Thursday, December 27, 2012

When Snow Becomes Winter

I guess it's all part of the "Expectations versus Reality" dilemma, where what you were hoping for and what you get never quite match up. Sometimes it's better than you'd hoped. Sometimes it's worse than you'd hoped. But reality is almost never exactly what you were expecting.

That's kind of what it's like for me when I realize that it's still winter, even after Christmas is over.

I mean... I know that Christmas is really very early in the season. After all, in Minneapolis, the "snow season" can easily start in October and run until April. So December is really only about 1/3 of the way into that. And, of course, according to the calendar, winter only starts 4 days before Christmas, so no matter how you look at it, there are at least 3 good months of winter that follow the big holiday.

But aside from having a white Christmas, I have to admit that I really don't care for snow and cold. That's not to say that I loved last year's weather when we had basically no snow and the weather went from frigid to warm in a heartbeat. And, yes, I'll admit that if it's going to be frigid, I'd rather have a frigid, sunny, snow-covered January than a frigid, gloomy, grey January.

Still, while I was out walking the dog this evening it dawned on me that for the next three months (give or take) I'll be wearing heavy clothes and worrying about driving conditions. And, honestly, that made me start thinking about moving south. Not sure where, just south.

I suspect it's going to be a long, daydream-filled winter.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Christmas Crash

I think the pup has the right idea.

After two days of driving back and forth to Christopher's parents' house to celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, she's currently crashed out on a piled up afghan on the couch between Christopher and me.

It's been a busy couple of days for her. There were 45-minute car rides. There were multiple dogs to share the struggle for attention. There were walks with all sorts of strange smells.

There were extra - and highly exotic - foods, like a taste of real steak. There was a treat shaped like a holiday cupcake.

This morning, there was even a brand new Nylabone (which she didn't put down for almost an hour).

Tomorrow, with the return of the workweek, we'll all have to readjust. But, tonight, it's all about the pre-bedtime snooze on the couch.

Here's hoping that the dreams of the night after Christmas will be filled with as much potential as the dreams which came before them.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Eve Eve Tiz List

Torn between options of what to write about, I'm opting for a mishmash of things all put together into a numbered list about this time of year.

1) Some of the best Christmas specials were on TV back in the 1970s.

2) Some of the best Christmas commercials were also on TV back in the 1970s - just not as many commercials, since they've added more minutes of commercials per half hour since then.

3) I kinda wish that the 1970s shows would be shown with 1970s commercials.

4) I kinda wish people sent as many Christmas cards as they did in the '70s.

5) Christmas cookie recipes from the '70s are also really good.

6) I miss the days of sitting in the bedroom with my sister on Christmas Eve and wrapping all of our presents.

7) That was back in the '70s, too.

8) I wrapped gifts at the coffee table this year.

9) I don't drink coffee, but there's not really another name for the table that's between the couch and the TV.

10) One of my favorite things about this time of year is that people offer hot chocolate almost everywhere, and don't look at you funny if you don't drink coffee.

11) I survived a year in Paris not drinking coffee by drinking hot chocolate.

12) Hot chocolate in Paris is much better than hot chocolate most places in the States.

13) One of the other best things about this time of year is getting those Christmas cards and thinking about all of the people you know from all over the place.

14) I love looking at the stamps that come on international Christmas cards.

15) I try to put interesting combinations of stamps on the cards I send internationally, to repay the favor.

16) I found out, today, that I have to go out and do a little shopping tomorrow.

17) I'm not actually freaked out by shopping on Christmas Eve, because the places I'm going to be going are not in malls.

18) I've been known to go wander around in malls on Christmas Eve (years when I haven't been working retail), just to enjoy the energy of it all.

19) When I worked retail, Christmas Eve was one of my favorite days to work - there's an odd balance between the crazed "OHMIGOD why didn't you tell me it was Christmas!?" shoppers and the "oh, just one more thing, and I'm done" shoppers.

20) I prefer not working retail.

21) I would prefer to win the lottery and be independently wealthy so that I could do a lot of philanthropy and never have to work a "real" job ever again.

22) Santa seldom puts "independently wealthy" in stockings.

23) The Tooth Fairy also seldom puts that under pillows.

24) Santa does put his finger aside of his nose.

25) It took me until this year to know what that meant, even though I remember seeing it in one of those 1970s Christmas cartoons (which, yes, was based on the poem).

Friday, December 21, 2012

It's the Holiday Season!

I'm very happy to say that I am now on vacation.

Or... well... I'm on "long weekend."

But that's all I really need to get into the Holiday spirit.

Okay... That and a Happy Hour-inspired dinner out with Christopher and a blonde who shall remain nameless, followed by a drive home past all sorts of houses decorated with lights.

We've followed that with sitting on the couch with the pup and watching TV - specifically, tonight, a Nigella Lawson Christmas special which we recorded earlier this week.

The weekend will be a mix of slow and busy, and all too soon we'll be back to work on Wednesday.

But, tonight, it's all about the Holiday. So you'll forgive me if this post is kind of short.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas Conundrum

As I was driving home from work, today, I passed Thrivent Financial for Lutherans's* Nativity scene (which is set up in their lobby, and visible to the street), and it got me to thinking: Why are the Three Wise Men in the Nativity scene before Christmas?

I mean... When I was growing up, I seem to remember that the whole scene was laid out at the front of the church during Advent - all but the baby Jesus. Because the baby Jesus didn't make his appearance until Midnight Mass.***

So, okay, you don't have the babe in the manger until the 25th because that's when he showed up. (Lucky for all of us that it just happened to be on Christmas.)

But, then, why are the kings always there, already? I mean, you know, if you're paying attention, they didn't show up until Epiphany on January 6th. This is why we have the whole "Twelve Days of Christmas" rigmarole, after all. (Because, apparently, while Mary and Joseph and Jesus were hanging out with the shepherds who had been watching their flocks by night someone went out and started buying fowl in trees and milkmaids and drummerboys and all that stuff. Or maybe that came later.)

Anyway... If people are so particular about not having yon babe show up until the 25th, why do they always put the kings in there before the 6th? I mean, aside from the fact that most people take their Nativity scenes down on the 26th.

'Tis a puzzlement.

For those of you wondering how everyone might have reacted to the gifts those wise men brought, I offer you: Present Face by Garfunkel and Oates.

-----

*Yes, according to the Chicago Manual of Style, if the word has an "s" at the end but is not technically a plural - because "Thrivent Financial for Lutherans" as a phrase is singular - it is supposed to get that terminal s.**

**Yes, I know that getting a "terminal s" sounds painful.

***This is not the same as at home, where the baby Jesus often appeared earlier, but was then stolen by a cat, or had the cradle flipped over on his head so that it looked like he was wearing an oversized football helmet.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Stealing Wine

It wasn't my fault. I was perfectly happy with the safari finger puppets. And, when those were taken away, I was okay with the frog wine bottle opener.

Alright, so I hadn't been okay with the various kinds of office supplies I started out with. And then, when the frog wine bottle opener was taken, I was kind of almost okay with the sock monkey wine bottle cover which was accompanied by a Harlequin romance.

But then... well... the dice dropped into a double-two, and I figured - What the heck? - Why not steal the wine?

So I left with two bottles of wine.

And some leftover 6-out-of-7-layer salad (I'm just not a fan of celery), which made for a very nice dinner tonight.

Oh. Sorry. I seem to have forgotten to mention that today was our Work Holiday Potluck and White Elephant Gift Exchange.

That probably makes the rest of this make more sense, doesn't it?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

That "Now What?" Feeling

Do you ever have a day when you kind of feel like you're actually caught up on all that you need to do? Frankly, I have them so rarely that I can't remember the last time I had one.

This weekend has been really productive, though. Yesterday morning, I went to Cub (a grocery store), the bank, Trader Joe's, World Market, Staples, Christopher's bank, Target, Barnes & Noble, another Cub, and back home all before 10:30 in the morning. By one, I had almost all of my shipping done. By three, I had my presents wrapped and under the tree (all but one, which is still on its way).

Today, I finished up a few things around the house, as well as some more baking. Then I did a couple of hours' worth of freelancing. We walked the dog, I moved an ornament on the tree into a semi-blank area which had been bothering me, and then I took care of a few other items online.

It's Sunday evening. Nine days before Christmas. And I have nothing I really have to do. It's weird.

Okay. Sure. Tomorrow morning, on my way to work, I need to go back to the bank, fill my car, and go to the post office. But that's all tomorrow.

Tonight... Well... I might just see if Christopher wants to snuggle on the couch for a movie before any chaos steps in. Wish us luck.

Friday, December 14, 2012

A Moment of Silence, Please

Sometimes, when the world seems strange and scary, or horrific and unbelievable, the best we seem to be able to do is to take a deep breath, be thankful for what we can be thankful for, and allow the stillness of silence to take over.

In a world of constant contact, social networks, and electronic babble, we get so inundated with noise that we get used to it. We forget what it's like to have quiet.

But quiet is the sound that a hug makes. Quiet is the sound of a hand being held, a smile being exchanged, a tear being wiped away.

While I agree that conversations need to take place in the immediate future, tonight I'm hoping for a few moments of silence for all of us to pull together, breathe, hug those close to us, and believe that from tragedy there must come hope.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Calling All Good Souls

Hey, all you good souls out there - 

I thought I'd go for a direct plea to all of you fine folks (which some of you may have already heard of, if you clicked that link to Miz Tiz's "Tiz and Ass" blog, yesterday):

I'd love it if each of you might have an extra Christmas card and stamp and be able to send that extra card to Patsy Roberts. Her story is below. 

This kind of thing ranks up there with the "average people making dreams come true" that I mentioned in yesterday's post. 

Thanks, in advance, for your consideration. 

Robert

*Take a moment and write a card to 87-year-old PATSY ROBERTS.

This sweet matriarch of Rockaway Beach, New York, saved thousands of cards she had received over the decades with the hope of reading them in her final hours, and then Hurricane
 Sandy came along and ruined them. “I was saving them to read when my time came,” she said when her son-in-law told her the cards had been destroyed by the storm surge. “I was saving them so I could read the cards and remember the people I love.”

Out of his own deep love for Roberts, her son-in-law, CRISTIAN DOBLES, is seeking to soften the loss by asking any and everyone of good will to write her a holiday card. He has posted this message on Facebook:

“Patsy Roberts, my mother in law, is the sweetest, most caring human being I know. A true angel on earth ... It doesn’t matter whether you know her or not. Just say something beautiful to her. My goal is to get 1,000 cards to her for Christmas. Please help me with this."

Adding her voice to the plea, neighbor TARA STACKPOLE posted:

“Mrs. Roberts is the true matriarch of our block. She is the neighbor that prays for you, bakes for you, inquires about each family member, and always has a ready smile. At 87, she will put the neighbors' trashcans away on her way home from daily Mass. She is the epitome of what a ‘neighbor’ should be and this block and our family are so blessed to know her.”

Roberts has written thousands of cards herself to family and friends over the years—on birthdays and special occasions, or if she heard of some great success. Sometimes just because she was thinking of them.

Help Cristian and Tara and all of Patsy's neighbors in Rockaway give her a Merry Christmas. Send a card today to:

Patsy Roberts
130-04 Rockaway Beach Boulevard
Belle Harbor, New York 11694

And pass it on to any good souls you know. 
 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Two-Week-to-Christmas Tiz List

Did you realize that, today, it is just two weeks until Christmas? How fun is that?

In the spirit of following through on promises made, I am offering this Tiz List of things you may not know about me because Miz Tiz (whose blog is in the left-hand column over there) was nice enough to clarify something for me on her blog, today. Which makes me very happy, and - since it's so close to Christmas - I figured I should repay my debt before Santa decides I'm being a slacker and puts me on the naughty list.

So here are a few Holiday(-ish) things about me:

1) I'm a huge fan of the period leading up to Christmas - or other big events - because I like the anticipation of the joy of it all.

2) My stomach/neck/wholesetofinnerds gets tied up in knots due to some of the anticipation.

3) That second part I don't love.

4) In part because of the anticipatory joy, I'm really not good at receiving surprises.

5) Even if they're good surprises, I tend to prefer to have at least some advance warning - not a lot, but at least a little.

6) This makes me a VERY BAD person for dealing with things like practical jokes - Holiday related or otherwise.

7) I made Christopher check my amazon.com wishlist to make sure that something I wanted to buy on a super special cheap deal was still showing as unpurchased, because I didn't want to spoil the gift-getting experience.

8) I know that #7 seems contradictory with #4. I'm okay with that.

9) I think that a batch of Christmas cookies that makes fewer than 8 dozen cookies is a waste of time.

10) I buy a LOT of margarine, flour, sugar, vanilla, and red and green sugar this time of year.

11) I also buy those weird red and green candied cherries every couple of years.

12) There's very little margarine, flour, sugar, vanilla, and red and green sugar in the house by the time we get to January.

13) There are usually leftover red and green candied cherries in January, because they keep from year to year.

14) Christopher made me throw out my leftover red and green candied cherries last year. I complained, although they were probably about 4 years old.

15) I learned to print backwards by writing on my parents' drug store windows with "spray snow" when I was growing up.

16) I never figured out how to write backwards in cursive.

17) (As any of my students from back in my teaching days can attest) I tend to write on an upward slant when writing with spray snow on windows (or with chalk on a chalkboard).

18) I like eggnog, but only enough for one or two glasses per year - and it needs to have rum in it.

19) The older I get, the more I can understand why people put lots of festivals near the winter solstice. I totally get praying for the sun to come back.

20) I tend to do two countdowns every December. One is for Christmas, while the other countdown counts down to the solstice, because I want the days to get longer.

21) It makes me happy that average people go out of their ways to make other people's dreams come true at this time of year.

22) I wish people would do that more throughout the year.

23) I sometimes think we should move Christmas to June, so that it would be easier to travel.

24) I sometimes think I should just move somewhere warmer, so that it would be easier to travel - even in December.

25) I'd probably miss the snow, even so.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Caesarean Stormin'

Winter Storm Caesar came through last weekend. Yes, apparently the Weather Channel is now naming winter storms. Why? Because they feel that naming winter storms will result in people taking them more seriously. And will make them more memorable.

I am *not* making this up.

Here's my thought, though: How about they worry about getting the predictions right, first, and then worry about naming them?

You see, as late as on Saturday evening, the forecast was for about 4 to 6 inches of snow, wrapping up around noon on Sunday.

By noon on Sunday, we had about 6 inches of snow, but it showed no signs of stopping. By the time it wrapped up (around 8 o'clock on Sunday evening), we had closer to a foot of snow, as the temps were in the process of dropping. (Okay, credit where it's due: They got the temperature drop correct.)

I guess, if we actually had paid attention to the Weather Channel, we'd have known this was going to happen, though. After all, Caesar came, saw, and conquered.

Again.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Solid Saturday

I'm happy to say that the no-bake chocolate cookies from Thursday did, in fact, solidify by the time I got up on Friday morning.

And, since it's been a busy Saturday with my folks in town and the annual Arrow Awards (aka Brit Ad Awards) to go to, and a bunch of stuff I haven't actually even started doing, yet, that's about all I've got for tonight.

But at least the cookies hardened.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Thursday(-ish) Thoughts

How in the heck did the evening get so far away from me? Oh, right. Christmas prep before my folks get into town tomorrow afternoon for the weekend. There were cookies to be made, packages to wrap, and things to dust. Dinner ended up being sometime around 8, and I turned on my computer for the first time this evening at about 11:45. So I'm still claiming this as a Thursday evening post.

And, with that in mind, here are five golden questions for you to ponder which have been bugging me, lately (if you have answers, please let me know, because I really do wonder about these things):

1) Why are busses so tall? Is there a reason they have to be that way? It's not like people riding on city busses are trying to sightsee, so what's the reason they all are tall enough to block the rest of us from seeing around them in traffic?

2) Why are the colors of Christmas red and green, while Hanukkah is silver and blue?

3) Whatever happened to the Christmas tradition of telling ghost stories on Christmas Eve? I mean... That's why "A Christmas Carol" came into being. And without that, "The Woman in Black" would have to have a completely different opening speech (a few of you will know exactly what I'm talking about, while the rest of you are probably thinking I should have stopped after the Christmas Carol comment).

4) Why did the Christmas tradition of telling ghost stories on Christmas Eve ever start? And have you ever heard of Krumpusnacht? Seriously - Google that and check out the pictures of "Krumpus" who used to take care of all the bad little boys and girls while St. Nicholas was taking care of all the good little boys and girls. I'll take a lump of coal in my stocking any day instead of having to worry that that dude is going to show up some dark winter's night.

5) Why is it that weather and the barometric pressure can play such havoc with the preparation of some foods? I'm assuming it has to do with the temperatures at which things boil, but if the no-bake cookies that I have on the table don't set up by morning all because there may or may not be some weather moving in, I'm going to be pissed.

And, with that, I seem to have hit the point in the evening when my eyes start to burn and itch for no apparent reason, so I'm heading for bed. Assuming, of course, that I can find some visions of sugarplums to chase Krumpus out of my head.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Ghosts of Positions Past

Let's see, I moved into my new position at work in... umm... September of 2011, I think.

That means that I have spent the past 15 months doing my best to remove myself from my position as a printing coordinator.

Yes, during that time I had to train my replacement. And, more recently, I had to help her train her new assistant. Who is now switching jobs with someone else, so I'm also helping that person learn the ropes. I still know a lot more about that part of our company than I really need to.

But, even so, I've been mostly removed from all of that for the past 15 months.

Take a moment and pretend that I just walked up to you and said "What did you do with that carton of eggs I gave you in April of 2011?"

You'd probably look at me like I was insane (is "insaner" a word?). You'd say something like "I probably ate them, but I really couldn't be sure at this point."

Let's make it a little easier. Let's say I walked up to you and said "What did you do with that restaurant gift certificate I gave you in April of 2011?"

You'd probably remember what you did with the gift certificate. You might be able to say that you remember having a nice meal. You might even be able to remember who you ate with. And if the service was either really good or really bad you might be able to remember that, too. But unless you have a photographic memory, you probably wouldn't be able to tell me more details than that about what you ate, what you wore, what the bill came to, or any of the other minutiae of the night.

Well, today I had a co-worker come to my desk asking me if I could remember any details about a print job which was placed in April of 2011. Was I immediately able to identify the client in question as a nutjob? Yes. Was I able to say that I remembered there being printing issues - caused in part by the printer but mostly by the client? Yes. Was I able to give specifics? Not in the least.

So, 15 months after I left my old position - and 20+ months after the situation in question - I spent the end of my day searching out clues in old emails. (Hindered by the ever-so-minor fact that the client in question - whenever things would go "wrong" - would start emailing everyone except the person who was working with her. So I most likely don't have 80% of the details in my own emails.)

I suspect it will be how I start my day tomorrow, too.

Seriously. If Marley wanted to freak out Scrooge, he should have shown up in his bedroom at night and threatened to make him find specific, yet only vaguely requested, details in emails which are almost two years old.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Getting There...

The tree is up and even has lights and ornaments on it. 

The house has been "Christmasified." 

Sorta. 

I mean... We're on the way. 

As I type this, Christopher is in his office doing work (you know, like work work - at 10pm on a Sunday), but Christmas music is rolling out through his door to me. 

Earlier today we were at a Christmas open house thrown by some good friends, where we were able to partake of much sweet food involving things like "white candy coating" and Holiday-colored M&Ms. (Seriously, that stuff isn't allowed out in the world at any time of year, but it's totally addictive during Advent. I blame the hibernation urge.)

We have Christmas lights on the little evergreen we put in last summer, and more in our porch. 

I baked more cookies tonight, and re-made the dough for the kind of cookie that failed last week - making triply sure that I doubled the flour this time. 

And although we have no Christmas letter, nor Christmas card address list, we do have our cards, now. 

So... we're getting there. We should be ready to go over the rivers and through the woods in good time - quite possibly fueled by red and green M&Ms and white candy coating.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Non-Holiday Week

I know that it's a retailer's dream season this year - Thanksgiving was early, so there's an extra week of Holiday shopping time - but it's got me kind of discombobulated.

I feel like it should already be December. I feel like I'm running late for buying Christmas presents and baking cookies and sending cards. It's not making me excited to shop more, it's just making me feel kind of stressed out that I haven't already shopped more.

Of course, all of this is made even stranger by the fact that it's still November, and I already have my first batch of cookies baked. (There would have been a second batch, but I forgot to double the flour when I doubled the recipe and... long story short... I'm not sure what they turned out to be, but they're definitely not Christmas cookies.)

I've also got about 75% of my shopping done. Although, truth be told, that's pretty easy this year since Christopher and I are getting the same thing for a lot of my family, and I actually stumbled upon an idea for a gift for Christopher (which I obviously can't talk about, here).

We haven't decorated the house, yet, but I think that might happen this weekend. Which, when I looked at the calendar, I realized is only going to be December 1st. So I guess we're pretty much either on schedule or a little early.

So why am I feeling like I've missed something, already?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Splitting Hairs

When I lived in Baltimore, I had the *best* hair cutter person. (Sorry, I know that's a weird thing to call someone, but I don't feel like she was my "stylist" but she also definitely wasn't a "barber," and I'm not sure what to call her. So I'm going to try "hair cutter.")

She was great fun. I stumbled across her working in a mall salon, and I worked my haircuts around her schedule for probably at least 5 years. One of the times I took Christopher out to Baltimore to visit, we actually tracked her down at a different salon so I could get my hair cut.

She was brash and opinionated, and we would talk as much about her as we would about me. And, after about the second cut, there was never really any question about whether she might do something I wouldn't want. I'd walk in and she'd ask what we were doing that day, and if I didn't have a particular agenda, she'd just do whatever she wanted.

That's how I ended up with blond highlights one summer. It's also how my hair went from shaggy to preppy and back - but always looked great when she was done with me.

But, of course, I moved to the Twin Cities, and - in case you didn't realize it - airfare is a little too expensive to justify flying to Baltimore for a haircut every month or so. So I started trying to find a hair cutter out here. And, after nearly 7 years of searching, I did find someone last spring.

For the first time in pretty much ever, I got my hair cut by a guy. I've never really worried about who was cutting my hair. After all, I go to the places where you don't need an appointment and you kind of take what you can get. Which, I realize, is also why I don't always love my haircuts. But don't try to get all rational about an irrational subject.

Anyway... I went to get my hair cut and this guy was there and he was the one who got me, so we walked back to his chair and I thought he was going to be a little too frenetic for me. He was hyper - talking most of the time, as he did the entire cut with scissors and never touched his clippers. He just kind of ducked and dodged and snipped when the mood seemed right. When he was done, aside from feeling like I needed some time in a quiet room, I had a great haircut.

The next time I went back, I requested him, and he remembered me and made some suggestions and branched off a little from the previous cut, and I felt completely comfortable letting him take chances with my hair. And that was the first time since Baltimore that I felt that way.

I called in to check his schedule before my next haircut, and was informed that he had left the salon and gone back to school. And I was back at square one.

I told Christopher, tonight, that I don't hate my haircut. And he laughed at my choice of words and assured me that I look as cute as always (his words, I swear).

And, yet, what I wouldn't give for a cut from Karen out in Baltimore.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

'Tis the Season

I really wanted to start this posting with "I was at my ancestral home over the weekend..." which, though true, doesn't quite ring true since where I really was was my parents' house where I grew up.

But, anyway...

I was there to celebrate Thanksgiving, and - since I was there, anyway - to help start decorating for Christmas. We've never been an over-the-top decorating family, but the house lends itself very well to Christmas decor. And, since the whole family is descending upon the house next month during the Holidays, it seemed like a good idea to pull out some of the stops. 

I'm not going to get all misty-eyed about it. Or philosophical. Or even wistful. But I did want to show off one piece of my handiwork, just so you have an idea of how cool it looks. 


It's funny, though. When I pulled up the pictures, it seemed to lose a little in translation. So maybe the Grinch and the Whos down in Whoville have it all correct when they make us all realize that the real Christmas comes from the heart, and not from the greenery with the really cool bows (all of which looks oddly plasticky in the picture because of the flash). 

So, as we stumble through the crowds and the hustle and bustle of the next month, here's to finding your Holiday cheer - may it come to you with or without decorations and ribbons and bows. 

(But, if you happen to be around my parents' house in the next 6 weeks, it does look pretty cool in person - possibly because the home is where the heart is, and all that misty-eyed, philosophically wistful stuff.)

Friday, November 23, 2012

A Change of Seasons

When I left Minneapolis to drive to my parents' house, yesterday, it was about 60 degrees in Minneapolis. I had been packing my car without a coat on, so I almost forgot to pack a coat.

On the drive, the wind was ridiculously strong. Blowing from the WNW, according to the weather folks. Since I was driving mostly toward the wind (I was driving WSW), it was the bane of my shoulders - and of my gas mileage - the whole way home.

By the time I got home, the temp was about 35 degrees - in the middle of the afternoon with the sun out - and the wind was still blowing (which it continued to do all last night - so I got to fall asleep, and wake up, to rattling windows).

Today, we had a high of about 30 degrees, and I was very happy to have brought a coat home with me while I was out running errands with my mom.

Of course, one of my big reasons for coming home for the Thanksgiving weekend was to help my folks do some of the Christmas decorating, so that it's done long before the festivities begin. And I spent some time, today, doing just that.

So I guess it all makes sense. The house changed over from fall to winter just as the weather did the same thing.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Milestone Monday

(Big apologies - Just found this post in my "Drafts" folder. Sorry for the delay in posting! My actual Wednesday post follows this one.)

Truth be told, the milestone in question was reached last week Thursday. That is when I posted my 900th (!) blog entry.

Today, then, is my 902nd blog entry, which is its own milestone, really, because I've also never written a 902nd blog entry.

My first entry, posted on August 25, 2008, was pretty short, but otherwise it was a lot like every other post I put up here. Focused on me, assuming someone was reading, but not sure what to write. (It's here, if you want to go back and look. I'll wait.)

My second entry, posted the next day, was all about the dilemma of going to a group interview for a possible job. I honestly didn't even remember what the interview was until I was reading through that post. I have to admit - hindsight is a wonderful thing - that I'm kind of glad that I blew that interview. And, to this day, I know exactly what I did to blow it.

The job was for a retail company, and I had to role-play helping a customer who had "two rambunctious kids who were playing on the shelving." And, well, if you know me you know that: a) I think role-playing in an interview is dorky; b) I think that people should wrangle their own kids when shopping and not rely on the already-overworked staff; and, c) when put in front of a crowd, I tend to work the room - which doesn't necessarily mean pandering to the interviewer's expectations. Let's just say that, four years later, I still remember my fellow interviewees laughing as I went through the spiel, and the interviewer looking at his clipboard and making notes. Oh, well.

So... Yeah... I couldn't have picked one of my posts from Europe, or Florida, or Canada to talk about. No discussions of John Barrowman or Angela Lansbury in New York. Not even any talk about getting published. No Friday Food, no Movie Monday, no Travel Tuesday. Not even a Tiz List. Instead, I had to pull up a blog post about a job interview. At least it was relatively memorable, once I thought about it.

Which, I guess, is kind of what I've hoped this whole blog would be.

Thanks to those of you who have been along for the entire ride. Welcome to those of you who are new. Glad those of you who came in in the middle have stuck around.

I don't know if this will continue for another 902 entries over another 4+ years, but I guess only time will tell.

Thanksgiving Eve

Maybe it's because I'm gearing up to drive 5.5 hours tomorrow, without even starting to pack.

Maybe it's the fact that we got off work 2.5 hours early today, much of which time I used to go out for an early Happy Hour with Christopher and a friend of ours.

Maybe it's because I love the pumpkin pie time of year - and the thought of eating it during a four-day weekend.

Whatever the reason, I'm really kind of excited that tonight is Thanksgiving Eve.

I won't run down a litany of things I'm thankful for, but I can tell you that I'll probably be running that list in my head on the drive to South Dakota, tomorrow.

Instead, I'm simply enjoying the fact that Christopher and I spent the evening watching "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" while snuggling on the couch with the pup (all under a massive afghan made by my mom).

Here's to one of the few holidays that doesn't really ask us to do anything except enjoy the world around us.

May your cornucopia runneth over.
-----
Oh. And if you're one of the crazy people who goes out shopping on Black Friday PLEASE be kind to the salespeople. If you shop on Thanksgiving (please tell me you don't), be even more kind and more appreciative of those people who are losing part of their holiday just so you can enjoy conspicuous consumption on a day that's supposed to be all about giving thanks.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Starry Saturday - Delayed John Barrowman

It's been two weeks since I got to "meet" John and Carole Barrowman and have them sign my books. Yes, I put "meet" in quotation marks because although there were people in the crowd I'm sure they'll remember - and while I'm sure everyone in the crowd will always remember them - it's not like we all sat down for dinner and a chat and exchanged vital (or at least contact) information.

The gathering of hundreds of fans started fairly early in the afternoon. By the time the group of us who were meeting up all joined forces we'd already seen the Victorian Lady Doctors (they're a group of women who dress as all of the Doctors from Dr. Who, but all kind of Victorian-y), we'd hung out by the fire pit outside the Red Balloon Bookshop, and we - or at least I - had realized that there were a LOT of people showing up at the book signing.

We eventually got pulled into the store, in order of when we had each purchased our books. I was somewhere in the late 100s. If I remember correctly my two books put me in place 189 and 190, or something like that. We all kind of paired up so that we would have someone to snap pictures while the other went through the line, but then found out that the shop had put someone on camera duty, as well. (They were really amazingly organized for the crazy big crowd.)

And I can already tell this is going to get quite long, but I have to share a couple of "stories from the line" (there will be pictures at the end, so it will be worth it):

I watched John (it seems odd to keep calling him "John Barrowman" over and over, so I'm going for the familiarity at least for this posting) sign a small girl's t-shirt. I watched him sign a probably-thirteen-year-old boy's coat collar - a coat much like that worn by Barrowman's character on Dr. Who/Torchwood - and imagined what it would have been like to be 13 and have that happen.

I watched John and Carole banter and cajole and charm every single person in that line, writing things like "Keep reading" and "Keep imagining" in every kid's book.

I watched the hugs and the smiles and the photos, and I fully admit that although I'd already thought that John was an interesting person, I was totally impressed by his "bookside" manner. I've read his autobiographical books, and I was kind of afraid there could be some diva action (which he kind of alludes to about himself in his books) - especially when they'd already been signing books for almost 2 hours by the time I got to the front of the line. But, then...

This kid - and by "kid" I mean someone who was probably in his early 20s - was about 10 people ahead of me in line. He was cute, not gorgeous, but cute - probably someone who was going to grow into his looks, if he could just get past the shy stages. And I watched him, trying to be all cool, kind of bouncing up to look over the bookshelves as he got closer. When he got to John, there was a short exchange which we couldn't hear, and the kid kind of leaned in to say something which, from body language, looked to be important. John flashed a million-watt smile and said, loudly, "Oh, please. I could tell that from all the way across the room."

I fully admit that I am assuming the conversation - I wasn't within earshot of the kid - but I am pretty certain that he had just come out to the Barrowmans. And the kid was kind of shocked and embarrassed, but John leaned forward and said something else we couldn't hear, followed by "I made you turn red. You're completely red. Turn around and show everyone how red you are!" (The kid did, with a sheepish grin.) And - remember, this was almost 2 hours into what was obviously a long day of promotions - they continued to have a conversation after that. I heard them talk about how great it is to have an older sister to take care of you (the kid's sister had brought him to the signing, and was standing to the side practically glowing). They smiled for the camera, they chatted a bit more, and then the kid moved on.

One of my friends caught this shot. It's not a great picture of John, but if I'm not mistaken, it was taken during the conversation with "the kid" (I seem to remember him having a dark coat and a scarf), and I like how you can tell he's really paying attention to what's going on. 
And I can't help but hope that the kid's self-esteem got a huge boost that night. That he learned, through the grace and cajoling of a chance meeting with John Barrowman, that he's got quite a life ahead of him if he learns to be true to himself.

My visit to the front of the line... Well... It wasn't quite so spectacular. Someone came up to ask them about their dinner plans just as I was at the table, so they were a bit distracted. Carole shook my hand when I told them I had all of the books they'd written (she commented on it when she saw the stack I handed her), and John very politely signed a card I asked them to sign for Christopher, since he was home sick.

I admit that I'd have loved to have gotten the flirtatious cajoling that the kid got, but twenty-some years on, I'm happy that we had a laugh over "gay signatures," instead. (Oddly, thinking on it now, I don't remember that many men in the crowd who seemed to be there for the Barrowmans in a non-Dr.-Who sort of way, which may have played in my favor.)

In short (finally, right?) they were charming, outrageous, and utterly surpassed expectations. And, yes, he is *so* much better looking in person than on TV - I suspect it's because there isn't "charisma-vision" so you lose a little something in translation.

And now, the photo-essay of the inauspicious meeting (the captions... well... they may have been a tad fabricated...):

getting closer, as he rolls up his sleeves to get to work

Book signing - serious business...
...or not.
Carole: You came from all the way back there? 
Staffer: When do you want dinner?
John: How many people are left in line?
Me: From the numbers I heard outside, there are at least 75 people behind me.
Carole: Are all of these yours?
Me: Yep. I own them all.
Carole: I need to shake your hand. (she did)
(I think this was about when she signed all of them to me - including the one that was supposed to stay without a listed name on it... Oh, well.)
John: What do you want me to do with this?
Me: Could you sign it for my partner who is home sick?
John: Oh, sure.
Me: That would be great. Thanks for wearing the "Vote NO" t-shirt, by the way.
Smiling for the camera, while no one else is looking up.
Actually, this may be when the second copy of "Hollow Earth" got inscribed to me.
I swear that I was not trying to shoot them with my fingers, and that she was not looking at me in shock. I think this was when John was handing Carole the card and she was asking about Christopher. As I was leaving, they both told me to tell him to get well soon.  
And, yeah... That's the whole story.

I hung around while all of the others in my group went through the line and snapped some more pictures, but none were that great. (I think my favorite, really, is the laughing one, above.)

Full disclosure: I haven't started reading the book, yet. But if you've been paying attention, you know that the past couple of weeks have been pretty crazy. I hope to get to it, soon - maybe over some of the upcoming holidays. I'll let you know how it is.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Sharing a Secret

So, you know how it is when there's something that you do that you think is way cool in the moment, and so you throw your excitement into it, but then you think that maybe it's not? And you've already committed to it, so you can't back out, and it's going to happen and you can't stop it? And you're still excited, but it's more muted - like being excited for a good haircut. And, like a good haircut, you hope someone mentions it or even somehow asks about it, but you don't want to be the one to bring it up?

Then, somewhere along the way, you start to find yourself excited about it, again. Like really excited. But it kind of seems like the window of opportunity for being excited about it has passed you by, and you really can't tell anyone now. Like you should have either jumped up and down and screamed a while back, and since you didn't, now you're not allowed to even whisper.

And then that thing that is, once again, really pretty exciting, becomes a secret. You share it with a few people, but mostly you just keep it to yourself. It's a strange ball of warm fuzzies that you keep somewhere near your heart, possibly just behind your left lung, but inside your ribcage where it stays warm. (And... yeah... that metaphor just got a little strange.)

Anyway...

Some pictures for you of where Christopher and I were tonight with a couple of my cousins (whom we'll call KF and KM, since I didn't ask if I could name them, here).

I'm betting you'll be able to find out what the secret is, since you're all smart people. But, in case you're reading this when your caffeine level is drastically low, or something, I'll meet you after the pictures to explain.

The night's invitation:


The first time I saw the book (probably thanks to KF):


Signing a copy for the editor (who, I think, kind of hated me by the time she was done with me) (KF, again, I think?) (Yes, I chose to upload the one where I'm not biting my lower lip as I sign):


The signature (thanks to KF):


One of the two pieces I wrote which were accepted, this one hanging on the wall of the gallery next to its photograph (thanks to KM):


Me with the ironically camera-shy publisher (thanks to KM):


Okay, yeah. So that's the pictorial story of our evening. Did you figure out that I'm now a published author? No, there wasn't any pay beyond a free copy of the book (but it's a very nice hardcover with seriously gorgeous photos - and some decent writing, if I do say so myself - in it). And, no, it isn't going to sell a million copies and make all of us instant celebrities.

But... hot damn... I'm now a published author. How freakin' cool is that?
-----
The Intimate Landscape exhibit runs tomorrow through Dec. 14th in the Gordon Parks Gallery of the Library and Learning Center at Metro State University (645 E 7th St, St. Paul). If you'd like a copy of Intimate Landscape, the book, you can order it at www.open2interpretation.com

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Aftermath(s)

Seriously. What a week it has been. I mean, along with everything else, I even missed posting on here last night. Let me see if I can give you the Aftermathical bullet points:

Last Tuesday - The election. Emotional chaos on the day. Aftermath: Quite good, actually. Although all of the calls to secede are kind of stupidly extreme. I mean... Really? We all survived 8 years of Republicans in the White House, and I'm sure we'll all survive 8 years of Democrats in the White House. And, you know, if some of these states actually do secede, we might have a lot more years of Democrats in the White House.

Last Weekend - The filming. Seriously bizarre to be out of the house for most of two days knowing that about 20 people are doing Godknowswhat to the house and you can't know exactly what until later. Aftermath: Lots of good stories to tell. Nothing but positive tales and experiences. Not sure we'd jump at the chance to do it again (although we might), but we'd definitely work with/hang out with that group again.

Last Wednesday - The movie. Christopher got sneak preview tickets to see "Skyfall" last Wednesday, and in the midst of the week's tumult, we went and had a rather marvelous mid-week date night with a really good movie. Aftermath: We've been telling stories about going to the movie almost as much as telling stories about having the film crew around last weekend. If you're looking for a good fun action movie, definitely go to it. If you like Bond movies, that will help even more.

Last Tuesday and Last Weekend - The funeral. I'm not really sure I'm ready to talk about this in specific terms, yet. I will say it was a close - not immediate, but close, in HR-ish terms - family member, and my emotional state for the week was definitely altered by it. Aftermath: I've been looking at some things differently, lately. Looking at "ordinary" objects around the house with a different eye, as well as re-contemplating what I'm doing with my life. In mainly good, though not necessarily easy, ways.

The Barrowman Sighting I mentioned a while ago - It was great, but it was also right before the election. So the Aftermath of that - including pictures - is still on its way. Sorry. I hope to upload photos from that and some photos of our house as a film set as soon as I get a moment with me, my computer, my camera, and the right number of charged batteries and cables.

Hopefully we'll all make it through the aftermaths, and come out ahead.

Oh, and watch this space tomorrow - I might have a little something extra cool to share...

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Stepping Out of Another World

Our house no longer has random fake grapes in it. The afghan on the back of the couch is, once again, the one my mom made, instead of the mustard yellow one that was there for a couple of days. (Again, my apologies for "hiding" it in the side cabinet - if you're reading this, you know who I'm apologizing to...)

It was a relief, really, to walk back into the house this evening and see it all back the way it's supposed to look. The Snoopy print (purchased in Vegas a few years back) is back on the wall in the kitchen where a mustard-yellow phone had taken up temporary residence. The coasters are back where they belong, as are the runner on the coffee table, and Christopher's grandmother's clock. The fridge and the TiVo are plugged back in and the sheets hanging over the windows are gone.

In other words, our house's brush with the film industry is done.

We spent most of the day at our neighbor's house, running back to our house just a few times to wander through, take a few pictures, and help find a few extra props. And to try to stay out of the way - which is remarkably hard in a small house. Then, as they were wrapping up, we got to hang out at the aptly named wrap party.

Christopher got to talk electronic equipment. I got to talk editing (and blogging). We ate some pizza and drank some wine, and Aoife (whose presence was requested in the group wrap photo) finally got to collapse on the couch.

Contact info exchanged, we headed home to try to get back to our normal lives. Or at least to bed.

We'll worry about normal tomorrow.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Friday Food - Fake Fruit

This has been a very odd week. And, because you don't want to start a week out on a strange note and then have it taper off to nothing, I'm happy to say that the weekend promises to be a bit surreal, as well.

You see, Christopher and I agreed - a few weeks ago - to have our house used this weekend for the filming of a short independent film. (No, it's not a porn flick, even though I realize that it does sound a little like that.) (Really. We've seen the costumes. This is *so* not porn.)

The director did a walkthrough a couple weeks ago, and last Friday he brought in a few other people to look at the house again. I have to admit that, yes, it's kind of exciting that this is happening. I have to also admit that, yes, it was very weird to come home from work to find that about 25% of our house now looks like it was decorated by... well... I dunno who. I mean, it's straight out of the 70s at the moment, without being really 70s looking. And there are kids' paintings on the fridge. And our Ben Cohen calendar is gone, which is - frankly - quite depressing. (No. Really. This is Ben Cohen and his anti-bullying foundation - go look and you'll understand why it's odd not seeing the calendar on the side of the fridge.)

And, well, there are bowls of fake grapes all over the place.

Now, I fully admit that I lived through the 70s. I dealt with the Harvest Gold and the Avocado Green. And I know people who - to this day - still have fake fruit around the house.

But I don't believe I've ever seen just fake grapes everywhere. I seem to remember big footed bowls of mixed fruit. Always with pears or apples, and usually at least one banana. Not sure why, but there pretty much always was at least that one banana. Maybe it was because the designs needed something linear. (Yeah. Sure. We'll go with that.)

Our house currently has no fake banana. Also no fake pears or apples. But 2 bowls - and one really ugly pedestalled thing - filled with fake grapes. Not even convincing fake grapes, but the bad ugly ones.

I really don't know much about the film that's being done - except that it's taking place in our house and our backyard and someone else's garage workshop - but I do know that the grapes are going to have to act their hearts out for anyone to believe them.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What Can I Say?

I went to bed last night unsure what all was going on in the various elections.

I was mentally exhausted from the months of all of the campaigning.

I was physically exhausted because I had gotten up to see Christopher off to the polls (at 5:30) and then stayed up until he got home (at 11:30). (But... no... not even remotely as exhausted as Christopher was.)

I was hoping for the best and preparing myself for the worst.

I got up this morning and didn't really want to turn on the TV or the computer.

And then I saw it on the bottom of the screen. The news that Minnesota voters had defeated the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. (We'd also defeated the Voter ID amendment.)

I stared at the screen for probably 10 minutes, waiting for it to sink in.

The "Vote No" folks had a narrow margin, but it was a win nonetheless.

All I could think to do was say Thank You.

And thank you to all of you for reading my posts along the way and still coming back.

Here's to returning to life as "normal" sometime soon.

(Although... there will be a John Barrowman post in the near future. And that's not all that normal...)

Monday, November 5, 2012

Okay. Deep Breath, Everyone.

Twenty-four hours from now - or, well, maybe about thirty-six hours from now, since we have to factor in Hawaii, too - the voting will be pretty much done.

The 2012 election will be all over except for the counting. The godforsaken political hate ads will finally be off the air.

Regardless of who wins or loses; regardless of what happens with state amendments and statutes; regardless of what we want to have had happen, we're going to have to live with ourselves and each other after beginning on Wednesday.

We'll have to go back to actually speaking to each other. Civilly.

We'll have to try to rebuild some of the bridges we've burned during the past few months.

And, yes, we'll have to live with whatever decisions we've made in the voting booths.

With all of that in mind, and with the firm conviction that the most important thing about tomorrow is simply that we all go out and vote - regardless of who we're voting for - I offer you a few final thoughts on the subjects at hand:

It's hugely important to me that I ask people to vote in favor of love, civil rights, human rights, and voter rights. Because of that, I'm urging people to vote NO on both of the amendments on the MN State ballot tomorrow. If you're not sure how you want to vote on those, leave it blank. That will count as a "NO" vote, and it will mean that even if you're not completely sure about it all, you don't want to institutionalize hatred or discrimination. (Or - and I think I have these all right, but you'll want to verify if any of them applies to you - if you're in Maryland, vote Yes on 6; or Yes on 74 in Washington; or Yes on Question 1 in Maine.)

And remember when I wrote about wanting to be able to visit Christopher if he ever ends up in the hospital? Well, one of the presidential candidates is in favor of all kinds of families, and wants to celebrate diversity. While the Republicans have openly stated that they think my ability to visit Christopher in the hospital (or vice-versa - I just realized that I keep putting Christopher in the hospital in these discussions) is a "privilege," I'll be voting for Obama and Biden, who think that a right is a right - regardless of who is exercising it.

But, again, as much as I would love it if you voted the same way I plan to, my main hope is that we all take advantage of the inalienable right to simply vote.

And breathe. Breathing is also very important if we want to see what the outcome is on the other side of the election.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

John Barrowman Sighting - IN PERSON!

John Barrowman and his sister Carole E. Barrowman, are doing a very short (5 city) U.S. book signing tour for their new juvenile fantasy fiction book "Hollow Earth." 

And, yes, I was at the signing in St. Paul this evening. 

I chatted (very briefly) with them both. I got books signed. I watched them smile and schmooze with massive numbers of fans. I think I got my picture taken with them. 

And I have to say that it was a lot of fun. They're both very charismatic people, and... yes... I'm happy to say that he's better looking in person than on TV. 

I hope to have some pictures to post in the next day or so - friends of mine who were with me took some shots which I hope to get from them. 

In the meantime, I just want to say that it was quite fun and, if anything, made me like them even more. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Friendly Chat

Whatever happened to the friendly chat? (You know, as I was writing that, I realized that "The Friendly Chat" sounds like something out of either Dr. Suess or Edward Gorey.)

All over social media, as we get closer to next week's election, people have stopped chatting. No one is really even being social. There's no good-natured back-and-forth debate about the issues. There's really just a lot of "Either you agree with me or you have to leave" going on.

And when I say "chat" I'm not talking about Instant Messaging. I'm talking about having short, congenial, dialogues on a variety of subjects.

On TV and the radio (yes, I actually still listen to the radio), it seems that all of the pre-election ads are focused on attacks. No one wants to debate, they just want to sling mud and then pretend to be completely clean.

Don't get me wrong - this is happening on both sides of the political aisle. I'm getting to the point where I am ready to vote for whichever candidate does not have any ads on between now and next Tuesday.

But I digress.

Yesterday, I had dinner out with a friend of mine, and then came home and had a long phone conversation with another. And it was great.

Dinner seemed to be going really quickly - within about half an hour of being seated, we'd already pretty much finished - and then we started talking. Really talking. And the next time I looked at my watch another hour had passed.

The same kind of thing happened on the phone call. We started out kind of covering the small details, but soon we were talking about anything and everything, and over half an hour had passed.

In each situation we talked about family. We talked about work. We talked about Halloween. We even talked about politics. But we were friendly, and respectful of each other's opinions, and it was great.

Wouldn't it be nice if more people focused on discussion, instead of argument? Maybe then we could all talk, converse, debate, and - yes - even chat, again.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

One Week and Counting...

Alright. We've almost made it to the election. Granted, we'll also have to deal with whatever repercussions we, as a country, vote down upon ourselves, but at least we won't have to deal with all of the political ads for a while.

That said, if you're going to make a political statement, I figure you ought to make it in style.

Sure, you could blatantly point out that Romney has spoken out against any federal disaster aid in the past, and is now having "Sandy Relief" rallies (which just happen to include the showing of his political campaign ads). Or you could take the high road and be New Jersey's Governor Chris Christie - a staunch Republican - who has been openly praising President Obama's response to the hurricane. (Bipartisanship in the name of the greater good? What an idea!)

But, closer to home, there are other measures on the ballot. We've got leaders of both political parties speaking together in the same TV ad calling for a NO vote on the Voter ID (aka "Voter restriction") amendment. Again - bipartisanship for the greater good. Not sure where they all were when the amendment was being pushed through the state legislature, but let's hope that this is a case where wrongs can be righted before it's too late.

Finally, of course, there is the proposed state amendment to put a ban on gay marriage into the MN Constitution. (Yep. It's already against the law in the state, but we're voting on an amendment - which legislators have been quoted as saying is just their way to push it through to let other generations figure it out later.) I'm doing my best to remain hopeful about the potential outcome, but the more attack ads that show up on TV, the more I feel like Christopher and I really need to look into moving to Canada.

But I hadn't intended on this being a downer of a blog post, so I wanted to share a video that came across my desktop today. It's a little long (7+ minutes), but the music is great and it made me a little teary at my desk at work. I hope you enjoy it. And I hope that you will do me the favor of voting for the issues (and candidates) you feel are most likely to support equal, bipartisan, rights for all. (Not to get overly pushy, but most people I know would, for those purposes, suggest two NO votes on the MN Amendments, and a vote for Obama in the presidential election. But, of course, how you vote is up to you and your beliefs - and conscience.)

Oh. Here's the link to the video.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

How To Relax?

Okay. I admit it. I think I've kind of forgotten how to relax.

Christopher and I are coming to the end of a very nice long weekend away from home for the first time in ages. I brought a book - which I've read some of. We played cards. We've watched a couple of DVDs and some TV. We've napped. I've dinked around on line.

And now there's a part of my brain saying to me "It's Sunday afternoon. You need to start getting ready for the week!"

But I don't. I don't even have to think about the workweek until sometime late tomorrow. I have a good 24 to 36 hours of not worrying about the workweek that I could still enjoy. (Since, really, my job is pretty much straight-up 9-to-5, and I don't take anything home with me.)

We still have things to do. We have a few more DVDs to watch. We have $30-worth of cheese and crackers and meats to munch on for "dinner." We have an outdoor hot tub to relish in under the almost-full-moon tonight. We have a slightly-staticky puppy to play catch with.

And, yes, I just caught myself typing up that list of things to do.

I think that this relaxation thing needs more work. Perhaps starting with turning off the computer, putting another log on the fire, and doing... well... nothing.

Friday, October 26, 2012

It's hard to blog when...

... there's a pup asleep next to you in the comfy armchair (which really isn't big enough for both of you), and you can't use both hands on the keyboard at the same time.

But, really, what am I doing with my computer on when I have a sleeping pup next to me in an armchair, anyway?

Perhaps the latter is the more important question. Longer post to come sometime when the pup isn't so comfy.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wanderlust Daydreams

Sometimes, at work, I find myself totally unable to focus. Of course, we all get that way from time to time, but as an editor - and proofreader - that can be downright dangerous for the bottom line. 

Today was one of those days. I spent the morning working on a short (yet *so* bad) edit, and then ran a couple of errands at lunch. After the errands, I came back and... well... had my lunch. And then it kind of went downhill from there. 

I spent the afternoon taking care of small issues that would come up. I wrote some (mostly work-related) emails. I answered a couple of queries from possible clients. I even got some editing done. 

But, in and around all of that, I also daydreamed. 

I think we've discussed how studies have shown that about 6 weeks before a vacation is supposedly when people are most excited about it. They say that that is when most of the planning is happening, so it's all about expectations and no reality is getting in the way. 

But, as someone who would spend most of a lottery jackpot on travel, yet hasn't been more than a few miles outside of the metropolitan area in the past month or so - and hasn't been out of the state in about 5 months - I have to say that the closer I get to travelling the more intense the daydreaming is becoming. 

Last weekend, I spent a whole lot of cash on getting some car repairs done. Why? So that we could go away and not have to think about it. 

I've mentally been packing for about a week, even though I'm the kind of person who packs either the day of or - at most - the night before. 

I completely understand that any travel is never quite as good as the expectation. There's always something a little hinky in it. There's a CD that you forgot to bring along (well, if you still use CDs and not an MP3 player). Or you step in a puddle and your last pair of socks gets soaked. Or you eat too much and feel sick for 12 out of the 84 hours you're gone. 

But, even so... As someone who has a weird case of wanderlust which hides out under a layer of hermit-age... Let's just say that I better not try to do any difficult proofreading before I get back. 

(And, yes, I agree that "Wanderlust Daydreamers" would be a great name for a band.)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Meet-n-Greet

Christopher and I have had a couple of fairly social weekends (if you've been reading along, you know that).

And, along the way we've been meeting some new people. Which is always a little strange.

I mean... When you're a little kid, meeting new people is just one of those things you do. You meet new people at school. You meet new people in sports. You meet new people just walking down the street (assuming you're with a parent and it's safe to do so).

But, when, you get older, it gets harder to meet people. You're not constantly trying new things and being put on teams. And when you are, it frequently is because of a weird work-related thing, and you either already know the people or... well... there are reasons why you don't want to.

Yet, somehow, we've had a good time doing this lately. Kinda feels like a good day in kindergarten.

Now I'm just waiting for mid-day nap time.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Quick-ish Re-Cap

First of all, I'm sorry that I missed blogging, yesterday. But the reason for that is one of the things that will be coming up in the re-cap, below.

The past couple of weeks have been... well... interesting around here.

Christopher had the stomach flu. I battled for a week with a cold that never quite took hold, but also wouldn't go away.

I took my car in to get a rattle checked out, and as I was paying the $58.80 for that fix, they took the time to inform me that the drips we'd been seeing on the pavement were caused by one of 3 things that were leaking: the housing around the water pump, the transmission casing, or the front struts. All of which ought to be fixed before: a) the weather gets cold; or, b) I take a long trip. Gee... It's October in Minnesota, and the next two months include a trip Up Nort' (4 hours away), and two trips to my parents' in South Dakota (5.5 hours away). So... Can't wait to see how close to zero my bank account gets after that bill gets paid.

Then there was the installation of the new air conditioner and furnace. Both of which happened at pretty much the perfect time. They went in just before our final warm spell of the year (so we got to use the a/c), and then the weather got cool so now we're using the furnace. Although... The furnace has already had a couple of follow-up visits. But - on the up side - those were free because the problems weren't our fault.

Along with the new furnace, though, was a new gas line, which was installed by cutting a hole in the downstairs bedroom closet ceiling. Leaving the entire room (and closet) and pretty much all of its contents covered in drywall dust. Have I mentioned that that's the room - and closet - where all of my clothes are? Many loads of laundry later, I've also filled a trash bag with clothing to donate to a local non-profit which helps out homeless teens and young adults. So... maybe not all bad.

And yesterday, when they came out for the final (fingers crossed) trip for the furnace, they forgot to turn the water heater back on. Which meant no hot water this morning. Unfortunately, Christopher got the brunt of that problem, since he was the first to attempt to take a shower. And after he re-lit the pilot light and we gave it some time, we were back to hot water, again. Thankfully, that did not happen on a weekday.

Yes, I know that I'm sounding like I'm trying hard to be positive about some of that stuff, but assuming that I don't bounce any checks before my next paycheck, I think we have reason to take it all with a grain of salt (or even a nice, tasty salted caramel).

And although the work-a-day world has been the usual, we've been lucking out and having really good times on the weekends. So far, in the past two weekends, we've had 5 (out of 5) very nice - and very different - dinners with lots of good friends and family. And I'm quite happy to say that one of the latest of those dinner events was last night, which is why the blogging didn't happen. (Tonight's dinner ended a good 2 hours earlier than last night's - hence tonight's blogging.)

So... Yeah... That's what we've been up to around here, plus all of the usual day-to-day stuff and trying to watch TV without yelling at any of the political ads.

How's by you?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Pointing and Clicking Until My Eyes Burn

Yep. That's what I did all day today at work.

You see, just when I was almost done with the 500+ -page manuscript I've been working on, I realized that for some reason the Spellcheck was off.

Now, as an editor, I pride myself in not really needing spellcheck. I have a pretty darned good noggin for spelling and punctuation placement. But in the midst of cleaning up the Works Cited, I noticed that I spelled "January" as "Januray" a couple of times, and so I wanted to make sure that I ran the automated spellcheck before I declared myself done.

Problem, the first: There is a way to turn off Spellcheck in Word. It's not easy, mind you, but it's possible. And the author - who was writing about a lot of people with really strange names - had turned it off for about 80% of the document. So, when I ran it, it would bounce around to about 20 incorrectly spelled words and declare itself done.

But I knew there were more issues than that. If nothing else, there were all of those strange names that it should have noticed.

So I spent about 20 minutes searching out how to turn Spellcheck back on for the whole document. And then I did just that.

Problem, the second: I didn't turn off the Track Changes feature, because I figured I wasn't making any changes to the manuscript. Word, on the other hand, decided that turning Spellcheck back on was a Formatting change. And it popped up about 10 or 20 "Formatting: Spelling and grammar check." notes in the margin of each and every page.

I probably could have ignored it and moved on, but I'm a nice guy. And...

Problem, the third: There were already so many changes on each page that I need the author to pay attention to, that I couldn't deal with him also having to slog through all of the changes that didn't matter. So I did what I had to do.

I spent all day, today - well, not quite all day, only 7.5 out of 8 hours - pointing, clicking, and accepting those formatting changes so that they would disappear from the manuscript that the author will see.

I'm happy to say that, by the time I got home, my wrist had relaxed. And so had I.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Munder the Weather

I keep thinking I'm avoiding getting sick. Christopher had the stomach flu last week, and I was battling a cold. 

Then he started to feel better and - by the weekend - I started to feel like the impending doom of the cold was lifting. 

In the middle of the workday, today - somewhere between finishing the footnotes in the 517-page edit I'm working on, but before getting too far in the 30 pages of Works Cited - I kinda felt myself lose focus. 

By the end of the day, my hands were kinda cold, and everyone else in the office was saying the temp seemed fine. Which is especially odd since I'm usually the one who is warm in the office. 

On the way home, I had a couple of errands to run, and by the time I got home for dinner  all I could think of was that I was kind of hungry, really tired, and feeling like I should nap before going to bed. 

Of course, that was almost 2.5 hours ago and I'm still not in bed. Unfortunately, everything else has stayed status quo, as well. Except for the hungry part, because Christopher and I had dinner not long after I got home. 

Wish me luck. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

No. I Don't Want to Know, You Know?

There are those times when I just really don't want to know what I don't know. 

Frequently, I do prefer to believe that what I don't know won't hurt me. 

Which is why, when I took my car in to a shop to have a rattle fixed this morning, I really expected that I'd only hear what was wrong with that rattle and nothing else. 

Then, when they called me to say the car was ready, they started listing off other things that they had found that needed to be fixed. You know, multiple-hundred-dollar things, as opposed to the fifty-dollar fix that I had gone there for. 

Yes, my car is twelve years old. It's at the age when things will be going wrong and when they do I'll have to debate whether fixing or replacing is the better way to go. 

Today, though, the shock of going from a fifty-dollar fix to a fifty-dollars-now-but-hundreds-of-dollars-within-a-few-months was a bit... well... shocking. (Not to mention fiscally pretty much impossible at the moment.) 

It really makes me want to go back to this morning and un-know what I now know. You know?


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Celebrate the Month of Ned with Me!

As you may have heard, today is National Empty the Closet Day. Hurrah!

Okay. No. It's not "National Empty the Closet Day." Or at least not that I know of. (And how do some of these "National" days get their designations, anyway?)

It is, however, National Coming Out Day. Happily, I didn't really have to celebrate it with much fanfare this year, since I'm pretty sure everyone who's paying attention to my life already knows that I'm gay.

So, instead, I'm looking at today as a great day to clean out the closet. After all, it's fall, and there's the whole change of seasons going on, and what better time is there to start shuffling out some clothing? (And bringing it all out of the closet, so to speak.)

Honestly, I started celebrating this a couple of weeks ago and I just haven't gotten the stuff all taken out to be donated. So maybe I should call this "National Empty the Closet Month" or... well... "National Empty The Closet Month In The Mystical Realm Of The Bedroom Where All My Clothes Are If You Can Call That A Nation." Which, of course, would have the nifty acronym of "NETCMITMROTBWAMCAIYCCTAN" (pronounced "Ned" because the "CMITMROTBWAMCAIYCCTAN" is silent, obviously).

(Oh. Look. I think I spelled something in Welsh! Or Irish Gaelic! Or maybe Finnish!)

Anyway...

Since this is the celebratory month of Ned, I do, in fact, have a whole big trash bag (no longer usable for yard waste, but that's a different story) all set and ready to go to charity. (Personally, I'm donating them to Youthlink, which is a local resource for teens and young adults dealing with homelessness.)

I'm pretty sure that taking out a bunch of gently-used, clean clothing which I no longer need will probably leave me feeling pretty good. Happy, you know. Perhaps even a bit gay.

Seems appropriate on a day like today, doesn't it?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Urgent Care Urgency - A Gay Marriage Topic

Christopher has been sidelined with a nasty case of stomach flu the past few days. Not "The Flu," mind you, just average, run-of-the-mill aches and chills and stomach ick.

When his fever broke yesterday morning, we figured we were in the clear, so I left him home to sleep all day and headed for work. But when I got home last night, he was still exhausted (after sleeping most of the day), and just not feeling as much better as we'd hoped. He said he'd go to Urgent Care in the morning if he wasn't feeling better. I, however, decided that an evening trip to Urgent Care was in order. And since he was feeling weak, he didn't protest for long.

So, there we were waiting at Urgent Care and watching the families and couples come in. And there was never any hesitation for the staff to speak to either the husband or wife. There was an assumption that they could both speak on behalf of what was going on, and that they'd both be going back to the exam rooms.

And, when Christopher got called to go into the triage room, and then into the exam room, I went along. I didn't think anything about it. I just figured it was the right thing to do. And the nurses - and the doctor - didn't really bat an eye. When I answered questions on Christopher's behalf it was fine.

But here's the thing: They didn't have to.

According to the law - and various medical ethics kinds of things - they didn't have to let me in. I'm not a blood relative. I'm not a spouse. Even though we've been together for more than seven years, I'm not - technically - family. So, legally, they could have kept me out.

And, sitting there with Christopher, I couldn't think of anywhere else I would have wanted to be. But I also had the fleeting thought that I could be kicked out at any minute. Which, frankly, I ignored last night.

Today, however, when I had some time to think about it all, I realized that that fleeting thought scares the hell out of me. What if they had told me to leave? That I wasn't able to be there for Christopher - or vice-versa? What could I have done?

When people ask me why I think gay marriage is so important, sometimes it's hard for me to put it into words. I mean... Christopher and I aren't champing at the bit to walk down the aisle, even though we're committed to each other for the long run. And I don't know enough about tax laws to know how much we're losing each year because we can't file jointly.

But I don't want anyone telling me that just because we're not a heterosexual couple that we have to say good-bye at the door to the hospital, right when we need each other the most. I don't want to be told, when I've been rushed to the hospital on my deathbed, that I can't see the person I love because some idiot decided we don't deserve equal (visitation) rights under the law.

Luckily, a lot of healthcare institutions are aware that the world is changing and that families come in all different shapes and sizes. Now if only all of those "I deserve more rights than you do" right-wing politicians and religious fanatics would realize that, too. (Preferably before the upcoming elections...)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

When Worlds Divide

In a book I've been reading for the book club I'm in, and in a couple of different TV shows I watch, there's been a lot of stuff about people living multiple lives.

Which is not - well, not entirely - to say that these people are duping someone else and taking on new lives on purpose. That only happens in the book. Oh, and one of the TV shows.

But not everyone in the book who is leading multiple lives is actually doing it on purpose or by choice. They seem to kind of fall into the lives that they didn't plan on. Which I guess is where this all kind of ties in for me.

There is a theory which shows up in a certain amount of science fiction which says that every decision that is made splits off the world into multiple new realities. (Don't think about this too hard, because it will make your head hurt and you don't really need to know this.) For the sake of argument, let's just take the big decisions. For instance, what would the world be like if Kennedy had ducked? Or if Walt Disney had never gone to California? Or if you'd never gone on that one first date?

We all create alternate realities each time we fantasize about our lives. I know for a fact that my life would be different if I had won any of the lottery jackpots that I bought tickets for. But that doesn't mean that I would want to live a completely different life, I'd simply have the same life, with some differences. I don't think any of us would truly want to become someone else, entirely.

And yet, from time to time, doesn't that sound kind of fun?

Obviously a lot of people get into the idea - otherwise Halloween wouldn't be such a big deal. And there are even people who make a living at it as actors and performers. And we all, on some level, re-invent ourselves when we start new jobs or meet new friends.

I wonder, sometimes, who I'd be if I had taken other paths. If I'd taken the semester and gone on the school exchange for the speech program. If I'd taken the job teaching on the Eastern Shore. If I'd moved to Texas instead of Minnesota (yes, it was a real option for a short period of time).

But then I come back to who and where I am now, and I realize that I don't really need to know. Because I like the who and the where that I am. And the who I'm with and the where we are together. And all of the people and places and chaos and bliss that go along with it.

Still... on some strange nights when the moon is just so... the Gemini in me begins to wonder what the other versions of me are doing in those other realities.

And I wonder if they think about me, too.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Friday Food - Fall Fents... err... Scents

I knew that it was fall a couple of weeks ago when the mensroom at work suddenly started smelling like manufactured fall. In other words, instead of smelling like random institutional air freshener, it started to smell of fake cinnamon, dry leaves, and bonfires. Or something like that. Whatever they say in the masculine version of Glade and Febreze ads on TV. 

And, okay, I have to admit that I kind of like the new scent. It's certainly better than it could be (after all, it's a mensroom), and at least it isn't sickeningly, sweetly floral. (Which is apparently what has materialized in the women's restroom.)

All this (well, not the women's restroom aside, but the rest of it) got me thinking about how there are definitely "fall scents." But there aren't really scents for the other seasons. At least not that I can think of. I mean... There are all kinds of "holiday" fragrances, but they are specific to leading up to Christmas, and not something you smell and think "Wow, that smells like mid-January to me." 

Summer has all of the "cooking out" smells. Along with charcoal and grilling meat, there's also the smell of "hot dirt" (you know the smell, right?), and the smell of rain. 

And, yet, spring doesn't really have anything that comes to mind, either. Sure, there are days that simply feel like spring, but offhand I just can't think of any smells of spring. Maybe warm, damp dirt if you're someone who gardens? The smell of rain probably overlaps both summer and spring, but when it's cool out, the rain doesn't have the same smell as in the hot summer. 

But fall... Fall is all about spices. Heavy, heady spices. It's the season of cinnamon and nutmeg baking apples. It's when pepper and wine and onions bathe meats that sit for hours on the stove. It's when chilis of all kinds show up and the house simply smells warm, like the yeasty aroma of baking bread. When tomatoes meet oregano and basil and garlic and the house smells like a trattoria for days (this works especially well with someone like Christopher around). 

It's when I break out the baking cookbooks, when hot apple cider gets both spiced and spiked, and when leisurely meals that have simmered for hours take over from the flash-in-the-pan-ities of summer.

Which, come to think of it, probably explains why I've been feeling hungry after each trip to the mensroom, lately. But, more importantly, it explains why I'm contemplating going out to buy some canned pumpkin (Libby's, of course), and thinking about trying out some recipes with the warm butterscotchy aroma of curry, and contemplating spending a whole weekend in the kitchen. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

World Weary Wednesday

I fully admit that I am *not* currently watching the presidential debate.

I know that I really ought to be. I ought to be listening to them each speak and seeing how it goes. I ought to be getting a feel for how each of them really addresses the issues.

But I'm so tired of all of the political talk this year already - and we're still a month away from the election - that I just couldn't watch.

And, of course, in this electronic age, I'm sure I'll see a gazillion news clips in the next few days. They'll be on TV. They'll be online. They'll be all over social media sites.

So, for tonight, I'm going to assume that they both were well-rehearsed. There were no surprises. And they wouldn't have changed my decision on who to vote for in November.

And, instead, the TV is off and a book will be in hand as soon as I'm done with this post. I suspect that would be a great way to make it through the next month, as well.