'm a snob. With big box store restaurants and malls... I admit to you, I'm a snob. I don't like the homogenous nature of consumerism here in America, where every kid has THAT razor scooter, THAT Nintendo DS, THAT game, THAT cd, THAT iPod. Don't get me wrong, there are things that I like that are really popular, Guitar Hero being one of them. But I'm not waiting outside in the freezing cold at 3am to GET a Guitar Hero. I'm ordering stuff online. And if you pay 20 bucks less than I did, good for you and your wallet but I don't care. I slept until 10am and have a stress-free smile on my face.

This leads me to kind of a point where I'm noticing that we think differently than a lot of people. Last night, Doug sat and watched all three installments of "The Godfather." I watched some of part 1 with him, and went and played the aforementioned video games. I'm not a big mafia movie fan, the genre does nothing for me. He came upstairs to bed and said "Wow. That was incredibly overrated."

I thought that was kind of funny, because I anticipated that he'd enjoy the experience of watching a real American film classic, with the word "classic" echoing through the air. It was presented uncut, unadulterated, uninterrupted, and I really thought he'd be all over it, making the connections between the installments, watching how who got where by part three... Instead he found it underwhelming. He said that the story just isn't interesting. The characters didn't connect with him. He just didn't like it.

It reminded me of this whole thing that comedian Jim Gaffigan does about when you tell someone you don't like or haven't seen their favorite movie and they get PISSED! I know a lot of people who love this movie, all three movies, and they always rank on everyone's top ten American Movie lists when these things are generated.

Well, I'd better keep him away from Star Wars and watching it Episode after Episode... he could really piss someone off without meaning to.

And here's what I've been having a problem really sitting down to write about.

Last week, one of the girls in the Shakespeare program lost her mom.

I never met mom, but I know her daughter well and find her to be simply a WONDERFUL and special, spectacular person. I really like her. When Keri informed me that her mom was sick, it gripped my heart in a way that I had not felt before for someone I didn't even know. Mostly because I was worried for the daughter.

When Keri told me they were moving her to hospice I felt incredibly overwhelmed with sadness, because you know that's the last stop on the mortal coil rail journey. When she died last week, I found myself slammed by the passing of this woman I never ever met.

I found myself pondering why I was so sad, and what it ran down to was I was so sad for her daughter. Knowing the things that would be coming up in her life, from high school graduation, to picking colleges, perhaps planning her wedding, and the next few summers with Shakespeare... knowing that her mom wasn't going to see her do any of those WONDERFUL and mind-blowing things really hit me. I was sad that she wouldn't have her mom beside her, but I was so sad that her mom was going to miss out on all of the above too.

And then, of course, ones thoughts turn inward and then it became all about me and Jess.

You with children, no matter how old they are, think of what it would mean to leave your 15 year old behind. Really look at your child, look at her, and really think about all the steps she'll take without you.

Are you crying yet? Yeah -- I sure did.

My daughter is the same age. Keri's adopted Siberian Princess is the same age. The two of us talked a few times, both of us knowing that the grief is one thing on the surface and that it is normal to be sad for someone dying. But when you can't help but think about yourself and your own child, it becomes an uncontrollable fear. The knowledge that there may come a day when there is nothing you can do, nothing that will change anything... and you'll be dead in a few days.

There were several moments in the past few weeks where I was just racked with helplessness suddenly sweeping over me, and then looking at Jess thinking that... well... she'll just have to make her own way.

Yes, in our house there is daddy... and I know Jess would be cared for, guided, helped, loved, all the more in my absence if (God forbid it a thousand times) I found myself on the way to hospice.

But there is something different with Mommy. And you mommies know that is true.

The memorial service was on Friday and I couldn't really bring myself to go to it. I knew this girl would be surrounded by family and friends. I didn't want to encroach upon that, being on her periphery is okay... she's got many hands to hold her up, and if she ever needed mine, they'd be there in a minute. But her mom's memorial service would not be the time or place for me to go and make that offer.

I also knew that if I went, I would be going for my own selfish reasons.

To thank God that it wasn't me who was gone, and to give him thanks that I have more time here on earth with my incredible daughter, and my incredible son. I would make a corner in my remembrances for the mom who was gone, thanking that He sent her to be here at all, to raise this lovely girl. To thank him for her presence here for the short time many had her. But I knew my prayers would be "there but for the Grace of YOU go I," and I didn't think that was right.

In the meantime, I've done nothing but think about this young girl and how awesome she is. I know many will step in to fill a void, as a mentor, council, friend, guide, muse... and all the while I do hope she keeps her mother close in her thoughts as the years pass.

And I am not going to promise I won't cry when I see her act next summer, because that's a promise I just can't keep.

Alright. It feels better to get that out. I am going to see what's going on for football, and see if Jess is ever coming home from Lizzy's today. I miss her.