Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Financial Crisis Calls For Funk

Enjoy some Nina Simone instead of fretting over your 401k. Trust me. You'll feel much better.

Edited to add words of wisdom from John McCain: "The first thing I would do is say, 'Let's not call it a bailout. Let's call it a rescue," McCain told CNN. Because a change of vocabulary always works. Actually, I like bailout better, because it evokes images of us all in the same boat, working to save ourselves, where a rescue makes me think of a helpless person sitting on their roof in the middle of a flood, waiting for help.

Edited to add some more:

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said "doing nothing is not an option." Duh. At least he did not say "Failure is not an option." Because failure is always an option.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Are You Ready For The Apocalypse?

If Mel Gibson has taught us anything, it's that it's a dog eat dog world out there and we're all wearing Milkbone boxer shorts. There's this impending panic vibe permeating the atmosphere. I log on to my Yahoo email account, and where I used to get updates on Britney Spears and cat rescue stories, I'm now getting faced with dire warnings from very stern looking politicians. It's the topic du jour. It's so widespread, that it's even starting to worry the unflappable Coaster Punchman, and that just won't do.

I say we get ready for the inevitable. Taking my cues from Hollywood's portrayal of life after society crashes and burns, I will provide you with a list of things you will need once the shit hits the fan:

  • Go ahead and start the paperwork now for that gun. Beat the rush, is what I always say. You're going to need that gun so you don't have to stock-pile food.

  • Buy lip balm in bulk. Post-apocalypts always have dry and chaffed lips, so prepare for it

  • Get an animal to transport you around, but not a horse. Make it a mule or a St. Bernard, something quirky to enhance your own image

  • Make notes now on what you'd like your post-apocalyptic community to be like. Chances are, no one will no what do, so if you have a plan, you can set it up the way you want it.

  • Start making up new words for old things. Like start calling water "life juice" and triscuits "flav-o-fibes."

  • It's possible the blog-o-sphere will collapse or you won't have internet access anymore, so it's important to find another way to express yourself. Try going old school with a journal or the town's water tower

  • Start looking at your possessions as currency. Unload the heavy things now (trade it for gold, or some other substance you think might be valuable after the crash, like Ramen Noodles) or set them aside to burn for heat this winter.

  • Memorize survival books so you can start a fire, bind a wound, recognize edible plants without the aid of a lighter, bandages or a waiter, respectively. Also practice doing these things ahead of time so you remove the ill effects of performance anxiety. You're going to want to be successful so you don't get killed by the ragtag group that's going to follow you around.

  • Start referring to yourself as your Blogger username. This is a time to reinvent yourself. If your username is the same as your real name, like say Grant Miller, come up with something else, like "Skinny McKnees."

  • Come up with a plan to overthrow tyranny that involves guerilla tactics and locals in loin cloths. If we're going to ctrl+alt+delete society, we need to be ready to take on the assholes who will try to bully themselves to to the top.

Those should keep you busy and away from the TV for a while. Let me know how they work out. Also, if you have any other ideas, I'd sure be glad to read them.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tailgate Party

Every month we have a themed luncheon at work. It's a time for us to recognize the birthdays for the month and break bread together. Once we had middle eastern food. Another time, it was healthy food. Some have been better than others, of course. We just got done with our big fall conference and things seem to be hitting equalibrium.

This month was to host a "Tailgate Party" luncheon, where we were to bring food you might have while tailgating for your favorite team. We were also sternly directed by the party coordinator to wear our favorite team's jersey. We even got to dress down for free, even though we had a client in the office.

I offered to bring my Sloppy Joe loaf, home made braided bread wrapped around Sloppy Joe mix. I was regretting this offer at about 9 p.m. last night when the bread was still rising. But it was worth it. I saved some leftover dough to carve the letters OSU out and decorate the top and it's in the spirit of the day. Just cut off a slice and carry it around while you mooch off everyone else.

Since having had my heart broken by the Browns when they left town in the dark of night on a stagecoach driven by Satan himself and led by the hounds of hell, I know longer give my heart to sports teams. Not that I'm bitter, I just got out of the habit of football. Besides, Doc's not a sports nut, so I'm spared donating any mental real estate to it. So, I struggled to find something to wear. I thought about just wearing whatever, but that passed when I found a Harvard t-shirt.

When I got settled in to my desk and turned around to greet people as they entered, I saw that almost everyone had a team jersey on. We had representatives for the Steelers, the Browns, the Buckeyes, the Sooners, Penn State, the Indians, the Yankees and even a CFL team. It was fun. We talked about our teams (Harvard plays football, don't they?) and had a good time.

About 10 a.m., they began plugging in the crock pots, which now sit right by our department. Before long, we were all turning our noses up at the scent of barbecued ham. It smelled wonderful. It reminded me of Christmas, because we traditionally have cocktail weenies in barbecue sauce cooking in the crock pot on Christmas Day. It made me feel happy. I just breathed it in and anticipated lunch.

When lunch came around, we mixed in together in the long conference room. Developers and analysts at the table with trainers and administrators. It was like the first Thanksgiving. We all laughed and ate and ate and lauged. Many people asked for my recipe (see below). At one point someone mentioned that it was probably time to head to the game, maybe after we toss the football around a little bit first.

We didn't, but we enjoyed the idea of it. We headed back to work. I was feeling such an esprit de corps, that I started razzing people who didn't wear a jersey with such pithy statements as, "Go, Abercrombie!"

At my old job, we'd have lunch out at a fancy corner of Cleveland. It was always remarkable, but never so comfortable. In the past I was all about Tah-da! About being "world-class" and a "destination place." Now, you can come to us or we'll come to you. Maybe we'll just talk on the phone. But when we're done, you're job will be easier and we will have shared something. And that's all I really want.

If I earn fame somehow, it will not really matter. I'll already have what I've been looking for: a place to make a difference, have a laugh and maybe think about tossing a football around.


Beef 'n' Bean Braid/Sloppy Joe Loaf
Retrieved from Taste of Home magazine

Prep: Recipe says: 30 min + Rising; I say: don't make any plans for your day (plan 2 hours for bread to rise)
Bake: 20 min

1 package of active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 egg
2 cups all purpose flour

Filler (I use sloppy joe):
1 pound of ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 can kidney beans (16 oz), rinsed and drained
2/3 cup water
2 tablespoons chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1-1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water
Add butter, sugar, salt, egg and 1-1/2 cups of flour
Beat until smooth
Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough
Turn onto floured surface
knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes
Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top
Cover and let rise in a warm place until double, about 1 hour
Prepare filling: brown ground beef, with onion and garlic salt, drain, stir in the beans, water and seasonings; bring to a boil; reduce heat; simmer uncovered for 5-10 minutes...or do whatever you need to do to prepare the meat filling of your choice
Back to the bread: Punch the dough down
Turn onto a lightly floured surface
Roll into a 16 in x 11 in rectangle
Transfer to a greased 15 in x 10 in cookie sheet
Spread beef mixture down center of dough (sprinkle with cheese, if you like that sort of thing)
On each long side, cut 1-in.-wide strips about 1/2 from filling
starting at one end, fold alternating strips at an angle across filling;
seal ends
Cover and let rise until doubled, 30 minutes
Brush egg over dough
Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown
Remove to a wire rack
Let stand for 5 minutes before slicing
Bon apetit!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

"I Want That In Writing," Doc Said

It was late, too late. We were in bed and Doc had a lot on his mind. He kept starting conversations just as I would start drifting off. He doesn't do this often, but every now and then he poses the most interesting questions. Like the one time he asked me if we had life insurance just as I was about to roll over and go to sleep. Scenes from the movie Double Indemnity immediately sprung to mind and I was instantly wary, wondering if he planned on bludgeoning me in my bed and making his way off to Tahiti with the settlement.

But getting back to the other night...

Doc had made a jibe about my earlier post and how I said "I was usually in charge in a relationship." He said, "You're in charge because I let you be in charge." Well, those are fighting words, such as they are in our house.

"What do you mean you let me be in charge?" I asked huffily. That is about as bad as letting me win at games.

"I let you make most of the decisions because we agree on everything, for the most part," he explained.

"How many times have I asked you your opinion before making a decision? A lot!"

"True," he admitted.

"I guess I didn't mean 'I'm in charge' in this relationship; I'm the one who usually takes action. We are both in charge...this is a partnership, right?"

"Right," he agreed.

There was a moment of silence and then he said, "Can I have that in writing?"

"You want me to blog about this, don't you."

"Would you mind?"

I don't mind.

Here let it be written:

We are neither of us in charge of the other in our marriage. I tend to make most of the decisions, but Doc has veto power. On the rare occasions when Doc makes the decision, I get the same rights.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Mint Sludge

I just ate an after dinner mint. I realize it's nowhere near dinner time, but I've been training a group of 30 plus people and I needed to refresh my mouth. I grabbed one of the powdered monstrosities pictured above and popped it. As soon as mint met saliva, it began to dissolve. Not instantly, like Cotton Candy, but rather like a sandcastle hit by a sudden rain storm. It lost it's structure, but not it's gritty texture. It lost the will to mint. So I was stuck with a mouth full of what felt and tasted like gritty toothpaste. Seriously? I wanted to gag.

So now, I'm in search of the more civilized peppermint. Wish me luck and pardon me if I don't kiss you right now.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Slumber Party Baptism

Our usually temperate and climactically neutral home town was hit by high winds yesterday. (Thanks, Ike!) I believe the gusts got up to about 50 mph, which will knock a person down, if not some tree limbs. It was strange to have all that wind and very little if any rain. We were doing OK until about 7:15 p.m. when the power went out. Doc was working, so the girls and I went over to Frank's to check and see if he and his son were ok. They were. They had decided to head over to John & Michelle's house to finish cooking and watch the Browns lose.

We were standing in the driveway, talking about our plans when we heard a large, crunching noise, like a giant eating a Cheeto. We turned in the direction of the noise in time to see a large limb from a tall tree crash down on Frank's picnic table.

"Well, we'd better be getting in the house," I said, turning to gather up the girls. But they were already gone, two blond streaks of lightning. I was still making my traditional, lingering, midwestern good-bye when I heard the giant reach for another Cheeto...right over my head. I myself became a streak of lightning to avoid getting hit by a tree myself.

Needless to say, the girls were totally freaked out. We got into the house and I asked them if they wanted to go to Grandma and Pop's house. They did and Riley immediately began packing a bag. I thought that was a little much. Surely the power would be back on soon and we could come home. My parents still had power, so at least we could go there and...I don't know what...maybe stop freaking out.

I gathered the essentials plus the loaves of bread that were ready to go in the oven and headed to the car. I loaded the loaves on the shelf behind the back seat and the teddy bear, blankie and other comforting goo-gahs in the front. The kids buckled themselves in and we were off. On our way out of the driveway, I saw our other neighbors, Wally & Ms. Snap out in their front yard. We checked in on them and they were ok. Ms. Snap said she'd call me when the power came back on; they were staying put. We pulled out of their driveway and headed down the street, only to be faced with low-dangling wires. I maneuvered my way around them after making a sudden stop, where my bread flew off the back shelf. Luckily, Riley caught the tray and put it back, so no harm done.

We got to Mom & Dad's and I went to call Doc at work. They didn't have power at the bakery either and he wasn't sure if he wanted to come to Mom & Dad's or not. He said he'd stop home first, regardless. That should have been my clue that he wasn't coming to meet us at my folks. After baking my breadand waiting a good half hour after he should have been home, I called and let the phone ring and ring and ring. Finally he picked up; he'd just gotten in the door. He was still non-committal about his plans, but he said he'd call me after he got himself situated.

I waited and waited. I tried calling and got no answer. I didn't know what to do. I had no clothes with me for work the next day and I didn't want to bring the kids back to a dark house. I needed to talk to Doc, so, I got back on the road, leaving the kids to watch Return of the Jedi with Pop. When I got home, I found Wally walking around my neighbor, Jerry's, front yard. Jerry's truck was blaring the Browns-Steelers game, but Jerry was nowhere to be found. It was weird and kind of surreal. The wind was blowing like crazy and Jimmy Donovan was telling us all about the game as if nothing strange was happening at all.

We wandered over to Franks and found Doc over there, watching a movie and having a beer. Oooh, I was ticked. Frank kept asking me to sit down and relax, but I couldn't even answer him. I finally got a word in edgewise and asked Doc to come back to the house and help me out for a minute. He had the flashlight and we made our way through the back yards into the garage. We stood there for a moment trying to figure out what to do. We were at an impasse. The kids were at my parents, Doc wasn't about to leave and I wanted everyone to be together.

It ended up that I was able to find some clothes and all my stuff to take over to Mom & Dad's. Doc wanted to be home in case a tree fell on the house and it caught on fire. I kind of thought that was exactly the situation wherein I wouldn't want to be anywhere near the house. But Doc's a post-apocalyptic man; he's ready for the end of the world. So we parted ways agreeing to disagree and I made my third trip out.

By the time I got back to my parents, I was wound so tight from stress and PMS that I could have chewed through nails. The girls where asleep and Pop was not far from it. My Grandma and cousins were still up though and asked if I wanted to play poker. Why not? But then Wendi saw the box of hair color I brought and asked if I would rather she color my hair for me.

"Yes," I said, "That would be great."

We got into our jammies and I mixed the solution and she donned the gloves. We got a chair and some towels and a comb. I sat down and she spent the next 20 minutes applying the hair color. I don't know why this is, but if someone brushes my hair for me, it flips my switch from "torqued" to "mellow" in about 3 seconds. I could feel all that weird stress that had blustered around me all day dwindle and die down.

We chatted about this and that as she applied the color and we waited for the timer to go off. She also offered to rinse the color out for me and I almost passed out from gratitude. We got the water at the right temperature and I knealt on a towel in the bathroom near the tub. I leaned forward over the edge of the tub and let her begin rinsing.

She talked about what a great color this would be on me and how much like her daughter's hair color it is. She also told me it would be "glamourous." I just listened and felt overwhelmed by her kindness. I felt blessed to have her washing away the gunk, both physical and metaphysical. I could feel the tension and white noise leave my head flow out through my hair follicles and run down the strands of "Roasted Coffee" hair, into the drain.

I felt renewed; baptized by hair color. I was forgiven for being a basket case all day; all the tension and strain was washed away. I was glad to be in my jammies talking with the girls about hair and the mystery of men's minds. We eventually decided to head to bed. I hugged Wendi and told her to be safe on the road. She and Carol were leaving to continue their "Faith Walk" around the perimiter of the US. They wouldn't be back until Christmas. I told her I'd miss her very much and thanked her for coloring my hair.

I went to bed feeling loved and blessed and fortunate for having a family of strong, resourceful people. I was reluctantly proud that Doc was able to brave out the storm in the dark and protect the homestead. I felt lucky to have a homebase in my parents' house where we could all meet and find our bearings. And I was certainly blessed by an impomptu and healing slumber party.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Omens of Snowmen

The other night, I was laying in bed and I happened to look out of the window that gives me a view of the street. I saw amber flashing lights whiz by and thought to myself, "There goes a snow plow..." I snuggled up in the blankets and looked down at the remote, preparing to start an episode of Murder, She Wrote and enjoy a long winter's nap. But then I stopped in my tracks. Wait a minute...it's September! That couldn't have been a snow plow. It must have been a tow truck.

This has been a great summer, but the above episode makes me feel like I must be ready for winter. I'm looking forward to a chill in the air and snow on the ground. This is a good thing. Since we moved away from Cleveland, where winter was sent priority overnight by Satan himself, my level of anxiety about winter has ratchetedd down quite a bit. Actually, as Genn6 pointed out in the comments a few posts ago, my stress level is greatly reduced since I left there. She's right, of course.

I'm in a house I can manage in a neighborhood I love. My gas bill is $81 a month, thanks to joining the budget payment plan. Our lives have really stablized since then. We have a little bit left over most pay checks. Not enough to put any away yet, but soon we should be able to. My new job rewards me with more than platitudes; I usually receive a quarterly bonus which is like trading in a camp shovel for a backhoe to help us dig out of debt. Maybe someday, we'll have a savings account.

I used to feel like I was in a race I couldn't win. Nothing I did at my job was good enough for the powers that be, who had ridiculously high expectations. I was living in a house I couldn't afford. My family were far away. I transitioned closer to my family and commuted 120 miles a day until I could find a local job, which I did...right before gas prices went plaid on us. The race finally started to seem winnable. I had broken through the wall, as Skyler's Dad might say.

I say I did all this, but I had help: namely Doc. He's soldiered through right along with me. My parents and Grandma are also invaluable elements of my success. They gave me the extra support we needed to keep moving in the form of free babysitting, free dinners and lots of good times. Betty was always there to listen to me whine and cry about how I was ready to throw in the towel. The Cap'n was there with a laugh and an example of how bad it could get (I'm sure he's glad about that). Genn6 is there to provide the no b-s analysis of football and music. I've also had all of you to share things with and to receive encouragement from.

I say to old Frosty: Bring it on. I'll be here with my peeps, digging out.

Friday, September 12, 2008

It's Been A While Since I Hit Blogthings...

What Your Bed Says About You

Outward appearances are a concern of yours, but not your primary concern. You try to take care of yourself and your home, but it's not an obsession.

You are an organized and disciplined person. You do the right thing because you want to, not because people expect you to.

You are very high maintenance. You like everything a certain way, and you're grumpy if things aren't the way you like them.

In relationships, you tend to kick back and let the other person be in charge.

You tend to be a dreamy, head in the clouds type of person. You think in terms of possibilities.

You are a total homebody. You are happiest when you're at home.

I'm not sure I'm "high maintainance;" you'd have to ask Doc. Also, I'm usually in charge. Other than that, I think this is spot on.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Honey, I'm Home!

Phew! It was a whirlwind trip to Boston but I made it. Doc greeted me with bells on and we shared a drink from the Growler I brought home from John Harvard's in Cambridge. Then I shooed him off to Tiki while I thought I'd join the kids. But they were asleep, so I squandered my evening playing Cake Mania in my jammies.

I get to go back to work tomorrow and see my buddies. You might think I would groan to have to go back to work so soon after getting home from such a journey, but I don't. I like the people I work with and I look forward to sharing my adventures and getting back into the swing of things.

Doc just got back and brought me some pumkin seeds that Mark harvested and baked from our crop of pumpkins. Mmm...they're yummy. You should stop by and have some when you get the chance and before they're all gone.

I missed you all and I'm glad to be home. Peace out and sweet dreams.

Monday, September 08, 2008

One If By Land, Two If By Sea

I'm off to Boston today and I'll be there 'til Wednesday. My colleague, Di and I will spend the evening in Cambridge tonight and then we'll spend the next two days in Hell's Own Training Room, according to my pal Jeff, who recently returned from a training trip at the same place. Apparently, it's right near the boiler and it's super hot.
But I don't care. I love Boston. I love it so much, I ought to marry it. I'm looking forward to taking lots of pictures and I hope to see something awesome to tell you all about. I'm so psyched about this trip, I didn't even have any anxiety dreams. In fact, I'm currently experiencing no pre-flight jitters or other fears. I'm sure that means I'm doomed, but I just can't seem to get any angst up about it.
The next time you hear from me, all be in Beantown.
Peace out!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Watches?!? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Watches!

It's been years since I've worn a watch, probably close to 10. Up until that point I wore them religiously. It started out with my first Swatch when I was in middle school. I wore it all the time. I wore it to bed; I wore it in the shower (it was waterproof). Later, as I grew out of the Swatch watches and into the Swiss Army watches, I no longer wore my watch in the shower, but I did wear it to bed. It had glow in the dark hands so I could see it when I woke up suddenly in the night. For some reason, I wake up panicked and I have to know what time it is. This might be because I wore a watch to bed for so many years. Or I may have worn a watch to bed because of this time disorienting panic disorder I have.

And then I met Doc. He never wore a watch. "I don't need one," he expained. "There's clocks everywhere and there's usually at least one person in the room who will have the time and give it to you when you ask." He was also constantly breaking them and found them confining in more ways than one. I don't think he likes having one physically on his arm, but moreso, he vehemently demands freedom from the tyranny of time. Those who know him are probably familiar with his infamous "Gimme twenty minutes" gambit. Doc's "twenty minutes" are as flexible as taffy. Wearing a watch would turn his taffy into rocks.

As much as I've groused about this time taffy, I've also tried to learn from it. I believe a lot of my depression stems from the sorrow that this too shall pass. Even while I was in the middle of having a good time, my eye would be on the clock and I would be fretting about the fact that this good time would be over soon. Of course I was not wise enough to remember that just because this good time is over, doesn't mean that all good times are over.

Watching Doc saunter through his days, his time his own inspired me. I took my watch off as an experiement to see if I could be more like him and less concerned with "when" and more involved with "how" and "why" and "who." And so far, so good. I'm still worried about the time. I look at the clock often. I check my cell phone to see what time it is. I even wake up in the middle of the night, search for the clock on the cable box, note the time and drift back off to sleep. However, now, when I'm in the middle of something and I feel the time fluttering away from me like a long ribbon, I just hold on to my hat and let go of the panic. Sometimes, I even give myself "Twenty Minutes" to do things.

To this day, my Swiss Army watch with glow in the dark hands and the date indicator, sits in my junk drawer, a relic. As you know, I recently cleaned out that drawer and the watch made the cut; it did not get pitched, but it's still classified as "junk." Doc saw it in there and noted, "There's your watch..."

"Yep," I said giving it a look and closing the drawer, thinking I would never were it or its kind again.

That is until the other day...

I was entering my codes in the My Coke Rewards program. We had about 350 points and I was shopping through the items, not confident that I would find anything good. And what should pop up in the list, but an American Idol watch!!! It silver with a black face and band. The American Idol logo is splashed across the middle and the hands glow in the dark. I immediately ordered it and applied all but one of my points to obtaining it.

The watch arrived yesterday and I immediatly removed it from the packaging and put it on. I was somewhat concerened that this act would bind me again in the shackles of time, like I had been in the past. But so far, so good. It's not much more than a bracelet in my mind. Also, it's a great conversation piece. And, it's totally awesome. I'll keep you posted on my time frame of mind.

Monday, September 01, 2008

A Day At The Fair

I love the fair. Everyone comes out of the woodwork and struts their stuff down the midway. There's mullets a plenty and many other oddities. It's also a place where I consider what life would be like on the county fair circuit. I always wonder what it would be like to spend the summer selling french fries and living in a small camper. I also wonder what it's like to work for the company that runs the rides. What are their wages? What are their processes? Do people get vacation or sick time? Is there a carny union? What is the supervisor responsible for? Is there a sense of community? Or is it more like prison labor? Do they stay at motels or do they have RV's too? Do the food vendors look down their noses at the ride operators?

In fact, I was so wrapped up in this train of thought as we waited in line so the girls could go down the giant slide that I wasn't really paying attention when it was their turn. There was this wonderful old lady in a cowboy hat (you can see her picture in the video below) who was handing out the pieces of burlap that you sit on when you ride the slide. I told Riley to go ahead and take one, but the old lady turned to me and said, "You carry them..."

She said this with so much authority that I took two pieces of burlap from her and followed my children up the narrow, open, steel staircase. It wasn't until I was about half way up that I realized that there was very little between me and the ground but air and steps made of foil. Panic rose to my ears as I had to concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other. How are my kids doing this with no fear? By the time I reached the top my chest was clenched with fear. The guy at the top gave me a friendly smile and said, "You OK, Mom?"

I lied and said I was. He spread the burlap sacks side by side. I sat on one with Lucy and Riley sat next to me, holding my hand. We slid down that slide and it was nice enough. The girls wanted to do it again. Over my dead body, was what I thought, but once they saw the line the decided it was time to move on to the mini coaster.