Thursday, January 18, 2018

Whoever Said Money Can't Buy Happiness Probably Didn't Feed His Pets Blue Buffalo And Have S.A.D.

Let me warn you now: my brain has turned to Polar Mush, and I take no responsibility for the coherence of this post. Yesterday, I literally Gave Up at 3:30 PM when I realized that my furnace, even after running continually, still had not attained its Goal Temperature. Which meant that I was not going to attain mine, either. I hurriedly (and shivering-ly) finished prepping dinner, made stuff for Rick's lunches for the remainder of the week, and then zoomed into the bedroom where I put on my fleece jammies with the feet attached. This roused the attention of both cats, whose bliss was complete once they saw me grab my grandmother's flannel-backed comforter and hit the couch with my pillow and remote.

When I Give Up, I Mean Business.

I'm tired of Winter. I'm sick of being trapped inside by single-digit wind chills and icy walkways. Snow is not pretty if it's been sitting out there for weeks making everything so much more difficult and being tracked inside making things wet. (I don't think it's ever, ever "pretty.") The glare off that stuff is impressive when the sun shines; I don't need to put any lights on in the house all day long. It's hell when I have a headache.

I know: bitch, bitch, bitch. And I was going to behave myself and count my Blessings forever. I still do, but there's no halo on my head or wings hiding under my sweater. This isn't the Dept. of Pollyanna.

But here's a Happiness! And like many True Happinesses, it caught me completely by surprise and came in an unassuming, ordinary conveyance.

Rick came home from work and retrieved the mail from the porch. Sometimes I dread this--particularly when I'm crabby or have just cleaned up the living room from all detritus--because he will often toss any and all junk mail addressed to me on my lap, even though he knows it belongs in the recycle bin. The rest of it goes onto the coffee table, waiting.  It just makes more work for me, and I don't even bother to open it. Or, he'll toss financial statements with my name on them to me, again knowing that he is the one who deals with them, not me.

But I digress.

Rick got the mail and tossed me an envelope. I rolled my eyes and then looked at the return address. It was from Blue Buffalo Litigation, Settlement Department. "Oh, hey!" I said. "I forgot about joining this Blue Buffalo pet food class action lawsuit. Geeze, it was such a long time ago. It was something about...I don't even remember. I read about it online and filed online, too." As I was talking, I was opening the envelope and taking out a check.

And then my eyes popped out of my head, fell on the carpet, became covered with cat hair, and Rick had to go rinse them off before he could stick them back into my face, where my mouth was hanging open like a drawbridge welcoming the procession of the Knights Of The Roundtable returning from a quest.

Because the check was for $108.69.

I got OVER ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS OF FREE MONEY IN THE MAIL. From a class action lawsuit. It's incredible.

I've joined lots of class action lawsuits that I've been eligible for in the past, and the most I've gotten has been maybe fifteen bucks. I could not get over it.  Almost as good as seeing a patch of grass in my yard...someday.

Warmed me right up.


Tuesday, January 09, 2018

A New Year's Story (Somewhere, Charles Dickens Is Smiling)

Last Thursday, after grocery shopping with a lighter heart since Things Are Back To Normal, I was steering my Prius back home, barely grimacing at That Horrid Taco's Sign. It was so cold, but at least it was sunny, and I had a car full of groceries, good news from the doctor the day before, and dinner already planned in my head. It was such a Good Day!

I almost didn't see the man standing on the street corner at the busy three-way stop. He was muffled in a scarf and hat, and he was wearing a brown canvas coat that didn't look very warm. As I came up to the intersection, he turned around, and I saw he was holding a sign:

The snow around the sidewalks where he was standing was piled up about fourteen inches, and in the extreme cold, had turned to ice. There were deep frozen ruts about a foot into the street, making his chosen spot a precarious one. It was also not a very smart one. Traffic coming from one direction had no stop at all, and in order for him to reach any car that did manage to stop and block this very busy intersection, he had to navigate terrible terrain. Had he merely moved to a small parking lot across from the Taco's sign fifty feet away, he'd have had a much easier time of it.

Traffic nudged me, and I had to move along. But instead of turning left at the light a block ahead, I turned right, circled back, and came around again. I was lucky--traffic had slowed, and I could stay in my lane to call him over. He was jumping up and down a bit in his tennis shoes, trying to get warm. I honked my horn a little over the noise of a loud truck idling nearby to get his attention. He turned around, and I leaned over in the seat toward my open passenger's side window.

He carefully stepped toward my car, picking his path through the icy mounds and slippery ruts. I wasn't sure if I should look at him: would it embarrass him? I glanced at him briefly and glimpsed some of the tiredest eyes I think I have ever seen. I could see that he was young, and I felt a surge of pity. "Here," I said, as I offered him a ten, "I--"

"Oh, thank you! Thank you, ma'am, and God Bless! God Bless you, ma'am!" His blue eyes glistened and he had a West Virginian accent. His cheeks were red and patched with cold, white places.

I became almost overwhelmed with...what? Embarrassment? Shame? "I hope things turn around for you soon," I said. I checked my mirrors and drove on into traffic, headed home, thinking about my December worries and how they stacked up--or, more accurately, didn't--to this man's.

To many, many people's.

When the Universe strives so mightily to Teach Me A Lesson, it is important that I not miss the opportunity to Learn It. This young man on the corner was sort of my New Year's Jacob Marley, but I won't need to be introduced to the rest of the cast.

Message Received.


Tuesday, January 02, 2018

In Which I Update You On December And Forge Ahead

I'm just going to jump right in and Flex My Writing Muscles with a Spontaneous Post. December was a long and arduous month, and just getting through it felt like a Full-Time Job. Wouldn't it be nice if Christmas could be during the summer when zipping around is easier and you're not all bundled up like a first-time mom's new baby in about a hundred layers so that when you try to do anything you're rolling around, or worse yet, waddling? Ugh.

And yes, I know, not all of you are reading this in the grips of The Polar Vortex.



1. Not Merry: On December 1st, Rick was fired. Long story short, the company that recruited him to start up and run a new division decided to all of a sudden not have that division. They gave him no severance. Then they contested his unemployment benefits (of course, it took all month for that to be deemed meritless).

2. Nance Meltdown: Needless to say, this was not something I was ready for. Without getting into all the boring minutiae of my health, let me simply say that it was a concern for both Rick and me. The strain of worry about finances, both immediate and long-range, was enormous, and no amount of reassurance--from anyone--could help me.

3. Living Together: I am used to being home alone (with cats Piper and Marlowe) all day long. There is a certain ebb and flow to my days, and I am a creature of habit. It was extraordinarily difficult to share that time with Rick, who would wake up, come into the living room where I was silently having coffee and reading the paper, and turn on the television (loudly) so that he could watch the morning news. I felt edgy and...watched. As if I had to Have A Plan. "What are you doing today?" he would ask innocently. My first reaction was to feel bristly and almost defensive. It was Completely Insane, and I knew it. I was on a hair trigger; things were Not Normal, and it was all just Fear.

4. Projects: Aside from Finding A Job being Rick's job, he tackled cleaning out his area of the basement, which gave him plenty to do and kept him safe from me. I also continued my own Throw It Out projects, expanding my reach to several of my bureau drawers, a storage closet upstairs, a section of my closet, and next on the list is my upstairs linen cabinet, home to all the bed linens for the house.  And there was also the biggest project of them all...

5. Christmas: This year, we plundered our stash of Secret Money and had a Cash Christmas. Nothing on the credit card to pay off in January.  Rick and I did all the shopping together as well as the wrapping.  I cancelled the Big Family Christmas Eve Open House, traditionally held at my home for the past 30 years. I knew the stress and workload would flatten me. Jared and Sam came over and we had wine and heavy appetizers and relaxed. On Christmas Day, Zydrunas came too, and we hung out, resurrected Wii Bowling, and watched Z destroy a toy. On the 26th, Rick and I took down all the Christmas, put the tree on the curb, and took some deep breaths.

6. Wine Therapy: Although I am not one to recommend drinking as a medication, I will say that our wine cellar played a large role in my December Survival. Without it, I would have spent the entire month brittle, fragile, tightly wound, and probably never smiling even once. Bonus: I am even more adept at food and wine pairings now.

7. Saving The Best For Last: Today, Rick started back to work. In a rare and truly wonderful twist of Fate, he is working at the company where he was previous to the one that fired him. He left there on good terms; his boss knew that Rick had been given an opportunity which, at the time, was one he couldn't pass up. He's been welcomed back with such warmth and good cheer that it's overwhelming.

And now, I am done sharing all that Unpleasantness. Certainly--and I know this for a fact--we are not the only ones to have had this hardship, and we are in much better shape than so very many people who have been--and are still going--through it. I am grateful for our resources and know how fortunate we are.

I do think, however, that it's Important in this Age Of InstaPinFace to put some Real Life out there once in a while. My December wasn't picture perfect with each day bringing its own little Christmas Miracle. Some days were good, some...not so much. Some days I had to Just Let Go and hope things would get Better. As many of you know, that's a tough one for me.

But here I am.  And On We Go.


Friday, December 22, 2017

And Suddenly, December...

Wishing you Peace and Joy
However and Wherever
You may find them.

The Dept. will be back up and running in January.  Until then, stay warm, stay safe, and take some time for yourself each day to rest, refuel, and read something Smart.  

(image is my own)

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Throw It Out Thursday: Kitchen Table Linens (Supposedly) Drawer

One goal of mine has been to eliminate Junk Repositories from my home. I detest cutesy Crap Containers, so-called Organizers, any flat surfaces designated for detritus to accumulate, and all manner of Clutter. Part of the reason is that we have a very small house; another is that I am home now for a large part of the day and have to deal with it/look at it.  (I dream of getting rid of my coffee table, but we do use it.)

When we went to set the breakfast nook table for our Informal Thanksgiving, the Kitchen Table Linens Drawer quite simply exploded. In the search for tablecloth and matching napkins, (and a placemat for Zydrunas's dishes on the floor), stuff was rooted through, and only with superhuman effort would the drawer begrudgingly close again...almost. Rick and I rarely use an actual table for meals now, opting for more casual dinners on the couch while watching the evening news. The Drawer, therefore, had become neglected, and while I was aware that it needed editing, I was unaware of exactly what had been squirreled away in there of a decidedly Non-Linen nature.

Here, then, is what got Thrown Out of the Drawer today:

First of all, that Lowe's receipt is so old, you cannot even read what the item was or how much it cost.  It was stuffed way in the back.  The little plastic tub was not in the drawer, but it is overflowing with the doodads that somehow found their way into the linens:  screws, a plastic bag of hooks from before my subway tiles were installed, a key safe, a light timer (like for when you go away and want burglars to think someone is home), a broken cover for my refrigerator's water filter, a partial tube of silicon adhesive, some hooks for my pot rack, and a slew of other stuff, including a ceramic cow's ear for a cow I no longer have in my collection.  Rick will have a little sorting job to do.

(I'm sorry to see that cow hook up there get tossed.  I love it, but I have nowhere to put it, and while the repair is an easy one to make, it will also be easy to see.)

And yes, those are actual linens from the drawer I'm either tossing, donating, or selling cheaply at the next garage sale.


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Way Back When Wednesday: Baking For My Father

Saturdays were a very special day at our house when we were growing up on East 38th Street. My mother always baked something on Saturday afternoons so that we had it for dessert on Saturday night after our baths, and sometimes we had it for breakfast on Sunday mornings before twelve o'clock mass. My father adored fresh pastry, pie, cake, and every once in a while, a homemade pudding like tapioca or a meringue-topped bliss entirely misnamed Graham Cracker Pudding when it should have been called Fantastically Wonderful But Horribly Worky Sweet Delight.

My father often requested terribly complicated and labour-intensive baked goods, and my mother, for some reason, complied. I can vividly remember sitting under our kitchen table while she made strudel dough, stretching and stretching it thinner and thinner, its transparent edges hanging long over the sides. Every so often, I'd reach out from under the table and tear a bit of dough off to taste it. She would sometimes see me and reprimand me, but she never made me get out from under the table.

When my mother made pies, she often had leftover pie crust and allowed me to use it to make my own creations which she would then bake along with her pies. I would roll the bits of pie crust into pinwheels or shape them into flowers or animals. Then I'd sprinkle them with cinnamon and sugar, or if I was given enough crust to form a small tart or two, fill them with jam. When they came out of the oven, I'd be so proud of them! Carefully, I'd look them over and choose the nicest of them to present to my father on a pretty saucer.

My dad was always so complimentary and loving about whatever I had made and given to him, but he never ate a single thing when I presented it. "That looks great!" he'd say. "I don't want to eat it right now. Have your mother save it for me and pack it in my lunch, and I'll have it at work with my hot tea." Always disappointed, I'd say okay, and take it back to the kitchen and relay the message to my mother, who would put the plate away. I would snack on the remainder of my little treats that I had made myself and think no more about it.

I can't tell you exactly when it finally occurred to me that my father never, ever ate any of the little treats I baked for him. Embarrassingly, it was probably not too long ago, relatively speaking. As I've said before, when it came to my Childhood, I was Blissfully Unaware a good ninety percent of the time, trusting always in The Grownups and spending most of my life with my nose buried deep within books. Like cookies put out for Santa, my little pie crust treats were never consumed by the person for whom they were intended.

My father was, in his own way, a bit of a germophobe, and had deep misgivings about the Unknown Ingredients in my cookies. Had I licked my fingers as I sprinkled on the cinnamon sugar? What if I had not thoroughly washed my hands before I prodded that dough? Perhaps my mother had not made sure my pigtails were pulled back and not able to brush across the cookies' surface. Worse, what if I had coughed on them? There was no way to be sure, so there was no way he could possibly eat them. Instead, he spared both of our feelings with his kind fiction, and I remained happy for the most part, if a bit puzzled.

I buy my pies, except for two pumpkin pies every Thanksgiving, at a local pie shop. I buy premade pie crusts, and there are never any leftovers; you just unroll a circle of dough and push it into the pie pan. It's very easy to do, and when you're done, you're done.

original image

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Teacher Tuesday: Quick Language Pricklies

This is the last Teacher Tuesday of November, and it's a gorgeous, sunny 62 degrees here in NEO! I want to spend a little more time outside, storing up some natural Vitamin D before Nature looks at her calendar and corrects her mistake.

Here are a few Language Burrs that sneaked under my saddle this week and caused me some discomfort.

1. On Accident. I read this online, but I've heard it said time and time again; e.g. "Travis locked himself out on accident." The correct phrase is "by accident." The mixup most likely occurs because of the converse phrase "on purpose."

2. A Real Trooper. I'm pretty certain that this is going to go the way of many, many olde fashionde sayings and because of its constant misspelling lapse into tolerated and grudgingly accepted usage. The proper spelling is "trouper" after the word "troupe," which is a group of performers. Just as the old saying attests, "The show must go on;" a trouper, therefore, is a performer who keeps going on despite problems and hardships.

3. Lightening/Lightning. This drives me absolutely crazy. If you are making something paler or blonder or weigh less, then you are lightEning it. That is a three-syllable word. If you are referring to bolts of electricity in the sky (which one of my junior regs once told me Benjamin Franklin invented), then you are writing about lightning. That is a two-syllable word.

Going outside now! This warm weather is bliss.

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