Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Oy

Alphabetizing, boxing files, and moving the boxed files around. That was my day today. And all I can say right now is oy. More of the same on tap for tomorrow. Someday we'll move into the 20th century (yes, I know this is the 21st) and find streamlined ways to do things.

It was about 400 degrees in my office today, even with the window open. They like to blast the heat when the temps outside are moderate, so they can cut it back when the freeze sets in. And people wonder what happens to their tax dollars!

I have paper cuts on my hands and 3 inches up my arms, and my hands have never felt so dry.

I have renewed respect for file clerks today.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Movin' On

So today was my day to start packing at work. I pretty much have to finish packing tomorrow, since I'm moving my stuff on Thursday. It might mean staying a little bit late tomorrow, but it's worth it.

While I have mixed feelings about the change I'm making, I know that I'm doing the right thing. There is more good than bad involved, overall.

Just a quick recap: I'm making a lateral move at work. The new position will require me to commute quite a bit farther each day. The type of caseload I have now is being eliminated, so a change of some kind was inevitable.

I think I'm going to like my new responsibilities, and I think I'm better suited to them. I like things that have a beginning, a middle and an end. This will be the case now, and it most definitely has not been the case in the past!

I've been based in a satellite office for most of my career. For the last 5 years, my field office situation has been tumultuous for a variety of reasons. Plus, I've had to do all of my own typing, mailing (including going to the post office), and filing. I'm looking forward to having clerical support again, and I'm looking forward to seeing friends like Pax, Zelda and The Mommanator almost every day. And I'm going to have my own cubicle! Yay! They're like gold in our main office, and some folks have to share.

The office is located in an area with good access to shopping and dining. The new location will be even better, just a few minutes from a mall, a WalMart, a Target (Yay, Target, love Target!) and several shopping centers. There is a movie theater nearby, for chick flicks with the girls after work from time to time. AND (fancy drumroll here) there will be numerous places to go for a good haircut/color! That is NOT the case where my office is now, or where I live, for that matter.

Once I get through the changeover, I get to walk on the sunnyside for awhile. Believe it or not, I LIKE January! I don't mind the cold weather too much, and I like the snow (though not driving in it - yuk). I like the cozy nights, and not having any yard work to do. And I love Valentine's Day in February. There are lots of good things to look forward to in the New Year.

To quote Martha Stewart, "It's a good thing."

This Christmas

A few images of the holiday are posted below.


The tree on Christmas Eve.



A hound with a bow.

She didn't mind the bow at all, though she was not happy with the Santa hat. I tried, Virginia Gal! The pics of her in the hat look like photos of Sam the Ugly Dog. I was going to post a link to an image of Sam, but they're too horrible.

Please overlook the deplorable condition of the lawn in our backyard. It's being rehabbed, and should look lovely in the spring! It's extremely difficult to grow a nice lawn in the Pine Barrens. Weeds thrive on the sandy soil; grass does not! We have the added challenge of being in the woods.


The latest bear. A gift from my hubby.


Sunday, December 25, 2005

Analysis of Holiday 2005: The Early Returns

With Christmas 2005 just passed and fresh in my mind, it is not too soon to take a quick look back at the holiday for a brief analysis. The leftovers are in the fridge, mostly at Mom's house. We brought just enough home to keep us from having to cook tomorrow.

I've never committed a review of a Christmas holiday to print before. It should be interesting to look back in a year to see if memory is kind or harsh when compared with the immediacy of review written within hours of the event.

We had a quiet and private Christmas morning, my hubby and I, with our 2 hounds. We rose at our leisure and had coffee before making our way to the tree to open our presents. Gifts this year were simple by choice. We have no desire for extravagance. My husband delighted me with his thoughtfulness, giving me gift certificates to Atlantic Books (aren't book shops a little slice of heaven?), a small stuffed bear, a Dachshund Puppies wall calendar, and a few other odds and ends. His gifts from me were even smaller because I had given some gifts early: an Eagles jacket (looks great on him, and he got to enjoy it before their ignominious fate was sealed) and this year's addition to an airplane ornament series we collect. This precious morning was by far the best part of the day.

Christmas dinner was at Mom's house. Mom is 81, and she no longer prepares the meal. My sister and I bring the food, and my brother contributes desserts. It is difficult to prepare food in Mom's limited kitchen, and it is difficult to shuttle complex dishes from home to her house. We opted for simple foods - a deli tray, meatballs, potato salad, etc. It was delicious, even if it wasn't exactly Martha Stewart. I miss the colorful and lavish Christmas celebrations of the past, yet I have no desire to recreate them. They are from a bygone era when people lived, ate, and thought quite differently.

We were a small group this year. Mom's gentleman friend passed away in 2004. This was her second Christmas without him, and she still feels the loss. I think she feels it more keenly because of her age, believing that she will not find another companion in this lifetime.

My oldest nephew was with us, whole and well, last Christmas. I remember him starting his truck (a Ford F350) to warm it up before he left for home. We all wish he had been driving that truck to work on the morning of January 4, so soon after Christmas day. It was in the shop, and he was driving a much older and smaller pickup on that day. I've blogged about this before, so most of you know about his accident. The good news is that he is able to walk a little bit now with the help of leg braces and a walker, though he is still largely dependent on his wheelchair. He did not join us today. He still struggles with outings, and he preferred to stay home today. He was missed, but he'll be back - I'm sure of it. I don't have reason to expect a full recovery for him at this time (although stem cell research offers hope), but I do expect significant improvements for him over time.

Our group today was made up of Mom, my sister, my second nephew (second in birth order, not in affection), my brother (who lost his wife to lung cancer in 2000), my brother's girlfriend, my hubby and me. The day started off well enough, but somehow it all went astray. Someone introduced a flawed memory of a past grievance into the conversation - something that has become habitual, and makes me dread family holidays. While the discussion did not devolve into an out an out argument, the tension was felt for the rest of the day. What a crazy dance it is, and I am weary and impatient with it. It's like a skipping record playing the same caustic line from an aggravating song over and over and over again.

The afternoon did not deteriorate into a free-for-all: no one said horrible things that will never be forgiven, no one yelled, no one cried. The evening ended well enough. Just the same, it was unpleasant and uncomfortable, and it left me with no desire to repeat the experience.

Every year in recent memory I have promised myself that next year will be the year I escape the hamster wheel. I'll see Williamsburg (a favorite spot) for Christmas, or take a cruise. I made the promise early this time around, declaring it in Mom's kitchen just after dinner. I told my husband that next year would definitely be the Year of the Christmas Cruise for us. I told him that we're going buy tickets right away, to keep us from changing our minds and making this mistake again next year.

I still don't know what it is about Christmas that brings out the worst in so many families. Maybe it's the impossibility of trying to recreate childhood idylls in adult lives. The lights, the colors, and the soundtrack of Christmas all become theater to adults, who are forced to leave the audience and work as stagehands. We try to create the spectacle and participate in it all at once, often with unsatisfactory results. Certainly there were undercurrents amongst the adults during those magnificent holidays of my childhood. But as a child I did not recognize much of the conflict, and I didn't have to dwell on any of it. It flowed past me and it was gone.

So I give today's overall holiday experience a lukewarm rating, with high marks going to the peaceful morning routine, and a less than stellar ranking for the remainder of the day. It wasn't an awful day, and some amount of conflict was to be anticipated. We'll see how memory stacks up against the written word after a year has passed, and we'll see if the hamster finally exits the wheel.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Feast Day

Today was another never-ending feast at work. It went like this: birthday cake for co-worker at 9:30, coffee (thanks to Pax) at 10:00, retirement cake for co-worker at 10:45, boxes and plates of food all over the office. It is a testament to how overfed we are as a group that no one wanted cake at 9:30. A true first for our office! I managed to dodge the plates of food, and I succumbed to a single piece of cake at 10:45.

I went to lunch with the co-worker who is retiring, and had Mexican food - Chicken Mole - it was wonderful! There is an authentic Mexican restaurant near the office. It's not a chain with prepackaged sauces and entrees,it's the real deal.

After a sanctioned early exodus from the office, I headed home to feed the hounds. Then it was off to dinner (yep, we ate out!) with my hubby. Nobody wanted to cook or clean up tonight. I more or less nibbled at my dinner, and there are leftovers in the fridge. I think I've discovered the secret to dieting. Keep a ton of rich food around at all times. You'll lose interest in it, and you'll eat less!

The co-worker mentioned above, the one who is now officially retired, has turned her old position over to me. She has been very kind to me over the last several weeks as I learned the ropes. Because I continued to have an active and demanding caseload while I was learning the new position, I've only been able to learn it in chunks. I feel like the new job is a puzzle. I'm pretty sure all of the pieces are in the box, but I haven't fit them together yet to see the picture. I hope it's a pretty one!

The next couple of weeks will be transitional for me. I have to move all of the stuff from my old office to our main office - quite an undertaking, with more than 250 files, a computer, and all of my own stuff. A good friend has offered to help, thankfully, so the move should go well. The transition will be tough - leaving a caseload is never easy. I'm sure to be pulled in to help for some time to come, especially since the caseload will not be reassigned for awhile.

So I'm moving on - new location, new responsibilities. New boss as well, another big change. I've had the same boss for the last 11 or 12 years. And there are more changes on the horizon. We'll be restructuring, and the main office is supposed to move in the spring - closer to my home. If it happens. We'll see. I've learned not to count chickens until I see feathers and beaks.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Private Eyes

The current media furor over the domestic spying scandal has made me wonder if I’m being spied on. Right now, as I type. Or earlier today, on the phone. Or ever. Forget Guardian Angels; do I have a Personal Spy? Has some poor schlub been assigned to keep tabs on me? Have you heard of anyone being fired from the CIA or FBI recently? That would be my Personal Spy, fired for sleeping on the job: my life is just that dull!

I’m sure that even our extravagant government would not dedicate the resources needed to watch me 24/7, so I wonder just which bits of my life they’re watching (if they’re watching). A good first bet for surveillance would be my PC at work. As a government employee, there is a fair to middlin’ chance that every keystroke is logged. And there have been times when I have had the eerie feeling while on the phone that an unannounced presence was following the conversation. You know what I mean - the little chill that makes you feel haunted or watched.

Then there’s my PC at home. I’ve had haunted moments while computing, too, and in the privacy of my own castle. I suppose most of us have been observed while computing at one time or another. Think of a time before firewalls, and think of all of the folks nowadays who spend most of their time trying to climb over your firewall. So I’ve probably been watched while computing, I'm just not sure whether or not the eye has ever belonged to the US Government. It’s sad that I can’t rule it out, but there you have it.

Do they have photos of all of my bad hair days? Video clips of the time I slipped on the ice on a sidewalk in Somers Point, or the time (not too long ago) when I dripped a trail of coffee across the interior of my poor car, then cussed up a blue streak? Has someone had to listen in on one of the long-for-no-good-reason conversations with my sister, with discussions of the latest diet trends, the same old family trivia, relationships and job stress?

Do they have vacation pics of me? I'd love to see them. I'm not in too many of our photos, since I'm usually the one holding the camera. Personal Spy, when you read this (this is, after all, in the public domain), would you send me a copy of any photos you have of me? I'm sure that the Freedom of Information Act or the Open Public Records Act can be made to apply somehow. I'll be looking for the envelope in the mail; please be discreet - wouldn't want the Post Office to see my business.

I could keep going with this, but you get the drift. The phone line at home, those video cameras in public places and at traffic lights – all are possible means of surveillance. How about that creeped-out feeling you get sometimes in restrooms and clothing store dressing rooms? There’s always a chance that someone is watching there, too.

But here’s the big question for today: who is my Personal Spy, this person who knows so very much about me without having been properly introduced? Ever pass a total stranger who looks at you as if he or she knows you? You’re certain you’ve never seen them before, but you sense complete recognition in their eyes, and the prelude to a greeting on their lips. Déjà vu? A kindred spirit from a previous life? A simple case of mistaken identity? Nope, it’s your personal spy.

And in an aside to my Guardian Angel: no insult intended here. Please continue your usual fine work, and keep an eye on that Personal Spy fella, while you’re at it. That guy could bear some watching…

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Bame Pax

Pax Romano posted this yesterday. It's about Afred Hitchcock and a missing etter of the aphabet. Thought I'd try a brief post using Hitchcock's aphabet, just for the fun of it, as a way of saying Joyeux Noe to my friends. So Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, Peacefu Sostice, and, best of a, HAPPY HOIDAYS!

Monday, December 19, 2005

What Googling Fruitcake Stories Will Get You


I'm one of the few people in the world who actually likes a good fruitcake. No comments from the peanut gallery, please. I assure you I am sane, not nutty as... well... you know...

I remember a short story I had to read in grade school. It was written by Truman Capote, and it's about a boy making fruitcake with a slightly batty relative. I Googled the story, and I found it here. It's called A Christmas Memory.

The story was based on a young Truman's memories of a distant cousin named Sook Faulk. As I checked the Google results for more information, I discovered that Marie Rudisill, The Fruitcake Lady who makes appearances on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, is Truman Capote's aunt. She is the author of a cookbook called, aptly, Fruitcake. The book is subtitled Memories of Truman Capote and Sook. She has some other book titles to her credit, as well.

I had no idea that the sharp-tongued Fruitcake Lady was Truman Capote's aunt! Here's the Answers.com/Wikipedia summary about Marie Rudisill, and here's The Tonight Show's bio about her. You can watch some of The Tonight Show's Ask the Fruitcake Lady segments by clicking on the links found on this page.

So much for Googling fruitcake stories. Might be time to Google fruitcakes: there are a couple of bakeries reputed to make some fine ones. It's probably too late to get one in time for Christmas, but maybe I can score one in time for New Year's Eve...

Off to Google some more!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Crunch

The crunch is on!

Had a holiday gathering with Mr. Merci's side of the family today. It turned out to be a nice, relaxing day! It was a simple affair, with the obligatory excess of desserts. We wisely declined the offer to bring some of the leftovers home.

I have a very busy week ahead, both at work and at home. The extra dash of holiday spirit should make it tolerable. Wish I had saved some time off for the week between Christmas and New Year, but it wasn't to be. Oh well, new vacation and personal days will be added in January, so I can't complain. We're thinking of a long weekend away sometime this winter, but it's still a bit tentative right now.

I still have a bit of baking to do, and I haven't even thought about wrapping a gift. Fortunately, Mr. Merci and I are not doing much in the way of gifts for each other, and we've agreed that there will be no more than one candy item in each stocking this year! I think I'll check my supply of gift bags for everyone else's gifts. As I've mentioned before, I'm into an uncomplicated holiday this year!

I was able to do most of my holiday shopping on Saturday. We managed to navigate the crowds pretty well. We had a nice lunch at Applebee's with no wait! I had a very tasty cosmopolitan with lunch (very rare for me), since this was by way of being a holiday celebration for us. I highly recommend this as a shopping strategy, since I was Absolutely unaffected by stress for the rest of the afternoon.

How about the rest of you? How are you coping with this crazy season? Is it mostly pain or mostly pleasure for you? How do you spend the 25th? Most places of business are closed, so even if you do not celebrate Christmas, it would be interesting to hear about how you spend the day!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

When I Cry

I don't cry very often anymore. I tend to avoid things that might cause me to break down. I refuse to watch horse and dog movies, they're always tearjerkers. I don't listen to sad songs, and I really don't care much for books that don't have happy endings.

When I finally give in and cry, it's usually over some silly thing, the last drop in the bucket that finally makes the tears flow. I'm on the verge of it today, and, as usual, the reason is absurd.

I've been trying to find a good place nearby to get my hair done. I've had it cut a couple of times over the last 6 months, with poor results. And when you're hair looks crappy you feel crappy about yourself. Shallow but true.

I stopped by a salon on Friday to make inquiries, and I ended up making an appointment for this afternoon. I was hopeful as I left the house today for the short drive there. I had planned just what I wanter to say (the ladies reading this know that you have to be very specific, or disaster will most always ensue), and I was reviewing it in my mind as I parked the car.

I walked into the salon on the dot of 1:30, the appointed time. This is a newer salon, and small - just one chair. My heart sank when I saw that the stylist was at the sink washing someone's hair. Time to wait. The stylist gave me a distracted smile and a brief hello, then turned away. I thought perhaps she had just done someone's color and only had to blow her hair out - maybe a 10 minute wait. Not to be.

As I sat waiting, not much interested in the reading material, and entertained by rap music (which I don't like), I started to feel annoyed and sad. At 1:45, the stylist had cut just a layer or two of the other client's hair, and had not yet taken the time to say, "I'm running late. Would you like to come back in half an hour, or reschedule?" I should note that she took my phone number when I made the appointment, so she could also have called to tell me she was behind schedule.

The stylist did not acknowledge me at all after that one brief smile when I walked through the door. She did interact with her daughter, who came out of the back room. She said to her, in an it's-OK-if-you-don't-want-to voice, "I don't like this song. Why don't you put some Christmas music on, just for today?" The child mumbled, " I don't know what station plays Christmas music." And that was that. So there I sat, now 20 minutes into my scheduled appointment time, listening to music I don't like, waiting to be acknowledged. I left. I didn't say a word, I just left.

And now I'm on the brink of tears. Every frustrating, sad, annoying thing that has happened to me over the past year wants to escape. I guess I'm typing this in an attempt to stop it by fighting it head on, so if this is too long and dull for general consumption, I apologize. I'm maudlin today.

I sometimes cry when I'm angry, but the real gut-wrenching sobs are almost always about loss. My nephew's spinal injury due to an auto accident last January is a source of loss. This October marked the 20th anniversary of my father's death, a loss relived. I have two aging dogs, and I watch the older of them slow down more and more each day. We got her less than a month after our wedding 15 years ago. She was 6 months old at the time.

Big changes at work mean that I will have a much longer drive to the office each day, and I won't be able to come home for lunch. This is a loss, too - a loss of time with my husband and my aging pets, and a loss of the quiet respite of lunch at home - the only thing that got me through some of the more difficult days over the last few years. I know that some of you already have a long commute to work, and I know that not many people get to go home for lunch. I don't feel entitled to these things, and I'm not complaining, I'm just sad about the change.

I guess more than anything I'm sad about the things that will never be again. Little M (my oldest dog) will never be energetic and sassy again. She doesn't see or hear too well, and she's slow and a bit confused. Mom and I will never shop the mall together again (something we loved to do in years past). She doesn't get around well enough to do so, and she has some health issues that keep her pretty close to home.

Some of the mall places Mom and I loved are gone, and some have changed forever, not for better. Wanamaker's was one such favorite place, now gone. The fountain with the Eagle at the entrance to the store is gona as well. I saw a picture of it recently, and I had an intense flashback. I could hear the water falling, and smell it too. I could feel the smooth, cool texture of the benches around the fountain. I could see the lights illuminating the water with the the copper glow at the bottom of the pennies thrown in for luck. Some of my pennies went into that fountain.

I could see myself walking through into Wanamakers, making my way to the Clinique counter with Mom the first time I bought grown-up makeup. I can almost taste the tea sandwiches they served in the Cranberry Room, with the world's best rice pudding for dessert. I can walk through each department in that store in my mind and see it fully stocked and decorated for the holidays.

Christmas will never be even close to what it was in my childhood. Most of the people who were part of it are gone, and the house where I grew up (scene of decades of holiday crimes) was sold long ago. I would host a holiday splash at my house, but no one would come: my family won't make the trip. So we'll have a deli tray, salads and meatballs at Mom's tiny place. I'm just plain tired of trying to cook a meal at home, transport it, and reheat it under adverse circumstances.

The gathering planned with my husband's family comes with a sense of dread because of one crazy family memeber. I have been saying that I will not go this year, but I see that it hurts my husband when I say it, so I might have to bite my tongue once again and suffer through it.

When I feel the incredible yearning for things past and gone, I realize that the Beatles song, "In My Life," is probably one of the most powerful love songs ever written. I could not have recognized this when I was young and surrounded by all that was beloved and familiar. Here are the words:


There are places I remember all my life,
Though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain.
All these places have their moments
Of lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I loved them all.

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these mem'ries lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
And I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them.
In my life I loved you more.

And I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them.

In my life I loved you more
In my life I loved you more


These words are so poignant to me now, with this unbidden flood of memories. I could go on and on (I know, I have already!) about places gone and people loved, but I guess I'm ready to snap out of it now (until I look in the mirror at my crappy hair). And see, I didn't cry after all. I really do have a good life, and I am blessed in so many ways. I just indulged in a bit of counting my woes instead of my blessings today. Tomorrow, back to normal, I promise.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Silver Fairy Forest

Yesterday morning it rained at my house. Elsewhere in this area, there was snow, but near the coast there was rain. As the rainfall ended, it turned briefly to freezing rain. It did not coat the roads, but it put a fine glaze on the trees.

As soon as the rain stopped, the sun came out. All of the glaze spilled off of the trees, creating a silver shower backlit by the sun. It lasted for quite awhile, and it turned the woods into a magical place, a silver fairy forest.

These photos don't do it justice, but they're the best proof I have to offer!





Thursday, December 08, 2005

'Tis The Season...

...to feast with friends! Thought it might be fun to create a blogger virtual feast. We could each post a favorite recipe sometime over the next 7 days, or tell about a favorite purchased food. An example of the latter would be the cinnamon scones I like to buy at Acme. They come in two sizes; I prefer the big ones because the little ones are too sweet.

Joe T. over at Freudian Slips must have read my mind, because he has already posted a tempting recipe.

How 'bout it, folks? Here's one of my favorites to get you started:

Pineapple Bread Casserole

1/2 cup butter or margarine
3/4 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 can (13.5 ounce) crushed pineapple
5 slices bread, cubed


Cream butter and sugar; add eggs and beat until well combined. Add pineapple (I drain the pineapple and reserve the liquid in case a little extra moisture is needed); fold in bread cubes. Turn into greased 1.5 quart casserole. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Yield: 8 servings.

This recipe works as a side dish to serve with ham (skip the pineapple sauce) or as a dessert. We call it pineapple stuffing or pineapple bread pudding, depending on the use.

Just a note: a similar recipe from my mom calls for a 20 ounce can of crushed pineapple, well-drained.

Quick Post

Just a quick post. It's about 3 am. Haven't been up all night - fell asleep for several hours on the couch, and am on my way to bed.

Still looking for santa hats for the pooches so I can post a pic for Virginia Gal. I should have better access to shopping over the next couple of days, so we'll see what I can come up with!

I'm moving into a new position at work. I think the change will be a good thing, but making the change is taking a lot of my attention and energy right now, so there might be a little less blogging on weekdays for awhile.

Well, I'm off to catch a few last Zzz's !

Monday, December 05, 2005

Missing Monday

I'm a late poster for Missing Monday this month. Rather than posting stats for one missing person this time 'round, here are links for some sites with listings:

http://webdb.state.nj.us/cgi-bin/njsp/mplist.cgi
http://www.missingkids.com/
http://www.fbi.gov/mostwant/kidnap/kidmiss.htm

Thursday, December 01, 2005

OK, It's Not Christmas Decor, But...

...I'm a beginner at this! Think of this as a transitional look. I'm just learning how (with much cussing and spitting) to make changes to the template for my blog.

And if I can find a Santa hat small enough, I'll include a pic of one of the hounds in it, just for Virginia Gal!

A New Look

I'm hoping to do a little holiday redecorating at the Room very soon. Until then, note the addition of the World AIDS Day button in the sidebar. Take a new look at AIDS by checking out one of sites listed on the Google page for World AIDS Day.

Monday, November 28, 2005

A Snowy Day Might Change My Mind

I think I've run out of holiday steam. Thanksgiving used it all up, and I'm pooped! And I think this just might be a good thing.

Still feeling the holiday momentum, we bought a Christmas tree over the weekend. Yes, it's fake. It's a pre-lit tree, and it's slim, so we'll be able to get it into the attic for storage. The tree is up, the lights are on, and there is a tree skirt at the bottom. And that's as far as we got. I'm seriously considering skipping the ornaments this year. Or maybe I'll just put candy canes and garland on it. I guess I'll have to put the star on top.

I started to get the wreaths out for the windows, when I realized that this year's home improvement project (we converted the garage to a family room) means that we need 4 more wreaths for the 4 new windows. Maybe I'll just put one wreath on the door, and leave it at that.

I don't feel like looking for the Christmas bears (I collect bears) or the multiple little holiday tchotchkes I put out every year. I leave candles in the windows all year long, and I'm starting to think that they're good enough to double as Christmas decor, too. I'm not even sure about hanging the stockings or baking cookies. Think of the freedom in January: no grumpy clean-up day, putting away decorations and vacuuming away the last vestiges of glitter, no sense of nakedness in a house devoid of its colorful Christmas raiment.

I'm not saying all of this in the spirit of Scrooge. I just want a simple holiday this year. I want to enjoy the season, go for frosty walks and sip mugs of hot chocolate, drive around and look at everyone else's holiday displays. I want to forgo the madness and just enjoy a simple, pleasant day with the people I love.

One thing could change my mind about all of this. A snowy day off could catapult my latent winter genes into high holiday gear, sending me into a decorating-baking-gift shopping frenzy. So the question is this: will we have snow before Christmas Eve? What's your bet?

Thursday, November 24, 2005

The Cup Overflowing

The cleaning and the cooking are done. The leftovers have been wrapped and relegated to the fridge for the time when the impossible happens: we feel hungry and we want to eat. It's difficult to imagine that moment right now, but I know from years of experience that the time will come.

The good china has been placed back into the cupboard for its long winter's nap and the kitchen has returned to normal. Sadly, the guests have gone home, and the house has returned to its usual quiet state. Only the fancy tablecloth lingers as a reminder that this has been an unusual day. The tablecloth will soon be removed as well, exposing the everyday look of the wood table beneath.

Tonight my cup overflows. Good friends are more precious than gold, though I don't always take the time to let them know. My friends, if you read this, know how valuable you are to me: Zelda and Bubba, Pax, Aunt Bubby, and my blog friends, too!

I'm thankful for my family, as well, in spite of all of the usual quirks and such. Imperfect beasts, all of us! Pax's post about the
Thanksgiving Day Drinking Game really struck home, and was quoted today at my little gathering. Luckily, no hangovers here, though I owe someone a Chocolate Martini! She knows who she is, and she must collect it soon!

I am most especially thankful for my husband, who was right by my side, helping in all things for the past two days (and always) as we prepared for the holiday meal. He is a rare treasure, but don't tell him I said so!

Somehow the day flew by. One holiday is fading into memory as we prepare to haul out the holly, deck the halls, and put up the tree for the next. There is a rough draft script for the coming holiday, but we don't have to pull it out and dust it off until tomorrow. Just for tonight, we can pause and reflect on the satisfying final curtain for Thanksgiving 2005.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Credit Where It's Due

Mr. Bush sounded much more presidential today when he discussed the controversy over the lead up to the Iraq war. While I feel fairly certain that he has not read my blog ;-) it's as if he saw my post of a week ago, What Divides Us.

Mr. Bush used much more respectful words and intonation in his comments to the press today, and he retreated from the position that those who question his motives for the war are unpatriotic.

Frankly, the insinuation that to question the administration is to aid the enemy is one of the most frightening things I have heard in my entire life. If we cannot question our leaders, then we have lost everything that the founding fathers fought for more than 2 centuries ago.

So thank you, Mr. President, for showing some class today. Here's a toast to many more such occasions!

Saturday, November 19, 2005

My Mom

My mom has the Fickle Finger of Fate, which she inherited from her mother. I suppose there’s a pretty good chance that it was passed down the maternal line for several generations before it made its way into my home. And no, it’s not THAT finger!

You might know what I’m talking about; it’s the finger that wags in the air while some truth, ultimatum or homily is being delivered. With one finger, along with some precious one liners, Mom controlled my behavior very effectively.

When I struggled against eating the crust on the edges of the bread, Mom very seriously told me, finger in action, “Oh, you have to eat the crust; it makes your hair curly.” I took two messages from this:

1.Bread crust has magical, medicinal qualities
2.Curly hair is good

I soon began seeking out the end pieces to eat, looking for more crust. And to this day I long for curly hair. (Ironically, my sister, with her lovely natural curls, has always straightened her hair. Wonder if Mom was somehow behind that development?)

When mom suspected that a fib was in play, she’d whip out the finger and ask, "Now is that a true lie or a false lie?” Stymied, I’d give up and confess. OK, I admit it, I was an easy mark. I suppose deep down I just wanted to tell the truth.

As I got a little bit older and started to rebel a little bit against the true lie/false lie double bind, she added, “Tell the truth and spite the devil!” Our home was by no means a place of hellfire and brimstone, but I was an imaginative tot, so this was another very effective ploy. I saw myself as striking a blow for truth, justice and the American Way simply by being truthful. Little children everywhere were the front line against evil.

Mom reinforced truth-telling by making it clear that I’d always be better off if she found out about bad behavior directly from me rather than finding out on her own. I learned to confess quickly and get it over with. And I still tell on myself today, though not necessarily to Mom. In the long run, this trait not only kept me out of trouble as a kid, but has become the foundation for a good marriage. The Fickle Finger of Fate dealt me a good hand.

I’m not sure just how it happened, but the Fickle Finger of Fate seems to have skipped a generation in our family. Neither of my siblings has it, and I don’t have it either, but Mom continues to employ it regularly, so there is still the possibility that he next generation will take up the tradition.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Be Careful Out There!

I’d like to extend a very special thank you to all of the folks who left huge piles of leaves along the shoulder of the street where I live. They provided me with a challenging opportunity to display evasive driving maneuvers this evening when I had to yield to emergency vehicles, which were speeding to the scene of a very serious accident ahead.

How do I know this was a very serious accident? Because every fire truck for a ten mile radius showed up. I should point out that there was no visible fire when I passed the scene, but the trucks continued to stream in. More were arriving as I got off of the road and safely made it into my driveway (no thanks to the efforts of local emergency personnel, or to my husband, who had the driveway blocked when I got there). All of those fire trucks, a couple of ambulances and a police car or two, and NOBODY WAS DIRECTING TRAFFIC around this chaotic, poorly lit site.

All cynicism aside, this looked like a bad accident, and my thoughts are with the folks involved. There aren’t too many accidents on this road, but when they happen they are often deadly. People just go too fast, and they don’t show any consideration for those who are waiting to make turns. They seem to be annoyed when they have to slow down for a car turning into a driveway. This is totally asinine because it’s never a very long wait. It mostly requires a brief slow down. But heaven forbid that they would have to show courtesy to someone else.

I guess I’m especially annoyed by this because my nephew had a very serious accident last winter on his way to work. He had started a new job several months before, and he loved it, but he can’t do that job anymore. He was waiting to make a turn that morning, not two weeks after Christmas, when someone rear-ended him and pushed his vehicle into oncoming traffic. Sadly, tragically, he was not in his new F-350 pickup, which was in for service. He was in an older, smaller Toyota pickup. 12 hours of surgery, 4 months of in-patient rehab (wearing a clamshell), and 1 new wheelchair later, he is still fighting to regain the ability to walk.

I’m sure that the person who hit him didn’t mean to do it, and he has to live with the knowledge that he caused this much harm to another human being. That thought would drive me crazy, and I mean that quite literally. Not one of us can say that we haven’t had a momentary lapse while driving that had the potential to be disastrous. But the long term impact can be so very serious, so life-altering, that we need to take care, both with our own lives and with the lives of others. So be careful out there, OK?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Moonstruck

Last evening, I found myself compelled to gaze at the full moon. It was beautiful, surrounded as it was by a colorful ring of light, and with clouds passing across its face. I took some woefully inadequate pictures with my digicam - this is just about the best of them:


Later, my husband, moved by the same compulsion to gaze at the moon, pulled the telescope out of its dusty corner and set it up. The following pics were taken with the digicam through the telescope in my back yard.

I'll have to get some batteries for my 35 mm SLR. I'd love to see what it can do with this kind of a shot!

Monday, November 14, 2005

What Divides Us

I was just about to start writing about the things that unite us as Americans. I'm so very tired of the Great Divide between left-leaning and right-leaning Americans. Even those of us who tend to be centrist have found ourselves being shoved rudely toward one or another of the political poles by the hatred and invective expressed by our so-called leaders.

I sat down to type, planning to consider how we might go about healing the animosity, how we might begin to open up the dialogue between the two sides. It was in my mind that we must start with the things that we agree about. Surely there is far more to agree upon than there is to quarrel about. Surely?

As I began to log on to Blogger, the president came onto the TV screen, broadcast live from Alaska. With his face beet red, tension in its every line, he began a tirade, a veritable diatribe, attacking the Democratic party and accusing them of,"playing politics," with the issues surrounding the Iraq war.

The president used the Rovian technique of calling my party "The Democrat Party," with the practiced sneer in his voice that always accompanies the words. The not-so-subtle implication is that Democrats can't possibly be Democratic. The extreme right wing says Democrat like they want to say Democrap. I'm fighting the desire right now to start calling them Repulsicans. Name-calling only feeds the fire of hatred in the long run. The reason for an argument may long be forgotten, but an unfortunate name hurled during the fray can hurt forever. Unfortunately, this seems to be the point of the technique for the White House, not just a sorry by-product. They seem to want to cause long-term, irreparable harm.

My stomach turned as the president spoke, and I could no longer see the things that unite us. The rift is too great right now, and the things that divide us are looming too large too see past them.

I don't expect everyone to share my values and my political views. I don't expect a president I didn't vote for to represent my position. But I long to return to a day when we Americans showed some basic courtesy to one another. I want to feel pride in my president's bearing. I would like to respect my president, but, Mr. President, I cannot respect you. You are what divides us. You are the trouble with the United States of America today. When you sneer at the Democrats you sneer at me. In fact, you sneer at close to half of the country. I feel that I am personally insulted by my president on a regular basis.

This is what I ask: please assume the mantle of a true leader. Please stop the hatred. Yes, I know that both sides have to back off, but YOU FIRST. You're the president: act like it. And send Karl Rove back to the sandbox to kick sand in the faces of the other kids. That behavior doesn't belong in the White House.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Unposted

Some of my best thoughts never make it to paper, real or virtual. Last weekend we had beautiful fall weather and I had all sorts of ethereal flights of fancy of posting about, “A Room With a View.” I’ll probably use that title for a post someday, maybe over the winter, when we have our first snowfall.

As I looked out the windows at the flaming colors and, “saw red,” I was ready to compose all sorts of prose about leaves drifting to the ground one at a time, “as if being dropped by an unseen prop master, to create a perfect autumn scene.” By the end of the day, I wanted to say, “My lawn looks as if fall has fallen.”

Well, this week, I’m not feeling quite so romantic. My lawn looks like fall has fallen and it can’t get up. All of our oak trees seem to have dropped their leaves at once. The pine trees have dropped needles all over, too. I see work ahead, a whole lot of work, lots and lots and lots of work.

I must confess that the luxury of seeing autumn through a poet’s eyes was mine alone in our household. While I sat back and mused last weekend about the splendid fall, my husband was already busy, cleaning gutters and installing shields in an attempt to keep any further detritus from getting into them. Yet even he, wonderful human being that he is (I’m planning to have him read this, can’t you tell?), commented on the amazing colors and the pleasure of the cooler temperatures.

All of this unwanted ground cover did provide one moment of comic relief for me late this week. One of my hounds, while snuffling amongst the leaves in the back yard, brought her head up with a pair of pine needles pinched onto the end of her nose, just like a clothes pin. She missed the humor that I found in the moment. I wish I had a photo to share, a picture being worth a thousand words, but this is one of those images that must exist in memory alone. Unposted.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

What's on your desktop?

What's on your desktop background? Here's mine right now:

I change my background frequently. I often use my own photos. I came across this image tonight, and I had to use it for a little while. Anyone who knows dachshunds knows that this is quite an apt portrayal!

Anderson Cooper, News on the Move!

CNN has replaced NewsNight with Aaron Brown with Anderson Cooper 360. I miss Aaron already. I like Anderson Cooper, and his show was fine in the 7 pm I’m-not-into-jeopardy-tonight time slot. At 10 pm, I want a serious look at the day’s news with a mature journalist. Sorry Anderson, that’s not you. While it may be pithy to compare the premature graying of your hair to premature ejaculation (in an article titled, Going Gray), it doesn’t create the reliable newsperson image that imbues confidence in your reporting. Why is a self-indulgent article about Anderson Cooper’s gray hair important enough to warrant a link on the homepage of a major journalism outlet? Especially given the fact that this outlet recently cleaned house at its morning show (American Morning) because they wanted to do away with the fluff in their line up in order to provide more hard news.

Anderson’s style of journalism is participatory – he is part of the story. How many times have we seen Anderson, eyes half closed against wind-born debris (hope he has a good ophthalmologist) and hunkered down next to a cement wall as the maelstrom of the latest hurricane threatens to carry him away? I guess this is effective with some viewers, but I find it to be something of an annoying gimmick. The execs seem to be saying, “Let’s get viewers by sending a reporter out to be hammered by Charlie, or Dennis, or Katrina. If it’s too soon to get the story from the soon-to-be-battered residents of the area, then we will be the story.” Viewers get hours of coverage of (not from, but of) soggy correspondents who are hoarse from yelling over the wind. I especially love it when the networks preempt other programs so that we can watch this coverage without interruption.

With frequent trips to remote locations, Anderson Cooper keeps the news on the move. Even in the studio, he keeps the visual stimulation quotient high by having backgrounds that constantly swirl and flash with colorful impressionistic images. This is often accompanied by sound effects and driving music. Again, OK at 7 pm, not so OK at 10 pm.

As I said earlier, I like Anderson Cooper. I just miss the thoughtful look at the news that I could depend on Aaron Brown to provide. It seems like an era in journalism has passed. Peter Jennings is gone, Ted Koppel is about to retire, and now Aaron Brown is gone from CNN. I know that there are still some good journalists out there, but most of them seem to have gone over to the once a week news magazine format. So I guess for the time being I’ll have to choose between MSNBC, Fox, and Anderson Cooper: News on the Move.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Missing Monday


SHEENA LEE COTTO

Case Type: Endangered Runaway
DOB: Mar 1, 1988
Sex: Female
Missing Date: Aug 24, 2005
Race: White/Hisp
Age Now: 17
Height: 5'4" (163 cm)
Missing City: SOUTH BRUNSWICK TOWNSHIP
Weight: 120 lbs (54 kg)
Missing State: NJ
Hair Color: Brown
Missing Country: United States
Eye Color: Brown
Case Number: NCMC1030857

Circumstances:
Sheena was last seen on August 24, 2005. She may be in the company of an adult male. They may still be in the local area or they may have traveled to Elizabeth, New Jersey. Sheena's nickname is Nini.


Case Handled By:
National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Saturday, November 05, 2005

YO!

We're trying to plan an overnight in Philly - take in a Sixers game, do Philly things the next day. Does anybody know the best way to get from Center City to the Wachovia Center without taking the car? It would be nice to park the car at the hotel and not move it until we leave.

The Septa website trip planner isn't giving me great results, but it looks like we could take the Orange Line, if it's running at that time of day. Is it safe? Should we just take a cab? Suggestions appreciated!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Prepare to Give Thanks

Having invited guests for Thanksgiving dinner, I have now paused to take stock of the Room. What is it about issuing holiday invitations that immediately highlights all of the flaws of your household? The minute the words leave your mouth, it's like an automatic zoom lens focuses in on each fault in rapid succession, creating a documentary that will replay in your brain every spare moment until the guests arrive. Carpet in spare room: dingy; clean or replace! Soffit in kitchen: dusty; clean soffit and wash cookie jars. Bathroom and hallway: need to be painted (doubt I'll get to this one, guests will have to settle for clean). Area rugs in Room: shot, not much improved by recent shampooing - replace! Hounds (2): need baths and nails must be trimmed! Windows: BOY do they need to be washed! And of course the list goes on.

So I guess we'll be pretty busy for the next few weeks, cleaning and shopping and painting (yeah, right). And then there's the yard to think about, and the cars to polish (this will be Mr. Merci's first priority, as strange as it may sound), and, OH YEAH, the meal to plan, and the FOOD shopping, and the cooking...


And when it's all over, I'll give thanks in my spruced-up Room, with good memories and all of the satisfaction of a fait accompli!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Sidewinders and Tombstones (or Halloween Down the Shore)

We took a walk in Sea Isle City tonight. Yes, I know that this post is labeled as a Halloween post, and I realize that yesterday was Halloween. Close enough. You didn't really think we were going to walk by the sea alone at night on Halloween, now did you?

Anyway, as I was saying, we took a walk in Sea Isle tonight. It was a bit like a haunted walk on the boardwalk. There were scary critters (yes, Joe, this is, after all, a Merci post, so there must be creepy crawlers) and there were tombstones.

Sea Isle City (SIC) is pretty quiet on weeknights at this time of year. The businesses on the boardwalk are all closed, if not actually boarded up, and most of the businesses in town are closed, too. We often have the boardwalk all to ourselves in the evenings. Sometimes we don't see another soul the whole time we are out. Usually there are a few other walkers or joggers around.

Tonight we headed onto the boards in our usual manner. We took note of the ocean, which was a little rough, and we saw that the wind seemed to be driving the waves at an angle to the shore. We headed into the wind, thinking that it would be nice to have it at our backs on the return trip. It was unseasonably warm this evening, and only light jackets were required.

The boardwalk in SIC is lined with benches bearing dedications from locals and visitors to their loved ones. I'll take a big leap here and hazard a guess that these dedications were made available by the city at a price as a means of bankrolling the venture.

In the hustle and bustle of the boardwalk in summer, we rarely notice the dedications, obscured as they are by warm bodies basted in sunscreen(can you smell that pina colada scent?), beach towels, and bags full of souvenirs (salt water taffy, t-shirts, and little ships sailing on endless voyages in little bottles, no doubt). At night in the off season, there are no swimsuit-clad teens talking on cell phones to occupy the benches, no children with ice cream cones to drip sweet, gooey messes onto the seats.

Tonight the desolation of the boardwalk was emphasized by the pounding of the waves, and we had the feeling that we were wandering through a dark seaside cemetery. The benches were tombstones, each with its own epitaph; In Memory Of... Pop-pop's bench... John and Jane Doe: Remember the good times... Ghostly specters of Tourists Past arose as we passed by each bench, and an irrational frisson of fear coursed through us at the thought of those who had gone before. The tall grasses behind the benches seemed to offer cover for imaginary ghouls. We walked on the ocean side of the boardwalk, not too close to the benches, in the same manner in which one avoids walking too close to headstones for fear of treading on a grave.

This is not the first time we have felt this way, and the feeling was, perhaps, enhanced by the season. We forged ahead. Things progressed normally for the first couple of blocks. And then it happened, the ghouls and beasties began to take shape. First one beady-eyed little critter skittered across our path, then another, then another. Soon every spot of ABC gum, every stone, blob, mark or shadow morphed into a beclawed creature. With pincers at the ready, they sought to grasp the hems of our pants, prepared to hang on until able to mar the flesh beneath the clothing. We started an odd little dance of hops and halts, wincing at the thought of a crustacean crunch beneath a sneakered foot.

These creatures were small, and more nuisance than monster, until we saw Him, the King of the Crabs. Bigger and bolder than the others, he stared us down, daring us to proceed. We waited in obeisance of his will until he had passed, then we continued on our way.

So for our Halloween tale, we walked through a graveyard by the sea. We were attacked by wave upon wave of claw-handed creatures until we were finally taken to their leader, who quickly dismissed us as inconsequential and set us free.

We left the boardwalk for the return trip to our car, forgoing the pleasure of the wind at our backs for the relative safety of the quiet city streets. If ever we fail to return from one of these outings, direct all queries to the King of the Crabs. Our friends may inscribe a bench in our honor, and visit it in the crowded comfort of a summer's day, ice cream and souvenirs in hand.

Quick Post

Just a quick post - I've been a little short on time lately.

My husband just told me that he ordered one of those fundraiser cheesecakes today. He said he ordered the 36" size. Now that's a cheesecake! We'll be serving cheesecake instead of scones at The Room until further notice...

Longer post coming soon!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Favorite Things

A comment by Joe on my previous post got me to thinking about my favorite toys as a child. One of the very best had to be the Thingmaker, for making Creepy Crawlers. This very dangerous toy made you feel like some sort of mad scientist. It allowed you to cook up delightfully frightening creatures to leave around the house in unexpected places for mom to find. Unfortunately, they were literally cooked, in an open "oven." I remember the cord extending from the kitchen table as I baked the little plastic critters. The potential for disaster was great, but it was never fulfilled (by sheer good luck, errrr, because I was a responsible and careful child, that's right). Same with the home chemistry set I had.

A few games come to mind as favorites, including the inevitable CandyLand, Uncle Wiggly, Operation, Masterpiece, Password and Concentration. My ultimate favorite was a game called Voice of the Mummy. I loved that game, and I wish I had kept it. The game board was terraced, allowing you to make your way up the levels to the mummy. You collected pretty scarabs along the way. The coolest part of the game was getting to activate the miniature built-in record player that provided the mummy's voice (yes folks, this was before microchips). Our parents must have chuckled secretly over Feeley Meeley as a name for a kid's game. Hours were spent playing Booby Trap (more laughs, I'm sure), always waiting for the spring to snap that bar and send the game pieces flying.

I had Liddle Kiddles, a Crissy Doll in a bright orange lace go-go dress, Dancerina, and Baby Go Bye-Bye (complete with a pink battery-powered buggy with flower-power decals. I loved my Herman Munster talking handpuppet. When you pulled the string he said wonderfully comforting things like, "Cheer up, it's bound to get worse." Here are the priceless things he said (taken from the ebay listing in the link above):

He says:
"I'm Herman Munster, How do you do."
"My father was such a friendly monster."
"When I was a kid I was homely."
"Cheer up it's bound to get worse."
"Those late late woobies scare me." (Think this should say movies instead of woobies.)
"I eat spinach for my complexion."
"I'm just a green blooded american boy."
"Let's have a picnic in the graveyard."
"Oh you look nice, just like me."
"Hi there I'm your new babysitter."

I'm surprised that I wasn't scarred for life by playing with this toy in my formative years. Seriously, I'd love to have Herman back, too! He was strangely comforting, perhaps because the TV character was so harmless and loveable.

I had a talking parrot named Crackers who delivered the truly original line (via pull string) of, "Awp, Polly want a cracker?" It was hard to get this thing, with it's hard rubber molded feet, to stay on its unbalanced stand. Speaking of which, I had a Dawn Doll with a fashion model stage. The stage actually moved so that Dawn could model her outfits. But Dawn mostly took nose-dives from said stage. Very frustrating for the budding designer, and probably the reason that I'm fashion-challenged as an adult.

Pull strings were big in my day. I had (and still have, though not in great shape) a Charmin' Chatty with records that could be changed, allowing her to be well-versed on a number of topics. I think there was a Barbie with a pull-string, too. And I had a Francie with a flip hairdo and bendable legs. Of course, one leg promptly broke!

I wasn't allowed to have some of my favorite toys because I was a girl, and they were exclusively for little boys. These included Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots and matchbox cars. Somehow I managed to score an Air Blaster Gun, and I had great fun shooting down all of the neighborhood boys.

I can't forget my Hostess Buffet; it had doors that opened to store play dishes, cups, etc. It stood about 2 feet tall or so, and made for some great tea parties, along with my working toy oven (still have it) but it wasn't an Easy Bake Oven. I still have my little sewing machine, too. It actually worked (sort of). Probably still would. All of the domestic things they gave little girls then to mold us virtuously into the little women we were supposed to become. Oddly enough, I don't sew, I rarely bake, and I prefer to throw the kind of parties that call for paper goods rather than the fine china! Guess the social engineering of those toys failed miserably.

I keep remembering more and more things as I Google vintage toys.

Vintage.

My childhood is vintage now.

Heck, let's face it, I'm vintage now!

What were your favorite things as a child?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A Dock Somewhere

Just had a sudden flash of memory, something I hadn't thought about in a very long time.

When I was much younger, I spent several summers working at a camp in Maryland. Staff members had one day off per week. Those of us who did not escape the grounds on a given day off would sometimes tote sleeping bags and flashlights down the steep path to the waterfront so that we could sleep on the dock. Some brave souls actually slept on the little floating dock. The occasional wake from a passing ship (the dock was on a large, well-traveled river) made sleeping on the floating dock a little too daring for me. I can swim well enough, but I did not relish the thought of waking up in that dark, cold water, trapped in a soggy sleeping bag.

The top half of each cabin was screened-in, with tarps to pull down in bad weather, there was no electricity or running water, and it was often hot and humid (remember, this was Maryland in the summer). Sleeping in the cabin on your day off would be a little bit like going to the office on your own time and sitting at your desk; your campers would invariably forget that you were off and you'd usually end up working. Also, it was impossible to avoid the normal wake-up time in the cabin area because of the hustle and bustle of the daily cabin clean-up period scheduled each morning.

But on the dock, there was almost always a cool breeze. It was possible to sleep in the open there because the breeze kept the mosquitoes away. The dock extended well into the river, keeping away the creepy crawlies that would have been encountered on shore. At the waterfront, you could sleep later because activity didn't start down there until after breakfast.

I was young enough to sleep well in spite of the hard wood planks beneath my ancient sleeping bag. In fact, some of the most restful sleep I've ever had was on that dock. The waves lapping gently at the pilings, coupled with the cool, steady breeze, were an anesthetic that made staying awake nearly impossible for a weary camp counselor. The occasional sounding of a mournful foghorn only served to speed the sedation.

I don't even own a sleeping bag now, but I'm sure I could come up with something to put on top of the air mattress that would be de rigueur at this stage in my life. I'd like to find myself a nice dock to escape to now and then, A Dock Somewhere...

Sunday, October 23, 2005

First PC

My first PC was a used Tandy 1000, purchased from my brother in 1985 or 86 (or thereabouts). I spent many hours playing Sierra games, including the King's Quest series, The Black Cauldron and Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards.

I used the Tandy for simple word processing as recently as the late 90's, after several years of disuse. I had quite a time remembering all of the commands, since it operated in DOS! I don't think it even had a mouse, just a cheap joystick for gaming. It used 5.25" floppies. Alas, it is no more; finally disposed of it last year. The Tandy was a workhorse, and it would not die!

My only experience with computers prior to the Tandy was brief forays to the computer lab in college for stats and psych testing classes. Of course, I'm quite a bit more savvy now, though I'm not very sophisticated when it comes to web design, html and the like.

Just an aside: I posted earlier this week that I planned to stop blogging. I just don't seem to have a lot of interesting thoughts to write about these days. I'm going to keep my blog up for the time being. I'll photoblog some of the time, and post thoughts when the mood strikes.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

A Few Random Thoughts

Just a few wandering thoughts to post, with no visible means of organization.

The barometer in my head tells me (via a wicked headache) that a major change in the weather is underway. Just took my generic headache formula analgesic. Hope it works fast!

Two weeks of vacation (what a luxury!) are coming to an end. We didn't travel this year, but I still had a wonderful time. I'll probably be in a funk tomorrow, since I have to get ready to go back to work the next day. Guess I should try to push the funk off onto Monday. Why wreck the last day of vacation? OK, OK, I should try to avoid the funk altogether. But that would be superhuman, wouldn't it?

This must have been a bad year to be an oak tree. The oaks in the woods around our house are dropping very few acorns this year. Those which have fallen are tiny, miserly little things, about 1/4 the size of last year's examples. Could be a rough winter to be a squirrel. The pine trees seem to be offering an abundance of cones, but they are quite small, as well. Guess the long, hot, dry summer did some damage.

We saw the movie, "In Her Shoes," this week. Happily, it was true to the book by Jennifer Weiner. Just finished Weiner's latest book, "Goodnight Nobody." This story was a bit of a departure for her. Her previous books were set in the Philly area, but this one was set mostly in Connecticut, with side trips into NYC. It was a murder mystery, which was a surprise. She left the door open at the end for a possible series. "In Her Shoes," is still my favorite of Weiner's novels to date.

Had a very nice day in Lewes, DE (pronounced more or less like, "Lewis," NOT, "looz") on Thursday, and even managed a bit of time at the outlets. Picked up some comfy clogs at the Bass outlet. If you click on the photo in the post below, it will take you to the website for the Cape May - Lewes Ferry. At least I had a few brief moments of cruising (70 minutes each way) on this vacation!

Friday, October 21, 2005

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Politics and Politesse

What to blog about? Out of a surfeit of politesse, and a hearty fund of insecurity about accuracy, I tend to avoid politically oriented posts. I've committed some editorials to paper (or, rather, disc), but they remain unpublished. I've concluded that this is OK. Composing such documents helps me to clarify my own thoughts about current issues. Re-reading them helps me to see my inconsistencies, and sends me on fact-checking missions in an attempt to resolve them.

I'm a little bit uncomfortable with the school of thought that treats blogging like reporting. That's a little bit like treating the Fox network as an unbiased news source. Most political or current events blogging is editorializing, sometimes at its best and sometimes at its worst. Passionate invective has its place, but as the sole method of communication it only highlights the all-consuming anger of the writer. It creates a place where one may encounter the power of the written word not so much as a vehicle for convincing an audience, but rather as drug that intoxicates the writer.

The blogosphere is full of writers whose talent is inspiring (Pax and Joe Tornatore, to name two). Their blogs are well worth reading. They relate the day in and day out events of their lives with poignancy and an inherent understanding of their audience. They take delightful side trips into the absurd,the arcane,and pop culture. Forays into political commentary are properly identified as opinion by these gentlemen, and source links are offered. Controversy is not the daily fodder of their sites.

I'm struggling a bit with blogging right now, and I think I'll take a break. My life is good, and I am contented. Day-to-day living is fairly mundane for me and, perforce, dull in written form. Like everyone, I have experienced my share of sadness and horror, but writing about it seems too much like whinging and whining to be worthwhile. Besides, I don't like to revisit those places too often. When I have written about these things in the past, I have experienced real discomfort upon re-reading them.

Writing is therapeutic for many people, and I am no exception, but I'm too private a person to expose very much information about myself, my friends and my family in a public forum. Since I find myself unwilling to discuss my life, politics, and current events in any depth here, and since I have no talent for creative writing, I'm left with nothing to blog about.

I wish you a happy good-bye. See you on the blogs!


Saturday, October 15, 2005


Heads Up!

Like Noah
Seeing sunshine
After all that gloom
On his well-planned
(but unwanted)
Cruise vacation


Friday, October 14, 2005

Out of the Past

Got to thinking about past entertainment industry favorites this morning. This will be something of a stream of consciousness post, with no specific order or organization.

Virginia Gal's post this morning mentioned ER, which I dutifully watched throughout its first 2 or 3 seasons. This made me think about one of my favorite shows of all time, St. Elsewhere. Really loved that show, didn't want to miss an episode. I might have to slip over to Amazon later to check for a DVD.

Of course, I loved cartoons as a child, and one of the first series that I remember is the cartoonish Batman. I used to watch it my jammies and bathrobe before heading off to fight evildoers in my dreams. I moved on from Batman to heavy-hitting dramas such as Get Smart and Gilligan's Island. And Dark Shadows!

I'm a fan of many British series, past and present, including Ballykissangel, As Time Goes By, Monarch of the Glen, Are You Being Served?, Keeping Up Appearances, To The Manor Born, and the Vicar of Dibley. Hard to beat British TV.

I've also enjoyed many BBC and A&E presentations, including The Six Wives of Henry the VIII (Keith Mitchell as the king), Elizbeth R (Glenda Jackson as Good Queen Bess), Pride and Prejudice (think I've seen all versions, but the one with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy is my fave), and I, Claudius (Derek Jacobi as Claudius, phenomenal performance).

I watched many episodes of Columbo with my Dad. We watched All in the Family on Saturday nights in our household, along with whichever variety show was currently popular: Ed Sullivan (loved that Topo Gigio), Sonny and Cher, Carol Burnett, etc.

I'm beginning to reconize that this post could go on ad infinitim, but the conversation becomes dry when it's one-sided. What are your favorites? TV, theater, film, etc. - all genres are open for contemplation.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Rain

I think it's been raining for a week now. I love the rain, but I'm ready for a change.

We stopped by Sea Isle City to see the ocean this morning, and it was a sight to see. Layers of tall breakers are pounding the beach, while a misty, wind-driven rain frosts your hair and slicks your face. It's an off-season sight that not too many people get to see. We were there close to low tide. If the flooding on the back bays isn't too bad, we might go in for high tide this afternoon to take some pictures, if we haven't cozied up with coffee and old movies by then. We took pictures with our cell phones, but the images are only good for cell phone wallpaper. Gotta go back with my digicam or my 35mm.

The rotten weather has set me off on my imagined travels again. We're off of work. We could whip out a credit card and set off on a whirlwind vacation. Maybe Williamsburg, VA, where we spent our honeymoon. Haven't been there for several years now, and it's a place I love. Maybe Florida; my brother moved to Orlando last year. Are there any hurricanes expected down there right now? I haven't been paying attention. Too much rain of our own. Maybe Niagara falls, although it's probably raining there, too!

We have passports, so why not fly off for a weekend in London or Paris (my bank account just screamed in anticipated agony, did you hear it)? I've never been to Paris. I've only passed through London (Heathrow, really, on the way to Dublin - long story involving an airline strike, lost luggage and a broken camera, followed by driving on the wrong side of the road, in a backwards car, at rush hour, in the most populous area of Ireland - and I'd go back in a heartbeat).

But it's not to be this time around, and I'm really not complaining. It's just the rain.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

And the Bride Wore...

...a lovely sleeveless gown of white satin, sewn patiently and lovingly by her mother. Her blonde hair had been fashioned into a chignon, which was accented by flowers beneath a fingertip length veil of net.

The groom was resplendent in a black tuxedo with satin lapels and a black waistcoat, which set off his dark good looks to perfection. He wore his black wavy hair slightly longer than is currently stylish, giving him a youthful, rakish appearance.

Each guest was welcomed to the nuptials with a glass of champagne accented by a ripe strawberry. The ceremony, held inside in deference to the uncooperative weather, was short and intimate despite the 100 or so guests present. The adult attendants wore black, while the flower girl and ring bearer wore white.

The cocktail hour immediately followed the ceremony. Two buffet lines provided fruits, meats and cheeses, a carving station, ziti in Alfredo sauce, and tortellini in Italian gravy. Hors d'oeuvres were circulated by wait staff, and included miniature Beef Wellington, stuffed mushrooms, marvelous barbecued jumbo shrimp, chicken satay, and small lamb chops. An open bar, complete with specialty drinks named for the members of the wedding party, set the scene for the fete to come.

The reception was held in a lovely room with beautiful crystal chandeliers. The service was white glove. Lobster ravioli were proffered as the appetizer, followed by a salad of mixed greens with goat cheese and tomatoes. Guests were offered a choice from three entree selections: chicken encrusted with pistachios, tournedos of beef, or salmon. The wedding cake was served alongside a scoop of cinnamon ice cream and a banana chimichanga. Wine glasses were kept filled with a choice of red or white wine, and the couple was toasted with champagne.

Music was provided until the wee hours, since the revelers were all guests of the establishment for the night. The celebrants found their way to the breakfast buffet in the morning for one last moment of communion before dispersing.

The newlyweds are rumored to be honeymooning in Greece and Spain. The hearty best wishes of their guests travel with them.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Tee Time

Here are the t-shirts mentioned in the post below.







Not sure if we'll actually wear them for anything other than sleeping, but what the heck!

Another Rainy Day

We had a rainy weekend, and yesterday was a bit misty. It's pouring here again. However, we're on vacation, and any day when you don't have to work is a good day.

We took a nice long walk on the Ocean City, NJ boardwalk yesterday. No sunshine, but the cool temperatures were marvelous. The sea was pretty rough, and we watched a lone surfer for awhile. We picked up fudge and cashews at the Fudge Kitchen, and bought hats and t-shirts on sale. I browsed at Atlantic Books for awhile (crowd-free) and found the new Jennifer Weiner book, Goodnight Nobody. I love the off season!

For nostalgia's sake (and also so that we didn't have to cook) we went to Luigi's at 9th and West for dinner. Nothing fancy by any means. We used to go there when we were dating (eons ago), and we had dinner there with a few friends the night before our wedding. It was open year round: not much was in those days, even on the mainland. It had the added benefit of being affordable, and we were pretty much broke all of the time back then.

Not sure what we'll do today. Might head off to the movies. I wish we could have gone away for our vacation, but it wasn't in the cards for a variety of reasons. No matter, this is shaping up to be a nice little vacation. We haven't done the local tourist thing for awhile.

Not sure what we'll do today. We might head out to the movies. I love going to the movies on off days, when everyone else is working or at school. Maybe we'll make our way to Cape May or AC one day while we're off. We're not much for gambling, but The Walk (shopping area) in AC is nice, and there are lots of good places to eat. Might even stop in at The Quarter at the Trop. If the weather clears, we're going to take the ferry to Lewes one day. The ride on the ferry is relaxing (unless the bay is rough), and Lewes is a quaint little town for browsing.

To all of you who must work today, you have my sympathy. Hope your turn for vacation comes up soon!

Monday, October 10, 2005

I Heart...

NJ. Went to NY for a wedding this weekend (Long Island). It was a wonderful wedding, very posh, the bride beautiful and the groom handsome. And I am so very glad to be home!

As mentioned in a previous post, Mr. Merci was responsible for the directions this time (I usually bear the sole responsibility for travel preparation in our household). Mr. M chose the AAA Trip Tick solution. Our directions took us up the Garden State Parkway, to the NJ Turnpike, to Route 78, across Routes 1/9 and various short distances on smaller roads to the HOLLAND TUNNEL. Yessirree, we drove through lower Manhattan (crept through, actually) on a Saturday afternoon for the sole purpose of getting to Long Island via the Manhattan Bridge! It took us close to an hour to travel less than a mile in Manhattan.



Once across the bridge, we crawled up Route 278 (unavoidable by almost any route we would have taken) to the Long Island Expressway. The conditions improved shortly after we hit the LIE. It took us 4 hours to get from the vet’s office back home (had to board our poor old hounds for the night) to the door of the hotel. Fortunately, we arrived in Glen Cove just in time for the 4:00 pm check-in.

All of the above was accomplished in the pouring rain. I’m not sure whether or not the terror alerts in NYC had any effect on our travel. Did more people drive into the city for Saturday afternoon tea to avoid public trans? I kind of doubt it, but I suppose it’s possible. If anyone was put off by the threat of terrorism (again, I doubt it) they would probably have stayed home. I wonder if Canal Street was backed up like that at the time of the 911 attacks. I can’t imagine being frozen in traffic, an alien to NYC and just passing through, when the WTC was attacked. But this is only one of numerous unimaginable scenarios from that day.

Anyway, rest assured that we did not take the same route home. We pulled out of the parking lot at 8:00 am the next morning, and we arrived home (this time via the Verazzano Narrows Bridge and the Outer Bridge Crossing) in less than 3 hours. Our only delays on the way home were the numerous, tedious toll booths on the GSP. Oh, and if you see the toll police, tell them that we didn’t MEAN to short the toll at the Woodbridge Plaza. How were we supposed to know that the exact change amount in question was DOUBLE the amount at every other plaza we encountered???

I know that NJ takes a ribbing in the world (I won’t repeat the awful untruths here), but I, for one, am glad to reside here! I know that some people thrive on the congestion and teeming humanity that is NYC, but it’s not for me. And I’d take Philly over NY any day, hands down. Guess my roots are showing.