Wednesday, December 29, 2010

How Doug is my Samwise Gamgee

Do you remember the Shire, Mr. Frodo? It'll be spring soon. And the orchards will be in blossom. And the birds will be nesting in the hazel thicket. And they'll be sowing the summer barley in the lower fields... and eating the first of the strawberries with cream. Do you remember the taste of strawberries?

The Lord of the Rings has often been a source for apt little analogies in my life when things are going rough.

A long time ago, I wrote an entry about a friend who was addicted to heroin. The power of the One Ring had taken him, and he was like Bilbo, on the way to being Gollum, and I wanted my own little Frodo back. But I knew he was forever changed.

And now he has sailed across the oceans with Gandalf and the Elves because of how deeply he was changed. The Shire may have been saved, but not for him.

This past weekend they broadcast "Return of the King" on TV, so I watched it through at least two times.

What struck me most was not that I've hired a lawyer to be my very own personal Gandalf facing off side by side with me as we defend Minas Tirith, or as he protects me from the Balrog that is Bank of America.

No, what struck me most is that my husband is my very own Samwise Gamgee.

I've been married to Doug for going on 20 years now. For ten years I've kept this journal of our lives, which some of you have been reading from the start. The story of my life, which is also his. We've been through a lot of fun, and a lot of crap. And this has to be the most craptacular part yet.

I feel like Frodo in a lot of ways, that this burden has had such an impact on me. And the burden has been pretty much mine because of how our relationship works. I pay the bills and Doug mows the lawn. Don't ask me how to run a snowthrower or climb up on the roof and repoint the DirectTV dish after winds of 60-70 miles an hour. I'm lost and useless when it comes to stuff like that. And Doug is forgetful when it comes to the day to day stuff. We make a pretty good team.

We both were in agreement when it came to contacting our bank to start the modification program. It wasn't like I said "I'll do this behind your back" and then we find ourselves in a mess. Like the "fellowship of the ring," we were two little hobbits who left the Shire with a mission to accomplish.

And right now, like I said, I'm so like Frodo. I'm defeated, weary, and I cannot recall the sound of water or the taste of strawberries.

When Sam says to Frodo in the movie, "I can't carry it for you, but I can carry you!" and lifts Frodo up upon his shoulders, I had to laugh and smile. That's my Doug right now.

We sat in the lawyer's office yesterday, and as the lawyer went out to photocopy some paperwork I almost started to cry. Doug took my hand and made some little jokes, made me laugh, and I said "thank you."

"What for?"

"For not being mad at me."

"I'm not mad at you, I'm mad at Bank of America."

"I know, but this is the kind of event that ruins couples, ruins marriages, and I'm so glad that you aren't mad at me. I've seen it happen to other people, and I've seen relationships ruined over a lot less than what we're looking at right now."

"Well, people are stupid," he said, and squeezed my hand.

I have watched several friends in relationships where money, mortgages, credit cards, spending and selfishness were the cause of their relationship demise. I have seen people break up over money a dozen times in this last year. Now, usually money itself isn't the problem, the relationship itself is flawed and awful, and sometimes unfixable. The damage being done, people just go ahead and steer the boat to the iceberg and then point a finger and jump.

Doug is right, people are stupid.

Right at this point I am aware, so wonderfully aware, of how lucky I am and have been for a long time. My good friend Nancy recently said to me that she has seen how Doug and I work together, at things in town or with the Boy Scouts, and how she sees that we "stand" by one another even in the little things. And she's right. I look back on our life together and it certainly has totally been a life of standing together.

Now, like Frodo, I need my Sam more than anything in the world. More than food, or strawberries, or even the recollection of strawberries. And I don't think Frodo realized it until after they'd completed their mission, so right now I want to truly recognize and ponder these things.

Add to it that yeah, the lawyer totally is our Gandalf, and I'm feeling much much better than yesterday.

For those of you who have been sending me mojo, you did good. Thank you.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Lawyer meeting

We are meeting with our lawyer today at 4pm. I normally don't turn to the blog to ask for mojo/prayer/whatever, but right now I am so sad and depressed about all of this that I literally feel I cannot lift my head. I went through all my boxes from my old office last night, found the documents that I need to bring today. I have an online form I need to finish filling out for the lawyer's office but I literally sit here and look at it and cannot bring myself to find out the answers to what goes in each field. My head hurts, my heart hurts, and I feel like just getting back into bed, closing my eyes, and just going back to sleep for ten years.

It has been a long time since I have felt this defeated. And right now is not the time.

Monday, December 27, 2010

SnOMG! 2010; BOA update

Well, the storm didn't disappoint, after all the other badly forecast storms that resulted in nothing. We got about a foot of snow, but what is more impressive is the wind. The drifts are building, and moving any snow is futile as it gets moved right back by the breath of nature.

Around 3am the dogs were barking without stopping, and I felt like my bedroom was exceptionally cold. I got up, checked the baseboards and they were hot. So I walked into the hall where it was freezing.... because our back door had blown wide open. I'm not sure how long it was open, probably not too long because the dogs responded so quickly and were upset by it. I dressed and went downstairs and closed it up. Surprisingly it hit the Christmas tree but no ornaments hit the floor.

I then went back to bed, and was awake for the rest of the morning because I kept waiting for it to happen again (or something else to happen). It was a long four hours.

Doug had me drive him to the train today for two reasons. First, so he didn't have to leave his car in the parking garage and then have it caked in blown snow that he'd have to clear off after his ride back north. Second, because we were to meet with the lawyer about our Bank of America situation, and I was going to pick him up at the train close to the lawyer's office and then he wouldn't have to go retrieve the car after the meeting.

I pre-heated the car and we pulled right out of the driveway. Go Subaru, Go. I'll leave the actual snow removal for Doug because I have no idea how to use the snowthrower.

On the way over to the train station, we discussed our afternoon plans. I said that there was probably a good chance the lawyers would reschedule on us due to the weather. Our governor has declared a state of emergency and told all non-essential/non-emergency humans to not go into work. The fact that Doug's office didn't call or email and tell him not to come in surprised me.

"If they didn't cancel my work day, the lawyers are not going to cancel our meeting."

My phone rang at 8am and it was the paralegal letting me know their office was closed and we rescheduled for tomorrow, same time.

That's okay by me. I don't want to drive around the universe today. Tis a day not fit for man or beast.

My entry on our fun Bank of America experience has garnered over 5000 views.

It was shared at Universal Hub, Consumerist, the forums at Somethingawful.com (great website, haven't gone there in a long time but I had a lot of fun revisiting it), and several other websites ... several people tweeted my blog post too. I've had visitors from Moscow, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Spain, England, all over Canada and the United States. It has surprised me how many people have visited.

Almost every comment has been supportive or in agreement with us.

Which is a relief. I was completely worried about putting it out there and then getting scads of emails/comments from people that were disparaging and insulting. I thought for certain people would call me stupid, call me names, and say that this situation is all my fault.

One or two people had snide comments but for the most part people get it. And that relieved me greatly.

Someone asked if I'd written letters to BOA because a paper trail is more powerful than my recollection , and yes -- I have. Emails and letters, not just phone calls. AND the day after I wrote that entry someone from BOA called me to start the "we're foreclosing on you" lecture, and I stopped him, told him to read the account, and he came back and said "On January 21, 2009 it says RIGHT HERE that you are in the Making Home Affordable Program and that your new terms are XYZ."

Yeah, I know.

"Whatever you do," he said to me "Don't reapply when you get the packet of info that the last person said he is sending you. You're in the program. You aren't canceled, and I'm sending this to my supervisor to have it addressed and fixed."

I want to believe you. I honestly do, but I do not.

I told him that I wanted a printout of all the notes on my account and he said that he couldn't do that. I want that. I want their "internal" documentation, and if I have to I'll have my lawyer get it by legal means. I want to see exactly the line that the guy read to me, the fact that my notes say that I'm in the plan.

The highlight of that discussion was I told him how sad and ashamed I was for losing my mind and going Mussolini from the Balcony on the kid on the phone who had called me and triggered this entire situation. "That's not me. I don't lose my mind like that, and I feel bad because he's just doing his job and he's a person who didn't deserve that kind of verbal abuse from me."

I told the kid that if he can tell who that guy was, to send him some sort of inter-office email that said "remember that lady from Massachusetts who flipped the mother eff out at you? I got to talk to her and she said she's sorry..."

"I'll do you one better," the guy said. "He's my next door neighbor. He lives next door to me in our apartment complex. I'll tell him in person."

This cracked me up totally. "Please take that kid out for a beer, and apologize for me. I'm so sorry."

That made me feel a little bit better inside... because those of you who know me well know that I honestly feel badly about that whole scene.

So in the meantime, tomorrow we have our meeting and I hope the lawyer can help us. Keep your fingers crossed.

On that note, the woodstove is cranking, the news reports are starting to bore me, so I think I'll actually take a nap. Getting woken up in the small wee hours by the wind is catching up to me.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Category 4 Kill Storm!

I'm sitting in my cute little wood stove room, with the tree glowing, the Patriots on the tube, and knowledge that any second now we should be inundated with a sky full of snow.

It is already snowing south of here, and by south of here I don't mean all the way down in New Jersey (it is snowing there), but a few towns south. Our sky has yet to slough off the flakes and begin the mayhem.

Long time readers of this blog know my ongoing passionate love affair with the TV news weather people and the hyperbolic approaches they take to snow storms. Several times in the past two or three years they have forecast FEET of snow and we've received ... inches. They've had press conferences with the governor and the mayors begging and imploring people to stay home, and dust settles on the towns. Trucks and trucks of salt are unleashed and begin seasoning our asphalt, and no snow falls; and then a month later a real storm arrives and there is no salt or sand because our Departments of Public Works shot their wad on the horrible flurries.

It is a world where some people continue to take the prognosticators seriously, and others hear "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" and don't prepare at all. We're prepared because that's just the thing to be, but I didn't run like a maniac to the store and buy ALL THE BREAD! ALL THE MILK! ALL THE EGGS! I've long held that there is a conspiracy between the TV news weather dudes and the Milk, Egg, Bread Coalition of America. I am patiently waiting for the Wikileaks cable release confirming my suspicions.

But such is life in the 24 hour news coverage world. They have to talk about something. So they talk the hell out of this. Until people panic.

I had to go to the grocery store today to get dog food. In my haste Christmas Eve to finish up the grocery shopping (we still didn't know what we were planning to eat for Christmas Dinner because we are slackers, total slackers) I totally forgot to pick up a bag of dog food. I realized Christmas morning when Doug served the last cup and a half to the three beasts.

Knowing today was going to be a disaster at the markets, I waited until the Patriots game was about to start to go down. My hesitation was wise. The market was empty, and there was plenty of dog food, but God save me if I needed milk.

I started this entry over an hour ago, walked away, did dishes, ate a slice of cake. And the snow just started to fall, like ash over a city of ruin... softly, silently.

God help us. We'll see if we get the 18 inches they're predicting, or if once again Pete Bouchard sits on his throne of lies.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Slacker Christmas 2010

We were watching the classic "A Christmas Story" at my friend Janet's house party last night. On Christmas morning in the Parker household there on the TV, right before the Dad gives Ralphie his Red Ryder Carbide Action 200 Shot BB Gun with the compass in the stock and this thing which tells time, they are sitting with their opened gifts all around them, drinking wine.

It has to be like 8:30am, and they're drinking Breakfast Wine. So I told my daughter "tomorrow morning, I'm totally having Breakfast Wine."

It is now tomorrow morning, Christmas morning and she pointed out "Hey Lady, where is your Breakfast Wine?"

Well, I'm not having Breakfast Wine. I think if I really do ever end up having breakfast wine, you had better take me to rehab. One should not have Breakfast Wine, not even on Christmas morning.

One's common sense dictates, and one's liver thanks.

Christmas morning was uneventful in our house. Last night after getting home from Janet's awesome party (where 23 good souls perished under Banana Mountain in the great Railway Disaster above the sleepy hamlet of Pete Tom Town. Long may they be remembered), I wrapped all our presents and set them under the tree. I was done before midnight, and was once again watching "A Christmas Story" with Jessica before heading to bed around 1am.

There were 20 some odd things under the tree, all very small in size.

When your kids are older, the presents get smaller and sometimes more expensive. So the "pile" under the tree was sort of pimpy looking compared to years past, but there was a lot of great quality stuff there. In fact, all of it could have really fit inside the stockings for the kids... but I wrapped and set out as usual. Because ... what's Christmas without a few little things to actually unwrap.

Geoff woke up at 5:30, opened one present (a camera tripod, which he asked for) and went back to bed. He didn't make a sound, he just went down, and went back up. Doug woke up around 8 and came down here to enjoy the DirectTV Christmas channel by himself since I have issues with crappy phoned in Christmas music that is uninspired and autotuned to death. This is an entry best saved for me to write in utter screed mode when I'm grumpy and angry and I've had too much Breakfast Wine, so I'll save it for another day,.

I woke up at 9:30, Geoff heard me up and jumped out of bed. Together we convinced Jess to get up and come down to open presents.

We gave Jess a Yo-Yo (she asked for that), a super bouncy ball with floaty things in it (I watched her play with one at Toys R Us the other day and she was thoroughly happy doing so.... so I figured I'd pick it up for her), Bananagrams, a harmonica (she asked for that) and a DVD of how to play harmonica with some super cheesy dude on it (Doug and I figured for the hilarity factor it was a great gift. She agreed).

We got Geoff a new camera -- a little Samsung point and click, for about 70 bucks. It has 14.1 megapixels compared to my 10.1 mpxl camera, so I'm already a little jealous of it.... I so need a DSLR in my life. He had already opened his tripod. I got him a new acoustic guitar strap so he can stand and play his guitar. He stopped playing it because he just didn't like sitting down all the time to do it... And he had a pair of drumsticks wrapped up, which confused him when he opened them. There was a reason for that ... It is easier to wrap a set of sticks than it is to wrap a 5 piece drum set.

For the last few years he has shown some skill in drumming and we figured this is about the age when kids really start building bands with their friends. Since he already has kind of a clue, why not?

Doug is in the other room building the kit right now. I'm glad we didn't start or try to do this last night because he's been at it for 90 minutes. We never would have gotten it done last night.

And for the rest of the day, it is Slacker Christmas up in here. We aren't traveling, we aren't having 14 people for dinner. Anyone is welcome to pop over for cheesecake or whatever but ... it is totally mellow and we're surrounded by dogs and the warmth of the woodstove.

And this is how I like it.

Merry Christmas to you, or if you don't celebrate Christmas -- have a great day in whatever you choose to do. And on that note, I hear that they've made it to the cymbals which means they're close to being done. Fantastic. Where are my earplugs, which I will wear with a smile on my face as Geoff goes at it.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

About Pittsburgh

My irritation with Bank of America usurped my attempts to write about my trip to Pittsburgh. I'm glad I got it all out there, and now I can write about other things.

When last I wrote, I was at my awesome hotel upgrade enjoying awesome hotelness. I slept like the dead that night, and in the morning got up and went over to the Cathedral and walked around. There were a million children running around in there, I guess the vast majority of them were staying at my hotel too. There was a massive swim meet at Pitt, and I took it that these noisy urchins were the swimmers.

I didn't hang out in the Cathedral too long.

I headed over to the Carnegie Museum of Art, took a picture of the Diplodocus and Shakespeare outside the Carnegie Music Hall. The museum was mostly empty at 10:30am.

I headed straight to the trees in the beautiful Hall of Architecture where the trees and the Neapolitan Presipio are set up each year. The trees are giants, and fit in so beautifully with the fronts of the buildings, and all of the ancient statues and doors around the hall. It is perfect. The theme this year was Muses, and each of the five trees had a theme. Muses of Art, Music, Andy Warhol, etc... I spent a great deal of time studying each of the trees and taking pictures of them. They were all so beautiful.

And the room was so empty that it was so refreshing to be in there.

I then turned my attention to the Presipio. The nativity scene that is assembled each year makes me think that if it was my job to do this at the museum, this would be the highlight of my work year. Every time I've seen this, I see something different. And the way it is set up, I like to think that it can be assembled differently each year, like you're home playing with your doll sets and you are six years old again, only it is Italians, Wise Men, Baby Jesus, Animals and a Mess of Angels.
It is so spectacular, so wonderful. All the figures, the angels hanging from gossamer strings. There was one angel so low, I've never seen it that low, and the figures around her reacting to her presence.... so truly amazing and beautiful. I studied this thing for so long this time. Last time I was there, Geoff only wanted to look at trees and run around in circles and make noise and go see dinosaurs. So to have this all to myself was a blessing. A few other people came in, and the security guard talked to me (incessantly, which is something Jessica finds amusing, people just come up to me and start talking and before you know it I have their life story. She thinks I'm magical).

I then went up to the Scaife Galleries, where all the paintings and artwork are. I sat on a comfortable couch in front of Monet's Water Lilies and just soaked it in. The guards were funny.... two young women who were happy to have the place to themselves and were talking about going out that night, and I talked to them about how quiet the galleries were.

"Mornings are usually very quiet. Parents take their little kids to see the trees and then all the dinosaurs, and then around noon they come up here when the children are exhausted and starving and crying, and it's a lot of fun."

I could see how that might be a problem for some. In fact, that is exactly what we did with Geoff the last time we were there.

After about an hour kicking around the Scaife galleries, I was ready to go and discover more things, like see my favorite taxidermy/sculpture, Arab Courier Attacked by Lions, but I peeked into the Works on Paper gallery and was intrigued. The exhibit was a called "On Reading," and was a collection of about 100 pictures by photographer André Kertész. All the photos were of people reading. Magazines, newspapers, books, menus. None of them looked as if they were aware they were being photographed. The exhibit was accentuated by beautiful overstuffed leather sofas, with tables full of books sent in by the museum staff. I sat on one of the sofas (I still had an hour or so until Jess was done with her final) and I read the first two chapters of Tolkien's "The Hobbit," after struggling for a while trying to figure out which fantastic book to read.

I thought to myself, that this was by far one of the most thoughtful and sweet exhibitions I had ever seen. The intimacy of the photos combined with the fantastic gift of favorite books from the museum staff just struck me as so sweet and beautiful.

Jess called me, and we met up at the trees, soaked them in together for a little while. Sadly, my daughter isn't as moved and inspired by the Presipio and the trees as I am. We didn't spend much time gawking, and the crowds were much larger. We headed to lunch, landed at Fuel and Fuddle at the recommendation of my friend Crystal. We finished up and took Jess' friend Cordelia some cold medicine. She was holed up in her room suffering, so we brought her gifts and tea and medicine to make her better. Jess was done with all her finals, so we went to her room and got her gear together, and headed north to Doug's family.

Out to dinner with Doug's parents, the following morning we went to my niece and nephew's Christmas Pageant. Elyse was Mary, and Craig was a shepherd. We had a fantastic lunch out with my brother in law's family too, and it was just a wonderful visit. That night we watched the Steelers game (they lost, unfortunately) and Jess and I had an evening to ourselves. We went out to Steak & Shake and had a ton of fun. At about 9am we were on the road, and got home at about 10pm. The last hour was spent in the driving snow, rather stressy experience but Metallica made it better.

All told it was a very fun weekend. I love Pittsburgh, I'm glad my daughter landed there. If you would like to see pictures from the weekend, they are all here. Be sure to check out all the Presipio shots... maybe you will love it as much as I do.

I can't wait to go back. But next time I need company in the car or my head will explode on the way out there... so boring. So very boring...

Wherein your humble narrator decides it is time to take on Bank of America

I may have mentioned this once or twice in the past two years, but right now I'm putting this in the blog in hopes that if someone does a search on the topic, and they're in a similar situation, they'll find this and know that they are not alone. Or... that someone who works at Bank of America finds it, and they know how much I think they stink. On ice.

The backstory is that in November 2008 I submitted a request to Countrywide, my mortgage holder, to do a home loan re-modification with them. They responded immediately, and had me fill out a bunch of stuff, get it notarized, and submit it. I received documentation saying that I was all set to start paying the new payments, for February 2009. I will not outline the details of the modification, the terms as it were, and the new payment amount on my mortgage. Suffice to say, it was reduced to a really comfortable level, and it was even a little lower than it needed to be, so I started making my payments for February 2009.

Bank of America bought Countrywide, and my loan. And this is where the fun begins.

In March, I got my statement, and the new terms were not on the statement. So I called them. "Oh Mrs. G, these things sometimes take a month to show up in the system. Just keep making your adjusted payment. No Worries."

Okay, BOA employee. I will!

April came, same thing. I called, and they told me something different. "Well, it looks like here that a supervisor did not finalize your modification. I will escalate this to a supervisor to have it fixed. You'll see the change in next month's statement. Just make your adjusted payment."

May came, same thing. I called and the man told me "you were never approved. Your form is null and void because the notary wrote on your document in a space other than what she should have."

"Um, maybe someone should have told me that a couple months ago?" I said to the dude. I had a copy of the document at my desk, and I looked at it. My notary had signed the document, and at the end of her signature she put the date that her notary license expired.

"How does this nullify the document?" I asked the dude. He told me that the signature was all that was needed. By writing her license expiration date, she voided the document. He said that her notary embosser stamp is supposed to have the date on it. I told him that was ridiculous and was going to call the notary to ask her why she did it.

"It is required," she told me. "I have to put down when my notary expires. I've had the same seal embosser for 25 years. It doesn't have the date that the notary expires on it. If it did, I'd have to get a new one every time it expires. So there is supposed to be a line on the form that says what the date of my expiration is, and there was no such line on this form, so I always write it at the end of my signature. They are full of crap."

I called back, talked to a new person who said "No, the notary didn't do anything wrong... you're all set. These things take time. There are millions of people who are in the process of this re-modification, so just please be patient. It will all work out okay."

At this point, it sounds to me like no one over there has any clue at all what they are doing. No one knows the details, no one knows the why/who/whatever. And now I am getting the feeling that they are making it up as they go along.

June, same thing. Only this time the girl tells me that someone didn't "finalize" my modification. So she was escalating it to her manager and someone would call me back. No one ever called me back.

So month after month this goes on. I got a Fedex Packet in the mail offering me enrollment in the Making Home Affordable plan. Now, I'm already in the plan. But they're sending me more enrollment paperwork. I called and asked what the deal was. The girl seemed confused -- read all the notes on my account back to 2008.

"I'm already in the plan, right?"
"Yes."
"So I don't need this plan that you're sending me, because I'm already in the plan."
"Yes."
"Okay."
"So what you're telling me is that you are declining enrollment in the plan at this time."
"Not the original plan but in this packet that you're sending me now."
"Okay."

I got another FedEx letter a couple days later informing me that I've declined the plan. I called up and said "Just so we're clear on this, I declined the packet that was sent to me this week, because I'm on the plan already. I'm not declining the plan, version 1.0. I declined the offer of the plan, version 2.0. I'm in the plan."

"Yes."

"So when are you people going to make it so that I'm in the plan and it shows on the website and the terms and conditions and whatnot are all set?"

"These things take time..."

Ugh.

Month after month after month this went on. A year passes. Another summer. More phone calls. In August I called while my mother was sitting at the dining table and she got to listen to me go through the song and dance of the dog and pony show yet again. The girl assured me that the systems were almost all caught up and my September statement would be reflecting the correct terms and conditions.

No. She lied.

September, October, November 2010 pass. I gave up calling after September. Screw them. I'm done. I'll just send in my payment until they contact me.

Well, they contacted me yesterday.

"Mrs. G, you are six months past due for a total of $16,000 plus. We are activating accelerated foreclosure on you at this time."

Oh hell to the mother effing no you are not.

I lost my shit with this kid. I absolutely lost it with him. I told him to go through and read every blessed word on my account. I told him how my payments were supposed to be a certain amount over a new term, and I always send in 200 dollars MORE than I need to. By my calculations, I am paid ahead by at least a month at this point. I told him I wanted his manager, that person's supervisor, or the CEO of the stupid bank on the phone right then and there or the end of the universe would be instigated.

"I have been so patient with you people. Right now is the day when MY ass comes down there to kick YOUR ass. Not yours personally, but you know what I mean."

He ended up transferring me to his supervisor. And I was promptly disconnected.

I called back, I got a lady on the phone who could not even find my account. I got disconnected. I called back. I got a different lady, who ended up sending me to the Modification department to talk to them. The guy I talked to said that when I declined that second offer for the re-modification, I canceled my re-modification that was put into play for early 2009.

"How is that possible?" I asked, exhausted and frustrated at this point. "My mortgage statement says "you are in the Making Home Affordable plan" and your website says "You are in the Making Home Affordable plan. How on earth was it canceled when your documentation says it is not?

He basically tells me that I need to reapply. That I am not in the program.

"So, you want me to reapply to a plan that I'm supposed to be in, that I got an offer to apply for after getting in the program, and you say that when I declined the second offer I got kicked out of the first."

"Yes."

"Fine. Whatever. Whatever it takes, send me the damn paperwork." At this point, I'll do anything.

Doug got home last night and said "We're not reapplying for anything. We're calling a lawyer."

We have a meeting scheduled Monday afternoon with a local lawyer. I talked to his office this morning and they are going to help us the best they can. Which hopefully will be to:

a) get my loan put into the terms we want it in, the one from the re-modification, that should have been instituted February 2009
b) get our credit bureau history cleaned up
c) sue them for damages. Normally, I wouldn't care and would only want points a and b satisfied, but I actually want monetary compensation for the amount of time, the stress, the aggravation, and the overall satisfaction of them ruining two years of my life.

How have they ruined two years of my life?

a) stressing the hell out of me month after month.
b) by ruining my credit rating, I could not apply for student loans for Jessica to go to college. I had to ask my in-laws to co-sign on the loan for her. It was either that or tell her "Honey, you ain't going to school."
c) three of my credit cards were closed by the issuers, even though I had little or no balance with them. Closed them outright. I asked them why and they said "Bank of America is reporting you as six months past due..." So, thank you. I can't apply for more credit, I can't buy a new couch (which I need) from anyone. I can't do anything.

They have ruined everything for me.

Now, hindsight being 20/20, I never ever ever should have entered into this program. Or, I should have not listened to the BOA employees who told me to pay the lower amount. I should have paid the original mortgage amount. Two years later, it wouldn't be two years later, I would have found someone to remortgage with, and get away from BOA. I knew the minute that they bought my mortgage that things were going to suck and lo and behold, my instincts were right.

On top of all this, I got another call from BOA this afternoon informing me that I was past due and foreclosure was imminent. The guy I talked to got to hear the whole story again, and I told him I want a printout of everything on my account. Every call, every word, every everything. If I need a court order, I'll get one. I told him I'm suing BOA. I told him that I won't be talking to them again, that I won't pick up the phone, that I will be turning everything over to my lawyer.

I then told him that the modification department guy told me I have to re-apply.

"No you don't," he said. "You are in the program. It says right here..."

So again, evidence that no one at BOA knows an ass from an elbow. The kid told me not to re-apply again, that I am in the program. I told him I was just going to have my lawyer handle it from here-on-in. Done.

I'm done.

And, at this point, as much as I love this house, as much as I love it here, they can have it. They can have the damn thing I do not care anymore. I hate everything and everyone. I feel like the fight has gone out of me, that I'm just over it. Whatever. I'll start packing now.

Doug is ready to rain hellfire on people, so I'll be happy to let him and I'll take a step back. But right now, I guess I owe myself a thanks for even thinking for a remote second that a government program was going to help me. Making Home Affordable has made home ruined. I'm done.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Hello, City.

I am in Pittsburgh this morning. This is how I got here.

I left the house later than I intended, due to the fact I could not find my wallet. I have been very good at putting things in rightful places, and in the winter time, things usually live in the coat pockets. But somehow the wallet fell out of my coat and down between the console and seat. I tore the place apart, finally posting on facebook "has anyone seen my wallet?"

Once that was located, I got organized, ran a couple errands, and got out of dodge.

Forgot how boring it is to drive this trip alone. It has been years since I've done it solo. By the time I reached Hartford I asked myself why the hell I didn't just fly Jessica home, after all, the 5 tanks of gas (maybe 6) that I'd need would have covered her plane fare cost-wise. But then I realized that I wanted to get away from home for a couple days, and a few funny phone calls from friends later I was back in a traveling state of mind.

We have good friends who live near Scranton, so I caught them on the phone and asked if we could meet up. I figured if it didn't work on the way here it may work on the way home... they met me for coffee and we spent a lovely time drinking java and talking football, and laughing. Again, the mood improved.

By the time I got to Bellefonte the snow started. The forecast was for 0% chance of snow but they lied. They always lie. It was light out, so the driving was easy. Once it got dark it turned into a vortex of snowflakes and I felt like I was on the bridge of the USS Enterprise when all the stars are zooming past and Pickard is yelling "engage!"

Realizing I had four hours (at least) of this, I put the radio on scan and played radio roulette. My favorite game while driving through Central Pennsylvania. The Jesus Stations, the Country Stations, the Rock Stations and some NPR thrown in for good measure. The vast majority of them were playing Christmas tunes.

There is some very, very bad Christmas music out there. Uninspired, phoned in, God Awful. Shameful really.

Central PA is obsessed with Katy Perry (why?), and Jesus, and Manfred Mann's cover of the Springsteen classic "Blinded by the Light," the one where everyone thinks he is singing "revved up like a Douche..." An entire generation of people grew up singing it that way, and even my daughter and all her friends think it is "douche." It took hearing Bruce's original for both Jess and her friend Liz to realize that it is "Deuce." So I laugh my ass off whenever I hear it, and I heard it no fewer than 8 times. In four hours.

Once I got to where 80 meets 79 and the left turn aims me south to Pitt, the snow stopped (funny how that happens). Before I knew it I was passing Heinz Field and looking at the beautiful shining city.

I did this drive with Jessica when we came down here in April for Accepted Students' Day, so I kind of knew where I was going. But not having a co-pilot made me a bit worried. That, and it was 8pm, I was tired, and still was experiencing USS Enterprise syndrome a little bit. Luckily, the signs all said "Oakland, this way..." and before I knew it there was Forbes, and there was the Cathedral, and there's Bigelow Blvd, and there's a parking space right on the dang street. Hallelujah.

10:15am left the house. 90 minute break in Scranton. Pulling up to Litchfield Towers, 8:30pm. I think this is a new record. Even with the snow.

Thankfully, all that snow was falling but none of it was sticking to the ground. The pavement was mostly dry, my only worry was people who slowed down to 40mph and didn't put their blinkers on to let me know they were doing the highway equivalent of NOT FREAKING MOVING! I think I almost rear ended two people at high speed. People. Use your dang flashers please.

I had dinner with Jess and her friend Megan from Toledo. They had already eaten, but I hadn't since 10am when I hit the road (aside from a tiny donut in Moosic). The woman at the chinese restaurant charged me the 6 dollar student rate for my General Gao's Chicken (nice!) and we had a good time and then Jess took me to her room so I could see it. It is a cute little room, very much her own wonderful little world. It needs a vacuuming but aside from that... it's a great place. I logged onto priceline and booked a room at the Holiday Inn 3 blocks or so from Jess' dorm. I could almost see her dorm from here. The room is normally $189 a night, I got it for $150. When I got here to check in at about 10:30pm, they told me that Priceline was wrong, that the rooms were sold out, but because I already paid for the room through them they'd put me in "a nice room."

I got an "executive suite." Huge walk in shower, giant bed, meeting area, sofas and chairs, like an office. It kicks ass. I think this is probably a $300 a night room, so I'm not complaining. I don't think there is anyone else on this floor.

Jess has her final final today at noon. It is 9am now. I'm going to go over to the Carnegie Museum of Art, see the Christmas and Nativity displays and maybe go see Monet's Waterlilies (one of six panels he painted, and this one is across the street from me right now). When she is done with her test, we'll have lunch. In honor of my friend Crystal, we will probably go to Fuel and Fuddle because it is her favorite spot in Oakland, and she lives in Seattle now. I just have to figure out where the little side street is that it's on. I think it is really close.

After that, we drive north to Beaver Valley where my father in law has made a hotel reservation for us, I will give them a call and we'll take 50 minutes to decide where to have dinner (I will suggest the same place we always eat -- a little pizza shop in a strip by the mall which has GREAT pizza and pitchers of beer that keep coming). We'll sleep like angels, and in the morning get up bright and early to go see Elyse and Craig in their Christmas Pageant. Elyse is playing Mary. Craig is jealous, he's a shepherd but totally wants to play Mary too. And he's nervous that we're coming to see him. He's hysterically funny, I can't wait to see them.

We'll eventually start heading home. Not sure if we'll head home on Sunday afternoon and see how far we can get, or stay here for one more night and travel with as much daylight as we can on Monday. Rumor has it there is a big storm heading to Massachusetts so I'll have to touch base with Doug tonight and tomorrow to see what the Weather Prognosticators are saying. Or, I can continue to monitor the Universal Hub French Toast Alert System, and see what they're saying.

There is a baby crying in the room below me. Loudly. I'm glad I had the heater/air conditioner unit thing blasting last night and didn't hear it. Awesome hotel room or no, that would have made my head explode.

And on that note, I've got coffee to discover, and art to enjoy.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Grinching and Snoring

Doug and I did our reading of "The Grinch" in church on Sunday and it went very well. The kids were hanging on every word, and the grown ups loved it. And best of all, our pastor sat there with the biggest smile on his face.

The best part of the morning was how it dovetailed into the Advent calendar. Third Sunday is the "Joy" candle, for Gaudete Sunday... so the whole Joy thing at the end of the Grinch was particularly fitting.

Our message to the kids was that the people down in Whoville probably knew that the Grinch was miserable and they prayed for him for many years... and that the whole Christmas doesn't come in boxes and bags thing is incredibly important. We prayed for people that they may know who are "grinchy" who need love more than they need things, and we prayed for people who are stressed out and upset by the holidays for whatever reason.

It was a good morning. And I love our church.


Back around my birthday, Doug went and did an overnight sleep study at a local hospital. They told him that he was never actually falling asleep, and that his oxygen saturation levels were horribly low. They recommended a CPAP machine for him. Well, he finally had an appointment with the clinic to get it all set up and last night was the first night he used it.

I went into the bedroom and was shocked by how quiet the machine and Doug both were.

Throughout the night, it was weird to hear him breathing back against it (the machine makes whirring noises when sending air and getting breathed back on) and I found that a little distracting. And he rolled over and was breathing against my back at one point -- and the air was like ice, incredibly uncomfortable for me -- but I took a pillow and put it between us and that solved that.

This morning I asked him how he was feeling, he said that he felt fine, slept great. So I hope that this helps him out a lot. And I personally am relieved not to listen to a loud, grinding, noisy piece of machinery, and a loud, grinding, noisy husband.

Whew.


Friday morning I'm leaving to go get Jess in Pittsburgh. I'm going to wing it for Friday -- possibly stay somewhere along the way with friends or make it all the way to the city and get a hotel. Saturday she has a final, and she'll be done around 3pm. I am going to entertain myself, go to the Carnegie Museum, see the trees, spend some time alone. Saturday night it is dinner with the family, hotel in Monaca, and Sunday morning seeing Elyse and Craig in their Christmas Pageant. Elyse is playing Mary, she's beautiful with long, flowing curly brown hair. Craig is a shepherd, but is jealous of Elyse so he wants to also play Mary. This should be interesting.

We'll either start heading home Sunday night and stop along the way or hang out for another night and do the trip in one fell swoop on Monday. Weather may be a factor for our choice. Cross your fingers for us.

And on that note, I have a lot to do to get ready. We got Geoff a 5 piece drum set for Christmas, and now are trying to decide on where to put it. Rooms need to be cleaned and rearranged if this is to happen... why do I do these things to myself?

Monday, December 13, 2010

God saves the day for Geoff's social studies paper

This morning, Geoff stomped up the hallway yelling loudly and incoherently at about 6:36 am. I again had a hard time falling asleep, so there I was, deeply sleeping and suddenly the jolly green giant is outside my bedroom stomping hard enough to put a foot through the floor.

This house was built in 1774. It has withstood a lot. I hope it withstands Geoff.

"What's the problem?" I asked.

"The printer won't print! I'm going to throw it out the window!"

Uh, no you're not. I'm out of bed, in my underpants and tank top, fat and sleepy, and sure as eggs is eggs, the printer won't print.

"Relax, we'll email it to the teacher, and it'll be okay."

I then read the paper. I was a little shocked. The assignment was that the school had been transported back in time to the 13th century. It is about to be invaded. What would you do to defend the school? Now, this is from the Social Studies teacher, whom I adore and believe is God's gift to middle school. He is brilliant, wonderful, spectacular. He gave the kids a wide berth, they could be as "violent as it needed to be, to defend the school."

And Geoff was indeed as violent as needed to be, only none of his actions would have defended the school. Nothing in his paper made sense for what the goal of the assignment was. So I made him edit the hell out of it, remove names, specific things that would be done, and then I emailed the teacher.

I kind of want to smack him (both of them, Geoff and the teacher). Geoff for not realizing that he got in huge trouble last week for saying that he'd burn the school down because he was so mad, and then writing a paper that mentioned specific people that he would use in his defense of the school. And then I wanted to smack the teacher for leaving this so open ended that my kid would take it and run that way. I pointed this out in the email and he said that he green lighted certain language but yes, Geoff probably saw a lot more green in the light than the rest of the class.

So help me... I swear. This kid is gonna drive me to hard liquor.

All told, I asked the teacher to go over this assignment very carefully with Geoff and let him know there are limits. Geoff was angry with me that I edited his document so hard... that I restricted his First Amendment Rights "YET AGAIN!"

I'm too tired to deal with this.

And the printer still doesn't work.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Hello, Orion.

In the center pane of my window Orion waits for me when I sleepily slip into bed.

The fresh sheets and heavy comforter pulled up to my chin, I place my head on the cold pillow, tilt slightly back, and there he is. His belt is the most spectacular sight in the night sky, his sword points down towards me.

Canis major, the Great Dog follows the hunter, close at his heels. Sirius is its heart, fiercely glowing like only the heart of a true and loyal companion can. He lights the bottom window pane.

With all the leaves gone from the trees, the stars tell me a story each clear night. I feel safe, protected by dog and hunter. The bow is drawn, he is running; running and ready to shoot at whatever ill will is out there against me. For good measure, his dog will also attack and charge at the troubles.

I am reminded of the psalm, "thy rod and thy staff they comfort me," only this is your sword and your arrows defend me. I begin to drift off, the stars continue their transit. And in the morning I look forward to my nightly discussions with him.

Hello, Orion. Nice to see you again. Thank you.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Sleepies, Job Interviews, and Online Job Forms

EDIT: Please see end of entry for update


I'm a little on the cranky side this morning. I stayed up excessively late, even though I didn't need to. I was enjoying watching the Patriots trounce the Jets by a score of 480 to negative 50 (seriously, that is what it seemed like) and yabbering with people on facebook who were arguing over the unsportsmanlike conduct of "running up the score" that the Pats were doing.

Look, if the Jesters' defense had tried to stop them once in a while, the score would not have been "run up." The Pats were doing their job. The Jets obviously forgot how to do theirs.

Anyway, somewhere north of 2am I went to bed, Doug's snoring drove me out. I went into the study to the newly cleared off futon (there was so much nonsense on the futon a few weeks ago that I finally cleared it off and made it tidy and nice again), turned on the online radio to listen to Coast to Coast AM with George Noory, and then couldn't fall asleep because he had some crazy guy on talking about all kinds of crazy stuff.

Fast forward to 6am when Geoff came in here to do his morning routine of email, facebook and finishing homework (scared the heck out of him with my being here). I showed him how to turn off the internet radio, and I had to go to the bathroom but Doug was in the upstairs one, so Geoff followed me downstairs asking twenty questions.
  • Why are you on the futon?
  • Why were you listening to the radio?
  • Did you know that listening to the radio prevents you from falling asleep because your brain is paying attention to the broadcast?
  • Why didn't you just lay in your bed and stare at the ceiling and count down the hours until miserable morning?
  • Will you make me scrambled eggs?

Sure, I'll make you scrambled eggs if you stop asking me questions.

Two nicely scrambled eggs and two slices of perfectly toasted toast for him later and I was back up in bed, curled up with Brodie, and Doug came in the bedroom to get ready for work. I was up, I was functioning. I was getting stuff done. I was scrambling eggs, for crying out loud. So why did I go back to bed? I slept until 10.

Once the house is empty of Men, I sleep. I sleep so deeply, so wonderfully. It is like a spell is cast on the house and this princess within. Fatty McFatty Doggies get up on the bed with me, and I just go somewhere else. This is when I get my sleep. And sometimes I sleep through alarms and phones. I sleep... and then I wake up mad at myself for pissing away the day.

Up with a cup of lukewarm coffee, I check my email and see that I promised my neighbor I'd drive her son to his orthodontist appointment this afternoon. I think I promised about three weeks ago to do this, so I'm glad she emailed me a preemptive thanks for the task (oops and whew). And then I remembered...

At the same time, I have job interview.

Luckily it is on the phone, but I'm supposed to be taking my neighbor to the dentist.

How cruddy do I look emailing the guy to ask him if we can move it up or back by about a half hour. Well I did. And he said he'll call me earlier.

Right now I do not have a great feeling about this prospect for some reason. I don't remember sending him my resume. It is at a big hospital in Boston, not the same one Doug currently works for or the one he used to work for (there are about six or seven "big" hospitals in Boston). I don't remember anything about the job description.

I seriously don't remember anything about this.

The initial email that I received asked if I was "still interested" which means they've been looking for a while, and I sent my resume out to them sometime quite a bit ago. Because I filled out an online form as a resume submission, I have no record of the date I sent it in. I went to their HR page and there is no "apply here for a job" option, which means they use some hiring firm, and God only knows what one it is.

I have about 30 different accounts with online HR resume rock tumblers.

Jobthis, Jobthat, JobCat, JobLemming.com, eHireme, eHireyou, ResumeKing, and the list goes on. Every company is different, every form is different, and I have no idea which agency they worked with to at least get me this far into their screening process. Which means, I can't check the date that I submitted for this position, and I don't have a job description either.

Back in the day (hardly) sending an email attachment with a word document of PDF file meant I had a paper trail. I thought about keeping a journal or log with dates, locations, job titles or something when I started sending out my resume, but that was incredibly short lived. The incredible zombifying act of sending out resumes into the ether over and over to the different agencies sucked the ambition right out of me. I send between three and ten a week into the silent, non-responsive abyss that filters out keywords and doesn't take anything else into consideration. I've had two job interviews... and this will be the third.

At this point, I am incredibly happy to have an interview, but the blurry miasma of online job applications makes me kind of feel like I'm going to wing and a prayer this interview. Either I will impress him enough with my honesty about my work experience and sparkling personality that they bring me in for an in-person interview or I'll filter myself out of the process. Or maybe they'll find me too casual and relaxed.

Fingers crossed that it is for the former. If nothing else, I'll schedule the interview so that I can meet Doug for lunch at the Beer Works again and have a nice afternoon in Boston.

I kind of sound like I'm not excited about this. I'd love a job. Honestly. My life would be so back to normal if I had one. I always am so much more "put together" and "organized" when I have a job that eats up my day. Because with countless empty hours in my day now, all I do is sleep, procrastinate, troll around facebook and get nothing done.

Thing is, the root of my issue is I do not know how I feel about working in Boston. If you had asked me a week ago, I would have no issues. But after what went down with Geoff at school on Thursday, I'm kind of reluctant. With both parents 30 miles away, constrained by the train schedules or traffic, it makes me nervous.

Doug pointed out that this was the first issue we've had since the END OF SIXTH GRADE with him. So we got all the way through that summer, through 7th grade, through the next summer, and now almost 1/3 the way through 8th grade. His track record has been perfect for such a long stretch of time. It isn't like when I was working in Salem or Marblehead and the phone would ring and I'd have to leave immediately. Luckily Gretchen understood my situation then, and I bet she'd be really proud of Geoff at this point after watching her employee walk out the door once or twice a week at lunchtime to go tend to her kid... That was a stressful time, but I think I handled it well because was 1/2 hour away by car and getting home was never a problem.

Working so far from home makes me nervous. Honestly.

Anyway... I am off to actually submit more resumes online for a little while. And I'm going to shower and fold laundry and wait for the phone call for the interview.

Wish me luck. Watch, by my not being too excited about this one (like I was for the two other job interviews I've had) this is the one that I'll be offered. I wonder if the universe works on that cosmic reverse psychology...

Edit: 5pm
Okay, so me feeling slightly unenthusiastic about this job was stupid. This is my job. I honestly believe I crushed the interview, that I am 99% of what they are looking for. I'm not going to start plotting out commuting routes, or figure out how much the T-pass and commuter rail are going to cost me, but I honestly seriously think that this job is mine.

From what it sounds like, it is made for me. A content management, web marketing position with Dreamweaver and Photoshop and a CMS that they don't expect me to be an expert on, working on a team that handholds/trains/edits/supports the departments and doctors and all the web initiatives. It's like the college job I used to have, only at a hospital. It's like when I worked at CMGi in the HR group, only in web marketing.

We were on the phone for an hour. I confessed to him that I didn't remember sending him my resume, and he told me my resume was in their system. I submitted it sometime in July or August. They started looking to hire, and then things came up that stopped the progress so he was using existing resumes in the system.

Honestly, I do not want to get my hopes up. Please stop me.

Friday, December 03, 2010

"Where ignorance is bliss, it is folly to be wise"

Geoff got in trouble at school on Thursday. It is kind of the thing I don't even want to talk about but should because by recording these things I have a memory of them. I kind of don't even want to think about them most of the time. Seeing as we've had more than a year of awesome from him, this was way over the top.

He was asked in his English class to think of another way to phrase the term "Where ignorance is bliss, it is folly to be wise." He reworded it to: "To be a retard is pleasurable. Brains are a burden."

I don't know if you have kids in the public school but the word "retarded" is the new "N"word. They aren't allowed to use the word, even in context. It is "banned" at his middle school.

It is banned in a lot of places.

It is an offensive word, I think, when used as a noun, directed at someone, as a slur. I think that he missed the point on "ignorance" which should have been maybe rethought of by him as "uneducated" or "uninformed."

But he used the word "retarded" and his English teacher corrected him. In front of the class, according to him. And he lost it.

He has this thing where he feels his "First Amendment Rights" are being "infringed" upon when people correct him, or try to get him to see things a different way. He felt that he didn't do anything wrong, and then started arguing with his teacher.

Eventually, it got to the point where he got verbally "violent." I think he threatened to burn the school down. He ended up in the assistant principal's office and was given the dreaded "Friday Detention."

I think he was most upset about being dressed down in front of his classmates. Not so much the first amendment thing. But the Dreaded Friday Detention had him in a complete froth.

The day I was having was wonderful -- my Girl C had asked me to help her mom with Quickbooks and data entry. We had an amazing day -- so much work got done. C's mom was rocking the house with getting stuff done. We were ruling the world. It was the best day ever. I deliberately had left my phone in the car so as not to be disturbed by anyone so we could totally focus on getting things done.

Of all the days to do so...

I got in the car at like 2:30, and had 10 voice mail messages and 26 missed calls from the school and my husband.

Oy.

Luckily, the school is on the way home so I got through to them and told them I was on my way to pick him up. They felt he was too upset to ride the bus. Yeah, he was.

Of all the days NOT to have my phone on... Anyway, I got there, sat with him, we talked, and talked, and I knew he was MORE upset about SOMETHING other than his "First Amendment Rights" being violated.

But he wouldn't say what it was. I thought maybe he was embarrassed in front of a girl. That happens. I had no idea that in his mind he thought for certain he was not going to get into the high school he is applying to.

And THAT was the crux of the situation.

Geoff has applied to a local high school where in his interview session they told him not to get into trouble. There he was, though -- with a Friday Detention. Now, he felt he'd screwed the pooch, that the detention was gonna ruin all of his chances of EVER getting into this school, so the drama in his heart was huge. He was DEVASTATED. Nothing was going to be right. He wouldn't be able to go to the school he wants to go to, life was ruined, may as well be a father raper, mother stabber, puppy kicker and just fuck it all to hell.

Our night at home on Thursday was rough. He was in such as state. I was actually afraid he'd hurt himself.

Doug said to him "Do you think I ever got detention?"

Geoff said "Oh, a man who has a wonderful career at a rehab hospital and is well respected in the community, no! You never ever got in trouble!"

Doug told him about Seventh Grade when he had two days of detention and lived to tell.

Geoff still doesn't believe him.

The drama went on and on all night. I think at one point I was trying to cook dinner and yelled at Geoff and he started crying. Actually crying. Honest to God crying. 13 year old boys don't cry. Crap.

And I held him, because I felt sorry and guilty and horrible for yelling at him.. Now, when you are about 5 inches shorter than your kid it is hard to hold him... but he let me hold him, and he cried and cried about how he "hated himself, and felt uncomfortable in the skin he was in."

It broke my heart to hear him say how much he felt he'd ruined his life, all over some words.

He did his detention on Friday. He survived. He tried to refuse a ride home, saying he was "unworthy" of my driving him anywhere. But that's not true. I'll drive him to the moon and back if he needs a ride. I love him so much. He tortures himself so hard, and for most kids who have a "who gives a damn" meter that doesn't even register, seeing him killing himself like this was horrible for me. He hasn't done this since the end of sixth grade.

It was a rough couple of days.

The root of the problem isn't the word "retarded," I don't think. It is the fact his teacher corrected him in front of others, and he lost it because of that. We had a HUGE talk about the phrase he was redefining, and how ignorance and retardation are totally different. How "retard" as a noun is totally unacceptable. How his "first amendment rights" are trumped by his responsibility to be a member of his community and be a better person.

The school counselor, who works very closely with Geoff, verified that a detention does not go on his "permanent record" so it does NOT ruin his chances of going to the high school he wants. During the day on Friday she informed him of this, and he seemed relieved.

I have asked for a meeting, to discuss NOT the use of the term "retarded" but to talk about how/when to correct Geoff. The fact that he went through all of seventh grade and the first half of eighth without a single hiccup means that someone dropped the ball with him and how to communicate with him.

And the fact that I am a good five inches shorter than him really hurts.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Okay, this is weird...

While reading my stats, I discovered about 50 people hit my blog today based on a search string for someone named Daniel Pinckney. When you look at google you can SEE my blog and a string of content that does not appear anywhere in the blog for today's date.

(a)musings

Wednesday, December 01, 2010 ..... today convicted Antwan Carter and Daniel Pinckney of first-degree murder for the 2007 gunshot murder of a college student ...
amusingsbnl.blogspot.com/

Um. Yeah.

There is nothing in my blog today about this topic. I have NO idea how google is returning me, with that content, as part of a search using specific names, dates, and words. I guess by me putting this IN here, now it'll really be part of an actual search and will return search content for the topic, but honestly, I have no details/entry/info on the convictions.

So as a community service, for those of you who may be frustrated by coming here and not finding what you're looking for, visit the following websites for news details on the conviction.

Boston Herald

Boston.com

Universal Hub

Not sure why it makes me angry, but it does

As many of you know, I work with my son's Boy Scout Troop. We are hosting a blood drive this Friday night, and I'm trying my best to get the word out to as many people as I know. One of the things we do not have is a local paper. Our newspaper, which covered the three towns in our school district, folded a year or so ago. Getting any attention from the two bigger local papers (Eagle Tribune and Newburyport News) is difficult. The papers have limited space, and because we're between the two markets, we basically are overlooked unless someone commits a major crime, murders someone, or a police officer lies about his detail reports or surfs porn on his computer during working hours.

We have a school district mailing list. I submit things to them for the Boy Scouts and they will not run the announcements. Because it is not "school related." But, we get all kinds of "community" announcements for things like the postponing of the Christmas Tree lighting ceremony the next town over due to wet weather.

I'm not sure how events involving boys who are IN THAT SCHOOL is not a school related activity. And I'm especially disappointed because this isn't a money request, a fund raising request, and it is actively tied into one of the nation's best known organizations, the Red Cross.

This situation frustrates me for a lot of reasons.

1. Our boys are part of the school district.
2. Our boys are doing SO MUCH for this community, and a lot of times I hear people say "I didn't know this was happening..." Well, the reason you didn't know it was happening is because we have no way of TELLING YOU!
3. We have no local newspaper. As mentioned above, the local papers only run stuff about our town when it is bad news.

Sigh.

It makes me want to start my own newspaper.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

To Do List for Monday; Thanksgiving 2010 update

1. Take Jess to the airport. Up at 5am, flight is at 7:10am.
2. Dryer repair dude due at house 8am-11am, sometime. Maybe squeeze in a nap there or incorporate number 4's content into this period of time.
3. Laundry after he finishes fixing the never ending beeping noise coming from the dryer.
4. Clean the house of the Thanksgiving aftermath. Oy.
5. Buy some small gifts for a boy in Keri's Orphanage in Kemerovo, and ship them. He is 12. And I have no idea what to get. Nothing with batteries though... it's hard to have a toy with batteries and then the batteries die and you have nothing. I'm thinking two mitts and a ball, a Red Sox t-shirt... and some personal items. Some arts supplies? Open to your suggestions.
6. Maybe squeeze in a nap, maybe?
7. Receive 2 cords of wood sometime after 3pm. Which means clear a space in the shed so that we can start putting said cords away.
8. Look for more work.
9. Call Bank of America and bitch them out for the 22nd consecutive month about my mortgage (I'll write an entry about that later as it is its own horror story).
10. Help Geoff solidify the choices he has for music for an English class project on Lois Lowry's "The Giver."
11. Grocery shop for me.
12. Grocery shop for fresh fruit and welcome home items for Keri and Nastia
13. Stop at Keri's house after the house sitters are cleared from the site, or before and hug them hard and thank them profusely for their time there. What a blessing... what an amazing blessing.
14. Pick Keri and Nas up at the airport in Boston. Flight arrives at like 11:50 pm.

Sounds like a full day. And it is. I won't drink too much wine tonight. Heh.

We had a great Thanksgiving time. Jess made her trip via Chinese bus from Pittsburgh to Boston and met Doug at his office on Wednesday. He met her in the city and took her too his desk, where she snoozed and watched the Zakim Bridge and events unfolding nearby. He actually had to work the full day, no getting out early for him. So they got home at about 6:30 pm. My parents had arrived here at 11am, cutting short my efforts to clean the house but I guess I wasn't going to make much more progress than I already had. Things were clean enough for dinner on Thanksgiving and that's all that mattered.

In the afternoon, Geoff and I did the leaf thing at the old lady's house, see a few entries back. We got home and then went out to dinner with my entire family and it was nice. We went to the local pub, which I'm fond of, and I love our waitress. After 14 years here I'm starting to feel a little bit "townie," which is kind of odd.

Thursday morning Doug got up at 8am and went down and started turkey prep. I got up at 10 and he went and took a nap. My son peeled potatoes and carrots, and we prepped all the rest of the foodstuffs. Dinner was served at 12:30, and all I have to say is thank God for the DVR because we paused the Pats Game (who timed this meal to be ready at 12:30 when there was a Patriots game on. Honestly! heh).

Dinner was over at 1pm.

Naps were had. More football was watched. All told, everyone was fat and happy.

Friday, Doug had to work. It being the last Friday of the month, he teaches a class to incoming new hires and they're required to attend. He had 6 people there. And he got home at 6:30pm as usual, so we ordered pizza since most everyone but Doug had leftover turkey dinner products for lunch.

Saturday I went down to Keri's to decorate (see last entry) and got home in time to make 26 pounds of baked ziti at Jess' request. She was having people over for a bonfire, and I figured I'd make dinner. People weren't supposed to be there until 6pm but at 4pm there were 6 kids at my dining table. Liz and Jess were baking cookies and pies, as usual. I whipped up the ziti and seriously, 26 pounds of it... and I think I have a small ziplock bag leftover. The kids devoured it (as did Grandma and Grampa, who were still here, Geoff and Doug...)

My son and my father went out to build the bonfire, and honestly people, why send a city boy (my dad) 0ut to do something like that. He put 2 pizza boxes under 10 pieces of wood and thought that would start. I had to undo and redo everything.

Honestly, I'm a better Boy Scout than most of the men I know. Jeeesh.

Bonfire cranking, kids start showing up. It was an open invite so there were a couple people there that I didn't expect but one brought snacks so kudos to him.

I had invited one of Jess' classmates from Pittsburgh to come. She lives about 1/2 hour north of here, and I thought that since she was so close she should come to the party... she did, and I'm glad. It was nice to meet someone that Jess is friends with at school. She is so sweet and gentle.... very kind.

The party went until about midnight and I finally had to kick everyone out. Well, kicking everyone out meant that I drove home 3 kids who didn't have a ride and everyone else took care of themselves.

All told, a good time.

My parents left before I was out of bed on Sunday, which confused me. But whatever... they had their agenda. We went to church without a very sleepy Jessica, and the day devolved into Football and Fondue.

I'm sad to take her to the airport tomorrow, not so much because I'll miss her because heck, she'll be home in three weeks, but because I'm not interested in getting out of bed at half past oh my God thirty.

That's the update guys. Hope you had a great Thanksgiving weekend too. No matter how you spent it.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Holiday Decorating for Keri

Today, we picked up the wreaths that Geoff sold through Boy Scouts. I bought an extra to take down to Keri's house. I'm meeting up with at least one person to decorate her house exterior this afternoon for the holidays.

Keri is going to be in transit shortly, returning to the USA. Initially I think she was planning on staying through December but she's cutting the trip short. There is no resolution on the Anya situation, and Nastia wants to come home.

She taught Shakespeare to high school students in Kemerovo and they did scenes in English. Their performance was documented by a Russian TV program, and then she took her students to the orphanage to have an American Thanksgiving with the kids. She is hoping that showing the kids who have families what it is like to be in the orphanage will awaken their spirits and hearts, and make them care more about what is happening with the little ones who aren't fortunate enough to have homes.

She accomplished a lot during her trip, unfortunately the main goal was to get Anya here. That most likely won't ever happen at this point. Hope isn't entirely lost, but I think the realism that the situation is not going to have the outcome she wants is sinking in.

My heart breaks.

In the meantime, there is this trip, and her return home, and her house will be hopefully decked out nicely for her and for Nastia to come home to.

Here is a link to the Russian TV program, and even if you're like me and don't speak any Russian, you can still watch and enjoy the images. Give it a little while to load -- it took forever on my PC and mine is pretty fast.

So I'm off -- to decorate the home of a lady who decorates hearts. I hope that some of the kids here show up to help. I don't want to do this alone.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

No Kitteh Today...

This afternoon I took Geoff over to do the cleanup at the house mentioned in yesterday's entry. Only one other boy showed up, a much younger Scout. Geoff has expressed to me repeatedly that he doesn't like this boy, that he's "annoying" and "acts like a baby all the time." I repeatedly remind him that he was once in sixth grade, and was equally annoying to older Scouts, and that right now he needs to do his best and be a good role model for the younger boy.

It turned out to be a lot of fun. We were there for two hours, barely made a dent in the leaves, even though I swear the boys hauled 890 trash barrel fulls of leaves down to the creek out back.

Geoff and the other boy got along great, there was a lot of laughter. The younger boy thinks Geoff is a riot, which he is... at times. And so with an individual audience Geoff could put on a show AND get work done. We had a great time.

When we had done all that I could tolerate, I suggested we go for hot cocoa at our local coffee shoppe. I didn't have my wallet and was going to go home but Geoff said "I have money." I had paid him his allowance earlier in the day, so he had plenty of cash on hand.

He bought me and his fellow Scout hot cocoa, and he and the boy had donuts and cupcakes. On Geoff's dime.

All told, it was a great day. The only thing missing was our kitty friend. The boys wanted to see him... so all three of us were disappointed that he wasn't there.

I still left a can of cat food on the step.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Cat Whisperer

"Sometimes, it's a hard world for small things."
--Raising Arizona

I spent this afternoon with a cat.

Someone from the town contacted our Scout troop to see if we could help with some yard work. Seems an elderly woman has gone into the hospital, shehas no relatives living nearby and the town felt that while she was away that her yard should be tidied up. There is a lot of stuff for her to trip over. And the leaves need removed. They thought of us, and I was dispatched to go assess what the project would be like.

I drove to the house after having lunch with my friend Janet. It is an old colonial farm house with a barn, and it is in disrepair. I feel awful for the woman who lives there, it is obvious she needs a lot more than a leaf raking. The yard is leafy for sure, but nothing that some sturdy Scouts can't handle. I walked around the house, figured out where we will be depositing the leaves (there is a large stick pile down by the creek in the back so we'll head that way with our dumpings...) and when I came back around I saw him.

A little white, black and grey kitty, curled up on a pile of leaves outside the back door. He lifted his head and looked at me and meowed.

"Hello," I said to him. "Are you locked out? It's probably a good thing that you're outside instead of inside..." I squatted down low. He meowed at me a few times, stood up and arched his back in a stretch.

"Come and see me, kitty," I called to him, and he did. He came over, meowing and I offered him my hand. He then walked around me a few times, sniffing, meowing. I answered his meows with "I know," and "I heard that," and "Oh, yeah. Totally." I patted his head and he arched his back to me. He rubbed his face on my knee, my ankles, my hand. Giving me his scent.

He laid down on his side, tail flicking leaves about, and showed me his belly. Now, with a dog, I would take that as an invitation to scratch that belly, but cats (in my experience) usually end up biting me. So I talked to him for a while, walked around some more. He followed me, meowing and rubbing against me. He ran ahead, turned and waited. He walked behind. He meowed. I answered.

I then began to feel very badly for him. I mean, if his owner is in the hospital, who is taking care of him? The barn door was chained shut but someone had shoved the bottom of it open a bit, and there was a metal pan of water in there, but no food. It appeared he had shelter at night and from the weather, so that was good. But there was no sign of food anywhere.

The house across the street was beautifully maintained, and had two cars in the driveway. I figured I'd go ask them if they knew anything about the cat. The woman who answered the door was very sweet. She told me that this cat was the last of the neighborhood strays, that in the past few weeks coyotes were definitely killing the cats off. Over the summer there had been quite a few around, but this was the last one.

She told me that the little old lady across the way would come out and feed all the cats, putting tins of food on paper plates. I told her that I was relieved to hear that, and said that if he WAS her cat I would take him up to my vet and have her house him (I'd pay her something if I could) until the woman was out of the hospital. She assured me that he was indeed not necessarily the woman's cat.

"She lost her cat a while ago," the woman said. "It was at that point I saw her start to deteriorate... she's gone downhill quickly these past few months... all because of losing her cat."

I told her that the boys would be over to do yard work tomorrow, and she told me that the woman is very particular about these branches that she puts along the edge of her driveway. I'd noticed the branches all lined up, not really organized or tidy. I figured they had broken off the trees and was going to take them for my wood stove. I'm glad the woman told me because if the lady is that particular... well! I'll make sure it looks good and the boys do not get rid of the branches. I told her that we were just going to rake, tidy up, and we'll add fixing the edging to our tasks.

The woman and I said goodbye and I walked to my car. Instead of going home, I drove to the market. I picked up a few cans of cat food. I went back to the house.

Pulling into the driveway, I noticed he wasn't where I left him and he hadn't gone back to his leafy bed. I called out and he answered. Meow.

He was on the roof.

Yes. The roof. All the way the hell up on the roof.

"What the heck are you doing up there?" I asked him. "How'd you manage that? Come on down. I have some food for you, silly." He meowed to me and paced back and forth, trying to figure out the best way to me.

He got to a smaller roof by the barn but couldn't quite get down. It was amusing to watch him. "You got UP there, so I presume you've done it before and know how to get down... so how are you going to do it?" He meowed and meowed and paced. I honestly couldn't figure out how he was going to get down. I found a plastic yard chair on the side porch, and stood on it, reaching up to him, but he was just out of my reach. Not wanting to break my neck, I got off the chair, held it over my head against the side of the house.

Right about then I started laughing at myself. I mean honestly. I'm holding a chair up to the side of a house for a CAT to jump down into and get off a roof. What must I have looked like to the neighbors if they looked out at me just then. A silly fat lady with a chair over her head with a cat dangling into it.

He jumped into the chair, and I laughed harder. I lowered him down and called him silly. He jumped off the chair and walked around me in circles. I took out a tin of cat food and set it out for him. He wanted to be petted more than he wanted to eat, initially. He sniffed the food, turned back to me and meowed and walked around me. His purring was powerful. I love when cats purr, so I scratched his head and told him to eat.

Getting back to the food he licked it a little and then began to devour it. I patted him, scratched his back, and the purr was fired up.

And I started to cry.

He was about halfway through the tin when I got up to go. I figured that he was fine for the night, and I'll be back tomorrow with the Scouts so hopefully he won't be too freaked out by the invasion. I'm hoping it is an invasion and not just Geoff and me.

It is indeed a hard world for small things. I know coyotes need to eat. I just wish it was chipmunks and squirrels instead of cats that purr and call to me. Wild things that are wild and meant to be food for the hunters.

And it is a hard world for little old ladies. I think of this woman in the hospital, I don't even know her name at all. I told the woman across the street that I didn't need to know her name. It isn't about knowing her name or anything.... I just think of her and this old house that she lives in and it is probably a mess inside, and how does she live? Is she warm enough at night? Some of the window panes were busted, there are obvious problems with the fascia boards and the roof. Does it leak in when it rains? What if she is so sick she doesn't come home? What happens to her life and her stuff?

What happens to the cat? I figure eventually he'll walk over to someone else's house, but I'm sure he's gotten used to the relationship he has with this lady.

I just don't know.

So tomorrow, think of us as we're raking. Think of the little old lady whatever her name is and her ailment is. Pray for her that she can come home and feed her cat. And that we don't make her mad by doing something to the yard that she doesn't like.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The things we have done, and the things we have left undone

One of my favorite things about being an Episcopalian, when I was one, is general confession in the morning prayer in the Book of Common Prayer. My favorite line is in bold:
ALMIGHTY and most merciful Father; We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us. But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare thou those, O God, who confess their faults. Restore thou those who are penitent; According to thy promises declared unto mankind In Christ Jesus our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake; That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of thy holy Name. Amen.
Recognizing that not only do we DO things that are bad, we DON'T do the things we are supposed to do or don't do GOOD things. People always repent or are apologetic for the sins they commit, not the omissions they make.

I've been lazy. I've let a lot of things slide and ignored a lot of things. My daughter is on her way home and my parents are coming to visit. Instead of preparing a friendly, nice, clean, homey house for them... the place is a pig sty.

Sins of omission. Sins of laziness. Sins of procrastination.

I now have about 24 hours to fix 100 hours worth of stuff. Two bathrooms to clean, dining room, kitchen, livingroom to tidy. Pies to bake, cookies to make.

We always have a nice, laid back thanksgiving, but I kind of feel like it is because the house is clean prior to the arrival of guests. This year, not so much.

I got a number of things done today. I had to make an orthodontist appointment for Geoff (his canine teeth are coming in and are ABOVE all his other teeth, which is hysterical...) I had to order wood, because we're getting dangerously low. I needed to grocery shop, for this week and for thanksgiving. Dishes? All of them need washed. Bills to pay? Yeah. Go to the bank and put money in Jess' debit account so she can get home? Knew I had to do it 2 weeks ago, finally went today and did it.

Back when I was younger, running headlong to a deadline inspired me to action. Now? I go to bed.

That told, I'm pleased with what I managed to get done today. I have more to accomplish. And I will go do it.

And when I pray for forgiveness, knowing that the things I've left undone will be smaller than they were at the beginning of the day today, it'll feel good.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

How Ed Robertson Made Me Cry. BNL @ Symphony Hall, Springfield MA 11/19

My birthday was Friday, and I turned 44. We had nothing big planned, nothing even a little bit interesting. But it turned out to be a wonderful birthday. Here is the tale..

I was supposed to have coffee with my friend Janet. Doug had spent the night at a sleep study and I thought for certain I'd be fast asleep with no one in the bed with me who was snoring and keeping me awake.

It wasn't so -- I still was awake until 3am, and ended up canceling coffee with Janet via email. Doug called me on his way to work at 7am and told me about the sleep study. He said that he has sleep apnea, and they will be recommending a CPAP machine for him. He said that it was the best night's sleep he's had in a long time. It was marred only by an initial vasovagal panic response when they put the mask on him in the middle of the night. They woke him up, he was groggy and disoriented, so the initial masking didn't go well. Once he got settled (thank goodness he was already in bed laying down... otherwise he would have dropped like a stone) he slept wonderfully. He said he honestly has not felt better in months.

He wanted me to come to Boston and have lunch with him, I agreed and went back to sleep until 11am. We had a great lunch at the Boston Beer Works, and walked around the area where he works, looking at the scenery and the water and the Zakim Bridge. It was a beautiful day for walking around, and luckily Doug's boss was cool with him being gone for over an hour. It isn't like I'm all down there every day making him show me around his work neighborhood and keeping him from getting things done. And it was my birthday. So she was cool.

I then made my way to Springfield.

To see Barenaked Ladies.

Now, many of you know this was not the first time I shared a date with The Ladies as a birthday event. Nine years ago I had one of the best birthday weekends ever, as evidenced by this entry from back in the day. Maine, Hydes, Portland, BNL and a metor shower outside in sleeping bags. A truly amazing and memorable night that wasy.

But that night was the first time I saw Barenaked Ladies live in concert, and my seats were exceptionally bad. After the show, I immediately joined the fan club to get better pre-sale seat options and have never been disappointed with my seats (except for when they played Mohegan Sun, where the fan club seats are in the Triple Z row on the floor).

I have, due to being unemployed, eschewed buying concert tickets for a quite a while. I have had the chance to see Guster and Kings of Leon and many others, but have made financial decisions to benefit the family and not my music listening pleasure. I got phone calls with phone love from other friends at many shows. I lived vicariously through their photos and videos and Facebook status updates.

One of my friends, Abbey, who I met through the BNL discussion board and in person at a show (we think it was a Manchester NH show in maybe 2004?) offered me a ticket to go see the band and told me I didn't have to pay her back for it, because the show was on my birthday.

Well who could say no to such kindness?

I left Boston and cruised to Springfield, got to our meeting spot at the Basketball Hall Of Fame, which she figured would be a good safe place to leave my car (so we would not both have to pay for parking) and to have dinner before the show. I was there very early and took some cool pictures, just hanging around and scoping out the place. They were setting up for a corporate event, so the hall was not open, per se, but no one stopped me from coming in and looking around. I burned an hour checking out the displays and thinking of friends who would enjoy a visit to this spot almost as much as I enjoyed a visit to the Football Hall of Fame a few years back.

Abbey and I had dinner and wonderful conversation. It has been a while since we've seen each other. I think the last time was Guster at the Opera House in Boston, in April of 2007.

We made our way to the show, and the seats, as I mentioned, were great. As we were sitting there, the couple who were to sit next to us showed up.

"We're here! We made it!" said the dude. He stuck out his hand and had this big goofy grin on his face. His lady friend was laughing and smacked him with the back of her hand on his chest.

"I'm so relieved! I was afraid they'd start without you! So glad you're here!" I answered.

They laughed their asses off and it became apparent that these were THE people we were meant to sit with tonight.

They introduced themselves as Eric and DeAnne. Eric lives in Connecticut and she lives in one of the Carolinas, I forget... Long distance relationship that is held together by traveling to see shows together in different markets. Lots of jokes, and lots of chatting about life, we spent the time before the opening act talking about our expectations for the night.

We chatted about BNL, the new album, the tour thus far. They compared experiences with Abbey on the Ships & Dips cruises, and they were on one together so they talked about all sorts of BNL cruise stuff. Both Abbey and they had seen the show at Mohegan Sun recently and neither of them were impressed. They said Ed sounded haggard, things sounded slow and unprofessional. She wondered if they weren't all drunk or hungover from a night of gambling and ridiculousness.

I only hoped that the show wasn't going to suck, based on what they were saying.

By the way -- the photo above was taken during "Million Dollars" when they turn the lights onto the audience. Eric wanted me to catch them on his iPhone but I told him I'd do one better... but he had to stand perfectly STILL. Took me four or five tries to get it, this is the best shot. My only complaint is the shadow across her right eye, but all told... they're stinkin' adorable.

Back to the show.

I will go on record and say I'm normally not a huge fan of opening acts. Not knowing any of their songs (usually) I find I'm sitting there critiquing them and sometimes I just get bored of rock star wannabe antics. Lead singer chicks who change guitars on every song but only play 2 chords and stick their arms up in the air... yawn.

The opener for this show was a little Washington DC/Philly based trio called Jukebox the Ghost. Pretty much the silliest name since Toad the Wet Sprocket, or even Barenaked Ladies, these guys walked gently out onto the stage lookin' all hipster cool, introduced themselves, and launched into a spectacular display of high-energy piano, enthusiastic drumming, great guitar work and tremendous vocals.

It was almost like Ben Folds had a baby with the All-American Rejects or something. Tight, hot piano with crazy good pop hooks. The guitarist and keyboard player share lead singing duties, and they harmonize beautifully. They didn't banter a lot, or talk politics or environment or how they wrote this song or that song. They shared an inside joke or two, and just ripped into songs with playful fury. Several members of the audience were already familiar with them, probably from other shows on this tour, and so they cheered along and did important clapping things in the middle of songs where one would clap along with the rhythm of the interlude.

Newbies to their show caught on quickly (like me) and did the clappy thing too.

Pretty much by the song "Empire," I was sold on them. After their set they were out in the lobby at the merchandise table and I found the guitarist, stuck my hand out and thanked him. I confessed that I usually don't like opening acts but they ruined my cynicism and I was a sworn fan. He found that rather joyful. I got a hug. I hope they're hearing that all over the country.


BNL came out on stage and this being my first time seeing them as a foursome, I hurt a little bit inside not seeing Steve. Back in the good old days fans would say "I'm sitting on Ed side" or "My tickets are Steve side."

This time, it was Ed center... frontman. Rock star. Natural.

I don't have a setlist. The show ranged through lots of Ed songs like "Who Needs Sleep," and Steve songs like "Brian Wilson" and "Old Apartment," both of which Ed handled beautifully. "Million Dollars" and "One Week" worked fine with Kevin and Ed. There were interstitial banter rap bits, Tyler Stewart did an unbelievably high energy "Alcohol" and was drop dead funny (Ed played drums and Jukebox the Ghost came out on stage and joined them). They even played "Pollywog in a Bog" off their kids' album, and the theme to "Big Bang Theory," which blew the roof off the joint (did you know that was a BNL song? Yeah.)

They did at least three songs from the new album. I bought the new album when it came out and have listened to it twice. Long time readers and good friends will probably drop their teeth when they hear me say this, but, I hate the album. Over produced, muddy, the songs just lack conviction and energy. Even the radio release (note, I didn't say "hit" because it sure wasn't) of "You Run Away" just sounds dull and repetitive. Kevin sings on a song that I could like if it was an Ed vocal (Northern Lights). I'm a fan of Kevin Hearn, when he is not singing. I think his voice is annoying and baby like... it really gets on my nerves after two songs.

Performed live, though, the songs were great. This song, which you can watch the video of, "Every Subway Car" was outstanding... truly lovely. No female backup vocal, just Ed and a little harmony from Jim and Kevin and it was perfect.

At the beginning of the show, Eric and DeAnne asked what we thought the opener and closer would be. I thought they'd open with Old Apartment (it was in the first 5 songs), and Eric called it with Who Needs Sleep. I told them that I would love to hear them close with "When I Fall." After Tyler's drunk-acting high shenanigans performance on "Alcohol," I figured there was no way they would end with something so soft. They took it down a notch with "What a Letdown," and then I saw Ed's acoustic being brought out on stage for the third and final.

DeAnne said to me "let's yell it." I hate when people yell stuff out that they want to hear at concerts, but she and I both knew that guitar meant very few things...

So together we screamed out the song we wanted to hear, Ed smiled, and played the opening chords.

If you don't know the song, here is Ed singing it in his bathroom. Yes. In his bathroom. He sat over the course of several days and recorded a ton of songs in his newly refinished bathroom. If you don't know BNL, go through the videos in the Bathroom Sessions, and just watch how he plays, and listen to some of the songs. They're lovely, stripped down, simple and God is Ed just wonderful.

I have heard it live a few times, but this was my birthday and it is like that man played it just for me as a gift. I love that song so much, a little poetic sketch about a suicidally minded window washer. And I cried. I actually stood there and I cried. Like a big fat doofus, I just cried. I was so thankful to Abbey for offering me this ticket, I was so happy that Eric and DeAnne were fun to be with and into the show. I was relieved that they didn't disappoint me horribly because in my heart of hearts I was afraid. BNL without Steve? Yeah. It exists. They are doing fine, people. The nearly sold out show in this beautiful hall in Springfield is evidence of that. Seeing a mess of discussion board people out down front, hearing Ed talk about the next Ships & Dips cruise (and Jukebox the Ghost will be on it with them and Guster and others)... alive and well. Alive and well.

I drove home that night, got in at 1am when I started writing this entry. The entire weekend has passed, it is now 2am on Monday morning and I'm finally starting to feel the sleepies creeping up, if the typos are any indication.

There are other tales to tell, but for now, that's the birthday weekend wrap-up. All the photos can be found in the Flickr set. Enjoy.