Friday, December 29, 2006

Fave Foto Friday

This is a photo of my sweet little Maxine at about age 1. I wanted to end the year with one last remembrance of her.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

5 Things You Don't Know About Me (and Maybe Didn't Want To)

OK, here goes with the, "5 Things," meme. I was tagged awhile back by Frank at iFlipFlop to do this meme, but the holidays and Mom's illness slowed me down a bit.

1. I love to travel, but I'm a terrible homebody. Coming home from somewhere (the mall, a party, a vacation) is one of my greatest pleasures.

2. I'm in a bit of a transition period right now, so home doesn't exactly feel like home. I'll probably buy a house sometime in 2007.

3. I'm generally pretty quiet. When I'm home alone, I don't often have the TV or the stereo on. I love music and I love entertainment (I'm going to see Trans Siberian Orchestra in AC tonight), but it usually just doesn't occur to me to make noise. Can't someone invent a truly quiet washer/dryer/dishwasher/heater that's affordable to the masses? One thing my new home is likely to have is a separate laundry room, hopefully far from the main living area!

4. My current digs won't allow dogs, but cats are allowed (for an additional monthly fee). I love all animals, and I had a chance to adopt a kitten on Christmas Eve, but I'm allergic to cats. Another reason to buy a house soon!

5. I doubt very much that I will live in New Jersey after I retire. New Jersey has become crowded, traffic-jammed and noisy since I was a child, and has lost far too much of its woodlands and wetlands, in my opinion. The wide-open spaces of the Midwest beckon.

I hope everyone had a lovely holiday. Christmas was odd for me this year, with Mom sick and the family a bit hectic, but I survived.

I had a lovely dinner out with a friend last night. We dined at a fine restaurant in Millville, of all places! Winfield's is surprisingly chic and urban in decor, and they have quite a martini menu. I had a tartini, which was delicious, and included muddled raspberries in the mix. I also had a nice glass of merlot with my steak au poivre (one of the specials last night), and (the ladies will appreciate this) I had creme brulee for dessert.

Well, time to gear up for the New Year. Here's to a spectacular 2007 for all!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Oh! Christmas Tree

I've been tagged by Frank at iFlipFlop to do a 5 Things You Don't Know About Me meme. I'm working on it, so stay tuned!

In the meantime, here is glimpse of Ms. Merci Humbug's Christmas tree.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Who's A Humbug Now?

The lights are on the tree, following a moment of inspiration on Saturday morning. There are ornaments and candy canes decking her boughs, as well. The garland has yet to be bought and applied, but I'm confident that another moment of inspiration sometime very soon will result in a glorious, finished product.

Now there's more shopping to do, and gifts to wrap, and cards to write, and Christmas dinner to plan...

Friday, December 08, 2006

Who's A Humbug?

Ok, so there's been a fresh cut Christmas tree in my living room for close to a week now. It has a tree skirt at the bottom (which needs to be ironed before anyone actually sees it) and an angel on the top (yeah, I know that should go on last; tough). That's it. I've bought lights to put on it, but so far I've lacked the motivation to start the tedious process of winding them around the tree. I have ornaments (still in boxes), but I haven't purchased any garland yet. I'm not taking any bets as to whether or not there will still be garland available in the stores by the time I get to the point where I need it.

Christmas seems to sneak up on me every year. I'm finding it hard to comprehend that the Big Day is just a little over 2 weeks away. I haven't done any baking yet, and I might not. I still have some shopping to do, and I still don't know for certain what I'm doing on Christmas Day (though it's sure to involve family in some way, shape or form).

Underneath it all, I'm not sure that I care that much. It'll all get done. Or not. In the long run, what difference does it make?

Friday, December 01, 2006

Fave Foto Friday

Here's another photo from my visit to Grounds for Sculpture:



Looks like my posting has pretty much been limited to FFF lately. I've been on the run, with Mom in a nursing/rehab center following a few weeks in the hospital. I've completely lost track of the holiday season,though I hope to shop for a tree this weekend. A Merry Christmas Season to all!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Fave Foto Friday

This photo is a memory of a near-perfect day:

Friday, November 10, 2006

FFF

Here's my contribution to Fave Foto Friday this week:


I took this photo at Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ. It's a beautiful place for a walk. Expect to see more photos from my visit on future FFFs.

Just an aside: my Mom is ill and is in the hospital, so my posting here and my visits to other sites are a bit infrequent these days...

Friday, November 03, 2006

Fave Foto Friday!


I love this photo because I took it. I was there.
This is one of my favorite places.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Poem

Wrote this poem in high school. It's not great, and it's a bit too dramatic, but I like it.

End of A Romance

Another torn leaf
Soars from a tree
In a death-crash of grief-
Finally free.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Another Monday

It's 6:45 am. Coffee is brewing in the kitchen as the dawn begins to light the sky ever so gently. I can hear the distant drone of traffic out on the highway. Coming at such an early hour, the noise indicates that this is a weekday, and the world is ready for business.

I have a few brief moments to ponder before I must busy myself with the ordinary Monday things and take myself off to join the masses headed to the workaday world. I feel resistant this morning, wanting to extend the relaxed glow of the weekend a little longer. I don't want to be drawn back into my weekly routine - the sameness of it, the chains it places on me. I am conscious of it now, tugging at me against my will. I will become unaware of it once it has me in its clutches, until I am set free again, albeit briefly, at the end of the week.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Merthiolate

I had an interesting conversation with a couple of coworkers the other day. We started talking about the joy of skinned knees in childhood. Remember how messed up your knees (and palms and elbows) could get from falling on the cement? How often did we run home yelling, dripping blood all the way?

Our moms were staunch believers in iodine (applied after washing the area thoroughly with a soapy washcloth) as the first line of defense against infection. I wonder, was it really sanitary to use the stick in the bottle (attached to the lid) over and over again on our wounds? They didn't wash it before putting it back into the solution, did they?

My mom had an especially brutal tool in her arsenal: a big red spray bottle of merthiolate. This stuff was bright red in color, went on cold, and, no lie, hurt more than iodine. I remember seeing commercials for Bactine, which was supposed to be painless. I begged Mom to buy it, but she insisted we had to use up all of the merthiolate first. I don't think we ever did, and I'll bet she still has that red bottle somewhere, ready to torment me at the first opportunity.

Turns out that merthiolate is actually one and the same product as thimerosal. Thimerosal is the antibacterial, anti-fungal preservative that is being eliminated from vaccines and other products because of safety concerns. Apparently, it's almost 50% mercury. Thanks mom.

As for the skinned knees, I am told that today's kids mostly miss out on that bit of fun. Seems they play inside more than out, and are less active in general. Pity. Nothing quite beats the glory of skinned knees, wounds earned on the field of childhood play.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Grand Remercie, Mes Chers Amis...

I hope Frank will correct my French grammar, spelling, etc. It's been a long time...

I am blessed with some kind friends who have been very considerate, thoughtful and supportive over the last several weeks, and I cannot say enough to thank them. Two girlfriends have kept checks on me and helped to look out for me (Zelda and Mommanator), even though they have challenges in their own lives right now. I can't begin to describe how much they have meant to me.

In his own inimitable way, Pax has kept my thoughts positive and focused on the best aspects of the future, always ready with plans for good things. And he always boosts my self esteem when I'm a bit low. A chat with Pax is always a great way to start the day, along with a trip to Pax's Coffee Bar.

Another friend volunteered readily to do some heavy lifting in spite of a bad back. I will never forget his generosity of spirit.

One last friend provided me with some much needed respite in the form of an impromptu midwestern vacation, and has been there to revive my spirit as often as necessary, day or night. Thank you, from the depths of my heart and soul.

So an enormous hug and a big bushel of thanks goes to each of my very dear friends. I hope I have the opportunity to repay each of you in kind.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Lovely Lazy Saturday

Today was one of those lovely, lazy Saturdays. I slept late, went out for breakfast at 3pm, then came home and took a nap. Might take in a movie tonight. All in all, a perfect day. How did you spend your Saturday?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Changing Rooms

A Room Somewhere was closed for the last few weeks because my real-world, physical space moved. I’m writing this from a new room in a new town, though my virtual Room will remain comfortably the same, at least for now.

I managed to sneak in a vacation with a dear friend in September. I went to school in Indiana, and I came to love the Midwest while I was there. I had not been back since graduation (literally decades ago), and it was wonderful to see the heartland again.

The waves of grain were just beginning to turn amber while I was there. It was beautiful to see the moon hanging low in the sky over acres and acres of corn and soy; what a welcome sight to someone who can’t see the horizon at home because she lives in such a highly developed area. And the stars! The stars are bright and sparkling and abundant, with no light pollution to obstruct your view of them.

You all know how I like a quiet place. This visit with my friend fed my heart and soul in ways I can’t describe. I took long walks each day (sometimes more than once in a given day) along a country lane. The fresh air and exercise made me hungry as a big bear, and the home-cooked meals were filling and satisfying. It really was a perfect little idyll for me in the midst of a tempest.

I love being close to the ocean, but the East Coast is such a frenetic place to live anymore that I think I could leave the ocean for the farmlands. I’m sure the years from now to retirement will take me down many unexpected paths, but I think I may have found my heart’s desire along the country roads of the US Midwest.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Waking Room

I'm crossing all of my fingers and toes, and, with a little luck, I'll be able to turn the lights back on in the Room this weekend. It'll take a little magic and a lot of help from Comcast, but I think I just might pull it off. Hope to see you all soon!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Room at Rest

The Room is going to take a nap for awhile. I won't have access to a computer for awhile (except at work, and I don't like blogging on the sly), so I can't post and I can't get to email, either. I hope to be able to stop by your blogs from time to time, so I'll still be around.

See y'all soon!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Oops, I did it again...

I've been Home Alone this week, and, wouldn't you know, I set the alarm off again last night. Happened somewhere around 1:00 am. It only went off for about 5 seconds before I got to it, so maybe it didn't disturb anyone too much.

Sorry neighbors!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Landslides and Moonshine

Someone sent me various versions of Landslide (the song that seems to follow me lately), including the Dixie Chicks' version, which I like as much as the Fleetwood Mac version. I've burned all 4 to CD, along with a sweet little song called Kentucky Moonshine by Pure Prairie League. I heard a friend sing it today, and I had to track it down. Guess there's been a country theme to my day today.

Thanks very much for the Landslides and for the beautiful Kentucky Moonshine. Now I really AM going to bed! Goodnight!

Alarm Me! And everyone else...

Errrg. Just set off the alarm taking one of the dogs out. Boy, does that hurt your ears! Turned it off pretty fast, so I don't think I annoyed the neighbors too much. And NOW, I get to try to go to SLEEP.

GOODNIGHT!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Another Weekend Gone

Another weekend gone: one in an endless procession of nondescript breaks from work. Nondescript was OK with me this time around; I needed the rest. I nearly fell asleep while driving on Friday, less than half a mile from home. I know it happens to everyone sometimes, the sudden jerk of the head, but this was worse than usual. Let's just say that my car would have lost in a match-up with the oncoming SUV. I was seriously sleep-deprived last week. I think I totalled about 15 hours Sunday night through Thursday night. I'd fall asleep each night, but I had trouble staying asleep.

Today was an OK day. I did a bit of shopping at the mall and at Borders (had to try to find the song that made me cry when I was walking through Walmart on Friday), and I took a ride past my old house late in the afternoon. It's out in the country, and it's a pleasant drive. I'll post about that house one of these days; it was the only home I ever really fell in love with. I call it my Manderley, for those of you familiar with Daphne DuMaurier's Rebecca (though not because it's a mansion, or has a seaside cottage on the grounds; I've never been that rich).

Anyway, I turned off of my route home from the mall to head up Cumberland Avenue. Doesn't it sound green and bucolic? It is! I was immediately distracted by a small sign with an arrow that said, "Yard Sale." I made a quick left onto who-knows-what road, intrigued by the concept of a yard sale in the middle of nowhere.

Half a mile or so up the road, on what I think was a farm (I didn't stop to look too closely) some folks appeared to be clearing up the last evidence of the sale. It was late in the day (5-ish), so I guess it was silly to think a yard sale would still be in full swing. Wonder if they pulled in any business? This is truly a back road through the woods, with very little traffic - lovely and peaceful, but not yard sale territory.

I turned around a little way up the road, went back to Cumberland Ave., and cut over to my old street. It has an equally lovely name, but I'll leave that detail out. ;) You really can't see much of my old house from the road - it sits WAY back in the woods. The driveway appears to be in need of a new load of stone, and weeds seem to be poking through. Oh well, it is the country.

Still not ready to go home, I cut back up Cumberland Ave. This time I rode through with the sun roof and the windows open. I wanted so badly to just pull over and enjoy the peace and quiet, but it didn't seem like a sensible thing to do, so I headed for home.

I finally ate dinner (which was also breakfast and lunch today - I was so distracted by shopping that I forgot to eat) at about 6:30. As soon as my laundry comes out of the dryer, I'm for bed. 'Night all! Sleep tight.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Pandora's Box

I found Pandora's Box in my attic last week. Having reduced a bit lately, I've been shopping my attic for clothes that fit (as well as several local department stores; have you heard the scream of anguish from my bank account?) I came across a box packed several years ago marked, "small clothes." All things being relative, most women will recognize that the clothes we called small several years ago would qualify as absolutely miniscule today.

I actually let the box sit out for a couple of days, and I thought I had decided to return it to the attic unopened. I should have known better than to tear the packing tape off of it, but what would the world be like if Pandora had been a woman of good sense? I proceeded. What was inside? Rare treasure, indeed!

1)Tiny little chinos from the late 80's, with tapered legs and high pleated waistlines. Bought at The Limited. Black and khaki.

2)Two knit dresses barely big enough to fit my Charmin Chatty doll (I still have her, though she's in terrible condition). One green and slinky, one black and white striped above an empire waist, and black below the waistline. Both with the obligatory padded shoulders of the 80's. The black dress has two gold buttons just under the waistline, giving it a military flair. Can't believe I ever wore these to work!

3)Several pairs of shorts.

4)An acid-washed denim jumper with a high, tight waist. I remember wearing this on a date to a comdedy club in Philly, with a walk along the waterfront afterwards. I loved that jumper. Guess that's why I saved it.

5)One truly pretty outfit with a royal blue skirt in a silky fabric and an oriental-inspired wrap top in a matching print (same fabric).

6)A pretty black knit dress with long sleeves, an empire waist and a dirndl-style skirt falling from the waist, fuller at the bottom. This would be a great dress to dance in; it would flow with every movement.

And so, discontentment has been loosed from the box and into my world. I want to wear these clothes again, or at least be able to wear them. They'd look ridiculous out on the street in aught six, especially without the big permed hair to go with the shoulder pads.

I'd better take another look in the box. I think I may have packed hope back into it along with the clothes and sent the whole kit and caboodle back to the attic.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Followed By A Song

The song Landslide by Stevie Nicks seems to be following me these days. I heard it again last night just as I reached the end of a long wait in line. I don't believe in giving mystical power to happenstance, but I was a bit taken aback. I posted about this song back in July.

Hope the song can lull me back to sleep for an hour or so. I seem to fall asleep for a few hours, then wake up for a couple, mind in overdrive. I'm tired. A quiet weekend is just the ticket for me right now. Gotta make it through Friday first. An outing with the Breakfast Club should start the day off right. Pax, Zelda...see you at 8:00!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

My Quiet Place



This is one of my favorite places. I've only been there once, and I'm not sure whether or not I'll ever return. It's a forest in Sitka, Alaska. This is where I send my spirit when it needs rest. I keep prints of this picture at work and at home.

Wordless

This week finds me at a loss for words. While I often cannot find just the right words, it's rare for me to find myself silenced. Right now, the words are locked in my heart, and my pen can't seem to set them free. I suspect that I am asking words to do something that words, no matter how fine, may never accomplish.

I think I'll rest a beat to refresh my heart. Maybe I'll find some wordless way to do what my poor, powerless pen cannot.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Fresh! Hot!

IT'S ABOUT TIME!


CNN is reporting that the US and France have agreed to a draft UN resolution to end the fighting between Hezbollah and Israel. What took them so long? Not enough death and destruction?

Has anybody heard any reports that the US government has called for a cease fire, aside from the pending UN resolution? The last I heard, we were saying something to the effect that we respected Israel's right to defend itself.

Yield Sign

Sometimes nature has a way of slowing you down when you need it. My weekend plans might be on hold because I'm exhausted. I was fragmented at work yesterday. It was a bad hair day, and my face is kind of splotchy - I think I'm allergic to something. I fell asleep right after dinner, and I woke up a bit after midnight feeling generally lousy. Maybe I'll pack my husband off to the barbecue today. That would allow me to spend a quiet day at home alone. Reading, sipping tea, enjoying the garden - mmmm, sounds nice!

I'm going back to bed now. Maybe I'll feel different about it when I get up later this morning. Maybe I'll feel like baking a pie and heading out to a barbecue. Maybe.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Whoever thought we'd be glad for a forecast high temperature of 93 because it meant a cooler day? Remarkable!

We have a barbecue with friends on tap for this weekend. Yet another barbecue! I'm thankful for the end of each summer because I'm ready to forswear barbecues for awhile. It should be a balmy 87 degrees this time around. I know that's a vast improvement over the 97 degree temperatures we've had for the last several days, but I've never been one to sit out in the sun (I burn, blister, peel and freckle, but I don't really tan), so 87 sounds high to me. I'll find a shady spot, and I'll pack plenty of sunscreen.

I have managed to take the edge off of my glow-in-the-dark skin with Jergens Natural Glow Lotion. While I wouldn't qualify as tan by most people's standards, at least I won't be guiding ships into harbor when I go to the beach.

In spite of the type of gathering, I'm looking forward to seeing my friends. This is an annual event with a group of guys my husband has known since childhood and their wives. Of course, that means we're going to hear about their youthful exploits all over again. I seriously don't know how these guys made it to adulthood without death, dismemberment or incarceration. We'll hear the same highlights and the same squabbles over details we hear every time this group is together (several times a year). That's OK. The ladies can withdraw to another table to discuss modern history.

I've been asked to make a sour cream apple pie for the affair, and I will oblige. I'm glad all over again for the lower temperatures, since running the oven in the extreme heat is not my idea of a good time! Yes, we have air conditioning, but, still, the idea baking anything when it's close to 100 degrees outside is anathema to me.

So, what's on for your weekend? Anybody have super plans to make the rest of us jealous? Right now, I'd probably be most envious of the person who said they were going to stay home and read a good book!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

In Her Element

Zelda at Garden of Eden posted about the allure of rain today. I love the rain. I don't mind getting wet, and I love the rhythm and freshness of it.

My favorite element, however, is wind. I love a strong, steady wind that washes over me. In Ireland, we visited Inis Mor on a windy day. The ferry ride to this island off of the coast of Galway was rough, what with the troubled waves of Galway Bay and the powerful winds that came with the day. We climbed Dun Aengus and stood atop a cliff, looking out over the Atlantic Ocean with no walls no fences no guards to interfere with the view, all in the wild, wild wind. One does not go quite to the cliff's edge on Dun Aengus; to do so could be quite perilous.

Maybe I connected with my Celtic heritage while I was there. Inis Mor is a hard, bleak place, with a rugged, determined beauty. I imagine in that place a Celtic maiden of a century past, with a hard life and few pleasures. A powerful wind would seem like a portent, like a god bearing strength and power. No wonder the Holy Spirit is compared to a mighty wind.

I imagine my maiden standing near the edge of that cliff, a dangerous, exciting place to be. The deep teal of the roiling waves below match her Irish eyes. The wind assails her, enveloping her while passing over her and through her, eliciting exhilaration to her very core. Alone on that cliff she would turn her face to the sky, lift her hands palm first into the air, and let wave upon marvelous wave of wind flood her senses, commune with her soul.

I must confess that in unguarded moments I am that maiden. I cannot help myself, I must turn my eyes to the sky, open my arms to the wind. The wind releases me, blows the dust from every forgotten corner of my neglected spirit and sets my restored essence free.

We've lost our connection with the elements, and we are embarrassed to speak of our reactions to them. What a waste, what a shame. Rather, we seek sophisticated pleasures and unnatural highs, things that serve to divorce us from the boldness of the wind and the cleansing of the rain. It is good to set contrived indulgences aside from time to time to allow elemental delights to take hold once again.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

8/1

August 1st already, and September will be here before you know it. Big changes are coming over the next several months. Some of my very best friends at work will be moving to a different office soon, leaving Zelda and me outnumbered in the lunchtime melee (it can truly be an uncomfortable situation) at our office. Zelda, maybe we will have to seek out an alternative lunch site.

A massive reorganization of our services is on tap for this fall, and the entire office is expected to change locations late in the year. The reorganization will probably leave me with a change of supervisor (boo), making life much more complicated. The move will put me closer to home, which is a good thing, but I'm not so sure that the new location will be as convenient for running errands on lunch break and that sort of thing.

I'm relatively philosophical about most of the changes (though I'll really miss a couple of friends). We will adapt, and the new situations will become normal to us once we establish new patterns. I'm a little bit concerned about the possible layout of the new office, since the folks in nearby cubicles (dratted world of Dilbert that we work in) have a huge impact on the quality of your workday. Oh, well, plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose is especially true in bureaucracies.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Antidote


Here's a little antidote for the extreme temperatures we're experiencing right now. This photo was taken in September of 2004. It is a picture of a section of the Hubbard Glacier in Yakutat, Alaska. Wish I was there now!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Mercy!


Tonight is surely the buggiest night since prehistory, nay, since the dawn of time. It is in my backyard, at any rate.


I just took the oldest hound out for her evening constitutional. She can't see anymore, and she can't navigate the two steps from the door to the ground, so I must carry her out into the yard. I can officially report that all of the insects have left the woods tonight to congregate on my back door. It's a veritable bugs' ball out there, and the toad patrol is missing in action once again! Not that they'd be very effective at climbing the door to get to these big bugs, but any help would be appreciated. I suspect the toads have been overwhelmed and carried away by the masses of giant insects creeping and flying around out there. I had to use a broom to sweep off the door before I could open it to come back into the house. The other dog had to go out, too, but he was on his own. I sent him out unescorted. He can make it down the steps on his own, so no way in tarnation was I going out there with him.


In spite of loving nature and the woods, I am an insufferable coward when it comes to most insects. I love my dragonflies and lady beetles, and I can tolerate most other creepy crawlies when they keep their distance. When they invade my space, I cry for mercy. I hope I didn't wake the neighbors.


If it were not for the potential for insect invasion, I could probably live alone in contentment. As it stands, if I lived by myself, I'd probably be found mummified in a corner some day, kept at bay by an errant wasp or spider. So now you know the quality I value most in a man: the ability to efficiently and effectively eliminate any and all insect visitors from the household as soon as my first scream for help is issued. A willingness to handle all outside tasks (like taking the dogs out) on buggy nights is a highly desired optional feature (one that wasn't functional tonight). Quite the job description, no?

What Women Want




Pax Romano posted today about Mel Gibson’s most recent public relations SNAFU. Mr. Gibson was arrested for driving while intoxicated. While in the process of being arrested, he is alleged to have made anti-Semitic and sexist statements.

I might not be able to speak for all women, but I know what I find sexy. This isn’t it. I confess to having skipped a few heartbeats for Mel back in his Lethal Weapon days, but sorry behavior and small-mindedness are too ugly to be outweighed by a pair of pretty blue eyes. While I believe in forgiveness (he has apologized), it’s hard to make a fallen sex symbol sexy again.

I am fortunate to know several good, kind and intelligent men. I think it’s the blessing of middle age to be able to see into a beautiful heart and love it. The wrapper is appealing because what’s inside is so attractive.

The title of this post is What Women Want. Well, to me, the most attractive things a man can possess are an intelligent mind, an interest in the world, and a willingness to consider his companion’s ideas while sharing his own. Discussions of religion, politics, travel, literature and world events are far more intriguing than flexed muscles, and a kind heart trumps everything, at least in Merci’s world!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Everybody Needs a Little Time Away

I'm in a frame of mind where I could use some down time - time to think, rest, and just be. I can't do it right now, since my Mom is here, and we have a family event this weekend. Next weekend there's an annual barbecue with friends to attend, so it won't happen then, either. Maybe I can manage an early trip to the beach one Sunday for an hour or so alone.

I'd love a real getaway - a couple of days in a quiet, beautiful place. It would be difficult to arrange an escape at this time of year without a bit of travel, since we're at the height of the tourist season, and I can't think of anyplace to go that isn't teeming with humanity. During the off season, I could probably find a quiet little B&B somewhere.

Where do you go and what do you do when you need some time alone?

Friday, July 28, 2006

Tended



Like a lover
Who comes
Late in life
Midsummer
Rouses
In my garden
Latent treasure
And elicits
In rich measure
Fiery blossoms,
Fervid pleasure

-merci



Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Too Stupid


Without going into great detail, I did a lot of stupid things today, some just ordinary stupid and some, well, a bit more so. Stupid does more to make you cringe, to mar your self-image, that just about anything else. The only thing that's worse than stupid is mean. I don't think I did anything out and out mean today, so there's that.


My very kind boss has already forgiven one glaring error. I guess the only thing left to do is to turn around, show up tomorrow, and be less stupid, errrrr, be brilliant, yeah, that's the ticket! Sounds like a plan. Let's see how it goes...

Monday, July 24, 2006

Spiced



Funny how your tastes change when you cut out junk food. I rarely crave sweets anymore, though I still must have a piece of chocolate from time to time. A small amount is supremely satisfying to me now.

I still want pizza about once a week – some things will never change. I have no real desire for pasta, though I still love a good sandwich. Soups and salads taste marvelous to me, and there are a lot of good diet soda options these days.

My biggest potential downfall right now is tortilla chips and salsa. I struggle to keep myself from eating the whole basket. In fact, Mexican food in general is nearly irresistible to me. There is one Mexican restaurant near my office where they serve a marvelous chicken in mole sauce. Hmmm, might have to sneak off for lunch one day this week. If I don’t eat the chips, and keep the rice to a minimum, it might not be such a terrible lapse for me.

I’ve developed the oddest taste for hot peppers. I’m not usually crazy about very spicy foods, though I do remember many summers ago having been on a Big-T cheesesteak-with-hot-peppers kick. If memory serves, I was even eating hoagies with hot peppers at the time. But now I seem to want to nibble on plain pepperoncini, which would have been unimaginable to me in the past. I’ve even packed a couple in my lunch for tomorrow. Fortunately, peppers are very low in calories, and they’re fat free, so why not?

Come to think of it, a cheesesteak with hot peppers would be a tasty diet break sometime soon. I think I’ll allow myself one or the other (cheesesteak with hot peppers or chicken with mole sauce) this week. I might have to hold out on the cheesesteak until I can find a companion for a road trip to Philly. I must confess that I have never had an actual Philly cheesesteak. I know, I know – I grew up right over the bridge from the City of Brotherly Love, and I’ve never consumed their most famous product. I must make amends soon.

Of course, I work in a town with an extensive Italian population and many good Italian restaurants. I have to guess that I will be able to find a respectable cheesesteak with hot peppers for lunch if I look hard enough!

So, cheesesteak or chicken mole. Anyone want to join me?

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Post Party Blues

So who was up 6:30 this morning, in spite of not having gone to bed until 4:00 am? Moi, of course, because those silly hounds of mine were demanding an audience. I must bow to the Truth In Blogging Act, and pause to confess that I did manage an hour or two of sleep earlier in the night, albeit on the couch, wrapped aroud one of said hounds.

I now find myself nodding off as I type, so I think I shall once again retire. Sweet dreams, all. Stop by for leftovers later, 'kay?

Friday, July 21, 2006

Day Off

Yep, those would be pink camo garden gloves. Pretty cool, huh? One of the many things I plan to do today is a bit of gardening. Later. When it's cooler. Much cooler, I hope!

And there's lots more cleaning to do, and a pie to bake, and laundry to do...It's a busy day off!

Gotta love it.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Landslide

I've been listening to Fleetwood Mac in the car on the way to and from work this week. One song in particular really strikes a chord with me lately. It's Landslide, written and performed by Stevie Nicks. Here are the words:

Landslide
Written by S. Nicks

I took my love, I took it down
I climbed a mountain and I turned around
And I saw my reflection in the snow-covered hills
'Til the landslide brought me down

Oh, mirror in the sky
What is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?

Well, I've been afraid of changing
'Cause I've built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I'm getting older, too

Well, I've been afraid of changing
'Cause I've built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I'm getting older, too
Oh, I'm getting older, too

Oh, take my love, take it down
Oh, climb a mountain and turn around
And if you see my reflection in the snow-covered hills
Well, the landslide will bring it down

And if you see my reflection in the snow-covered hills...
Well, the landslide will bring it down
Oh, the landslide'll bring it down

For anyone who is not familiar with this song, Stevie Nicks sings is slowly, deeply, wistfully...all in that amazing voice of hers. I'm not sure why this song resonates within me right now. Might bear some exploring.

A friend who used to correspond with me wrote out the following lyrics in one of his letters as a description of the way he saw love. We were high-school aged at the time, and he was not the type of guy (football player, cuter than anything, with a sexy, hoarse voice) you'd expect to think so deeply about relationships. Maybe women start off on the wrong foot at a young age, seeing men as one-dimensional when it comes to love. If we bought into the battle-of-the-sexes humor about men, we could see them as incapable of love. I guess my friend showed me at a young age just how wrong that would be. I have to remind myself of the lesson from time to time. Anyway, here are the lyrics in question:

You're My Home
by Billy Joel


When you look into my eyes
And you see the crazy gypsy in my soul
It always comes as a surprise
When I feel my withered roots begin to grow

Well, I never had a place that I could call my very own
But that's alright my love,
'Cause your my home

When you touch my weary head
And you tell me ev'rything will be alright
You say use my body for your bed
And my love will keep you warm throughout the night

Well, I'll never be a stranger
And I'll never be alone
Where ever we're together that's my home

Home can be the Pennsylvania Turnpike
Indiana's early morning dew
High up in the hills of California
Home is just another word for you

If I travel all my life
And I never get to stop and settle down
Long as I have you by my side
There's a roof above and good walls all around
You're my castle, you're my cabin and my instant pleasure dome
I need you in my house 'cause you're my home


Why quote these two songs in the same post? I like the juxtaposition of Stevie's song about change against Billy's song about constancy. I can't decide if Stevie's song is about change within the context of her love or change at the cost of her love. Is the landslide taking down her childish self or taking down the love?

So what do you think? Is change the only constant, or can love be constant as well?


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Not To Be Missed

If you read just one more post at one more blog today, make it One Minute to Midnight over at Joe T.'s Freudian Slips. It's powerfully written and it's well-edited. I admire the craftsmanship as much as I appreciate the content.

Another Day

I remember someone saying once that a friend is someone who gently leads you back to a sense of yourself. I don't remember who said it, but the words have stuck with me for many years. I just googled the quote, but I didn't get any hits. I did find another beautiful quote of a similar nature at thinkexist.com:

“A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.”

I was about to say that I can't remember how long it's been since I had that kind of a friend, but, actually, I do remember. It's been 17 years, almost to the day. I had a very good friend whom I met at camp over the summer between 8th grade and high school. We were born less than a week apart, so we jokingly called each other, "Twin." She lived a couple of hours away, so we didn't get to see too much of each other during the school year. We loved to write long, girly letters back and forth. I never looked forward to getting mail so much in my life!

We applied to the same college. We were both accepted, but it was out of my league without more financial aid than they offered me, so I went elsewhere. We kept in touch, and we ended up working together back at camp (a one-week conference held each summer, not the camp I've mentioned in other posts).

She married shortly after graduation. I used to visit her for the weekend now and then, and she tried to fix me up with one of her friends. He was a nice guy, and we dated for awhile. He was heartbroken over a previous relationship, so it didn't work out. I met my husband, she disapproved, and we haven't spoken since. Just like that. One phone call, ending in a long silence, before hanging up and never speaking again.

Thing is, she was the one friend I've had who really knew me. Her song was pretty similar to mine, so I guess it was easy for us to keep each other in tune.

I was incredibly shy when I was younger, and sometimes it kept me from seeing that I had any value to my friends. That's not good. You have to know your importance to others in order to step up to the plate when they need a friend. You have to recognize that they need you. I should have told my Twin that I wouldn't accept the silence between us, and that she had to be at my wedding because we needed each other. We both would have grown through it.

It's hard to find that kind of friendship now - it's too late. Most people my age already have those friends, established long ago when baggy clothes and big hair were in style. No one I know now could tell you the first thing about who I was in 1987. Or 77 or 67. Well, my Mom could, but she's starting to get some of that stuff wrong. Even my sister and brother couldn't offer much insight.

So why does it matter so much to me today? I guess it's just that today was the kind of day when I could have used a very old, very dear friend to make me snap out of it. Don't know if it's just the blues (I honestly don't get them too often), or a new wrinkle on my mighty-fine mid-life crisis, or hormones with a capital H. Today I feel truly insignificant and unaccomplished, and, more than anything, foolish. I feel like a royal PITA. I tried to just shut up at work and not bother anyone.

Ironically, I found myself supremely annoyed by some of the people around me (if you're reading this, it wasn't you). I couldn't seem to get away from major annoyances. Maybe it was just projection (the attribution of one's own attitudes, feelings, or suppositions to others, per answers.com). In any event, I usually have better coping skills than I did today. I wanted to leave work, come home, hide under a blanket, have a good cry and sleep until tomorrow. I had a meeting this afternoon, so I couldn't do it.

I guess I just have a sense of loss today. Friendship lost, time lost, talent lost. Self lost - can't find the tune. Yeah, OK, a mid-life crisis. The Blues. Hormones with a capital H. Tomorrow will be better; I'll probably reread this and think, "How maudlin!" and unpost it. After all, tomorrow is another day...

Red Flower

I took a quiz over at blogthings.com to see what color flower I am. Here is the final result (oh my stars!):


You Are a Red Flower

A red flower tends to represent power, seduction, and desire.
At times, you are loving like a red tulip.
And at other times, you're very enthusiastic, like a bouvardia.
And more than you wish, your passion is a bit overwhelming, like a red rose.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Summer Entertaining

We had a wonderful time at Pax's soiree last night, and we're planning a little do of our own for next weekend. It'll be a casual affair, with cocktails and good food. We'll be inside and outside, whatever the moment brings (not to mention the weather). I've planned the gathering to start in the late afternoon/early evening, because there will be plenty of shade on the back deck by then. We're not going to barbecue because we really like the people we've invited, and we want to spend time with them! I plan to have all of the food prepared before the guests arrive, so that we may enjoy the party too.

I've been shopping and preparing, and, true to my sorry nature, I'm beginning to panic just a little. Help me out, if you don't mind! What are the essential ingredients to a good party, in your opinion? Do you have any suggestions for easy entertaining and food preparation? Any secret recipes that drive your guests wild? Is there anything that I must not forget to do/serve/provide/prepare?

Any and all suggestions will be greatly appreciated. If you're in the neighborhood, stop on by!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Toad Patrol Missing In Action

We have a Toad Patrol in our back yard, always on duty to keep the perimeter free from insects who might cross the border between the woods and our home. On any given summer evening, one may find these finely honed agents of insect destruction spread around the foundation of the house like beads on a necklace.

Cutbacks in the Toad Armory Budget (TAB) have limited their protective capacity to the insects who arrive by foot, so insects equipped for flight often manage the crossing. Still, lets face it, it is the creepy-crawlies (nods to Joe T.) that concern us most, and the Toads are highly skilled and effective in the management of these creatures.

Tonight, for some reason, my Toad Patrol is missing in action. No insects were seen sneaking across the unreinforced line, but the potential for a break would appear to be at critical mass. I have grave concerns about the whereabouts of my patrol, and I can't help speculating as to the cause of their absence. Is tonight the annual Toad Ball? Has electronic surveillance been incorporated into the Toad Patrol arsenal, leading to cutbacks in personnel? Is there a froggy flu outbreak keeping each Toad to his hole this evening? Were all Toad Guards called to the aid of a fellow officer in the front yard tonight? I suppose the possibilities are endless, and I may never know the answer to my query.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

I saw cloud to ground lightening directly in front of me several times this evening, as I drove home through the Great Cedar Swamp. I've heard that a car is the safest place to be in an electrical storm, but I'm skeptical. I would much prefer to be safe at home, watching nature's glory unfold through my back doors.

I know that lightening can reach you just about anywhere, even in your home. I've seen it happen. I've seen lightening enter a house through a wall, go down a staircase, make a left turn, and knock a clock from another wall before exiting through it. It neatly bypassed each of my parents and then me. I was downstairs, in a perfect position to see it hang a Louie and dislodge the clock. Mom was upstairs in the kitchen, to one side of the lightening bolt, and my father was just to the other side of it, on his way up the other staircase of our split level home. Ironically, we had just returned from church.

I know people who would nod sagely and say that we were protected by angels because we had been faithful in attending church. I know others who would point to the randomness of such events. Although I believe in God, I would probably side with those who saw random natural activity in the incident. The undeniable truth is that our physical beings are anchored to this physical world. Good things happen to bad people, bad things to good people, and vice versa. Believers die, have car wrecks, get sick, win the lottery, get promoted, and so do non-believers. My parents and I were fortunate to avoid any ill effects from the lightening, but that can hardly be seen as proof of divine intervention.

I do believe that most of us are born with an inherent desire to understand the incomprehensible, to know God. We each have a God-shaped hole in our hearts, a longing to experience ultimate power and ultimate love. That doesn't mean that everyone who feels this will reach the conclusion of God, but I think we have a spiritual nature that craves nurturing along with the physical one.

Tonight, just moments ago, I stood in my backyard. The earth and the very trees that sprout from it are drenched in moisture, and the air is heavy enough to cast a misty shadow under the electric lights. I felt both warm and cool at once, as the gentler evening temperatures competed with the wet, cloying air. Even with the evening temperature drop, it is imperative that the air conditioning be kept running tonight, since this much humidity would be intolerable indoors.

The evening is scented with the aromatic odor of pine sap, closer in smell to turpentine than the fresh pine needle scent we look for in our Christmas trees. I wonder if this is simply a fragrant manifestation of so many turgid, waterlogged layers of wood, or if one of those bolts of lightening earlier tonight connected with a tree, setting free years - perhaps decades - of accumulated resin.


I seem to be constantly re-thinking the things I believe about life and love and God these days. I find that I experience my greatest sense of awe (is that awareness of God?) in natural settings, like my backyard.

I suppose the way I see the desire to know, and to be known by, an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent being is best summed up by Psalm 139. This poem is attributed to King David. I don't think you have to share his belief in the God of Israel to understand the longing he has to be known and to be loved. We all find different ways of expressing and fulfilling this need. Here is an excerpt:

7 Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?

8 If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.

9 If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,

10 Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.

11 If I say, "Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,"

12 Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day
Darkness and light are alike to You.

13 For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother's womb.

14 I will give thanks to You,
for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.

15 My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;

16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Random Thoughts

I'm reading a book called Lamb by Christopher Moore. The book is about the missing years of Jesus' (who is named Joshua in the book) life, as told by his friend and travelling companion, Biff. In one chapter, Joshua and Biff encounter a Yeti, along with a group of Buddhist monks. Biff asks Gaspar (one of the wisemen who visited Jesus after his birth, and now the head monk of the monastery) where the Yeti lives. Gaspar replies, "We don't know. A cave somewhere, I suppose."

This made me wonder if the Yeti might not have his own blog called, "A Cave Somewhere." What do you think it would look like? Something like this, perhaps? Just curious....
















''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''

Quick trivia question: Which nationally celebrated one-year-old is nicknamed, "Butterstick?"


''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''

I returned to work today, after a weeklong shutdown of state services. It was a busy day, but it could have been worse. My voice mail was full, with 12 aggravated messages, all from 2 people. Yep, one person left one message, and another person left eleven messages over the course of the week before she figured out that the office was closed.

'''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''

I've decided to do some comparative shopping research. I'm looking for the best
Cosmopolitan cocktail in South Jersey. I checked out a couple of contenders over the weekend, and the search continues. This could be a life project, since one may only consume so many Cosmos at any one time, and I just don't imbibe all that often.

All suggestions regarding venues will be appreciated. List your favorite Southern NJ bar, lounge, taproom, restaurant or club, and I'll consider a visit (time, gas prices and willing companions permitting, since I won't go out for drinks alone, and it goes without saying that I won't drink and drive).



'''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''

I've had more trouble with this post than you can imagine. My browser crashed before I saved it the first time around, and I had to reconstruct the entire thing. I can't seem to keep the formatting the way I want it, and I'm having a lot of trouble with the "Edit Html" feature. Sorry if the appearance of this post is poor.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Sassenach Part II

If I went back in time, I'd probably choose 1700's England, Scotland, Ireland or the American colonies, if I had my druthers. The family I had in the colonies/US at the time was in Pennsylvania, and I must admit that I would love a chance to look in on them. I also had ancestors in the Edinburgh area of Scotland, as well as in England, (possibly in the Manchester area, and also in London). My Irish kin may have hailed from the Dublin area, but I'm not too clear on that score. There apparently was a family crest associated with one branch of my British ancestors. Most of my direct forebears were simple, hardworking folk. I'd love a glimpse into their day to day lives, and I'd love to see whether or not I look like any of them.

I don't have much desire to visit my Ukrainian kin on their home turf. I suspect that it would be painful to see, with social divides beyond modern American comprehension and brutal revolutions rampant throughout the region. I don't have much information at all about the history of that half of my family, and I'd love to know more, but I don't think it would be easy to visit.

There are some intriguing questions I'd love to have answered about my Ukrainian ancestors. We sort of suspect that there might have been a touch (or more) of Mongol blood introduced somewhere along the way. Imagine: I might be a distant descendant of Genghis Khan! I'd really like to know more.

One prolific Ukrainian ancestor was rumored to have been responsible for most of the population of a small Hungarian town. If that's the case, I might have a lot of Eastern European cousins to look up someday!

Of course, I'd love to watch some larger historical events unfold, too. The American Revolution, the French Revolution (though I really wouldn't want to be actively present for this one, since it was exceptionally brutal) and the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (again, I shudder at the thought of actually being present; I'd just like to see it) are especially interesting to me.

I guess you could call me the timid time traveler, with my fly-on-the-wall technique. I wish I could believe in the past life regression thing, it might be interesting. If I've had past lives, I wonder where and when they occurred? Hmmm, sounds like a topic for another post someday!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Sassenach

I've mentioned one of my favorite novels a few times in recent posts. It's a book called Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon. It's the first book in a series about the same characters. The book begins in post WWII Britain. Claire Randall is visiting Scotland with her husband, following a long separation due to the war. She visits some standing stones (Stonehenge is an example) and is mystically pulled back through time to the year 1743.

In the book, the word "outlander" has something of a double meaning. Claire is British, and is seen as an outlander, or Sassenach, by the scots. To be a Sassenach alone amongst the Scots in 1743 is a dangerous thing, since the Scots were fomenting rebellion against oppressive British rule at the time. The bigger sense of the word "outlander" is Claire's anachronistic presence in 18th century Scotland. She is out of time and place, quite literally.

When I was a little girl, I read a lot of fiction set against historical backdrops. I was an imaginitive child, and I felt I didn't belong in modern times. I longed to go back in time and live in an era when I could wear gowns every day, ride horses for transportation and dine by candlelight. A post by Random Kath over at Ordinary Snapshots reminded me of the days when I felt this way.

Of course, I recognize all of the flaws in my childish reasoning. It is not likely that I would have been part of an economically advantaged class (although one can dream). It's much more likely that I would have had one long dress to call my own, day by dirty, smoky-fired, air conditioning-free day, and without the benefit of a washing machine. I would have been more likely to walk around avoiding the piles of muck left by the horses than to have actually owned or ridden one.

It is doubtful that I would have had much education at all, and who knows whether or not I would even have learned to read. There were common beliefs and practices in past centuries that I would find repugnant, and don't even get me started on public health issues! Most of all, the disadvantages of being a woman at almost any time in the past are enormous. Look how much the status of women has changed, just in my lifetime! Why would I want to go back?

Having said all of that, there is still the kernel of longing within me to visit the past and spy on my ancestors. I suppose I would prefer to visit as a fly on the wall, so to speak, rather than as an active participant. To participate actively, if I took my modern self and way of thinking along, could get me into a lot of trouble. I'm too vocal and my opinions are too modern. I'm too accustomed to living with my US American freedoms.

If you could go back in time, would you wish to actively participate in the culture and events of the era, or would you prefer to just observe? Which era would you choose, and why? There is a "Part II" to this post, saved for tomorrow, since this was getting to be a bit long. I'll answer these questions in reference to myself in tomorrow's post.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Uncommon Scents

I just received another bottle of Eau Fresh cologne in the mail, bought on ebay. I'm well stocked for the foreseeable future, though I'll continue to check in every now and then to be sure I don't run out.

I don't know what's come over me, but I find I am beguiled by fragrance these days. I never cared much in the past whether or not a man wore cologne. Now I find the right scent to be appealing, even distracting. When I wear one of the very few scents that isn't too strong for me, I find myself stopping at frequent intervals to check the fragrance as it changes throughout the day.

I have a hair product that has the most wonderful fresh lemon scent to it. If I could find a cologne that smelled like that, I'd buy it in a heartbeat. I remember wearing Love's Fresh Lemon when I was young. It's still on the market, so maybe I'll try it again.

I have a small bottle of Tea Rose perfume. I love it, but it can be tough to wear because it tends to be strong, and a lot of people are allergic to it. Still, I will wear it now and then.

Last night I put on a touch of L'Air du Temps. I was surprised to find that there was still cologne in the bottle. I had kept it these many years because it was a refillable spray bottle, and I have always intended to buy a refill. I spritzed some on just for fun. I still like it, though it's on the sweet side.

Last week I had a conversation with a male friend about the advantages of being male versus those of being female. He said he thought it was probably hard to be woman, that he wouldn't want to go through all of the hormonal ups and downs we go through. I told him my mother has always said she wants to come back as a man in the next life because men have it made. He wondered if I thought most women feel that way. I said I could see Mom's point, but I like being a girl.

There are things I don't like about being female, of course. A woman has to be more careful about going places alone than a man does, and women of my generation don't get as much of a pass as younger women when it comes to watching our "reputations." Women my age still watch each other closely for signs of looseness, from the cut of a neckline to the color of nail polish. And, yeah, there's the whole hormone thing, but that has its upside, as well ;).

Younger women were freed from many of my generation's unwritten rules, for good or for ill, by the child-tart fashions and behavior of the Britney Spears era. They wear tight-fitting, low cut clothes for business and for pleasure, regardless of their body type, and they just don't seem to be uncomfortable. I know that the anorexic starlet images persist, but doesn't it seem that most young women today are not as affected by them? Am I mistaken?

In any event, I think the whole preoccupation I have with fragrance these days is just another facet of being a girl and loving it. Are men as bewitched by fragrace as I seem to be lately? Maybe it's a human thing, not just a girl thing. Perhaps it's even more basic than that; perhaps it's an animal thing.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Tidying Up

I managed to get rid of the blogshift problem I was having, but there are still a few untidy bits here and there about the Room. Please excuse the housekeeping for a few days while I figure this out. My abilities give new meaning to the "hack" in the word hacker. I have zero experience with templates, html and that sort of thing.

I went to school in the dark ages, before people had PCs. I used a computer with CRT (Cathode Ray Tube, for the unitiated) screen a few times for a few class projects in Stats and in Psych Testing. That was it. How many of you are old enough to remember the DOS carat prompt and memorizing commands, in the days before the advent of the mouse and point and click technology? How about dot matrix printers with spooled paper? Or am I the only one?

Blogshift

Sorry for the unattractive shifting of my most recent post to below the level of the left column text. This happened because of the large photo I inserted into the post. Blogger won't let me upload photos right now (???). I had inset it from another site, so I can't change the image size. Still, I think it's worthwhile to leave it there! This is a temporary setback, at best.

Shifting Gears

Too much of my blog time has been given over to New Jersey's fiscal woes over the last few days. Time for a change of pace!

I like features in magazines that ask people what they're reading, watching or listening to. Here's my list:

Reading:

I'm currently reading Lamb, by Christopher Moore (on loan from a friend :))

I just bought Everything She Thought She Wanted by Elizabeth Buchan (author of Revenge of the Middle Aged Woman and The Good Wife Strikes Back)

I'm dabbling in CS Lewis right now, rereading some of his poems, and also some essays from a collection called God in the Dock. I've ordered a new copy of The Screwtape Letters from Amazon. Of course, I found my old copy the day after the order shipped. Oh well, the old one is starting to fall apart.

I also ordered a new copy of Outlander. Sorry you didn't like it, Virginia Gal! I plan to read it again as soon as it arrives. I'm looking forward to spending many pleasant hours with Jamie Fraser. ;)

Listening To:

In my car CD Changer right now are the following CD's:

1)The Best of Donna Summer/The Millenium Collection
2)Softly With These Songs/The Best of Roberta Flack
3)James Taylor/Greatest Hits
4)The Best of Three Dog Night
5)Fleetwood Mac/The Dance
6)Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? (soundtrack)


I might actually get to listen to these CD's if we go back to work anytime soon! Oops, topic digression. Get back on track!

My Amazon order will also include a CD of The Cars Greatest Hits.

Watching:

Hmmm. I didn't get to the movies yesterday, since I was not home alone as originally planned (before the shutdown), nor did I watch 6 hours of Pride and Prejudice, the alternate plan for my day to myself. I haven't been watching much of anything, truth be told.

I saw a bit of a History Channel program in the middle of the night last night. It was called Digging for the Truth, Giants of Patagonia. I think Digging for the Truth is a series. It was interesting, but it wouldn't have held my attention at that hour of the morning if it weren't for the host, Josh Bernstein. Worth watching, that's all I have to say! Here's why:


photo credit

That's him on the left. I'm sorry Pax, Zelda, but move over Antonio! Here's another peek:


photo credit

What are you reading/listening to/watching these days?

Update

My friend Pax provided this link to a site quoting a statement by Governor Corzine that all NJ state workers will get make-up pay for the days we are unable to work because of the shutdown. This is news to me because we were all given a statement that we would not be paid in the event of a shutdown. We had to sign a sheet showing that we had received the statement and were aware that we would not be paid.

Paying state workers is important for more reasons than the obvious (feeding families, keeping mortgages afloat, etc.). Taking several days pay out of the pockets of that many New Jerseyans will affect many other businesses. Day two of not being paid already has me ratcheting back on spending, and I'm sure it's had that effect in many households.

So the point of the shutdown would be what? I guess the point is the cessation of actual services to the public because services are not funded without an approved budget. If I had gone to work, I would be handling requests for services. Services may not be provided right now because there is no budget to do so.

The state is already losing money on the lottery (which has been stopped until the budget crisis is resolved), and will begin losing megabucks tomorrow if the casinos are closed for business. This is just plain stupid in a year with a budget crunch.

Many New Jerseyans have a disdain for state employees that approaches hatred. Unfortunately, this is due in large part to the fact that our elected representatives malign us to the public for political gains, stabbing us in the back like Brutus stabbed Caesar.

This shutdown of services will likely fan the flames of the public's dislike and distrust of us, especially if we end up being paid in the end. The public should know this: we were expressly told that we MAY NOT report for work during the shutdown if we have been classified as non-essential. We would be sent home by management if we showed up.

I am both a New Jerseyan and a state employee. I want to show up for work, and I want New Jersey to succeed.

And I vote.

Monday, July 03, 2006

NJ Shutdown, Day 2

I have finally reached the point in my life where I like my job and I actually look forward to going to work. This has been my dream for many years, and I am thankful for the work I do, the people I serve, my coworkers and my boss. Now I am being told that I may not report to work. Oh, the irony. Last year at this time I would have welcomed leave in any form, even unpaid.

The State of NJ continues with a shutdown of services today because our elected representatives at the state level have failed miserably to approve a balanced budget. Each seems more concerned with his own political future (how will this affect my reelection bid?) than they are about the welfare of The Great State of New Jersey. To me, this is strong evidence of a need for term limits. I'm ready to say one term and you're out, so that politicians may base decisions on the real issues, not their personal aspirations. Elections could be staggered throughout the state so that there would always be experienced representatives in office to pass on knowledge.

In my opinion, years of experience equals years of entrenchment in a corrupt political system, and NJ is renowned for political corruption. Frankly, state government isn't rocket science, and experience in New Jersey appears to be a detriment rather than an asset. The hue and cry for upcoming elections should be get rid of incumbents.

Both incomes in our household are affected by this snafu, since we are both state employees. Today is a forced, unpaid day off, and it looks like tomorrow will not be a paid holiday. From what I've read at cnn.com about the situation, it does not seem likely that we will work on Wednesday, either. Our household is prepared for a rainy day, so we'll get through this, if it doesn't last too long. I know state employee households with only one income, and they will be affected even more deeply by this mess.

Some NJ legislators want to cut state worker benefits and salaries by 15%. Think about that: 15% less pay, plus an additional 15% contribution to our benefits. While this is probably the extreme version of what will actually be brought to the table during contract negotiations next year, it highlights the need for state workers to be proactive with their personal finances. That's hard to do when the state forces unpaid leave on us, making us dip into our savings and assets.

According to the CNN article, the state Assembly didn't even bother to convene today, thought the Senate did. Here is a quote from the article:

"I would welcome the Assembly actually coming in, staying in Trenton, working on the budget, hour after hour, 24 hours a day until we come up with a budget," Corzine said Monday morning on CNN. "I can't veto a budget, I can't sign a budget until it's actually presented by the Legislature."


No budget bills had moved through legislative committees yet, and any legislation those panels approve must wait a full calendar day before receiving final votes in the Assembly and Senate. If no bills move forward Monday, the Legislature couldn't adopt a budget before Wednesday morning.

Sounds to me like the assembly members want this problem to reach critical mass. Wonder if they expect to be paid for their service? Let's fire the lot of them, first chance we get.

ADDENDUM:
I just read an executive order by Governor Corzine posted on the State of NJ website. He has ordered both houses of the legislature into sessions beginning 7/4/06 at 9:00 am and for each day until a budget is passed. Here's the text:


Governor Signs Executive OrderCalling For A Special Legislative Session

TRENTON - Governor Jon S. Corzine today signed an Executive Order calling for Special Sessions of both Houses of the Legislature beginning on Tuesday, July 4, 2006, at 9:00 a.m. and continuing for each day thereafter until a General Appropriations Law for Fiscal Year 2007 is enacted. The Governor faxed a letter to each Senator and Assembly Member containing the following text:


Pursuant to my authority under the New Jersey Constitution, Article V, Section I, Paragraph 12 and Article IV, Section I, Paragraph 4, I am hereby convening Special Sessions of both Houses of the Legislature for Tuesday, July 4, 2006 at 9:00 a.m., and for each day thereafter, until such time as this call shall be revoked, in order to pass a balanced General Appropriations Law for Fiscal Year 2007 and to consider legislation that is related to the State budget. I have determined that the public interest requires these Sessions in order to expedite the enactment of a General Appropriations Law for Fiscal Year 2007 and thereby end the current state of emergency caused by the failure to enact such a law by July 1, 2006.