Thursday, September 30, 2010

Pick up in Aisle Three (Or Maybe Not)

When we got home from a birthday dinner the other night, I took off my rings and put them on the coffee table. It occurred to me then that I might want to move them to the dining room table next to my keys so I wouldn’t forget them in the morning. But did I move them? Of course not. And did I forget them in the morning? Of course I did.

And it bothered me all day.

How strange that a couple pieces of jewelry can be so much more than a couple pieces of jewelry. My finger felt naked and I couldn’t wait to get home to slip the rings back on my finger. I didn’t feel less “married” – it just felt…I don’t know. Weird. And in the meantime, I hoped no guy was going to hit on me in the produce section at Kroger’s when I went in to pick up some alfalfa sprouts and radicchio.

Oh, wait. That hasn’t happened in a while. And probably not because of the rings on my left hand either.

Oh well – that’s okay. I’m not on the market and really don’t want anyone hitting on me in the produce section at Kroger’s. It happened before back in the carefree days of my youth and, frankly, it was always sort of a creepy experience.

It's curious to me that men hit on women in grocery stores, although I suppose the idea does make some sort of sense. You can tell a lot about a person by taking a peek in their shopping cart. If she has Similac and diapers in her cart, he might want to stay away. If she has the cart filled with things like Trix, Fruit Loops and Spaghetti-O’s, he might want to move on. Because if she doesn’t have toddlers at home, her taste in food probably was stunted somewhere around the third grade and he could have a tough time enjoying an adult meal with such a woman. Unless, of course, he himself is partial to chicken nuggets and Ding Dongs.

On the other hand, if she has a six pack of his favorite beer in the cart along with some steaks and a loaf of crusty French bread, he might take a chance and hit the jackpot. Sure, she could have a boyfriend at home, but nothing ventured, nothing gained – right?

The first time anyone hit on me in the grocery store was back in the day when I wore skirts and high heels to work. Stopping at the grocery store on the way home from work was the norm – and one evening some guy in a ratty old t-shirt and jeans that looked like they hadn't seen the inside of a washing machine in a while stopped me in the meat department. How's that for irony? Not the sort of “meat market” I was expecting!

Nevertheless, he chatted me up as I scanned the packages looking for a good deal. Being too polite to tell him to bug off, I endured his patter as he attempted to wow me with his pick-up lines. Which sort of bombed. Lines like, “Hey, that steak looks good – I bet you could cook a nice steak, couldn't you?” And “I love red meat – don't you?” were not exactly knockin' my socks off.

Thankfully, he didn't ask me out so I smiled at him and told him I had to be moving along. I stopped short of sprinting away, but the guy pretty much stalked me up and down the aisles after that, which definitely creeped me out. So I abandoned the remainder of my grocery list and made tracks for the cash register as fast as my high heels would let me.

I stowed the groceries in the trunk of my car – and then saw a car pull up behind me thus blocking me in. Yep, it was the same guy who by then had gotten bold and said he wouldn't move until I agreed to go out with him. Whoa. I never did respond well to either coercion or threats.

I told him in no uncertain terms to move his car, which he took as a sign to continue trying. Just then I noticed that the person who had parked in front of me was leaving – so I jumped in my car and took off in the opposite direction. I can't remember what happened next, though I'm quite sure I didn't drive straight home because I didn't want this character to know where I lived. I probably did my best imitation of Starsky and Hutch trying to lose a tail before finally heading toward home.

Sheesh. Not a great example of a successful pick up in a grocery store, that's for sure!

On the other hand, perhaps some folks have better luck. Hopefully with a little more finesse. After all, true love can be found in the strangest places. For me, it was on MySpace. So the meat department at Kroger’s isn’t outside the realm of possibility. I’m just glad I’m no longer looking.

So I won’t forget my rings again. Oh, and I’m really glad I no longer wear high heels. Take it from me - sprinting through a grocery store in them is not fun.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

4:15 In The Freaking AM

Vince’s alarm didn’t go off at its regularly scheduled 4:15 AM wake-up time. Fortunately, he woke up on his own 15 minutes later – but that’s 15 minutes that he needs to get himself coiffed, dressed, fueled up with breakfast and coffee and out the door and on the road.

So I got up with him this morning. At 4:30 in the morning. That’s A.M. in case you missed it. I don’t do 4:30AM well.

Nevertheless, the man has done his fair share of getting me up and out the door at the appointed time, so I thought it only fair to reciprocate. One 4:30AM reciprocation should suffice for hundreds of 7AM efforts – don’t you think?! Wonderful. Glad we're in agreement. (Hey Vince – good news. We’re even!) (And, yes, I do realize that it’s good news for me – but it’s good news nonetheless!)

So anyway, while my husband got himself ready for the day, I stumbled downstairs and pushed the “on” button for the coffee maker and put a bagel in the toaster. I collected his lunch from the fridge and put it in his insulated bag. And I poured his now piping hot, fresh coffee into his travel mug.

And then I did something that I personally thought was pretty darn heroic. I sliced some sort of fish sausage that he bought last week when we were in upper Michigan – and put the slices on his bagel. Ick.

I really don’t do fish. Three hand washings later, I swear I could still smell seafood on my fingers. But Vince thinks this fish sausage is tasty – and has been enjoying it on his morning bagel, so I wanted to make the guy happy.

Once I shooed him out the door, I was less sleepy and wondered what sort of trouble people get themselves into before dawn’s early light. So I flipped on the computer and did some surfing. I cleared out my junk e-mails. I finished yesterday’s blog and got a head start on this one. And I wished assorted and sundry friends a happy birthday today.

By this point it was all of 6AM. Still too early to get up unless I wanted to do something crazy like deep knee bends or stomach crunches in the living room. I didn’t. But by this time, I was also freezing, so I hustled back upstairs and donned a pair of wool socks and a long sleeve sweater – and then jumped back in bed.

This was not a smart move – because I fell into a deep sleep and I, too, did the “15 Minutes Late” dance. Arrgghh! And there was no Vince downstairs to prepare my morning (fishless) bagel.

Nevertheless, I’m a whiz at putting myself together on the run and getting out the door on time. I grabbed a breakfast bar and my coffee and hit the road. I was in time to hear “celebrity sleaze” on the Morning Zoo, so I knew I was on track.

However, what I neglected to take into consideration was that it was another cold, rainy morning. A little bit of drizzle outside and commuters freak out around here. There were about a billion of us all heading toward downtown at the aggravating pace of about 30 miles an hour. Ugh.

Guess it’s time for another recalculation of the morning departure time. First we had the yellow school bus situation. Now we have the bad weather situation. If these situations keep up, I may be getting up at 4:15 with Vince to head downtown for my morning commute. Sure, I’d get to my office before anyone in the civilized world is awake (yeah, yeah, I know about time zones…work with me here), but at least I wouldn’t have to deal with the slow-moving masses.

Let me think about that for a minute. On the one hand there’d be virtually no traffic. On the other hand…4:15 AM.

Guess there’s no contest.

Okay, you Columbus commuters. It’s only a little rain. MOVE IT!

Baby, it's Cold Outside!

So I woke up this morning and it was fall. No, not officially-according-to-the-calendar-fall – but according to my very own personal Fall-O-Meter. My fingers, toes and the tip of my nose were cold – and that’s a surefire way I know that summer is over and we can expect snow flurries to arrive any day now.

Well, perhaps I exaggerate just a tad – but I’m pessimistic when it comes to winter, so I prepare for the worst.

Hmmm…I suppose this means we should turn off the A/C at home, shouldn’t we? No sense in cooling the place while wearing footie pajamas and earmuffs around the ol’ homestead, eh?

Today was the kind of fall day that would be ideally suited to staying at home on the couch wrapped up in a fuzzy blanket sipping a cup of hot chocolate while a fire crackles merrily in the hearth. (I suppose a fire could crackle angrily, too, but that seems more like the kind of fire that is not safely contained inside a hearth.)

But, anyway…

While the scenario above might be a perfect way to spend a cold, rainy Monday I was, naturally, at work all day. And I was blowing on my cold fingers and curling my toes inside my socks to try and warm up a little. To no avail, mind you.

There must be some unofficial office rule that states employees cannot turn the heat on the day after the air conditioning has been on – so I didn’t dare touch the thermostat. But I was sorely tempted as my corduroy jacket did absolutely nothing to keep me from shivering. Perhaps I should have replaced the tank top underneath the jacket with a turtleneck, but I wasn’t that prepared for a cold, rainy fall day. Hey, I figured I was good to have the corduroy jacket and socks at the ready. It was, after all, a few short days ago that I was wearing short sleeves and flip flops.

Of course, there is something to be said for the changing of the seasons. For one, it means that I get to wear the cool new boots I purchased for a phenomenal sale price at the end of last season, but never had the chance to wear. And being bundled from head to toe is a good way to cover up those ghostly pale limbs that never seemed to tan despite many a foray to the pool this past summer.

Plus, I get to drive with the butt-warmers on now. Yay. LOVE leather seats in a car that comes equipped with butt-warmers! It makes driving around in cold, snowy Ohio a little less, well, butt-cold! Ha ha. Aren’t I funny?

So I’m doing my best to think positively about the upcoming weather changes here in Central Ohio. I'll concentrate on the holiday season fast, wait! That causes stress. I haven't even thought about buying the first gift or card or stamp, nor have we discussed where we'll be spending various holidays this year.

Hmm...perhaps I can instead think about crisp fall evenings being cuddled up on the couch with my Vince enjoying a glass of vino and, yes, sitting in front of a crackling fire. Ahh...that's the stuff. Hopefully I can concentrate on that rather than the upcoming piles of snow outside that will have to be shoveled and the painstakingly slow commutes to work and back caused by a few little snowflakes on the ground.

Oh well. It doesn't do any good to worry about this stuff – the weather changes every year whether I want it to or not. Besides, almost every year we deal with a cold snap in September, which causes some of us to start thinking about snow...only to have hot weather return for a few more days where short sleeves and flip flops are more appropriate clothing than corduroy jackets and ear muffs.

But I still think I'm gonna haul out those turtlenecks. And the footie pajamas. And I may just turn the butt-warmers to the “on” position and leave them there permanently 'til next spring.

Yeah, I'm likin' that idea. If anyone needs me, I'll be out sitting in my car.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Surly Girl

So I woke up this morning in a pretty good mood. I got a great night’s sleep and actually heeded my alarm when it sounded, so I got up in plenty of time to drink my coffee and eat a proper breakfast. I even had time to wash and dry my hair. Hey, people – believe me – these are accomplishments to be celebrated!

But all morning people and circumstances have been threatening to piss me off and change my mood to surly. And, sure, okay, I get the notion that we’re in charge of our own happiness and only we have the power to turn a mood from sunny to surly. But some days it doesn’t take much.

My first aggravation was that I drove to work practically on fumes because I didn’t fill up the gas tank last night. Why not? Well, because we had a tornado warning on my drive home and I was afraid I’d be swept away to Kansas or somewhere still hanging on to the gas pump if I dared stop at the Quickie Mart. So I figured I’d get up a few minutes earlier this morning and fill up without the threat of encountering the Wicked Witch of the West.

But…I forgot. Apparently once my car brings me safely home, I completely forget about it until I head out the next morning. My bad.

Anyway, driving on fumes stresses me out. I’m guessing it’s a flashback to my rookie driving year when I ran out of gas in the not-so-great part of town and had some tense moments waiting for my dad to come rescue me. I didn’t, by the way, know that the car had run out of gas because the gas gauge didn’t work. (“I don’t know, Dad…the car just broke. Sniff, sniff…help!”)

So I rarely allow the tank to dip below a quarter full even though I’ve never since owned a vehicle without a functioning gas gauge.

Fortunately, I wasn’t stranded by the side of the freeway, which is a good thing because I don’t have one of those little emergency gas cans stowed in the trunk of my car. No reason for it – right? So that was the first aggravation.

The second one was, well, a conglomeration of annoyances. Let’s just call them “stupid drivers.” Evidently there was a whole bunch of rookie drivers sharing the road with me this morning. Either that or they’ve simply forgotten that their vehicles come equipped with things like turn signals and that red lights mean “stop.” Plus, I’m pretty sure that driving while texting has been banned around these parts and is punishable by death. Or should be.

So I practiced a lot of defensive driving and managed to make it to work safely. My good mood was once again restored, although it was beginning to fray just a bit around the edges.

And then I got to my office and opened my e-mail only to discover a number of messages from irate customers who did not receive their orders when they expected them. Now, first of all, it’s not like my job involves administering anesthesia so that the patient doesn’t wake up in the middle of brain surgery. Nor did I ever have to swear an oath to serve and protect. It’s about dog bones. Only dog bones, people. No need to bite my head off.

Now, having said that…I should also state emphatically that I take my job seriously and believe that I should put forth every effort to make the business run smoothly. I understand what it means to go the extra mile. My response is immediate when a task arises. I follow up with people. And I never assume. If something is not working correctly, I try to figure out how to make it work better and I act on it. I don’t expect a pat on the back – I’m simply doing the job I’m paid to do.

So believe me when I say it makes me want to smack people who slack off and don't take their own responsibilities seriously. And I don’t think I’ve ever smacked anyone in my entire life. (Well, okay, except for that one time in fourth grade when I swatted Tony Montini on the arm. But he started it by socking me in the stomach. Turned out he liked me. Boys…)

Anyway, it’s just plain frustrating to do my best only to have someone else drop the ball. And then I’m left to do the apologizing. I don’t like apologizing when I haven’t made the error.

If I could have, I’d have gone home, hunkered down under the covers and hope that tomorrow is a better day. But since that wasn’t an option, I took off for lunch.

I drove to the gas station and filled up before heading to the park to enjoy my salad in the sunshine.

And then I realized something.

This morning wasn’t that bad. After all, I got to work safely. And I didn’t run out of gas. And despite those despicable texting drivers on the road, I saw no accidents and no one got hurt. And after tap-dancing my way through numerous apologies, I managed to restore relations with formerly irate customers.

Not only that, but I’m fortunate to have a job and I have God-given abilities to perform my job well. And I have a few bucks in my wallet that allow me to fill up my gas tank without having to decide between that or eating a meal.

So…sheesh. I’ve just ruined my own surly girl mood. With all those blessings on the table, I pretty much have to make the choice to be happy.

Even if there are texting, red-light-ignoring, blinker-less stupid drivers on the road.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Here's to the Happy Couple!

I took yesterday off from, well, pretty much everything. On Sunday we drove back from northern Michigan and arrived home about eight hours after we started. To folks who drive long distances for a living, I have to hand it to you. That’s some kinda tough work!

Not being one of those people who drive long distances for work, I was whipped by the time we finally arrived home. I had absolutely no interest in unpacking from the weekend or preparing for the upcoming work week. Consequently, I was a little zombie-ish yesterday and didn’t want to think. Certainly I didn’t want to try stringing words together to form any sort of cohesive message.

Today, however, I’m feeling a bit more refreshed. So let’s give stringing some words together a try and see if we can get anywhere close to cohesive.

While the drive home was a long one, it was also beautiful. We took the more scenic route and the trees in northern Michigan are just starting to turn. We were treated to some beautiful fall foliage. In another couple weeks, the colors will be breathtaking, but ask me if we’ll make another trip up north. Go on – ask me. Yeah, the answer would be a resounding “NO!” Not that I wouldn’t like to see it, I just couldn’t take the drive again so soon.

The reason we drove so far in northern Michigan was to attend my cousin’s wedding. It was an outdoor wedding, held at a friend’s farmhouse, which I thought was quite brave of the bride and groom. Not for having it at a friend’s farmhouse, but because the weather in northern Michigan in mid- to late-September can by kind of iffy. And the day dawned cold and rainy, so we all envisioned being huddled under golf umbrellas while we watched the happy couple exchange their vows.

But they had Lady Luck or Mother Nature or the Man Upstairs smiling down upon them, because it turned out to be a beautiful day with the sun sparkling on the green grass and dipping the distant fields in gold. Truly, it looked like a commercial for the perfect outdoor fall wedding. Except perhaps for the hysterically crying flower girl who apparently didn’t enjoy her role in the proceedings. I imagine the director would have called “Cut!” and they would have replaced the crying child with her smiling twin.

But it wasn’t a commercial – it was real life. And despite the crying flower girl, it was a beautiful ceremony at the top of a ridge overlooking rolling fields and trees. The bride and groom wrote their own vows, which were by turns heartfelt and touching and humorous. I saw many a guest dabbing at damp eyes with tissues or – if they were fancy enough or well-prepared – actual lace hankies.

I’m always amazed when a bridal couple elects to write and recite their own vows. Mostly because I don’t think I could get through it. I figured I’d either stumble over the words or get too choked up to continue. Yep, just let me repeat after someone and I’m good. So I have to give them major props for pulling it off so well.

The reception was a blast, too. As the wine and beer and cider flowed, guests sat under a big white tent and were treated to a delicious dinner of salmon and country ribs with lots of great sides. Toasts were given – lots of toasts were given – and everyone celebrated the happy couple.

They had a great idea for a “photo booth,” which was simply a wrought iron bed set outside the barn. Later in the evening, guests had their photos taken in all sorts of spontaneous poses on and around the bed. I’m sure the bride and groom are looking forward to seeing how these turned out. Hopefully no guests will be too horrified by their antics!

Weddings are such great events – not only to share in one of the most special days a couple can have, but also to renew relationships with family and friends. Plus, they are a good excuse to let loose and, as my 7-year-old niece says, “dance up a storm”! Which we did. Either because we’d drunk enough liquid courage – or because we were cold and were trying to warm up! No matter the reason, a great time was had by all.

So to the happy couple, I extend my love and heartfelt congratulations. May you live a long and happy life together.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

YOU Do the Math!

Last night before my hair appointment I stopped at Wendy’s for an extra little shot of caffeine (which I'm guessing was one of the reasons I was still awake at 3:40 this morning…). Nevertheless, I ordered a Diet Coke and a hamburger from the dollar menu.

My total bill came to two dollars and ninety-one cents, so I handed the kid a twenty dollar bill and a penny. My wallet was already bulging – sadly, not with paper money other than the twenty. But I had so much change in the coin section that I could barely close my wallet and the last thing I wanted was more pennies to stuff into it. I figured it could handle one thin dime.

Little did I know that I would cause the poor kid working the drive-thru window at Wendy’s so much angst. I was busy settling my dinner (such as it was) on the passenger seat and the drink in the cup holder while I waited for my change. And waited. And waited some more. Finally, I looked up to see the kid flapping his hands around and saying in a panicky voice, “I can’t do the math! I can’t do the math!”

A group of sympathetic coworkers quickly gathered around him while they all tried to figure out the answer to $20.01 minus $2.91. Surprisingly, the cash register didn’t automatically figure out the correct change – or perhaps he didn’t enter the penny when it was handed to him.

All three of his coworkers had furrowed brows and confused expressions on their faces, which struck me as a little comical. I tried not to laugh while attempting to give them the correct answer. None of them, of course, was paying a bit of attention to me while they whispered amongst themselves.

Just as I was about to start digging for correct change to make his life happy again, a manager a little closer to my age walked over to, well, manage. He quickly did the math and told them the jackpot answer. I noticed that he, too, had a furrowed brow and a confused expression on his face, but I suspect he was wondering what sort of math kids are being taught in school these days.

Probably when it involves uneven numbers, they simply whip out their cell phone and use the handy calculator function. Or maybe actual math classes have been replaced with demonstrations on how to swipe debit and credit cards.

Now I’m acting all smug here like I’m a veritable math genius. Nope; couldn’t be further from the truth. Just ask Vince. He’s always trying to give me hints and tips on how to do quick math calculations while I desperately search for my calculator or start counting on my fingers.

And had I been in this kid’s situation, I might’ve done a bit of hand flapping myself. However, when I was in high school I was intelligent enough to realize that numbers were not my forte and I should probably avoid any industry in which cash registers were involved.

Eventually, I became better at adding and subtracting and figuring out the tax on an item so I’d know my out-the-door price. It makes me look a little less “math-challenged” when I walk up to the cash register.

But maybe I should apologize to the kid at Wendy’s for causing him such consternation. And I should probably also apologize to all the math teachers out there who try to teach actual math to their students. Probably I owe a big apology to any of my own former math teachers for having to put up with me.

Yet I have to admit that I was rather proud of myself last night for being able to quickly figure out how much I had to hand the kid if I didn’t want to receive a bunch of pennies back.

But next time? I think I’ll use my debit card. No math required.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Time Crunch

I have so much stuff to get done in the next two days that I feel like I’m going to jump out of my skin. I don’t know why this is, unless I’m somehow trying to clone myself so I can get twice as much done in half as much time. Or possibly the caffeine in that second can of Diet Dr. Pepper I drank at lunchtime is doin’ its thing and I’m just buzzed.

Doesn’t matter. Even though I’m twitching like an amped-up college student studying for finals, I’m still not accomplishing any more than if I were cool, calm, collected and caffeine-free.


We’re heading out of town for a family wedding this weekend and I’m really looking forward to seeing the cousins “up north.” But we’re leaving directly after work on Thursday and I haven’t even started packing! I guess time just got away from me this week and I’ve run out of nights to get essential things done like laundry and packing and bill paying.

I’d have left a long list for Vince to do this evening while I’m at my essential hair appointment, but the poor guy has been working a lot of hours the past few days and I don’t want to overwhelm him. Especially since I’m expecting him to pack his own bag this trip. (I figure it’s the safer route. Then, if he runs out of boxers before he runs out of weekend, it won’t be my fault!) The only flaw in that plan is that it could be entirely possible that he’ll forget to pack his dress shoes, which means he’d be wearing flip flops with his suit.

Having said that, you watch – I’ll be the one forgetting my dress shoes and I’ll end up wearing hot pink Keds with my outfit, which does not remotely involve the color hot pink. And I don’t think I have quite the panache to pull off that look.

In an attempt to avoid the hot-pink-tennis-shoes-at-a-wedding faux pas, I made a long list to work on this evening. After I get home from my essential hair appointment, of course, which cannot be rushed. Much of my to-do list centers around packing because it is, after all, my highest priority. It would not do to show up in Northern Michigan with a simple pair and a spare. You never know what the weather will be like up there. While I may pack a pair of sandals, I'm also thinking about bringing my fleece hoodie and a pair of mittens – just in case.

That might mean that I'll have to bypass the “weekender” bag for the steamer trunk. Sadly, I've been known to frighten relatives when I show up with enough luggage to to get me through at least the next two of the four seasons. I'm sure they think I'm planning to move in permanently. The sad thing is that my clothing choices primarily center around the color black so why I need so many articles of black clothing, well, it's a mystery to me, too.

But it's now after 2AM and I've gotten things handled. Sort of. I managed to clean out and organize my suitcase of a purse and I have piles of clothing on the spare bed awaiting that steamer trunk. Bills have been paid. The fleece jackets are already stowed in the car. And I also have a load of clothes in the washing machine waiting to be dried. But, again, 2AM – can't wake up Vince.

Guess that caffeine buzz lasted a LONG time. I'm just going to have to hope that I get another caffeine buzz first thing in the morning or the day is not gonna be pretty. There may be ugly bags under my eyes, but seein' as how I had my essential hair appointment – at least my hair will look fabulous!


Monday, September 13, 2010

The Birthday Girl and the Washing Machine

So the last time I wrote I discussed a big black cloud that seemed to be hovering over our heads. Fortunately, it’s been nothin’ but blue skies ever since. This makes me happy (and relieved). However, seein’ as how I have been known to experience the occasional pessimistic moment, I’m afraid to make that pronouncement any too loud.

After all, you never know what might come falling out of the sky. And we all know for a fact that stuff does. Take bird, uh, “doo-doo,” for instance. It doesn’t only hit your freshly washed vehicle. It hits people, too. Landed on a friend’s head one time. Made him late for a meeting.

But I digress.

Friday was my birthday. And a very good birthday it was. We had a party and everything. Only I was so flippin’ tired from getting up early and staying up late preparing for the party that I didn’t get an opportunity to truly enjoy myself. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I had a good time. And I loved seeing friends and family gathered together. But I was in sort of a “fog” the entire evening.

And, no, it wasn’t due to the beer goggles I was wearing. I was actually drinking wine. Except that I kept putting my wine glass down somewhere and forgetting it – so I think I had about a glass and a half all told.

Not enough to get me dancing on any tables, thank goodness! But certainly not enough to get me out of cleaning up afterwards either.

I don’t know why I take party planning to such a degree that the napkins have to match the wine glasses (which also, you should know, match my shoes…), but I do. And, since I’ve only had two actual birthday parties for myself throughout my very long life, I figured I’d go all out.

So stuff matched. And there were door prizes.

Fortunately, we ordered sandwich trays and the cake from Costco – so it’s not like I was up late the night before the party trying to perfect the piping around the perimeter of my own birthday cake. No, instead, I was cutting up veggies for the pasta salad and vegetable pizza I prepared.

Who knew cutting up veggies took so darn long? It’s not like on those cooking shows where the ingredients are all cut up and in little containers ready to be plopped into the mixing bowl by the host of the show who acts like cooking is a breeze.

Well, sure it is – if you’re not the one doing all the prep work! I mean, how hard is it to dump a bunch of premeasured ingredients into a bowl and smile into the camera?

Nevertheless, I managed to do all my own prep work and around 10:30 I was washing up the last of the dishes. I was kind of smugly congratulating myself for getting everything done so early – when Vince showed up. He had left several hours earlier to bring some of the provisions over to the party house. Apparently he had made other stops.

So I followed him outside and saw a buddy’s truck in the driveway. In the bed of the truck was the used washing machine that we were given to replace my washing machine that had leaked all over the floor the night before.

I searched – believe me I did – but there was no buddy in the truck with Vince to help him cart the washing machine off the truck. I stood there for a moment with my mouth hanging open because I knew there was no way Vince could haul that washing machine off the truck by himself.

I desperately looked around for a studly neighbor with bulging biceps who might be able to offer some assistance, but (a) anyone who was still outside had apparently fled indoors when they saw there might be heavy lifting involved and, more importantly, (b) we have no studly neighbors with bulging biceps.

So I sighed and tried to come up with any possible alternative solution to my getting up into the truck to give him a hand. I couldn’t. So I gamely climbed up.

Believe it or not, between the two of us, we managed to get that washing machine off the truck and onto the dolley without losing any fingers or toes. We didn’t even put a dent or a scratch on the truck. I, for one, am pretty proud of that little feat!

After the machine was off the truck, Vince immediately left to go back to his buddy’s house and swap the truck for his Honda while I stared at the washing machine that was now sitting in the middle of our driveway.

Still not spying any studly neighbors with bulging biceps, I sighed again (this time rather dramatically), and then awkwardly wheeled the thing into the garage praying the whole time that Vince would not come back home to find me pinned under the machine.

Once my prayers were answered and the washing machine was tucked safely in the garage, I went inside and collapsed on the living room floor.

So anyway, that’s one of the reasons I was tired and in sort of a foggy mood the next evening for my birthday party.

And next year? Well, I’ve decided that next year’s birthday will be celebrated quietly – at a restaurant where someone else provides the food and drink – and cleans up afterwards. And if there are any heavy household appliances to be moved the night before, the birthday girl will unequivocally – and firmly – abstain.

After all, that’s what studly moving guys with bulging biceps are for.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Do Bad Things Happen in Three’s?!

I figured there was a black cloud following me around the other day. Or maybe it was following Vince. Either way, we were both in danger of getting soaked.

On the other hand, if bad things happen in three’s, then I think we’re set. Wait…is there a timeframe for bad things happening in three’s? If it’s within one day, then we’re good and I’m hopin’ that ol’ black cloud has moved on to its next victim.

The other morning Vince decided to take his Honda in for a long-overdue repair to fix something-something-mumble-mumble pieces/part on the car. He even tried to explain the name of the part, its function and where it is located on the underside of the vehicle.

For real? He only got about as far as “Let me explain…” before my eyes did the glazing over thing and I started thinking about split ends and wondering if I’d scheduled my next hair appointment. Poor guy. All I can say is that’s two minutes neither of us will ever get back.

Nevertheless, Vince knows what the part is and that it has needed to be replaced. He’s known this for a while now. So he takes the car in – and they tell him the pieces/part on the other side of the car is also broken and needs to be replaced. Lovely. And the price of this repair? Nearly $400. This, after Vince and the repair person did the bonding, we-used-to-work-together kinda thing that guys in the car business tend to do. The technician worked for no more than 20 minutes replacing both pieces/parts.

Man. Maybe I should listen a little more carefully to this car stuff. That’s well over 800 bucks an hour the guy earned. And I use the term “earned” loosely. Perhaps “gouged” might be a little more accurate. Either way Vince did not leave the repair shop feeling good about the experience.

But at least it’s done and those pieces/parts should hold for a while. Providing, of course, the technician didn’t have his own eye glazing over moment in car repair school when the instructor taught that particular class.

So both of us were feeling a bit glum as he subtracted twice as much from the checking account as we’d previously anticipated.

Like all women, I deal with car repairs by completely blocking out the experience. Okay, maybe not all women do this. But as soon as a thingamajig on my car has been fixed, it instantly slips from my conscious mind. And I’m not so sure it sticks around in my subconscious mind either.

So while Vince worked the calculator and inwardly cursed his former coworker/gouge-loving technician, I went upstairs to wash a load of dark clothes. This was not only a good diversion, but it was also necessary so that I’d have something to wear to work the next day.

I came back downstairs and contemplated my next move…should I start on that new book or should I do something productive in the cleaning arena? While I sat there waiting for inspiration to hit either way, I played a game of solitaire on my phone. And, okay, I admit – I play a lot of solitaire on my iPhone.

Suddenly, I heard a sound like running water. This would not be unusual, except both people living in our household were sitting within feet of each other in the living room. So I said, “Does that sound…?” Vince stopped with the calculator, listened for a nanosecond…and then we both bolted up the stairs. He reached around to the back of the washing machine and said, “I don’t feel any leakage…” just as I stepped in a massive puddle of water.

Oh yes, our washing machine was leaking from somewhere underneath and the entire closet where the washer and dryer sit was flooded. We frantically mopped up the water – or as well as two people in a confined space can work at mopping up water. Mostly I think we were just frantic.

Once we thought we’d mopped up most of the mess, Vince decided to take a shower. I went downstairs.

Where I discovered, naturally, that the ceiling was leaking all the water we’d missed! It was showering the wood coffee table and had already filled up a large glass bowl in the center of the table. So I grabbed a big pot from the kitchen to collect the seeming gallons of water that eventually cascaded down through the ceiling.

Vince eventually came back downstairs after his shower and we did some more mopping up. Which was getting very old by this point.

Naturally, I had left my cell phone, mid-solitaire game, on the coffee table in direct line of the leak. Fortunately, it was facedown on the table – and I snatched it up before it got too waterlogged. I’m thankful that it didn’t go on the fritz because that cell phone in the bag of rice to dry it out thing has never worked for me.

So, fortunately, that’s not the third bad thing that happened.

As I’ve mentioned previously, Vince leaves for work before the chickens are up. (And by “chickens” I mean, well, besides actual chickens, it also means “me.”) He kissed my semi-comatose self goodbye and I slipped back into unconsciousness. Normally I don’t move again until my third alarm smacks me over the head and says, “WAKE UP ALREADY!”

Except that Vince came back upstairs a few minutes later to tell me that the garage door was broken and that I’d have to manually haul it up so that I could back my car out of the garage and leave for work.

He even called before I left for work to make sure his message registered. I think he was afraid that I’d absentmindedly press the remote door opener in my car and start backing out. If I had, we’d be needing some more pieces/parts on a vehicle replaced and we’d be starting this little process all over again. No thank you!

Ah well. The garage door has been fixed. And Vince’s brother and sister-in-law graciously offered us the use of a spare washing machine they had in their basement. And…other than a regular oil change, I think my vehicle is in good running order (knock wood.)

But lemme tell you…if I see a black cat or a ladder or the number 13 anywhere on my way into work today – I’m running in the opposite direction!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Our First Anniversary

Vince and I just returned home from our first anniversary celebratory dinner. We went to Carrabba’s, which is where we had our first date in April of 2008. It was a lovely meal to celebrate one year of wedded bliss. Plus, neither of us had to do the dishes afterwards, so we considered it a major bonus. (And by “we” I mean “I” – Vince doesn’t complain about doing the dishes nearly as much as I do!)

It’s amazing how much has changed in the nearly 2-1/2 years since that first date. Like the fact that I actually walked down the aisle last September 6th. No one in my life ever said so out loud (or to me, personally), but I suspect that some may have predicted that the devil would be wearing a parka before they saw me traipsing down the aisle in a white wedding gown.

But whatever. It was just right. The right time. The right man. The right circumstances. See? It was just right.

Not that our life is perfect. Believe me, we aren’t living the high life jetting from one exotic locale to the next or living in a McMansion with hired hands to do stuff like wash the dishes. And Vince and I can annoy each other just as much as the next couple. We even call ourselves the other’s favorite pain in the patootie. But instead of letting anything fester, we bring up issues that bother us. It could be something trivial or something serious. Nothing is off-limits between us.

Maybe it’s the connection between us – or maybe it’s just that neither of us is 25 years old anymore and we realize that we aren’t perfect and neither is life. We’ve finally reached the understanding that it’s not meant to be. And we can deal with the ups and downs – particularly the downs, or the challenges – if we face them together.

We both have some mileage on us and our trade-in value ain’t quite what it used to be. Fortunately, neither of us is thinking of trading in the other for a newer, shinier model. We know ourselves pretty well so it’s easier to let the other see our flaws. Thank goodness I don’t have to try to hide that weird, ever-growing line between my eyebrows. And I can’t even pretend that some “parts” are still where they used to be 25 years ago. Vince accepts those signs of aging – and still calls me beautiful.

Instead of a card, he wrote me a love letter, which is far more heartfelt and valuable to me than anything Hallmark could ever come up with. (I, on the other hand – the writer – gave him a Hallmark card. Oops. My bad.)

After we toasted each other and I read my letter and dried a tear or two, we talked about the things that have happened in the past year that were the highlights. There have been many. But mostly, we realize how blessed we were to find each other at this stage in our lives.

I used to say that I wanted to be married because it seems that the world is filled with couples. Through many years of research, I concluded that singles aren’t as welcome at dinner parties – unless there is another single to round out the numbers. And I got really tired of checking off “1” on the RSVP card for the many weddings I’ve attended over the decades.

But then a few years ago I finally came to terms with my singleness. Married friends who were perhaps a little tired of being married assured me that I should be grateful to be single and not have to worry about making someone else happy.

That seemed wrong to me somehow. And then it occurred to me that nobody out there could make me happy – I had to make myself happy. So I did. I made some changes in my life and didn’t sit around waiting for the phone to ring. And I realized that I had a pretty good life. I had a great family and lots of good friends, some of whom I could even call at 3 o’clock in the morning if I truly needed to – and they would only curse me out for a minute before asking me what was wrong.

Once I stopped thinking that I needed a man in my life to make my life complete – lo and behold – Vince showed up. I used to scoff at women’s magazines who printed articles stating that very notion. Yeah, right. Like I do nothing and Mr. Wonderful magically appears on my doorstep? Please.

But it wasn’t so much that I didn’t have to do anything…I did, after all, contact Vince first on one of the social media sites. But it was the realization that if he didn’t write back to me that I’d still be okay.

But he did. And we celebrated our first wedding anniversary today.

Life is good.

Friday, September 3, 2010

T.G.I.F...or Maybe...Bon Jour?

I’m happy to report that leaving 5 minutes earlier in the morning did the trick. There was not a single infernal yellow school bus in sight! Now if I could only time my morning departure to that exact moment every single day, I’d be golden. (Yeah, good luck with that, Jane…)

Oh, but I also got to work 15 minutes early. Weird, huh? Even if I do leave at the exact same time every day, I’m sure the traffic patterns will be different and my arrival time will vary.

Oh well. At least – for today – I had absolutely no stress on my drive in to work.

Instead, I’m having computer issues. I got up an hour earlier this morning to work on my computer and everything kept freezing. I shut the annoying machine off and then turned it back on several times before it seemed to reset itself. But by then, of course, it was time to leave for work. Lovely.

And then I get to work and start to Spell Check a document – and my Spell Check is checking in French. Huh? I ask you – how did that happen? I think I would have remembered if I’d changed the language from English to French. Wonder if someone is messing with me? Or maybe this is some weird cosmic payback for that time in fourth grade when I got mad at my best friend over something stupid and I wouldn’t talk to her for three days.

So now…what? I have to carefully read every word of my document to make sure there are no spelling errors? Holy crap – this document is 65 pages long. Reading it word for word could take a long time!

On the other hand, it might be kind of fun. I could choose every word it suggests as an alternative. Monsieur Snuffleman might think his status has been elevated from plain ol’ Mister. Of course, I don’t speak French (other than a vague recollection of learning to count to 10 when I was in elementary school), so the potential dangers in switching words from English to French in a business document could be high.

Besides, the basic premise of doing a spell check is flawed whether in English or French. Why? Well, because I rarely make typos – so there’s nothing to check.


(Okay, PLEASE don’t point out any errors you have recently found…!)

And…um…that’s all I got. My mind is sort of a blank right now. Call it an age thing. Call it a sleep-deprived thing. Call it the Friday before the long holiday weekend thing – whatever. I just want to get the party started. Hopefully our office will close before the 5 o’clock bell…

…just as long as my drive home doesn’t coincide with any of those infernal yellow school buses!

Have a great holiday weekend all!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Return of the Infernal Yellow School Bus

I can tell it’s September. You want to know how? Well, yes, as a matter of fact, I DID look at the calendar. Duh.

But the other way I can tell it’s September is because it’s the Return of the Infernal Yellow School Bus.

I like kids and all – and I really like school bus drivers (or at least one of ‘em!) – but I really don’t like waiting behind buses for the little darlings to get on the bus and sit down before the driver can inch along another 10 feet to pick up even more kids. It eats up precious moments I cannot spare on my morning commute.

The Return of the Infernal Yellow School Bus means I have to readjust my departure time, but I can’t remember if it’s 5 minutes before or 5 minutes after my current departure time. And, yes, it’s a critical point because those school buses seem to reproduce at an alarming rate and I’ll see them in front of me and behind me and beside me. Unbelievably, no one in the school district has bothered to e-mail me the bus schedules so I could try to slip in there between pick-ups.

But, heck, there are so many school buses on the road, I could almost walk to work faster. I won’t, of course. It’s 17 miles one way to work and I’d have to get up at 5:30 in the morning to get started. And if you are familiar with me at all, you know how dedicated I would be to getting up at 5:30 in the morning!

Anyway, I tried to outsmart the Infernal Yellow School Bus this morning and took a long loop around the subdivision to try to get ahead of it. No luck. That bus somehow managed to beat me to the main road then had the nerve to make a couple more pick-ups! Even worse, it then had to cross two sets of train tracks. Sigh. I mean, you know how cautious those bus drivers are when it comes to crossing train tracks. The wait behind them seems interminable.

And, yeah, okay, so I’m glad they’re cautious because they do have some precious cargo on board. But it’s very unlike my behavior when it comes to train tracks. If the lights aren’t flashing and the gate arms haven’t been activated, I fly across the tracks fast enough to become slightly airborne. (I call it my Starsky & Hutch moment. And, yes, you young’uns…I’m referring to the original series – not the remake. I was halfway in love with Paul Michael Glaser…what can I say?!)

At any rate, after I extricated myself from slow-moving large yellow vehicles, I vowed to try the five minutes earlier departure time tomorrow. But I was still trying to shake off a little frustration. I took a couple deep breaths and debated whether or not it would be safe to do a little Zen meditation while driving. Deciding that closing my eyes – even briefly – probably wouldn’t be a good idea, I instead turned on the radio, which happened to be tuned to Sunny 95. And heard the beginning chords of the song Amie, by Pure Prairie League.

Suddenly I was transported back to high school in Alliance, Ohio. I was sixteen again and sitting in the backseat of my friend Jodie’s convertible on a Friday night with a group of girlfriends. We were driving down State Street with nowhere in particular to go and singing Amie at the top of our lungs. We were young and had our whole lives ahead of us and were in the moment just enjoying ourselves.

I didn’t have deadlines to meet and utility bills to pay and grocery shopping to do before I could get to the fun moments. I could go to Fred’s Drive-In and eat a burger and onion rings without worrying about things like cholesterol and fat content. And Infernal Yellow School Bus problems weren’t anywhere near the horizon of my mind.

Hearing that song was better than any deep breathing exercises or Zen meditation I could do. My grip loosened on the steering wheel. I smiled. And then I started singing along. Maybe it wasn’t quite at the top of my lungs, but if someone in the vehicle next to me were watching, it would’ve been obvious I was singing to the radio. (Fortunately, I don’t have a convertible so the ears of my fellow commuters weren’t subjected to my off-tune rendition!)

And by the time the song ended, I was in a happy place again. Ahhhh… Interesting how songs can bring back such immediate and powerful memories.

By the time I reached downtown, I didn’t even mind (very much) that there was an overturned semi that had dumped half its load on the exit ramp I needed to take. I just waited patiently until I could merge with the slow-moving traffic and took a little detour and eventually arrived at work. Relatively on time, even.

Yeah, when I get home tonight (in between grocery shopping and utility bill paying) I think I’ll make a CD of my favorite “take me away” tunes for the car. So, tomorrow when I see that Infernal Yellow School Bus – despite my altered departure time – I will be all mellow and happy.

Either that - or I'm really going to need to find a job where I can work at home...