Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tide and Ty-D-Bowl. Subtitle: Arrrgggh!

I have so many things to do today and what am I doing? I’m sitting here doing nothing. Well, not nothing, exactly. I am, after all, typing words in some sort of random order hoping the words turn into paragraphs and magically become today’s blog. I’m also praying for a little inspiration that a subject and a title will occur to me as I’m typing, otherwise I will need to enter “No blog” under today’s date. Sorta reminds me of high school composition class when we had to write about “anything” and I couldn’t narrow it down to one actual topic!

The problem is that we’re getting ready to go on vacation. For me, no matter if I’m going away for two days or two weeks – I seem to think I need to take care of every household-related task, even if it could be comfortably handled upon our return.

I mean, how critical is it that I purchase laundry detergent today? It’s not like we’re completely out of laundry detergent. And it’s not like I’m going to haul a 50 oz. bottle on the airplane with me. For one thing, it’d count as one of my carry-on bags, and I can assure you that I’m going to have a difficult enough time narrowing my carry-ons to my purse and my weekender bag.

But rather than letting it go and figuring I’ll pick up a bottle of Tide next week, I’m obsessing about it. (Obviously. It merited two entire paragraphs!)

So I’ll probably run to the store to buy the detergent as well as assorted other items. Like toilet bowl cleaner. Again, we’re not out, but we’re one bottle short and I don’t like carrying bottles of toilet bowl cleaner from one bathroom to the next.

Oh well. This is just the way I am and I’ve sort of become used to it. Vince, on the other hand, probably thinks I’m a little nuts. Especially when we have to get up at the ungodly hour of 5AM to catch our plane and I’m up half the night before dusting the living room and organizing the fridge.

I guess I do these things for a couple reasons. First, I like to come back to a clean home. That’s a valid reason – right? And, okay, I admit that the second reason is a little weirder. I mean, what if someone had to enter my home and they walked into a mess? They might think the place had been robbed and might call 911 on our behalf.

I can just see that particular call:

OFFICER SMITH: “Ma’am, it appears that your home has been robbed.”
JANE: “What makes you think so, Officer? And don’t call me ‘ma’am’ – it makes me feel old.”
OFFICER SMITH: “Sorry, ma’am…er, ‘lady.’ But your home has household items littering every available surface. And the refrigerator is a mess! Furthermore, it looks like the thieves were interrupted. There are big bottles of Tide detergent and Ty-D-Bowl cleaner right by the door. I guess they weren’t able to carry everything off.”
JANE: “Um, heh-heh, well you see, Officer Smith…we were in a hurry to leave and I, well, I didn’t want to stay up half the night before we left to clean. I guess the place is in a bit of disarray.”
OFFICER SMITH: “Ewww, gross!”

See? This is not a conversation I ever want to have; thus, I clean and stay up half the night before leaving on vacation.

Fortunately, I’m not quite as disorganized as I may have been in the past. Getting married has caused me to be either more “together” – or I have another set of hands I can count on to handle some of the overflow. So we’re nearly packed and two of the three toilets have already been cleaned. And my plan is get the dusting done today – two whole days before our departure – so no all-nighters will be required. Hopefully.

Now if you’ll excuse me…I have errands to run. I think the Ty-D-Bowl man is calling me!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Summer = Orange Barrels

Summer is many things. Think swimming pools and ice cream cones and cookouts and vacations at the beach. Think also flip flops, bare skin and bathing suits. But with all the good stuff that is summer, we also have temperatures in the 90s with 100% humidity, mosquitoes and orange barrels. Lots and lots of orange barrels.

Most of the time I can appreciate orange barrels. It is the way our community keeps roads and highways in good working condition so that our cars aren’t bouncing into potholes big enough to swallow a VW Bug or one of those weird looking clown cars, er, smart cars.

Once summer arrives, I assume I will be dodging orange barrels on my commute downtown. In a perfect world, I’d be getting up 5-10 minutes earlier every day to allow for the slowdowns and lane reductions. Not that I do, mind you. Just that I would in a perfect world.

But it really burns my britches when four lanes of traffic have been reduced to three around one of the busiest sections of highway, on which, naturally, I have to travel to get to work – and there is nothing being done to the highway. There isn’t a single worker in neon green making any headway. There isn’t one piece of large equipment in the blocked off lane to let us think that at least some progress is being made. And I KNOW there isn’t anything being done on that stretch of road because there isn’t even a port-o-potty installed in the median.

And this lane has been blocked off for the better part of a month!

C’mon people! Let’s get to work, okay?! It’ll make me a little less surly in the morning. (Well, maybe. I make no promises.)

It is, however, interesting to watch drivers along this route. There are warning signs to alert drivers that the left lane is closed about a mile ahead and that the speed limit has been reduced to 45MPH, but people still fly down that left lane at 70MPH. The middle lane, meanwhile, has begun backing up and a whole lot of brake lights start flashing. This is because the drivers in the left lane ahead finally reach the “point of no return” where they MUST merge into the middle lane.

The middle lane drivers, meanwhile, are getting a tiny bit testy because they pretty much could’ve walked faster than they’ve been inching along in their car. And now they are expected to allow Mr. Speed Racer into their lane when Mr. Speed Racer began his commute about 15 minutes after Mr. Middle of the Road.

One day I saw a big black truck ease out from the middle lane so that he was straddling the left and middle lanes. None of the Speed Racers could get by him in the left lane. Despite lots of horn blowing and middle finger flipping, the guy in the black truck refused to move out of the way. He calmly rolled along – so that all those Speed Racers had to slow down and merge into the middle lanes behind Black Truck guy.

Since I was already in the middle lane, I thought it was sort of funny. Of course, nobody who drives one of those clown cars would’ve dared tried this move. The Speed Racers would’ve plowed right over them and then later wondered if they’d actually hit something.

As you can tell, I’m not a big fan of the clown cars. I’m sort of like that with new things, though, and it takes me a while to warm up to them. Not sure I’ll ever warm up to a vehicle that doesn’t look big enough to haul a person plus one bag of groceries at the same time.

(Yeah, just watch – in another 10 years I’ll probably be driving one. And, yes, I give you permission to make fun of me in 10 years if you see me in one of those things.)

In the meantime, I’ll just hope that construction work on the highway begins soon. Before we know it, the snow will start flying. And I don’t want to land in a pothole big enough to swallow my bigger-than-a-clown-car Mazda6.

And to Mr. Speed Racer? Slow the heck down, willya? You never know when Mr. Middle of the Road is gonna snap, get out of his vehicle, pick up one of those clown cars, and toss it at you.

Hey, it could happen.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Jane's Mood-O-Meter

Boy, was I happy when I got to work today. Oh, not because I was eager to get started on the pile of stuff I have to do or because I was happy to see my coworkers – but because I’d woken up this morning thinking it was Wednesday…and then when I got here, I discovered it was actually Thursday! How often does that happen? No, wait – let me say it: not very.

No, for me, it’s usually the reverse. I wake up thinking it’s Saturday and I get to sleep in – only to shoot out of bed with the panicky realization that it’s actually Friday and unless I develop superpowers and can actually go airborne, I will be late for work.

So believe me, I was happy this morning.

Of course, by now the “Happy” on Jane’s Mood-O-Meter has worn off a little bit because, well, it’s still Thursday and I have to get through tomorrow before it actually IS Saturday and I get to sleep in. But I think I can hang on…

One thing that is helping is chocolate – as in M&Ms (the plain kind). Everyone knows that the one thing that helps in most any situation is chocolate. Well, except for maybe when sutures are required. Whenever bleeding is involved, chocolate isn’t necessarily the first thing that springs to mind as a solution.

Wait. I take that back. Sort of.

When I was a kid living in Michigan (sorry if that offends my more fanatical OSU friends…!), our house had a door in the basement where the top half could be latched to the wall while the bottom half of the door was able to freely swing back and forth. My brothers or I would sit on the bottom half while the other two would swing the door open and shut and we’d pretend we were riding horses.

One day I was apparently not firmly seated in the “saddle” because I took a tumble off my “horse” and landed face-first on the cement floor. I was stoic and brave, of course, and didn’t shed a single tear. Yeah, right. I wailed and cried and scared the crap out of my mother who came flying down the basement stairs to rescue me. As we were a 1-car family at the time, my mom had to call my dad to come home from work so they could take me to the hospital.

When my dad arrived, he handed me a bag of plain M&Ms in an apparent attempt to distract me. It was the first time I’d ever had an M&M – and certainly it was the first time that anyone gave me my very own bag of candy! And lemme tell you, his plan worked. Hey, what can I say? I was maybe 4 at the time. Bribing a 4-year-old ain't tough.

My wailing turned to sniffles and then the tears stopped altogether. Enough that they decided that I wasn’t hurt badly enough to warrant a trip to the ER. (Now that I think about it, hadn’t my RN of a mother ever heard of the term “concussion”? But who knows…maybe we didn’t have concussions back in the 60s.)

Anyway, ever since then, I’ve been in love with the candy that “melts in your mouth and not in your hand.” What’s not to love? They’re bright and colorful round pieces of Happy. We even gave personalized M&Ms as favors at our wedding last September!

So, yes, the chocolate I am currently ingesting to move my Mood-O-Meter back to “Happy” is M&Ms. The plain kind, of course. Unfortunately, it is only the “Fun Size” pack, which means there are only - let's see - exactly 19 M&Ms in the package. Hmmm…why not 20? That number would make sense. Wonder if this bag was shorted?

See…now I’m thinkin’ I should open another “Fun Size” package of plain M&Ms to count the number of candies in that bag. If there are 20, I might have to write a letter to those M&M guys.

Whoa! The second bag has only SEVENTEEN M&Ms in it! There is apparently no quality control over there at the M&Ms factory – either that or someone at the factory is eating the M&Ms inventory and gypping me out of my rightful share!

Uh oh. The Mood-O-Meter is flying past “Indignant” and quickly heading toward “Outraged”! That wasn’t supposed to happen!

Deep breath. Okay, I’m okay. I guess I’ll just have to console myself with the fact that by not getting those extra M&Ms, I won’t have to do another 12 minutes on the elliptical at the gym tonight.

And I will NOT be opening a third bag of “Fun Size” M&Ms to count them. Such strong willpower I have, eh?

Okay, I can’t lie. It’s mostly because we’re now out of “Fun Size” M&Ms.

(The Mood-O-Meter is now pointing to “Pouting.” Damn.)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Weddings, Tiaras and People Magazine

I forgot my library book the other day and was jonesing for something to read at lunchtime, so I picked up a People magazine. For all I know it was last week’s People magazine and the folks at CVS were snickering behind my back that I was purchasing old news. Oh well – it got me through lunch.

I used to read People magazine all the time and I’m not even ashamed to admit it. Maybe I should be, but it’s not like I was reading The National Enquirer. And, quite frankly, I’m not sure anyone would believe me if I said I regularly peruse Forbes or Fortune.

Nevertheless, it has been a while since I’ve read People. And my first question is: Who are all these people in People magazine? I mean, I thought I was sort of “up” on celebrity news and such, but I didn’t know two-thirds of these folks.

Every time I think I’m sort of a cool older chick, the reality that I’m just an older chick smacks me in the face.

And what kind of name is Leighton Meester anyway?

There was a cover story on new bride Carrie Underwood with a photo spread of her wedding. I do know who she is, even though I don’t watch American Idol. (I know, I know…99% of the free world watches the show. Evidently it’s a character flaw. What can I say?)

Mostly I remember hearing one of her songs on the radio, “Before He Cheats” where she does all sorts of larcenous damage to the car of her cheating soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend. I figured nobody would want to mess with this babe, let alone marry her.

Of course, it’s just a song. But hopefully her new husband has listened very carefully to the lyrics of “Before He Cheats.” I would even suggest he take some notes.

Anyway, being a relatively recent bride myself, I love getting a glimpse at other weddings. Celebrity weddings, in particular, are interesting because I am usually equal parts fascinated and horrified at their excesses. Even if I had the kind of money celebrities do, I can’t imagine blowing it on an event for one day. On the other hand, I wouldn’t mind testing that theory. Anyone have a coupla mil they wanna throw my way?!

But, for instance, Carrie Underwood wore a tiara with her Monique Lhuillier wedding gown. Naturally, she couldn’t wear just any old tiara, could she? Not with a designer wedding gown that probably cost more than my entire wedding! So her new husband, Mike Fisher, a not-bad-lookin’ professional Canadian hockey guy, who evidently has some big bucks himself, bought her a tiara with REAL diamonds. Like 40 carats worth.

Are you kidding me?? The tiara I wore for my wedding, in contrast, cost me about $15. There wasn’t even one tiny diamond chip in the thing! And still I felt a little guilty over spending that kind of money for something I would wear only once. Not that I didn’t love my little $15 tiara with its shiny silver metal and sparkly rhinestones. But unless one is dressing up for Halloween or is, like, 5, the only time a woman can get away with wearing a tiara is at her wedding. Well, okay, I guess there are a couple other legitimate reasons – like she’s a beauty pageant winner – or is actual royalty.

Nevertheless, if someone gave me a tiara with 40 carats of real diamonds, I don’t think I’d ever take the damn thing off. Which would look sort of silly when I gassed up at the local Speedway, or made a quick run into Kroger to pick up a bag of tortilla chips and some salsa.

So imagine my surprise when I turned the page in People magazine and saw another photo of little Carrie Underwood in a second Monique Lhuillier frock (which probably still cost more than my entire wedding!). This gown was short and sassy to allow the new Mrs. Carrie Fisher a chance to boogie down on the dance floor. And she was no longer wearing the tiara!!

Sheesh. Celebrities.

Oh well. I did manage a laugh over the fact that her married name is Carrie Fisher. Wonder if anyone is going to confuse her with Princess Leia? Nah. To the best of my recollection, Princess Leia didn’t wear a tiara.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mrs. B and The “Truck Stop” Bathroom Incident

Every Monday on the drive home from work I call my parents and chat during my ½ hour commute. They’ve gotten used to that schedule and, in fact, my dad usually picks up the phone and says, “Hello, Jane!” (He’s a pretty clever guy, eh?!) But you also should understand that they don’t have Caller ID, so it’s a leap of faith for him.

Anyway, I’d just called them on Friday to wish my dad a happy birthday and there really wasn’t anything new and different to talk about a mere three days later, so I decided to call my other phone buddy, Mrs. B.

Now Mrs. B is the mother of my friends Nick and Joe. She’s an “80-and-change” little Italian spitfire with a great sense of humor. I’m quite sure she doesn’t hit the 5 feet mark and she’s slowed down a bit in recent years, but she has certainly retained that joie de vivre she’s always had. Only, since she’s from Italy, perhaps I should search for the Italian equivalent of the phrase? Nah…too much work. I think you get the point.

Mrs. B has called me a couple times in the past week, but I wasn’t able to set aside the requisite amount of time necessary to have a proper conversation with her, so I hadn’t returned her call. Well, actually, it’s more like a soliloquy as you don’t interrupt Mrs. B when she’s on a roll.

You also can’t interrupt to say you’ve reached your destination and you need to go…or the surgeon is ready to begin your surgery…or the Queen of England is holding on the other line. Doesn’t matter what else you need to do – she’ll just keep on talking until she’s finished. Once she has said her piece, she’ll tell you she loves you and then she promptly hangs up. So you have to understand you’re on Mrs. B’s time!

I had only the half hour (or however long my commute took) because as soon as I arrived home, we had to leave to meet some friends for dinner, but I decided to take a chance.

So I called Mrs. B. After several rings she picked up and said, “Who dis?” So I told her and she said, “JANIE! How you doin’? I can’t talk now because (garble-garble) restroom (garble-garble) truck stop!” Huh?

However, being the crack communications expert that I am, I gathered she was on the road with one of her sons and they’d made a, er, pit stop. So she said she’d call me back as soon as she was out. And then she hung up.

Not knowing how long it might take an “80-and-change-year-old lady to finish using the facilities, I debated about calling my parents since, after all, it was their scheduled phone day. In the end, I didn’t talk to anyone and, hard as it is to believe, I simply drove home.

But sure enough, as soon as Vince and I headed out to meet our friends, Mrs. B called back. Again, I didn’t answer, because she doesn’t get the “I only have a minute since we’re on our way somewhere…” thing. She’ll keep talking until you feel like a big scum by practically hanging up on her.

So I let it go to voicemail. And then her son Joe called. And then she called back. I now had THREE voicemails from them. Argghh! Talk about making me feel like a bad friend!

I’d hoped there wasn’t an “incident” in the truck stop bathroom, but I figured I’d call back after dinner and would find out soon enough.

During dinner, I had two more phone calls from them.

When we arrived back home, there was a message on our home answering machine. No, it wasn’t Mrs. B (I don’t think she has that number). Instead, it was my dad! He said they’d “missed Jane’s Monday phone call and hoped everything was okay.” Arrrghhh! Now I felt like a bad daughter, too!

Just then my cell phone rang and it was Joe. So I answered and said “What do you people WANT??!” He just laughed and said, “Janie, you’re famous!”


Turns out that they weren’t in a truck stop – they were at a repair shop. The starter went out on his vehicle somewhere in West Virginia on their way back to Ohio.

Evidently, Mrs. B had made friends with everyone in the waiting room at the repair shop, as she is wont to do. Eventually she decided she needed to use the restroom so she slowly made her way across the room. Once inside, the phone rang (me) and everyone heard her clearly exclaim, “Janie!”

When she came out of the restroom, she called across to Joe, “You’ll never guess who called!” And everyone in the waiting room called out in unison, “Janie!”

Dang. My two seconds of fame – and I had to go and use it up in a repair shop in West Virginia!

Joe went on to explain other events of the day – like how their vehicle had to be transported on a flatbed truck and he and his mother had been IN their vehicle ON the flatbed truck. They probably pretended they were in a parade and practiced their Queen Waves to everyone they passed! I said I certainly hoped there was photographic documentation, but no such luck.

I told him to tell his mom that I would call her later this week when hopefully she isn’t (a) anywhere near a truck stop bathroom, and (b) I have enough time to listen to her soliloquy. He said he would pass on the message. For a dollar. Hey, I guess he’s gotta pay for the car repair and flatbed tow bills somehow, doesn’t he?

Anyway, things are okay with them. And while I was on the phone with Joe, Vince called my parents back. After I hung up with Joe, I talked to both my parents. And all was right again in our little corner of the world.

So hopefully my Bad Friend/Bad Daughter status has been upgraded to “Good” again. Oh. Except that I haven’t technically talked with Mrs. B, have I? Sigh. Guess I have to be knocked back down to “Marginal” until I make that call.

But I gotta go. I think the Queen is holding on the other line for me…Sheesh. That woman never lets up!

Oh, and um…Ciao! Talk later.

Friday, July 16, 2010

A High-Tech Gizmo for the Birthday Boy

Today is my dad’s 84th birthday…so happy birthday to him! I think it’s okay to tell his age – I don’t guess that Dad is too vain about things like age. Personally, if I make it to my 80s, I’ll be shouting it from the rooftops. “Hey, look at me – I’m 84 and I’m still here, suckas!” Of course, that might tempt the Grim Reaper…so maybe I’ll rethink that strategy when the time comes.

For now, I’m okay with lying about my age. As I’ve said before, I pick a random number and that is the year I celebrate on my birthday, no matter what the “real” number is. This year I think it’s gonna be…um…37. Yeah, that’s a good one. I had fun that year! (And, no, I’m not going to tell you what I did back then that made it so fun!)

But it’s not my birthday today; it’s my dad’s – so I should stop talking about myself. (Yeah, like that’ll ever happen.)

Anyway, back to my dad. Usually I have a hard time figuring out what to give him on his birthday as he is not really a high-maintenance sort of man. Over the years, I’ve given him the inevitable ties to add to his collection, or polo shirts he doesn’t really need or high-tech gizmos he doesn’t know what to do with.

In desperation, I’ve even given him gift cards to places like Lowe’s. These are usually met with a little more enthusiasm than the ties or high-tech gizmos, which is gratifying. Dad doesn’t really need much from home improvement sorts of stores anymore, but he likes to look around.

This year, though, Vince and I sent him what we thought was a pretty cool gift. It’s another high-tech gizmo, but it serves a good purpose. It’s called TV Ears® and we got it at Costco. Vince’s aunt in Florida has a set and showed it to us when we were visiting recently. It hooks up to your television and the cordless earbuds fit into the listener’s ears. The TV can be practically on mute, but the television audio is clearly transmitted through the earbuds. Cool, huh?

As a half-deaf person myself (100% hearing loss in my left ear), I’m thinkin’ I might want to get a set for our household. I don’t think Vince would mind since I turn the television up pretty loudly in order to hear it. This is okay if we’re watching the news, but is perhaps a little annoying when I’m watching Desperate Housewives or Survivor ; two shows he doesn’t have much use for.

(Darn it. There I go – talking about myself again!)

Anyway, like many men his age, Dad is hard of hearing. He has hearing aids for both ears, but they sometimes don’t do him a whole lot of good. My mom would like to tell you that Dad suffers mostly from what she calls “spousal deafness” – he hears what he wants to hear unless it’s mom telling him to take out the trash or do something he doesn’t want to do.

I’m not sure why people go deaf when they get older. Maybe they just get tired of listening to stuff. I’ve heard a theory that a lot of men dad’s age were in WWII and they didn’t use ear protection back then against gunfire and bombs and tanks and other loud noises. I’d say it’s an entirely plausible theory, though I have heard no actual data to back it up.

I have a personal theory that there will be a whole lot more deaf folks in succeeding generations because of all our high-tech gizmos. We listened to loud music on ear phones hooked up to stereos, and then we had Walkmans and now we have iPods where we crank up the decibels so the music gets blasted directly into our ear canals. We’ve gone to rock concerts and stood next to ginormous speakers and then wondered why it took two days before our hearing returned to normal.

So in future generations, maybe we’ll all have TV Ears® – and maybe they can even be surgically implanted. Yeah, and wouldn’t it be great if all our high-tech gizmos could be routed through our TV Ears so we didn’t have separate earbuds and Bluetooth devices? Hmmm…maybe I’ll work on that idea. Who knows? I could be the next Bill Gates!

I’d have to work through some technical difficulties first, though. Like the TV Ears® we bought my dad? His TV is so old that there isn’t a port made in it for them to connect. Figures. Guess we should’ve bought him one of those newfangled flat screen TV’s first, huh? Nah. Probably we should’ve just stuck to the Lowe’s gift card.

Oh well. Happy birthday anyway, Dad! Here’s hoping you hear only the good stuff today like, “Have an extra slice of birthday cake, dear!” and none of the bad stuff like, “Time to take out the trash!”

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Never Leave Work Without It

So yesterday I left work loaded down with my workout water bottle, insulated lunch bag, massive janitor-size set of keys and my purse, which is more like a suitcase and if weighed at the airport would result in over-the-weight-limit fees because it probably wouldn’t fit in an overhead compartment. What can I say? I need my “stuff”…

My evening’s plan was to sweat at the gym for a while and then afterwards, in my sweaty but triumphant state, stop at Target for some allergy pills (damn pollen!), and then to the library to pick up some desperately needed reading material. Jane without a book to read is not a happy person who in times of desperation has been forced to read the ingredient list on product packaging in the pantry. And nobody really wants to see that – it’s sort of pitiful.

At any rate, I was talking about leaving work. I drove about two miles away when it occurred to me that the one thing I’d left behind on my desk was my cell phone. OMG. I am never without my cell phone! I briefly considering hopping the divider on the highway to turn around and head back to the office to get it, but I decided that the repair costs to my vehicle would be too much to pay just to have my security blanket – aka my iPhone – in hand.

But seriously, there were about three times during my drive to the gym where I desperately wanted to turn back toward downtown.

How sick is that?

A little over a decade ago I didn’t even own a cell phone. Now it has become my lifeline. It wakes me up in the morning. It accompanies me on potty breaks. It alerts me to late-breaking news that someone has commented “LOL” on someone’s Facebook page that I earlier indicated I “liked.” It is my source for the latest news – both serious and wacky. I mean, where would I be in this life without knowing that some robber bungled a bank heist by writing “Gimme all your money” on the back of his own deposit slip?!

Oh, and occasionally, I make calls on the damn thing. Like to tell Vince that my commute to the gym took longer than anticipated, so my ETA at home would be approximately 16 minutes later than expected and that he shouldn’t call 911 or the National Guard to set up a Search and Rescue Op.

Sadly, I could do none of those things last night. And we had to set the actual alarm clock on my actual bedside table so I would awaken on time this morning. The whole time I kept feeling like something was seriously missing.

Sigh. How did this happen?

When I was single, I even got rid of my home telephone since I never made calls on it and pretty much only took calls from telemarketers, despite being on the National “Do Not Call” registry.

So, without a home phone, it seemed to me that having my cell phone with me at all times was imperative. Sure, we can argue that mobile phones were not imperative in prehistoric times (the scientifically named PCP, or “Pre-Cell-Phone” Era) when telephones were tethered to the wall, and we weren’t able to carry them farther than the cord would stretch, which basically meant about 5 steps in any direction from the phone’s location on the wall.

Yet we somehow managed to get ourselves to school and work without a piece of plastic surgically attached to our ears to broadcast our minute-by-minute progress with family, friends and coworkers.

We even managed to meet friends at various locations at the time we’d prearranged with them to meet. Sure, sometimes there were snafus – traffic problems might cause someone to be late. Or someone might get grounded at the last minute and not be able to alert us that they wouldn’t be showing up. But somehow we were able to deal with it.

At this point, however, I don’t think there is any turning back. I was disproportionately happy this morning when I came in to work and became reacquainted with my little friend in its shiny red cover. And, even though the “low battery” alert was flashing, I still lovingly tucked it into my pocket knowing that it would be there to get me through the next traffic jam. Or potty break.

How sick is that?!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Family Vacations

I’ve been in sort of a writing slump lately. I think it’s my keyboard. I de-funkified it last week and when I took the space bar off to clean it, it didn’t seem to fit back in the slot correctly. And now it makes a big clunking noise every time I press it, which – you know – it’s the space bar. You hit it a lot. Maybe the dirt kept the clunking noise to a minimum, I don’t know.

Oh well. Probably I should’ve just bought a new keyboard, which I totally deserve. I mean, I’ve used this keyboard so much that half the white letters on the keys have worn off. It’s a good thing I’m old school and know how to type without looking at the keys or I would’ve been in serious trouble.

But anyway…

Because I love you all so much, I’m going to ignore the clunking noise and try to write a blog today.

My friend Barb suggested I write about vacationing with adult siblings and their families and she wanted to know if it was a good or bad idea.

Well, thank you, Barb, for that wonderful suggestion. I happen to be an expert on that topic! (What are the odds?!)

The answer is: It is both a good idea and a really bad idea at the same time. Mostly it depends on the accommodations.

I have vacationed my whole life with relatives at our family cottage on Cape Cod. Every year. This means that over the years I’ve been there with grandparents and parents and single siblings and married siblings and aunts and uncles and a niece and a nephew in various combinations and at various times. I’ve been there with just one other person and I have been there with a mind-boggling 10 other family members. Only once did I go there by myself, which was a much different vacation experience. (Don’t tell anyone, but I was actually not unhappy there by myself!)

This year will be no different. Vince and I will head up there in a couple weeks to spend a few days with my parents, brother, sister, brother-in-law and niece. In a small 3-bedroom cottage with 1 small bathroom.

This is where the accommodations discussion takes place.

Now don’t get me wrong, we will have a lovely time. We will drink wine and eat lobster and talk and laugh and, if the sun is out, will probably walk to the beach and dunk ourselves in the oil-ball-free (so far) ocean. We will probably also snip at each other and complain about the fact that there is no air conditioning and there is only one small bathroom for the eight of us.

My parents stay at the cottage throughout the summer, so their bedroom is safe from calling dibs. The second bedroom has a double bed that is, quite frankly, hard as a rock. You might as well be sleeping on the floor. And the third bedroom features twin beds. The mattresses on these twin beds should’ve been replaced years ago. Thus, when one lies on a twin bed, one sinks. And when one gets up in the morning, one vaguely resembles a soft pretzel.

I sort of feel like Goldilocks when I visit the cottage: This bed is too hard…this bed is too soft. Haven’t really gotten the ‘this bed is just right’ thing down yet.

My brother – the smart one – decided years ago to avoid the bedrooms altogether. He brings his air mattress and sleeps in the closed-in porch. There is always a cool breeze coming off the ocean. Thus, he sleeps comfortably and wakes up well-rested.

And I think my sister and her family have decided to stay at a local hotel this year.

Ah, the times they are a’changin’.

I’ve always envied extended families who gather for annual vacations at a large resort where everyone has their own room. They have their own bathrooms and kitchenettes. They have their own control for the A/C. And the beds probably don’t cause pretzel-like contortions of the spine that require months of chiropractic work to straighten.

But since my family doesn’t do those “large resort” vacations, Vince and I are already thinking about our sleeping arrangement options. We can’t load up the car with our own air mattress since we’re flying. But maybe if we wear the same clothes every day we can pack the air mattress in our carry-on luggage? It’s an option. On the other hand, there is no washer and dryer in the cottage and I refuse to make a daily trip to the Laundromat.

Maybe instead we should just make the trip to the local Mattresses-R-Us so we can say, “Ahhh. This bed is just right!”

I don’t think, however, that I added New Mattress Purchase to the vacation budget so I guess this means we won’t be bringing back anyone one of those “My friends went to Cape Cod and all I got was this lousy T-shirt” T-shirts.

(Hope no one is too disappointed.)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Bad Wife?

Sometimes I don’t think I make a very good wife. While I’m still relatively new at the job, I’m wondering if perhaps I didn’t study the manual as diligently as I should have. Maybe there is a remedial training course I can take?

Since Vince and I became a couple, he has gotten up every morning to make breakfast as I’m usually the one who leaves the domicile first. That is true whether he needed to be up and starting his day or had the chance to sleep in. But I probably need only one hand to count the number of times he slept in and didn’t get up with me in the morning.

This morning, however, Vince was the one who had to be up early and out the door by 6:30. AM. (As in wayyy too freakin’ early and I AM not gettin’ up yet!) I briefly considered dragging myself out of bed at 5:50 to start the coffee and maybe pour him a bowl of flax cereal, but I quickly discarded that idea when his alarm went off. I mean, come on! How many times do I have to say I am not a morning person? Besides, there should be an exception to the rule of getting up with one’s spouse for any portion of the morning that begins with the number 5.

Heck, when my alarm goes off at 7AM, I usually have an argument with myself:
Responsible Jane: Get up!
Sleepy Jane: No. Another 20 minutes. C’mon.
Responsible Jane: It’s hair washing day. Do you want to go to work looking like a drowned rat?
Sleepy Jane: I don’t care. I’ll wear a hat.

You’d be surprised how often Sleepy Jane wins this argument. And, yes, I am sometimes chagrined to see myself in the mirror later. A drowned rat is a fairly apt description.

Actually, I fell completely back asleep after Vince shut off his alarm, so getting up to make him breakfast was moot. I didn’t wake up again until he came upstairs and spritzed on some cologne, which is his final prep step before walking out the door. Although I must say that waking up to the scent of Armani isn’t a bad way to wake up.

But I didn’t, in fact, get out of bed until 7:20 AM because (a) Sleepy Jane won the argument this morning, and (b) it was not a hair-washing day. Fortunately, I managed to get myself out the door on time and actually had the added cushion time that allows for delays by either train or orange barrel. There were both this morning, by the way, yet I arrived at work with minutes to spare.

But I do feel sort of guilty that I wasn’t up to see Vince walk out the door and give him a goodbye smooch.

Oh well. I will try to make up for it later. His being gone this morning makes me appreciate him even more for the kind, loving man he is. Maybe I’m not the greatest wife in the world, but I’d have to say I’m a pretty lucky one.

I just hope his leaving the house at 6:30 in the morning doesn’t become an every-day routine. If it does, Sleepy Jane is going to start having issues.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Independence Day 2010

So did you have a happy 4th of July? Or since my niece Chloe refers to the holiday by its official name, I suppose I should do the same. So did you have a happy Independence Day?

Did you eat lots of burgers, brats and potato salad? Or, if you’re a vegetarian – lots of potato salad, fruit salad, and tossed salad?! (And if you’re a vegan, well, I give up. I just hope you had plenty to eat!)

And I also hope you were able to spend time with your friends and family. That is the best part about holidays.

We had a good weekend, too. Busy, though. I mentioned the other day that we had seven events to attend in two days. It sort of kills me to say this, but…um…I was wrong. I know – it IS hard to believe! I’m hardly ever wrong! But it was actually seven events in THREE days, which made the schedule a whole lot easier to handle.

Okay, so not really. By the time Monday rolled around, I was exhausted. Slept ‘til noon – so I burned half a day of precious time off trying to catch up on my sleep.

On the upside, I saw more fireworks displays this weekend than I think I’ve seen in the past five years combined. We went to Red, White & Boom on Friday and then on Saturday saw a friend’s fireworks display that rivaled any suburb’s display. Not only that, but we saw several other displays off in the distance. And then, on Sunday, we inadvertently saw two different suburb’s fireworks displays because we got turned around and were driving in the wrong direction so we caught them coming and going!

We also watched the Washington DC and New York City fireworks displays on television – and let me tell you – those were impressive, particularly the NYC display, which featured six barges firing off identical fireworks simultaneously.

Fortunately, I’m no longer as susceptible to migraines as I once was because I’m pretty sure all those flashing lights could’ve set off a major headache.

Our gathering on Saturday was fun and interesting. This was on Vince’s side of the friend-o-meter and I really didn’t know anyone except the host. Well, besides Vince, of course. Clearly, this was an annual shindig as they’ve had several years to refine the program. It also shows you what kind of party you can throw if you have lots of land.

There was a 7-piece bluegrass band complete with cowboy hats, guitars and a banjo. Oh, and singing. There was a red-and-white striped tent that rivals any that Barnum & Bailey might have, under which long tables were set up and filled with every picnic-type food you can imagine. And there were two port-o-potties set up in different parts of the field for the comfort of the party-goers. (Well, except for me. I don’t do port-o-potties.)

There were even folks who brought their campers along and parked along the perimeter of the property ready for an all-weekend party. (I don’t know this for sure, but I imagine those folks were grateful for the port-o-potties. A weekend is an awful long time to hold it, especially since mass quantities of beer was being consumed.)

What was most fascinating about this party was that there was a veritable mountain of wood, branches and various other flora and fauna in a pile about the circumference of Epcot ready to be lit once darkness fell. This was no mere bonfire. Oh no. Had it been spotted by someone who was concerned about fire dousing, it would’ve been at least a five-alarmer.

Once the pyre was lit, the party attendees weren’t quite sure what was more interesting to watch – the fireworks to the left or the inferno to the right. Vince took several photos of the fire using people or the port-o-potty in the frame to measure scale. And it was…well…BIG. Not only that, but it was also HOT. As you might imagine.

Despite the weekend temperatures closing in on 90 degrees, it was rather chilly in the country once the sun set. Other people were prepared and brought sweaters and jackets, but we didn’t. We figured it was friggin’ 90 degrees outside and we couldn’t imagine the temperature dipping much below 70. Yes, we were wrong. OMG. Twice in one blog. What are the odds?

Happily, the inferno allowed us to keep warm once we moved our chairs a little closer. Of course, we had to move back about three times before we were able to open our eyes without risk of burning our corneas and singeing our eyebrows.

But we eventually hit the most optimal inferno-sitting distance and we sat and watched the dancing flames and reflected on how fortunate we are to live in this country and enjoy the freedoms we have. To be able to choose life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And to select which seven events we wanted to attend in three days.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

His, Mine and Ours

Being married for the first time at such a late stage in life is sort of interesting. Okay, really interesting. I swear, I could write a book. There are so many changes in my heretofore single life that I don’t know where to begin.

But let’s talk about friends for a minute. See, I have a whole lot of friends and Vince has a whole lot of friends. Now, before you say “Well, Miss Social Butterfly – you're awfully full of yourself, aren’t you?” in a rather snippy tone of voice (if you don't mind my saying so), let me explain. Having a lot of friends is more a result of us simply being alive for so damn long. Unless someone is a real jerk, they’re probably going to have more friends at 50 than they did at 25.

It occurs to me that when people get married at a younger age, they tend to grow “couple friendships.” While they probably still have individual friends they made while growing up or through school, a newly married younger couple focuses more on forming friendships with other couples. And when they start procreating, they become friends with other couples who are in the same boat. Or at least the same daycare. They want to be able to do things like make “play-dates” for their newborns. Like their newborns really understand the social aspect of a play-date. Heck, those kids are busy trying to locate their toes and are mostly concerned about their next diaper change.

On the other hand, when a couple breaks up, many of their friendships break up, too. Usually one member of the former couple wins the friends in the divorce settlement. I think it's one of the first assets the lawyers split up. But what usually happens is that the non-divorced couple picks one of the ex-es (usually the one who isn't as snippy). But they gravitate toward either the ex-wife or the ex-husband – not usually both. If by some weird cosmic accident a couple is able to maintain friendships with both the ex-wife and the ex-husband, it isn't easy. At the very least, planning a dinner party becomes significantly more complicated.

As for me, well, I was one of those “third-wheeler” sorts of friends. Even when I was in a relationship, I still had a lot of free time. Fortunately, my married girlfriends were able to carve out a little time for me. Mostly, we'd meet up for dinner and go see a chick flick while their grateful husbands stayed home watching ESPN and probably burping and farting without having to apologize to anyone or blame the dog.

But sometimes they’d invite me over to their house and the three of us would hang out together. I'm guessing my friend's husband didn't like it as much when we did that because then he would have to blame the dog for any gaseous emissions that inadvertently occurred.

I always wondered if my friends’ husbands merely put up with me as the third wheel – or if they actually considered me a friend? Who knows – maybe they were simply grateful because I was the reason they didn’t get dragged to as many chick flicks. I never really asked the question because I didn’t really want to know the answer. I was just happy to spend time with my friends.

About 5 years ago I became more active building friendships with other singles. Eventually, I joined the Columbus Ski Club for the social aspect of the club. So I developed lots of friendships with both singles and couples alike.

Vince, meanwhile, was doing the thing where he was inheriting some friendships after his marriage broke up. He also developed friendships in his newly single life. And in the past few years, he has re-connected with many friends from high school, college and previous work situations.

So as we’ve merged our lives, we’ve been merging our friends. While there are still some “mine” and some “his” – we’re not doing too badly with the “ours” and Vince is now usually included on invites from my friends. I don't hear from his friends much. Probably they're a little scared I'll call them snippy - or will edit their e-mails or something.

Anyway, sometimes having this “his-mine-and-ours” situation complicates matters. Like when a holiday weekend comes up and we have invites from both sets of friends. It takes some juggling to make sure we aren’t short-changing one group over another. So for example, on this 4th of July holiday weekend, we have three gatherings to attend Friday night, and four gatherings to attend on Saturday. Egads! Seven events in two days? Ain't no way we can be that good at juggling.

I dunno. Maybe we should just go out and buy a box of Sparklers and throw a coupla burgers on the grill and call it a day? Nah. But...seven events? Even if we manage only half of them, I think I should still get to be called "Miss Social Butterfly."

Just don't call me snippy!